Doing business at the base of Picacho Peak for a reported 30-plus years, the Peak Trading Post was a successful purveyor of Indian arts and crafts, blankets, jewelry, and other thematic merchandise. Adorned with the usual Native American emblems, it was also an expo of red-skinned stereotype. Wooden caricatures lined the building's facade: a squaw with her hair in braids and headdress-adorned chiefs with their arms crossed stoically. Totem poles, of course, towered above the entryway, despite their being ridiculously out of place so far from the Pacific Northwest.
Most notorious was the 20-foot, shirtless Indian perched at the shop's corner. Standing sentry over the Peak, the fiberglass brave wore feathers on his head and leather fringe on his pants. With a skyward thrust of his right hand, he greeted approaching customers with a silent "How!" In his other hand, he gripped a hatchet.
Yet, like so many of Arizona's trading posts, most of it is now just a memory. The Peak vanished suddenly in a fiery blaze years ago. What started the fire, however, is uncertain. A 70-year-old neighbor, who tried unsuccessfully to extinguish the flames with a garden hose, said she saw a flash of light before it all erupted in a fireball. She had assumed it was lightning, but the sky that night was clear. A former employee, when asked what she thought had been the cause of the fire, responded, "Insurance?"
Today, the trading post looks as it did moments after the smoke cleared. Little remains but ashes and twisted metal.
By some miracle, the wooden figures survived, although they're teetering and charred from the flames. The bare-chested warrior, on the other hand, looks as though he exploded. His oversized appendages lay scattered about. Here, an amputated foot; next to it, a leg melted at the knee; over there, two dismembered hands, blackened and fraying. If the big Indian still had a face, a single tear would be rolling down his cheek.