Five years ago I was in Duchesne (pronounced Do-Shane) Utah over the 4th of July on a fire assignment … before in-briefing I spent a couple of hours in the county records office researching the homestead my great grandparents had near there. I was able to get a copy of the ledger page showing the final patent they received and the sale of the homestead. Just before we left for another assignment, a few friends and I drove up Sower’s Canyon and found the old place which is now inside the Uintah-Ouray Reservation. We took pictures, Dick made a video and at home I found a photo of my great-grandfather and grandfather outside the door of that cabin. It gave me the chills.
Well, lately the “Indian Ranch” has come to mind more than a few times; I don’t know why, but I have learned that when something comes to mind without a reason it’s something I should pay attention to. The attention I’ve been paying to the nudge has lead me to read old newspapers, searching for my great-grandfather’s name. Eureka! There were more than a few articles and advertisements found; one or two with my great-grandmother’s name also. So I’m on a hunt. For what, I’m not sure, but I’m certain in time it will be revealed.
In the meantime I had a wander through old newspapers. They’re fascinating, filling the bulletin board of a frontier and homesteader’s life: Who is traveling, who is sick, who changed jobs, who built a barn, bought a cow or a horse, put up fence in record time, or bought a murder house cheap. The insights into the world of frontier homestead towns and people had me thinking of the hard life and many sacrifices they made to build a country from nothing but raw materials and their hands. A big box store wan’t around the corner to pick up an extra board, saw blade, or food. They cut the trees, forged the iron, plowed the fields and built canals and dams in the desert to water those fields, their cattle, their gardens and themselves. They were no strangers to government greed and graft, religious contention, migration and immigration problems, financial market fluctuations, divorce, and violence. I highly recommend a perusal through the Utah Digital Newspapers project if you have Utah ancestors or even just want to peer back in time.
So as I sit here, hooched up in my air conditioned room, on a comfy couch, sipping a smoothie after an early morning golf game peeking into the windows of my ancestors lives and I’ve decided I’m grateful that it’s not the time I was called to live in … because I know that I’m soft, and expect water from the tap, commodities in the store just down the street, instant communication, and stuff to do, places to go, access to everything I could ever want or need at my finger tips and once ordered they’ll show up on the doorstep tomorrow.
I also realize I live under the same sun, watch the same moon and stars each night, and by walking (figuratively or not) their trails and holy places, I follow their footsteps and I’m grateful for the realization and knowledge that I am part of an eternal chain of life; mother and father to child, as far back as life itself. Now it is I who is great-grandmother and I ask myself, what story will I leave behind? Where are the prints of my footsteps heading?