We went to Colorado for a couple of reasons. Foremost was to attend a family funeral and support Dianne’s family members in our shared grief. We were reminded that family is really all we have and that no one should wait for a funeral to see each other. Celebrate and connect while we can. Don’t wait. Hugs and eye contact are a great balance for tears and heavier emotions. But we also went to see family as much as we could in the short time we were there. Little did I know how much history I’d learn and how many memories would be revisited.
Every day with my Mother is a treasure. At 94 she provides a remarkable model of vitality and joy. Her bones ache a bit and vision is limited but her mind is sharp and she continues to be a source of our history. My sister, Betsy, and her husband, Stan, were kind enough to take us for a tour of some family memories in Boulder, CO before meeting Susie and Ken for dinner. We went in search of a family home that had been documented in a recently discovered photo album. 501 5th Ave., Boulder, CO was once the home of my father. Well, it doesn’t exist. 5th runs north-south and dies out at Aurora at it’s southern extremity. The closest address is 800 something. But the house bearing the address 501 Aurora was built in 1955 and occupies the corner of 5th and Aurora. Our guess is that the original house was razed and a new one built facing south (Aurora) rather than west (5th). The house we had hoped to see will be recorded in the faded images of the album only. No chance to provide a new image. Drat.
We moved on to the house my Grandmother lived in from my earliest memories of her. I can still smell the fresh rolls baking and hear the sounds of laughter and glasses clinking while toasts are made. I can smell the BenGay on my cousin who had lost a bet and had to do a 100 pushups as a penalty. I can see the lemon drops in the little glass dish and the pansies floating in the water of another small glass dish. It’s huge, this memory thing. I remember helping my Dad crawl under the house to jack it up and brace it once leveled. Seems Granny’s rolling pin kept rolling off the table and we can’t have that, can we?
We snuck into the back yard for a look and were pleased to see that the new tenants enjoy flowers and were generally keeping the place up. The large addition to the rear of the house has replaced the garage but the place looks good… different, but OK. My sister and I both noticed the Snow on the Mountain plants as we left the back yard. Yeah, Mom and Dad planted them back in the 50’s. Plants as durable as the memories.
One more stop in town to take a look at my Uncle’s old place that we heard was for sale for an unworldly price. This is a dinky little stone house with a small, stone outbuilding that I knew as “the bunkhouse”. Just a place to store a few things, the place has seen better days. The old door was unlocked and we peeked into its emptiness. The void was quickly filled with memories of learning to play cribbage, thread a belt through belt loops by myself and the heavy cigarette smoke that always accompanied my Uncle and Aunt.
But the biggest surprise came the next day after having lunch with my brother and his wife in Idaho Springs. Steve has done some research into the McCammon family tree and sent an email full of information about our great grandfather, Hugh Christian McCammon. His research raised other questions and avenues to explore. While eating and catching up on each other’s families and “doin’s” I asked how long it would take to get to the original homestead he had uncovered. Turns out … not long at all. Like my sister, I had always associated the original ranch with Blackhawk, CO and assumed it was on the outskirts of town somewhere. I also had the idea that the Caribou Silver mine was nearby since that played into the discussions of family history. Steve’s research and guidance took us to what is now Golden Gate Canyon State Park located north and east of Blackhawk along Highway 46. We headed to the visitor center and found the one page entry about Hugh McCammon’s homestead and history in a notebook filled with other historic documentation. Wow. It’s pretty interesting to see your name displayed prominently for public consumption. I think we were all relieved to see that the story is positive and not notorious. Whew.
We headed back up the road to the “Old Barn Knoll” that was noted as the site of the McCammon homestead base. We stopped at a developed parking lot and Betsy explored a trail while I took some photos of the area. She returned to report that the barns were down the trail just a short distance. We headed down together and soon we were sitting on the timbers that our great grandfather had put in place circa 1868.
Along the trail, just above the barns, an interpretive sign provides a wonderful history of Hugh McCammon, his family, the homestead and his involvement in the Caribou Mine (another story, another time). Betsy and I crawled over and around the site, excited to be there and more in touch with that part of our history than ever before.
I thank my brother for his research and sharing of information. I thank my sister and her husband for being generous hosts and fellow explorers on such short notice. I thank my Mom for being the wonderful person she is and for being such a great repository of information and history. Of course I thank my wife, Dianne, for constantly putting up with me and my ramblings. Family enriches our lives and is really all we have when the hard times arrive. Our histories are full of interesting characters living in challenging times and doing things that seem almost impossible. I really hope to provide a rewarding and positive storyline for my grandchildren. Time will tell. Ahhhh… the power of memories.