Today’s guest post comes from Anna.
My father was a saver of paper and a filer of almost anything that could fit into a manila folder: tax documents, old report cards, receipts for car repairs, meeting minutes for committees that may have disbanded by the time the paper was in a file. I shudder a bit at how much paper I might find when it come times to clean out the house – though the task will be made somewhat easier knowing that each sheet will be in a properly labeled folder and filed alphabetically. Among all of these papers and files, my mother recently found a file that was, I’m sure, labeled “Vacations.” In it there was treasure: handwritten and typed letters from the owners of Castle Creek Camp in South Dakota.
Castle Creek was a former gold mining camp, nestled in the Black Hills outside of Hill City. The “unmodern” cabins (as one letter describes) rented for as little as $7 per day or $40 for the week, linens and dishes included, running water in or nearby the cabins, “modern” shower facilities were separate and there were outhouses for, well, outhousing. At least some of the cabins may well have been original to the place when it was a mining camp and they came with names like “Linger Long” (our cabin of choice) and “Tumble Inn.” The eponymous Castle Creek meandered through the camp and one letter shares that, “panning for gold is a lot of fun and we even find some once in a while” (shoes recommended as there are sharp rocks in the creek).
Our family vacationed at Castle Creek for several summers, going back each year to Linger Long. Along with the creek, where gold might be found, treasure could be had when you heard the whistle of the 1880 Train. Part of the train’s track ran along the far edge of the camp. When the train whistle blew, any kids in camp learned to stop what they were doing and run to the tracks and wait: the man in the caboose kept Tootsie Rolls with him and would throw them out to us by the fistful. A handful of Tootsie Rolls went nicely with an ice cold Orange Crush procured for a nickel from the pop machine that lived by the owner’s house. The machine was one of those red, rounded corner affairs that held a single row of glass bottles behind a tall slim door: open the door, put in your nickel to unlock the options and pull on the neck to free the bright orange, sweet goodness of a Crush.
The other attraction, at least for me, was the resident donkey, Goldie. She had run of the place and roamed more freely than even the owner’s family dog. Goldie would come visit me in the mornings and eat sugar cubes out of my hand while I sat on the porch railing at our cabin. Since I wasn’t quite big enough to keep up with my brother and the owner’s two boys (nor did I have much in common with them – a red, white and blue guitar “just like Buck Owens” was not really a draw for me), Goldie was my friend at Castle Creek; my gentle, big eared companion. I looked forward to seeing her each summer as much as my brother looked forward to adventures with the boys.
Remember that 1880 Train? It did one other thing. It ran into Goldie. The last year we went to Castle Creek we found out that Goldie had been killed, run into by the train, while she was trying to get her foal off the tracks. I befriended the foal as well, but she wasn’t quite Goldie – in it for the sugar, not the companionship. Castle Creek wasn’t quite the same for me without Goldie. The Orange Crush was still cold, the Tootsie Rolls still flew out of the caboose, but I didn’t have Goldie. She was my real treasure at the mining camp. Treasure remembered and rediscovered again with a map provided in a letter saved by my father.
What treasure would you mark with a map?