18 August 2008

The Route 66 Obsession Continues...


What can one say about Oatman? Well, plenty now that I've been there (and we've all known me to be wordy...so here goes...)

Oatman is out in the middle of nowhere on the way from somewhere to somewhere else that you can actually get to faster if you use the new highway...well, newer than Route 66 anyway. Yes, Sunday found Rich and I out early traveling along one of our obsessions...

We found ourselves traveling to outside of the Kingman area in preparation for our perilous ride into the Gold mining mountain town of Oatman. We zoomed down Route 66, through some very dry and very hot desert areas sometimes being the only car for miles...until we came upon a gem out there...

The old Route 66 Cool Springs Camp. This little beauty has a wonderful and varied history that I was reading to Rich out loud from a Route 66 book I picked up at our library not too long ago. Only the book said it was in Kingman, and we had planned on scouring Kingman for it, only to find we were accidentally driving up to it on the Road to Oaman. We jumped out of the car and started snapping pictures...

We also went inside, as it's a little gift shop and museum. The museum boasts some pretty fantastic Mobile Gas memorabilia (including some pretty wonderful calendars with pin-up girls on them...I love pin up girls...and a whole montage of Route 66 hand tinted post cards) and two wonderful collectibles that Rich and I were swooning over and thought we'd stop to grab on our way back (they were for sale, we weren't going to pull a Bonnie and Clyde, don't worry...we don't have the right car for it anyway...and we'd left Rich's fedora and machine gun at home) which we didn't stop and grab, and now I'm regretting it. Yes, I have buyers remorse and I didn't even spend any money...

Now, I've never heard of Oatman, which is a little nuts only because it is apparently the site of the largest gold mine in Arizona (with more than $36 million worth of gold extracted from them thar hills...) Crazy still, the town boasts a population of a whopping 100...with active mines littering the entire way up there, and within the town itself. Kind of a small population for a thriving gold mining community wouldn't you think?

The town itself is cute...in an old ghost town sort of way. It has a one street downtown with little shops, a couple of places to eat, a post office, a bar, and a hotel which isn't a hotel anymore, but more of a haunted museum. I was simply amazed at the little houses dotting the hills, and the fact that they still have a dirt road for their main street, and their original wooden sidewalks...which is totally cool because the last time I've seen anything like that, I was at Knott's Berry Farm, and these were certainly authentic to the old west. The buildings are pretty interesting as well...a lot of old wood, fun facades and corrugated metal making up the bulk of their establishments...things you really don't see in existence and use outside of a Hollywood movie set.

The effect is very charming.

But, very very unsettling as well.

Like I said,
I didn't know a lot about Oatman (and I cam home to read more after our jaunt) but while we were walking around, I had a rather oppressive sense of sadness and despair and found myself becoming a little jumpy...

Oatman was named after Olive Oatman, a young girl who watched her family massacred down by Yuma by a band of Apache Indians before she was marched off with a younger sister to become a slave...and was later traded to the Mohave Indians, taken in as one of their own and then realized her brother who had been left for dead was looking for her and her then deceased sister...

Old pictures are rather haunting anyway...I mean, the cameras weren't that fast, so you usually had to choose a pose that you could hold for a long time, so often I find the images sad...then again, if you lived the kind of lives some of these people did, it wasn't that easy...and I think you can see it in their eyes. And look at the ritual tattoos that Olive received indeed. I got to thinking about how hard life would have been if you'd been forced from your family to live with a tribe who abused you, found yourself in one that took you in as their own and then tried to come back to "civilization"...all in the space of 5 years? With ritualistic tattoos on your chin? I guess Olive ended up marring very well in the end, and did a lecture tour...there are rumors that she was married and had a child when she lived with the Mohave's, but since things like that weren't talked about in polite company...we may never know what really happened to her.

At one point while walking back up the main street, we both were drawn into the Hotel there...all was fine and then we both started feeling a little strange. I was enjoying reading all about Clark Gable and Carole Lombard...

They were married in Kingman and spent their honeymoon night in the hotel...and came back often to visit Oatman for the solitude. I thought that was pretty neat...and apparently they haunt one of the rooms there. Apparently there are a lot of weird things happening at the hotel...

On the way back to get lunch in Kingman, Rich and I both talked about how unsettled we felt. Rich said he doesn't believe in ghosts...but we both felt very very strange. In fact, I can't seem to quite shake the feeling I have after visiting Oatman. Being in Arizona is often very interesting...we're the wild wild west, you know (and they even have a cute shoot out on the streets of Oatman...) The was a time in the wild west that there wasn't a lot of law...and in a mining community that struck a vein of $14 million at one point, I can't imagine the kind of things that went on there. I know at one point the population shot up to at least 3500...and to tell you the truth, there is very little evidence of that there (which I find unsettling the more I think about it) Oatman was also the last stop before you crossed the Mohave desert on Route 66, and there were a lot of Oakies coming through during the depression trying to make it to California...the road was so treacherous that the locals had to go up and get them and guide them through...and there's a marauding band of donkeys running around in the hills that come into Oatman to be fed every day (they sell carrots, it's pretty great...only we didn't see any when we were there...but, we heard them!)

I have done a lot of reading and researching about pioneers and the west, and the life was hard. So, we've got lawless, hard, hopeless....I suppose it's no wonder that when I find myself wandering in and out of these little towns (and some of the more historical buildings here in Prescott) I sometimes myself feeling sad, scared and a little overwhelmed for no surface reason that I can see.

I just can't quite put my finger on what it is...it seems to slip in and out of my consciousness...but the overwhelming feeling I got when we were there has been hard for me to shake completely...I keep thinking that if I write about it, the feeling will go away. It's not. I have realized through this experience that Rich and I are quite sensitive to our surroundings, and that's OK...

Creepy, but OK.

Only it was hard for me to stay at my house last night...and I didn't want to get out of bed this morning...Good heavens! I still had a wonderful time yesterday...and would love to go back and ride the Route all the way to Black Canyon city...

I just might stay in the car when we go to Oatman though...

4 comments:

Jolene George said...

I'm not sure I'd like to visit Oatman. LOL!I dont like to be creeped out. I do however love route 66 things. Mark just got me a pink hat with the logo on it. Love it!

She sure is strange! said...

Maybe you've been there before...

I adore Carole Lombard, what a treat to walk in her shoes.

Too bad you missed the donkeys! They are too cute!

Molly

Lois Grebowski said...

I understand getting a weird feeling at a historical place.

I was at the National Battlefield in Vicksburg, MS and felt like I was momentarily transported back into time. I saw, heard, felt and smelled the cannons, and the people fighting and running in the woods... Total out of body experience...

Really wigged me out

sulu-design said...

Wow. So cool. Barry and I have been to a ton of old ghost towns in the southwest that have been so beautiful, intriguing, and spooky. That photo and story of Olive Oatman girl alone is so evocative. I love this kind of stuff.

LinkWithin

Blog Widget by LinkWithin