The first item of the day is a very hearty thank you. For an author there is an almost indescribable sense of satisfaction that comes from seeing a book sell well, hearing that it is being enjoyed, and, even better, to hear that it is inspiring readers to make or plan road trips.
As of this morning, these are the rankings for Ghost Towns of Route 66 on Amazon.com. Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
7 Reviews
5 star: (6)
4 star: (1)
3 star: (0)
2 star: (0)
1 star: (0)
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,766 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
#1 in Books > Travel > United States > Regions > Midwest
#15 in Books > Travel > United States > Regions > West
#21 in Books > Travel > United States > Regions > South
The next item of business is a bit of continuation from yesterdays post. It is an expansion on the ideal that Route 66 in its purest sense is a shrine to individuality with a distinctly American twist.
This is made manifest in the odd promotional gimmicks such as the Gemini Giant that in itself represents the creative genius behind a company named International Fiberglass. It is also made manifest in unique architectural elements and design, one of a kind attractions, and, of course the eccentrics, ordinary folk, and visionaries behind them.
It is the people like Bob Waldmire, Ed Edgerton, Ernie Edwards, Arthur Black, Harley and Annabelle, Dan Rice, Laurel and David Kane, Alberta Ellis, and countless others that have made, and still make, Route 66 a vibrant entity that is full of life, and that invigorates all who take the time to savor its essence during their travels. I will leave it to you to categorize who on this list, or on the road, fits in the “eccentric”, “visionary”, or “ordinary folk” category.
Once upon a time in America every road was a neon lit fantasy land that hid harsh realities in its shadows. Once upon a time in America, long before Puritanical codes of political correctness set the tapestry woven from threads of colorful individuality, comedic attempts at self righteousness, and the dark stains of prejudice ablaze, characters were the salt and pepper of life.
As a case in point, consider the description of Bill Williams, namesake for Williams, Arizona, penned by George Frederick Ruxton in the 1840s. “Williams always rode ahead, his body bent over his saddle horn, across which rested a long heavy rifle, his keen gray eyes peering from under the slouched brim of a flexible felt hat, black and shining with grease. His buckskin hunting shirt, bedaubed until it had the appearance of polished leather, hung in folds over his bony carcass; his nether extremities being clothed in pantaloons of the same material. The old coon’s face was sharp and thin, a long nose and chin hob-nobbing each other; and his head was always bent forward giving him the appearance of being hump backed.”
The story continues by describing short stirrups that resulted in his knees being just below his chin. Not mentioned were solo ventures deep into the wilderness that lasted for months, epic drinking sprees, and a well deserved reputation as a skilled marksman even though Bill described his shooting technique as a double wobble, letting the long gun wobble back and forth before timing the moment the sights crossed the target.
Eccentric, perhaps. A tad bit off center, more than likely. Still, Bill Williams, for all his faults, still lived life on his terms free from the encumbrances that most folks trade the irreplacable gift of time for.
Another of my favorites is Commodore Perry Owens, an unsung hero who had few qualms with toeing the line between right and wrong, or going against the grain. One can only surmise how many jokes the new sheriff of Apache County spawned when he rode into the rough and tumble cattle town of Holbrook.
With his long flowing hair, ostentatious style, and two pistols wore with the butts facing forward, the poor folks of Apache County most likely thought they had been saddled with a dandy rather than a lawman. That all changed when he went to serve a warrant for horse stealing on Andy Cooper, aka Andy Blevins, a member of the gang that created a great deal of havoc during the very bloody Pleasant Valley War.
Owens arrived at the Blevins home to serve the warrant and stepped onto the porch in time to see Andy crack open the door with a gun in hand. Owens fired his 44.40 Winchester from his hip putting a slug through the door as well as Andy.
John Blevins returned fire but his aim was not as sure as Owens and Blevins joined Andy on the floor. A distant relative, Mose Roberts, took flight through a window while firing randomly in the direction of Owens.
Again Owens proved himself the better shot as he unflinchingly followed the assailant into the street. Fourteen year old Sam Houston Blevins entered the foray after retrieving Andy’s revolver but before he could take his first shot, Owens dropped him with a round through the heart.
I have always had a deep fascination for those who chose to march to the tune of a different drummer, especially those framed by the larger than life landscapes of the American west. In retrospect, it is now quite evident that those of this stripe that I was privileged to have met and ride with, had a very profound affect on the way I view the world.
Perhaps that is just another reason why I so love adventures on America’s most famous highway, the last refuge for the eccentric, the visionary, and the ordinary folk who simply prefer life lived with just a touch of seasoning and a whole lot of savoring.