Wednesday, January 11, 2012



by Jeff Reynolds -- Guest blogger

Jeff Reynolds 

 “Have you ever been to Arizona?” I asked a fellow summer missionary.

“No. I don't like the desert.”

I resisted laughing out loud. Arizona is a stereotypical place for westerns; after all, it's the home of Tombstone, site of the gunfight at the OK Corral. Having lived in northern Arizona, particularly in Verde Valley of Yavapai county, I knew better.

Yes, Cottonwood (where I lived) is dry and gets temperatures of 100+ in the summer. But if I took the main road, Highway 89A, north 50 miles, I'd go through beautiful Oak Creek Canyon to Flagstaff, altitude over 7,000 feet, snowed in every winter. Or I could go south 40 miles on the same highway, over Mingus Mountain, and arriving in the county seat, Prescott, mile high (same as Denver).

If you're a writer, you can find a lot in Yavapai county. Now, I currently live in Indiana, where the average county has less than four hundred square miles. In comparison, Yavapai has over eight thousand. From the red rocks of West Sedona to Indian ruins like Tuzigoot and Montezuma's Castle to Prescott National Forest, there are several sites of interest, places that can inspire the writer.

But can any compare with Jerome, Arizona? Home of the traveling jaihouse? It's just off the main road, but the side it sat on depends on the year. It crossed the highway and is close to a cliff?

Matthew 5:14 states a city built on a hill cannot be hid. Could Jesus have been referring to Jerome? If you drive down Mingus Mountain toward Cottonwood, you'll see what appears to be nice one story houses on the left side of the road. After you take a hairpin turn, you 'll see the back side. How'd you like to live in a two story house built on the side of a mountain?

Why did Jerome get built up in the first place? Gold? No, copper. As our country celebrated its centennial, this community got its start. By the 20's, it was a booming mining town, but by the '50's it became a ghost town. Wouldn't it's transformation make an interesting novel?

Or how about it's rebirth in the late '60's, when hippies discovered this town? No, I'm not talking about Hell's Angels. I'm talking about the artistic type, who restored the town to a tourist trap. But the town had a reputation. Can you imagine where else a mayor would be busted for smoking pot and it's not considered a scandal?

What would I do as a writer? Currently, I'm writing mysteries – I have one I'm seeking publication for that takes place at an apologetics conference. The ones I'm working on are in Indianapolis, but maybe I should consider Jerome. What better place for a murder mystery?

But a quarter century ago I had an idea I never followed through on, when my interest was in adventures. That idea was to have a chase in Jerome, where the hero wore roller skates and the bad guys borrowed bikes and skateboards. How'd you like to roller-skate down a mountain with curves and cliffs?

Jerome. Plenty to write about, plenty to capture one's imagination. 

Leave a comment. We want to hear from you.
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Molly Noble Bull said...

Good article, Jeff. You made Arizona sound like a place I'd like to go.

Teresa Slack said...

Your article really got my creative juices flowing. My husband and I have thrown around ideas of a vacation in AZ for several years. Now I'm convinced that's the next place I want to visit. Thanks, Jeff, for visiting Writers' Rest.

Jeff Reynolds/Becky Reynolds said...

Molly and Teresa,

Thank you both for your comments.

If you are brave enough to drive mountain roads, I recommend Arizona Highway 89a (formerly a US highway) from Flagstaff to just outside of Prescott. You'll go through beautiful Oak Creek Canyon (which some people think is prettier than the Grand Canyon) as well as going through Jerome.

Thanks again, and have a blessed day.


Jeff Reynolds/Becky Reynolds said...

Second comment for Teresa and Molly about Arizona.

Besides what I mentioned, there's a lot in Arizona, all around. For example, northern Arizona has Sunset Crater (an extinct volcano) and an observatory in the Flagstaff area (as well as several Indian ruins) and the Grand Canyon. On the northwest side in Lake Havasu City you have London Bridge. In Tucson (southeast of Phoenix by 100 miles) there's a beautiful Spanish mission, Old Tucson (a western style filming place), Colossal cave, another observatory, and my favorite stop -- Sonora Desert Museum, which is better considered a zoo/botanical garden than a real museum. And I've just scratched the surface.


jude said...

Jerome came alive to me as I read your words. I've been to all the big places you mentioned,but am sorry I missed Jerome.

My novel's setting is Byrdstown, TN in Pickett County. Kind of a funny name, but after a distinguished man. If I said Dale Hollow Lake more would know where that is.


Teresa Slack said...

I'm packing my bags, Jeff. And, yes, Jude, I know Dale Hollow. Love these interesting settings.

Caroline Clemmons said...

I love Oak Creek area and Flagstaff, although I've never spent over one night in Flagstaff. It' beautiful country, but then so is the high desert--just a different beauty.

Jeff Reynolds/Becky Reynolds said...


What a coincidence. I recognize you from the Hoosier Ink blog. But we both also know something about Tennessee.

True, I'm not familiar with where Pickett County is off the top of my head, and Dale Hollow Lake doesn't ring a bell. But Pickett State Park does, since we look at TN state parks to go to. Haven't been to that one but drove past the area once driving the mountain roads from Glasgow to Crossville (looking at a map, weren't far from Byrdstown).

By the way, I wouldn't be surprised if a community in IN called itself Birdstown, after someone most people look up to. Considering his height, I think most people look up to Larry.

BK said...

This post captured my attention. I grew up in Maryland and never saw Arizona until I was 30 years old but I was immediately smitten and can't imagine calling anywhere else home.

I write historical fiction, and it drives me positively batty that almost the only thing that gets written about Arizona is Tombstone and books set in the 1880's. Arizona's history is much richer and deeper than just that period and that place.

And I might mention that more important than Valentine's Day, Arizona celebrates her centennial statehood anniversary on February 14th. WOOHOO!!!!!!!!

It always astonishes me how little people pay attention to their state's history or statehood.

Becky Lyles said...

I've been to Jerome a couple times. Beautiful area! Seems we ate at a restaurant in a hotel that was once an insane asylum. Huge place with a great view.