2017-08: Monthly review

Busy month. August was dominated by our trip, which was in four parts: Colorado and Wyoming for research; Seattle pre-eclipse; Oregon camping in the vanagon named Butter for the eclipse; Seattle post-eclipse.

Before our trip, we met with the recommended handyman, Scott, to get an estimate on repairs prior to selling the house. We also had modest success selling a few items on Craigslist.

On the 8th we flew to Denver and drove to Fort Collins. On a whim, we stopped at the welcome center. The friendly folks there asked what we were looking for, and when they heard we were researching family history, they summoned the manager. After telling them a bit about Harry Gant, they got more excited and said I needed to talk to Wayne, who was due to arrive any minute (around 11:00). They showed me his book about 150 years of FC history. I went out to the car to get copies of ISTRA/MISTRA, just as Wayne arrived. I ended up giving them those copies, and later sent a couple more. They hope I can return some time and talk to their local history group. We walked from the Best Western University Inn to the Fort Collins Museum Of Discovery (FCMOD). The archives are free and the woman on duty looked up Nellie Gant, finding a beautiful studio photo of six people, one named Nellie Sheffield Grant. The photo is not dated, but is obviously after she married Gant in 1901. Four of the other names are Sheffields but not familiar to me. We also looked at a brand book for 1912 or 1914. We found a brand, S Bar, registered to the Tenney Brothers; this cast doubt on my hypothesis that the Gant T Cross brand had been obtained from them. We also saw a brand, 6 T Bar, registered to Jonathan Gant of Rifle, in Garfield County; this is quite a bit west of FC.

We walked around FC looking at the addresses we have for Harry and John E Gant. It’s doubtful any of the buildings are the ones they lived in.

On the 9th, we walked across the street to the CSU library archives and looked at a brand book from 1894. This also had the Tenney Bros S Bar. Susan and were both astounded to find the T Cross brand, registered to J. Armstrong, Jr, of Fort Collins, probably Jacob Armstrong, father of George Armstrong, Gant’s friend and grandfather of my friend Ken Armstrong of Maple Creek, SK. As Susan said, it sent chills up and down our spines. There was also a linked A and J brand registered to Jac’b Armstrong, Jr of Larimer Co. This book also had advertising for the Denver Union Stock Yard, including a bird’s eye view drawing of the area.

We next drove to Greeley. I had corresponded with the archivists there, and they were ready for us with a 1900 Colorado brand book and a 1905 Weld County brand book. The 1900 book has the T Cross brand registered to Jno. E. Gant of Fort Collins. This seems to imply that Gant obtained the Armstrong brand between 1894 and 1900. Maybe Ken Armstrong knows something about it. There is also a brand registered to H. T. Decker of Woods, WY. Another brand, Rocking L, is registered to J. J. Armstrong, Greeley, Weld Co. Another linked A J brand is also registered to Jacob Armstrong of Fort Collins. The book also has two brands registered to E. N. Sheffield, of New Windsor, Weld Co., and E. E. Sheffield of Fort Collins. In order to look at these books, I was required to wear gloves (I chose white cotton, rather than blue latex or blue non-latex). These made turning pages a bit difficult, and I was tempted to remove them to turn pages. We listed the pages that interested us, and the staff photocopied them for us. They were very interested in our story and the success of our visit.

After lunch we drove around looking for the ranch locations I had found for Tenney and Decker. The dirt county roads made us feel justified in getting a SUV rather than a sedan. On one road we met a “Dust Suppression Application” operation.

On the 10th, we drove to Cheyenne. The Old West Museum associated with Cheyenne Frontier Days was disappointing. At the state museum archives, I was shown a collection of programs from CFD. The 1907 program had a photo of a potato race, which was one of Gant’s best events. (He won in 1909, with Tom Mix on his team.) The Messenger Old West Museum was fantastic. We were ready to leave and stopped to tell the caretaker how much we liked it, when a thunderstorm moved in. Rather than go out in the rain we said we’d keep looking, so he came along with us and pointed out some of his favorite bits. When Susan asked if they had any books to buy, he said no, but maybe he could find something. He went somewhere for a minute and came back with a DVD, which he gave us, declining our offer to pay the $20 listed on its case! We then drove to Chugwater, to check the terrain in which I’m setting Neal’s Story. It was kind of funny to announce the creeks we would cross while Susan drove; I’ve pored over enough maps that I knew them pretty well, better than I know our own neighborhood, according to Susan. The land is mostly flat, only lightly dissected by shallow canyons for most creeks (at least where the highway crosses them), until you get to Chugwater. That creek has carved significant steep-sided bluffs, perfectly suited to the events I’d already written. In Chugwater, we stayed at the Buffalo Lodge and Grill. The woman in the fringed buckskin jacket said she could make us some chili or a burger, but suggested the Stampede Saloon and Eatery, for the Thursday Jam Session. She also told us that she’s charging $450 per night with a two-night minimum for the eclipse. Chugwater is not in the path of totality; other places in Wyoming are charging $1,000. We walked past the Chugwater Chili Company store, which was closed, the Chugwater Soda Fountain (“Wyoming’s Oldest Operating Soda Fountain”), and the Chugwater Museum, also closed. The jam session included about eight enthusiastic performers.

On the 11th, we bought some chili products, then got chocolate shakes and prairie pies for the road to Fort Laramie. We stopped at the Wheatland visitor center, just barely within the totality path. Despite a lot of eclipse-related souvenirs, the woman there was not enthusiastic, anticipating many problems such as gridlock, brush fires ignited by catalytic converters, inability of volunteer fire fighters to get to their stations and then to fires, and bank robberies. We didn’t see much of interest around Fort Laramie, then went back to Wheatland for dinner. On this trip in cattle country, we expected to find decent steaks; we were disappointed. In fact, we were somewhat appalled at the way cattle and sheep are crowded into pens. After dinner, we drove to the Elk Mountain Hotel. This is a slightly bizarre hotel with a dozen rooms or so. The proprietors are characters, and the Eliza Swaine room is decorated with nine photos and paintings of naked ladies (probably not Eliza Swaine).

On the 12th, we drove to the Snowy Range of the Medicine Bow mountains, up to Libby Flats at 10,847 feet elevation. We walked a couple of miles, then drove to Laramie. At around 4 am, someone pounded on our hotel room window. It took a while to figure out the phone to call the front desk, and I don’t think they ever found out what was going on. Probably someone went out for a smoke, and couldn’t get back in.

On the 13th we, we drove through Fort collins and got mini-donuts for the road from Peace, Love, and Little Donuts (Feed your inner hippie), then on to Denver. Due to te Colorado Classic bike race ending in Denver that day, we didn’t try to see the location of Gant’s livery stable. Then on to Seattle, where Chris and Ren picked us up at the airport.

The next few days were generally getting ready for the eclipse trip, Chris and Grant had reserved campsites at Silver Falls State Park in Oregon, within the path of totality. We hiked around the park, and saw nine of the ten waterfalls, some of which you can walk behind. On the ¬†21st, we staked out a spot in a meadow with a good view toward the sun, and waited along with a few hundred others. As Chris later said, she knew what she’d see, but not how she’d feel. It was an amazing experience, which I recommend to anyone who has the chance to see it.

After the eclipse, we looked online at some properties Chris had identified, both apartments and houses. While driving around, we came across a sign for one, and called to arrange to look at it. As it turned out, this was the only one we actually looked at, and we signed a lease before coming home. We expect to move in November.

With all this activity, I haven’t made much progress on my personal projects.





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