The ghosts of economies past

By all accounts this area of the Wet Mountains was a vibrant rural community back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. There was a working lead mine in the area. Potato farming was prevalent, as was ranching. The evidence of this former community is seen today only in the old rock foundations, stone-lined hand-dug wells, and ramshackle cabins such as the one along the small creek in the valley below my house.

Something happened with the economy, and the people simply left. I suspect some sort of economic downturn, probably coupled by a shortage or inability to secure or transport food, led to the exodus.

Only in recent years with higher standards of living, reliable vehicles, free-flowing fuel, supermarkets, superior methods of food storage, advances in housing — and ways to make money out of thin air — has it again become comfortable to live in such a remote area. With the recent downturn in the economy, I’ve begun to wonder if this lifestyle is sustainable.

One day recently there was a note of seriousness on the wind that said, “There’s some momentum behind this thing.” I knew deep inside that within two days the season’s first snow will fall. I bucked the wind to run past the falling-down cabin. Not far past there, two Wilson’s snipe flushed from the swampy creekbottom, sounding their distinctive cry of alarm. They set their wings against a gust and disappeared.

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