If you drive a car on I10 in southern Arizona, you will undoubtedly see sign after sign asking “The Thing?” In fact, a miracle in advertising, the first signs begin near El Paso, TX, traveling west. By the time you arrive at exit 322, in the middle of the desert between Willcox and Benson, Arizona, your curiosity should be aroused. For a whole dollar, you can find out just what The Thing, the Mystery in the Desert, is. And you can buy an ice cream cone, or other tourist delights.
In the same southeastern corner of the state you will encounter beautiful Texas Canyon, rich in the history of Arizona Territory, the Butterfield Stage Route, ranching, and Apache country.
A few minutes driving will take you to famous Tombstone, Arizona. In 1877 Ed Schieffelin announced to cavalry stationed in Fort Huachuca, Arizona, that he intended prospecting in the valley of the San Pedro River. He was warned that he would only “find his tombstone there.” It was a dangerous time in Arizona Territory because this was Apache country. But he persisted, found silver and staked the Tombstone and Graveyard claims. Soon other rich deposits were discovered and more prospectors came and the town of Tombstone blossomed. It was a rough, tough boomtown until 1886 when fire destroyed the pump works and the mines flooded. Tombstone remains as a thriving tourist attraction, complete with shootouts in the streets, busy saloons, stagecoaches and people dressed in the best of western wear.
Way back when automobiles first became common, states created highway publications to alert drivers to the paved roads within their road systems. Arizona Highways Magazine was first published in 1925 by the engineers of the state highway department and has gone on to become a hugely popular magazine world-wide. It showcases everything from the most scenic drives, not-to-be missed hikes, the best Arizona photographs to the best wildflower viewing sites. If you haven’t seen it, click the link above and browse through the site. For many of us who grew up in Arizona in the 1950s, a prized family collection of Arizona Highways Magazines was the centerpiece of the living room bookshelf.
Freeways and stacked interchanges: yes, we have them. But Arizona has done a lot to create freeway art that is symbolic of our state.
In my family growing up, a Sunday drive was fine entertainment. Our 1950 Pontiac covered many miles crisscrossing southeastern Arizona,
and we never flinched at a bumpy dirt road. I still like to do that.
Not all paved Arizona roads are divided highways and many of the two lane roads lead to spectacular places.
And finally, there are always road signs.
Two plants found in Arizona that are similar in appearance are (links) Lupine and Locoweed. There are several species of each plant. They are both members of the Fabaceae, or Pea Family. They have another similarity: they are both very toxic.
Cattle, sheep, horses and goats all have died from the effects of eating these plants.
Locoweed poisoning is the most widespread poisonous plant problem. Look closely at the leaves of Locoweed. They grow in clumps close to the ground and each leaf has 19-29 leaflets attached in pairs. They are covered with soft, fine hairs. There are 300 species of locoweed. Pictured is only a single species, native to northern Arizona. Locoweed contains toxic levels of swainsonine, a poisonous alkaloid. There has been extensive loss of range animals caused by eating locoweed. Horses in particular seek out Locoweed and become addicted. Signs of poisoning may not immediately appear, even for months. Then horses quickly die from damage to brain, digestive organs, or congestive heart failure.
Examine the leaves of the Lupine. Each leaf is palmately compound. It looks like your palm with fingers splayed. There are 5-7 leaflets to each leaf. Lupine is also toxic. The seeds and pods are the most toxic parts. Poisoning with Lupine can cause nervousness, foaming at the mouth, depression, reluctance to move about, birth defects, difficulty in breathing, twitching leg muscles, loss of all muscular control, convulsions, coma and death.
The flowers on both plants are remarkably similar, since they are all in the Pea Family. They are a beautiful blue addition to the flora, but be cautious about handling them, and don’t you or your animals eat them.