Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Denver Blogging

Blogging has a been a touch light lately for several reasons. The article referenced in so many places about how a department wouldn't hire people for the sole reason that they did blog has put a bit of chill over the whole enterprise. I haven't had a whole lot interesting to say lately. But also, I'm in Denver doing research on the dissertation.

Now, you ask, Erik, what are you doing? Let me tell you. It's very exciting. I am looking through census records from 1900, 1910, and 1920 and counting the ethnicity of loggers. Yep, it's an exercise in advanced counting. Now that my friends is what I call intellectual fulfillment!!!

On the other hand, I do get to travel around Colorado and there are worse fates than that. I decided to come up through the Plains yesterday. I took a detour off of I-25 at Trinidad, CO yesterday that took me northeast to La Junta. There's something fascinating about the Plains to me, especially the western Plains. I drove through these towns where there was literally no one left. The town still had it's sign but that was it. Even more fascinating were the little towns that had 1 or 2 families still hanging on. When passing through such places, I can't help but ask myself, why? Why would you stay there? I understand that certain places get a hold on people and they don't want to leave. But you have to balance that against every other possible reason--educational opportunities, jobs, cultural advantages, shopping, etc. etc. I guess there are a few people still holding out against these things. And many of them are living in southeastern Colorado.

Anyway, I went to La Junta both because I wanted to take a drive on the Great Plains but also becuase Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site is there. It's a real cool place. It's an old trading post on one of the forks of the Santa Fe Trail and it played a major role in white-Indian trade through the 1840s and 1850s I believe. It's a big old adobe fort in remarkably good condition. Oddly, the interpretation at the park was poor. Usually, even if a park has no money as is so often the case these days, they at least have good signage around the park. But this had 3 signs in one place and that was it. It was still really cool. They had an old-time pool table, some sort of old banjo (or at least it was made to look old) and other neat old things. Also they had flooded part of the grounds to make it look like it did before whites came and controlled all of the water down to the last cubic meter. They had created a nice marsh land with verdant plant life that hosted a multitude of birds, including a nice red-winged blackbird population.

Our National Historic Sites are very cool. When people think of the National Park System, they think of Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon, and for good reason. But there are some damn cool National Historic Sites out there too. My second favorite park site, only behind Yellowstone, is Harper's Ferry National Historic Site in West Virginia, which is a must visit for anyone interested in American history. Big Hole is another cool site in Montana, where once of the Nez Perce battles took place. Very well done and in a beautiful location. It's also very depressing and it should be. Same with the Washita Battlefield site in Oklahoma, where not only do you get to hear about the sickening massacre of the Cheyenne and Arapaho in 1868 but also see the restoration of the native prairie. There are numerous super cool sites back East too that I wish I could visit but that I haven't had a chance to get too yet.

Anyway, blogging could be fairly light this week since I'm so enraptured with my counting of loggers' birthplaces but I'll see if I can throw something together every now and then.