Quillen’s Corner

What Do Affordable Housing, Equality, and World Peace Have In Common? By Martha Quillen A story in the July 6 Mountain Mail made me laugh – until I realized it wasn’t a joke. The article was about how Jackson, Wyoming, planned to address “its worker housing shortage” by establishing a parking lot where workers could sleep …

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George Sibley: Down On The Ground with Meaningful Work

The president’s promise to bring “good jobs” back to America, we are told, was a major factor in his election. These “good jobs” he and his supporters want to bring back were mainly manufacturing jobs, in heavy industries such as making steel and other metals, logging and sawing lumber, mining coal and minerals, drilling for petroleum, and assembling those basic resources into material goods from automobiles to bulldozers, trains to airplanes, hand tools to factory machinery. Big tangible stuff – most of which the workers could even afford with the high wages they were getting, back when America was great.

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A Farmer Far Afield: Gardening in Circles

Part Two

By John Mattingly

Farmers and gardeners look to the scientific method for guidance, after exhausting their instincts, intuition, indications from their bones, and the testimony of others, which is likely based on instincts, intuitions and bones.

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The Real Deal Music Review: Chris Arellano – Nuevo Americana

By Brian Rill

The new sound of Americana is a slow and robust tone with concise phrases that spin stories into spells, devised to bring rain into the dry Northern Plains. You can hear acoustic guitar strings reverberate along desert canyon walls as well as the sound of burning wood chips in a campfire. Long-strummed minor chords send out feelings of lonesomeness into the night. Words sung of promise display a longing to return home but with no idea of the path to get there. Soft songs with sweet memories are written down and then delivered to empty mail boxes that line old Nashville roads only to be forgotten again. Chris Arellano’s album Nuevo Americana contains all these ideas and more including the influence of Norteño music from his New Mexican upbringing. The conglomeration of all these styles is surprisingly mellow and moderately inspired by uptempo pop music.

“The sun is going to chase the moon the night is going to end too soon. I’ll wake up in this lonely room again because morning always wins.” The song Morning Always Wins discusses the obtuse feeling of displacement that one experiences when waking up alone, with the ghost of a lover. With a sound resembling Dire Straits, this tune drives along with a steady back beat. The songwriting is objective but optimistic, leading one to believe that maybe her ghost will one day return.

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Dispatch From The Edge

By Peter Anderson

I tell her I need to replace the glass top of an electric range. I tell her how the bear broke into our house, stood on top of the stove hoping to find some goodies in a nearby cabinet, and fell through the glass instead. “I understand,” says the woman on the customer hotline in Tennessee. “We live in the mountains, too.”

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The Crowded Acre: Maybe

By Jennifer Welch

Maybe being a farmer is akin to being a glutton for punishment. As farmers, we take on nearly insurmountable tasks against the worst odds and try to make a living out of it. We watch animals die and crops fail and weather reign supreme over our best fought intentions. Collectively, we’ve seen it all. We watch our friends get their hearts broken again and again, and we tell each other it will be okay, that this is how it goes. Entire seasons lost, the feeling of a lifetime of wondering how we can do it better, different. We tell our families, we tell ourselves, that next year will be our year. It’s coming, we just have to get up and make the coffee, keep our heads down, plow through the work, and patiently wait.

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Book Review: Trouble Returns

by Nancy Oswald
ISBN 978-0-86541
Filter Press LLC
$8.95; 209pp

Reviewed by Forrest Whitman

I wish I’d had an author like Nancy Oswald to read when I was ten. This is the third in the series of adventures about young Ruby and her donkey Maude in Cripple Creek. Oswald is careful to present the mystery in a setting as close as possible to 1895. Oswald’s research leads to enjoyment for any history buff, and the plot will keep any kid reading right through till the end. It did that for me.

In her last adventure, Ruby encounters a real passenger train robbery. That happened in 1895 on the Florence and Cripple Creek night express between Victor and Florence. This time the meanest of the robbers is going to trial in Colorado Springs and Ruby must go and testify. The historical detail about the trip; the hotel, Garden of the Gods, the court house, the jury (women weren’t allowed on a Colorado jury till 1945), and the whole setting is meticulously researched. Oswald even has the time tables of the Colorado Midland and the Cripple Creek spot on.

Part of the plot concerns Ruby’s father. He’s raised her literate and tough and Ruby can’t see why he thinks she needs a mother. Not only that, he picks the local school principal to marry and Ruby hates school.

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By Patty LaTaille

1990. Heidelberg, Germany. Schiller International University. College student – me – accepted from State University of New York, Cortland. Germany in a historic tumultuous transitional time. Took a sledgehammer to Berlin Wall – fell two months previous. Willkommen in Deutschland. Treated with kindness, curiosity, consideration and respect. My knowledge and practice of the language encouraged and enhanced. Gained 17 pounds in six months; beer, bread and chocolate – food tastes so much better over there. Life-threatening illness after trip to Greece. Saved within 24 hours of “expiration” by German physician and five-day stay in hospital with excellent care – $300. Returned to U.S. as an ambassador of all things German. “Ich liebe Deutschland!”

Fast forward to 2017: eight young recent graduates of Waldorf school in Stuttgart – excited to participate in the Rocky Mountains Language Adventure (RMLA). A vacation/language program. Eager 18-year-old Germans in Salida for one month. Ready to being welcomed into host family homes – presented with opportunities to practice English – and play in mountains of Colorado.

Looking forward to this:

“… participants yearly have had an unforgettable experience, fallen in love with Salida and were praised highly by all who got to know them for their respectful friendliness and great enthusiasm.” – RMLA Program Description.

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The Eurasian Thistlehead Weevil

By Maisie Ramsay Consider the goldfinch. Spinus tristis flits about the countryside, its vibrant plumage imbued with arnica-blossom yellow. This wind-borne drop of gold can be found here in Chaffee County, fluttering from rural fence posts with the whimsy of a mountain breeze. The finch makes lavish use of thistle, a plant whose prickly reputation …

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Postcards from Summer Vacation

By Hal Walter

It was perhaps fitting that the first real day of school coincided with the solar eclipse. For like the eclipse, it’s difficult to imagine such an event will happen until it actually does, and you don’t want to stare at the date on the calendar too hard lest it burn a hole in your eyes.

Over the past three months I’ve joked with friends that I feel a little like I’ve been running a summer camp for two kids, and I’m one of them, and on the other hand I feel a little like I’ve been running a mental asylum for two inmates … and I’m one of them.

Being the main caregiver for a teen boy on the autism spectrum here in rural Central Colorado is no light duty in summertime. The job is difficult and the hours are long. The opportunity for respite is scarce.

With school letting out in late May, you’re the director of activities and safety officer for 12 weeks until school starts back up. You’re also the chief of chores and the disciplinarian for someone who needs only slightly less parental supervision than the president.

By the way, people still expect you to do your real job. You know, those little tasks you do to make money. For me, that’s mostly editing and some writing, both of which require a certain amount of uninterrupted quiet time and focus.

It’s been said that one must make the best with what they have. In our favor we live out in the Wet Mountains with access to a trail system on a big ranch. I like being outside and teaching my son about the outdoors. This summer we also focused on archery as I am big on developing what writer Thomas McGuane called “high specific skills.”

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The BVStrong Dinner

Building Community Since 2014

By Mike Rosso
Photos by Lee Robinson

There had been heavy rainfall in the days leading up to a visit to Agnes Vaille Falls by the Johnson family of Buena Vista on September 30, 2013.

Agnes Vaille, on the southern slope of Mt. Princeton near Nathrop had been a popular spot amongst tourists and locals alike due to the relatively short hike to the scenic, cascading waterfalls. But tragedy struck that fateful morning when falling rocks from a cliff shelf above the falls triggered a huge rock slide, nearly 100 tons, which rained down on the unsuspecting family of six.

A witness, Adam Rogers watched with horror as the family was buried under the car-sized boulders and he ran the 1 1/2 miles down the trail to call for help. By the time first responders arrived at the scene, all members of the party were hopelessly buried under the rubble except a thirteen-year-old girl, Gracie Johnson whose screams caught the attention of rescuers and was dug out from the rock debris. Unfortunately, her father Dwayne, a local electrician and part-time assistant Buena Vista High School football coach, and her mother, Dawna, a track coach at the high school and part-time waitress had perished in the slide, along with Gracie’s sister, Kiowa-Rain Johnson, 18, and two cousins, Baigen Walker, 10, and Paris Walkup, 22 who were visiting from Missouri. Gracie’s father had the presence of mind to push her to a bigger rock, shielding her and likely saving her life.

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From the Editor: Deported

By Mike Rosso

The big news in Salida this past month was not the local restaurateur who got into a wrestling match with a county sheriff’s deputy. Instead it was the eight German students whose visas were denied by ICE at the Denver International Airport and were sent back to their home country, but only after getting a taste of the American prison system.

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About the Cover Photographer: Aaron Atencio

Aaron Atencio spent his entire childhood in Buena Vista and graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder. At the age of seventeen he took his first plane trip to Europe with the Buena Vista High School foreign language department. Travel quickly became his passion which led to his goal of heavily combining travel into …

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The Sanford Museum: Memories of the Past

By Mary Pope-Cornum

Sitting in the middle of the main street of Sanford, Colorado is a white-washed, Spanish-style adobe building. A hand-painted sign above the door declares this the Sanford Museum. The sign was arranged for by one of the museum’s originators, Gary Bailey, and painted by a missionary who was in the area at the time. The museum was initiated by Sanford native Mary June Peterson Miller, who wrote a historical book about Sanford titled We Call it Home. She passed away in 2015.

The building, which houses the museum is a museum in-and-of itself as part of the area’s history. It was built in 1937 as a government project through the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Since that time it has housed a community center, firehouse, town hall, church meetings and band practice rooms for local students. An aerial lookout tower was built around 1955.

The decision to convert the building to a museum was made in 1995. The building has four rooms including a Pike’s Stockade room, with a mock-up of Zebulon Pike’s stockade and information regarding it. In other rooms, military uniforms hang along walls, with pictures and tributes to those who wore them. A plat of the town shows all the properties and their residents and visitors like to look for relatives’ houses on it.

Artifacts such as dresses, dolls and pictures were contributed by many families to commemorate their ancestors. Displays include an old cast iron stove, irons, dishes, appliances, and pictures of days gone by. Most of the history on display starts in the years after Sanford was settled in the late 1880s, with only a little of the earliest history of the town, which was settled by early Mormons migrating from Utah and the southern states, including a band of Catawba Indians who were part of the early Mormon settlers. Descendants of the Catawba still live in the area.

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13 Years and Still Going Strong: Spanish Peaks International Celtic Festival

By Barbara Yule

Let the pipes and fiddles set your feet to tapping! September 21-24 ushers in the 13th year of “the biggest, little Celtic festival” in Colorado – the 2017 Spanish Peaks International Celtic Music Festival in Huerfano County. Picturesque La Veta, located at the base of the beautiful Spanish Peaks, is the focal point for the majority of festival events. Sacred to early American Indians tribes, the Ute people named the Spanish Peaks Huajatolla (Wa-ha-toy-a), “Breasts of the Earth.”

Today, people living in La Veta still celebrate the peaks for the plentiful snow and rain they bring and the greening of surrounding valleys and uplands that sustain her people and abundant wildlife. Look closely, and you’ll see deer moseying down the street and resting under trees.

Photo by Mike Rosso

Unique in its scope and focus, the festival is designed along the lines of musical retreats in Ireland and Scotland, where attendees typically stay for an extended time and actually participate in scheduled and impromptu activities with guest performers and tutors. This festival offers a dazzling array of instrumental, singing, and dancing workshops plus fascinating demo/performances and concerts throughout each of the four days (lots of FREE events!). The festival has an intimate feel, and folks come back year after year to experience the rare blend of learning and entertainment and to share their passion for the craft and the music with like-minded, kindred spirits.

The festival started almost by accident in 2005 in the postage stamp-sized community of Gardner. My Scottish husband, Jack Yule (one of Scotland’s leading harp makers) and I had moved from outside Edinburgh to Huerfano County in December of 2000 for the sunshine – it tends to rain a lot in Scotland! The spring before our move, Jack raised a shed on our land – no running water or electricity – where we could live while he singlehandedly went about building our house. Jack was surprised to find he was the only Scotsman in the whole county. Not only that, but as a melodeon player himself, he could find no one interested in playing traditional Celtic music. The call went out and gradually a few hardy souls decided to give the music a try. Among them was neighbor and fine guitarist, Clark Diamond, who suggested issuing an open invitation to a musical picnic gathering (or ceilidh) on his land the summer of 2001. Forty people, including children, showed up. 

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Places: Community Gardens

By Ericka Kastner

During this time of uncertainty in our country, it can be helpful to focus on the good things that are still alive and well and happening in towns and cities across the nation; community gardens are one such place. Recently I did a little research and I learned that there are at least a dozen community gardens in Central Colorado alone.

Last spring I left my comfort zone and signed up for a plot at the Greater Arkansas River Nature Association’s Salida Community Garden at Second Avenue and I Street. My family’s move from the woods to downtown precipitated the decision – as our current yard doesn’t have any established spots for growing. Beyond that, I was hopeful that I might glean a little wisdom from seasoned gardeners sharing the space; and I was curious as to what it might be like to pull weeds alongside other dirt-loving, seed-planting aficionados.

My spring got a little busy and then a 16-day trip to Panama for my daughter’s 16th birthday basically put the planting on hold until mid June. I came to see that having an off-site garden was going to require a little more effort on my part to make things happen. Daily walks to the plot – the Salida garden is a mere four blocks from my house – were somehow put on the back burner in lieu of more “urgent” matters at home.

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Eye on the Fifth

By Daniel Smith

Until the recent horrific tragedy in Charlottsville, Virginia, brought renewed attention to issues of race, diversity and white supremacist groups’ self-empowerment to demonstrate their hateful, devisive agenda, Salida had been in the national news over a shocking immigration incident.

At the end of July, eight German exchange students headed for residents’ homes in Salida, as other students had in previous years, were stopped at Denver International Airport by immigration authorities, detained overnight in holding cells away from the airport and deported back to Germany the next day.

Pressed for reasons for the unprecedented action, immigration officials insisted the student were coming in and “taking work away from U.S. citizens” – illegal since they had no work visas.

Susan Masterson, who has coordinated the exchange program for a number of years, was quoted saying she reached out to State Rep. Jim Wilson, Fifth District Congressman Doug Lamborn, Governor John Hickenlooper and Senator Michael Bennet. No one could stop the unceremonious deportations of the students.

Immigration officials said they were trying to enter on tourist visas, which was illegal, but it’s unclear just what “jobs” the students would take from U.S. citizens while here for just four weeks. It was the first time any such complication had arisen in the rewarding exchange program here.

Masterson was quoted as saying she felt the student’s treatment was definitely a result of the Trump administration’s contentious rulings regarding illegal and legal immigration. She said Lamborn’s staff did all they could, to no avail.

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Exit Stage Left: The Demise of A Community Theater

By Elliot Jackson

Every community gets the community theater – if it gets one at all – that reflects it in some way. Its beginnings, its tenure, the choices it makes along the way in which plays to produce, which performers to feature, what sort of audience it is trying to attract and, finally, its exit from the community stage, all say something about the nature of the community itself.
Salida’s Stage Left Theater Company has made the decision to close its doors after its September 2017 production of John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt, and this decision reflects an ironic fact about Salida itself: that despite its growing reputation as an “arts town” – its status as one of the original Colorado Creative Districts, for example, its numerous arts and crafts festivals, or its many galleries featuring local potters, painters, sculptors and photographers – many of these artists are noting that it is getting more and more difficult to produce their art here.
The reality that theater is a collaborative process, dependent on many people working together in tandem, who may or may not be getting paid for their efforts (mostly not), compounds the difficulties that theater artists face. The other reality is that with the best will, or the best volunteers, in the world, running a theater company is hard work. “I ran myself into the ground trying to keep financial flow going, and then keep everything else going,” says Devon Jencks, the current Creative Director of Stage Left. “We needed more people who knew how to tap into the community – we were exhausting resources everywhere.”
Jencks stresses that money to put on productions never seemed to be as much of an issue as finding enough people to do everything that needed to be done, whether it be acting, providing backstage help, or serving on the Board of Directors. “The young people don’t have time – they’re working three to four jobs just to try to make a living. The retirees say they want to help, but then when you call on them, they’re out of town!”

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