We were four days into our vacation in Utah when I knew I had to drive to the ghost town of Coal City in rural Carbon County. This meant I had to convince Grandpa that he too wanted to go since he knew how to get us there in one piece. Grandpa doesn't leave the farm much and always has an excuse as to why he needs to stay--the water needs to be changed, the sheep need tending, the alfalfa needs to be cut and dried, he hasn't taken a shower in a week...or two.
So I gently leaned over and gave Grandpa a kiss on the lips while wrapping my arm around his bony shoulders. "How about it Grandpa? Take us to Coal City...you've gotta go check your water anyway up there...you know, make sure Fish and Game ain't taking it all." And with that he kissed me back while smiling and said, "I suppose you're right." So Grandpa, my husband, and I packed up the Chevy Traverse I had on loan for this road trip and we made it up old, rocky mining roads and locked gates to go check some water.
I've always had a fascination with abandoned towns--my mind racing into deep thoughts of what life must have been a hundred years or more ago. Grandpa first took us over to the old town of Gordon Creek and told us stories how seventy years ago he rode up this very canyon with his father one day to find a Christmas tree while his dad worked in the nearby mine. He says he spent all day climbing the side of the mountain carefully choosing just the right tree for the family. Even he was surprised that it had been seventy years. "Hmpf, I guess I'll be eighty on Friday. Maybe it'll be a full moon."
We drove up a little further and checked the water at another spot, tore up some beaver dams, and walked around where old homesteads used to be. Among us on the ground lay unrecognizable pieces of worn and rusted metal. "Betcha don't know what this is," Grandpa would challenge, and sure enough he was right. An old washtub, a sink, a piece of a plow, a water key. There under the quakies a whole other life from another time began to form in my mind--and I looked up and noticed just a little more how much my husband and his grandfather look alike. This was Grandpa fifty years ago, I quietly pondered.
And Grandpa for the first time I'd ever seen leaned over and took a moment to smell fresh mountain flowers.
We spent a few more minutes in the canyon while the sun quickly began to set behind the mountains. We were now in the shadow of the mountain and cold air began to sweep in around us. We only had about an hour of daylight left and if we were going to see Coal City, then we better hurry up and go right then.
We drove down from the mountains and into the Coal City area, parked the Chevy Traverse, and climbed the steps over the fence. My main reason to come here was to photograph this historical place, but having Grandpa there made it even more special because he could give us the history behind it.
Below us were dainty crimson desert flowers. Grandpa bent down, plucked a few flowers, and then proceeded to eat them. "I used to eat these when I was a little boy all the time. When I got older, I opened one up once and saw little black bugs come out of it. Ever since then I shake them upside down a little bit to make sure I don't get any bugs stuck in my teeth...just the thought!"
So I picked some red flowers from below and took a taste for myself. They actually weren't half-bad. Hey, like I was going to act like a panty-waste in front of him.
After we finished tasting the rosettes of flowers, we looked up and viewed the ghost town before us. To the left and in front of us stood the old post office, now filled with Fish and Game irrigation pipes. Down a bit further lay a mostly fallen over homestead and old, stagnant water-filled well. Underneath a three foot tall sagebrush lay an old perfume bottle top. I imagined in my mind a young girl once dabbing herself with luscious scent. Romantic thoughts filled my mind until my husband broke them by asking, "Grandpa, you suppose there are any dead bodies in this old well?"
"Dead animals I bet," I replied.
"I bet dead wives...that perfume bottle top was probably one of theirs," Grandpa retorted.
He's so funny.
The sun was really beginning to dip low, now enveloping the air in a warm golden glow. Grandpa and grandson (my husband) then decided it was time to see the 100 year old apricot tree at Coal City. Grandpa says it had a few apricots on it a couple years ago, but when we approached it last week there were only a few leaves and no fruit. Perhaps it's because this area had a particularly cold winter and spring. Maybe the animals ate them. Or possibly the apricot tree is just getting old--like Grandpa.
Near the apricot tree stands another building, covered by Fish and Game in mining brattice. The cellar had long been caved in. Next to the belt covered building mostly stands a smaller storage building with bleached bones laying on top. "What kind of bones do you think those are Grandpa?" my husband inquired, "Deer?"
"I bet they're human...most likely someone's dead wife," Grandpa smirked.
I rolled my eyes and shook my head while two grown men laughed it off. At least, I learned, my husband will still have a sense of humor if he makes it to eighty.
We walked around a little while further, finally determining we'd better get home before it became too dark outside. So we made our way back to the fence, stepped over, and returned to the Chevy Traverse and drove away on old and rocky dirt roads--leaving everything behind, well, except our sense of humor.
Disclosure: Chevrolet sponsored my road trip to Utah with the 2010 Chevy Traverse mentioned in this post. Not that I wouldn't have gone to Utah without it, just trying to keep the FCC off my back. Oh yah, and I appreciate it Chevrolet.