Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Sign Posts on the Journey


What evidence exists that yesterday actually happened? I suppose if yesterday had a big enough event, people are still talking about it today, but how often does that really happen? Most yesterdays seem to be made up of normal everyday life. The sun rises, life continues much as it did the day before, the sun sets, and the world prepares itself for tomorrow.

At some point, however, enough yesterdays have added up that looking around at the world brings to life a startling revelation: life has changed. The kids have become grown-ups, the things that were new seem outdated, and all of those days that seemed so similar to one another have been relegated into the lands of distant memory.

How much looking does it take to start finding evidence of real yesterdays? On an old brick building in Butte, Montana are signs posted high on the walls that read "Danger High Voltage" but there are no wires anywhere near them. Across a two lane blacktop nearby is an old bridge that has a faded orange sign affixed to it. Pipestone Pass is the old highway pass to the east of Butte over The Continental Divide. It has been for years, but there's something else there too. Looking out across the valley to the south of the highway is a huge black trestle that looms high over the trees called "Blacktail." Small towns like Lennip still dot the Big Sky Country just like they always have. And just like always, there's a stock pen that seems strangely out of place. A ghost town called Vananda sits beside US 12 and its large 2-story brick school house is as vacant as it always is.

In Miles City there's a highway underpass that carries three different highway signs. US 12, US 10, and MT 32. Normal enough, except US 10 hasn't been a US highway through Montana since 1987, there haven't been electrical lines held aloft next to Butte's Milwaukee Road Station since 1974, and Blacktail Trestle has seen no trains since the last one rolled east in the spring of 1981. Everyday seems like the one before, yet change continually happens and leaves signposts behind. Sign posts like these point you in a common direction leading back to different times, different people, different journeys, and history itself.

1 comment:

Marc Entze said...

Nice blogging Leland. Everywhere I go and see remnants of the MILW, it is surprising and disappointing that it no longer exists. Have you seen many stock pens in place along the former MILW?

I've finally got my slides back from the last Hi-Line trip, Hogeland, etc., and I hope to have an entry on that soon.