The Long and Dusty Trail

The Long and Dusty Trail

Mountain View Cemetery in Kingman, Arizona. © Jim Hinckley’s America

I was an odd kid, and still am. For about as long as I can remember there has been a fascination with cemeteries. I used to take my books to the local cemetery, find a shady spot, and while away an afternoon reading. It made me happier than fleas on a puppy.

Ma always said that I was born ninety and never seemed to age. My fascination with cemeteries were but one of the reasons she felt this way.

There are a lot of lessons to be learned in a cemetery. Life is short, some lives are shorter than others. Death is simply part of life. Death is not to be feared as it keeps us focused on what makes life worth living; family, friends, adventures, shared adventures, laughter with friends, making memories and working daily to make our corner of the world a bit better than it was when we got here.

Chris LeDoux in his song The Ride had some real words of wisdom. He said “Sit tall in the saddle, Hold your head up high
Keep your eyes fixed where the trail meets the sky
And live like you ain’t afraid to die
And don’t be scared, just enjoy your ride”

Perhaps one of the most important lessons to be learned from a cemetery walkabout is to keep the ego in check. Praise and adulation are short lived.

Case in point, George Grantham. On a recent morning walkabout through Mountain View Cemetery in Kingman, Arizona, I came across the grave marker for George Grantham.

Grantham was born in Galena, Kansas in 1900. He went to school in Kingman and Flagstaff, Arizona. George Farley “Boots” Grantham was also a Major League second baseman who played for the Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds, and New York Giants between 1922 and 1934. He played in the 1927 World Series. He died in 1954. His final resting place has a simple marker. George Grantham 1900-1954. Nothing more. And yet there was a time when every baseball fan in America knew his name.

Over the years I have had a few brushes with fame. An interview with Jay Leno in his world famous garage. Twenty books published. Well attended presentations with media coverage in a half dozen countries. Recipient of the bronze medal at the International Automotive Media Awards for The Big Book of Car Culture. Appointment to a couple of prestigious committees.

And I have had some low points. Some were my fault. Some were simply bad luck. Others were just simply a part of life. But those are stories best saved for another day.

Aside from cemeteries I developed a passion for early morning walkabouts decades ago. With few exceptions, summer or winter, in Germany, Arizona or Minnesota, at least three or four days a week, I savor a morning walkabout.

This is the best way I know to clear the head. It is also the best way that I know for starting the day with eager anticipation.

For the past few weeks there has been much to meditate upon. Working with Kingman Main Street, if the fund raising initiative is successful, I will be developing the long dreamed of historic district walking tour.

It will be a multifaceted project that blends the old and new. There will be kiosks with historic photo and caption, credit given to the sponsor and a QR code that allows for narration which expands on the caption. The corresponding website will have a then and now photo, a 360 degree photo and the audio of the narration. The website will allow for a virtual tour of Kingman.

Model of the proposed Jim HInckley by artist J. Anne Butler © Jim Hinckley

I am so excited about this project. It is the second part of the initiative that I am struggling with. I am to be honored with a life sized bronze statue created by internationally acclaimed artist J. Anne Butler. The statue will stand in a pocket park at the historic depot. The park will contain a brick garden commemorating those who contributed to funding the project. It will also contain the initial Route 66 Walk of Fame that was launched in 2014, and shelved shortly afterwards. The walk of fame will also be given a new lease on life with regular additions.

I harbor no illusions. Fame is fleeting. It has never been something that I pursued. I am honored. I am humbled. And I am a tad bit uncomfortable.

The tentative date for completion of phase one of the tour, and the unveiling, is toward the end of next May at the kick off of the national road trip festivities. The way time flies, that isn’t very long.

Meanwhile I have another book to finish. And I have a visitor guide to develop for the City of Tucumcari as well as two articles to pen for Route. There are also a few presentations and a need to have the outlines for the community education programs I teach at Mohave Community College completed.

And, perhaps, there will be a road trip between then and now as well as visits with friends. Definitely lots to meditate upon during the morning walkabouts.

Then there is a little matter of dusting off a dream. Perhaps this is the year that I see Route 66 through the windshield of a Model A Ford, or a Studebaker Dictator. Perhaps this is the year that I emulate Edsel Ford, and see America in a whole new light.