Though I had never ventured this deep into the Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Superior, Arizona, as I looked at the rock jutting over the path, I felt like I had been here before. Then I realized: I had seen this site in the infamous Arboretum Picnic pictures.
I say “infamous” only because my grandfather, William B. Thompson, left behind a dozen photos of the event, which must have occurred shortly after his uncle, William Boyce Thompson, had died. None of the photos are labeled, so it’s not certain who attended that day, or even when the picnic was held.
It was a strange sensation to be walking in my ancestors’ footsteps. I could almost hear my grandmother Meanie’s laughter, smell the smoke from great grandfather J.E. Thompson’s cigar, feel the presence of his sister, Mabel Thompson, about whom we know very little.
My second thought, after walking around the park in the hot afternoon sun, was that this was a delightful, if not ideal place to have a picnic; in the shade of a rock outcropping, within earshot of meandering Queen Creek, where my great uncle used to torture his favorite employee by ordering him to search for gold, even though he had little chance of finding any.