The towns of Humboldt and Dewey merged in 2004, incorporating into the city of Dewey-Humboldt for the first time ever. But, Dowdy's memories reach back into the late 1950's, when the two areas were distinct and times were different.
Asked how to differentiate between Dewey and Humboldt, Dowdy laughed. "The way I tell is when you reach the Hum-Dew line. You leave Humboldt, and you're going into Dewey. Hum-Dew, right in the middle there."
"They're just two miles apart. We used to walk as kids, just to have fun together, we would walk back and forth," said Anne Logan, a friend of Dowdy's since their carefree childhood days.
"...And not think anything of it," Dowdy chimed in.
"But we wouldn't walk the highway too often, we would take the original Black Canyon road. A dirt road," Logan added.
Dowdy and Logan view Humboldt through the happy eyes of two schoolgirls growing up in a rural community. They are a bit wary of the modern changes happening now. But, memories are sweet, and it's a time for nostalgia as these best of friends recollect days gone by.
Standing at the locked gate which blocks access to the historic Arizona Smelting Company's smelter, Dowdy remembers when her dad worked there. In its heyday, the smelter produced over $17 million of copper and lead before the ore ran out. Dowdy tells the family story of her parents' early years together, explaining that her mother first came to Humboldt with a date from Phoenix to attend a dance. Her dad apparently took an interest in her mom, and promptly got into a fight with her date. After that, the two could do nothing else but fall in love and get married.
"When my mom first met my dad and came to this little town, my dad told her that part of the initiation of living in Humboldt was that she had to climb that smokestack," Dowdy said. "My mom got halfway up to where that one little step-thing is and she got afraid, and my dad went up after her and then she made it to the top. So that was part of the initiation of coming to Humboldt. So when I heard that they were going to knock down that smokestack and develop this area, I was really unhappy. But I heard it's very unstable, and that's why they have all these 'keep out,' 'stop,' 'road closed' things."
Logan added further information, "I read something in the paper, in the Prescott paper, that said the historical society was raising money. I thought it said, they've already raised over $300,000 towards preserving the stack. But I'm not sure, because I heard it was going to take a lot more than that to preserve it..." [Editor's note: Prescott eNews has been unable to confirm or deny this comment.]
The Cracker Barrel and the Buzzard
Taking a turn down Prescott Street, Dowdy stops in front of a set of decrepit-looking shops, that appear as if they just might fall down any day now. The name, "Cracker Barrel" is written clumsily above one of the doorways. But when Andy and John Keeler come out to greet Dowdy, she greets them with a wide, enthusiastic smile.
John Keeler, 76, built history into these buildings when he came to town in 1968, basically using whatever scraps of wood he could find. "The staircase came out of Sharlot Hall's old home," John explains. "And the wide boards you see there? They all came out of Sharlot Hall's old home, too... She lived up the road about five miles, you know where that big trailer court is where Mynx Creek goes under the highway ...well, that's where her house was. It's now an RV park. They had me take that building down - I don't like to say, 'demolish it, - I, uh, removed it."
"I didn't know that," Dowdy said. "When these guys came to town, I was so happy, because they had [staged] shootouts down here," Dowdy explained that John had been a good friend of Wallace, from the Wallace and Ladmo Show which was the longest running daily children's show in television history. Sometimes Wallace participated in the shootouts.
"We were called the Mile High Frontiersmen," John says. He and Dowdy remember when Humboldt's Prescott Street was a dirt road. "One of the reasons we hung up the shootouts was because they paved the road. They'd block off the road at both intersections, and we'd go out here and fall in the road," John remembered. "This was funny: there was an anthill down here, 'bout where the buzzard is, just this side of it, and there was one guy that died right in the middle of the ant hill, and all of a sudden he got up and staggered about ten feet away and died again."
"It was fun, we had a lot of fun, we'd all dress up for that historic time, you know... and it was fun." Dowdy's voice trails off, lost in her memories.
Logan adds, "We just had a lot of fun, those shootouts were so much fun."
"Well, I still have my six-shooter, and I still have my old statutory Springfield," John said, even though the shootouts haven't been held for years.
"I used to come down here as a young girl, and they would have the store open, and I would buy every little bling-bling for my mom. She [John's wife, Betty] had all this costume jewelry, like the rhinestones, and she'd sell it for a dime or a quarter, just as sweet as could be, and then I'd take them home for my mom," Dowdy said. "I wish I still had all that stuff, it would be worth a lot now on eBay.'
Now the property is closed for business and is up for sale. John thought he had a buyer, who would keep it pretty much the way it is, and open little shops for tourists, but the deal fell through five days before escrow closed. As for the buzzard that sits in front of the shops, it was made by a man who lives across the street, and it may already have a buyer of its own.
Down by the Riverside
After leaving the Keelers, Dowdy leads us to the river. It seems fitting, somehow, almost a chance to greet the memories and wave to the remembered past.
"We'd come down here and play in the water, and we'd make swimming pools and dam it up so we'd have a nice place to swim." Dowdy said. "And then the ranchers down below would say, 'Where's the water?' and they'd come up and undo what we did. We never could figure out what's going on - what happened to our swimming pool? - until after we got older. There was a cottonwood that grew closer over to this side, and we had a big tire swing on it, and we'd swing on it and have a good time. Until Bobby Allen, one summer, he was swinging in it and, ...well the rope broke, and he broke his arm, so that was the last of that."
Two friends. A lifetime of memories. And a community that is looking forward, by trying not to leave all the past behind.
The Dewey-Humboldt Town motto is, "Arizona's Country Town". So, where does "country" end and "town" begin? Probably somewhere along the Hum-Dew line, of course.
Prescott Public Library’s children’s summer reading program ended Saturday on a high note – literally. Prescott area band Sticks and Tones performed for an audience of approximately 60 children and 40 adults.