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Beyond the hashtag, Miami, Arizona

Updated: Jan 13

Also on AZ HWY 60 on my little road trip to Boyce Thompson Arboretum is Miami, (pop 1,897) another copper mining town.

I really wanted to visit Miami because it has a reputation for being a great place for picking - finding treasure in its vintage, antique and old junk stores.

Sadly, on a Tuesday in late November, all the potentially interesting businesses in the historic district were closed.

All I found was a little park with a lovingly painted shipping container ready made for social media photo opportunities. Take a picture in front of a set of beautiful wings and post it. "Look what a great time I am having. " Hash tag it appropriately and move on. To where? Walmart for lunch?

There were beautiful buildings in the downtown area, which spoke of turn of last century mining boom,  but many seemed to be crumbling into ruin in spite of what I had read about  downtown Miami being under restoration.


En route out of town I drove past a Walmart with a few cars in the parking lot. This could explain the deathlike feel of the historic downtown. Those big box stores seem to poison the soil. It is as if they insert a malignancy into a community, killing off the independent business owners and the mom 'n pops.


Capitalism has a lot to answer for. It's a failed paradigm for human society, in my opinion.

And yet. And yet. William Boyce Thompson a capitalist mining magnate, financier and philanthropist left (amongst other things like big holes in the earth) the legacy of Boyce Thompson Arboretum, the reason for my wanders in south eastern Arizona at this time.


These old mining towns have such archetypal Western romance. Image above: "Bandit Queen" and frontier outlaw Belle Starr and Bluford "Blue" Duck, outlaw of the Old West, born into the Cherokee nation and rumoured to be one of Belle Starr's many lovers.

Or do they? Image above Lakota leader Sitting Bull and William Frederick Cody aka Buffalo Bill who toured together as a circus act.


I left Miami, Arizona, as disappointed as I had been by Superior, driving towards what was once known as "Hells Forty Acres" the San Carlos Apache Reservation,  pondering notions of greed, exploitation and legacy. I could have stopped off in Globe next, but didn't. Too much emptiness full of what once was for one day.


I had read that the San Carlos Reservation had been established in the 1890s to relocate and set against one another, various bands of Apache tribes. A career US Army officer, one General George Crook is credited with having devised this strategy though if you told me the devil did it, I wouldn't argue.

If you told me General George Crook was a character imagined by Charles Dickens I would also believe you.


Like guns, military history isn't my thing. I'm more a story kind of person. The Old West of USA is full of stories which shapeshift in the telling and retelling. Words have meaning and power.

The copper mine at Miami was once called the Inspiration mine, deriving the name, legend has it, from a fortune teller known as Madame Inspiration.

Apparently in its heyday it supplied 4% of the entire nation's copper at a time when copper was used a lot.


William Boyce Thompson the mining engineer behind the Boyce Thompson Arboretum legacy, was the founder and first president of  the Inspiration Mine, though I understand that a good deal of his material wealth was also extracted from the earth around Superior.


Saguaro cacti stood sentinel in places along my route as I drove east in late afternoon light, past the vast parking lot for a warehouse-like casino and through the reservation.


I had a date with a campsite and a collection of mineral hotsprings pools in Safford. Arizona.

In spite of the tacky plastic flowers, shower curtain and dollar store Made in China  decor, the hotsprings water was wonderful. Soaking long into the night helped to still some of the clamour, so loud in my mind, of the ghosts of this land.

That mineral hotsprings water wasn't too bad at soothing tired muscles neither,  after my early morning 12 mile wander through the arboretum. But that little walk in a park is another post.

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