Monday, January 30, 2012

The Old Magma Railroad

January 23, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Arizona will be celebrating its centennial on February 14, 2012. The 48th Annual Lost Dutchman Days, Feb. 24-26, will honor the statewide celebration of Arizona’s 100th birthday by featuring a President  Theodore Roosevelt re-enactor as the Grand Marshall for the annual Lost Dutchman Days Parade (Feb. 25). After the parade he will drive to locations on the historic Apache Trail to speak about the building of the road to carry materials for the construction of the Roosevelt Dam.

This is the third in a special centennial series about Arizona by Tom Kollenborn.

Arizona’s transportation began on foot, then horseback, then by wagon, then the rail-roads, and finally a network of highways that crisscrossed the state. The history of the now abandoned Magma Railroad line shares Arizona’s rich transportation history.

Construction began on this short line two years after statehood in February of 1912.

Today, the abandoned Arizona Magma Railroad lies along the southern limits of the Superstition Wilderness Area. When this railroad was first constructed its purpose was to haul copper concentrates to the smelter in Hayden, Arizona. The development and construction of the railroad was an interesting part of early Arizona history.

The hauling of copper concentrates by team and wagon from Superior to Webster on the Southern Pacific railroad, some thirty-two miles away, was a costly undertaking for the Magma Company. The transportation of these concentrates required 20-32 mules harnessed to three ore wagons to accomplish the task. This method cost the company ten dollars per ton.

Two years after statehood the Magma Company in Superior was studying several alternative methods to reduce the cost of transporting copper concentrates to their smelter in Hayden. Hayden was located near the confluence of the Gila and San Pedro Rivers in Gila County.

A variety of plans were suggested to reduce the cost, including the use of newly developed gasoline engine trucks. The idea had merit, but was shelved because trucks were not dependable at the time. Another  suggestion was the construction of an aerial tram between Miami and Superior, but his method was soon dropped for the lack of support. The primary objection was costly maintenance.

The third alternative was to build a railroad from Superior to Webster located on the Southern Pacific line north of Florence. The Southern Pacific tracks were located some thirty-two miles southwest of Superior.

It was a young Pennsylvanian engineer named Edward G. Dentzer who convinced Magma Copper a railroad would be the most economic way to solve their transportation problem.

There were many obstacles in the beginning before any actual construction could begin on the railroad. First, the company had to decide on a narrow or standard gauge. Then came the problem of deciding whether to use gasoline, diesel or steam engines to work the short line. Even the size of rail to be used was heavily debated. The actual cost of construction was the ultimately deciding factor on just how the railroad would be built. The final decision was to use steam for power, and the steam engines operated on the line until 1971.

Dentzer completed a detailed survey, a mile by mile inspection and cost estimate of the narrow gauge railroad by August 20, 1914. The cost per mile would run about $4,600. The cost soared to $7,700 per mile by the time Dentzer completed his survey through the Pinal Mountain foothills crossing many intermittent streams. The crossing of streams required bridges and expensive grading.

Dentzer estimated the total cost of the railroad would be $197,281 to grade and the placing of 30.19 miles of narrow gauge track. Dentzer’s estimates for the narrow guage track were $9,000 less than the cost to build 15 miles of standard gauge railroad across flat desert land.

The original survey of the Magma Line had been initiated in 1912, the year Arizona became a state. The Southern Pacific Railroad had long considered the construction of a short line before the Magma Company. Southern Pacific rejected the project because their officials considered the Magma not capable of producing sufficient quantities of copper concentrate to warrant such a trunk line.

The Magma Arizona Railroad Company was officially organized on October 10, 1914. A construction crew moved into Webster on November 27, and the Webster Siding Camp was completed by December 1. The prime contractor had completed some 17.5 miles of track from Webster to a point two miles south of Hewitt Station on Queen Creek by February 6, 1915.

The narrow gauge railroad was completed to the concentrator near Superior and the end of the line by April 29, 1915, just over five months from the start date.

Rolling stock was moving along the railroad to Webster by May 1, 1915. The concentrates were transferred to the Southern Pacific standard cars at Webster then hauled to the smelter at Hayden for processing.

There was one major wreck in the history of the narrow gauge, which occurred on July 25, 1918, near the Silver King Siding. The narrow gauge served the Magma Copper Company well, but by the 1920’s the line was obsolete and not capable of keeping up with the increasing demands of the expanding operations at the Magma Mine.

The Magma Railroad Company approved the construction of a new standard gauge railroad on April 20, 1922. The narrow gauge remained parallel to the standard gauge until the latter was completed. The old narrow gauge continued to carry mail, passengers and freight until April 1, 1923.

The standard gauge railroad cars were unloading copper concentrates at Webster by April 6, 1923. The construction of the standard gauge had eliminated the expensive unloading and reloading of copper concentrates at Webster.

Most of the old narrow gauge road equipment and rolling stock had been sold or taken out of service by early October, 1924. The era of the modern steam engine had been ushered in on the Magma Railroad.

When diesel-powered engines arrived on the Magma Line, steam engines began to retire. The arrival of dieselpowered locomotives ended the era of steam on railroads in America. The Magma Arizona
Line was the last line to use steam in the United States for its revenue runs.

The first steam engine to retire was the “Little Mogul” Engine No. 6, on January 7, 1961. The first revenue run made by a diesel locomotive was on August 22, 1958. Engines No. 5 and No. 7 retired in 1967. Engine No. 5 was kept on standby status as diesel locomotives ended forever the era of steam on American short lines. As a standby, Engine No. 5 occasionally saw service. Old Engine No. 5 made its last run
performing for the cameras of Twentieth Century Fox on December 8th and 9th in 1971, in the filming of the movie classic “How the West Was Won.”

The Magma Arizona Railroad was the last industrial short-line railroad in the United States to use steam power.

The era of steam power had come to an end on American railroads, but its rich history still remains with us. Those old steam engines were a part of Arizona and Superstition Mountain nostalgia.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Arizona's Apache Trail

January 16, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Arizona will be celebrating its centennial on February 14, 2012. The 48th Annual Lost Dutchman Days, Feb. 24-26, will honor the statewide celebration of Arizona’s 100th birthday by featuring a President Theodore Roosevelt reenactor as the Grand Marshall for the annual Lost Dutchman Days Parade (Feb. 25). After the parade he will drive to locations on the historic Apache Trail to speak about the building of the road to carry materials for the construction of the Roosevelt Dam.

This column is the second in a special centennial series about Arizona.

There is nothing more Arizona than the story of the Apache Trail and the challenges to build it between 1903-1905. This roadway was at the center of one of the first major efforts to promote Arizona and it beautiful climate by the Southern Pacific Railroad between 1915-1927. There are many stories about Arizona, however, Arizona history would be incomplete without this story.

The Apache Trail can certainly be classified as one of the most adventurous and scenic routes in the American Southwest. Since 1906, tourists have traveled this unique mountain road and marveled at some of the most spectacular scenery in our state. The Apache Trail originally began in Phoenix and terminated at Roosevelt Dam. The most significant portion of roadway began at the Mesa railhead and terminated at Roosevelt Dam site on the Salt River some 62 miles away.

The approximate route of the Apache Trail has served humanity for more than a millennium. The Salado people used the trail to penetrate the Salt River Valley around 900 A.D. Other Native American groups continued to use the trail as a migratory route between their winter homes on the desert lowlands and their summer homes in the mountains along the Mogollon Rim.

The Apaches and Yavapais used the trail for their predatory raids against the Pimas along the Salt and Gila Rivers south and west of Superstition Mountain. The Apaches and Yavapais continued their raids after the arrival of the Anglo-Americans in the early  850’s. Finally in 1864, Camp McDowell was established along the Verde River some four miles north of the Salt River. The Pimas became willing allies of the blue-shirted soldiers who manned Fort McDowell. This footpath (trail) along the Salt River through the mountains to Tonto Basin was called both the Tonto Trail and the Yavapai Trail on different occasions. The Army quelled the predatory ways of the Apaches-Yavapais in this region by 1868. There were other military campaigns fought against renegade Apaches from 1871 until Geronimo’s surrender in 1886 at Skeleton Canyon in Southern Arizona.

A young man navigated the Salt River near the present site of Roosevelt Dam to Phoenix in a cataract boat during the early part of the 1880’s. He reported numerous ideal dam sites along the river’s course. The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors ordered a feasibility study done on the Salt River for possible water storage and flood control dam sites shortly thereafter. William “Billy” Breakenridge, James H. McClintock, and John H. Norton conducted a feasibility study for the county board of supervisors. Breakenridge also explored the route for a possible wagon road at the time of this study. Billy Breakenridge was a well-known Tombstone lawman during the 1880’s and James McClintock became Arizona’s first official historian.

Breakenridge’s report was highly favored for the construction of a dam just downstream from the confluence of Tonto Creek and the Salt River. The Congress of the United States authorized the construction of a dam and the project was funded in March of 1903. The task of supervising the building of this dam was given to the newly-formed U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Service under the United States Department of Interior. This was one of the first major building projects in America shortly after the beginning of the 20th Century.

Immediately after funds were approved by Congress, the communities of the Salt River Valley realized no money was appropriated for the construction of a haul road from Phoenix to the dam site. The valley communities wanted to participate in this economic boom and they wanted a greater involvement in the market developed by the construction of Roosevelt Dam. The communities immediately worked on a bonding plan to raise enough money to fund the construction of the Mesa-Roosevelt Road.

Actual construction of the Tonto Wagon Road, as it was known in the beginning, began on August 29, 1903, with two hundred Apache laborers working just below the dam site on the Salt River. Another work camp was established on November 11, 1903, at Government Well, some twentyfive miles from Mesa, employing some 200 Pima laborers. The Tonto Wagon Road was completed on September 3, 1905, at a cost of $551,000. The road was sixty-two miles long, running from the Tonto Dam site to the Mesa railhead. It was reported more than a million and half pounds of freight moved over the road in its first month of operation. By 1912, the year of Arizona statehood, Roosevelt Dam was completed and supplying water and hydroelectric power to the Salt River Valley and the mines at Globe.

The first Concord stage made a run over the Mesa-Roosevelt Road on June 10, 1905. The first automobile that traveled over the road from Mesa to Government Wells was on August 23, 1905. This Knox Automobile was known as the “Red Terror.” The first so-called tourist group to travel over the Mesa-Roosevelt Road was on October 10, 1905. The first major accident on the Mesa-Roosevelt Road was a stagecoach accident that occurred between Mormon Flat and Fish Creek Hill on November 23, 1905. The curves, steep grades, and narrowness of the Mesa-Roosevelt road challenged the skills of early teamsters and drivers. Even today, the Apache Trail can certainly still challenge our skills as drivers.

The Mesa-Roosevelt Road was highly regulated during the construction of Roosevelt Dam (1906-1911), however when the construction was completed the road became a favorite tourist attraction. The road was known as the Mesa-Roosevelt Road and Tonto Wagon Road during the period 1903-1915, and sometimes the media called the road the Roosevelt Road. Shortly after 1915, the road became known as the Apache Trail. Historians appear to agree in general as to the origin of the name “Apache Trail.” They believe the term was coined by E.E. Watson, an enterprising young entrepreneur who worked as a railroad agent for the Southern Pacific. Watson was trying to promote the Southern Pacific’s “Sunset Limited” as it made its way through Arizona. The Southern Pacific offered a side trip for its transcontinental passengers over the Apache Trail if they were interested. Some of the photos from one of the Southern Pacific photo books of 1915 appear in this article. The Southern Pacific Railroad promoted the Apache Trail widely in advertisements all over America and even in Western Europe from 1915 through 1929.

The Apache Trail (State Route 88) was officially dedicated as Arizona’s first historic highway on February 25, 1987, at Lost Dutchman State Park. Tourists have been traveling the Apache Trail since 1906, enjoying one of the most beautiful desert highways in America.

The Apache Trail is truly a roadway to adventure, beauty and history. President Theodore Roosevelt was given credit for the following words about the Apache Trail. “The Apache Trail combines the grandeur of the Alps, the glory of the Rockies, the magnificence of the Grand Canyon and then adds an indefinable something that none of the others have to me, it is most awe-inspiring and most sublimely beautiful.”

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Little About Arizona

January 9, 2012 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Arizona will be celebrating its centennial on February 14, 2012. The 48th Annual Lost Dutchman Days, Feb. 24-26, will honor the statewide celebration of Arizona’s 100th birthday by featuring a President Theodore Roosevelt reenactor as the Grand Marshall for the annual Lost Dutchman Days Parade (Feb. 25). After the parade he will drive to locations on the historic Apache Trail to speak about the building of the road to carry materials for the construction of the Roosevelt Dam.

For next few weeks, I am going to write a few columns about Arizona. I am going to try and focus on informative type information and hopefully it will be interesting to old  residents and new alike. There are literally thousands of stories about Arizona from the Spanish period up through the modern industrial period. Arizona has grown rapidly because of it diverse scenery, climate and opportunities. I hope you enjoy these short stories about Arizona.

Arizona’s history has been colorful and enduring. The first conclusive evidence of man living in this land we call Arizona today was probably around 5,000 B.C. when the Folsum Culture evolved. The Folsum man created arrow tips with blood groves in them. This simple piece of stone work helped early man to kill larger animals.

The last major culture in the desert Southwest was the Hohokam, a tribe known for their skill as farmers. They developed an irrigation system using canals and laterals to deliver water to their fields between 800 A.D. and 1400 A.D. Jack Swilling, who founded the city of Phoenix in 1867, came across these canals in the 1860’s and began developing what was already here.

Europeans were crossing the deserts of the Southwest and Arizona before the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock. The Coronado Expedition entered what is now Arizona in 1540. Francisco Vaquez Coronado camped at the confluence of the Gila and San Pedro Rivers in late May or early June 1540 on his way to the “Seven Cities of Cibola.” Cibola was the Zuni villages northeast of St. Johns, Arizona.

From 1540 to 1821, the land we call Arizona today was part of New Spain, and from 1821 to 1848 was part of Mexico. Father Eusebio Kino introduced cattle raising to southern Arizona while building two Catholic missions along the San Pedro River that still stand today. The missions were San Xavier de Bac and Tumacacori.

In 1848 all of the state north of the Gila River became the Territory of New Mexico and part of the United States under the conditions of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The Mexican-American War of 1848 forever changed the boundary of the United States and Mexico. Shortly after the area became part of the United States, Charles D. Poston arrived in the territory around Tubac in 1854. Poston formed the Sonora Exploring and Mining Company. He promoted the mineral wealth of the area and helped begin the struggle in Washington to make Arizona a separate territory from New Mexico.

Arizona struggled with its identity for another ten years before becoming the “Territory of Arizona” on February 24, 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln signed a document making Arizona a territory. Charles D. Poston became known as the “Father of Arizona.”

The only Civil War battle fought in Arizona occurred on April 15, 1862, near Picacho Peak about forty miles northwest of Tucson. Once the war was over the mineral resources of Arizona Territory became apparent. Arizona Territory became well known after the American Civil War.

The territory would struggle for the next forty-nine years before becoming a state of the United States on February 14, 1912. The building of Roosevelt Dam and development of the Salt River Valley irrigation system had become one of the engineering feats of the 20th Century, 1900 – 2000. Prior to 1900, the end of hostilities between the U.S. Army and the Apaches finally brought peace to this frontier state with the surrender of Geronimo at Skeleton Canyon in 1886. by 1912, Arizona was known nationally for cattle, copper, citrus, and climate. Over the years, Arizona grew because of the cattle, mining, agricultural and the tourist industry. The future growth in Arizona will probably be  associated with electronics, aviation, solar energy and tourism.

We are now celebrating our first one hundred years of statehood.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Lost Dutchman Mine

January 2, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The Superstition Mountain has served as a beacon to the treasure hunters and the  curious, attracting them from around the world. Fortunes have been made and lost in the search for the Dutchman’s Lost Mine. Some claim the majestic beauty and tranquility of the region is the only real treasure man will find in the Superstition Wilderness Area.

The mine was named after an old prospector mistakenly called the “Old Dutchman.” Jacob Waltz was actually born in Germany, but he allegedly discovered a rich vein of gold in the Superstition Mountain region east of Phoenix.

Hermann Petrasch was probably one of the most persistent seekers of the Jacob Waltz’s gold. You might say Hermann Petrasch was the “father of all modern Dutch hunters.” Hermann and his brother Rhinehart began their search with Julia Thomas in the summer of 1892.

Carl Gottfried Hermann Petrasch was born in Hennersdorf, Germany on the 24th of April, 1864. Hermann arrived at the Port of Entry, New York, New York in the spring of 1869. He had left Germany with his father, Gottfried, when he was only five years old. Hermann accompanied his father to the town of Whatcom, Washington. Herman’s father traveled widely throughout the West, first Washington, Montana then Colorado and, finally, to Arizona. Hermann Petrasch lived in Arizona almost sixty years, and most of those years were spent in and around the Superstition Mountain area. Petrasch did not apply for
United States citizenship until October 1938.

Hermann Petrasch arrived in Arizona from Colorado shortly after the death of Jacob Waltz, of Lost Dutchman Mine fame, in October of 1891. He came to Arizona at the request of his brother, Rhinehart, who wanted Hermann to assist him and Julia Thomas in the search for Waltz’s gold mine in the Superstition Mountains. Rhinehart claimed he and Julia had the clues to locate Waltz’s gold mine.

Rhinehart Petrasch had been residing in Phoenix for some time and helped Julia Thomas with her business. Some historians believe Rhinehart became a close associate of Jacob Waltz in his final days at Julia Thomas’ residence on West Jackson Street in Phoenix. Rhinehart learned a few meager clues during this period. Waltz mumbled out several clues during those final days, but most were to Julia and not Rhinehart.

As the end became apparent for the “Old Dutchman” he called Julia and Rhinehart to his side and gave them the final clues to his rich gold mine. This would have been fine, but Julia and Rhinehart had been celebrating a bit much and their minds were a little foggy. This they would later regret when they were wandering aimlessly in the mountains east of Phoenix.

After the death of “Old Jake,” Julia and Rhinehart tried to put the pieces together. Their first decision was to find another partner they could trust. Julia accepted the idea of inviting Rhinehart’s brother Hermann into the partnership.

Early in August, 1892, shortly after Herman’s arrival, the three began the organization of the expedition. Julia bought a team, wagon, and camping gear. Later, they would find out the wagon and team was a mistake. The group departed from Phoenix on August 11, 1892, with little fanfare.

At the close of the first day, the party was camped along the Salt River south of the old Maryville crossing on the river. The second day they traveled eastward across the desert toward the western facade of Superstition Mountain arriving in the area south of Bull Dog Peak. At this point, they realized the team and wagon would be useless in the mountains. They abandoned the wagon and decided to pack the team.

The next morning they packed up the horses and started toward the northwestern end of Superstition Mountain in search of “La Sombrero.” According to Hermann Petrasch, they camped in Needle Canyon just north of Weaver’s Needle for three weeks. Spirits were high among the three when they began their search, but the torturous summer heat began to take its toll.

Toward the end of the third week, the expedition collapsed from exhaustion and the lack of food and water. The search for the Waltz’s mine was abandoned and the three returned to Phoenix defeated and unsuccessful. A local newspaper, the Arizona Weekly Gazette, noted the expedition with the following excerpt on September 1, 1892, “A Queer Quest, Another Lost Mine Being Hunted By A Woman.”

This prospecting venture reduced Julia Thomas to financial ruin. She and the Petraschs were in a somewhat destitute situation with no source of income or a place to reside. Julia soon parted company with the Petraschs and married a farm laborer named Albert Schaffer on July 26, 1893.

At Schaffer’s encouragement, Julia produced maps with what information she could  remember. She became very resourceful and began producing excellent maps illustrating how to locate the lost gold mine of Jacob Waltz. These fraudulent sheets of paper were probably the first maps to the Dutchman’s Lost Mine.

It is also quite apparent Julia Thomas gave reporter Peirpont C. Bicknell an interview
about the Lost Dutchman Mine. Bicknell chronicled the mine in a San Francisco Chronicle article on January 13, 1895, making reference to most of Thomas’ clues.

The abandonment of the Petraschs by Julia Thomas left them on their own. Rhinehart worked around Phoenix for a while and eventually moved to Globe, working as a caretaker at an archaeological ruin for many years before committing suicide on February 5, 1943. Rhinehart was known as “Old Pete” around Globe and Miami.

Hermann had many jobs working for different cattlemen around the Superstition Mountain area. He was an excellent carpenter and worked at the old Reavis Ranch for the Clemans Cattle Company in the 1930’s. He eventually settled near the bank of Queen Creek near the Martin Ranch. The Martins looked after the old Hermann for many years.

Hermann had a host of friends, including my father. Newspaper reporters, authors and magazine writers visited him from time to time. Many wrote articles about Hermann and his search for the old “Dutchman’s” mine.

My father and I visited old Hermann Petrasch in October of 1952. He said he was ailing a bit, but was still willing to talk about the Superstition Mountain and the fabulous Lost Dutchman Mine.

Herman passed away on November 23, 1953. The awful irony of the Petrasch-Thomas episode is that their journey into the Superstitions in that blistering hot August of 1892 had led them directly through the area where the Black Queen and Mammoth mines were discovered later that year. Julia Thomas and the Petraschs were not successful in finding any gold, but four other men were. It wasin April 1893, after a flash flood, the famous  Mammoth Mine was discovered. This mine produced two million dollars in gold bullion when gold was worth twenty dollars a troy ounce. Some believe the Mammoth Mine or Bulldog Mine was the source of Waltz’s bonanza ore.

The legend continues today.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Cowboy Wayne

December 26, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Wayne Niel Richardson was a man with a dream. He believed he could help preserve the cowboy’s way of life. He organized a non-profit group called “Preservation of the Cowboy Way Society” and was the president and a member of the board of directors.

Wayne promoted the “Cowboy Way Society” in every way he could. He dressed in colorful shirts, bandanas, and always presented the cowboy persona. You always found him with a pair of spurs on. He sang and wrote songs about cowboys and the cowboy life. He talked about the Cowboy Way with friends and customers alike. An example of his personification of the cowboy was a video filmed and produced by Phillip Rauso. This video was of Richardson making a last ride through Apacheland on his horse three days before the destructive fire on Valentine’s Day in 2004. This segment became a piece of movie history. Apache Land movie studio history will be preserved forever by Richardson’s “last ride” in his colorful western attire and on his beautiful Palomino Hollywood.

When “Cowboy Wayne” first arrived in Apache Junction one of the first people he met was Phillip Rauso. Phillip was very interested in reviving the Apacheland studio. He had worked with the Superstition Mountain Historical Society for a while but that hadn’t panned out.

Phil shared his dreams with Wayne hoping some day to see another Apacheland rise from its ashes. When Wayne married Don Donnelly’s widow, Shelly, around 2001, he became a partner in the DSpur Ranch. Some time later there was a D-Spur Ranch and then the Longhorn Ranch side by side along the Peralta Road.

Wayne did start building another Apacheland with various investors. He also mortgaged the ranch to help build his dream. However the site never got off the ground. Many of Wayne’s investors lost confidence in him or the bad economic times brought the project to a standstill and, finally, to an end. Wayne may have promised to many people more than he could produce. Ironically, many men come to Apache Junction with dreams and then find themselves in very difficult financial circumstances.

Phillip and Wayne both knew the original Apacheland in Gold Canyon would be sold for its real estate value eventually, so both worked hard to fulfill the dream to build Apacheland on the Longhorn Ranch. I was taken on a tour of their dream and showed the many things that had been completed up to that time. The building industry began to decline in 2007 and before the deep recession hit in 2008 Phillip’s and Wayne’s dream had begun to wane.

I interviewed and auditioned Wayne to do a program for the Apache Junction Public Events Series in 2006. The PES Committee was pleased with his audition. He put on a program entitled “Legend of Marty Robbins.” He did an excellent job singing many of Robbins’ songs for the event. Approximately 500 patrons attended his show at the Apache Junction Performing Arts Center. His stage appearance was excellent and
he carried himself well in presenting his material.

One of the things I remember most about Wayne was when I ask him not to wear spurs on our stage at the auditorium. Our stage floor was a highly polished dance floor also. Wayne told me he never took his spurs off for anyone. When he returned for the show that night I figured there would be a confrontation. Wayne showed up with his spurs on, but the rowels were all duck-taped to protect the stage floor surface.

“Cowboy Wayne” continued to personify the cowboy around Apache Junction with his colorful dress. He was a part of this community in his iconic western dress and reminded many of their old time “silver screen” heroes.

I must admit Wayne always treated my wife and I respectfully at all times. My wife and I visited with Wayne at the Elk’s Club just six days prior to his fatal accident.

Wayne Richardson was riding a horse south on Cortez Road in Apache Junction on Monday, March 14, 2011, when he and his horse were struck by a truck. Both Richardson and the horse were killed on impact. How ironic it was that Wayne Richardson died with his boots on and on horseback. Sadly, again the Old West and the modern West clashed dramatically.

Wayne Niel Richardson was born in Harve, Montana on July 13, 1948. He was raised in the surrounding area and attended school at Harve and Chinook, Montana.

Shortly after graduated from high school he joined the United States Navy and served on the U.S.S. Blue during the Vietnam War. The U.S.S. Blue provided close strategic ground support for the United States Marines in a combat zone. Richardson received the National Defense Medal, Vietnam Service Metal, Vietnam Campaign Metal and the Bronze Star.

Wayne was a combat veteran who enlisted on July 12, 1965 and exited on July 9, 1968. He received an Honorable Discharge from the navy.

Wayne also suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and was on one hundred per cent medical disability from the Veterans Administration. This certainly explained some of Richardson’s erratic behavior at times. It should be remembered Wayne Niel Richardson served his country with honor, dignity and with distinction during a time of war.

His family talked of him as a wonderful and loving brother, father, and son. We cannot judge him. He had a dream and tried to follow it to completion. Right or wrong, he chased that dream.

Wayne Richardson stepped up to the pulpit and preached the Lord’s word on Sundays to his Cowboy Church congregation. After all, he was an ordained minister for the Assembly of God Church. I visited with a few of the people who attended his services. They liked what he said and certainly enjoyed his gospel singing. Here was man who visited honky-tonks during the week and preached on Sunday. Did this make him a hypocrite? Only the Lord can answer that question.

I have always followed the ways of America’s greatest columnist Will Rogers. “If you have to say something bad about a man don’t say anything all.”