Mary tightened the last screw on the wall joist and set down the screwdriver. She was done.
She stepped outside the tiny cabin and sat on a rock. She rolled herself a cigarette and smoked and gazed over the valley at Baboquivari, whom the Yaqui called the Navel of the Universe. The valley was all reservation land except for this, her tiny parcel.
She’d found the claim by poring over thousands of county records, buried deep in a mining dispute. It was a quarter acre and cost her 500.00. She’d built the cabin and dragged the sections up piece by piece.
I grew up in the shadow this mountain range, the Santa Catalinas. The Tohono people called it Frog Mountain. The north side was rumored to contain a gold mine, but its real treasure was the sixty-degree drop in temperature you experienced on hot summer days by driving an hour.
This story is about a friend of my dad’s, Mary DelVillar Porter, and a different mountain. She bought a sliver of land and built a cabin of plywood, getting friends to help her pack it up the two miles of rugged mountain to her spot. It took weeks of hard work. Mary was an American original who wrote one of the best travel memoirs I ever read. She spent weeks at a time in her mountain retreat.