National Geographic : 1953 Sep
From Tucson to Tombstone 343 Southeastern Arizona Keeps the Dudes Happy with Cowboy Styles, Cactus Forests, Ghost Towns, and Live Indians BY MASON SUTHERLAND Assistant Editor, National Geographic Magazine I FLEW out to Tucson to investigate south ern Arizona's four C's-climate, cotton, copper, and cattle. My observations on the climate-it was a shirt-sleeve day in Feb ruary-were interrupted by a burst of gunfire. Tombstone's Vigilantes were shooting up the streets of Tucson. Disguised in black beards and armed with six-shooters, the visitors were advertising the Fiesta de los Vaqueros, Tuc son's annual rodeo. Firing fusillades of blank cartridges, they enacted the shooting of Waco Bill, an old-time desperado (page 357). Next day every man, woman, boy, and girl who could scare up a horse rode in the rodeo parade. Others stood on sidewalks or scaled rooftops to watch (page 351). Mayor and sheriff shared honors in the procession with bogus Black Bart the bandit and Geronimo, the outlaw Apache. Real cowboys and In dians vied with Air Force and high school bands. Cancan dancers flounced skirts aboard a float, and burros pulled covered wagons. But the most popular figure, I judged by the small boys' applause, was Hopalong Cassidy in person! So many visitors-5 to 10 thousand-were in town that every hotel, motor court, and guest ranch was packed. Nearly every man and boy on the streets was dressed as a Wild West character. Those who resisted the style risked public exposure in the Junior Chamber of Commerce's mobile lockup, the Court of Injustice, whose attend ant Vigilantes made merry by firing paper bullets at one another's hats (page 344). A Style Revolt in the Desert Even store-window dummies, which the week before wore evening clothes, blossomed out in the western look. One maid of plaster roped her man amid bales of hay in a glassed in barnyard. I saw two women, one in sun suit, the other in fur jacket, escorted by a man in gambler's stripe suit (page 352). That dude in polished yellow boots came out of Boston a week ago. Had he been a cowboy, his boots would have been scarred. The "casual" rumple in his 10-gallon hat was steamed in. Tucson uses wearing apparel to manifest its independent spirit. A party hostess speci fying formal dress is lucky to get a third of the men in tuxedos; the others arrive in blue jeans, frontier pants, or plain business suits. I watched concert-goers variously attired in white tie and tails, tuxedos and black ties, tropic whites, and blue denims. Feet were stuffed into shoes, boots, or moccasins. Women's standard house dresses are defi nitely out. Fashion favors the squaw dress, the smart seamstress' modification of Navajo apparel, which the modern Indian girl scorns. Go to any square dance and you will see squaw dresses ballooning out with centrifugal force. Heavy belts flash with polished silver. Visiting Porter's, a specialty store, I had as guide a saleswoman clad in boots, frontier pants with wide front pockets, and a shirt fastened with cowboy's snap-on buttons. She wore a little vaquero string tie. Houses Wear Desert Colors Inspecting a leather shop, the Kaibab Buck skin, I found Hopi Indians making Navajo moccasins, here called squaw boots, a popular style with both men and women. Thick and heelless rawhide soles, quickly conforming to the shape of the feet, give the sensation of walking barefoot without running the risk of upended tacks. Similarly, Tucson revolts against architec tural styles which do not fit the desert scenery. Newer banks discard the Greek-temple style. Decorated with water colors and potted plants, their interiors look like fashion shops. The typical Tucson country house is a long rambler without basement or attic. Walls of burned-adobe bricks may be paneled with wood painted in desert colors-paloverde green, sunset pink, or the alkali gray of a cowman's hat. The ceiling may reveal a layer of prickly stems from the ocotillo, a desert plant. Floors are cemented to dis courage termites, a surprising scourge of this arid country. Strings of dried red peppers hang beside fireplaces built into corners. Big picture windows look out upon moun tains on every side. In the yards barrel cacti lean southward like inverted compass needles to catch the most sun (page 354). Feathery leaves of paloverde trees brush against windows, their branches remaining green to absorb the sunlight. Scarlet tips of ocotillos dance in breezes, and salt cedars trail gossamer evergreen needles. Most dra matic of all, droopy-armed saguaros stand in penguin postures.