Georgie Digs…Nov. 14

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By Georgie Wood ggannwood@yahoo.com

I always enjoy the drive along Arizona’s Highway 77 north of Winkelman in Gila County because of the changing geology of that county, and hopefully catching sight of the Gila River with water in it!

When arriving south of milepost 160, on the west side of the highway where vehicles can pull off into a cleared area, I always think of when my husband Cliff Wood’s family had lived there at El Capitan previous to settling along Aravaipa Creek in Pinal County.

They were living by El Capitan Wash when Cliff’s dad, Martin Wood, signed his Draft Registration card on September 10, 1918.

In 1919, a picture had been taken on their property of the Short Line Stages, which were two Cadillac cars that ran to Winkelman and Hayden from Miami and Globe. That picture showed Martin Wood standing between the cars, and I left a copy of that picture at the Gila County Historical Museum at Globe, although the Museum had a different picture of the cars that had been taken on the Wood property.

The building of the road between Globe and Winkelman was begun by convict labor soon after George W.P. Hunt, Arizona’s first Governor, took office in 1912, and I imagine traveling it had to have been more frightening than I remember it being in later years.

Sections of it can still be seen above the much improved, present-day Highway 77.

Where the Wood family lived, there were lots of mature, producing fruit trees along the running creek, and Cliff’s mother had business cards that read “Pure Air and Water – Beautiful Scenery – El Capitan Camp – An Ideal Summer Campground At The Crest of Pinal Mountain – Elevation 5000 Feet – On The Famous El Capitan Scenic Highway – Halfway Between Globe and Winkelman – There Is A Store Near The Camp – For Further Particulars Address Mrs. Martin Wood”.

The Martin Wood family ran cattle and hogs in that rough and brushy country, and Martin Wood had helped with the roundup of many wild horses on the Bar F Bar Ranch that ran most of its cattle on the San Carlos Indian Reservation.

After the writer/artist Ross Santee had done some riding with the Bar F Bar cowboys, he wrote a story “The Last Run” about the work of rounding up the wild horses, and Martin Wood was mentioned in that story which was again published in the April of 1995, seventieth anniversary Collector’s Edition of Arizona Highway Magazine.

Ross Santee had sketched a picture of very young Cliff Wood with Cliff’s dog, Coaly, but the picture somehow disappeared.

Martin Wood was not experienced at driving a car, and one day after receiving instructions how to drive the car he got into with his chaps, boots and spurs on, he headed towards his property gate, but forgot how to stop. He was yelling, “Whoa! Whoa! You —-, whoa!” when he ran into the gate, knocking out the car’s radiator and doing other damage.

If he ever drove again, I never saw him do it! From what I have read, Governor Hunt also had a driving problem. Hopefully, a few more El Capitan stories will follow before too long.

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