When Emil Haury took over for Byron Cummings as the head of the University of Arizona archaeology program he brought with him a new focus. Prior field schools had been held at University Indian Ruin near Tucson and Kinishba on the Apache Reservation. Haury wanted to continue the investigation of the prehistoric culture he had dubbed the Mogollon culture named for the mountain range in New Mexico but since Cummings had retired to his home at Kinishba, if Haury wanted to put his own stamp on the program he needed to find a new site to excavate.
Initially he looked at Forestdale Pueblo located very close to the historic trading post of the same name. But being within shouting distance of Showlow, that site didn’t seem to fulfill his desire to establish the field school program in a truly remote locale.
He turned instead to a much more isolated place: Point of Pines ruin near the Black River in east-central Arizona.
His choice proved to be inspired.
Not only was the site remote, it was spectacular both in it’s natural beauty and archaeological potential. Haury would devote much of the remainder of his career as a professor of archaeology to Point of Pines.
It took me two tries to find the site. As you can tell from the photos I eventually succeeded but the first time I tried and failed but I did have an excuse, of sorts.
One day, I loaded my girls into the van and told them we were going exploring. They were fairly used to this by now and chose to humor the old man. We drove a couple of hours and when I felt I had arrived where I wanted to be I stopped the van to reconnoiter.
Within seconds of me exiting the vehicle, as hard as it is to believe in retrospect, a white SUV with prominent colored lights on its roof drove up and stopped behind me. My girls looked nervously at the uniformed young man who got out and walked up to me.
“Good day sir,” he said politely but seriously from behind his aviator sunglasses.
Looking him over I recognized he was 1) Native American and 2) some kind of cop.
“Can I see your license and registration please?” he continued. I reached back in and got them out.
“Is there a problem, officer?”
He looked over the proffered papers and handing them back he continued, “No sir, no problem, I’m a Ranger for the Apache Tribal government. I just wondered what you were doing?”
Now, although I am a great storyteller, and as such an accomplished prevaricator, when I am not trying to do so, I am a terrible liar. So I didn’t even try.
“I’m an archaeologist with Pima College in Tucson, Arizona,” he nodded as if in recognition, “and I came up today to scout a new tour to Point of Pines ruin.” I pointed off towards where I had been headed. “I believe the site is right there and I was going to have a little look.”
“Do you have a day permit to visit an archaeological site on the reservation?”
There he had me. “No, are they necessary?”
“I’m afraid so sir.”
“Where do I get them and are they expensive?” I began to wonder what I had gotten myself into.
“You can get them back in Peridot, and I think they’re free, or maybe a couple bucks, mainly you just have to fill out the paperwork.”
Realizing that once again I had gone off totally unprepared, I decided to try and salvage the day. “OK next time I’ll do that, but can you tell me, ” I pointed off at a mounded area a few hundred yards west the road, “isn’t that the Point of Pines ruin?”
He smiled finally and responded, “I’m sorry sir but I can’t tell you that.” I couldn’t tell from his tone whether he actually couldn’t or simply wasn’t willing to humor me. Turning he walked back to his vehicle, leaving me with “Have a nice day, sir.”
“Yeah, you too.”
A little voice came from inside the van. “What did that policeman want Daddy?”
“Nothing honey, lets go home.”