The summer of my first grade year, my family moved from Tucson Arizona to Miami Arizona. Miami is small mining town on your way to Roosevelt Lake. Often its residents just refer to it as the arm pit of Arizona, or maybe that’s just the people who lived there once and have managed to escape the small town.
For me, living in Miami (or as my little brother used to say, “it’s my ami not your ami,”) was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Adventures seem to be around every corner. My parents moved into a new housing development that butted up against a large canyon and big wash. I spent hours in that canyon fighting bullies, building forts, making traps for my enemies, and playing tricks on my little brother. The only real disappoint I experienced in those days was my mother’s shrill whistle across the canyon that bounced off the walls and beckoned me home for dinner.
There are only two types of people who live in the arm pit of Arizona (Miami) – Cowboys or Cholos. If you were white you were a cowboy, and if you were Hispanic you were a Cholo. Of course there was that uncomfortable crowd that fit in between these two groups, and could never quite figure out how to fit in. I was in that group.
The older Cholos drove their hydraulic enhanced vehicles and the younger ones drove dirt bikes (noisy vehicles were part of what made you a Cholo). Every afternoon they would fly through our neighborhood on their motorcycles, spitting dust and dirt everywhere. They would often try to run us off the road, or if they found one of our many forts, they would destroy them. Eventually I decide, with some of my friends, to put a stop to the dirt bikers.
The trail that the bikers took was pretty well marked; so we simple pounded a few nails into thin strips of wood and buried them on the trail. The nails were just long enough to give them a flat without causing major accidents. Oddly enough they never found out why their tires were going flat. Also, around our forts, we dug deep holes and covered them with sticks, leaves, and sand. I’m not sure we ever trapped any of them, but on occasion, it was obvious that someone or something had fallen into our holes. Our plan worked, it reduced the amount of times during the week that we had to hear the loud sound of motorcycle engines zipping through the canyon. Unfortunately, this was very disappointing to my two year old brother who would spend all day standing at the corner of the yard, waiting for the motorcycles to pass by.
In those days, we never went out of our yard without a full compliment of weapons. You needed your bow and as many arrows as you could carry (I’m sure these bows shot at least 30 feet), a sword (made from wood that was stolen from the neighborhood construction sites), a long spear, a tomahawk (usually made with a stone that you had spent hours sharpening), and last but not least – your snake bite kit. The other very important piece of equipment was our canteens (the bright red ones that could be seen for miles). All of this stuff became tiresome quickly and so we usually left it in our fort.
Each fort served as an armory – some were filled with dirt clods, others with a supply of arrows, spears, shields, and slings.