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Sunday, 15 June 2014

A.J.M. Smith: The Archer


Twin Arrows, Arizona: photo by Philippe Reichert, 26 June 2010
Bend back thy bow, O Archer, till the string
Is level with thine ear, thy body taut,
Its nature art, thyself thy statue wrought
Of marble blood, thy weapon the poised wing
Of coiled and aquiline Fate.  Then, loosening, fling
The hissing arrow like a burning thought
Into the empty sky that smokes as the hot
Shaft plunges to the bullseye's quenching ring.

So for a moment, motionless, serene,
Fixed between time and time, I aim and wait;
Nothing remains for breath now but to waive
His prior claim and let the barb fly clean
Into the heart of what I know and hate --
That central black, the ringed and targeted grave.

Arthur James Marshall Smith (1902-1980): The Archer, in Canadian Forum, January 1937

route 66, twin arrows, arizona. nikon D80 + nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G VR. NEF processed in lightroom LR4 + photoshop CS6 + nik color efex + alienskin exposure 4: photo by eyetwist, 28 March 2007

route 66, twin arrows, arizona. approaching spring storm at sunset. abandoned twin arrows trading post and truck stop, northern arizona. nikon N90s 28-105mm. cross-processed fujichrome RDP 100. lab: photoimpact west, santa monica, ca. scan: noritsu koki: photo by eyetwist, 29 March 2007

Twin Arrows. Twin arrows in the aptly named Twin Arrows, Arizona: photo by Randy Heinitz, 1 September 2013


Be the BQE said...

Late getting to comment on this post. The line from the poem, "Fixed between time and time," seems to describe the town of Twin Arrows to a (double) T. I find the use of the giant arrows digging into the earth comic and moving. Polish towns and cities maintain a tradition of Witacze (Welcome) signs at the city limits:
PS. Imagining a giant Geena Davis striding across the desert, bow in hand.

TC said...


Well, one thing's for certain: as disposable conceptual art, the big arrows might do better than some of that Polish town-announcement sculpture, if only because everybody in the desert knows how to screw in a light bulb.

As you've guessed, the Aztec goddess Geenadaviscoatl-Dizneewiki was responsible for them in the first place. As is well known, she was capable of launching two arrows at once, using a bow in each hand and her pearly whites as a fulcrum, dental floss-style.

In fact they were 25-foot telephone poles. All the better for creating a fun rest stop attraction in the 1950s, when Highway 66 was a pretty big deal -- much as the BQE today, just to offer a point of reference. Or two.

The original trading post was named after an actual geographical feature, Canyon Padre Gorge. In 1949 the Arizona Daily Sun reported:

"Notice is hereby given that E.V. Wesson, doing business under the name of Canyon Padre Indian Trading Post, Canyon Padre, Coconino County. Arizona, intends, to sell, in a single transaction and not in the regular course of trade, unto F. R. Griffith all of the the stock in trade, merchandise, furniture and fixtures heretofore used in the conduct of the above name business; that said sale wil! be held on Saturday, February 26th, 1949."

Griffith did not keep the place long, but it seems to have been during this period that the big arrows were planted in the desert -- because by six years later, when the place was sold again, it was called by its famous name.

From the Arizona Daily Sun March 31, 1955:

"Announcement of the sale of the Twin Arrows Trading Post, located 23 miles east of Flagstaff on U. S. Highway 66, to Mr. and Mrs. W. II. Troxell of Flagstaff was made today by the owner, F. R. Griffith. Mr. Troxell said his wife's father, L, K, Maxwell and his wife, will run the trading post and they expect to go there around April 15, The Troxells plan to add a line of photo supplies there he said. Mr. and Mrs. Al Anderson wlll continue to operate the restaurant, and Chuck Lytton, the service station."

Those were the golden years. The camera supplies virtually flew out the door.

Then in the 70s, along came the Interstate. Death knell for historic 66, and its roadside exit attractions.

The trading post and historic prefabricated Valentine diner shut down in 1995. The price on the gas pumps was stuck on $1.36 a gallon forever. The desert weather was not easy on the arrows. They crumbled into their structural supports. Their feathers were stripped of siding by the continuous natural sandblasting.

But Historic 66 enthusiasts, who saw them as symbols of the entrepreneurial spirit of the Wild West, and the local Indian tribes, who saw them as symbols of warrior pride (kid you not) got together. They weren't going to let those great cultural artifacts just die.

In 2009 the arrows were replaced -- yes, a new set of telephone poles -- and repainted.

On Youtube you can find video of the new Navajo casino on the site.

The Big Geena looks down from the heavens proudly. Even if she did miss out on the Olympics, back in the Hellenic period.