“Don’t blink. You’ll miss it!” said my dad as we approached the micro-metropolis of Chugwater, WY.
Because I was five years old or so, I was literal minded. I conscientiously kept my eyes open the whole way through the town so I could see every micron of the sainted place. There were a lot of towns like that in my early childhood, the years of crossing Wyoming in a green Ford, with Aunt Martha in the back seat with us sometimes.
In my California life there was one of those towns, too, and driving from my house in Descanso (nearly missed being one of those towns) to the Laguna Mountains, if I had kids in my car I always said, “We’re almost to Guatay! Don’t blink or you’ll miss it!” And, just like my brother and I, the kids in the back seat kept their eyes open and looked at everything. And, like my brother and I, they got the idea that you did not want to miss a single second of the fleeting vista of Guatay, California.
Yesterday on my Quixotic quest I drove through one of these towns, Villa Grove, Colorado. There’s not much there. It has a residual hippy vibe and one of the biggest business signs is “Pottery, 1 Block.” Like a lot of the towns in the American West, it was a railroad town back in the day. There were many narrow gauge trains crossing the mountains and Villa Grove was built by the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad as the end of the line for the trains crossing the pass from Poncha Springs — probably the same pass more or less that I drove over yesterday. I learned that its original name was Garibaldi. Imagine, Garibaldi, Colorado, a town named for an Italian revolutionary, but why?
I did a little research and there was the beginning of a northern Italian settlement in Poncha Springs around the time the railroad was built. Many of the immigrants found jobs maintaining the tracks.
Non battere le palpebre o ti mancherà!