Delicious Mauritius

I had never read about the Republic of Mauritius until it showed up in the site analytics as the home of a recent visitor.  By the way, I have no access to information about anyone who stops by, except where they’re from, how long they stayed, and how many web pages they looked at while they were here.  Fortunately, a few people do click the email link at the bottom of each page to tell me who they are and what’s on their minds.  The rest are known to me only by the place their computers call home.  If my home were in Mauritius (It almost rhymes with “delicious”) I might never leave.  It is a jewell of an island in the Indian Ocean and it is evidently hard to take a picture there that doesn’t make the place look absolutely yummy.  Whoever you are, congratulations.

Though web traffic here remains fairly light, it has grown at a steady pace since the site went online late last year.  In April, browsers dropped by from London, York, Dublin, Saltzgitter, and over 200 other cities, the majority of which are in the United States.  For the past few months there’s been an occasional visitor from Wyoming, which I now understand is a town in western Illinois.  Someone from Nashua, New Hampshire, camped here for an hour and twenty minutes and breezed through 201 pages, setting endurance records in both categories.

Starting at Nashua and proceeding to Dayton, then to Bloomington, on to West Des Moines, I began to plot a route.  From Iowa it ran through Kansas City, Superior, Colorado Springs, Salt Lake City, North Las Vegas, then on to Glendale and San Francisco.  By using the home cities of visitors to lovewellhistory.com, only the ones who dropped by in the month of April, I could play hopscotch out of New Hampshire, tracing the migratory path of Moody Bedel Lovewell’s family to Illinois and Iowa, and then the follow the trail Thomas Lovewell and his brothers had taken to the West Coast.  There are errant dots within the boundaries of the United States which lie outside those paths, but not that many.  Oh, there’s one in Tallahassee, and one in San Antonio.  Another welcome visitor logged on last month from De Queen, Arkansas, and there was someone from Marrero, a population center within greater New Orleans.  Otherwise, it’s as if this site is being visited by the descendants of travelers who dropped off along the way as the family traveled west.

It reminded me of an airplane trip I made some years ago, when I was treated to a view of the landscape of the American West as I had never seen it before.  I like to think I was being rewarded for being a worrywart dad.

My daughter would be heading to Japan, part of a group of fellow soon-to-be-11th graders, once she had rendezvoused with them at Los Angeles International Airport.  Rather than fret and stew and wonder, I flew with her to be sure she made the connecting flight at Denver and was safely delivered into the hands of the group’s chaperones at LAX.  Then I turned right around and headed home, a man with a return ticket but no luggage, not so much as a toothbrush, someone who would raise red flags these days, but who rated no more than a quick once-over with a hand-wand back then.  The plane rose into the air and I watched the irrigated discs of green farm land at the western fringes of the Mojave Desert slide slowly past me and out of sight.  

There was not a cloud in the sky, not a whisper of atmospheric haze to mar my viewport, which was as razor-sharp and pristine as if I were watching an IMAX travelogue that had been shot from the Hubble Space Telescope.  We came out of the rugged desert terrain to be greeted by Hoover dam, still a spectacular wonder even from six miles up.  Beyond it lay the languid waters of Lake Mead, perfectly still and crystal clear, save for reflected blue sky and miniature boats.  

The lake seemed to be the welcoming mat for the Grand Canyon, a breathtaking sight that swallowed up the whole field of view for what felt like an hour, as if we had rocketed off-course to the labyrinthine terrain of an alien world where landing a plane was out of the question.  Up to this point, the landscape beneath us had played a game of “I can top that,” all the way to Utah.  It is hard to top the Grand Canyon, but we were treated to a splendid view of Lake Powell and Glen Canyon before entering the cathedral of the West, Monument Valley, with pointed spires and narrow mesas firmly outlined by the shadows of a late afternoon sun.

As we reached the Rocky Mountains, a cloud bank began to envelop the scenery, while turbulence gave us a thrilling roller coaster ride the rest of the way to Denver.

In a few hours I had hopped over a span of real estate that took Thomas Lovewell and his six yoke of oxen more than two months to traverse.  I had also seen the landscape of the western United States in a different light.  The turf itself was nothing new to me.  I was thirteen years old and traveling alone when I first boarded a Trailways bus bound for California.  At fourteen I made the trip by plane.  After one delightful trip west on the Santa Fe Chief, I generally flew to save time.  There had been thrilling sights, moments of putting down a book to gape in awe at some natural marvel, glancing at a guide to see how many miles it was to the next one, waking in the night to witness black masses of granite slowly blotting out large sections of the starry sky, rubbing the sleep from my eyes at dawn in time to watch the Rockies recede from view.  However, never before had I stared agog the whole way, unable to tear myself away from what I now realized  was a dazzling continuum.  The wonders were not only connected, they were crowded together like a diorama at Disneyland, all merging into one another.  Who knew?

In much the same way, after drawing up the first outline of what I knew about the life of Thomas Lovewell for a young cousin who had asked about him, I found myself seeing the story of the West from a fresh angle, as a series of events and locales that formed the fabric of one man’s life.  “Wow,” I said quietly.  “He saw the whole thing.”  That’s an exaggeration, but not a large one.  He was on hand as the heyday of keelboats on the Mississippi gave way to steam power.  He was part of the land rush to Iowa, the gold rush to Pikes Peak, and the tussle over “Bleeding Kansas.”  He served at least two and perhaps three hitches as a scout in the Plains Indian War, joined the Union Army, shouldered arms in the Indian Wars of the Northwest, became a homesteader, haggled with railroads, and paced off the streets of two towns.  He had always enjoyed talking about the early days, but during the nation’s bicentennial, after reaching his own half-century mark, he began to tell his version of history while journalists took down his words, and they got most of them right.

It’s been a pleasure to fill in some of the blanks in the story of his travels, and sprinkle in a few pictures of the landscapes he saw along the way.  Whatever sights he laid eyes on, from Nelsonville, Ohio, to Wyoming (The state, this time), from Manzanita, Oregon, to the Yukon, none ever lured him away permanently from White Rock Creek in Jewell County, and a farm nestled in the blue-green range of hills he first spied in the 1850’s.  It might have been a different story if he had ever seen Mauritius.  We’ll never know.  But someone from there now knows a little bit about him.  

© Dale Switzer 2016  dale@lovewellhistory.com