1: Everywhere is ERB Country
While those in Houston and elsewhere were inundated
by rising waters, it was fire and smoke for the people in places like Montana,
with half of the "Big Sky" canopy of The Treasure State a mass of grey
that made the tops of mountains and distant horizons appear as if they'd
been painted by a novice who used too much water in the watercolors.
It was into this region we ventured in the Sub-Mole-Rine,
seeking out Edgar Rice Burroughs's worlds of adventure, knowing that some
of the things which were true of the many worlds of which he wrote would
also be true of some wild regions of the United States.
We three were guys who happened to be related.
There was Schuyler, not yet a professor but with a name that at least sounded
professor-ish, and Dan, his father, the navigator. Me, I was the master
planner, the head honcho, since I am the owner of the Sub-Mole-Rine and
the chief backer of the expedition, which was designed to broaden the outlook
of the recently graduated Schuyler, prior to his entry into further education.
And part of his education was that the name Schuyler
itself is apparently reserved for those who do scholarly work and are too
studious to venture into tourist areas. For at all souvenir stands
along the way, where coffee mugs, key chain fobs or other items were for
sale, featuring the names of everyone under the sun, including John and
Dan, there were none to be found with the name of Schuyler. It was obvious
that the manufacturers consider that people named Schuyler are too intelligent
to purchase such tailored kitsch.
From Washington State, the trusty vehicle
sped into Northern Idaho on I-90. The Sub-Mole-Rine, christened the Henry
Bull, is a unique vehicle designed to enter the realms of Edgar Rice Burroughs,
able to plow beneath the water, to places such as Caspak; tunnel through
the earth, enroute to locations such as Pellucidar,
and travel overland on the Earth, like Barney Custer, Tarzan and even ERB
Idaho is one of a handful of states with a panhandle.
It's handle is upright, as if hanging on a wall. And a wall is a good place
for it, since its shape is such that no one would wish to use it for cooking.
One-hundred seventy-five miles south of I-90 lies
the broad bottom of Idaho, otherwise known as Edgar Rice Burroughs Country,
where the great man dwelt as a storekeeper in the eastern Idaho city of
Pocatello, a cowboy in the rolling hills of the Raft River area in central
Idaho, and a city councilman in the western town of Parma. No, the adventurers
would not be heading through that region of Idaho this trip, although there
is plenty relating to ERB that has been discovered and plenty more waiting
to be found there. While the ERB haunts of old in Southern Idaho, along
I-80, have been explored by modern-day ERB fans, we have yet to find the
exact spot where he drove tent peg holes along the Salmon River in the
shadow of the Sawtooth Mountains, in which he and Emma could dwell while
he built a cabin.
Even the Craters of the Moon National Monument,
75 miles north of Pocatello, seldom explored by modern ERB fans, were given
the once- or twice-over in 2011 when John Tyner II and Joan “the V” Bledig
visited it to reconnoiter for the 2011
Dum-Dum. And, during the Pocatello Dum-Dum itself, one of its ancient
volcanic cones was climbed by adventurers three: Bill Ross, Mike Conran
and J.G. "Huck" Huckenpohler.
They did not report seeing a vision of Nah-ee-lah
riding a Va-gas across the rumpled landscape, but likely got some idea
of the exterior of the Moon, within which dwell the invaders who will yet
come to Earth and wreak a reign of terror and deprivation upon this world,
as ERB has warned us in “The
Moon Maid” trilogy. Alas, his warning goes largely unheeded.
As for the tent and cabin, we read in Robert Fenton's
biography of ERB and Tarzan:
"Ed and Emma first went to Mackay and then to
the Stanley Basin in Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains, to work with his brothers
in gold-dredging operations on the Salmon River."
He said they "...pitched a tent on a hill while
he built a cabin, 'the construction of which was original and not too successful
but timber was plentiful and I felled what I needed at no great distance
from our cabin site'."
As for the remainder of ERB
country in the south, one can search the term “Edgar Rice Burroughs
Country” for my past articles at ERBzine.com,
as well as "The Burroughs Bulletin" Nos. 88, 89 and 90, which detail the
findings of Tyner and Bledig, intermixed with actual photos and accounts
of Bibliophiles members from the Idaho Dum-Dum.
But there are other worlds of ERB, or at least
worlds reminiscent of ERB, and the reader is invited to follow the adventures
of the crew of the Henry Bull.
2: Silver Threads Amongst
While Edgar Rice Burroughs sought to draw gold
from beneath the eddies and currents of the Snake and Salmon Rivers in
southern Idaho, miners in Wallace, Idaho, in the northern Panhandle sought
The town of Wallace is proud of its heritage of
silver mining as well as still pretty much dependent upon it, since the
whole town seems to exist for the purpose of drawing silver from tourists
simply on the basis that a silver mine was once there.
At the westernmost freeway exit stands an enticing
area which resembles a miniature golf course although the various, brightly
colored displays are of old mining equipment rather than windmills and
other obstacles past which someone might try to maneuver a dimpled spheroid.
A building at the western entrance to the town
is partly visitors center, where an enthusiastic native may attempt to
persuade visitors of the wisdom of spending the rest of their vacation
right there in Wallace, with the other part of the building having restrooms
to cater to that other periodic need of explorers who aren’t towing vehicles
with all the comforts of home.
The town itself features a number of vintage-looking
stores, some of which probably sell old ERB books, although we don't know
because we couldn't stay long enough to explore them all (ripe pickings
for someone else!).
Driving around several square blocks of the small
downtown area, we were most impressed by the big sign on the store called
Fonk's, which, in its window below the sign, encouraged us to examine Fonk's
Fabulous Finds. So we did. Fonk's had some amazing things in its display
windows but these turned out to be a Wallace, Idaho, version of clickbait,
since the window displays featured the only interesting things the store
had. Inside, 90 per cent of the fabulous finds turned out to be racks of
little girls' dresses.
We moved from there to a pawn shop full of antiques
and its rack full of comics that no one would want. Well picked over, it
Across the street, though, was the Mining Museum,
and this we were determined to explore. It was well worth the token admission
price and we marveled at a cutaway which shows how deep the silver mine
actually was and convinced me that under no circumstances would I ever
want to be a miner in such a place. I may be John, but I'm not Big John,
and have no desire to grab a sagging timber and give out with a shove!
The museum also featured strange tools that, while
enormous, did look as if they could be operated by one strong man or two
or three less strong men and, if miniature versions exist, could well be
found in a dentist's office.
But time beckoned us on and so at last we bid adieu
to the charming town, not taking the time to also check out the railroad
museum in the old depot or take the trolley ride up to the mine entrance.
We did, however, make it a point to stop at a dairy bar to acquire, for
each of us, a milkshake made with fresh huckleberries, a panhandle staple.
3: A Land Not Quite Forgotten
In pre-planning the expedition, I easily found
places to go and things to see by googling the word "attractions" along
with the name of whatever city we would visit. And so, when I googled Bozeman
Montana attractions I found something called the Museum of the Rockies.
Thanks to research by ERB historian and scholar
Alan Hanson, we know that ERB only actually mentioned Montana once in his
writings. Quoting from Alan's contribution to ERBapa 56 (Part 2 of "ERB
and the 50 States,") Alan wrote:
"On seeing a huge creature in Caspak, Bradley
observed, 'It's a tyrannosaurus. Saw picture of skeleton in magazine. There's
one in New York Natural History Museum. Seems to me it said it was found
in place called Hell Creek, somewhere in western North America.'
"Sinclair, a fellow American sailor, responded,
'Hell Creek's in Montana.’ (from The
Land That Time Forgot)
Here be dragons, and giants, and their kin, at
the museum, along with rooms of more common exhibits, such as a few vintage
autos, old cannon, and so forth.
Montana is a rich archaelogical area, as Bradley
and Sinclair alluded to, and the claim was made that many of the assembled
skeletons, or parts of skeletons, came from digs in that very state, although
I suspected some of them had actually been acquired in Caspak or Pal-ul-don.
There was T-Rex himself and, in addition, a couple
of extra T-rex heads which were about four feet high from bottom of jaw
to top of head. One bite would just about take care of a human, as was
the case for poor John Tippet, the Englishman who was killed by a tyrannosaurus
in 1916, as reported in The Land that Time Forgot.
Here too was the RV-size gryf that Tarzan had encountered
in Pal-ul-don in Tarzan
the Terrible. The scientific name for these beasts is "triceratops,"
and if the specimens in the museum were not actual gryfs they were at least
Tarzan's more common foes were featured in another
vast cavern of the museum, with various crocodiles, some stuffed, some
real. Crocs don't move unless they have to so it took a bit of examination
to determine that some of the beasts in this area were not simply stuffed,
but actually living. Fortunately, the croc in the center was not alive,
for he was not caged, and would have wrought terrible destruction.
Overall, the museum visit was a terrifying experience,
yet satisfying, to think of the brave ERB heroes who had come across and
battled such behemoths and leviathans.
Finally, there was the museum’s Planetarium, where
one could gaze skyward and imagine himself streaking through space to Mars,
the world of ERB’s Barsoom novels.
And once that scene had been played on the large, round overhead screen,
it was easy to shut ones eyes and dream of John Carter and Ulysses Paxton,
each of whom soared to Mars, and it was also easy to allow one to drift
off to much needed sleep for the remainder of the half-hour program to
recover from an hour or two of walking around the museum complex.
~ Part II Continued in ERBzine 6012