But being out of sight, out of mind is the biggest reason it has avoided hassle from the authorities through the years. From Phoenix, it's a four-hour drive east on U.S. 60, past Superior and Globe, and onward to U.S. 70. Twenty-five miles of washboard dirt road outside Safford lead to a remote area of wilderness. A large red mailbox — painted with the word "Mana" — alerts visitors that they've arrived.

"You don't need to worry...about your neighbors. They've all got plenty of property," Kent says. "They think we're kind of strange, but cowboys are kind of strange, too."


Kent's tour of the church takes about three hours. Outside, near one of the campsites, the large blond man is chopping wood for his spirit walk. He pauses just long enough to wave and smile.

The grave site of Peyote founder 
Immanuel Trujillo (inset) maintains a prominent place on church property near where church members take spirit walks.
Andrew Pielage
The grave site of Peyote founder Immanuel Trujillo (inset) maintains a prominent place on church property near where church members take spirit walks.
Anne Zapf sitting in the peyote house where there are more than 10,000 plants in various stages of growth.
Andrew Pielage
Anne Zapf sitting in the peyote house where there are more than 10,000 plants in various stages of growth.

Asked what kind of future is in store for Peyote Way, Kent — as with his lengthy explanation about Trujillo's life and the spiritual importance of peyote — has a rehearsed answer.

His greatest hope is that someday, he and Zapf can grow peyote legally and educate others about how to grow it.

"When we plant peyote, I'm not thinking of personal ingestion, I'm thinking about my grandkids," Kent says. "I think that's pretty healthy to think in big chunks of time — 20, 40, 60 years. If we thought that way about our planning for society, then we might not be having so many of the problems we're having now."

That night, on the way to a hotel in Safford, "Peyote Way Church of God" flashes on an Arizona Adopt-a-Highway sign.

Eric Tsetsi is a staffer at Riverfront Times' sister publication, Phoenix New Times. Contact the author at eric.tsetsi@newtimes.com.

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2 comments
rockyboyy
rockyboyy

I suppose I met Mana and Matt and Annie for the first time the following spring after they arrived.  I was lucky enough to have been taken to the old Healing Waters/Indian Hot Springs while I was hitchhiking with my buddy Greg.  We had found the place in a directory, but hadn't been able to find Eden, Arizona on any map; later, after Greg had moved on, I had an opportunity to visit the Church.  I have to admit that I was out of my head and became unstable around that time, but it wasn't Peyote's fault: I was a breakdown awaiting a catalyst.  I didn't "pass the acid test".  I wonder if my membership application is still in the files.

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keseyfan
keseyfan

Thank you for doing this -- I learned a lot more about Mana from this article than I ever knew.  I was just looking for the Church on FB when I found this.  I remember the Church from back in the '70s: I suppose I met Mana and Matt and Annie for the first time the following spring after they arrived.  I was lucky enough to have been taken to the old Healing Waters/Indian Hot Springs while I was hitchhiking with my buddy Greg.  We had found the place in a directory, but hadn't been able to find Eden, Arizona on any map; later, after Greg had moved on, I had an opportunity to visit the Church.  I have to admit that I was out of my head and became unstable around that time, but it wasn't Peyote's fault: I was a breakdown awaiting a catalyst.  I didn't "pass the acid test".  I wonder if my membership application is still in the files.


And when I run into Second Amendment "fundamentalists", I have to tell them about the Peyote Church: many "conservatives" seem to be blissfully unaware that  the laws of this nation actively discriminate against this church and that this is First Amendment curtailment under the rubric of the War on Drugs in ugly action.

 
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