Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Worn And Weathered And Neglected

Over the past almost-year I have posted a lot of random pictures of both downtown Arco and downtown Mackay.
Normally we are in both of those towns for only short periods of time.
Blowing in or out or through these small towns in the Lost River Valley while inevitably being busy doing busy something elses.
One of these days I want to walk alone through both of these towns and take pictures of all the things I want to take pictures of.  Walking, because that is the only way to truly see all the big and small things that tiny towns have to offer.
As has been our history in Idaho to this point, we were in Arco for a very specific purpose the other day.
We needed to bring our camper into town, have the VIN number checked against the title, and then have the camper registered and plated.
Working to get everything legal before we head up to Salmon for a VA appointment and a week long camping trip in both Salmon and other points in the valley.
As we got closer to Arco I asked LC to drop me off at a thrift store one block from the County Assessors Office.
I would quickly wander through the store while he got the camper plated, and would meet him when I was done.
As LC was driving away I turned the knob and pushed on the door of the old building which housed the thrift store, realized that the door was locked, looked at the sign on the window and quickly realized that the place was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
No problem.  While my Mountain Boy was doing his thing I would snap pictures of the area.
Happy to kill time on a very beautiful and very warm Tuesday.
I have read some interesting comments about the town of Arco online.
Some like the town.  Most don't.  
To steal one of the more colorful quotes about the town that I came across in my online travels, a number of people consider this small farming community (that is 18 miles from Craters of the Moon, and is located at the base of the Big Lost River Valley) to be "the armpit of the state".
It's not a quaint or beautiful little town.  In fact it's a bit of a run down little town.  But I don't know that I would go so far as to call it Idaho's Armpit.
Arco's claim to fame is that it was the first town in the world to be powered by atomic energy.
From what I understand, the town was lit up for all of about 20 seconds on that fateful day but still..........what other town can make that claim?
For all its ramshackle-ness, and for all its empty and worn business buildings, I like this little town very much.
We can see a wall of mountains from our home 30 miles away, but in Arco the hills are high and the promise of mountains are RIGHT THERE.
The people are friendly, Number Hill is a rural wonderment, and the town residents take an active role in organizing small and large scale special events that promote the town, please the locals and (hopefully) draw the tourists.
One of those old and abandoned buildings is pictured above.
I have never been inside this stone building with the broken windows, but it is located right on the main street in town and close to other businesses, and I would love to see somebody do something special with it.
I noticed the empty and slowly decaying building even during our first trip to Arco back in March of last year (was it really only 14 months ago??), and we have driven by it probably 50 times since that first time.
I had never noticed the little bird painted on the window of the front door before.
Who took the time to paint this little bird? Was it painted while the building was still occupied way-back-when, or was it painted after it was left to slowly break down through the combination of searing summer heat, strong winds and unyielding time that forever marches forward?
Who knows?
After taking a picture of the bird I turned the corner and walked up to this painting that decorates one section of the stone exterior of the building.
As with the rest of the building (and as with much of the town) the painting was worn and weathered and neglected.
At one time this must have been a beautiful painting of the mountains.
It could be again if only.
If only.................
I was about to snap one more picture of the mountain scene when my cell phone rang.
It was LC and the assessors' office was closed for lunch.
Thrift store closed.  Assessors office closed.
We had been in town for all of five minutes and so far we were O for 2.
Quickly deciding to go to the Mountain Man for a hot dog while we waited for the assessors office to reopen (and realizing that LC was already driving around the block to come retrieve me from the side of the road), I power snapped a handful of pictures very quickly.............
I have talked about the Mountain Man Trading Post in previous blog entries.
Located on the outskirts of town it is one more example of friendly people and run down ramshackle-ness.
When I first stepped into the Trading Post I imagined a place filled with country crafts and wood furniture made by talented local artisans.  A place with old farm tools hanging from rustic shelves and rusty hooks.
Instead it houses a small eating area, a cooler filled with locally grown produce, and assorted ends and odds on the shelves that look as though they were bought from random close-out sales.
Which sounds as though I am totally unimpressed with the place, but that is not the case.
The food is good and cheap.
The pastor who owns the Mountain Man (and who LC has taken to calling Preacheris friendly, always smiling and always eager for conversation that moves beyond the superficial.
Often there are local residents already there when we arrive and (while helping ourselves to endless cups of coffee) we know each other well enough now to share smiles, and how-are-yous, and what-have-you-been-up-tos.
It is a comfortable place to spend a short while, when we find ourselves in town.
On this particular day we pulled the truck and camper into the gravel lot, realized that there was no shade for the dog, and quickly decided that LC would order food and bring it out to the picnic table in back of the Mountain Man, while I wandered with Kory.
More power-snapped pictures of the building that houses the Mountain Man, and some of the weathered and worn and even charming things that decorate the exterior of this little trading post...............
I have only ever taken pictures of this little abandoned shed from a distance.
One day I would like to take pictures up close and personal, and show what I intrinsically know to be a lifetime of wear and history.
A small, weathered, worn, weary, lonesome, solitary, windowless, silent-testament-to-life structure, standing silently on the outer edges of a high plains desert town...........
Looking north towards the Lost River Valley................
Looking south towards the Big Butte and home.............
Kory and I had slowly wandered all the way around the trading post by the time LC walked out the door carrying two hot dogs and a couple of cold drinks.
Smiling at my guy I turned in search of a tree to unceremoniously tie Kory to.  Plenty of shade, and close enough to feel secure but not close enough to interfere with her people's quick lunch.
Kory filled with sweet face and love and boundless energy and unfortunate ears............
She ended up with a bite of hot dog anyway.............
Views from the yard of someone's home as LC visited and as I again wandered with my very sweet and curious pup.................
Between picture taking and hot dog eating and new-friend visiting, we spent a lot more time (as we often seem to do) prowling around Arco than we had intended to.
And somehow that was alright
Arco is a quiet and comfortable town, and we always seem to have a quiet and comfortable time.
Wandering around the small grounds of the Assessor's Office, Kory and I found this old John Deer parked in one corner of the lot...............
And this old car parked for reasons unknown, in the same lot.................
There are two wooden carved nature statues also located on the lot and (although they are crudely done and very weathered) they are also somehow beautiful in a quiet and understated way.
Like so many other things in Arco, they are a sign of what once was.
Leftovers from a time when the town was booming (or at least boomier) than the quietly struggling town it is now.
Sweet and rustic...........
Random pictures taken on another trip to Arco about a month ago.
The world was warming up after a long winter hibernation when I snapped these pictures, and was still mostly brown.
Winter is very long in south east Idaho...............
In the great cities we see so little of the world, we drift into our minority. In the little towns and villages there are no minorities; people are not numerous enough. You must see the world there, perforce. Every man is himself a class; every hour carries its new challenge. When you pass the inn at the end of the village you leave your favourite whimsy behind you; for you will meet no one who can share it. We listen to eloquent speaking, read books and write them, settle all the affairs of the universe. The dumb village multitudes pass on unchanging; the feel of the spade in the hand is no different for all our talk: good seasons and bad follow each other as of old. The dumb multitudes are no more concerned with us than is the old horse peering through the rusty gate of the village pound. The ancient map-makers wrote across unexplored regions, 'Here are lions.' Across the villages of fishermen and turners of the earth, so different are these from us, we can write but one line that is certain, 'Here are ghosts.' ("Village Ghosts").............WB Yeats, The Celtic Twighlight: Fuerie and Folklore

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A Nomad For Nomads

I spent a couple of months looking none-stop on online classified sites for a camper that we could afford.
 It took us only a few camper inspections to realize that most of the campers in our limited price range were rotted out pieces of junk, and that people would happily look you in the face and lie to you all day long about their campers.
We kept looking.  And looking.
And looking.
Then one day out of the blue, a resident here in town stopped at the house and told us about their 24 foot Road Ranger camper that they had up for sale.
Pleased that they had taken the time to stop, we told them thank you but it was a little above the price range we were willing to pay for a camper.
Within minutes our friendly neighbor had cut the price.
LC and I looked at each other in surprise and we quickly rushed down to their home to take a look at the inside of the behemoth of a camper they had for sale.
The husband had been a professional carpenter before retiring, and although the camper showed its age it was also sturdy as a rock.  No leaks.  No rotten wood.  No bent and warped metal pulling away from a frame that couldn't even realistically be called a frame anymore.
The plumbing was new and so was the electrical.  The air conditioner worked.  It had closets and fridges and stoves (oh my).   A shower and bathtub and toilet.
Neither LC nor I needed all that stuff.
Originally we had envisioned a basic but sturdy camper.  Something that we could haul into campgrounds and beside lakes and onto BLM land and into the mountains.  
Something we could haul with the Tahoe instead of the truck.
That was easy to maneuver and drive.  Easy to turn.  With enough clearance to pull into some of the rugged places we wanted to pull into.  Something without plumbing or toilets.  
Certainly without civilized niceties such as showers and stoves.  
Something that had more than canvas or nylon tent material between us and bears and wolves.
We bought it.
And it sat in our yard for a month as we tried to figure out a way to make this huge monstrosity of a camper work for what we wanted it to do.
After a few weeks we decided to put it online for trade for a smaller camper.  No junkers please.
If nobody wanted it we would keep it for this year at least, and simply take it where we COULD take it.
Worry about getting a smaller one through the winter.
For the next couple of weeks we went to see..........more junk.  Rotted frames and bent metal and liars who smiled as they lied.
We smiled back in that way that people do when everyone involved knows that everyone else is lying to them. 
When everyone's smiling so everyone can pretend that what is............isn't.
Next step was to put it online for sale.  It was worth more than we paid for it and so we asked a little more than we paid, figuring we would have more money to work with when we sold Road Ranger and were again in the market to buy.
A couple of days after I put it back online we got a message from an older couple who live in Moore (half way between Arco and Mackay, and up the Big Lost River Valley).
They had an 18 foot camper, but the husband had been out of work for a while so could not afford to trade the camper and also offer additional money to make up the difference in value.
LC went to see it the next day with a guy we know in Arco.
Good size.  Frame in good shape.  Some minor water damage around the ceiling vent and in the bathroom.  He wasn't sure.  Thought it might be too heavy to go to all the places that we wanted to go with our camper.
With that news I promptly forgot at the camper in Moore.  I didn't want to play this game anymore, and was prepared to wait for the right camper and the right deal.
The next day LC asked me to come see the camper and see what I thought.
A really nice older couple, they needed the extra space that the Road Ranger had, for the three grandchildren that they are raising.
We brought the 18 foot Nomad home that afternoon................
After LC and I had decided that this camper was workable for us, and that the things wrong with it were inexpensive and relatively easy to fix (and after realizing that what WAS wrong with it would not preclude us from camping in it right away), LC went to talk to the guy while I walked Kory and visited in the yard with the rest of the family.
The two men disappeared into a shed and I didn't see them again for 45 minutes.
By the time they were done, the guys came back into the light carrying arms full of............just what WERE they carrying?
The guy may not have had a lot of money, but he had a lot of pride and a lot of things that were useless to him but........I was going to say useful to us, but I'm not sure that I will ever have use for a geiger counter (although, since we live in a town named Atomic City who really knows for sure?).
The barter even included 18 farm fresh eggs.............
And this..............
We arrived in Moore mid-morning just a few days ago, and by early afternoon the trade was complete and we were on the way home with our new camper and a ton of random and interesting things.
This is the fourth camper we have had in the past three years.  It will be the first one we have actually camped in.
Which sounds utterly ridiculous I know, but it is really a symptom of the utterly ridiculous life that we have led for the past few years.
The first camper we bought the first time we were in Wyoming, and we sold it so that we could buy a 16 foot trailer to haul our stuff back to Tennessee.
The second camper we bought the second time we were in Wyoming and we stupidly sold it to help fund our move over to Idaho.
The third was the Road Ranger, and this Nomad is now the fourth.
THIS one we will use.
We are leaving for Salmon, Idaho the morning of June 2, and we will be up there for a week..............