November 09, 2005

Research At Big Bend National Park Headquarters

I spent the afternoon at the Big Bend National Park office. Archeologist Tom Alex very kindly spent time with me going over what the park had. I don't think he was that sure of me initially, but once we got to talking, the conversation just kept on going.

But first, I need to back up. Last week, I was double checking some facts on Leschen & Sons, the company that made the tramway. In a Google search, I found a citation from a book called For All Seasons: A Big Bend Journal by a Roland Wauer. It was a paragraph on the tramway and ore terminal and Wauer pretty much got the basic facts straight! He was the first author I found who did! What's more, he mentioned "Don Carlos Moser" by name as the man on the blueprints of the tramway.

Blueprints! No one's ever mentioned blue prints before!

Man, if I had come across his book earlier, I would have saved so much time...but then again, maybe I wouldn't have found Farmer Jenning's daughter...

Anyway, I checked out the book from the library and the citation that's online is the complete citation. Wauer's a former NPS naturalist and his book was more about botany and animals than artifacts. But, he said in his writing that he always fascinated with the tramway ruins, so he wrote about it.

As I was setting up my appointment with Tom Alex, I think I had mentioned Roland Wauer. He knew him and referred to him as "Ro". "We don't have any blueprints here," he said. "If you talk to Ro, ask him where they are."

So I did. I tracked him down and got him on the phone, a day or two before I drove out to big bend. When I asked him where he saw the blueprints, he said, "I have them." He also had a 53 page document on the tramway prepared for him by a guy that worked at the customs office in El Paso, dated 1949. I was floored.

Turns out, Wauer worked at the park in the '60's. He got interested in the tramway and did some research in the late '60's, with the hopes of some day writing a book, but he never did. "I'm more interested in butterflies, now," he told me. I had called him in the afternoon and he had just returned that morning from a butterfly collecting trip in Mexico.

I told Mr. Wauer I'd send him an inventory of what I had found at the park office so that we all knew what was where.

Now, back to Tom Alex. He takes me back to the records room and opens up a drawer, lifts up a file and says,"We don't have much...here it is...oh, it's been sent for scanning." Meaning, it wasn't there. My heart sank. I drove all the way from Austin, took time off from work, left my family, and now it was missing. "No, that's not it." My hopes brighten. "Here's what we have."

He lifts out a thin, three hole punched, bound report. It's 53 pages of pictures and captions, one picture per page. Looking at the cover, I see it's the original of the document that Roland Wauer has! It was pictures of the mines, with miners, the tramway on both sides, the intermediate water station on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande, a photo of the water tank being transported on the tramline, etc. Wonderfully neat stuff.

So I volunteer to scan it all in the HP scanner they have. It takes me a while, but now it's electronically catalogued in the National Park system.

Tom told me a story that Ross Maxwell told him. I'm not sure if the facts are true, but here it is. All the wood for the towers came from the Mediterranean, "Cedars of Lebanon". They were shipped in by the old port and Indianola, Texas. This was particularly strong wood, apparantly.

In all, a wonderful day. Spent the evening at Ms. Tracy's cafe in Terlingua. Had a great conversation with folks at dinner. Looking forward to the talk.

Posted by Joelg at November 9, 2005 09:23 PM | TrackBack
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