We lived in Tucson Arizona USA in the early 1970s. I hunted quail about 40 miles (ca. 64 km) Southwest of the city, every time an opportunity came up. My favorite spot was an old abandoned place that was occupied about a hundred years ago near the Mexican border.
I liked to hunt pheasants and ducks. Quail hunting tests a shooter’s ability to hit a target that bursts into the air at his feet and is instantly traveling the speed of a bullet. Some compare it to dove hunting. I could never shoot a dove. When the three Olson boys were growing up, we raised pigeons and had individual names for most of them. The Lord never made a bird more caring and loving than a pigeon, there is no way on this earth I could ever shoot a dove or a pigeon.
The Gambel’s quail are plentiful and can be found in large coveys in the hot, parched, desert of the south western United States. When a covey explodes into the air, they all go in different directions. I suppose that is, so they don’t collide with each other, but it also confounds the Hunter as he tries to quickly pick a target. Usually by the time the one with gun makes his decision the quail are long gone. They only fly a short distance, as if beckoning to you, just dare try to make us fly again. You will see them scurrying along the dry creek bed seeking a new shaded hiding place.
A sad, but true testimony to my wing shooting ability, we didn’t have quail under glass, a brace of quail would be an appetizer. The table was not graced with quail very often. It was time for celebration if I got enough little birds ‘about 90 grams each’ about ‘3.97 ounces’ for my wife and 3 daughters to enjoy a taste.
Those ruins must have been witness to a colorful history in that wild western desert. I always took a ‘time machine’ rest break, sitting in a shady spot near one of the cooler, stonewalls. After checking for scorpions and black widow spiders, I would sit, close my eyes and conjure up memories of what must have taken place there.
In studying that low doorway, I concluded, if Matt Dillon ever followed a gunslinger down here from Dodge City Kansas, he had to bend down low to enter the house and bring the bad guy out. There was no doubt many shootouts there. The total amount of hot lead that got ricocheted off those rock walls through the years would have made an anchor for a large ship. I wish there was a list of Sheriffs, U.S. Marshals and Texas Rangers who rode in there. You can bet some never caught the gang off guard so didn’t ride out, not sitting upright, maybe tied in the saddle.
It didn’t take much imagination to decide it must have been a hideout for numerous murderers, bank robbers, horse thieves, cattle rustlers and other unsavory lawbreakers. The location was perfect, if the word came down that a posse was approaching from the North all they had to do was hop on their horses, a short ride later they were safe in Mexico, until the Federales chased them back north.
It would have been a perfect hideout for desperados trying to escape the law and the hang man’s noose. It would have been a destination discussed in all the saloons and honkytonks in places like Dodge City Kansas or Fort Worth Texas or other areas where bad guys did dastardly deeds then headed South as fast as they could go, a perfect location to rest and recuperate from gunshot wounds.
Land seeking settlers probably built the house, and corrals. It took all the labor a whole family could muster to survive there. It was nearly impossible to grow enough to stay alive on. The stone corrals keep a pig or two, possibly, captured Javalina, from roaming off into the dessert. Chickens could fend for themselves until a hawk came to visit. Water was a constant issue. Pigs fed on cactus and wild gourds. Goats would never stay behind a low rock wall, but they needed to roam free to find enough food to survive on. Goat was the main meat on the menu no doubt, unless you got lucky enough to shoot a rabbit, then you had meat for a couple of days.
The first early settlers had to have many hair-raising meetings with the Apache people over trespass rights. It is likely the desperadoes found many houses vacated.
Several arroyos or creeks converged on that property making it the most likely place to find underground water in the area. After closer examination I discovered the remnants of a shallow hand-dug well, it was one of the few places in that region where water was available during the hot dry months. Walking along a Creek bed searching for quail early one morning I saw the largest rabbit my eyes have ever tried to focus on. I figured my mind was playing tricks on me. The broiling hot, rising sun, glaring on the dew in the creek bottom must be creating a mirage. That rabbit seemed to be several feet tall with ears as big as a donkey. He just stood there looking straight at me from about ten yards. I didn’t have my dog then, a good thing, she probably would have chased that critter all day long. That night just before going to sleep another vision of the bunny appeared. He was similar to Harvey the rabbit that was on the television program. I then decided about seriously considering the amount of alcohol I consume.