Route 66 & Mountain Men

Route 66 has been replaced by I-40 through Arizona, but the legend remains.  Among the places showing homage to the “mother road” is the Route 66 Grill.  My guess is that the clientele includes a lot of bikers and truckers. You get to (have to) grill your own lunch. I chose bratwurst, since I was reasonably sure that I couldn’t mess up with a pre-cooked sausage. I just had to blacken the outside.

Farther down the road is Williams.  We visited here in 2003 and you can read about that at this link.  Williams has a superb natural location with a nice cool climate in the middle of the ponderosa pine forests on the way to the Grand Canyon, but it is just a little too far out of the way.  It has always been thus.  The town is named for the mountain man (and son of plainly unimaginative parents) William Williams.  According to the plaque at the monument, Williams organized the regional mountain man rendezvous at the site of the current down and generally “did a heap of living.” 

Those rendezvous must have been something to experience, with the grizzly men coming out of the woods once a year to trade their pelts for the goods they needed, including whiskey, women & weapons.  Merchants came from all over to trade and probably rip them off.  Of course, it was dangerous to cross a man who lived by himself most of the time and whose daily life required him to kill animals & fight Indians.  Fuel that guy with rye whiskey and you had murder and mayhem waiting to happen.

Mountain men like Jeddiah Smith, Jim Bridger and William Williams went up to the mountains to get away from civilization, but their activities opened up the wilderness and allowed in what they were trying to escape. 

The mountain man epoch lasted less than a generation.  A lot of their activity was based on chasing beavers to satisfy the vagaries of fashion. The pelts were used for felt hats worn by gentlemen in Europe and the Eastern U.S. The bottom fell out of the market when fashions changed and silk hats became all the rage. Anyway, by that time settlers were moving in and the railroads were binding the nation together. There was no longer any room for the mountain men.  Their legend has endured longer than their moment in history.

The story of our 2003 trip to Williams is here.