Where Are You Going?

When my children were young, often times we’d hop in the car not having a clue where we were going. It generally had to do with,

“Where should we eat?”

I’d take off down the road hoping the wife and kids would come to a quick agreement. That didn’t happen! Lack of decision making led to many unnecessary miles put on our vehicle. My mother was just the opposite.

Before leaving the house, specific plans on where she was headed, including how to get there were chiseled in stone. Big brother Jim picked up mom’s trait.  His career as an air traffic controller fit well with this organized way of thinking.

Before mom passed away she knew her final destination. Mother made a point to let family know exactly where she’d be, and how to get there. Mother prayed throughout her life that we’d make that same decision regarding eternity. Far as I know all of us have.

Mom was so organized before making the trip, that she took time to leave specific instructions. Taped to the refrigerator, tucked away in drawers, cubby holes, and safety deposit boxes were handwritten notes telling where to send this or where to mail that. Items of jewelry that an older sister gave her had an attached message saying,

“Mail to your cousin Cheryl in Oregon.”

She had sticky notes indicating what each grandchild was to receive. There were instructions on what legal paperwork to keep, plus those documents needing shredded. My mother left money to pay incoming bills such as gas, electricity, and telephone.

I recall a 1950’s war movie where a gravely injured soldier is asked by an Army chaplain if he knows where he’s going. The young infantryman takes a deep drag on a cigarette before replying,

“I hadn’t gave it much thought until now!”

That pretty much sums up the way many people think regarding death. It seems the older a person gets, the more they have to contemplate such.

Years ago I was chatting with a co-worker about life on the other side. This man depressingly indicated that once he died that was it. He believed there was nothing else. I listened intently. Several years later I bumped into him and his whole attitude had changed.

He was positive this go-round on what would happen once his heart stopped beating. Somewhere along the way this fellow had seen the light. That individual is now in Heaven. In due time I know I’ll see him. This would not be the case had he not accepted Christ.

Some people have far-fetched ideas about life after death. One lady told me she was coming back as a butterfly.

“They’re so beautiful!”, the woman explained.

I suppose she didn’t realize the life expectancy of a butterfly on average is 1 week to 9 months.

If people don’t know their final destination, hopefully they’ll make plans before it’s too late. Without question I know mine. I haven’t written any departure notes like mother, but there is one lingering in my head. It will be for my two grown children:

“Dear Kids,

Please take care of any outstanding bills with your money. I’ll refund it when you get to the other side.

Love – Dad!”

A Job Well Dung

“First impressions mean a lot!”

During my children’s early years I did my best to help them with special projects. Oftentimes ‘the old man’ gave Gunnar & Miranda too much assistance. On several occasions I nearly completed projects on my own. I was asked to slow down.

My wife Joleen always stepped in making sure I allowed the kids a chance to participate. She informed me that teachers or instructors didn’t want parents doing the whole thing. Sometimes I got carried away.

One such project involved creating an album of Alaska animals. Gunnar clipped photos of moose, bear, and other game from magazines. He glued them to blank sheets of paper inserting these into a blue folder.

When Gunnar showed me the finished project I noticed it lacked pizazz. Written on the cover in simple 4th grade writing was ‘Alaska’. I told him it looked fine, but perhaps we could do better where art was concerned. I told him,

“First impressions mean a lot!”

We jointly came up with an idea that seemed clever enough. Gunnar and I combed the neighborhood searching for moose nuggets. It was fall so there were piles and piles of them lying about. I showed him a perfect example.

“We want them fat and oblong like this. Small busted ones won’t work.”

Collecting a bucket full, we took them to the garage spreading our organic treasure on cold concrete floor. I placed a heat lamp overhead. The nuggets needed to thoroughly dry so that paint would adhere. Soft and mushy wouldn’t doo.

Purchasing a can of gold aerosol paint I showed Gunnar how to spray without drips or runs. Once complete the moose dung looked like actual gold nuggets. After the enamel paint dried came the tricky part. Gorilla brand glue was unheard of back then. Closest thing to it was Elmer’s wood glue. The moose droppings consisted mainly of digested birch limbs so this worked fine.

We arranged painted turds into words before gluing them down. The finished product was beyond expectations. It was awesome. If bragging wasn’t deplorable I’d continue dishing out praise.

At the next parent/teacher conference all student notebooks were on display. I looked them over seeing different examples of each. Most had a clipped picture of an animal with ‘Alaska’ written on top. There were none like Gunnar’s. His received the most attention from parents. I wanted to proudly walk up and tell folks how it came to be, yet stopped short. Some things are best left unmentioned.

My son received an A on his project and I beamed with joy. When the notebook came home I carefully placed it in a box for safe keeping. It’s been sitting in that container undisturbed for 35 years. Upon opening I was glad to see that the gold nuggets spelling out ALASKA survived.

Thinking about it for several seconds I couldn’t help but reach the conclusion,

It was a job well dung!”

You Get The Picture

Marge might as well be a cockroach.

When McDonalds first came out with self-order computer boards I wouldn’t use them. It was easy to see they were germ sponges. Suppose some guy comes out of the restroom without washing his hands. He moseys over to the kiosk and orders a burger and Coke. The fellow uses dirty fingers to punch the screen.

Being directly behind him, you order fries and a shake. After receiving your order you sit down and use fingers to…

“You get the picture!”

Over a year ago when I mentioned this to friends they laughed at me for being germ phobic. Just recently it was reported how much fecal coliform was on those things. It was off the chart. Now my friends won’t touch one.

Here’s another germ sponge: Reusable cloth grocery bags. One of the filthiest things you can touch in a grocery store are shopping carts. Most people know that. Besides the cart handle being contaminated, the small tilt-out baskets are notorious for carrying rancid germs. Cute little Billy just sat there with a dirty diaper. Some of it leaked out on the chromed wire.

You know not to use that section of cart because Martha Stewart told you so. It’s a different story after groceries are bagged. You toss the sacks in there thinking there’s no problem. The plastic bags may get soiled but they’ll go in the garbage once home.

Into the store one morning pops Marge Green. Marge’s one of those hip gals thinking she’s doing the world a favor by foregoing plastic bags. She’s been using her cotton bags going on a year now. She knows all too well not to use the fold-out portion of a shopping cart when shopping. The woman after all watches Martha Stewart reruns. Once Marge’s goods are bagged it’s a whole different story. Into the top and bottom of a shopping buggy go her “Save the Earth” bags.

Each week that Marge does this, her filthy cotton bags are contaminating the store bagging table, including every shopping cart she touches. Marge might as well be a cockroach.

Her chic’ logo bags are much like unwashed cleaning rags. They’ve picked up germs and held them, depositing seasoned spores each week onto the cashier’s and courtesy clerk’s hands, including her own car seat and kitchen table.

“You get the picture!”

When my wife mentioned wanting to use cloth bags I said,

“No way Jose!

I gave her my presentation on why not to. She saw merit in the spiel. I’d much rather Joleen use germ-free plastic bags to place meat, fruit, and vegetables, than potentially nasty cloth sacks.

I’m sure some would say they wash theirs. In return I would ask,

“After each trip to the grocery store?”

We know that doesn’t happen. If they say, “Yes”, they’re lying.

Next time someone tells you to ditch plastic tell them to take a hike. Say you’d much rather be clean than go green!

“You get the picture!”

.

All is Copacetic

“What did he or she just say?”

I’ve not a big word user. I have 3 big words in my whole vocabulary. I’ll attempt to use one in this column for general effect. Or is that affect? They claim the average reading level in the U.S. is 7th or 8th grade. Without being tested I believe mine to be at least that high. I’m the type reader that likes to get to the end of an article or story like right now.

Some writers have a tendency to drift along, filling pages with meaningless ‘dribble’. If you’re going to tell me about a recently caught fish, please don’t waste time by focusing on technical aspects of the lure.

Often in personal conversations, what could’ve been said in one minute took ten. I call this the chit-chat factor. My concentration on most anything is diminishing. It has been for years. Telling me that Aunt Martha’s coming to visit is pertinent information. The direction she’s traveling isn’t.

Hopefully I’m not the only person that after talking to someone, has to silently wonder,

“What did he or she just say?”

I’ve been smack dab in the middle of a conversation having my mind suddenly take a sharp left turn.

Sometimes I discover myself getting heavy eyes while the pastor preaches. It seems the older I get the more this happens. At least it hasn’t got to the point of nodding off like one fellow in our congregation. He sleeps through the whole service.

Former President Bill Clinton had a classic case of sleepitis. This was observed by millions during wife Hillary’s speech. My spouse complains that I have selective hearing. Many wives say their husbands are inflicted with the disease. Evidently it’s highly contagious.

A friend of mine is a big word expert. It’s not that Rod has more education than me. I’m guessing that my pal has a book of big words close by. Ever since high school one of his favorite lines has been,

“All is copacetic!” Rod tosses the statement out when asked how he or his family is doing. The answer should be, “Fine or good.”  That’s what the rest of us say.

I don’t believe my buddy impressed anyone with his technical reply, because most folks didn’t understand such. Mom gave Rod a blank stare the first time she heard it.  Copacetic and pathetic sound too much alike. Echoing through aged ears I’m sure some hearing-impaired folks thought he said,

“All is pathetic!”

I suppose they walked away believing Rod was depressed and needed psychiatric help. That’s one of the reasons I refuse to use big words. Folks having 7th or 8th grade reading skills are bound not to understand.

An English 101 professor claimed some people use big words to be ostentatious. I didn’t know what the word meant until looking it up.

Webster’s Dictionary defines it as: to attract attention and impress others. I’ve never been one to impress people, yet have attracted lots of attention over the years; mostly while driving. When you think about it, ostentatious and Austin, Texas almost sound the same.

I drove through Austin, Texas many years ago.  My family was headed to San Antonio at the time. If you were to ask what I thought of the city I’d say without hesitation,

“Hunky dory.”

That’s one of my big words. For those not knowing the meaning, a dictionary of slang defines it as: fine, good, or okay. Hopefully by using the term no one thinks I’m being ostentatious. That would not be copacetic.

If you believe what you just read is quite pathetic. You’re probably not the only one!

Race to the Summit

The Mario Andretti wannabe drove it like a sports car.

Portion of the road leading upwards to Site Summit.

It’s not often a person takes the mundane job of washing dishes and writes about it.  My 6-month dish washing stint was much different than scrubbing pots and pans at a local diner. I was employed at a high-security Army installation 12 miles from the heart of Anchorage.

From my vantage point on clear days I’d see not only the city, but Sleeping Lady, Redoubt Volcano, and Mt. Denali. Several hundred feet below my stainless-steel sink nuclear warhead missiles were ready for launch.

After graduating from high school in 1972 I searched for work to help alleviate an often empty wallet. For the most part I needed cash to spend on gas. My 440 4-speed 1968 Dodge Charger R/T was a thirsty puppy. Dad knew a guy in charge of a civilian maintenance company. The business contracted out services to the military such as kitchen and dining room upkeep.

The mindless detail included dish washing. When first told of the job I wasn’t interested. It seemed a boring way to spend my summer. When dad mentioned I’d work at a nearby Nike missile site my interest level exploded. Turning in application, a minimal background check was quickly passed. Within days I was happily employed. My unofficial title was Civilian KP; the KP standing for kitchen patrol.

Site Summit lies northeast of Anchorage at the 4100 foot level of Mt. Gordon Lyon. The mountain’s named after a man helping construct the missile complex on top. Gordon Miller Lyon oversaw military projects throughout Alaska. The innovative engineer from Iowa died January 16, 1964. He’s buried in Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery.

Site Summit officially started construction in 1957 going online in 1959. Its official military designation was B-Battery. The B stood for Bravo. Nike-Hercules missiles were part of a Cold War effort to place a ring of protection around the United States.

Nike missiles out of their concrete den.

They were a detriment against possible enemy attacks. At one time there were 393 such facilities throughout the world. By 1972 Nike was winding down.  The line of sight defense system was totally antiquated and offline in 1979.

When I was hired specific areas were identified as off limits. A sign at beginning of a hallway leading from the ‘Day Room’ boldly proclaimed: NO UNAUTHORIZED PERSONNEL BEYOND THIS POINT. That warning needed no explanation.

The ‘Day Room’ as it was called was next to the mess hall. Pool tables, couches, and seats of comfort were provided for troops. I got to know both areas up close and personal at the end of a vacuum and mop.

Army logo painted on wall of “day room”. This photo taken years after the facility closed.

My KP teammate was a young man named Don. He was an amicable character and we got along well. Don had long hair so he was called ‘Hippie Don’ by Sergeant’s Johnson and Ingalls. These 2 enlisted men were our supervisors. They were good people but didn’t cut us any slack in the work department.

If grease or food residue was left on plates, cups, or pans we were barked at. For extra cleaning power hot steam was pumped into our rinse water. We wore thick rubber gloves while handling utensils because steam would instantly burn skin.  I’d never seen anything like it. Dish washing at Site Summit was definitely a hazardous occupation!

Don was popular with many of the lower ranked personnel. He’d supply them with extra food unbeknownst to the sergeants. I learned to follow suit. Three times a day an olive green pickup truck backed up to our kitchen loading dock.   We helped load meals for those crews working the control area or missile launch facilities. Before the truck left we’d toss in extra snacks or fruit. That act of courtesy never failed to get thumbs up.

B-Battery’s mess hall had a reputation as serving some of the finest chow in the Army. I found this to be true. On 2 different occasions top brass flew up strictly for meals. Whenever bigwigs were scheduled to arrive, Sergeant Johnson instructed us to make sure kitchen and dining room floors were spotless. 

There were 2 security gates on the mountain. One was on the main road where I had to stop and check in. The other gate was at the control and launch areas. Two fences separated this second gate from the road.  I was told more than once should an unauthorized person ever breach the fence, they’d be shot on sight.  I suppose manning checkpoints was probably the most boring of all military jobs.  Security dogs were also used. On occasion I’d see handlers walking German Shepherds on leashes.

A road to the top of Site Summit is carved through solid rock in some places. It subjected vehicle tires to terrible punishment. My 375 horsepower Dodge went through a set of soft rubber Goodyear’s, plus upper and lower ball joints in 6 months. Wash board ruts were common after rain.

One rainy day as I slowly drove up the hill Nike missiles were out of their compounds in full display. The birds were tilted upwards ready for flight. That’s the only time I ever saw them. It was impressive!

At the start of each day Sgt. Johnson and Ingalls would huddle in their little office smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee. One morning I yelled, “Ten Hup!” just for kicks.  The 2 soldiers couldn’t stomp their smokes out fast enough while clambering out the door. One of them spilled coffee in the process. After finding they’d been pranked the sergeants were none too happy.

“Don’t ever do that again!”, Sgt.  Johnson sternly warned me. Minutes later he saw the humor.

Sgt. Ingalls owned what I believe to be an Opel Kadette.  It was a much smaller car than my Charger. The Mario Andretti wannabe drove it like a sports car. On more than one occasion ‘Sarge’ came up from behind passing me. I didn’t like thrashing my vehicle so I just putted along. When I walked in the kitchen afterwards Ingalls would be grinning from ear to ear like he’d just won the Indy 500.

The soft spoken sergeant claimed to set a record for driving to the top of Site Summit. I knew I could top it. Prearranged with the gate guard on not having to stop, Don and I blasted up the hill early one morning easily beating Ingall’s time. Extra horsepower made it a snap.

One day Sgt. Ingalls and I left work at the same time. He was in front of me going down the hill like a jack rabbit. I dogged him all the way. At the bottom of the mountain ‘Sarge’ spun out. All I could see was a huge cloud of dust. I thought he’d rolled but luckily his car remained upright.

Next morning I was the one wearing a smile. I don’t recall Sgt. Ingalls ever racing me again.  After that I was warned about speeding on military installations. To this day I believe my Dodge Charger set the quickest time from Arctic Valley Road to the top of Site Summit.

One slow afternoon Don and I were in the Day Room talking to a couple of GI’s.  The men had something they wanted to show my partner. I was invited to tag along. Don and the 2 privates breezed by the warning sign like it didn’t exist.  Evidently my co-worker had done this before. I was reluctant to enter yet out of pure curiosity didn’t turn back.

Glancing into a room with glowing radar screens I saw a soldier in green fatigue bottoms and white tee shirt. The fellow had both legs comfortably resting on a console while reading a comic book. That sight’s never left my brain!

The soldiers took Don and I to their dorms. They were small yet comfortable places to sleep. There wasn’t much space to visit. I immediately saw why the Day Room on Site Summit was important to personnel. It was the largest social gathering spot on the mountain.

Don called my house one evening saying not to pick him up. My compadre’ glumly remarked he’d been discovered in an ‘off limits’ area by the lieutenant. “Hippie Don” was sent down the mountain to work in Fort Richardson’s kitchen. No Civilian KP ever wanted to work on Fort Rich. Horror stories were rampant about all the pots and pans to be scrubbed at that location.

I remained on Site Summit until the first snow. Seeing it was going to be tough driving up and down the hill I turned in my resignation. Soldiers told me it wasn’t unusual for workers to be trapped on the mountain during a storm. That didn’t sound like something I wanted part of. In September I started Automotive Technology classes at Anchorage Community College. 

I often think back to working on that mountain. In 6 short months I created memories unobtainable anywhere else. Some of my former classmates worked fast-food right out of high school. I feel blessed in having washed dishes in perhaps the most scenic of all Alaska locations. The pay was lousy, yet visual sights were something never equaled working at Burger King or McDonalds.

Twenty years after my dish-washing career, I finagled unofficial permission to ride my bicycle to the top of Site Summit, including explore the grounds. Doing so completed 2 items on my ‘bucket list’. My son Gunnar went along as did brother-in-law Calvin Freeman. No official race was declared but I managed to be first one to the top on my bike.

Site Summit competition still circulated in my veins.  Things had drastically changed by then. The facility was in a state of total disrepair. I took numerous photographs for posterity sake. Thankfully some of the soldier’s Nike related artwork had survived.

Going back down the hill I let ‘er rip. I wish Sgt. Ingalls had been there to watch.  On a Rockhopper mountain bike I absolutely smashed his long-standing record for fastest descent!

My 1968 Dodge Charger R/T.

Coffee Conniption

“Would you like one lump on your head or two?”

Twenty-ounce raspberry mocha.

I’ve been blessed throughout my life in having good friends. Most all possess a keen sense of humor. Perhaps at the top of my list is Mary Ostendorf. Mary’s quick wit is the cream of the crop. She’s a pro at keeping jokes going!

Several years ago I attended a sexual harassment class at work. It was required. A co-worker of mine Dee Linton went along. Lo and behold on the morning of the seminar we bumped into Mary. We knew immediately the meeting was going to be a hoot.

There were mostly middle-management employees attending although a few upper-management supervisors were there as well.

When break time rolled around Mary and others walked to the coffee pot with Styrofoam cups in hand. Dee, seeing her headed that direction called out for all to hear,

“Mary – would you fetch me a cup?”

There was a scripted non-use of the word please on Dee’s part. Fetch was also inserted for effect. The room went deathly silent with all eyes focused on my friend. From the distinct tightness on several employees’ lips, I sensed they eagerly awaited Mary’s response.

“Yes Dee”, she playfully responded. “Would you like one lump on your head or two?”

The room erupted in laughter for all but a few. Our instructor even chuckled. One gal with utter disgust on her face remained smugly quiet. Mary took things in stride. She was not offended in the least.

On another occasion Dee and I were on the south of town where Mary worked. There was a little coffee shack a few blocks away from her office. Going through the drive-thru we grabbed raspberry mochas for ourselves as well as her. Taking Mary’s beverage inside the building a receptionist asked if she could help.

“Coffee delivery for Mary Ostendorf.”, I responded with a straight face.

Anticipating that such an unusual statement would prompt the woman’s curiosity I eagerly waited for her reply. Looking confused the gal inquired if delivery was a free service. I informed her that delivery cost five bucks. By now others in the room took notice.

“A ten dollar cup of coffee?”, she countered.

“Yes mam…. nine dollars and fifty cents.”

Pointing me towards Mary’s cubicle I walked through a maze of desks before handing her the drink. Whispering to Mary what was going on, she kept the gig going. To this day I believe co-workers believe the woman had a serious caffeine addiction.

Last on my list of Ostendorf java tales is an unusual one. It was never intended to be funny yet turned into humorous drama.

There was a coffee supplier in Juneau that was trying to break into the Alaska market. Dark Horse had one store in Anchorage plus a few kiosks at various locations. One place in particular was located at The Red Apple Restaurant on Boniface and Tudor. All kiosks were independently owned including this one.

My pal Dee Linton came in possession of ‘free latte’ coupons from someone working at Dark Horse. From what he was told, a coupon presented to any business selling their brew would garner a free 12-ounce drink.

Dee and I took our coupons to Red Apple Restaurant handing them to the manager who was also part owner. She went into a tirade complaining about how the coffee company was slow on refunding money.

“I’ll go out of business!”, the woman whined.

We were granted our coffees with two lumps of seething anger. Making sure to tip the woman Dee whispered,

“Never again!” as we walked out.

There was one solitary coupon remaining in Dee’s wallet. Seeing Mary Ostendorf later that day my pal presented it to her. Mary thanked him and said she’d stop in at Red Apple and snag a cup.

Dee and I looked at each other, before quickly deciding to drive across the street and see if she scored. We had a perfect view from parking lot into the front window. The restaurant cash register could clearly be seen including latte machine. Mary stood there a bit while the owner rang up several patrons.

We watched as she handed the woman her coupon. Within milliseconds the restaurant owner went ballistic. All we could see were arms flailing and head bobbing. We couldn’t hear words yet knew the woman’s language was not nice. After several minutes the incensed restaurant owner abruptly walked away.

When our friend Mary came out empty handed we drove up asking what happened. She was ready to kill us at that point, thinking it was an intentional prank.

“Why’d you guys do that to me?”

Dee and I couldn’t stop laughing. Mary began doing the same. Dee partially made it up to her by delivering a 20-ounce raspberry mocha the next week. I still owe her the same.

The best coffee in Lake Havasu City is at The Human Bean. There’ll always be a 20-ounce raspberry mocha there with Mary Ostendorf’s name on it. Same goes for Dee Linton.

All they have to do is come get it!

On a side note: Red Apple Restaurant’s coffee kiosk was yanked soon after Mary’s incident. Within a year the business folded for obvious reasons.

This Road Less Traveled

That’s when a humongous black rat disappeared into a pile of brush.

Rocky’s Old Stage Station (1950’s).

For close to 10 years I drove past an intriguing garage and junk yard on I-40 in eastern Arizona always wanting to stop. The dilapidated building and trailer with vintage cars, trucks, and buses is located 25 miles east of Holbrook in Apache County. Being an antique car nut, the sight of rusted sheet metal becomes candy to my eyes. I needed a closer look!

On each journey I repeatedly looked for a turnoff yet never found one. The shuttered business is separated from busy interstate traffic via wire fence. On a recent trip to Colorado sufficient time was granted by my wife Joleen to find access.  Discovering the entrance went faster than I thought. Exit 303 was the secret key. This exit either takes you to the ghost town of Adamana, or down a stretch of Route 66 few people know about, directly to the old repair facility.

Turning left off Adamana Road onto infamous Route 66 I drove east for 5 miles. ‘The Mother Road’ as Route 66 is often called led me straight to the garage’s locked gate. A sunbaked metal sign showed it to be Rocky’s Old Stage Station. Such an unusual name! Wrecker service and used cars were advertised, along with business license numbers crudely hand-painted on a top section. Before continuing my story let me take you back in time.

                                                ***********************

“The year was 1957. Dad was in the Air Force and had been notified his next assignment was George A.F.B. in California. Loading up a black 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 along with small trailer home, our family departed Vernon, Alabama headed west to Victorville, CA. My brother Jim and I rode in the back seat. I would’ve been 3 at the time so my recollection of events is extremely limited. Dad, mom, and Jim provided me with the following details:

Entering Arizona via Route 66, a blazing July sun made things unbearably hot inside our car. The vehicle had no air conditioner. Being painted a dark color clearly amplified intense sweltering heat. Jim and I quickly became drowsy and unresponsive. Pulling into a gas station on the outskirts of Holbrook, an employee told mom she’d best cool her kids down or they wouldn’t survive the trip.

The man sold my folks a block of ice including tin pan to hold things. Placing this crude cooling device on the floorboard Jim and I made the remainder of our journey hovered over it. That pump attendant probably saved our lives by advising such. For many years now I’ve often wondered if this gas station still exists.”

                                             ************************

Rolling up to a locked compound gate I stayed inside my truck long enough to survey all surroundings. The first thing noticed was a NO TRESPASSING sign. I intended to honor it. A couple of classic 1950’s school buses quickly caught my eye. Their once bright yellow paint was now subdued with rusty brown patina. One bus was missing its front fenders, hood, and grille while another was sans differential.

Vintage cars of all make and model dotted the grounds. One appeared to be a 1947 Chevrolet while another was a 1940’s Dodge. I stepped outside the safety of my truck to snap a few photos. That’s when a humongous black rat disappeared into a pile of brush. I jumped back instinctively. Rocky’s Old Stage Station gave me the creeps.

Quickly snapping several more pictures, I started to reenter my vehicle before noticing a small sign on the compound fence. It warned of the area being a Hantavirus Site. I knew immediately what that meant having read of the disease.

To simplify complicated medical terminology: Hantavirus spores originate from rat or mouse droppings. They can be found in common dirt or dust. Breathing such can be fatal to people much like anthrax. I made sure to brush dirt from both shoes before reentering my Dodge.

On the ride back to Exit 303 there was a fellow with a metal detector prospecting around a concrete building foundation. This was about 2 miles west of Rocky’s Old Stage Station. Out of curiosity I stopped to see what was up. The young man’s name was Matt and he was from the UK. Matt was visiting this country to experience specific areas of Route 66. He informed me the spot he currently explored was an old petrol station.

“You don’t say!” was my excited response.

Matt went on to explain that the defunct garage I’d been looking at further down the road had been a Butterfield stagecoach stop in the 1800’s. That explained the unusual name. Matt said it’d been a thriving auto repair and wrecker service for Nyal “Rocky” Rockwell until I-40 was built. For whatever reason, our government in rerouting the highway left limited access for Rocky’s customers which totally annihilated his business. Such was interesting to hear but my mind remained focused on the gas station. Could this have been the place my folks stopped in 1957?

Back home I initiated internet research on the site eventually finding a rare 1946 picture postcard. The establishment had been a Shell station owned by Harry C. Osborn. Shell was dad’s gasoline of choice next to Texaco. My research showed no Texaco stations in the area. It could’ve been the same business where my folks purchased ice. Of course I’ll never be able to prove such.

What I do know is the gas station’s no longer an entity except for crumbling remains. The majority of customers having patronized it are long gone. Much like a melting block of ice, time was a giant eraser before I finally discovered this road less traveled.