post Reunion Memories

February 19th, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 5:36 pm

by Rusty

Just wanted to recap some of the exciting times that I enjoyed during my Tucson adventure. It all started with my travel day (Weds Oct. 19th) when I was scheduled to speak at a new Prison Writing program in a medium security prison in Adelanto, CA. The program was delayed that day so I had some time on my hands.

Antiquing Before I Left

Knowing that I had some extra vacation cash on hand, I just couldn’t resist stopping by my favorite antique place— “Antique Station” in Oro Grande, CA. It’s one of the oldest places along the Mojave River with a train siding and stands of cottonwood trees. I’m always in search of rustic items for my children’s traveling museum… but that’s a whole other story. So among the commissioned displays of antiques and collectibles, I found a large gold pan for my mining equipment section … tick that one off my list. And that lucky pan got to travel with me to Tucson.

Off to San Diego

I planned to meet Vickie Harvey in Rancho Bernardo north of San Diego, stay overnight with her and her parents, and get an early start in the morning heading for Tucson. Traffic was light and I was there in no time.

Vickie’s family name comes from the historic Harvey House line of descendents who catered to the railroad travelers at each station. They still open their home for guests and treat me like royalty. Thank you, Bill and June.

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Nightfall at Old Tucson

Off to Tucson

No fog the morning we left. Vickie is a great navigator so we zipped through to Tucson in excellent time, arriving at Lodge on the Desert by 3 pm. We checked in and then I put my Posse transportation hat on to help get our first trip out to Old Tucson for NightFall ready. Three vans of revelers took off about 5:30 pm for a “spook-tacular” night tromping through horror shows, old ghost town alleys, and several theme-styled haunted houses. I didn’t go this time so you’ll have to ask Vickie or others who went that night. I did hear that the chainsaw ghoul was wandering the streets.

However, the first time in 1999, I went with my husband Jeff, we were really spooked. Good fun even for the adults. The best part was finding that an exit from one of the haunted adventures came right through The High Chaparral ranch house!!. I knew it because I looked up to see the huge timbers over the doorway and the huge covered porch entry way. I didn’t want to leave. But someone kept forcing me to exit, dang.

First Night

It so happened that many hotels were filled to capacity due to the college game where Arizona played UCLA at Tucson. I was in the bar to grab a bite to eat when the sports TV screens were blaring the news that Arizona was 41 to 7 and still had a quarter of the game to go. I’m not a sports fan but I couldn’t help but get excited watching another touchdown. The place was unhinged.

Lodge on the Desert

Penny McQueen had selected the Lodge for its open floor plans, beautiful southwestern décor, history, ease of walking between our venues, large banquet rooms, and, let’s face it, landscaping to die for. I love fragrant lantana, and it was everywhere. Even at night, the scents of the desert flowers rose from the walkways like stepping on rosebuds down a wedding aisle. Very intense.

My bed was a king-size and nearly three feet off the floor to get on the mattress. Had a wonderful and comfortable night’s sleep, too. I was sharing a room with Deborah Dyess but she hadn’t arrived yet.

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Kent McCray discusses filming High Chaparral with fans on Friday at the Reunion

Registration Day

One of the first days we get to reunite with members is during the Registration and Welcome. Everyone wanders through the doors and gets their bearings. It isn’t long before they are gabbing with new and old friends. The Posse…Penny’s helpers… stood ready and handed out gift bags, name tags, programs, and extra gift bags donated by Carol Anne Gordon, one of our founding HCDG members.

Carol Anne is living in Hawaii now but before she left the mainland, she asked if I would offer her extensive collection of HC materials to the participating fans. She had nearly 140 pounds of sentimental copies from magazines, photo collections, and a gazillion script copies to part with, as well as original materials and magazines. She even had a Master Binder full of real goodies. I felt it was my honor to make sure as many fans as possible could have what Carol Anne had coveted for so long. At one time, she rivaled the Smithsonian Institute… hehehe. And I must also thank Vickie for helping me separate all that memorabilia during the summer into those gift bags. Thirty freebie bags were handed out. Thank you, Carol Anne.

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Registration Day at the Reunion with the star’s table in the center of the room

Registration Day is also set aside for reconnecting with the HC stars, taking casual photos, and catching up on the news. This year we had a larger contingent of Spanish-speaking fans from Mexico, and Central and South America. Nieves Fernandez, who also returned, was a terrific translator on more than one occasion during our weekend.

It’s also the time to test your camera and double check to see if your batteries are working. The cameras clicked like castañets. (Check out the photo albums online) Some participants were arriving late due to flight foul-ups and lost luggage, but by noon, everyone had made their entrance.

Friday Evening Sponsors Dinner

Before the evening event started, something was up. I could hear mariachi music in the courtyard. Real strumming and horn-playing Mexican musicians strolled on the lawn and it was all for us. Susan McCray had surprised us with a treat for sure. The mariachis even played a rendition of The High Chaparral Theme song, mariachi-style. I do hope someone recorded it.

As Penny always reminds us, much of our activities throughout the weekend are sponsored by many others who offer extra money to help finance these events, and by those who have never been able to attend the events. It’s all due to their generosity that many of us enjoy the camaraderie of so many.

The Sponsors Dinner was well attended. We talked, we laughed, we watched an episode, “Mark of the Turtle” in the background. And applauded when Don Collier said his lines. Too funny.

Oh, the food. Half the fun of going is enjoying the wonderful food offered by one of the top chefs in Tucson. All dishes were tasty, and held enough Mexican/American flair to be appreciated by all. In addition, the staff more than made up for any inconsistencies. They always arrived to help and take care of any detail. A very friendly staff.

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Rudy Ramos talks with fans inside the High Chaparral ranch house

Saturday at Old Tucson Studios

By nine am Saturday morning, four vans pulled away from the Lodge heading for a day in Old Tucson. I know many of our local guests arrived just for the autograph signing and luncheon that day, but the fans from the Lodge knew that the whole town had open doors. I saw fans taking pictures of every building in town, even the newer ones under construction. Yes, Old Tucson Studios is enjoying a regeneration of its own with a string of new buildings right on the main street.

Just like last reunion, the autograph signing, held inside the High Chaparral ranch building , offered air conditioning, and celebs seated at their tables with photos to sign. Relatives of Don Collier and old friends of the High Chaparral cast and crew stopped by to talk and reminisce. I caught a photo of Henry Darrow showing off his famous sombrero — the “original hat of ten”, as he calls it. Since in wardrobe, there was never just one of anything. Always had back-up costumes. You’ll see a photo of Rudy Ramos in an intense conversation with another fan. There was handshaking going on all morning.

Since our Reunion 2011 had its own memorabilia for the public to purchase, I was asked to help man a table. I got to talk with fans who had heard about the event and drove out to see it, others had made earlier plans to attend, and yet other families just happened by and got caught up in the story telling. Bob Shelton, the long-time owner of Old Tucson studios is great at getting people together. He was always on standby along with Producer Kent McCray and his wife, and casting director, Susan McCray.

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Fan Rusty with an Old Tucson stagecoach

Luncheon plans had grown from last reunion so we walked across the yard to Stage 2, a new sound stage and utility barn for hosting large crowds. We had definitely grown since last time in 2009. A large stage platform was set at one end for the celebrity discussion panel afterward, a drinks bar sat at the other end, and our banquet tables sat in the center with plenty of elbowroom. The buffet entrees filled the building with rich aromas, and then the mariachi band arrived, playing great Mexican tunes and once again the favorite: High Chaparral theme.

I sat with Ronnie Rubino and Anthony, his buddy from Yuma AZ. Ronnie is the designer and owner of his duplication of High Chaparral ranch in Yuma. If you haven’t heard or seen it, I believe his home is on the site. He spent months gathering the original plans from David Dortort and his designers to fabricate the home he lives in from those plans. The set décor and details on how the home would suit a conversion to have size-appropriate bedrooms, was the major struggle. Remember the original High Chaparral set was only a false-front mock-up where the autograph session was held.

Later, we walked through Old Tucson and took in a shoot-out on the street, and did some window shopping. Most of the shops had closed early preparing for another night of NightFall.

By four pm, we all gathered back into the vans heading for the Lodge, stomachs well satisfied, and memories reeling in our brains. Oh, I forgot to mention that one van would be held for a delayed exit because about 10 fans had prearranged to go horseback riding on the back lot at the end of the day. The day was warm but not as hot as last year, so although the “cowboys’ were tired and steamy, none of them complained. The grins plastered to their faces was documentation enough.

Back at the Lodge, fans were on their own to clean up, take naps, watch episodes of HC or go touring around the Tucson nightlife. But, the idea was to keep you busy and well-fed. So, sure as the moon glints across the Saltillo tiles of the main lobby, we were back at the Palm Room enjoying our dinner meal with excellent chicken ala picata, and tasty vegetables.

Kiva Hoy was presented a memorial certificate from the National Museum of Marine Corp in West Virginia, on behalf of Bobby Hoy’s service to the military, as well as a paver stone placed in his honor on the path leading to the museum. We’ll have to thank the McCrays for making that happen. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room. We miss you Bobby.

Sunday Morning at Sabino Canyon

Photo Album

Rocks at Sabino Canyon

While many of the reunion fans were packing up for their early flights home, Vickie and I calculated that we had enough early morning time to go see the famous Sabino Canyon. The Canyon is an experience where the beauty of one of the most unique Southwestern desert formations can be seen from a tram ride. Sabino Canyon is a natural desert oasis located in Tucson’s Coronado National Forest and is home to spectacular desert landscapes and abundant wildlife. See:

We took our cameras and stopped by the visitor’s shop first. Although the canyon is open to bikes and foot traffic, all bikes are required to leave the trails by 9 am so the shuttle trams can run all day. The ride takes a winding paved route nearly four miles into the upper canyon where many movie locations were filmed. The tram drivers give highlights of the canyon’s history by microphone. There are designated stops along the way for photo shoots and to pick up hikers along the trail. It’s suitable for short-term hikers, family picnics, and bird watching.

We’d also like to consider this feature as an addition to events on Reunion schedule for next time. We timed the ride and shopping in the gift shop, as well as taking a short hike along the trail. We believe we can transport to the parking lot and back to the Lodge within 3 hours. We can also adjust the Tucson Sunday tour to start later in the day. Let us know what you think of that.

Sunday Afternoon Tour of Tucson

Since so many of us enjoy shopping in Tucson, the Sunday Tour was reduced to two stops: the San Xavier del Bac Mission and downtown Presidio at Old Tucson Artisans building.

We met Brent Martin, our tour guide, onboard the executive shuttle at the Lodge curbside pickup. As we began our tour, we realized so many of our travelers spoke only Spanish. They were rather bored but Gabriela asked if we could translate. Up stepped Brent and Nieves to help with the translations, so all the travelers could enjoy the sights.

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Lions gate to Rancho Montoya, at San Xavier Mission

We first stopped at the Mission, giving everyone plenty of time to wander the grounds, take photos, and buy Indian fry bread. The Mission has a wonderful history and stands as one of the few continuously working missions since its early construction in 1692. For more info see:

We traveled on to downtown Tucson and our driver selected historic blocks where we could see and compare the early architectural periods of Tucson’s housing. From adobe flat roof bungalows to modified conical and gabled roof styles, Tucson holds so much history it would take weeks to tour it all.

The highlight was, of course, the artists’ galleries and craft shops housed under one low roof. The artisans building is a mish-mash of styles and rooms attached with an open-air courtyard for eating and listening to music. Shoppers can find one-of-a-kind items, art, ceramics, paintings, … well, everything. Many of the artists are local. See this link: . This time I purchased a handmade bell chime with attached terra cotta beads fired in a traditional adobe oven or “horno.”

Sunday Evening Coming Down

To wrap up the amazing activities of the weekend, we settled back at the Lodge in the Palm Room to enjoy some cowboy songs and up-beat swing from the talents of “Way Out West.” Tom Poley and his wife Emmie join Slim, who isn’t, and share some of the old cowboy campfire songs, as well as their new tunes. Tom played the guitar and banjo, Emmie strummed the guitar and mandolin, while Slim thumped on the big bass. All three can blend their voices very well, creating a unique trio sound.

Even our hostess, Penny McQueen, stepped up to share a story about how Bob Hoy would often get bored waiting in lines while on tour, and just begin singing. Penny was witness to this when Bobby sang She Wore a Yellow Ribbon to the raunchy words he had substituted. Penny didn’t sing that rendition but she did croon the traditional song accompanied by Tom for the enjoyment of us all.

This time after the songfest, Way Out West stayed around and shared stories, sold some of their CDs, and signed autographs. Thanks friends. Hopefully we can get together again next time. For more about their group and CDs check out:

I still had one more thing to take care of. Remember I had that huge master folder from Carol Anne? Well, I had been figuring that a true blue fan of HC would be the die-hard revelers at the songfest. So it came down to Janet and her sister Liz or Nieves and her sister Adela. And as it turned out when we all got together, Nieves is an archivist for a museum in Ireland and her sister can digitize the whole collection so all of our fans can share the originals on CD format. How cool is that. I had found the perfect home for the grande collection after all.

Our Trip Home

Now never let it be said that Tucson isn’t the primo spot for everything southwest. But there is an historic location north of the city that is known for being the farthest West battlefield site of the Civil War. A skirmish was fought at Picacho Peak and now a camping, hiking, and RV spot capitalizes on this history. Vickie and I headed out there early Monday morning and stopped to take a few photos, enjoy the cool morning air, and read the plaques commemorating the site.

However, across the highway is another location, for crazy southwest and cowboy collectors, are sure to add this to their tourist list. Vickie opened the first row of glass doors to face a six-foot saguaro cactus suitable to be tied to the top of my car and hauled all the way to San Diego. It was even tagged half price but Vick reined her emotions in and walked by slowly. Only to tug on the second set of glass doors to face a world of Western statues, ceramics, leather items, and jewelry that any shopper would love to have. Bowlin’s Trading Post houses not only the typical tourist souvenirs but a huge array of Western stuff that it’s hard to describe.

I’ve been in many trading posts across the southwest in as many as 30 years of vacations but I have never entered the Valhalla of cowboy kitsch. OMG!! Vick mumbled under her breath, “Rust, we ain’t getting’ back on the road for at least an hour.”

And she was right. We hauled out whatever we could carry. And as we rode into the west, sadly, we were missing the silhouette of a saguaro strapped to the top of my Jeep.

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