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Almost Native: How to pass as a Coloradan, by Linda Murdock

Review by Ed Quillen

Colorado Culture – December 2004 – Colorado Central Magazine

Almost Native – How to Pass as a Coloradan
by Linda Murdock
Published in 2004 by Bellwether Books
ISBN 0970428529

EVERY YEAR, thousands of people move to Colorado, and some of them wonder “How can I fit in?” This short book (128 narrow pages) attempts to answer that question with some straight replies, leavened by wit.

In the most populated part of the state, along the Front Range, it shouldn’t be too hard to fit in, since that’s Generica — with the same convenience stores, strip malls, big boxes, and off-ramp restaurant franchises that appear everywhere else in America.

But in very small towns and out in the boonies, a person probably has to be born and reared there to fit in — and even that may not work if he tries to import ideas picked up in college or the service.

When we owned the newspaper in Kremmling, a woman came to the office one day and berated me for having the gall to tell people how they should vote in a local election when, after all, I had lived there only three or four years.

I replied that that’s one of the things newspapers do, and we ran the paper. And beyond that business investment, we owned a house, and our children had been born in Kremmling.

“Just because a cat has kittens in the oven, doesn’t make ’em biscuits,” she responded.

The idea behind Almost Native, besides some humor, is to give new arrivals a feel for Colorado’s society, lore, and history — think of it as a guidebook that provides cultural tutelage, rather than directions to hiking trailheads or off-beat restaurants.

It’s pithy and it does explain what’s different about Colorado:

Altitude — “Take it easy for the first few days. Do not be concerned unless you are still huffing and puffing after the first week. Then you are either ill, terribly out of shape, or having a religious experience.”

Sunshine — “Become familiar with these products: sunblock, sunscreen, sunglasses, suncerely! Skin cancer is no fun, but you are like a sitting duck in Colorado with its high altitude and numerous cloud-free days.”

Driving — “Remember the old car commercial `Stay between the lines, the lines are our friends’? Well, they aren’t in Colorado. Lines are like fences and we don’t want to be fenced in. So when you notice every other driver straddling the lane lines, they aren’t necessarily drunk, asleep, or on a cell phone, although that may be the case. Generally, Coloradans are road hogs and as difficult as it seems, just get used to it.”

Author Linda Murdock offers generally sound advice on everything from clothing (“Learn to layer”) and politics (“If you’re a Republican, you should fit right into Colorado politics”) to auto maintenance (“get used to cracked windshields”) and geography (Loveland the city is nowhere near Loveland the pass and ski area).

By and large, Murdock’s information is accurate; I spotted only a couple of minor errors. And her selection is pretty good, with mention of characters like Prunes, the Fairplay burro, and David Day, the outspoken Ouray newspaper editor.

So it’s informative and fun, but I have to wonder at its purpose. It seems to me that you get the best treatment in Colorado, not if you were born here or have lived here for a couple of decades, but if you appear to be an outsider who is considering an investment in Colorado. If there were a book that taught you how to make Coloradans think you were a visiting Canadian millionaire looking for business opportunities, few Coloradans would care whether you knew San Luis from Sand Creek.

But that’s a different matter. This little book is fun, with information new to even hard-core Colorado buffs like me. It may start an argument or two (she insists that all real Coloradans are serious Bronco fans), but it could also settle a few. If you’re looking for a gift for a Coloradan, or a wannabe Coloradan, you could do a lot worse.

–Ed Quillen

(Linda Murdock, author of Almost Native, will sign books from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 11, at All Booked Up in downtown Salida.)