Wednesday, October 27, 2010

As a child I always wanted to find a secret staircase. Nancy Drew, whose mystery stories I loved (was that a sign I was a homo or what?), found several over the course of her sleuthing career.

Secret staircase!

I am out at a historic ranch site, where the 1870s house is being restored. They have been pulling off later additions and removing concrete slabs. I watch as the workers dig holes in the ground, checking to see whether they are finding artifacts.

1870s Ranch House.

The original house had five or six rooms, one of which had a basement. For Arizona, especially Arizona in the 1870s, that is very unusual. One reason why they may have built it is that the Apache were still raiding ranches at this time. If Apache approached, you could send the women and children down into the basement to keep them safe from bullets.

So the workers had removed the concrete floor in the room next to the room where the basement is. As they were digging up the loose dirt they started to hit rocks. I took over and soon uncovered a rectangular rock foundation with loose board lying inside of it.

Foundation and rocks.

The basement has a closet sticking into this room, and after I pulled off the boards I quickly located the beadboard ceiling of the closet. However, the area next to it had fill dirt and as I started to remove it I found out that the rectangular area was the original stairways down into the basement.

Partly excavated staircase.

It is difficult to see, but I uncovered the wooden top step of the staircase, leaving the rest still buried in dirt.

Top step.

I know, not as exciting as Nancy Drew's secret staircases, but it pretty amazing to see a long-buried wooden staircase, one that helps tell the story of life on this ranch back in the days when you had to hide in the basement if the Indians attacked (and as far as I know, the ranch was never attacked).

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