Monday, August 25, 2008

Desert Destination: An Old Homestead

Every Monday we visit a desert destination.

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to visit an old homestead, one so old that it's for the most part been forgotten. A few signs of it still remain, like this square nail. The site is not easy to find, but we had a guide.

After driving a distance on a two-track road, we got out of the vehicle and started walking among some sandy knolls. The sun was bright, with not a cloud in the sky. It was a typical hot summer day.

As we got further from the vehicle, the vegetation became sparser. Could this be right, was there really an old homestead out here? Who would want to live in such a desolate place when not that far away much more hospitable places could be found? Anxious to find out, and lagging behind due to all the pictures I was taking, I hurried to meet with the rest of the group and see what they were looking at.

Sure enough, there was an old wooden log. Our guide explained that the area had once been substantially wetter. The homestead was close to a freighter route that was used to take supplies to the mines.

This obviously isn't one of the freighters, but it is an old wagon and helps me get in the mindset of how hard life was back then. My goodness, the wheels are made of wood! There's no suspension, much less comfortable seats, air conditioning, and a radio. Travel would have been a lot different than it is today.

Here's another view of the wagon. Can you imagine how dusty you would get sitting in it, behind horses that would be kicking up the dry dirt? And back in those days you might only have one outfit, so you wouldn't even be able to put on a clean outfit when you arrived at your destination. You'd just shake off the dust, and everyone smelled a little ripe so you wouldn't even notice--maybe. The definition of a shower was standing under a waterfall or a bucket, and a hot shower was probably beyond most people's comprehension.

Some old barbed wire was nearby. I imagine that they used it to fence in stock animals. Back in the early days of the homesteads, in the late 1800s, there were very few fences up in the valley. Herds of sheep used the valley as winter range, and the sheepherders moved them all over, following the grass.

A few more square nails and some old glass lie over on the side. But beyond these few reminders of someone trying to scratch out a life in the harsh desert, we can't find anything. Our imaginations fill in the blanks as we think about how these hardy people survived.

Not too far away are shells, indicating the increased water of the past made it possible not only for humans, but also for other creatures to survive. 

Living in the desert is not easy, especially when you don't have the conveniences of today, and more importantly, when you don't have water. After the water dried up (probably due to nearby pumping for irrigation), the vegetation died off, and the wind carried off the fine particles of sand, leaving just the coarser material behind. The site is called "the blow out" because of this, and on very windy days, the wind still blows dust from this area. It's such a change from the time when it appeared to be a good place to build a house and make a living. 


Anonymous said...

what is the white object in the foreground of the last picture? it kind of looks like a bleached out leg of a table, or is it a bone??

Desert Survivor said...

It is a bone! I thought it spoke loudly of what happens out in the parched desert.

The Incredible Woody said...

What fantastic adventures you have!?!

Anonymous said...

Just look what happens when water disappears and to think that Vegas wants to do this to your entire valley.

Sarah said...

Makes me thirsty for a nice tall glass of icewater. (warm milk in a bottle is not my thing)


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