My youngest son, Keith, frequently asks about his family heritage from the Nixon perspective. He’s had this curiosity since he was young, but his inquiries continue during his adult years. I have shared with him that from his grandfather’s side, we are predominately Irish, Polish and German with a small percentage of Native American. His grandmother’s side brings Scottish, Welsh, English and German.
His namesake was his great-grandfather on my mother’s side: a miner, railroad man and fiction writer named Leslie Keith (or L.K. as he was better known) Davis. L.K. loved to mine in various Arizona mountains after he retired from years of railroading in southern Arizona and the mines in Ajo. I told Keith his great-grandfather had various claims in the Globe-Miami and Superior areas as well as the Picacho Mountains. This required L.K. to file those claims with Pinal County officials in Florence.
I never had the opportunity to discuss those claims or his impressions of Florence up to the early 1960s. But I told Keith that his bloodlines in Arizona go back to approximately 1915 when L.K. first arrived from Missouri. He lived in Arizona until his death in 1965.
Because my grandfather frequented Pinal County and Florence many years ago, it’s possible he knew Charles Whitlow. Whitlow was born here in 1899 and was raised on the W-4 Ranch that taught him the skills needed for successful ranching. Whitlow used his knowledge of roping and wrestling steers and calves to compete in national rodeos.
He also had a passion to help Florence’s children by serving terms on the school board. It was a natural progression for Whitlow to combine his cowboy skills with his passion to help and serve local children when he started the Junior Parada Rodeo in 1932.
This year’s rodeo, which begins on Nov. 29, is the 87th event and is branded as the “Oldest Jr. Rodeo” in our country. Our department organizes and presents the Junior Parada Parade on Nov. 30 starting at 10 a.m. This parade is a showcase for the rodeo royalty and helps us understand and appreciate the town’s history and Western heritage.
The rodeo is at the Charles Whitlow Rodeo Arena about 2 miles south on Highway 79. Cowboys and cowgirls up through age 18 will compete in traditional rodeo events and will appreciate substantial crowds cheering their efforts and successes. The colorful parade will have a variety of riders and floats, so this Florence tradition is worth seeing on Nov. 30 on downtown Main Street.
The community will soon benefit from the months of meetings, correspondence and volunteer recruitment when our first farmer’s market is held from 8-11 a.m. Saturday in the Library and Community Center parking lot.
The town is now part of Borderland Produce’s POWWOW program which stands for Produce on Wheels Without Waste. Borderlands has agreements with state growers to make excess produce available to the public. I’ve been in recreation for over 35 years and been responsible for many special events, including national softball tournaments, regional elementary track meets, triathlons and more.
But I have never coordinated a farmer’s market. I am confident, however, that Saturday’s event and future POWWOWs will be successful and become a staple in the community. Director of Community Services Bryan Hughes, administrative assistant Trish Buchanan and I have worked since April to bring this opportunity for others to purchase healthy and 70 pounds of tasty produce for $12.
I must thank everyone who volunteered to help with our POWWOW. They are the key to POWWOW and we’re confident we have a good group to make it successful. We hope to see everyone this Saturday at the first POWWOW event.