Monday, October 18, 2010

A Long Ago Mountain Sunset

Sunset near Tucson, Arizona (Wikipedia)
In 1891 an anonymous pioneer woman wrote a letter from Arizona that was published both in the Chicago Tribune and then in the New York Times:
If you could see me now!...Here we are in a little mud hut, the floor of earth and the walls of mud bricks. The roof is of shingles, but spaces between permit the wind to enter and play round the cabin in gusts. A rough bed of wood stands in one corner with a wire mattress; over that are spread a buffalo robe and some blankets...There is a rude fireplace whereon burn brightly mesquite logs. Two desks and some campstools complete the list of furniture. The washstand is unique - a piece of cactus-stump with a broad shingle for the top, on which rests a tin basin. Boxes with shelves nailed in ornament the walls and serve for dressing-tables, closets, etc.
Wagon at Old Tucson Studios (Wikipedia)

...This is a wild, picturesque spot, on a high plateau, surrounded by mountain peaks, looking down upon either side into deep gulches...During the day I tramp over the hills, and at night watch for the beautiful sunset which floods the sky and mountains with purple and red. Nowhere on earth are more startling effects produced by cloud and atmosphere than here in the wilds of Arizona. ["Life in an Arizona Mining Camp," New York Times, May 5, 1883]

Wouldn't you love to go for a sunset walk with this brave, pioneering, unknown woman - and ask her some questions? I know I would. One thing I'd like to have known is how did they get any of their belongings up so high? I suppose there would have been a wagon, with a donkey or horse to pull it. Those wagons were the pioneer equivalent of modern Tucson movers or a good Phoenix moving company  - or indeed of any moving company at all. Truly, in the 1880s out West you were on your own. Certainly, a Victorian version of movers would have given this lady the option of bringing so much more with her. Yet don't you get the sense that, despite the hardships and the cactus dressing stool and boxes with shelves, that there was this great compensation for all that in the incredible beauty of the Arizona mountain landscape? I think so.


vanilla said...

Enjoyed this nostalgia bit. Yes, the natural beauty may well have been sufficient repayment for the rustic lifestyle!

FreshHell said...

Yes, I would. One more reason to wish I had a time machine.

Tori Lennox said...

Of all the places I've lived, Tucson had the best, most amazing sunsets.

And when I lived in Tucson, I spent a large part of my spare time at Old Tucson studios. So much fun!

Lidian said...

vanilla - I enjoyed it too :)

FreshHell - You and me both!

Tori - I almost wrote about Old Tucson Studios, looks like such a great place!

Relax Max said...

A really nice post. I liked it a lot. :)

Marcheline said...

What I wonder is who she was writing to... "if you could see me now" - who? If who could see her now?

That would make a great story...

Bill said...

I felt a little wistful when I read this, because she doesn't seem a bit unhappy without a lot of stuff. Sometimes I feel trapped by all the things I've inherited over the years.