homehomehomehomehomehomehomecontact

One weekend afternoon in the fall of 2008, at the back of a drawer in my old wooden desk at home, I came across a folder I had forgotten. “Dorothy Woodruff Letters, Elkhead 1916-17.” My mother had given me the file when my children were young, and I had put it away, intending to look through it, but life had intervened. I glanced at the first letter. Dated July 28, 1916, it was written on the stationery of The Hayden Inn. At the top of the sheet was a photograph of a homely three-story concrete house with a few spindly saplings out front. The inn advertised itself as “The Only First-Class Hotel in Hayden.” Dorothy wrote: “My dear family, can you believe that I am actually far out here in Colorado? ”

She and her closest friend, Rosamond Underwood, had grown up together in Auburn, New York. They had just arrived after a five-day journey, and were preparing to head into a remote mountain range in the Rockies, to teach school in a settlement called Elkhead. Dorothy’s letter described their stop overnight in Denver, their train ride across the Continental Divide, and their introductions to the locals of Hayden, whom she described as “all agog” over them, “and so funny.” One man could barely be restrained “from showing us a bottle of gall stones just removed from his wife!” She closed by saying, “They are all so friendly and kind. We are thrilled by everything. We start now—four-hour drive—Good-bye in haste….”

PROLOGUE