Urban Planning Idea Roots

submitted by: H. Roice Nelson, Jr.

Gene Autrey

Red Ant Mound

Urban Planning Idea Roots (Gene Autry, underground city, red ants, working together, urban planning) 1959 H. Roice Nelson, Jr.
I remember going to the Saturday morning serial matinees at the Cedar Theater. The movies would get to a cliff hanger and you had to come back the next week to see if the hero lived. I remember something about Gene Autry and an underground city.
Looking it up on the web it was called The Phantom Empire, and featured the scientific city of Marania. At about the same time there was, I believe, a Boy's Life magazine, which had a story about a boy in the future with a big head who lived in an underground city. When I was alone mending fences, or riding the horse back up above the Upper Pond at Calf Springs Ranch, I could see in my minds eye a city like in Gene Autry's movie, or as described in Boy's Life, built in this little valley. It was hid from the world. There were a lot of people who lived there, and the world did not know the city existed. I started making all kinds of plans for this new city, at least plans in my mind. There are many times I've gone back to those plans in my mind.
Somewhere in this early urban planning were the red ant mounds in Cedar Valley. These mounds are everywhere. I would study them and wonder about what it was like to live inside a mound like that underground. I was amazed about how the ants all worked together. This was long before I knew about fire ants. The ants in Cedar Valley are benign compared to fire ants. I wondered why people could not, or rather, would not, work together the same way the ants did.
I would think about how useful the red ants were to Grandma Nelson. They sorted little rocks into just the right size for chickens to eat. These little rocks sit in the gizzard, a muscular organ in a chicken's digestive tract. Chickens do not have teeth. The small rocks in the gizzard act as a grist mill and grind up the food chickens eat. I remember going with Grandma to the ant mounds and collected buckets of these rocks to put in with the chicken feed in Grandma's chicken coops. I liked to break down the mounds and would spend hours watching the ants rebuild the mounds. Kids do not have a chance to experience and think about like this today.