June 2000

The first time I passed through Bouse Arizona, I was impressed by the number of lightning rods on all the power lines and electrical power switch gear. I have not been privileged to see Bouse in "full-flame", but I can assure you I saw a bizarre electrical storm over Desert Center, California one incredible night. I talked with one of the merchants, next day, about the storm and he allowed it was a big one, all right. Apparently it doesn’t happen too often, but from the safety of my camper, some five miles away, I watched in absolute fascination. I think if I saw a huge saucer-shaped ship descend upon the concentrated lightning strikes, I would not have been surprised.

What has this to do with Bouse, Arizona? Bouse is immersed in lightning rods, but not Desert Center! And, Bouse is the entry point to this month’s pages from Jerome’s Notebook.

My buddy, Larry, and I have made two attempts to see Swansea, Arizona. The first time, we went through Bouse, out onto the flats north of Bouse, and past the site of Midway where we picked up the road to Swansea and the Planet mine. We were the victims of some possibly local wag who turned the "road sign" for Swansea to the direction of the Planet mine. To make a long story short, we followed the direction to the Planet mine, and seeing nothing exciting, followed the road along the Bill Williams River, West, to Parker and South to the Riverside mountains,

near Vidal junction in California. Our next attempt at Swansea was two years later, in 1988, and better researched.

Saturday October 1, 1988: This time, leaving San Diego at 1 P.M. in the afternoon, we made a leisurely drive to a primitive camp Larry had discovered off California State Hiway 62. Ah, the peaceful desert- they were dropping flares and bombing most of the night in the nearby Chocolate Mountains. The temperature was a wee bit high for early October; 100 degrees at 5 P.M.. An hour later the temperature was down to a comfortable 93 Degrees. Our deserts seem to have a constant 40 degree spread from the hottest to the coldest on any given day.

After breakfast Sunday, we packed up the campers and left camp at 9 A.M. heading to Vicksburg and into Bouse from the East. This time we were not tricked by any signs and by 2 P.M., Larry had located a nice camp site off the dirt road, large enough for two full-size trucks and one motorcycle trailer. Another 100 degree day, although the temperature kept dropping after sunset at 6 P.M.. By 7:30 it was 86. Upon arrival, we aimed our campers for maximum shade throughout the day, and set about making ourselves comfortable.

Monday morning, October 3 dawned with a low temperature of 74 degrees at 7 A.M. After breakfast, I spent some time "dialing-in" my various photographic light meters while we just chatted and enjoyed the lack of pressure. It was to be another hot day with 101 degrees by 2:30 P.M. when we were visited by a BLM Ranger in his 4 wheel drive vehicle. We discussed the area and Swansea historically; as well as the usual camping rules etc.

By 4 P.M. It was 104. Fortunately we had brought a goodly supply of beer & wine in our ice chests. Supper was Salisbury steaks, canned stew, veggies, soft rolls, and wine. Tomorrow would be devoted to exploration.

Tuesday morning we secured camp, straddled our iron horses, got back on the dirt road, and headed for Swansea. We were not disappointed. Our many historical resources had painted a mental picture for us of the remains of a once thriving mining and milling town.

During Swansea’s heyday, the town had an electric light company, an automobile dealer, a lumber and realty company, general merchandise stores, saloons, restaurants, a barber, physician, justice of the peace, a notary public, and an insurance agent.

It was also the headquarters for the Clara Consolidated Gold and Copper Mining Company, which had built an elaborate smelter at Swansea.

Swansea, was originally named Signal; probably from the Signal or Copper Prince copper deposit group near Swansea.

There were lots of buildings and ruins to look at. Some areas, notably the remains of the mill buildings, had suffered vandalism. A railroad had been constructed connecting the Clara Consolidated mine with Swansea and Bouse. Little was left except for the dirt embankments that carried the rails.

We had hoped to drive over the railbed from Swansea to the Clara Consolidated mine, but were informed by the BLM Ranger, that it was now impassible. Time and storms had done their work.

We spent an hour or so wandering around the area taking pictures of the small cabins the workers lived in and the remaining adobe brick buildings with their peeling coats of mud "plaster", as well as work places, and chemical tanks now filled with mud.

We returned to our camp for lunch and consulted our topographic maps for the best route to the Clara Consolidated mine. A need for ice in our coolers put off that exploration for a day. Tomorrow we would drive to Parker for ice, leaving my truck and the motorcycles chained to it in camp. Rain clouds were forming around us in the afternoon, but just a couple of drops fell on the campers during the night.

Wednesday October 5, 1988, our Swansea camp #1. High temperature would be 98 degrees and that mornings low was 68. We decided to put off the ice-run for one more day and instead go to the Clara Consolidated mine. I can’t recall seeing anything of interest. Neither of us took any pictures of that ride. It was a 44 mile round trip from our Swansea base camp. We were back in camp by 12:30 P.M. I have a note of our festive evening dinner, "Salisbury Steaks with canned beans - Yum!" Bed time 10:30 P.M., 79 degrees.

Thursday. We could no longer postpone the ice-run to Parker Arizona. It was a very pleasant drive in Larry’s truck. We found one of those nice combination stores that have some groceries, beer, and ice. We took on 30 pounds of ice each and some snacks and returned to our camp to idle-away the rest of the day. Dinner? Chili and crackers!

Friday, October 7, 1988. General exploration within the Swansea surrounding area. Passing through Swansea in a NorthEast direction, we continued on to the Bill Williams River until the road took a sharp turn to the North and down in elevation to the river. There are several Fords of the Bill Williams River. The "road", if you could call it such, turned into fist-size angular chunks of country rock which gave us problems with braking and steering.

With the last steep and loose-rock drop in the road, I decided to stay at the bottom, in the shade of some trees. Larry went on to cross the river at the Ford, still on his motorcycle, and turn around and return over the same Ford. Now, the last challenge- climbing the loose-rock road back to the top.

Larry is a much better rider than I am and made the hill climb with not too much difficulty. I, however, lost traction and balance half way up. Stuck, so to speak. The angle of the road was such as to increase the difficulty for me as I had to kick-start my stalled engine, and try to apply just the right amount of throttle along with body "english" to keep from falling off again at a very steep part of the road. Luck was with me (I can’t call it skill) and I finally got to the top of the road without dumping again.

My that canteen of warm water tasted good! I should add that it was 94 degrees out. After that workout it sure felt hotter! The return to the camp was without further problems. The rest of the afternoon was spent in rest, consuming cooling canned refreshment, food, and watching the clouds in the sky. Tomorrow we would go home. Back to traffic, noise, and civilization.

Despite the heat, this had been an enjoyable trip. I always wished I could live out in the desert and not have to go back to city life. Who knows, maybe someday. This was Saturday, October 8, 1988, and by 8 A.M., we were packed and on our way out on the dirt roads and hiways to home in San Diego 7 hours of driving, later. I hope you enjoyed this adventure as much as we did.

Jerome W. Anderson