Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

February 14, 2005


Host: Michael Grant

Arizona Stories


  • Marshall Trimble has performed with Rex Allen, Waylon Jennings, Jerry Lee Lewis and The Oak Ridge Boys, authored 19 books on Arizona and the West, appeared all over Arizona and in Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco.He treats Horizon to some stories, history and songs.
Guests:
  • Marshall Trimble - Arizona's official state historian


View Transcript
>> Michael Grant:
Tonight on "Horizon," he is the Official State Historian, cowboy singer/story-teller, Marshall Trimble has performed with Rex Allen, Waylon Jennings, Jerry Lee Lewis and The Oak Ridge Boys, authored 19 books on Arizona and the West, appeared all over Arizona and in Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and now he joins us here in our Channel 8 studio to treat us to some stories, history and songs. That's next on this "Horizon" special.

>> Michael Grant:
Good evening. I'm Michael Grant. Welcome to this special edition of "Horizon." As you can see we are breaking away from the usual format to take the opportunity to visit with an Arizona icon. Marshall Trimble keeps Arizona's colorful history alive and well, or so said the late Senator Barry Goldwater. Governor Janet Napolitano proclaimed Trimble Arizona's Official Historian in 2003, but long before that Marshall Trimble was telling stories and singing songs about what makes Arizona uniquely... well, Arizona. He calls those Arizona's Anomalies and Tamales. Joining us now to explain that and other things is Marshall Trimble. Marshall, it's good to see you.

>>Marshall Trimble:
It is good to be back.

>>Michael Grant:
It's been too long. Yeah. Arizona Anomalies and Tamales.

>> Marshall Trimble:
Well, I created that little thing because of all the oddities and a lot of times you speak -- and they work with 4th graders, from 4th grader right on up to senior citizens and you get a lot of people visiting Arizona and we talk about what's so unusual about Arizona. We've always prided ourselves on being different back from the time we were trying to become a state, when the east thought we were too different.

>> Michael Grant:
I visited the website recently and I loved one of the thoughts for the month. It was, if you're going to take up cross-country skiing, choose a small country. Good sense of humor. You born with that or you just developed that?

>> Marshall Trimble:
I'm Irish, and that helps. You've got to have a good sense of humor to be Irish. But a lot of it, too, was I just -- as a teacher, a high school teacher, then a college teacher, I learned appear little humor goes a long ways with -- in teaching, and so I look for oddities and fun things, like the anomalies and tamales. I started developing that idea a long time ago. It's sort of like a stand-up comic polishes his act and that's what I was doing. Some of them -- want to hear some of them?

>> Michael Grant:
Absolutely. In fact, you have one on Arizona stories. I think it's the minstrel --

>> Marshall Trimble:
Oh, the song. This was written by my good friend Dean Cook, and he must have written it for me. It feels like did he because it's exactly what I do. Across a hundred campfires on a hundred rocky trails I've listened to their songs and I've heard them tell their tales over cigarettes and coffee in a hundred small cafes I've heard the cowboys and the miners tell the stories of their days how we laughed and called them windies and we say that they're not true but they're stories that are worth telling, sometimes I tell them, too and the legends and the poems and the songs we know so well there's the truth that's worth saving in the stories that we tell in the barracks at Fort Carson while a blizzard screamed all night and Apache and a black foot told the legends of their tribes and what I heard there in the darkness stayed with me through the years and though the words were soon forgotten, the meaning still is clear how we laughed and called them windies and we say that they're not true, but they're stories worth telling and sometimes I tell them, too in the legends and the poems and the songs we know so well there's the truth that's worth saving in the stories that we tell so keep telling all the stories and let them hear the songs your kids may laugh today but they'll remember later on for the teachers write the histories but the Minstrels give it life And the world's a poorer place and we let a legend die how we laughed and called them windies and we say that they're not true, but their stories are worth telling, sometimes I tell them too in the legends and the poems and the songs we know so well there's the truth that's worth saving in the stories that we tell

>> Michael Grant:
I thought you were going to give me a twang-twang there.

>> Marshall Trimble:
Our country music twang

>> Michael Grant:
self-taught on the guitar?

>> Marshall Trimble:
Self-taught. Pretty much. And watching good players -- watching real players play and somebody comes up every once in a while and someone offers you a tip on how to play something better.

>> Michael Grant:
Let me get this straight. Irish kid growing up in Ashfork, self-taught on the guitar.

>> Marshal Trimble:
Uh-huh, yeah, and learned to tell stories, I guess, just by telling them.

>> Michael Grant:
You know, I got to admit to you, Marshall, I haven't spent a lot of time in Ashfork, together with most of the state's population.

>> Marshall Trimble:
A lot of people say they spent two weeks there one afternoon. But it was a great place for a kid to grow up. It was a bustling little town when I grew up there. Route 66 went right through there and the railroad, passenger trains, seven or eight passenger trains went through there every day. It was --

>> Michael Grant:
That was the Santa Fe's main route --

>> Marshall Trimble:
That's why we were there. My dad was an engineer on the Santa Fe railroad and it was a cattle shipping town and there were big stockyards there -- well, big by our standards. About the size of somebody's yard here.

>> Michael Grant:
How small was Ashfork?

>> Marshall Trimble:
Well, it was so small that the entering and leaving sign were on the same post. Our Motel 6 was only a 3. It goes on and on and on.

>> Michael Grant:
Why, Marshall, the love for Arizona? Because you -- you got just a real deep seated love for this state.

>> Marshall Trimble:
I guess because it continues to mystify me. I'm fascinated every day I learn something new. I pick up -- somebody tells me something, and I pick up on it, or get a lot of questions. I write a column for true west magazine called "ask the Marshall," and I get questions from all over the world and most of them are about Arizona. People have a great curiosity, especially in Germany, England, and places like that, a curiosity about Arizona and it really motivates me just to -- I've always wanted to know everything, and I know I never will. So it's a challenge.

>> Michael Grant:
You know, speaking every answering questions, I wanted to ask you, how much is Clay Thompson paying you to write forwards to all of his books?

>> Marshall Trimble:
Clay owes me a book. For the last one. He's a funny guy. I get a big kick out of him. He's a lot of fun to work with.

>> Michael Grant:
He was on the show -- in fact, he was on the show when he brought out the latest book, and it just absolutely amazing, some of the facts that he picks up, but you're right, the way he spins the tale.

>> Marshall Trimble:
Well, my questions are easy compared to the ones he gets. They just want to know, how many buttons did Wyatt Erp have on his coat, stuff like everybody to should know. I got one the other day, how many horses did Matt Dillon uses in 20 years on Gunsmoke? I think, what am I going to do? Then I look at clay's questions every day in the paper, and I think, his questions are tough.

>> Michael Grant:
I asked him if he could do this without the Internet and he wouldn't tell me. Let's talk about a few Arizona stories, Carl Hayden, a lot of people don't know this, Carl Hayden was sheriff of Maricopa could you be tea -- county before went to Congress.

>> Marshall Trimble:
Right, he was the sheriff, lived right here in Tempe and commuted to Phoenix every day on the train, rode the train into town, and -- but in 1910 he gained national fame when a train was robbed on the road from Maricopa up to Phoenix down by the Gila River, two young brothers robbed the train, and Hayden -- well, the boys headed for the Mexican border across the desert, and Hayden figured their horses wouldn't make it across the desert. So he wisely commandeered a Stoddard touring car down at Stanfield and loaded the posse in the car and out across the desert they went, no roads or anything, just dodging cactus and arroyos and everything else. Figured the guys were out there somewhere. Sure enough the horses played out on them. They were under a tree seeking shade and they saw this car coming and they thought it was a carload of mining speculators. So one of the boys jumps out and waves, here we are, here we are, and the posse grabbed their rifle and jumped out and then the boys realized they'd been caught.

>> Michael Grant:
Great story. And that really provided the launching platform then for his --

>> Marshall Trimble:
It was the first time a posse had captured train robbers in a car in American history. So he got a lot of national fame on that, and it was just two years later that Arizona became a state and Hayden rode that fame to Congress. His name recognition from that episode was --

>> Michael Grant:
Speaking of Maricopa, Maricopa is not in Maricopa County, it's in Pinal County.

>> Marshall Trimble:
That's right. That's an anomaly and tamale. And the town of Pima is not in Pima County, it's in Graham county, and the town of Gila Bend is not in Gila County, it's in Maricopa County. And Fort Apache is not in Apache County, it's in Navajo County and Navajo is not in Apache -- Navajo County is in Apache County. It goes on and on.

>> Michael Grant:
The list goes on and on. Now, more anomalies, there are birds in Arizona can that run faster than they fly?

>> Marshall Trimble:
Birds that run faster than they fly, a flower that only blooms at night, the first white man to come to Arizona was a black man. He preceded the Coronado expedition in 1539, his name was Esteban, and by the way, Coronado then came in the following year, spent two years wandering around Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Kansas lost, which goes to show even back then a man wouldn't stop and ask for directions.

>> Michael Grant:
Somewhere around Clovis, New Mexico, he probably should have asked.

>> Marshall Trimble:
He should have asked somebody before he went too far into west Texas.

>> Michael Grant:
That's right. How about, looking at some of this stuff, yeah, some of your favorite things that make Arizona different.

>> Marshall Trimble:
Well, I like the idea that Irving Berlin wrote "White Christmas" while spending Christmas under the palm trees at The Biltmore.

>> Michael Grant:
You know, I had heard that.

>> Marshall Trimble:
1939.

>> Michael Grant:
That's a good story.

>> Marshall Trimble:
I like the idea that you can snow ski up at the Snowbowl and get on I-17, you can do that on the morning, get on I-17, come down to Lake Pleasant and water ski in the afternoon. And you have -- we have areas down around Yuma below sea level where the rainfall is only 3 inches a year, and you can go into the White Mountains where it rains 30 inches a year. San Francisco peaks where you're over 12,600 feet above sea level. We have all this interesting kind of country, and we've got the largest stand of Ponderosa pine in the world up in the White Mountains, and up there, many years ago, there was a tall bushy headed bartender with the name Walter Rigny, and he had this bushy head of hair, and the black soldiers out of Fort Apache rode through there on the military road and they wanted to stop at his bar for a drink, and they called him "Pinetop," "Old Pinetop," because of his hair, and they said they'd say "Let's stop at Old Pinetop's and have a drink," and they dropped the "old" and the "S" on Pinetop's when a few people settled around there, and so in the largest stand of Ponderosa Pine in the world's there in a town named Pinetop.

>> Michael Grant:
That triggered a thought. Remind me again how Show Low got its name.

>> Marshall Trimble
: That was a card game between the two fellows that lived in the Valley and they thought it was not big enough for both and so they decide to do have a card game called seven up. Seven up was a popular card game among cowboys in the old west and you had to have low card. So Mr. Clark was dealing the cards to Mr. Cooley, and he said, "If you can Show Low, you win. And I'll leave." And Mr. Cooley turned over the deuce of clubs and he said, "Show Low it is," and Show Low it became, and the main street through town is the Deuce of Clubs.

>> Michael Grant:
That's right. That's right. That's a great story. Now, wasn't there some rumor about maybe all the cards in that deck were do you says of clubs?

>> Marshall Trimble:
Never heard that one, but I had to -- back in 1976 for a bicentennial event I had to go up and officiate on nationality TV the city council picked two people were running for Mayor of the town, and they decided that year to have a drawing of the cards, and whoever drew the do you say of clubs would be the Mayor and so I was to deal the cards on national TV. So I had the deck out, shuffled the cards, held the cards out. The first guy I dealt him a card and it was the 10 of hearts and the second candidate was a woman, and she pulled a card out and it was a deuce of clubs on the first draw.

>> Michael Grant:
That's amazing.

>> Marshall Trimble:
I couldn't help but think, Mike, that was the most fairway to settle an issue. You can't argue with that. You can't call dirty politics. You can't call it anything, mudslinging, anything. I wished every city council would operate that way. We would probably have less political issues.

>> Michael Grant:
Going back to your roots, too, so it works from that standpoint, as well. Let's do another tune. I love you Arizona.

>> Marshall Trimble:
All right. I can do that. I'll cable up just another notch here. This is a song I just love. Rex Allen, Jr., wrote this many years ago and it's really our alternate state song, and with statehood day, it's always a good appropriate song to do. I think I got to clamp down just a little bit more there.

>> Michael Grant:
This guitar is 30 years old. I think it's -- it's -- there you go.

>> Marshall Trimble:
There we go. Now we're ready. I love you Arizona your mountains, deserts and streams the rise of dos cabezas and the outlaws I see in my dreams I love you Arizona Grand Canyon, superstitions and all the warmth you give at sunrise your sunsets put music in a song OOH-OOH, Arizona you're the magic in me OOH-OOH, Arizona you're the lifeblood of me I love you Arizona desert dust on the wind the sage and cactus abloomin' and the smell of the rain on your skin OOH-OOH, Arizona you're the lifeblood of me

>> Michael Grant:
Very nice. Rex Allen wrote that?

>> Marshall Trimble:
Rex Allen, Jr., wrote that.

>> Michael Grant:
How long ago?

>> Marshall Trimble:
Back in the 1970s, I believe, I want to say around 1972, and it was made the alternate state song because it was a lot easier to sing than the official state song which had been around since the 1920s. It was called the Arizona March song. It's a little difficult to sing.

>> Michael Grant:
That's right. Let's talk about some movie history in Arizona. Including... Oklahoma.

>> Marshall Trimble:
Oklahoma. In fact, actually we almost became the movie capital of the world in 1911 when a fellow by the name of Jesse Laske and another one named Cecil B. DeMill decided to come west. The western was very popular, and they had chosen Flagstaff as their destination and they got on the train, loaded up all their equipment, headed out, arrived in Flagstaff on a cold blustery windy day, hung around there for a while and decided it's too cold in Flagstaff, and so they loaded up their staff and kept going -- they didn't stop until they hit the Pacific coast. So we missed out on having the movie capital. A lot of films here, though.

>> Michael Grant:
Didn't Tom Mix ride around the state doing two-reelers for quite a while?

>> Marshall Trimble:
Up around Prescott. Mix filmed a lot in there. My old friend Budge Ruffner talked about going out the kids would ditch school and watch Tom Mix and Tom was a great horseman, and he would get off -- he would drop his hat on the ground and he would get off a distance and ride full speed and lean out of the saddle like a Comanche and pick up his hat and put it on his head and wave to the kids. The kids would all go home and try it themselves, and --

>> Michael Grant:
Didn't work quite as well.

>> Marshall Trimble:
Budge said almost every mother in town wanted to lynch Tom Mix because every kid in town had a broken arm from falling off a horse.

>> Michael Grant:
Let's go down to Southeast Arizona. "Oklahoma" was shot --

>> Marshall Trimble:
They went all over Oklahoma when Rogers and Hammerstein's Broadway show was going to be made into a film. They went to Oklahoma and there were oil wells everywhere, and it was not what they wanted Oklahoma to look like in, say, about 1908. So they found it in Arizona. The Oklahomans were greatly offended that the film Oklahoma would be shot in Arizona, and out here, though we had -- we had -- we didn't have the fruit trees that they needed, and so they imported the fruit from California, and it was waxed, and they put it out on the trees, and then they had to shoot everything early in the morning because if they waited until too late in the day the wax -- all the fruit would melt on the trees. And then the people -- if the Oklahomans were offended, you should have heard from the Tex nuns 1948 when we shot Red River, the classic John Wayne film, was shot down on the San Pedro river, and they just couldn't believe that they couldn't find a place in Texas to shoot a film about Texas.

>> Michael Grant:
He shot some at old Tucson?

>> Marshall Trimble:
He shot a lot of them there, the ones later. This was 1948. In fact, they had -- typical Arizona, they had to dam up the San Pedro river to get enough water backed up to have a cattle have a river crossing.

>> Michael Grant:
Back to Oklahoma and southeast Arizona, that's just a terrific area of the state. A lot of people -- even people who have been here for a long time don't really know about it.

>> Marshall Trimble:
People think -- they say we're going down to Tucson. They don't realize Tucson is a thousand feet higher. Once you hit the Gila River just south of the Valley you start climbing again. Tucson is higher. As you go higher you get over 4,000 feet down around Nogales, you have rolling hills and look a -- looks a lot like Northern California, oak trees --

>> Michael Grant:
And grasslands.

>> Marshall Trimble:
Great cattle country. It was always -- it was one of the first places where cattlemen from Texas came out during the 1880s to -- we had grass stirrup-high out here.

>> Michael Grant:
Fist cowboy's western star was a woman?

>> Marshall Trimble:
First one was a woman. Her name was Dorothy Fay Southworth from Prescott. She was the daughter of a prominent doctor there and her mother who was a race car driver who drove race cars from road races from Prescott to family. A very colorful family. Dorothy Fay headed to other Hollywood, beautiful girl, and she headed throughout to act in the movies, became a western movie star, where she met another western movie star, singing cowboy Tex Ritter and married Tex Ritter and they -- got married in Prescott and Tom Mix and a lot of Hollywood celebrities were in Prescott for the wedding that day. Then -- and then they are the parents, of course, of John Ritter, the late John Ritter of recent television fame.

>> Michael Grant:
19 books?

>> Marshall Trimble:
19 books, yeah.

>> Michael Grant:
Including -- my favorite is "it always rains after a dry spell."

>> Marshall Trimble:
Somebody told me Planned Parenthood is going get after me if I keep turning out crummy books.

>> Michael Grant:
Writing come naturally? Is it something you have to labor over? Different people have different styles.

>> Marshall Trimble:
I never dreamed I would be a writer. I always thought it would be neat to write a book, but I have to credit my students at Scottsdale Community College because I used to spin those store knees class in the early 1970s when I first started teaching there and a lot of adults in the class and finally one night a woman spoke up and said, you need to write a book on Arizona. I just laughed because I had never written a good term paper here at ASU. So I said, well, I'll think about it. You know what I did, Michael Grant, I sat down at a typewriter and pretended my class was out in front of me and started writing stories about Arizona.

>> Michael Grant:
Sort of talked it, really, onto paper?

>> Marshall Trimble:
I don't think I could have done it otherwise. I just pretended I was talking to my class, told the stories and darned if Doubleday in New York picked up the book and it became a big seller for them and that sort of launched -- changed my life.

>> Michael Grant:
Do you have any sort of pace to them or you just wait for inspiration?

>> Marshall Trimble:
No, usually I wait until the publisher calls and says --

>> Michael Grant:
Until you get a check?

>> Marshall Trimble:
Go do it, we want a book. We need a book. Because I'm so busy performing and teaching and everything else and just -- that I probably wouldn't have written so many if I hadn't been pushed to do it because I'm much more comfortable in front of a live audience. I love theater and live audience.

>> Michael Grant:
Like the immediate feedback? Good or bad?

>> Marshall Trimble:
Right, good or bad. Writing is a lonely thing. By the time your book comes out you've already forgotten about it. It's a year owe are or two later.

>> Michael Grant:
Marshall Trimble, we have exhausted the half hour. Thank you very much. Outstanding.

>> Marshall Trimble:
It's been a pleasure.

>> Michael Grant:
It's good to see you again.

>> Marshall Trimble:
Good to be back.

>> Michael Grant:
You can link to Marshall Trimble's website from our website. That address is www.azpbs.org, click "Horizon" and you can follow the links. The website also has transcripts of "Horizon" and information about "Horizon" topics. Thanks very much for joining us for this special edition of "Horizon." I'm Michael Grant. Have a great one. Good night.

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