To The Death

This is another assignment for school…I cannot figure out how to straighten out the footnote debacle at the end….these – and likely many other – errors aside, it is an interesting read!

My husband found this in one of our canyons while checking cows.  From a distance he observed what he thought was a lion kill.  It’s odd for a lion kill to be out in the open though, so he rode in for a closer look.  He discovered two bucks who had locked horns while fighting and were never able to unlock.  They literally fought to the finish.  Imagine being attached, locked to, your mortal enemy and worse yet, not only are you attached, but you’re going to die, together.   

Look at their eyes, they are literally eyeball to eyeball, horn locked into horn, struggling against each other and mother nature as they finally succumb to what must have been starvation and dehydration, likely depression too if deer have that. 

It gives me pause to wonder what I’m locked to that might not be good for me.  Here in our Country, the pre-civil war South was locked into a way of life that they literally fought to the death to maintain.  And, much like I tell my teenage son about choices…there will always be consequences – both good and bad – that we can foresee and there will always be those sneaky little unintended/unforeseen consequences that really sneak up on us!  According to Michelle Connolly the South experienced a sluggish economy in the postbellum era.  She states that the South lagged, economically, behind the rest of the country during this time.[1]  This was no-doubt one of those unforeseen and unintended consequences of many Southern decisions pre-civil war. 

Water – life giving liquid gold in the desert.

Meanwhile, in one of the harshest deserts, the  Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in February of 1848 and the Gadsden purchase in 1854 threw the gates open to settlement on the west.  Add in some good gold discoveries in the region and the West was off to a winning start in the settlement arena.  The  this day, people flock to this desert.  James Gregory has astutely stated that “Arizona remains today a state where most residents came from somewhere else, either another state or another country.”[1]

According to the Arizona Library, Arizona’s cattle industry was flourishing in the 1870’s and 1880’s.[2]  But, it was a native South Carolinian who would develop the one thing Arizona needed to become an economic and population powerhouse:  irrigation.  Jack Swilling was born in South Carolina in 1830.  He loved mining and chased gold to the Gila River in Arizona where he became a mining guide.  Mr. Swilling also worked as an express rider.  He was extensively travelled throughout Arizona.  

Mr. Swilling must also have been very curious, because the linear dirt mounds everyone one else had merely ridden or walked by, he decided must be linked to irrigation.  He was able to find that they were indeed “part of an extensive irrigation canal system previously used by ancient native peoples, now known as the Hohokam.”[3]  While irrigation continues to feed modern day and continuously growing Arizona, there’s a lesson here for all of us in the benefit of curiosity.  Albert Einstein is credited with saying “I have no special talents.  I am only passionately curious.”[4]  Swilling’s curiosity took a baren desert with occasionally too much water and no water storage occasionally enduring overwhelming flash flooding, to a thriving and beautiful agricultural mecca and population center. 

Swilling parlayed his curiosity into a thriving business.  He acquired financial backing for his Swilling Irrigation and Canal Company and in 1868 he successfully diverted water from the Salt River and the small settlement, that would one day become America’s fifth largest city, Phoenix, was born.  Within one year one hundred people settled the area and two years later, the population doubled and fifteen hundred acres were in production through irrigation growing wheat, barley and corn.[5] 


[1] Gregory, James.  Arizona Migration History 1860-2017, America’s Great Migrations Project.  University of Washington.  https://depts.washington.edu/moving1/Arizona.shtml.

[2] Arizona’s Chronology.  Arizona State Library, Archives, and Public Records.  https://azlibrary.gov/arizona-almanac/arizonas-chronology.

[3] Arizona Water Prioners – Part 1:  Jack Swilling.  Water Use It Wisely.  https://wateruseitwisely.com/blog/arizona-water-pioneers-jack-swilling/.  April 30, 2019. 

[4] 35 Inspirational Quotes on Curiosity.  Awaken the Greatness Within. https://www.awakenthegreatnesswithin.com/35-inspirational-quotes-on-curiosity/.

[5] Bailey, Jim.  The Good Ol’ Days:  Development of the Salt River Valley.  Reclamation and Arizona.  U.S. Department of the Interior.  https://www.usbr.gov/lc/phoenix/AZ100/1899/topstory.html.

[1] Connolly, Michelle. “Human Capital and Growth in the Postbellum South: A Separate but Unequal Story.” The Journal of Economic History 64, no. 2 (06, 2004): 363-99.

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