The Wind Trap

By Joyce Gregor, Westcliffe, CO The cabin door blew open. I entered, invited by the wind who had forced its way in, through cracks and broken windows. We stood there, the wind and I, engaged in airy chatter. The wind had reveled here before, now it was my turn to view the decor. Breezed through …

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The Legend of Treasure Mountain

By Mary Cornum

There are many rumors and legends surrounding a vast discovery of gold by French explorers near Summitville, Colorado, in the late 1700s.
With approximately 300 men and 450 horses plus supplies, an expedition of Frenchmen, based in New Orleans, reportedly left an outpost near present-day Leavenworth, Kansas, bound for the Rocky Mountains in search of precious metals.

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The Crowded Acre: Butter and Waffles

I think I’m gaining ground. In the early days, my request for a house pig would have simply been ignored. Along with my ideas of owning goats and cows and chickens and ponies, it might have even been scoffed at. I think the initial resistance was due to the fact that my husband didn’t really want any animals, likely due to the fact that he had never really had any animals. I, on the other hand, can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have any animals. In just over a decade together, we have grown a family, built a farm, lived in a yurt, turned a school bus into a food truck, and loved every minute of it. It just seems logical that the next phase of our relationship will be “house pig” … at least to one of us, that is.

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The Real Deal Music Review: SHEL Just Crazy Enough

By Brian Rill

SHEL – Just Crazy Enough

The 19th century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche prefaced his book The Will To Power with this line, “Of what is great one must either be silent or speak with greatness, that means cynically and with innocence.” I will attempt to relate honestly the virtue of music amidst my own opinions in order to set free for the listener the product’s appeal and cultural relevance. Discovering pathos within modernity can be a difficult task, but within the right hymns sometimes there are steps that lead us to hope. Not outside the advent of SHEL’s present work lives this new faith.

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Water Update

By John Orr

November Election Recap

Normally this column deals with water issues and water folks in Central Colorado, but in the aftermath of the weirdest election season in my lifetime this iteration will take on a statewide and national flavor.

Del Norte rancher Travis Smith, currently serving on the Colorado Water Conservation Board, likes to remind folks in the water business, that “We are more connected than we’d like to admit.”

With all the uncertainty before us, is it possible to glean some idea of the effects the voters have wrought upon themselves?

President-elect Trump is rumored to be about to install a non-scientist, Myron Ebell, as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Mr. Ebell has spoken out against the “hoax” of global warming, and many hail his ascension as necessary to clip the wings of a federal government run wild under President Obama.

Martha Henriques writes in The International Business Times, “Climate deniers have been on the sidelines for years. What will happen now they’re in charge?”

A lot will happen no matter who is in power. Chris Mooney writes in The Washington Post:

“It’s polar night there now – the sun isn’t rising in much of the Arctic. That’s when the Arctic is supposed to get super-cold, when the sea ice that covers the vast Arctic Ocean is supposed to grow and thicken.

“But in fall of 2016 – which has been a zany year for the region, with multiple records set for low levels of monthly sea ice – something is totally off. The Arctic is super-hot, even as a vast area of cold polar air has been displaced over Siberia.”

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Private Property: Mt. Shavano Summit Riddled with Mining Claims

By Maisie Ramsay

The entire summit of Mount Shavano, in the Sawatch Range, is located on private property, but not of the “trespassers will be shot” variety.

There are no fences. There are no signs. Save for a cairn and a couple of weather-beaten survey posts, there’s nothing to indicate that the entire summit block is composed of private mining claims – except, perhaps, the poor condition of the trail.

Private, high-elevation mining claims have precluded the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) from restoring the path to Shavano’s summit, leaving the route to degrade steadily with each passing year.

The Colorado Fourteeners Initiative (CFI) has come up with a novel solution to this problem: buy the mining claims and give them to the Forest Service.

“Shavano was a high priority for the agency, but was stuck behind the private land inholdings,” said Lloyd Athearn, executive director for the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative. “I put together a proposal on Shavano to investigate who owns the lands and acquire them, whatever was necessary to build the trail.”

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George Sibley: Down on the Ground Trumped and Stumped

Things may be settling out a bit by the time you read this. All the cheers and jeers over the election, the anger in “Not My President” and “Build The Wall” rallies here and there, the stock market rollercoaster, the warnings and pleas from leaders around the world, and so on. All of that now settles into a hiatus like the runup to some kind of cross between chess and poker, as Trump begins lining up his pieces for the transition and his opponents start lining up the countering pieces. We’ll see who is bluffing as we move into the first hundred days of the future.
Was Trump’s victory truly a surprise? I will say that I didn’t really believe it would happen, but I also had a creeping feeling about the election from the moment that our English cousins voted to leave the European Union – no more illusions there about “Great Britain,” I guess. It felt like a preview for the morning-after headline in the New York Times: “Donald Trump is Elected President in Stunning Repudiation of the Establishment.” I guess when confronted with really hard realities, “stunning repudiations” are the equivalent of the “denial” stage in the grieving process.
Last month I wrote here about the nature – no, the culture – of democracy in a complex, technologically advanced mass society. Such societies are run, of necessity, by elites who know how to build, operate, manage and maintain the vast systems that provide the food, water, power, fuels and everything else we need to support “civilization as we know it.” It’s a system that works in part because no single elite can do it all; the private and public management teams, the scientists, the technicians, the creatives and innovators, the financiers, the lawmakers and lawyers, the media disseminators – all depend on other elites themselves, both in their work and in their daily lives.

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Quillen’s Corner: Are Our Political Leaders Leading Us Astray?

By Martha Quillen

Surprise! The November 8 election delivered a shocker, not just to Democrats, but probably even to Donald Trump himself. From the beginning of the 2016 season, Trump was the candidate whom reporters noticed. Even when Hillary Clinton was deemed the presumptive winner, Trump was the media star. Pundits and pollsters kept saying Trump’s chances were almost nil, but Trump won.
Afterward protesters marched in the streets. Then some citizens urged Electoral College participants to overturn his victory, and I was astounded. What would happen if they actually succeeded? Riots? Shootings? Pandemonium?
The answer is obvious, because subverting and repressing other people’s rights, opinions and votes is nothing new. Districts are gerrymandered. Polling places get shut down. Complainants are shunned, booed and heckled at public meetings. Drifters, minorities and street people are harassed because they look different. And America’s poor, homeless and unemployed frequently get disparaged by national and local governments and citizens alike.
Violence is common in our society. So I suspect our first priority today should not be to attack our opponents or ignore their concerns. We’ve been doing that for decades, and it has clearly made things worse.
Our current level of distrust is alarming. This season, I’ve heard perfectly sane citizens say there’s undeniable proof that the Clintons killed Vince Foster and that Foster wasn’t their only victim. I’ve heard all about how Hillary Clinton planned to put gun owners in concentration camps, and how Trump was going to round up and torture immigrants and Muslims. And I’ve heard about how both Clinton and Trump planned to plunder the public monies.
And since the election? I’ve heard tales about Chicano kids who have been so traumatized by Trump’s victory that schools have sent them home to assure them that their parents hadn’t already been deported. I’ve likewise heard stories about Islamic children who can’t be lured out of their homes.

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John Mattingly: The Tale of Dingdoggy

By John Mattingly

An old yellow dog named Dingdoggy came from fortunate breeding and circumstance. His daddy, Dongdaddy, had been a well-cut dog with excellent cunning who ate well, accumulated an enormous number of bones, lived large with attractive bitches, and worried little about necessities. In short, Dongdaddy mastered his masters, for the most part. They occasionally spanked him with a newspaper, but that did not stop him from teaching his son, Dingdoggy, the ways of big-league dogliness, which went back to grandfather doggy, Drumpfdog. The Drumpfdog line were purebreds who, to be honest, dominated at dog shows where young Dingdoggy learned that he could chin, snag and even mount female dogs at dog shows, without them being in heat, an opportunity and privilege afforded by his heritage, and his huge and growing status among show hounds and assorted bitches.
Dingdoggy dug up a few of his daddy’s bones, though he was never forthright as to how many bones he secured from his own hunting prowess, and how many bones he exhumed from Dongdaddy’s many bone banks. Dongdaddy had buried so many bones that he honestly did not know how many bones he had, and Dingdoggy also gathered many bones beyond his actual bone needs, taking bones from many other dogs, and after a short time, bragging that he had, himself, earned all of the bones. Given the nature of canine purity, many dogs admired Dingdoggy’s ability to claim the success of other dogs for himself, while other dogs only growled when he came around.
Dingdoggy was a particularly barkative dog as a pup, which confirmed his philosophy that if he barked long enough, and loud enough, and lifted his leg to water various territorial structures frequently enough, food and good fortune would fall from above. Dingdoggy learned that he could even excrete a big brown pile on a lawn or street or even in a vehicle and only good things happened to him. As he matured, Dingdoggy began to think there was something special about his exudates.
Dingdoggy let other dogs know that his exudates not only did not stink, they were sweet to the eye and nose, a claim that many dogs recognized as the workings of a dog deluded by his failure to deal with his exudates when he was pup. Yet other dogs fell into a uniformed stupor, and even though they knew Dingdoggy’s exudates were foul to both nose and eye, they did not seek to offend or correct. They simply fell in with the pack and followed the stink.
This coaxed Dingdoggy to an even more unusual assertion as to his abilities: he began to walk on his hind two legs. This caused a huge disturbance among all purebred dogs, who were appalled at the mere notion of walking on fewer than four legs. They asserted that, yes, sometimes a dog lost a leg in a fight or a trap and had to get around on three legs, and these dogs were more pitied than admired for their adaptation. But Dingdoggy declared that three-legged dogs were beyond pity and worthy only of jokes and mockery for their lack of leg. Dingdoggy claimed that walking on two legs while keeping two legs in reserve was smart, even though several alert dogs pointed out that if Dingdoggy’s hind legs failed, there was no way to transplant his front legs. Instead, he would be walking with his muzzle in the dirt.

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Keeping the Darkness at Bay

By Hal Walter

In the wake of the recent election, I found myself pondering the future and reading a book called Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity.

We’ve all heard of the Holocaust in which six million Jews were killed by the Nazis. One piece of history I was not aware of is that the Nazis also exterminated more than 70,000 disabled people, as many as 3,500 of them believed to be autistic.

Through a program called Aktion T4, the Nazis carried out their ideology of “eugenics.” Part of this was the notion that those who could not work were a burden – “useless eaters” and unworthy of life. This involuntary euthanasia program targeted mostly disabled or mentally ill people, primarily children, who were put to death by lethal injection, gassing, starvation and shooting. In many cases, parents were urged to send their disabled children to an institution and were later sent a letter saying their child had died of natural causes.

Also killed under this program were some political dissidents, including artists.

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Places: Simmons Peak

Story and photo by Ericka Kastner

As of the writing of this column, snow had not yet fallen in Central Colorado’s banana belt, making it pertinent to write about hiking places rather than snowy adventures for December. Should a descent of the white stuff begin to grace the San Luis Valley and accumulate by the time this piece is published, the road approaching the route would be a fabulous cross country ski, and the trail at higher elevations would provide beautiful and challenging terrain for snowshoeing.

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Colorado Muralist: Lightning Heart

This mural by Lightning Heart in Antonito featuring the Lady of Guadalupe was painted over this past year. A new version was created in 2016 at the nearby Atencio Tire Shop. Next page: Silos in Antonito depict native Americans and early settlers. All photos courtesy of the artist.

By Anthony Guerrero

It is impossible to explore the San Luis Valley without seeing many beautiful murals and amazing pieces of art. Some of the most prominent works are the vision of Colorado artist Fred “Lightning Heart” Haberlein.
The artist painted his first mural in 1977 and since then has created 138 murals that can be seen throughout Colorado and the United States.
Lightning Heart has never lived in a town. In 1971 he lived in Arizona where a Yaqui tribe took him in. This experience is what led to his unique professional name. His murals bear a heart with a bolt of lightning. Tribal members gave him his signature title. He has attended spring ceremonies with the tribe in the Sonoran desert every year for the last 46 years.

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Book Review – Early Days in South Park: Parked in the Past

By Laura Van Dusen
Vandusenville Publications, 189 pages
ISBN 978-692-72310-4

Reviewed by Forrest Whitman

Sooner or later, if you live in Colorado, you’ll drive through South Park. It’s a lovely ride in its own right, but this book will keep the motorist seeing it all in a fresh way. Van Dusen, long-time writer for many publications (including this one), opens up the surprising history of the park.
Her vignettes about early notables in the park are well done and give us a new look at them. Some of them, like Willia Hamilton Johnson of Alma, or Marshall Lewis Link, are especially crisp. She reveals them in “the bad and the good.” They emerge as real people.
She draws on the letters of Wilbur Fisk Stone to show us just how dastardly some of our early heroes and villains were. Her historical accounts of the outlaws are gripping. Some of the bad guys, like the Espinoza brothers, were terrorists of the most incredible kind.

Wilbur Stone spared neither Governor John Evans nor Reverend Chivington (the fighting Methodist minister who led the massacre at Sand Creek). Both were crooked and amazing liars, as were many others who dealt with the Indians.
A weakness in Van Dusen’s coverage concerns the Utes. They were very much a part of South Park history, but other than a brief appearance by Chief Saguache, they don’t come through. On the other hand, Van Dusen can write only about the accounts of the first settlers, and the Indians were only backdrops for them.
Especially interesting is her coverage of how hard life was in South Park. For instance, Benjamin Berg, second owner of the Fairplay Hotel, lost three of his children to typhoid. During World War I, The Fairplay  Flume reported death after death to the Spanish influenza. Some 675,000 died in the U.S. in that outbreak.
There were interesting cures to various diseases, which she covers in detail, including Bayer Heroine, Lydia Pinkham’s Herbal Remedy (popular with women partly because of its alcohol content) and Magic oil (87 percent alcohol).
Driving on U.S. Hwy. 285, the motorist will have a new understanding of how hard travel was by stage coach. You’ll also learn more about Como. This was a big rambling coal mining town with its own “war” to remember. Her chapters on Como and the Antero Reservoir fights are especially good. The motorist may even pause to think of the King Coal disaster where so many miners died. The book makes a routine trip through South Park fascinating.
There’s more to the book than the 19th century too. Her accounts of pre-history and the Porcupine Cave are compelling. So are her accounts of modern history. She covers the death of JFK and the beginning of the Ed Snell race.
I’m always looking for books to add to my holiday giving list. Early Days in South Park is on mine this year. Laura Van Dusen has done an outstanding job here.

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The Poncha Springs Italian Connection

Lithograph of Poncha Springs, Colorado in 1892: A – Schoolhouse, B – Library, C – Presbyterian Church, D – Poncha Hot Springs Hotel, E – Restaurant, 2- Herald News, 3 – Meat Market . (Courtesy of the Salida Library)

Early Settlers from Lago, Italy to Poncha Springs, U.S.A.

By Dr. Francesco Gallo

On April 5, 2016, Ralph Benjamin “Ben” Scanga was elected mayor of Poncha Springs, a statutory town in Chaffee County where, one-hundred thirty years ago, his great grandfather Giuseppe Scanga had emigrated from Lago (Cosenza), Italy. It’s a dream that has come true; it’s a good seed planted in fertile soil that gave origin to a solid plant.

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About the Cover Artist: Fred “Lightning Heart” Haberlein

Colorado muralist Fred “Lightning Heart” Haberlein completed this depiction of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the side of the Atencio Tire Shop in Antonito, Colorado, on October 20, 2016. Our Lady of Guadalupe, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, also known as the Virgin of Guadalupe, is a Roman Catholic title of the Blessed Virgin Mary associated with a venerated image enshrined within the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. She stands atop a darkened crescent moon, carried by a cherubic angel.

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George Sibley: Down on the Ground with Democracy Again

By George Sibley

Trying to reduce the personal library a while back, I came across a book titled The Irony of Democracy: An Uncommon Introduction to American Politics. I have no idea where I got it – probably some yard sale – and don’t remember ever opening it. By the reduction standards I’ve set, it should therefore have gone into the box I’m planning to leave on the public library doorstep some night.

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Quillen’s Corner: Is Ours an Era of Post-Truth Politics? Or Dual Realities?

By Martha Quillen

Most people think they know the difference between little white lies and huge deceptions; and simple, ordinary facts and profound truths. But do they? Psychologists warn that when verifiable facts collide with our cherished beliefs we tend to disregard the facts. But most of us assume questionable perceptions only sway other people, not us.
And it’s obvious that people judge their rivals and opponents more harshly than they judge themselves and their friends and allies. Rudolph Giuliani, Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump prove that point. Their disgust with Bill Clinton’s indiscretions and Hillary’s enabling is almost comically hypocritical. But does that make it wrong?

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John Mattingly: The Sap in Sapiens

By John Mattingly

In the fall of the year, when the season’s efforts – good and bad – must be accepted, and preparations for the next year are less demanding, it is nice to sit on a tractor all day and watch Earth turn from daybreak to dusk. The light has a slant and richness that are hypnotizing. It is a time for what my father called “a long ponder.” After one such ponder he told me that he suspected he was living in the last years of Homo sapiens. Even then, in the years of Reagan and Bush Sr., he could not quite reconcile the persistence of war, greed and cruelty. It is sad and humbling to think what humans could do if all the killing of human culture had been applied to improving the life of everyone.

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Places: Desert Reef Hot Spring

Photos courtesy of Desert Reef Hot Spring.
Photos courtesy of Desert Reef Hot Spring.

Story and photos by Ericka Kastner

Something tells me you haven’t heard of this one.
Both Colorado visitors and residents alike know that one of the best things about this great state is its hot springs. It might be lesser known that a private, clothing optional, family-friendly soaking pool with unobstructed mountain views, Desert Reef Hot Spring, lies just outside Cañon City near Florence.

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The Real Deal Music Review: Smythe and Taylor – Things Have Changed

Smythe and Taylor have released their new CD, Things Have Changed. Just what those things are is unclear, as this album from start to finish explores a tried and true but somewhat undynamic exposé of bluegrass and folk. Duet folk albums might be making a great comeback in Central Colorado, but my judgment is skewed …

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Book Review: The Man Who Thought He Owned the Water

theman_webBy Tershia D’Elgin
University Press of Colorado, 2016
978-1-607-495-9; 287 pp, $29.95

Reviewed by Virginia McConnell Simmons

Although Central Colorado is the birthplace of three of Colorado’s major waterways – the South Platte, Arkansas, and Rio Grande – who owns the water seems puzzling except among water managers and farmers. Most consumers simply take it for granted that the liquid stuff for sinks and plastic bottles, rafts and kayaks, fishing, skiing resorts and wells will always be there. To get an inkling of how change can happen, read The Man Who Thought He Owned the Water, with its subtitle On the Brink with American Farms, Cities, and Food.
The author, Tershia D’Elgin, writes a compelling biographical account of what happened to her own father in the Platte River Valley near Greeley. A great-grandson of Colorado Governor Benjamin Eaton, Bill Phelps begins with ambition aplenty and surface water rights that promised success at Big Bend Station. Where he ran amuck was in the assumption that he, like many of his neighbors, could increase productivity by using wells that delivered underground water.

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Ghost Breweries of Colorado

granite_web By Robert McLeod

The following are two excerpts from a new book, Ghost Breweries of Colorado, A History of Centennial State Brewing, by author Robert W. McLeod of Arvada. He is also the author of A Colorado Chronology, a collection of several thousand nuggets of Colorado history and A Valley So Grand, a history of the Grand Valley and Grand Junction, Colorado. He’s had a forty-plus-year association with Denver’s Sundance Publications, Ltd., as an editor and in other capacities. He is currently working on a book with the Colorado Railroad Museum about the Arkansas Valley Railway, Colorado’s first abandoned railroad. Ghost Breweries is available for purchase through, or through eBay.

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The Man Who Died Twice (Part 2)

A Piper Cherokee Six aircraft, similar to the one flown on the ill-fated day. At right: The red arrow indicates the location of Stout Creek Lakes in this aerial view courtesy of the Colorado Civil Air Patrol
A Piper Cherokee Six aircraft, similar to the one flown on the ill-fated day. At right: The red arrow indicates the location of Stout Creek Lakes in this aerial view courtesy of the Colorado Civil Air Patrol

By Daniel Smith

Seared into his memory, Bill Reeves remembers the moment:
“Soon the downdraft pushed us below the clouds, just enough to where I could see pine trees off our left wing tip fairly closely, and looked ahead and there was a ridge coming at us. I said ‘ridge’ and ‘turn’ and Wil turned left … and that put us into the Stout Creek drainage where he was trying to outclimb terrain in a downdraft. And so as we came down in, you know what I was seeing at that point was just rocky, bouldery walls everywhere and starting to think ‘this is it, you know, we’re not going to make it,’ and starting to figure out where I was going to hit.”
That harrowing moment has a direct link back to the story we reported in the last issue: the 1995 murder case involving victim Richard Johnson and his later-convicted killer, Jeremy Denison, a case involving drugs, an informant and a controversial trial. Denison is serving life without parole for cutting Johnson’s throat in January of that year.
About two weeks after the murder this next tale unfolds.

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The Way We Really Were

By Virginia McConnell Simmons Identifying “Our President” will be a mystery if you believe the inked script. In fact, only after President McKinley’s assassination, with no living vice president to fill the office, was T.R. catapulted into the presidency in September 1903. Some sharp-eyed Central Coloradans will note that the locomotive should have borne the …

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From the Editor: The First Amendment

By Mike Rosso

Is the freedom of the press in the United States under attack?
Judging from the past year, the evidence would suggest so. First, you’ve got the Republican nominee for president insisting libel laws be changed to make it easier to sue the media. His reasons for this are obvious; the media’s reporting of his own words and deeds has led to a dramatic drop in his poll numbers. Naturally he’s going to attack the messenger. The angry minions at his rallies chant “CNN sucks,” and make vulgar gestures at the press corps as they are led in, with the blessings of their thin-skinned candidate. There is some irony in this. CNN and other outlets have provided wall to wall coverage of Donald Trump since he announced his candidacy gliding down an escalator with his fashion-model-bride. He’s received millions of dollars worth of free coverage other candidates could only dream of, but when that coverage turned negative, such as after the release of the infamous “Access Hollywood” bus tapes, he immediately began threatening the media with lawsuits.

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About the Cover Artist: Padgett McFeely

After earning a BA in Psychology at UC Irvine, I began studying photography. Immediately enthralled by the ‘wet’ darkroom process, I started working extensively with the black and white medium. My first teacher was Barbara Kasten. The first lecture I ever attended was given by Ansel Adams. I was hooked! Photography quickly became my way …

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Hal Walter: A Gorilla Named Train

Photo by Hal Walter
Photo by Hal Walter

My friend Don Conoscenti, a Taos musician who also lived in Alamosa for a while, put out a new album recently called Anastasia. The collection includes new songs as well as remakes of some of his previous work.
My son Harrison is a fan of Don’s as well, dwelling particularly on a track called “That Train.” The stereotype of autistic people is that they take everything literally, but Harrison has become increasingly aware of metaphor through music. Ironically the lyrics of “That Train” speak to me in my advancing middle age as I reflect more and more about life’s minor questions like, “What is the purpose of my existence?”

“If you leave this world defeated, you’ve got your own damn self to blame.”

One evening I found a bright blue, green and white gorilla on the bathroom countertop. I think this stuffed critter has been around here since Harrison was a baby. He never played with toys like that, so I found it peculiar that he had brought it out from a closet. He is 12 now, and apparently sought out the gorilla after seeing either a ventriloquist or puppet on YouTube.
The next morning as we got ready for school, he started out the door with the gorilla under his arm, wanting to take it to school with him. I told him that it was a bad idea and the other kids might not know what to think. I expected an argument, but he handled it OK. He then asked if he could take the gorilla in the car. I said OK, but just to the bus.

“Will I end up like that train, asleep beneath the snow, rusting in the rain?”

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The Natural World: The Greenback Cutthroat

By Tina Mitchell

As the Hayden Pass fire exploded in July,  people and their beloved animals had to evacuate. Another group of local residents faced relocation as well. A rare subspecies of cutthroat trout protected by the Endangered Species Act lives in a three-mile stretch of the south prong of Hayden Creek – and even as humans were fleeing, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) staff were scrambling to create a plan to protect these fish.greenback_cutthroat_web
Named for the slash of red below its jaw, the cutthroat trout’s historical distribution covered the broadest range of any stream-dwelling trout in the Western Hemisphere. The rugged topography of the species’ range isolated groups of cutthroats from each other, allowing the evolution of a whopping 14 distinct subspecies. Four closely related subspecies are native to Colorado: the Colorado River cutthroat, on the Western Slope; the Rio Grande cutthroat, in the San Luis Valley; the now-extinct yellowfin cutthroat; and the greenback cutthroat, the easternmost subspecies, found east of the Continental Divide.

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A New Breed: Women Ranchers

A young Marie Scott on horseback in her early ranching days. Photo courtesy of Mario Zadra.
A young Marie Scott on horseback in her early ranching days. Photo courtesy of Mario Zadra.

By Judy Buffington Sammons

In the old West, around the turn of the century, a few ranchers’ daughters – a brazen few – decided to shake up the establishment a little bit, rock the boat and rattle a few cages. They put on shocking divided skirts or even pants borrowed from fathers or brothers. They abandoned their ridiculous sidesaddles and dared to get on their horses astride. Then they happily rode off, leaving their ladylike images in the dust; they hunted coyotes, rode the range, homesteaded, roped steers and branded mavericks. They married or didn’t – they inherited or homesteaded or bought ranches. In the very Western and very male world of cattle ranching, they became bonafide ranchers – America’s very first women ranchers: a new breed.
Early-day women ranchers were truly a rarity but Western Colorado claimed a few of them and the following is a brief look at five women – motivated by either necessity or an appetite for a way of life – who showed that they were equal to the difficult task of ranching.

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From the Editor: The Cost of Shelter

By Mike Rosso

It’s a pattern repeated throughout Colorado; a small town gets “discovered,” thus becoming a magnet for retirees, lone eagles, trust funders and those simply looking for a quiet place in the mountains.
Naturally, these folks need someplace to live, so the demand for housing goes up. But what if the supply does not keep up with the demand? This usually leads to inflated prices for real estate and rental properties.

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Sheep’s Gulch Trail

by Ericka Kastner

Some might call it “the trail that gets forgotten.” Most wilderness lovers traveling down County Road 390 near Granite are likely headed towards one of the many 14,000-foot peaks in the area. They’ve possibly never heard of Sheep’s Gulch Trail.

At least I hadn’t until yesterday, literally. A friend and I were on a quest for a gorgeous fall hike that would be rich with color and take us above tree line. He suggested Sheep’s Gulch and I was immediately intrigued, as I love discovering new trails.

Sheep’s Gulch trailhead is on the north side of CR 390, about 8.9 miles from its intersection with U.S. Highway 24. Even the two-wheel-drive accessible route to the trailhead is spectacular, and worth the drive alone, as it includes stunning views of Clear Creek Reservoir, historic cabin sightings along the way (check out Dawson Cabin about 5.8 miles along the road or the Vicksburg Museum at mile 7.2) and glorious valley vistas in the distance.

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Salida’s Housing Crunch: A Firsthand Look

By Jessica Wierzbinski

It can’t really be that hard to find a place to house your family, right? Not even in a little mountain town that has in recent years become a veritable Mecca for mountain biking, river sporting, alternatively medicating, retiring and any number of other activities folks come here for. Even amid this influx, one can always cover the basics like housing, right?

I can say from personal experience what the recently published housing needs assessment reports in numbers: families have it hard here, and many are being forced to move away.

Beginning in January, 2015, I spent well over a year proactively scouring the housing market in Salida – both the rental and the sale markets – for a way to house myself and my sons. Having lived in our beloved S-Town for over five years, we’d already thrown down roots. Good, deep roots. We didn’t want to leave. But who knew simply staying put would prove so tooth-and-nail difficult? 

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The Art and Science of Showing Up

I wrote in my book, Full Tilt Boogie, that for sure no burro gets up in the morning and thinks, “Dang, I think I’ll run up a 13,000-foot mountain pass today.” And likewise, no autistic kid gets up in the morning and thinks, “I think I’ll conform to societal norms today.”

I go on to explain that the real key to success with either burros or autistic children is extreme patience and allowing them to find their own way.

This past summer I entered the pack-burro racing season with a 7-year-old jack named Teddy that I’d literally liberated less than a year ago from a small corral in the middle of a San Luis Valley junk yard. Colorado’s pack-burro races are 9-29 miles in length, at high altitude, and since no riding is allowed, we run, jog and power-hike the entire distance alongside our animals, which are loaded with 33 pounds of gear. Despite my relative lack of natural ability, over the years I’ve been fortunate to have had some great success at this sport, including seven world championships, mostly by consistently showing up.

Also this past summer, my son Harrison entered his second season of running on the Custer County Middle School cross-country team. His first season I journaled in my short book, Endurance – A season in cross country with my autistic son.

The parallels between the neurodiverse mind and the animal world never cease to amaze me, and my belief in sport as a metaphor for life seems to be strengthened with age and with the challenges of raising a neurodiverse child.

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Pursuing Uranium in Fremont County


By Joe Stone

The Tallahassee Creek area in western Fremont County offers a degree of serenity conducive to a contemplative lifestyle, evidenced by the presence of a monastic retreat on the banks of Tallahassee Creek. This bucolic setting between Salida and Cañon City seemed ideal, not only to the monks and nuns of the Monastery of Our Lady and Saint Laurence, but also to the urban refugees who built homes and hobby ranches in the area during the past 25 years. But what once seemed like the idyllic manifestation of lifelong dreams took a nightmarish turn when residents realized a mining company owned the rights to the uranium that lies beneath their property.

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A Prospector’s Pick: The Early Town of Cache Creek

The town of Cache Creek once supported a boarding house, supplies stores and upwards of 300 residents.
The town of Cache Creek once supported a boarding house, supplies stores and upwards of 300 residents.

By Jan MacKell Collins

Hike along Cache Creek outside of Granite today, and you are certain to run into folks all along the water. These aren’t your average outdoor enthusiasts; rather, the folks scrambling along the riverbanks are on a mission. They are looking for gold, which can still be found over 150 years after being discovered.
Cache Creek’s name is derived from the French word, “cacher,” meaning “to hide.” One story goes that around 1854, French trappers hid their pelts there, while another claims that explorers Kit Carson and Lucien Maxwell hid their supplies in the vicinity as they fled some Native Americans. Because of its odd pronunciation, Cache Creek was sometimes referred to as “Cash Creek.”

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The Way We Really Were

By Virginia McConnell Simmons Using native materials, early-day miners constructed arrastras at several remote, streamside locations in Colorado. First introduced to the New World by Spaniards, arrastras pulverized ore while a burro or horse dragged a grinding stone around and around over an existing large rock. Surviving evidence may be a very flat, wide rock …

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The Man Who Died Twice (part I)

mm-1-1995_webBy Daniel Smith

For a journalist, some stories, even those which start relatively small, can have long “legs,” and can emotionally touch you.
The most intriguing stories, naturally, are those that involve human drama. But throw in a strange twist of fate connecting two seemingly unrelated events and you have … well, stories with a strange twist of fate.
This story begins 21 years ago with a local drug investigation that resulted in brutal death, and a later murder trial intertwined with a dramatic accident resulting in another death and a compelling story of grit and survival – in two parts.
In early 1995, 24-year-old Richard Johnson never knew it, but he could have died twice – a second time in a plane crash – had he not been murdered beforehand.
Johnson, a reputed illegal drug user from Alamosa who had reportedly become an informant for local and state drug investigators, had his throat cut, his body dragged off County Road 185, eight miles up Ute Trail and partially buried in pine needles.
The Mountain Mail reported at the time Johnson had turned an informant for the local authorities and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and was involved in an ongoing investigation at the time he was slain.
He apparently died the night of Jan. 24, 1995. A trail of blood and marks from dragging were found, and his body lay near glass and pieces of metal from an apparent car wreck off the rural road.
The suspect arrested on Jan. 26 was 20-year-old Jeremy Nechol Denison of Salida. He and Johnson became acquainted while students at what was then Adams State College.
The Salida Police, Chaffee County District Attorney’s Office, Chaffee County Sheriff, CBI and Colorado State Patrol Patrol all took part in the investigation. Denison was initially held on one million dollars bond.
The paper reported the next day that the debris at the scene had prompted police to search for a red car with a broken windshield and front end damage. The victim’s red Pontiac Trans Am, with a large amount of blood inside, was recovered in Denver, not far from where Denison was staying.

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Down on the Ground with the Hotshots

By George Sibley I should probably be trying to write something wonky about American politics, but instead I’m writing this article from the near-wilds on the sunny side of Grand Mesa, at a rendezvous of an organization formerly known as the Crested Butte Hotshots. The Hotshots were a forest-fire crew based in Crested Butte who …

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Quillen’s Corner: Journalism in the Land of the Lost

By Martha Quillen

According to those in the know, America has lost it. But what have we lost? Donald Trump says it’s our greatness, because the way he sees it, our nation isn’t feared nor revered anymore, whereas others claim we’ve lost our mojo, which generally refers to our gumption and can-do attitude. Many agree we’ve lost our minds, and others think we’ve lost our soul. And scads of commentators believe America has lost either its moral compass, or moral standing, or morals altogether.

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Music Review: Gabrielle Louise – If the Static Clears

gabrielle_webReviewed by Brian Rill

Gabrielle Louise should be a movie star. Shrouded in stage lights, her enrapturing silhouette inspires lucid dreams. All that is divine moves on light feet and Gabrielle slowly drips her words onto the ear drum, barely striking it. A pseudo-drawl crawls over enticing acoustic guitar chords, vaguely jazz-laden with western flare. She wrote the first tune on a baby Martin guitar given to her at an early age and was forever inspired to become a songwriter.

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