Water in the driest of years

Column by Hal Walter

Drought – January 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine

IT’S A NEVER-CEASING SOURCE of amazement for me when I turn on the faucet and somewhere from about 150 feet underground, comes water.

In fact, it is so much an amazement, that a major home-improvement project I tackled one particularly icy weekend this fall was the installation — at great plumbing hassle — of a new sink and fixtures that cost almost exactly what I will earn from writing this column in all of 2002.

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What we don’t know is hurting us

Essay by Martha Quillen

Media – January 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine

BOB EWEGEN, deputy editorial page editor and columnist for The Denver Post, says “Journalism is the art of relentless oversimplification,” and Ed often quotes him on that.

But if they’re talking about journalism today, their assessment may be too optimistic.

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Some personal favorites

Review by Lynda La Rocca

Literature – January 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine

I’M PROBABLY THE LAST PERSON in the world to catch on to the fact that Willa Cather was an incredible writer. A friend who has never traveled outside New England has urged me for years to read Cather’s works. She rhapsodizes over Cather’s glorious depictions of the great American prairie during its transition from a magnificent ocean of grass into a platted, plowed, and planted landscape of farm communities built on the backs of bewildered yet hopeful immigrants. And now I understand why my friend feels this way.

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Some basics about photovoltaics

Sidebar by Slim Wolfe

Solar Energy – January 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine

Some basics about photovoltaic and other power systems

Do solar panels work under a cloud? Yes, but slowly: allow about twice the time as you’d need on a sunny day.

What about wind generators? They’re best when mounted on a 40-foot pole or tower, above ground turbulence. They vibrate and can be quite noisy, and your tower must be anchored and guyed. There are many models, starting at about $600 (for a roof-mounted unit supplying about 400 watts, which is suitable for supplemental power to a solar system), and additional gear may be required.

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Scrounging for solar

Article by Slim Wolfe

Solar Energy – January 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine

As the Russian said when visiting the modern cabin on a Canadian lake: “This is nice for a town house, but where is your place in the country?”

THE DECEMBER ARTICLE about solar-powered living was excellent for those who want to borrow money and hire the job out, but off-grid living is also accessible for those with allergies to bankers and hired contractors, who might prefer to do it “the cowboy way,” that is, with gumption, ingenuity, elbow grease, and cusswords.

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Back to the basics? Or a new hustle?

Article by Allen Best

Skiing – January 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine

AS BEST I CAN FIGURE, the story at Silverton is about how much sex you can have before you cease being a virgin. Aaron Brill professes near virginity with his new Silverton Mountain Ski Area, and if I sound skeptical, perhaps even cynical, maybe it’s because I haven’t been among those reporters who have trouped to this newfound Shangri-La of 50° slopes, 13,000-foot peaks, and just one lift.

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Welcome back, Cotter?

Article by Gail Binkly

Environment – January 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine

LAST WINTER, when Deyon Boughton read in her local newspaper that 470,000 tons of “mildly contaminated soil” might be coming to rest at the uranium mill near her home, she winced. Her husband, Lynn, had been a chemist at the mill from 1958 to 1979, and died of lymphoma that doctors linked to uranium exposure. Learning that the Cotter Corp. mill, which has been in and out of production for years, was now in the business of storing radioactive waste hit Boughton hard.

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With the plutocracy

Column by George Sibley

Politics – January 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine

BECAUSE I HAD the good fortune to grow up in one of the few historical moments in which democracy — government by the people, for the broadest benefit of all the people — was actually realized to a great extent, I naturally took it for granted. But now that the plutocrats have come storming back from their early 20th-century setbacks, and recaptured almost everything, I realize how foolish I’ve been — and how much we are losing, have already lost, through naivete about the true depth and extent of the raging greed-fear of those for whom no amount of wealth and power is ever enough.

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Pack-Burro Racing

Central Staff by 1.GEN

Sidebar – January 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine

Here are the official, and more or less complete, results of the 2002 races, as reported by the Western Pack-Burro Racing ASS-ociation.

Tom Sobal and Bullwinkle took the men’s triple-crown title. Sobal just moved down to Salida from Leadville; we hope the thicker air at his new home won’t hurt him as a competitor.

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Racing at the top

Article by Columbine Quillen

Pack-burro racing – January 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine

IT’S A SHORT SEASON for a professional donkey racer; the pack burro racing season is not nearly as long as the football, basketball, or hockey seasons. And the profession is not nearly as prestigious — nor as lucrative. But to keep winning the ultimate prize in pack burro racing, as Barb Dolan has, you have to train all year. Winter is not an excuse to hang out and watch television for nine months.

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More regulation?

Letter from Dave Skinner

Transportation – January 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine

Editors:

With United’s debt mess making the headlines, I had to go back and re-read George Sibley’s “let’s federalize everything” piece about the Gunnison airport subsidy.

What struck me THIS time, however, was George’s incidental whine about track conditions. Sibley obviously hasn’t been around railroads much lately, otherwise he’d have gotten an eyeful of Union Pacific’s three-track main in Nebraska, the Powder River main in Wyoming, the GN main up here, and just about every railroad that hasn’t been tore up.

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All those crackpots

Letter from Slim Wolfe

Modern life – January 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine

Editors:

You know you’re in trouble when your leaders roll out “eye-rack” on their tongues, as if it were some personal pronoun.

Looking back on the great milestones of western social engineering, all five of them, I’m wishing for another one, soon, while there’s still a bit of breathing room. Step outside the present for a moment and take in the overview.

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Whence some place names?

Letter from Virginia Simmons

Place Names – January 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine

Ed:

You mentioned in your review of a new book, San Luis Valley Place Names by Ron Kessler, that you would like to know the source of the name for Mishak Lakes. A ranch family from Oklahoma and their descendants owned land around the lakes west of Moffat in the 1900s. Actually, the “lakes” are playas, comprising Colorado’s largest natural shallow-water wetland system, so “Mishak Playas” might have been a more appropriate name. These playas offer habitat for migrating shorebirds and waterfowl in the spring but normally dry up during the summer. Since The Nature Conservancy acquired the site in the 1990s, it has been designated the Mishak Lakes Preserve.

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More about the Land Library

Letter from Jeff Lee

Montane literature – January 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine

Dear Martha & Ed,

What a terrific surprise to turn the pages of the new [December] Colorado Central and find the “Books to Match our Mountains” survey. Thanks so much for spreading the word for these important books. Your article was laid out so well, and I particularly enjoyed the additional titles you included — there were a few I need to add to the Land Library’s shelves!

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Our mountains are not in the middle kingdom

Letter from Andy Burns

Montane literature – January 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine

Colorado Central:

In “Books to Match Our Mountains,” [December edition] Mark W. Williams suggested Mountains of the Middle Kingdom: Exploring the High Peaks of China & Tibet as a book to read for “someone who wants to know more about the heritage, challenges, and wonders of life in the mountain west.” I wonder if he could explain that.

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Russian Olives are now a forbidden fruit

Brief by Central Staff

Agriculture – January 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine

The Colorado State Forest Service used to sell the seedlings at a minimal price to encourage landowners to plant this shrub, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommended it for windbreaks on the Great Plains. The hardy plant was often used for revegetation of scarred land, since it can survive in dry, windy places with alkaline or salty soils. That may explain why you can find a lot of them growing in southern Chaffee County.

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Historic Salida, Inc., is organizing

Brief by Central Staff

Local History – January 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine

For more than a generation, economic factors preserved Salida’s historic buildings. In the early 1950s, when many other places were getting suburbs, shopping centers, urban renewal, and other blights, Salida was spared because it was losing its major industry — the railroad — and nobody was investing in anything new.

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Some movements on the Tennessee Pass line

Brief by Central Staff

Transportation – January 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine

Trains haven’t moved over Tennessee Pass for several years, but there has been some recent activity on the line between Parkdale (western terminus of the Canon City & Royal Gorge RR) and the top of the pass.

The official action involved 74 empty coal cars which had been parked since June 2001 at the Vallie Siding between Swissvale and Cotopaxi.

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Resort towns aren’t turning green yet

Brief by Central Staff

Environment – January 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine

Ski resorts are getting greener these days, with more of their electricity coming from wind power, rather than coal. The latest announcement came from Aspen, where the ski company made a deal to run the gondola entirely by wind-generated electricity.

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Cable sale still on

Brief by Central Staff

Telecommunications – January 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine

The sale of several cable TV systems in rural Colorado has been delayed, but it’s still in process, according to the buyer. The seller is (or was) AT&T Broadband, which acquired the small systems when it acquired Denver-based TCI several years ago.

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Quarquicentennials?

Brief by Central Staff

Local history – January 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine

We had a good time when Salida celebrated its centennial in 1980, and we note that San Luis celebrated its sesquicentennial in 2001, since that was 150 years since Colorado’s oldest town was founded in 1851.

However, we need a word for what comes between centennial and sesquicentennial — the 125th anniversary — since we’ve got several of them in 2003: Alamosa, Leadville, and the Jackson Hotel in Poncha Springs.

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Briefs from the San Luis Valley

Brief by Marcia Darnell

San Luis Valley – January 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine

Rollin’, rollin’

The new train pavilion is done — now all it needs is the train. The covered home of Engine 169 (next to the bridge at U.S. 160 and Colorado 17) has been dedicated, now it’s time to move the engine into it. Organizers are waffling as to methods of relocation. They may build cribbing out of railroad ties, jack it up, and move it, or rent a flatbed and roll it. The final decision depends on fundraising, as the latter method is much more expensive.

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The night the lights went out

Brief by Central Staff

Electricity – January 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine

Salida and environs were left in the dark for several hours just as the sun set on Saturday, Nov. 23.

That the electricity went out at dusk was not a coincidence, according to Steve Ralstead, who handles media relations for Xcel Energy, the company that acquired New Century energy, which was the company that acquired Public Service Co. of Colorado.

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Farming, money and water in Colorado and the West

Essay by Phil Doe

Water – January 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine

WHEN I WAS A BOY we rented seven acres near what is now the intersection of Littleton and South Federal boulevards southwest of Denver. There, we raised garden vegetables for the roadside stands that then dotted South Santa Fe. Child labor, in the form of my two brothers, twin sister, and me — and a smoke-belching, child-resistant, two-wheeled garden tractor that only my father was strong enough to direct unerringly between the crop rows — fueled this sleek operation.

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Western Water Report: January 4, 2003

WEATHER CYCLES

The United States Geological Survey Earth Surface Dynamics Program has published a draft fact sheet on their analysis of the “Precipitation History of the Colorado Plateau Region, 1900-2000.” They conclude that there is evidence we are entering into another drought cycle as of 1998 similar to that which affected the southwest from 1942-1977, a 35-year drought. Temperature changes in ocean areas which correlate with precipitation in the southwest suggest that we will receive less total precipitation as snow, and a larger percentage of precipitation in extreme weather events.

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