The Story of Frank Murphy’s Impossible Railroad

railroad crossing

At the peak of its prosperity, the fabled Bradshaw Moun­tains of central Arizona produced a king’s ransom in gold and silver. Towns and mines with picturesquely whimsical names like Bueno, Turkey Creek, Tiger, Tip Top, Oro Belle and Big Bug were peopled with boisterous devil-may-care miners aptly described as unmarried, unchurched and unwashed. Each community boasted it was built atop the madre del oro and its streets would soon be cobbled with golden nuggets.

In 1899, the vast riches inspired railroad entrepreneur Frank Murphy to extend his Prescott and Eastern Line from Mayer into the heart of the great mountains. Although Murphy was warned he’d be stopped by this maze of rugged, perpendicular grades laced with canyons so steep that big horn sheep had to shut their eyes and walk sideways, he was determined to meet the challenge of the mountains. That’s why it’s best-remembered as Frank Murphy’s Impossible Railroad.

Rhino Beetles Found Only in Arizona

Dynastes Granti, Rhino Beetle

Q: I have lived here all of my 32 years, and ever since I can remember, every summer at night, I see the biggest, ugliest and fiercest-looking brown beetle. The other night I saw one of these things and sprayed it with bug killer, which only seemed to disorient it. It took undiluted tick poison to kill it. What are these things?

A: You know, if I were rich, I would just buy you people bug books and let you figure these things out by yourselves. I usually just throw away the bug questions because they are usually pretty vague. Along the lines of “I saw a black bug. What was it?”

However, in this case, I’m just about 100 percent sure that this guy saw—and needlessly slaughtered—a rhinoceros beetle, Dynastes granti.

They are the largest North American beetles and are believed to be found only in Arizona.

Who is Ol’ Bill Williams… as in Williams, AZ?


The picturesque town of Williams takes its name from Bill Williams Mountain that towers above and provides as beau­tiful high country setting for a community as can be found in America. It’s a fitting place-name for ol’ Bill Williams, the “greatest fur trapper of ‘em all.”

Ol’ Bill was as colorful a man as any who ever forked a horse or mule and headed towards the setting sun. To those who knew the tireless old mountain man, he’d always seemed old and eccentric. His drunken sprees around Taos set the standard by which others tried to match but never could. Each season he rode alone into forbidding hostile Indian country and returned safely, his pack mules laden with precious beaver pelts.

Ol’ Bill was a tall, skinny, redhead, with a high-pitched voice, his body battle-scarred and worn. He was known to run all day with six traps on his back and never break into a sweat.

ASU Makes PLAYBOY’s Top 10 List of Party Schools for 2011


To anyone familiar with the nightlife scene at Arizona State University, this shouldn’t come as a huge shocker. The behemoth university has once again gained notoriety as one of North America’s top party schools, according to media giant PLAYBOY. The Wildcats were left out of the fun this year, but I do recall them landing the honor in the past.

PLAYBOY says the rankings were determined by student surveys and interviews, social media and feedback from PLAYBOY campus representatives. They also took male-to-female ratios, academics, winning percentage of sports teams and “proximity to beaches, ski slopes and lively music scenes” into account.

Are There Opossums in Arizona?

Q: My wife swears she saw an opossum the other night while walking the dog in our Mesa neighborhood. I think she was seeing things. Settle our bet. Are there opossums in Arizona?

A: Are there opossums in Arizona? Are you kidding?

Why do you think some parts of the state are uninhabited? There are opossums out there the size of St. Bernards, mutated by the drift from nuclear testing back in the ’50s. Their teeth are as long as car keys, and they are notoriously short-tempered. In 1973, a group of Boy Scouts camping near…

OK, I made that stuff up. I thought it might be more interesting than the real answer, which is: Sort of.

There are opossums in Arizona, although it is highly unlikely that the missus saw one in Mesa. Unlikely, but not impossible.

Arizona’s opossum population mostly confines itself to the area from Tucson south to the border.