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The Trailblazers

Experiences in the Early Days of BPR

By
B. M. French

My first contact with the Bureau of Public Roads occurred after I had completed my sophomore year as a student of Civil Engineering at the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque; times were tough in 1928, the Great Depression was in the making and jobs were scarce. The Bureau was starting a forest highway location survey in Taos Canyon east of Taos, New Mexico, and had contracted the Civil Engineering department at the University of New Mexico for three students to work on the party. I was one of those fortunate enough to be recommended by Professor Adelbert Diefendorf, then Head of the C. E. Department. When contacted, I accepted immediately. Secondary matters such as pay, location of the work, and working conditions (not that they mattered much) could be looked at later after the job was assured. The other two students who accepted work on the party were Dave Mitchell, an electrical engineer, and Fred Fricke, a civil engineer who in later years was a consulting engineer in Albuquerque.

How I reached Santa Fe enroute to Taos, I cannot recall, but I distinctly remember riding the old narrow gauge Denver and Rio Grande railroad, long since abandoned and probably forgotten except by railroad history buffs, from Santa Fe to Taos Junction, or Stong as the railroad station was called. Neither Taos Junction not Stong appear on present day highway maps. We were met at the railroad by one of the two White surplus trucks from World War I that provided all transportation for the party. They had rolled in from Denver a few days before. Much Bureau equipment in those days consisted of units left over from World War I. One of our trucks was equipped with solid rubber tires.

Steve Wallace, "Old Steve" as he was affectionately or notoriously known throughout the three states (Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming) of old District 3, was in charge of the party. Steve was paternal tyrant of a sort, with relationship to Davy Crockett and Paul Bunyan. He was a big moose of a man, powerful and the world's hardest driver on a survey line.

Woe unto any laggard - he didn't last long. "Roll your bed," was Steve's way of saying, "You're fired - get out of camp." His personal habits were - well, at least unusual. He shaved every two weeks and between shaves he looked like the mountain man of the movies - the main difference being he was for real. There was a long, and to this day unsettled, argument among the crew members as to whether Steve took a bath between the first week in June and a night sometime in August when we stopped in Silver City, New Mexico, while moving between surveys. Consensus gave him the benefit of the doubt that he did bathe in Silver City, but we were never sure.

He was in some ways ahead of his time. His profanity, even back in the twenties, would do justice to modern word usage that many attribute to the "Now" generation of the "60's" and "70's". He was the most zealous enemy that Demon Rum and nicotine ever had and he almost nipped my BPR career in the bud for lighting a cigarette and depositing the ashes in my plate after a meal in the cook tent.

In running surveys Steve was never known to set a P.I. (point of inflection). His was all free location with curves staked in the original line; surprisingly, the first curve he tried usually fit the topography, and more often than not was not changed. He enjoyed a reputation among many of us as having the best "eye for country" of any man we had ever known. He probably ran more highway survey lines for less original cost than any man who ever worked in old District 3 or probably anywhere else in the Bureau. In truth, it must also be acknowledged that chaining and topography on Steve's survey lines were probably the most inaccurate ever produced for the Bureau. As these inaccuracies later came to light during construction, Steve received his share of blasphemy from resident engineers when slope stakes fell in the middle of, or on the wrong side of a river, or a thousand feet down-hill over a cliff. His free location methods worked reasonably well in open country in District 3 forests, but would not be practicable in the heavy timber and brush cover of the West Coast and Alaska forests.

On the Taos survey Steve hired a young local Spanish American, Palamon "Polly" Martinez as a back flagman. Polly was a lot of fun and a favorite with the crew. The story around Taos was that Polly's family were descendants of the notorious lustful Taos priest Padre Antonio Jose Martinez, made infamous in Willa Cather's novel "Death Comes for the Archbishop." Polly claimed to be a Protestant.

Unfortunately, later on in the summer, Polly became a casualty, shall we say, because of Steve's sense of humor (or lack of it). Steve, who always head-chained, besides cutting brush and roaring orders at the crew, had set the hub, and Polly on back flag had moved ahead. There happened to be what remained of a round picket corral close by. Polly, always full of the devil, innocently observed, "They found a dead man in that corral a few years ago." Steve took the bait, hook, line and sinker. "How did that happen?" he wanted to know. "He ran himself to death looking for a corner," said Polly without cracking a smile. Steve didn't appreciate the humor and fired him on the spot. Ah, a sad day for everybody, (except Steve) when Polly rolled his bed and headed for Taos. I heard years later that Polly worked for the Forest Service in Carson National Forest at Taos.

From Taos we moved to a survey on the Hondo-Mescalero Forest Highway route in Lincoln County. We camped first at the old White Mountain Inn near present day Ruidosa and later at Bonnell's Ranch near Glencoe. Bonnell's Ranch in those days was famous all the way from El Paso to Roswell as the place to get the best food anywhere in those parts. Frank Bonnell, one of the sons of Bert Bonnell who ran the ranch and inn, worked many years for the Bureau in Phoenix and retired there in the "60's."

By the time we moved from Taos sometime in July, I had advanced from cutting brush and driving stakes to rodding on the level party. In the '60's I was back in the Ruidosa Country and found a brass cup bench mark still in place that I had set up in 1928 as a rodman in one of the big foundation stones in the old Tully store at Glencoe. By that time, the '60's, the survey we had made had been used for construction, the road later resurveyed, and built on still a new location.

From Ruidoso sometime in early August we moved south and went through El Paso and Silvery City and Luna, new Mexico, to Alpine, Arizona, where we ran location from the State line to Alpine. There was a Forest Highway construction job active at Alma on our route to Alpine. "Shorty" Gleason, later Bureau Division Engineer for Maryland was the Resident Engineer. Alton Stinson, who in later years made most of the major highway locations in Yellowstone Park and many elsewhere in the District, joined us as a topographer at Alpine. My recollections of Alone are of wet cold weather and bad food, which after having out own god cook at Taos, and the superb food at Bonnell's, was quite a comedown. There was no convenient town nearby where the luxury of a bath could be had on a Saturday afternoon. We all became a bit gamey, or would have seemed so to anyone else who had ready access to warm water and soap. Finally after several days, or maybe a few weeks, we made use of an icy spring near the survey line east of Alpine. It is amazing how far you can stretch one bath under those circumstances.

Some of us attended a local dance in Alpine one Saturday night, only to be ejected forthwith for starting to smoke inside the dance hall. We learned then and there that the Mormons were good, clean-living people and would tolerate no unsavory practices by intruding gentiles. Alpine was in those days and may still be almost entirely Mormon.

I returned to the University of New Mexico for my Junior year in Engineering as the crew moved through Albuquerque in late September. Steve and his crew were bound for the Rocky Mountain National Park for survey work for the National Park Service on high, wild, and beautiful Trail Ridge. I had so enjoyed my first work with Public Roads that I was tempted to drop out of college to continue it.

After graduating with a BS in Civil Engineering in June 1930, I was assigned on a construction study for the old Division of Management in southern Colorado. I had passed the Junior Highway Engineer Civil Service exam in 1930 before graduation in order to qualify. Two weeks after assignment to Colorado in August, an opening in Alaska was announced. I requested and received this position.

In those days, the Bureau's program in Alaska was small and included only Alaska's share of Forest Highway funds. Design and construction were oriented toward the strictest economy, and standards were very low even to the point of building only a single lane with turnouts in some areas. There were projects in the Tongass Forest near Ketchikan and Juneau and some work in the Chugach Forest north of Seward.

There were some small projects for maintenance by the Bureau at various places like Petersburg and Wrangell on the islands in south-east Alaska, and later small construction projects at some of the Indian villages. The principal road work in the interior of Alaska around Anchorage and between Valdez and Fairbanks was handled by the Alaska Road Commission, which was first a part of the Army Corps of Engineers and later a constituent of the Interior Department.

The Bureau work, other than maintenance, was seasonal, with all permanent engineering personnel on design in the Juneau office during the winter months. Most engineering assistants were on temporary appointments and were laid off during winter months. M.D. Williams, formerly assigned to the old Ogden Office was in charge as District Engineer. Ivan Windsor was Office Engineer.

About the time I arrived Windsor was looking for a draftsman, as Chris Wyller who did beautiful work and had been trying to live down his drafting reputation for more rewarding work in the field. My first job was to do a tracing - and I did it so badly that I never was assigned to do another. This was fortunate - at least for me - as good draftsmen were much in demand and any one who was good at drafting seldom got outside the office.

There was no integrated highway system, then or now, in southeast Alaska. Many of the small towns and villages were on islands. Juneau, while on the mainland, was so isolated by adjacent topography - rugged coastline and glaciers - that it might as well have been on an island insofar as transportation was concerned. In this kind of an environment, it followed that water transportation was a necessity. In 1930 to '32 during my early years there, air travel had not come into its own in the big way that it did in the '30's and '40's.

The Bureau had its own water transport, a diesel powered boat christened very appropriately 'The Highway," for transportation to and between its far flung activities through southeastern Alaska all the way from Hyder to Skagway. "The Highway" boasted no sophisticated navigation equipment that is so common today. It didn't even have radio communication of any kind - but it did have Nels Rogne as skipper and Swan Peterson as engineer, two Scandinavians who had spent most of their years, 40 to 50 plus, navigating Alaska waters. Their knowledge and skills more than made up for what their vessel lacked in equipment. An excellent cook rounded out her crew of three and the meals served up from her galley will always be remembered with a lot of pleasure by all who didn't get too seasick to participate.

In late December of 1932 I was transferred from Alaska to old District 3 headquarters in Denver. It so happened that about that time "The Highway" was due to go south to Seattle for needed repair and overhaul. As usual in those days, someone in Washington always had his eye (probably both of his eyes) on the dollar sign. The word came down from somewhere on high that I was to travel on "The Highway" to Seattle instead of by commercial steamship and this save the price of a steamship ticket. The first day out of Juneau the sea became so rough we tied up for 24 hours in one of the many sheltered coves between Juneau and Petersburg. The skipper knew all safe anchorages in Alaska. The trip for the next dew days was uneventful through the beautiful sheltered waters among the islands off the Alaska mainland and British Columbia. We had been under way about a week, and were crossing the waters along the east shore of Vancouver Island; a scheduled stop at Campbell River, for fuel of course, just happened to give everybody on board an opportunity to stock up on Canadian liquor; all the U.S. was still thirsting under the Volstead Act.

After leaving Campbell River about 10:00 in the morning, we rain into a violent early winter storm in the Straits of Georgia east of Vancouver Island and off the mainland coast between Vancouver, B.C. and Bellingham. Weather was well below freezing, and constant waves going well over the top of the pilot house loaded the boat with ice up to a foot thick. The waves had bashed in a port-hole in the engine room and Swan Peterson, the engineer, was knee-deep in ice water struggling to keep the diesel fuel running. I was in the pilot house with the skipper; the second engineer hired especially for this trip so we could run day and night was sealed tightly in the only stateroom by thick ice covering the only door. After several hours of constant pounding by waves which added to our load of ice and seemed to roll us completely over each time they struck (and that was every minute or two), my courage had begun to ebb, I wanted to get to the engine room and try to help Peterson, but out doors were completely locked with sheets of ice, and chances of reaching the engine room without getting lost overboard by wind and waves across the icy deck were not good. However, Peterson continued to keep the engine alive without my help by working the fuel pump by hand for several hours. The engine kept running at a slow speed; had it stopped, we would have piled up on a reef. When I heard a conversation over the speaking tube between the skipper and engineer that both were seriously concerned that they might lose the boat, passengers and all, I thought my luck had run out.

To shorten what might be a longer story, we finally limped to shelter behind Lummi Island off Bellingham just as the sun was peeking over Mount Baker. Everybody was completely exhausted physically and emotionally, but very glad to still be alive. A little raw rum from the supply taken on at Campbell River helped. As the next day wore on I took a small ferry that operated between Lummi Island and the mainland, hitchhiked to Bellingham, and rode the train on to Seattle.

During World War II while under charter to the Army, the good ship "Highway" was lost with all hands in southeastern Alaska waters. Rogne and Peterson who handled her for so long and so well were fortunately not the crew on that last fateful voyage.

My first assignment as a project engineer came in the fall of 1934 on the Cody Yellowstone Forest Highway route in Wyoming. Bureau camp - living in those days was primitive at best - no electricity, no inside plumbing, wood only for cooking and heat, gasoline or kerosene for lights, and all shopping and other services over 40 miles away at Cody. My wife and I, married since 1931, lived in a portable 16'x16' Bureau house with only ¾ inch board and no insulation as protection against the Wyoming winter. Temperatures frequently went below minus 20 degrees and on a few occasions colder than minus 40, when we stayed until January or later. My long-suffering wife survived but just barely. She enjoys talking about it today more than she enjoyed living it them, but she wouldn't have missed it for anything. During the seven years from 1934 through 1940, I served as project engineer and resident engineer on this route between Cody and Yellowstone Park. Most of the financing was National Park Service approach road money spent on the Forest highway route outside the National Park. During the decade of the '30's the old Denver District 3 office had more direct Federal work for the Park Service in Yellowstone than the other direct Federal work combined in the entire District. Fred Capes was in charge of this work from an office at Mammoth, NPA headquarters, and were he alive today he could contribute immeasurably to the history of the Bureau during that period. He had crews under construction resident engineers all over the Park as well as park approach work on the East Entrance, where I was assigned, and some Forest Highway work elsewhere in Wyoming.

Located east of Sylvan Pass which was closed by snow from early fall until late May or June, I was, fortunately, (for me, maybe not for the Park Service) insulated from the closer scrutiny given the work inside the park by the NPS Landscape Architects. When a tree was badly damaged by contract operations it could be removed, stump and all by the contractor, and the area smoothed over so expertly that the landscape architects might not, if we were lucky, remember there was ever a tree in that location. At times we were accused, maybe justly, of desecrating a beautiful canyon and in turn we would accuse the landscapers of sanctifying the sagebrush which was definitely not in short supply, but some of it did get badly trampled by construction equipment. In truth, however, we did learn a lot from the park Service about fitting our roads to the landscape and protecting the "environment" before we even knew what the word meant. This was valuable in later years when environmental protection became one of our most important national objectives. Park Service understood and appreciated our construction problems even though they often took issue with our methods. Personally, we were all good friends, and the cooperation between the two agencies was excellent.

To a young engineer, his first assignment as a Resident Engineer may be the first substantial step forward in his career. He has a serious responsibility and is eager to fulfill it. There is nobody else around to tell him how and what to do. Many things happen that have an element of humor in them which was not apparent at the time. I shall try to record some of those happenings in the paragraphs that follow.

During 1935 and '36 we had a grading section under contract west from the Shoshone Forest boundary to Tomlinson-Arkwright of Great Falls, Montana. Jack Merz was the General Superintendent. Like many old grading foremen of the 1920's and '30's Jack's foreman believed that those little wooden stakes with all the misleading numbers on them only hindered a good grading man, and he frequently lost all the stakes with the first pass of his equipment. On this particular section the work was not heavy and the grade changes from one vertical P.I. to the next were not great. The contractor's cats had gone through, stakes were gone and the rough grade looked reasonably good. A few weeks later when the blue top crew went through to get ready for the finishing operation, the grade was found to be two to three feet high through one cut for a distance of 200 to 300 feet. Understandably, the grading foreman was puzzled and more than a little disturbed at the prospect of going back to take out two or three more feet of round, river-washed boulders up to a foot or more in diameter. He said he know he had the cut down to the grade called for by those missing stakes - but no stakes - no proof - so he took out the additional material, kicking and screaming "foul" all the way. In an effort to find out what had really happened we went back to the slope stake notes only to find, to our horror, that the vertical curve ordinates which should have been subtracted from the tangent grade on the crest or convex vertical curve had been mistakenly added, so at the center of the vertical curve the grade was high by double the middle ordinate. We did not tell the contractor and maybe he still wonders what happened - but after that, there were stakes left here and there so the grading foreman could look at them and convince us he had the grade where we staked it.

Late in the fall of about 1938, McNutt Brothers of Eugene, Oregon, were grading approximately a mile outside Yellowstone Park, between the park boundary and Pahasaka Teepee. Pahasaka, Bill Cody's old hunting lodge, was a tourist resort and well known for revelry of various kinds, and it attracted revelers from all directions. It was mid-November, cold, tourist travel to the Park almost nonexistent, and the East Entrance Gate to Yellowstone Park was supposed to be closed to all travel after early evening. McNutt's drilling and blasting operation on the night shift was active in heavy rock on the side of the hill above the old road which still carried all the traffic.

Around five when the Chief Ranger of Yellowstone Park was wending his nocturnal way in a Park Service car toward the park, the contractor chose this most inopportune moment to put off a big shot in a heavy cut just above the old road - with no flagmen on the old road or anywhere else in the country insofar as our inquiry went. The Chief Ranger, poor guy, felt the concussion which was followed by rocks of various sizes, reportedly up to a foot across, floating down into and through his field of vision as illuminated by his headlights. The windshield was broken and several ugly dents and scratches gouged the top, hood and fenders of the car. The Chief Ranger was not killed nor even injured, fortunately, but for once he must have thought his time had come. I heard this tale of woe later in the morning - some time before noon. Needless to say, I braced for the worst, with visions of a Park Service car to buy and worse still, wrath and retribution from on high in the Park Service and the Bureau, ending up I knew not where. Strangely, after a few days, I had heard no more. It was difficult to believe such an event could go long unnoticed, but I dare not inquire. Some days later I heard that the Chief Ranger had been at Pahasaka Teepee in an all-night poker game immediately before the unfortunate event. It goes without saying that use of a Park Service car for a mission of this kind was unauthorized, and the East Gate to the Park was supposed to have been closed at that hour to everybody. All the participants in this happening were more than willing to forget it as quickly as possible (and it has been forgotten for many years), but it is too good to be lost to posterity.

During the years following World War II, the Bureau undertook a cooperative program in Alaska with the Alaska Road Commission of the Interior Department. Efforts which began in 1946 to get funds for a highway connection between Seward and Anchorage were finally successful in 1948.

I had landed in the Bureau's Washington Office after a five year hitch in the Navy's Civil Engineer Corps during World War II. The Alaska program afforded the opportunity I was seeking to get closer to field work which I had always enjoyed, and I transferred from Washington headquarters to Seward, Alaska, in July 1948. My many friends in Washington wished me well, but I am sure many of them questioned my sanity for moving to such a remote place.

Time was of the essence on all of this work and we had no surveys or plans except for the Seward-Anchorage work which was all through virgin country. With the pressure on, the Bureau managed to contract these fur sections of almost 200 miles in the fall of 1948. Contract time limits were cut to the barest minimum. Grading quantities were "guesstimated," by the station or mile; sources of material designated with a minimum of information; and special provisions liberated to permit wide fluctuations between estimated and final quantities. Such field work as limited time permitted was supervised by F. L. Davis from the old Ogden office.. He worked under Hugh Stoddart, Division Engineer in Juneau. Planning was minimum; operational activity maximum. Our crews and the contractors started work. In these circumstances the resident engineers frequently worked 16-hour days and 7-day weeks. Two shifts of eight or even 12 hours per day were common for the contractors.

During those years in Alaska from 1948 to 1953 Hugh Stoddart had a Gung-ho, freewheeling organization (at least by today's standards) Washington was a long distance away; the auditor is a latter day phenomenon and in our uniformed state of not knowing what could not or should not be done, a lot was done, and generally done well and in a minimum of time. Lest some reader of this narrative, if it is in fact to be printed and later read as a part of Bureau history, get the idea that we operated outside of or close to the edge of the regulations, it should be stated that we ran a tight ship, but the pressure was on to keep the work moving ahead and decisions toward this end were the rule. If construction changes were needed, they were made then, not later, and the work progressed.

Experienced men or any other kind were scarce, except for the few old-time bureau engineers we had in top jobs. We would hire almost anybody who showed up and wanted a job; and we got all kinds of people. Practically all engineering assistants were excepted appointments without benefit of career Civil Service status, and could be hired, or fired without fanfare or appeal. On more than one occasion termination papers reached the Juneau Office in the same mail or ahead of the hire papers. This caused clerical problems and some discord with the Division but Mr. Stoddart was sympathetic to our problems and managed to overlook many shortcomings. On one of his many trips to Seward, Mort Flint was asking us some hard questions as to what interview or screening process we went through before we hired a man. Paul Doyle, an Irishman with a rare sense of humor, was the Administrative Office and did most of the hiring. In fielding Mort's questions he finally said. "You see that window over there? Well, before I hire a man I always have him walk by that window; I look at his ear that is on this side, and if I can't see broad daylight, he's hired."

Even recruiters for the Division Office who worked in Seattle to entice engineering assistants to Alaska were not always successful in selecting high quality personnel. One of the better party chiefs hired in Seattle one year turned out to be a murderer who falsified his application, only to be caught by his fingerprints. We had to dismiss him but did so reluctantly; good men were hard to find in those days. Frequently we found drunks among those hired for Alaska and many were fired.

One in particular was a problem to out Seward office. After we ejected him from the bunkhouse in Girdwood for being drunk, he showed up ion Seward and ended up under arrest by the local Deputy U.S. Marshall and was lodged in the local federal jail. The jail was in the basement of the local Post Office and Federal Building. Our offices were on the first floor, along with the Post Office and Office of the Deputy U.S. Marshall and U.S. Commissioner. On occasion the Marshall would allow some of his inmate guests a few hours of freedom. Whenever this happened our drunken ex-employee always made a call on our office seeking reemployment. His story was that he was not drunk on the job when we fired him. He had a point there; he was in the bunkhouse so drunk he couldn't make it to the job, but we didn't recognize this point as being valid and never did rehire him.

On another occasion Doyle had a likely looking prospect for employment in the office and was about at the point of signing him up for a job. He was somewhat vague as to when he could report for work. This seemed a little unusual for a man seeking employment. Further questioning brought forth the admission that he was a guest of the Marshall's temporarily confined on the floor below. Under these circumstances he could not give us a firm date when he would be available. We didn't (quite) hire him.

I learned years ago that some things had to be done that you dared never ask anybody about. You could never get a "yes" answer and the further along the referral might go, the less change you had of getting an answer at all. If the act was an accomplished fact by the time the boss knew about it he was usually glad to have it over with. He had such a case on a project north of Seward about 1951. The contractor had cleared right of way through a heavily timbered and brushy section along Kenai Lake only to find a grave marker square in the middle of the right of way. Kenai Lake, the Alaska Railroad, and adjacent topography made it completely impractical to relocate the road. Inquiry among some of the old settlers in the area brought some recollections of the burial of an old-timer somewhere in that area years before, but nobody could recall details or any relatives and we could locate no records. Not knowing were else to turn, we took our problem to the U.S. Commissioner in Seward. She was a practical, down-to-earth lady with many years' experience in Alaska and wise to the ways of the old settlers. They frequently handled problems in their own unorthodox way, such as laying one of their own to rest in a beautiful spot he would have liked out in the forest. The Commissioner recognized our problem and promptly issued an order authorizing disinterment and reburial. We made arrangements through the local mortician for a lot in the local cemetery, and for the work of removal and reburial by the mortician with a local minister officiating. Within a week the whole mission was accomplished in a manner that seemed entirely acceptable, even though we could not consult the party most involved. Now to let the boss know what had been done and to get it paid for as part of the construction project. A purchase order for the entire transaction was duly written to the mortician - maybe the only purchase order ever written for this kind of an expenditure in the history of the Bureau - and a voucher in payment was forwarded to the Juneau office. Juneau was always prepared to meet our emergencies as long as we kept the program moving but sometimes they had to swallow hard. This case was taken in stride and payment made promptly, and without question. I wondered for a time how long it might be before our authority for this transaction was questioned from somewhere on high - but my luck held - it never happened. I still wonder how GAO would have reacted, had they only known.

In January 1953, after four and a half years in Seward I found myself transferred to Phoenix as District Engineer (job title later changed to Division Engineer) for Arizona. It was a different world, and not just the climate. As operations officer for Federal aid in a State, one's contact with direct construction is seldom direct and a lot of interesting happenings on direct federal projects do not (probably unfortunately) ever come to the attention of the Division Engineer.

During my years in Arizona we had several Forest Highway projects in the Tonto National Forest around Payson. This is the country Zane Grey used as a locale for his novel "Under the Tonto Rim." He called the "Mogollon Rim" the "Tonto Rim." I don't know why. That part of Arizona probably had not changed a lot between Zane's time and 1953-1957 when I worked in Arizona. We had rebuilt the forest highway out in the country removed somewhat from the old town of Payson and, as customary when no control of access was provided, some business moved out to the old road. Access to these businesses was simply anywhere a car wanted to pull off the shoulder. Our project included posts with reflectors along the shoulder, with occasional openings for access to the roadside business but there was not an access opening to each individual business. Any design to provide individual accesses to each business would have meant unrestricted access and no guide posts at all. Needless to say, the adjacent businesses did not like our plan.

Payson is about a hundred miles from the county seat at Globe, and was then and may still be, unincorporated. There was no deputy sheriff at Payson; the only officer of the law in the immediate area was a Justice of the Peace, and as it happened the JP was the proprietor of a beer tavern.. To our misfortune, his beer tavern was adjacent to the section of our project where we were trying to control access. There probably are not many places left where the local magistrate is also the town's tavern operator, but Payson is, or was then, one of those places. The posts were duly installed and just as promptly knocked down at night, especially those at the access point nearest to the JP's tavern. We appealed to the sheriff's office in Globe, but he had no interest. The tavern operator appealed to the District Attorney in Globe for help, on what grounds I don't remember. The District Attorney took the matter to Senator Hayden, who was always one of the Bureau's staunchest supporters and he declined to get involved. After putting the posts back two or three times, our Resident Engineer, Frank Burgess, tired of the game and one night had the posts at the beer parlor replaced with extra large ones, deeper in the ground, set in concrete and reinforced with a grader blade to back up each post. The next time the local sports, who we always believed were egged on by a few free beers, made a run at the posts, their truck paid the price. The front end was bashed in, radiator smashed, and it was only luck that prevented someone from being killed or badly injured. Our resident engineer had prevailed, at least temporarily, and posts were intact when I left Arizona a few months later.

It's been 47 years since I reported for my first assignment with the old BPR, and the lapse of time may have dulled my memory on some details of those early years. However, there are likely to be few individuals left to point out any deviations from the strictest truth.

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Updated: 10/16/2013
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