From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Larry of Arabia

Vintage photo from Arabia, Nebraska


In the 1950s and 1960s when I was growing up, Arabia, Nebraska, was just a set of corrals next to the railroad tracks. The headquarters of the Arabia Ranch (owned at that time by Johnny Drayton) was a mile or two across the meadow from the old cattle pens along the railroad. The only settlement around Arabia was the cluster of  little houses and bunkhouses where the Arabia Ranch employees lived.

Whenever I traveled through eastern Cherry County in the back seat of our family car, I watched for Arabia. Most of the scenery along Highway 20 was sandy, hilly pastures with occasional cows and windmills. In comparison, Arabia and the Arabia Ranch were rather interesting.

"Larry of Arabia", 1937.
Photo courtesy of Larry Wilson.
Used with permission.
After reading a post I wrote about my memories of Arabia, Larry Wilson sent me the photo at right, and gave me permission to share it on my blog. This photograph was made in 1937 at Arabia, Nebraska, and Larry Wilson was the young fellow posing as "Larry of Arabia". (I love how Larry of Arabia had one straggling sock. What a great photo!)

The Wilson family's automobile, a 1935 Pontiac, appears in the background. They were driving to Valentine, because Larry's father Lawrence was interviewing there as a school administrator. He was offered the job but did not accept it, and so the Wilsons did not move to Valentine.

I see that Highway 20 was paved in 1937. My father had childhood memories of a sandy road to Valentine that went through pastures. Travelers had to open and close some barbed-wire gates along the way. That was probably in the late 1920s, around the time that Highway 20 was commissioned as an official route.

I'm amused to see in the photo that a small tumbleweed has blown in and lodged itself against the population sign -- or maybe it is growing there. Some things don't change much.

Related posts:
Memories of Arabia, Nebraska
More about Arabia, Nebraska

6 comments:

RunAwayImagination said...

Thanks for another interesting and thought-provoking post. I've already spent several hours exploring the FHWA site reading about the history of our nation's highways.

Of course US 20 also goes through my dad's hometown of Gordon, NE, where his ancestors homesteaded in the late 19th century.

Genevieve said...

Runaway, I'm sure that people got on the train if they wanted to travel fast to Valentine or Gordon, back before Highway 20 was paved!

It would be interesting to know if Highway 20 through northern Nebraska follows (or used to follow) any of the old Indian or buffalo traces.

Stitchy McFloss said...

That's a great photo and I loved hearing about your back seat adventures as a child. :)

Has grown into a large town now? I love the Pop. 5 on the sign! :)

Wishing you a wonderful day.

Genevieve said...

Stitchy, Arabia has faded away, not gotten bigger. I don't think there's even a set of corrals there anymore. The train tracks have been removed and the old rail bed has been made into a long trail for hiking and biking across the Sandhills. Maybe if you did some archaeology, you'd find a few relics in the area where the corrals and railroad office used to stand.

Collagemama said...

Thanks so much to both you and Larry. I needed a good chuckle to get today going. Compared to Arabia, Hadar was a metropolis. We always watched for it so we could say, "Hello, Hadar, see you later!"

Genevieve said...

Ha! Good one, Collagemama!

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IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

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