Tag Archives: History

Writing in Rock

Jim Byous

 

Petroglyph looking north

This basalt boulder hangs above Willow Creek and is marked with dozens of pertoglyphs near Susanville, California on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Petroglyphs of Susanville, California

The volcanic boulders are rough and scratch my hands as I climb the jumbled tangle of basalt talus to the top of the bluff.  Dave Marson, a life-long friend, steps up the slope mountain-goat style bounding ahead of me.  He is familiar with this destination where petroglyphs that marked the sight for thousands of years.  Hanging above Willow Creek, the Belfast Petroglyphs are in a protected area that is sacred to the descendants of the Maidu, Paiute, Pit River and Washoe Tribes who live on the Susanville Indian Rancheria.  They still use the site to fish, hunt, and to gather food and medicine.

Algae and Lichen

Brightly colored algae and lichen patches streak down the sides of the upper rock crags.

As we climb higher we see stone-pecked symbols; star maps, circles, snakes, and other undecipherable patterns pecked and scratched into the the boulders.  Did I say, “Snakes?”  This writing in rock was here long before Captain Charles Merrill, a former sea captain, came to develop the land in 1864.

Petroglyphs, star maps, moon and owl.

On this boulder star maps can be seen along with a crescent moon and an owl-shaped glyph.

His dreams of creating a thriving city was futile and premature.  The land still lies empty showing few remnants of the settlement’s roads and streets designed to hold 21,000 people.  The name Belfast was to commemorate Merrill’s home of Belfast, Maine.  Here he planted three thousand poplar trees to dot the flat, desert plane.

Grinding Rock

A grinding depression on top of a basalt slab.

On top of the bluff the talus rubble turns into a boulder-strewn flat where generations of original inhabitants camped.  Dave points out the grinding holes that dot the stones.  Some are many inches deep confirming their use over the years.  An anthropology major in college, he decided to forego the profession for a home and a life in the mountains.  His knowledge of the Native American tribes and sites in the area will rival most professors in the university system.

I stop to look around.  From here the view is excellent.   With the creek and canyon on two sides it is a perfect spot for watching the valley.   It would be hard for an enemy to sneak up and surprise the occupants.  Below along Willow Creek game trails follow the course of the waterway making the towering rocks a perfect hideout for hunting game.

It is springtime and beautiful.  Later in the year the area will turn brown like other California and Nevada desert planes.  But today color is abundant, green grass, purple Collinisa, blue Lupine and golden California Poppies.

The sun is dropping, white clouds dot the cyan sky.  The breeze is cool and refreshing.  But, it’s time to go.  This historic spot is a pleasant place.  A peaceful place.  We pick our way back down toward the car through the rocks.  I notice the snake glyphs as we pass.  Maybe we should be a little less peaceful and a little more vigilant… but still, pleasantly vigilant.  – JB

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A snake glyph stained red by algae.

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Snake glyphs.

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Star maps above a snake glyph.

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And still another red snake glyph.

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As we left, the sun began to set behind the Sierra Nevada to the east.

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Collinsia and other wild flowers grow among the boulders.

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A weathered spiral glyph above Willow Creek.

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The Four Directions symbol is universal among Native American symbolism.

How to get to Belfast, CA Petroglyphs

pet loc

Other places to visit in the Susanville area:

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Historical Museum

Eagle Lake Recreational Area

Susanville Ranch Park

Visit our main website at SoutheasternBound.net. We post history/travel every Tuesday, then occasional photos/photo tips on Thursday.  Please click the Follow button (right) for updates on Southeastern Bound.

© J.D. Byous 2018, All rights reserved.

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Filed under History, nature, petroglyphs, photography, Science, travel, Travel Photography, Uncategorized

Doc Holliday Trail and Annie’s Tree – a story of darkness and light

Doc Holliday’s Trail and Annie’s Tree – a story of darkness and light.

Visit our main website at SoutheasternBound.net. We post history/travel every Monday, then photos/photo tips each Thursday.  Please click the Follow button (below right) for updates on Southeastern Bound.

By Jim Byous

At 6,000 feet above sea level I am gasping for air.  I am also, as my father used to say, “getting old and soft.”  Now I’m only two-hundred feet up in my relatively easy three-hundred-foot climb on the Doc Holliday Trail to Glenwood Springs’ historic Pioneer Cemetery.  It sits on a lower ridge-bump of 8,095-foot-high Lookout Mountain that stands above and the Colorado city of around ten-thousand people.  My flatlander-endurance is poor in the thin air as I trudge onward.  The view is refreshing as I pause to take in the scope of the city below… okay… I stop to get my breath.  But, I gotta keep going, The Beckster is getting ahead of me on our upward trek to see the West’s version of outlaw/lawman, John Henry “Doc” Holliday’s grave site.  He was born in 1851 in Griffin, Georgia but died in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.  But where is he now?

Looking across the city of Glenwood Springs from the Doc Holliday Trail.

Looking across the city of Glenwood Springs from the Doc Holliday Trail.

What awaits us at the end of short journey is a controversy, but I want to see it.  Even though I am huffing and puffing I continue, The Beckster is tough, so must I be.  The view to the right is beautiful as I stop again to choke down a bit of thin air.  Clouds hang below the surrounding peaks as the occasional drop of rain pops onto my face.  The smell of sage and pine and moist air waft past at intervals as we walk the hard-packed, red-dirt and narrow rocky road.  A couple of walkers pass on the trail.  I assume they are local… don’t know.  Maybe they’re tourists too.  Locals often walk here.  Ahead is the evidence.  On a gnarled pinon pine hugging the upper bank of the cut, hundreds of colorful streamers twist and bob on the light breeze.

On the way down the hill, a walker passes Annie's Wishing Tree, a prominent landmark in Glenwood Springs that is becoming famous around the world.

On the way down the hill, a walker passes Annie’s Wishing Tree, a prominent landmark in Glenwood Springs that is becoming famous around the world.

They are striking as they dance on a background of cloudy-grey sky and remind me of the prayer ribbons and flags you see in photos of Nepal along the route up Mount Everest.   These are wish ribbons.  Most were placed there by Annie Zancanella who lives just down the slope. In her two battles with cancer she found solace in tying ribbons to the tree on which she played as a child.  “I spent my childhood playing on the mountain and walking with my father on his evening stroll up there,” she told me.  “Now that my family has all passed I still like to walk that trail daily and think of them and my happy childhood.”

She started putting ribbons on the tree, using them to represent her own wishes, dreams and prayers in her fight against cancer.  After participating in a successful, non-traditional treatment program at Northwestern University in Chicago, she traveled to cancer centers in the USA to share her success story with university hospital students.  Collecting ribbons from young patients at those hospitals she brought them home and tied them to the tree.

“It was just pretty much my ribbons from my heart being put on it,” she says, “And then I realized that I needed to spread this happiness…”  She started taking bags of ribbons to the children’s hospital where she volunteered each month.  The kids would write their own wishes, dreams and prayers for her to take back to the tree and tie for them. She would then take photos and show them to the kids.  Their words were on display for the world to see.  The project grew.

Annie's Wishing Tree is a landmark along the trail to the Pioneer Cemetery.

Annie’s Wishing Tree is a landmark along the trail to the Pioneer Cemetery.

Now others follow her lead by leaving wish ribbons, prayer streamers and mementos for others who are challenged by health issues.  Since that time she has continued to fight.  “I have had some more recent struggles with cancer but I’ve been able to keep a smile on my face and motivation in my heart.”

Ribbons were added by unknown hikers after Annie created the Wishing Tree.

Ribbons were added by unknown hikers after Annie created the Wishing Tree.

I came to the hill looking for the story of death, of disease and of legend.  Now I’ve arrived to unexpectedly find a story of life, of adversity and of hope.  In my mind I am attempting to blend the two narratives into one.  Annie is my daughter’s age.  Her story strikes a father’s heart.

The record of the tree is strikingly symbolic to the history and name of the route, The Doc Holliday Trail.  It’s antithetical to Annie’s story.  Holliday is said to have traveled to Glenwood Springs for the purported healing benefits in the springs of the area.  His sickness was then called consumption, now we know it as tuberculosis.  It was the reason he left his home and dental practice  in Atlanta to start wandering the west in hope of a climate that would help or cure him.  His travels between Georgia and Colorado would be captured in legend; card games, gun fights, the OK Corral with Wyatt Earp, his death in a hotel room in Glenwood Springs.

The current marker replaced an earlier stone placed in the 1950s that had incorrect information.  Cards, whisky and tokens are often found at the site, left by admirers.

The current marker replaced an earlier stone placed in the 1950s that had incorrect information. Cards, whisky and tokens are often found at the site, left by admirers.

After a life of hell raising, gambling and fighting he would not “die with his boots on.” They say his last words, while looking at his bare feet, would describe the irony in dying in bed at the age of 36 years, “Now, that’s funny.”  He was destined to die a more gentlemanly death, shoeless, and in bed in 1887.  His burial in the Pioneer Cemetery on top of the ridge is a matter of opinion.  Others say he was interred in the Oak Hill Cemetery in Griffin, Georgia after his father had him shipped home to a family plot.  In any event he left plenty of legend for both.

The marker in Glenwood Springs is referred to as a memorial since Doc’s exact location in the cemetery has been lost to history.  He may or may not be here, but still the site and its view across the Colorado skyline is worth the hike as is a stroll through the rest of the burial

Holliday's memorial stands at the point of the cemetery.
Holliday’s memorial stands at the overlook point of the cemetery.

 ground.  The area is a carpet of rocky, iron-red dirt, highlighted with short pinyon pines, cedars, sage brush and white marker stones.  A smattering of lawn covers a central square of memorials and graves suggesting families still visit and care for those interred here.  If the cemetery were a ship, Doc’s grave would be the wheelhouse at the point of the ridge with the balance of the site stepping up the slope toward the top of Lookout Mountain.

Harvey Logan cThere, up the hill from Doc’s spot, stands another marker for a well-known character of western lore, also the adverse of the symbolic tree.   Harvey A. Logan, 1867-1904, is known to most folks know as Kid Curry, an associate of Robert L. Parker, aka Butch Cassidy, and his partner in crime, Harry A. Longabaugh, the Sundance Kid.  Logan rode with Cassidy’s Wild Bunch at the turn of the 20th century.  One account of Logan’s death says he shot himself in the head after being trapped by a posse in Parachute, a town forty miles to the west,

Up the hill from Holliday's marker is the pauper's section of the cemetery where Kid Curry's stone is found.

Up the hill from Holliday’s marker is the pauper’s section of the cemetery where Kid Curry’s stone is found.  If he is really there is disputed.

and was buried there.  Others say he was traveling through Glenwood Springs, became ill and died.  Either way, he died… somewhere in Colorado.  And, now there’s a marker for him in the paupers’ section of Pioneer Cemetery.

Time passes quickly as we survey the grounds.  The sky is looking more threatening.  I am tired and still slightly out of breath, it’s starting to rain.  The view is exemplary and the rain isn’t hard, but it’s time to go.  We need to say goodbye to Doc.  Local ghost stories tell how folks leaving whiskey or cards or tokens for Doc receive a “Thank you,” as they stand and listen quietly.  I have no whiskey, nor do I have a deck of cards nor trinkets.  Perhaps a compliment will work.

Harvey "Kid Curry" Logan, part of Butch Cassidy's gang, has a marker in the paupers section of the cemetery.

Harvey “Kid Curry” Logan, part of Butch Cassidy’s gang, has a marker in the paupers section of the cemetery.

“He Doc!  You have a great moustache!”

I listen quietly as rain drops increase… nothing… not a peep.

“Wait,” I say…  I lean over the iron picketed fence, “That IS you, right Doc?”

Looking at The Beckster I say, “Doc’s not talking.  Didn’t work.  Well, back to the car.  I’ll try the same trick in Griffin, Georgia when we get home.”

She stares at me in mock disgust and turns to the trail to walk back down.  She has a knack for ignoring my jokes.

“But he really did have a great moustache,” I affirm, following her along the path.

She pays no attention to my explanation and continues on.  The lady has class.

 Looking down on the neighborhood rooftops I imagine driving a horse-drawn hearse up this route.  It would be a tight squeeze, but possible.  Was this the main route back in the day?  I don’t know but I do know that another route from Cemetery Creek and our start point is driveable by car, complete with parking spaces… but it’s blocked by a gate.  And, this walk is good, we need the exercise… no… really.

Older marker for cemetery

An carved stone plaque describes the residents of the necropolis including multi-racial immigrants and freed slaves.

We pass Annie’s Wish Tree again.  A long, magenta streamer catches my attention.  It reads, “1 Year Cancer Free * Annie 4/18/14 – 4/18/15.”    The young lady is an inspiration.  Now she is planning a volunteer trip to to impoverished areas in Africa to help children in Tanzania.  When she comes home she will carry more ribbons that will blow in the mountain breezes – waving and asserting hope – 130 feet directly down the slope from Doc’s marker.  Doc Holliday’s Trail and Annie’s Tree are a story of darkness and light.

I hope Annie is doing well.  Her story now lives on with the others who are linked with the trail and the cemetery and the hill.  Her story gleams brightly among them as she illustrates as she says, “It’s an absolute goal of mine to continue to inspire others and for my wishing tree to bring happiness to all who stumble across it!”

I’m glad I did… stumbled here.  For me, I think of my daughters and grandchildren and pray that they will have a measure of Annie’s determination and drive.

Doc Holliday’s story is dark and deadly.

Annie’s story shines with hope.

Annie has grit.


Here are other things to do and study in Glenwood Springs.

Our thanks to Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association for photos and to Annie Zancanella for background in this story.  We were not compensated for coverage of the location and attractions.  – JB

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Beaufort, it’s a view to dine for.

Visit our main website at SoutheasternBound.net. We post history/travel every Monday, then photos/photo tips each Thursday.  Please click the Follow button (below right) for updates on Southeastern Bound.

By Jim Byous

Beaufort, South Carolina is Southern, small and sophisticated…. it’s a view to dine for.  The deck where we sit once jutted out over the water.  Today the water is two-hundred feet away, separated from the restaurant by yards and yards of twentieth-century fill dirt.  Since Gus, The Travel Dogg blogger is with us, we’re invited to the umbrella-covered tables in back of the eatery… and the best views.

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The pet-friendly deck at Beaufort’s Panini’s Restaurant is a pleasant waterside venue.

The 1919 Beaufort Bank Building, now Panini’s On The Waterfront Restaurant, still has one of Beaufort, South Carolina’s best vantage points of the harbor.  From our table, past the hoagies, Frogmore penne, and crab cake salad, the boats list lazily as the spring breeze flows in from the ocean to the east… sleep inducing.  Tourists and locals rest in strategically-positioned porch-swings that deliver leisured views from Henry Chambers Waterfront Park.

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Clams and Rigatoni in the center, Chicken Salad Panini on the left with a Meatball Parmigiana Hoagie on the right.  All with Southern sweet tea.  Life’s good.

The scent of the brackish water and marsh mud accent the aroma of clams and rigatoni that wait in front of me.  Dog friendly and a gluten-free menu…  I am in heaven.  Usually they bring a doggy menu for the pups, but today they are out of the pup-centric treats.  Gus doesn’t mind a few nibbles of people food.

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The harbor next to Henry Chambers Waterfront Park.

The spot is fantastic… but the history of the town is even better.  Beaufort was founded in 1711.  James Oglethorpe and the original settlers of Savannah and Georgia had stopped here on their way to start the new colony in 1732.  Though first settled by the English in 1670 , the southeastern corner of what is now the United States, was still a frontier.  The reason for Oglethorpe’s visit was to create a new adjoining colony to prevent the Spanish from moving up the coast from Florida, a welcomed buffer for the Carolinians.

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Bay Street in the downtown section serves as the main thoroughfare in the historic district.

Previously, in 1566, the Spanish created the nearby town of Santa Elena and stayed for 21 years.  Oglethorpe’s actions would act to nullify the Spanish claim to the area.  Before the Spanish, in 1662, French explorer and Captain Jean Ribaut brought a group of Huguenots to the same spot, creating the first Protestant settlement in what is now the United States.

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Greek Revival architecture is common among the homes and businesses in Beaufort.

Ribaut left a few soldiers and sailed back to France to gather reinforcements.  The left-behind troops went to work and built their own ship which took them back to France as well.  Unfortunately, without a compass, they wandered their way eastward and resorted to cannibalism to finish out the trip.  It was the first ship built in America to cross the Atlantic Ocean… eventually.  The location of the town was found under a Parris Island Marine Base golf course.  The Spanish had built their town over the ruins of the French, which is… I am told… par for the Spanish.  A stroke of genius.

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A iron-willed flamingo stands guard at the front of a Bay Street business.

The site is a short trip down the waterway from Beaufort toward the ocean.  Parris Island is a place where US Marines are proud to have been… and graduated… from.  Basic training there has hardened thousands of Leathernecks, both in times of peace and in war since 1915. As a result, Marine Corp caps and bumper stickers are easily found along Beaufort’s Bay Street which serves as the main thoroughfare and attraction in the Historic District.  On the other side of town is the Marine Corps Air Station.  This is a Marine-centric town.

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The chief of Bay and West Streets soaks in sun while waiting for the next tourist to pass.

It’s always been a military town.  The British had just finished barracks for soldiers in 1732 when Oglethorpe dropped in with his hundred-or-so settlers.  The travelers were given the new facilities to stay in while Colonel William Bull accompanied Oglethorpe on a scouting expedition to establish Savannah.  They joined their leader a few weeks later in 1733.  Soldiers and Sailors occupied the location until the end of the American Revolution when they were asked, not too politely, to leave.

In 1861, during the American Civil War, the city was captured by Union troops who held it to the end.  At that time the town was said to be void of white Southerners, leaving it to the black population before the Federal’s amphibious landing.

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The John Cuthbert House, now known as the Cuthbert House Inn, was built in 1811.  During the Union occupation in the Civil War it was owned by US Army Brigadier General Rufus Saxton. (Wikipedia)

One rebel resident had been in the thick of fighting before.  William Henry Cory had been born in Chapham England near London.  Before emigrating to Beaufort he had survived the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade made famous by poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson who wrote,

“Half a league, half a league,

Half a league onward…,

and continues later,

“Theirs not to reason why,

Theirs but to do and die.

Into the valley of Death

Rode the six hundred.”

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The 1855 painting by William Simpson, “The Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaklava,” depicts the battle and cavalry charge in which William Cory participated.

In Cory’s new homeland he served as an officer in the Virginia Infantry in the Confederate Army.  He is buried in the St. Helena Episcopal Churchyard.  Beside his headstone are two flags.  One is he Union Jack, the other is the Confederate Battle flag.

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How much is that Piggy in the window?  I fell in love with the swine.

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I love the rocking horse too… but it won’t fit in a Ford Focus.

Today the town is a favorite of tourists from Hilton Head and Savannah.  Art shops, restaurants and odds-and-ends stores line the main street.  They hold some very good art, great food and interesting treasures that I can’t live without but can’t afford.  There’s a rocking horse and pig that I have my eye on.  They won’t fit in my Ford Focus… oh, well.  I’ll have to pass.  Ooohh!  Ooohh!  It’s an Irish shop.  Irish tweed hats and shillelaghs.  Do I need them…? No… but I gotta look.

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I’ll have to pass on the Irish hat.  Wool is too warm any time of year in Savannah… But the Beaufort hat on the basket head…  it’s mine.

We’ve also “gotta look” at the architecture.  Especially the old styles.  The Verdier House stands on the northwest corner of Bay and Scott Streets.  The Federal-styled home was built in 1804 by a French Huguenot planter and businessman named John Mark Verdier.  To me it looks to have a lot of Greek Revival features, but the former is listed in the guide books.  It was the Union Army adjutant general’s headquarters during the occupation.  Today it is a museum that displays the history of the town as well as household items of the era.

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The vernacular Regency/Greek Revival home of Huguenot,  John Mark Verdier, was built in 1804.  You can find it at the corner of Bay and Scott Streets.

A few blocks to the north is The Arsenal that serves as the Beaufort History Museum.  Built in 1798 it houses paintings, uniformed draped mannequins and docents eager to tell the stories of the area.  On the east is the Old Point neighborhood where antebellum homes sit among moss-covered oaks beside narrow, walkable lanes.  It’s worth the stroll.

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Hint: For real Southern iced tea you must add the sugar to boiling hot tea, stir it until it dissolves, then cool it and add the ice. At Panini’s it’s an unofficial umbrella drink.  Photos don’t lie.

If you like the South, sweet tea and old South charm, this is the place.  Sit back on Panini’s deck, watch the boats bob on the river, and enjoy a cool Southern iced tea.

Y’all come back.

 

 

 

© J Byous Company 2018, All rights reserved

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Oatman:  Threading the Needle’s Eye

Visit our main website at SoutheasternBound.net. We post history/travel every Monday, then photos/photo tips each Thursday.  Please click the Follow button (below right) for updates on Southeastern Bound.

By Jim Byous

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Oatman, Arizona was once the gateway to the promised land – California.  Today it serves travelers and tourists searching for the past.  It fills the bill.

 

It is legend.  This stretch of Route 66 runs like a thread, winding through the hot desert hills, twisting, rising and dropping in the dry, rocky, near-depleted-gold-bearing mountains between Kingman and Oatman, Arizona.  I have not seen it in the six decades of my life.  I’ve always wanted to.  Now I am.

My wife, Becky, aka “The Beckster,” rides shotgun as we leave our motel in Needles, California.  It is just before the morning sun creeps over the horizon.  Across the Colorado River we can see Boundary Cone on the opposite side of the Arizona state line.  It is already getting hot.  Thank God for air-conditioned pickups.  Our time is short, appointments in the Phoenix area dictate a “flyby” view of the town and route without a scheduled stop.  Now that we live in the Southeast – on the other side of the continent – it is compulsory that we see the legend… the road and the town.

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Boundary Cone peaks above the skyline beside the route from Needles, California to Oatman, Arizona.  It is a sacred place to the Mojave Tribe and has been a landmark for travelers over the years.  Below it are the row crops of the fertile Mojave Valley on the Arizona side of the state line.

I remember the stories told by my parents and grandparents of traveling to California in the years before I was born.  “I don’t like threading the needle’s eye,” my grandfather, Mark Covey, would joke while telling of this road.  “Don’t want to go back.”  He didn’t.

In the 1940s he had crossed the snaking stretch of Route 66 in a cut-down 1931 Hupmobile.  A makeshift “dog house” replaced the back seat and trunk, an alteration designed to carry and cover bored, sleeping kids and grandkids during the long, sun-baked and dangerous trip from Eastern Oklahoma.  Over the previous two decades he and others, who are now called “Steinbeck’s Okies,” journeyed to join my parents who were working in the bean fields of California’s Central Valley. 

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This Arkansas family rides in a truck with a “dog house” on the back.  Mark Covey’s Hupmobile doghouse was much smaller during its trek across Arizona’s southwestern desert.  Library of Congress photo by Dorothea Lang.

But, the gateway to the promised land lay along the twisted, narrow highway through the minaret-shaped rhyolite plugs of the Needles region and the near-abandoned gold town of Oatman, a town that was saved from extinction by supplying the needs of the traffic on Route 66.  As in my grandfather’s time, today the town survives by selling food, drink, and trinkets to travelers and tourists who follow their dreams.  In times before they searched for a new life.  Today they search for the past… just as we are.

Every year in my childhood our summer vacation was in Eastern Oklahoma the place our family called “home.”  We rolled through the Needles area in the warm season, in the pre-auto-air-conditioner days.  On those occasions my brother and I could be seen passing by, holding wet washcloths out of the car window in an attempt to grab a fleeting ration of cool for our faces.  One of our primitive swipes at cooling took place in Needles during an 11 P.M. passing in 1960.  The outside temperature measured 109 degrees Fahrenheit.  Somewhere along the route the cloth slipped from my brother’s hand and swirled off into the desert sticking to a distant, dry tumbleweed.  Mom was not amused.  Neither was I.  I had to share my cloth.

Route 66 had changed by that time, bypassing Oatman and diving straight into the Mojave Desert on the way to Kingman.  Each year, passing the turnoff to the “needle’s eye” my mother would laugh and quote her father’s rebuke of the area.  It was an annual ritual in oral tradition.

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Entering Arizona’s Black Mountains a short distance from Oatman on the Old Route 66.

Now, as we approach Oatman the first rays of sunlight touch the surrounding hilltops.  It slowly creeps downward, crawling across the rocks, rooftops, and road as the town fills our windshield.  The hamlet is quiet, the kind of quiet that seeps into your head the way heat soaks into a Mojave rock formation – slowly and intensely.  The sound of our motor reminds us that we have not lost our hearing.

Nothing stirs; not bird nor dog nor human.  It’s eerie, but oddly inviting.  It feels lonely like the loneliness heard in the howl of a wolf on a dark wilderness night.  The smell of dust and sage hangs in the air as the temperature rises.  The occasional scents of burro dung and automobile oil waft upward from the roadway through the truck’s ventilation system.  

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Oatman from the north at sunrise.  The town is quiet, still sleeping.  No-one is stirring.

The Beckster and I grab our cameras and click away, some from the truck, but other shots require stopping to compose and capture.  Time is short.  We must hurry.  I hate it.  I love this place.  I can feel the history soaking up out the ground and from the wooden framed buildings that surround us.  This place is filled with hidden stories, hidden secrets.

This tiny mining town gained its name from a nearby 1860s mine that honored Olive Oatman, a member of a Mormon pioneer family who died in an Indian raid in 1851.  Her story of capture, enslavement and eventual adoption by the Mojave tribe was well known when the town was settled.  Ironically gold fever exploded the population of the town shortly after Oatman’s death in 1903 when new veins were discovered.  The short-lived boost helped the town survive during the early years of the century.

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The Olive Oatman Restaurant and Saloon.  The place to get ice cream and booze, in one trip.

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Olive Oatman in 1863.  Her fame was widespread at that time.  The mine bearing her name was recorded around the time of this photograph. Wikipedia

Her likeness, which includes Mojave-face-tattoo highlights, is displayed on the façade of Olive Oatman Restaurant and Saloon on the eastern edge of the main street.  The eatery serves sodas, chili and ice cream to sun-parched tourists during the season.  A long banner above the porch boasts, “Air Conditioned.”  Next to it is another sign that reads, “Open.”  But, the eatery is not ready for the day, the business doors are locked.  They are in fact, closed.

Across the street is the eight-room, Oatman Hotel.  It was the honeymoon spot for actors Clark Gable and Carol Lombard when, in 1939, they eloped to Kingman 30 miles across the Black Mountains to the northeast.  Stories are told of the couple’s secretive escape out of Hollywood in an effort to avoid the press of the day. 

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The Oatman (Durlin) Hotel was established one year before Olive Oatman’s death in 1903.  Film stars, Carol Lombard and Clark Gable, shared their honeymoon here and were reported to have stayed here several times in their short tragic marriage.

Old timers told of card games with Gable into the late hours and his enjoyment of the townspeople that drew the couple back to the inn on numerous other occasions.  Apparently he and Lombard didn’t mind the ghost who is said to haunt the place.  The old establishment that they enjoyed has survived several disasters in the town’s history.  But in 1921 the hotel and many of the surrounding buildings weren’t as lucky and were destroyed by fire.  It was rebuilt in 1924.  Some reports say that the adobe walls remained intact and were reused for the current structure. 

As we pass through, the famous burros of Oatman are nowhere to be seen.  We will find them later trotting between the rocks and clumps of sagebrush a short distance down the road.  These locals were introduced to the region in the 1860s when gold was discovered.  Some are descended from pack animals used by The California Volunteers, troopers who moved from the nearby post, Fort Mohave, to search for gold. 

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Burros are protected by the BLM.  They think… or rather, know, you are on their turf.

Over time other “booms” of gold-hungry immigrants would lose or release animals.  Today there are several hundred wild burros in the area that are protected by the Bureau of Land Management.  Some are offered for adoption each year in the Bureaus’ Wild Horse and Burro Program.

 

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The view from Sitgreaves Pass northwest through the Black Mountains.

Onward we drive, competing with the clock.  The hairpin road seems to spiral as we climb.  To the left, just before the summit, is the Gold Road Mine.  It is currently under study for reopening, giving hope to the owners that they might soon take advantage of the rising price of gold.   A few more turns and switchbacks we are on top of 3,550-foot-high Sitgreaves Pass.  Stopping is a necessity to take in the view toward the northwest.

Three-hundred yards below us is a short, loop road.  We had missed the dirt turnoff to a panorama site with views of the Mojave Valley, the Colorado River and California beyond.  The site is covered with small crosses and monuments to the dead.  The ground is too rocky for graves yet crosses and memorials dot hillside below the overlook.    A local custom is to scatter ashes of loved ones at the site, usually due to a last request by those who passed and had loved the area.  

I would love to study this Sitgreaves site, but we can’t turn around.  Time on this leg of the trip is dominating our plans.  A short photo op and again we are rolling past the sage, rocks, and sand.  Thinking back, I had seen a similar cross-covered site a few weeks earlier above Cripple Creek, Colorado.  There the cross-on-the-hill placement started on the prominent point after cars plunged over.  Families would place memorials to those who died.  Later, as on Sitgreaves, loved ones would scatter ashes because of the beautiful vista from the point.  Both places pique one’s interests and suggest a need for learning more.  Both bring on sadness.

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Onward along Old Route 66 to Kingman, Phoenix and home.

On we drive – the clock commands us.  Another visit will be planned and we will return to this place and to the town and the ice cream in Olive’s Oatman’s Restaurant.  The history and the legends demand it of us.  Plus, there are the burros.

 

 

© J Byous Company 2018, All rights reserved

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The Hill

Visit our main website at SoutheasternBound.net. We post history/travel every Monday, then photos/photo tips each Thursday.  Please click the Follow button (below right) for updates on Southeastern Bound.

By Jim Byous

s 1 1 _9922 Byous Property view of Oklahoma Mountain and Sugarloaf from the property

A predawn photo of Eastern Oklahoma. The cone-shaped hill to the right is Sugarloaf where my paternal grandfather was born. Oklahoma was wild back then filled with rock-hard and tough people.

The hill by my grandfather’s house was a world unto itself, without a tear or care or worry.  Eastern Oklahoma was a place where the dreams of small boys lived… where they played… where everything came together for a young American’s life.  It was not a place for sorrow back then, or so I remember it.  It was beyond life.  The grass on the hill was lush and green, where summer flowers bloomed and was always just the right height for running through and diving into and wallowing about, all in blissful laughter… chiggers and tics be damned.

The watermelon fields were down below the barn beside a bend in the road.  And it seemed that each time we visited was just the right time for the melons to be picked and cut open and eaten and the seeds spat to see who was champion.  I was champion once though I was the smallest of the lot.  While sitting on the fence beside the barn I spat one large black seed, oh… twenty feet or more.  It jetted half-way to the horseshoe pit where my uncles Clyde and Paul were pitching.  Those times were fun.  The girls didn’t like it, but seed spitting was part of the ritual.  Seeing their twisted, contorted faces was worth the occasional, slobbery drool.

What seemed to be huge house back then was a simple four-room country home that sat in another bend of the road.  Before my teens the bathroom stood a thirty-yard dash away on cold winter nights.  The road out front door was half way, either way, to the left or to the right, half way to town, five miles distant.  To the left you wade through Mountain Creek, through Kennedy and back across again, then on to 133 and turn left then you’re there.

If you went to the right from the house the lane wound past the Midgley’s farm, then past Uncle Clyde’s.  From there to town was an endless string of relatives, J.C. Donaho, L.T. Johnson, cousin Dural at Morgan hill.  Then it was straight to town… unless of course you decided to cut past the Chapel, the small church building a short jog off of the main road.  There the grounds are dotted with mounds and stones and crosses of family gone before, all related, all remembered and always illustrated and described by the elders in the family.

When old enough I rode a young bay mare those long, quiet, interesting miles to town.  There I stopped at the Dairy Queen where my cousin worked the window.  I still see it.  A quick hello, a few minutes gazing into her captivating brown, Cherokee eyes… damn!  She had to be my cousin.  First cousin at that.  Second cousins maybe, third would be okay, but this beautiful lady was way to close, that and ten years my senior.  “Sometime life’s not fair,” I thought.  Later she married a fellow from the next town south.  So, I continue on.

A gulped-down malt, back in the saddle then back on the road.  The bay canters along the road, rocking-horse smooth, wind gently flows over my face and through my hair.  Time and place have no meaning.  I am here and all time is here.  There is no other place.  I am moving down the same route that had been traveled by my family generations before – along the hoof-marks made by the mounts of my grandfathers and my uncles and my cousins.  Back to the days of the outlaws, of Jesse James, the Youngers and Belle Starr.  Their lives cross those in my family along with lawmen Heck Thomas, Bill Tilghman and Chris Madsen.  Their times were tough.  So were the people.  Rough-edged would be a descriptor.  Life is good and easy today.

My grandfather’s wagon traveled this route many times over the years.  When I was small; what wonderful times we enjoyed.  Drawn by two horses we would ride over the hill and down to town for supplies.  The carriage was made of rough-hewn wood and rolled on rubber tires changed-out during the depression when wood-spokes were scarce and even more expensive.  Along the washboard road we bounced and jostled over pot-holes and pock-marks cut by the fast, modern, in-a-hurry vehicles.  Their tires spinning on the gravel course, bounding, vibrating and digging the lane, turning the surface into a tooth-rattling, bone shaking, corduroy of rocky roadbed.

We, at a slower pace, picked our route along the springless journey, holding tight to the sideboards, waiting for the next bump to launch us above the plank-lumber bed.  The bobbing heads must have been a strange sight to those passers-by in the sleek-finned automobiles that zipped past with a wake of dust and grit.  But we loved the wagon.  We loved the driver.  We loved the land that we crossed.

And the mound, the hill…  The hill had a life and being of its own.  It was a magical thing – like no other entity or place.  To a child it was where castles formed in a stand of trees and mountains from the clouds.  Where good guys and bad guys gunned it out for the sake of the fearful townsfolk.  It was where dragons were fought and conquered, sometimes twice a day, sometimes three… and it was where an old white mare carried three knights at a time again and again from campaign to campaign… only to avoid our every command at feeding time, unless, of course, we too wanted to wander back to the barn.

But mostly I suppose, it was the people of the hill.  The bond of love.  The binding of family, of friends, of caring.  It’s a good memory.  From time to time it bubbles up from the past and grows a grin on aged lips and shines a light on a life-battered soul.  Memories are good.  That’s what youth is for – making good memories.  Those memories are good.

I think back to the hill and I smile.  The people are all gone now.  The house is too.  Only the hill remains.  Those memories are good to review – good for lifting the heart.

Now days I think of it often.  And, it’s very, very good.

 

 

 

© J Byous Company, 2015 All Rights Reserved.

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The more things change…

Visit our main website at SoutheasternBound.net. We post history/travel every Monday, then photos/photo tips each Thursday.  Please click the Follow button (below right) for updates on Southeastern Bound.

By Jim Byous

While going through old clips from the 1980s I came across a couple of editorial cartoons from my newspaper years.  The first was a comment on the drug culture of the era… This brings into mind the old saying that the more things change the more they say the same.

The second was an editorial cartoon that almost got me fired… George Bush (the first) was running for president and was accused of being a “wimp” by opponents.  Being from old-school journalism training, I tried to stay neutral and made fun of both sides.  During the campaign Bush combated the label of being soft in foreign policy.  The Democrat tag stuck to him right up to the election… that he won.  This ran in the Merced Sun Star, a Central California newspaper.  The General Manager was a staunch Republican.  My editorial cartoon rights were revoked for a couple of months.

Dinosaur extinction

Bush I wimp

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A Chip Off the Old Block?

Visit our main website at SoutheasternBound.net. We post history/travel every Monday, then photos/photo tips each Thursday.  Please click the Follow button (below right) for updates on Southeastern Bound.

By Jim Byous

I am not proud of this gritty chip of stone.  Nor am I ashamed of it.  It was, oddly enough, part of an inheritance from my father.  Tucked away in a dresser drawer it had been one of his possessions – a souvenir – that he took from a gravestone in Missouri when I was young.

Chip of Jesse James Grave Stone bw

A small symbolic sliver of stone from the headstone of outlaw Jesse James.

It is a fragment cracked and split from the headstone of outlaw, Jesse James. Taking a chip of that stone was the norm at that time in history…  Hell, everybody did it.  Few complained.  And, this small chunk, a fragment of the lower section, was from the second headstone to mark the site.  The rest of the monument had been flaked away by hundreds or even thousands of earlier visitors who had grabbed a rock and splintered off their own piece of notoriety.

The first stone was and is preserved in a museum display after years of chipping history-seekers.  We as Americas… as tourists… have changed.  We understand the need to preserve history – take a picture, leave the artifact… the old National Park slogan, “Take nothing but pictures.  Leave nothing but footprints.”  But, to look back at those who came before us and judging their actions must be weighed with the social and cultural norms of the day.  Our generation and their generation differ in thought, in ideology and in actions.

Beyond obvious abhorrent and evil actions in history we cannot effectively judge previous generations.  Bias of the present obscures seeing the reasoning of the past, the old Monday morning quarterback syndrome.  We can say they were wrong and we should strive to do better.  But to judge in hind-sight is akin to being a referee in a sports event in which we have never played.

Getting into the heads of past or future generations is a difficult if not impossible undertaking.  People don’t think the same between cultures, they really don’t think the same in differing centuries.  Two hundred years from now we will be judged on things we now find sacred.  What will they think of us?  What are we doing wrong in their future eyes?

Understanding the mindset of serfs of medieval Europe and their acceptance of social station is a concept that is foreign to most Americans and people of free societies.  People tend to conform to the norms of the day.  They adapt.  They survive.  They tend to settle for what they think is expected of them and get on with living.  That mindset is still prevalent in many cultures.  Singer Ricky Skaggs sang it in his song about don’t-get-above-your-raisin mentality.

So, this simple sliver or limestone is more than a snatched souvenir.  It’s an artifact, a symbol of changing cultures, differing ways of thinking and views on life from generation to generation.

Anybody want to buy a rock?  It has a great story… and, the statute of limitations has run out.

Jesse-james-farm

The Missouri home and third gravestone of Jesse James. Credit: Americasroof, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

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