In the last few years, the traffic on US 191, between Moab and Monticello has increased dramatically. Despite efforts to improve the safety of the highway (and with millions of dollars of construction upgrades planned or proposed), the 55 mile stretch of road grows more dangerous. My own observations have caused me to cut back on my trips to Moab—exploding tourist traffic has choked the road with cars and RVs, locals, frustrated with the jams, drive more recklessly, just to get home, and commercial traffic has noticeably increased as well…truck traffic at even 2 AM is startling. Often I take the ‘back way’—though it doubles my travel time, it increases my chances of surviving the trip.
But in the rush, there is history all along the road. Few, if any, notice.
A few years ago, I began to explore the roadsides of US 191 and found the reminders of a quieter time. For the next few issues, we’ll share some of these artifacts
At several locations near US 191 in San Juan County, I came to notice a familiar name. This was rangeland decades ago—still is to a lesser degree—and the men who watched over their herds (or flocks–some of these ‘cowboys’ were sheepherders) spent a lot of time out in the country. They must have had a lot of time on their hands, for there’s an amazing concentration of cowboy inscriptions and relief carvings along the sandstone walls. Most prolific was ‘L.R. Maestas.’ He was apparently from Durango, Colorado and I wish I knew more about him.
Maestas often left more than his name, and one suspects he got lonesome out there in the wild with just his stock for company. One day, apparently thinking of a faraway love, he carved a message into the canyon wall. he wrote:
“Sweet Hozey dear,
Who was ‘Hozey?’ His wife or a girlfriend waiting for him back in Durango? Or just the memory of a long-lost love?
On another part of the same sandstone panel, Maestas must have felt so lonely that he wondered if he still existed in the hearts and minds of those he cared most for.
Me Dear Friends
All The Time when you pass here.”
Maestas carved images of his horse, an inverted ‘spade’ (as in a card game, an arrow, and even a flower in bloom. And there are sequences of numbers that I have been unable so far to decipher. They deserve further study and analysis.
His most eloquent signature, in time consuming script reads:
Sept 25 1940
Who was Mr. Maestas?
NOTE: If anyone has any knowledge of L.R. Maestas, please contact me via The Zephyr:
NEXT TIME: More art from the canyon walls
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