- Tucson:A Place-Making
One day we go out for a walk. After a while, we sit on a comfortable rock to rest. Looking down idly between our feet, we see nothing much at first, and then spot some flakes of flint. Even if we know little about what we are seeing, we know now that another person sat on that rock at a time and in a place different from our own, and yet maybe not so different in human terms. On another day, someone sat there, right there, and worked at making something useful or beautiful or both, as we also may have done that very day. We know now that the place we are in has a human story and that, however incidentally, we are now included in it.
We know, don’t we, that wherever we find ourselves, we stand at the end of a story, a long one, longer than we could know. Not just one story either, many stories, with stories inside those stories that overlap and are entangled and that work sometimes at cross-purposes.
Stories are what make a location into a place. If we do not find ourselves in place where we are, it may be because we don’t know the stories of that place or don’t know how to include ourselves in those stories. We may not want to make the effort because the places we find ourselves in can seem not so interesting. They may lack interest, however, because we don’t know the stories.
We dwell in stories. Stories can add texture and interest and meaning to our lives whether they are stories about something that actually happened or not. From some of our stories, we don’t ask more than what interests and delights us in them. The stories that follow here, though, are about what actually happened in the place called Tucson. That is, this account is, as far as I have been able to take it, factually and historically accurate. Sometimes we want that. Sometimes that matters.
This account doesn’t tell the whole story—no account could do that—and in some ways it isn’t even a story. It is more like the threads of many stories, offered in the hope that readers will be moved to make [End Page 361] something of it for themselves. It offers but one selection of the possible threads. The selecting has been done, the colors and textures chosen, the weaving begun, to provide some of what the language philosopher Kenneth Burke calls “equipment for living” in Tucson. In the simplest terms, I hope this account will make Tucson more of a place for readers than it might have been formerly.
The entries are in chronological order, which makes it possible for stories of different kinds to run alongside each other in the larger story. The juxtapositions that result create places where readers may be moved to make their own connections and contributions. I am hoping that this account will open conversation about the stories that make this place called Tucson, not close it down.
I was born in Tucson and grew up there in the 1940s and 1950s. Maybe I should have felt in place in Tucson, but I didn’t. I graduated from Tucson High School in 1959 and left Tucson for college back East, returning almost thirty years later to take a job in the English Department at the University of Arizona, surprised to find myself back in town and surprised at how good it felt to be back.
I soon began to discover all that I hadn’t learned growing up in Tucson, and still didn’t know, about its stories, stories I thought I would need to know if I were to feel in place there. Much of what follows is what has helped me toward that end.
Readers can feel free to start their journey in time wherever they like, with the emergence of Sentinel Peak in deep time, or with the advent of humans, or with the advent of Europeans, or with the period that began with the U.S. War with Mexico and extended...