Tuesday, February 6, 2018


History, like all living things, must be cared for in order to survive.
- the Church of the Open Road’s second principle

Whenever Dad would wax sentimental about some aspect of an otherwise long-forgotten yesterday, Mom would bellow: “Clayton! You have to stop living in the past!”

I think about Dad’s living-in-the-past malady as I wander down a path toward Wilder Ranch, a restored farmstead just north of Santa Cruz.

That we preserve such places offers a window into a past we should not forget.

Farmstead residences ranged from the elegant to the hovel.  Some still dot our rural landscapes.

Barns – among my favorite roadside attractions – could be rustic or things of architectural beauty as well.

Getting to and from may have involved a day’s buggy ride or a whistle stop from the tracks that passed through the property.

The advent of the automobile, even in its most primitive forms, provided independence but proved the death knell for rail travel.

Gone, also, is the everyman, jack-of-all-trades requirement.  When something broke, it got fixed – oftentimes by the owner – rather than tossed out and replaced.

When a gear in a drill press bound up, with some assessment, some deconstruction and some grease or oil and some reassembly, the user was back to drilling holes.  When the electronic ignition module on an F-150 or a microchip fails on an iMac or Dell, the user is kinda screwed.

Browsing through the working replica farm, I wonder if I have the stuff necessary to be a self-reliant problem-solver, the likes of which rural life in 1900 required: mechanic skills, physical strength, reason, patience.

Maybe all of that is a knack or a collection of knacks one acquires.  Or maybe it’s been bred out of us by the conveniences of today.

And if that’s the case, it’s good that we are offered the opportunity to look back with a degree of awe and wonder at what people used to do.

An hour’s respite from the saddle is well spent living in the past.  Thanks, “Clayton.”


Note:  Each of California’s State Historic Parks is worth a visit.  Wilder Ranch is a few minutes north of Santa Cruz on California’s scenic State Route 1.  Information about the Wilder Ranch Cultural Preserve may be found at: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=549

© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press


  1. I often think how life would have been back then. While it was certainly tough and not easy, it was so much simpler. Something we've lost in the hustle and bustle and technology of today.

    1. One of my favorite places to visit up your way is Fort Clatsop, westernmost point on the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery journey. Their hardships two hundred years before the folks who farmed along our California Coast make a day in the life of a turn of the 1900 century farmer look like a walk on the beach - which, in the case of Wilder Ranch, there was one adjacent... :)