of travel gives way to progressby
tight, don't let the bedbugs bite.
This parting comment always gets a
laugh from my little great-granddaughter when she goes to bed. But at one time
in the early West you were likely to get bit every night by a bedbug. Today's
super motels, exhibiting super service, super cleanliness and located super handy
to the highways, are a long way from the first overnight lodgings along the Old
West's crude trails.
The first known shelters-for-pay were sleeping areas
on the road ranches along the busy trails offering goods and services to travelers
and providing rested livestock in trade for exhausted team animals. Most who traveled
by wagon stayed in their wheeled abodes. As the single travelers riding horseback
became more numerous, there was demand for overnight lodging.
sheds were first partitioned off with wagon canvas allowing just enough space
to undress and lie on a single straw-tick mattress that rattled every time you
moved. Strangers often slept together in larger beds, each with a pistol in his
hand for protection.
As settlements appeared across the frontier, wagon
yards came into being, usually an addition to the local livery stable, providing
parking and livestock pens for those staying overnight.
often provided for single men. Transportation was slow and most settlers lived
many miles out in the hills, requiring an overnight stay to do business and travel
back and forth.
Of course, saloons were always built first. To save on
building costs, second and third stories were added providing small rooms for
rent. Though many were clean and comfortable, most were just barely livable with
dirty bedding, small space and the ever-present bedbugs and lice. Most legs of
beds rested in small saucers filled with coal oil to keep the bugs from crawling
Progress, gold and cattle
fortunes improved, thus the travelers began demanding better food and accommodations
and were willing to pay for them. Soon the transformation from seedy hotels to
legitimate, pleasant surroundings began to appear. Taxes, building codes and operating
costs of hotels back east prompted many experienced hotel owners to sell out and
go west where they built grand lodgings with famous chefs providing the best food.
biggest change came when trains and automobiles entered the scene. Suddenly, everyone
was interested in long-distance travel and the demand for facilities rose quickly.
Fred Harvey dominated the railroad
and lodging stops, bringing fresh food and etiquette to the traveling public.
Those who experienced the Harvey food demanded better elsewhere.
66, the first and longest road to the West, saw the evolution from the "greasy-spoon"
roadside cafe to roadside diners and on to huge full-service travel centers.
of today can be thankful they do hot have to endure the bite of a bedbug, a lumpy
straw mattress and the snoring of a fellow traveler sleeping inches away with
only a thin canvas between the beds. As the old line goes, "Yes, we've come a
long way, baby."
10 , 2010 Column © Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew"
is a freelance writer and retired rancher. He can be reached at 806-779-3164,
by mail at Box A, Alanreed, TX 79002, or by e-mail at email@example.com.
For books see DelbertTrew.com. His column appears weekly.