George Sibley: Down on the Ground with Democracy Again

By George Sibley

Trying to reduce the personal library a while back, I came across a book titled The Irony of Democracy: An Uncommon Introduction to American Politics. I have no idea where I got it – probably some yard sale – and don’t remember ever opening it. By the reduction standards I’ve set, it should therefore have gone into the box I’m planning to leave on the public library doorstep some night.

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Quillen’s Corner: Is Ours an Era of Post-Truth Politics? Or Dual Realities?

By Martha Quillen

Most people think they know the difference between little white lies and huge deceptions; and simple, ordinary facts and profound truths. But do they? Psychologists warn that when verifiable facts collide with our cherished beliefs we tend to disregard the facts. But most of us assume questionable perceptions only sway other people, not us.
And it’s obvious that people judge their rivals and opponents more harshly than they judge themselves and their friends and allies. Rudolph Giuliani, Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump prove that point. Their disgust with Bill Clinton’s indiscretions and Hillary’s enabling is almost comically hypocritical. But does that make it wrong?

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John Mattingly: The Sap in Sapiens

By John Mattingly

In the fall of the year, when the season’s efforts – good and bad – must be accepted, and preparations for the next year are less demanding, it is nice to sit on a tractor all day and watch Earth turn from daybreak to dusk. The light has a slant and richness that are hypnotizing. It is a time for what my father called “a long ponder.” After one such ponder he told me that he suspected he was living in the last years of Homo sapiens. Even then, in the years of Reagan and Bush Sr., he could not quite reconcile the persistence of war, greed and cruelty. It is sad and humbling to think what humans could do if all the killing of human culture had been applied to improving the life of everyone.

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Places: Desert Reef Hot Spring

Photos courtesy of Desert Reef Hot Spring.
Photos courtesy of Desert Reef Hot Spring.

Story and photos by Ericka Kastner

Something tells me you haven’t heard of this one.
Both Colorado visitors and residents alike know that one of the best things about this great state is its hot springs. It might be lesser known that a private, clothing optional, family-friendly soaking pool with unobstructed mountain views, Desert Reef Hot Spring, lies just outside Cañon City near Florence.

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The Real Deal Music Review: Smythe and Taylor – Things Have Changed

Smythe and Taylor have released their new CD, Things Have Changed. Just what those things are is unclear, as this album from start to finish explores a tried and true but somewhat undynamic exposé of bluegrass and folk. Duet folk albums might be making a great comeback in Central Colorado, but my judgment is skewed …

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Book Review: The Man Who Thought He Owned the Water

theman_webBy Tershia D’Elgin
University Press of Colorado, 2016
978-1-607-495-9; 287 pp, $29.95

Reviewed by Virginia McConnell Simmons

Although Central Colorado is the birthplace of three of Colorado’s major waterways – the South Platte, Arkansas, and Rio Grande – who owns the water seems puzzling except among water managers and farmers. Most consumers simply take it for granted that the liquid stuff for sinks and plastic bottles, rafts and kayaks, fishing, skiing resorts and wells will always be there. To get an inkling of how change can happen, read The Man Who Thought He Owned the Water, with its subtitle On the Brink with American Farms, Cities, and Food.
The author, Tershia D’Elgin, writes a compelling biographical account of what happened to her own father in the Platte River Valley near Greeley. A great-grandson of Colorado Governor Benjamin Eaton, Bill Phelps begins with ambition aplenty and surface water rights that promised success at Big Bend Station. Where he ran amuck was in the assumption that he, like many of his neighbors, could increase productivity by using wells that delivered underground water.

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Ghost Breweries of Colorado

granite_web By Robert McLeod

The following are two excerpts from a new book, Ghost Breweries of Colorado, A History of Centennial State Brewing, by author Robert W. McLeod of Arvada. He is also the author of A Colorado Chronology, a collection of several thousand nuggets of Colorado history and A Valley So Grand, a history of the Grand Valley and Grand Junction, Colorado. He’s had a forty-plus-year association with Denver’s Sundance Publications, Ltd., as an editor and in other capacities. He is currently working on a book with the Colorado Railroad Museum about the Arkansas Valley Railway, Colorado’s first abandoned railroad. Ghost Breweries is available for purchase through, or through eBay.

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The Man Who Died Twice (Part 2)

A Piper Cherokee Six aircraft, similar to the one flown on the ill-fated day. At right: The red arrow indicates the location of Stout Creek Lakes in this aerial view courtesy of the Colorado Civil Air Patrol
A Piper Cherokee Six aircraft, similar to the one flown on the ill-fated day. At right: The red arrow indicates the location of Stout Creek Lakes in this aerial view courtesy of the Colorado Civil Air Patrol

By Daniel Smith

Seared into his memory, Bill Reeves remembers the moment:
“Soon the downdraft pushed us below the clouds, just enough to where I could see pine trees off our left wing tip fairly closely, and looked ahead and there was a ridge coming at us. I said ‘ridge’ and ‘turn’ and Wil turned left … and that put us into the Stout Creek drainage where he was trying to outclimb terrain in a downdraft. And so as we came down in, you know what I was seeing at that point was just rocky, bouldery walls everywhere and starting to think ‘this is it, you know, we’re not going to make it,’ and starting to figure out where I was going to hit.”
That harrowing moment has a direct link back to the story we reported in the last issue: the 1995 murder case involving victim Richard Johnson and his later-convicted killer, Jeremy Denison, a case involving drugs, an informant and a controversial trial. Denison is serving life without parole for cutting Johnson’s throat in January of that year.
About two weeks after the murder this next tale unfolds.

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The Way We Really Were

By Virginia McConnell Simmons Identifying “Our President” will be a mystery if you believe the inked script. In fact, only after President McKinley’s assassination, with no living vice president to fill the office, was T.R. catapulted into the presidency in September 1903. Some sharp-eyed Central Coloradans will note that the locomotive should have borne the …

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From the Editor: The First Amendment

By Mike Rosso

Is the freedom of the press in the United States under attack?
Judging from the past year, the evidence would suggest so. First, you’ve got the Republican nominee for president insisting libel laws be changed to make it easier to sue the media. His reasons for this are obvious; the media’s reporting of his own words and deeds has led to a dramatic drop in his poll numbers. Naturally he’s going to attack the messenger. The angry minions at his rallies chant “CNN sucks,” and make vulgar gestures at the press corps as they are led in, with the blessings of their thin-skinned candidate. There is some irony in this. CNN and other outlets have provided wall to wall coverage of Donald Trump since he announced his candidacy gliding down an escalator with his fashion-model-bride. He’s received millions of dollars worth of free coverage other candidates could only dream of, but when that coverage turned negative, such as after the release of the infamous “Access Hollywood” bus tapes, he immediately began threatening the media with lawsuits.

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About the Cover Artist: Padgett McFeely

After earning a BA in Psychology at UC Irvine, I began studying photography. Immediately enthralled by the ‘wet’ darkroom process, I started working extensively with the black and white medium. My first teacher was Barbara Kasten. The first lecture I ever attended was given by Ansel Adams. I was hooked! Photography quickly became my way …

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Hal Walter: A Gorilla Named Train

Photo by Hal Walter
Photo by Hal Walter

My friend Don Conoscenti, a Taos musician who also lived in Alamosa for a while, put out a new album recently called Anastasia. The collection includes new songs as well as remakes of some of his previous work.
My son Harrison is a fan of Don’s as well, dwelling particularly on a track called “That Train.” The stereotype of autistic people is that they take everything literally, but Harrison has become increasingly aware of metaphor through music. Ironically the lyrics of “That Train” speak to me in my advancing middle age as I reflect more and more about life’s minor questions like, “What is the purpose of my existence?”

“If you leave this world defeated, you’ve got your own damn self to blame.”

One evening I found a bright blue, green and white gorilla on the bathroom countertop. I think this stuffed critter has been around here since Harrison was a baby. He never played with toys like that, so I found it peculiar that he had brought it out from a closet. He is 12 now, and apparently sought out the gorilla after seeing either a ventriloquist or puppet on YouTube.
The next morning as we got ready for school, he started out the door with the gorilla under his arm, wanting to take it to school with him. I told him that it was a bad idea and the other kids might not know what to think. I expected an argument, but he handled it OK. He then asked if he could take the gorilla in the car. I said OK, but just to the bus.

“Will I end up like that train, asleep beneath the snow, rusting in the rain?”

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The Natural World: The Greenback Cutthroat

By Tina Mitchell

As the Hayden Pass fire exploded in July,  people and their beloved animals had to evacuate. Another group of local residents faced relocation as well. A rare subspecies of cutthroat trout protected by the Endangered Species Act lives in a three-mile stretch of the south prong of Hayden Creek – and even as humans were fleeing, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) staff were scrambling to create a plan to protect these fish.greenback_cutthroat_web
Named for the slash of red below its jaw, the cutthroat trout’s historical distribution covered the broadest range of any stream-dwelling trout in the Western Hemisphere. The rugged topography of the species’ range isolated groups of cutthroats from each other, allowing the evolution of a whopping 14 distinct subspecies. Four closely related subspecies are native to Colorado: the Colorado River cutthroat, on the Western Slope; the Rio Grande cutthroat, in the San Luis Valley; the now-extinct yellowfin cutthroat; and the greenback cutthroat, the easternmost subspecies, found east of the Continental Divide.

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A New Breed: Women Ranchers

A young Marie Scott on horseback in her early ranching days. Photo courtesy of Mario Zadra.
A young Marie Scott on horseback in her early ranching days. Photo courtesy of Mario Zadra.

By Judy Buffington Sammons

In the old West, around the turn of the century, a few ranchers’ daughters – a brazen few – decided to shake up the establishment a little bit, rock the boat and rattle a few cages. They put on shocking divided skirts or even pants borrowed from fathers or brothers. They abandoned their ridiculous sidesaddles and dared to get on their horses astride. Then they happily rode off, leaving their ladylike images in the dust; they hunted coyotes, rode the range, homesteaded, roped steers and branded mavericks. They married or didn’t – they inherited or homesteaded or bought ranches. In the very Western and very male world of cattle ranching, they became bonafide ranchers – America’s very first women ranchers: a new breed.
Early-day women ranchers were truly a rarity but Western Colorado claimed a few of them and the following is a brief look at five women – motivated by either necessity or an appetite for a way of life – who showed that they were equal to the difficult task of ranching.

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