Thursday, March 31, 2016

Wellspring of History

March 26th 2016 we celebrated the history of Gold Butte focusing on the most notable characters Arthur Coleman and William Garret. We came together to rebury Art after some miscreant disturbed the final resting place of this early prospector. We did our best to right this wrong and reburied Art’s remains, to rest once again alongside his longtime friend William Garret.  

The circumstances that brought us together were appalling at best, but like the resilient pioneers who settled this country, we made the best with what we had, and rose to the occasion. The event will be remembered by all those who rattled down the road to headquarters hoping to partake in the history, available to those willing to seek after it. Our history is infused within the desert hills, just a part of the landscape as the Joshua trees and weathered buttes.

The well of history was brimming in the desert winds, proffering its narrative to those willing to partake. The reward was a refreshing treat whose succulence could never be recreated. One day those who knew of the way it was, will not be here to share it with those of tomorrow. For the wellspring of history, if not recorded, revisited and remembered will one day dry up.  It was in the spirit of remembrance that we gathered and celebrated Art Coleman and Bill Garret.

We first reburied Art and reworked the graves in hopes to protect from future marauding intruders. After the graves of both men were cleaned up we held a simple ceremony to rededicate the final resting place. Duane Magoon presided over the service. Gene Houston gave the opening prayer. Myself, Dustin Nelson, gave the eulogy. Lindsey Dalley dedicated that graves. The closing prayer was given by Shem Teerlink. It was a simple affair but seemed fitting for the good ol’ boys for which we gave tribute.

(Click here to read my eulogy)

After the service we had a pot-luck lunch and gathered to share stories and memories of Art and Bill and of the many who have lived their lives within the backdrop of Gold Butte. For me, eating potato salad while visiting with friends, stirring up stories from the past, in the very place where many of those stories took place, is about as good as it gets.

I spent most of my time visiting with Norm Tom who wore quite a little leather off the tree chasin cows alongside many of the cowboys in Gold Butte. He told me stories of Jimmy Hayworth when he worked for Howard Hughes, of my uncle Moose Whitney when he was out here running with my Grandpa Don Whitney and many other cowboys and city folk who thought they were. Kicking our boots in the dust of Gold Butte and being able to point to the very washes where Norm remembered working cows and making camp is a memory to….well, write about.

One of the highlights of the day was when the Jacobs family arrived bringing with them Art’s original Model A Ford. The story I got was that Art left the car to the Jacobs family in his will and it has remained in the family ever since. James Jacobs, the son of Slat, towed the car out. He said if he had had a little more time he could have got it running and drove it out. Running or not, it was most excellent to see the old car reunited with this rough and rugged country. The Jacobs family use to have the ranch just below the Nay’s at the bottom of the mountain on the Arizona Strip side.

When all was said and done and folks started to pack up and leave, I speculate they left with more than they came.  To the casual passerby, who fails to behold these hills imbued with its historical perspective, the contrast of human and nature can seem a stark contradiction. But for those who understand and appreciate what has transpired within these surroundings, there is an insight which pulls in harmony the contrast of humanity and nature to reveal a more vivid landscape and an accompanying desire to conserve it. It is these community events, where we celebrate our history that ensures our public lands stand resolute.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Art Coleman Eulogy 2016

Today we re-interred the remains of Art Coleman at Gold Butte. If you need a little background on why you can click the following link:

I was asked to give the eulogy today for Art. I had a lot of friends who wanted to be there but could not so I wanted to share the tribute I gave. I will write up and post more pictures on the whole event in the next day or so.

I have been accused of being naturally blabby and a bit irreverent so I guess that is why the lot fell to me for this tribute. It’s a hell of a task to write a eulogy for a feller who died even before my parents were born but it puts into perspective how important written history really is. I love history, I love to hear a good story. I enjoy nothing more than sitting under that shade of the Cotton woods with Marylyn and talking about the early days. I enjoy my memories of taking cows to the auction with grandpa and running into Dennis and Jim and eating lunch at the market grill and auction house hearing about the way it used to be out here running cattle. I have read and talked to everybody I could about the Gold Butte area so I feel like I have a little bit of insight on the Grand ol Men of Gold Butte. I am certainly not an authority nor claim to be but I think they needed somebody with enough hot air and BS to tell a few stories so here it is.
As I have thought it over and tried to gain some insight into who Art Coleman was I came up with this: If you whittle it all down to the essentials you are left with two defining characteristics that I think sum up the long and the short of Gold Butte. The first is the value of a reliable friendship and the second is an appreciation for beautiful country.
The first mention I find of Art in Nevada is in Copper City which is near Gold Butte proper. When Art arrived in Copper City the city was a group of canvas walled tents that, if I have the story right, about 9 out of ten were selling supplies consisting mainly of distilled beverages. Art set up his operation and started dry sluicing a few of the wash bottoms. He had devised a way to reuse the water to be able to run things through and make a go. However I think by the time he got there the only thing left was hard work and a few tailings piles of played out mines…so he moved on. 
Not finding what he had hoped for this prospector continued to ramble on down the trail. From what I can piece together Art took a little hiatus from the prospecting trade in the early 1920’s and went into a little more scandalous dealings running the Moapa Bar during the prohibition days. It might have been the constant menace of being crossways with the law that pushed Art to move on but really I think even more so, it was the call of rugged country, the solitude found in the sage and the prospect of a few good flakes that called Art back to the Gold Butte country.
He setup in Jumbo Basin this time to do a little dry farming and prospecting. I would guess very little farming but possibly other endeavors that included the distilling of agricultural products such as wheat, barley or corn.  The prospecting was good in the washes of this beautiful country and Art was able to find a few good nuggets that he would showcase for the weary western traveler.
It was here where he teamed up with Bill Garret who had setup residence in the abandoned house, a vestige from the boom years of Copper City and Gold Butte Mining District.
Garret was likewise a rambling man but whose background was in cowboying instead of prospecting. Like Art, Garret had been hither and yon but found solace in the hills, valleys and cactus of Gold Butte. Garret worked for George Hartman as a cowboy. There had been a few good wet year and feed was plentiful and the herds grew in proportion. But as we well know drought can set in too and following the late 20’s Hartman was losing to the elements, economy and a changing west. After things dried up with Hartman, Garret got what he could for payment in stock and decided to lay down some roots and setup in Gold Butte making a run at it with what he had…which he did for the next 40 years.
            It has been written and told by all those I have encountered that there was always an available seat for those wanting to reminisce with these ol boys and if the still was running out back a little liquid could help quench the thirst and liven and embellish any story.  It is their hospitality I think that lives on foremost in the stories told of those who knew them.
The boom and the bust has been a part of Nevada story since chapter one. A few good years of rain can mean enough feed to support a growing herd and a cattle ranchers dreams. But a few dry years can pull the rug right out from under the hopes of the same cattleman’s aspirations. Likewise the early whispers of the next mother lode can provoke the wandering dreamer to pack up and head for the next desolate encampment striving to strike it rich where a burgeoning city could grow overnight and playout just a quick. 
            So what was it that pushed these two wandering men to throw in together and settle down in the rough and rugged desert? It certainly wasn’t the dreams of getting rich.  What does it mean when a prospector lays down his pick and shovel and quits searching for the next big lode? I speculate it was the off chance that these two men struck up a friendship that both knew was worth its weight in gold and an appreciation for remote country that offered what no city skyline or society dinner party ever could. If you have watched the early morning sun bath these hills in natures brilliant golden pallet or watched the last color slip away from the cliffs of the Grand wash in the setting sun you need no explanation…and if you haven’t you wouldn’t get it anyways. Art passed away in 1958 at the age of 82 and Bill died in 1961 at 81. 
My parting thought is this, just last weekend dad and I sat at the base of Grand Gulch Canyon where it dumps into Grand Wash. This particular spot offers a unique perspective that provides perception into the grandeur and enormity of this rugged country. From this vantage you are looking across the Grand Wash with Tramp Ridge pointing through to the St Thomas gap covering thousands of acres of brush and cactus. As we sat at the base of the Grand Wash cliffs I asked dad how the hell the early pioneers and prospectors covered such rugged country atop a horse, hell it was beating me up on our four-wheeler with full independent suspension.
It got me thinking about what we miss as the speed of life increases to the point where we can cover in a day in a jeep in this country what would take weeks sitting astride horse. What are we missing because our perspective is at such a faster pace? Are we gaining any more insights on the meaning of life or more wisdom or just covering more territory?  Maybe these ol boys had it figured out. Beautiful country and a good friend to share it with in the end when measured and weighed in the balance adds up to the most.

To the Grand ol Men of Gold Butte I tip my hat….amen