Elderly woman's stubbornness gave quite a lift to mining official

Elderly woman's stubbornness gave quite a lift to mining official
John Jennings, Tucson Citizen

[note: this typescript was created in February 2004 from a newspaper clipping contained in the Oracle Historical Society's collection of artifacts from and about Eulalia Bourne. We are guessing that the original article appeared in the early 1980s.]

Go fly a kite, she told him.

It was more than a decade ago, and Eulalia "Sister" Bourne was in her middle '70s. The mining official and his gussied-up attorney spent a whole afternoon trying to talk her into selling her ranch and taking a check.

Sister, who picked up her monicker from a sibling who couldn't pronounce her real name, is a living legend in Arizona education. She started teaching on the even of World War 1 and put in stints at country schools all over Pima County. Then she sat down and wrote three popular books about her experiences.

She also was very active in state Democratic circles, rubbing elbows with governors. But most of all, she was independent. And she has run her ranch, not far from Mammoth, her way since the early 1950s.

So when those mining people showed up, asking about buying the place, she was hesitant. After haggling awhile, it was agreed that if she did sell to the mining firm, she would be allowed to keep her cattle on the ranch and live there until she died.

Then the sale price was kicked around for another hour or so. Finally that was pinned down to everyone's satisfaction.

Next came the discussion of "up front" money to hold the deal open. The handsome mining official with the patch over one eye was insisting that their offer was a fair one.

The firm would hand Sister a check up front for $1,000. The only string attached was that if the sale fell through, she would have to give back that money.

The firm's nattily attired attorney shoved the check toward the slight, elderly woman in work shirt, blue jeans, and straw hat.

No thanks, she said, and told him where he could put it.

But it was a virtual certainty that the sale would go through, the mining official told her.
She would be crazy not to take the money.

Sister stood her ground. She wasn't the least bit interested unless that $1,000 was free of strings.

The fight raged on for a couple of hours, with the mining official pleading, cajoling and arguing with the wiry, gray-haired woman. The attorney kept shoving the check toward her. She kept shoving it back.

Finally, she had enough. "Out!" she ordered.

The heated discussion continued as she shooed them out of her house.

Finally, the mining official reached his boiling point.

"I've had it!" he shouted. Then, turning to the attorney, he snapped, "Give the crazy old woman the check!"

"No strings?" Sister asked, "No strings," the fellow grumbled.

Turned out that the sale went through without a hitch, just like the man had promised.
Sister thought that was the last she'd see of that good-looking fellow with the patch over his eye.

Not so.

He was a frequent visitor to the firm's mining operation next to the ranch. And he always made a point of stopping in to see her - and to remind her what an ornery old thing she was. He also told her about his hobby and this nutty dream of his.

You see, he was quite a balloonist and he had this silly notion that he could fly one of them contraptions across the Atlantic Ocean.

The man's name? Maxie Anderson.

Their friendship ended when he died in a balloon accident last June in Europe, but not before that silly idea of his came to pass. He, Ben Abruzzo and Larry Newman made history in 1978 when they soared across the Atlantic and landed their balloon, the Double Eagle II, in France.

Two years later, Anderson and his son, Kris, made the first non-stop balloon crossing of North America.

Maxie Anderson gave Sister a silver medallion after the Atlantic crossing. He had clung stubbornly to his dream, and all that effort finally paid off.

Makes you wonder where he could have learned about stubbornness, doesn't it?