COBWEB CORNERS: Imagine the early days

By Mel McFarland

       In modern days, it is hard to imagine what this place was like years ago. The Indians and buffalo roamed the land, with not a single fence to be seen. Antelope, coyotes, foxes were plentiful. Few trees could be found except along Fountain Creek. No trains, cars or houses - just the plains and the mountains. The only sounds were the wind and the birds.
       After the first explorers, some two hundred years ago, the region was still pretty much as it had been for hundreds of generations. It took another fifty years for any sizable change to happen. There was talk of building a railroad to connect the East with the West. Gold had been discovered in California, and the lure of it inspired many to try to get there. At first there were no trails to follow. The easiest way was to do what the early explorers did: follow a river.
       In the 1850s, word of gold in California attracted the adventuresome of the East, many others also decided to find a better life in the West. The first settlers came in covered wagons, packing everything they thought they would need. Some stopped along their way when they found a place they liked. Others traveled until they had to stop. The most successful ones made it all the way to California. In the Pikes Peak region, some of the first settlers congregated at the base of the mountains, in a bit of a valley, where there was water, trees for shelter, even animals to hunt and some fish.
       It was a curious area, but the first settlers really did not take time to give it more than the occasional glance. What occupied their time was doing what had to be done to survive. Out on the plains, people built their dwellings out of the ground, sod huts. The Indians, who never settled in one spot, built portable dwellings. The settlers here were fortunate. There were rocks and trees. The land was good for growing things. The weather allowed people to grow enough to survive the winter. Many of those early settlers prospered. Some did not do so well and moved on. It would take more than 10 years, and a war, for the roots to really take and let these early settlers do more than just survive.
       It was probably as hard for them to imagine times like ours as it is for us to imagine us living like them. I'd like to have a dollar for every time I have heard someone say, "Those were a different kind of people back then."