Ranching in southern Arizona in memory of Joe Goff part 6

Bob Simpson

Having adequate sources of water is a critical matter for ranchers. Goff uses springs, earthen dams (tanks) to capture runoff, drilled wells and even old hand-dug wells with windmills. An interesting example of the latter is The Swizos, located between Park Link and the Florence Highway. The well is over 90 feet deep and is lined with rock. Goff’s son Charley was once lowered into the well by a rope and was extremely impressed by the beautiful rock work – evidently the work of an experienced mason. The fine rock work is also evident in the large stone reservoir next to the windmill. It is speculated that the name The Swizos is a corruption of The Swiss, referring to the family, possibly Swiss immigrants, who dug the well in the 1800s and lived on the site in the Honeymoon Cottage – a small one room earth structure partly below ground level in the side of a hill (see photo). Despite its relatively shallow depth, the well provides plenty of water for two cattle troughs connected by a two and a half mile pipeline. In the late 1800s cattle being herded from the Aravaipa/Mammoth area to the rail head at Red Rock used to stop at the Swizos for watering.

Hand-dug wells seem an anomaly in the desert where wells for municipal water supplies are drilled to depths of up to 1,000 feet or more and water levels are 300 to 500 feet below ground. But hand-dug wells were often located near springs or stands of cottonwood trees which thrive near shallow underground water. Goff has such a well, only 32 feet deep, at his home ranch which served both domestic and stock needs until about two years ago when he drilled a well for household use. The dug well still serves livestock needs and the water depth fluctuates with the flow of a local wash. However, on one of his large (about 82 square miles) land holdings, the Cross Triangle Ranch off the Florence highway, Goff drilled a 1,200 foot well to provide water to several tanks with underground one inch lines extending as far as 10 miles.

Instead of selling his young calves, he now transports and finishes them for five to six months at custom feed lots near Clovis, New Mexico and in Texas where the animals gain as much as three pounds per day. Over the years he has also finished cattle at other locations including Red Rock in eastern Arizona and Deming, New Mexico. His cross-breeding program has proven successful and his animals always get top price when sold directly from the feed lot to meat packing plant buyers.

Post Script, January, 2015: Joe’s success in establishing one of the major ranching operations of southern Arizona makes him a truly notable Arizona pioneer. He was a strong, humorous, independent, dawn-to-dusk working, shrewd in business and kind man. Spending time with him was one of the greatest privileges of my life.