Arizona Factoids

Someone killed 495,OOO flies in Bisbee. And it's always 11:45 in Florence.

Sure, Arizona has the world's largest land gorge (the Grand Canyon) and the world's smallest rodent (the northern pygmy mouse) and the country's oldest town (838-year-old Oraibi on the Hopi Reservation) and more species of hummingbirds than any other state (14). We've got the world's biggest cacti (saguaros with arms reaching almost as tall as a six-story building) and the hugest rosebush (150 people can sit in its shade down in Tombstone) and the only wash named after a cowboy movie star (Tom Mix).

But those are the sorts of well-worn facts put out by chambers of commerce and tourism bureaus. Dropped in conversation, they fall weightlessly and don't impress or surprise anyone. A good fact should knock you back, make you shake your head and ponder or hoot. Arizona certainly has facts like that. Just take a look at the following collection:

Rex Allen Jr., the cowboy singer who wrote the state's official song, "Arizona," and was commissioned by the state Office of Tourism to write Arizona's Official Diamond Jubilee song, "Diamond in the Rough" (memorializing the anniversary of Arizona's 1912 statehood), and who also leads the band "Arizona" and appears as an Arizona booster in festivals all over the state, does not actually live in Arizona. He prefers Nashville.

Experts have identified eleven different coyote "vocalizations," broken down as follows: woof, growl, huff, bark- howl, yelp, whine, and variations of the yip-howl, lone howl and group howl.

The Navajo Reservation's capital, Window Rock, is not in Navajo County--it's in Apache County. On the other hand, the Apaches' White Mountain Reservation capital, Whiteriver, lies in Navajo County. And not one square inch of the other Apache reservation, the San Carlos, lies in Apache County.

The town of Why, a crossroads south of Ajo in the middle of nowhere, was named in 1965 "because every day people would stop and ask, `Why did you come out here?'" Peggy Kater, one of the town's founders, tells the Ajo Copper News.

In 1886, at the conclusion of the twenty-year campaign against the Apache chief Geronimo, U.S. Army troopers were having a hard time keeping their wardrobes intact: Writes historian Marshall Trimble, "The heavy woolen shirts and pants were uncomfortable; the dark color absorbed heat rather than reflected it; pants wore out in the crotch from long hours in the saddle; and shoes and boots weathered and rotted quickly." Captain Leonard Wood "found a rather ingenious solution. . . . He simply ordered his troopers to strip to their underwear and charge onward."

According to Don Slocum, boating- safety officer for the Arizona Department of Game and Fish, "There are 360,000 boaters in Arizona, but only about 18 percent of them know what they're doing." There's an unusually frank monument in Lake Havasu City--a little tower of cemented stones topped by a brass plaque that reads, "On This Site in 1897 Nothing Happened."

The world's record for high-speed barefoot water-skiing was set at Firebird Lake outside Phoenix in 1977. Lee Kirk averaged 110.02 mph on his bare feet, and his fastest run was 113.67 mph.

One of the more frantic moments in Arizona history was Bisbee's great fly- swatting contest of 1912. According to Bisbee historian Tom Vaughan, the "little boys" of the town organized to fight a severe outbreak, and the winner killed 495,000 flies.

Arizona has more species of venomous reptiles than any other state. We've got 11 species of rattlesnakes, plus the only two known venomous lizards in the world--Gila monsters and Mexican beaded lizards--along with coral snakes and several less venomous snakes, among them the lyre snake, the night snake, and the tropical vine snake, which hangs in trees in desert canyons and drops onto passers-by. Between

100 and 150 Arizonans are bitten
by rattlers each year, but on the
average, somebody dies from a
bite only every year and a half
or so.
There are about
50,000 real estate
agents in Arizona.
A wonder of Page
is Church
Row--
nine churches, lined up one after another

along the main road into town. Give thanks to the Bureau of Reclamation, which had a sense of divine order when it laid out the town as an adjunct to Glen Canyon Dam in 1957. Old-timers remember that lots of cement trucks headed to see the dam somehow got "lost" and turned up instead on Church Row, where they dumped their loads into the forms for all those blessed foundations. There's been talk of trying to get Church Row into the Guinness Book of World Records.

About one third of all the households in Arizona own a pickup truck.
Deer and elk in Arizona (population estimated at 150,000) are outnumbered by cattle more than 6 to 1.

The four clocks above the Pinal County Courthouse--one on each face of the tower--aren't broken, even though their hands never move off 11:45. When the courthouse was built way back in 1891, the builders ran short of funds and couldn't afford working clocks. So fake ones were installed instead.

Arizona is the home of the world's largest heap of mine tailings, which also qualifies as the world's most massive dam--the New Cornelia Tailings near Ajo, 275 million cubic yards of pulverized rock piled 100 feet high and more than 6 miles long across Ten Mile Wash. It was once described in the Ajo Copper News as "a huge triangular mound of totally useless, dusty mining waste."

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