Chapter 8 – The Deputy Ranger
David L. Anthony
Even a man of adventure has to take a break from the grind of daily life. While on a business trip to the Texas area, he decided on an excursion back to the mountains of Arizona in an attempt to unwind. The arduous train ride to Phoenix allowed him to reflect on his past and layout plans for the future. Once in Arizona, he rented a relatively new contrivance for his trip to the Sonora Desert region. In need of a base camp but wanting to maintain mobility when needed, Douglas chartered a Pierce-Arrow’s Touring Landau, the first commercially made recreational vehicle. It was quite comfortable for a gentleman accustomed to the vigors of travel. This unit had a back seat that folded into a bed, a chamber pot toilet, and a sink that folded down from the back of the driver’s seat. Communication between the driver and passengers came from an internal telephone. He made quite a spectacle as he drove off into the desert that day, all the conveniences of home in one mobile package. He headed for Apache Junction to begin his respite amongst the cactus, Gila Monsters, Roadrunners, rattlesnakes, scorpions, and other creatures that were native to the region. It is an excellent expanse to spot Peccary and the two large mammals of the Superstitions, black bears and mountain lions. Both are fierce and deserve respect when encountered.
The Superstition Mountains contained many memories for Douglas. It got its name from the farmers who regularly heard stories from the Pima Indians about how they feared the mountains. The farmers interpreted the Pima’s fear to mean superstitious, hence the name. In the early 1800s, the area was in the middle of Apache land. The Apache believed this area was inhabited by dangerous spirits and didn’t live or hunt anywhere near it.
It was here that years ago his beloved wife Anna Geiger came up missing while researching the Lost Dutchman Mine for a prestigious University back east. The authorities say that she was lost in a flash flood. The volunteers spent countless days searching for her, and the only thing recovered was the pocketknife that she had purchased from the Bronze Lantern early in her courtship with Mr. Stacy. Douglas remembers fondly the day she boarded the train for Arizona, informing him that she was with child and wouldn’t be gone long. After that, the only other thing he had to hold onto was a one-word telegram sent some nine months after her disappearance that simply read “ANNA.”
The legend of the Lost Dutchman Mine reveals an interesting turn of events. It all started with the discovery of copper in the mountains, and as history has shown us, the greedy white man pilfered it from the Apache. The proud Apache didn’t give it up without a struggle; it was a bloody process. Despite the Apache’s well-documented ferocity and warrior skills, the land eventually opened for mining. In his manuscript, Rain God’s Gold, Alfred Strong Lewis theorized the Peraltas, or Spaniards, worked the rich mines four miles northeast of present-day Apache Junction and were massacred by the Apaches as they were preparing to leave the area and return to Sonora in 1847. That’s what happens when you take something that isn’t yours in the land of the Apache.
Just like the gold rush in California, prospectors inundated the region and laid claims in the valley below the mountains. A latecomer to the mining bonanza was Jacob Waltz, a Dutch immigrant who desperately wanted to find a location to mine but found his efforts futile for quite a while. Then, one day, as luck would have it, he meandered into the mountains and hit a massive vein of copper. Every day he would wander into the elevations and return with bags of raw material. This newfound wealth made him the wealthiest man in the area. Envious people would try to follow him to the mine’s location, but he was always able to confound them. The steep rocky terrain made evasion quite simple. Many of those who followed him were never seen again, a mystery in itself. Fortuitously the topography led to his own demise, like those that tried to follow him. The Dutchman slipped and fell to his death, and the whereabouts of his mine died with him. Still, today no one knows the exact location of the mine; maybe it isn’t even real. Douglas witnessed many people hike into the mountains, hellbent on finding millions. Alas, it has remained undiscovered, earning it the title (the Lost Dutchman Mine.)
Many believe the Apache spirits used the mine as a trap for avaricious prospectors to punish those who stole their land. The old Dutchman braved the dangers of the marauding Apaches before the 1886 surrender of Geronimo at Skelton Canyon. Locals told Douglas that Waltz had found a rich mine abandoned by the Peralta family of Mexico. Historians hint that treasure was hidden by the Apaches after they massacred a group of Mexican miners. Many believe Waltz’s mine and the Peralta cache are the same. Then again, was there ever a mine at all? Like many famous people throughout history, perhaps Jacob made a deal with the spirits. But did he make a deal with the devil? The reward became his wealth and eventual death for the blood sacrifice of the prospectors who stole the Apache land.
The old saying is that time heals all wounds, even those of love. But his devotion to his beloved Anna never really went away. He never sought to replace her and refused the advances of many fair ladies that sought his affections. Instead, her spirit of adventure, love of history, and intrigue sealed them as a team. The mountain views captured her essence and cold nights with blistering heat during the day just made the so-called vacation that much more enjoyable.
One morning while sitting outside the RV with a cool drink, the outline of a woman on horseback appeared on the horizon. Her hair blew gracefully in the wind as she rode high in the saddle. He thought it might be his missing wife for just a brief moment, but as she grew nearer, his excitement dropped. It wasn’t Anna but a woman dressed in official gear. His heart slowed a little, and he gained his composure. She asked if he heard any shots fired in the area or any unusual activity. He invited her for a cup of coffee as she dismounted her horse. “Don’t mind if I do,” she said. The two enjoyed the sunrise and exchanged some stories. She told him that many are Ill-prepared to be in this desert climate and that some die on the Phoenix trails. The mystery, she said, is that many times the bodies of adventurers to the Superstition Mountains are never found. The visitor was actually deputy ranger Mary Ford Platten, whose mission was to investigate an illegal deer kill. Her main focus was to act as a deterrent to poaching on public lands. At this time, most rangers were mostly volunteer deputies, often criticized. She went on to say that deputy rangers are the poorest paid officers in the country and on top of that, seldom given sufficient powers and support to enforce the laws and protect themselves. Three-quarters of the deputy rangers receive no pay whatsoever, but their valuable work is strenuous and challenging at best. She looked into the mountains and said, “there is little glory in the job and that a successful ranger receives much criticism and ill-treatment. Scorned are those that are slow and apprehensive. If they enforce the law unbendingly, they will end up victimized.” She finished her statement with a “but I would not give up this job for all the Dutchman’s riches.”
Mary Ford Platten became the first female deputy ranger in the state of Arizona. She actually wrote to then-Governor Hunt, beseeching the assignment. She even offered to serve without recompense. State Game Warden G.M. Willard rebuffed the offer retorting: “If she does the same work as the men deputies and does it as well, she is entitled to the pay that goes with the office.” Once appointed, an article from the Arizona Republican proclaimed: “Violations of the game laws in the vicinity of Williams [Mary’s station] may possibly become frequent and flagrant in the next few weeks until the honor of being the first man to be arrested by the new woman deputy is definitely bestowed.”
On June 11, 1869, her historical journey began on remote Kodiak Island. She was the first caucasian child born in Alaska under the American flag. Her father, a Civil War veteran, was stationed there by U.S. Secretary of State, William Seward, to help secure the purchase of the Alaska territory. The Ford family left the “Last Frontier,” voyaging to numerous military stations throughout the “wild west,” eventually settling in Arizona when Mary was about 12 years old. It is evident that she inherited her father’s pioneer spirit and irrepressible character.
Douglas commented that Mary had led an interesting life. He had renewed respect for the position of ranger. Eventually, he got around to asking if she knew anything about the disappearance of his dear wife, Anna. She cocked her head and pondered for a while. She had heard stories about a woman lost in a flash flood years back. Rumor had it that a local Indian tribe found her, but that was about all she knew. Even this tidbit of information was more than Douglas had to go on before, and he pressed her for the possible location of this tribe. She told him the federal government had moved them, but she thought a family still lived in the vicinity of the accident. If he’d like to come along, she’d take him there. Not having a horse of his own to ride, he put on his hiking boots, grabbed a canteen of water, and headed off behind her. Mary put in a chaw of Sugar Bee brand plug tobacco. She pulled out a fine-looking sunfish pattern knife to carve a piece off. Douglas commented. “that’s a big knife for such a simple job; you’ll cut your hand off someday.” The sunfish had the Sugar Bee name on it too. She laughed and said she should carry a smaller pocketknife too. She kicked her stallion’s side and said, “ya better keep that water close; you flatlanders dry out quickly.” Now, this was a tough woman.
The journey seemed to last many hours as the noontime sun challenged the dexterity of the gentlemen from the east. They climbed a small ridgeline and spotted someone on their hands and knees, carefully brushing some stones with a handheld broom. Douglas could see the somewhat familiar outline of a female from a distance. The long flowing red hair underneath a pith helmet adorned with blue ribbon wafting in the wind. For the second time today, his heart began to race. Growing nearer, he quickly realized that this was an older girl. Somewhat startled to see someone, the young lady asked if the duo was lost? Mary promptly answered that she was a ranger and looking for poachers. Mr. Stacy is tagging along, searching for the family that supposedly still resides in the area. She responded that her mom and dad lived nearby and that she was looking for dinosaur bones and not poaching. “I hope to become a paleontologist someday.” Beside her lay a small cache of artifacts she had just collected. She removed her helmet, laying it down by the petrified bones. Inside the weathered headwear were the initials A.S., handwritten on the inside band. Did this belong to his long-lost wife, Anna Stacy? Douglas asked if he could examine her throng of artifacts, and she was thrilled that he took interest. He mentioned that he owned the Bronze Lantern back east and that items like this were of interest to his customers. “If you’re willing, I would be glad to buy some from you.” You could tell she was thrilled and offered to take him to meet her parents and see some of her other finds. Mary declined as she had duties to tend to, but she’d be off as long as Douglas was in safe hands. He bid her farewell and invited her to return to his campsite any time.
Douglas asked his newfound friend her name as the new team made their way around the rocky outcrop. “My name is Angel,” but she rather proudly said that her full name was Angel Nadia Nicole Andrews. He responded that it was a beautiful name but then asked why her helmet had the initials A.S. written inside? She answered that she wasn’t sure. Her dad had given it to her years ago and never really thought about it. However, Douglas definitely thought about it. Then, over the hill, he spotted the homestead of her parents. They strolled up to the house, and he waited outside as Angel went in to fetch her parents. Mr. and Mrs. Andrews were happy to have a visitor, and after explaining what was going on, they invited him in for dinner.
The menu that night was rattlesnake stew with biscuits. The father remarked that rattlers were aplenty, and they made a tasty meal. Douglas thought the biscuits were the best he ever had and mentioned he’d had sampled different varieties all over the east. Mom took it as a genuine compliment. It was now time to get some information. Douglas explained his curiosity about a woman lost in a flash flood years ago. The couple exchanged an odd look between them. “Mr. Stacy, how about you and I go out on the porch for a smoke?” Dad wanted to speak to him alone.
They lit up and drew hard on the crudely made pipes. As the smoke swirled around their heads, the father let out a sigh. He then explained that an Indian found a woman years ago after a freak storm. He carried her back to his people as she had a nasty head wound. The group tended to her and eventually found out that she was pregnant. It seemed the woman took quite a while to gain her senses but never obtained the ability to remember anything about her past. It was a classic case of amnesia. The accident disfigured her face dramatically. Douglas became excited and asked where the woman was now? Dad said that they took her with them when the tribe moved on. He had no idea where they relocated. The rumor was that the federal government put the Indians on some swampland in Florida.
The only remaining question was what happened to her child? Dad said he wasn’t sure. At that point, the wife interrupted the conversation and forcefully offered each of them a piece of pie, acting a bit peculiar. The father then asked if his wife knew any about the child? She tucked her head down and calmly said, “no.” Douglas asked about the helmet and its inscription. She dashed back into the house under the pretense that she had left something on the stove. Dad mentioned that he never had children himself. His wife was a widow; her first husband died from a fall while searching for the Dutchmen’s mine. “I have kinda taken in Angel as my own and love her dearly.” Douglas commended him for raising such a fine young lady with ambition. Angel then appeared with a slice of pie for each of them. He looked at her again, and suddenly he realized that she held a striking resemblance to his missing Anna, with the red hair, the green eyes, the adventurous spirit.
As he hiked back to his campsite, he had an epiphany. Angel Nadia Nicole Andrews spelled out ANNA. He remembered the single-worded telegram he had received a while after Anna’s disappearance. Was this his daughter after all these years? He barely slept a wink that night as he pondered the possibility of having found his daughter. He packed up and drove the Landau RV back to the homestead the following day. The only one home was the wife. Sheepishly she talked with Douglas. Paternity tests were unheard of during this time period. Douglas pressed her hard to learn the truth. Finally, she admitted she adopted the baby at the age of six months. When the tribe relocated, they felt the child would have a better life with her and her then-husband and agreed to let her stay. She had no idea about who the mother really was. She had just recently moved to the area from Colorado to allow her husband to operate a small mine they worked.
With renewed hope, Douglas went on a search for deputy ranger Platten in hopes of getting further information on the whereabouts of the remaining Indian tribe. It didn’t take long. On his return trip to Phoenix, he spotted Mary arresting some poachers near Apache Junction. She instructed him to contact the Bureau of Indian affairs in the city. Surely, they had a history of this situation. As a way of thanking his newfound friend, Douglas handed Mary a pocketknife. He said it was a new production, and he decided to name it the “Deputy Ranger” in her honor. She thanked him and placed it in her vest pocket after easily cutting a fresh chaw of Sugar Bee plug tobacco from her stash. They both laughed. “Mr. Stacy, I truly hope you find your wife or learn of her fate. I bid you farewell.” Then, she spat some tobacco juice at a lone saguaro cactus and headed west. Douglas packed up to visit the Bureau.
Two days later, Douglas sat down with the Bureau’s regional director. After recanting his heartbreaking story, the director produced a document that he thought might help. It read: “This band of Apaches was removed to the Fort Sill Military Reservation, Okla., on account of their outrages upon the settlers in Arizona. They have been under military surveillance since that time. A number of them have become fairly successful farmers and stock raisers. On the whole, they have made considerable progress. They have all become attached to their lands. It is the opinion of this office that such as wish should be permitted permanently to remain on and have allotted to them these lands upon which they now have their homes.” Then he provided another paper that said afterward; the federal government decided this group should be moved. This one read: “The United States Government decided to imprison them at a remote location at the old Castillo, in St. Augustine, Florida.” Over 500 Apache would eventually see the inside of these walls.
A vacation trip that Douglas will never forget. Had he found his daughter? Could he finally be reunited with his lovely wife, Anna, or will these things just end in more mystery? The train ride back to Ironton was long and offered him plenty of time to ponder his future and reflect on his past.