Chloride, Arizona…population 352…about 30 miles and half a world away from us here in Kingman. Nary a stoplight, no gas station, and only a convenience-store market, mostly filled with cheap souvenirs made in China.
It bills itself as a ghost town, a former mining mecca (which it apparently is – its name comes from the silver chloride ore found locally by prospectors). They’ve built a faux old-timey town square, and every Saturday at high noon there’s a “gunfight” in the street. (This past week, it was the Wild Roses troupe of sassy gun molls in rags and Colt .45s.) You can even hire a group of local characters – and all the locals we met were definitely characters! – to film you and your family or friends acting out a Western shootout, costumes and all.
But it’s really more of a hippie town, full of amiable misfits, where broken bottles and rusted chamber pots become “yard art,” and the local boy-made-good is artist Roy Purcell, whose rock mural “The Journey” is a 1.5-mile, kidney-busting Jeep ride east of the town. Seriously. Don’t try this four-wheeling adventure unless you’re in a real Jeep or at least a heavy-duty pickup. The ruts crossing the “road” are a foot deep in many spots, and there are rocks at least that high jutting up from the surface.
It’s worth it, though. Purcell repainted the mural in 2006 to brighten the colors. They say he camped out in a cave in the rocks all summer while painting (smart move!). And among the bright-colored images are ancient (dating back to 700-800 A.D.) Indian petroglyphs – rock art of a much older and more practical sort.
Who lived and camped and hunted here? Why did they etch images onto these particular rocks? How did those images last for so many centuries? We had the sense that this mini-valley of rocks was an ideal place to trap and ambush wild game, when there was game to hunt. Perhaps the drawings were a helpful hint to other hunters.
Ghosts? Oh, yes. More so outside of the town than in it.