Hillside Castle - Catholic Rural Life

Hillside Castle

Sandy Anderson • February 3, 2021

Rural Outreach and Ministry

In Hillside Castle, Sandy Anderson shares a piece of her life with her granddaughters and her readers. This true story depicts one ‘interlude’ of time living in a small mining town in Yawapai County, AZ with her devoted parents who committed themselves to sharing and passing down their rich Catholic faith; and passing down the gift of recognizing and appreciating beauty in everything – the smell of a new book, the sounds in the mill, new swimming holes created from flood rains, and the beauty of creation.

“Sometimes we could watch almost the whole process as the chunks of ore were turned into a powdery concentrate, which the dump trucks would haul away. Back up the scary, winding, steep road they would crawl, out of the canyon to the railroad settlement near Date Creek, to unload the concentrate onto the trains. Off into the world it would go, to become…what did it become? I don’t know. The mine at Hillside had begun with the extraction of gold and silver. But other nearby mines had hauled their ore to be processed at the mill. So many, very many, most of the things we find so convenient in our daily lives – our cars, our refrigerators, our telephones, or at least a lot of their components – have come from boulders hacked out of the earth by elvish men with muscular shoulders, dusty faces, and white smiles. (…)

Of course, my formal education has been interrupted. I no longer had St. Joseph’s Academy, but I still had my fourth grade to finish, and Bruce, small though he was, could not be left behind either. My mother became my teacher, more than she had ever been before. What fun! She had not been educated beyond high school, but she was interested in…everything. I learned the multiplication tables forwards and backwards from the cards she held up. I had never seen the city of Montgomery, and I probably never will, but it was important to learn it was the capital of Alabama. I became familiar with the geography and cultures of other lands.

Best of all, she saw to it that we would recognize the beauty in whatever surrounded us. She saw everything; she really looked at everything. We learned to do the same. (…)

None of this, of course, had been just an accident. We have the angels to bring about significant encounters. And Jesus Himself is following, always following His people to the ends of the earth. Into the barrios and dust and noise of border-town Mexico. Into the largest, brightest cities, into the crude remoteness of a mining camp, or the loneliness of a ranch’s line shack. He is always pursuing, and at the same time accompanying us. Going ahead of us, too, in His church, carrying His presence in word and sacrament. (…)

When our family finally did leave the Hillside Mine and moved into the little town of Bagdad, perched at the edge of a huge open-pit copper mine, where layers and layers of mountainside lay exposed, there Jesus was, ahead of us, waiting in humble St. Francis of Assisi Church. Waiting for us in His Holy Eucharist.

See Him! Behold the Lamb of God! Look at what has come to Bagdad, Arizona, of all places. Bagdad, a town the size of a mustard seed. Seeking His people, even here. Feeding His sheep. The baby in the manger, the transfigured Christ, the Christ on the Cross, the resurrected Christ. How great and generous He is. And yes, how humble to remain here, as He is. In the Blessed Sacrament. (…)

Everything we do, everything we need, or think we need, costs the earth something. To deny our part in this would be dishonest.

This world will always be an imperfect place. Metals still have to be extracted, trees felled, dams and highways built, cattle butchered, and meadows plowed. Even the reclamation of the Boulder Creek area is imperfect. In our lifetimes it will never be quite the same as when it was created.

But there is hope. Our whole life is a pilgrimage, an interlude! God has promised us a new heaven and a new earth. And if God can restore our very bodies to their original glory, certainly he can restore the wounded earth, if He chooses.”

– Sandy Anderson is an author of several books including Hillside Castle, The Last Hound, and Ever Green. She and her husband reside in Arizona and are lifetime members of CRL.

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