By John Mattingly

We don’t choose our family – not in the same way we find best friends.

There are some who believe we do choose our family by way of interbreeding during past lives, or by subtle shifts in the fifth membrane of the universe, or through a vibrational command of DNA polymerase.

But, based on a preponderance of personal evidence, I conclude that I did not choose my family. It was a random outcome that I was born. And though speculations to the contrary have modest appeal from time to time, I’m sticking with the conclusion that my family is a chance assembly of folks, some of whom I would love or be friends with even if I had met them as strangers, and some of whom I have to wonder if we actually share a genetic history of any consequence.

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By Polly Oberosler

My paternal grandfather, John Sherman Moses Cranor, born in 1864, was a sixth-generation American and worked at whatever he could to make a living, as did most during his time. In doing so, he inadvertently schooled his five children in lessons of resourcefulness, honesty and hard work that they soon needed. My grandmother died in the 1918 flu epidemic, and they were virtually on their own quite prematurely.

Those young people were the movers and shakers of a generation of Americans unparalleled in history. They came from the era of the horse and buggy, yet crossed the lines and adapted to the most accelerated portion of industrial expansion. They absorbed incredible knowledge and savvy about anything or any piece of equipment as it was manufactured and put to use in the fields, on the dam projects or on the highways.

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Dry Times in the High Desert: The Hill Ranch

By Ron Sering

Rights to irrigate the area known today as Hill Ranch predate Chaffee County by more than a decade. Decreed in 1868, the rights permitted diversion of water for agriculture and ranching. And so it remained for more than a century, even after sale of the rights by the Hill family to Western Water Rights Limited Liability Partnership in 1986.

That all changed with the subsequent sale of the rights to the Pueblo West Metropolitan District (PWMD) in 2008. The PWMD, home to nearly 30,000 thirsty people, needed the rights to fuel a growth rate that remains among the fastest in the state. The rights are significant, totaling nearly 1,900 acre feet of water. An acre foot totals nearly 326,000 gallons. Under the decree, the rights would convert from agricultural to municipal. Included in the terms was the cessation of irrigation activities. The land would be dried up and restored to its pre-irrigation state.

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By Abby Quillen

My four-year-old son Ezra takes a bite of his toast. “What happens when we die?” he asks after he swallows.

I stare at my coffee. “I don’t know.”

“Grandpa knows,” Ezra says.

I nod. We’ve had this conversation quite a few times in the six months since my dad died. It’s like a skipping record, the same question again and again.

“Do you want to hear a story about Grandpa?” I ask.

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By E.J. Phillips

I reach up a wee bit higher, first with one hand, then the other, clinging to the round, gritty surface. My arms spread out and fingers grasp tight. Inch by inch I scale the rock until I reach a small scooped-out hollow carved by wind and rain. I wiggle into the little nook, then turn and peer carefully over the edge to see how high I have climbed. Cautiously I creep up a few more steps until I stand on top of a giant boulder. It is like a gray stone fortress, standing guard over the arroyo stretching beneath me.

My grandparents called this place Bear Gulch. Located in southern Colorado, this gully-ridden, jagged mountainside was dotted with straggly cedar trees that struggled to stay alive.  Covered with smooth rocks, sharp-edged rocks, little rocks and big rocks, it was a place where big black bears and little brown bears once roamed, built their homes, and hid their young.

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Browns Canyon on the Big Screen

After years of on-the-ground research and action that stretched all the way from the rapids of the Arkansas River to Washington D.C., the Friends of Browns Canyon (FOBC), a local nonprofit group, still needed an effective way to tout the landscape and allure of Browns Canyon, which lies between Buena Vista and Salida.

They’d made great progress on the effort, particularly with help of photographer John Fielder, who donated his time to create beautiful images of the proposed wilderness area. They also captured the attention of Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, who has visited the Browns Canyon area several times.

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Mrs. Caroline Kipling in Salida

By Mike Rosso

One of Salida’s early residents went on to become the wife of a well-known author as well as a tragic and controversial figure herself.

In the summer of 1884, Caroline Starr Balestier, aged 21, moved to Salida from New England with her brother Wolcott, then a promising young author. Wolcott had been impressed with Colorado from an earlier visit and was returning with his sister. She had a friend in Salida, Miss Amy Graves, whom ”Carrie,” as friends called Caroline, had met at an Eastern school.

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The Elephant in the Parlor

By Virginia McConnell Simmons

While I was reading about African elephants, I wondered about certain differences and resemblances between elephant and human families.

In Louisa May Alcott’s well-known Little Women, Marmee goes on at Orchard House, wisely and gently tending to her brood while Father is far away doing man things. Anthropologists would call Marmee’s family matrilocal – a mother with her own children – although Father does return happily in Alcott’s story, thus making it a conjugal or nuclear family in the end.

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Families in Nature

By Tina Mitchell

Every weekend from mid-March through early August, you’ll find me checking more than 100 nestboxes on our 39 acres in western Fremont County. Remember that scorching, enervating, record-breaking heat of last summer? Yep, I was out there, on foot, each Friday and Saturday afternoon, sweating, plodding – and having a grand time. Why? Monitoring nestboxes affords me glimpses of bird families in the thick of raising their young. If all goes according to plan, for a few weeks each summer two parents spend every minute of daylight protecting their young and delivering protein-rich insect meals to their offspring multiple times an hour. And I get to watch.

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In the Strangest of Places

By Eduardo Rey Brummel

Even though it’s commonplace for me to be in bewonderment over the ways I find myself connected to this town, I still have difficulty not constantly calculating my cost to others. You could blame my upbringing. Dad made it a point to tell people, “I would have finished college, but I ran outta money, I ran outta smart-sauce, and I had him.”

A major factor leading me to move here was the hope that I’d be enfolded into this community. With my small-town roots and outdoorsy lifestyle, I thought the locals would quickly take me in as one of their own. Instead, the first nine months was the darkest, loneliest period of my life. Instead of welcoming me, as they had during each of my visits, residents were now keeping me at a distance.

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News from the San Luis Valley

By Patty LaTaille

Solar Damages?

Is Ron Briggs in a position to claim property damages due to Saguache County’s decision to permit California-based SolarReserve to build a concentrated solar power planet directly across from his property north of Center? Saguache County courts are willing to consider his case against the county, and it could be on its way to trial.

Attorney Jessica Muzzio, representing Saguache County, has filed a motion to dismiss, claiming Briggs is not entitled to the $7,500 in damages he is seeking on the basis of the county’s sovereign immunity and his failure to file a complaint in district court within 28 days of the re-zoning decision. The county authorized the SolarReserve 1041 permit on April 3.

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Regional News

Uranium Mine on the Horizon?

Western Fremont County might become the site of multiple uranium mines if the price reaches a profitable threshold, according to The Mountain Mail.

Black Range Minerals Colorado owns the mineral rights to 13,500 acres on the Hansen site, which contains one of the largest deposits of triuranium octoxide ore, approximately 90 million pounds. The 13,500-acre site is located northeast of Cotopaxi, along Tallahassee Creek. Officials with Black Range have dubbed the site the Taylor Ranch Uranium Project.

Worldwide demand for uranium is on the increase and if prices reach $70 a pound Black Range hopes to begin borehole mining. Prices are currently $45 a pound. Permitting for the operation through multiple U.S., state and local agencies, could take up to three years.

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Regional News

Region Spared Flooding

Despite the ravaging floods in Colorado’s Front Range foothills, the central Colorado region was spared the devastation but did receive large amounts of precipitation.

As of Sept. 26, Salida received three inches of rain for the month, compared to an average of 0.89 inches. In Gunnison, 2.41 inches had fallen as of Sept. 26, compared to a two-decade average of 1.3 inches.

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