Andy Mast: The Drawing Dream

WHEN HUMANS EXPERIENCE trauma, a natural response is to avoid the source of it. But, perhaps, if you are an extraordinary individual, you might embrace the trauma for the lessons and silver linings that it can teach. One cold winter morning in the still-darkness of rural Illinois, then 17 year-old artist, Andy Mast, son of …

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Keeping Darkness At Bay

By Doris Dembosky When was the last time you changed your clothes? Mostly housebound, I’ve worn the same clothing for four or five days. I’ve lost count. Some days I’m not even sure what day it is. Recently I stumbled across “Windchime,” a poem by Tony Hoagland. The poem begins: She goes out to hang …

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The Jones Theater

By Mike Rosso Colorado Central readers looking for a true Western experience, need go no further than the town of Westcliffe, in the Wet Mountain Valley and take a seat at the historic Jones Theater. Whether its a film, theater performance or concert, there are few venues in the region that capture the small town, …

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Becoming “Coach Hal”

By Hal Walter It started when Harrison was in sixth grade and the coach suggested he go out for the middle school cross-country team. I’d never considered that Harrison would be on a school sports team, but when he said he wanted to do this, I was all in. I’d also never considered this would …

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About the Cover Photographer: Greg Smith

It started back in kindergarten.

Greg Smith discovered show and tell. He learned everyone has a story. He learned shapes, forms, lines, light, shadow, color and movement are the building blocks of visual storytelling.

He fell in love with visually distinct places – his family’s suburban home in the Maryland woods, the beach, the mountains, their friends’ farm, streams, even concrete canyons.

He also saw how quickly moments pass and how visual elements define them.

Greg grew into an award-winning photographer and producer, a meticulous editor, and a widely published writer about topics ranging from water, the environment and breaking news to technology, copyright and photography business practices. He pursued a career as a photojournalist and editor in Oklahoma, Kansas and Telluride. He eventually settled in South Carolina. There, he and his writer/editor wife, Janet, reared three children on the banks – and in – the tidal May River, not far from Hilton Head Island.

For nearly two decades, he paddled that river and its marshes, photographing wildlife, changing tides and a developing shoreline. He helped launch several publications, and his pictures hung in local galleries, earning him top awards at the Honey Horn Art Market on Hilton Head Island, several one-man shows and inclusion in Charleston’s Southeast Wildlife Expo. In 2009, he released “Keeping the May River Wild.” It screened at five film festivals, earning a national Best of ASMP award and SC-ETV’s Southern Lens award.

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The Last Word: A Retrieval of Souls

By Hal Walter Although the towns of Westcliffe and Crestone are separated by only a few miles of rugged mountains, they are culturally and philosophically worlds apart. My friend Peter May who lives in Crestone has been helping me explore some alternative supports for Harrison’s autism these past few years. He had suggested a soul …

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About the Cover Artist: Sarah Woods

Sarah Woods grew up in Wyoming where she developed a love of wide open spaces and the wildlife that inhabit them, but it has been her 26 years living in Westcliffe that has had the greatest impact. Surrounded by scenic vistas, ranch land and incredibly diverse wildlife, Sarah feels passionate about the disappearing western landscape …

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In Land we Trust

By Elliot Jackson The news coming from the Colorado State Demography Office, by way of a July 2017 article in the Denver Post, is eye-opening: by 2050, the state’s population is predicted to rise to 8.5 million – a 50 percent increase from 2015 levels. Most of this growth is projected to take place along …

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Lessons in Guitar and Compassion

By Hal Walter

The guitar has three major cracks in its soundboard and bears the scar of some unknown impact to the rosette that encircles the sound hole. The saddle to which the bridge is attached appears to have been retrofitted from a piece of thin wood paneling, perhaps an attempt to hold the entire thing together, and an analogy for what Longfellow called “the universal language of mankind.”

It was handed to me by Don Pinnella when my son Harrison and I showed up for our first guitar lesson at Custer County School. Don had told me how this instrument had been a “camping guitar,” and had traveled around Colorado in the backs of vehicles and strapped to roof racks. A friend donated it to his music program at the school, and he refurbished it. Don also provided a smaller guitar for Harrison, whose neurodiversities include autism and perfect pitch, and who has taken piano lessons for several years.

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Book Review: A Walk in Connection

A Walk in Connection

By Tracy Ane Brooks

Balboa Press: Paper, 220 pp, $16.99

Reviewed by Annie Dawid

One of Mission: Wolf’s directors, Tracy Ane Brooks, has written a memoir of her decades-long journey into connection with animals, specifically wolves and horses. Her book is intended for those readers who believe animals are sentient, intelligent creatures like ourselves, worthy of knowing, loving, celebrating and mourning.

Much of her focus here centers on the intuitive abilities innate to human beings. “I believe that any human with the desire and intent to connect, in loving and positive ways, with troubled canines or horses was born with the tools to do so already within them.”

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Only a Loose Wire Apart

By Hal Walter

When I first moved here in 1991, we had no snail mail delivery. I circulated a petition to get that started, and had one person refuse to sign, because her weekly visits to the post office were the only time she had a chance to visit with other people.

Phone service was by landline and often it went out for days at a time. Cell phones were unheard of, and dial-up Internet was still a few years off.

We didn’t have TV, though the previous owners had installed an aerial antenna that was better at attracting lightning strikes than it was network reception. Movies were rented on VHS tape from a small but busy business in Westcliffe.

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A Bike Ride to Where We Are

By Hal Walter

The phrase “No matter where you go, there you are,” could not be more true than it is for an autistic child. For when one is fully contained in his own mind, he truly cannot be lost.

And thus it was for my son Harrison one recent Saturday.

Since Harrison finally learned to ride a bike last spring, it has opened up a new world for him. And for his parents, too – now we can go for a run and he can ride along, sometimes pedaling for many miles. Lately he has gotten even faster and more independent.

Recently, I watched as he rounded a sweeping curve, maybe a half-mile or so ahead of me, and then vanished.

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It’s Like Riding a Bicycle

By Hal Walter

I remember quite well that I was slow to learn to ride a bicycle. This may have been partially because I had not been introduced to bikes early in childhood, but for whatever reason, when I was about seven I realized other kids my age were riding and that I could not.

My mom, who was doing her best to keep the family afloat with two jobs, had acquired what was known as an “English” three-speed racing bike. It was a girls model, which meant the top rails were curved downward at an angle rather than parallel to the ground – a good thing since the bike was way too big for me.

I remember one day taking this hulking steel steed out to the sloped driveway behind the duplex where we lived, determined to learn to ride it. I started at the top with my feet to either side and shuffled along astride the bike while coasting down the short drive. Then I pushed it back up and tried again. Over and over.

Each time I was able to coast a little farther between steps. It seemed like hours went by, and then suddenly I coasted the entire driveway.

This all remained tucked away in my memory for decades but resurfaced in recent years when I began to question whether my own son would ever learn to ride a bike. It’s well known that many autistic kids have difficulty learning to balance a two-wheeler. For many there is a difficulty processing spatial relationships, motor balancing and multi-tasking skills, all of which play simultaneous roles in riding a bike.

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A Community at a Crossroads

By Hal Walter

As I write, Custer County School is under the watch of armed sheriff’s deputies. This follows the suicide of a 15-year-old boy last week – the second such tragedy in about a year’s time – and then a bizarre false rumor this week of a planned school shooting.

This rumor apparently had its basis in a drill for such a scenario conducted last week and was addressed in two robocalls from the school superintendent. I noticed when I dropped off my son Harrison at school this morning that only about half his classmates were lined up for the Pledge of Allegiance, and officials say overall attendance was only 50-55 percent.

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Food Ink

By Hal Walter

My interest in locally grown foods began about 14 years ago. I had long held the belief that the highest-quality foods were essential to optimal health, fitness and brain function, and that eating well also was part of living life to its fullest.
I was at the annual Pueblo Chile Festival when I spied a small table. There were two farmers there and they didn’t really have much for sale, but I think I bought some onions and something else, and they told me some of their story. They were from an outfit called Tres Rios Co-op, and their names were Dan Hobbs and Doug Wiley. I think it was Dan who handed me a business card.
Being the curious sort, months later I decided to pay Dan a call. I ended up at Hobbs Family Farm near Avondale out east of Pueblo, where I bought a boxful of vegetables. Lo and behold Doug showed up there, too. I mentioned that I was also looking for some hay and Doug said he had some for sale. So we drove over to his Larga Vista Ranch where I bought a pickup load of alfalfa and some pork chops.

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A Place of Blessings

By Dave Cruson
Most people in Central Colorado would be hard-pressed to find the Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp, a hidden treasure in its midst. Most Lutherans in Colorado, New Mexico, the Rocky Mountain region, and even from Texas, Minnesota, and yes, Madagascar, would be hard-pressed to know why.

Before small highway signs for Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp along Colorado Highway 69 were purchased, most people not connected with the Lutheran Church in the Rocky Mountain region would have no idea where the camp is located. Off of County Road 182 or Billy Humble Road, just south of Hillside, Colorado is a short, gravelly drive to what many consider a spiritual oasis or a second home.

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Getting out

By Hal Walter
When I use the excuse that I don’t “get out enough,” what I really mean is I don’t get out of Custer County enough.

Over time this actually becomes a problem. Driving skills deteriorate. Social skills vanish. Anxiety around people and crowds increases. I think a lot of it stems from working alone most of the time and not having enough social interaction.

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Mission: Wolf – A Refuge in the Wet Mountains

By Tyler Grimes
Kent Weber enters a gate into the fenced-in home of three wolves. He makes his way down into the aspen grove where the wolves are dispersed, playfully calling them. They perk up from their food-induced stupor brought on by the 15 pounds of meat they gorged on the previous day. The wolves are drawn to Weber’s gentle authority and come to greet him. They jump up on their hind legs, place their front paws on Weber’s chest and sniff his teeth, the signature wolf greeting. He pets them like a dog, which they accept momentarily before running off.

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Eagles Summit Ranch – Winning with Integrity in the Sangre de Christos

By Jennifer Dempsey

When wounded war veterans arrive at Eagles Summit Ranch in Westcliffe, Dave Roever understands their skepticism.

“These men and women are beat up pretty badly and aren’t buying into anything until I walk in,” said the 65-year-old Vietnam veteran. “Then they see all the disfigurement, all the damage I’ve been through and there is an instantaneous bond. They see I’ve been down the road before them and they trust me. My biggest advantage is my scars, they scream authenticity.”

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Restaurant Review

Sugar and Spice Mountain Bakery
411 Main St.
Westcliffe, Colorado 719)783-4045

by Ann Marie Swan

Westcliffe has been blessed with Sugar and Spice Mountain Bakery, a Mennonite family-owned business with the redeeming quality of using sugar judiciously.

Naomi Yoder, who owns the Main Street bakery with her husband, Jason, says she only uses “real ingredients” and unbleached flour, just like her mother did. “We bake here like we would at home,” Yoder said.

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Winter calves

by Hal Walter

When I started out with cattle, everything I knew about them was stated on the biggest check I’ve ever written for nine cows and five calves. That was in 2005 and I guess I’ve learned a few things about bovines since.

We’re in what is known as the “backyard beef” business, and do things a little differently than larger producers. We’re basically raising natural meat for ourselves, friends and family. This way we can make sure our animals are raised humanely and are not fed unnatural things, which as far as I’m concerned is anything other than grass or hay.

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Cleanup time at the Terrible Mine

By Hal Walter

Local historians say Ilse (pronounced “Ill-see” or “Ill-seh”) was a bustling little community in the late 1800s and early 1900s, with a number of area residents ranching, farming as well as working at the Terrible Mine, where lead was extracted and milled.

According to R.B. Brinsmade, a turn-of-the-century professor of mining engineering, the mine on the bank of Oak Creek produced about 250,000 tons of ore between 1880 and 1907. The lead was freighted out of the Wet Mountains by horse-drawn wagons.

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Another town, another Family Dollar

by Hal Walter

Westcliffe area residents no longer need to drive far for a selection of inexpensive plastic things made in China. A Family Dollar store opened here in May.

I watched in curiosity for most of the winter as the ground was broken and construction began for the new business. I was intrigued because I had in fact never been inside a Family Dollar. And since I seemed to be doing just fine without anything from there I doubted I’d ever need to set foot in the place.

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