Fitz column mug

David Fitzsimmons, Tucson’s most beloved ink-stained wretch.

I was out hiking when I came across an arrowhead that looked unusual. It was made of pink stone and had an unusual heart shape. I was delighted. I had found the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for my wife. That night I placed it under my pillow for safekeeping.

At midnight I was startled by a tiny voice. “That arrowhead is mine.” I looked at the foot of our bed and saw a little boy with curly black hair, white wings, a quiver and a bow.

“Who are you?”

“Cupido, Señor. El Angel del Amor.”

“Quiet! Don’t wake her!”

“May I have my arrowhead?”

“Depends. Is there a reward?”

Cupido groaned. He plucked an arrow from his quiver, laid it across his bow and pointed it at my heart. “Por favor, Señor. The arrowhead.”

I wanted to keep it at any cost. “Let’s barter for it.”

Cupido lowered his bow. “If I showed you the most romantic spot in all of Tucson — would you like that, Señor?”

I tugged on my boots and followed El Angel Del Amor downtown to Barrio Viejo. “Behold, El Tiradito.”

Before us was a beautiful old adobe shrine. Freshly lit candles cast a warm glow on the hundreds of trinkets and mementos left by pilgrims. “What happened here?”

“In 1870 a handsome young ranch hand, named Juan Olivera, married the beautiful daughter of a Mexican rancher. In spite of the fact his very young wife was carrying his child, Juan Olivera fell in love with his beautiful mother-in-law. It wasn’t long before their forbidden passion, the object of much gossip in the Old Pueblo, was discovered by the old rancher when, one afternoon, he returned to his hacienda earlier than expected. There, by the bedroom door, the old man saw the ax that Juan had been using earlier in the day to clear brush. He grabbed it and chased Juan to the very spot where you are standing and chopped him into a hundred pieces, chop, chop, chop, dispatching the poor sinner to hell, limb by limb. Because Juan had committed such a terrible sin, the church refused to bury him in consecrated ground. His remains were buried here beneath your feet, Señor.”

“That’s not romantic!”

“Wait! There’s more. Juan’s pregnant wife, the old rancher’s beautiful daughter, found her unfaithful husband’s remains. Brokenhearted, she threw herself down a well, killing herself and her unborn child.”

“This is awful! Where’s the romance?”

“By taking her life, and that of their baby, she, too, was condemned to hell, where she was reunited with Juan, who begged her forgiveness. Love conquers all, sí? They are together, in hell, for eternity.”

“Any couple who stays in Tucson through the summer can relate to that. To be honest I was hoping for a ‘Sleepless in Sonora’ story and all I’m getting here is a cross between “An Affair to Remember” and ‘The Shining’. What happened to Mr. Lizzie Borden?”

“The old rancher fled to Sonora. After a while he decided it was safe to come back to Tucson get his cattle.”

“Let me guess. On the way back he fell in love with a woman who clubbed him to death and a mountain lion ate his face while a herd of crazed javelina stomped his bones into dust.”

“No, Señor. On his way back he was robbed by Apaches. They shot him and crucified him on a saguaro, where he was left to die a horrible, agonizing death.”

“Good grief! I don’t get it. Why are so many people drawn to this place?”

“The heartbroken come here, Señor. To pray for comfort. Lovers come here to pray for the tormented souls of the lovers. People come here to promise eternal fidelity. People marry here. There is no place like El Tiradito.” El Angel Del Amor held out his little hand. “We are all sinners and lovers, no? May I have my arrowhead now?”

I handed him the heart-shaped arrowhead. As I watched him fly off into the sunrise I realized I had been out all night. My sweetheart must be awake by now, wondering where I am. Was I alone all night? Was I having an affair? I ran home, anxious to put her mind at ease. When I finally arrived at our home, I burst in, declared my undying love for her and nervously said, ”You won’t believe where I was all night. Heh, heh, heh. And who I was with.” She folded her arms. She did not look happy.

“Say,” I said, ”before I go any further here, I have a question, Sweetheart. Is that ax I was using to chop firewood last week locked safely away in our shed?”

David Fitzsimmons: