By Gary Every
Special to the Nugget
I park my automobile at the big bend in Cody Loop Road. I open and close the cattle gate which marks the national forest boundary. I begin marching along the dirt road with a specific destination in mind – I am heading towards an illegal monument.
The trees are filled with avian chatter; cackling blue jays and others. There is one bird in particular that just won’t shut up. Suddenly I spy a burst of red wings – a cardinal; one of the noisiest birds of the forest. When I turn from the main road and take the side road it gains elevation quickly, trudging straight up the side of a hill. I lose my breath.
All that huffing and puffing frightens a deer from the underbrush. Other hikes have revealed javelinas, bobcats, and foxes. The road continues to climb, not as steep but still gaining in elevation. My pulse quickens from the exertion as the road winds back and forth across the rugged Arizona mountain slopes.
The place I am headed to is not quite at the end of the road. The road dead ends at an old mine but that is not where the illegal monument is located. This monument, placed on government lands without government permission is hidden off to the side, in a little clump of bushes. If you didn’t know to look for it you might never see it. In the bushes is a small monument; maybe three feet tall adorned only with a brass plaque and hand engraved letters.
The plaque reads:
August 15, 1966
His life ended on this mountain. He could not bear to see his home destroyed. His faith in fellow man and all the things that his flag so proudly flown stood for by order of government personnel. His motto could well have been Live and Let Live and his life the Golden Rule. All found him loyal, generous, industrious, and self reliant. May his soul find tranquillity in another place as beautiful as this Francis Mountain
The letters are not neatly stamped but one gets the feeling that the sentiments are genuine. The plaque is right about one thing – this is a beautiful place. It is a great place to go for sunsets when the Galiluro Mountains take on a crimson glow. From this peak I can see the San Manuel smelter and the bright colored rock of the Tiger Mine. Earl Francis had been a miner, worked the claims on the hill near the plaque. The federal government ruled that his mining claim was valid but it was illegal for him to reside here on forest service lands. On August 15, 1966, Earl Francis strapped dynamite beneath his trailer and blew himself and his trailer to kingdom come before the government could haul either one away.
I pause to take a deep breath of mountain air. I light my pipe and take a puff of illicit freedom. There is something defiant about the Francis Mountain Monument. It reminds me of the monument just outside of Skeleton Canyon. That monument announces in proud bureaucratese that the surrender of Geronimo to General Crook at this spot, once upon a time, forever ended all forms of rebellion and resistance here in the great state of Arizona. The last time I visited the Skeleton Canyon Monument someone scrawled graffiti in a felt pen in response. “BULL****!” the graffiti proclaimed in a statement that was concise and an act of rebellion and resistance at the same time. The memory makes me smile.
I take another deep breath of fresh mountain air; another puff of illicit freedom, and pat the Francis Mountain Monument for good luck before I head back down the trail; racing the forces of darkness. I hike down whistling “Yankee Doodle” and feeling inspired to commit acts of mischievous virtue and random kindness. Whirled Peas.