Why Do People Paint Citrus Tree Trunks White?


Q: Why do people paint the trunks of their citrus trees white?

A: HA! At last, a question we actually knew the answer to without having to look it up or ask somebody. It’s to protect them from the sun.

We are soooooo smart.

To celebrate, we asked an actual newcomer in the office if she knew why citrus trunks are painted white, and she said it was to repel insects. These comical newcomers.We were going to laugh at her until we remembered she is much higher up the food chain than us and holds what passes for our career in her elegant and well-manicured hands. So we didn’t laugh.

Just to double-check, and to look busy, we called Ralph Backhaus, a professor of plant biology at Arizona State University.

Elephant Feet in Northern Arizona?

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Every now and then, as I search across Arizona for things of an unusual nature, something pops up as a complete surprise, something I’d never heard about even though I thought I’d seen ‘em all. Several of them did that to me recently as I wandered across the northern part of the state, and they involve elephants. Or things that evoke mental images of elephants.

They’re actually rock formations, but they look like elephant feet. Great big elephant feet.

Two of them stand along Highway 160, at Tonalea some 20 miles east of Tuba City on the Navajo Reservation. They’re giant sandstone pillars and they look so much like elephant feet that you don’t even have to squint your eyes to get the picture. The fact that the pillars are grayish white and brownish red instead of gray does not affect the illusion. Nor does the fact that they’re about 20 feet tall make any difference. Who knows how big them desert-stompers were billions of years ago?

The Case of The Vanishing Train Robbers


On the evening of April 27, 1887, southern Arizona’s only passenger train, the Sunset Express, was making its run toward Tucson. The train was a few minutes behind sched­ule, so the engineer gave her a little more steam to make up time. About 20 miles east of Tucson, the yellow streak from the headlight picked up a figure standing on the track waving a red lantern. About that same time, the big drive wheels ran over a torpedo. The bomb-like blast served as a warning of trouble on the line. He slammed on the brakes and stopped just before crashing into some upraised railroad ties jammed between the tracks.

Out of the darkness, rifle shots cracked and several holes suddenly appeared in the engine’s boiler. Two masked men appeared beside the locomotive and ordered the engineer, Colonel Bill Harper, to step down off the train. They took him back to the express car and told him to have the Wells Fargo express messenger open the safe then unlock the door and get out.

Ghost Stories and Mysteries of Coal Mine Canyon

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Coal Mine Canyon is one of Arizona’s lesser-known treasures because it’s easy to miss. And, perhaps, because of the ghosts.

There are no signs pointing to the canyon; the only markers are a windmill and watering tank on the side of the road southeast of Tuba City. But those who find it will be entranced by the multicolored hoodoos that rise sharply form the floor of the canyon to create a many-hued splash in an otherwise dull brown flatland. The hoodoos, shaped like those in Utah’s Bryce Canyon, are the result of underground fires and eons of erosion. They and the sidewalls of the canyon are colored in different layers. The black layer just below the rim is a seam of coal; the others are probably the result of combustion that caused some of the coal layers to burn so intensely that the shale turned red.

Overnight camping is allowed at the site but those who plan to stay after dark should know about the ghost stories told by both Native Americans and Anglos.

Why Does New Mexico Have a Stronger Hispanic Heritage Than Arizona?

New Mexico

Today’s question: If Arizona and New Mexico were both settled by the Spanish, why does New Mexico seem to have a much stronger Hispanic heritage than we do?

That’s a good one. For help on this I turned to good old Marshall Trimble, author, singer, teacher, Arizona state historian and all-around swell guy.

The answer in a nutshell is because the early Spanish settlers and explorers weren’t completely stupid.

It starts in 1540 with Coronado, who wandered around the Southwest and up into Kansas for a couple of years looking for the fabled cities of gold, which, of course, he did not find. So he went home, where, according to legend, he found out his wife had been fooling around with another guy while he was out traipsing around, and eventually he died.