From Rocks To Gadgets – Part 2

November 24, 2015 Off By Robert Pechie

After the winter and summer rains there are seasons of profuse flowering when the blooms of the various plants beautify and greatly enhance the usually barren aspect of the land.
A serious study of some of the plants, for their medicinal or commercial products, provides opportunities for qualified investigators and would not be amiss because both the Indians and the Mexicans have, for many years, used native herbs and other plants for certain ailments.
The first tender hands of the prickly pear cactus which come in the spring are considered a delicacy among the Mexicans who dip these leaves into a batter and fry them, calling them “nepales.” Candy is also made of these hands.
This southeastern area of Arizona like much of the states of Sonora, Mexico and New Mexico is included in the Sonora Desert Region.
Depending on its various subdivisions of altitude the region falls into various life zones in which the flora and fauna are different with respect to each other. The table which follows gives these life zones:

  • The lower Sonora Zone 2000-4000 ft. elevation. Desert life, agricultural if irrigated. Thorny flora, lizzards, snakes, rabbits, quail, doves.
  • The upper Sonora Zone 4000-6000 ft. elevation. Grazing, fruit trees can be cultivated, various game animals,deer, javalina, fox, etc.
  • The Transition Zone 6000·8000 ft. elevation. Lumbering, pine, etc. Some snow lies here in the upper part during some of the year as water reserve. Deer, mountain lion, lynx, wild cat.
  • The Canadian Zone 8000-10,000 ft. elevation. Small area, important as water storage. Snow lies here during a good part of the year. Deer and preditors. Plants and trees of the Temperate Zone.

The mean elevation of the county is 5320 ft. and the lowest about 2600 ft. while the maximum elevation is the 9800 ft. Chiricahua Peak in the mountains of the same name.
Cochise County lies in the Mexican High Land section of the Basin and Range physiographic province which lies between the Continental and the Sierra Divides. It is a part also of what is known as the Mountain and Sonora Desert Regions of Arizona.
This section or region is characterized by the abruptness withwhich the comparatively short parallel, generally north and south striking ranges, rise from the long, wide and gently sloping valleys. Generally speaking, the valleys are ten to twenty miles wide.
The higher ranges as we see them today are most likely the remnants of the original glacier-topped ranges whose peaks have beencut down at least three or four thousand feet during the past sevenhundred and fifty thousand years or so. That is, the peaks when first made or elevated were much higher than at present. The valleys were once much deeper, say at least 2000 ft. below their present surface, and they are now filled with the material which has been removed from their former high places by the natural continuously acting causes of erosion.
It is the work of rain, heat, frost, wind, stream action and chemical changes in the rocks. Tectonic and volcanic activities which are responsible for earthquakes and faults have contributed their shareto the changing scene.

During many years, the water of melting snow and rain com· ing down off the mountains and flowing with considerable velocity, in canyons, creeks, arroyos, and draws carried broken-up rocks andsand, using them as powerfUl scouring, cutting and grinding tools towear down the heights of the mountains.
The carrying power of water varies as the sixth power of its velocity and because of this energy almost unbelievably large boulders and quantities of small ones are carried and moved for consid· erab1e distances by swiftly flowing waters.

Close to the top of the ranges and under the cliffs there are found accumulations of small and large angular boulders which are called talus slopes. Between the talus slopes and the valleys there is grently sloping ground which is known as the “bajada slope” or “alluvial fan” which is made up of coarse sand and small rounded water-worn rocks called detritus. The bottoms of the valleys proper are filled with still finer material which is silt and known as alluvium.
As we look at the valleys and mountains the talus, detritus and alluvium appear to be stationary or frozen in place; however in time, little by little after each rainfall, flash flood and stream action, they will be carried slowly but surely by way of the drainage systems of the valleys, to their eventual destination, the ocean.
Along with the accessibility of a country, the presence or absence of water determines much of what the intruder does when he gets there.
Some of the rain which falls on the mountains and in the canyons as it flows toward the center of the valley frequently seeps into the ground before it gets to the valley center. This water and part of the live water in the streams, percolates down through the ground to feed the underground water or the ground water reservoirs of all the valleys.
In the valley center most of the rainfall runs off. Caliche, a calcarious, impervious layer or deposit, is found in many places a comparatively short distance below the valley surface. Rain water penetrates to this layer but cannot get to the main ground water reservoirs.

The greatest source of the valley water reservoirs comes from the mountains and gains admission through the coarse detrital material, that is, the margin between the mountains and the valleys.
Until about 1900 the only activities in the valleys was the cutting of hay for the cavalry and stock raising. Some attempts at “dry farming” which depended on the uncertain, scarce and limited rainfall were tried with little success.
Some time between 1900 and 1910 water was discovered in the various valleys and with it farming by irrigation was started. The cultivation of land on a sustained basis has come from this time from alternate success and failure to its present rather stable status.
In the valleys one now sees rectangular fields in which there are grown cotton, chili peppers, higera, Kaffir corn, alfalfa and other forage crops. Corn, wheat, onions, sugar beats and vegetables of many varieties are also cultivated.
At present cotton is king in spite of the possibilities of an early killing frost, hail, summer floods, strong and prolonged periods of wind, and wet or early fall. Cotton is a good quick cash crop if the gambling farmer is lucky.

Many cotton farmers from other states have been attracted to the county because until lately the suitable land here was very reasonable in price.
Rural electrification and improved deep well pumps make it economically possible to irrigate quite large tracts of land from deeper ground water reservoirs than was previously possible. Near the fields there are comfortable and modern homes served by electricity for cooking, light and refrigeration.