This month in honor of the
50th anniversary of Bodie State Historic Park,
former State Park Ranger Carl Chavez graciously allows us to
take an excerpt from his book A Pathway Through Parkways:
A Park Ranger’s Reminiscing.
Carl and his family lived
and worked in Bodie four years after it was declared a
State Park in 1962. His daughter was the last child born in
Bodie, on June 23, 1967. Since there was a “No Children”
rule at that time for the remote ghost town turned State
Park, the autumn after her birth he transferred to another
State Park that was considered more family friendly. This
story is just one of many that he wrote in his book, which
is available via Amazon
as you enter Bodie via the Cottonwood Canyon road you will
see a rustic entrance sign and flagpole off to your right.
It reads “Bodie State Historic Park, EL. 8375’”. There may
still be an old ore cart spilling its cargo of ore next to
the sign. When you see this sign you will be looking at a
labor of love. It is the creation of Park Supervisor Bob
Bob was a
Ranger from the “Old School.” He could drink with the best
of them, be it alcohol or coffee, and he had to have his
cigarettes. As a former sea captain, he loved the ocean, yet
he had spent most of his park career in the desert. He was
most comfortable when he was doing maintenance work. His
strength was that he was straightforward and honest and had
a big heart. His weakness was that he was a procrastinator.
snow began to melt with the spring thaw in May of 1967 Bob
decided he needed a project that he could work on in the
outdoors as the weather warmed. He decided that the park
needed two new signs. One of the signs was to be a new
entrance sign and the other was to be a sign directing
visitors to the parking lot adjacent to a building known as
the “County Bar”. Bob described to me what he had in mind
and asked me to make a drawing of the entrance sign for him.
The parking lot sign was much simpler he said and he didn’t
need a drawing for that one. I designed about a 4’ x 8’ sign
made of four thick weathered boards and gave him the
drawing. He liked the design but thought the routed letters
should be burned to give the sign a more rustic and
weathered appearance. I too thought that was a good idea.
Journal indicates that Bob started working on the entrance
sign around May 5th. Margaret and I watched with
growing interest as Bob set up is work area for the sign
between his house and the Red Barn. We couldn’t understand
why the setup was taking o long. Not long as in hours, but
long as in days. We thought that all he needed was a couple
of boards, two sawhorses, a skill-saw, a router, and an
extension cord. But we were unaware that this took so much
time. First you had to think about gathering up the
materials and equipment. Then you had to tell us about it
and then you had to tell Dot about it, and then you had to
ask Carl, Margaret, and Dot if you had told us you are about
to start work on the sign. You get the idea.
finally arrived that the first significant progress was
apparent on the sign. Bog had actually cut the boards and
doweled and glued them together. Now it was time to watch
the glue dry. That must have taken at least a week or two.
We figured that Bob must have already been through at least
one can of Folger’s Coffee in the weeks since he had started
on this project.
when the road was clear of snow and park visitors began to
arrive in greater numbers, Bob had actually started work
with is router to do the letters and numbers needed for the
sign. There were 36 characters that needed to be routed.
Progress was being made, as Bob completed five letters:
“BODIE”, by the end of May! June was a little better month
for letters as he got as far as “STATE HIST”, a new monthly
not been a good month because there were distractions. Those
darn tourists who were always wandering around town would
come over to see what he was doing and interrupt his work.
Then there were the Santa Gertrudis cattle that became
curious and wanted to inspect the job too. Bob took to
shooting them with is pellet gun to shoo them away. To us it
looked like he was standing guard over his masterpiece. To
the park visitor he looked like a Ranger in uniform shooting
wildlife. Maybe I’m being too critical because, after all,
he was now working on two signs. He had begun work on the
PARKING LOT sign and that was no easy task because it had to
have a directional arrow routed on it.
rebounded in August and added “ORIC PARK” and “ELEVATION”
for a grand total of 17 characters! Go Bob! Not only that
but he finished the parking lot sign that month. I went over
to inspect his completed work. It looked okay but I then
asked him exactly where he intended to place the sign. He
told me he was going to put it on the right side of the
roadway before the vehicles turned left into the parking
lot. I then asked, “Then why does the arrow point right?”
Bob went stomping off into his house. I guess it must have
been time for a smoke and a coffee again. The next day Bob
told me to come over and look at the sign again. He had
rip-sawed the arrow portion of the board and re-doweled and
glued it with the arrow on it turned upside down so that it
now pointed in the opposite direction! Very clever.
week of September showed us what Bob was made of. He not
only finished routing “8375” but he burnished all of the
letters to give it the rustic appearance he wanted. The sign
was officially completed on September 15th, a
little more than 5 months since work had begun. It was a
sure sign of our times. I guess things just went at a slower
pace in those days!
Friends of Bodie day is August 11, 2012. This year's
theme is Livin' in the Past Lane. For more information,
please visit the Bodie Foundation website,