Artist With Deep Roots In Rim Country

Christopher Creek

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by Lance Sabo
I first met Jim Hagen when we moved to Christopher Creek in 1995. Jim was walking his dogs down the road past where Cindy and I were going to eventually build our cabin.


Not long after, someone mentioned that Jim had a studio in his home and was quite a good artist. Because I have also had individuals tell me that I had artistic talent, this statement held little significance as I cannot really draw at all.


However, several months later we were invited into Jim and Marlene's home to see his work and were amazed at Jim's talent. Above the fireplace was a beautiful oil painting of two cowboys riding across the range. Paintings of quail, mountain men and many other western-style oil paintings were beautifully framed and displayed around their home.


Jim explained that he started painting in 1980 when he joined in on a watercolor painting session with next-door neighbor's children. He enjoyed that activity, and later Marlene purchased an easel and oil paints, and Jim started working seriously. Eventually, an artist friend took the time to work with and encourage him.


Jim entered his first art show in 1981, and at the 10th annual Phippin Memorial Art Show in Prescott, he took first place with his painting "Comin' Home."


Jim first came to the Rim country as a young man in 1938, where he attended the Boy Scout "Camp Geronimo" across the road from Kohl's Ranch. Over the years he served on the staff of George F. Miller as assistant cook, handicraft director and athletic director.


Jim explained that at night, he and other young men would sneak over to Kohl's Ranch so they could enjoy the live music, singing and fiddle playing. When questioned what happened to Camp Geronimo, he stated that it was eventually torn down and moved farther away from the road and perhaps farther from distractions of civilization.


Jim worked for Reynolds Aluminum, Motorola, Ford Aerospace and Xerox/Loral as an engineer and engineering manager. While working, he attended schools in Boulder, Colo., Phoenix and Loma Linda University in Riverside, Calif. where he graduated with a BS in Physics.


He and Marlene were married in 1948.

During his engineering career, Jim worked on security projects for aircraft that may come under attack. Pictures of Air Force One, airplanes of the Queen of England and King Hussein of Jordan were but a few planes where his projects were placed. Helicopters flown in Desert Storm were also protected by the same system.


A personal letter from King Hussein is framed and displayed on the studio wall thanking Jim for a gift of the painting "Comin' Home."


During these years, Jim and Marlene lived in California but always returned to Christopher Creek, where in 1957 they designed and started building a cabin in See Canyon. Building codes required some type of foundation where the frame of the home would not touch the ground and the home was not to be painted but stained or left natural so as to blend into the environment.


In those days, the land was part of the National Forest and one's name needed to be drawn in order to get the rights to build on the land. Their first drawing was in the Washington Park area where they could not get to because of the poor condition of the road. They decided to decline the lot and reapply for another lot, where they eventually were drawn for the present site.


The cabin still stands across the road from their present home and is used by family or guests and, as Jim says, will never be sold.


Over the years, Jim said he's seen the elk population increase, but the deer population does not seem as great as in the past. The greatest changes in the area are the size of the trees. He says that when he first moved into his home, the trees were mostly "Jack Pine" -- very dense yet small. Today, the forest is not as dense, the Ponderosa pines reach 100 feet or more and the Rim is no longer visible from his home where once a clear view was possible.


The weather also has seemed to change, he said. One year, Jim and Marlene -- still living in California -- were notified that seven feet of snow had fallen on Christopher Creek. Concerned for the condition of their cabin, they made the trip to make sure everything remained safe. Upon arrival, the cabin was standing, but the ceiling inside was sagging considerably due to the weight of the snow. The steep angle of the roof still held over two feet of snow. Because of the depth of the snowbanks, he was able to climb up and start clearing the roof. All of a sudden the snow started sliding and he slid off the roof onto the ground. The roof was cleared and he lay in a pile of snow.


He also clearly remembers the 1971 monsoon where the rain fell in buckets for three days and three nights. That was Labor Day weekend and many visitors were in the area. When the rain finally quit, he and Marlene could hear a noise like a jet flying overhead. As they left the cabin to investigate, they noticed all of the small usually dry ravines running full with water. The ground was like walking on wet sponges and when they arrived at Christopher Creek, they saw huge boulders rolling down the creek. Water was running over the bridge, down the highway and the noise was incredible.


Jim's paintings can be seen on the Internet at his Web site www.westernfineart.net. In addition to original art, five of his paintings are available as lithographic limited edition prints. As usual, Jim will be participating in the next Payson Art League Show.


As I sat to review my notes of this interview I made the following conclusions: Jim became an artist by hoggin' paint from his neighbor kids; caused a Boy Scout camp to move; and has been around long enough to see Ponderosa pines grow up and is the type of person I am proud to call my neighbor.


I hope to continue providing stories and information about the community and individuals who make Christopher Creek their home. I welcome anyone with information or stories of interest to contact me at 478-5050.

Christopher Creek matriarch dies

Evelyn Bowman, a long-time resident of Christopher Creek, passed away the morning of February 28. Evelyn, who was often viewed as the matriarch of Christopher Creek, moved to Oregon several years ago to stay with her daughter.


Before her death, Evelyn told her daughter that she was grateful to her friends in Christopher Creek, and I am sure those who knew her are even more grateful for her friendship.

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