Bonnie Henry : Amados and the land are one

2009-02-15T00:00:00Z Bonnie Henry : Amados and the land are oneOpinion by Bonnie Henry Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 15, 2009 12:00 am  • 

Freeways and shopping centers sprawl where the cattle once ran, all the way from Nogales to Cortaro.

And on those cattle rode the brand "MA," for Manuel Amado, patriarch of a family whose roots run deep in Southern Arizona.

The name lives on through the settlement of Amado, off Interstate 19 south of Green Valley.

And it lives on in Amado's many descendants, including his great-grandson Henry Amado, who still ranches in Southern Arizona.

From Spain and Mexico the family moved north, settling about 1850 into Southern Arizona, then part of Mexico.

In 1852, Manuel Amado began ranching south of Tucson between the Canoa and Otero Spanish land grants. With no fences, his cattle roamed from the border to north of Tucson.

"It was all open range," says Henry Amado, 73, who runs his office, Amado & Associates CPAs, with his son, Greg, on East Camp Lowell Drive — not far from where his great-grandfather once supplied the grain for Fort Lowell horses.

For a time the family also ranched near Mission San Xavier del Bac, where they ran a dairy. But after what is now the Tohono O'odham Reservation at San Xavier was established in 1874, the Amados were eventually forced out.

In the August 1955 issue of Arizona Cattlelog, Manuel's son, Antonio Amado, recounted how, as a 6-year-old in 1880, he was on an errand in Tucson when he saw dense, billowing smoke to the south. Government agents had set fire to the family's ranch.

And so they retreated to what would become Amado, on their ranch called El Alamo Bonito, beautiful cottonwood.

The railroad opened a station nearby in 1910. In 1919 the Amadoville post office was established. A year later, the name was changed to Amado.

This is where the stockyards stood, as well as several stores, a train depot and pool hall. Today, the area, bisected by I-19, is known mainly for the Cow Palace restaurant.

Besides Amado, the family also kept a home, which still stands, in Tucson, where some of the children attended school.

Nine children were born to Manuel and Ismaela Amado, earlier known as Ysmael and then Ysmaela.

Two of the sons, Antonio and Demetrio — Henry's grandfather — were educated at the Jesuit San Ignacio Loyola College in San Francisco, then returned to ranching in Southern Arizona.

In 1904, Manuel Amado died and his property, including several ranches in the Amado area, was divided among his six surviving children. "Because Antonio took care of everything, he got half," says Henry.

"The other half went to the other brothers and sisters. Everybody got cattle and land, but all eventually sold out except Demetrio and Antonio. Demetrio got the ranch at Amado, and Antonio got what we called San Antonio." That ranch ran east of present-day I-19, just south of Green Valley.

In 1918 Demetrio sold a separate ranch he owned in Arivaca and bought up ranch land in what is now much of Green Valley west of I-19, running as many as 3,000 head of cattle.

"My grandfather was like the boss," says Henry. "He would ride around the ranch, then put on a tie. He was a businessman at the ranch."

And yet this educated man, who served as trustee for the Amado school and housed teachers at his ranch, would force his son, Miguel Amado — Henry's father — to quit school at age 13 to help with the ranch.

"My grandfather told my dad that after eight years he did not need to go to school anymore," says Henry. "He told him, 'You need to work the ranch.' "

Young Miguel was put in charge of putting up fence lines. Born and raised in Amado, he would ranch for the rest of his years, buying up land owned by two brothers, northwest and adjoining El Alamo Bonito.

This is the ranch Henry, one of nine children born to Miguel and Rosario Amado, grew up on, taking to the saddle by age 5.

"We used to take the horses and go to church at Alamo Bonito," says Henry, who with younger brothers Benjamin and Eugene were altar boys for the visiting priest.

Although the school his father attended at Amado was still running, young Henry went to Sopori School, about 10 miles away, "because Amado was in Santa Cruz County and we lived in Pima County."

After Henry finished the sixth grade, his father made arrangements for him to continue on at Safford Junior High School in Tucson. "I took the Citizen Auto Stage bus to Tucson. My dad paid $1.25 each way."

When Eugene and Benjamin were ready to join Henry, their father built a house in Tucson, where the family stayed. Even so, Henry and his brothers returned to the ranch every weekend, and sometimes after school.

"We lived in a small house, part wooden, part adobe. We had fresh milk every day, and eggs. We had 200 hogs. My dad would butcher two or three hogs and deliver them to the miners at Ruby." The family also grew corn, chiles, squash, black-eyed peas and other vegetables.

"My dad was known as the Produce King," says Henry. "We used to go to Jerry's Lee Ho Market in Tucson with 200 dozen ears of corn. We picked the corn, loaded it. We worked like men at age 10 and 12 years old."

But not all was unrelieved chores. There were rodeos at nearby Kinsley's Ranch and dances at the Halfway Station between Tucson and Nogales.

"At night, we and my dad and my mother's father, Grandpa Santiago Gastelum, would string red chiles in the light of the kerosene lamp, and my dad and my grandfather would tell us stories. We loved to listen."

Carmen Acevedo is sister to Henry's father, one of four girls out of seven children sired by Demetrio Amado.

"Our mother kept us close. The girls were very private," says Acevedo, who remembers picnics near Tubac and being home-schooled through the eighth grade.

When Acevedo was 11, tragedy struck the family when her parents were involved in an auto accident. Her mother, Carmen, was killed. "My father married my aunt," says Acevedo, who recently celebrated her 100th birthday at Henry's ranch in Patagonia.

"It's great that Henry still has the ranch," she says.

But it is not the ranch of his childhood, though Henry and a few other relatives still own a little land at Amado.

Miguel Amado roped and rode into his late 80s. When he died in 1997, son Henry, as trustee, offered to buy half the ranch and sell the other half. Though initially in agreement, some of the siblings, says Henry, backed off. The ranch was sold.

A year past his father's death, Henry bought a ranch in Patagonia, 50 deeded acres, 25,000 or so leased acres, several hundred cows and calves.

Its brand, of course, is the "MA."

Henry and Laurie Amado were just a natural match

Unlike his father, Miguel, who was denied an education after the eighth grade, Henry Amado went on to earn a degree from the University of Arizona.

A certified public accountant, he now heads his own firm, Amado & Associates CPAs, with son Greg as partner.

Wife Laurie Amado is also known in the business community, running the Kaibab Courtyard Shops on North Campbell Avenue until late last year.

She closed the shops, which included Desert House and Nambé Outlet, to spend more time with her family, which includes four children and four grandchildren. Not that she's through with shopkeeping.

"I decided to make a mini-version of the Desert House and retrofit it as a trading post," says Laurie, 64, who along with Henry is the local partner for the Paradies-Desert House shops at Tucson International Airport.

Born in Australia, Laurie moved to California when she was 6. She met Henry in 1961 while working behind an ice cream counter at Disneyland.

"I came in there with a bunch of guys, then came back later. Alone," says Henry. They married the following year.

"I still marvel how we got together," says Laurie.

Henry's career, which included working for the Internal Revenue Service in Los Angeles and in Washington, D.C., brought him back to Tucson in 1970, when he joined an accounting firm as a tax partner.

He and Laurie have been active in the community for years, serving on everything from the Tucson Pima Arts Council and the YMCA to the Angel Ball and the Metropolitan Tucson Convention & Visitors Bureau.

"It's part of what we do, give back," says Laurie.

Man of two worlds is at home in both

The air is cooler here at 4,400 feet, the water more plentiful.

"The Casa Blanca Wash runs six months out of the year," says Henry Amado, as we bounce along in his pickup truck at Hacienda Amado, the ranch he bought near Patagonia in 1998.

On it, he and wife Laurie have upgraded a former caretaker's house and built a spacious ranch house to accommodate family and friends.

Last month they hosted a party for 160 guests, celebrating the 100th birthday of Carmen Acevedo, the eldest in a family of more than 200 spanning five generations.

"We want to keep the legacy of the ranch going," says Henry, whose family has ranched in Southern Arizona for close to 160 years.

Henry and Laurie grab time at the ranch as much as they can. "There's such a feeling of peace that comes when we go down there," says Laurie.

While Henry is happy to show off his new digs, he's even happier at the corrals, saddling up.

"We trailer the horses in as far as we can, and I can go until I'm tired," says Henry, who owns 50 acres of deeded property and leases another 25,000 acres or so, running to the upper slopes of a looming Mount Wrightson.

"The cattle like it better up there," says Henry, who keeps what he calls 350 animal units, meaning one cow and her calf, or one bull. "I have 30 bulls on the ranch. Every year I sell some, buy some new ones." The ranch also supports 16 quarter horses.

He sells his livestock at auctions in Marana or Willcox, or online. "I just sold a full truckload," says Henry.

And for the first time last year, the roundup included a helicopter.

"For 364 days a year we are gathering and moving cattle by horseback, and one day a year we use the helicopter," says Mac Donaldson, who runs the nearby Empire Ranch and contracts out to help with Henry's ranch.

"We help get the cattle gathered, moved. Then we work with branding or shipping or the weaning of the calves," says Donaldson, whose father, John, has ranched in Arizona since 1947 and is his partner at the 72,000-acre Empire Ranch.

Because Henry has a day job, you could classify his spread as a gentleman's ranch, says Donaldson. "But he still cares about the bottom line."

Both he and the Amados have seen vast changes in the ranching industry.

"We've had a video auction on the Internet," says Donaldson, who also lauds new ways of range management.

"In the old days there was overgrazing. But we've learned to be sustainable. There are federal limits to the number of cattle we can have. We use fencing and water to create rotation for use and rest. We're trying to be good conservators of the land."

As for his neighbor: "Henry's doing a good job trying to hold the earth together," says Donaldson. "He's a good rancher."

Says Henry: "When I'm not at work, I'm here."

More than 200 Amados still call this area home

More than 200 members of the Amado family still live in the area. Several are educators, two are cops. Some sell real estate, others own their own businesses, from accounting to construction.

Marcos Amado is an officer with the Tucson Police Department. Although he grew up in Tucson, he spent much of his time at his grandfather Miguel Amado's ranch in Amado.

"I would work there the entire summer," says Marcos, 38. "My grandmother taught me how to ride a horse. My grandfather was extremely hardworking."

He remembers huge family gatherings under the mesquite and cottonwood trees and listening to family stories told by his uncles and aunts.

"For me, being an Amado, one of the founding families in that area, brings a sense of pride, a sense of family."

Marissa Amado-Ballesteros, 42, is a reading specialist and kindergarten teacher at the South Side Pueblo Gardens Elementary School, in the Tucson Unified School District.

She also carries fond memories of time spent at her grandfather Miguel's ranch. "That's where I learned to ride horseback, drive a car, drive a tractor. We watched them brand cattle, rode around in the hay wagon."

Her grandparents' house was small, dirt-packed floors in some rooms, no running water. "They did have a pump with an irrigation ditch," she says. "That's how they watered the fields."

Her grandmother, Rosario Gastelum Amado, would work the fields, take care of 10 or 15 kids every day and still have dinner made by 6 p.m., she says.

"My grandfather did not go far in school, but he used to read the Bible to us in English and in Spanish. I see people's hands that remind me of him — very parched, dry, dusty-looking. I still miss him."

Maria Amado Byers, 67, is lucky. Her grandfather, Antonio Amado, born in Tucson in 1874, lived to be 93 — long enough for his grandchildren to know him.

"I had a wonderful relationship with him," says Byers, who lived her first 10 years on her grandfather's 6,000-acre ranch south of Green Valley.

The ranch house, a four-bedroom adobe, was used for a backdrop in the 1967 Western "El Dorado," starring John Wayne.

When Byers was 7, she was helping her grandfather herd some cattle on foot. "I backed a cow into the brush. She had a calf. She charged me, knocked me down, caught me with her horn above my eye.

"My grandfather got me and we were walking to the house. I started to cry. He told me, 'Cowgirls don't cry.' "

Antonio Amado — son of Manuel, patriarch of the Amado family — died on Valentine's Day 1968. "It felt appropriate," says Byers. "It was Arizona Admission Day."

DID YOU KNOW

Desert Hills Golf Club in Green Valley was once part of a ranch owned by the Amados.

Bonnie Henry's column appears Sundays and Mondays. Reach her at 434-4074 or at bhenry@azstarnet .com, or write to 3295 W. Ina Road, Suite 125, Tucson AZ 85741.

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