Saturday, April 23, 2016

Ways of times past prevails

I was just fifteen when I burst on the scene
At the store on the corner of the old river town
Once a cow camp, and later, log and miners tramp
Dolores was a place you couldn't knock down
In the southwest corner, downstream from Stoner,
It was marked by the passing of the long-gone rails
But the strangest of the batch, was Taylor's old patch
Where Merton, Cecile, and ways of times past prevails

There were red dogs in the floor, on oak between counters and near the door
Canine-filled blue Scout, at lunchtime about, added to the place's lore
Jason after rounds north and south, with bank bag in mouth, and a wag in his tail
Carried the cash, down the block in flash, to bank and post office for mail

In windows out front, a saddle, or stuff for the hunt, filled glassed-in holiday displays of regalia
Down through side isles, cabinet hardware and files, sandpaper, paint, stain, fastener paraphernalia
Above the nail bins, were the Gerry cans and tins, in the darkness near where cash register rung out
There on the scale, you might find coffee or cement-coated nail... perhaps lies, regarding size of trout

Back through double doors, near the basement stairs, and mops for the floors
Sat Merton cussin', wantbook, government, and technology he was fussin',  and Mirofiche he abhors
But what really sets him mad, is the times past he had, and the fading picture and store
The good old days gone and time marches on, new stories, same problems, new battles, same war

I was just fifteen back then on the scene
At the store on the corner of the old river town
Once a cow camp, and later, log and miners tramp
Dolores was a place you couldn't knock down
In the southwest corner, downstream from Stoner,
It was marked by the passing of the long-gone rails
But the strangest of the batch, was Taylor's old patch
Where Merton, Cecile, and ways of times past prevails


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Former publisher recalls the "good old days."

Roy Robinson, and his wife Carol Lee purchased the the Ute Pass Courier in the summer of 1966, shortly after the untimely passing of its founder, Agnes Schupp. Roy later went on to a long career in newspapers and printing, and was managing seven newspapers and four radio stations in Graham, Texas, for Media-News Group, when I tracked him down in 2003.

I have seen him several times since, and my understanding is that he finally has retired. He was inducted into the Texas Newspaper Hall of Fame in ceremonies in 2012.
"Courier presswork was immediately moved from Castle Rock to Cripple Creek, where the Courier shared a two-pages-at-a-time Chief 22 offset press with the Cripple Creek Gold Rush, published then by Roy's father, B.G. Robinson. It had a hand-fed Liberty folder that finished the production process.
"Upon acquisition of the Courier, I vowed to never print fewer than eight pages or fewer than 1,000 copies per issue. Those goals, ambitious in a community of 700 residents and with few prospective advertisers, were never missed. Generous 'filler' content was often necessary and abundant stacks of leftover copies were common some weeks throughout the next year," Roy told me in an email in 2003.
"The Courier's first-ever color edition came about two years later when Congress authorized legislation establishing the Florissant National Monument. Preservation of the unique fossil beds has been a longtime goal for Teller County and warranted a banner headline in red ink when the act cleared congressional review."
According to Robinson, the page count and pressrun continued to mirror Woodland Park's growth, and eventually the sheet-fed press in Cripple Creek could no longer handle the volume.
"When word came that a Fort Collins publishing firm had a two-unit web printing press for sale, it wasn't long before that press was loaded into a horse trailer and moved to the Gold Rush building in Cripple Creek. The modern web press took its place immediately beside a turn-of-the-century flatbed letter press that had clanked out the Gold Rush until it was retired in 1965 in favor of the Chief 22 offset press," Robinson said.
"It was a revolutionary move for the Courier and the Gold Rush to print and fold eight pages simultaneously. It also represented the introduction of sections for both newspapers."
When Robinsons sold the papers in 1978, production was moved to Littleton, and later, Castle Rock, under corporate ownership.
"Consolidated group ownership of community newspapers will become more widespread in the years ahead," suggested Robinson at the time. "Although regretted by some, group ownership is the only economically viable option to a newspaper ceasing publication, he said.
"The hometown newspaper, regardless of ownership, will remain a cornerstone in a successful community's foundation."


Top photo: Roy Robinson

Bottom photo: The Cripple Creek Crusher, forerunner to the Cripple Creek Gold Rush that was merged with the Courier in 2007.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Understanding and explaining 'normal'

The hardest part, I guess, is understanding and explaining "normal."
As Dr. Seuss notes, "Being crazy isn't enough," and  “The Edge... There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over,” says Hunter S. Thompson in "Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga.
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro, according to Thompson. He should have known.
Figures from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, (NAMI), say "One in four adults — approximately 61.5 million Americans — experience mental illness in a given year. One in 17 — about 13.6 million — live with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression, or bipolar disorder."
The first memory of an encounter with mental illness that I can point to, is when I was very young.
Carl and Fay Massey were "Salt of the Earth" people that lived behind the house I grew up in in Dolores in small little house of their own. Sometime in the late 1960s, a nephew or some relative visiting them had a terrible episode of substance abuse and was up on the hill raving at the neighborhood, threatening suicide, homicide, etc...
Police were called. Maybe mental health professionals, too? I don't know.  But, he was talked down off the literal and figurative ledge, and neighborhood normalcy was soon restored.  It did, however leave an impression.
The raving, incoherence, and sense of something amiss, I came to understand later in my own family.
At least twice in my childhood, my mother suffered "episodes" and was committed (I think voluntarily) to the Colorado State Hospital, in Pueblo.
This is the same place that sported the original cornerstone reading "Colorado State Insane Asylum," which now resides in the museum there.
Aside from the strangeness of the experience itself, there was also stigma attached to having 'craziness' in the family, and all of us were reluctant to talk about it. We still don't, really.
I remember one misguided childhood acquaintance telling me, that he didn't think my mom was "crazy," but the rest of us in the family were.
He never saw her wind up after sundown, however.
"Every person is distinctive, a particular individual with his own ideas and his own ways of doing things. The mentally ill seem special only in that they are more distinctive," writes Dr. Fredric Neuman, M.D. in Psychology Today. 
"They are idiosyncratic or eccentric, even peculiar; yet in their strangeness there is nothing unrecognizable. They experience no impulse nor longing that is foreign to a normal person, and they suffer no illusion that a normal person has not known. The symptoms of mental illness are embedded in, and grow out of, the normal personality. Since life is varied and complex anyway, it is hard to determine where normal behavior leaves off and abnormal behavior begins. In retreat from this tantalizing ambiguity, some psychiatrists have chosen to take the position that there is no such thing as mental illness. In similar argument, one might contend that since orange blends closely into red, there is no such thing as orange," Neuman says.
After all, orange is the new black.
Perhaps it is easier to say what is not meant by normal than what is.
One of my strongest influences as storyteller comes from fellow Colorado native, Ken Kesey.
Kesey famously volunteered to take part in what turned out to be a CIA-financed study known as Project MKULTRA at the Menlo Park Veteran's Hospital as a night aide. The project studied the effects of various psychoactive drugs, and his experiences there fueled the muse for writing "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."
Kesey's experience with patients, sometimes under the influence of the experimental hallucinogenic drugs, led him to believe that society had pushed them out because they did not fit conventional ideas of how people were supposed to act and behave. 
Still one of my favorite depictions of mental illness, I identify with the idea that sometimes, the treatments are worse than the "cure."
But knowing just how someone deviates from the average is important in understanding, I guess.
Dr. Nueman says that is true for three reasons:
"1. Although a particular behavior may not be in itself abnormal, it may be part of a pattern that reflects an abnormal process. Sleeping less than average, for instance, is sometimes associated with severe depressions and other psychoses. Also, if someone is extremely far from average in some respect of behavior or attitude, it is likely he will turn out to be emotionally ill by some other criteria.
2. Someone who is significantly different from other people may be under special strain as a result, for in order to be with people, it is necessary to do pretty much the things other people do.
3. But most important, an individual is most himself at just those points where he is different from others. Knowing what is special about someone is knowing, at least, what is worth paying attention to for a therapist and what to ask about."
My father, who in many ways and for many years, administered to my mom and her mental illness, late in life suffered from his own. In the form of dementia, or just general confusion, he became unsure of what was real, and what was Memorex.
A pillar of stability for most of his life, I never really understood that until he complained of the county moving the roads on him. Maybe the county did, but somehow I knew then, he was descending into a place he had never been.
I think I am like a lot of people, in that, is where the fear resides.  What if I go there, too?
Perhaps that is the edge that Thompson speaks of.  'Normal' doesn't mean you are adjusted, and perhaps it doesn't even last forever.
Even if it does, is 'normal' all it is cracked up to be? Or, is mental illness something we all should talk a little more about?


Saturday, March 12, 2016

Gifts from the "Yoda" of community journalism

A number of years ago, in late December of 2000 to be precise, long-time newspaper publisher J. Tom Graham sent me a package with collection of giant postcards from the old Sanborn Souvenir Co. of Denver.

Sanborn was a publisher of books and postcards of the American West from 1920 to 1976, but mostly of Colorado and Wyoming. They first produced real photo postcards carrying the Sanborn name. They later went on to produce tinted halftone postcards and eventually photochromes. 
J. Tom, my good friend and mentor, told me he had bought them at yard sale in Pasadena, Texas, if I remember correctly. 
I was publisher of the Courier at the time, and he said he thought I could possibly get some use out of them. He was Chief Operating Officer of the 60-plus newspaper group we were owned by at the time. J. Tom was a charming character, that had written for the Stars & Stripes while in the service during Korea. 
He also had worked for Rupert Murdoch in the Australian outback, written the popular book "Quaint, We Ain't," ran papers of almost every size, and even made a living for short while as a stand-up comedian. 
I still, to this day, relish telling J. Tom Graham stories of my own, and ones that he told me over time. The old newspaper editor, publisher, self-described sweep-out boy, lost a long battle with cancer in October and I was thinking of him when I ran across these. 
For about 15 years, I wrote a monthly column for the trade magazine "Newspapers and Technology. " J. Tom Graham always encouraged that practice and even helped me get a few speaking gigs in Boston and California. I wrote the following column about him when he retired from A.S.P. Westward in 2005, and as mentioned earlier, I have more than a few memories, as well as the  generous image keepsakes that call to mind his wisdom for the ages.
Photographer Harold Sanborn amassed thousands of images showcasing scenes in Colorado, Wyoming, and other Western states, starting about 1920. His son Bill took over the business from the 1950s until 1976.
The postcards were created in the tradition of William Henry Jackson, frontier and train travel photographer who created the tradition and carried it on for more than half a century beginning with the U.S.G.S. survey in the 1870s for Ferdinand V. Hayden, M.D., and on through his work with the Detroit Publishing Company well into the next century.
As mentioned, my good friend J. Tom Graham, appreciated my appreciation of such efforts, and gifted me with following prints many years ago. The images are only representative of the many benefits and other gifts I realized from my opportunity of knowing and listening to such fine newspaper man.

The following column first appeared in Newspapers & Technology in February 2006.

Advice for the ages

An old friend, mentor and survivor of nearly five decades in the community newspaper business, J. Tom Graham, retired at the end of 2005.
Graham is the former chief operating officer of ASP Westward LP, the company that signs my paycheck. But I can’t resist repeating a few “J.Tomisms” from my sounding board of nearly 10 years.
No. 2 on Graham’s “12 tactics for surviving the community newspaper business” was “The Old Man Hanks’ Find-Something” tactic.
The Abilene, Texas, founder of the Hart-Hanks Group had two inviolate rules, wrote Graham. “The first was this: All male employees had to wear hats.
“Forget that rule.
“The second, however, withstands the decades: ‘For every person who comes in the building to give the (Abilene) Reporter-News a story or a tip, the result must be a story in the newspaper.’
“He was adamant,” Graham said. “If an editor could not use what the reader brought in, he had better find something. Every visitor could [then] point to the newspaper and say, ‘That little story was the result of my visit to the paper.’”
Redefine relationship
Today, we need to redefine what an actual reader’s visit is because not too many people have time to come down to the paper anymore. But they will e-mail information to us, and give us phone calls, fax us info, and draw us aside at the chamber mixer.

The rule still holds in principle even if it needs adaptation. A newspaper must engage in some type of conversation within the community to survive in today’s world of blogs, instant feeds and explosion of information.
The art of conversation requires an exchange. As a paper, we have to listen well, write it down correctly and present it attractively.
Almost more important, we must provide an easy feedback loop to know how we are doing and how we must change and adapt to current conditions.
Design elements of your paper and its accompanying Web site should encourage this feedback.
To fuel participation, papers should end columns and stories with the writer’s e-mail address. E-mail and Web addresses should be institutionalized in page headers. Surveys asking readers for their opinion about how the paper is doing should be frequent and easy to respond to.
We need to make it easy for anyone to get involved in this newspapering thing.
Making things difficult
How hard is it now to fill out a wedding, birth, death, engagement and anniversary announcement in your paper? How difficult is it to place a classified for a garage sale next week, or to make sure everyone knows there is a scout meeting? Can you do all of that at 2 a.m. when you bolt upright from a sound sleep because you forgot to take care of it during the day? Can you easily take care of it in your underwear? Can you let those guys at city hall know how you feel about the new sign regulations?
If you can’t, maybe your paper is a little one-sided in its conversation skills.
And yes, there is a proper way to manage this flow of information.
J. Tom Graham’s Rule No. 6: “Keep the In-Baskets Empty” tactic goes as follows:
“Brock, the world’s most disorganized editor, would swear on the Bible he knew everything in the three-foot pile climbing out of his in-basket. But, quite mysteriously, stories kept getting lost. When the third obit disappeared into his teetering piles, Brock took his journalism degree and became a clerk in a liquor store.
Hats in the newsroom
“One veteran deskman described newspapering as an ‘organizing contest,’ and he wasn’t far off the mark,” Graham wrote.
“The walls may be stacked and the drawers may be overflowing in a newspaper, but the copy flow system must be meticulously maintained with the in-baskets cleaned all the way down to the wire and not treated as pending files or ‘maybe tomorrow’ stacks.
“The community newspaper version of ‘wire services’ is input from the community. The best way to build input is to get the stories in the newspaper every time, without fail.”
We need to keep that advice in mind. The way this business is changing so quickly, failure to adapt could mean that newspapers will go the same way as hats in the newsroom.
Rob Carrigan specializes in prepress systems for weekly newspapers. He is the publisher of the Ute Pass Courier in Woodland Park, the Gold Rush in Cripple Creek and the Extra in Teller County, all ASP Westward LP weeklies in Colorado. 

The next column first appeared in Newspapers & Technology in May of 2004

Understanding the 3 Ps

Every headline-writing hack succumbs at some point to the temptation of alliteration.
I am no better or worse. All things required to run a little newspaper might be boiled down into the “the primary three Ps” - product, people and possibilities.
Product, the most important, focuses on what you should be providing your customers. It has many aspects and includes everything from customer service and content development to production flow and packaging: everything, in fact, to delivery of the final product.
Storing so much under the product umbrella makes the rest of the would-be publisher’s job easier. Even the other two “Ps” have ramifications in the final product. Indeed, product is the ultimate periodical publisher’s pigeonhole.
Consider cost centers
Consider some additional alliteration governing the three major cost centers facing small newspaper publishers: payroll, printing and postage. If you navigate these centers correctly during the budgeting process, chances are you’ll have successfully charted your expense side of the business.
Back to the primary Ps: When focusing on product you must have the most relevant content, the most cost-effective delivery, results-focused advertising, attractive news presentation, an interested readership and a sustaining business model.
And that’s where people come in. People make all of this happen.
In the words of my friend, longtime publisher J. Tom Graham, newspapers will always be a people business.
“We are labor intensive,” Graham said. “If you have good people, you can be a good newspaper. If you don’t, you won’t. So staffing is the most important thing we do as managers.”
Common problems
Graham identifies some common problems community newspapers face when staffing:
*Rewarding too many key people not to get their job done.
*Hiring too few salespeople. You should have at least one for each writer. Salespeople should bring in three times as much revenue as their cost to the company. Keep hiring and firing until you reach that point.
*Recruiting key people instead of promoting from within. New management hires have no better than a 50-50 chance of success; those promoted usually are successful between 80 percent and 90 percent of the time.
*Under-challenging key people. To us the world looks busy because we are. Most of our best employees could do much more.
*Giving an employee responsibility without authority. People make the difference.
With product and people now addressed, that leaves “possibilities” up to you. Technology, training and trying out new things might all offer additional possibilities. Another great lesson of the newspaper industry has to do with avoiding assumptions. Don’t assume anything. It is your safest bet in this business. Things change and what worked before may not work as well the next time.
Simple ideas
Good ideas can come in the simplest forms. In a recent conversation with Steamboat (Colo.) Pilot & Today Editor Scott Stanford, an idea to share local news budgets with other ski-area newspapers has offered him the opportunity to print more skiing-related content popular with many of his readers.
To do that, each day he e-mails newspapers a copy of his rundown of local stories and photos. The other newspapers return the favor, and then each selects the stories it wants to exchange. This sharing occurs despite the fact the papers are owned by different companies.
The swap is simple, via e-mail. Stanford said both the WorldWest LLC-owned Pilot and rival newspapers benefit from the arrangement.
The relationship also allows Stanford to rely on the resources of those newspapers when circumstances warrant. Instead of sending a Pilot & Today sports reporter to cover some far-flung high school basketball game, Stanford can print the game wrap-up filed by the cooperating newspaper.
Ask for help
When trying new things, if you don’t know how to do something, ask somebody who might. Help can come from the strangest of places but the obvious starting point is newspaper directories and entries for operations that are similar in size and function to your own.
One final thought. The primary three Ps can go a long way to solve the most pressing publishing problems, but, personally, publishers should probably plan to punish all annoying alliterating authors.

Rob Carrigan specializes in prepress systems for weekly newspapers. He is the publisher of the Ute Pass Courier in Woodland Park, the Gold Rush in Cripple Creek and the Extra in Teller County, all ASP Westward LP weeklies in Colorado.  

He can be reached by e-mail at

Saturday, March 5, 2016

From hoof, to hook, packed on ice, railcar shipped

In the fall, cattle ranchers around Monument would drive their herds off the range and into town to ship them on the railroads to markets in Denver and beyond.

The Denver and Rio Grande arrived in 1872 and the Santa Fe in 1892, and both railroads had stockyards in town.

Many ranchers had their cattle on government range all summer, and a fair amount of time and effort was involved in checking brands and other busy events of the fall drives.

Several days before cattle were driven in, rail companies would line up cattle cars on the sidings, and almost everyone would ship the same day.

A switch engine would move cars around as the cattle were loaded, and preservation of local meat stocks were also a part of the process.

Several hundred head of cattle, men on well trained horses, local butchers, barkeeps, and ice contractors, and railroad employees had a busy few days.

When automatic blocks became available in the 1940s, the process that went on at the two depots in Monument, Pring Station, Greenland, Palmer Lake and Husted all changed.

For several years afterward, northbound trains all ran on the old Santa Fe tracks and southbound ran on the D&RG. Santa Fe tracks were eventually torn out in the late fall of 1974.
But in the early days, Monument was a meat-eating, beef-producing, package-it-up-and-keep-it cool kind of town.

"Chas. Allis had a butcher shop on the corner of Second and Washington Streets in the 1890s," noted Lucille Lavelett. "George Betz and John Boling operated a meat market and delivered meat by wagon for several years.

“There was Paul’s Meat Market operated by Paul Close and Paul Valentine. When meat was delivered by wagon, the back of the wagon was closed in, with hooks to hang the meat on, a meat block and scales. In the summer time, large tubs were filled with ice to keep the meat cold."

That is where the local ice business came in.

Fred Lewis’ wife, Myrtle McKee Lewis, was a teacher in the Lewis Consolidated School (and namesake for Lewis-Palmer District 38). She was the brother-in-law of W.E. Doyle, and went to work for him at the ice company in 1910.

Doyle and a partner, Thomas Hanks, had leased what is now known as Monument Lake (then State Reservoir) and built the original ice house.

Doyle bought out Hanks in 1909 and improved the operation with new ice houses and a chain-operated conveyor system powered by a steam engine from an old threshing machine leased from Charlie Schubarth. Doyle continued to operate up until the early 1940s.

“A spur railroad track was put in to load ice directly into the railroad cars,” wrote Lavelett. “Harvesting at that time was done by man and horses. Power conveying the ice up in houses by horses.

“Ice harvest began in the middle of December and the cakes of ice were 24-inches thick after being planed. Twenty-thousand to 30,000 tons were harvested. Four-thousand tons were stored in the houses and the balance shipped to Pueblo and Denver.”

But the ice business was risky, subject not only changing times, but forces of weather including wind,  changing climate, water — not to mention transportation and refrigeration technology modes.

Still, for a time, the floor of the butcher shop always had about three inches of clean sawdust, changed every week, to keep the ice cold and absorb any spills.

And every store, hotel, restaurant and some homes had their own ice house. As a result, Monument was a “meat and potatoes” kind of place.

But for the potatoes, that is a different story. 

Photo information:

Photo 1: Betz Meat Market in Monument with Betz' chain-drive delivery truck out front.

Photo 2: Meat Market with prominent Monument meat moguls including  Chas. Allis, Mose Chandler, Dan Davidson, George Betz  and Charlie Schubarth.

Photo 3: Charlie Schubarth's steam engine used to power ice conveyors.

Photos courtesy of The Vaile Museum.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Cemetery brings veterans closer to home

“I believe it is the nature of people to be heroes, given the chance.”
James A. Autry

I thought about that recently, taking some measure of solace in the dignity of my father's burial at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver.
The willingness of American veterans to sacrifice for our country has earned them our lasting gratitude. That simple message, and an update briefing on the Pikes Peak National Cemetery progress and challenges was delivered by Victor Fernandez one recent Saturday to Monument Hill Kiwanis.
"This Committee has been the focal point of the Veterans of Southern Colorado for establishment of a National Cemetery to serve our Veterans since May 1999. We have worked with the local, state, and federal elected officials over these past 16 years to seek Veteran's Administration approval and construction of this National Cemetery. As such, we are proud to submit our recommendation to name our cemetery. We submit: Pikes Peak National Cemetery," wrote Fernandez, a retired Army colonel and committee chair to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The name immediately identifies the location of the cemetery site, says Fernandez, and really the only logical choice.
"Pikes Peak is visible Upon entering the state from Kansas, and from most cities and towns in southeastern Colorado.  Pikes Peak is known as 'America's Mountain,' and as the location upon which the words to 'America the Beautiful' were written by Kathleen Lee Bates in 1913 when she first saw the 'purple mountain majesties and amber waves of grain' from the top of the 14,100 foot high Pikes Peak."
In June 2013, the Veterans Administration selected a 374 acre site on the south side of Drennan Road, a mile east of Mark Scheffle Road and purchased the site in early 2014. A Parker firm Architect and Engineering Firm released preliminary master design plans in December and Fernandez says "after much pushing from the cemetery committee, the VA erected on the site to I.D.  as the future location of the cemetery."
Today, with the blessing of the Colorado United Veterans Committee in Denver, Fernandez is asking for further blessing of the chosen name by service groups and veterans, and says they (the committee) can still use financial support.
Burial in a national cemetery is open to all members of the armed forces who have met a minimum active duty service requirement and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. A Veteran’s spouse, widow or widower, minor dependent children, and under certain conditions, unmarried adult children with disabilities may also be eligible for burial. Eligible spouses and children may be buried even if they predecease the Veteran. Members of the reserve components of the armed forces who die while on active duty or who die while on training duty, or were eligible for retired pay, may also be eligible for burial.

Photo 1: Monument Hill Kiwanis President Richard Storm, Pikes Peak Cemetery Committee Chairman Victor Fernandez, Gold Star Wife Linda Witt and El Paso County Veteran Service Officer Carl McDaniel at a recent Kiwanis briefing on the progress of Pikes Peak National Cemetery efforts.

Photo 2: Pikes Peak Cemetery Committee Chairman Victor Fernandez has been working on the project for 16 years.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Hoping discovery won’t slip through our fingers


“Organic life beneath the shoreless waves
Was born and nurs'd in ocean's pearly caves;
First forms minute, unseen by spheric glass,
Move on the mud, or pierce the watery mass;
These, as successive generations bloom,
New powers acquire and larger limbs assume;
Whence countless groups of vegetation spring,
And breathing realms of fin and feet and wing.”

 __ Erasmus Darwin


 At least 10 year's ago, and maybe as many as 20, I first heard of the Ice Caves of Cow Mountain. I have tried to track down more information ever since.  I am afraid that additional understanding may have slipped from my gloved hands and perhaps melted into the ground, as time plods on.
The old newspaper labeled the startling discovery "a natural refrigerator.”
It went on to describe ice caves 200 feet underground, and about two miles from the town of Gillett in a headline. The discovery was made by a miner and reported in the August 17, 1897 edition the Cripple Creek Morning Times. Kathy Klein, a local history buff, brought it to my attention with a note a few years ago.
“This fall my friend Chris Clausen, who is the Cripple Creek Elks historian … told me about some old Colorado newspapers that he had won on Ebay,” said Klein in the note. “He was particularly taken with an article about ice caves outside Gillett and told me about this article as he knew that I had been researching the Gillette area off and on for another friend.”
The edition of the Morning Times itself describes the caves this way:
“Further explorations have been made in the wonderful ice cave discovered on Cow Mountain, two miles from Gillett. Three chambers have so far been discovered. The first, about 14 x 16 feet, heavily hung with icicles in every conceivable form resemble stalactites. From the first chamber a small passage led to still another, more wonderful and beautiful, in which the ice blended in various colors under the light of the candle, reflecting rays as from a thousand mirrors. From this cave, a passage scarcely large enough to admit the body of a man was discovered leading down at about an angle of 40 degrees, to a large cavern, perhaps 200 by 300 feet. Climbing to the ceiling were great masses of ice, like billows, and banked along the sides of the walls many feet in thickness were tons of ice, taking on the most grotesque forms imaginable and casting awesome shadows.”
The article describes more of the cavern.
“In the center of the room there is lake about 40 x 65 feet, clear as crystal and quite deep. There must be some outlet to it, for water drips constantly from the ceiling, yet the level of the body never rises, or overflows. The water is wet and pure, and as cold as the ice-coated walls of the room in which it is located, at a point 200 feet underneath the surface of the ground. There are undoubtedly other caves which have not yet been opened.”
Kathy Klein and her friend Chris Clausen continued to search, but if they found anything, I didn't hear about it.
“We have both done some more looking both backward and forward in the newspapers and other places and can find no more mention of the ice caves. I was wondering if you have ever run across anything on them or think the article may have been a hoax? I do hope that someday we will be able to find more about them, it’s so fascinating.” Klein wrote later.
My friend attorney Ken Geddes, graciously answered my inquiry at the time, about ice caves near Gillette, and as things like that go, we digressed into other topics of mutual interest. Namely what it was like growing up in Victor during the ‘30s and ‘40s. Geddes parents owned and published the Times Record (previously named the Morning Times and more recently called the Gold Rush) from 1941 to 1951.
Geddes died in September of 2011, so that line of discovery has been challenged.
“I have heard of them off and on for several years and have explored Cow Mountain several times for any evidence of them,” said Geddes of the caves then. “Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful but that doesn’t mean they are not there! I have an old book or publication regarding them but just like the caves themselves, I have trouble finding the article — I’ll keep looking,” he promised.
Maybe he is still looking, but we have failed to make contact.
Still, I rather not let the thought slip, and melt into the high ground near Cow Mountain.