Queen, Witch or Saint: Who Was the Real Baby Doe?

By Craig Wagner

Leadville is home to one of the last legends of the Old West. Not a gunfighter or gambler but a tiny old woman who displayed extraordinary grit in the name of love and pride, and possibly madness. Her story has spawned books, movies and a famous opera.

Baby Doe Tabor’s scandalous affair and subsequent marriage to Horace Tabor has been well told. After Horace’s death, she returned to Leadville in 1901 at the age of 46. The 30 years she lived in a small cabin are more mysterious.

Her solitary life has drawn the attention of authors, researchers and paranormal detectives. But the elderly woman remains an enigma. Who was she? What kind of woman lives alone in a shack on the side of a mountain for thirty years? 

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The Bearded Lady

By Jennifer Welch – The Crowded Acre

“The wheels on the bus go round and round …”

It was mid-summer when we purchased the 1984 65-passenger Bluebird school bus. At that time, it had been almost a full year since I had broken the news to my husband – I wanted to go back into the food service industry. I can’t be sure if he fully believed me then, but I am certain he believes me now. “If I can fit it down my winding driveway, I’ll take it,” I exclaimed to the previous owner of the school bus, despite being utterly unsure of where this adventure might take me. But it fit down the driveway like it was meant to be, and it hasn’t left our property since. After some explaining and very little coercing, my husband nodded for me to go ahead with my plans and insisted he be allowed to come along for the ride.

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Places … Mayflower Gulch

By Ericka Kastner

Some hikes are just worth repeating, and the trek to Mayflower Gulch in the Tenmile Range is absolutely an adventure to revisit time and again. In the summer, the basin is filled with wildflowers, and in the winter, Mayflower is a snowy wonderland for outdoor enthusiasts of all skill levels.

Mayflower Gulch is the site of the historic Boston Mine Camp, which had its heyday back in July of 1884, when a thick vein of gold was found in the Fletcher Mountain basin. Miners quickly realized the vein wasn’t pure, however, and the camp fizzled out. More than 130 years later, the well-preserved cabins are still partially intact and make for a fabulous winter nordic ski or snowshoe to the site, particularly under a full moon.

The old mining road to Mayflower Gulch is accessible approximately 16.5 miles north of Leadville on Hwy. 91. The pullout for parking is on the right side of the road coming from Leadville, and the lot is typically packed on weekends year-round, indicating the popularity of the hike. The best time to visit is early morning on a weekday in winter, where you’ll be more likely to have the route to yourself.

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Colorado’s Fiery Past

By Vince Matthews

Colorado has seen its share of volcanoes. Numerous volcanoes erupted here during several geologic periods. This fiery activity spanned the gamut of volcanic types. Three major eras of eruption were 1.75 to 1.72 billion years ago, 38 to 26 million years ago, and 26 million years ago until the present. The most recent eruption in Colorado was a mere 4,135 years ago, where I-70 crosses the basalt flow between Gypsum and Glenwood Canyon.
About 27 million years ago, it is estimated that two thirds of Colorado was covered by volcanic strata. The Upper Arkansas and San Luis Valleys were in the midst of much of this red-hot activity and are home to volcanic rocks of many different types and ages. We have cinder cones, shield volcanoes, strata-volcanoes, subaqueous pillow lavas and rhyolite lava domes, as well as world-class calderas.

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Leadville: City in the Clouds

By Mike Rosso

Photo by Mike Rosso
Photo by Mike Rosso

It’s the highest incorporated city in North America. Towering nearby at 14,440 feet is Mount Elbert, the second-highest summit in the contiguous United States, after Mount Whitney. It is home to seven museums and a famous old opera house among its 70 city blocks of Victorian buildings.
Just for kicks, the residents haul tons of snow onto their main street in March in order to watch skiers – towed by horses – racing by. They also hold a St. Patrick’s “practice parade” in September. The outgoing mayor has an alligator skin adorning his office. Leadville also boasts the highest college campus in the U.S., as well as the highest golf course, brewery, Safeway store, tourist railroad, hospital, high school, Chinese restaurant, airport (at 9,934 feet), city hall, dog park, bank, police station, fish hatchery, library, newspaper, bike shop, antique store, and ironically, the highest legal marijuana dispensary in an incorporated U.S. city.
Historically, Leadville has a rich, colorful and extensive past – from its founding by Horace Tabor and August Meyer during the Colorado Silver Boom, to its current status as a tourist town, blue-collar town and bedroom community for employees of Summit County.

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Nothing Else Like It: Leadville Ski Joring

By Kathy Bedell

If truth be told, it all started at the old Ossman Ranch. That’s where Leadville Ski Joring officially got its humble beginnings in Lake County. For it was on that family ranch, just north of Leadville on Hwy. 91, where “Mugs” Ossman’s love of quarter horses met up with Tom Schroeder’s love of skiing really fast, and thus the sport of ski joring took hold in the highest city in North America.
It was 67 years ago, back in 1949, when the two good Leadville friends ventured over to Steamboat Springs’ Winter Carnival and witnessed for the first time the sport of ski joring: a horse-and-rider pulling a skier. It was like nothing they’d ever seen; the two couldn’t wait to bring the idea back to Leadville to be part of its annual winter celebration.

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Down on the Ground with the Next Generation

By George Sibley

I got talked into revisiting my checkered past as an instructor at Western Colorado State University this fall; the Environment and Sustainability program needed a class covered, and asked if I would conduct a seminar on Western water. So I cobbled up a seminar titled “The Colorado River in the Anthropocene.”

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Is the U.S. Political System Fixable?

By Martha Quillen

Many Americans are disillusioned with our political system, and some are completely fed up with government, but Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig thinks we can fix things. Or even if we can’t, he thinks we have to try. And Lessig is doing just that. He’s trying to overturn Citizens United, reduce political corruption, and give ordinary people a more equal voice in our participatory democracy.

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Football and Religion

By John Mattingly

With the playoffs going full force and the Super Bowl on the horizon, my mind wandered back to many years ago when my wife and I got married. We made a deal: I would go to Roman Catholic mass with her on Sunday morning if she would watch football with me on Sunday afternoon.

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Music Review: Carin Mari – Miles Per Hour

By Brian Rill

Buena Vista native Carin Mari has fully arrived with her first solo CD Miles Per Hour. After fourteen-year journey, her career has officially begun. Having won countless awards and performing at the Ryman Auditorium and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Carin pursues critical success with her pedigree.

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Book Review – The Denver Artists Guild: Its Founding Members, An Illustrated History

The Denver Artists Guild: Its Founding Members, An Illustrated History

Colorado History and University Press of Colorado, 2015, USBN  978-0-942576-58-0

By Stan Cuba

260 pages, 9×11, color, 187 figures, paper, $39.95; also available as ebook

Reviewed by Virginia McConnell Simmons

In 1928, a vibrant group of 52 artists formed the Denver Artists Guild, and for a quarter century this group enjoyed a well-deserved reputation for the high quality of their artistry and workmanship. Images in this book, biographical essays about each artist, and the knowledgeability of author Stan Cuba and the book’s other collaborators make this an outstanding contribution, whether the person holding it is a working artist or an appreciator of fine art and of this state’s social history. The Denver Artists Guild may further encourage people to enjoy firsthand viewing of art works by taking a walking tour of the public locations in Denver (a map is included) or by taking a driving tour, mainly but not exclusively limited to the Front Range.

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Attempted Murder in the Mine

By Jeffrey Runyon

A dictionary defines what a thing is – say, a mountain. Art teaches what that mountain means.
This may be similar to what Oscar Wilde meant in his 1889 essay, The Decay of Lying, where he suggests, contrary to long-held belief, that art does not imitate life, life imitates art – that perhaps the universe has meaning that art teaches us to see.
I sometimes wonder how much his visit to Leadville in 1882 affected his philosophy, and I met an old man in Ireland who seemed to wonder, too.
In 2010 a handful of students from Colorado Mountain College’s Leadville Campus, where I teach creative writing, composition and literature, joined my study abroad program bound for Ireland to experience literature for a month. The literary spirit thrives in Ireland, especially during May and June, when there are many literary festivities. (Ireland even has holidays devoted to literature, like Bloomsday.) So, when we decided to attend a literary tour through the city (i.e. pubs where famous writers like Joyce and Yeats wrote), we joined a large group trying to hear the old tour guide, who barely scratched the five-foot mark and whose voice seemed weak with age.  

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News from the San Luis Valley

Xcel Buying Solar From Hooper

Xcel Energy is now purchasing power generated by the 50-megawatt solar photovoltaic plant in Hooper by SunPower Corp.

The power purchase agreement allows Xcel to purchase the energy at cost-competitive rates. It estimates the 320-acre plant is generating enough electricity to power approximately 13,500 average Colorado homes. Xcel is based in Minneapolis and is Colorado’s biggest provider of electricity and natural gas.

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Colorado Central Magazine has quite a few readers over the age of 60, so when I scan the obituaries of the eight different regional newspapers we receive here, I’m sometimes taken aback to learn that we’ve lost another subscriber.
Several of them passed away in 2015 and I’d like to take a moment to pay tribute to them.

Dorothy Quillen
Ed Quillen’s mom, Dorothy, passed away on Dec. 11, 2015 at the age of 84. I met Dorothy at the memorial service for her son in 2012, here in Salida. She had read aloud a wonderful and stirring tribute to Ed and it was apparent where he had gotten much of his skills with the written word. She graciously allowed us to reprint it in the magazine.
Born in Douglas, Wyoming, where she graduated from high school, Dorothy married a local fellow, Edward K. Quillen, Jr., in 1950 and moved with him to Greeley, where Ed was born. Together they raised four sons, two of whom preceded her in death: Ed and his brother Philip.
Dorothy worked as a secretary for the University of Colorado Department of Continuing Education in Boulder. She then worked for Semester at Sea, concluding her career working from home doing typing and word processing. She was also a member of Calvary Church, where she taught Sunday School and sang in the choir for many years.

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Regional News Roundup

Pictured is one of three large snowbanks that collapsed onto U.S. Hwy. 50 atop Monarch Pass on Dec. 22, closing the highway in both directions for nearly twelve hours. Courtesy of the Colorado Department of Transporation.
Pictured is one of three large snowbanks that collapsed onto U.S. Hwy. 50 atop Monarch Pass on Dec. 22, closing the highway in both directions for nearly twelve hours. Courtesy of the Colorado Department of Transporation.

Suspect a He or She?

Suspected Planned Parenthood shooter Robert L. Dear was listed as a woman on his Colorado voter registration form, a detail that fueled speculation he may have identified as transgender by some right wing media sources.

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When, Why, Where, How?

By Kathy Bedell If you are attending Leadville Ski Joring for the first time, you may have a few questions: When is the racing going to start? How does this all work? How can I find out who won? First of all, when Leadville Ski Joring started 67 years ago, its mission was to bring …

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New Year

By Mike Rosso

The winter solstice has officially come and gone here in Central Colorado, and the mercury dipped to minus 5 degrees last night, so we are now marching headlong into springtime!

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Full Circle to a Junkyard Donk

The scene reminded me of something out of Road Warrior, a fenced-off section of sagebrush and desolation in the southern San Luis Valley, and behind the closed gate was a veritable junkyard of car and truck bodies, old camper trailers, ramshackle structures, various heaps of well-pipe casings, cement blocks and other scrap.

The sign at the gate got my attention.


Somewhere in this tangled mass of one man’s treasures was a jack donkey/burro I’d driven three hours from the other side of the range to see. In fact, I could detect tall ears sticking up out of the junk.

I’d first seen a picture of this animal on Craigslist, and a call to the number listed began a conversation that went on for several phone calls, as I tried to get more information about the animals for sale and when and how I could see them in person.

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Summit Myopia

By Maisie Ramsay

Only the women remained.

It was the middle of November, and they had been trudging uphill for nearly six hours. More than a mile of elevation gain lay between the trailhead and the goal: Mount Oxford, a destination that first required us to summit Mount Belford.

The male component of the team – two men and two dogs – had long since fallen back, deterred by poor gear, injury and the suspicion that perhaps one mountain was enough for the day. The women, however, pressed on.

The journey began with Mount Belford’s northwest ridge, a relentlessly steep slog through windblown snow with all the traction of confectioners sugar. Then another mile and a half to Mount Oxford, separated from Belford by a broad saddle that tapered at its western terminus to a steep, narrow ridge.

The traverse meant losing and regaining 1,000 feet of elevation, and traveling three extra miles, adding hours of toil to the journey.

What possessed them to embark on this fool’s errand? Well, Mount Oxford happens to be over 14,000 feet. 

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