National Geographic : 1963 Mar
its personality," I heard. "Tucson is like a co lonial Spanish town in the days of sail, with the king 5,000 miles away." There's truth in that. Tucson, settled in 1776, relishes its age and Spanish background. Streets are named Paseo Redondo, Alameda, Granada. A school is named Ignacio Bonillas, and a pupil's first task is to learn to pronounce it: eeNASeeoh boNEEyas. Sharing in Arizona's boom, the modern Tucson community has swollen from 45,454 to 212,892 people since 1950, and it has ex panded from about 9 square miles to more than 70. It is the hub of a rich copper district, a market center, and the site of a large Hughes Aircraft plant that makes Falcon air-to-air missiles for the Air Force (page 339). But a main Tucson "product" is sun. As one Wyoming coed wrote, "It's fine, I guess just one darned delightful day after another." The warm, dry climate of Tucson is ideal for sufferers from asthma and arthritis, and many dude ranches prosper in the balmy win ter climate.* However, Tucson's real pride is the Uni versity of Arizona, long noted for its fine De partment of Anthropology, among others. It is a cultural leaven for the whole community. The energetic leadership of President Richard Harvill has changed the university's entire complexion in the past decade. The science curriculum and research program have ex panded twentyfold. Electrical engineering and fine arts are booming, as is the new Ori ental studies program. The university has a lunar and planetary laboratory and has gained strength in astron omy. Its program is greatly stimulated by the establishment of Kitt Peak National Observa tory, on the Papago Indian Reservation (page 324). Scientists first noticed the 6,875-foot peak while scanning photographs taken by a Viking rocket in 1955. Desert Museum Teems With Life I drove 15 miles west of Tucson over a bucking, twisting road through a magnifi cent stand of saguaros. The giant cacti are so close to the road that their supplicating arms make them look like grotesque hitch hikers. Set in this forest is the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, one of the world's foremost "living" museums.t William H. Woodin, the young Director, met me near the entrance, where chuckwallas, whip-tailed lizards, and other creatures frolicked in the sand. "This is much more than a usual museum," he said. "It is part zoo, part botanical garden, and part conservation institution. Unlike many museums, most displays are alive." In a low adobe building, snakes, centipedes, scorpions, and small rodents were on display. The museum buys 70,000 meal worms and 1,000 crickets a month for such charges. Along "animal row," bears, a family of javelinas, Mexican wolves, margay and ring tailed cats, a beautiful jaguar, and four vari eties of skunk seemed happily at home. A dozen or so desert tortoises clambered around a sand-filled pit. "Visitors welcome inside this enclosure," said a placard. "People find it hard to believe they can get right in with the tortoises," Bill Woodin grinned. "I guess they are used to being kept out of such places." University Enrolls 16,000 Students I visited Arizona State University at Tempe to see Dr. Herbert Stahnke, world renowned for his work on venomous animals. I was ear ly, so I wandered about the grounds. It was a revelation. Before World War II, Arizona State College-as it was known then - was a sleepy place, with only three build ings for its 1,250 students. On the day I was there, the campus swarmed with students; more than 16,000 are now enrolled. Every where I looked I saw new buildings. The Life Sciences building forms a hollow square, around a re-created patch of desert that serves as an ecological laboratory. I looked through a big observation window at hummingbirds and doves, jack rabbits, tortoises, squirrels, and soft-shelled turtles in a little pond. Two chuckwallas stood rigid sentry duty on a rock pile. "We've seen the soft-shelled turtles eating pigeons here," Dr. Stahnke told me when I commented on the laboratory. "They lie just under water. When a pigeon comes to drink, they grab its head and hold it under water until the bird drowns. To my knowledge, it's the first time that's ever been observed." I mentioned my own disappointment in not having seen much life on the desert. "You could probably go out into the desert for years and not see a rattlesnake," he laughed. "Arizona has 18 kinds of rattlers, but the population is low. And, of course, most desert life is nocturnal." "I am nocturnal," I assured him. * This dude-ranch country is described in "From Tuc son to Tombstone," by Mason Sutherland, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, September, 1953. t See "Arizona's Window on Wildlife," by Lewis W. Walker, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, February, 1958.