Editorial: Yuccas in bloom

Photo By Mike Bibb

Column By Mike Bibb

Having lived a majority of my life in Southeastern Arizona, witnessing the splendor and fickleness of the desert, I’ve come to the conclusion my knowledge and comprehension of this part of the planet are immensely lacking.

Which, as anyone who knows me, will quickly tell you that isn’t surprising. 

Actually, I’ve heard it more than once – “Mike is about seven gallons short of a full tank.”

Of course, depending on the size of the gas tank, that comment could be more positive than previously imagined.

Then again, with today’s high gas prices, pumping seven fewer gallons would cost me a whole lot less money.

But, that’s another story, for another time.

Anyway, since it’s been several years since I’ve traveled Haekel Road, I thought one day, “Why not travel Haekel Road?  It’s been several years since I last did it.” 

Turning off U.S. Highway 70 onto Haekel Road – about nine miles east of Safford – the wife and I immediately began playing “Dodge the Potholes.” 

Seemed the roadway, in some areas, was more dirt than pavement.  Other stretches weren’t too bad.  Still, others were pretty good.

The pavement ended at the Cochise County line, a few miles north of Bowie.

Except for devoting a large part of the time concentrating on road conditions, I was impressed with the flora and fauna of the area.

Actually, more flora than fauna.  Didn’t see a single rabbit, snake, or coyote during the entire trip.  A small sand-colored ground squirrel did scurry in front of the truck, in a hurry to somewhere.

Also, a few large crows glided overhead.  Probably curious why any human would be prowling around in the summer heat of the San Simon Valley.

After about 20 miles, I began to wonder the same thing.

Also, no cows.  Although a few cattle corrals, windmills, and water troughs were sporadically scattered about – evidence the bovines had traipsed in the vicinity one time or another. 

Other than those few creatures, nary a fur or feather was observed the approximate 45 miles into Bowie.

Of particular interest, blooming yuccas stood in stark contrast to the dry desert landscape.  Mesquite and Catclaw trees were still pretty green from the winter rains, but most grasses and weeds had turned a dusty brown.

Photo By Mike Bibb

The two pictured yucca plants were taken about 25 miles down the road, close to the hot wells and sand dunes.  A popular recreational spot for the ATV crowd.

Maybe, not so much in June, July, and August.  We didn’t encounter a single RV or off-road vehicle.

Prior to entering Bowie, we motored through numerous Pistachio orchards, and fields being prepared to be planted with additional nut trees.

Obviously, Pistachios are a major industry and employer in Bowie.

However, the little community has seen better days.  Dilapidated and empty buildings are everywhere.  Few businesses are available to serve the several hundred residents. 

Rolling onto I-10 West, and to the Safford U.S. Highway 191 turnoff, we completed the 97-mile loop in less than three hours.