Saturday, June 17, 2017

Experience of fire


Thank you for answering the call


Fighting fire is something I am familiar with. My dad fought them all of his life. My younger sister spent years battling them for the United States Forest Service. I mark various watershed events in my own life by the experience of fire.

All the time I was growing up in a small town in southwestern Colorado, a strange, faceless phone with no dialing mechanism hung right on my dad’s side of my parent’s bedroom. I think there might have been as many as eight of them (exactly alike) hanging in various locations (homes and businesses) around the small town of 800 residents.

All of them were the property of the local volunteer fire department.

Whether it be night or day, the loud, unremitting, urgent ring would sound continuously at the breakout of a fire -- until someone picked up and answered the call.

If the call was judged not to be a prank, or false alarm, then the lever on the black box next to the phone was shoved over, all the way to the right, and the fire siren down at the town hall would begin its mournful summons of the 25 or 30 volunteer firefighters in the area.

Later, of course, heavy, boxlike pagers were worn on volunteers’ belts and the siren (that also served as the noon whistle, because it was necessary to test each day), became obsolete. I am not sure what they use today in that town.

The volunteers serving on that department – all by choice – and all continuing to work their regular jobs or at businesses to pay the bills and feed their families, would drop everything when the siren wailed.

I considered that carefully this week, as we continued to evaluate how fortunate we are, and what a debt we owe, regarding firefighter’s response and effectiveness when called to serve. When everyone else is running out, they are unselfishly, and usually anonymously, running in.

Of course, this month we are marking the 15th anniversary of Hayman Fire, the fifth anniversary of the Waldo Fire and fourth anniversary of the Black Forest Fire, three of the most destructive fires in the history of Colorado.

I suppose we should be out lining the roads, making signs and remembering to mark the firefighters recent efforts, as well.

Wouldn’t it also be appropriate to also recall the locals, and on a regular basis, the efforts of people like Pineville Hot Shots Kathi Beck, Tamera Bickett, Scott Blecha, Levi Brinkley, Douglas Dunbar, Terri Hagen, Bonnie Holtby, Rob Johnson, Jon Kelso or Missoula smokejumper: Don Mackey, and McCall Smokejumpers: Roger Roth, Jim Thrash and Helitack Robert Browning, Jr., and Richard Tyler who all perished on Storm King Mountain in 1994?

Or perhaps Oregon wildland firefighters: Zach Zigich, Retah Shirley, Jacob Martindale, Danial Rama, and Bart Bailey who suffered the same fate, in the van crash near Parachute, as they were coming to help us out during Hayman?

After all, it might be night or day, and they may have to drop what they are doing to hear our urgent ring.

Much like that faceless phone of my youth, we might forget about them for the most part, and never remember their names, or what kind of sacrifices they may have to make.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Be careful with those bees




Swarm on the rocks gets moved without incident


It can be somewhat unnerving when swarm of bees show up, flying all around on your front porch. Marianne Roane had that problem last week when the little buzzers started relocating on rocks near her front porch at her townhome in Monument.

Neighbor Bob Jackson helped her out by calling a bee guy to come and take a look.

The bee guy, Ed Buckley of Buckley Homestead Supply, came by that afternoon and moved the swarm into a cardboard box, with the help of Hadley Buckley and a younger Ed Buckley.

“It’s all very natural,” said the older Ed Buckley. “Half of hive stays with the old queen, and half goes with a new one.”

He said it wouldn’t be much of a chore to move them into the box, because as soon as he found the queen, all the rest would follow.

Sure enough. After scooping several hand-fulls into the box, as Buckley said, the bees started to signal “in here, she’s over here.”

The rest followed, and as far as anybody could tell, no one was stung in the process.





Saturday, June 3, 2017

As I walked out in the streets of Norpaso ...


Because we can’t describe where we live, let’s rename it


“I’m not my name. My name is something I wear, like a shirt. It gets worn. I outgrow it, I change it.” Jerry Spinelli

I think there once was one of the those green signs on I-25 that said something about Gleneagle Drive, right on the highway. Now, of course, Gleneagle Drive never touches I-25. You have to take North Gate Blvd., go through two roundabouts headed east to the light to Struthers Road, take a left, and then turn right on Gleneagle Drive. Thursday, local fire departments set fire to the old Gleneagle Golf Clubhouse. Donald Wescott Fire Protection District was in charge of the training exercise.

That is the thing about names around here —if you wait long enough, some change.

That can create confusion. Last week, I thought about that when considering the various districts and jurisdictions, and responsibilities.

In my 20+ years in the area, I have seen quite a bit. It is possible to recall when you could count the total population in the Tri-View Metropolitan District, on your fingers, and maybe even one hand. Town (meaning Colorado Springs) was miles away to the south. Woodmoor was sort of out in the country then, Black Forest was just that, Palmer Lake and Monument were the only real towns.

And of course, Gleneagle was sort of like the Gaza Strip, a small, self-governing territory with a golf course and pool, east of the United States Air Force Academy, with several homeowners associations including Gleneagle Civic, Gleneagle North, Academy View, Sun Hills, and several others. It relied on service by Donala Water, fire protection by Donald Wescott Fire Protection District, your choice of gas companies (several options), power from Mount View Electric, policing by El Paso County Sheriff, education through Academy District 20, and mail service through the Colorado Springs Post Office in Briargate.

Areas to the North were similar, Woodmoor having its own security and fire service, a restrictive homeowners association, and other such elements of responsibility and jurisdiction. But, though it was close, Woodmoor, was not part of Monument, and relied on Lewis Palmer School District 38, that originally served Monument and Palmer Lake. Baptist Road was the dividing line between District 20 and District 38.

So let's complicate this with a few more things. Palmer Lake's rural postal routes originate out the Monument Post Office, the Douglas County line is right at the top of Monument Hill, Tri-View Metro District was created to take care of roads, water, and parks in Jackson Creek, one of the newer areas of Monument, the Monument Town water system just takes care of the part of town west of I-25, and there are several different other districts between there and Palmer Lake. Fire service is handled by Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District (which now also includes Woodmoor). The city of Colorado Springs recently annexed about half of Donald Wescott Fire Protection District. Other residential areas have developed east of Woodmoor including Kings Deer, Bent Tree, Ridge at Fox Run, etc...

And what is the Tri-Lakes? Maybe about seven or eight old-timers can tell you what the three lakes are.

It is not necessarily surprising when someone has to call around to see who takes care of a problem with the neighbor's pet. Just a few weeks ago, I chuckled a little when the Drug Enforcement Agency described a marijuana grow as being at Monument home, when it was nearly five miles northeast of the city limits. But the El Paso County Sheriff labeled a problem last week at the Brewery on Woodmoor Drive as being a Colorado Springs address.

I would like to petition you folks right now to change the name of this area. We have outgrown it. And we can't even describe where we do live. Let's do something that reflects the combinations that we have become. Something that accurately reflects our diversity, and history. Yet, it needs to be simple and all-encompassing. May I suggest Norpaso.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

WMMI welcomes back Machinery Days

After 17 year hiatus, tractors and machines spin again





Photos and Story by Rob Carrigan, rob.carrigan@pikespeaknewspapers.com

The Western Museum of Mining and Industry (WMMI) hosted the return of the annual Pikes Peak Antique Machinery Days on their historic 27-acre Reynolds Ranch, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, May 12 to May 14, with displays by WMMI, the Arkansas Valley Flywheelers, Front Range Antique Power Association, antique automobile clubs, tractor pulls, and more. A line of tractors, not seen since 2000, ran around perimeter of the grounds.

“Not a bad showing for being gone for 17 years,” said Harold Hopkins of the Front Range Antique Power Association and Arkansas Valley Flywheelers. “Pretty good, in fact, for our first year back.”

The event, which featured antique tractor pulls, unique items at the silent auction, antique engines and tractors on display, as well as the museum’s operating steam engines, was held for 14 years from 1986 to 2000, but left for complicated reasons, said Hopkins. At the height of the show in past years, he said they were able to draw 400 engines and 200 tractors.




Antique cars shared the row with tractors and machines


Gene Wesback, of Franktown, has owned his orange, modified Model A for 68 years now. Since he was just 13, and could only drive around his parent’s yard. Wesback has tinkered with it.

But it was kept in pretty much the configuration as when bought it all those years ago, until he got into high school, he said.

Then, he dropped a flathead Ford engine in it, changed the wheels, modified the firewall with a chrome version, painted it. But his first car is still with him, and he likes to show off at events like the recent Antique Machinery Days at the Western Museum of Mining and Industry.

The former Air Force officer and fighter pilot, is member of Rocky Mountain Model A Club, and attended the recent event along with other antique car owners.




Photo information:

1. Gene Wesback, of Franktown, takes a shade break on the bumper of his modified Model A he has owned for 68 years now.
2. Sandy Boese, and her family gather around 1931 Auburn Phaeton, that has been a member of the family since 1966.
3. An Edsel maneuvers into place.
4. Model A peeks around the corner.















Sunday, May 21, 2017

Engineer shot bandit

Leadville Herald Democrat, Sept 2, 1910


Daring attempt to hold up Midland 3, Near Divide, 

early this morning, One train robber dead


As the result of an attempted train robbery on the Colorado Midland between Divide and Florissant, one robber is dead, Engineer Stewart is shot in the leg, and unknown hobo dangerously injured.
The other two robbers have made their escape, but a posse organized by Sheriff Phul of Cripple Creek has taken their trail.
When the Midland westbound No. 3 in charge of Conductor Wesley Steel reached Divide, shortly after midnight, one of the robbers climbed onto the tender and when the train reached milepost 32, a short distance beyond, covered Engineer Stewart with a revolver. The train has stopped at this point to meet No. 4 eastbound. Stewart, however, drew his revolver when the robber opened fire, the bullet hitting Stewart in the leg. Stewart opened fire and shot the man dead.
Just at this moment the other bandits sent a fusillade of bullets into the express car but the messengers refused to open the door.
The train crew by this time had on their fighting clothes and a hail of bullets was sent in the direction in which the robbers appeared to be located. It is believed that there were three men engaged in the holdup, one of them crawling on the tender and the other two at the rendezvous at the point where the No. 3 and 4 usually meet. The other two disappeared in the darkness.
It was discovered after the excitement that an unknown hobo riding the rods on the No. 3 had been accidentally shot by the train porter.
Engineer Stewart and the unknown hobo were taken to Colorado City on the No. 4.
As soon as possible Sheriff Von Phul, of Cripple Creek, was notified and he directed his deputies at Florissant and Divide to take the trail.
The coroner has also started for the scene to take charge of the remains of the dead robber which lie beside the track where he was placed after Engineer Stewart had killed him. Engineer Stewart's home is in Colorado City.
Colorado Springs, Sept. 2 --
Dr. O. G. Place of Denver, happened to be on the train when the shooting and the attempted holdup occurred, and at once took charge of Stewart. A tourniquet was at once applied and without much further loss of blood, the injured man was brought to this city and taken to St. Francis Hospital.
At Colorado City, Dr. G.S. Vinyard boarded the train and accompanied the wounded man to the hospital. Both doctors connected with the case agree that Stewart is in no danger.
The weapons used by the daring robbers are of a cheap make of Smith & Wesson pattern. They were worn in a broad leather belt around the waist and had evidently been unused for some time.
According to the injured engineer and the train crew, the man was of good size, speaking with an accent of a Scandinavian, and was rather shabbily dressed. When he climbed over the tender of the engine, he had a cloth mask over the front of his face, and a sort of gunny sack across his chest.
From the details which can be gathered, it appears that the robber evidently had designs on the passengers, for there was no unusual shipment in the Wells Fargo consignment in the express car at the time and the robber told the fireman while he was on his way back to the express car that he was "After the passengers too."
Several of the passengers who were on the train stopped in the city. Among them was Mrs. M.C. Roach, who said that she know nothing of the whole affair until after the train was on its way and she thought that the engineer had had his head blown off.

Photo Information: Midland Railroad Terminal, Divide, 1896.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Guess we have a story to tell

 

 Remarkable coincidence in the search for connections

“What connection can there be, between the place in Lincolnshire, the house in town, the Mercury in powder, and the whereabout of Jo the outlaw with the broom, who had that distant ray of light upon him when he swept the churchyard-step? What connection can there have been between many people in the innumerable histories of this world, who, from opposite sides of great gulfs, have, nevertheless, been very curiously brought together!”

― Charles Dickens, Bleak House


Coincidence is often defined as a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection. I continue to marvel at how it plays a role in my own life.

Years ago, I befriended an old guy in Fairbanks, Alaska, that lived next door to my wife's family. Frank Stewart. As things progress, he found out I was newspaper guy, working at the time with the Courier and Gold Rush in Cripple Creek.

He said his father, Frank Stewart also, was a railroad engineer on the Colorado Midland, based in Colorado City, but after that, he went north to work on the Alaska Railroad.

He told me a story, and showed me a pistol that was taken from would be robber, between Divide and Florissant during a train robbery.

For perhaps 20 years I looked to authenticate that story, in the records of the Cripple Creek Times, Victor Record and other papers that became folded into ones that I became associated with. For years after the first meeting, I provided a subscription of the Cripple Creek Gold Rush, and later the Courier, that Frank (Jr.) said he would be interested in, hoping it might lead something, even another story or anecdote, that folks like us storytellers can hang our hat on.

I have not been able to track it down. Frank, being very young when he heard the stories (it happened before he was born), didn't really have an idea about date. Time marched on. I left the papers in 2007, and did other things for years, though I remained curious about the whole affair over those years.

Then, in 2011, I returned, though I must confess, did not think much of it until visiting Frank in Fairbanks again about three or four years ago. With time and health issues, Frank didn't really remember much about the whole affair. But his wife asked me then to discontinue the sub, that had somehow survived through different papers and ownerships, and asked for possible repositories for the pistol and perhaps other items related. I suggested some. Don't know if they acted on my suggestions.

Time marched on, years passed, and another old story, about trains in West Creek area, caught the interest of Ken Springer, a local guy with common interest in history and trains etc ...

"I'm really into the Cripple Creek and CO railroad history in this area. Lots of info stashed on my HD, and I know where to get more but just can't seem to have the time or finances to get it done," he said. "Maybe we should get together sometime." We met at the Courier a few months ago and among about million other things, the train robbery on the Midland came up.

A few weeks ago, I received the following email from him.

"Hot Damn!!! Here's your train robbery!" And sure enough, in the pages of Leadville paper, The Herald Democrat, Sept. 2, 1910, was the telltale headline.

"ENGINEER SHOT BANDIT, Daring Attempt to Hold Up Midland 3, Near Divide This Morning. One Train Robber Dead," it said.

"As result of an attempted train robbery on the Colorado Midland between Divide and Florissant, one robber is dead, Engineer Stewart is shot in the leg, and unknown hobo dangerously injured," read the lead.

"That's the one," I emailed Springer. " I appreciate you finding it." Looked for that for years, I thought to myself. Then I thought, what did Dickens mean by "Mercury in the powder?"

It's not surprising readers don't understand this, as it requires obscure knowledge of Roman mythology and the way servants were dressed at the time his book was set. Mercury was the messenger God, and footmen and doormen wore powdered wigs. So, "Mercury in powder" just means a servant who is announcing a visitor.

Time still marches on. Coincidence. Connections. Curiosity. Guess we have a story to tell. Certainly it is remarkable.

Photo Information: The Colorado Midland's Maiden Voyage to Cripple Creek in 1900.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

More than a memory





History lesson that we are doomed to repeat

“One is always at home in one's past...”

― Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory


Everyone that knows anything about me, sees my love of history, and breathes in the nostalgia in my airspace.
It is my wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition. As many have said, Algos means "suffering." So nostalgia, according to Milan Kundera, is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return. It is strange how we hold on to the pieces of the past while we wait for our futures.
But to counter, Marcel Proust noted, “Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were.”
Today, as I write this and reflect, May 4, on the 47th anniversary of the Kent State killings, I follow my memories where they take me.
Last classroom on the south, upriver side; warm enough that windows all had to be opened, like flapping upside-down bird wings in the spring, strategically positioned to allow sight recognition of anybody in the parking lot, coming or going.
Brian Tobin, with hair matted on one side and askew on the other, rants about screaming Arab regulars, voting early, often, and some story about fishing with hand-grenades as a Marine in Vietnam.
Post WWII History, with William E. Leuchtenburg's first, or second edition of "A Troubled Feast: American Society Since 1945," and your choice of other supporting readings. I chose Hunter Thompson's "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, 1972." Classic. More than a writer, Gonzo loaned his press pass to one of his derelict friends, who in turn, made "Big Ed" Muskie cry publicly on the back of the "Sunshine Express."
But in the regular text, the photo on page 5 is the iconic shot for Life Magazine of the sailor in full uniform kissing a bowled-over nurse, also in dress whites, on the streets of New York. Consumer Culture and the Cold War, first chapter.
The Man from Missouri, "Truman brought to the task a mixed assortment of talents, sentiments, and personal qualities. None doubted his grit. He made bold decisions quickly and executed them briskly. However, he was generally unreflective, sometimes cocky and brash," wrote Leuchtenburg.
By the end of the semester we could quote the lyrics from the Eagles' Hotel California and noted that, if Rip Van Winkle had fallen asleep in the Eisenhower years and awakened with Carter in the White House, he might think that nothing has changed.
Russel Baker said it this way:
"The growing public absorption in the hedonism of public pleasure and private consumption -- the hunt for the ideal restaurant, the perfect head of lettuce, the totally satisfying human relationship" were "the current equivalents of the Eisenhower age's passion for big tail fins, drier martinis, darker steak houses and cozier evenings with the family."
Everyday, we would drift down the hallowed hall of Dolores High School, past the class pictures of earlier classes that would stare down at us, disapprovingly, from above the grey lockers, and filter into that last classroom. We would serve our time, burn our hour, as history and the odd Jedi master tried to interest us in the lives that we were likely to live, the government we were destined to deserve, the place in the cosmos we were to choose and accept.
My good friend Rusty Hector graduated the year before I did, and tells the following story:"Brian Tobin -- I think my senior class with him was American Government. If I recall correctly, it was the final day of class and school year. His parting lesson went something like this...'If you remember nothing else from this class, remember this. As Seniors you feel you are invincible. When you start getting all puffed up and full of yourself I would ask you to fill a 5-gallon bucket with water. Stick your arm in the water, all the way down so your elbow is submerged! Remove your arm from the bucket. And that voided space in the water is how much they will miss you when you are gone.'"
According to Hector, "From time to time I still share the story, (recently with a coworker actually). I think it is a great reminder of humility."
Did I learn a lesson? Are my eyes open? Am I doomed to repeat? Can we make America great again? Or was it really that great in the first place?
"My history had been composed to be an everlasting possession," according to Thucydides. "Not the show piece of an hour."
History is mine to make, I learned in the hour. As I sat there there, next to young men and women that would fight their own wars, park nose-to-street in anticipation, and for easy access to the battle, select their own public pleasures.
It was more than a memory for me then. Still is.