So how did the author of “Everett Ruess: His Short Life, Mysterious Death, and Astonishing Afterlife” come by his information linking Ruess with what is now the Lamar Haines Wildlife Area?
Philip Fradkin was relying on primary sources, as it turns out: letters written by Everett Ruess to his parents and a friend, an interview with Pat Jenks himself in 2010, and a privately published memoir Jenks wrote in 2003.
The day I found a copy of that memoir in the Special Collections at Cline Library, on the campus of Northern Arizona University, was a happy day. Written by Jenks with two of his grandchildren, “Leaving the Golden Age of the 1920s for Adventures in the West” tells a number of stories from Jenks’s life, including his acquisition of Veit Ranch (which he renamed Deerwater), and his meeting with Ruess.
Jenks writes, “While in Flagstaff, I came across a small, abandoned ranch for sale called the Veit Ranch. … I wrote a long letter to my parents right away and told them of the beauty of this region. I also mentioned the Veit Ranch being for sale and how it was like no other place I had ever seen.
“Before I knew it my father had appointed a lawyer in Flagstaff and purchased the ranch for $10,000. I was so excited. My father gave it to me! This was my first land ownership ever. Imagine a seventeen-year-old boy owning a 160-acre ranch complete with a cabin and springs of fresh water. Deer would come to the pond below the springs to drink water every morning and evening, so I renamed the place ‘Deerwater Ranch.’ ”
Jenks didn’t own two places named Deerwater, as I once wondered. There was just one: a special spot on the southwestern flanks of the San Francisco Peaks. Later, he would sell the land and its water rights to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission. But in 1931, while still a teenager, Jenks brought a ragged wanderer to Deerwater Ranch to rest and recuperate. In a letter to a friend, Ruess wrote, “The mountain slope is covered with aspens, and wild life is very abundant.”
I will remember those words next time I visit the place they describe. Everett Ruess, I’ve found your trail in a place where I, too, have walked: Lamar Haines Wildlife Area.