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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Lonely Abandoned Ranch

On the day we visited the Rocky Canyon we passed through an abandoned ranch site.  I’m sure the property belongs to someone; at least someone has re-built the windmill fairly recently.  The watering trough is full and the whole area has cattle tracks and cow piles around it. 
It was another one of those sites that carried a sense of history. 
There was a rock house that was tumbling down. From a distance it was nearly invisible among the brush and rocky landscape.  At one time it was a pretty decent home for the times.  Laid up neatly of stone, there were two decent sized rooms with sizable beams that must have been hauled a long ways to make the roof.  It didn’t appear to have had a board floor, but that might have been covered by years of blowing sand and trash sifting over it.

(Here's a closer picture in case you can't see the house.)

It looked like another pile of rocks if you didn't know what you were looking at.

The home site had once had sizable cottonwoods growing around it but now they were dead. Some stretched along the ground; other still stood offering skeletal arms to the sky and weather.  All around now brush crowded the walls. 

Across the way in front of the house there was a corral.  It was built with a combination of the old close-set-stake fencing, wooden post and rails and woven wire.  I think it had probably been used more recently than the house.  It might have been able to contain my mom’s placid milk cow, but I’m not sure any animal with more energy would have had much difficulty getting through it.
The ranch site stood in the center of a bowl surrounded by ridges and cliffs.  We arrived there after a long bumpy drive across the desert through sage and clump grass.  In the middle of the bowl a hundred (maybe) yards behind the house was a huge boulder that had broken free of the cliff off to the right.  And when I say huge, I mean huge!  It was larger and much taller than the house.

We parked the truck and walked around the site for a while.  It was evident the property had been intentionally abandoned.  There were no articles of living remaining in or around the house.  The corral had been maintained but there was no other evidence of use. 
Once again I was awed by the courage of the men and women who lived here.  We had driven probably two or three hours across country in a TRUCK from the nearest paved road.  The nearest town was probably an hour, hour and a half from the turn-off.  For a man on a horse it must have been most of a day to the nearest town.  With a wagon it would have been two days.  You know those cowboy movies where Pa hitches up the wagon and trots in to town and back by noon?  Well it didn’t happen here!  I doubt I we would have made the trip and back in the truck before noon.
 All of these things go to demonstrate how very fleeting life is.  Men build in wood and stone as permanently as they know how, but nothing lasts.  And yet man persists in believing his works are supreme. 
Who do we think we are anyway, when our works are so easily destroyed?
"When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; 4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?  5For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour  Ps 8:3-4

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Graves.

As we traveled and hiked through out of the way places in  the desert we have come across several graves.  These are always strangely sad and lonely for me to look at.  
I told you about the ones we found in the ghost town.  They were cheerless  and redolent with history,  but the most heartbreaking ones for me were the single ones in the middle of no where.   They were momentos of someone who was loved or at least cared for in some way, but they were all alone--just piles of stone in an oval heap. 
For some the pile remained.  For others the heap of stones had collapsed in on themselves.  And for others, unless you knew the pattern, you might not have suspected it had once been a grave.  Usually for these all that remained was the outer ring of stones.  It depended on how the body had been buried.  Those where the body had simply been wrapped in a blanket, or perhaps just put in the ground, hadn't collapsed much as the body decayed and the sand sifted through the spaces remaining

For those which had  been buried in a 'coffin' or a box had much more space under the ground.  As the box decayed and broke, the desert sands and the rock on top fell into the emptiness over the body.  When that space was filled, it caused a the stones and dirt on the surface to  sink.  Only the ring of stones around the grave were still apparent.. 
I guess what was sadder still was the fact than no indication of whose remains were buried there could be seen.  We make a production today of gravestones and monuments; I suppose at sometime someone may have placed a marker over these lonely graves, but time has worn away any marking scratched on stone and faded any words made on wooden crosses or sticks.  We never found a cross at any of the ones we saw, although I'm sure at least a few would have had a cross, given the time period.  But the desert wind and blown sand desroyed them over the years. 
I couldn't help but think of the brave men and women who had taken their courage in their hands and set out to make a  live in this country.   As much as I love it I don't know if I would have that kind o courage.