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Camelback Mountain Lighthouse

Updated on December 7, 2009

In June, 1947, Dr. Abner Allen Foxwright, a Professor in the School of Archeology at Michigan State University, proclaims to the world his discovery of an ancient archeological site atop Camelback Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona. Dr. Foxwright declares that the excavation is surely the remains of a ceremonial building once used by the rather mysterious Hohokam Indians that disappeared from the area hundreds of years ago. After his findings are published in an array of scientific journals, Dr. Foxwright is informed by a few amused Phoenix citizens that his "discovery" announcement is a bit flawed. What Dr. Foxwright actually found on Camelback Mountain are the remnants of a lighthouse.

Back in 1881, Captain Joseph "One Eye" Idner, after sailing the seven seas for 33 years, decides to make a new life for himself in the expanding "wild west". He eventually finds his way to the Arizona Territory and unfortunately resolves to make the new city of Phoenix his home. Old Captain "One Eye" thinks other westward bound settlers would relish living in the area, so he makes it his duty to show them the way to paradise.

The Captain manages to sell the idea to civic leaders, while buying rounds of drinks for them at the Lonesome Cactus Saloon one sweltering afternoon. Two factors convince the officials: one, they don't have to pay for the lighthouse; and two, free whiskey. Captain "One Eye" commences his inspired scheme immediately. Nobody gives substantial consideration to the magnitude of the project. It requires 65 men and many mules and horses just over two long, torrid years to haul materials up the mountain and to construct the 122 foot tall structure. Perhaps the most chilling exhibition to the populace is when the Captain paints the lighthouse red and white stripes like a giant barber pole.

Finally finished, the lighthouse, leaning off center a few degrees to the west, and with its huge rotating gas light, makes for a truly eerie sight in the desert darkness....chaos ensues. Coyotes yip and howl frantically all night; the local Indians are afraid of the "beast" and discontinue trading; cows give hardly any milk; hens stop laying eggs; and many disgusted settlers begin to leave the area, which of course, upsets the storekeepers and saloon owners.

After a couple of months of this mayhem, countless locals are in favor of stringing up the Captain, but settle for merely dog-cussing him at every opportunity. After one episode of a worked up crowd of angry townsfolk shouting obscenities at him, Captain Idner becomes overwrought and abruptly drops dead of a heart attack. Within weeks of his demise, the lighthouse is completely and fervently dismantled. Normalcy returns to the area.

A few months later, an exuberant young New York architect moves to the Arizona Territory and is so extraordinarily inspired by the newly developing city, he suggests erecting an exact replica of the Statue of Liberty "to illuminate the way to Phoenix" on the obliterated lighthouse site. He is promptly and forcibly run out of town. The architect quickly makes his way on to California and years later, he is famed as one of the co-designers of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Professor Foxwright, after his much celebrated "goof", is last known to be in West Virginia somewhere seeking Aztec ruins. Nobody bothered to tell him there are no Aztec artifacts in West Virginia, but....at least he never returns to Arizona!

Copyright 1999 Dwain Lamon

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