This Town is too Small to Hyder

Crossing the Gila River
Crossing the Gila River
Imagine me riding in a tank to get to Dateland Elementary School
Imagine me riding in a tank to get to Dateland Elementary School

Hyder, Arizona: Part one

If you've ever heard the cliché "If you blink your eyes you'll miss it" then you probably know what I'm talking about when I refer to the town where I grew up back in the 1960s.

Hyder was nestled in Arizona's Gila River Valley, approximately half-way between Phoenix and Yuma as the crow flies. When we first settled there, the town consisted of three bars, two makeshift churches, and a few houses (many of which housed workers for the Southern Pacific Railroad, which, in it's heyday had been used to transport troops and supplies for General George S. Patton's troops during World War II). I remember playing on the big cement pillars of that old loading dock (at least I believe that is what it was) sitting across the tracks from Whispering Sands Bar (We just called it Charlie's after its proprietor, Charlie Alexander) and marveling at the lava rocks that made curious black outlines as they lined driveways of the old Hyder Camp where tents had once stood in the sandy sun-baked desert. Here, I also wondered what it must have been like for the soldiers who had once lain hidden behind piles of rocks shooting at an imaginary foe during combat gunnery training and what it was like to ride in a tank, etc.

Not far away stood a monument that paid tribute to soldiers who had lost their lives out there, and I often wondered if a distant relative, who had also served under Genral Patton, had known them personally. I also remember the day when we found an old land-mine during a school outing and how frightened, yet thrilled, we were at the prospect of it's being live. Thankfully it was not! Oh how I wish I had kept all the relics, such as the mess kit, the long-barreled pistol, the Indian artifacts, the rocks and minerals, and the numerous buttons and other articles of clothing my sister and I found out in that desert, for we would have enough to fill a small museum. However, that is for another time and perhaps another story.

Whispering Sands, or "Charlie's", was a combination bar, entertainment center, and grocery store. My sister and I spent a lot of time there listening to the jukebox, playing pool, and just hanging out. I also remember when the sometimes cantankerous owner, Charlie, wouldn't let us play anything but country and western songs on that old jukebox of his. However, little did he know that some of his albums had been switched to rock-n-roll by his ingenious stepson, and these we played to our hearts content whenever he wasn't around.

Charlie's stepson was the hippest guy in town at that time, and he just happened to be my sister's boyfriend, so naturally we spent a lot of time hanging out at his place. He also owned two Harley's (a chopper and a dirt bike) which we rode on with him many times, a drum-set, an eight-track stereo, a jukebox, and just about all the rock-n-roll albums one could imagine. In fact, he had so many albums in drawers, closets, under his bed, and stacked around the room that one could hardly find a place to sit.

My father was a farmhand, but he also worked on a cattle ranch a one time. This is where I learned how to ride horses. My favorite horse to ride was old "Hammerhead" because I could encourage him to do almost anything, including jumping ditches and racing other horses. But my favorite horse of all was a little brown colt. He was a wild little fellow whom the ranch foreman never had time to work with. So he left that up to us kids. I remember being so determined that he would be mine someday that I would stand out in the pasture, with my back turned to him, holding an apple or a lump of sugar in the hand behind me while patiently waiting for him to slink up to take a bite. I can also remember the thrill of excitement I felt when he finally did just that! Then, day after day, I would stand out there waiting for him to search my pockets for a treat just so I could slowly inch my hand around to pet him on the nose, all the while cooing and repeating gentle words of encouragement and praise. Then one day he actually let me face him, and oh what a thrill that was!

Hyder was also the place where I had the opportunity to attend the one-room schoolhouse at nearby Sentinel. What an experience that was, too! This school was so small that I was the only seventh grader for almost a year. I also recollect there only being about 25 other students in attendance, which were taught by two teachers. The one big hang-up to this scenario, in my opinion, was that it just so happened that one of them (mine) was also the principle.

To some people, Hyder was an insignificant little out-of-the-way desert town. But to me, living there was like journeying back in time to a place nearby called Agua Caliente in the 1800s, where people came around the world to bathe in its hot artesian waters, where there once stood a tiny pink house beside Hyder Mountain (my dream home), and where soldiers once trained under General George S. Patton.

My mom and my son in front of Hyder monument
My mom and my son in front of Hyder monument
Me posing for 8th grade graduation picture at Snookie's
Me posing for 8th grade graduation picture at Snookie's
Mom and Grandma in Hyder
Mom and Grandma in Hyder

Comments 20 comments

Deerwhisperer profile image

Deerwhisperer 4 years ago from Bradenton, Florida Author

This is a true story as seen from a young girl's heart.

Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

Thanks so much for sharing and I will share it too. I would have loved growing up there and finding all those treasures! It sounds wonderful and I know you have so many great memories. I will love reading more of your hubs!

kashmir56 profile image

kashmir56 4 years ago from Massachusetts

Great hub and very interesting story of your life living in this very small town. Thanks for sharing these fond memories with us, it was a wonderful read ! Well done !

Deerwhisperer profile image

Deerwhisperer 4 years ago from Bradenton, Florida Author

Thank you Jackie and kashmir56. I love writing about a time before computers, cell phones, and video games. I like to let the young folks out there know that we really did have a life back then (when we had to invent fun), and it was a pretty adventurous one as well. I will be adding a part two within the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned, and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I enjoy sharing my childhood adventures with you.

Deerwhisperer profile image

Deerwhisperer 4 years ago from Bradenton, Florida Author

It was a wonderful time and place. Thank you for all you have done.

Deerwhisperer profile image

Deerwhisperer 4 years ago from Bradenton, Florida Author

Thank you so much, and please stay tuned for part two.

always exploring profile image

always exploring 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

Oh, I didn't want this to end. It brought back memories of a childhood full of adventure. Waiting patiently for the next installment. Thank you for finding me on Hubpages..Cheers..

aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

An excellent and interesting story about your town and life. I am interested in the upcoming second part.

Deerwhisperer profile image

Deerwhisperer 4 years ago from Bradenton, Florida Author

I am working on it and should be able to publish something in the next few days. It's a bit hard sometimes to jostle homelife when my husband and I are both disabled, school, and writing, but I appreciate your interest very much.

breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 4 years ago

Thanks so much for sharing such a wonderful part of your life. I look forward to more! Up and interesting and awesome.

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klarawieck 4 years ago

What a special place this is! And what a special time for you! Thanks for sharing your past with all of us. It makes a wonderful and interesting narration.

Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 4 years ago from North Carolina

Oh if we'd only known how those little relics would be treasured today. ole Hammerhead, he sounds like ole Dusty, who tried to knock me off into the dust by going under some vines one time. Thoroughly enjoyed the Hyder visit Deerwhisperer. In grade school here in N.C. my chosen pen pal town was a small one in Arizona, for the love of Petulia can't remember the exact name though.

Deerwhisperer profile image

Deerwhisperer 4 years ago from Bradenton, Florida Author

Thank you so much for your comment, and yea ole Hammerhead tried to knock me off a few times before he finally became my best friend. As soon as you remember your pen pal town give me a holler. Who knows, maybe I've been there.

CLYDE L. SEEl 2 years ago

Great story, I was around Hyder from 1964-70, knew Charlie Alexander, I remember his step sons, Dont recall any churches or 2 other bars. I went to 7 & 8th grade at Sentinel, the Bar was called Whispering Sands.

Bill. E. 2 years ago

Hey, we have lived in Hyder in the winter since 2008. I really like it here! Hyder now has an airstrip now. Mine! Hyder Desert Airpark! Fancy , but its just a dirt strip, by Clanton wash. I would love to hear more about your Hyder days. We are near the Tryon's. Green and Gold farms. Only one store now. Still 2 churches. A Baptist Spanish, and a Mormon church.

Jake t 2 years ago

I grew up in Hyder as well from 80-98 until I joined the military, wouldn't change it for the world. My Mother and step dad still live out there and run Hyder Valley Supply(groceries and such) which is right next to where whispering sands was"Charlie's". I still go out there every Thanksgiving on leave and it's something I cherish and love showing my children the freedoms they are missing with cities and technologies. Thanks for the story

Patti 2 years ago

Is Snookie Wanda Neinast?

Dawna 2 years ago

How fun of a read for me. I too am from Hyder Az. Moved away in 2005 but occasionally go back to visit my dad and friends. The Sentinel school house is still there.

Yolanda 12 months ago

Oh how great to see that tank that I was in. thank you. My brother Michael found the website. We missed those days, we have great memories of Hyder. We left when I was in 6th grade.

jim goatcher sr 9 months ago

it was great storie i could see it in my mind as if i was there i was there in 1970 as amarine looking to pick up awol marine hidden there some where in a cave and old house but never found him

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