Gutting the Hantavirus Hotel

Column by Hal Walter

Rural Life – December 2007 – Colorado Central Magazine

The Hantavirus Hotel, which is what I not-so-lovingly call my garage, has now been gutted and converted to something that resembles a giant, wood-sided beer cooler.

Allow me to explain. When we bought this place more than 16 years ago, one of the amenities was a roomy detached two-car garage. It initially seemed like a big, open, clean space to park vehicles, store stuff and work on things. In fact, as we were moving up the hill from Wetmore, we first put a lot of our belongings in the garage while we did some minor remodeling in the house.

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Ducks on the Wall

Essay by Julianne Couch

Rural Life – November 2007 – Colorado Central Magazine

“My baby’s got the most deplorable taste
but her biggest mistake
is hanging over the fireplace
She’s got ducks, ducks on the wall!”

That song by the Kinks rankles: What’s the matter with ducks on the wall? During my 15 years as a Wyomingite, I’ve learned that ducks make especially nice ornaments, winging toward windows or flapping past fireplaces.

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Blackbirds, hollow-core doors, and other gifts

Essay by Aaron Abeyta

Rural Life – December 2006 – Colorado Central Magazine

This letter was originally presented by Abeyta at the 2006 Headwaters Conference at Western State College in Gunnison on November 11th.

Dear George,

Outside my window there are a few blackbirds perched in the dead branches of a Russian Olive. Presumably these birds, the approximate size of a human heart, are willing to tough out the Antonito winter. Later, when the snow falls, they will line the icy edge of the river, their black bodies set against the white. I’ve always been intrigued by these birds, wondering why they don’t fly south like every other sane creature capable of migrating.

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The Trailers of Montezuma County

Essay by David Feela

Rural Life – June 2006 – Colorado Central Magazine

IT’S LIKE A SOAP OPERA romance, this ongoing affection of mine for the old-style single or double-wide mobile homes, more commonly known as trailers.

To me, their appeal is strongest when I’m driving a gravel county road, and out in a field I see one, perched like an alien spacecraft on a few open acres. Or, I’m turning into the shaded niches of a well-worn trailer park, and it’s there, like a time machine, made of corrugated tin and glass. Sometimes it’s been repainted, not the bland manufacturer’s color from 30 years ago, but a fresh swath of purple, or yellow, or even turquoise and pink.

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Social glue in a brown truck

Essay by John Clayton

Rural Life – October 2005 – Colorado Central Magazine –

OUR SMALL TOWN has just suffered a profound loss: the departure of our treasured UPS deliveryman.

Like Santa Claus, Tony always brought us treasures. The regular mail might bring bills or junk, but Tony’s brown truck always meant a package. Along with telephone, television and Internet, Tony was our link to the outside world. But while most such links are technological, Tony was the link with the human face. He was the smiling personification of a global economy. That made him someone important in town, a guy that everybody knew, a shared currency even more ubiquitous than Paris Hilton.

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Expensive gasoline and the rural lifestyle

Column by Hal Walter

Rural Life – September 2005 – Colorado Central Magazine

IT IS A SOURCE of some minor wonderment to me that nearly every time I drive somewhere — which really isn’t all that often compared to many people — I see the same bright-yellow Humvee on the highway.

I’ve seen this vehicle heading into Westcliffe and out of Westcliffe. I’ve seen it on the road to Pueblo. I’ve seen it leave and enter its actual home driveway. I’ve encountered the vehicle in a variety of time-frames between sunrise and sunset. I have seen this vehicle so many times that I have come to believe this big yellow box on wheels is in perpetual motion at virtually all times, at somewhere between 10 and 12 mpg.

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The wolf at the door

Letter from Slim Wolfe

Rural Life – September 2005 – Colorado Central Magazine


Thanks for allowing space for me to express opinions different than your own, but your rebuttal (August) seems more based on your own construction and less on what I wrote or implied. Re-read my words, please. Here’s what I didn’t say.

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County Fair: I hope he is good eating

Essay by Janelle Holden

Rural Life – September 2005 – Colorado Central Magazine –

IN THE RURAL WEST, July and August are months of heat broken up by haying, a wedding or anniversary celebration and the county fair. It’s the time when 4-H projects ripen and months of work culminate in a coveted ribbon.I was raised on a northern Montana cattle ranch and participated in 4-H despite my mother’s objections.

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Whitewashing the fence

Brief by Central Staff

Rural Life – June 2005 – Colorado Central Magazine

Rural life provides an abundance of hard, dirty work, such as shoveling stalls or splitting cordwood. Even so, some people will pay to help with certain of those chores, like driving cattle.

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Fall Changes

Column by Hal Walter

Rural Life – October 2004 – Colorado Central Magazine

AS THE ASPENS began to turn this year, our woodstove was yanked out in favor of a freestanding propane fireplace stove with a thermostat, blower, 32,000 BTUs, “Ember-Fyre” technology, and who knows what else. How “disco” is that? The point being that 20 years of burning wood to stay warm was proof we are tough enough. Now it’s time to prove we are smart enough.

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The incredible flying Dumpster

Column by Hal Walter

Rural Life – August 2004 – Colorado Central Magazine

IT WAS FAIRLY SIMPLE to conclude that my neighbor’s trash Dumpster had arrived about 30 feet across the road from its usual location at the behest of a bear. The crumpled metal box was on its side and seriously damaged, some of its contents were piled next to it.

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Dog Norton goes off his diet

Essay by John Mattingly

Rural Life – August 2004 – Colorado Central Magazine

Pickle came home from a roundup to find his faithful dog Norton lying on the porch next to another dog. Pickle inspected the new dog and saw that it was female. She nuzzled Norton for protection and Norton growled halfheartedly at Pickle for messing with his woman.

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Soap to savor from Wetmore

Article by Jeanne Englert

Rural Life – May 2004 – Colorado Central Magazine

RUTH BOWMAN’S kitchen soap and milk baths are made in Wetmore, and should be savored by us arid Coloradans.

I received one of Ruth’s milk baths as a Christmas gift, and luxuriated in it before I knew that I was bathing in coffee creamer. That milk bath was scented with patoulie oil, so my husband said I smelled like a 60s Boulder hippie after I emerged from a long, relaxing soak. But it definitely relieved the pain of my arthritic joints and carried my mind away from the evils of this world.

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Scratch and sniff for a preview of rural life

Brief by Central Staff

Rural Life – October 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine

Here in Colorado, many rural counties pass “right-to-farm” ordinances, and they may also publish a “Code of the West” to advise new arrivals about the realities of living amid agriculture: noisy night-time harvests, aerial spraying of pesticides and herbicides, the sounds and smells of livestock, etc.

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124 years of tradition at the Twin Lakes General Store

Article by Steve Voynick

Rural life – August 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine

GENERAL STORES, those small, rural emporiums where you can buy a little of everything but not a lot of anything, are places where you catch up on local news, pick up the mail, and find out what’s biting. But they’ve been disappearing for decades, most replaced by look-alike, 24-hour convenience stores with brightly lit glass fronts, sanitized coffee counters, and minimum-wage clerks.

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There’s no “ette” in Ranch

Essay by Linda Hasselstrom

Rural life – July 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine

LISTEN UP, FOLKS, here’s a vocabulary lesson from a rancher and writer who’s tired of bad writing distorting Western history.

A ranch is not just any patch of rural ground, and the saying, “All hat, no cattle,” is more than a joke. It’s true most ranchers prefer not to reveal the size of their places, but despite differences, a real ranch is measured in hundreds of acres. To populate the plains, the U.S. government offered 160 acres to anyone with guts enough to start an agricultural enterprise.

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The commuter’s best friend

Column by Hal Walter

Rural Life – April 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine

IT IS BUT A VAGUE SUPERSTITION that life tomorrow will be anything like it is today. If you don’t think this is true, go read the book, or see the movie, Grapes of Wrath. It is perhaps the best documentary metaphor for our current times.

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Another possibility for a winter race

Brief by Central Staff

Rural life – April 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine

At Boom Days in August, Leadville holds an outhouse race, with crews pushing privies on wheels down Harrison Avenue. It’s the only such race we know of in Colorado, although they are held elsewhere.

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For Wet or Dry

Essay by Ed Marston

Rural Life – April 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine

I WAS PUSHED OUT OF New York 30 years ago. I couldn’t take the city as it was, and I couldn’t change to meet New York on its terms. We moved to Colorado, where a mountain loomed in our backyard.

There were challenges, of course. A tiny coal-mining town is alien to someone raised on pavement. But after a decade, Paonia began to fit. I was pleased with the city-for-country trade until the recent northeast storm, and I saw people skiing on my former city’s streets and in its parks. And until I heard from New York friends that trains, cars, buses, dinner parties, work and noise had stopped. They loved it.

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They’re our eccentrics so we let them be

Essay by Penelope Reedy

Rural life – September 2002 – Colorado Central Magazine

Eccentrics. Every community has them, but out West they seem to take on a unique aura.

Take the Babbington twins, two nearly identical men who lived on a farm on the west end of Camas Prairie, Camas County, Idaho, in the early to mid-part of the 20th century. They did everything together, including dying together in a house fire.

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Pick-up Pin-Ups

Essay by Matt Hudson

Rural Life – May 2002 – Colorado Central Magazine

I WAS RAISED IN WESTERN Colorado and I have always loved the ranches in this part of the state. You know the type — somewhat run down, with a modest home and a tired barn plus a scattering of outbuildings. Sometimes there’s an original log homestead near a newer, (though still old) larger house. Broken or obsolete farm equipment usually completes the scene. Most of these ranches have been in the same family for generations.

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Road Outrage on the New Frontier

Column by Hal Walter

Rural Life – December 2001 – Colorado Central Magazine

WHEN I OWNED A 100-year-old farmhouse in booming downtown Wetmore several years ago, one of the biggest problems I had was people speeding past my house.

The house itself sat right on the chipsealed county road and one of the front rooms, a porch which had been glassed in, served as my office. The main street in Wetmore parallels Highway 96, and many people take this back road to the post office or general store. While I was working in my office I would watch while many of these drivers zipped through the clearly marked 15 mph “Children Playing” zone.

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Who’s the old-timer now?

Essay by Judy Holzworth

Rural Life – October 2001 – Colorado Central Magazine

AS A KID IN RURAL Montana I grew up knowing _characters like June, a snuff-spitting, aging cowgirl who drove a pink Lincoln Continental, and Joe, a bronc buster with bow legs who taught a pair of Texas longhorns to nicely pull a buggy. Both were leather-faced, and if they ran a little short on social graces, June and Joe were long on personality.

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Going retro to the show

Brief by Central Staff

Rural life – July 2001 – Colorado Central Magazine

There are people who suggest that our part of the world is somewhat “behind the times,” and now there’s some evidence that they’re right, at least in one respect.

That would be drive-in movie theaters, which have been disappearing rapidly in the past couple of decades. Typically, they were built at the edge of town, and as the town grew, the land became too valuable to use for a drive-in.

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Save our nameless roads

Essay by Paolo Bacigalupi

Rural Life – May 2001 – Colorado Central Magazine

THERE ARE PLACES in the West where roads have no names. Places populated solely by stumpy sagebrush and vesicular basaltic stones. Places where five mile strips of dirt terminate at isolated farm houses. The names for these places make their own sort of wasteland sense: 2300 Road, N80 Lane, C-½ Road, O90 Drive, J50 Road, 3750 Road. Numbers and letters strung together at capricious random.

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Everybody’s a Doctor in the Back of Beyond

Essay by Rebecca Clarren

Rural Life – February 2001 – Colorado Central Magazine

I NEVER WANTED to be a nurse. I never dressed up like Florence Nightingale for Halloween. I never even took care of my dolls — my idea of tender loving care was washing Barbie’s hair with turpentine.

But I live in a small town on the Western slope of Colorado. The nearest hospital that honors many locals’ insurance is 70 miles and another county away. That’s a long distance phone call and a long trip to the doctor — even at break-neck speed. So when a friend recently had knee surgery, I had no choice. Just call me Flo.

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Some demographic discoveries about rural America

Brief by Central Staff

Rural Life – November 2000 – Colorado Central Magazine

1. One-fourth of U.S. schoolchildren go to schools in rural areas or small towns of less than 25,000 in population. Fourteen percent go to school in even less populated places with fewer than 2,500 people.

2. Rural people are so widely dispersed that they are politically invisible. They are a demographic and political majority in only five states — Maine, Mississippi, South Dakota, Vermont, and West Virginia — and a handful of congressional districts.

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Cracks in the global façade

Letter from Slim Wolfe

Rural life – January 2000 – Colorado Central Magazine

Ed & Martha,

You have to credit humans for our inventiveness. Just as we were running out of real space for our dreams and schemes, we invented cyberspace. It doesn’t do much for me, personally, but it seems to be just the thing to fill out the economy with minimal danger (we hope) to the biosphere.

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If good fences make for good neighbors, what about bad fences?

Column by Hal Walter

Rural Life – December 1999 – Colorado Central Magazine

WHEN IT COMES TO FENCING, there are two standing jokes in the West.

One is about a greenhorn who can’t figure out who “Bob Wahrr” is. The other is about the urban refugee who calls a rancher to complain about the cows grazing his unfenced property.

Recently my friend Patrick was dealt the punchline on both. His property had become overrun with cows of unknown ownership due to a section of downed fence that had been obliterated by a flashflood during the previous summer.

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Why steal the Bonanza sign when you have to hide it?

Letter from Gail Holbrook

Rural Life – November 1999 – Colorado Central Magazine

To those who stole the Bonanza sign:

It’s a shame the Bonanza sign with its coyote and raven has been cut down and stolen. It is a hand-made bit of artwork that was given not just to the town but to everyone who enjoyed seeing it when they drove up this way. Stupid to take what already belonged to you and to all of us.

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Heard around the West

Brief by Betsy Marston

Rural life – September 1999 – Colorado Central Magazine

Bison Burger

Even bison, it turns out, need a bailout. Too many of the big critters are raised and not enough of us want to eat them.

After producing more bison-burger than the market could bear, ranchers recently asked the federal government for help — their second request in two years. The U.S. Department of Agriculture came up with the money, buying $6 million worth of bison meat for its school lunch program. A North Dakota-based coöperative representing 350 bison ranchers including the biggest, billionaire Ted Turner, cheered the federal subsidy.

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Fulfilling a promise to an old friend

Essay by Chris Frasier

Rural Life – September 1999 – Colorado Central Magazine

TODAY I TOOK my first horse for his last walk, and marked the end of a 24-year partnership with the animal who taught me the most.

Bo was a sorrel ranch gelding with an ordinary pedigree and extraordinary spirit. Twenty-four years ago, he was three and I was a green thirteen.

Our first few rides were careless jaunts through the milk cow pasture. Bo couldn’t keep away from the old Brown Swiss cow, and if I obliged him, we would move her somewhere, anywhere, just for the thrill of turning a cow.

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How fireflies might be invading Colorado

Letter by Charlie Green

Rural life – August 1999 – Colorado Central Magazine

How fireflies might be invading Colorado


It’s the Curmudgeon of Copper Gulch again. Now, don’t stop reading; I’m not gonna complain about the Fremont County Road 28 paving or the yuppies’ influx. I was actually kind’ve flattered the other day when a tourist couple stopped while I was reinstalling my mailbox because of the paving I’m not gonna mention, and asked me where Copper Gulch Road was.

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If farmers priced cows like cars

Brief by Anonymous

Rural Life – November 1998 – Colorado Central Magazine


A farmer had been taken several times by the local car dealer. One day, the car dealer informed the farmer that he was coming over to purchase a cow. The farmer priced his unit as follows:

Basic cow $499.95

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