From the Editor

Salida, Colorado is the highest, driest, coldest, windiest and probably, based on per capita income, the poorest place I’ve ever lived.

So, how the heck did I end up here anyway?

Partly it was because, unlike many other mountain communities in Colorado, I was actually able to afford to buy a house in town after moving here from Durango in the Fall of 2001. Colorado’s more desirable zip codes were quickly being priced out of proportion to the average income base. Durango among them.

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Regional News Roundup

November 2010 Election Results

Denver Mayor and brewpub owner John Hickenlooper beat out Republican Dan Maes and Tom Tancredo, who ran on the American Constitution Party ticket, to become the next governor of Colorado.

Maes, a tea party favorite won only 11 percent of the vote, while Tancredo, who entered the race with an ultimatum to Maes and his primary opponent, Scott McInnis, to get out of the race if either were trailing Hickenlooper in the polls the day after the Republican primary, won 37% of the vote. Hickenlooper will be succeeding Gov. Bill Ritter who chose not to run for a second term.

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The Costs of Altitude

Aerial view of Mt.Ouray and Mt. Chipeta, Colorado by Dan Downing.

By Ed Quillen

If the United States had adopted the metric system in 1820, then Colorado’s highest country might be in better condition today with much less in the way of trail erosion, trampled tundra and disturbed wildlife.

Why 1820? The metric system had been devised by the French Academy of Sciences in 1795, so by 1820, Americans certainly knew about it. And 1820 marked the first recorded climb of a 14,000-foot peak in America.

Consider that “4,267.21-meter summit” lacks the resonance and romance of “14,000-foot peak” or just “Fourteener.” And without that arbitrary line in the sky, few of Colorado’s 54 Fourteeners would suffer the traffic they bear today.

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The Divine Comedy: Post-modern Style

By Martha Quillen

When Dante Alighieri produced his epic poem, “The Divine Comedy,” it was dubbed Dante’s “Commedia,” not because it was supposed to be funny, but because in medieval times a “comedy” was a story with a happy ending.

Over the centuries, our definition of comedy expanded to include jokes, satire, and slapstick – along with the burlesque, the ludicrous, and the inane. Now, events of any sort tend to inspire comedy – although not always intentionally.

Take the U.S. House of Representatives, for example.

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Good Intentions

By Susan Tweit

I think of this time of year as the contemplative season: the days are shorter and life slows down in preparation for winter. I haven’t had much reflective time lately, and I feel the lack of quiet, time to just be, to listen to the “small, still voice” of my spirit and to my heart’s connection to the land and to life itself.

I wonder if I’ve been avoiding the stillness. When life is overwhelming and the news is consistently not good, busyness can be a very effective way to stay numb. My intention is to be present though.

So I’ve resolved to refocus my life in a quieter, less frenzied way. As a start to that, I spent some time tidying the informal “altars” (pronounced the Spanish way, with the accent on the second syllable, as in “all-TARZ”) in my office.

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News from the San Luis Valley

By Patty LaTaille

Waste Not …

Lawsuits have been filed against the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in regards to the transfer of nuclear waste in onto railroad cars in Antonito, within 100 yards from a tributary to the Rio Grande River.

The Conejos County Clean Water, Inc., and San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council, along with Santa Fe-based Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety are requesting a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) study.

“A Dream Come True” Airport Expansion

The new runway at the Astronaut Kent Rominger Airport in Del Norte is being celebrated as a lifesaver for patients at the Rio Grande Hospital. The access to airlift and emergency care is a great asset to the Del Norte community.

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Book Review

Wild Burro Tales: Thirty Years of Haulin’ Ass

By Hal Walter
Out There Publishing, 2010

Reviewed by Teresa Cutler-Broyles

“Hang on. Don’t let go.”

So Hal Walter tells us in Wild Burro Tales, his wonderful new collection that takes us on a wild ride through the exciting and overlooked sport of pack-burro racing, and his life with the creatures that give it all meaning.

At first glance the book appears to be, simply, about burros and the relatively obscure and unusual sport of running marathon distances partnered with an animal not known for its cooperative nature. Indeed, the stories – 19 in all, punctuated with brief asides that take on a life of their own in their ability to hit hard – are ostensibly about Walter’s experiences with pack-burro racing and the people and animals who make the sport what it is. For anyone interested in knowing the facts – where pack-burro racing originated, why it continues today, what sorts of skills and hardships are encompassed – Wild Burro Tales certainly delivers. And Walter touches on Wild West legend as well as hard 20th century reality as he opens that world for us.

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Energy Matters: Financing your Solar Dream

by Dave Beaulieu

When people learn that I work in the solar industry they like to pick my brain about the evolving technology. The conversation always gets around what it costs to go solar. I attribute this curiosity to the widespread media coverage of going “green” and a newfound awareness of the importance of energy independence. With the current focus on sustainability, I find that most people want to take responsibility for their energy use and make steps toward their family’s energy independence. For many, this goal appears out of reach due to the high initial cost of installing photovoltaics (PV). With solar running between $5.00 and $6.00 per watt-installed locally, and the average home requiring about 4,000 watts of power, upfront costs can be daunting. Nevertheless, you can see a substantial savings thanks to utility rebates, state government incentives, federal tax credits and some innovative financing. Those solar dreams can be made real if you do your homework.

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Book Review

Historic Photos of  Heroes of the Old West
Text and captions by Mike Cox
Turner Publishing Company, 2010
ISBN: 9781596525689

Reviewed by Elliot Jackson

The title of this handsome coffee-table book tells you almost everything you need to know about what you will find inside: yet for every photo of a traditional “hero” or villain (Wyatt Earp, George Custer, hanging judges, stolid Indians), there is a photo that chronicles a lesser-known thread in the story: Ann Eliza Webb Young, for example, one of the wives of Mormon leader Brigham Young, who spoke out against polygamy in her book, “Wife No. 19”; or Nat Love, a black cowboy born into slavery, who wrote his autobiography. There are also fascinating group shots: a group of men huddles around a faro table in one; the company of Troop C, Fifth Cavalry, which was charged with keeping the peace and throwing out squatters in Oklahoma Territory, stares out from another. All the photos are accompanied by captions by author Mike Cox, who also provides short introductory essays for each chapter.

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Cleanup time at the Terrible Mine

By Hal Walter

Local historians say Ilse (pronounced “Ill-see” or “Ill-seh”) was a bustling little community in the late 1800s and early 1900s, with a number of area residents ranching, farming as well as working at the Terrible Mine, where lead was extracted and milled.

According to R.B. Brinsmade, a turn-of-the-century professor of mining engineering, the mine on the bank of Oak Creek produced about 250,000 tons of ore between 1880 and 1907. The lead was freighted out of the Wet Mountains by horse-drawn wagons.

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Down on the Ground with the Zombieconomy

By George Sibley

I’m writing in the wake of the election of 2010. Old stuff, you’re thinking, but be assured I am not going to spend much time there. The election strikes me as just one of those surface manifestations of something bigger going on – like the recent volcano-earthquake-tsunami in Indonesia reminds us that we are all adrift on big rafts of stone on a sea of magma.

So what is going on tectonically underneath the volcanic chaos of something like election 2010? On the surface, it seems clear that the Democrats went down because they couldn’t revive the economy they had inherited, so it only made sense. American political sense, that is – to give the mess back to the party that had worked thirty years to create it.

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Snowshoe Racing; What are those people thinking?

by “Dr. Daddyo”

They returned as they had left – in a fury. Snow flew from their oddly shod feet, grunts of semi-verbal communication noted both pain and pleasure as the multicolored herd rounded a final curve. It was a sight not likely to be forgotten. This mass of muscle, determination and sweat had finished five miles of what some might consider a form of self abuse on a day worthy of hot toddies and warm fires.

Welcome to the world of snowshoe racing.

Out here at our middle and high schools, Fall is cross-country running season. Yes, there are some other sports you might have of heard of more often but for many they are not, shall we say, their cup ‘o tea. Not all are enamored with ‘gang’ sports where a cup and a mouth guard are standard attire. Some prefer solitary success or failure.

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Who Says We’re Lost?

by Scot Rasor

Like a lot of men, I take great pride in my sense of direction when in the great outdoors. Whether hiking, camping or boating, consider me your go-to guy for getting back safe and sound. I often brag that you can place me in the middle of the woods, on the darkest of all moonless nights, and I will be able to find my way back to any designated trailhead without fail! Mind you, this is not some idle boasting, but a proven fact. My wife can attest to this inspired talent after several vacations in Colorado when, without map or compass, I unerringly delivered us back to our car without following the same trail or taking direction from any existing trail markers. It has always been my humble opinion that Lewis and Clark would have finished their journey in half the time if they had me along to point the way.

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The Caboose

by Forrest Whitman

Come Ride a Santa Train

A few older readers of Colorado Central may remember the Santa trains coming to Salida when they were kids. For many years the Rio Grande R. R. pulled a special caboose into the Salida yards covered in green fir boughs and candy canes (see this month’s cover). Santa waved from the back platform and then proceeded to give out lots of candy supplied by local service clubs. My own kids can remember something of the same sort happening at Union Station in Denver when the D & R.G.W. gave Santa a free ride into town. That Santa even had his own little house set up in the main waiting room. The D.&. R.G.W. has disappeared in railroad blues, but Santa is still very much alive. Kids of all ages can still ride some fine Colorado Santa trains to meet the jolly old elf in 2010. Adults like it too.

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Farm as Solar Collector: Part 2

By John Mattingly

Last month, I waved goodbye to my last commentary column by saying:

But why should farmers get higher prices for their crops? Isn’t food already expensive enough? That good loaf of bread that used to cost a buck is now crowding six. What if I told you that loaf should really cost you a twenty?

Next month, I’ll discuss why higher commodity (and thus food) prices are not only inevitable, but necessary.

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Water Update

by John Orr

Forecasting water year 2011

November 1 is the usual start of the water year here in Colorado, although some – including the the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – say it starts on October 1. That said, by the time December rolls around the new water year has started, irrigation is mostly off, except for livestock and some farmers that like to ice their meadows heading into the winter.

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Excerpts from ‘Around Monarch Pass’

Author Duane Vandenbusche, a professor of history at Western State College in Gunnison since 1962, is the author of several books on the Gunnison Country and Western Colorado. Until 2007, he doubled as a cross-country coach at the college, where his men’s and women’s teams won 12 national championships and produced three Olympians. In this volume, photographs gathered from libraries, museums, private collections, and old-timers – many of them previously unpublished – bring the rich history of Monarch Country alive.

We have been given permission to publish excerpts from the book for you here. Dr. Vandenbusche will be giving a presentation about Monarch Pass at the Salida SteamPlant on December 11 at 6:00 p.m. All are welcome to attend.

Photos and text reprinted with permission from “Around Monarch Pass,” by Duane Vandenbusche. Available from the publisher online at or by calling (888) 313-2665.

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Election Season Blues

By Ed Quillen

In ways, I miss the old-fashioned Election Day. Our precinct polling place was across the street from our house, and I work at home. I’d look out the front window, and when I didn’t see many cars parked, I knew there wouldn’t be much of a line.

Now we have “voting centers,” and ours is four blocks away, too far for easy traffic observation. So it’s easier just to vote early, which makes the whole concept of Election Day rather meaningless. It’s more like “Election Season.”

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Letters to the Editor

The Representatives We Deserve

To the Editor:

On the Martha Quillen article (October 2010): Years ago when I lived in Jefferson County, I supported Don Brotzman. At one event I went to in the late 60s or early 70s, he said studies have shown an electorate gets the kind of government it deserves. Obviously he said this in a kidding manner, but I think there’s a little more truth to it than I first thought.

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Historic Architecture of Central Colorado

This two-story, T-shaped building is situated in the center of Poncha Springs directly across from the town park.? Large cottonwood trees, purportedly planted in 1879, frame the front elevation.? The building is faced with red brick made at the Salida Brickyard and hauled by wagon to the site. The cross gable metal roof has wooden brackets supporting the wide overhanging eaves and a bell tower with a concave roof profile.

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A Farmer Far Afield – Farm as Solar Collector

By John Mattingly

Back in the late fall of 1976, I traveled down to Springfield, Colorado to participate in the Farmer’s Strike.

I’d started farming in the late 60s when the markets got really good, especially in 1973 after the first Oil Embargo when commodity prices reached record high levels. When commodity prices fell off precipitously in 1976, I was all for letting the world know it was wrong.

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Statehouse Update

By Candice Geier

Uplifting the Recession

Despite the recession, Colorado is still placing high in economic growth when compared to other states, according to CNBC and Forbes Magazine.

According to Forbes, Colorado is fourth in the nation for fostering businesses and economic growth.

“Even in this tough economy, Colorado has remained aggressive, disciplined and focused when it comes to supporting businesses and encouraging economic growth,” Governor Ritter said in a press release from the State House.

The press release stated that because of Colorado’s New Energy Economy, tax cuts for small businesses and investments in employee training have helped keep the state competitive.

According to CNBC, Colorado is third best place in the nation to do business. It took the second spot for quality of life and is the fourth friendliest state. Its economy came in at number eight.

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Energy Matters: SOS: Schools on Solar

by Michael Brown

There is an SOS coming from communities across the nation: Save Our Schools. With the rise of new financing tools like power purchase agreements (PPAs) and the right support from the public and politicians, we believe we have an answer: Schools On Solar.

Schools nationwide are in dire fiscal straits and have been forced to make hard financial decisions to stay afloat – usually by shutting down an increasingly comprehensive list of classes, skimping on materials and shutting down operations.

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Down on the Ground with the Ecology of Fear

By George Sibley

Cruising into election time, I find myself thinking about wolves. And fear.

I have been following, in a layman’s way, the wolf restoration project in the northern Rockies. One thing I’ve learned is that wolf restoration is credited with restoring the unraveling valley ecosystem in and around Yellowstone National Park. Without going into details, this is mainly due to the way the wolves have shaped the elk herds. Without the wolves, their main natural predator, the elk had not only over-populated the valleys, but had also become fat and lazy “meadow potatoes” (Dave Foreman’s term), loafing around the valley floors trashing the vegetation foundation to any ecosystem.

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Restaurant Review

Alfonso’s Real Mexican Food
2801 East Main Street
Canon City, CO 81212
(719) 276-0186

Driving through Cañon City on U.S. Hwy 50 it is easy to miss one of the best taquerías in Central Colorado. That’s because it is located inside a Conoco mini-mart off a frontage road on the southeast side of town and takes a bit of searching to locate if you don’t know your way around.

We call it a taquería, but it is much more than that. The menu is vast and the food is prepared quickly. If you are looking for fish tacos, shrimp burritos, mulita, carne asada fries or a chimichanga to take with you on the road or enjoy in the dining room/ mini- mart, you definitely want to give them a try.

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Book Review: The Book of John

The Book of John, By Kate Niles

O-Books, paperback, 225 pages
ISBN-10: 1846942918
ISBN-13: 978-1846942914

Reviewed by Annie Dawid

Surely we are all autistic at some level, in some place in our hearts? Living in this country, with its glamour and malls, its stream of cars, its TV and competition, is like battering yourself against a sea wall, time and again. How do you not retreat into a world of your own in the face of that?

John Gregory Wayne Thompson, eponymous hero of Kate Niles’s second novel, ponders thus in the first chapter of this exquisitely-rendered journey of one man’s soul, from the deserts of Southwest Colorado to the cold beaches of Neah Bay in the Pacific Northwest, tracking his life and loves like an archeologist mapping our collective history.

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The Imagery of Charles Frizzell

Frizzell, Shaman

What would be the best course of action when the director of the art department at your college informs you just prior to graduation that you will never make it as an artist? That you are too “scattered?”

In the case of artist Charles Frizzell, he chose to ignore her admonition and went on to have a successful and rewarding career as a working artist despite that lack of endorsement.

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Lines in the sand

by Virginia McConnell Simmons

At times, people like to feel assured that some things will never change. For instance, God’s in his heaven, the Big Dipper points north, and if you go east or west on the 39th parallel, you can take a swim somewhere around the Mediterranean Sea or fry an egg on a rock in Death Valley. Unless you are picky, and geographers do tend to be picky.

Take the 37th parallel north for instance. For 146 years this parallel has been a border running 761 miles between Kansas and Oklahoma, Colorado and New Mexico, and Utah and Arizona, but in 2009 the line was moved 365 feet south. Saving state legislatures and assessors’ offices a lot of trouble, the state line now is N 36?59.939. Whether the bronze disk marking the Four Corners will be moved remains to be seen.

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Tales from the Road

By Mark Kneeskern

“There was a train wreck in Tiny Town today.”

This was said in a serious voice. Laughter bubbles up in my throat as I picture a bunch of fat tourists perched on a toy train which slowly tips over. I hear people were actually hurt, but no one died, so couldn’t we have a tiny chuckle at their expense? I received this breaking news from Allen, who pilots his Chevy pickup East on Route 7. Allen is an aircraft mechanic who works on big jets at Denver International Airport.

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Star Light, Star Not-So-Bright

By Susan Tweit

It’s fall, and as the days shorten, I miss the sunlight, but I revel in the chance to star-gaze. Long nights combine with our clear, dry high-country air to provide perfect conditions for viewing the night sky.

Just before going to bed this time of year, Richard and I slip outside and turn our heads to the sky, searching for the dazzling river of the Milky Way, picking out the planets and their progression, and identifying the dot-to-dot patterns of the constellations.

Sadly, light pollution has erased the once-ordinary view of the stars in most cities and urban areas; even in uncrowded rural landscapes, badly-placed yard or security lights can blot out neighbors’ view of the night sky.

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There’s something in the water, Part 2

By Hal Walter

The sobering test results indicating our well water contains high levels of lead and nitrates, as well as E. coli and coliform bacteria, raised more questions than answers.

While lead seemed the most alarming concern, nitrates were another puzzle. Generally nitrates are found in areas where high levels of chemical fertilizers are used in agriculture. They also can be present as a by-product of bacteria.

But the presence of bacteria itself was also a puzzle. Over the years we have tested for bacteria several times. All of the previous bacteria tests were negative.

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Cottonwood, Sherrie York, linocut

by Jacque Fisher

The ancient cottonwood had stood alone for a century or more on the valley floor, its roots pushing deep into the arid soil in search of water. The venerable tree had weathered drought, storms, and time. Anchored to the earth, it stood as a solitary sentinel, greeting passersby for decades and outliving them. Perhaps the Utes had paused beneath its shade and blended their soft voices with the dry rattle of gray-green leaves. Maybe a farmer, tired from the morning’s plowing, had sought the coolness the expansive tree offered and eaten his lunch in the cottonwood’s company. Red-tailed hawks, hungry and sharp-eyed, had perched imperiously on the great tree’s outstretched arms, waiting patiently for the next mouse or rabbit whose belly was full of the warm sweet grass that sprang from the same hidden source as its towering cousin.

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Dissecting Prop. 101 and Amendments 60 and 61

by Jeff Donlan

What do you do with the anger of others? It’s hard not to get angry back. There may be a lesson in that, but when face-to-face with rage, what do you do? In this case, you vote.

You vote No on the jumble of angry anti-tax, anti-public-sector measures contained in Proposition 101 and Amendments 60 and 61.

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How bad can it be?

by John Mattingly

What’s the big political issue of the day?

“It’s The Economy, stupid.” – a phrase used by Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign against George H.W. Bush.

But what is The Economy? As my previous three articles that touched the elusive hide of the economic elephant should indicate, I haven’t the foggiest idea what politicians, talking heads, experts, analysts, and especially economists mean when they force these two words together.

When we talk about The Economy, we’re usually talking about our favorite person, ourselves. We tend to compare our present situation to more favorable times or situations in the past. We seldom compare ourselves to desperate times, with the notable exception of a few old timers who lived through the Great Depression. Those folks have perspective, but they are a dwindling minority, now being somewhere north of their 80s. And when was the last time an octogenarian ran for office, wrote an economic non-fiction best seller, or appeared on CNBC?

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About Those Sponsors …

The sponsors of Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101, also known as the “Dr. Evil Initiatives,” had to endure some uncomfortable questioning as well as fines after it was discovered they may have had ties to TABOR author Doug Bruce who has denied any hand in the budget-strangling measures.

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From the Editor

The hard drive on my computer decided to call it quits early this September and boy, was I relieved.

For the less tech-savvy readers the hard drive basically stores all the data on the computer, which in our case includes advertisements, current and past articles, back and current issues, graphics, photos, etc. – basically everything a publisher needs to produce a magazine. In addition, the hard drive stores the application programs – the tools actually needed for the layout and design of this magazine. Hard drives are not invincible and can cause catastrophic results when they break down. Data is irretrievably lost, production schedules grind to a halt, and the machine is rendered virtually useless.

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Bat Masterson; Buena Vista Marshal? Part 2

by Charles F. Price

The murder of Buena Vista Policeman Tom Perkins and the fate of his killer William H. Canty made big news around Colorado. The Boulder News and Courier reported on May 14, 1880 that when the train bearing Canty to Denver reached Como, “a gang of men appeared” bent on releasing him. However, “the officers … stood their guard and declared that the prisoner should die before they gave him up” and the “would-be rescuers desisted.” Canty later made a desperate effort to escape through a car window and when prevented by officers cursed and declared “he was a highwayman and a murderer, and that he made a business of it.” If Masterson was one of those guarding Canty, the news accounts of the time fail to mention him.

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Politics 2010: Gunning for One Another

By Martha Quillen

I vaguely remember a time when politicians shook hands and held babies; when they promised us better roads, schools, and lives. But it’s been a long time. Now they’re promising to “take out Harry Reid,” “take back America,” and repeal the fourteenth Amendment.”

Currently, Republicans are eagerly campaigning to reduce government budgets – no matter what those budgets are for. In Colorado, Proposition 101 and Amendments 60 and 61 threaten to slash funds for schools, prisons, libraries, hospitals, medical programs, road maintenance, water treatment, county offices, and much, much more.

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“Luck” Takes Hard Work

By Susan Tweit

“You are so lucky,” wrote a reader in response to one of my recent columns. “Most people don’t live life in the full way you do.”

My initial response was cranky.

It’s hard to see the “lucky” in Richard’s brain cancer, and his second brain surgery in the past eleven months. (And in the radiation and intensive chemotherapy he weathered in between the two surgeries.) It’s very hard to see the lucky in the pathology report on the latest tumors: Grade 4, as bad as brain cancer gets, with a prognosis I have no wish to invoke.

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