In the fall of 2010 I moved from Phoenix to Hereford, in Cochise County, Arizona. I’ve lived in many very nice places. One of my favorites was San Mateo, California, about 20 miles south of San Francisco. But I love Hereford the best.
Hereford is an unincorporated ranching community in Cochise County, just five miles north of the of U.S. / Mexico border. Just as Sarah Palin used to say she could see Russia from her back door, I enjoy bragging that I can see Mexico from my front door. Indeed, from several different vantage points on my property I can see the beautiful and majestic San Jose Mountain, part of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range in Mexico.
Contrary to what some folks believe, the community of Hereford was not named after the pedigree “Hereford Cattle.” Hereford, AZ, is actually named after a man by the name of “B.J. Hereford,” a friend of the town’s founder.
In 1878, two infamous cowboys by the name of Frank McLaury and Tom McLaury first met at Hereford. They teamed up with with Ike Clanton. The two McLaury brothers would later be killed during the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, in Tombstone, Arizona.
I live just a few miles from the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, some 57,000 acres of public land, world famous as a priceless habitat for 250 species of migrant and wintering birds. (Bird watching is best in the spring and fall.) The San Pedro Riparian is one of the most important riparian areas in the United States. Here you will find 41 species of reptiles and amphibians, 14 species of fish, 100 species of breeding birds, and 84 species of animals. There are also archaeological sites containing evidence of humans who occupied this area 13,000 years ago.
The riparian area encompasses some 40 miles of the upper San Pedro River. It is truly a beautiful area. In November of 1988, Congress designated it as a Riparian National Conservation Area in order to protect and enhance the desert riparian ecosystem, distinguished as a rare remnant of what was once an extensive network of similar riparian systems throughout the American Southwest.
In June of 2011 10,000 residents of Hereford and nearby Sierra Vista were evacuated by the Monument Fire which started June 12th near the Mexican border and spread quickly through the Huachucha Mountain chains, nearly reaching Fort Huachucha. The fire spread to over 30,000 acres (47 square miles). Motels in Sierra Vista were filled while many other residents stayed with friends, left town, parked their recreational vehicles and motor homes at the Walmart parking lot, or stayed in shelters set up by the Red Cross. Fifty seven families lost their homes and six businesses were destroyed. Firefighting personnel totaled 1,311. Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative reported over $2 million in damages to its facilities with 265 poles needing replacement.
June 16th, 2011, at 2:30 PM I was on the phone with a friend in Phoenix, assuring him everything was fine and there was no need for concern, when I heard the sirens of emergency vehicles in the neighborhood … then the sound of a stern male voice repeating loudly through a sound system echoing throughout the neighborhood: “Get out! Get out now.” I looked out of my living room window and could only see a wall of smoke and flames. Within minutes I was driving north toward Sierra Vista with my Greyhound dog Bonita and the few valuables I had time to pack, leaving behind the scene of devastation you see in the photo titled “Escape from Hereford.” (With my right hand, I held my Blackberry out of the window of my truck, aimed it South and held my breath while struggling to snap a picture. I got lucky!) I stayed in Phoenix for one week, wondering each day if I would have a home to return to. Fortunately I did.
If there is a single phrase that most aptly describes how most residents of Hereford feel about the area, it would be “spectacular views.” You need to be here through the seasons to experience the total array of extraordinary colors, shadows, vistas, textures and panoramas. Cochise County itself is brimming with interesting history and folklore, characterized by legendary names such as Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and the Clanton gang, and places like the O.K. Corral. There’s also the famous Kartchner Caverns State Park, a pristine limestone cave with 13,000 feet of passages. Some “rooms” in the cavern are the size of football fields.
Cochise County is named after the great Apache Chief Cochise, whose refuge during the 1860′s and 1870′s was the Cochise Stronghold at an elevation of 5,000 feet within the Coronado National Forest. Here you will find a stunningly beautiful woodland area surrounded by immense granite domes and towering, sheer cliffs. The Cochise Stronghold is 40 miles west of the Chiricahua National Monument, in the Dragoon Mountains. This is where the famous Apache Chiefs Geronimo and Cochise and 1,000 of their people lived for some 15 years.