Monday, June 17, 2013

A Bit of History from Uncle Brooks Wasden

As I'm sorting through boxes and boxes of old pictures and documents (translation, Stuff), I ran across this letter - I know that I have pictures of Uncle Brooks, but you can just use your imagined recollection as you read this descriptive letter of his great adventure, written in his inimitable way.  This is very long, but I thought it worthwhile to share with all of you.

From a letter dated May 9, 1987
Medford, Oregon
From Uncle Brooks Wasden to Russell and Elna Blood.

“....Horace Albright; how very thoughtful that you would enclose his obituary.  Yes, I knew him and darn near attached a little worship to the man.  If I calculate rightly, I was 17 years older then and he had been Park Superintendent for a year.  He was promoting the need for improved roads for the sure-to-come automobile traffic - which Father hated to see come, but had to bow to “Progress”.  Father felt this was the sure sign of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse rampaging through the world, desecrating and destroying all that is good and beautiful.  How near his summary of such things proved true may not be as debatable now as then.  But it was the increased activity in road building that gave Father the opportunity to return to living in the Gardens of the only remaining Eden on earth and feel the limitless wonder of it all.  I can still see him wake up in the morning, go outside the tent, pause long enough to stand erect, raise his chin to bring into focus the heights of the mountains about our camp, and inhale the sublime joy of privilege to live and feel and listen to the solitude his whole person could encompass.

‘Mr. Debs and his brother helped me trail our eight horses from Penrose to the Park.  We drove “4” on a wagon loaded with grain and hay, and our bed rolls plus cooking needs.  The other “4” trailed along behind.  We made it to Cody the first day and camped at the bridge which crossed over to the railroad station.  This was the farthest I had been from home and the only time I had seen the Shoshone River with the city of Cody and its adjacent interests.  We rolled out our beds and slept on the ground.  Think of doing that now.

‘Early the next morning we were on our way.  The only way to travel was the little thin line along the north side of the canyon you can see as you travel the present highway.  Mr. Debs drove the team - thank goodness - because I was so totally enthralled with what my eyes were seeing.  At first it appeared like a solid wall of stone and mountain blocked our way, but as each step forward of the teams revealed a widening crack - maybe, just maybe we might get through and not have to climb over the top.  It was like the jaws of a huge gate slid noiselessly apart to let us through and then closed just as noiselessly behind us locking us in for keeps.

‘An automobile from Texas caught up with us.  At the first chance we pulled our wagon into a side gap to let them pass.  As they pulled up to do so, the trail horse at the rear jumped out and her hind leg hit their fender.  They stopped all right.  The poor lady was terrified.  This was before the days of glassed-in windows and doors - just canvas “pin-ons”.  To the lady it appeared the horse was intending to get in and ride!  Seemed there was a difference of opinions.  I hopped down, went back and shooed the horse back into line.  But the lady’s terror increased:  “We didn’t mean to do it - We didn’t mean to do it,” she babbled hysterically.  Her hands were quivering before her face and her eyes were so pleading - like she expected to be scalped and thrown into the gorge below.  That’s when I learned I had charm!  I rebuked the horse, smiled at the lady, told her we were sorry. Her expression changed like sunshine bursting from behind a cloud.  “You see, Henry, they are not mean; they will not hurt us.”  Such assurance!  And they drove on.
The rest of the trip up the canyon was [a] more and more mind boggling thrill.  The roar of the water, the birds daring to fly up those sheer walls, and then the dam with the water piled up behind it.  This little boy had all that his eyes and mind could behold for all time - he was sure.
We made it to the ”Hanging Rock” for the evening camp.  Real trees ...big!  A place to graze the horses like the story of “The Virginian” by Owen Wister.  Next morning, we passed the rock formation “The Holy City”.  What romance that excited!  And the day continued to expand unlimited beauty and more beauty.
Father met us below Pahaska, on horse-back.  Wondered what took us so long.  Camp was inside the Park just below the steep incline to Sylvan Pass.  About a week later we moved camp down to Pahaska.  It was here that Father put me on a road-grader - very pleased with what he had taught me to maneuver it.  Hoped I would not let him down.  We “bladed” the road from Pahaska to the entrance in time for Mr. Albright’s first visit. The road did look neat and he took time to speak to me.  This excited the other laborers because “officials” did not usually notice them.  The next morning, father kind of shuffled about for a bit and then said,
“Now, don’t get the big head but Mr. Albright said, ‘That son of yours can handle a grader like that?  Tell him he’s always got a job here with me as long as he wants one.‘  Father, I know, hated to tell me that because he knew that it would be hard on hat-bands. But for Mr. Albright to notice me, to give that notice of recognition, did a miracle for my self esteem.  Perhaps, just perhaps I could do something good, worth a compliment. It has ever been a cherished thing.
The next year I did send him an application for work.  When it arrived in the mail box there in Penrose - a big envelope - there was a second big envelope with it.  One envelope said, “Report to Cody, Wyoming, to-------”  The other envelope said, “You are called to fill a Mission ----”


Ann said...

It is amazing what little glimpses of history we get from these letters. I think we will wish we had written letters so generations to come would have these same glimpses. Uncle Brooks always had a neat way of telling his stories, whether in writing or when speaking. Thank you for taking the time to put this on the blog.

Judy said...

No fiction that I have ever read had an ending that packed a wallop like this letter did. This needs to go in the historical archives somewhere.