Sinagua

Of the prehistoric Southwestern archaeological cultures the one that I have the least personal experience with is the Sinagua. The Sinagua were located in the Flagstaff, Arizona area from about AD 1100 – 1400, and were a sedentary agricultural people. They were located physically between the three great Southwestern cultural traditions, the Hohokam, Anasazi (Ancestral Pueblo), and Mogollon and took some material culture elements from each of these. It was originally thought the Sinagua were attracted to the area by positive effects that volcanic ash from the 1064 eruption of nearby Sunset Crater had on agriculture. More recent research seems to discount this. They abandoned the area around 1400 for unknown reasons.

Since we found ourselves in the middle of the Sinagua home territory during vacation we took a day to visit three of their better known sites. The beautiful cliff-dwelling in the picture above is Montezuma’s Castle. Early Anglo settlers in the area were erroneously convinced that it must have been built by Aztecs. It is part of a settlement complex in a small valley that included another cliff-dwelling (unfortunately destroyed) and pithouse dwellings on the valley floor.

As I said earlier, the Sinagua took elements from neighboring cultures. Cliff-dwellings are an Anasazi pattern as are the surface pueblos they built elsewhere, like we saw at Tuzigoot in the nearby Verde Valley. Their utilitarian ceramics were brownwares like the Mogollon, but their decorated pottery was black-on-white like the Anasazi. The Sinagua sometimes built Mogollon-like pithouses and like the Hohokam played a variant of the Mesoamerican ball-game.

This is Montezuma’s Well, about four miles away from the cliff-dwelling. It is a collapsed limestone sink-hole spring that flows 1.5 million gallons a day and was a magnet for prehistoric settlement. If you look closely on the left side of the photo you can see some masonry rooms tucked into an overhang above the spring. There was a masonry surface pueblo on the rim of the sink-hole where I took this picture.

Here’s Connie cooling her tootsies in a Sinagua irrigation canal (with modern sidewalk) that captures the flow from the spring’s outlet. A refreshing spot in a hot, dry location now and a thousand years ago.

Firefighters at Rest


On the way into work this morning I took this picture

……..and this one of slurry bombers that the Forest Service has based at the Santa Barbara Airport. These P-3 Orions spent the early part of their lives patrolling for Soviet submarines, but have been extremely busy lately fighting the Day Fire in Ventura County that I posted on last week. As the LA Times reports, this fire has burned 159,000 acres so far and is finally reaching populated areas. Some of the first structures burned in this fire went up yesterday.

The Forest Service has set up this information display outside of what they call the Goleta Air Attack Base. The slurry carried by the bombers is based on a phosphate-rich fertilizer, which actually will help regrowth after the fire. The P-3s carry something like 2,400 gallons. I can hear them groaning down the runway with this heavy burden all day long. The left side of the display has a map of the Day Fire’s extent.

The display also shows that firefighting from the air is serious business. The two pedestals with brass plaques are memorials to flight crews killed in the line of duty.

Return to the Trail

Regular readers may recall a post I put up in June, where I told of a frightening accident my dogs and I had on a local trail. My Australian Shepherd pup Sadie, fell off of the trail nearly 20 feet down into a creek bottom but was miraculously unhurt.

Saturday afternoon I took the two dogs back for a hike on that trail (the Jesusita Trail). It was my first trip back there with the dogs since Sadie’s fall. It occured to me during a conversation with Rebecca on Thursday that I’d been avoiding it, and needed to “get back up on the horse.”

At the base of the section where Sadie fell, I snapped a lead on her and wanted to hustle the dogs up past there. As we went up, Sadie and Maggie (our Black Lab) walked side by side to the exact spot where Sadie went over, stopped, peered down into the creek, sniffed the air a little, and then turned and walked up the trail. When we came back down, they ignored that spot and didn’t display any similar behavior anywhere else on the hike. They remembered!

When You’re in Love With a Jersey Girl

Guest contributor Jacob Sewall recounts his first experiences in the pigeon fancy (glory days?), set to the music of Bruce Springsteen:

The Jersey Girl

© Jacob Sewall, 2006

“The year it came out, my father got the Springsteen boxed set, Live 1975–1985, on LP and my lifelong (thus far) love affair with Springsteen was born. With that new technology the cassette tape recorder surpassing the old reel-to-reel from the PX in Japan, Dad put the LPs onto tape so we could listen in the car. The physical distance those tapes would travel was surpassed only by the cumulative sum of the revolutions of the tiny wheels inside the cassettes, 1975 – 1985 was the soundtrack to my travels, and much of my life, for the decades following. Springsteen’s music, from those years at least, revolved around New York and “Jersey” – places that were so far away as to seem foreign – and I put my own context to the music as it paced my life, places, and events. All of which came crashing together when I was 15…”

…R.T.W.T.!

A Way I Have of Driving Off the Spleen

“…Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off – then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can…”

Had Ishmael been a falconer, he might have ventured then into some High Plains cow pasture and told us quite a different story. Moby Hare, perhaps.

Hawking season’s here. I know I’m writing less and being less productive generally. Except for when I’m in the field, I’m usually thinking of it. Steve too reports a strong seasonal urge to get outside: to take the dogs hunting, see some country, visit friends and maybe knock a few hats off:

“I might be a bit slow blogging for a bit, at least on ‘read this’ type posts.

“I need to get out more, as sitting in this chair is killing me mentally and physically. Mentally I’m sure you can understand. Physically is a bit scarier even. I put myself to a very hard Magdalena hike because I thought I needed to improve my wind (4000 feet up and down over a six- mile course, all washed out so I was walking on boulders). My wind was fine. My arthritis was another story–bad enough in my hip and shoulder that I am picking Annie’s brain on hip transplants. Couldn’t sleep even with painkillers for two days. I knew it was bad but…”

I suggested we take a break from the blog, post a virtual “Gone Huntin’” sign on the shop window and come back to it in March. But Steve and Reid are both still eager to write, if maybe a little less often with the “news commentary,” now almost de rigueur in this format. We all agreed we’d rather follow the lead of our favorite bloggers in the sidebar—most of whom leave news commentary to the talking heads and strike out on their own.

So, no closing the shop at Querencia; more like a reduction in office hours.

“I honestly don’t want to shut it down–just take a breather….I won’t be communicating any less whatsoever, and keep sending me news stories. I’m just trying to be a little less obsessive about the Internet. It’s insidious. With no ability to go hawking, I just sit in the chair more and more, which makes me less physically able and more dependent on the web, and so on.”

I’m guessing most of our readers understand… Hello? Anyone there? Steve, Reid: I think they’ve all gone hunting.

High plains cow pasture?

Bat Blogging


A few weeks ago, Connie and I were hiking on one of our Santa Barbara urban trails during the middle of the day. We were walking through this unremarkable overpass when we noticed chirping sounds coming from expansion joints that were running the length of the bridge.

Closer examination showed these piles of bat guano under the bridge. In fact, on the trail side the guano was deposited in straight lines following the path of the expansion joints where the bats were roosting. I don’t know a great deal about bats, but have always found them interesting and enjoyed watching them fly their erratic paths through the sky at dusk. My biologist colleagues tell me that these are likely Mexican Free-tailed Bats. They are generally good neighbors, eating mosquitoes and other insect pests.

It took me some days before I remembered to go back to the underpass just before dusk to watch the bats emerge to start their day. As it got darker and darker, the chirping and chittering sounds got louder and changed in pitch as the bats awoke and urged each other to get up and go catch breakfast.
I was expecting to see some bats, but was totally unprepared for the rush of hundreds of bats that came pouring out of the joints in the bridge that you can see here. I don’t have the right photo equipment to do this justice, but I hope this shot gives you some idea of the volume of bats boiling out of the area. It was very impressive and really a lot of fun.
I blew this shot up some so you can see a couple of the guys zooming around under the bridge.One other observation that surprised me. When the bats came pouring out in large numbers you could smell them. An odor somewhat like wet, dirty dogs.

Fernando Librado and Falcon 2


In 1976 as a Bicentennial Project and as a Chumash cultural revival item, a team of Chumash and anthropologists used Harrington’s notes and Librado’s canoe to build a replica tomol. Appropriately enough, it was named Helek, and was paddled out to the Channel Islands by a Chumash crew. The file photo above shows Helek in action in the 70s.

Helek is long retired from sea duty, and is now hung on the wall in the Fleischman Auditorium at the Museum of Natural History, across a courtyard from the boat Librado built, as you can see in my photo here.

This last shot shows some detail of abalone shell inlay on the Helek‘s bow. The sewn-plank method of construction is apparent, and also the unique pattern of the paddle blades – I think they look like ginko leaves. The Chumash used double-bladed paddles, as we are familiar with from kayaks, but Harrington did not record any blade shape. This was taken from a Chumash paddle collected in the Santa Barbara area by the Vancouver Expedition in 1793, that currently resides in the British Museum.Helek has had a number of successors. Just as we were leaving on vacation three weeks ago, I saw on the local news that a group of Chumash paddled a tomol from Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard out to Scorpion Harbor on Santa Cruz Island.

Fernando Librado and Falcon 1


I was recently reading Helen MacDonald’s (familiar in these parts as Pluvialis) wonderful book Falcon (well reviewed here) when I was struck by this sentence:

“In the early twentieth century, Fernando Librado related how the crew of a Chumash sea canoe were all saved through the intercession of the captain’s dreamhelper, the peregrine, during a storm.” p. 54

I’m not sure of Helen’s source for this, but it touched on some local matters that I am acquainted with and thought it worth expanding into this post.

Fernando Librado was a principal Chumash informant to a famous and famously eccentric anthropologist (who will get his own post later on) named John Peabody Harrington. Harrington hired Librado to build the last native built tomol, or plank sea canoe, in 1912. Librado was in his 70s then and was the last Chumash who knew how to build one. The photo above shows Librado, the white-bearded man on the right, and Harrington, the tallest figure in the group on the left, during the canoe’s construction.

This canoe still exists, and is hanging on the wall of the Chumash Hall at the Santa Barbara Museumof Natural History, where I took its picture above.

Harrington took extensive notes (2,500 pages) and made some plans and photographs of the process of construction. He also gathered much information on the Chumash social group that built and operated the tomol, a pan-village organization (each village was nominally politically independant) called the “Brotherhood of the Canoe.” The spirit totem for the Brotherhood was Helek or peregrine, as Helen mentioned. In almost all Chumash myths dealing with sea canoes, the boat is captained by Helek, though he is often accompanied by his two fishing buddies, He’w (pelican) and Mut (cormorant).

It is apparent I am going to have to split this into two posts to show all the photos I would like due to Blogger’s content limitations.