Thursday, December 4, 2008

New Towns Are Built From Pieces Of Old Towns

This photo is of old Seattle, and I mean, REALLY old Seattle. The picture shows the founding of the University of Washington, which is now a huge school of tens of thousands. The fact that this image shows what looks almost exactly like a mining boom town highlights just how differently we relate to the idea of what is "urban" now. Urban now means large towering buildings and dense populations. Urban then... well, it may not have even existed as a term, but it was sowing it's own seeds -- perhaps without knowing.

Tomorrow I will travel to Cheyenne, Wyoming for a week. I have never been there and I never considered the possibility that I would ever go there in December. I have joked to some people that I'm going there to work on my tan -- however it's much more likely that I'll end up with wind burn, if anything. Temperatures are in the teens and snow has been coming in flurries. In telling people that I'm going to Wyoming, I have received MANY quizzical looks, as if to question why anyone would go there. Well, why not? Whyoming? (Sorry! It was too obvious a pun!)

Cheyenne will have a lot of historical interest value, I'm sure. The attractions may be offbeat, but that's the way I like it. I know there there is a historic train depot museum, and Cheyenne is the state capitol (the largest "city" in Wyoming at around 50 thousand people), so I'm sure there will be some vague governmental intrigue. Wyoming also a lot of horizons -- or so I've heard. I will also be celebrating my 104th birthday on Sunday. Perhaps a good buffalo steak on the frontier is in order.

If time and weather permit, there is a chance I will be able to visit St. Elmo, Colorado, which is 200-odd miles from Cheyenne. I spent a considerable amount of time living an imaginary life there while I transcribed family letters from my great-great-great uncle, who was a telegrapher in St. Elmo for two years during the town's peak. Ever since I read his the stories of this place at the time it was alive, I have wanted to be able to say that I've been there. I have heard that road to St. Elmo is plowed all winter, so I am keeping my fingers crossed that I can see this place for once and for all!

I have been reading a book called Wyoming Ghost Stories by Debra Munn, and I am now feeling pretty exuberant about meeting Random JoeBob Ghost! Some of the stories in the book (all purportedly true) gave me real chills, so perhaps this is just the landscape to be in if you have an active imagination!

Wyoming is the least populated state in the U.S., in spite of being the 10th largest state. Hee-haw, everyone, I'm going to the Cowboy State!

The reason I posted the photo of Seattle is that I am drawn to the layers of time that put their marks on every place that people live. Many houses have many histories; there may have been three or four generations born and raised in a house, only to have it sold to a new family raising young children. I think that the feelings and realities of the past are really not that far; you can sense them in any place that has history -- which is all places, if you think about it.


Rhi said...

I love your blog, it is honestly one of my favorites. I love the history and the stories you incorporate. And I love the fact that you can bring these things back to life and keep them remembered. Have fun in Wyoming, and I hope you make it to St. Elmo. I'm looking forward to hearing about your trip.

-Love the photo too. =)

Ezekiel Barzillai Smythe said...

Thanks for the high compliment, Rhi. I am now in Cheyenne. I arrived on one of the coldest days possible. Last night it was 0 degrees Fahrenheit, and winds were in gusts at 50 miles per hour. What I marvel at most is that there were Native American tribes that called this region home! What hard times they must have seen.

The place itself is interesting, but I am still finding the words to describe it since I haven't seen much yet.

Rhi said...

Well I'm sure it's awesome, but 0 degrees Fahrenheit is definitely extremely cold. Take lots of pictures and have fun, update on the trip soon!