Saturday, August 22, 2015

A battle, unfortunately, way too familiar.

Fighting fire is something I am familiar with. My dad fought them all of his life. My younger sister spent time battling them for the United States Forest Service. I mark various watershed events in my own life by the experience of fire.
"Andrew Zajac was a well-liked and active student at Downers Grove North High School, where he played football, performed cello in the orchestra and signed up for exciting trips abroad with fellow classmates," writes
As news spread that Zajac, 26, was one of the three firefighters with the U.S. Forest Service killed this week while battling a fierce wildfire in Washington state, friends, family and former acquaintances in the west suburbs mourned the loss of a local kid who grew up to do heroic work," said the Tribune story last week.
"Zajac and two other firefighters — Tom Zbyszewski, 20, and Richard Wheeler, 31 — were killed and four others injured when what authorities described as a “hellstorm” of flames driven by shifting winds overtook their crew Wednesday after they crashed their vehicle while fighting a wildfire in north-central Washington."
Almost 30,000 firefighters are taking on 100 large fires in drought-stricken, and heat-ravaged Washington, California,  Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and other parts of the West.
The three, took their last firetruck ride along Twisp River Road,  as hundreds in smoke-stained Nomex removed their hard hats to honor the procession for the fallen — before heading back to the fire lines.
I noted, (not for the first time) that there is connection among those battling blazes. 
An unlucky 13 firefighters have been killed fighting Western fires this year.
Locally, Divide Fire Protection District, North East Teller County, and perhaps others, each have sent trucks west to fires.
The 13 recalls the South Canyon Fire on Storm King near Glenwood Springs in 1994 unfortunately, and makes me recall the 14 killed there.
Prineville Hotshots: Kathi Beck, Tamera Bickett, Scott Blecha, Levi Brinkley, Douglas Dunbar, Terri Hagen, Bonnie Holtby, Rob Johnson, Jon Kelso.
Missoula Smokejumper: Don Mackey
McCall Smokejumpers: Roger Roth, Jim Thrash.
Helitack: Robert Browning, Jr., Richard Tyler.
Five firefighters died from injuries sustained from a June 21, 2002 traffic accident en route to the Hayman fire in Colorado from Oregon: Zach Zigich, Retah Shirley, Jacob Martindale, Danial Rama, and Bart Bailey. I will never forget the disconsolate, but determined, looks on firefighter's faces when they announced those names at a Lake George fire briefing, then.
It is important to remember — always, I think.

Photo information:
The lone helicopter on the South Canyon Fire on Storm King Mountain, shown here before the blowup on July 6, 1994, shuttled the Prineville Hotshots from Canyon Creek Estates to the fire. Courtesy of Bowman Museum.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

History woven into fabric of Monument post office

"Abstract anger is great for rhetorical carrying on. You can go on endlessly about the post office, but it doesn't mean you're mad at your mailman."
__ P.J. O'Rourke

In places like this, the post office is part of the fabric that holds the town together through time and history. The story of the Post Office seems to be a twisting and turning tale here locally in Monument.  David McShane, who built the old stone fort near the edge of Monument and Palmer Lake, was of course, the first postmaster. But Henry Limbach, was the second.

"The first post office in this vicinity was in 1869, and was located on the David McShane ranch. David McShane was the first postmaster. Mail was brought to the office twice a week, if the weather permitted, by hack or saddle horse," records historian Lucile Lavelett.

Limbach made his first payment on for land in Monument on Oct. 1, 1870. The land was patented to Maria Linder, Henry's mother in law, who came over from Germany.

"Caroline Linder Limbach was born in Hilburghausen Saxony, on May 22, 1842. She came to America with her mother, Mrs. Linder in May, 1872. They stopped temporarily in St. Louis, Missouri. There by pre-arrangement, she was met, and married to Henry Limbach, who had been a companion and schoolmate of her childhood and early youth in Germany. Immediately after their marriage, she came with her husband; her mother accompanying them to his ranch, that had been made a station called Henry's Station on the D & R.G. railroad just then built," wrote Lucille Lavelett in 'Through the Years at Monument, Colorado.'

"The country around was still unsettled, only a few ranches near and the bride still unable to speak a word of English. She commenced her new life in a new, strange and barren-looking country. Caroline Limbach was the first white female resident in Monument. Her eldest son, Ed Limbach, was the first child born in this town."

According to the lore, though it was first called Henry's Station before the first trains rolled through in 1872, but Henry, himself is given credit for changing the little burg's name to Monument, after the nearby rock formation.

Henry himself, had arrived in this country as early as 1866, when he served in the Eighth Cavalry. He enlisted to take part in the Indian War and served as Captain.

"Later he became a true friend to the Indian. He and Chief Ingacio were very close friends," Lavelett wrote.

In January of 1874, Charles Adams and Henry Limbach filed a plat statement of the town encompassing about 60 acres in the North half of the South east quarter. 108 lots were platted with Limbach owning 36 and Adams 72. Adams and Limbach, with others, would later file two more additions by 1879, and be involved with more in the 1880s.

Mount Herman, West of Monument, was named after one Herman Schwanbeck, who homesteaded right about where Village Inn is now. A relative of his, Charles Adams, was both instrumental in the development of the town, and much of early Colorado, though Adams never lived in Monument, staying in the Manitou Springs much of his life, and died in fire and explosion at the Gumry Hotel in Denver in 1895.

"Charles Adams was born Karl Adams Schwanbeck in Germany in 1845. He came to the United States as young man and served in the Union Army during the the Civil War (as did Henry Limbach) and afterwards was a cavalryman on the Western Plains. He was appointed Brigadier General of the Colorado Militia in 1870. Later he was an Indian agent , a special agent in the post-office department and Minister to Bolivia. After the Ute outbreak in 1879 he distinguished himself by entering the territory of the Indians and persuading them to release their white captives. He was married to an English girl who did not like the German name of Schwanbeck, so had it changed to Charles Adams," according to Lavelett's history.

From 1869 to 1959, the Post Offices in Monument were located in stores or private homes. In 1959, for was the first time, Monument had it own new building for a post-office. It was dedicated April 24, 1960 with Lucille Lavelett as postmaster.

A new and larger office was constructed on Front Street in 1975 to accommodate growth related to development in Woodmoor, (the building surrounded by controversy recently regarding a possible Methadone clinic,) across from Limbach Park.

And finally construction of the current building, on Third Street, across from the old Schwanbeck homestead, began in 1998.


Photo Information:
1. David McShane, first Monument-area postmaster.
2. Henry Limbach, second postmaster.
3. Caroline Limbach.
4. Charles Adams, with Ouray and Chipeta
5. Lucille Lavelett.
6. Limbach's house in 1880.
7. Limbach Saloon.
8. Caroline Limbach's Millenery.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Name, and interest in cars, shared

Our differences don't always drag us apart. But things we share, often bring us together.
Donald Durant says he has always liked cars. Perhaps the longtime Monument resident came by it naturally, showing the same interest as his mom, Anna Houser? Maybe it was linked to his surname? With a name like Durant, it is possible that it was predestined.
William Crapo "Billy" Durant, the co-founder of General Motors, founder of Frigidaire, partner to Louis Chevrolet. and probably the most pioneering visionary in early days of the car industry,  standing next to the likes of Henry Ford, developed Buick, Oldsmobile, Cadillac. He was also the founder of Durant Motors, Flint, and Eagle — maker of the Durant automobile line.
Here is where our story of the two Durants converge.
Local Donald Durant, while growing up and living in the Tri-Lakes area, always wanted to own a Durant automobile. Guess it was a name thing? In fact, he and his mom Anna Houser were involved with the purchase of at least three of the vehicles over time. But it was difficult to find one complete, with all things in working order, original equipment, all the pieces and parts. After all, they only manufactured them 1921 to 1931.
But the Stars aligned in 1998, when Durant and Houser discovered — hiding in a garage for 20 years in Kansas —  a 1928 Durant Model 65, that had been driven in to garage after its first owner died. Its series number is in the 4,000s. Story was, the first owner was a politician, maybe State Senator from somewhere over on the Western Slope (though some of the details of who and where from,) have been lost over time.
"It is pretty much exactly as we found it," says Donald Durant. "Aired up and balanced the tires. Worked on the carburetor, 12-volt electrical system. Worked on radiator. Really just a lot of simple stuff."
Durant is a heavy equipment operator by trade, so he had some exposure to mechanics.
"We thought it was a good vehicle," said his mom Anna Houser, and she thinks they paid somewhere about $12,000 to $15,000 for it back in 1998. She has owned a few interesting cars living here in the area since 1958. Among them, a '56 Jaguar, a '58 and '60 Edsel, and a Hudson Hornet.
This year it was entered into the Monument Fourth of July Parade.
"Driving it in a parade is really hard on it, because of the way it is geared and the clutch." But they got through it, and relished the opportunity to display the car.
"Billy" Durant's last car company failed in 1933. In the 1920s, heavily involved with Wall Street, he joined with members of the Rockefellers and other financial giants, after the Crash of 1929 to buy large quantities of stocks, against the advice of friends to demonstrate confidence in the market. His effort proved costly and failed to stop the market slide. By 1936, the 75-year-old Durant was bankrupt. After the fall of Durant Motors, he and his second wife, Catherine Lederer Durant, lived on a small pension provided by arranged by Alfred P. Sloan at $10,000.00 a year on behalf of General Motors. He suffered a stroke in 1942, leaving him with physical challenges and only able to find work managing a bowling alley, where he finished his life slinging hamburgers in Flint until his death in 1947.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Responsibility: Duty without pain

Ben Franklin, an old newspaper man himself, noted that is “It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.”
 In the midst of questioning authority, and generally bringing useful information to public,
"Public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. Ethical journalism strives to ensure the free exchange of information that is accurate, fair and thorough. An ethical journalist acts with integrity," according to the Society of Professional Journalists.
I have always considered it a noble profession with a lot of responsibility.
It can also be dangerous. I was reminded of that recently researching the story about the 1965 floods in this area. One of the first reported deaths during that crisis was James Osnowitz.
"James Osnowitz, 23, a Pueblo Star-Journal and Chieftain employee, died when his car crashed thru  the barricade at the scene of flooding, near Larkspur, south of Denver," said the Chicago Tribune on June 18, 1965.
 His obituary in the Colorado Springs Free Press on June 18, 1965 headline read:
"Pueblo Newsman Drowns in Flood Near Larkspur." It goes on to report.
"The body of a 22-year-old Pueblo newsman was pulled from his submerged car near Larkspur, Douglas County, Thursday. James Edward Osnowitz, a summer employee of the Pueblo Chieftain and Star-Journal, was found by skin divers. Because officials of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office could not reach the area, Sheriff Earl L. Sullivan of El Paso County ordered the body brought out. The body was taken to St. Francis Hospital and then to the Law Mortuary pending transfer to Pueblo. Osnowitz was born on Jan. 9, 1943, at Sioux City, Iowa. He was a recent graduate of Southern Colorado State College at Pueblo and held a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania School of Journalism. The Osnowitz car apparently crashed through a barricade and he was trapped inside by flooding waters Wednesday, according to the report."
The Committee to Protect Journalists identifies 1,134 journalists killed, just since 1994, when it started keeping records. Other ways of making a living, and just living itself, of course can be dangerous.
For example, Jessica Ghawi, an aspiring Colorado sports reporter who barely missed a deadly Toronto shooting a few days before, was among those killed by a crazed gunman at an Aurora theater, just going to movie on her off time.
And the Alan Berg killing, June 18, 1984, was a stark reminder that certain crazy people can take offense from things you might say, and even the way your say it.
Berg was an American attorney and Denver talk show host notable for his largely liberal, outspoken viewpoints and confrontational interview style. Berg was gunned down in the driveway of his Denver town home by members of the Order.
All of us know of more tragic examples that burn uneasy concern in our operating plans. Journalists, and of course everyone's, primary responsibility is to try to stay upright and breathing in the line of duty and danger.
Sam Clemens, or Mark Twain by the name he developed writing for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, had perhaps the correct take.
“Do something everyday that you don't want to do; this is the golden rule for acquiring the habit of doing your duty without pain."
To emphasize: Duty without pain.

Photo info: Aerial photo of Lowell Ranch, taken by Hank Kimbrough, Douglas County Commissioner, June 17, 1965. Douglas County History Research Center

Legacy of tradition, local activism and reaching out

For the the Searles, the trail always leads back to legacy, tradition, local activism, and a history of reaching out.
This week is no different.
Wednesday night, August 5, the Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce Concerts in the Park series is extended with what Charlie Searle calls a "Shelleybration." in honor of his sister Shelley Searle Barber, (1958-2015) and a fundraiser for Open Arms Pregnancy Resource Center in Walsenburg. Naturally, Charlie's band, the ASHToNZ, are performing in Limbach Park in Monument, starting at 7 p.m.
Then Friday and Saturday, August 7 and 8, the Searles host 2015 Rocky Mountain Select Texas Longhorn Sale & Rendezvous at Latigo Trails Equestrian Center, not too far from Searle's Cherry Springs Ranch. That gathering, of course, has a philanthropic element benefiting the Semper Fi Fund for disabled veterans.
Longhorns, rendezvous, music, stock sales and the entertainment trail for the Searles is a long one.
"In 33 years of putting on Texas Longhorn Sales, we've learned that the most successful ones offer good cattle and a memorable social experience," says Stan Searle, Charlie's father.
Stan (and the rest of the family, as a result) have been involved in the Longhorn business since the early 1970s and formerly founded and published the Texas Longhorn Journal. Charlie worked as editor, and Shelley worked alongside. Stan's wife, and Charlie and Shelley's mom Lorna, was Ad Manager.
For the last 13 years, it has been a local Longhorn operation out at Cherry Springs Ranch (with other grazing ground out in Ellicott) on the former site of Gwillimville. Founded in 1869 by Gwillim R. Gwillim, originally from North South Wales, and six miles east of Monument on Highway 105.
"The cabin and hay shed in the bottom of the pasture dates back to the time of the town," noted Stan in recent tour during a Chamber event. Gwillimville was never incorporated. In its heyday, a cheese factory, creamery, store, blacksmith shop, several saloons, a post office, school, church and worker's quarters sprang from the earth around Cherry Springs and the source of Cherry Creek. The Gwillimville School was eventually moved to Monument, becoming Sunday school for the Presbyterian Church and in the 1980s, the former Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce building on Highway 105 in Monument.
In January of 1880, a Diphtheria epidemic broke out affecting brother of the founder's family Richard Gwillim's two daughters.
"In spite of all efforts, the two little girls passed away within a few days of each other. These girls are buried in the Spring Valley Cemetery," wrote Lucile Lavelett in her Monument's Faded Neighboring Communities. "Avery strange and sad coincidence happened that two children in every family in the neighborhood died of Diphtheria during that epidemic."
In 1895, Richard Gwillim's home burned, pretty much spelling the end of Gwillimville.
Stan Searle's career in the media business was not confined to Longhorns however and had fingers reaching out in several directions. Locally, he was the founder and manager of Tri-Lakes Cable, which was sold to Adelphia in 2000, (later becoming part of Comcast) and managed other trade magazines related to cable and other business.
Named among the top 100 Pioneers of the cable industry, Stan's heart however, was in the cattle business. Suggesting that some of his inspiration comes from legendary trail founder Charles Goodnight, Stan co-founded International Texas Longhorn Association and is a recipient of their prestigious "Charles Goodnight Award. The Goodnight-Loving Trail beginning with the "Gather" in Texas after the Civil War, goes through Monument, on into Denver. Charlie, a noted musician, photographer, writer, began his musical career at Alamo Village working for Happy Shahan, former partner of actor John Wayne in development of Alamo Village for the film.
Legacy, tradition, local activism, and a history of reaching out.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Colorado Skip befriends President Roosevelt and children

“Blessed Kermit," wrote vice-president-elect Theodore Roosevelt to his young son.
"I was delighted to get your letter. I am sorry you are having such a hard time in mathematics, but hope a couple of weeks will set you all right. We have had a very successful hunt out here in Colorado. All told we have obtained ten bear and three bobcats. Dr. Lambert has been a perfect trump. He is in the pink of condition, while for the last week I have been a little knocked out by the Cuban fever. Up to that time I was simply in splendid shape."
Friends of Roosevelt, Philip Stewart, of Colorado Springs, and Dr. Gerald Webb felt a vacation for their friend was necessary. Roosevelt had just survived the rigors of a national election and would soon answer to the challenges of the second highest office in the United States. They proposed a month-long mountain lion hunting expedition to Colorado for early 1901, Roosevelt eagerly accepted.
The newly-elected Roosevelt also made friends with a dog, as relayed to his son in letters at the time.
"There is a very cunning little dog named Skip, belonging to John Goff’s pack, who has completely adopted me. I think I shall take him home to Archie. He likes to ride on Dr. Lambert’s horse, or mine, and though he is not as big as Jack, takes eager part in the fight with every bear and bobcat.
I am sure you will enjoy your trip to Deadwood with Seth Bullock. I have now become very homesick for Mother, and shall be glad when the 12th of May comes,” wrote Theodore to his son Kermit.
Roosevelt arrived at Stewart's Colorado Springs home the morning of Jan. 10, 1901. By September, he would be president, after the assassination of William McKinley.
That day, he, Stewart, and Webb boarded a Colorado Midland train and arrived in Rifle that evening. After spending a night at Rifle's Clark Hotel, his hunting party boarded a tally-ho driven by Gates Kersburg for the 40-mile trip to the hunting camp. At Rifle, he greeted a few citizens, but in general shied away from public engagements. Seeking a quiet vacation, the press was not invited to the hunt, according to reports in the Glenwood Post Independent and the Rifle Citizen Telegram.
Within days, reports of Roosevelt shooting his first of what would be 12 mountain lions in Colorado were made public. With no press to cover the event, fanciful fabricated stories regarding Roosevelt's hunting prowess proliferated. These stories Roosevelt refuted when he returned.
On Feb. 15, the hunt ended. As he boarded a Colorado Midland train in Rifle on Feb. 16, he greeted citizens. Excited residents of New Castle eagerly welcomed him at his stop there. Wishing an additional dimension to his trip, he asked the train engineer at New Castle if he could ride in the engine to Glenwood Springs. The engineer happily obliged.
Roosevelt vowed to return to Colorado for another hunt. He made good on that promise in 1905 as president of the United States when he and Goff reunited for his famous bear hunt on Divide Creek near New Castle.
As promised, Roosevelt was given a black and tan feist-type dog named Skip by John Goff during his 1905 hunting expeditions in the west. Many have claimed this dog to be a rat terrier but in reality he more closely resembled the old black and tan terrier or Manchester. An often-recited story is how this terrier helped rid the White House of rats in 1906 but in fact, two dogs and some ferrets owned by local pest exterminator named Barclay were actually used to take care of the rat business.
This story was so often recited that when the Rat Terrier Club of America wished to separate the short legged variety from the longer legged they named the short legged variety the Teddy Roosevelt Terrier in honor of Mr. Roosevelt's supposed participation with the breed.
That is the story of how the Western Slope dog from Meeker and Rio Blanco County ended up in the White House, befriended by the president's children.


Monday, June 15, 2015

The afternoon skies turned black: Tornado in Palmer Lake, June 16, 1965

Fifty years is the big part of a lifetime.
But a most vivid memory could pop up just about anywhere in a long, happy span.
Rodger and Judy Voelker had just lived in Palmer Lake about six months when the tornado hit that Wednesday afternoon, a little after 1 p.m., and destroyed the rental house they lived in. They, will remember that forever.
“The U.S.G.S. said all the water that came afterward was a 100 year flood,” said Judy Voelker recently in their current house that survived the twisting winds, and torrential rains that devastated Palmer Lake back in 1965, though the one next to it was destroyed, same as the rental house downhill a bit, that they lived in at the time.
“We didn’t know a lot of people yet, but we got to know them pretty fast,” said Rodger Voelker.
After the storms, there was no running water in town for months, and “We met around the Fort Carson tank truck when we were filling up. Voelker remembers there being about 600 to 800 year-round residents in town at the time, swelling to about twice that in the summer.
“It was the kind of place that you would meet everyone in town out at the dump eventually,” he said.
The response by the locals to the disastrous storms convinced the Voelkers to stay — forever.
“So many people came to help us. That is when Rodger said we’re never going to leave here,” Judy said.
Rodger was working in the basement (no windows) and Judy was upstairs making bread.
“The day of the storm, the skies got really dark,” she said. “There was a terrible hollow feeling, and then the roof started lifting off. It peeled off like a roll top desk.”
When the roar of wind subsided, she ran to the basement door and broke the pane trying to get the door open.
“I said to Rodger, the house is gone,” she remembers. “He patted me on the head and said, “It’s OK.” He thought I was losing it.”
Judy said noise from the Bert and Norita Tatman home downhill at 244 Park Street got their attention that day.
The Tatman home was not destroyed, but heavily damaged. Bert, a co-worker, his wife Norita, and daughters Rhonda, 8, and Becky, 6, were home that day for lunch, after reading gas meters locally.
“The thing I remember most was that it got so dark that the street lights came on,” said Norita Tatman.
“We had finished lunch and I was standing in front of the picture window with the girls watching this storm.”
They (Bert and the coworker) were looking out the other window of the kitchen and saw a roof go by. They told us then to get to the basement.”
Norita said she grabbed the girls by their heads, tucking them under each arm and carrying them to the basement.
“I couldn’t carry them downstairs like that normally if I tried,” she said. In the basement, she said she laid on top of her daughters for protection, “Even though Becky was screaming that I was hurting her.”
“We could hear the roof go off. I was scared.” she said. “It didn’t last that long. Nobody got a scratch. We were covered with insulation.”
Bert said when the noise died down, he was able to climb through debris in the stairwell, and when he got to the ground floor, hail was hitting him in the face and he knew the roof was gone. In fact, one whole end of the house was gone. Norita said the roof was found half a block away, still intact.
“Right after it happened the neighbors (the Voelkers) came running down the hill with blankets.”
“Then, the rains came down,” she said. The Tatmans left town for a few days, staying in Colorado Springs. Later, the gas company Bert worked for supplied a trailer for them in trailer park, until the same builder who constructed the house nine months before the tornado, could rebuild it.
The Voelkers however were still in town when flooding occurred.
“After the tornado, you couldn’t drive anywhere. There were exposed wires and things everywhere,” she said and they went uphill to another neighbor, Andy Krueger’s house. The rain poured that afternoon and as they watched it continue to pour, eventually they heard another frightening roar.
“We saw a wall of water coming out of the canyon at the top of High Street and we heard a terrible roar,” she said. “We watched it hit Reba Bradley’s House and demolish it. It hit Florence Hafer’s house and totally wiped it out. Then it hit the pink stucco house. We watched it fill up with water. The water kept pouring out of the canyon. “By that point, you are just kind of numb.”
Rodger remembers helping in the rescue of Florence Hafer, 62, and Betty Schreiper, 50, who were trapped, neck-deep in swirling water for 90 minutes, under kitchen appliances and cabinets when streams swept away the foundation of their home. When and Air Force Academy crew cab pickup turned over in the mud, Rodger’s new 1965 Ford F-250 four-wheel drive pickup was used to transport the two women to an academy ambulance.
Both couples however, today talk of the good life in Palmer Lake that followed the chaos of that terrible Wednesday afternoon. Planting poppy seeds on hill behind, the quiet times in hills, watching wildlife, lights downvalley, and much more.
Fifty years of good neighbors — a nice, quiet place to live, memories, and knowing that your neighbors are there for you if something happens. Fifty years is a big part of a lifetime.
Records show May and June of 1965 as among the wettest on record with eight inches falling in May that year, and one to two inches of rain and hail falling for 15 days straight from June 7 to June 21. Torrential rain began falling starting June 14, 1965, creating one of the worst floods in Colorado history.