Rambling Rodericks travel blog

KAN Ranch House: top level, the solarium

From left to right, the living room level, the stairwell tower, the...

Third level, the kitchen & dining room. Basement below.

The living room: Lee's paintings, Lucy's carved bench/table, the stairwell from solarium

More of Lee's paintings.

Lucy's painted beams in another stairwell from LvRm to Dining/kitchen level.

We took a day trip out and about today. Traveled again through the Sonoran National Park both mid morning and at dusk. The setting sun on the huge number of Saguaro cacti and hills (mountains) in the background was enchanting.

We are located on the southwest side of Tucson - a small mountain range actually separates our location from the city proper. We took a road, somewhat to our west, north to a town northwest of Tucson called Marana which spreads out for many miles on both sides of Hwy I-10.

We had no particular course set for our drive, except that I wanted the "turn around" location to be at a town called Oracle which is northeast of Tucson.

As we traveled toward Marana, we could see that a mine of some sort was nearby. We had seen this disturbed soil through binoculars several weeks ago when we went up into Tucson Mountain Park which borders our RV park to the east. So, as we neared Marana and had an idea from the map what road the mine might be on, a guess really, I used the Droid to look up what mine might be in the area. It turned out to be a copper mine - one of many in this area - called the Silverbell Mine. We did not go out to the mine, but we hope to take a mine tour of a different but similar mine on Tuesday.

As we drove around Marana, we discovered that it is largely a cotton growing area. There were many fields with crops in the process of being harvested: some fields had huge box car size bales of cotton tarped in rows in the fields with the fields plowed under. Other fields still had the cotton waiting to be cut.

Also in Marana we came upon their Riverside Heritage Park at Gladden Farms. The center was, unfortunately, closed on the weekend. But we did wander around the exterior a little which is set up to showcase farming things such as a working windmill which pumped water into a large bin which overflowed into an irrigation ditch which circumnavigated the entire complex. There were silos and ramadas and planter beds and a wonderful patio with stage and strings of lights for nigh time activities. Next to this area was a community garden which we wandered through. There were many separate planter beds with lots of vegetables growing in them. It was fun to look at all the foods such as lettuces, broccoli, carrots, beets, cabbages, etc.

One last thing about Marana: As we returned from our day trip we entered Marana from a different road and passed the Dell Webb Sun City "Sunflower" community where Aunt Meg and Uncle Pete lived for a few years. We didn't know it was in that location. I just remember having read the name of the development and recognized it as we passed.

From Marana we crossed Hwy I-10 on Tangerine Road which makes a straight line east over to the Catalina Mountains right near Catalina State Park where we first stayed when we came to Tucson. We headed north along the mountain range until we got to Oracle. I had wanted to investigate the towns out in the northeast section of outer Tucson to see if we would want to live there. But alas, there are several large, expensive retirement subdivisions in the area, along with much older, run-down homes and businesses. Neither appealed.

However, at Oracle we discovered a small state park which had been a family cattle ranch. The ranch was owned and run by 5 of 7 brothers and sisters who moved there from Chicago in the 1930s. Apparently, the entire area was popular as a place for folks to visit or move to if they suffered from tuberculosis. If you remember your history, you'll remember that in the late 1800s and early 1900s the recommended treatment for tuberculosis was a change of climate - to a warm, dry one.

It seems that the mother of the family, Mrs. Kannally, had TB herself, and would make yearly trips to the TB spa in Oracle. One of her sons also had TB, so he visited, and decided to stay. He bought property - just a small amount - 50,000 acres. That's considered small for ranches of the times. And indeed, they couldn't run many cattle, I think it was about 1100, on the property because it was so rocky and had so little vegetation which cattle would eat.

The house they built was of the Spanish-Moorish style, though the family were Irish. One of the sisters painted all the interior wood beams and around entrance ways and around bookcases with a pattern of Spanish-Moorish style. She was also a wood carver, and a number of tables and benches into which she carved patterns, pictures and designs were in various rooms. One of the brothers became an oil painter. His paintings almost all had horses in them, with lots of movement. The paintings were of an Impressionistic style: lots of motion, no faces, nothing "in focus"...but extremely charming to look at. Very colorful.

One of the interesting things about the house is that it has no bedrooms. The brothers all stayed in a detached "bunk house" - cowboy style. The two sisters had a cottage. Only the live-in cook had a "bedroom" in the basement where there was a small apartment for her. Another interesting thing about the house is that, while it is not overly large and consists of the living room (great room), a dining room, the kitchen & pantry, and a solarium, each of these rooms was on a different level, conforming to the boulder-strewn hillside. And along with each level was a patio for that particular room as well.

The last sister living, Lucy, the carver, donated the land which ultimately came into the hands of the state of Arizona. None of the brothers or sisters who lived at the ranch ever married, so there were no heirs to inherit the ranch.

So it was that we started out the day not knowing what we'd see, and ended up seeing cotton fields, lots of desert plants (We got to see Bear Grass on the Kannally Ranch which the Tohono O'Odham natives from the reservation right here near us still drive up to the higher elevation to collect for basket making), part of a once thriving ranch in a once thriving town, and a mock farm.

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