Where the desert meets the mountains

Where the desert meets the mountains in the southeastern corner of Arizona lays a little town by the name of Morenci. I have always lived in Arizona, since I was born in Thatcher, Arizona and now live in my hometown of Morenci. Everywhere I go people, wonder and ask me, where is Morenci? How do you get to Morenci? How far is it from Phoenix? Now I have gotten pretty good at explaining where it is over the course of my life, but people still do not understand what a great place Morenci really is. Sure there is no mall, clothing stores, or even a Wal-Mart, but besides those facts, Morenci has its own good qualities.

First off, we have the biggest copper mine in the United States. Phelps Dodge is the company who own this mine. Phelps Dodge is also the second largest mining company in the nation. Now I know that is pretty large in size. Most tourists come to Morenci to see that “big hole” in the earth, and trust me on this, it is a BIG hole. I would not really call this place a town or city. We are more of a mining camp. I have heard people comment on our humble place in Arizona, and they have compared it to a military base. I guess I can see where that comes from. Morenci is nothing but houses, dead ends, hills, and our three stoplights…yes I said three. But like I said, it has its wonders and glories just like any other place in this world. People just have to get accustomed to the small town life to understand.

Another great part of Morenci is one of my and most people in this town’s favorite pass time, which is the San Francisco River. There are several corrals down by the San Francisco River where most people keep their domesticated animals. We have families that are known for their horses, chickens, goats, etc. Camping is one of Morenci’s specialties. People get on their four wheelers almost every weekend during the spring and summer time because they cannot wait for the fishing, hunting, and scouting. You cannot do that in the big city. The river hosts several activities for the summer. The big rig trucks are what most people see around this town. Getting across the river and the numerous crossings we have to go across is our goal. Having memories of who got stuck where and who had to be pulled out of the crossings is also a joy. Swimming in the river is a great way to cool down. This hot Arizona weather is a killer, not to mention that we do live in a desert. It is dry during the summer, so the river is a great place to experience. Morenci also has some interesting history to it, as well.

Geronimo’s birthplace was here in Clifton, Arizona about four miles or 8 minutes away from Morenci. We have a famous painter by the name of Ted De Grazia who graduated from Morenci High School. Ted De Grazia is known for his western paintings and lived in Morenci back in the early 1900’s. An original painting from him is displayed at the Morenci High School in a glass case and framed in memory of him. The Phelps Dodge 1983 Strike made many headlines. This was where hundreds of workers were laid off or quit. My parents themselves went through that strike along with several other family members.

Besides all those facts and history, I have a little personal history with Morenci of my own. I enjoy Morenci because of its safe environment. I am able to walk outside and not be afraid of something happening to me. Walking down my street is no problem. In fact, it is pleasing. Everybody knows everybody. This is a friendly town full of friendly people. You walk down the streets and everybody says, “Hi, how are you doing? How are your parents doing?” It makes me feel good knowing I have that connection with my town. Also, most people in my community know each other so there is always that protection. Having friends here is no problem. Most people are very accepting and welcoming when newcomers move to the area.

I live in Greenlee County, which covers Morenci, Clifton, and Duncan, which is about forty-five minutes from Morenci. This little place in Arizona only has a Bashas, Dairy Queen, Conoco, the Morenci Lanes for bowling, and a theater. Most people ask, “What do you do in such a rural area out in the middle of nowhere?”  Well, as I stated above, even though we are so small, some things you just do not get or experience in the city with all of its traffic and accidents. If we go up the Coronado Trail, there are tons of sight seeing and scenery, wild animals, camping, and hunting. Picnics at Cherry Lodge are a must. Everybody enjoys being up there during the winter because the snowfall is extremely beautiful. On most weekends, up-town is the place to be. Bowling, watching a movie or just sitting with your friends around the town are our past times. Catching up on the latest gossip is what mainly goes on or going up to somebody’s house to “chill” is always fun.

Morenci is a great place in Arizona. I love living here for the simple fact that it is a safe environment and a fun place to be. The copper mine is memorable and growing everyday. The San Francisco River is full of memories. The great atmosphere of clear blue skies and fresh air is refreshing. Everything about Morenci is great. I have made several friends, met some amazing individuals I will never forget, and have experienced the time of my life living in Morenci. Being in a big city is great yes, but understanding the fun and closeness in a small community is even better. This is why my hometown of Morenci, Arizona is a pleasurable and unforgettable place to live, grow, and appreciate.