Tourist Help Page

"The Tenderfoot Page"

Visiting Arizona for the first time? Welcome to the Wild West, which is plenty alive if you know where to look. This is a great place to look around and take in what Red Steagall calls, "The beauty, the grandeur, and the drama of the American West."

Every place has its own little unique way of doing things, and we're no exception. Sure, there are a ton of transplants, retirees, and snowbirds living here, but if you want a more authentic and enjoyable time of it, you might appreciate these little tips. It'll give you a touch of incognito and Arizona authenticity, which is in itself part of the experience. It takes two people from anywhere else to believe a Western tale, so you need all the help you can get to break down a Zonie.

Here goes:

Local Terms and other Cultural Items

Tenderfoot - If you're reading this, you're a tenderfoot. Some folks might also refer to you as a Greenhorn. We all started somewhere, folks, and we're more than happy to help you out. An understanding of our terminology and a little background will make your experience a great deal more authentic.

Prescott - Prescott suffers from the same problem that Tucson did many years ago. In those days, Tucson was frequently pronounced Tuck-Sun by folks from other places. The correct way, of course, is Too-Sonn. Prescott has a similar problem today. If you pronounce the fine mountain town of Prescott as Press-Cott, you've definitely labeled yourself a greenhorn. The correct pronunciation is Press-Kit, much the same way a Waistcoat is a Wess-Kit. Tucson actually formed a taskforce to help folks out with their pronunciation problem. No word on Prescott's plans.

Chaps and Chinks - If you've ever watched any Westerns, you know what Chaps and Chinks are. What you might not know is that out here, they're not Chaps as in Chap-Stick. They're pronounced Shaps and Shinks. The reason? Well, the original terms were in Spanish, and when they were anglicized, that's how it came out.

Flagstaff - Arizonans frequently refer to Flagstaff as Flag. It's harmless.

The Five C's - Arizona's founding was based on the five C's: Copper, Cattle, Citrus, Cotton, Climate. It's something everyone once knew that grew up here, but is being lost. Real Estate has been the headline grabber in the state for so long that sometimes folks forget the important contributions made to our economy from Mining and Agriculture, which sometimes aren't quite as visible. Incidentally, the five points on the star in the State Flag are for the five C's.

Cowboys, Cowmen, and More - The terms aren't interchangeable. If you work cattle on a ranch, you're a Cowboy. If you own the ranch, you are not a'd be a Cowman.

Gymkhana and O-Mok-See - They're the same thing, more or less. Gymkhana is a series of equestrian events, and that's the term used back east. Gymkhana as it is practiced out here is at least partially descended of O-Mok-See, which was the Nez Perce word for a similar series. In more rural parts, you might encounter the term. This is not a bad thing; it is a reminder that the Cowboy and his Rodeo have been formed and influenced by many cultures. Much of what we have as Buckaroos (a corruption of the Mexican word Vaquero, pronounced Bach-ero in their tongue) came from Mexico by way of the Spanish Rancheros (who also gave us the Mustang after a fashion). The Vaqueros started off Rodeos (Rodeo means Roundup in Spanish), giving us many of the roughstock events that are still practiced (Bull Riding goes back to the 1500s!). Pole Bending was known as the Stake Race to the Nez Perce (who also perfected and gave us the Appaloosa Breed). Still others are homegrown events. Bulldogging (Steer Wrestling) was the invention of Bill Pickett, an African-American Cowboy from Texas (Roughly 25% of Cowboys were black in the heyday, although estimates vary). Barrel Racing arose from sponsor girl competitions in the Gene Autry rodeos. The contests formed as a way to allow women to showcase their horsemanship skills without riding roughstock.

Looking for a Chestnut Horse? Unless it is a Liver Chestnut, it's going to be hard. We call them Sorrels out here. Again, that's probably out of Spanish somewhere back.

Lope or Canter? This is a great way to get into a fight with horse people out here. One school of thought says that the lope and the canter are different terms for more or less the same thing, while others try to differentiate. Good luck. The safe bet is to just call it a lope out here and cross your fingers, pardner.

Cutting Sign - If you're looking for someone by following their trail, you're cutting sign in these parts. It's an old term for following horse trails, but the term has stuck.

Why all the John Wayne stuff in Arizona? John Wayne owned several ranches (including the Red River feedlot) out here and was an accomplished Hereford breeder. Monument Valley is in Arizona, not Texas (The Great State of Texas 'round these parts). Confusion arose on that due to a misquote of John Ford. Wayne and Ford, long considered giants in the Western Film genre, promoted Monument Valley extensively and loved the dramatic landscapes that were so perfect for their films. See? It isn't all tourist trap stuff after all...

Folks who are "LDS" - That's another term for Mormons. Roughly 20% of Arizona's residents are Mormon, and they played an important role in settling our state. LDS is for Latter Day Saints.

Open Carry of Firearms - With a few exceptions, Arizona is an open carry state. As long as a firearm is "in plain view", it is not considered brandishment. Concealed carry is allowed with a permit. There are reciprocity agreements with several states, which you can find on the Department of Public Safety's Website.

Range Cattle - Arizona is a Free Range State. Cattle are permitted to graze on certain portions of the public lands. If you border land like that and you don't want to have your lawn or garden raided, a sturdy fence is probably a good idea.

A Couple Hours? But how many miles is it from here? This is Western thang. Distances from one place to another are generally expressed in terms of time's journey rather than miles. If you push hard enough, you can usually get it in miles. Don't fall over backwards if you think twenty or thirty miles is a long drive, though.

Desert Recreation and Tourism

Are you a first-timer to the ol' dry desert? We're glad to have you. There are a few things you'll want to keep in mind if you're desert-bound, be it in a Jeep, a Quad, a Horse, or on Foot.

Water, Water, Water! - Just because you and your animals aren't visibly sweating doesn't mean you aren't. In the summer, our humidity can drop to 8%. The air sucks the water right out of you, your dog, your horse, and your stock. You'll want to have some water along if you're desert-bound, and don't forget about those animals.

Tell someone your plans - Make sure someone knows where you're going and when your expected return time is.

Watch for Animals - Arizona is a Free Range state, and livestock is everywhere. You never know what's around that blind corner...

Rattlesnakes - Lots of folks ask us about rattlers. They're around, of course. You're most likely to run into a rattler at dawn or dusk, and spring or fall as opposed to summer or winter. They hibernate in the winter in most places.

The most common "rattler" out here is the Western Diamondback. There are two other snakes out here that folks sometimes think are rattlers but aren't. One is the King Snake, which actually preys on rattlers. You'll know it's a King Snake because he doesn't have any rattles. Then, there is the Bull Snake. How people mistake a Bull Snake for a rattler, I do not know. They're black and white, with a rounded head. Again, the Bull Snake is fairly harmless.

Gates - Arizona Law states that passers by are to leave all gates in the position they found them. If you open a gate to enter public land, please close it behind you. We wouldn't want a man's cattle to trudge out into the highway.

Wire Fence - If you find a collapsed wire fence, don't try to fix it unless you've got the tools to do so. If the fence is tagged, please report the break to the number on the tag. Location information is always can take a man days to ride fence and find it.


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