A GUIDE FOR THE INDEPENDENT TRAVELER IN THE AMERICAN SOUTHWEST
"With the completion of the Interstate Freeway System, it became possible to travel all the way across the country, from coast-to-coast, and never see a thing...." Charles Kuralt
DON ROBERTSON'S GOLD KING MINE
The signs are there just at the edge of Don's property. The only way you can't understand the signs is if you're dumber'n a rock. One says: IF YOU'RE FOUND AROUND HERE AT NIGHT, YOU WILL BE FOUND HERE IN THE MORNING. The sign is above a half dozen graves. Probably fake, but maybe not...
Another says: THIS PLACE IS PATROLLED BY SHOTGUN 3 NIGHTS A WEEK...YOU GUESS WHICH THREE.
The signs are half serious, half in fun. Plain fact of the matter is, a lot of old mines that appear abandoned are still owned and being worked by someone who just plain doesn't want you around and might shoot you. The mortal threat implied aside, most mines are also old and extremely dangerous to be fooling around in. So the next best, and safe, thing is Don Robertson's Gold King Mine and Ghost Town just outside Jerome, a good place to satisfy your curiosity about old mines and all the stuff you find around them. Follow the signs and the loud whistles, and what occasionally sounds like cannon shots, pay your admission and wander in and tell Don Robertson I sent you. Won't get you anything but it's a way to open up a conversation.
As you come in there's a little sign that says RUST IN PEACE and there's plenty of stuff laying around doing just that, but Don doesn't let most of it rust for long because his avowed, if not self-assigned, mission in life: "I was put here on earth to save this beautiful old machinery from a horrible death in a blast furnace. And being that I'm saving it, I get it running and I show it to people so they can appreciate it."
Don is whiskered and wears a floppy old hat and looks ten years older than he really is and really believes in his mission to save old machinery. A lot of it destined for the graveyard of history relive their stories under Don's magic touch and he will talk to you about it until what's left of your ears fall off or you can just wander around by yourself. It's an alternative to getting shot at out in the hills somewhere...
The piercing whistle you heard coming up the hill is from an ancient, 30-horsepower, gas and kerosene saw mill that runs on two gallons of fuel all day. What sounds like cannon shots, Don's own personal thunder machine, capable of shattering eardrums at record distances, a restored TEN THOUSAND cubic-inch engine that was once a power plant for a small town. You'll be surprised at how much stuff works and fascinated with the rambling display of paraphernalia collected over the last ten years and the walk-in mine Don dug himself. Kids (and adults) are welcome to touch and climb on things.
It's stuff from another era of America when ingenuity was king and practicality shined in the machinery they made. Machinery, that except for places like here at Don's Gold King Mine is either gone or sitting in rusty lumps somewhere. Don's always got something new running, like this 1902 Studebaker electric car. It's the only one left in the world, I didn't even know there was such a thing...
"And if you want to go faster, it has a field weakening and it'll go!" says Don. "It's a labor of love. It's what I enjoy doing. Just working on old engines. I don't care about anything else much today. Just old rusty iron and getting it running so people can see it work."
He took a generator engine that was in a 1943 U.S. submarine and fixed it to run another turn-of-the-century sawmill.
"Submarine and sawmill both start with an "S" so I figured they ought to work good together. So I just did it."
And, yeah, it makes a lot of noise.
Leave Phoenix north on I-17 to the Cottonwood exit. Go left, west, to Cottonwood and follow the signs to Jerome. At the stop sign in Jerome, go right and instead of taking the hairpin turn leading to Prescott, go straight on the dirt road a little over a mile, follow the signs. There is an admission fee. Phone 602-634- 0053 for information.