I’ve got this ‘thing’ about keeping stuff. I know I should get rid of some things but I just can’t get rid of others. The biggest can’t-get-rid-of are notes I’ve written down over the years and maps! Especially maps!! Plus maps and notes my folks had.
Currently, I’ve got three 4-drawer filing cabinets FULL of maps. Maps that go back 50, 60 years. A few back 80 and 90 years. The really old maps I got from my folks. Before I was born, my folks travelled the west with a Wild West Show. 90% of the roads then were dirt, some just ruts from pictures in the ole family album. After I was born, they travelled the states with what would be called a ‘family show’.
Back then before TV, radio, theaters, i-pods, telephones and in some places, newspapers......folks got their news whenever someone came through town. Dad had an old hand crank motion picture project that worked off gas and they’d run all the old movies on – William S. Hart, Bronco Billy Anderson, Charlie Chaplin. To make money they’d sell popcorn for 5 cents a bag. Little bars of soap like you see in motels and hotels today for a penny and little writing tables with a pencil for 10 cents. But before each movie, he’d do a ‘stand up’ and talk about what happened over the last couple weeks. Or months. In other towns where they had just showed.
“Did you folks hear about Sheriff Lewis over in Bodie (California)? Someone stole his horse! He left it tied out front of the Miners’ Hall. The sheriff was inside the Miners’ Hall conducting business. Fortunately, the horse was returned home. The sheriff, he never made it home that night. Accordingly, he was out looking for his horse and got lost on the way home.”
Or, “The new school over in Gabbs (Nevada) got robbed. No books were taken but all the chalk and pencils and paper was. Seems someone had a lot of writing to do ‘cause some of the paper has turned up in the out going mail a few days later........”
I’ve got a file cabinet full of my dad’s notes and handbills, posters, booking information and other ‘stuff’. Including pictures of the ole towns. So when I really wanta go camping off the beaten routes, I dig out some of my dad’s old notes and maps, load Nic in the trailer and head out.
One of my favorite maps is a 1926 Texaco road map. The highway numbers don’t even match the numbers of today. Most of the highways from then have ‘moved’ over the last 100 years so aren’t even in the spots where they used to be. Some off as much as 20 or 30 miles. Some gone completely. And back then, the roads were dirt. Dad writes about driving the “plank wood road across the Arizona sand dunes” in 1939. I’m still looking for that ‘.....plank wooden road”!
Up in Nevada, was on a horsecamping search for any old town which wasn’t even on the current maps. Or even listed as a ghost town. It just wasn’t anywhere. But according to my dad’s notes, “Walls had bout 150 people, 7 saloons, 2 churches, feed store, jail, stage stop, livery barn, one room school and tents most of the miners lived in.....3 days in town, we made $8.96 but had to pay 15 cents a gallon for truck fuel.....”.
Armed with a copy of his road map, pictures of the town and dad’s notes set out to find Wells. It was off Interstate 40 (which isn’t 40 anymore) about 75 miles on a “county road”. Took 4 days to find Wells. But found it!
Wells currently is nothing. A few foundations. A few open mines which one has to be careful of when riding around. And a graveyard. Found about 50 graves. Some had headstones but most were wooden markers. One person had “gone to hell at Carla’s saloon”. Another “kicked in the head”. A third, “drew slow”, and one with no name on a granite slab which took some time to carve read “a soul to young to stay on this earth so gone home with momma”. I assumed a baby who’s mom died in childbirth.
But what I really like about all my old maps is using them as reference. When an agency talks about a trail “never being there because it’s NOT shown on the internet”, I break out one of my maps and announce, “there WAS a trail there. There was even a road with a stage stop which was turned into a trail when the stage stop closed. The trail was maintained until about 1950. I’ve got a map plus some pictures if anyone is interested in seeing them!”.
So don’t toss those old maps and notes out. Save ‘em. And if you need a couple more file cabinets, get the 4-drawer metal style ones. They last longer. Keep the dust out better than plastic and for some reason, a plastic file cabinet doesn’t seem to do the ‘honors’ to an old map or notes that a metal cabinet does.
Bonnie & Nic