Dad lived his entire life, 90 years, on the farm which my great grandfather, Gottlieb Werth, homesteaded in the middle 1800s. Gottlieb Werth came to the United States from Switzerland when he was 18. Even though Dad lived in the same place all his life, he liked road trips. The first occurred when I was three. He drove us all the way from Northwest Missouri to Monterey, Mexico. I still have photos of us wading in the Gulf in Texas before we crossed into Mexico. Thereafter, we almost never missed at least one road trip a year between wheat harvest and the start of school. Sometimes instead of a summer trip we took one around Christmas, like the year we went to Florida when I was in elementary school. I skipped school a couple of weeks, took my work along, and came home ahead because the flu, which I missed, put everything behind.
By the time I was six, I had probably covered half the continental United States and, of course, been to Mexico. I do not remember some of those first trips but the later ones I remember well, like the summer we spent in Crested Butte, Colorado, when it was still a mining town, and another in Placerville, Colorado, down the road from Telluride. Then it was just a nowhere place, filled with the Victorian houses of its mining heyday. Dad joked later that he should have bought one of those houses when it was cheap.
One year, the year between my junior and senior year in high school, we took a one month trip and drove 6,000 miles, from home to the Black Hills, where we had relatives, to Vancouver, to Vancouver Island and then to Victoria. We visited every national park along the way, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Glacier, Olympic, then drove up the Columbia and cut back across Rocky Mountain National Park and through Colorado. On an earlier trip we went to every park in Utah and Northern Arizona and Mesa Verde.
Dad’s interest in and curiosity about everything seemed endless. He tried the latest agricultural methods in his farming, was an avid conservationist, wanted to check everything out on these trips, talked to people about what they were doing. At home he read National Geographic and Scientific American and endless books.
Because of these trips, his sense of wonder, his propensity for intellectual activity, my friends in college were always shocked to find out he was a farmer. They often thought, originally, that he was a college professor.
He moved into this house where I grew up when he was ten. After Mom died, Dad and I were at her grave on Memorial Day when a man came up and starting talking with Dad. I learned that the building in the foreground of this photo, before it was used for livestock and storage, was used for dancing during the Depression. The sheriff would send out deputies to make sure no illegal alcohol was consumed. I took this photo four years ago when I took a trip back.
There used to be woods to the right of this photo but someone bought the land and bulldozed down all the huge oak trees. The tall douglas fir tree in the middle was tiny when we brought it home on one of our trips out West.
I will forever be thankful to Dad for instilling in me a love of exploration, wonder, and curiosity.