Column No. 42

Ruby Caretakers

Bob Ring, Al Ring, Tallia Pfrimmer Cahoon

Over the years since private owners took over the ghost town, the “Caretakers” of Ruby have been the only full time residents. Yes, there were occasional efforts to mine the tailings dump, and for a few years hippies populated Ruby, but these were sporadic and relatively short-term occupations.

The owners needed someone onsite to manage and protect the property, open and close the gate for visitors, including mining and metallurgical people in the early years, and public visitors more recently. The caretaker collected entry fees if applicable.

A hippie may have been the first official Ruby caretaker. According to Pat Frederick, original private owner Richard Frailey made an attempt to enlist hippies as caretakers:

“So he told one couple that they could have another couple living there besides them. … A few months later when he went back down, there were twenty-some people living there. And that must have gone on for at least six months or maybe a year. … He eventually kicked them all out because they were being destructive.”

Since then, there have been a number of caretakers at Ruby. As Mary Noon Kasulaitis put it, writing in Arivaca’s The Connection:

“Some caretakers have been prospectors, who found a paid house and home near to the prospective gold mine. … Some … have been artists who appreciated the hills for their visual beauty and the time and space for artistic development. There have been medicine women, crazy men, hippies, and loners. There have been drunks, druggies and artists. All kinds of people, some more colorful than others.”

It wasn’t easy for Ruby’s owners to find caretakers. After all, Ruby was very isolated, and provided at best a dilapidated old mining camp house for a home. There was no electricity, no heat, no running water, and no telephone, except in later years, when a caretaker could hike to the top of nearby hill with a cell phone. And then there were the animals and insects, including rattlesnakes and rabid skunks.

So what kind of person would be a caretaker, not only survive the Spartan existence, but relish it. Here are a couple of examples of colorful Ruby caretakers of the past.

Stan Christopher worked for H. A. Kinnison and the K & K Mining Company during the last attempt to reclaim gold and silver from Ruby’s tailings dump. When Kinnison gave up and left in 1988, Christopher stayed on to be caretaker.

Stan Christopher was an artist, a naturalist, and a builder. For eight years, he was the sole resident of Ruby. He produced 150 oil paintings, studied Mexican free-tail bats that populated the old abandoned nearby mine tunnels, and hand-built a 36-foot sailboat. The all-wood boat took three years to build. Christopher took the completed boat out of Ruby on a flatbed truck on the Ruby Road through Arivaca.

During his time in Ruby, Christopher had to deal with irate drunks with guns, demanding access to Ruby; swat team invasions, looking for drug runners; rattlesnakes in the outhouse; and being bitten on the face, while sleeping, by a rabid skunk. But with all of this, Christopher professed to love it. According to Pat Frederick, “Stan was a wonderful caretaker.”

About the time that Stan Christopher left Ruby in 1996, Tommy Tynes attended a reunion of former Ruby residents. Hearing that Ruby was going to be short a caretaker, Tynes told Pat and Howard Frederick that he’d like the job.

Tommy Tynes worked for the state of Arizona as a heavy machinery lift operator for 36 years and looked at the Ruby caretaker job as a good retirement activity. Tynes was a responsible, caring, history-loving caretaker for four years. His goal was to open a self-operated museum on the property. Howard Frederick said of him:

“People just thought the world of him and he was always there. … always on the job.

“He was the kind of person that there was a crisis, he was right on top of things. … [after an automobile accident in the Ruby area] Tommy immediately was up the hill with his cell phone, calling paramedics, getting helicopter in, and all on his own back.”

In 2000 Stealth Enterprises hired Tommy Tynes to bulldoze a better road to the nearby Yellow Jacket mine sight. Tynes’ long service to two of the better-known mines in the Oro Blanco Mining District ended with his death on February 24, 2004.

(Sources: Interview with Pat and Howard Frederick, The Connection, “Remembering Ruby” website)

Christopher and Tynes

Stan Christopher (left) and Tommy Tynes (right) were two of the more colorful caretakers of Ruby. (Christopher photo courtesy of The Connection; Tynes photo from private files of Tallia Pfrimmer Cahoon)

Next Time: Ruby Reunions

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