COBWEB CORNERS: From trails to roads

By Mel McFarland

       In the past I have talked about the old trails, and how we now use them as roads. With the Indian trails, they could be very easy to see, or impossible depending upon where you were. Out on the plains, as we are, they were nowhere to be seen in the spring. Once the grass died in the fall, you might have a chance. Even though they had regular routes they traveled, the Indians rarely used the exact path. When the early settlers arrived in the West, they did the same thing.
       Even routes as familiar as the Oregon and Santa Fe trails might have been as much as five miles wide, but it ended up in certain locations. When the trails started becoming established roads, the paths became more defined. Roads as we think of them are part of the automobile era.
       There was a great PBS show on the first man to drive across the US in a car. He took pictures along the way, and the film company did a great job of locating what looks like the early roads. In the dry times, the road might be two wheel ruts in the grass, or it might be two long mud holes. One big mud hole was often the case too! Forget going anywhere if there was snow, unless the ground was frozen.
       As cars became more dependable, roads had to improve. The first road graders were horse-drawn rigs, often just an old log or a steel framework. What we might recognize as a plow was used in heavy construction projects first and to grade roads later. Up into the 1930s, graders were horse-drawn. A self-propelled grader was built in the 1920s and looked pretty much like today's.
       Various things were put into the roads to make them usable for automobiles. In this area the red granite rocks found in the mountains was used on our sandy soil. It also made a road easier to follow. Oils were used in the East first. In Colorado City, a mixture of rocks, sand and oil was being used in the 1930s. Even concrete slab roads came in about the same time. Concrete worked best here, but it was very expensive, and took longer to build. On parts of Colorado Avenue, concrete still shows here and there, including some that was poured 70 years ago! Most of our side streets were still dirt in the 1950's!
       At one time everyone wanted good, smooth roads. Now some of us enjoy going away from these. Off-roading!