This section is from the book "Grand Canyon Of The Colorado River - John L. Stoddard's Lectures", by John L. Stoddard. Also available from Amazon: John L. Stoddard's Lectures 13 Volume Set.
Moqui Cart And Plow.
It was late on the night succeeding our visit to Acoma that we arrived at Flagstaff, and our entire party was asleep. Suddenly we were aroused by a prolonged shout and the discharge of half a dozen revolvers. Five minutes later there came a general fusillade of pistol shots, and near and distant cries were heard, in which our half-awakened faculties could distinguish only the words: "Hurry up!" "Call the crowd!" "Down the alley!" Then a gruff voice yelled just beneath my window: "Let her go," and instantly our locomotive gave a whistle so piercing and continuous that all the occupants of our car sprang from their couches, and met in a demoralized group of multicolored pajamas in the corridor. What was it? Had the train been held up? Were we attacked? No; both the whistle and the pistol shots were merely Flagstaff's mode of giving an alarm of fire. We hastily dressed and stepped out upon the platform. A block of buildings just opposite the station was on fire, and was evidently doomed; yet Flagstaff's citizens, whose forms, relieved against the lurid glow, looked like Comanche Indians in a war dance, fought the flames with stubborn fury. The sight of a successful conflagration always thrills me, partly with horror, partly with delight. Three hundred feet away, two buildings formed an ever-increasing pyramid of golden light. We could distinguish the thin streams of water thrown by two puny engines; but, in comparison with the great tongues of fire which they strove to conquer, they appeared like silver straws.
Nothing could check the mad carousal of the sparks and flames, which danced, leaped, whirled, reversed, and intertwined, like demons waltzing with a company of witches on Walpurgis Night. A few adventurous men climbed to the roofs of the adjoining structures, and thence poured buckets of water on the angry holocaust; but, for all the good they thus accomplished, they might as well have spat upon the surging, writhing fire, which flashed up in their faces like exploding bombs, whenever portions of the buildings fell. Meantime huge clouds of dense smoke, scintillant with sparks, rolled heavenward from this miniature Vesuvius; the neighboring windows, as they caught the light, sparkled like monster jewels; two telegraph poles caught fire, and cut their slender forms and outstretched arms against the jet black sky, like gibbets made of gold. How fire and water serve us, when subdued as slaves; but, oh, how terribly they scourge us, if ever for a moment they can gain the mastery! Too interested to exchange a word, we watched the struggle and awaited the result. The fury of the fire seemed like the wild attack of Indians, inflamed with frenzy and fanaticism, sure to exhaust itself at last, but for the moment riotously triumphant. Gradually, however, through want of material on which to feed itself, the fiery demon drooped its shining crest, brandished its arms with lessening vigor, and seemed to writhe convulsively, as thrust after thrust from the silver spears of its assailants reached a vital spot. Finally, after hurling one last shower of firebrands, it sank back into darkness, and its hereditary enemy rushed in to drown each lingering spark of its reduced vitality.
A Mexican Home.
Our Car At Flagstaff.
The Heavens From The Observatory, Flagstaff.
Upon a hill near Flagstaff stands an astronomical observatory from which distinguished students of the midnight skies search for the secrets of the moon and stars. Few better sites on earth could have been chosen for this purpose, since Arizona's atmosphere is so transparent that the extent of celestial scenery here disclosed is extraordinary. We visited the structure at the solemn hour that marks the hush between two days, when the last sound of one has died away, and before the first stir of the other thrills the morning air. Then, gazing through the lenses of its noble telescope, we welcomed the swift waves of light pulsating toward us from the shoreless ocean we call space. There is a mysterious beauty about the radiance of a star that far surpasses that of the moon. The latter glitters only with reflected light; but a star (that is to say a distant sun), when seen through a telescope, frequently scintillates with different colors like a diamond, and quivers like a thing of life. Moreover, the moon, forever waxing, waning, or presenting almost stupidly its great flat face, is continually changing; but the fixed star is always there. It fills the thoughtful soul with awe to look upon the starry heavens through such an instrument as that at Flagstaff. Space for the moment seems annihilated. We are apparently transported, as observers, from our tiny planet to the confines of our solar system, and, gazing thence still farther toward infinity, we watch with bated breath the birth, the progress, and the death of worlds. To one of the most distant objects in the depths of space, known as the Ring Nebula, the author addressed the following lines: