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Can’t let it slide

Letter from Hal Walter

Colorado Central – June 2007 – Colorado Central Magazine

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Quillen,

This is to inform you that I have consulted my team of legal experts regarding potentially libelous statements published in the “Correspondence” section ofColorado Central Magazine in the May 2007 issue. Dennis Sprecher of Centennial “Ranch” made defamatory and false accusations and assertions in his letter that we simply cannot let slide.

Mr. Sprecher asserted that I am a “city slicker” who needs to move back. The fact is I have lived in Custer County for 23 years, except for a 9-month sabbatical in Leadville, which is a great town but not exactly slick. Incidentally, I came here indirectly by way of Craig, Colorado, which by comparison makes Mr. Sprecher’s little neighborhood in Centennial “Ranch” look like Boulder.

Mr. Sprecher asserts I probably do not like to eat beef or appreciate the smell of manure. The truth is that I actually manage a small cattle and horse ranch, and have been involved with agriculture for the nearly quarter century I’ve lived in this county. In addition to beef, I also eat elk, deer, pronghorn, pork and just about anything else with cloven hooves.

As a five-time world champion pack-burro racer I have quite possibly eaten more manure than Mr. Sprecher has ever smelled when he happens to “pass by a ranch,” but I have rarely encountered anything as rotten or ill-conceived as his letter.

Based on these false assertions, Mr. Sprecher offers Colorado Central readers opinions about my own happiness, where he thinks I should live and what I should do with my life.

According to the Custer County Assessor’s office, Centennial “Ranch,” which is really a subdivision development south of Westcliffe, has recently been granted agricultural tax status. My opinion remains that there’s a big difference between real working ranchers who make their income off the land and certainly deserve a tax break, and subdivision lot owners who get a wealthfare adjustment by merely leasing their property for grazing.

The only mitigating factor in respect to Mr. Sprecher’s letter is that anyone who has lived around here for any real length of time knows who I am and what I am about. So do Mr. and Mrs. Quillen, adding to the puzzlement that such a letter was published in this magazine. The “Correspondence” section should be a place for readers to express their opinions on topical matters. It is not a place for personal attacks based on false assumptions and/or conjecture.


Hal Walter and his legal team

of Spile, Clyde, and Laredo

Ilse, Colo.

Dear Mr. Walter,

Your letter implies that you feel there is no place for personal attacks, dubious accusations, and name-calling in public commentary. What a novel idea in the twenty-first century, but how would that be possible? Why such prohibitions might eliminate as much as 99% of the 2008 election coverage.

For the record, however, we expect in-house material to be reasonably cordial, and edit it accordingly. But we do allow more leeway for correspondence (since those who are not in our industry don’t get as much opportunity to vent).

On the other hand, we consider “defamation” wholly unacceptable. But I suspect we’ve been accused of being city slickers or “the kind of people who build their big, beautiful dream home on good pasture, then complain about the cows” (or deer, or bears, or hunters, or gun nuts, or environmentalists, or new people moving in, or whatever it is people assume their opponents are against) so often, it has ceased to register.

In fact, we have come to consider being called city slickers a compliment, especially “rich, Eastern city slickers” because nobody who knows us is under the delusion that we are slick or rich or possess a mountain dream home.

And as for urbanity and sophistication? Ahhh, to be an urbane, sophisticated, vegetarian city slicker. As far as I can see there’s nothing wrong with that. Although, of course, I wouldn’t really know.

Mrs. Quillen