|The half-circle at left is a modern road. The historic ruts are perpendicular. I think.|
Saturday, July 18, 2015
Rutted in history
I close my eyes and try to imagine men, women and children pushing their wagons, tugging on their horses' reigns, working their way up these steep canyon walls, hungry, cold, ill. In her 1849 journal, "A Woman's Trip Across the Plains," pioneer Catherine Haun wrote, "It was not an unusual sight to see graves, carcasses of animals, and abandoned wagons. In fact, the latter furnished us with wood for the campfires as the sagebrush was scarce and unsatisfactory."
I DO believe Haun was there, on the trail. My problem is believing this is the trail. Right here in Hagerman Fossil Beds, a treasure of a national park in Southcentral Idaho. The fossils that make this park famous are the oldest ever found from the genus Equus (horse, zebra). The Hagerman Horse might have migrated over the landbridge into Asia before the Ice Age. But it was here first.
I have no problem believing the horse was here, or the sloth or the mastodon or the more than 200 species of plants and animals who lived here 2.6 million years ago, whose bones document their existence. Hard, fossilized evidence.
It's just that those ruts ... They perfectly align themselves with the route of electric lines heading up the same hill and connect with a main highway. I close my eyes and can see big trucks with poles getting stuck in the spring mud. Making those ruts. Maybe a few years ago. But not wagons 166 years ago.
My husband's bought this historic tale. He says I'm looking at the wrong ruts. Look over there, at that rut, he says. The one filled with tumbleweed. And he's standing there, staring at that rut, drinking in the concept, the misery. The landmark essence of what occurred. Right here.
He's aghast at my suspicions.