A Portal to Paradise
Arizona's rugged Chiricahua Mountains have a special place in frontier history. They were the haven of many well-known personalities, from Cochise to Johnny Ringo, as well as the home of prospectors, cattlemen, and hardscrabble farmers eking out a tough living in an unforgiving landscape. In this delightful and well-researched book, Alden Hayes shares his love for the area, gained over fifty years. From his vantage point near the tiny twin communities of Portal and Paradise on the eastern slopes of the Chiricahuas, Hayes brings the famous and the not-so-famous together in a profile of this striking landscape, showing how place can be a powerful formative influence on people's lives. When Hayes first arrived in 1941 to manage his new father-in-law's apple orchard, he met folks who had been born in Arizona before it became a state. Even if most had never personally worried about Indian attacks, they had known people who had. Over the years, Hayes heard the handed-down stories about the area's early days of Anglo settlement. He also researched census records, newspaper archives, and the files of the Arizona Historical Society to uncover the area's natural history, prehistory, Spanish and Mexican regimes, and particularly its Anglo history from the mid nineteenth century to the beginning of World War II. His book is a rich account of the region and more, a celebration of rural life, brimming with tales of people whose stories were shaped by the landscape. Today the Chiricahuas are a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts and the site of the American Museum of Natural History's Southwestern Research Station—and still a rugged area that remains off the beaten track. Hayes brings his straightforward and articulate style to this captivating account of earlier days in southeastern Arizona and opens up a portal to paradise for readers everywhere.
"This fine book could only have come from an author who has lived for years in a place, loved it, devoured its history, and visited every canyon. . . . Reading it is akin to sitting around the campfire with a witty, knowledgeable storyteller." Journal of Arizona History"His history of the region he loved reveals not only his personal connection to it but also his thorough research, his years of listening carefully to the old-timers (even as he inevitably became one) and his ability to set down vividly what he learned." Books of the Southwest"Will evoke appreciation for those who wrested security and community from an incredibly rugged setting. . . . Conveys the author's eye for human nature and ability to tell a story." Southwestern Historical Quarterly"The reader could be sitting on the loafers' bench in front of the Portal store, listening to stories that are told time and again. Hayes shares his connections with this area, and the pages yield rich details of everyday life pulled from interviews with descendents of the folks he wrote about." Tucson Guide"An affectionate history of a place that is as remarkable as the man was . . . a gem of a book." Sierra Vista Herald