From the sublime to the ridiculous

is a saying that that has become part of the vernacular, though no one quite knows who said it – Talleyrand? Napoleon? Gertrude Stein? It captures the spectrum of experiences I had today on my desert trip north.

Sublime would be the weathered, battered signs that dot the old west.

Up in Wikea, not an official ghost town but a real, ramshackle, dusty, spread out region, a speck on the map.

A place of pies and honey. We had black walnut cream pie, which tasted a lot like maple and was the specialty of Lucia’s, a joint on the fringe of town.

More recent signs will someday deteriorate, I’m sure.

Farther down 93, the Joshua Forest Scenic Parkway, a forest of the plants, which are not actually trees but belong to the yucca family.

The highway is the site of some gruesome collisions, with 13 deaths this past year.

The descansos by the side of the road brought the statistic to life, and I have to say they were both horrible and very sweet.

Then there is the town of Nothing, current population Zero.

Also sublime in its own mysterious way. Founder Richard “Buddy” Kenworthy had a bar, a service station and a general store here, back in the ‘70s,  but it all went south. The sign and an over-tagged shed are all that’s left.

Finally we come to Wickenburg, founded in 1863. Ridiculous? Sublime? You tell me.

It is a true western town, with 6,000 residents and a least four saloons. Stores selling various essentials.

We met a guy with a cherished Chevy Nova who came to Arizona from unspoiled Molokai, Hawaii, once the home of a famous leper’s colony.

Now, he said, he only makes the daily roundtrip from his home south of Wickenburg in to the American Legion.

Another fellow runs a café where you can get a very un-Western latte. The local government is getting too liberal, he said, but his wife sits on the town council and has managed to put the brakes on so far.

Signs outside of town announce Gold Panning Here and Abolish the IRS. A church sign says, “Trying times are times for trying.”

Local store windows further offer a picture of the Wickenburg worldview.

The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association is a political association of local police officials who contend that federal and state government authorities are subordinate to the power of county sheriffs. So-called constitution sheriffs assert they are the supreme legal authority with the power to disregard laws they regard as unconstitutional. It has its roots in the Posse Comitatus of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Great.

Everyone tries to be cheerful about everything.

This is what I find ridiculous.

But finally, just outside of Wickenburg, we find the Rancho Rio Weekly Wild West Rodeo. Wickenburg is the Team Roping Capital of the World. Sunburnt cowboys, fantastic horses, the pleasant aroma of horse dung.

We didn’t see some of the more interesting events, like wild cow milking and trailer loading. Just the roping, impossible to document with a still camera.

Champions all around.

A puppy that would be ready for adoption in a week. As yet unnamed.

And the most sublime, a cow roper with an elegant mustachio.

Worth traveling to Wickenburg for.

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