Rapid acculturation

Letter from Ray Schoch

May 2001 Central – May 2001 – Colorado Central Magazine

Dear Ed and Martha:

Issue #86 was nicely done — as issues of Colorado Central usually are — and I’m glad to see a magazine devoted to those of us unlikely to ever be able to afford a pardon.

The monthly quizzes seem to have struck some sort of popular nerve of interest I’ve also seen number nine in “Keeping Track” as “Bayou Sallade,” but I’d guess the spelling variations could escalate into “Lewis and Clark” proportions fairly easily on lots of old names for Colorado places, given the multilingual/multicultural overlap for much of the state. I won’t even attempt the quiz on old county seats, since I haven’t lived here long enough, or been diligent enough, to learn the names of all the current ones yet.

The irony of a district attorney needing a new receptionist because his former one has been arrested for selling cocaine is duly noted — and appreciated.

The portion of the Wall Street Journal real estate ad reproduced on page 5 was both amusing and eyebrow-raising. Somehow, even if Pitkin County had not passed restrictions, I doubt that I — or you — will “…ever know the experience of a home like this.” I continue to wonder, never having had the experience of anything like it, what a couple (or even a reasonably large family) actually does with 15,000 square feet, especially if, as seems often to be the case, the house is only occupied for a few months of the year.

This seems to go well beyond the bounds of ordinary pretension into a whole new category of conspicuous consumption. I’m in the middle of buying a small home myself, and the entire lot, including a quite sufficient house with two bedrooms, takes up exactly half as much ground.

The “cosmic cowboy’s” plans for a “singing cowboy ranch” — perhaps because it makes the hair on the back of my neck bristle — is surely more evidence (if such was needed) in support of Ed’s assertion that Colorado is in some ways becoming a kind of theme park for the scenery-deprived in other parts of the country. Since I’m “one in a million,” that is, one of those million who moved to Colorado during the 1990s, and moved here in large part because of the scenery, it’s interesting to me how quickly I’ve switched over to the beginnings, at least, of the “native” attitude that there are already too many people here, especially in the summer, and I’d just as soon have visitors visit some other Rocky Mountain state. Montana would be good. It has lots of space and scenery, few people, and a depressed economy.

I’m glad — sort of — to see I wasn’t the only one who noticed the “bridal/bridle path” glitch in the March issue. A donation for the design and placement of the requisite sign in the palatial offices of Colorado Central is enclosed.

I hope the Central Colorado beef industry continues to prosper, but I won’t be contributing much to the region’s coffers. I eat mostly chicken, fish and veggies — largely because my cholesterol apparently has genetic instructions to “Multiply! Multiply!” While I haven’t given up beef entirely — I’m hardly a Vegan, and I still enjoy a good eye of round roast from time to time — it’s not a regular part of my diet. My apologies to all the ranchers in the area,

George Sibley was in fine fettle in “Down on the Ground” this month. As an ignorant easterner, I certainly enjoy a wood stove on a cold winter morning (and I’d enjoy it even more on a Gunnison winter morning — I’ve been here long enough to know that). Since my arrival, I’ve even done a season’s worth of splitting and cleaning up of the wood stove byproducts George mentioned. Still, the new house, while it does have a hand-dug cellar and stone foundation under the kitchen to betray its cabin origins of some decades back, nonetheless it relies for heat on a very nearly pocket-sized gas furnace, fueled by a pipe which emerges from Out There somewhere before entering the meter and then the house. Xcel will have its cold hand in my pocket next winter.

THE SEVERAL WATER-RELATED ARTICLES were just as promised. Sometimes a bit more than I needed to know, but thorough and — as far as I could tell — even-handed in their treatment of the issues involved. Since I’m about to take up residence near the banks of the Big Thompson, suddenly the Colorado-Big Thompson Project and a number of other water-related matters seem to have taken on a certain personal relevance that they didn’t have previously. All part of the learning process involved in living here over time, I’d guess.

I always enjoy the “arts” segment of each issue, no matter what art work is being featured. Judé Silva’s work is interesting, as is its intellectual and aesthetic framework, and I continue to think that a small, regional magazine’s devotion of several pages of each issue to local artists is unusually admirable. Not only is Judé’s dedication to be congratulated, as well as Clint Driscoll for writing a fine piece. But so, too, should Colorado Central’s executives (you’re probably not often referred to in those terms, but why not succumb to the grandiose from time to time!) be commended for their consistent commitment to showcasing local artistic talent that doesn’t always fall into mainstream categories.

The “Letter From the Editors” is also generally interesting, no matter whether it’s Ed or Martha doing the opining. I might add to Martha’s musings on page 42, regarding school shootings and assorted other crimes, that an interesting column in the March 26, 2001 issue of The New Republic pointed out that in the year of the Columbine massacre, a total of 28 students were killed in schools across the country. In the same year, 840 kids under age 20 were killed when struck by cars as they walked, often to school. The Columbine and other murders got plenty of media attention, but the much greater carnage on sidewalks and street crossings around the country got virtually no notice at all. Be that as it may, “culture war,” whether invented by Clint Driscoll or by a newspaper reporter in 1968, seems a still-accurate way of describing at least some of what’s happening politically in much of the West, including, but not limited to, central Colorado.

Finally, Hal Walter continues to be a fine writer. I’ve never been able to catch fish at all, and if I’d been in Hal’s position as a lad, the family table would have been bare, indeed. Hunting I might have been able to do — I’m not a bad shot — but whether through genes or training, I’ve never acquired that knack for fishing that so many others seem to have picked up somewhere along the way. The trout are completely safe when I’m around.

Ray Schoch