Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project
By Neal Du Shane
Portrait Courtesy: Jerry Massey, 2010
76 year old Jim Fox – on his front porch 4/15/2010
Photo by: Neal Du Shane
Born May 1, 1933, Jim is one of a few true pioneer spirits that I have had the pleasure of knowing in my life time. Independent, free spirited, resourceful, peaceable, tranquility and solitude, that living the remote life can bring someone. He lives with four cats and of course the barrage of wild life that frequents his home.
Jim indicated the first year he lived there he killed six rattlesnakes but is down to maybe one a year presently. The past several years drought has limited the activity of creepy crawlies in this area. Pointing to the tree about 10 feet from the porch “that’s where the cat’s treed one last year and I killed it”. Cats keep the rodents, scorpions and lizards in check and are cherished by Jim for their vigilance.
May 2010 Jim will turn 77 years young. Physically able to get around with the best of them, has an extremely sharp mind and strong spirit. “Bright eyed and bushy tailed” is my best description of Jim. I told him “you’re kidding, you look about 67” and he replied “I feel like 107.” We both shared a good laugh. He went on to explain his dad lived to be 95 and his mother was in her 80’s, he hopes he has a few more years in him. Based on what I observed I think he will outlive his father.
Jim Fox residence near Fools Gulch on the Hassayampa River.
As the crow flies his residence is approximately 8 miles from Wickenburg up the Hassayampa River, according to Jim however if you drive the roads it is closer to 20 miles to Wickenburg from his residence.
Normally he makes the trip to Wickenburg once a month to get his mail, prescriptions, groceries, and supplies. Jim has a friend that he pays a flat monthly fee to provide his shuttle service once a month with a pickup truck to Wickenburg. Normally Jim requires gasoline and everyday supplies monthly but doesn’t need Propane but once every three months. In summer he uses more Propane keeping his food cold/frozen with the Propane powered refrigerator/freezer. Normally he makes a list of needed supplies, if he overlooks something or forgets to write it down he has to do without until his monthly trip to Wickenburg once again. No problem, that’s just the way it is and does without until the next trip.
Jim’s profession was making circuit boards in California and Phoenix prior to coming to live on the Hassayampa. Has lived in this area for some 27 years. Tried some mining at Turkey Creek but quickly determined mining wasn’t for him. We discussed how addicting gold mining is and agreed today the majority is done by “Pocket Mining”. Meaning promoters are only interested in cleaning the cash in the pockets of investors and not mining the gold. But alas this has gone on since the beginning of time. “Investor beware”.
Jim pointed out “During the depression individuals would live on the claim and get enough gold for bacon and beans and that’s all you needed to survive.” When he moved into this house there were no windows or doors on the structure, he had to build all of them out of scrap materials he could find.
Jim’s front porch - Photo by Neal Du Shane
As we sat on his porch I noticed a Sirius Satellite Radio setting on the table in the middle of the area. Jim indicated he has a Propane powered Satellite Radio. To which I replied “you have a what, how does that work?” He got up from his chair and said “follow me”. As we rounded the corner of the house he pointed to a Propane gas container on the roof, “Look up there, I have the Satellite receiver antenna attached to the container and I tell everyone it is Propane powered”.
After that, I started to marvel at his ingenuity, paying attention to some of his inventions. Told Jim he reminds me of “Rub Goldberg” with his ability to take a piece of wire and build a castle from it, a true talent.
Two LED flood lights on two separate trees provide yard lighting.
Photo by Neal Du Shane 04/15/2010
In two trees he has LED (Light Emitting Diode) lights to light the area around his front porch. Inside the porch he has one small light fixture with three bullet size green LED lights he uses to light the porch area, these green lights keeps from attracting the bugs at night. Has an old 12 volt automobile tail light without the lenses, hanging on the back wall that he has a switch beside his chair to light when he needs extra lighting but it tends to attract insects at night so he doesn’t use it very often. Jim reached over and flipped the switch to demonstrate how it operates and sure enough it glowed brightly even in the daylight. All of these are powered by batteries that he recharges from a gas powered generator.
Discussed his ability to have most of the modern conveniences and it seems the only thing he doesn’t have is a computer. He however would like one as he is very inquisitive and loves to research information but doesn’t have a telephone line. Suggested he get internet access on satellite also. “That costs money” Jim said.
Jim isn’t without phone service totally. He does have a Cell phone but doesn’t have reception where he is located. Pulled mine out of my pocket and checked, no I didn’t have reception either at his house. Once he gets closer to Wickenburg he can use it. But rarely uses it.
Water storage tanks
Photo by Neal Du Shane
Has a 35’ deep well that supplies his water in holding tanks and is powered by electricity supplied by the gasoline generator. Has several water holding tanks so he only runs the pump at the well when he needs to replenish his water supply.
Welcome to the home of Jim Fox on the Hassayampa
Photo by Neal Du Shane
Wood provides heat for the house but cooks with Propane gas. With the refrigerator he can have fresh vegetables and frozen meet. But tends to have plenty of canned goods and dried meat that he doesn’t have to refrigerate. When he goes to town he only goes to Wickenburg. Jim said, “Costs a lot more to purchase there, but I don’t like driving or for that matter riding in Phoenix, too busy and congested” Shops basically at Safeway as this is where he has his prescriptions filled.
As I traveled the road from King Soloman Creek to Jim’s house, I noticed on the far side of the Hassayampa a horizontal cut in the side of the mountain. Jim indicated this is the cut for the old flume that brought water from the Walnut Grove Dam before is burst in 1890, flooding the downstream residents and destroying the dam at or near Slaughter House Canyon. Jim indicated he was told the wood from the Walnut Grove flume after the flood makes up much of the exterior walls of the porch.
Often as mines would close people would come to the mine sites and dismantle the buildings for the wood and nails and take it to town and repair or build add on structures to their homes or outbuildings, of course without permission and only if they didn’t get caught. Most of these locations were so remote they didn’t have law enforcement protection and no one lived close enough to protect the property so it simply walked off.
As we speculated on the deaths in the Walnut Grove dam disaster we agreed many prospectors were killed and no one knew who they were or possible that they were even in the area and would only be counted if their physical remains were ever found. It was reported that there was as many as 70 to 100 deaths’. Arguably the number of deaths could be double or tipple this number.
Told me he used to live farther up the Hassayampa closer to the Williams Ranch but the area was closed and made into a Natural Area and he had to relocate. Jim has lived here almost 20 years as the Care Taker. He keeps the house up, keeps the stock tanks full and generally polices the area. In addition anyone trying to rustle cattle would have to go past his house so the ranchers appreciate his vigilance.
Slightly farther up the Hassayampa is the White Mine which is now abandoned and no longer operational. Some structures remain but Mother Nature is in the process of reclaiming them.
Over the years three people have owned the ranch for which he currently resides. Originally the ranch was homesteaded by one of the Champie family and his house was part of their homestead. JB Bar Ranch owned by Doug Miller currently leases the land for cattle.
Photo by Neal Du Shane 04/15/2010
Jim wanted to show me some of the history of the house and we walked to the back door and etched in the concrete sidewalk was “Sundance Kid 69”. Jim speculates this isn’t the partner of the famed Butch Cassidy duo.
While coming around the corner of the house to look at the etching I had to laugh out loud. There attached to a tree in the back yard was a Direct Satellite Dish for his television viewing and listening to XM music off the satellite.
Walking around the property I noticed a one foot square opening at the peak of his roof on the main house. Asked, with it being open, if he got squirrels, raccoons, or birds that resided there. Jim said, “Cats, that’s where the cats go to hide out if someone visits me with dogs”.
Jim indicated he never had much time for dogs. Seems any dog he has ever had they were never watch dogs. “Lay right there and when someone came they would run to me standing at the door and never bark. Then when I’d leave they would howl the whole time I was gone.”
Growing up as a child, Jim world do odd jobs to earn $.50 or a $1.00. Once paid he would head straight for the nearest Picture Show and then could view 5 or 10 movies in the theater when they cost $0.10 cents for admission each. He likes action movies best. Modern action thrillers with special effects are his favorites.
We discussed the original location for the Ghost Town of Constellation. He confirms it was up Slim Jim Creek about a mile east of the present day Constellation Road. He recommended I read “Deep Enough” by Frank Cramton, informed him it was an excellent book, well written and I already had a copy.
As to when he is home and can be visited, indicated he is always there on weekends. During the week he may make a trip to Wickenburg so he can’t tell if he will always be home during week days.
He doesn’t smoke, chew or drink. But does drink regular Pepsi-Cola constantly, none of that wimpy low octane diet stuff for Jim.
Map by Neal Du Shane
UPDATE - February 23, 2011
By Neal Du Shane
My second trip to visit Jim started in Wickenburg at approximately 7 AM. Heavy on “Burr” as it was 31 degrees with frost on almost everything when I unloaded and started traveling. Fortunately I ride with electric gloves, jacket and pants to say warm on the ATV – Toasty Warm. Going out Constellation Road to Sayers Spring then turned left down King Solomon Creek for about a mile then right out of the creek following the main four wheel drive road. Same route as listed on the map above. Uneventful ride and a beautiful early morning ride giving me time to explore Sayers Spring once again. Nothing much has changed at Sayers Spring.
Jim Fox poses with Portrait, by Jerry Massey
Photo by Neal Du Shane
Arrived at Jim’s house about 8:30 AM, he heard me coming and he hollered out “Give me a few minutes”. No problem as it takes me a few minutes to get out of my riding gear and get my helmet off. Jerry Massey had created a beautiful portrait of Jim that really impressed me, in that Jerry captured Jim exactly. I had taken this portrait and had it framed to present to Jim.
Once he came out of the house with his jacket on we sat on his porch and discussed his life from my last visit. Indicated he had been up at dawn, walked out on the porch and it was so cold he went back inside under the covers for another hour or two. Took the portrait out of the packing and presented it to him, he was elated and studied it at length. Said it is was amazing what can be done with a photo to make it look like a painting.
At age 77 years young, there have been drastic changes in Jim’s life. He bought a Ford F200 four wheel drive pickup for an emergency vehicle. Primarily uses it for gathering up wood that he uses to heat his house. If he has a medical emergency he can now drive to town on one of two routes. It is reassuring to know Jim has a way to town and not have to wait for someone to come along to give him a ride.
Still has his satellite TV and subscribes to all movie channels they broadcast, which he states costs him about $120 per month but that’s okay he enjoys the movies the most. Listens to his XM Satellite radio in front of his favorite chair on the porch. Primarily Jim likes fiction and subscribes to DVD for additional movies.
Used a gas generator to generate electricity to power his electric appliances and put water to the stock corral for the J-Bar ranch. We walked out back and there was a Caterpillar Front End Loader with a backhoe, parked there that a rancher owns and used to improve the road I came in on (sort of). Jim said he can’t run it as he doesn’t know how to operate it. In addition there are three portable generators strewn along the way to the working unit. Jim indicated he has gone through the other two over the years and can run them up to 12 hours a day depending on the movies and TV he wants to watch.
His cat population has grown from four last year to thirteen presently. Said these cats keep the varmints and creepy crawlies to a minimum and normally hunt at night but still gets a scorpion or two in his bed from time to time. Jim reassured me a Scorpions sting can’t kill you but sure swells up and hurts for a while. Looses a couple of cats to Coyotes and Owls every now and then, once in a while a rattlesnake will bite one of them. With in-breading he expects the population to grow despite the losses. Indicated he has a 55 gallon barrel inside full of cat food. Jim pointed to my ATV and said “look at it” . . . sure enough there were cats lined up and sleeping on the warm black parts that the sun was hitting. Laughed and told Jim every time he went in the house the cats gathered with their tails high in the air, so it was evident he hadn’t fed them this morning. As I was getting ready to depart Jim fed them and they all were huddled around their dishes having a long awaited serving of breakfast with no fights.
Jim continues in good health and enjoys people stopping in to talk with him. Only sees a few people in the winter months, when it gets hot there isn’t much traffic out this was he says. Enjoys setting in his chair and having the sun warm him during the winter months. Still is a regular Pepsi purest and there are Pepsi cans evident where ever you look around the property.
ANOTHER PIONEER ERA CHANGE
UPDATE – 1/17/15 By Neal Du Shane
I hadn’t visited Jim in about a year and it was time. Rode out through the frost laden Hassayampa River bottom from Wickenburg in the early morning at about 30 degrees, splashing through water in the Narrows.
As I approached Jim’s house, there was a fire in a wire mesh bin in his front yard, he uses to burn trash about 10 feet from his front door. Jim was setting with his normal smile on the front porch with a warm greeting. As I walked up I could hear his generator running at the back of the house and asked him if he had been watching a movie? Jim said, “No I’m filling the water tanks . . . ran out of water this morning”. Discussed how each of us had been since we spoke last to catch up on each other.
As I sat on the sofa on his front porch, told him the fire felt good to take the chill off the morning air. Jim replied, “Yah I’m burning things I want to get rid, as I’m moving”. On January 22, 2015 Jim is moving. Historically, this is the longest he has lived in one place, 25 years. When he moved in, there were no windows and a few doors, he has worked on making the house his home over the years with no assistance from the landlord. None was expected as being a Caretaker often provides free housing and little else.
He is currently 82 and is having some issues with mobility after falling a couple of times this past year, there are no cell phones or neighbors close, Jim has no vehicle to get about, he has to rely on people stopping in if he has an emergency and needs attention. He realizes he could be long gone by the time someone stopped to assist him.
When he fell the last time he had to scoot on his back to get to something he could lift himself up by, he couldn’t roll over to get to his knees. This single incident more than anything helped him make the decision to move to Wickenburg to a HUD housing efficiency unit with all the conveniences. Jim said he won’t know what to do living this high on the hog, with a big smile on his face. Went on to explain living among people may be a challenge but he will adjust. Indicated he enjoys change and is looking forward to moving. Isn’t sure if another “Caretaker” will move into this house or not.
He has visited the new unit but it was being refurbished when he was there. Jim was impressed with the ability to have emergency pull strings in the rest room and living area, just in case he needs emergency attention. He will have to get a phone in his unit so they can call him if he does pull the emergency cord. If the people supervising the units don’t get an answer they then summon emergency units.
Discussed the conveniences of modern living and not having to get up in the middle of the night to stoke the stove in his bedroom to stay warm. Jim said in the past, he used to do laundry in a bucked and a toilet plunger, but in recent years had gotten lazy and takes his laundry to a laundry mat in Wickenburg when a friend drives him to town once a month or so. Discussed having a shower instead of standing in a bucket of water and starting from the top and working his way down. Indicated this happened maybe once a year with a twinkle in his eye, now he can shower daily or more often, if he feels like it.
His family were migrant workers in his youth, and they followed the crops across the southwest. He came to Arizona from California and was a Caretaker for a mine owner one and one quarter miles from the Williams Ranch farther up river. As mentioned previously he lived there 8 years, then moved to this location 25 years ago. Everything on this property has been accumulated by Jim over the years. Boasted, he has been in every State but Hawaii in his life time.
As we strolled through his home on a personal tour, there were many memorable items he has accumulated but won’t have room for in the efficiency unit. Some are unique to his ingenuity and ability to make do with what he had on hand.
He is fairly well packed with his kitchen and canned goods. Still has to do packing on his collection of movies and personal items. His satellite dish and television he feels he can use in the new residence. As we walked through the kitchen his inventory of Pepsi twelve packs were stacked about knee high in the center of the floor. Canned good in plastic milk containers, his perishables are varmint proofed in a large plastic cooler. Used to have a refrigerator that was LP powered but it stopped working some years ago and he has had to do without.
One of the down sides of the move to the HUD unit, he can’t smoke his Marijuana (prescription) in the new unit. Seems if it isn’t legal on the Federal level it is against the rules. He told them about his use and that he will smoke it off property. Some time ago a neighbor made an off handed remark about Jim the “Pot Head”. Told him in all the years I’ve known him I’d never seen him smoke anything and didn’t believe the neighbor. Now it is official.
The present collection of four cats he has given away as well as many of his items in the yard. Anything he can squeeze into the new unit will be left behind. He had friends that are coming out to help him pack and move to Wickenburg.
Told Jim I have a tear in my eye and a smile on my lips as this move is the best thing for him at his age and physical condition. Sad to see his age making him give up a life style he has cherished for over 33 years.
If you never made it out to visit Jim you missed a piece of history that will never be again. Sadly another piece of Arizona History is passing. I now only know one other individual, Virgil Snyder at the Peck Mine that lives this style of life.
I plan to visit Jim when he gets settled in his new home in Wickenburg.
Jim you are a very special person, truly one of a kind and I’m honored to call you my friend.
The clock keeps ticking on all of us, doesn’t it!
Officially Wickenburg’s Newest Resident
January 6, 2015
In an effort to remain friends with Jim, I headed to Wickenburg to visit him in his new residence. Drove the parking lot and couldn’t identify the unit number he had given me. Parked and went in the office and asked the apartment number where Jim now resides.
Of course, I got the evil eye from the people in the office as to why I wanted to know! Showed them my card, and some reassurance of my intent, she nodded toward a room with voices coming out, down the hallway. Stuck my head around the corner and “yes that’s Jim” I replied. As it turns out, Jim was in conversation with the worker to get a land line phone (a first in 33 years) installed in his unit.
Shook his hand as soon as he came in the lobby but the woman summoned Jim into her office for more details and paperwork. Turned out they were increasing his rent by one dollar per month.
As soon as he finished, he walked back in the lobby and asked “do you want to see my new quarters”. As we walked across the parking lot Jim said he is getting settled but still is adjusting. Things like not having to get up after watching TV, going out into the cold dark night to turn the generator off. Jim is overjoyed with the little white switches on the wall and the HVAC that he sets and forgets. May seem small potato to us, but for over 33 years he has had none of these conveniences. This is a gigantic upgrade to his quality of life.
As he unlocked the deadbolt on the front door, we entered a very nice unit, warm cozy and well decorated. He didn’t bring any of his furniture from the other house except his television, DVD, Blue Ray and Satellite dish for watching his movies. Jim’s favorite channel is the Si-Fi channel which he watches most of the time. He didn’t bring his satellite radio as he can get reception with normal AM/FM radio in Wickenburg and didn’t need it any longer.
His unit is on an end which gives him four windows with ample light and fresh air. Jim and friends went to Habitat for Humanity in Wickenburg and bought some furniture and a bed. Very nice looking and fit the unit well.
Almost all the residents are his age, the area is very quiet and peaceful. Being a little hard of hearing, he admits he doesn’t hear much on the outside which makes the transition easier. Jim indicated he hasn’t been out of the unit since he moved in a week ago.
Took me on a tour of the unit and everything is neatly arranged from the well-stocked pantry to his bed being made. Of course his stash of Pepsi is stacked in his front closet. Jim said he has arranged to have a caretaker some in once a week to help with cleaning and other needs.
Pays 20% of his income for the HUD unit, pays his own electricity in this 100% electric unit, but water is included. They tastefully re-carpeted and repainted the unit before he moved in. Kitchen/living room/dining room all in one, half wall separate’s his sleeping area from the large open area and a bathroom with tub/shower.
The unit provides a shuttle to the grocery stores in town and to Wal-Mart in Surprise on a regular schedule. Jim indicated the shuttles are too crowded for his comfort.
I asked if he would ever like to go back to visit his old house and he emphatically said NO, not even to visit! He is extremely pleased with this relocation, after seeing his new apartment I can honestly say I agree.
Hasn’t figured out exactly where he will go to smoke his prescription marijuana but factually states he won’t be smoking in his unit or on the property! He clearly realizes the consequence and won’t jeopardize the agreement. Pays $400 an oz. from a retailer in town.
Penn Lane is south of Denny’s, west of the Chevron Station, in an area of ten one story buildings, with approximately eight apartments per building.
Jim is anxious to have friends stop and visit him, now that he is accessible.
545 Penn Lane #401
Wickenburg, AZ 85390
1-928-684-8805 (after 2/15/15)
Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project
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