Today we are going to Muse about arrows across the continent. If this is your first visit, welcome to Musings. If you have been here before, welcome back. Over time we are going to talk about many things: the past, the present, perhaps the future, travel, art, society and more. Wherever my musing takes me. I hope you will come along with me.
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Pointing the Way
I thought I would share with you the following, sent to me by my friend Nancy. I think you will find it interesting.
This really exists: Giant Concrete Arrows that point your way across America…
Every so often, usually in the vast deserts of the American Southwest, a hiker or a backpacker will run across something puzzling: a large concrete arrow, as much as seventy feet in length, sitting in the middle of scrub-covered nowhere.
What are these giant arrows? Some kind of surveying mark? Landing beacons for flying saucers? Earth’s turn signals?
There were no good aviation charts in those days, so pilots had to eyeball their way across the country using landmarks. This meant that flying in bad weather was difficult, and night flying was just about impossible.
The Postal Service solved the problem with the world’s first ground-based civilian navigation system: a series of lit beacons that would extend from New York to San Francisco. Every ten miles, pilots would pass a bright yellow concrete arrow. Each arrow would be surmounted by a 51-foot steel tower and lit by a million-candlepower rotating beacon.
(There was a generator shed at the tail of each arrow which powered the beacon.)
Now mail could get from the Atlantic to the Pacific not in a matter of weeks, but in just 30 hours or so.
Even the least informed of air mail pilots, it seems, could follow a series of bright yellow arrows straight out of a Tex Avery cartoon. By 1924, just a year after Congress funded it, the line of giant concrete markers stretched from Rock Springs,Wyoming to Cleveland, Ohio. The next summer, it reached all the way to New York,and by 1929 it spanned the continent uninterrupted, the envy of postal systems worldwide.
Radio and radar are, of course, infinitely less cool than a concrete Yellow Brick Road from sea to shining sea, but we all know how this story ends. New advances in communication and navigation technology made the big arrows obsolete, and the Commerce Department decommissioned the beacons in the 1940’s. The steel towers were torn down and went to the war effort.
But hundreds of arrows remain. Their yellow paint is gone, their concrete cracks a little more with every winter frost, and no one crosses their path much, except for coyotes and tumbleweeds.
But they’re still out there.
On a different subject
I have a completed new painting, part of my aerial portraits of the land. This is based upon New Mexico.
More to come.
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Books by Thomas L. Tribby Available Click on title below to preview
Original Works: Aerial Portraits Of The Land
- Nebraska Oil on canvas 48″ x 38″ SOLD
- Montana Oil on canvas 60″ x 30″ SOLD
For information about these or other original works of art, please feel free to contact us: