The research for books and feature articles I write provides a wide array of enjoyment. There is the sense of discovery in brittle old newspapers, in letters written long ago, and in finding the quiet cafe where locals have bellied up to the counter for coffee and pie with travelers passing through on the cracked asphalt two lane highway outside the window since at least the year Ford introduced the Model A to replace the tin Lizzie. Still, all of this pales beside the enjoyment derived from sharing these dusty gems with others, and encouraging them to make their own voyage of discovery on the road less traveled.
|Route 66 in America’s most popular ghost town,
I have found these simple pleasures in every book and article written but it was the years with Cars & Parts magazine and the penning of a monthly column, The Independent Thinker, where the hunger for discovering and sharing became an almost all consuming passion. Adding fuel to this fire were contracts to write Ghost Towns of the Southwest and Ghost Towns of Route 66.
In The Independent Thinker I was able to share the inspirational stories of men like Ralph Teetor, the prolific inventor that gave us cruise control who was blinded in an accident at age five, and the amazing story of the brothers Stanley whose legendary steamer brought them acclaim and fame that has spanned more than a century and obscured their earlier achievements such as the photographic process that served as the foundation for Eastman Kodak or the manufacture of quality violins.
In Ghost Towns of the Southwesthttp://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0760332215&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr, I shared my voyage of discovery by introducing readers to once famous lawman such as Commodore Perry Owens, the man who tamed Holbrook, and Jim Roberts, a survivor of the Pleasant Valley War that had his last shootout with bank robbers in the 1920s. Perhaps my most exciting find in the research for this book was the story of Jeff Davis Milton, a man of incredible durability and skill whose parents had an allegiance to the old Confederacy.
At age 15, he came to the conclusion that clerking in a store just wasn’t his cup of tea and took to the life of a cowboy. This was followed by a stint as a Texas Ranger, a position obtained through consummate skills as a horseman and a proficiency with a gun, and a small lie about as his age as was three years to young for the minimum requirement.
In the years that followed, his well deserved reputation, honed as a constable in El Paso, and as a border agent who policed the district from El Paso to Nogales alone, grew exponentially. It was for that very reason the robbers who planned to hit the train in Fairbank, Arizona, made sure Davis wouldn’t be riding shotgun on the night planned for the raid.
What they could not know was that on that cold dark night in February of 1900, Davis had volunteered to fill in for a sick guard. As it turned out for the bad men, Three Fingered Jack Dunlap, Bravo Juan Yaos, and two brothers whose names have been shrouded by the mists of time, this change in plans would prove fatal.
When the train pulled into the station, the desperado’s mixed among the crowd presenting the illusion of drunk cowboys as they moved closer to the open train car where Davis stood in the door. Thinking they had the element of surprise in their favor, they opened fire.
Davis was struck twice in the arm and fell back into the baggage car where he made a tourniquet from his shirt while the outlaws riddled the car with gunfire. With the crowd scattered by the gunfire, the outlaws stood alone as Davis, with his arm bound tight and a shotgun in the other hand, returned to the door and opened fire.
When the smoke cleared, the brothers and Juan Yaos were dead, and Three Fingered Jack was mortally wounded. Davis recovered but never again had full use of his arm.
This didn’t hamper the tough old lawman. In the years to follow he again took to patrolling he border, alone, accepted a position as a federal guards on transports returning anarchists back to Russia, and other assorted tasks. He died quietly in Tombstone shortly before the advent of World War II.
In Ghost Towns of Route 66http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0760338434&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr, the sense of excitement in discovery, and the sharing of those discoveries climbed to a feverish pitch. Here was an opportunity to breathe life in to the dry bones of towns along America’s most famous highway where the resurgent interest came to late and to add context as well as depth to the Route 66 experience.
There was Romeroville in New Mexico where presidents and world leaders once vacationed, and the towns fascinating namesake, Don Trinidad Romero, and the discovery that Lawndale in Illinois was once more than just a dot on a map and a wide spot in the road. I discovered the book written by Emily Post in 1916, By Motor to the Golden Gatehttp://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0786419407&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr, and gained a new perspective on the once feared La Bajada Hill between Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
Still, all of these grand adventures in discovery could not prepare me for the current endeavor, a Route 66 encyclopedia and atlas. With this project my inquisitive mind has been given free reign to find answers to the questions spawned by other answers and questions, and with each new discovery the hunger to share grows.
What is the story that links the Kleen Spot and the Green Spot motels in Victorville? What amenities were offered to travelers at First American Camp in Romeroville, New Mexico? What is the story of Little Chum’s Lodge in Springfield, Illinois?
As I meditate on how much remains to be discovered and written about in this project, there is the realization I will need to listen carefully for the voices in the empty places, chase the ghosts of the lost highway, and spend just a little more time living amongst the dead.
In a somewhat unrelated note, I am quite excited to announce that, if all goes as planned, we will have Paypal in place on the blog for the ordering of signed copies of my books as well as a “Print of the Week.”
I should also note that the Lile Fine Art Gallery accessed via the tab at the top of the page, will remain the exclusive distributor of our limited editon prints. There are but two prints left in the Ghost Towns of the Southwest series.