The Weed of Wrath

By Hal Walter

Marijuana. Most folks are either decidedly for it or against it. Me? I’m mostly a weed spectator though I lean toward the libertarian viewpoint that a person has the right to do whatever to their own body so long as it doesn’t harm others.

Like it or not, marijuana is now legal for both medical and recreational purposes in Colorado and business is booming. You can tell this by the number of shops with mostly cutesy names like “Starbuds” and “Mile High Green Cross” along the highways. And also by the number of greenhouse grow operations springing up across the countryside, particularly in nearby Pueblo County. Whether all this will withstand possible federal legal challenges remains to be seen, but for now a person can buy weed in several Colorado counties and municipalities, and some insiders say the biotech boom in northern Colorado is based on the prospect of future pharmaceutical takeover of the cannabis industry.

Here where I live in Custer County there is a ban on sales and industrial cultivation of marijuana, though residents are free to buy it elsewhere and use it privately.

Meanwhile, to the east, Pueblo County has been called the “Napa Valley of Weed” by The Denver Post and the Colorado Springs Gazette. I’ve been astounded by both the number and size of the grow operations that have sprung up along Colorado Route 96 in western Pueblo County.

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By Tina Mitchell

The dog stood still as a statue, nose to the floor. Maybe he was watching an insect. But usually he’d just check it out and move on or else snarf it down. This behavior was different. Curious, I walked over. Uh, oh – the boy had zeroed in on a scorpion. A first for us both. But over our 15 years in that house, we found a number of scorpions inside, especially in the winter. We eventually realized that most arrived on the firewood we stacked near the woodstove. When we moved the stack to the garage, the number of winter-visiting scorpions dropped.

Scorpions fall in the class Arachnida, making them distant cousins of spiders. Some people think that arachnids are insects – not so. Insects have six legs and three body segments (head, thorax, abdomen) while arachnids have eight legs and two body segments (cephalothorax – a combined head and thorax – and abdomen). Three species of scorpions call Colorado home; the most common one in central Colorado is the striped bark scorpion (Centruroides vittatus). In fact, the striped bark scorpion is the most common species in the U.S. It grows to 2.75 inches long, with two dark stripes down the length of its back. A scorpion has an elongated abdomen that ends with its signature stinger, often curled over its back. Its enlarged appendage-like pedipalps on the cephalothorax form claws for grasping prey. Also on the cephalothorax is a pair of simple eyes at the midline and 2–5 pairs along each side. Its light tan or yellow color suits its environment well, providing natural camouflage from both prey and predators. C. vittatus has a very dynamic diet, including fast-moving insects and smaller arachnids. In turn, it finds itself on the menus of birds, reptiles, some mammals, and even larger arachnids. 

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Watershed BV: A Small-Town Hub

In 1937, the U.S. Forest Service built a ranger station on Main Street in downtown Buena Vista. It remains the only historical downtown ranger station in Colorado. It served its purpose for the Forest Service until the 1970s when it became a Chaffee County health clinic. For the past 20 years the building has sat empty and unused despite the location next to the old State Highway building (currently the Trailhead) and near the intersection of Main Street and Colorado Avenue.

“It was like ‘70s wood paneling, pink carpet,” said Rick Bieterman, as we sat in what used to be the garage of the old ranger station. “And so we came in and ripped all that stuff out and found this brick under all that paneling. And these floors are the original plywood floors that we just sanded down, took the carpet off and just went with it.”

“Our vision is to pop that back wall out – it’s really just a plywood wall – and put a garage door back in to open it up to all we’ve got going on outside, too.” Bieterman has been remodeling the property since he and his wife, Katy Welter, bought the building through a government auction in January of last year. They plan to make the necessary functional renovations while keeping the character of what it was in the ‘30s and ‘40s. They hope to register the building as a local historic landmark. Bieterman and Welter have turned the space into a hub for community events and business incubation, which they call Watershed BV. 

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The Gas Creek Wars

By Virginia McConnell Simmons

With Mount Princeton and Mount Antero providing a serene backdrop, Gas Creek and Chalk Creek thread a valley lying north of Centerville, where U.S. Hwy. 285 drops down, passing under a water diversion pipe. This valley extends north to Cache Creek, which flows beneath the highway south of Nathrop. Here began local discord that, encompassing the nearby area, became known as the Lake County War.

When the following events took place, Gas Creek was part of Lake County, extending from the Continental Divide on the north and west, the Mosquito Range on the east, and Poncha Pass on the south. Leadville’s silver mines were not yet booming. But soon after the Pikes Peak gold rush and the Civil War, ranchers and farmers had started to take up land at Gas Creek, and irrigation ditches were being dug, some with affirmed legal rights and some without. Although a few of these early settlers had arrived as prospectors, they now were settling down with plows and cattle, returning to activities they had known “back home” in the Midwest and East.

It was a small world of early comers which the Gibbs family and others joined before long. Elijah Gibbs’ cabin was at Gas Creek, and his father had a place nearby. Elijah’s wife was the daughter of a Methodist preacher called Gilliland down at Brown’s Creek, a short distance south of Centerville, and another of Gilliland’s daughters was married to Justice of the Peace A.B. Cowan. Gilliland was an acquaintance of the well-known Methodist circuit rider, Rev. John L. Dyer, whose son Dyer taught school at Brown’s Creek. After a while, though, Elijah had moved, but only as far north as Granite, where he served as Probate Judge while also prospecting at Iowa Gulch near today’s Leadville. 

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Quillen’s Corner: If Government Is a Business, What’s the Product?

By Martha Quillen

In recent decades, political machinations have gotten so combative that a second civil war seems more likely than having Congress develop a decent, mutually acceptable plan for health care, immigration, or anything else. Talk about a house divided… America’s fighting spirit is aroused and stirring.

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George Sibley: Down on the Ground in Central Colorado

I’ve been trying to figure out how and where Central Colorado – the region served (and somewhat created) by this magazine – fits into last month’s topic, “Great Divide” political geography. The Great Divide being not the physical Continental Divide but the demographic metropolitan-nonmetropolitan divide, a major factor in the 2016 election.

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Places: Phantom Canyon Road

Photo by Ericka Kastner

By Ericka Kastner

Phantom Canyon Road lives up to its name; until very recently this route had been haunting me.

It’s been several years since a friend told me about the road running from Penrose to Victor. Since then, County Road 67 has been filed in the notes section of my iPhone where I list places in Colorado that I long to experience.

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The Real Deal Music Review: John Drew Peterson – Faint But Visible

Reviewed by Brian Rill

The intimate relationship between a man and his brand new metal strings are what is represented on this 21-track acoustic guitar album. The songs are relatively similar throughout, the same sound being used on every track; if you like one you’ll love them all. This is a great background music CD for meditation or relaxation, as a moderate tempo is employed among the pieces. Smooth steady finger work makes its mark among all the numbers in this collection.

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Book Reviews – A Compendium of Curious Colorado Place Names

By Jim Flynn
ISBN: 978-1-46713-732-4
The History Press: 2016
$21.99; 186pp, plus index

Reviewed by Eduardo Rey Brummel

Cannibal Plateau. Breckenridge. Westcliffe. Slumgullion Pass. Tin Cup. Saguache. Colorado is chockablock with odd and peculiar place names.

Fortunately, there are numerous books telling the varied tales of how these names came to be. (I own two other such books, myself.) But since so many of these books already exist, and many of us have at least one or two’ why bother with this one? Well, because two qualities distinguish this book from the rest. First, it’s not an alphabetic listing of Colorado place names, it’s divided into chapters. Second, Jim Flynn writes with a simpatico tone and winking sense of humor.

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Museums of Central Colorado: The Rio Grande County Museum

By Lyndsie Ferrell

As with many museums throughout Colorado, the Rio Grande County Museum in Del Norte is home to some of the area’s oldest artifacts, highlighting the rich history surrounding the San Luis Valley and beyond. The Valley was homesteaded in the early 1800s by both Anglo and Spanish travelers, who came to the area after the Spanish Trail was forged through the dense high peaks surrounding the valley floor. When arriving in the area, both parties came to realize that they were the last to arrive in the region, joining the Native American Utes, Apache, Utah and several other clans.

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Eye on the 5th

By Daniel Smith

Hard to keep pace with the astounding events surrounding the Trump administration these days. Many of them leave Americans’ heads swimming, such as the firing of FBI Director James Comey and the naming of a Special Counsel to further probe the involvement of Russia in seeking to affect the U.S. presidential election. Reaction, as in many levels of the government, also did manifest in the Fifth Congressional District.

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From the Editor: Notes

By Mike Rosso

Last month’s tagline poked fun at the dwindling shoulder seasons in Salida, but a quick walk downtown on a late May afternoon reveals the truth: we are officially on the map. Both in-state and out-of-state plates abound, sidewalks are more crowded, the bays at the local gas station are nearly always full. Trailers loaded down with ATVs, mountain bikes and kayaks speed along Highway 50, headed toward other Colorado destinations.

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About the Cover Artist: Jessica Vogel

Jessica Vogel began her love affair with compelling images as a commercial photographer. It all began at the University of Florida’s Photojournalism School. Later, while interning with a noted Texas photographer, she improved on the technique of making Polaroid transfers, separating the color layers in the film and putting them back together to create images that resemble paintings. When Kodak went out of business and Polaroid film was no longer available, she returned to the 35mm camera and her paints and brushes. For several years after getting married, she operated as Jess Vogel Photography, her work appearing in such publications as Outside Magazine, Skiing, Transworld Snowboarding and Surfer Magazine.

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