Howard Mesa

My windsock.

As I’ve written extensively elsewhere, Mike and I own 40 acres of land at Howard Mesa, which is about halfway between Williams and Valle, Arizona, 5 miles off route 64. If you’ve ever driven from Williams to the Grand Canyon, you’ve passed within 3 miles of it (as the raven flies).

Howard Mesa WindsockThis photo shows my windsock at the top of the property, with a dead tree in the foreground. It was probably taken during the summer; that’s a thundercloud in the making in the distance in the background.

I occasionally land my helicopter not far from the windsock on a gravel pad. It’s a three-hour drive from our house to the property but only an hour by helicopter. We sometimes fly up just for the day — usually to do some work in the shed or check on things.

The dead tree is a whole other story. Here’s the short version.

Imagine a whole lot of land laid out in one square mile sections called…well, sections. The sections are colored on some maps like a checkerboard, with private squares and state land squares. The private squares were owned by cattle ranchers. They contracted with the state to graze their cattle on the state land as well as their private land in what’s known as open range.

Cattle eats grass. The ranchers got the idea that more grass would grow if there were less trees. So they came onto their land (but not the state land) with bulldozers and knocked down all the piñon and juniper pine trees that grew there. The trees died, but since the ranchers didn’t take them away, their carcasses littered the rancher’s land.

The ranchers were wrong. About the same amount of grass grew.

Years passed. New trees grew in place of the old. The ranchers had another brainstorm. They realized that they could make a bunch of money by selling their land to developers. Best of all, with Arizona’s open range laws, they could still graze their cattle on the private property that didn’t fence the cattle out. So they could stay in business without actually owning the land the cattle grazed on.

The developers split up each section of land into 10-, 36-, and 40-acre lots. We bought one of them.

So now you know why we have dead trees like this one on our land.

The good thing about all this: there’s no shortage of firewood.

Howard Mesa, Arizona, photo

What do you think?