Lost Dutchman Days - Apache Junction, Arizona

About 100 years ago, Apache Junction was a small but thriving gold mining town. Legend has it, a Dutchman moved into the area and took up residence on Superstition Mountain. People rarely saw him but ever so often, the Dutchman would come into town carrying Spanish gold, live it up for a few nights, and buy everything he needed before returning mysteriously back to his home. His presence caused quite a stir whenever he appeared, but it all ended one evening after a bar scuffle turned into gunfire and the Dutchman was shot dead. It wasn’t long before people headed to Superstition Mountain looking for the remainder of the Dutchman’s Spanish gold. The treasure, however, was never found.

America is the home of rodeos, and what would the AFP be without a true western event like the Lost Dutchman Days? Being newbies to the world of calf-roping, barrel-racing, bull-riding, and saddle broncs, we searched for an experienced rodeo man that could show us the ropes. We were fortunate enough to find Timber Tuckness, a rodeo clown of 25+ years. He taught us that the world of rodeo is rich with tradition and heritage. Timber grew up in a family of rodeo clowns and his son works as a bull fighter. Throughout the day, we noticed that many of the riders and performers in the rodeo were announced as the son or daughters of famous cowboys. 

As we photographed the event, we watched men from ages seventeen to forty jump on wild beasts and risk injury and death for fame and fortune. It was truly gripping.  It bewildered us as to why anyone would do something so dangerous as mount a 2-ton angry bull, but as we started talking to a few cowboys, we learned that it was the temptation of cold, hard cash that kept these guys ‘roped in’.

The afternoon sun fell behind the grandstand and the last of the bulls and broncos tossed their brave riders onto the dirt. Timber performed his last jokes and wished the crowd a good evening. The cowboys, some with pockets full of cash, packed up their saddles, dusted off their jeans, and drove the long stretches of Arizona desert to their ranches and hometowns. We did the photographer’s equivalent: we dusted off our lenses, packed up our camera bodies, stowed away our memory cards, and went in search of a well-earned cold beer.