We came from Apache Junction, over the Superstition mountains, along state route 88, which owes much of its construction to the New Deal. It follows the old Apache trail, and most of the crews working through the mountains from either end to meet in the middle were Apaches and Yavapai from postage stamp reservations at Camp Verde and the like. There is still a 22-mile stretch of unpaved dirt road clinging to the curves of the mountain, with a precipitous drop on one side or the other.
The 88 passes the Roosevelt Dam. It takes you past Roosevelt Lake, back in 1911 the largest man-made lake in the world, and past the Salado cliff dwellings at Tonto National Monument, which date back to the 13th century.
History here feels strange.
If you ignore Whitey’s scarrings and other transformations of the landscape, there is a sense of a deep past, its traces light and often eradicated, but on a timescale that makes sense to a European. Its preservation by state agencies feels like a disavowal. There is a tangible disjunction between that history and the anxious celebrations of people and places and events from less than a couple of hundred years ago. They are tenuous, impermanent. Unpersuasive. Improper. You can feel the year-zero, like some endless mall car park, stretching beneath them.
We turn onto the 60 and stop at Miami for a late lunch at a Mexican diner. It seems to be doing okay, but all along the main street the stores are closed or closed down.
It is a long time since anyone stayed at the Traveler’s Hotel.
Some believe that on 27 January 1864 a key battle in the Arizona Apache Wars took place nearby; others locate it in Fish Creek Canyon, back in the mountains. An expedition, led by King Woolsey, invited native leaders to a parley; and once they were seated, Woolsey ordered the killing of every Indian in sight. It is said the stream ran red with their blood, which is why it is now called the Bloody Tanks Wash.
But banners invite you to take part in the Bloody Tanks Riverwalk in Historic Downtown Miami.
They’re a couple of years old, it seems.
The sun has faded them.
It is all there.
PS Someone just told me that the skew-eyed, crumple-faced Jack Elam, rubbish heavy turned grizzled sidekick, is from Miami, AZ. Which seems appropriate. If not to this post, perhaps, then certainly to the town.