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Sunday February 16, 2014
There is a very small mountain range about 8 miles south of Ajo, AZ that is named John the Baptist Mountains.
The range is about 3 miles long and about a mile wide at it's widest. The interesting thing about this range is the person for whom it is named. The range is named for John C Butala, a veteran of the Spanish American War and WWI. Mr Butala was a hermit who lived at the base of the mountains on the east side. His usual dress was a gunney sack loin cloth and sandals. His long dark hair, gaunt, sun bronzed look, and his spartan way of life, caused people of the day to refer to him as John the Baptist. John was also a very talented mechanical engineer- to the extent that he was often hauled into Ajo to help fix heavy equipment and machinery at the New Cornelia Mine.
Mark Lankford, Joan and I toured the area that used to be home to this interesting hermit.
Sadly there is very little left, save an old hand dug well, and the remnants of an outbuilding containing old hives such as a bee-keeper would use. The wooden boxes and frames were mostly falling apart.
We did find a few frames with the wax foundation still on them.
Mark drove us further south on the jeep road that had brought us here, heading to Lime Mountain and the Bandeja Well.
Bandaja in Spanish means "tray". The reason for the name is lost to history. This was most probably one of the ranches owned and run by members of the Gray family as they owned nearly every well and ranch in this area.
The wind pump was running during our exploration of the area, and although the pump rod was moving up and down with the wind- no water ever came out of the pipe in the trough, leading us to believe that either the water level had receded below the pump or the leathers (seals on the pump) were worn out. The trough still had some water in it, but it looked to be quite old and stagnant.
Could this be the house or line shack they used? It is pretty small, one room, but it did have running water piped in from the elevated tank.
Most of the corrals in this area were built using railroad ties that had been discarded by the railroad (they had the spike holes and depressions of track plates in them) so we were very pleased to see an older section of fence built of desert salvaged wood.
The gates were mostly metal, and there was a metal shop on the ranch that was larger by far than the house and still in fairly good repair- well, if you didn't count the lack of a roof that is.
Someone has taken the time to lash some spare parts for the wind pump to the side of the shop for safe-keeping.
We very much enjoyed our visit to the Bandeja Ranch, and the glimpse back in time that it allowed us. The ranches in this area disappeared between 1972 and 1976 some 37 or more years ago, after losing much of their acreage to the Organ Pipe National Monument, the Cabeza Prietta National Wildlife Refuge, and the Gunnery Ranges. Climate change, and over grazing played a hand in their demise as well.
Don't tell these little flowers though, they are showing their hardiness and adaptability.
Your Traveling Friends
Jeff and Joan