Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ol' Hangtown

No!  I didn't take this with my cellphone! This is Placerville, California, alias Old Hangtown , alias Old Dry Diggins, my hometown, circa 1900. It seems somehow appropriate to slip this in at the point. When this old glass negative was exposed, about 110 years ago, my ancestors had already been on the scene in Hangtown for over fifty years. In another fifty I'd arrive. 

Below are selected excerpts from 
Obie's Quest

"You’d barely recognize old Hangtown. One by one the old hitching posts are vanishing along Main Street, and just the other day I drove from upper town through lower town and never once saw hide nor hair of a horse! Placerville’s old landmarks are fast disappearing, and palatial cinderblock atrocities rise up like the phoenix from their ash.  Progress beckons like a siren in the night, and ol’ Hangtown answers spellbound to the call.  The boon of electricity has illuminated our little metropolis, and steeds & buggies are fast replaced by Fords.  Despite the growth and conveniences, I prefer to recall her as she appeared in the undignified days of her misspent youth, back in ’49.  In my mind’s eye, she still exudes the uncivil scent of sawdust floors and canvas; the rustic, rough sawn facades glow hospitably in the crimson shades of long spent sunsets, and rows of tents glow pleasantly, flickering with myriad lamps.
   Reminiscing now, from this lofty vantage point, I’ve been blessed with a first rate life, with only a few regrets. As a young man, life afforded me all variety of opportunities.  Those that I pursued I occasionally regretted the next day; the rest I regret now. Having said that, one thing that I’m proud of, is that in all the blissful days of my misspent youth, I never once led a young lady astray. I followed several, but I never led any.  
   I remember sitting by a crackling fire, high in the Sierra Nevada’s, and listening to the ill-tempered Jerseys filing past, with their cowbells clanking and their babies bawling, and the old bull curling his lip and looking for work. I remember standing on the rough plank sidewalk, outside the Ivy House, inhaling the aroma of grilled ribs sizzling, over Manzanita coals, and watching the massive freight wagons lumber by, with their oxen lowing, their hames bells jingling, and the iron-clad rims of hickory spoked wheels smashing the gravel to dust, beneath their cumbersome tonnage of crocks of butter and barrels of fragrant cheese. I remember believing that my whole life would be a long and wondrous adventure.  And it was.  
   Standing here on top of the hill, with the setting sun casting a warm glow on the canyon’s crimson foliage, inevitably brings to mind those golden autumns of long, long ago.  Closing my eyes with the soft warmth of sunset on my face and the murmur of the crick in the distance, my memory reflects a shimmering image of overnight outings long ago, when summer was perennial and I was a barefoot kid.  I remember the goose bumps and satisfying shivers as Grandma prepared me for bed, and washed my summer-hardened feet from the rocky banks of a brisk, babbling brook. I recall my Granddad’s twinkling eyes and his pleasant, raspy chuckle, as I hugged his neck and he rubbed his whiskery chin against my face.  Here on the hill where I raised my family, I revisit my time of parenthood, and recall priceless memories of my own mom and dad, ages ago when life seemed simple, and childlike faith assured tomorrows joys. Treasure your memories, keep ‘em fresh, and never take ‘em for granted.  Even our memories can fade with the harsh glare of time.  
   Looking back, our lives whiz by before we know what hit us.  We spend our first thirty years thinking about our future, the second thirty thinking about our past, and our last years wondering what the hell we were thinking!  The older I get, the more adamant I become in my belief that we should start out old and grow younger every year.  On each successive anniversary of our birth, we could assemble all our friends and family for a truly heartfelt celebration, and joyously remove one candle from our cake. What could be better than to spend the first fifty years of our life, looking forward to becoming a little boy, and tormenting little girls?  "
Obadiah Jeremiah Hezekiah Camp 

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