The summers can be rather short

Essay by Sharon Chickering

Mountain Humor – October 1995 – Colorado Central Magazine

Dear Noel and Crystal:

It was great hearing from you! We’re excited you’re moving to the Colorado Rockies. We know you’ll love it — we do.

Summers are so invigorating with the cool, bracing air. There’s none of the heat and humidity I used to complain about in the city. Nick and I have a bet going. He says this year summer will occur on July 11 and I say it won’t be until the 17th. We’ll see who wins.

For the Fourth of July, we bank the woodburner and bundle up in parka, mittens, ear muffs, and moon boots before going to the high-school stadium to watch the fireworks. Each time the clouds of wood smoke clear, the sparkling display is spectacular against the star-studded sky.

That reminds me — bring two or three pairs of thermal underwear with you. Nearly everyone wears them three hundred sixty days a year. The other five or six days are warmer, but we still have to break the ice in the bird bath each morning.

When we first moved here, the folks back home called to see if we had arrived safely. I was out of breath and Mom thought I had been out jogging. I didn’t tell her that oxygen is in such short supply at this altitude that I was lying on the floor trying to catch my breath after climbing the two steps to the back door.

The first summer after we arrived, I tried to garden, but have given up. The rocks in the soil grew exponentially in relationship to the number I removed and it was impossible to find seeds that would mature between July 10 (the last killer frost of the spring) and July 19 (the first one of the fall). However, some people do have luck with iceberg lettuce and Iceland poppies.

Nick finds mowing the lawn a cinch. As long as the grass is covered with snow, he doesn’t worry about it.

We keep snow shovels, snowshoes, and skis by both front and back doors all year long. One of us uses the snowshoes every day — to search for the newspaper, take out the trash, find the car in the driveway.

Exercise is no problem. Nick and I take turns shoveling the front walk, the back walk, the driveway, the path to the garbage can. As soon as we finish, so much new snow has fallen we get to start again. If the snow lets up for a few days we can always chop wood.

Did I tell you we found a great chiropractor?

When you get here, I’ll give you a few tips about cooking at high altitude. Tonight I’m serving baked beans — my specialty. I put the dried beans in to bake a week ago and think they’re ready. Last month I made a delicious chicken stew. The chicken was a little tough and I boiled it for three days before it was tender enough to chew. I’m still trying to perfect my recipe for Nick’s favorite fudge nut brownies, though. So far the softest, chewiest parts have been the nuts.

We can’t wait to see you. The bright blue skies, dazzling sun, pure white landscapes and fragrance of the pine don’t compare to anything back east. Let us know when you plan to arrive and we’ll dig out the barbecue — Nick thinks he saw it last week in the snowbank by the shed.

With love,


P.S. You still have your dog, don’t you? We have an extra dogsled you can borrow for trips to the grocery store.

Sharon Chickering had to work indoors at a library during Leadville’s summer on July 17.