Tales from the Desert

In honor of the 13th day of my association with the Zero to Hero Blog Challenge, I thought something a little scarier should be part of today’s post. It is the 13th day, after all. Today’s assignment was to add something to our Blogroll…so, I decided to add something I find interesting (and scary), ghost towns!

I grew up in Southern Utah, a beautiful high desert region filled with sage brush, jack rabbits, and ghost towns. One place that always terrified me was Frisco Ghost Town, located in a desolate part of Beaver County, Utah. As a child, I imagined mummies living in the beehive domes built for the charcoal used in smelting silver from ore. I was convinced that I saw a mummy emerge from a dome once, as we drove by the site on Highway 21. When I told my mother about the terrifying corpse, she gave me a blank stare and then went back to driving. Still, images of being chased by mummies filled my dreams for nights after. I get a creepy feeling in my stomach when I drive by there now, as a grown up. Pure silliness, I know. My overactive imagination has not lessened with the onset of adulthood.

Another fun place to explore is Silver Reef, a ghost town located in Washington County, Utah. Silver Reef has some touristy places to visit and is close to civilization. If anyone driving along 1-15 near St. George, Utah has a hankering for a taste of the mining industry in the late 1800’s, this one is only a quick jump from the freeway.

Living in a remote area of the Southwestern/Western Rocky Mountains region of the United States was adventuresome. Along with exploring these ghost towns, I had plenty of lizards to catch, rattlesnakes to avoid, and rocks of all sizes, shapes, and colors to collect (and begin hoarding; an obsession that continues to plague me well into adulthood).

One of my favorite memories is of my dad and I discovering a cache of pyrite in the desert and then pretending that it was real gold. I was a pirate and the sparkling rocks were my treasure. I danced around my pile of rocks and imagined all the things I could buy. Another memory was of my dad cutting the rattle off a snake that was lying dead on the highway. We were on an epic adventure from Cedar City, passing through Beaver, and on up to Delta to visit my great-grandmother when we came across the deceased creature. Dad wouldn’t let me get out of the car, just in case it was still alive (it wasn’t). He put the rattle in an old cigar box (he collected old cigar boxes) and then into the back of our dusty blue Volkswagen Beetle forbidding me to touch it (though when we got home, I couldn’t help but sneak peeks at the rattle while he was at work).

Still another memory of the Utah desert is of sitting in the back of a pick-up truck, down by Beaver River, watching a dark storm roll in off the Black Mountains near Minersville Reservoir. I was 7 years old and we were fishing (I spent more time trying to find snail shells in the mud rather than waiting for fish to bite). Sitting on the tailgate, eating a cheese sandwich, I smelled the rain before it reached me; wind pushing the woody scent of creosote through the air. When the fat raindrops finally fell from the sky, I screamed and headed into the cab, giggling. Wow, memories are magical.

Thinking back on the time I spent in the desert near those old ghost towns, I find myself wondering about pioneer life. I can’t imagine living in so remote a place, without the modern convenience of a car for escaping. I wonder if those pioneers/miners had many books to read (if they could read) or if they were so busy trying to survive that the very thought of relaxation was enough to sustain them. I bet most of the relaxation and escaping was done through visiting one of the many saloons and brothels found in those towns. According to the link above (from http://www.ghosttowns.com), the town of Frisco had 23 saloons…for a population of approximately 6000. Does that seem excessive to anyone else? Maybe they were really small saloons? Traveling there now, I can’t imagine 6000 people living there. Where are their houses and yards, post office and general stores, churches and saloons?

The desert spreads its sandy fingers through our discarded towns and claims them as its own. Perhaps the attraction I feel toward these abandoned places is a pulling cry from the deceased, drawing me nearer, asking for their tales to be told. “Don’t forget about us”, they whisper, before the desert hushes them in finality. I shiver and wonder if instead of trying to scare me, the mummy from my childhood was asking for my help. Maybe in tonight’s dream, instead of running away, I will face the mummy and fulfill its ghostly wish.

Goodnight for now.

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