“This valley … appealed to me strangely the first time I came to it; not only its abundant warmth but the wonderful peace and quiet of it, which only a dweller of the desert can understand and appreciate.”
— Dick Wick Hall, Arizona humorist
American towns are sometimes identified with things that happen, or happened, in them. Fort Worth, for example, is “where the West begins.” Dallas, as Will Rogers observed, is “where the East peters out.” And Salome, in Arizona, is “where she danced.”
Salome, which prides itself as being “in the heart of the Arizona Outback,” is between Quartzite and Wickenburg on U.S. 60, the route that we’ll take from California to Phoenix on our cross-country bicycle journey this fall.
The curiously named desert town of about 1,700, in the McMullen Valley between the Harquahala and Harcuvar mountain ranges, was established in 1904 by Charles H. Pratt, with the help of Dick Wick Hall and his brother Ernest. It once was the main stopping point on the Santa Fe Railroad between Los Angeles and Phoenix.
Hall, a miner, humorist and publisher of the Salome Sun, wrote in his newspaper in 1921: “The train stops here twice each day — when it goes from Phoenix and when it comes back from Los Angeles. Some folks have wondered why it comes back from Los Angeles but the engineer’s wife has the asthma and lives in Phoenix — so he comes back. The train stops here because Salome has the only good water for a long ways — and the engine has to have water.”
Hall gained fame in Arizona for his humorous writing, a syndicated newspaper column in the 1920s and a pet frog who, he said, never learned to swim because Salome had no rain. He died on April 28, 1926.
And what of the town’s name?
Salome was a biblical temptress who performed her dance of the seven veils so seductively for Herod Antipas, ruler of Galilee in Palestine, that he offered her whatever she wished. At the suggestion of her mother, she asked for the head of John the Baptist on a plate.
Pratt’s wife was named Grace Salome, and she did a dance, too — not a dance of seduction, but one of pain. She had taken off her shoes in the Sonoran Desert and danced to keep the soles of her feet from burning on the hot sand.
Her reward was to have a town named after her. Hall drew stick figures of Salome’s dance, and, like many a newspaper proprietor boosting his town, hyped it as the place where Salome danced.