Native Writes: Saving the memories


Talking with an old friend recently, I was reminded of the many unique places in our San Luis Valley and I had to admit I have probably been to most of them, but revisited few.

Signs that once marked roads and turn-offs to unusual places are gone and the memory isn’t often a good mapmaker.

We finally found the pioneer Uracca Cemetery, but no one knew about it when we asked at the Dunes gate or the nearby store. The road was on a map, though, so we eventually got there.

My camera battery was dead. The pioneers rest in peace in a burial ground that’s hard to access and I wondered how they got there. Native platform burials have been found in the area, so I think I know why the spot was chosen.

Note to self: Charge the darned camera battery up once in a while. It’s plugged up even as I write.

I normally check it when I’m headed out to do a story, but personal travel…?

The back roads beckon.

I find myself trying to remember just where Uncle Bill said ancient tipi circles remained not far from the Sand Dunes. I was too young to really care, but my folks went. I chased a grasshopper for my “bug jar.”

The tipi circles are probably gone by now and my memory doesn’t offer any information. I would return if I could.

My digital camera makes holding onto memories simple.

Daddy took photos of places with his old box camera, but he didn’t write anything on the back of the now-crumbling prints to tell his viewer how to get there. He apparently didn’t have his camera along when we visited the ancient native site.

He loved to visit old, abandoned, houses, barns and schools. We stopped at some regularly, even when my sons were old enough to remember.

The folks loved the abandoned restaurant on top of old La Veta Pass. I could remember eating there as a child, but my sons could only imagine what it was like.

The metal detector my dad bought eventually led us to a couple of old knives and spoons, as well as probably 100 pounds of bottle caps, which only hinted at the place’s past glory.

Sometimes, people just lock the door and walk away.

Driving down the back roads of the San Luis Valley, one can see evidence of the boom and bust of agricultural life in aged barns and homes where laughter once ruled, but rabbits and birds now find homes.

I take photos and sometimes write stories about the places if there is any written record of their history. The rusted, creaking sign on the gatepost keeps its secret well.

Photos come to light now and then, but remain a mystery unless the viewer can remember something about the place or someone has shared an anecdote. Even what’s written on the back of some isn’t dependable.

Daddy would have loved a digital camera — or not. Many of us take photos and transfer them to external hard drives and CDs, yet seldom print them to share with people who aren’t connected electronically. He would have hated that.

The people who developed film when I was small and before I was born stamped the studio’s name and the date of developing onto the backs of the photos, so there would be some sort of a record.

Their wishes may have come true with some families, but my folks didn’t write on the backs of all the photos. They’re gone and I can’t remember if I ever knew.

I was cleaning a box that once belonged to my mother and found six rolls of undeveloped film. How old are they and what secrets do they hold?

Does anyone even develop film any more?

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