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Monday, June 4, 2012

Larger than life

Some people, and some places, are larger than life. Famous, bordering on infamous. Such is Bodie. Situated in literally the middle of nowhere southeast of Bridgeport California, at over 8,000 feet in elevation, it is about as far removed from civilization as possible. Bad weather, bad whiskey and bad men all combined to make it one of the wickedest towns in all the “wild west”. No wonder a little girl said, when informed that they were moving the next day for the already notorious burg, “Good bye God, I’m going to Bodie.

The middle of May seemed to me, to be a good time to visit. The snow had melted a couple of weeks prior, Sonora Pass was open and the temperature was supposed to be a balmy fifty some degrees. A long, dusty, pothole riddled road winds through the high dessert sage for mile after mile, until you climb the last rise and Bodie unfolds in front of you; (or at least what’s left of it).

The sky is bluer, the clouds seem closer, and the place has a surrealistic aura about it; a magnetism I can’t explain.

Ore carts, hoist wheels, mining implements; all have a patina polished by over a century of baking in the high desert sun half the year and being buried under ten feet of snow the other half. 

Instead of drab gray, the weathered buildings have a warm sepia tone.

There is a presence one can feel as you stroll amongst the dilapidated hulks that once were hotels, boarding houses, cabins and ornate homes replete with weathered Victorian gingerbread.

The windows stare back as you gaze into them, lonely and forlorn, seemingly framing past, present and future.

Many of the buildings still have contents; left where they were as the last residents packed up what few belongings they valued and headed for greener pastures elsewhere.
There are times when, if you're very, very quiet, you can almost hear the ghosts speak.

Of course, what self respecting western collector can’t help but think of a Pearson Bros. Soda when dreaming about the town.

We spent a mesmerizing day there, wandering through town, amazed at the abundance of rusted tin cans, broken bottles and the pungent smell of high dessert sage.

Sadly, the time came all too quick to retrace our steps, so we bid adieu to Bodie and made our way back to the High Sierra cabin that we called home that week.

Trust me, we’ll be back! I wonder if the old saying actually read "Good, by God, I'm going to Bodie!"


Mike Dolcini said...

Been there many times since the early 1960s. Dug a few bottles there, too, but long before I was aware of the privy potential. Was invited to leave once because, evidently, probing pits is frowned upon. Another time Jane and I were there when they had backhoed a drainage ditch toward the parking lot and the dirt was full of bottles. Most were junkers, but we did get away with a Stewart pharmacy.

Kentucky Gem said...

The hills have eyes nowadays...

Found a barrel ring in the sage complete with the brass hoop clasp for J. F. Cutter Old Bourbon. Illegal to pick anything up, let alone drag it home, so there it lies.


Mike Dolcini said...

FWIW, on my first, pre-bottle collector days, trip to Bodie with my Great Aunt there were truck loads of stuff going out of the place. People had the run of the town and were really "cleaning up". It was 1958 and I was a clueless 12 yr old. My Great Uncle had worked on the Tonopah and Tidewater RR in the early 1900s and they had stopped on Bodie at the time. She passed in 1979 at 89 and lots of great recollections went with her.

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