The Moyza Ranch

by Mary Kasulaitis

Welcome to Moyza, population 67. The little sign at about milepost 11 on the Arivaca Road introduces you to a community whose roots go back to the 1870s. On Spanish maps the place name “Aquituni” may be this part of the upper Sopori Valley, where Papalote Wash intersects from the south. Nowadays an organic farm, pistachio groves and comfortable homes are scattered about, revealing a continuing attraction for the locale where Eufemianio Moyza settled in about 1879. Moyza and his mother Ramona came to Tubac in the early 1870s by wagon train from California, and found it to their liking. Not too many settlers competed with Moyza as he searched out and found a pretty hillside next to a flat valley where he could envision fertile fields and cattle grazing. Having come from the Santa Barbara area, he was used to fruit trees and green fields. He brought those to the Sopori Valley. A large garden fed his children and produced enough to sell. He built a lovely large home for himself and his wife, and provided for his married children as well.

Eufemianio Moyza was born in 1854 of Spanish and German descent. After his first wife died, he married Angelita Mejia who was from Sonora. They had eight children: Petra, Magdalena, Lencho, Rafael, Manuel, Ramon, Ramoncito and Nacho. The eldest daughter, Petra, married Ramon Badilla who was born on the Sopori. He came to live with his wife’s family at the Moyza ranch where they built their own home. Two of their children, Dolores Badilla Celaya and Lupe Badilla, told stories about growing up on the ranch in the 1930s.

“During the summer we always had a lot of people (relatives) come to the ranch and stay there for one or two months to help with the work. My uncles and my dad would get horses that were not tame and have like a rodeo in an arroyo. People would be around the edge watching and eating watermelons.

My grandfather was known as a horseman. He had two horses that I remember, one named Butterfly and one named Tommy. Sometimes he would have to bring milk cows into the corral. He would put his dog, Galafo, on one of the horses and say, “Go get the cow!” And off they would go, the dog on top of the horse. But that horse would only do that when he was wearing his saddle. Take it off and he’d keep going!
At the end of Moyza Ranch road there used to be a huge lake one or two miles long. Twenty feet deep. From there there would be a acequia or creek and water would come from there to another lake or water hole, close by the house. From there they could open the gate to get water for farming.

“Our grandfather did a lot of farming. They would plant milo maize in March and by the middle of June or July it had a lot of seeds on it and the cattle would eat that. They had a two-story barn and they would store it and feed it to them in the winter. They had several hundred head of beef cattle but they also had around forty milk cows. There was a big garden and all summer long there were the zucchini and corn and beans. In the winter there would still be a lot of chile and tomatoes. We would put watermelons in the haystack and at Christmas we’d still be eating watermelons. My uncle Manuel was called “El Verdolero.” The vegetable man. He used to take a truckload of vegetables up to Ruby and sell them. They also took them to Tucson.

“We used to have apple trees, peach, pears, apricots, a grape vine and figs. I guess it was because my grandfather grew up in California. Every year we’d go up to the Guijas in a wagon and get peaches and my grandmother would dry them or make empanadas or pies.

“My grandmother used to make pudding from the elderberry trees. We used to call it atol de tapiro. Tapiro is elderberry. The pudding is made from the berries. You soak them and clean them and put them through a cheesecloth and squeeze out all the juice. You put in some water and bring it to a boil and it has all this foam on top. They used to say that it would give you a stomach ache so you have to keep taking off the foam. Then you put in cinnamon sticks and sugar and a little bit of flour to thicken it. We still make it. My cousin Socorro and I would also go to Tubac to get the berries. You can make a tea from the dried elderberry flowers to take for a cold or fever or stomach ache.

“My grandmother used to make pudding from the mesquite beans, the pechita. At that time they had a molino (mill). My grandmother had to soak the mesquite beans and grind them and put them through a strainer. It has a very unique taste. You can use cinnamon or vanilla or eggs to make a different flavor. In October, right after the pumpkin harvest my mother and grandmother would make pumpkin candy. Then all of of would go up to the hills and get a barrel cactus and they would make cactus candy out of it. My brother would go out on horseback and drag home the largest one we could find and cut all the stickers off. It was like a pineapple. They would cut all the shell off. Inside there is a white meat. They would put it in limewater first, and then cook it with a lot of sugar. I remember it was so good.

“In May and June, right before the monsoon season, we would all go out to look for chuquita, the white sap from the mesquite tree, because after the rains started it would all be gone. And we would get big jars of it. We chewed it or we would make a tea with it. We’d dissolve it and put sugar in it. In the spring we would go hunting for covenas. There is one with a yellow flower and one with a blue flower. We would dig them up and eat the little bulb. We had prickly pear at the ranch–nopalitos. I like them raw. I burn the stickers off and then cut them up and put them in a salad. We used to go up in the hills and pick up bellotas. There was a place somewhere in the Sardina where my grandfather used to pick chiltepines.

“We used to go to Arivaca visiting with the Romeros and the Lopezes and the Caviglias. We’d play dodge ball in the middle of the street. On Election Day my mother (Petra) and uncles would go to Arivaca early and stay all day. It was like a get-together when everyone came to town. My mother didn’t get out that often so it was an opportunity to see friends.”

Life on the Moyza Ranch was busy and interesting, due to the industrious nature of Eufemianio and Angelita Moyza. But after they passed away, in 1958, the family sold the ranch. Petra bought acreage in Tucson where Dolores and Lupe lived for years. Lupe has since passed away. The homestead was divided up, sad to say, but the area is still being farmed and cattle still roam the hills. The Moyza story is now part of a new oral history project, “Capturing Arizona’s Stories,” through a grant to the Pima County Public Library made possible by the Arizona State Library and Archives. Representatives from Library interviewed Dolores for the story of her family’s homesteading operation. Few homesteaders were as successful as her great-grandparents. In time, they accomplished their dreams and more. Now their story will be part of Arizona’s memories.

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