Tuesday, May 3, 2016

concrete house

House in The Field

            In my back road travels, I find all types of things, many piqué my curiosity.  Out in the farm flatlands I came across a huge old concrete structure in a state of slow decay.  It was not the usual farm/ranch home because of the way it was built.  There also doors all around, two on the front, one on the side and a backdoor plus a cellar door. 

            The two front doors, next to each other remind me of a hotel, boarding house with a café.  Nice large upstairs windows for the guests to stay in.  A large spacious basement with appliances for the family to live in.  All this in the middle of somewhere, close to not much.
            I got my old maps out, there were no old wagon roads, nor was there any kind of town at this location.  I’ve asked a few people in the area if they knew anything about the building…… got blank stares and quizzical empty eyes.  Oh well, someday I will find the right person. 

            On the eastern Colorado prairie it would’ve been a large luxurious building for the early 1900’s.  The interior was nicely finished, plastered walls, nice wood work.  In the basement a huge cast iron cook stove still resided.  The house had multiple chimneys and a variety of stoves pipe outlets in the walls.  It took a large chunk of money to build this house more then a 100 years ago. 


            On the side of the house was a large well house with storage tank.  The pipes still went from the pump house to the building, now exposed and naked plumbing.  It was a good sized complex.  The other thing that struck that maybe more then one family lived here.  Oh me, I speculate so much about a curious building way over yonder.  

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Indifferent Government


The Indifference of Government

            Photography is one of my hobbies and when I travel I look for scenes to capture.  I try to avoid the Interstate and look at what has been bypassed.  Across the plains are a variety of small towns, many empty or seriously declining.   Along these routes are a tremendous variety of images to capture.  The little town in the picture still operates a grain elevator there and usually there is a collection of grain cars spotted there.  This time it was coal hoppers that were mothballed there.  I stopped to take some pictures and on down the road I went. 


            It wasn’t until later that I looked at the pics that some anger showed up.  Here was an image of government indifference to the people they are supposed to govern.  The coal hopper is parked next to what had been a coal shed from years ago.  Up through the early 1900’s, coal was the choice for heating homes and in some cases cooking.  Then it was learned how to process oil and gas to use for heating and cooking and some things began to change.  Coal was still the primary fuel to generate power for factories and electrical plants.  With some work, coal was cleaned up and became a very clean efficient fuel source.            
            Yet for a few people, coal became a hated black dirty rock.  This small minority began a campaign to blame coal for lots of society’s ills and what disappointing is how many people believed the convoluted stories that were being put out.  This group of people known as “Greenies” pressured government bureaucrats to believe their story and some of them got jobs in various government agencies to further their hate for coal.  Today government policy has almost become totally anti-coal.  Alternative methods had to be built to generate power for a modern society to operate.  In the process the people that would be adversely impacted by changes in government policy were ignored. 
            Today thousands of people are out of work because of government policy.  The sting of coal hoppers mothballed here in this little town represent, 1000’s of jobs that have been lost.  The employees of large coal companies have been laid off, the transportation companies are laying off more as are many related industries laying off workers.  So many people are out of work because of the attitude of the government. 
            The government could step back on their policies and many of these people could go back to work.  No, the government does not ease their policy.  Instead, thousands of workers are now relying of the government dole because there are not jobs out there for these displaced workers.  So rather than having productive citizens, that are earning a wage and paying taxes.  These people are now drawing down the treasury department of tax money. 
            Then there are all of the associated businesses that are impacted.  Fewer goods are consumed because of the lack of surplus income.  Sales at stores decline and like dominoes, more jobs are lost.  When one looks at the ripple effects, there are probably millions of people that are affected by this adverse government policy.  Yet when one looks at the haltered of coal, nothing is gained by this hate.  Instead lives are destroyed. 
            Looking at the country, USA, when it goes into a recession, it is usually because of an adverse government regulation.  Best example is the Stock Market crash of 1929 and the ensuing depression it caused.  There were other factors that amplified the depression, but the key element was how the government dealt with the banking industry.  Tracking back over the years, the economic downturns have mostly come from government policy.  When the government changes its attitude towards the people, it is amazing how the economy recovers. 
            People of the country for the most part are pretty competent citizens and very capable of taking care of themselves.  When somebody gets in a position of government authority and has the attitude that they know what’s best for the peasants is when the country has troubles. 


            So my question is: Why doesn’t the government regulators and politicians want to put these people back to work and help keep the economy going? 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

eastern colorado

Chimung, Colorado


Almost to the eastern end of Colorado, next to Kansas, is an empty spot.  This is where the railroad town of Chimung used to be.  Nearby is a cattle feed lot and the railroad has a siding there.  Oft times the railroad will use the name of the town but in this case, the siding was named Jim.  So question, was Chimung named after Jim Chimung?  Someday I may find out.

Chimung was a busy little town in the 1870’s.  There were numerous shops and stores, blacksmith, livery and bank.  When the railhead moved on west, the workers moved on and Chimung began to fade into the prairie. 

Today one can stand by the tracks, listen to the silence, hear the occasional bird chirp and watch the breezes wiggle the grasses.  Outside of the railroad siding, the area is void of life.  Even the rails get rusty between trains.  It is a place of empty solitude, that most people drive on past.  


Friday, April 8, 2016

Aroya, CO

Aroya Cemetery


            Aroya is a small town that faded out of existence few decades ago.  A few years ago it had a population boom.  A family hauled a trailer out to a vacant lot and set up.  Somebody else hauled another trailer out and joined and just in a short time the population doubled.  The boom did not last long, today the trailers sit abandoned on the north end of town.  The ghosts of the other building still there no longer have company except for the occasional tourist that visits. 
            The cemetery I never really got clear directions on where it was and it was not visible from any of the roads.  I finally found some people in Kit Carson, CO that told me how to get to it.  Park on the roadside they said and walk up the hill across the rancher’s pasture.  On the top of the hill you’ll see it.  Well I parked my car along the road and began hoofing across the pasture.  It was with care as I placed my steps for I did not want to make friends with the cacti that dotted the grassland. 

            Sure enough, up on the hilltop was the small cemetery.  The rancher had put a fence around it because the cattle were knocking over the headstones.  There is no caretaker so the little patch of land was overgrown with weeds and the north fence was buried in tumble weeds.  This time of year, snakes are not a major concern, otherwise make steps very carefully. 
            The ranch that owns the cemetery placed a monument at the cemeteries edge, listing all the people that are buried in the plot.  Well the ones that they knew of.  The JOD ranch, that owns the surrounding land, is one of the oldest continuing ranches in the state and still calls Aroya their home although I believe their mail comes from Wild Horse. 



Most of the graves there are unmarked and only the smaller stones are still standing.  But it opened more questions.  For the date on the graveyard is 1907.  Aroya was established as a railroad stop in 1870.  That leaves a number of years vacant.  My guess is, the hill had been used as a burial grounds but not much record was kept.  The other thing is, Aroya has been part of three different counties, causing record keeping problems.  Back then, there was also the tendency to just go dig a hole in the prairie, say a few words and place a small cross of sorts and life went on. 


Being along a stage route, The Smoky Hill Trail, there were numerous Indian attacks in the area.  Also being a railroad town, there would have been the occasional wild times on the frontier.  So scattered here and there are probably a variety of grave sites.  

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Kirkuk, CO




            Kirkuk, CO sits just west of the Kansas border in central eastern Colorado.  Not much left of it.  It appears it had been a farm house that held the postal contract for a time.  There are few trees n shrubs there and steel grain bin. 
            Nearby is the Smoky Hill schoolhouse which still stands.  T was hit by a tornado number of years ago.  The concrete shell is still there and the boarding/ rooming house.  With the changes in transportation, the kids were bused to a nearby town for school after the tornado mutilated their school
            A side bar on the area.  The North Fork of the Smoky Hill River runs through the area.  Well its not much of a river any more with all the farming.  In the mid 1600’s lots of travelers on the Smoky Hill trail would divert at the fork and go north.  In the 1850’s the nort fork was carrying more water, so people thought it was an advantage to follow. 
            Not so, when they got up on the flats in Colorado, the river dried up.  There were no landmarks and most of the travelers had no idea how to find water on the flat prairie.  Many would go wandering looking and end going in circles, back where they started.  A few would back track and rejoin the Trail.  A few would wander finding the wagon trail to the north and the springs on the Republican river and by then many were rather thirsty.
            Then there were those in such a hurry to get to the goldfields they would travel during the prairie snowstorms.  In circles they would go, sometimes ending up further east then when they started.  Supplies were low and frozen travelers they would be. 

            Today the Kirkuk area is home to some of the most prosperous farms in the country.  And when the land dries out, the dust will still float in the air but no longer like the dust bowl days.  


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Frontier Village





Hugo Colorado

            Hugo is one of many little towns that dot the plains of eastern Colorado.  Sitting on the old Smoky Hill Trail, Hugo is loaded with all types of little treasures.  Being the county seat it is a long ways from being a town of ghosts.  Instead it has lots of early day pioneer settler ghosts that hang out in the little frontier town. 
            When one rolls down the hill into town they are greeted by an early day gas station, built around 1910.  Today it is a boutique, gift shop and flower store.  There have been some additions over the years but its distinctive roof line is still there.  On the east side of town one is greeted by the World Champion cowboy, Kid Fletcher at the Lincoln County Fairgrounds.  The fairgrounds are also the site of Willow Springs.  Here the Butterfield Overland Dispatch (BOD) Stage Lines established a relay stage station at the springs.  Standing near the spring, one can look to the hillside to the east and see the ruts of the stage route and Smoky Hill Trail descending the hill into Willow Springs. 


            Willow Springs is not the only stage stop near Hugo.  To the northwest was the Hogan stage station and to the southwest was Cap Barron’s stage stop.  Both sit on private land out in the pasture.  Hogan station was used by the Leavenworth and Pikes Peak Stage line and freighting company.  It was on this stage line that Horace Greeley rode went he went west to Colorado in 1860.  After the stage service was discontinued, the freight wagons continued to roll across this area on their way to the Rocky Mountain goldfields.  When the BOD began operations, they selected the spring at Cap Barron’s.  Because of distances between stations, it did not last long and the stop was changed to Willow Springs. 
            These stage stops were often the targets of Indian raids, killing the agent and driving off the mules.  1870 the Kansas Pacific Railroad began construction through the area.  The spring of that year, the Indians launched coordinated raids on the railroad camps, workers and stage stations, killing and wounding numerous workers, burning anything and everything they could.  Workers retreated to Kit Carson for protection and work was shut down for a few weeks until the army could send troops out to patrol the rail line construction. 
            Today people find arrow heads in the Hugo area and occasionally spent shells from the battles.  After these raids, the Indians fled north and most of the Indian problem was gone.  The railroad went back to building and in the summer of 1870 the rails reached Willow Springs.  That summer the town of Hugo was founded to the west of the stage station and became a division point on the rail line.   A depot was built, along with a roundhouse and hotel with restaurant plus some homes.
            In 1874 John Dickinson, a railroad engineer, rancher and politician, built his house just south of the tracks.   Today that home still stands and is still used as a residence.  Some years ago a family bought the home and began to restore it.  The home was brought back to its original looks and could be a doctor’s home of pioneer days.  There is the picket fence, small lawn, flowers and tall stately trees standing to give shade in the heat of summer.  And yes, a doctor does walk out of the front door.  It is now owned by the local veterinarian.  In Colorado, it is probably one of the oldest homes still in continued use as a residence. 
            There are other old houses like this scattered around Hugo from the 1870’s and 80’s.  The Hedlund House, sits just north of downtown a couple of blocks.  It was built in 1877 and today it is a museum.  It has been maintained by the town and has numerous exhibits from local history.  Peter Hedlund was a land man and had a company in Hugo recording many of the patents for homesteaders.  The company he started still bears his name, Hedlund Abstract and is still doing business.  Over the years the little museum, that the Hedlund’s donated, has seen changes and additions yet it still reflects life on the prairie.  It is open on weekends through the summer or opened by request.  Here one can step back in time, seen many original furnishings and dream of what it would have been like living on the plains over a century ago. 
            There is the little Brown Church, built in the 1880’s.  it is wooden church that still stands and serves a congregation, holding services on Sunday’s. 

            Hugo also features a Boot Hill.  To the north of town, out in the pasture is a cemetery.  Until someone fenced it off, livestock grazed through the graves and some of the head stones have been knocked over and or broken.  There are numerous unmarked graves and many large elaborate fenced plots.  A few wooden crosses lie on the ground and mysteries float over the ground.  There probably a few souls resting here that met their demise at the end of a six shooter or maybe at the end of a rope.  There were train robberies in the area, wild and wooly nights at the many saloons and other assorted altercations.  Hugo was a wild and western railroad town.  Some of the headstones in the cemetery read, born in _______ England, buried in Hugo ….. or born in ______ Michigan, died in Hugo, Co.  There are the sad ones showing a baby or child and there were the diseases. 
            Doc Coulson, did not make it to the old cemetery.  The residents of Hugo at the time gave him his own personal graveyard.  On a ridge overlooking the valley lays the fearless frontier doctor.  In 1890, smallpox broke out in Hugo, creating fear and panic.  A local rancher caught the disease and no one would care for him.  Doc Coulson agreed to care for him and nursed the rancher back to health.  The Doc did not survive though, he caught the smallpox and perished in 1891.  Today he sits on the ridge looking out over the land below.  The town built a trail up there and named the park after the good doctor.  The Doc Coulson Trail is in the northwest corner of town. 
            A small quite town on the prairie that is not s ghost town but is full of ghosts.  There were the buffalo hunters that visited, the Calvary that rode past, the Indian relics, buffalo wallers and tall tales of yesterday.
            An ancient railroad roundhouse is on the southwest side of town.  It is slowly being rebuilt and restored.  Built in 1909, it served the railroad many decades before being vacated, then sold to a hardware and implement dealer.  Then a junker got it and stored his junk in it.  Eventually the county was able to buy it and the Union Pacific donated the land it was on to the county.
            Today the town of Hugo is on the Ports to Plains expressway and a few pause to look at the village.  The old depot sits in a park that houses some of the old courthouse memorabilia.  Few will stop and look at the sign showing the nearby Texas Montana Cattle Trail and the Smokey Hill Trail.   City Park has an area where truckers on occasion spend the night.  There a couple of shops on main street downtown in the old business district.  Occasionally it gets exciting when the turkey parade crosses the highway and the truckers lay on their horns.
            No longer do the cowboys ride into town for the weekend, riding up to the saloon, riding their horse in the door, getting their whisky, riding out the back door and BS’ing with the other cowpokes.  No longer do the trains stop and change crews.  The old hotel where the train crews stayed, is now a memory.  Out at the fairgrounds, there are still rodeos and the cowboys now ride up in their pick-up pulling a trailer. 


            

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Karval Colorado



            Karval is one of those towns that refuses to die.  It is probably tougher then Tombstone ever thought of being.  Sitting on a pretty dry plateau, close to no highways, the little prairie toughen clings to life.  They keep their school open and there is a post office.  The last business, a restaurant, closed a few years ago. 

            Today the old highway, called main street is full of empty store fronts and for the most part, empty.  On Sunday it gets busy with the church goers coming into town.  This time of year there is as bit more then usual activity.  For the locals are preparing for the Bird festival they host. 
            The Rocky Mountain Plover a is a pretty rare bird and Karval is in its migration path.  Tours are scheduled to take the bird watchers out in the pastures, on private land and search for the elusive little plover.  This is a time the bird lovers can access habitat that is usually off limits. 

            Karval is pioneer community settled by Norwegians in early 1900.  They migrated from the Kar Valley region of Norway and used this name to for their new town, Kar Val…. Karval.  Like many homestead town, Karval flourished in the early 1900’s.  There were shops, stores, garages, gas stations …. Etc.  Today it is the tumble weeds that frequent the road and keep the traffic signs busy directing the flow of tumbling weeds.   

A building that is no more



            Located due south of Hugo or due north of La Junta, just off of road 109, Karval sits on a flat area making for good farm land, just not lots of moisture.  There are bovine out in the grasses to greet people and there are the prairie watchers sitting along side the road observing the traffic pass by. 

The variety of birds, float overhand and the buzzard hangs out on the fence waiting for its meat.  Because it is so out of the way, few people will travel to visit, the deckling little town.