In the late spring of 1939, Weldon Kees, his wife Ann, and his parents, John and Sarah—called “Sadie”—traveled to San Francisco from Denver, Colorado. They stayed in one of the cabins at the H Bar G Ranch in the western part of the state before driving through Utah. Stopping in Salt Lake City, Kees hoped to meet Ray B. West, the editor of Rocky Mountain Review, but settled for an awkward meeting with George Snell, a radio station executive who had written three novels during the 1930s. The Kees party then drove on to Austin, Nevada, which had once been a thriving mining town in the nineteenth century.
Kees attempted to keep a “Journal of a Trip” that began ambitiously, as though he intended to record the entire trip in detail, with a special emphasis on observing his mother. But only the following passage for June 17, 1939, is “complete.” Evidently, the “American scene” and the mother exhausted the poet’s interest like the nearly abandoned town’s silver. The rest of the journal consists of short observations made back in Denver, where Kees lived at the time.
We have passed the Salt Lake, with a few limp-winged gulls wheeling, the huge mountains, covered with snow that fell last night, looking ghostly and unreal and somehow sinister in the rain and mist, the clouds dissolving into their peaks . . . This morning we woke up with the steady rain slanting against the hotel windows, miles of trees that gave the impression of foliage in good time: the combination dancehall and garage gloomy and drab.