LC Van Savage
I'd visited the Rocky Mountains as a kid of about ten in my parents' car with them and my siblings. Alas, I'd been far more interested in reading and rereading my Archie Andrews comics or playing "Last Touch" and/or "It's My Turn at the Window" or best of all, taking turns beating the crap out of each other.
But that was five decades ago, and I've been given a second chance. My husband "Mongo" and I went to Denver to visit our #3 son Paul, his wife Kate and our dazzling, people-stopping, brilliant, curly-headed treasure of a granddaughter, Jordan, a Betty Boop clone of 3 years old.
While there, Mongo and I drove off to do some sightseeing and quite quickly found ourselves inside a stupendous circle of breathtaking mountains, the famous, ancient Rockies. (I'd sure love to know the wag who named them. ) Now I know I'm given to using lots of cliché exclamations, many of them even older than I am, but in fact all one can really say about the Rocky Mountains is "wow!" I said it a lot as we drove.
While we passed through those magnificent, snow-covered rocks, staring up at them, while they stared back, I wondered about all they'd seen and wished they could talk the way countless people have wished they could talk over the decades. They've seen America since long before it was even had a name. They watched people arrive, those called Native Americans, (as we know them) and probably people before them. They have watched animals of all types wandering, thundering and galloping up and down their sides and on the plains beneath stretching out from the foothills.
Mongo and I drove up and up and were amazed to see lonely homes scattered about, the occasional tiny, forlorn cemetery with no churches anywhere in sight, tiny strip malls, one with a small "Nails and Tanning" shop, and I laughed at how out of place that sign was. Then I realized that perhaps a hundred years ago that tiny shop was maybe a trading post, a general store, a saloon. We saw an ancient and tiny brick library standing all alone on a steep slope of mountain, a gravel road leading to it. Later on a lonely real estate agent. A veterinarian had a small log-house office all alone on the roadway too.
The beauty of that space of place continued to revise itself, get even better than the last five minutes, or five miles. Mongo and I are not great picture takers but we stopped to photograph, to watch and hear a quickly flowing trout stream, so clear, the sun hitting it at a wide crescent, turning it to a gracefully curved bend of glittering Christmas foil confetti.
I wondered if Mongo and I are on a road that covered wagons traversed to get across these immense piles of snow-covered rocks to get to where they had to go. Who found their paths? Did those intrepid pioneers go around the Rockies? Between them? What is buried in the earth along their courses? Their treasures? Family members? Did they hope to get back to those places? Will we discover these things? How did they survive that trip, especially when they mis-calculated and an early winter hit?
It is unimaginable for me to understand what those brave souls went through as I sit in the warmth and safety of our rented car, free from Indian attacks, blizzards, scalding heat, insects, disease, fetid water (f there was any at all,) and no privacy or sanitation. I can't even list the hardships because they are incomprehensible to me.
I wish those huge sky-scraping mountains would speak their secrets to me, tell what they saw and heard, tell us about the people who were bent on settling America.
Mongo and I actually started this odyssey at that great, awesome Gateway Arch in St. Louis Missouri. It's simply stunning to see that piece of architecture, that archway, a symbolic passing- through place to the beginning of the new world for people eager to leave their old worlds. The great arch was the commencement place of western expansion that made St. Louis the gateway to the west. That great, towering silver flexure at the St. Louis levee on the Mississippi River, is where fur traders made their fortunes, where pioneers launched their dreams and the steamboat ruled the river.
Why is it we whine so bitterly when we have to fly somewhere far away, because "it takes so long to get (to Hawaii, Japan, California.) All those hours in the air. Ugh." Think before you complain. What takes us 8 hours took our foremothers/fathers six months.
Please, look down will you, as you sail over and above the misery those people endured while you dine on food you didn't have to shoot first. Think what they endured so you could have a country to look down at from your airborne luxury.
Think! And get grateful. And get humble.