Riddles in the Rocks – The Bonanza Caldera

By Bill Hatcher

Sherlock Holmes is, perhaps, the most famous detective of all time. Recently, he has received renewed attention in film and on television.

However, a different sort of detective has been investigating a real-life enigma here in central Colorado for the past eight years. And if his pursuit seems less glamorous than what happens on the silver screen, his findings have been no less dramatic. This detective is a geologist who has been solving the riddles of a local super-volcano. Doctor Peter Lipman taught geology at Colorado State University in the 1970s, but has been a research scientist since then. He’s now 77 and officially retired. Still, his passion for rocks takes him high into the mountains each summer. And as he told the story, I imagined him puffing on a pipe like Sherlock, pondering.

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By John Mattingly
In 1965, on the last day of my matriculation year of high school in Australia, our history teacher, a bravely bearded Mr. Chambers, suggested to our class that one of the more interesting – perhaps even more important – things we could do in the next couple of decades was try to figure out our place in the “wide river of history.”

The suggestion didn’t strike me, or most of my mates, as something we had to worry about just then, as most of us were more concerned about the “wide river” of matriculation exams we had to take in a few days. In those days, Australia had only three universities, which meant only a small percentage of high school students qualified for higher learning. There was tremendous pressure to do well on the exam – the dreaded “matric” – a three day, eighteen hour, strictly proctored exam that covered the entire year’s study of English, Calculus, Pure Maths, Chemistry, and History.

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Celebrating My Anniversary Alone

By Susan Tweit

One morning in August, I woke in the half-darkness at five o’clock. I lay there hoping I’d go back to sleep, and then remembered what awakened me.

“Happy Anniversary,” I said softly out loud.

I wasn’t talking to myself, though I do that often. (I’m a writer. I live alone. Both good excuses for talking to myself, it seems to me.)

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Unintended Consequences

 By Slim Wolfe

I live in one of the Southwest’s raggedy towns, which suits me just fine, because it’s as far away as a person can get from the American dream of straight streets, neat little boxes, well-kept lawns and mortgages. There was a tradition of creative hard-scrabble building here which must jar the eye of any first-time visitor from the outside world of “normalcy”; odd shapes, used materials, piles of salvage, sometimes mislabeled as Blight. The place is as flat and barren as most of the San Luis Valley: no streams, nothing that grows to more than waist height, a habitat shared by rabbits and hares, prairie dogs, ant hills and a few birds.

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The Pest House – A Notorious Structure Gets a New Life

 By Mike Rosso

When Marilyn and Harold Sampson of Lawrence, Kansas decided to purchase property in Chaffee County in 2005, they probably didn’t expect to someday own an infamous piece of the county’s history.

The sent their son Darrell on a scouting mission and he discovered six acres of land on County Road 160 that bordered State Wildlife land. On it sat a newer barn and a dilapidated old brick structure on the edge of some wetlands below the mesa.

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Smoothie Operators

(a mixed-up true story with made-up names)

By Mark Kneeskern

“Let’s say we take my world in a rented rig.”

The Costco parking lot in Colorado Springs at 11pm: a peculiar place to discuss the strategies of a mobile smoothie enterprise which will follow 25,000 bicyclists across the state of Iowa.

Earlier that evening: I’m driving the Aerostar, cruising behind an Econoline van driven by Graham Booth, leader of this contingency. Riding shotgun with Booth is Lola, who misses her dogs. Booth pulls a trailer which, unfortunately, has no functioning lights. Somewhere behind us is Saul, driving his PowerStroke, pulling the second trailer. With Saul are Star and Tiana, inseparable and incorrigible. In Cañon City, Booth applied red reflective stickers above the tail-lights of the trailer.

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Regional News

Ballot ID Simmers, Boils Over

In Chaffee County, the issue of ballot secrecy simmered in the spring and early summer and then finally exploded in mid-August. A Buena Vista man said he cracked the code to identify ballots cast by specific voters in the June primary. County officials had long denied ballots could be traced by barcode, and refused to comply with a subpoena to provide records used to print ballots and record them. Upon learning the barcode cracking news, Secretary of State officials issued an emergency ruling preventing counties from printing ballots with unique numbers and barcodes that could be used to link voters to their ballot. Watermarks may be used instead. This all goes back to an election activist group called Citizen Center and their belief that by using barcodes, six counties have not protected voter secrecy. The group filed a suit in U.S. District Court, which is working its way through the system, although a settlement could be in the works.

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The Crowded Acre – Barn. Heart.

by Jennifer Welch

I can’t think of a single aspect of farming that isn’t an act of love. It usually begins with the break of day, or just before it. I feel through the darkness of the room for my boots and jacket before fumbling down the stairs and out the back door. I slowly make my way to the barn and as I rub the sleep from my eyes, I am blanketed by the stillness of the earth at dawn. The animals begin to stir in the early light. Yak the horse lets out a low nicker then brushes my cheek with his whiskers – it’s his way of saying “Good morning.” Slowly, the goats and the cows follow suit as they rise from their beds and make their way towards the gate. The kittens stretch and yawn quietly until the first shot of milk hits the side of the pail, then they rush to my side impatiently waiting for their breakfast. And so it goes, the milking and feeding take place as the sun rises up over the Midland Hill, and the silence I first stepped into is carried off with the awakening of the farm. It’s mostly the silent moments that draw me in to this life. It gives me a quiet sense of solitude when I secretly crave isolation from the world around me, something I crave more often than most. It is in these moments, however, when I find I am least alone, and most surrounded by love.

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Colorado Trail

by Columbine Quillen

Once, a great long while ago, a donkey named Virgil and I hiked from Denver to Buena Vista on the pristine Colorado Trail. The Colorado Trail is a 486-mile footpath that traverses the state from Denver to Durango through the rugged foothills and the Rocky Mountains. Finding myself in Colorado this summer with a couple of spare weeks and the need for solitude, I thought I would start up where I left off and walk until it was no longer an option to ignore my pending responsibilities. I went deep into the backcountry seeking solace and isolation but, surprisingly, I found a gregarious band of appealing souls that made me reconsider having only myself as company for two weeks. During a short time each year, high up in the Colorado Rockies, is a wandering band of wayfarers that keep an eye on one another and form a short-term community.

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Writing about Autism

By Hal Walter
School is back in session, and this year I am more grateful for that than ever. As the parent of an autistic son, I must admit I have become comfortable with the notion of school as not only a learning opportunity for Harrison, but as respite care as well.

When Harrison is back in school, I have a nine-hour block of time. There’s less of a day care rush. I can work. It’s quiet. I can even take some time to relax.

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The Caboose

by Forrest Whitman

Ed Quillen, Yellow Slime, and our own Southwest Chief

Ed Quillen is no longer with us, but in late spring he had sent me a train report on his trip to the Pacific Northwest. He reported that the trainsets built by train manufacturer Talgo are great, and more are on order from the big shops in Wisconsin. Their tilting wheels make for a super ride around curves. He pointed out an irony in those new car orders since Wisconsin had just retained one of the most rabid anti-union governors in the country and the Milwaukee train shops are unionized.

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Making Sense of the Affordable Care Act

By Elizabeth Ritchie, RN

The entire conversation of health care reform starts with the consensus that in the United States the health care status quo cannot be sustained. Reining in health care costs and putting health care back in the hands of individuals rather than insurance companies has been attempted by presidents since Teddy Roosevelt’s administration. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the single greatest deficit-reduction package since President Clinton’s budget of 1993. It is the single biggest legislative action of President Obama and the most significant ruling by the Supreme Court in decades.

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Down on the Ground in the Carbon Cycle

By George Sibley

So far this wildfire season, we’ve been lucky in Central Colorado (knock on wood). There have been little fires here and there, but nothing like those that other parts of Colorado – and the Rocky Mountains in general – have been experiencing.

The ferocity of some of these fires has been compounded by their nearness to civilization. I am not referring to the uncivilized people who build out in what our late lamented founder called “the Stupid Zone,” remote places where people build big fancy homes and have the temerity to expect fire protection and affordable insurance. The fires this summer have roared right through the Stupid Zones and gone on to threaten whole communities. For example, the Waldo Canyon fire forced the evacuation of Manitou Springs. Whole suburbs were evacuated and some destroyed by that fire and the other big one in northern Colorado. Forest fires aren’t supposed to be a Main Street problem.

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Leadville Cherokee: mountain music

By Tyler Grimes

“A funky jam band” is how the Leadville Cherokee were described at a recent show at the State Highway Theater in Buena Vista. The band of five from – of course – Leadville, can certainly be described as funky and jamming, with a dose of bluegrass, reggae and rock. They describe themselves as a “Country-Fry Jam Rock Reggae Bluegrass Band.” Whatever the genre, they know how to make people stand up and move.

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San Luis Valley News

By Patty LaTaille

State Stalks Stalled Saguache Tax Assessments

State officials and Colorado taxpayers are concerned about tens of thousands of dollars in school funding that they’ve collectively paid to Saguache County in recent years due to a county assessor who has “slacked off” in adding new construction to the county tax coffers.

This failure to perform resulted in some property owners – including Saguache County commissioners and other government officials – paying property taxes that are a fraction of what they should be, while others paid full assessment value.

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