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.  

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Boyero, CO

Boyero, Colorado
            Boyero was built by the railroad as the Kansas Pacific built across the Colorado prairie.  It became a section point for the road gangs that maintained the rails.  Structures were built, homes and shops popped up.  The train town was on its way to becoming a prosperous little community for the railroad workers and the ranchers in the area. 
            The Smoky Hill Trail had shifted south to follow along the tracks and the Golden Belt Route made Boyero a place to stop for supplies.  A school was built as were churches with numerous homes.  With the advent of the automobile in the early 1900’s, Boyero found itself at the crossroads of a couple of state roads plus the US highway.  Gas stations and repair shops opened and the railroads kept the towns people busy. 

            It became a shipping point for livestock.  Cattlemen were keeping things busy.  There were saloons, a dance hall and fine eating establishments in the little town which had grown to almost 500 people. 
Water in the area was very hard and alkali, not good for the steam engines.  So a cistern was built and the railroad brought water in by tank car for their steam engines.  They also allowed the townspeople to use water from the cistern also, since most worked for the railroad. 
Then the state highway department wanted to straighten out the highway.  In the process, Boyero became isolated, five miles off the main highway.  One of the state roads was re routed, it was the beginning of the end for the country town.  No longer were travelers passing through, some businesses closed.  Then the railroad began to change their divisions and sections.  Not as many workers for the rails were needed. 

People were moving and there were empty houses dotting the town.  Ranchers in the area helped to keep the town afloat for a time yet it was not enough to keep any of the businesses open. 
There are a couple of families that still live in the town that call Boyero home.  The Post Office is gone and they have to go down the road a bit for mail pick up at a kiosk.  The antique store the rancher’s wife kept in a small house has closed and most of the town is in ruins. 
Some of the streets can still be seen, a few relics dot the empty lots.  Over there where there had been homes is now a corral and cattle hang out in the pen.  

The old highway runs through the middle of town is now a dusty country road.  All signs of the railroad buildings are gone.  The Boyero sign still stands next to the rails.  Sitting on the other side of the tracks on a big sweeping bend in the creek is the old boarding house.  It still stands stately, well worn and showing some signs of roof neglect.  There are couple of other sheds nearby and depressions in the ground where other buildings had been.  

Cross the tracks is where the main part of Boyero had been.  Couple of shops still stand, in the beginnings of collapse.  The weeds hold a variety of relics and out buildings.   At the north end is the stately livery stable and house.  Both show signs of severe weathering but enduring.  They are built of rock with wooden roofs.  The street that goes past, leads back to the ranchers house that still lives there. 
It is a classic prairie ghost town and because it sits off the highway, down a dirt road, few people will make the effort to go look at.  Yet in the spring, when the green up begins, it is a wondrous area.  The groves of trees along the sand creek are home to countless birds and critters.  The eagles float overhead, along with the hawks and falcons.  The kestrels and merlins flit among the grasses and the Meadowlark will serenade the visitor with a tune of the grass lands.  In the trees the deer can be seen, on far hill the antelope watch the traveler.  Coyotes and foxes scurry along looking for their next meal.
Each passing year a bit of the town disappears.  The store had stood for years.  The roof collapsed and a few years ago the store front collapsed onto itself making a big pile of kindling wood.  One of the local ranchers sold out a while back, so there is now another empty home in the area. 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Weskan, Kansas

Way out in western Kansa is the little village of Weskan.  It was a town built by the railroad that grew into a nice little farming community.  Like so many of these little towns, their business care is pretty well gone.

Downtown still hosts the Post Office and a variety of other stores, now mostly out of business.  There are also the vacant lots of where once used to be other shops and stores. 
Like so many little towns on the prairie, the grain elevator dominates the skyline.  Here one can wander along a watch the ghosts of other days hustle along the sidewalks, stopping in stores, doing their shopping.  There is a coffee shop out on the highway.  One can get a good country meal and listen to the buzzed conversation of farm country. 

The empty gas station provides a place to park, stop in have some coffee, pass the time of day.  Life in the small towns operates at a different pace then the big city do. 
Found a book number of years ago  about growing up in the Weskan area.  A daughter had her mother’s diary and made it into a book.  Her parents had settled in the area in the 1900’s and mom’s diary chronicled their early life of making a living on the hi-plains.  There were the blizzards, storms, insects, dry spells and other critters to deal with.  There were the moments of joy, birth, get together and there the sad moments, death, sickness and accidents.
The land was not easy to domesticate and many did not succeed.  The empty building in the area reveal the story of failings or fleeing the harness of the land.  Yet the few that remain have a very unique life that few understand. 

The Interstate made a north turn and changed how people lived.  Traffic diminished to almost nothing on the highway.  The motel and gas stations no longer had travelers to serve.  Soon these thriving places were empty shells, breathing of life of ghosts.  Today it is the high speed freeway that carries the cars in a rush to go somewhere.  Little spots like this are ignored.  For the few that pause, there are surprises.

Out on the edge of town are some great displays of old farm machinery, equipment and tractors.  The farmer has lined up his old stuff in nice rows and in silence they sit, reminders of other times. 
The old red brick school house still stands, a classic building and there are neat well kept homes. 
To the north is the Smoky Hill River, this is where the Stagecoaches rolled and the wagons to gold rush traveled.  When the railroad showed up, this early pioneer trail moved south to follow the RR grade.  Nearby had been the Texas/Montana cattle trail, Lonesome Dove fame,
There had been massive herds of buffalo that roamed the area and the Indians that chased them.  Pause on a clear day, listen to the whispers echoing over the land.
Walking around town taking pictures, I got a few stares.  Strangers, get the look in small towns and for the most part, I smile at them and go on. 

It is the small towns like this that I look for, not a classic ghost town but a town that has some character.  The prairie is dotted with them and I have many more miles to travel searching for these places.  

Friday, February 5, 2016

Alta Vista, CO

I had read and hears stories about Alta Vista, so I looked to see where it was.  It was not the  far away so I made a journey to go explore the area.  Looking on satellite I did not see much.  There was nothing under the blip and in the area it appeared to be farms and some ranches.  So off I went not expecting much but hoping for a country school or church. 
I missed my first turn to the area so did some backtracking.  In the distance I could see some buildings, back I went.  Well I got a mild surprise. It was a country school I found, but it was not a little one room school.  There among the other houses, on the corner was a nice two story schoolhouse.  Well maintained and the Quonset was there for a gym.  Someone had bought the old school and was keeping it up. 

To the west, somebody had spread some BS and up sprout some wind turbines.  What had once been an unimpeded view of Pikes Peak, was now a cluttered view of electrical generators. 
From what little I’ve gathered, there was not a town in the area.  Alta Vista was a community that built up around the school. 
Today there are still a few farms and ranches in the area, there is also numerous abandoned buildings.  I will continue to seek out info and maybe someday come back and revisit Alta Vista.

It is my hope that over the years, things will be kept up. 

Now to get on the horse and go find some more treasures.  

Monday, February 1, 2016

Wallace Kansas

            Wallace, Kansas was about as wild of a western town one could find.  Pretty much anything and everything one could think of happening in old wild west happened here. 

            When the railroad began building from Wyandotte to the Pacific, they created all types of drama.  The railroad president was killed, his replacement was murdered in revenge and the road went almost broke.  Then they had the first wild cowtown of the west, where a guy by the name of Hicock gained fame.  Not only did Wild Bill shoot the yahoos and throw em in hoogscow, he also shot his deputy. 
            Them there was the guy by the name of Cody who got his name Buffalo Bill.  William Cody got a job with the railroad to supply buffalo to the hungry railroad workers. 
            There were train robberies, Indian battles, saloons, brothels, whiskey galore and all that stuff that goes with it. 
            A guy by the name of Custer got his taste of frightening Indians along the tracks until he ran away to find his wife. 
            The people that were following the railroad and building were writing stories for Hollywood’s old west. 

            Before the railroad could cross into Colorado Territory, it ran out of money.  There was a war going on and the Civil War was soaking up funds.  So in western Kansas the construction came to as halt.  Nearby was Ft Wallace and the Town of Wallace Kansas bloomed at the end of the rails.  In 11865 there were estimated to be over 4000 people in town. 
            Just because there was a war going on over there, did not stop commerce.  Supplies to build the railroad continued to be shipped in.   There were supplies coming in for the gold fields in the mountains.  The Santa Fe trail had shifted north to transfer merchandise onto the trains for east shipment and the stage to Denver began here.  There were muleskinners, teamsters, laborers, merchants and other workers.   Throw into the mix the soldiers from the fort and there was good mixture for a boiling helltown.    
            Put a plank across a couple of whiskey barrels in a tent and one had a saloon.  Nearby were the houses of the evening.  There were the stores, banks, freight houses and a few homes. 
            Rough and tumble was the mode of the day at the end of the tracks.  There were shootings, fights, brawls and thievery of all types.   A merchant received a shipment of rope.  A local pundit made the remark that hopefully it would find uses for some of the sluggards hanging around town.  Down at the bridge would be a good place to string a few of em up, he noted. 
            With the end of the war, the Kansas Pacific Railway got construction money again.  The end of the tracks began moving westward again and HellTown went on to Kit Carson, CO. 

            With the end of the tracks gone, Wallace began to shrink and today there are few hearty people that  still live in town.  The business of downtown are closed, the storefronts are empty but the humor of the street name still stands very prominent.  Not many people turn off the Interstate any to see places like this.  Nearby is the Ft Wallace Museum.  They also have a restored stage station, a home station on the BOD stage line. There is also the military cemetery.

            The town has some neat old buildings and its fun to wander the streets, looking, listening to the breezes of other days echo with the passing tumble weeds.