#8 Replenishing Stock
Each Friday morning London and I headed to town for water and food. It was approximately twenty miles from my butte to the thriving metropolis of Black Canyon. And after a week of solitude the two block business district was a delight.
At the gas station I had the car fluids tended to and the jerry cans refilled with fresh sweet water. In the market I purchased a week’s supply of food, including tomato juice, orange juice, Pepsi, ice, dog food and “bickies” for London. I eagerly checked the post office for mail from Canada and posted letters to my family.
The only other shop in town was a second-hand store. It wasn’t long before I knew every article in the store, but my only purchase ever, was a week’s supply of western novels which I read, surrounded by the very locale described in the stories.
Once a month, for a special treat, I swung Ludwig into Rock Springs before I headed back to my butte, via the southbound freeway.
Rock Springs had been a stagecoach stop back in Territorial days, and little had changed. A battered, old screen door led me from the heat of the desert sunshine into the darkened cool interior within thick adobe walls. As my eyes grew accustomed to the change of light, an old-fashioned general store revealed itself. Grand showcases were loaded with groceries, moccasins, postcards, large jars of stick candy, poke-bonnets and Indian silver and turquoise jewelry. The ceiling beams were hung with antiquated necessities of life from the nineteenth century. There was a side-saddle, cowboy saddles, saddle-bags and cowboy boots — all worn and weathered. There were flat irons, branding irons, Dutch ovens and frying pans — blackened and resting from their labors. Rusted gold pans, rifles and handguns were hung high — as their owners may have been hung, one hundred years before.
A small doorway led into the store’s hardware room. It catered to Snowbirds, so the stock reflected their tastes with a fine selection of shinning new gold pans, coal oil lanterns, picks, canteens and ten-gallon hats.
I wound my way between the showcases to the back of the general store where another small doorway opened onto the dining room which boasted tables covered with red and white checkered tablecloths. The room was large, and on the walls were old west relics, pottery bells and Rock Springs T-shirts for sale.
Whether I chose a chuck-wagon breakfast, Mexican lunch, ranch house steak dinner, sandwich or a good old-fashioned hamburger, I knew it was to be the best rip snorting meal I could eat — at least until my next visit!
Despite protests of being too sated to walk, after my meal I was led with great ritual to the glass enclosed, towering pie-keep. There I chose a foot high wedge of pie from an incredible selection of berry, fruit cream and custard. Each pie was homemade with the freshest, tastiest ingredients baked to perfection, then placed in the pie keep and illuminated like England’s Crown Jewels.
Phoenix executives brought New York, London and Tokyo businessmen to this “taste” of the Old West, and locals just brought their appetites.
But ahhh, the trip to the bathroom revealed the piece de resistance.
In order to reach the “Ladies” I walked to the back of the dining room, edged right through a narrow opening — and there in all its glory, shining through from the long lost past – was the saloon!
A gleaming brass rail and brass spittoons accented the massive wooden bar where a huge glistening mirror reflected back the amber and green bottles placed before it. Above the heavy oak tables and chairs, hung a candle chandelier crafted from an immense wagon wheel. And the people who breathed life into this echo of the past were local cowboys and gun toting Snowbirds.
Maybe I didn’t stay until evening because I was afraid of having a flat tire or a breakdown on my way back to my butte, maybe I feared G.B.’s reaction to my being alone at night in a saloon. But I wanted to stay. I wanted to see the candles lit. I wanted to sip Pepsis and watch logs burning in the blackened fireplace. And most of all, I wanted to stay until the piano player pounded the ornate honky-tonk piano back to life.