Several years ago, the late Jack Gibson — a fellow Nevada history buff, ghost town hunter and longtime volunteer at the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City — shared a wonderful “only in Nevada” story with me.
He and his wife, Margie, were driving the dirt roads of eastern Nevada and stumbled upon an abandoned ranch house. On a hill overlooking the house were four graves with small, marble headstones. In a field adjacent to the house was a rusted, old automobile.
Jack and his wife wandered about the property, careful not to disturb anything.
As they looked at the ranch house with its peeling paint, broken windows, and sagging roof, they wondered about the people who had lived there.
Did this house see the birth of children? Was the corral filled with horses and the yard with chickens? What kinds of delicious smells once came from the kitchen? Had the ranch been abandoned because of too many years of bad crops or drought? Or did the family tire of the backbreaking, thankless work?
While studying the old car, Jack noticed that a piece of paper had been carefully folded in quarters and placed inside one of the empty headlight cavities. Jack slowly unfolded the paper, which was brittle from exposure to the elements.
On the paper, he found a poem had been carefully written. He handed it to his wife to read. It was then that they knew what had happened to the old ranch.
Jack took a notebook from his car and copied the verses, then refolded the paper and returned it to its home in the broken headlight. Later Jack would share the poem with others, including me.
Pause awhile to breathe a prayer
For the boy who loved this car.
He died that you might walk in freedom
And carry his story far.
He was the oldest son of the hard-working rancher,
He loved his father and mother.
He learned to read in a log cabin school;
He was adored by sisters and brothers.
Heeding the call of his Uncle Sam
To defend his country dear,
And turning his back on college days,
He drove his old Ford here.
Goodbye to mother and sisters,
Shaking hands with Dad,
The rancher’s son left all he loved,
Even the old Ford car.
This rancher’s son who loved to read
Patted the car as he walked away,
‘You sit right here and wait for me;
I’ll drive you again someday.’
He fought Hitler’s men awhile in France
Then chased the Desert Fox.
He rode in a Jeep that overturned;
They buried him in a box.
Many winding desert roads he’d driven,
Secure in the old Ford car.
But the open Jeep crushed the rancher’s son . . .
Another victim of that war.
Back on the ranch his parents mourned
As they buried their younger son.
Mercifully, they didn’t yet know
They’d also lost their collegiate one.
After the war, in a flag-draped coffin,
The college boy came home.
They buried him on the western hill;
The old Ford car stood all alone.
Shock and grief take miles to heal.
Seeking comfort by going further,
They sold the ranch and left the car,
Awaiting the older brother.
When the parents died, they returned to their ranch;
They’re all on the western hill . . .
Grieving father and stalwart mother
Their younger son and his collegiate brother.
Remember here the rancher’s son
Who will never wander far;
For his body lies in the family plot,
Near the rusty old Ford car.
Thanks for sharing, Jack.
Rich Moreno covers the places and people that make Nevada special.