Oral Histories

Lloyd M. Pierson

Lloyd Pierson

We stayed there until July when they decided to move us to Tonto . While there it was decided the lower ruin should be excavated. We had nothing but an old BolseY 35mm camera for special equipment. The ruin had been stabilized and mapped.

I didn’t want to dig through some of the floors, but going back later I might as well have. The squirrels had dug them up. So the big project was this Room 16 which was full of debris. At the bottom of a test pit here’s this Wriggly gum wrapper, so I figured it had been churned, which it had. I hired three guys, prospectors, one of them was young, hell, they were moving dirt faster than I could keep up with.

J. Did that affict your allergy?

L. Oh, I was smarter by then. We had to get masks which we wore. Kept the stuff out in front. We screened it pretty well and we were running into all sorts of dry material. The thing that started it, I guess, and part of my job was taking tours through the ruin. I saw a piece of matting in one room sticking out of the floor. So, not to get in trouble, I went to Charlie Sharp, th superintendent and said, “Charlie, there is something up there and we’d better take it out before somebody rips it out.” So Marian got the job. It was a burial of a child. Probably Salado but it could have been Yavapai, a later culture, because it had material with it which could have belonged to either one. But we decided it was Salado. The little male had a little hat. After we got the mat out, here was a cradle board out of woven bear grass with slats on the sides, but it had been cut right down the middle and stacked together. Underneath that was another mat and then the kid and the kid had a bundle of arrows, no points, they were wooden tipped. He had a little gourd pot with strings on it to make a cradle. He had several small baskets, cornhusks, beans, jack beans, can’t remember what else. I guess that triggered Erik Reed in the regional office and that’s when I got the $800 bucks to excavate. We cleaned out Room 16, which apparently was a work room because we’d find bean pods, amaranth, parts of sandals, corn cobs and other vegetable material. Marian was in one roon; the floor was kind of uneven and she was picking up worn out sandals they’d plastered in to repair the floor. She just took a trowel and flipped them out.

J. When did you have kids?

L. We had one down there; that was Dale. We finished (Room 16) and there was another ruin. I hadn’t used up the $800 bucks and I wasn’t about to give any of the money back. Another ruin just east of the main ruin; kind of hard to get to but it was under an overhang and it was a shelf and down below there was a terrace. So we cleaned it out; there wasn’t much excavation but we did find some stone hoes and another burial.

J. Did you write this up?

L. Oh, yes. Finally, after about ten years, it got published along with some other work at Tonto. We were living in a little trailer that caught fire because of the regulator on the butane tank had popped. Or come out, but anyhow the gas had leaked and come down, the gas got ignited by the pilot light in the hot water heater so I learned about butane, propane, whatever. So we found out from a friend at Montezuma Castle that they had just got rid of an alcoholic ranger who had a house. John Davis told me it was a ranger position. I told him I was qualified to be a ranger and the job was the same as Tonto, taking tours and stuff. He was going to bring in a trailer or some damn thing. I’d had it for two or two and half years. Dale was born in Phoenix just before we moved to the Castle and lived in a house.

J. It sounds like you talked yourself into a job.

L. Well, I almost fell out the Castle once and I took the last trip through it. I did a survey of the Castle grounds for an archeological base map. Over at the well, we did the same thing. A friend of mine I’d gone to school with was over at Tuzigoot and he had a plane table and an alidade so we were able to do some real mapping. There were ruins around the well. That was one thing I accomplished there.

Then they were building the new roads through there. May have been the start of the interstate. There was a cave that was involved. In those days we kind of worked for free on weekends and I salvaged what we called Richard’s Caves. They had 1150 A.D. homes in there. Years later when I was down in Mexico in the Tarahumara country, I saw the same damn thing. What they did was they built walls up and they didn’t put a roof on them, but they didn’t have too because they were in a cave. But they wanted some privacy.

In retrospect I think the Apaches had been in there (too) because in the first layer was some Apache basketry. One room I think was a kiva. Didn’t recognize it at that time. It had a platform at the back and loom anchors in the floor.

J. When did you come up north?

L. I was working my way up. We also excavated a Hohokam pithouse and I was writing up the stuff I did at Tonto. One of the sesonal rangers that lived up the creek went to work for a chicken farmer and he came in one day and he told me that they cleared off this area to put up a chicken house and he says, “There’s a lot of ash and stuff there. I think you’d better come and look at it.” It was a whole Hohokam style pithouse, we excavated half of it – the other half was underneath the fence. We got the biggest part of it. This was a 900-1100 A.D. pithouse. Nothing in it. A few pot sherds and that was about it. That was the extent of my archeology there.

Read the other Oral Histories