A One Night Stance in Bisbee, Arizona

I almost felt like I was entering an ashram when I opened the old wooden door and heard the bells ringing, but the building quickly made
itself known as an old boarding house.
Myra

Two friends, Myra, Ruth Ann, and I arrived at our hotel in Bisbee, Arizona. Myra was the designated driver, I was in charge of reserving the hotel, and Ruth Ann sat in the back very quietly biting her lips and gesturing with her index finger the way we ahould turn as we became confused and circled a roundabout 5 times before we exited. The drive was 3.5 hours from Phoenix. It was not a straight shot. We stopped at a monastery, St. David, bought homemade prickly pear jam, walked around the meditation garden, took pictures, visited the cemetery, and entered the church. I bought a small medal and had it blessed in hopes that it will ward off any future dangers.

St. David’s Monastery

Bisbee is an old mining town inhabited by ghosts, antique shops, locally owned restaurants, bars, and hotels. The Lavender mine is located on the outskirts of town. It was one of the main employers from 1950-1974. Phelps Dodge opened the mine in 1950. The mine produced 86 million tons of ore averaging about 0.7% copper. Turquoise was also a by-product of this mining activity. Bisbee turquoise, also known as Bisbee Blue, is amongst the finest turquoise found anywhere in the world.
There aren’t many miners running around town these days. Some of them have returned as ghosts and are said to inhabit our hotel, The Inn at Castle Rock.

Lavender Mine

I chose the hotel by cruising through the listing on booking.com. The first hotel I made reservations with was the School House Inn Bed and Breakfast. It was listed as a room for three people. Four days later I went to review the reservation. There was a picture of only one king size bed. I knew we were not all going to sleep in the same bed. Those days are over. I wanted to keep these friends. I canceled the reservation and made another one at the Inn at Castle Rock. There was a room with three separate beds. Yes, we will take that one.

A delightful quirky, squeeky , old building with lots of history… Nothing fancy. Frank (Comment on booking.com)
“Kitschiest, strangest property, but really interesting and cool.” – shannon

Quirky, unique, quaint

I became nervous as we approached the hotel. We arrived about 5:00 pm. The front desk clerk, a very friendly young man, carried our luggage up a narrow steep flight of stairs to our room on the second floor. I unlocked the room and walked in. I thought it was interesting but I wasn’t sure what was going through the minds of my friends. Would they trust me to find the hotel on our next excursion or will this be the last time they ask me to make the hotel reservations? We were all very happy to see that we would have our own beds. There was a balcony outside. The balcony was decorated with very colorful “Christmas” lights, red, green, and blue. The porch had a rocker and two chairs. The location was great. We could walk everywhere. We parked the car and didn’t use it again until the next day when we went home.

We sat on the porch, chatted, and watched the people go by.  I was worried that my friends did not share my interest in the hotel. Should I ask them what they think? Maybe later.

Entry into the hotel was past what appeared to be a hitching post in days of long ago. The sign clearly stating Kiwi Parking Only mystified all of us. The door was not welcoming but gave the suggestions that one enters at their own risk. The lobby, and I use that term loosely, featured a natural spring that one could look over the edge of it and see what appeared to be water.
Ruth Ann

The owner is from New Zealand

We returned from dinner about 7:00 pm. The room didn’t have much light. There was a ceiling light which appeared to be yellow, and lamps on each bed table. Not enough light to read a book. A view of the Peace Memorial and a projection of a bat on a rock were directly across the street. A bathroom with a kitchen sink. A shower we couldn’t use because the water was too cold. We didn’t let the water run long enough. A fake wall between the bathroom and a very small private bedroom. Two beds in the main room, one double the other single. Pictures of interesting people on the walls. Strings of colored lights on the balcony, outdoor gazebos, and two fireplaces in the community rooms. A breakfast room with coffee available at all times. Breakfast included: cereal, bread, toast, bananas, and a few oranges. Help yourself. Don’t forget to wash your dishes and leave them in the sink. Everywhere we explored we found a “surprise”.

We sat on our beds and chatted until about 11:00 pm. The beds were comfortable minus the nylon sheets. There was a little noise coming from the outside. We were on the main drag. The noise died down about 11:00. We slept and no one snored.

The double bed

The picture above the bed

It was hilarious and I’m sure not too clean, but the room named Return to Paradise was way too dark to make a judgement. It had the required three beds for us. It did have a delightful porch overlooking main street, but as my feet were planted I had the feeling one might go through the very old plywood floors. We sat in rocking chairs looking out across the street at a giant boulder where the hotel had displayed the Bat call signal from the Batman television series.
Ruth Ann

Our friendly front desk young man, Alex, gave us a tour. The hotel was built over the flowing Apache Springs Well. Yes, there is a well next to the front desk. Every room has a theme: Jungle, Victorian, Cherlys, and Return to Paradise. We stayed in Return to Paradise.

Apache Springs Well

The Inn at Castle Rock was built in 1890 as a miner’s boarding house. The mine shaft is in the dining room of the bed and breakfast serving as a koi pond. The hotel has survived fires and floods including a fire in 1908

Did you sleep well last night? asks the lady at the front desk
Did you see any ghosts?
Ghosts? we asked

Little did I know we had just slept in a hotel that is haunted by some of the miners who lived there .
One miner has stayed around as a ghost. Slept in the same room we did, Return to Paradise. He is rumored to play with your toes if you sleep in his bed. He wants to disturb your sleep so he can get his room back.

One story from the early 1900’s is of a soldier cleaning his rifle on the front verandah when it went off accidentally, fatally shooting a woman walking up the other side of the road. It is said that she still searches the Inn looking for the reason. The shooting is documented in local news of the time.

The boarding house opened up as an Inn in 1980. The owner of the hotel, Chris Brown, is from New Zealand but settled in Bisbee in 2002 “because it is the nicest place in the world”. It is his vision to bring the Inn back to its former glory.

I was disappointed because I wanted to eat at Hazel’s Table 10
Hazel is from Nicaragua and a successful interior decorator. She came to the states with one of her wealthy clients. He died in Las Vegas. She tried to live in Phoenix but it was too hot for her.
She rented a room at the Inn at Castle Rock and launched Table 10. She only cooked three evenings a week. According to the reviews, her meals were a surprise to all. She no longer lives in Bisbee. She moved to Tucson.

Were there bugs in the room? Was the carpet clean? Were the sheets clean? I don’t know. It didn’t matter. There was no strange smell and the bathroom was clean. Ruth Ann brought a nightlife for the bathroom. That helped.
Were there ghosts? If there were, they didn’t bother us. We just ignored them.
Would I stay here again? Sure, it was a unique experience. Would my friends stay there again? I am not so sure.

We had breakfast at the Market and Cafe.  It is a five-minute walk from the Inn at Castle Rock. We sat outside on red plastic chairs with brightly colored red and blue umbrellas.  The store sold homemade cookies, honey, biscuits, and juices. Pottery, odds, and ends, and quirky items. The food was tasty. A great way to end our one night stance. Would I do it again? Yes, I would. Would my friends? I hope that would.

Welcome to Historic Old Bisbee’s High Desert Market and Café
Come enjoy our gourmet food and gifts market, our delicious café offerings,
and our new smoothie, juice and espresso bar.
Open 7am to 7pm, 7 Days a Week!

 

 

A Dog’s Best Friend

 

He can’t get the girls anymore, but he has the dogs eating out of the palm of his hand

Phil Volk was born October 4, 1925. He is a proud 92 and never misses a day at the park doling out treats to the dogs, ducks, and birds. He gives hugs to the owners.  He stands by the turtle, the mascot for the University of Maryland, at Fountain Park in Fountain Hills, AZ.

Phil and the turtle

Phil arrives every morning at 7:30 a.m. at Fountain Hills Park with his side kick and best friend Kermit. Phil is 92 years old and Kermit is 82. His black leather designer bag hugging his left shoulder. He carries his “treats” inside the bag. He shuffles over to the turtle where the dogs are waiting impatiently for his arrival. The dogs tug at the leashes incessantly urging their owners to move towards Phil. Like children waiting for treats from the ice cream man. The dogs come in all sizes.

Linda wearing her black rim Ferragamo designer shades adorned with Swarovski crystals, and a floppy hat that makes her look like Ellie on the Beverly Hillbillies, comes running over with her dog Ted. Ted is a black and white Bichon/Shitzu mix with an under bite. Ted sports a colored Mohawk depending on the season. Orange for Halloween, red/pink for Christmas, and green for St. Patrick’s Day. Linda started walking around Fountain Park when there were no sidewalks in 1998.

Phil refers to Linda as “Peaches”.

 “Your skin reminds me of the peaches that grew in my orchard when I was young”. 

Linda says, “His smile warms my heart. Every time I see him my problems disappear.”

He greets Linda with a kiss on the lips, clasps his hands around her face and says, “You are a humdinger, be good, have fun, and enjoy life.”

I wear anything to keep me warm on the cold mornings, blue jeans, long sleeve shirt, padded vest, and a scarf. Ok, so I live in Fountain Hills, I still feel cold at 40F.  Chloe my reddish colored, no tail, stubborn Cocker spaniel is pulling as hard as she can to get to Phil. It takes her thirty minutes to go halfway around the 1.5-mile trail around the park and only five minutes for the last half. She knows that Phil is up ahead and is loaded with snacks. He will feed Chloe the way kids feed the ducks. Nonstop.

I reach over gently, touch his arm, and whisper into his ear “No more snacks for Chloe”.

He smiles and says “OK”.

As soon as I turn my head, he slips more snacks to Chloe. He refers to me as “Professor”. I used to teach at ASU.

Ruth Ann, also dressed for the cold weather is holding on to Teddy. Teddy a red Golden Retriever has more manners than some of the other dogs. Ruth Ann and Teddy have the same color of hair, red. Ruth Ann says that Teddy is the one who dyes his hair not her. Phil greets her with a kiss on her cheeks. Kisses from Phil are harmless and have so much meaning. He lost his wife almost seven years ago. He really misses her.

All of the dogs wait patiently for Phil to hold out his hand and slip them a long- awaited treat. As soon as the treat disappears, they want another one. Appreciative owners help out by bringing bags of treats. Treats include bacon, chicken, and salmon flavored snacks.

Phil attended public schools in Baltimore, Maryland. Graduated from High School in 1944. Trained as a pilot in the Airforce from 1944-1946 during WWII. Never got a chance to fly because the war ended. His best memory is graduating from the University of Baltimore with an MBA and joining the third- generation family business of shoe design established by his Bavarian grand-grandparents.  He held on to the business for 62 years. One of his proudest achievements. A peek into his closet reveals a collection of leather shoes that would make any female shoe connoisseur envious.

He met his wife in a choir in 1950. They both sang and were accomplished students at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore. They were married for sixty-two years. One of his worst memories is the passing of his wife in 2010. Cancer was the cause.

Phil and his wife moved to Fountain Hills, AZ in 1994. He started going to the park every day to meet people. He walked around the park at least once. The park is 1.5 miles. He doesn’t walk the park now because he is not as stable. He worries about tripping and tumbling.

I ask him,” What makes you happy?” “Being with my friends, feeding the dogs, and waking up.”

He moved into an Independent Living facility near the park in 2016. He wasn’t sure it was a good decision. Now, he is satisfied and content. He spends his free time watching TV and taking naps.

“What is your secret for living so long?”  “Work hard and be happy.”

My journey through life has been an incredible story. Everything I tried from childhood to adult life seemed to work out well. Starting with my early days. My parents were very loving people who guided me and to this day left me with loving memories. Along the way, I have met many wonderful people and I have many wonderful memories.

Phil Volk

Phil grew up when times were different. No Internet, cell phones, computers, nor automatic cars. A picnic was a date. Money was scarce. Manners were strict. Mothers stayed home and had babies. The baby boom generation. Fathers went to work and brought home the money. That was their only responsibility. No babysitting, changing diapers, or cooking responsibilities. He tries to understand why things have changed. He is not shy about asking people what they think of politics today. “Why don’t more people fly the American flag? People should respect the president.” He doesn’t get into nasty arguments. His comments are more questions than answers. Your answer is respected.

Phil has a hearing problem. Everyone has to shout for him to hear or speak in his left ear. Hearing aids don’t work for him. He has tried many of them. He gets frustrated when he can’t understand what people are saying. We spend most of our time yelling, so he can hear us.

Kristi is a woman from Alaska. She is Phil’s favorite. Kristi met Phil in the summer of 2013.

She only comes about four times a year. The first time she met Phil she knew he needed some special loving.

“Hey, are you, new?” shouts Phil as a young woman with a blonde ponytail bobbing up and down walks by with her white Labradoodle, Ostin close to her side. He started out with the name Austin. The spelling got changed when her son went to elementary school and gave a report about his dog “Ostin”.

“Hello I’m Phil. I haven’t seen you around before”. The young woman shyly approaches Phil. Phil reaches out to Ostin and gives him a treat from his bag. Ostin barks for another one. Phil repeats the act three times. She will do anything to help him out. She calls him “darling”. He calls her “sweetheart”. Kristi is happily married. Phil tells her in jest “I will wait for you forever and if Dave (her husband) ever decides to trade you in I want to be the first to take his place”.

 “How can anyone not love someone who truly loves dogs. He used to call me his Bay Watch girl. Phil just makes my heart smile. He’s who I think of when I think about Fountain Park!”

Kristy owner of “Ostin”

To get ahead in life you must have a good education and a lot of enthusiasm.

Phil

Phil’s best friend, Kermit stopped coming to the park with him. Phil was seen driving down the wrong side of the street and Kermit’s wife was notified. She will not allow him to ride with Phil anymore. Phil now stands alone feeding the dogs and the birds. His best friend no longer keeping him company at the turtle.

How long will Phil continue to come and feed the dogs at the park? As long as God permits him.

 

 

 

 

 

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Hello God! It’s me, Sumio!

Friday March 13, 2015 there was a knock on the Pearly Gates.

The gates swung open and Sumio stood there facing God.

God said “Hello Sumio, welcome to heaven. I have been waiting for you. You fought a very long battle with lung cancer and you look worn out. Worry no more. You are safe here with me.”

Sumio asked “Are you God?”

“Yes, I am”

“I am sorry. I don’t know much about you. Everything I know I learned from my wife.”

“She has told me a lot about you too. You are not a religious person. She put in a good word for you. You are an honest husband, father, friend, and teacher to those around you.”

“I didn’t go to church on Sundays. I played golf and went fishing.”

“I was with you at all times.”

“Do I qualify to enter heaven?”

“Yes, you do. Your wife sent a letter of recommendation with special instructions to keep you busy.”

“I thank her for that. She has always taken care of me. I know the last two months were not easy for her. It was difficult for me to express my thoughts and feelings. I knew the end was coming. I couldn’t let her know that.”

“She misses you a lot and needs you to protect her. You will become the guardian angel of both your daughter, Lisa, and your wife, Carol. Your responsibility is to sit on their shoulders all day long. Protect and guide them.”

“Carol never likes me to tell her what to do. Will she agree with this idea?”

“She already has. “

Goodbye Pura Vida

 

My flight from Costa Rica arrives in Phoenix at   11:00 p.m. An airport shuttle picks me up and takes me to my car. I get into my car and drive home. I am exhausted and at the same time inspired. Exhausted from listening to a child cry for four hours on the plane. Inspired by the Writer’s Retreat I attended for 7 days at Pura Vida.

I approach the front door. I hear a slight whining noise. I insert the key, the latch clicks, and I open the door. Chloe, my cocker spaniel, long ears, short tail, and brown hair pees on the floor. She is so excited. She wiggles her little butt and gives me sweet kisses with her tongue on my cheek. The pet sitters have stayed up to wait for me. Richard helps me carry my bags into the living room. We agree to talk in the morning. I am exhausted. I put on my pajamas, brush my teeth, and lay down on the bed. Chloe jumps on the bed and nestles her head next to mine. She wants to be so close. I pat her head and soon we are both gone into dreamland.

I am just beginning my writing career. I taught writing to English as Second Language students for forty-two years. Elementary school students, High School Intensive programs, Business classes, and adult classes. I spent five years in Japan and five years in Mexico. I had a language school for ten years and spent 20 years teaching in colleges and universities. Now, it is time for me to write. It’s not easy starting a career as a writer. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest. Social media takes up so much time. I joined a Memoir group in my small town. We meet once a month. I need more writing practice. I need to be inspired.

I raked through all of the writing retreats posted online. Many of them were for experienced writers. I didn’t have the confidence to register. I stumbled across Ping Pangea. The pictures of Costa Rica looked inviting. Who doesn’t want to go to Costa Rica in February? I looked at the reviews, checked to make sure it wasn’t a scam and talked to Jackie the organizer by phone. I took the chance and registered.

It’s 7:30 a.m. Breakfast is served at Pura Vida. Orange chunks of juicy papaya, slices of sweet pineapple, fresh watermelon carefully sliced and displayed in a straight row. Homemade bread, cinnamon, glutton free bread, wheat, freshly made in the kitchen. Fluffy yellow scrambled eggs from the chickens nearby. Oatmeal, fried bananas, pancakes, homemade jams, and quesadillas. No bacon, sausage, or cereal. A freshly prepared breakfast greeted us every morning. Coffee, herbal teas, fresh water, and fruit are always available during the day.

Granola, cinnamon bread with chocolate chip honey, potatoes with green salsa, papaya, pineapple,

I wake up at 5:30 in Phoenix and I have to find my own breakfast. Where is all the fresh fruit? I look in my freezer and find frozen strawberries, blueberries, and cherries that I bought at Costco. There are oatmeal and some milk. I miss you, Pura Vida.

We are a group of twelve women. Young women with various writing skills. Some of them are writing books others like me just beginning on their writing journey. I am the oldest in the group and our experiences are very different. Women who had bad relationships with men, divorced, in the dating game, and happily married women. I am a widow who was married to a man that I loved and respected. He treated me well.

The retreat is held at a retreat center, Pura Vida. Activities include yoga, massage therapies, excursions outside of the retreat center, swimming, and sitting in the hot tub. Many of the younger women in our group choose to worship the sun at the pool and around the hot tub. I wasn’t interested.  I didn’t even bring a suit. The sun has already done enough damage to my skin.  Yoga is a popular event for everyone in our group and the other groups that are part of the retreat center. There is a group of twenty yogis who participate in yoga seminars for five of the days we are here.

The first day we meet in one of the yoga rooms. No chairs, we sit on the floor, legs crossed or spread out in front of us. The chairs have no legs. Like the chairs, I sat in for five years in Japan. Everyone is very comfortable with blankets draped over their legs. I am not as agile as the young ones. I am not comfortable. The doors to the room are open bringing in the fresh air. The room has a huge picture window looking out towards the volcano. One day we spot a rainbow. The reading sessions usually begin about 9:00 and last for two hours. Everyone would share the stories they wrote the night before. We make positive comments about the readings.

Excursions outside of the retreat center include a trip to the Wild Life Rescue Center. Paulo was our tour director. He was very knowledgeable about animals and coffee. He not only led this tour but all of the other tours. The Wild Life Rescue Center holds animals that have become instinct. Many of them are the only species left because of illegal hunting and trading. The animals are fed only natural food. The food they would find in the forests if people had not destroyed the forests by farming. He also led us to some waterfalls.

The tour of the coffee plantation included the process of drying the “coffee cherries”. Paulo tells us “The best coffee is sent to countries that pay the highest prices. Costa Ricans drink the cheap coffee that other countries don’t want”. He also tells us “The people who live in the US don’t know what good coffee is because we use coffee makers which remove most of the flavor from the beans.”  He also enlightens us by telling us that “espresso beans have less caffeine than the mild blends”. He gives his speeches in English with an accent. He has a good sense of humor at times. On the Skywalk tour during a tour of the forest, a white-faced monkey was ready to attack us with a stick. Paulo said, “Come on guys, don’t take any more pictures, the monkey is ready to attack us.”

 

The writing retreat comes to an end. I am inspired. I am ready to go home and write. Now, I have stories to tell. I really recommend writing retreats to all writers and most of all to those who are just beginning. My next retreat will be in Switzerland in June.

Goodbye Pura Vida

 

Prison for Food

A twelve- year old boy receives seven days of hard labor for stealing a chicken. A fourteen- year old boy receives seven days of hard labor and twenty lashes for stealing two loaves of bread.

These children ended up serving their time in Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin, Ireland. Built in1796 for hardened criminals. Murderers and robbers. It was one of the most modern prisons in Ireland. Officially called the County of Dublin Gaol, and run by the Grand Jury for County Dublin.The older prison housed prisoners in individual cells. The prisoners could put their arms through the windows as the people who passed by slipped them drinks, cigarettes, and money.

I am in Dublin, Ireland for seven days before heading to a writer’s workshop in Donegal. I have walked the street for three days retracing the steps of the Irish who were forced to leave their country and suffered under the English regime. I bought a three- day travel card that allows me to use the Green Hop On Hop Off Bus. This is day three. I want to see the places that I missed. Suddenly the driver yells out “There are three tickets available to enter the Kilmainham Gaol. Does anyone want to get off?” At the entrance to the Gaol, there is an agent holding up three fingers indicating the available tickets. I take my chances and jump off the bus. I didn’t know much about the prison. It turned out to be one of the best and worst experiences in Ireland.

Kilmainham Gaol is used in movie scenes and documentaries and is one of the five most visited sites in Dublin.

But, sure, jail is a grand place, if one can forget that one’s in it ( Evelyn Masterson, veteran Civil War prisoner of Kilmainham Jail)

I pay for my ticket, have my bags checked, and begin the tour with five other tourists from Germany and England. The corridors are very dark, harsh, and not very welcoming. It is referred to as the old dungeon fortress by the Irish citizens. Yellow paint is peeling from the walls. The iron bars around the stairs are rusty. The openings in the walls are small and square. I feel an extreme sense of fear. There are no windows and very little light. I am safe. I am on a tour. How did the people who were incarcerated feel? They had no way out.

Kilmainham Gaol located in Dublin, Ireland on Gallows Hill was built in 1796.  Constructed of limestone and granite. The height varies from thirty- fifty feet. The walls are 51/2 ft. thick at the bottom and 31/2 ft thick at the top. There are three iron and wood gates. A prison for hardened criminals. Murderers and robbers. It was touted as one of the most modern prisons in Ireland. In 1821, two women, 19 and 21 years old, were hung for their crimes. The last public execution was in 1865. The prison closed in 1925. It is now one of the five most visited sites in Dublin. The prison is used in movie scenes and documentaries.

The building in not the original Kilmainham Gaol. It was located near St. James hospital, a short distance from Gallow’s Hill in the direction of Dublin City Center. In the Old Kilmainham prison, the incarcerated shared cells in long narrow rooms. The prisoners were able to extend their arms through “grilles” and the people passing by would slip them liquor, cigarettes, and money. The prisoners were always drunk. The conditions of the prison were deemed inhumane by the citizens of Ireland.

The East Wing (This building is often presented in movies)

The East Wing opened officially in 1861and reflected the continuous development of prison reforms. It is the form of a horseshoe so that the prisoners could be constantly observed. The main goals for running the prison effectively were: silence, observation, separation, and light. The enormous skylight in the roof allows the rays of the sun to “pour down over the prisoners souls” and spiritually cleanse them. 

The Jail is divided into three sections: The middle part is the administrative section containing the largest and most comfortable rooms. The top floor is the “Governor’s” quarters.  The ground floor rooms were linked and used in the daytime by women who were in prison because they could not pay off the family debt.

Kilmainham Jail served as a prison for over two centuries. A prison that was supposed to be more humane entered a time period where people were being imprisoned for petty crimes. Crimes they committed so their families could eat. I can’t imagine having to steal a chicken, bread, and grass for consumption because my family is dying of starvation.

1847- Less than 2,500 prisoners, 1848- 4,655 prisoners, 1849-6,888 prisoners, 1850- 9,052 prisoners

Peter Henry- thiry-four years of hard labor for stealing a pair of shoes from a dead man

Michael Donohue-thirty four years for ill-treating a bear in the zoo

Thorman Lynch- eighteen years old- one month for unlawfully milking a cow and stealing a quantity of milk. Two extra months for stealing the bucket.

Martin Walsh- ten years old- fourteen days for stealing grass

We enter the Catholic Chapel. I am surprised at the beauty of the chapel. The windows let in the light and the walls are painted green and red. Everyone on the tour becomes very quiet as we take in the beauty of a room located in a prison. A place with no hope. The altar was built in 1882 by James Lalor. He was from Belfast and was sentenced to seven years for receiving stolen goods. I was a carpenter who was rumored to have completed various projects in other prisons. The altar is well known for the wedding of Grace Gifford and Joseph Plunkett in May 1916. Joseph Plunkett was scheduled to be executed. He had one hour left to marry. They were not allowed to talk to each other during or after the ceremony. No one was allowed to attend. He was executed the day after.

Our next stop is in front of a jail cell. A jail cell would hold up to 5-6 people, women, men, and children. Food included bread, water, milk, tea, potatoes or rice, oatmeal, Indian meal, and if they were lucky a little meat. The food was not that great, but for many “bad food was better than no food”. Buckets were used as toilets and dumped out in the morning. The stench must have been terrible.

From 1845–1850 the prison filled with men, women, and children charged with begging and stealing. “The Great Famine” referred to by the Irish as “The Great Hunger” began to rise. The jail cells swelled to capacity. There was no segregation of prisoners. Men, women, and children were incarcerated in the same cells. There were up to five people in a cell measuring twenty-eight square meters. Everyone was given a candle. This candle was to last for two weeks. It was their only means of light and heat. Male prisoners slept in iron bed stands. Women and children slept with straw mats on the floor.

Female Crimes

Eliza Corty- twenty-seven– five days for using obscene language

Eliza Keenan- forty-seven– one month for knocking on a hall door without lawful excuse

Anne McIntyre– twenty- stealing potatoes- sent to a lunatic asylum

These women were trying to raize families and feed their children. They were desperate. I would steal to feed my family.

We walk past cells that are painted blue and the exterior walls are white. The color makes it seem royal. Royal, it is not. Prisoners were not able to look out to see the sun. It was very bleak.

The beginning of the Famine

How did the famine begin? Was it the fault of the Irish? The English accused the Irish of two things: overpopulation and laziness. Irish families were big Catholic units. Many of the Irish produced children to help on their farms. The women didn’t practice birth control. The Irish are laid back. They like to have fun drinking, dancing, and singing. The English looked at this style of life as wasteful.

The English dominated the Irish. In 1801 The Act of Union brought the country of Ireland under the control of England. The English created “Penal Laws”. The Catholic Church was outlawed. Their native language, Gaelic, was banned. The English forbade any export trade. These new laws destroyed Irish commerce and industry. The Irish could pretend not to be Catholics or leave the church completely. Some of the Irish were forced to practice their religion in secrecy.

In 1600 Protestants owned 10% of Irish land. In 1778 they owned 95%. The Penal laws prevented Catholics from buying land, getting an education, entering a profession, holding political office, and living within five miles of town. They were not allowed to fish or hunt.The only employment left for the Catholics was farming. They were allowed to have small plots owned by landlords. They had to pay rent to absent landlords in England. Many of the tenant farmers had poor living standards, no money for medicine, clothes, nor adequate shelter. Homes were falling apart and landlords were not required to make improvements.

The potato was the only crop to produce a sufficient yield on limited acreage. In 1840, 50% of Ireland was dependent on the potato.

In 1835, 75% of Irish workers were without regular work and turned to begging and stealing.

 

Irish farmers became desperate.  Not getting the help they needed, some of them decided to enter workhouses providing them with shelter and food in exchange for hard labor.  Irish farmers with more than 1/4 of an acre were forced to give up their land before acceptance into a workhouse. No food or shelter would be provided to their wives and children. The only hope was to beg, steal, or runaway.

From 1845-1850 Kilmainham Jail contained the poorest of Ireland’s citizens. 1847 brought a new law: the Vagrancy Act. It was now a crime for hungry people to beg in the streets. They ended up in prison along with the thieves. The last official year of the “Great Hunger”, 1850, Kilmainham Jail Registers recorded 9,052 prisoners living in fewer than two hundred cells.

The Great Potato Famine has been debated for years. Was it the fault of the Irish or the English? Was the potato the root of the problem?

In 1846 the Prime Minister of England, Charles Trevelyan, banned all food distribution to Ireland. The English exported grain-based alcohol, wool, flax, wheat, oats, barley, butter, eggs, and beef from Ireland to England. These were products being produced in Ireland but not available to Irish citizens. Did the English create the Famine? Food was being taken out of Ireland.

 

We enter one of the cells which were lucky enough to have some light. People could do nothing in these cells. Some of them had to stand up all day because they were so crowded. We were five and we could not all fit in the room together and feel comfortable.

 

 

Stonebreakers Yard

There are no windows overlooking this yard. The darker areas around the yard are reminders of the huts that men were placed in. These were the men sentenced to heavy labor. Breaking stones for the construction of roads. The black cross marks the place of the execution of the leaders of 1916 Rising. 

The walls of the prison are 5 1/2 feet thick at the bottom and 3 1/2 feet thick at the top and constructed from limestone and granite. There are three iron and wood gates.The height varies from 30-50 feet. The “death bell” rang after an execution.

On the other side of this wall was the exercise yard for children who were in prison. Children were treated like little adults. Joseph Williams, six years old, traveling with his parents on the Great Southern and Western Railway without a paid fare, sentenced to prison. Children who were caught stealing to provide food for their families were sentenced to prison.

 

Mural of a Madonna painted by Grace Gifford Plunkett while she was held during the Civil War.

After the death of her husband, Grace Gifford threw herself into the Republican activities of Cumann na mBan – Ladies Auxiliary to the IRA – and was herself jailed in the women’s section of the same Kilmainham jail in which her husband had been executed. Like Joseph before her, she left an artistic memento on the stone wall of her dreary cell – it was a sketch of Mary, the mother of God, perhaps in remembrance of Joseph’s middle name. Admired by all the women prisoners, it was dubbed the Kilmainham Madonna. 

Entrance to Kilmainham Gaol, Five Dragons in Chains above Entrance. The five dragons represent five serious felonies: murder, rape, theft, treason, and piracy. Two women Bridget Butterly 19 and Bridget Ennis 20 were hung for a burglary where a woman died.

 

Plaque marking the executions of the leaders of 1916 Rising.

The tour turned out to be one of the best and worst experiences in Ireland.The best because I learned at how hard life can be when people are not cared for and forgotten. Food is important and should be something that everyone has access to. I was aware of the history of Ireland. My ancestors came from Ireland. I realize the tremendous problems they suffered and how other countries such as Australia, Canada, and the USA received them. They were not received well. They arrived sick, poor, and dirty. There were signs everywhere in NY warning people not to hire the Irishman because they were dangerous and dirty. Imagine if the Irish ended up not settling in the US because the government did not want them. It was the worst experience to see how people were treated in times of need. Children and women going to prison because they were caught stealing food to provide for their families. Has history taught us a lesson?

I would like to conclude with my final thoughts. No one should have to go to prison for lack of food. Famine is not brought on by the people, but by governments who control the food and goods going in and out of the country. Could The Great Hunger of Ireland have been avoided? Can this happen again? I leave you with these questions.

 

Frank Lloyd Wright: Cedar Rock, Iowa

“As we live and as we are, Simplicity — with a capital “S” — is difficult to comprehend nowadays. We are no longer truly simple. We no longer live in simple terms or places. Life is a more complex struggle now. It is now valiant to be simple: a courageous thing to even want to be simple. It is a spiritual thing to comprehend what simplicity means.”
Frank Lloyd Wright, The Natural House

I look around my house and wonder if I am living in Simplicity. Are there enough windows to let in the natural light? Are plants able to survive naturally in my house growing straight from the soil? Is there too much space?

A road trip through the Central part of Iowa brought me to one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most complete designs. Cedar Rock in Quasqueton, Iowa. The house was completely designed for the personal use of Mr. and Mrs. Walter. Mr. Walter was a native of Quasqueton. He was a very successful businessman who owned the Iowa Road Building Company for thirty-seven years. He sold the company in 1944 to his employees. He wanted to retire and enjoy life. He and his wife became very involved in the arts. They admired the work that Frank Lloyd Wright had done on his architectural designs. They asked him to design their house.

Cedar Rock

Frank Lloyd Wright was the greatest architect of the 20th century. He designed more than 1,100 buildings before he passed away at the age of 91. Wright built the first house in Spring Green, Wisconsin where he grew up. He named it “Taliesin”. This building had to be built three times. It was destroyed by fire twice. The first caused by a “deranged servant” and the second by an electrical problem. He didn’t have much luck with wives either. He was married three times. The first two he divorced.

Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Cedar Rock home using the Usonian design. Usonian was the concept he wanted to use for designing homes for the middle-class families. Although I don’t think that many middle-class families between the time of 1944–1955 could afford to buy a house for $120,000.00. The house my parents bought in 1956 was about $8,000.00. We were classified as middle class. The Usonian homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright were tailor-made for the individual and his family. The spaces in the house would be practical and functional. He incorporated “organic architecture”: fresh air, in-house plants, and the sunshine. There were no basements or attics for storage. If you needed to store something and not use it, then get rid of it. He would be very annoyed to walk into some modern-day houses because everything is kept whether needed or not.

No room for storage in this bedroom

The Cedar Rock house was completed in two years. The Walters made a list of the most important items they wanted to include in the house and Wright designed it their way. He chose the curtains, carpets, and picked out the accessories. The house came with furniture, appliances, and plants. The Walters brought their books and clothing. The house was move-in ready.

The natural decor was a must. These are colored rocks illuminated by the natural glow of the sun

The biggest room in the house is the “entertainment area”. This room has a grand piano, movable pillows to allow for more seating and a very small area for sitting and eating. The idea was to socialize with everyone and not to compartmentalize the people. Instead of standing in a corner you had to stand in the center. No wallflowers allowed. The entertainment area is all glass windows. The windows give you the feeling that you are outside in the garden and the woods. The view also includes the river. It’s a dinner without flies. The skylights brighten the interior space and the windows above help release the hot air trapped near the ceiling.

Dining table

There are no air conditioners. An indoor garden has plants growing in the natural soil of the ground. Not planted in pots.

Plants growing straight from the floor

There is a separate entrance from the exit. This was to help the guests feel more comfortable. You could sneak out the door without the host noticing and you didn’t have to explain why you were leaving. The house is airtight. Our guide describes a night that had winds blowing at tornado strength and torrential rains and the house was not affected.

Cedar Rock “Entertainment Area”

Mr. Walters was a very avid boater. He had the biggest boat around at the time. He had a private boathouse designed so that he could get away without anyone knowing about it. Not even his wife. The boathouse is equipped with a bed. Maybe for longer nights.

 

The Getaway Boathouse

The property has a very nice walkway and trail. The walkway goes out to the river and through the trees. I arrived early for the tour and decided to walk to the house. Tours are provided by boarding a wagon that is pulled by a tractor. You can not enter the house or walk around it without a tour guide.

 

Garden steps

 

Small trail from the Information center to the house

Mr. Walters passed away in 1981 and his wife followed in 1986. They had no children. Mrs. Walters donated the home to the Iowa Conservation Commission in 1982. The money left in her account when she passed was given to the Commission for the upkeep of the house. Her wish was to let other people come in and admire the beauty of the house.

The houses now are designed to be very big. They have attics or basement in the East or Midwest. Walk-in closets are a most for most new homes and families. In a Usonian house, the kitchen was very small. The size of a “butler’s” kitchen or a walk- in pantry. The hallways were narrow and bookshelves were designed to blend in with the hallway. Having all windows eliminated the problem of interior decorating. Nature was the decoration.

The bedrooms are very small and so are the beds. The windows in the bedroom open out into the garden to give the feeling of being one with nature.

 

Master Bedroom

 

The official plaque of a Frank Llyod Wright Home.

There are only twenty-five buildings that received this plaque from Frank Llyod Wright. He gave it to owners who did not change the design of the building or move any of the furniture around. He hated it when people moved the furniture. He would actually move it back to its original position.

My house has a lot of windows to view the desert. My plants don’t grow straight from the ground. They are in pots that need to be watered often. There is too much space. There are three bedrooms, a loft, a medium sized kitchen, living room, and three bathrooms. Only one bedroom, one bathroom, the kitchen, and loft are used every day. Wright would not be happy with the way I live. It is not very Usonian.

Malahide Castle: A Gift From a Friend

Malahide Castle: A Gift From a Friend

Malahide was not on my list of places to see in Ireland. I heard about it from one of the walking tours in Dublin. I was on my fifth day in Dublin and decided to explore the small town by myself. It is really easy to travel around the Dublin area. I walked everyplace and scoped out the bars and coffee shops. I think there are about as many coffee shops as there are bars. I took the opportunity to take a train to Malahide and it was worth the experience

Malahide Castle

Malahide Castle is located in Malahide, Dublin County, Ireland. Take the Irish Rail at the Dublin/Connaly station. The train leaves the station every 25 minutes. The time from Dublin to Malahide is about 30–35 minutes long.

This squirrel is in front of the Irish Rail and the Dublin/Connaly station

When you arrive in the town of Malahide, you can take a train or walk. You must pay a fee and many times it is reserved for groups. The walk is about 20 minutes to the castle.

The train from the station to the castle

The castle grounds include the courtyards, a place to have coffee or a quick lunch, the garden with plants from all over the world, and a playground for young children.

A visual map of the castle and courtyard

Admission to Malahide Castle and the Gardens is $14.97.

Castle admission entrance

Malahide Castle is one of the oldest castles in Ireland. Malahide “Mullach Ide” means the “the hill of Ide” or “Ide’s sandhill” in Gaelic. The Vikings settled in Malahide in 795. King Henry II built the castle and gifted it to his friend Sir Richard Talbot. Sir Talbot provided his support and protected the King during the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

The Talbots came to Ireland as a Norman family originally from France. They lived in the castle from 1185–1976. They were considered one of the most prominent and powerful Irish Catholic families in Dublin. When the Battle of the Boyne took place, fourteen members of the Talbot family sat down to have breakfast. They were killed before evening.

The dining room where the fourteen family members were killed

It is said that the little girl’s eyes will follow you all of the way up the stairs

Coat of arms “Hound and Wolf”

Rose Talbot, the last living relative, sold the castle to the State of Ireland to help pay the inheritance taxes.

Study room

Fireplace in Living Room

Remains of the Abbey. It was also used as a cemetary.

Talbot Botanical Gardens

The Talbot Botanical Gardens is a walled garden. It has seven greenhouses and a Victorian Conservatory. Plants from the Southern Hemisphere, Chile, and Australia, grow in the garden.

Victorian Conservatory

Plants from the Southern Hemisphere

Public areas and picnic grounds

The City Malahide

Malahide is an affluent coastal suburban town. One thousand people lived in Malahide in the early 19th century. The local industry was salt harvesting and other commercial operations importing coal and construction materials.

The population increased to 15,846 in 2011. It is now a seaside resort for wealthy Dublin city dwellers.

Malahide neighbourhood home

Mermaid by the sea

Malahide is a small town with a great personality. The people are friendly, the food is fresh, and not inundated with tourists. A car is not necessary to get around. It is easier to walk because there isn’t much parking available.

Malahide might not be on your list of places to visit in Ireland, but it should be.

7 things to know about the Ireland Writing Retreat in Donegal

My first writing retreat took place in Donegal Ireland. My life as a travel writer is in the incubation period. I am grabbing at every straw I can to become a better writer.  There wasn’t much information describing the workshop. I took my chances. It was not disappointing. I made friends with other writers. Two of them were Irish and one was from the US.

Many new and experienced writers are looking for places to help them perfect the art of travel writing. I hope to help anyone who is thinking about attending this retreat and is looking for facts.

7 things to know about the Ireland Writing Retreat in Donegal
Venue

The Ireland Writing Retreat is held and organized at Teac Jack in Donegal, Ireland. I spent six days in Dublin before heading to Donegal. I flew from Dublin to Donegal. The second most scenic approach in the world. I thought we were going to land in the ocean. Others took the bus from Dublin.

Teac Jack is a B&B located in Gweedore in Donegal. It has a bar, restaurant, and a beautiful view out the front door. Breakfast is served every morning from 8:00-10:00.  A full Irish breakfast includes fried ham (bacon), eggs, sausage, and a warm tomato. The eggs can be ordered as sunny-side up, boiled, poached, scrambled, and over easy. Orange juice, milk, apple juice, and coffee are available for drinks. There is a table that includes yogurt, cheerios, rice cereal, and oatmeal. Types of bread include wheat, white, and dark brown. Bread can be toasted in a toaster oven. There are no pancakes or waffles. Scones are not served for breakfast, but you can ask and you shall receive.

I went for the full breakfast on the first day. The second day, no bacon. The third day, no mushrooms. The fourth and fifth day, one egg, yogurt, and a warm tomato. The last day, ordered the whole breakfast for the last time.

Disadvantages: Teac Jack is isolated. The only place to walk is the beach. There are no other shops, bars, or restaurants nearby. I began to get cabin fever. We were also blessed with rain for two days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Irish breakfast

A house nearby. One of the Irish writers and I took a hike.

Activities

The program description includes the following activities.

Boat trips to the island of Gola:

The boat to Gola

There was one trip to Gola. The island was once inhabited by families. We were greeted by a couple who prepared lunch for us. Lunch included sandwiches, scones, cupcakes, and drinks.

Hiking in Gola

Cemetary for Catholic babies not yet baptized

Gola countryside

Leisurely walks and a tour of Glenveagh National Park and Castle:

The history of the Glenveagh castle is a tragic one. Unfortunately, on the day we visited the castle it was raining. The gardens are beautiful. I couldn’t get many pictures of the garden. There is a little café that serves, scones, cakes, tea, and coffee. We stopped in to have tea and dry off.

Irish language and dance classes and lively, heart-warming, foot-tapping traditional music concerts:

There were no dance classes. Every Tuesday night Tech Jack hosts the residents and their friends to a Ceili (Kaylee), Irish traditional music. I attended with some of my classmates. Two of my classmates were Irish and one of them was an avid Ceili dancer. Most of the dancers were women. They told me that they leave their husbands at home because they are boors.

The dancing starts at 8:30 and continues until 11:00. Most of these women never stop dancing. These are not young chicks. The ages ranged from 60-82. I was dragged out to the floor a few times. I didn’t know any of the steps. I tried to follow and ended up stepping on a few toes. I wish I would have had a few lessons before we attended.

There were no traditional music “concerts”. An accordion was the only instrument used. There was a performance by one dancer and a fiddler for about two minutes. A singer sang one Irish song. This is not a concert and should not be promoted as a concert. I was disappointed.

There was one leisurely walk that took us down to the beach. We picked wild raspberries. They were sweet.

A visit to Teac Mhuiris introduced us to the life that once was in Donegal, Ireland. After the lecture, our host, Maggie, brought out bread, cakes, scones, and tea. A Gaelic teacher taught us a few Gaelic phrases most commonly used in everyday language. Many people in Donegal speak Gaelic as their native language. The pronunciation is complicated. I was never able to get the words to come out of my mouth in an understandable way.

WIFI

WIFI was available in “Jack’s Bar” and the room where the classes were held.  It was not available in the hotel rooms. This was a disadvantage because we had to sit in the bar with our computers to do our work. The heat in the classroom was shut off when we were not using it. The bar was noisy and there wasn’t much space to work.

Classes

The writing classes took place from 10:00 -1:00 every day.

Tea time/Story time/Language classes

The information on the site includes the following information:

Hands-on teaching techniques including one-on-one, sentence-by-sentence, paragraph-by-paragraph, critiques of participant’s own work completed before and during the week-long writing retreat. 

We were given an assignment and it was due within 24 hours. There was no offer of one on one in person critiques. The critiques came in the form of feedback online. The critiques did help. They were not profound critiques. The critiques were given by Sean Hillen the instructor/author.

A workshop presented by Emily DeDakis, a dramaturg, had us do various writing activities including putting our ideas into various groups. She gave us the assignment to write about something that we would never tell anyone. I didn’t do the assignment. She wasn’t going to give any feedback and I didn’t understand what the purpose was. Why should I tell her a secret when I don’t even know her?

Another workshop was presented by Laurence McKeown, a play writer. Laurence had a very interesting story about being held in prison for 17 years. He was on a hunger strike for almost seventy days. We found his story fascinating. He gave us intensive feedback on an assignment. The assignment was to write a story that included 50% dialog. It was misunderstood by all the class participants. He corrected them in a way that made them bleed. So much red ink!

Farewell Dinner

The agenda listed the Farewell Dinner as an “evening filled with wine snacks, and lively conversation”.  We had sandwiches that were hastily made and not tasty and lots of wine. The “lively conversation” included a local guitarist whose voice gave me a headache. He told us that he doesn’t write music, he just sings from memory. Another local tried to sing a traditional Irish song but had a very bad cold. We had some lively music from one of the participant’s husbands who played country western music and she had a beautiful voice. The lively conversation switched to Irish politics.

Welcome Dinner

A magical mystery welcome was the title of the welcome dinner.  The owner of Cafe Kitty gave a presentation on potatoes and how they can be cooked. She brought a sampling of her mashed potatoes for us to try. They were good. Later in the week, we went to her restaurant for lunch. Sancho entertained us with a few Irish fairy tales.

Transportation

There is no public transportation. Cabs were available and expensive. This is a problem if you want to go to another town to go shopping or eat. The cost of transportation by cab to the airport is 25 euros.

Meals

Lunch and dinner are not included. You could spend between $30-40 for food and drink per day.  Breakfast is included everyday.

Everyone has different expectations when trying something for the first. The overall experience was good. New friends, good food, rainy weather, new places, and a different language. It was an experience. I feel that the people who were running the workshop did not put enough effort into the program. They were trying to save money at the participants expense. I  admit that this is my first experience and I can’t compare this program to another.

 

New Irish friends

If These Castle Walls Could Talk


If These Castle Walls Could Talk

Today is a perfect day to visit a castle in Ireland. Grey, misty, damp, and a bit of mystery in the air. Castles are mysterious, secretive and overwhelming. Ireland never had any kings. They were under the kingdom and power of England. The Normans came to Ireland in the Medieval times and built castles that didn’t last long. They were trying to conquer Ireland. Many of the castles became ruins or were destroyed. Irish castles were built by foreigners trying to overtake and control the Irish people.

My four classmates, a married couple from New Jersey, two Irish women, and I pile into an old blue Ford van. Members of the Ireland Writing Retreat on Donegal held up in the inn for almost four hours. The weather is not being very cooperative. Then again it is Ireland. It begins to sprinkle as we travel about thirty minutes to our destination. The land is desolating. There is no one around. There are a few farmhouses, some goats roaming around and eating grass, and a lot of green. It is green everywhere. At home in Arizona, I see the desert. Cactus, snakes, coyotes, and bobcats. It is exciting to see such a different climate. I can put up with this rain for now.

We arrive at Glenveagh Castle located in Churchill, Letterkenny, Ireland. It is no longer sprinkling. It is pouring. We jiggle the door latch to open the door. The door slides open and out we jump. My umbrella refuses to open. Norma, one of my Irish classmate attempts to share hers with me. Norma is an author. She has written two books. She is a very happy woman in her 80s and we have become friends. Her daughter is the same age as mine and we both lost our husbands about three years ago.  She has become my hiking buddy. There is only one minor problem with the umbrella situation. She is much shorter than me. I slowly slip the umbrella out of her hands and hold it over both of our heads.  We share a laugh. We head straight to the information center. The room is very small. The receptionist is behind the information desk. There are at least eight other people squeezed into the space. A family with two young boys are sitting on the bench. The older boy keeps asking his father “Do we have to see another castle? Can I wait in the car?” This kid is castled out. We get our tickets and have to wait for about twenty minutes. I am not waiting in this crowded office. I want to go outside and take pictures.

I head outside. I have my trusty raincoat with a hood that I bought on Amazon one week before the trip. Thanks to the quick delivery provided by my Amazon Prime membership, it arrived two days before my flight. I am sure I will be protected. It is raining much harder now. My curiosity will not go away rain or not. I take out my camera. Cover the lens to the best of my ability and start snapping away. I am in the garden. The garden is walled and was planted and taken care of by the wife of John Adair, the original owner of the castle. Unlike her husband, Cornelia was a kind landlady and very generous to the poor. The garden was modeled after Italian gardens. There is a total of eleven hectares of informal gardens with a different theme. I wish I could see the flowers without the rain. The smell of the rain and the flowers are powerful for someone like me who sees rain twice a year. Yellow dahlias, pink and white roses, Japanese cherry blossoms, yellow osterglocken (daffodil) from Wales, white orchids from Panama (Holy Spirit Flower), and the pink Scottish Bluebell (national flower of Scotland). It is September and many of the flowers have reached their peak season.

 

I find a small bench and sit for a while protected from the torrential rain falling around me. I look around me and the mist has fallen and taken over the beautiful scenery of the garden. It is very mystifying. I find my mind wandering off and thinking what life would be in a castle. I look at my watch and realize our tour will begin in five minutes. I navigate my way to the entrance. I feel like I am walking in heaven. The rain makes me happy and gives me energy. It adds mystery to the castle.

John Adair was one of the most hated men in Ireland. Many Donegal natives would consider it a curse to even mention his name in conversation. Adair had a temper and felt a sense of entitlement that most people did not appreciate. He became a very affluent man by traveling to New York in 1850 and working on land speculation. In 1870, he returned to Glenveagh, Donegal. He began to buy up smaller portions of land the locals owned to create his large estate. The local farmers were struggling to keep their families fed and clothed. Adair was not interested in the problems of the people around him. He had no interest in helping them.

Adair had a dream. He wanted to build a castle that would be much bigger than Balmoral, Queen Victoria’s Scottish Retreat. In 1870 he built the castle on 16,958 hectares of mountains, bogs, lakes, and woods. Glenveagh Castle is four stories tall, rectangular, and made from granite.  The walls are 11/2 meters thick. The castle includes turrets, a round tower, and fortified battlement ramparts to keep out the enemies. Adair didn’t have any enemies to keep out. He wanted to keep out the Irish farmers. They were no threat to him.  Just a nuisance.

Our tour begins in the entryway. The walls are off-white and four pairs of deer busts with their antlers adorn the hallway. Two of them mounted on the wall and two on small pedestals. John Adair was an avid hunter. He replaced the poor Irish people with deer. This made me sad and I wonder how a man could be so cruel. We enter the music room. It is small, blue ceramic fireplace in the corner, blue/green plaid wallpaper on the walls (reminds me of my school uniform),  an antler chandelier hangs in the center of the room, and a big window opens to the lake below.

Our guide tells us this is where the men hung out, smoked their cigars, and shared hunting stories. We visited the oval bedroom. The guests slept here. If they needed anything, they had a little bell that would summon the servants. There were twelve indoor staff and eight gardeners.

One of the bigger rooms in the castle is the Drawing Room where the women would meet. They gossiped, worshiped themselves in their mirrors and worried that their makeup would melt because the room was so warm. They didn’t want to “lose face”. This is true and everyone in the group began to laugh. The women talked about their husbands, boyfriends, and children. They didn’t have any household duties. If they needed someone to attend to them, they rang the bell and someone would be at their beck and call.

I wanted to find out how the castle was built. Who were the laborers who carried the stones from the lake and painstakingly built the walls? Were they paid for their work? Were they the poor Irish farmers living on the land of John Adair? The guide didn’t give us this information. Another mystery.

The first thing Adair did was to evict the local families. Some say it was because he wanted to “improve the view from his castle.” Who wants to look at the poor?” The local families lived in homes with thatched roofs made of cereal straw and reed covered with wooden rafters. The walls were double packed with earth. The floors were flagstone or packed earth that didn’t help in keeping the home warm. A hearth was located in the central area of the home. There were neither chimneys nor windows for the smoke to escape. The people would have had to pay more taxes for the windows. The soot-blackened homes were known as “black houses”.

The locals became very upset and protested his hunting retreats crossing over their lands. They reported him as trespassing. He became furious and even more determined to get these people off of the land. Adair wanted to use the land as a sheep farm. He had brought his own shepherds who eventually got into a bit of trouble. One of them was accused of murder and having an affair with the dead man’s wife. She became pregnant and was sent off to Scotland.

Eviction of the locals began with Adair acquiring the necessary documents that would allow him to send his “crowbar men” house-to-house evicting families. The first house they came upon was the home of a widow and her seven children. After the family was given the news, their house was destroyed so that they could not come back and live in it. A total of two hundred and forty-four people were homeless including one hundred and fifty-nine children. Michael O’Grady paid for half of the people to move to Australia. O’Grady had purchased land in Australia for the sole purpose of providing land for the displaced farmers. Forty-two of the evicted ended up in workhouses in Letterkenny. These evictions were the most infamous in the history of Ireland.

John Adair passed away in 1885. His wife lived until 1921 and was remembered as being kind-hearted. Glenveagh was bought by a Harvard professor, Arthur Kinsley Porter. He led a very lavish lifestyle. Frequent dinner parties, deer stalking, fishing, and kept a wonderful garden. He disappeared from nearby Inishbofin Island in 1933. His death is a mystery.

Castles are pieces of European history. They represent the great divide between the rich and the poor. Who built this grand castle in Glenveagh? There is no mention of the men who carried the massive granite stones one by one up and down the hills. Were these men paid? How much were they paid? Where are the answers? I can only guess that some of the farmers left behind built the castle with no pay. They were slave laborers. There is no plaque or description of the builders. Could it be something that people just want to forget? It is important to remember history and to honor those who put so much sweat into this great castle.

I left the castle with these questions. We had some time before our van returned. We stopped at the restaurant in the visitor center. There were pies, cookies, chocolates, tea, and coffee. We all ordered something to eat and drink. I ordered coffee and a piece of cheesecake. I asked my group if they knew who built the castle. No one had the answer. The information desk wouldn’t give me an answer. Is it a secret? I want to know.

The van arrives. The rain slows to an annoying drizzle. I am disappointed. I would like to spend more time at the castle. We drive down the road and I can’t resist turning around and looking at the castle tower. It is so tall and profound. I can imagine what the life of the people outside of the castle and inside the castle was like. Two completely different groups occupying the same land.

The road we travel back is the same road that so many of the Irish walked to arrive at their ships taking them out of their country into a far and distant place. Places such as the USA and Australia, no longer in charge of their destiny.

This bridge was crossed by the evicted farmers and their families.

A message carved in Gaelic wishing everyone safe travels and mourning their loss

I look out into the vast green farmland. It is quiet and has an eerie feeling. There are no people in the fields, driving cars, or walking around. Was it always like this? It looks so lonely. No one talks as we make our way back to the Tec.

The countryside as it is today

Castles are mysterious. They hold secrets that we will never know.

 

 

Clarkdale and Tuzigoot/Unlikely Neighbors

No one would have ever come to the desert Southwest if it weren’t for the search of minerals. Coronado got lost seeking gold in Cibola but ended up finding it in Southern Arizona. He also found Native Americans from the Sinagua (without water) tribe living peaceably on the land. Arizona is rich in minerals and people came here to mine. The Anglo Saxons, the white guys, were the first to come after the Native Americans to look for minerals. Gold, Silver, and Copper. Traders, cattle ranchers, farmers, and homesteaders followed.  Some of the mines are still in use and others have been abandoned. Nearly every great fortune of the West was made in mining.

I wasn’t looking for minerals when I started out on my four-day excursion on 89A, one of the first highways constructed in Arizona. I was exploring. Just like Coronado, I didn’t find gold or silver. I found copper. Not in the ground, but in a museum. Copper from all over the world. The museum is in Clarkdale, a booming mining town that now caters to tourists and retirees.

 

 

The two settlements of Clarkdale and Tuzigoot have some similarities.

Clarkdale

Clark is best known as one of the three “Copper Kings” of Butte, Montana, along with Marcus Daly and F. Augustus Heinze. In 1935, Phelps Dodge Mining Corp. purchased the United Verde Copper Company for $22,800,000.00 and operated the mine until its closing in 1953.

The first mining claims in Clarkdale were made by the Irish in 1876.  William A Clark arrived in town and purchased the United Verde Copper Company in 1888 for $80,000. He bought out the Irish who had also laid claim to the land. He named the town of Clarkdale after himself. Doesn’t everyone want a town named after them? The West was wild and just about anyone whose pockets were lined with cash was free to do what they wanted. Clark was one of those prosperous guys. He started mining “chalcopyrite”, referred to as “fool’s” gold. Chalcopyrite was mined in the town of Jerome about 40 miles from Clarkdale between 1876 and 1953. This was no easy task considering the physical labor and expense it took to bring the chalcopyrite forty miles down very steep mountains. It was Clark who was responsible for bringing in the narrow-gauge railroad which boasted 187 curves and 28 bridges in the last 14 miles of its 27-mile run, making it one of the largest copper mining operations in Arizona. The “J” for Jerome can be seen painted on the mountain when standing in Clarkdale.  The smelting mill in Clarkdale was the major source of employment. The process of smelting was to take the oxygen from the ore and leave the metal behind. Clarkdale processed the chalcopyrite into copper from 1913-1953.

 

William Andrews Clark was a man with three great ambitions in his lifetime. One of those ambitions was to own a town that would be one of the most modern mining towns in the world. Clarkdale, a town which bore his name, would be such a town.  

Mr. Clark needed a place to house his employees. Before the idea of neighborhoods, people built their houses where there was land. Freestyle camping. Mr. Clark didn’t want this kind of haphazard living style. He wanted his workers to be close together and he wanted a design. What he really wanted was control. The concept of company housing began. Clarkdale was the first “neighborhood design” to be developed in the state of Arizona. Construction started in 1912 and continued until 1930. The town had 560 dwellings and homes, and two hotels. Before a home was built it had to be approved by Clark or his son.

The first house he built was the Pilot House in 1912. It was two stories tall and made of concrete. Clark didn’t like the idea at first because it was too expensive for the number of homes he wanted to build. The bedrooms of the house were rented out to the men who worked in the smelter. Workers slept in eight-hour shifts. When one worker woke up, another took his place in bed. That made space for three people to rent at the same time. There were limited opportunities for shift workers in their daily living.

The town was divided into four sections: Upper Town, Lower Town, Patio Town, and Santa Fe town.

Upper Town  

Mr. Clark believed the “well housed and contented employees were an asset to the company”.

The Bungalow or Craftsman style homes were built for the white people. These were engineers and executives. Fifty-five of these homes were built from 1915-1917.  They were built with bricks produced in a factory in Clarkdale.  They were low cost, simple living quarters with an artistic touch to the American trying to get by with modest means. In 1912 workers earned $630 a year. The rents started at $15 per month for smaller homes and $45 for larger homes. Wide boulevards, large lots, and a great assortment of home designs made up the housing. A park in the middle of the city served as a place for the “white folks” to get together and socialize. Services included power, light, water, and sewer. There was a police force, street maintenance, garbage collection, and volunteer firefighters. All residents were required to keep the premises and yards clean. Clark did not allow his employees to own the land. They were required to lease.

 

Lower Town

Lower Town was blue collar. These homes were cheaper than the homes in Upper Town. Every home was identical in design. The people living in Lower Town had very low salaries.

Lower Town homes have three sizes of Neoclassical, small single family, large single family and duplex. Small homes have a sleeping porch recessed into one corner. Large homes have a sleeping veranda under a shed roof. The yards were small and life was contained in the home. The people who lived in Lower Town or the Patio Homes were not invited to mix with the Upper Town folks. They had their own swimming pool and ballparks.

 

 

Patio Town

Patio Park was designed for immigrant Mexican laborers. There was an open courtyard between two houses. This was referred to as the patio. Mr. Clark felt that the Mexicans liked being outside. Mexican culture is a very close culture and they like to be with each other and socializing. This neighborhood still exists and is inhabited by Mexicans in this day.

Santa Fe Town/Rio Vista

The last neighborhoods were the Rio Vista and Santa Fe town. Houses sold for $1,250-$2,225 in 1912. Duplexes had front and rear facing gables and porches at each end used as sleeping quarters.

The Rio Vista “View of the River” was near the Verde River. People built their own homes and rented the land from the UVCC. Railroad workers built their homes between Lower Town and Patio Park and called it Santa Fe after the railroad company. It also had the name Twittyville, E Twitty, the train master for the UVCC.

The Mine Closes

 

In 1917, the population increased to 4,200. The population in 1920 was 5,000. In 1960 copper prices dropped and the mines were closed. After the mines closed the population dropped to 500. The people who live in Clarkdale are retirees, hospital workers, and work in the tourism industry. Thirty percent of the population is Hispanic and 400 are Native Americans.

It was not easy to travel anywhere out of Clarksdale.  No cars nor roads.  In 1927 highway 89A was completed.

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Tuzigoot

 

In the twelfth century, land near Clarkdale was occupied by the Sinagua tribe. Sinagua is Spanish for “without water”. The only indication of their life is a cluster of rocks representing past buildings on top of a small sandstone ridge close to the Verde River. There were 250 people living in 80 rooms. The village was abandoned sometime in the 15th century.

Tuzigoot means “cracked water”. It was built between 1100-1450 AD. The building was two stories high and had 110 rooms. The Natives depended on rain to help grow their crops. They hunted deer, antelope, rabbits, and ducks. They used salt to make their food taste better and keep from spoiling. They made axes, knives, hammers, jewelry from shells, turquoise and red stone. They grew cotton and wove textiles. Mining was also a part of their lives. They began to extract argillite and copper from the mines. The village was deserted for a variety of reasons. It could have been because of lack of

rain, attacked by another tribe, or disease.

There was a volcano eruption (Sunset Crater) not far from the city of Flagstaff. People did not have access to news channels and became scared and left.