2015 Spring Photo Contest Week One

It’s time for another contest! This time we’ll run for six weeks, beginning today and ending April 16. The rules are the same as last time:

We’ll announce a new theme every Thursday, and all entries must be posted on our Facebook timeline before midnight (MST) the following Wednesday. The weekly winner will be announced the following Friday.

All entries should represent the theme as it pertains to life in the Western US.

Only three entries per week per photographer, please.

The contest is open to all photographers — professional, advanced hobbyist, or anyone with a smart phone. Employees of Rio Nuevo may enter, but may not win a prize.

The winner will be chosen each week by the editorial team at Rio Nuevo. Entries will be judged on photographic quality, depiction of the theme, and creativity. Each weekly winner will be eligible for the grand prize at the end of the contest.

All entries are also eligible for the people’s choice award, which will be given to the one photograph that garners the most Facebook likes during the contest.

All photographs must be the property of the entrant.

Weekly prizes will include books from the Rio Nuevo catalog. The grand prize and people’s choice winners will each receive a collection of books and a profile on the Southwest Living blog.

Prizes will be awarded at the discretion of Rio Nuevo, and have no cash value.

Rio Nuevo reserves the right to use entered photographs in social media for purposes of the contest. Any other use by Rio Nuevo will be negotiated with the entrant.

That’s all there is to it! We’re looking forward to seeing your creativity!

Week One Theme:  Snow!

2011-11-02 08.05.57It seems like a grand statement of the obvious, but we’ve had some pretty spectacular snow days this winter in the West. Show us how it looked through your lens. Post your photos to our Facebook page before midnight next Wednesday, the 11th. We’ll announce the winner on Friday. And don’t forget to encourage your friends to enter their own photos and like yours. The more, the merrier! Good luck!


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This Day in History — March 4th

trainsIn the West

1826 – Railroad pioneer Theodore Dehone Judah was born. He studied engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, worked on a number of railroads in the Northwest, then became chief engineer for California’s Sacramento Valley Railroad in 1854, the first railroad to be built west of the Mississippi River. He went to Washington D.C. in 1859 to convince Congress of the importance of a transcontinental railroad. Sometimes known as “Crazy Judah,” he surveyed a route of the Sierra Nevada range. He succeeded in getting funding from the “Big Four” Sacramento merchants; Leland Stanford, Collis P. Huntington, Mark Hopkins, and Charles Crocker to build the Central Pacific Railroad.

Transcontinental_RR_1944-3cJudah lobbied for the 1862 Pacific Railroad Act, authorizing the first transcontinental railroad. Judah died of yellow fever in 1863 while crossing the Isthmus of Panama, six years before the golden spike was driven at Promontory Point, Utah, May 10, 1869, joining the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads and completing the first railroad to cross the United States from the Atlantic to Pacific oceans.


In the United States

Jeannette_Rankin_cph.3b138631917 – Jeanette Rankin took her seat in the United States Congress. After being elected to represent Montana’s “at-large district,” she said, “I may be the first woman member of Congress but I won’t be the last.”

Although the 19th Amendment was not ratified until 1919, fifteen states: Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Washington, California, Arizona, Kansas, Oregon, Montana, Nevada, New York, Michigan, Oklahoma, and South Dakota, gave women the right to vote before then. Referring to that, Congressman Rankin said, “If I am remembered for no other act, I want to be remembered as the only woman who ever voted to give women the right to vote.”


In the World

forth-rail-bridge1890 – The Forth Rail Bridge was opened on this day. Spanning 8,296 feet across the Firth of Forth, it was the longest cantilever bridge in the world until the Quebec Bridge was completed in 1917. It still has the second-longest span, worldwide. The bridge connects Edinburgh, Scotland, with the former Kingdom of Fife, an important Pict stronghold in the 7th and 8th centuries.

With a penchant for using iconic landmarks in his movies, director Alfred Hitchcock included the Forth Rail Bridge in the 1935 of “The 39 Steps.” Landmarks in other films include the Statue of Liberty in Saboteur, and Mount Rushmore in North by Northwest. Click here to see footage from the movie.

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This Day in History – February 25th

In the World

Billy Preston, George Harrison, Gerald Ford, Ravi Shankar

On December 13th ,1974, George Harrison accepted Jack (president’s son) Ford’s invitation to lunch at the White House. Left to right: Billy Preston, George Harrison, Gerald Ford, and Ravi Shankar.


1943 — George Harrison, lead guitarist for the Beatles, is born (died Nov. 29, 2001). Although Paul McCartney and John Lennon were the band’s leading songwriters, most albums included at least one composition by Harrison. His early influences included Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins, and Chuck Berry. Harrison led the group toward the folk influence of the Byrds and Bob Dylan and the Indian classical music of Ravi Shankar. In 1971 Harrison organized “Concert for Bangladesh,” one of the first world music benefits. He had one son, Dhani, by his second wife, Olivia Arias Harrison. George Harrison died of lung cancer at age 58, and his ashes were scattered over India’s Ganges and Yumana rivers.

In the United States

1964Clay Liston fight poster22-year-old Cassius Clay knocked out world heavyweight boxing champion Sunny Liston in the seventh round of the fight. Liston was an eight-to-one favorite. But Clay boasted he would “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” and predicted he would knock him out in the eighth round. Born in Louisville Kentucky in 1942, Cassius Clay won more than one hundred amateur fights by the time he was eighteen. He won the Golden Gloves in 1959, and an Olympic gold medal in 1960.

The Miami Convention Hall crowd of 8,000 spectators nicknamed him the “Louisville Lip.” He made good on his talk, and danced and backpedaled away from Liston while delivering jabs to Liston’s head. To celebrate the title, Clay attended a party with his friend Malcolm X. Two days later, he announced that he was joining the Nation of Islam and taking the Muslim name Muhammad Ali.


Pertaining to the West

Colt_Paterson_No_51836Samuel Colt received a U.S. patent for a mechanism that allowed a gun to be fired multiple times without reloading. Colt built a factory to make revolving-cylinder pistols, but sales were slow at first. When the U.S.-Mexican War began in 1846, Colt received a 1,000 gun order from the U.S. government. With the proceeds, Colt then built the world’s largest private armament factory, using advanced techniques such as an organized production line and interchangeable parts.

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Friday Photo 2/20

sedona moonrise tom white

Sedona moonrise, photo by Tom White.

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Food for Thought — Slow Food’s Ark of Taste

by Marilyn Noble

One of the key initiatives of the Slow Food movement is the Ark of Taste, a catalog of rare and endangered foods and food traditions from around the world. In the U.S., the Ark catalog is administered by several regional committees. Anyone can nominate a food or tradition to the Ark, and then the regional committee works to approve the nomination and board it on the Ark. Once a product receives U.S. approval, it moves on to the international committee for boarding on the International Ark of Taste.

The standards are stringent. Products boarded to the Ark have to meet certain criteria:

They must be endangered. These foods are disappearing from the world because of risk factors that may be biological, commercial, or cultural.

They must be good. Desirable eating qualities make these foods prized in their local regions.

They must be clean. These foods have the potential to be grown, raised, or produced without harm to the environment, and they have a link to the place and community that consider them an integral part of their traditions.

They must be fair. Anyone can champion, produce, share, or sell these foods. No trademarked or commercial items are allowed.

The goal of the Ark program is to bring awareness to these foods so that they can be produced by small stakeholders (eat them to save them) or protected from too much love so that native populations can grow, thrive, and once again be a part of the foodways of a region.

The Southwest Mountain Regional Committee (covering Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana) has boarded several products to the Ark of Taste in the past few months. One of the easiest and most accessible traditions is that of Sonoran Flat Enchiladas, or Enchiladas Chatas.

Enchiladas Chatas used to be commonplace on the menus and in the kitchens of the borderlands in Arizona and Sonora. But with the rise of large-scale commercial tortillerias and the wane of home cooking, the demand for fresh masa made from local corn dwindled, and so did the popularity of these corn cakes smothered in red chile sauce. You can still find them on a handful of restaurant menus around Tucson, but they’re also very easy to make at home.

For the most authentic experience, look for fresh masa made from non-GMO corn, but if you can’t find it, you can also use masa harina, ground corn that can be reconstituted with water. Some cooks also use canned enchilada sauce, but it’s so easy to make red sauce and it tastes so much better that I would recommend taking the extra few minutes. Finally, in many places you’ll see these garnished with shredded cheddar cheese, but if you can find good queso fresco, it adds a nice salty tang to the finished product.

2015-02-08 16.05.59Sonoran Flat Enchiladas

When we were in college, we used to frequent Grande Tortilla Factory in the neighborhood near St. Mary’s Hospital. I bought fresh masa and queso there and made these at least once a week. They fit the bill for starving students — tasty, filling, and cheap.

Serves 8

2 pounds masa
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons grated cheese
Oil for deep frying

Mix together masa, salt, and baking soda. Add the cheese and blend well. Shape into balls the size of hen’s eggs. Place each ball between layers of clean dry cloth or wax paper and press with a flat plate to 2 1/2 inches in diameter.

Heat the oil to 365 degrees F. and fry the cakes for 5 minutes or until golden brown. Drain on absorbent paper.

Chile Sauce

1 tablespoon lard or oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup red chile powder
2 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt

In a heavy skillet, heat the oil. Add the garlic slices and fry until they’re just beginning to brown. Remove the garlic immediately. Sprinkle the flour into the hot oil, stirring constantly until golden brown. Add the chile powder or sauce and the water. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook until thickened. Add the salt, tasting and adjusting as needed.


1 pound cheese, grated
2 heads lettuce, shredded
1 cup green or black olives, chopped
1/2 cup chopped green onions

To assemble, place the corn cakes in the hot sauce for about 3 minutes. Remove to a large platter. Pour over any remaining sauce and sprinkle with cheese, lettuce, olive and green onions. Serve immediately.

Marilyn Noble is Rio Nuevo’s cookbook and blog editor, and has written four cookbooks including Southwest Comfort Food and The Essential Southwest Cookbook. She is also the co-chair of the Southwest/Mountain Ark of Taste committee and the Colorado governor for Slow Food USA.

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This Day in History – February 18th

By Jim Turner

In the World

Battle_of_Montereau_coloured narrow

In 1814, Napoleon defeated the Austrians and Württembergers at The Battle of Montereau, one of his greatest victories. The battle site, near the village of Montereau-Fault-Yonne in northern France, will be the future site of Napoleonland, a theme park celebrating the French emperor’s life. Set for completion in 2017, TIME Magazine dubbed it one of the world’s “Top Ten Weirdest Theme Parks.”

In the United States

hucfrontIn 1885, Mark Twain published The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It is one of the first books to use the regional vernacular all the way through the book, not just in quotes. At the time, critics panned it because of its coarse language. In recent times the book has been banned because of racial stereotypes and slurs, even though Huck and the whole theme of the book are anti-racist. It continues to be in the news as various school systems either ban it or return it to their libraries.


 In the Southwest

Pluto2In 1930, astronomer Clyde W. Tombaugh, working at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, discovered Pluto, once believed to be the ninth planet in our solar system. In August, 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) downgraded Pluto to a “dwarf planet” However, at an IAU debate in September, 2014, two out of three astronomers, plus a majority of the audience, voted to re-instate Pluto as a planet. We believe that the final conclusion is still up in the air.

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 jimturnerhistorian@gmail.com.

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What We Are Reading: February

As You WishAs You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, by Cary Elwes, with Joe Layden
Review by Aaron Downey

After watching Cary Elwes’s panel at the 2014 Phoenix Comicon (at which he hugged literally every single fan who asked for it) and hearing his stories about the filming of The Princess Bride, I couldn’t wait to read this book. After reading this book, I couldn’t wait to rewatch the movie. And after rewatching the movie, I felt a little bit better about the world because every once in a while they get it right.

One of the later themes of Elwes’s fantastic memoir, As You Wish, is the idea that when making films, you never really know what you’re going to end up with. The cast and crew of The Princess Bride all felt sure that they were part of something special. They bonded like a family. But when the movie came out, it was not financially successful. The powers that be didn’t know how to market it, and few moviegoers went to see it. Then slowly and surely, like recovering from being only mostly dead, it received new life and eventually became an oft-quoted and beloved classic.

This book is a love fest from start to finish. During the filming of the movie, Elwes was in love with his cast mates, the film crew, the job of acting, his fans, and maybe most of all, Andre the Giant. It would seem that the fairy tale film about true love was an endeavor of true love on the parts of all involved. There is enough gushing that one can get the sense that the rose-colored glasses are a powerful prescription. But who cares? To fans of the brilliant 1987 Rob Reiner film, the book’s recollections are wonderful bits and baubles that you never knew you needed to know: Wallace Shawn’s nerves, Andre’s drinking habits, training for an all-time great sword fight, strange noises during filming, R.O.U.S troubles, broken bones, and much more.

Another nice touch to the book is that several other cast members are quoted throughout, so many situations are remembered from multiple perspectives.  And the hardcover dust jacket pulls double duty as a poster by the “Obey Giant” artist, Shepard Fairey. Highly recommended to fans of the film. I suggest reading it while enjoying a nice MLT, where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomato is ripe.

15793067Rage Against the Dying, by Becky Mastermind
Review by Susan Lowell Humphreys

According to Tucson resident Becky Masterman, the original title of her first thriller was One Tough Broad, which is very appropriate but maybe … not broad enough. Retitled Rage Against the Dying and published by Minatour in 2013, it has been nominated for many awards in the mystery-writing business. The main character is a feisty retiree, a former FBI agent called Brigid Quinn, who can’t seem to stay either retired or out of serious trouble. She is a strong character with a memorable voice, and the Tucson setting is well described. Brigid has white hair and a bad back but Miss Marple never had Black Ops training, such gruesome and horrific crime to solve, or such a vocabulary.

This is definitely a PG-13 experience (language, violence, sexual situations). The male characters tend to blend into one another, but once the novel gets going, the pace is quick and the plot is no more unbelievable than any thriller, whether on film or on paper. And Tucsonans will enjoy the local color. A sequel called Fear the Darkness has recently been published. (Actually the original title might have been the best of the three.)

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Friday Photo 2/6

Larry Lindahl and Aaron Downey, Rio Nuevo Publishers, new book

Photographer Larry Lindahl and editor Aaron Downey celebrate the release of The Ancient Southwest: A Guide to Archaeological Sites, by Gregory McNamee with photographs by Larry Lindahl.

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The Unauthorized Autobiography of Mike Ward, Part II

Ghost Riders New-cover copySeveral weeks ago, we ran a biography of the early life of Ghost Riders in the Sky author Mike Ward. He’s been on the road selling books, but he finally made the time to write the second half of the story, and this time it’s in the first person. Mike will be a guest on the Fred and Jeff Show this Sunday from 11:00 a.m to noon on 104.1 KQTH in Tucson, or you can listen to the archived show any time after Sunday. Mike writes:


00 Furnace Creek Ranch EntranceIn January, 1977, I started working at Fred Harvey Company’s Furnace Creek Inn in Death Valley, where I shared dishwashing duties with a wheezy old Pall Mall smoker named Jerry.

Bus Dog Ward and waiters 1977

Bus Dog Ward and the waiters, 1977.

After a couple of weeks, I got kicked downstairs to “bus dog” for waiters in the Oasis Room, a supper club restaurant a floor below the main dining room. The tips were plentiful, but it was not my path to enlightenment. One evening in the Corkscrew Bar, I met Furnace Creek General Store manager Al Haase. I began working for him as a clerk and soon stumbled up to the lofty heights of assistant retail manager for Fred Harvey Company’s Death Valley facilities, a job once described by a Harvey Vice President as “ordering beer for nine months and taking the summers off.”

From the Fred Harvey Songbook by Marcia Hughes, 1977-79.

The Fred Harvey Blues by Marcia Hughes.

The Fred Harvey Blues by Marcia Hughes.

I soon realized that I could write what the General Manager snidely referred to as “songs about the Company.”  I had played guitar since I was a kid but was always shy about singing. By singing songs I had written, I didn’t have the burden of butchering the vocals of “real” songs.

The first song I composed in 1977, “The Fred Harvey Blues,” was inspired by my humble paychecks. “I get my paycheck I hope it’s a lot/ I’m disappointed when I see that it’s not/ It’s OK/ It ain’t no news/ I live daily with those Fred Harvey Blues.” This was an unexpected hit with my fellow Harveyites, followed up by such tunes as “No Swearing at the Pool,” “Back of the House Employees,” and the drinking song “Zabrewskie Point.”

Dead Harvey Girls

The Dead Harvey Girls

The smart aleck songwriting went on for years, and on Halloween night in 1982, a drummer, bass player, myself, and another guitarist dressed as deceased waitresses and “The Dead Harvey Girls” were born. Naturally, I had to write a song for the occasion. “We’re the Harvey Girls you know what we’re like/We got ugly faces, ghostly white/ We serve our food with poison bread/ So you’ll be like us, real gone dead!”

So, how do we connect the dots from my below-sea-level manager career to Death Valley ranger Stan Jones’s biographer? Well, every second weekend in November, the Death Valley ’49ers Encampment is held at Furnace Creek, and the crackerjack western band the Reinsmen performed Saturday evenings during the 1980s in the dirt parking lot next to the Furnace Creek General Store.

The highlight of their set was “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” and every year bandleader Dick Goodman said it was “written by Stan Jones when he was a ranger here in Death Valley.” I didn’t watch television or listen to the radio in Death Valley, so I never knew Stan’s great song until I heard the Reinsmen play it. About twenty years later, the Reinsmen’s inspirational seed germinated, and I started researching Stan’s life to present a paper at the 2008 Death Valley History Conference.

I’d jumped from Fred Harvey to the National Park Service, still in the Valley, in 1990. What a relief to switch from ordering longhorn cheese to monitoring bighorn sheep. Suddenly I was being paid to hike, the activity I had done on my days off for thirteen years. By 1992, my sheep-counting experiences in extreme summer heat then qualified me to wander the desert as a biological technician in the slightly cooler climes of Tucson’s Saguaro National Park.

It’s spooky to realize the parallels between Stan and me.  I wrote songs in Death Valley, (sort of), ended up working for the NPS, and then moved to southeastern Arizona, where Stan was born and raised. When I realized that nothing substantial had been written about Stan, I thought about expanding my twenty-page paper into a biography.


Keeter Stuart, Stan Jones’s nephew

Meanwhile, back at the conference, I invited Stan’s talented great-nephew, singer/songwriter Keeter Stuart, to follow my talk with a concert of Stan’s best songs. Keeter and I teamed up after that to present our “Stan Jones Dog & Pony Show” at gatherings from Tucson to Mount Rainier to Santa Fe.

I had fuzzy plans to write Stan’s biography, but I couldn’t manage it while I was getting paid to hike around Saguaro. “When I retire, I’ll do it, I mused half-heartedly.” In 2009, Pat Grediagin rode to the rescue. She had recently retired from an NPS career, and one day she asked, “If you can get an extended furlough from Saguaro and I helped out with the bills would you consider writing the book on Stan?”

So that’s how it happened. I took furloughs each year from 2010 to 2013 to research and write. By the summer of 2013, I had a manuscript. Then I started the daunting task of finding a home for it. First I checked with esteemed Tucson author Bill Broyles to see if it was worth publishing. He gave me reassuring thumbs up with the caveat “plan on cutting at least 20% of the manuscript.” He also casually added, “you might run this by Ross Humphreys over at Rio Nuevo; he likes cowboy stuff.”

I sent a timid email to Rio Nuevo Publishers and heard nothing back, which in retrospect was fine. The manuscript needed a lot of work. I thought I’d go the self-published route, but Ranger Doug of the band “Riders in the Sky” suggested that I send a proposal to the University of Indiana Press. Then a friend of mine told me that renowned photographer Jay Dusard wanted to see what I’d written. I sent him the manuscript and he called me a few days later. Jay, who lived in Douglas, but was staying overnight in Tucson, said, “I’m going to run this by Ross. I bet he’ll like it.”

Bill Broyles’s original hunch was spot on. I received an email from Rio Nuevo in December of 2013 announcing they’d like to publish my book. Wow, that was a moment. I still had tons of work to do to complete the notes, acknowledgements, and polish the manuscript, but with steady and wise editorial guidance by Managing Editor Aaron Downey, we had a book ready to head to the printer by August 2014.

I still feel like some weird cosmic force was at work driving me to tell this story of Stan Jones. Being a published author is somewhat bewildering. But here I am, scheduled for two appearances at the Tucson Festival of Books, which never would have happened had I not planted myself at the computer and started to write.

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Friday Photo 1/30

Organ Pipe Moon

Full moon over Organ Pipe National Monument. Photo by Jim Turner.

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