In The Desert
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Vallecito Stage Station
Anza Borrego State Park, California
The Lady in White
Contributed by Dave Taylor
The trip from Yuma to Vallecito was an arduous desert trek, long stretches of desperately dry sand and desiccated terrain. The stagecoach and its passengers staggered from one rancid, warm watering hole to the next, a bumpy jarring ride across baked and burning countryside. You moved at a crawl, with shuddering winds and sudden cloudbursts. Choking dust was the passengers' cruel and most steadfast escort. There were times where the road became so bad the passengers had to get out and push the coach. People went mad in the midst of this one-hundred fifty-mile trek. Some coined the name for this tract of the Butterfield Stage Coach line, "The Journey of Death."
It's from this eastern road, across the Yuha desert, around Coyote Mountain and up Carrizo Wash, that the stagecoach came from, and at the Vallecito station, Eileen O'Conner was carried off.
They say she was a beautiful woman, young, but frail. She had received word back east to hurry to her fiancée, her One True Love. Some say he'd struck it rich in the gold fields and wanted her to wed him in San Francisco, or Sacramento. Some say he was a new Army lieutenant stationed in San Diego, pining for her caress. She was rushing to his side, for good or ill, when infirmity struck her down, her mission interrupted.
The operators of the station took her to a cool quiet room where they set about caring for her. The coach she had come in on continued on its way. Exhaustion, she assured her caretakers, nothing more. Once she had gained her strength back, she would board the next coach out and rush to her lover's side. Each time she heard the creak of leather and calls of the drivers, she would try to rise, and in her face you could see the longing to leave, to get on with her promised life. With each day she seemed to weaken, and yet Eileen talked about how she must get better, get on the first coach she could, and hurry to her lover's side. She spoke of nothing else.
Yet her condition worsened, and after a long suffering illness, she died.
The womenfolk went through her belongings, and found, carefully packed in her traveling trunk, a white wedding dress made of beautiful and expensive materials. It was the nicest thing she owned.
So they dressed her in this wedding dress, and buried her in the small cemetery there at the station. Her marker is long gone, but she is said to be the mound of rocks between John Hart and James Mason.
And to this day, on moonlit nights, they say you can see a woman, dressed in white, pacing restlessly in front of the station, furtively looking to the east, watching for the next stagecoach to take her to her One True Love.
The Vallecito Stage Station is an old watering hole on the trail from Yuma, Arizona to the west coast. During it's varied history it has earned these two ghosts stories about travelers who visited the Stage stop while passing through.
Buck and Randall
Ever get to setting up camp and you can't find something, a tool maybe, that you know for a fact you packed? Or when its time to head home you just can't find something you've been using the whole time? Bad memory, poor organization, lack of good habits. Maybe, but at the Vallecito Stagecoach Station, more than likely, its Buck and Randall.
See, Buck and Randall were a pair of old Texas cowboys. Actually, they were young bucks, but they'd seen a lot. Best of compadres, a real team. They were famous for their practical jokes. They'd tease you to tears just to show they loved you. Anyway, they ended up at Vallecito back in its heyday, and maybe they were a little full of themselves. Locals grew weary with them. Finally, Mister Lassiter told them, "You Texans are so high and mighty, why don't you try this here Hedgehog Tea?"
Now, Hedgehog Tea was the name the local moonshiner, a crazy Yaqui Indian that some said had been a shaman before he'd lost his faith, had taken to calling his cheapest elixir. He claimed he made the mash from mesquite beans and the fruit of the Strawberry Hedgehog cactus, which is supposed to taste like the aforementioned fruit, but he probably threw in anything that would ferment. The Tea started out nice and sweet, but kicked like a mule at the back end. Never knew how it was gonna go. Locals wouldn't touch it, sold it to pioneers passing through.
So Buck and Randall sat down at the Station and went to sampling this here Hedgehog Tea, getting a little crazier with each pull on the bottle. They whooped and hollered until about midnight, when suddenly they both went all startled, right at the same moment, looked at each other wide-eyed, then got back to guffawing as they pulled out their irons and shot each other dead.
Well no one wanted that. Real tragedy. Truly sad.
Thing is, the boys don't know they're dead. They come by your camp, hunker down next to your fire, listen to your stories and maybe taste your beans, notice that fancy hand-held GPS you brought along, the new lens you'd got for your camera, pick it up, pass it back and forth, maybe make some succinctobservations, then put it back somewhere you wouldn't look for it in a million years.
That's Buck and Randall. And yes it does get old.
Take a trip to the Vallecitos Stage Station and Agua Caliente with Dave Taylor HERE