Back when I was a young man, travel became my vestibule for knowledge and exploration. This drive expired after a severe horse crash in 1895. Since that time, I have been confined to a home, thus prompting the creation of this piece. Homes of many types and sizes and colours sprung up all over the Old West; many still sit today, rotting and waiting for just one more lick of paint to pass the time.
“If you didn’t have wood, you weren’t getting a home.” These words, spoken by Grover Cleveland in 1885, were held to their highest throughout the American West and beyond. Wood came from trees, they said, just as ore and diamond came from below.
Mexicans, or foreigners as they are called back then and today, lived in white homes displayed in a ramshackle motif. Many peasants refused to reside in them because of their stench and general filth; drapes and lavatories lay amiss, and children were forever developing septicaemia from the faucets and rapid dogs that slunk around the premises. The locals complained, but the Americans in charge simply shot at them from atop their large carriages and laughed, smirking at the degradation.
Roy Walker invented the concept of burial at an undisclosed time. Ever since then, people have been making coffins and homes to house these bits of wood in establishments known as an Undertaker’s. Citizens would flock from miles around to place their loved ones in hardboard homes, and would pay a pretty penny for the privilege of doing so. A coffin cost $3.94 in 1911; a price that has only inflated further in the proceeding years.
Hats off to the man who painted that sign, and pants off to the men inside. Saloons sprung up all over the Old West under the guise of brothels. You may think that doing so the other way around would have been a more elegant solution to the hiding of criminality, but the American mindset of the late nineteenth century was simply on bottles of booze and women. They had no time for logistics nor sense.
Paint ran dry along the Mexican border villages, and caballeros from across three provinces brought forth provisions in droves to suppress the blight. One man was stated to have found black tar useful in coating any wall or ceiling. The locals told him that only white would do.
Back in 1901, before his horrible, gangrenous death, President William McKinley lived in a home quite similar to this. He had a red couch, perfect for sitting, and several layers of draped finery. Only the best for the leader of our sacred vessel. When he died, Theodore Roosevelt installed several new pelts above the fireplace, and shot a bunch of peasants for dirtying his rugs during the relocation process.
In an attempt to cleave art into the dirt of the West, many brave cinematographers made their way to ramshackle villages to ply their trade and make movies for denizens in their droves. This small theatre played only three shows over the course of eight decades: “Manacled Bill: A Love Story”, “Holy Hell! My Barn’s On Fire!”, and “Cows Love Me, Even If No One Else Does”.
Trains were like cars, back in the day, except they ran on coal and steam and the drivers wore red caps and goggles. With the advent of the train station, western commuters finally learnt the value of prompt service. Timetables often displayed incorrect time stamps and dates, causing much of a muchness; a cry of despair unheard of in the East.
You can imagine the sort of conversation these two fellows would be having at that time of day! The back-and-forth banter of the local ice cream clerk and his many customers was well told and prosperous. “Give me three scoops of raspberry jam for a nickel”, you’d say. The vendor would reply with courteous thanksgivings and laughter.
Boats: the new frontier. Not since Washington crossed the Delaware has a boat come in handy. No sir, these metal masters only came into play once again after the destruction of Native American territories in the mid-1800s. Empty promises made by landowners far and wide caused much strife and violence for the natives. Boats transported many a tree or hatchet away from its home, and displayed the proud pageantry of the disingenuous white man.
Now that my tale of homes and their inhabitants is done, granpappy must rest for a while. Rest up good and proper until morning.