By Edgar E. Klauber
At about six-thirty on a bright Monday morning sixty-two years ago, I walked into Kaidel’s “Minneapolis” Restaurant on Fifth Street and ordered a platter of bacon and eggs. I was making my first back country mountain trip for Klauber Wangenheim Company. On the evening before I had taken a room downtown in order to get an early start.
Youth and hope of accomplishment burned high. I had helped assemble and pack many back country orders and I was familiar with this part of our business. My team, ordered the day before from the livery stable, was tied up in front of the restaurant.
When the team was ordered I had told the stable keeper that I was making my first mountain trip, hoping that we would offer some much-needed advice, but all he said was, “Dirty roads. Wear a duster.” On my first day I covered Lemon Grove, Spring Valley, Santee, Bostonia, El Cajon, and Lakeside.
On the second day I left the Lakeside Hotel and went on my way to Alpine when I was flagged down by a middle-aged man who asked for a lift to Alpine or to Descanso if I was going that far. I do not use the word “hitchhiker” as I do not believe the word had been coined at that
time. I was glad to take in a riding companion as company, as I knew the trip would be a lonesome one. The time was shortly after the strenuous presidential election in which McKinley defeated Bryan. My free-riding companion and I were soon in a political argument which waxed hotter and hotter. Bryan had made his famous “Cross of gold” free silver campaign speech at Omaha. McKinley was for the gold standard. My rider finally asked, “Do you mean to sit there and tell me that you don’t know that McKinley was elected by the bankers of Wall Street?” I replied, “Oh, I think you’ve been reading the wrong newspapers.”
At that he informed me, “This country is on its way to the dogs.” He gave me to understand in no uncertain terms that I was a part of the cause. Then, with a wave of his hand, he exclaimed, “Let me out here,” to which I readily agreed.
As I continued on my lonesome way, I decided hereafter to talk only groceries, unmixed with politics. I went on to Alpine and Descanso, which I did not reach until late in the afternoon. John Combs had come out on the porch of his store to greet me. I had mailed the usual advance cards. After putting the team up in the barn, John said, “Klauber, come in the store, you look plumb played out; you need a tonic.” As he led me to a large, roughly made, medicine chest which was nailed to the wall, and loosened the straps on the door, I realized that I was in no position to protest, for the cabinet was filled with every popular patent medicine of the day, all sold to him by Klauber Wangenheim.
John handed me a tablespoon full of some awful-tasting stuff, saying, “This will fix you up plenty.” When he satisfied himself that I had gulped every drop he said, “Now come up to the house and have some supper with the old woman and the kids, and then we’ll go back to the store and I’ll make up a good order for you.” And John did just that. Things never seemed so easy.
At about midnight he showed me to my quarters in the loft above the store. As he lit the candle beside my cot, he asked, “What time do you aim to pull out in the morning?”
“Well, John, I’d like to get away for Campo at about seven,” I answered.
“I’ll tell the old woman to have breakfast at 6:30, and your team will be tied up in front of the store.”
When I was ready to leave in the morning I asked John how much I owed him for my board and lodging. The big hearted store keeper pointed to the Campo road with the parting remark, “Get going, Klauber, you don’t owe me a cent.”
As I drove away toward Campo, I was in good spirits. I felt that I had thus far written a good volume of business. After driving some distance I found myself on a narrow, untravelled road winding around the side of a mountain. This was not my idea of the Campo road. Even the two grays acted as though they sensed something was wrong. Suddenly I heard loud yelling in the ravine below. Looking over the side of the buckboard, I saw about five men running along, swinging their lunch pails, which shone brightly in the morning sun. I realized that the hollering was to attract my attention.
At this point I pulled the team to a stand-still and waited. Soon the
men came running up. One of the men came to the side of the buckboard and asked where I was going. “I’m on my way to Campo,” I said.
“Not on this road, buddy,” he replied. “This is a new road we’re making over to the valley on the other side. About a hundred yards ahead of you is a good jumping off place where we left our picks and shovels last night. You got off the road down below where the road forks.”
“Don’t you fellows ever put up any signs?” I asked. This question didn’t seem to go over very well.
By this time the men were standing in front of the team, looking things over. “What’s my next move?” I called. I received a quick answer.
“Pull up a little, put your wheels as close to the bank as you can,” one of the men said. “We’ll unhitch those nags of yours, lead one at a time down to the back of your buckboard. If one of ’em decides to jump, you’re going to be short a horse.”
After unhitching the horses, two of the men led them to the rear of the buckboard and held them, while the others skillfully turned the rig around. They proceeded to hitch my team up again, while I looked on helplessly. I thanked them for all their trouble and offered payment, which was refused with the remark from the head man, “Boy, are you lucky this isn’t Sunday!”
I made Campo and Potrero without further mishap, and after an overnight stop at Campo, I was off via Cuyamaca to Julian. With three stores and a saloon at Julian, it took me an entire day there. At seven in the evening, after supper, I decided to drive on to Santa Ysabel.
The man at the stable tried to talk me out of it, saying that the horses were cold from standing in the barn all day, and it was a dark night to be driving. But I decided to go. Driving out of the lighted stable into the dark night, I went carefully for some distance when the horses began to act up, and I knew something was wrong. I looked over the dashboard and could see that one of the traces had dropped to the ground
and was dragging. Fortunately for me, I had come to a wide part of the road. I turned the team to face the bank, got out and hooked up the
trace and I was ready to continue. However, at this point I lost my nerve and turned back to Julian. As I drove into the stable, the man in charge
came up with the remark, “Well, look who’s here!”
I had previously resolved to talk no politics, and at this point I decided to always ask about the road ahead, and also to take advice when it was certain the other fellow knew more than I. The balance of my first mountain trip was finished without excitement.