is older than it's ever been and now it's even older


Happy Trails

When I was a kid, the vacations that me and my brother always looked forward to were the trips out to Kenton. Kenton is a little community at the end of the Panhandle of Oklahoma; a tiny community that typically merits an entry in various Ghost Town listings. Kenton is a boy’s paradise. It is real cowboy country; a sagebrush valley of cacti, cattle, and rattlesnakes. There are mesas to climb, caves to visit, dinosaur tracks to see, arrowheads to pick up, and neat rock formations to look at. Many relatives of mine have lived out there in the past, and currently my mom’s cousins (making them my First Cousins Once Removed) Monty Joe and Vicki run a Bed and Breakfast out there at the foot of the Black Mesa, the tallest point in Oklahoma at just shy of a mile high. I have only managed to visit there three times in the last seven years, so I am very excited at getting to visit there again next month. I hope to have pictures.

Anyway, I was checking out satellite pictures of the area and suddenly thought to look for traces from space of the Santa Fe trail, the old road that carried commerce from the trailheads in Eastern Kansas to Santa Fe. As the sign indicates, the trail was in use from 1826 through around 1880, peaking in use around 1849 due to the California gold rush. Nonetheless, even 121 years after its last real use, the trail is still easily visible from space. This picture is of the road crossing the trail; look for the wide trough of beaten land that crosses perpindicular to the road at the small turnoff, which is the same historical marker shown in the link immediately previous. I was emboldened by this discovery, so I remembered a reference I had heard years before to a small fort in the area. The Cimarron County Chamber of Commerce says about Camp Nichols:
CAMP NICHOLS was established by Kit Carson in May 1865, to protect wagon trains along the trail from plains Indians and outlaws in the vicinity (mainly the gang of William Coe) who preyed on travelers. At one time 300 soldiers were stationed at Camp Nichols. It has an advantageous high location, with canyons on three sides, which allowed the soldiers to view the surrounding country, and the nearby canyon contained an ample supply of water. The camp was "lost" for many years, having been recorded as located in New Mexico Territory.

I never knew where it was, so I followed the trail visually via the satellite pictures until I found it. I am surely going to try to find this site and hike out to it next month. What a neat discovery.

In trying to find out more about the trail, I found a couple of very interesting personal accounts of the life. This story was transcribed in 1936 from an old timer who remembered the old trail days. The coot repeats himself, is a bit racist, but that’s par for the course in the time and era he lived in. Still, it’s fascinating. Better still is the diary of William Anderson Thornton, an officer on an expedition along the trail in 1855. Absolutely gripping; he records mishaps, innumerable deaths by cholera, and observations of local Indians and villagers in a dry, seemingly unfeeling manner. Now, the implications of settlement of the Southwest and all the attendent baggage that is carried with our campaign of Western colonization are complex and still being shaken out, but I can’t help but admire the strength and bravery of those that had to take their entire lives, pack them in a wagon, and set out for a journey of several months with an outcome that was by no means clear.

Thanks again, pigs

A group of St. Paul sheriff’s deputies attempting to serve a warrant at the wrong house shot the family Labrador to death on Saturday. The poor dog was only doing its job; and the five deputies were carrying billy clubs, mace, and pepper spray. Surely they could have done something else to the thing besides shoot it. What a cowardly, unjust act of state sanctioned violence.


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