Friday Photo 9/26

Kiva ladder, Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico

Kiva ladder, Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico. Photo by Kerrick James,

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Cactus Honey Sherbet

2CactusHoneyBerryGelatofinal105newBoth peaches and prickly pears ripen from mid-summer to early fall, depending on where you live. What better time to make this rosy ice cream that combines the mellow flavors of both fruits? From The Prickly Pear Cookbook, by Carolyn Niethammer.

Cactus Honey Sherbet

Makes about 1 quart

3 medium very ripe peaches
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
2 1/2 cups prickly pear purée or juice or Arizona Cactus Ranch nectar
1/2 cup honey
5 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup whipping cream

Plunge the peaches into a large pot of boiling water for about one minute; using a slotted spoon, transfer them immediately to a large bowl of cold water. The skins should slip off easily. Slice the peaches. This should make about 1 1/2 cups.

Sprinkle gelatin over the 1/4 cup cold water in a small bowl. Set aside. Combine 1 cup prickly pear purée, juice, or nectar with peach slices in a medium saucepan. Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes.

Turn off the heat under the fruit, strain off 1 cup of liquid. In a small saucepan, combine this liquid with the honey, and cook gently just at a simmer until honey is dissolved. Remove from heat. Add the softened gelatin and lemon juice to the honey mixture and stir until gelatin is dissolved.

Purée the cooked peaches and remaining juice in a blender. Combine with the gelatin and honey mixture and—if you have an ice-cream maker—the whipping cream. Refrigerate until chilled. Pour into the container of your ice-cream maker. Process according to manufacturer’s directions until mixture is hard to churn. Remove dasher. Cover and freeze for an hour or two.

If you don’t have an ice-cream maker, transfer mixture to plastic bowl before adding whipping cream, and freeze until nearly hard. Break up and beat with an electric mixer. Beat the whipping cream until stiff and fold into the fruit mixture. Refreeze until firm.

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Friday Photo 9/19

Focus on Nature San Fran Peaks

Government Prairie in Parks, Arizona. San Francisco Peaks (with Wild Bill Hill in front of them) and Mt. Kendrick in the background. Photo by Sarah Dolliver, Focus On Nature Photography.

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CalabacitasThis is a great dish for late summer, when corn, squash, and chiles are all found at farmers markets and roadside stands. You can use one kind of squash or a combination, and you can also wrap these calabacitas up into vegetarian burritos. From The Essential Southwest Cookbook.


Serves 4–6

4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 small zucchini (about 1/2 pound), diced
2 small yellow summer squash (about 1/2 pound), diced
Approximately 1 1/2 cups corn kernels (about 2 large ears)
2 New Mexico or Anaheim green chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, zucchini, and summer squash, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the corn and green chiles, and continue cooking until the zucchini and summer squash are tender. Add salt to taste.

Remove from heat, toss with cheese and cilantro, and serve hot.

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Mike Ward — Rock Star, Surfer, Ranger, and Author of Ghost Riders in the Sky

GRITS-cover-400pixBy Jim Turner

Mike Ward was born in Pomona, California, during the Truman administration (1945–53) and grew up in Arcadia, an idyllic suburb of Los Angeles. He says the crowning achievement of his grade school years was when he “handily won the ‘Best Rester’ award during our morning nap ritual.”

His parents met at the Claremont Colleges, where his father was a business major and his mother majored in art. His mother, a bohemian at heart, grew up in Salinas, where she met author Henry Miller and dated Michael Murphy, future founder of the Esalen Institute.

aOn the tractor with Grandpa Turk

Mike and Grandpa Turk

Mike fondly remembers summers spent with his grandfather, Turk Tavernetti, at the family’s Salinas Valley lettuce and broccoli farm. He has magical memories of the farm and of being “precariously seated on the rusty old Ford tractor.” John Steinbeck, his grandfather’s Salinas High School classmate, mentions the “Tavernetti boys” in his best-selling novel East of Eden.

On the opposite side of the family, Mike’s paternal grandfather, a severe Scotsman who moved from Buffalo, New York, at the turn of the century, started a chicken ranch near Hollywood just before the silent movie industry arrived. Mike’s father owned a company that manufactured stoves and iceboxes for travel trailers and mobile homes. Several times a year his dad would take the family to Estero Beach, Ensenada, Mexico.

daEstero Beach 1967 (1)

Mike, Mark Daigle, and Jeff Nimmo, Estero Beach, 1967

Mike says he surfed, dug for clams, rode motorcycles, and at the age of fourteen discovered the joys and inevitable sorrows associated with Mexican beer. “My love of travel and adventure stems from my father’s happy, open sense of exploring the world, and I’m lucky to be gifted with his easy-going, affable personality,” he says. “My artsy-fartsy side stems from my mother, who did her best to foster her creative instincts while trapped in the role of a 1950s ‘Leave It To Beaver’ mom.”

Mike is the oldest of three kids. His sister Joanne is married to a Walt Disney Imagineer, and his brother Tom, who lives with his wife and two daughters in Ventura, Calif., is a talented product designer whose work ranges from private French jet interiors to John Deere tractors. “Tom is a man of diverse talents and a great guy, just like my dad,” Mike says. “I count myself very lucky to be blessed with a sibling who is also a best friend.”

iThe Rock Star Who Never WasWhile Mike’s scholastic career was nothing to brag about, he says music has been the touchstone of his being since he took his first guitar lesson at age ten and could immediately whip out a mean version of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”  As it was for many Baby Boomers, the Mickey Mouse Club was the cultural apex of Mike’s after-school world. “It’s a toss-up as to what I had the most intense infatuation with, Annette Funicello or the Mickey Mouse Club theme song,” he says. He also loved the Triple R theme song of the Disney “Spin and Marty” serial. “Who would have thunk that more than fifty years later I’d end up writing the biography of the guy who wrote that song?”

Doors ticket (1)In junior high Mike played bass guitar in a neighborhood rock band. Los Angeles was the perfect place for a guitar-playing high schooler, and Mike went to local concerts such as The Doors, Led Zeppelin, and the Rolling Stones’ 1969 tour where B. B. King and Ike and Tina Turner opened the show.

Rolling Stones cropt

eHolo Holo Campers Hilo, Hawaii copy (1)

Steve Welch, Mike Ward, Fred Pausch.

After high school, Mike chose Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for college because of its proximity to good surfing. But after two years, he headed for the big waves and went to work for Holo-Holo Campers, a company that rented camping rigs to tourists in Hilo, Hawaii. Mike loved Hawaii, but freaked out with a bad case of island fever one day when he realized he couldn’t just hop in his car and drive to Arizona any time he wanted to. He returned to California and entered Chico State University in northern California in the fall of 1972.

Chino State DJs (1)

Arrow, upper left, points to Mike, alias Studebaker Hawke.

“The high points of my years there involved music,” Mike says. He was a DJ at the student station, KCSC, where his air name was Studebaker Hawke. “I could play whatever the heck I wanted,” he says, and even showed up one Saturday morning with a stack of Disney albums for three hours of “Uncle Hawke’s Children’s Hour.” Although his musical tastes are all over the map, Mike says, “I never seriously keyed into country and western music and yet here I am, the biographer of Stan Jones, who wrote one of the most famous western songs on the planet.”

Double-O-Arch_Arches_National_Park_2One of Mike’s favorite professors at Chico was Dave Carter, who taught philosophy and became a lifelong friend. Mike says Carter’s reading list—Ed Abbey’s Desert Solitaire, Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, and Joan Didion’s collection of essays, Slouching Toward Bethlehem—changed his life. On spring break that year he and four other students crammed into his Dodge van and made a pilgrimage to Arches National Park where Abbey had rangered and written in the late 1950s.

jThe Humanities Graduate with Mom & Dad at Chico - one foot toward Death Valley

Mike with his parents, Joan and Ken Ward, at graduation.

After graduating from Chico in 1976 with what he calls a “catchall” bachelor’s degree in humanities, Mike moved to Berkeley and got by with odd jobs painting and cleaning houses. “I had no clue about a career of any kind,” he says, “just floating along the river of life, drifting like the poor soul in the first stanza of Rimbaud’s “Drunken Boat.”

FurnaceCreekInn1970sMike was still going with his high school girlfriend when they drove to see their families over Christmas break in 1976. Their cat, “a six-toed fuzzy fellow named Mozambique,” went with them. They detoured through Death Valley and stayed overnight at the Furnace Creek Ranch. “Our normally well-behaved cat snuck out of the cabin and didn’t return,” he says. “We were heart-broken and stayed an extra day wandering around Furnace Creek in hopes of finding our fugitive feline.”

While searching, Mike stopped by the Fred Harvey Company personnel office. “There was something about the place that moved me to mutter to myself ‘what the hell, why not’ and I filled out an application. We found the cat, drove back to Berkeley, and five days later I got a call asking if I’d like to go to work at the Furnace Creek Inn washing dishes.”

On January 5, 1977, Mike said see you later to Mozambique and his girlfriend. “I packed my truck with a guitar, a box of books, and a modest selection of record albums, and drove back to Death Valley where I would live and work until the fall of 1991. I had floated right down that river to a desert paradise 278 feet below sea level.”

So that’s how Mike Ward grew up and came to work in Death Valley, the same place where Ranger Stan Jones wrote “Ghost Riders in the Sky.” In the next installment, we’ll see how Mike got the idea to write the book and how it came to be.

Ghost Riders in the Sky by Mike Ward is available now at your favorite bookstore.

Jim Turner is an historian, editor, teacher, researcher, and author. He received his masters degree in U.S. history from the University of Arizona and is now an editor for Rio Nuevo Publishers. He writes history articles for various newspapers around the state, and his pictorial history book, “Arizona: Celebrating the Grand Canyon State,” was named  a “Top Pick” for Southwest Books of the Year by the Friends of the Pima County Library. You may reach him at


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Friday Photo 9/12

Day 6 Globe Canon 060 jack drink

A jackrabbit takes a drink in Globe, Arizona. Photo by Jim Turner.


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Arugula Salad

Modern-SW-coverThis simple and fresh salad will liven up your plate. Go for the freshest arugula you can find, and while you’re at the farmers market, look for the honey people. There’s always someone selling local honey. From Modern Southwest Cooking, by Chef Ryan Clark.

Arugula Salad

Serves 4–6

2 egg yolks
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 cup blended oil*
1 cup honey
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 pound arugula
2 pears, sliced
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled

Add the egg yolks, vinegar, and mustard to the blender and puree until smooth. with the blender running, slowly drizzle in the oil to create an emulsion. Stir in the honey, salt, and pepper.

In a large salad bowl, toss together the arugula and the dressing as desired. Garnish with sliced pears and blue cheese.

*75 percent canola oil and 25 percent olive oil. You can find it at the grocery store or make your own.

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What We Are Reading: September

diary of a part time indianThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie with art by Ellen Forney

review by Aaron Downey

When I read that an Idaho school board had banned this young adult novel by American treasure Sherman Alexie, I marched out immediately to go buy a copy. It’s a shame that some kids won’t get to read this book while they are young and can get the most out of it. Aside from the bits and baubles that make parents uneasy (and let’s face it, make it more fun and realisitic), there is also the story of Arnold “Junior” Spirit, a broken 14-year-old loner growing up among, and despite, breathtaking poverty and pervasive community-wide substance abuse. There is the dichotomy of being a member of two societies but not seen as whole by either—in this case an Indian trying to get off the “rez” to go to a “white” school, a metaphorical struggle that will be familiar to any youngster who is of mixed race in modern America. And there is the story of racism, friendships lost and found, devastating personal loss, and the awakening to inner strength. Oh, and did I mention it’s hilarious?

Simple DreamsSimple Dreams: a Musical Memoir, by Linda Ronstadt

review by Marilyn Noble

If you’re looking for a scandalous, sex-drugs-rock-and-roll tell-all, this isn’t it. Instead, this is the story of a small-town girl from a musical pioneer family who grew into one of the reigning pop icons of the 70s and 80s, and did it with grace, class, and passion for the music of her roots. Linda Ronstadt has always been one of Tucson’s favorite daughters, and in Simple Dreams, she tells stories of Tucson in the first half of the last century—a place where she rode her horse from one end of town to the other, enjoyed musical evening picnics in the desert with her extended family, and listened to everything from Mexican radio to opera to Hank Williams.

Ronstadt goes into detail about how her albums were produced and she gives accolades to the many friends and colleagues who made her career possible. At the same time, she treats people with gracious aplomb who were less than helpful or caused her grief. Through it all, she remains humble and self-effacing. The book is an enjoyable trip down Memory Lane for those of us who came of age in the 60s and 70s, especially for those who grew up in the Southern Arizona desert, and it’s also an inspiring story of determination, dedication, and being true to one’s own ideals.

Midst of LifeIn the Midst of Life, by Jennifer Worth

review by Caroline Cook

Jennifer Worth’s memoirs are the inspiration behind the popular BBC series, Call the Midwife. If you haven’t seen it, seek it out immediately (airs on PBS, streams on Netflix, available on Blu-ray/DVD). Worth worked as a nurse, midwife, and ward sister in London in the 1950s and 60s. In the Midst of Life, her final memoir, focuses not on birth but on death. As Worth cared for very ill and dying patients, she saw some of the problems with how the dying are treated, both in society and in medicine. Death has become taboo and in many ways we no longer know how to deal with it or accept it. In one story, a very old woman should have died quickly and peacefully, but she was kept alive through extraordinary measures, only to endure years more of suffering, with little quality of life. Another woman, clearly dead, possibly already for hours, from a heart attack, was futilely given CPR for an hour by paramedics.

Stories such as these were very difficult to read. Some of the tales of suffering and prolonged dying made me feel the urge to tattoo “DNR” on my forehead. Several times I felt I could not keep reading, but something, perhaps Worth’s beautiful prose, or the depth of her passion, emotion, and spiritual reflection on the subject, kept me going to the end. Not all of the stories are disturbing; some are quite beautiful. However difficult, this book makes you think deeply about life and death, and I emerged on the other end very glad I had read it.

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Ghost Riders in the Sky now available

GRITS-cover-400pixGhost Riders in the Sky: The Life of Stan Jones, The Singing Ranger, by Michael K. Ward is now available!

Scene: Death Valley National Monument in 1947. A handsome young park ranger named Stan Jones idly plucks his guitar, looks up at the sky, writes a cowboy song . . . and strikes gold. Next stop: Hollywood, where Stan finds himself working with the likes of John Wayne, John Ford, Gene Autry, and Walt Disney. The song becomes a timeless hit, bridges musical genres, and is recorded by hundreds of artists, including Burl Ives, Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Judy Collins, and the Blues Brothers.

Sounds like a movie? It’s the true story of Stan Jones, now told in full for the first time. His great song, “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” continues to have a life of its own, performed all around the world in ever-changing musical modes, still casting an eerie spell over listeners today.

“I’ve waited a lifetime for a book this good on Stan Jones, who wrote the Ghost Riders song that lassoed a nation. Mike Ward rounds up a whole corral of fact and fun…”

—Bill Broyles, author of Sunshot and Our Sonoran Desert

“Ward does a superb job of sorting through the many myths and tall tales that have grown up around Jones, to reconstruct a life that is, in its own way, stranger than the tall tales.”

—Doug McAdam, Stanford University, author of Freedom Summer

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Friday Photo 9/5

Dolliver Sedona

Cathedral Rock, Sedona, AZ. Photo by Sarah Dolliver, Focus On Nature Photography


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