Dick Wick Hall: The ‘Mark Twain’ of the Desert

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DICK WICK HALL: THE MARK ‘TWAIN’ OF THE DESERT
A Love Your Parks Tour Literary Story by Nancy J. Reid and Lisa D. Smith, assigned by the literary publicist team at JKS Communications.

As part of our road trip form Yuma, Arizona to Gallup, New Mexico, we were driving on Highway 60 towards Wickenburg and Prescott when we saw a sign for a historic marker in the tiny town of Salome. Naturally, we pulled over. The historic marker paid tribute to and was the grave site of Dick Wick Hall, a Mark Twain like humorist and road-sign pioneer. Hall was also a writer, prospector and businessman originally from Creston, Iowa.

As a 21 year old young man, Hall arrived in Arizona in 1898 after studying ornithology and engineering at the University of Nebraska. His intention was to live with the Hopi and learn about their Snake Dance. He traveled throughout Arizona taking several jobs ranging from ranching to government positions to running an amusement park in Phoenix. Eventually, Hall and his brother Ernest, moved to Wickenburg and started a newspaper. When the newspaper business led Hall into debt, he sold it and moved to Yuma County to work on an irrigation project.

When Hall heard the railroad was planning to lay tracks from Wickenburg to California, he sensed an opportunity. In 1904, with the help of Charles W. Pratt and other investors, he founded the town of Salome where they thought the railroad route would be. The railroad tracks were laid twenty miles south of where originally planned, but that did not phase Hall. Despite complaints, he moved the community and the Salome Post Office south to meet the railroad. Gold was discovered, much to Hall’s delight, near Salome in 1909. This prompted Hall to write news articles promoting Salome, in hopes of persuading people to invest in mining stock and purchasing town lots. Enchanted with the idea of becoming rich, he invested in mining and oil and continually pushed for better roads in the Salome area.

Hall started his ‘Laughing Gas Station’ and garage in Salome in 1921. At the same time he started a one sheet publication, the “Salome Sun,” to hand out to visitors to the area. He invented fictitious Salome residents like ‘Reptyle Kid,’ ‘Chloride Kate’, and ‘Sheep Dip Jim’. Perhaps the most famous, was a 7-year-old frog that could not swim because he had never seen water. Hall claimed Mrs. Grace Salome Pratt, the wife of Charles Pratt, his partner, once took off her shoes and danced as the hot sand burned her feet. This led to the town name and motto, ‘Salome – Where She Danced.’

Due to the humor in his writing, the visitors passed the “Salome Sun” to friends and family. Hall became known as Arizona’s best known humorist. His writings ended up in several magazines and newspapers, including, the “Los Angeles Examiner” and the “Saturday Evening Post.” He was often compared to Will Rogers and Mark Twain.


Hall also made funny signs to post along the dirt road in both directions leading into town. Sayings like “Free Hot Air” and “Smile, Smile, Smile; You Don’t Have to Live Here But We Do,” gave travelers something to laugh about as they traveled the hot, dusty road.


Later Hall started the Blue Rock Inne and built the Greasewood Lynx Golf Course. The course plans, according to Hall, had been soaked in perspiration and he read “yds” (yards) as “rds” (rods), making the course the largest in the U.S. Jokingly, Hall would warn of bandits, Gila monsters, jumping cactus, and poison water holes on the course. He claimed it would take two months to play one round, but he would provide canteens, pack mules and maps for golfers.


In early 1926, Hall signed a contract to become a screenwriter for Universal Studios. Unfortunately shortly after a multiple tooth extraction, he developed an infection and died on April 28, 1926.

 

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