There’s Still Gold In Them Thar Hills, But it May Be Fool’s Gold

By Martha Quillen

During the second week of November, most of my Facebook friends were posting glad tidings about both the national election results and Salida’s recent city council election. I should have been elated myself, since I voted for winner P.T. Wood. Wood struck me as well-informed, amiable and less partisan than his opponent, and I hoped he might inspire earnest discussion and cooperation.

But with that said? I’m not sure collaborative politics can work right now, because whether the subject is national or local, political discourse tends to be antagonistic and reduced to talking points and reflexive arguments.

I used to weigh in on whether I wanted trees planted or sidewalks repaired in Salida, but that was before accusations, counter accusations and perpetual charges of rudeness, misconduct and incompetence started dominating Salida’s public affairs. Six years ago, I routinely voted for council members and mayors, but in the last five years? I often skip that part of the ballot because local campaigning is so freighted with allegations and suppositions it would take a police investigation to sort it all out.

And I personally don’t feel comfortable even talking about, let alone deciding, whether assertions by Eileen Rogers are more or less valid than Jim LiVecchi’s claims that her assertions were libelous. It’s not that I don’t believe there are things worth fighting over, but I don’t think Salida’s procedural and line item budget issues are in that category.

On the other hand, however, I don’t actually think that’s what we are fighting about. All too often, modern issues are secondary, and sometimes totally insignificant, in comparison to the hostility displayed, likely because what citizens are really fighting about is who matters, which is downright wrong and un-American. But at this point, our political process has divided the whole country into a patchwork of conflicting peoples, and it has us battling over whether red or blue, black or white, rich or poor, Northern or Southern, Idahoan or Ohioan, administrative professionals or blue collar generalists should prevail.

Read more

Inside Out

By John Mattingly

In a year when we’ve been learning how virtual reality actually is, an interesting pair of tomcats came to visit the farm. Though not a cat person, I do enjoy cats. A great number have come along over the years, sometimes as a gift, sometimes as a feral visitor, occasionally as an opportunist, and more than once: as a traveler behind the seat of an old truck. Early on, I decided that on a farm, a cat has to be either inside or out. It has to be fed to fatness, or fed just enough to survive another day living the precarious life of a cat, while policing rodents.

This either/or of in-or-out is probably guilty of many worthy exceptions, but without doubt, every cat that seduced me to invite it inside the house, later fell victim to predators when venturing out at night, into darkness filled with eagles, hawks, owls, coyotes, dogs and raccoons. Those cats who remained outside, living in a den of their choice while hunting – these cats lasted into old age. To live through Valley winters, a feral cat learns early that life is dangerous and some recognize the value of a little help from humans, which they reciprocate by keeping the rodents terrorized.

When a cat wanders onto the farm, the first thing I do is offer food and watch how they eat. An outside cat will take no more than a small nip of food before checking in all directions for potential attackers. An inside cat will keep its nose to the food and never look up, except if petted, and then only briefly.

Over the years, most experiences typical of farm cats have come my way. A calico named Tulip slept with the chickens and occasionally caught a ride on the back of a goat. Then there was Orpheus – a solid black cat with luminous eyes who appeared and disappeared around the yard like a ghost – until, on Halloween night, he rolled over on his back at our front door, expecting a belly rub. Mamasita, a brown female, had a nice home for herself and six kittens in the tool box of a truck I bought from someone almost a hundred miles away. Three months later they all disappeared and showed up at the seller’s farm. Kit and Kat, a pair of females, hunted together sharing the fun of cat-and-mouse for hours.

Read more

CD Review: Peter Israel – Midnight at the Palace Hotel

By Brian Rill Songwriter Peter G. Israel is one of the many weighty names from Salida’s long musical history. He is best known for the song Midnight at the Palace Hotel, and the 2007 album that bears the same name. This catchy tune celebrates the old multi-story brick building where countless outlaws and first-class connoisseurs …

Read more


By Tina Mitchell

favorite memory of my father starts with a cold, clear winter evening. I’m seven; we’re bundled up against the Midwest cold. I’m leaning back on him to stare up at the twinkling stars. He’s pointing out constellations and I’m feeling safe, loved and enthralled by the cosmos. Is it any wonder I love the winter night sky?

Winter constellations include some of the brightest and easiest to recognize. Circumpolar constellations – those that circle the North Pole – offer a good starting point. Ursa Major, the Great Bear, is one of the best known. Facing north, you’ll see the Big Dipper, which makes up the bear’s body and tail. These bright stars – four outlining the “bowl,” three tracing the “handle” – create one of the easiest patterns to spot in the night sky.

The Big Dipper guides you to other circumpolar constellations. For instance, Ursa Minor, the Little Bear, parallels its big brother with the Little Dipper, also containing seven stars – four in the bowl, three in the handle. Together, the dippers appear to be pouring their contents into each other. Polaris, the North Star, lies at the very end of the Little Dipper’s handle. To find Polaris, extend a line between the two outer stars of the bowl of the Big Dipper about five times the distance between them and you’ve arrived. Polaris doesn’t point exactly north, but it’s less than a degree off – about the width of your pinkie finger held against the sky – and has been vital for navigation around the Northern Hemisphere for thousands of years.

Returning to the Big Dipper, trace a line from the bowl of the Big Dipper through Polaris. Continue an equal distance beyond, and you’ll find Cassiopeia, queen of Ethiopia, sitting on her throne. A very distinct shape, Cassiopeia looks like a “W” or “M” in the sky, depending on where she is in relation to the North Pole.

Not all of the interesting constellations circle the pole, though. Most others can only be seen during certain seasons. To see the Northern Hemisphere’s winter-only constellations, turn your back to the circumpolar stars and face south. Arguably the most famous seasonal constellation, Orion, the Hunter, provides an easy-to-spot starting point. Orion’s Belt anchors the constellation – three bright stars in a straight line. Orion’s sword – another row of three stars – hangs down from his belt. Actually, the middle “star” looks a bit fuzzy and isn’t a star at all. It’s the Orion Nebula, a vast and bright cloud of gas and dust.

Read more


By Daniel Smith

Newspeople can sometimes get desensitized to even horrifying news events – after all, if you’re in the news business long enough, you’ve seen and reported about a lot of them.

Last month, when I wrote about the “numbing frequency of acts of extreme violence in this county,” in the wake of the largest mass shooting in our history at a Las Vegas county music event, I never dreamed we would see another horrific mass shooting just two weeks later at a small community church in Texas. All of the country was shocked by the insane, deliberate brutality of the attack on the congregation at the Baptist church in tiny Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Donald Trump, in expressing his own shock and sadness, still managed to bring in political controversy in commenting that the slaughter was a “mental health thing, not a gun thing.”

Fifth District Congressman Doug Lamborn posted this comment on his website:

“In stunned disbelief, we’ve learned of the loss of innocents during a community church service in Sutherland Springs, Texas. I join Colorado and the nation in mourning the tragic loss of life as we stand with the survivors, united in prayer for all families affected. From the darkness of this heinous act, we’ve also learned of one heroic citizen who took up arms to protect his community from further evil. The days ahead may shed more light on the details of this tragedy, but today, we pray, we mourn. May God bless the people of Sutherland Springs.”

So we see more photos of the victims, hear how promising, precious lives, young and old were cut short, and later learn of the troubled man with a history of yes, mental instability, and red flags and warning signs in his behavior that somehow went ignored.

Read more

A Snapshot of Gratitude

By Hal Walter

I don’t get a lot of photo assignments, but I wish I got more like the one this past Thanksgiving week. Publisher Mike Rosso emailed, overwhelmed with a production deadline and a move. He asked if I happened to know the Rusk family and if I could perhaps take pictures of them to accompany an article about land trusts in the upcoming issue of Colorado Central.

I quickly shot back that I had actually known Randy and Claricy for a long time and would be glad to take pictures of them, though I knew it was a busy week. Subsequently it was decided that I would visit the ranch on the Monday before Thanksgiving, as the Rusks would be working cattle there most of the day.

With school out for Thanksgiving break, I loaded up my son Harrison and we headed to the Rusks that morning. The drive over there was a nostalgic journey as I thought back on just how long I had known this family, and I was startled by the fact that I could remember names of their long-dead dogs, “Sis” and “Copper.”

Read more

The National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum

By Stephen L. Whittington

The National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum (NMHFM) was founded in Leadville in 1987 and occupies the former high school building, built in 1899. In 1988, the U.S. Congress granted the NMHFM a Federal charter, which was signed by President Ronald Reagan. The NMHFM is an independent non-profit organization and does not receive financial support from the Federal government. Its mission is to “tell the story of mining, its people and its importance to the American public.” The NMHFM is dedicated to presenting an accurate picture of the mining industry, its critical impact on everyday life and its place in the Nation’s future.

Each year, a class of four or five individuals who have had a significant impact on American mining and mineral extraction is inducted into the Hall of Fame. The annual Induction Banquet rotates among various cities across the country. Currently, 240 inductees have their photos and biographies displayed in the Hall of Fame and on the NMHFM’s website.

The NMHFM continuously strives to increase interest in and awareness of the importance of mining through dynamic and educational exhibits and programs. The 25,000 square feet of enlightening and interactive exhibits about past, current and future mining practices include “The World of Molybdenum,” “Buried Sunlight: Coal Mining in America,” and “Expanding Boundaries: Harrison Schmitt and the New Mining Frontier,” as well as three walk-through mine replicas. Exhibits incorporate many videos and hands-on activities.

Read more

Dispatch From the Edge

By Peter Anderson As you head into the good cheer of the holidays, you run into an old friend on the corner downtown between the bank and the post office who happens to be hauling a hydraulic wood splitter. And you have several piñons, decimated by an influx of beetles, which have been downed and …

Read more

News from the San Luis Valley

By Anthony Guerrero Marijuana Defeated Alamosa and Monte Vista voters soundly rejected ballot measures regarding the allowing of recreational marijuana sales within city limits. The ballot questions also asked about medical sales, cultivation and associated products. Taxing pot was approved by voters in the event that stores had been approved. In the last two years …

Read more

Places: Our Lady of Guadalupe Church

By Daniel Smith

Nestled in the historically important San Luis Valley, the town of Conejos is the home of one of the early settlements in Colorado, dating back to the 1850s, and a religious treasure with a history appropriate to look back on at this Christmas season.

Folk legend tells of a stubborn burro which caused the first Catholic parish to be established along the Conejos River – yes, a burro.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church is a picturesque edifice in Conejos, beloved by the community and well taken care of over the decades.

It was fairly recently the scene of a fire, and a sign left after the fire some of the faithful considered a miracle – more on that later.

First, some history, as outlined in local accounts and in booklets provided by the church.

The old legend says that as Spanish pioneers were making their way through the territory in the valley, they had trouble, not surprisingly, with one of the mules in their pack-train, who stopped, then was unwilling to move.

According to the story in one booklet, “persuasion, threats, beatings, all were of no avail to make the mule proceed.”

In the mule’s pack (perhaps they were taking the pack off) was found a small statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe, it was reported.

The Spaniards, the booklet’s account claims, declared that this must be a sign that the Blessed Virgin must want a church built in her honor, dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe – on that spot. The legend says when the Spanish vowed to build a church in that exact location – the mule, “balked no more and went jogging along with the rest of the mule train.”

Read more

Regional News Roundup

Election Results Salida voters chose a new mayor and three new councilmen in the November election. P.T. Wood beat the incumbent Jim LiVecchi with 68.91 percent of the votes to become the new mayor. Dan Shore will represent Ward 1 after winning 74.14 percent of the vote, Justin Critelli won 70.96 percent of the vote …

Read more

About the Cover Artist: Sarah Woods

Sarah Woods grew up in Wyoming where she developed a love of wide open spaces and the wildlife that inhabit them, but it has been her 26 years living in Westcliffe that has had the greatest impact. Surrounded by scenic vistas, ranch land and incredibly diverse wildlife, Sarah feels passionate about the disappearing western landscape …

Read more

End of the Year – A New Day

By Mike Rosso Last month we featured a cover painting by Beatris Burgoin of the Sangre De Cristo mountain range, looking east from the San Luis Valley. This month, we are looking at that very same range, but west, from the Wet Mountain Valley. This was not intentional, but turned out to be a nice …

Read more


By Anne Marie Swan

Just north of Salida, Dawn and Curtis Emel are living their childhood dream of creating an animal sanctuary. No exotic animals here. No lions or tigers or giraffes to admire from a distance. Instead, Pearl’s Sunrize Sanctuary is closer to a petting zoo for 12 birds, four dogs, 23 cats, two sugar gliders, two ferrets and more, in and around their 800-square-foot cabin.

“We provide a forever home,” Dawn Emel said. “They’re here with us for life. I told Curtis, we may have to get rid of the kitchen table.”

I open the cabin door to a delightful cacophony. A parrot catcalls me when I step in, and silky gray cats weave between my ankles. This sanctuary is a little hectic, a little zany. Dawn hands me a sugar glider, Icarus, with soulful, brown-marble eyes. Icarus climbs my arm, tickling me, and I’m instantly charmed. I transcend time while playing with this sugar glider. I seem to have left my worries and hectic schedule outside the cabin door. Pearl’s Sunrize Sanctuary is a light, happy fun house full of animals to love up.

“It’s like having tons of two-year-olds,” Dawn said. “We’re constantly cleaning up after them. We love it. We wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Fourteen cages and two enclosures house the critters, and this is just inside. The Emels’ birds include a Green-winged macaw, an African Gray parrot, a Black-and-gold macaw, an African Ringneck parrot and a family of cockatiels that weren’t fed properly and, generally, ignored. All are thriving at Pearl’s Sunrize Sanctuary. It’s common to hear an expert rendition of R2D2 from “Star Wars” and meows and submarine sounds and thank yous around the room.

The Emels were quite a sight on the road when they hauled most of their rescued animals from southern Oregon, outside Klamath Falls, to Salida. When their car broke down in the Nevada desert, the birds made the most of it by singing French music by Pierre Felere in the moonlight.

Sadly, the Emels lost their favorite pet, a Goffin cockatoo named Pearl, and the sanctuary’s namesake, on the trip. “Pearl would have been the ambassador,” Dawn said.

Read more

In Land we Trust

By Elliot Jackson The news coming from the Colorado State Demography Office, by way of a July 2017 article in the Denver Post, is eye-opening: by 2050, the state’s population is predicted to rise to 8.5 million – a 50 percent increase from 2015 levels. Most of this growth is projected to take place along …

Read more