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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