We live adjacent to a 16,000 acre ranch. (You can guess whether it is bigger or smaller than ours. But don’t ask me. My father taught me that it is impolite to ask someone how much they earn or what something cost. The same applies to asking a rancher how many acres he owns or how many cows he has. That is like asking how much money you have in the bank.) Anyway, the ranch I am writing about has a rich history. Just ask James Michener. He wrote Centennial about this very area and part of the TV mini-series of long ago was filmed on this very ranch. Oh, I know how many acres without having asked the owners, who have had it in the family for over 135 years.
Part of the Overland Trail ran from Fort Collins to Laramie, including through the ranch. A canyon is not far off the trail. There is a waterfall. A part of the trail goes down a steep grade called Devil’s Slide. At the bottom was an enterprising blacksmith whose shop was in a prime location to fix or replace broken wagon wheels. Location. Location. Location. The remains of the shop are still visible, as are hundred year old ruts left on the trail. Not only did covered wagons bring pioneers, but the Overland Trail was a stage coach route as well.
As a neighbor and friend, I have been permitted to ride on this adjacent ranch, so don’t think I was tresspassing. I so appreciate being able to open one gate and ride “as far as the eye can see.”
Well, a few years ago, I was riding in a rough area on the other side of the canyon. There are some rock outcroppings that create overhangs under which a man on a horse could get out of the rain. Or out of sight.
As my horse and I traveled in this area by way of a washout, exploring what was previously unknown to me, I noticed what appeared to be a wall of sticks under a rock overhang which served as a roof. It struck me that I had discovered a well-hidden “hideout,” perhaps used by stage robbers or rustlers. It had definitely been constructed by humans and was definitely intended to be out of sight and difficult to find. It was like a cabin with a rock roof and a back wall of rock, with two sides of sticks.
It was so out of sight and so difficult to find that, although I tried to note some landmarks, and thought I could remember how I got there, I have never been able to find it again. I have gone back on horseback, attempting to recall my route and I have gone back to hike around where I thought the hideout was. It ain’t there.
We are left to choose between two explanations. Either I don’t deserve the title “King of the Wild Frontier,” or the place disappeared. Under the second theory, which is much more believable than doubting my considerable abilities, I went through a time warp and was back in time when I examined the hideout. How can you expect me to find a time warp again?