Spring Trip – Cemeteries, railroads, and reservations.

(Updated May 27 thanks to some corrections from my Uncle Jake).

Part of our trip was bittersweet; we visited a couple of gravesites. My Aunt Lucinda and my cousin Rebecca Laughman both passed away this past fall. My Uncle Jake and Aunt Sally had taken care of both of them the past few years and had to do most of the work in settling their estates. My sisters and I went down to Arizona when my Aunt passed away; Diana was able to be there and make her comfortable in her last days. Laura and I came a bit later and helped clean out her house and prepare it for sale.

My Aunt was buried in Sedona where she lived since the 1970’s. Her husband, my Uncle Will was buried there years before. I didn’t get a picture of their graves, but the Sedona cemetery is beautiful with a gorgeous view of the red rocks. While there we saw a pair of headstones that I understand have been made famous (or infamous) on the internet.

(NOT MY RELATIVES)

Click on the image below to blow it up so you can read them.

Different feelings for someone’s mom and dad.

I almost laughed but then thought about the hurt and anger that went into the effort to put that on a headstone. And I can’t help but think the mother’s treatment of the kids went into why Mike was unable to express his feelings to his father in his lifetime.

Our family’s drama amounts to nothing compared to that.

My cousin Rebecca wanted to be buried with her (and my) grandparents in Winslow, AZ. I remember all three of these people so warmly. My grandma died when I was 11 but I remember her as smiling, quiet, and most of all loving. My mom took us kids over when she helped her sisters and brother care of her when she died. My grandpa died when I was 15; My uncle was there for him.

Rebecca was 10 years older than me and I remember her introducing me to American Band Stand when we’d visit Arizona. We spent one Fall afternoon betting which leaves would crunch when stepped on them. She also taught me drive her car at her mom and step dad’s farm (Aunt June and Uncle Tony) outside of Sedona.

My maternal grandparents and cousin’s resting place in Winslow. My first name comes from my grandpa.The “H” stands for Howard.

My absolute favorite memory of my childhood was grandpa taking me to the Santa Fe railroad station in Winslow to watch the El Capitan and Super Chief passenger trains come into town. They stopped in town for about half and hour as they switched crews and gassed up. This was the beginning of my life-long love of trains.

So no trip to northern Arizona is complete without a stop at La Posada, the refurbished train hotel.

Inside La Posada hotel with Uncle Jake, Aunt Sally and Carla

We stayed two nights so I got plenty of train watching in.

Eastbound

Westbound high priority container train.

The hotel is a favorite of rail fans with a large grassy area with comfortable chairs. Our hotel room was on the upper floor with a balcony looking down on the tracks. This isn’t for everyone; but is perfect for me. I think Carla enjoys it.

Interestingly enough, it isn’t that loud. There isn’t a grade crossing for cars within 50 miles so there are no horns unless you give the sign to the engineer. They glide into town from the east decelerating for their stop on the west side of town for a crew change and refueling. Trains heading east will be a bit noiser as they notch up the throttle.

The San Francisco peaks 60 miles to the west. Flagstaff is on the southerly slope

Another part of the trip was to understand my mother’s family heritage. My mom’s family moved out west from a small farming town – Atlanta, Illinois – when she was very young. Both grandma and grandpa had TB and were in a hospital for a time. My mom and her 3 sisters (Lucinda, June, and Barbara) were in various locations being cared by members of the Methodist church.  My Uncle Jake was born after the family moved.

When grandpa was well enough to travel, my grandpa’s brothers pooled their money to give him so they could move to a drier climate. He had enough money to get to Las Vegas, New Mexico. He got a job working in a gas station. A man in the wool business had his offices in a building  across the street from where he worked. He noticed by grandpa was always busy and always made the extra effort to help his customers. He came over one day to talk with him and offered him a job. After my grandpa explained the circumstances, the man loaned grandpa his car and told him to get his family and he’d have a house lined up for them when they got back from Illinois.

His job was to travel the reservations going to the various trading posts and grade the wool and hides for purchase and organize for them to be transported to the train hub in Winslow. I read  a story about him in a magazine years ago describing how trustworthy he was. Most of his business was settled by a handshake. Later he also worked for the Babbitt company selling things at the trading post. He’d carry samples of things for the trading posts to select from. Like I said; the man was always busy: selling and buying; two jobs in one. Over the years the family moved west to Arizona: Holbrook, Flagstaff, and finally Winslow because it was a major rail center in the day.

I wanted to travel this land that he worked for so many years. We headed out through the Navajo and Hopi reservations to find the Hubbel Trading Post which is now part of the National Park Service. My uncle and aunt were real sports and took the 5 hour drive in stride.

Heading north east of Winslow toward the Hubbel Trading Post

As we drove out there I couldn’t help but think how hard a life it must have been back before there were paved roads everywhere. He would be gone in the vast desert for a couple of weeks at a time. My uncle told us a story of how grandpa’s car got stuck. He walked a while until he found a hogan; a Navajo home. The resident lent my grandpa a horse and he headed out to the nearest trading post 50 miles away. The mare was nursing and wasn’t interested in getting too far from its colt. So my grandpa let her go and he walked the final 20 or so miles and arranged for his car to get towed out. Meanwhile, this is in the years preceding cell phones (by about 60 or more years) so the family had no idea what had happened.

The Hopi cliff homes are out in the distance.

Finally we came to the trading post. Carla and I had thoughts of buying a Navajo rug but changed our minds when we saw the prices. They were gorgeous but we just couldn’t afford it. Uncle Jake and Aunt Sally told us they had some old rugs we could have if we wanted. OH MY. They are gorgeous. We picked two beautiful rugs that are at least 50 years old and may even pre-date World War II

One of the buildings at the trading post.

Jake and Sally at the trading post.

About howardwthompson

I'm a person who likes to travel, read, cook, and eat
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2 Responses to Spring Trip – Cemeteries, railroads, and reservations.

  1. Terry Grant says:

    Howard, was your grandfather named Hazle? I was so surprised to see that name, spelled that way and then when you said the H was for Howard I was doubly surprised! My grandmother was Hazle Howard, spelled the same way.

  2. Howard says:

    Wow! Amazing. I know I always spelled it “Hazel” in my mind until I saw the headstone. My first and middle names come from the middle names of my two grandfathers.
    My grandfather Hazle came out from Illinois sometime around 1920. If you've got relations from Illinois, maybe we are related back in the not too distant past.

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