Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Small Town, Strong History

For a town of only 4,000, Willcox, located in southeastern Arizona, has left its imprint on the history of the state.

We began our two-block walk of the town's center at the Depot, the oldest remaining original railroad station on the Southern Pacific southern route. Built in 1880 and restored in 1998, the depot now holds the offices of the city of Willcox.

This half freight and half passenger car served on the Mascot & Western Railroad and traveled between Willcox and the Mascot Mine in Dos Cabezas, about 15 miles southeast of Willcox. The car was built in 1915 and restored in 2000.

Originally the dining room for the Duncan Hotel and later the Cowboy Bar, this building now houses Bucko's Coffee Shop.

Next door is Big Tex's BBQ. This Pullman car has been converted to a restaurant. The smoker located streetside at the far end of the car was putting out some enticing aromas, but sampling the results of the smoking process was disappointing.

Across Maley Street from Big Tex's is the former Commercial Hotel. Dating from 1916, the hotel now contains business offices.

Willcox was once known as the "Cattle Capital" of the nation. The abundant grass of the valley and good watering places for cattle attracted ranchers to the area. In 1936, Willcox shipped more cattle directly from the range than any other shipping point in the U.S.

The tracks for the Union Pacific Railroad are across Railroad Street from these historic buildings, along with a war memorial, an historic marker, and a statue of Rex Allen. I think I disappointed one of the other visitors to Willcox, when I admitted that I did not know who Rex Allen was.

But, the "Arizona Cowboy" was the last of the movie "singing cowboys." His recording of "Streets of Laredo" was familiar (although I remembered the Smothers Brothers version very clearly)*, but I did not realize that he was the narrator of over 100 "Wonderful World of Disney" films. Willcox is very proud of their native son.

In 1900, Wyatt Earp's brother Warren was shot to death in the Headquarters Saloon, which is now the pink Desert Moon Gift Shop.

Our walk on this morning, unfortunately, was free of fellow pedestrians. The town has done much to preserve its history, and their work deserves more recognition. This adobe structure, for example, was the Norton-Morgan General Store and is the oldest department store in Arizona still operating from the same location.

I just liked the copper-covered doors of the former Willcox Bank & Trust and future home of the Marty Robbins (yes, The Marty Robbins) Museum.

At the end of the Railroad Avenue block, we saw this structure. We don't know anything about the philosophy behind The Outpost, but the owners have a very different approach to their trade.

An interesting small town Willcox is.

*As I walked out on the streets of Laredo.
As I walked out on Laredo one day,
I spied a young cowboy all dressed in white linen,
Dressed in white linen as cold as the clay.
"I can see by your outfit that you are a cowboy."
"I see by your outfit you are a cowboy too."
"We see by our outfits that we are both cowboys.
If you get an outfit, you can be a cowboy too."

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