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Friday, December 19, 2014

Illusion ….. or ….. Reality

 

The land has a pace, the seasons rotate and change with time passing.  With some endeavor one can freeze time to their liking.  Create an artificial environment where it always spring or whatever their favorite may be.  It is this illusion of control so many want to exercise over nature.  They whine, gripe, complain and the bellyaches roar. Yet the seasons march on, they have a drum beat few listen to. 

I posted a picture while back and I got the comment that it pl;ace looked ill kept.  Stopped me and I had to think.  The grass was trimmed, no weeds or trash floating.  Well just a minute, then the bell went off.  It was green grass like a golf course.  It was a winter picture and the grass was brown, in hibernation for winter.  Few people accept the brown drabness of winter in the high plains.  It is a semi arid land and the grass goes dormant to conserve water and energy for it get very little moisture in the winter. 

This is nature’s way of keeping the land intact.  Man comes along and does not like it, so things are changed.  A nice green grass is planted and watered and there it is a scene from back east.  No longer is it the semi-arid land of the West.  So to keep the illusion, water is transported from a far distance, the mountains to provide for the greening of the brown land.

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Voila the illusion is created.  The dry drab brown land has become a lush green land.  Vegetation that is not native is planted.  Trees sprout in a once barren land.  The hand of man forces a change on the land.  A small environment has been made.  The illusion has been reinforced. 

The water is not always there and to keep the illusion, water fights ensue.  Demands are made that certain amounts of water should flow.   Nature provides gallons some years, others it is ounces but the fighters want the gallons no matter what.  To great lengths the battles roar. 

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Does it sound like the demands we put on politicians.  Through government fiat people want them to provide a certain lifestyle.  Instead of understanding the life they were given, they go crying to big brother and that’s from both sides of the fence.  Always thinking some can can do better for them then they can do for themselves.

People harken to the tune of the Natural man but do not hear the rhythm of the tune. 

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Even in the spring the land is mixed, the green edges out the brown yet it depends on what the skies bring.  The dormancy of the land is turning, new life is emerging.  The pulse of the ground is vibrant and gives life to those that listen. 

Learning to live is a lifetime journey of living in reality.  Pushing the illusion to the background. 

 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Watkins, Colorado

 

One of many wide spots the railroad built on its way to the gold fields of Denver.  Originally this railroad stop was called Box Elder, the name of the creek nearby and the stage station that had been there.  The place was renamed to honor a railroad employee.  DSCN9231 (1024x768)

Watkins did not incorporate until the 21st century then it only lasted a short time.  Couple years later it dissolved the corporation and went back to being  a wide spot with a Post Office.  The little town didn’t grow much.  It was a travelers stop on old Highway 40.  There were gas stations, coffee shops, truck stops and motels along with a few stores and shops.  Today most of that is gone.  Over by the Interstate is the truck stop/gas station.  Rest of the businesses have been shuttered up and some vacant lots.  There is a small general store and motel that hangs on and the saloon does a booming business. 

At its peak the town boasted over 200 souls living there, toady it is maybe 50.  In 1870, the population was reported at 70 hardy being living there.  No longer does the train stop there.  The occasional semi hauls grain from the elevators.  People whiz through on their way to the general aviation airport to the southeast.  Otherwise it a pretty sleepy town that is on the outskirts of Denver’s urban blight. 

The suburb of Aurora has stretched its city limits out to absorb the once railroad stop.  The urban sponge has soaked up lots of little stops like this as Denver’s tentacles stretched out.  Mesa, Sable, Schulyer, Roydale and others are now but noted in the books of early railroad construction. 

Stretching along the ribbon of iron rails had been numerous railroad stops.  Few became towns, most became memories and forgotten.

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on the north edge of town is the old school house, now a private residence.  A quite reminder of when Watkins had hopes and dreams of growing.  The few people remain have life of some tranquility.  Most of the city noise is to the west.  The urban housing developments are creeping closed year by year.  Soon It will be a sign post on the railroad and exit sign on the Interstate of what was once a prosperous wide spot on the highway. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Pearl Harbor

 

This Sunday, December the 7th, marks the anniversary of the Japanese attack on the US military installation on Hawaii, Pearl Harbor.  It is an unusual day to remember death and destruction yet that is what happened..  Many a young man perished that day and others got a rude baptism of war. 

There were two local boys on the Pacific Island that day.  Both had joined the Navy to escape the poverty of the depression and the Dust Bowl.  Joe grew up southeast of town and Gerry on the family farm south west of town.  The depression did not offer many opportunities for jobs after high school and the military was an option. 

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That fateful morning, most of the men were sleeping off their antics from the night before.  Joe was in his bunk on board his ship.  Gerry was sleeping in the barracks with the Marines. 

Sharply at dawn the bombs were dropping and exploding.  Gerry jumped out of his rack and ran outside to see what the racket was about, very irritated for being so rudely awaken.  Rushing out the front door, Gerry saw the bombers buzzing overhead dropping bombs.  Quickly he rushed back in the barracks grabbed his rifle and headed back out side.  He was going to shoot the noise makers down that had so rudely awakened him.  His fellow corpsman joined him on the little knoll.  Gerry was shooting at the planes, his partner was reloading the rifles as they emptied. 

Down below them the clouds of black smoke were billowing up.  Ships were exploding and settling into the waters of the harbor.  Joe never had a chance to see the planes bombing his ship, the USS Arizona.  Along with many other members of the crew they were trapped below deck, unable to get out. 

In Joe’s memory the local VFW post is named for him.  The USS Arizona lies in state in the harbor as a reminder of how nasty man can be.  Yes it is a Memorial to those who perished in the sneak attack.  It shows how brutal man can be top his fellow man.

Pearl Harbor carries lots of varied memories for me, for Gerry was my Uncle.   He didn’t talk  about the attack until his later years.  His disdain for the Japanese he wore on his sleeve.  Nothing Japanese got close to him, it was a plague. 

So it is with wary eye I watch people talk politics and people control.  For that is what the attack was for, to show who was in control. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Vona, CO

 

Vona was a town built by the railroad in the 1880’s.  The little farming community took hold and became a thriving growing burg on the plains.  It was the premier town in the area.  Then fire struck.  Downtown went up in ashes.  Afterwards very few stores were rebuilt and Vona began its slide in obscurity. 

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Couple of old buildings survived and some new ones were built to replace them.  Then the depression came along with the Dust Bowl. Vona became a town of vacant lots along the main drag. 

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Today one can cruise main and not see much of anything.  Even the trains are occasional.  The traffic jams are the tumbleweeds trying to blow thru town. 

They were able to keep a grade school going and most of the towns population is the teachers.  There is a post office, gas station and grain elevator that still operate. 

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Tucked back in among the side streets are some of the old buildings that survived giving one a glimpse of what used to be. 

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Today a building like this would be considered an office building.  Back then it probably had a different use. 

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Next to the railroad tracks is an old shed, for coal, maybe feed or?  It has aged in the next century and clings on despite the vagaries of nature. 

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The old concrete water storage tank has survived and has become a tourist attraction.  A local agency has made a board for some of its history and help preserve it.  A new tank is being built and the ground is all torn up as new pipes are being installed. 

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Out on the highway is the service station, the last remaining business on the old highway.  The Interstate flies by south of town a mile or better.   The structure is a compilation of various era.  A variety of additions when there were bountiful customers.  Today it sits for the most part and the times of day passes by.

Poke around the streets, the old machinery, the few well maintained homes, the old rusty car hulks, the neglected buildings.  It is a town of death and survival. 

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There is the junk collector sitting over yonder.  A view of life that was once the dream of many, now forgotten.  Dust collects, time passes and the few cling to their lifestyle.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Kanarado, Kansas

 

On the Colorado Kansas border is the declineing village of Kanarado.  It was named for the two states is joins up with.  The Interstate passed it by and most of the highway business have withered away to empty shells.  The exit is back over there someplace to the east of town and the little rest area at the state line is empty and overgrown.

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No longer do the passing motorists pause briefly for fuel and maybe a quick bite at the greasy spoon.  The wind whistles through the remaining trees.  The train rumbles through couple times a week and the occasional farm truck rolls into the grain elevator. 

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Main street appears to of been a lively commerce center.  Toady it is mostly empty.  A few cars cars the street.  The Post Office is open and there is a sign on one of the old building that says “Senior Center.”  Otherwise a person could probably take a street nap and not be disturbed. 

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There are a variety of old empty decaying buildings for reminders of another day when it was a bustling prairie town.  From the size of the town it appears it was around 500 to 1000 residents at one time, now a couple hundred or less call it home.  The farms keep it alive.  The school is gone, consolidated with the neighboring town, where most of the businesses are now. 

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The lumber yard office is now the community museum.  It is open a couple days a year.  Like most of the rest of the town, it is asleep the rest of the year. 

The reminders of another era cling to life, in various states of decay and neglect the little town hangs on.  There are numerous vacant lots and some neat old homes that would make cool haunted homes.

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Next October I’ll probably pull it out for halloween week and see what kind of story I can put to it.  These little towns had so many different characters that lived in them and their stories beg for telling. 

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Buildings stuffed back in a corner beg as question…. what were they used for?  It is a question to speculate on for the mystery is the question. 

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Just outside of town a farmer has a neat old barn, that has been kept up.  It is these few people that keep the little burg from completely disappearing.  Although now they drive some distance to go shopping. 

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On the side street by the tracks are more reminders of when this was a prosperous little town.  Shops and garages, now overgrown with weeds and ill kept. 

The siren song of the big city has a lure that many a country person goes to.  The big box store has replaced the little mom and pop stores.  The fragrance of new attracts many a person to the big plastic city lights.  These little towns are on life support and recitation is of very little avail. 

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The grain elevators and the railroad are the life support system to keep a faint pulse. 

The Great Depression and the Dirty 30’s was the clamp that began to squeeze the life out of the farm villages.  The big box stores began hammering nails into their coffins.  Today the whispering winds of the past float over the land. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Time Portal

 

 

 

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                Time goes forward, yet there is a rear view mirror.  Where we have been is often reflected in museums and books, showing what it was like in times past.  There are the stores and shops along the byways that ply on these memories.  Many were tourist stops along the road, roadside attractions.  Over the years, many of these things have faded back into nature.  With discerning eye one can find bits and pieces from past centuries and with some imagination relive some of these times. 

                Early roads across the plains were dusty ruts bouncing over the prairie, going from watering spot to the next water hole.  Then the railroads showed up on the prairie and many roads shifted to follow the iron rails.  Twisting and turning the Iron Horse made its way westward, passing many a Prairie Schooner.  Soon there were horseless carriages mixed in with the wagons.  The demand for improved roads grew and the government started highway departments to meet the new travelers of the country. 

                Roads were graded and covered with gravel and soon concrete or asphalt.  These new highways continued to follow beside the rails and the paths the pioneers had blazed decades earlier. The railroad had curved along beside a creek bed for an easy grade.  It was also the long way to go from point A to B.  The highway surveyed new grades for the highway and they straightened out lots of the curves.  No longer was it important to follow the rail ribbon.  Now it was important to move the traveler cross country in a hurry.  

                As roads were realigned, many towns lost their thoroughfare.  Business either moved to a new location or closed up.  The government was changing the pattern of life on the plains.  What had been a busy street through town was now becoming a dusty ole roadway with no travelers passing by.  Over there is where the highway had moved to, isolating may downtowns and or cutting some towns off. 

                The Golden Belt Route was a road laid out from St Louis, Missouri to the goldfields of the Rocky Mountains.  It was the shortest most direct route from the river to the mountains.  US Highway 40 followed this route across Kansas to Colorado on its way to the Pacific Ocean.  To make it shorter it was moved numerous times to make travel easier.  In the process many towns were becoming ghost towns.  Yet this changing has also created a slice of other days.  A portion of the old route remained as a country road for the local ranchers and farmers.  This bypassed route can be followed today and see where the pioneers had traveled.  It is a gateway to another era.  It is something of a living museum that one can pause and ponder what happened years ago. 

                The east end of this forgotten slice of other days is south of the junction of US Hwy 40/287 and SH 96.  Traveling south on the state road one will approach a railroad crossing.  On a knoll to the east is the Aroya School house and turning down the dirt road towards the school is the ghost town of Aroya.  For years the town had set vacant until recently a couple of residents moved in to keep the ghosts of the past company.  Here a few old buildings stand, a gas station, garage and shop, commercial buildings and a couple of old homes.  Aroya had its beginnings in 1870 as a stop for the Kansas Pacific Railroad.  Along the rails can be seen some rubble piles from the railroad days.

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                Turning west the road follows the railroad tracks and just over 3 miles is the stage station for which the town of Aroya was named for.  Nothing left of the stage stop and it is in a pasture south of the tracks next to a gully.  Here this road follows the old railroad right of way which was a part of the South branch of the Smoky Hill Trail.  Wells Fargo operated the stage line through here and Hughes and Company was the operator as the railroad moved westward. In spots the ruts from the wagons and stage can be seen.  In most places the road is on the old trails going west. 

                The west end of this remnant of the Gold Belt Route is a now closed rest area.  Leading to the south is a country road.  In the distance can be seen a building sitting in a pasture and beyond that is the woods of the Big Sandy Creek.  This road leads to the Ghost Town of Clifford.  The building in the pasture is the one room school house.  When the road curves to the east, is downtown Clifford.  Here are concrete footers from structures now gone, depressions for basements/cellars and other footers.  Tall stately cottonwoods line the railroad tracks where the depot used to be.  Across the railroad tracks is the crown of all haunted houses.  A private road leads to the rancher’s sheds and equipment plus the Montgomery Ward house that is barely hanging one.  The porches have collapsed, the windows are gone and the winds of time moan through the old house.  The owner is also very protective of his property and doesn’t like people to wander onto it. 

                Clifford is the site of all kinds of western things.  Indian Sweat Lodge, Indian raids on the stage station of Mirage, nearby.  There was a robbery of a military payroll wagon and the stories of buried gold in the gulches over the ridge.  Indian attacks on the railroad workers, General George Custer being assigned to the area to protect the railroad workers.  A notorious outlaw gang rode in the area robbing weary travelers and trains, there were cowboys the saloons and frontier camps.  Whatever western movie Hollywood made, it happened here.  Cattle drives covering the land like a carpet, Buffalo hunters searching for their game, shoot outs.  There was also plague and pestilence.  Just past the curve is a small grave yard.  A family is buried here, possibly from influenza or anthrax.  The prairie had a way of humbling people. 

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                Coon Creek is the east edge of town.  Here there is a large sized pool the little stream has carved into the knoll on its way to the Big Sandy Creek.  It is on the banks of this stream the Indians built their Sweat Lodge.  With the woods nearby they had wood for the frame of their lodge.  Building a fire in the rock ring the Indians would begin their ritual.  Water was brought up from the creek in animal bladders or gourds and poured over the steaming rocks.  Buffalo robe covered the wood frame and the low chant of the Indians could be heard within.  Soon the cover was opened and into the pool of water the Indians jumped.  For decades the Indians had been using this spot, then, the white men showed up.  For water on the prairie was precious on this pond had abundant water. 

                To the north is a small grove of trees, roughly 3 miles.  Here is coon springs, the feed water for Coon Creek.  This was the north fork of the Smoky Hill Trail.  It also became a relay station for the Butterfield Overland Dispatch Stage Lines.  No longer was Coon Creek a quiet place of solitude for the Indians.  There were travelers with gold fever tramping through the Indians sacred place.  When BOD ceased stage operations, the Wells Fargo began operating the stage line.  They shifted their station to the south, closer to the pond Coon Creek had created.  Even closer now was the invaders. 

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The heist of the Army payroll was the main attraction for many visitors to Clifford.  In 1864 An Army payroll wagon was crossing the plains.  When it approached Mirage, some bandits jumped the guards and wagon and were able to rob the Army payroll.  The highwaymen managed a get way but not very successful for the troopers were after them.  The crooks were caught but they did not find the gold for the payroll.  The bandits said they had buried it in dutch ovens in a gully over there.   The burial site was not found and the legend of the buried gold began.  Even today some of the locals say it is still buried out there in the pasture some place. 

Numerous people have wandered the area, walking the gullies looking for the buried gold.  In the early 1900’s a gentleman showed up at Clifford to go treasure searching.  He spent months walking the area looking for the gold.  He left saying he had found nothing.  Would you tell if you found the gold.  Robbers still roamed the land back then a whiff of found gold would draw them out in a hurry.  Yet for a few, the dutch ovens are still buried in the gully over there. 

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The Montgomery Ward house still stands but just barely.  The porches have collapsed and the weather pounds on it.  Like so many things at Clifford, it too shall soon become a memory. 

 

There had been numerous conflicts with Indians along the Smoky Hill Trail and stage stations.  Here at Coon Creek there was more intensity because of the sacred spot of the Indians.  In 1870, the conflict came to a boil.  The railroad was following the trail and construction crews were scattered along the route of the Kansas Pacific RR.  That spring the Indians launched a series of attacks on the railroad workers and the stage stations from Kit Carson to Lake Station, CO.  The Indian raiders were in groups of a dozen.  Railroad workers were killed and wounded during these raids and the crews fled back to Kit Carson for protection.  There was a small garrison there but not enough to deter the Indians.  Washington DC was telegraphed asking for help. 

General Custer was reinstated to his command and sent to Kit Carson to protect the railroad workers and stage line.  Custer bivouacked at Kit Carson and Colonel Reno was bivouacked at River Bend CO.  They patrolled the railroad for six months with no major incidents after they arrived.    The Indians had retreated to Oklahoma or went north to join the Sioux in their battle where they would meet Custer again. 

The railroad was completed to Denver before the end of the year and Clifford became a stop on the new railway.  There was a depot, water tank and section houses built.  A few people moved in and set up shops and a saloon.  Ranching was the main business in the area and cattle were shipped. 

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Venture on down the road, it crosses coon creek.  In this area was the sweat lodge.  Look at the bridge, it is a throwback to when concrete was to be the solution to road construction, it dates the 1910’ or 20’s.  Most of these old crossings of concrete have disappeared.  Bounce on down the road, here is where the early day pioneers plodded along in their covered wagon.  The nearby railroad tracks were a guide and kind of a safe haven for the early traveler. 

Time rolls back on this rutty old road.  When the highway was realigned, the county got the old right of way and they took care of it as a county road.  To that end a small piece of early history was preserved in part.  This bouncy roadway probably had its beginnings in the 1850’s when the military marked the Smoky Hill Trail. 

The land is still rangeland, no longer do the buffalo roam, it is now cattle that keep the grass shorn.  Otherwise the land is the same it was centuries ago.  Oh there are fence posts and the railroad.  On ridges can be seen the watchers, antelope.  Warily they watch the interloper pass by.  The grass land is loaded with birds.  The prairie warbler, Western Meadowlark, will serenade in the summer.  Other birds flit among the grasses catching a variety of bugs, others search out the seeds of the grasses.  The gimp wing killdeer screeches when one gets to close.  High overhead floats the hawk or maybe a prairie falcon.  The kestrel Darts over the land hunting.  The woods of the sand creek house the majestic bald eagle and the owl stoically watches things unfold.  The land has not changed much.  Man’s mark is very small. 

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Bouncing on down the road brings one to the village of Boyero.  Here is a little ghost town that clings to its past.  There are a couple of residents that still call Boyero home and there are some nearby ranchers.  If one can catch one of them out and about, they are amiable and will talk about the town they live in and its early history.  The streets can still be seen, the livery is there as is the boarding house.  The store collapsed a while back and is gone, a concrete pad marks its spot.  There are some other old building and sheds still standing. 

The railroad had built a cistern there for water and they allowed the townspeople to get water from it.  The water of the creek is kind of rank.  Yet one guy told there was a spring on its banks and when he was younger, mom sent him to the spring to get water for her to wash her hair in. 

A state highway used to pass on the southern edge of town on its way to highway 40.  Now it is a dusty country road crossing the southern edge.  Boyero was also a section town for its railroad workers.  There had been some section houses here to house the employees. 

It was a bustling town for years and even today people in the area still refer to it as a town.  There ghosts of all types that roam the land here.  There are spooky stories if one can find the right story teller.  There are stories of grim times and happy times.  Here time is on hiatus and awaits the seeker with imagination. 

                On down the road wanders the soul, passing ranches, cattle grazing, the jackrabbit jumps up and leaves a trail of dust over the prairie.  The coyote prowls along looking.  Life here has its own rhythm and doesn’t change much.  There are more old concrete bridges to cross.  A stage station to pass. 

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Across the land a herd of cattle saunter along, cowboys riding along by them talking, dog trotting beside them listening.  A dust devil swirls up.  Listen to the song of the plains.

 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Galatea

 

Galatea was one of those towns that took me more then one attempt to find.  I had driver past it several times but never noticed it.  The railroad has a huge earth berm beside it and things on the other side are well hidden.  Where the county road turns off the state highway there is a small window to look back into it.  Then it still looks like no more another abandoned ranch house, which are plentiful on the plains. 

Galatea sits north of the junction of SH 96 and CR 27.  It had its beginnings in 1887 as a railroad camp.  The Missouri Pacific wanted to reach the Rocky Mountain goldfields and this route to Pueblo was almost a straight line from Kansas City. 

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Most of the railroad camps became memories.  Galatea lasted for a bit.  Some shops were there plus homes.  Today there is mostly weeds, couple houses, some out buildings and lots of concrete piles from footers and foundations. 

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The depression hit followed by the drought.  The lack of money and moisture took its toll on the early settlers.  The Dust Bowl of the 30’s blew many a settler out.  Most farm land was ruined and very little range land could be used. 

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The railroad provided some work for the few that hung in there during the dust storms.  The land is still dry and the dust boils in the sky on occasion.  It is not an easy land to live on yet a few make a nice living.  Many people grudgingly left their homes, for here were their dreams, their own land. 

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The railroad no longer carries trains, the rails are possibly going to be removed and the highway sees the occasional traveler.  Near by is the town of Eads, the County Seat.  Here are the stores and shops for provisions and take care of business.  Way over there someplace is a city or two.  Homes are few and far between.  Population for the entire county is less then 2000.  Galatea seldom shows up on maps and most travelers fly by not even noticing the few trees that struggle to survive marking the once town. 

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Here one can walk the path of John Steinbeck and the Grapes of Wrath. 

Highway 96 begins in western Kansas and ends in Pueblo, Colorado.  Along this route are scores of little ghost towns like this.  After doing some more research on Galatea, I found there were numerous camps the railroad built that never became towns.  So I have future excursions along this stretch of road to go town looking again.  Have to find a better map that shows the railroad locations. 

It is a highway of ghosts that winds beside the railroad tracks, much like it did more then a century ago.  The code polls still stand and the rails are rusted and the highway glides on past these pages of times past.