Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Homeland security in the 1980s


It seems particularly important to reflect on homeland security and how our views change over time.
In response to a different threat and a different world back in the early 1980s, American civil defense planners became concerned about an evolving large-scale Soviet civil defense plan in addition to a Soviet nuclear threat and started drawing up their own blueprint for right here in the States.
The "crisis relocation plan" as it was known nationwide at the time, called for each state to develop individual versions that could be integrated into an overall picture. Because the North American Air Defense Command system was headquartered in Colorado Springs, it was considered a likely target.
Likely targets or "high risk" areas were to be evacuated and residents would be moved to nearby safe areas in times of escalating tension between the two super powers.
According to articles by staff writer Alan Gottlieb in early 1980s Ute Pass Courier, the El Paso County crisis relocation plan called for up to 8,000 people from the Springs to be temporarily housed in Teller County. Additional population was to be housed in eight other outlying Colorado counties: Fremont, Chaffee, Gunnison, Sahwatch, Rio Grande, Mineral, LaPlata and Archuleta.
In the event of an attack , the visitors would remain in the safe areas until harmful radiation effects had dwindled, according to Frank Mollner, acting regional director for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as reported by the Courier articles.
These visitors were to be temporarily housed in public buildings like schools, courthouses, city halls and other similar locations. In addition, the articles by Gottlieb noted that some local residents had made preparations for such a dire occurrence as well.
Woodland Park resident Richard Carvill began building a fallout shelter during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 and still maintained it at the time of Gottliebs articles in the early 'eighties.
An electrical engineer at NORAD for 25 years prior to retiring, Carvill was quoted at the time on his beliefs that the Soviets would launch a first strike.
"That is why I live up here instead of the Springs. I think there will be an attack, and it will be with nuclear weapons."
In tune with other survivalist philosophy at the time, Carvill told the reporter that his shelter was for his family only and he was prepared to protect it from trespassers with "a whole arsenal of guns."
"I built it for my family and there is just no room for anyone else," he said. Other local survivalist expressed similar sentiments.
Another Teller County man who also had built a shelter and stored food was also quoted anonymously.
"Somebody who comes for my food is in trouble, big trouble," he said. "He has two choices, go back or go down."
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Martha Maxwell and womens' work


“Historians relate not so much what is done as what they would have believed.” __ Ben Franklin, 1743
I was reminded recently that one must be careful in considering history. It often depends on who wrote it. Traditionally dominated by white men in the winner’s circle, their fantastic adventures, war stories and “important” achievements take on nuances that cast their kind in favorable or at least forgiving, light.
Their kind is my kind. Maybe that explains my predisposition to consume and my historic inclinations. But, in the interest of equal time, or at least a feeble attempt to acknowledge others might have had a role in what came before, I discuss today one of my young daughter’s heroes.
Martha Maxwell, a self-educated naturalist and artist, first came to Colorado during Pikes Peak Gold Rush in 1860 with her husband, a Pennsylvanian coal miner. Reportedly, her childhood affinity for animals developed into a taxidermy hobby and eventually an all-consuming nature study .
“In an effort to preserve a record Colorado’s wildlife, Maxwell created dynamic displays of wild animals.” notes Women of the West Museum. “ She single-handedly mounted and arranged them in detailed realistic habitats. In 1876, she exhibited one such diorama at the Philadelphia Centennial under the title ‘Women’s Work.’”
Maxwell dedicated her life to taxidermy and considered it “as a fine art, subservient to science.”
According to Bios In History, Maxwell was the first woman to collect and prepare her own skins and mounts. “She spent nearly eight continuous years in the field in the Rocky Mountains, documenting the presence of species previously not known to live here.”
Much of her camping and hunting for unique animals took place in the mountains around Boulder and many of her diorama display techniques are still used in museums today.
For these notable contributions, the respected ornithologist Robert Ridgeway named a new variety of screech owl (some accounts say she discovered the first one) Scops asio maxwelliae or Mrs. Maxwell’s owl after her. She is the first woman to have a subspecies named after her.
“To a naturalist, intent upon knowing the secrets of the natural world, the capture of the smallest bud or insect gives as much pleasure as to have outwitted and slain the fiercest grizzly in the mountains or the largest buffalo on the plains,” wrote Maxwell in 1878.
That is different historic perspective than I’m used to. As I said, we must consider who has been writing all the history.
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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Shine restored to '34 fire truck


I wrote this story more than 24 years ago when I was still in J-school and working summers and holidays at Taylor Hardware in Dolores. It first appeared on the front page of the Dolores Star (edited at the time by Melinda and Sam Green) on August 2, 1984. Unfortunately, I can no longer put my hands on the photos that appeared with it. The above model is similar, minus the brass rail where this one has a windshield and pump connections and gauges on the front. If anyone has a shot of the Dolores Old ’34 Dodge, please send me one.

Even though they had a debt for one bottle of whiskey and no assets, the Dolores Fire Department began planning to buy their first fire truck more than 50 years ago.
The department, which had been Dolores Hose Company #1, was forced to reorganize and would years later become Dolores Fireman, Inc. A winter fire, early in 1934, left virtually all of Hose Company #1’s equipment, including the hand-drawn or horse-dawn hose cart, useless because of frozen hoses, said Merton Taylor, a long-time Dolores fireman.
The fireman had charged a couple of bottles of whiskey to help fight cold during the fire, Taylor said. After the fire, they returned one of the bottles, leaving them with a debt for the other bottle and a bunch of useless equipment. The town was left with very high fire insurance rates.
The Dolores Town Board decided on July 15, 1934, to buy the best new fire truck available, even though it was expected to cost as much as $1,400 for the chassis and about the same for the body. The money came from the town itself and from donations from local businessmen.
The truck, purchased through the local Dodge dealer, Musgrave and Calhoun, and constructed by W.S. Darley of Chicago, arrived in Dolores in late October, 1934.
M.A. Plumlee, his wife Helen, and their daughter Ramona(now Becher) who was not quite four years old at that time, had ridden the train back to Chicago, picked up the truck, and had driven it back.
The truck had an open cab but a canvas cab was built for the trip home.
“It was a little cold,” said Helen Plumlee, “and Morey (M.A) had a sore throat afterwards, but we made it.”
Mrs. Plumlee said the train trip to Chicago took two days and they had to wait there for nearly a month for the truck to be completed. They took in the World’s Fair while they waited, she said.
The truck was “absolutely the latest thing in that class of equipment” and “one of the finest pieces of firefighting apparatus of any of the towns in the Basin,” according to the Dolores Star at the time.
The truck had a ton and a half Dodge chassis and a pumper that could pump 650 gallons a minute and 300 pounds per square inch. It also had a 300-gallon storage tank.
The Dolores Star of October 26, 1934, said, “Mr. Plumlee said the new truck attracted a great deal of attention in the cities and towns he drove through between here and Chicago. In some places, the police and wouldn’t let him go until their firemen had a chance to examine the new truck.”
The truck provided fire service a number of years for the town and then was sold to Pleasant View Fire Department in 1954 for about $1,000. Pleasant View used the truck for a while, then sold it back to Dolores in 1960 for $325. Dolores has used it in parades and conventions since then.
A year and a half ago, David Doudy, captain of the fire department now, and other members of the department, began restoring the truck back to its appearance when it first arrived in Dolores. They used a picture that belonged to Ramona Becher to make the truck as close as possible to the original.
Doudy said he personally had about 450 hours of work in the truck and that other members also worked a lot on the truck.
Doudy estimated the restoration project was worth about $3,000 to $10,000. The department spent nearly $2,500 on materials, Doudy said.
The truck will be used for show only, but it is in working order. It has already won a second place in the Ute Mountain Rodeo Parade in the antique car class since it was completed earlier this summer, and the department plans to take it to other shows, Doudy said. The truck will definitely be in Mancos this weekend for the Tri-State Convention there. And it will make its first appearance in restored condition at Dolores’ own Escalante Day parade Aug. 11, looking much as it did when it was first welcomed by the community 50 years ago.



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Friday, December 26, 2008

Masterson: Gunfighter to ink slinger


Perhaps it is not really that far from gunslinger, Indian fighter, and frontier lawman in the hardscrabble cowtowns and mining outposts of the old west -- to newspaper sports editor, Broadway cult hero, and friend of the president in the “Big Apple.” But as far as I know, it takes a unique sort to travel such a road.
William Barclay Masterson, 67, or “Bat” as he was commonly known, was found slumped over his typewriter one late October Tuesday morning in 1921, in his office at the Morning Telegraph.
It was the end of the trail for Masterson who had spent the last 18 years (three days a week) writing his column “Masterson’s Views on Timely Topics.” The heart attack that finished him, gave him just enough time to finish his last dispatch. The following last words were found still in the typewriter carriage.
“There are those who argue that everything breaks even in this old dump of a world of ours. I suppose these ginks who argue that way hold that because the rich man gets ice in the summer and the poor man gets it in the winter, things are breaking even for both. Maybe so, but I'll swear I can't see it that way."
“His body was taken to Campbells, the famous New York funeral parlor where a simple service was held in their chapel with burial following in famous Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. His large upright marker is emblazoned with the epitaph: "Loved by Everyone," according to a biography by Donald Greyfield.
Having served as buffalo hunter in Kansas, Indian fighter in Adobe Wall, Texas, lawman in Dodge City, Kansas, Trinadad, Colorado, and Tombstone, Arizonia (with the likes of his good friend Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday) hired gun, and security for Judge Roy Bean in Langtree, Texas, principal in the"Royal Gorge" war between competing railroads in Colorado, federal marshal appointed by the president in New York, fight promoter, professional gambler, faro dealer, saloon owner in Creede, Colorado, and theater owner in Denver, Colorado, as well as inspiration for movies, books, pulp magazines and Broadway plays, his big old heart finally gave out.
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Sunday, December 21, 2008

100 years no big deal when old as a mountain


In the Centennial state, celebrating a 100-year anniversary is always a big deal. That was especially true in this area more than a century ago, when locals planned to mark such an occasion for the first recorded sighting of “America’s Mountain.” The Peak, of course, had been there for a while.
“In 1906, the City of Colorado Springs celebrated the Pike’s Peak Centennial. The event attracted from around Colorado and all over the nation. Special excursion trains were run from Pueblo and Denver, and many leading hotels in town were filled to capacity. Always eager to cash in on tourism, The D & RG (Denver and Rio Grand Railroad) advertising departments distributed brochures describing the festivities,” writes Allen C. Lewis in his 2006 photo book “Railroads of the Pikes Peak Region, 1900-1930.”
But the D & RG was not the only railroad that promoted the event.
“The 1906 Pikes Peak Centennial was a major event for Colorado Springs, and a large celebration was planned. Many railroads were quick to capitalize on the celebration, including the Rock Island. The advertising departments of several railroads shared resources in an effort to attract additional passengers,” wrote Lewis. The Rock Island collaborated with Frisco Railroads on their advertising efforts.
So the hotels were full, the trains to this area were packed, and great fanfare planned and expected for the weeklong schedule of events from September 23 to September, 29 in 1906.
An effort to build a monument to Zeb Pike apparently fell flat when the coins minted to finance the effort did not sell but other elements of the celebrations were carried off without a hitch. Instead of the statue, a huge boulder from the mountains was moved into the Springs to mark the event. Also, the weather did not cooperate fully as cold and snow marred at least one presentation at the top of the mountain that week.
In addition to changing weather here in the shadow of the peak, it was a changing nation and world in 1906.
In mid April, a devastating earthquake had ravaged the Bay Area of San Francisco killing more than 3,000 people and injuring 225,000. Property damage expense ran to $400,000,000 in 1906 dollars according to the University of California at Berkeley.
In Russia, Czar Nicholas had announced the implementation of the “Fundamental Laws,” and then dissolved the Duma and began purging of the dissidents. Also, U.S troops occupied Cuba at Cuban leader Tomas Estrada Palama’s, request for intervention.
But when all was said and done, the mountain, awe-inspiring and steady, looked like it would stand and deliver for at least another 100 years.
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Ralph Carr sharpened his wits in the district


It is interesting to me that great talent seems to collect like iron filings around a magnet, even before anyone recognizes it as such. History is full of such examples: Julius Caesar, Mark Anthony, and Cleopatra were of course contemporaries; Mark Twain and Nikoli Tesla palled around together and complained about Thomas Edison; and Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Horton, and Roy Orbison all shared the same studios at Sun Records back when their weekly royalty checks were less than $10 combined.
It seemed to also be true in the case of green young reporters in the early part of the last century, as illustrated by the friendship of Ralph L. Carr and Lowell Thomas.
Carr and Thomas, in fact, became lifelong buddies after first meeting when working for rival papers in Cripple Creek Gold District. Ralph Carr edited The Times of Cripple Creek, at the same time Thomas was at the Victor Record and News. The two were steadfast friends up until Carr’s Death in 1950.
Carr, himself, actually became more famous as a politician, after his career as a newsman.
“Between 1939-1943 Colorado had one of the most courageous and independent governors ever to be elected,” notes a biography by Jason Brockman in the Colorado State Archive.
“Ralph Lawrence Carr was born in Rosita, Colorado and educated in the Cripple Creek school system. After receiving his LLB from the University of Colorado, Carr moved to Victor, Trinidad, and then Antonito where he practiced law and became a publisher. Carr served as a county attorney of Conejos County, and then as Colorado Assistant Attorney General. The apex of his legal career occurred when he became a United States District Attorney. As a Republican, Carr lost this influential post when the Democratic "New Dealers" began to dominate national politics. Despite this loss he was able to stay in the public eye by becoming a powerful and prominent water/irrigation lawyer.”
In 1939 a struggling Republican Party supported Carr as their gubernatorial candidate, and won. Within the first half-hour of his term, Carr proposed a plan for a balanced budget by transferring state income taxes from public schools to the state's general fund. These immediate fiscal measures helped to save our state from imminent bankruptcy. Also due to Carr's leadership, the Legislature passed the State Reorganization Act, which greatly increased the efficiency of state government. As a result, Carr is one of the few governors known for making the Colorado bureaucracy more operative, according to the Archive.
While Carr's policies were aimed at dismantling the expensive bureaucracy of the New Deal, Carr still supported Roosevelt's foreign policy and favored American entrance into World War II after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The war with Japan initiated a chain of events that bred discrimination and intolerance toward Japanese-Americans. In 1942 an estimated 120,000 Japanese-Americans were stripped of their property and possessions. These displaced citizens were resettled in land-locked states by the War Relocation Authority so that the supposed "yellow peril" could be contained. The question on many Coloradans' minds was not whether American citizens of Japanese decent should be stripped of their rights and put in internment camps, but where the camps should be. The overwhelming opinion of the populace was typified by a series of highway billboards proclaiming, "Japs keep going."
In other states, the Governors took aggressive stances against allowing relocation camps in their States.
The Governor of Wyoming went as far as saying:
“There will be Japs hanging from every pine tree.” If the Federal Government tried to relocate West Coast Japanese Americans there.
One of the few voices of reason during wartime was Governor Carr, who continued to treat the Japanese-Americans with respect and sought to help them keep their American citizenship. He sacrificed his political career to bravely confront the often dark side of human nature.
At one time, the New York Times consider him as being on the path to become president of the United States.
"If you harm them, you must harm me. I was brought up in a small town where I knew the shame and dishonor of race hatred. I grew to despise it because it threatened the happiness of you and you and you." Carr's selfless devotion to all Americans, while destroying his hopes for a senate seat, did in the end become extolled as, "a small voice but a strong voice."
A new book: The principled Politician: The Ralph Carr Story by 9News reporter Adam Schrager, has brought new attention to the forgotten hero and as recently as last year they renamed U.S Hwy 285 from Denver to the New Mexico state line the “Ralph Carr Memorial Highway.”
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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Billy the Kid and the parallel universe


More than a few times, working as a reporter and covering a specific event, I have read accounts of the same event by other reporters in the morning paper and wondered if we were in the same universe the night before. History can be the same way, I think. Consider the legend of Billy the Kid.
“I don’t blame you for writing of me as you have. You had to believe other stories, but then I don’t know if any one would believe anything good of me anyway,” according to Billy the Kid's comment to a Las Vegas (New Mexico) Gazette reporter in December of 1880.
So many different versions of The Kid’s life have bubbled to surface over the years, it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to separate fact from fiction, real from make-believe.
Popularity of the story and embellishments in the form of fabrication, speculation, and supposition for the last 130 years, only add to the difficulty in locating the truth.
Historians generally can’t agree on his date of birth, his real name, where he was from, crimes he committed, number of men he killed, or even when he was killed. Shoot, they can’t even decide if he shot people with his left hand, right hand, or both.
The origins of the legend may explain some of that.
The first widely-circulated version of the story came from the man who claimed to be his killer, Pat Garrett, and a biographer, Ash Upson, who helped Garrett write “The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid,” shortly after he hunted him down and shot him in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, in the summer of 1881. Various accounts have Garrett and Billy the Kid as friends, or at least acquaintances. But Garrett’s version of the story, a year after The Kid’s reported death, is considered by many to be self-serving and sensational to enhance the Sheriff’s own image. Other suspicious facts, such as Ash Upson’s recorded birthday coinciding with The Kid’s, and details of his life and death, (i.e. 21 murders, one for every year of his life) don’t universally hold water.
The only known photograph of him further distorted the story when, though the young outlaw appears to be left-handed in it because of the positions of his guns, it was revealed that the ferrotyped photo had been flopped by examining the Winchester rifle that appears in the photo. Unfortunately, that was discovered after the 1958 film “The Left-Handed Gun” starring Paul Newman.
Perhaps one of the most interesting disputes over the life of Billy the Kid is the date of his death. And I guess that is at least one way that Colorado figures into the picture. Several people have claimed that the young outlaw was not killed by Garrett in Fort Sumner in 1881, but instead, the death was faked and “the Kid” lived out his days in other locales.
In 1949, “Brushy Bill,” also known as Ollie P. Roberts claimed to actually be the outlaw, sought a pardon from the governor of New Mexico, but died shortly after making public his claim. His hometown of Hico, Texas, however has capitalized enough on the idea that they now host the Billy the Kid Museum. John Miller’s family, in Prescott, Arizona made a similar claim.
Which brings us to the Colorado tie.
After his reported death in 1881, Billy the Kid sightings were made in New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and Colorado. Claims were made that he lived under his many aliases (Billy McCarty, William H. Bonney) and mischievously flaunted his identity.
The Meeker Hotel, for example can show you the faded signature of one “William H. Bonney” lingering in the dusty hotel registry from the summer of 1889.
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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Hayman Fire and the newspaper


For three intense weeks in June of 2002, the Hayman fire, Colorado’s largest wildland fire in recorded history, ravaged our circulation area. Hayman burned over 137,000 acres of prime forest in five counties, destroyed at least 132 homes and reduced over 800 other structures to ash piles.
The Ute Pass Courier and The Gold Rush were paid weekly news products servicing the U.S. Highway 24 corridor with circulations of about 4,000 and 1,200 respectively. They were produced in Woodland Park, Colo., and delivered by U.S. Mail on Wednesday. A total market coverage shopper was also put together at the same location and mailed, bulk rate, to every mail box in Teller County. I was the publisher at the time of the fire of these three products and managed operations and about 20 full and part-time employees. We printed at a centralized plant 50 miles away in Castle Rock, Colo.
Highway 24 snakes its way up through Ute Pass and the communities of Manitou Springs, Cascade, Green Mountain Falls, Chipita Park, Woodland Park and then meanders over the ridge at Divide and drops down into Florissant.
Eventually it finds its way to Lake George. The fire started a few miles northwest of Lake George and then traveled, mostly along the South Platte River watershed, torching, scorching and threatening subdivisions and our readers homes and land.
For weekly newspapers such as The Courier and The Gold Rush, covering breaking national spot news on deadline in the same environment with radio, TV and daily newspapers was an awesome challenge. With four full and part-time news employees covering six or seven communities 60 or 70 miles apart, it was tough getting the papers out every week. Now try to beat outfits that send teams (larger than our whole staff, publisher and paper carriers included) out for up-to-the-minute reports.
For members of our staff at the newspaper, the weeks of stress related to intense long-term sustained coverage of a big story was compounded by whether or not their house, or place of employment, or both might burn. And all their friends and neighbors were in a similar predicament.
Tuesday, June 18, tested our collective nerves the most, I believe. Woodland Park rests in a bowl. In the sky above the ridges surrounding us, the air was filled with smoke and was an ominous bright pink in color. City officials with bull horns were driving up and down the streets warning residents that they were on standby evacuation alert.
Reports vary on how close we were to being evacuated that night in Woodland Park. Some officials say 15 minutes was all that separated us from the “trigger points” on evacuation. At the newspaper office, we went as far as pulling our main servers and made plans to put the next week’s papers out in staffers’ homes and/or the printing plant in Castle Rock.
We were a Macintosh-based operation and pulling servers meant backing up everything by burning CDs and grabbing two G3 blue boxes. Theoretically, we could have put PDF pages together on any Mac and e-mailed them to the plant to be imaged through the raster image processor — theoretically. Fortunately we didn’t have to test the theory.
If Highway 24 was closed, we were to drop mail deliveries at the U.S. Postal Service’s Fountain distribution center at the south edge of Colorado Springs and carriers would originate from there instead of two post offices in Woodland Park and one in Cripple Creek.
Tuesday night, the fire burned up to the Manitou Experimental Forest about seven miles from town and then fell down and went to sleep. Our offices and other businesses and residences in Woodland Park were removed from standby evacuation warnings two days later.
Our fire coverage ran through much of the main news sections in the coming weeks but we also tried to dedicate four broadsheet pages in the center of the paper as an information guide for relief efforts.
As that was updated, and as needs changed, the pages became more of a forum for people in the community to give their take on what was happening.
In addition to our own staff coverage, we felt it was important to offer our readers a mix of submitted material as well. Some of the voices brought forward in our pages included a diary of the first weeks of the fire as seen through eyes of local volunteer firefighter, exceptional photos from those documenting the loss of their homes, and excellent accounts of animal rescue efforts from those involved.
For three weeks during the height of the coverage, we overran our primary product, The Ute Pass Courier, by about 500 papers. About half of the overrun was distributed free at Red Cross and Salvation Army shelters in Woodland Park, Divide and Lake George. The rest of the additional papers sold on the newsstands and to locals who continued to wander into our office for months after the fire, saying they missed the paper during the conflagration.
For years afterward, we continued covering the fire in various aspects. The effects on the tourist-reliant business community, the government responses, the cleanup, the flooding, and all the evaluation and Monday morning quarterbacking were continuous elements of our weekly products. Personally, I know I will always remember how ragged we felt, even months after the intense initial three weeks of baptism by fire. Today, talking with survivors of Hayman and hearing about their experiences still brings back images in my mind of that weird pink, smoky glow on ridges above Woodland Park.
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Texas Seven out the front window



One Monday morning more than seven years ago, we watched out the front window of the Ute Pass Courier newspaper office in Woodland Park, Colo., as multiple emergency vehicles began filling up the newspaper parking lot.
“No information at this time,” is what they emergency staff told us when we tried to find out what was going on.
After nearly 20 minutes of being completely in the dark of what kind of operation was taking place in our own neighborhood, we discovered that police, including local city and county officers, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, FBI and federal marshals, arrested members of the Texas Seven in the Coachlight mobile home park directly to the east of us.
The seven inmates made their break from a maximum-security prison near San Antonio, Texas, six weeks prior to the excitement near our office. Before showing up in our town, police say the fugitives killed an Irving, Texas, police officer, shooting him 11 times and then running over him as they looted a sporting goods store for clothing, weapons, ammunition and more than $70,000 in cash.
On August 14, 2008, Michael Anthony Rodriguez became the first of the gang to be executed for his part in the killing of Irving Officer Aubrey Hawkins on Christmas Eve in 2000. The rest of the surviving Seven’s cases are in various stages of appeal in the Texas courts.
Rodriguez, claiming a religious conversion on death row, asked for years that his appeals be dropped so that he could face his punishment and stand a better chance at going to heaven.
Three of the escapees were surrounded in Woodland Park by a police SWAT team at a convenience store a few miles down the road as they left the Coachlight RV Park to get their morning coffee. At the same time that was happening, police surrounded the RV in the park with two other fugitives inside. By using a bullhorn, police were able to get one of the two in the RV to surrender. The holdout, Ron Harper, took his own life by shooting himself twice in the chest. He used two different weapons, according to information released later by the county coroner. Two of the men remained at large for two more days and were finally captured in a Colorado Springs hotel room about 15 miles from here.
By the time we knew what was happening, the calls from Texas television stations, CNN and other national media were already coming in. At times, three people from our newspaper would be on a phone with TV stations or other news organizations. With only four voice lines, it made it tough to get our own business taken care of. The TV stations would call and then pass us back and forth between affiliates, live talk shows, and various news programs. By late afternoon, however, area phone lines became too busy to call us or anyone else in Woodland Park.
From Monday night until early Wednesday morning, TV trucks with satellite dishes on top and shivering reporters out front, stretched from the bottom of our parking lot, down a half mile of Highway 24. We loaned phone lines, fax machines, desk space, and offered directions, travel advice and restaurant recommendations for reporters and photographers working for outfits including Reuters, The New York Times, America’s Most Wanted, Time, Newsweek, the Chicago Tribune and others.
The media circus gradually split up and migrated to several nearby locations including the Teller County Jail, the Teller County Courthouse in Cripple Creek, and down the hill to Colorado Springs where the last two were captured.
Reporter stragglers for various national publications and TV shows were still wandering into our office a month later.
In the midst of the excitement that Tuesday morning, reporters and photographers from The Denver Post, working a story about the little newspaper office near the big story, had a good laugh about our light tables.
Their amusement with our antique equipment, the instant info and live feeds, along with the exposure to national media’s top-of-the-line technology made us realize how fast the news business is evolving, even in the weekly newspaper world.
Granted, our papers were probably about seven years behind where we should be in terms of technology, but how things have changed, even for a one- or two-horse operation like ours. Seven years ago, a small weekly probably wouldn’t be moving photos and pages around on the Internet. No PDF workflows. No affordable digital cameras. No cell phones that worked in our mountains. No laptops connected to the cell phones to file stories with. Not even much of a World Wide Web.
This story broke on a Monday, which from a deadline standpoint was not bad for us as a weekly newspaper. We print our main product, the Ute Pass Courier, Tuesday afternoon and are on the street by Wednesday morning. Our initial coverage was very similar to that of the local dailies and national reporters.
On that first day, everybody was being fed much of the same info as fast as the police could pull it together. Tuesday, a few minutes before we were leaving for the printer, we received word that the police had found what they thought to be the remaining two fugitives’ van, and were conducting a room-by-room search of nearby hotel rooms in Colorado Springs. With this information, we ran with a small update box on the front of our paper near the main write-through.
As fast-moving as this story was, however, by the time we hit the street with our edition Wednesday, the remaining two fugitives were in custody, having been talked out of a Holiday Inn room with the promise of five minutes of airtime each on a local TV station.
Wednesday morning, after speaking with our news staff and realizing how frustrated they were at not being able to keep up with the story with our regular weekly schedule, we bumped the press time for another of our weekly news products and made arrangements for a special edition that would hit Thursday night. We printed enough of the special editions to insert in all three of our weekly nameplates, each having different drop dates beginning with Friday and carrying through the following week. We also printed an additional 2,500 to distribute free as soon as they were back from the 100-mile round-trip to the printer Thursday afternoon. All 2,500 were distributed to countertops at local high-traffic areas in our market by Friday night.
Competing with local dailies, national newspapers, magazines, television and news services that had larger crews dispatched on this story than we have staff in the whole building, we tried to put a good package together with "first-light" information that still had a shelf life into the next week. The special edition stretched our resources to see-through levels, but when it was put to bed, we felt pretty good about both our first-day information and the special section.
One of our reporters, Pat Hill, put together two excellent color pieces on the role local emergency services played in the raid. She then left immediately for an emergency appendectomy before the editors had a chance to read her stories.
Other reporters on our staff were offered as much as $250 per quote to shag quotes for national media outlets.
Even after a few months, locals were still talking about it, of course, and comparing their own Texas Seven stories. A few area businesses with little or no shame are trying to capitalize on the national attention, by doing things like offering "Texas Seven pizzas" or trying to auction off a pool table on Ebay that the infamous group reportedly played on. I’ve even heard members of the local chamber of commerce half-jokingly suggest changing the chamber motto from "City Above the Clouds" to "Escape to Woodland Park."
But most people here in Woodland Park are just happy that none of the locals were hurt, the bad guys were caught, and law enforcement was able to perform so efficiently.
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Monday, December 1, 2008

Yule log warms through the ages


Photos courtesy of Palmer Lake Historical Society
/Lucretia Vaile Museum

A heart-warming celebration of holiday season, steeped in tradition, and shared with friends, has way of taking the edge off tough times.
To put things in context, a person has to think about what was going on back in 1934.
That year turned out to be the worst year of the ‘dust bowl’ and the depths of the ‘Great Depression.’ Dust storms ruined nearly 100 million acres and damaged another 200 million acres of cropland in Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado. The gross national product of this country was cut in half from 1929 to 1933 and nearly 16 million people -- a third of available work force -- were out of work. More than 2 million were homeless and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was forced to declare a ‘bank holiday’ the day after his inauguration.
Also in 1934, Adolph Hitler became the Fuehrer of Germany when the chancellery and presidency were united. Bonnie and Clyde died in a bullet storm from automatic weapons fire and shotgun blasts (at least 130 rounds) in an ambush by Texas and Louisiana lawmen. John Dillinger suffered a similar fate outside a movie theater in Chicago. Mao Zedong began the ‘long march north’ with 100,000 soldiers. And to boot, the year goes down in the record books as the warmest in history. Remarkably, it still holds that record.
But here in Palmer Lake, in the festive spirit of the holidays, it was shaping up as year to remember.
For 1934 was the year that a small, well-dressed librarian in a hat, who loved the arts, brought back a splinter of a log from Lake Placid, New York.
Though Lucretia Vaile is fondly remembered for many accomplishments and noteworthy acts of kindness to the town she loved, the founding of the Christmas Yule Log Celebration stands out, especially this time of the season. It has become one of the most enduring and endearing celebrations of the holiday spirit in the state and perhaps the nation. Coincidentally, just one year later, another long-held tradition -- the lighting of the star on Sundance Mountain, helped seal Palmer Lake’s reputation as a Christmas town.
According to the Palmer Lake Profile – 1920 to 1972 portion of the updated Marion Savage Sabin’s book “Palmer Lake: A Historical Narrative,” the Depression brought many hardships, the W.P.A., and little growth to Palmer Lake. But it also brought us the Yule Log celebration.
“An old English custom was adopted in 1934 which has far-reaching effect on the town and its residents,” the book holds. “At the suggestion of Miss Lucretia Vaile, Miss (Evalena) Macy and the young people of the church (Little Log Church) sent for a splinter of the Lake Placid Yule Log in New York and organized the first Palmer Lake Yule Log ceremony.”
The event was held in the Charley Orr-Dr. E.M. Spaulding home and fifty people wearing red or green capes, went on the hunt in Sherwin Canyon. The first Yule Log was discovered by C.R. Hays, principal of the elementary school.
In 1935, the ceremony became a community project and as crowds grew, it was moved to the Town Hall in 1937 and has been there since.
“Every year except in World War II, this heart warming, free ceremony has occurred on a Sunday before Christmas. Hundreds of Yule Log splinters have been sent to communities to start other ceremonies,” says Sabin’s book.
"It started because Lucretia thought it would be a fun thing to do here," Susan Davis, curator of the Lucretia Vaile Museum in Palmer Lake at the time, was quoted in a Gazette story by Linda DeVal in 2001.
In the same story, Virgil Watkins, then president of the Palmer Lake Historical Society, said Vaile participated in the early festivals, and "she even got us a sliver of the Yule Log from Lake Placid (N.Y.) to start our first fire."
This year, the president of the celebration, Kurt Voelker, says he expects from 200 to 450 people. “It depends on the weather and what football games are on.”
The Yule Log Celebration itself, begins at 1 p.m. at the Town Hall on Dec. 11.
Wearing red and green capes, every year the crowd searches for the log with a notch on the end and a red ribbon. “It is eight to twelve inches in diameter and eight to twelve feet long and is cut on town property,” Voelker said.
Voelker says entertainment has been lined up and will be provided while the search is underway. “Nothing too fancy, but it all is very nice.”
How much entertainment?
“It depends on how long it takes to find the log, it has been found in few minutes before, and sometimes it takes much longer,” he said.
Part of the log is then burned in a townhall ceremony in which people gather to drink wassail, carol and watch the Yule log burn. The event provides an excellent opportunity to take the edge off the hustle and bustle of a busy season, forget about tough times, and warm your heart in the spirit of the season.
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Friday, November 28, 2008

Ice harvest in Monument







Written nearly 10 years ago, this piece visits with historical figures Wilbur Fulker and Bob Kuhlmann. Both, unfortunately are no longer with us, but their memories of Monument Ice Harvest live on, in local art, history and spirit.

By most accounts, Monument was a much colder place during the early part of the last century. Because of that, it was prime territory for the ice business.
“In ice harvest days, winters were COLD,” wrote Lucille Lavelett in her 1975 history, “Through the Years, at Monument, Colorado.”
“From the first of November, Monument could always plan on the weather to range from 10 to 20 below zero every night until the first of February and the ground to be completely covered with snow all winter. The lake would freeze over and stay frozen,” according to Lavelett.
Longtime resident Bill Simpson remembers it that way as well.
“It was way, way colder. We would have snow and ice on the ground all winter. Ice in the street would be four inches thick and we could sled in the street the whole time,” said Simpson, who grew up in the house on the corner of Second Street and Washington (currently Paradise Ponds) and his father, Fred, was foreman of the ice harvest for many years.
Bill was born in 1938 and said he spent a lot of time at the iced-over lake and in the “lunch shack” as a young kid in the early and mid 1940s and remembers the harvesters using horses hooked to a plow to keep snow off the surface of the lake. The bare ice would freeze more solidly without insulating snow on it.
Saws made from a Model T engine were used to cut a channel and a guy in rowboat worked all night long, rowing back and forth, to keep the channel from freezing up. Blocks were moved through the channel to a conveyer belt setup that would lift them to fill rail cars. Simpson said the conveyor was powered by a steam engine that “is still around the county here, somewhere.” He said they would also use the steam engine to move the boxcars around, as they filled them with ice.
His father’s dog Rover, a local legend for treeing the mountain lion Ol’ Disappearance, met his end out there on the ice.
“My dad said the dog tangled with one of the saws, got out in front of the blade, and was hurt so badly that it had to be put down.”
The taxidermied body of Ol’ Disappearance is now a popular attraction at the Lucretia Vaile Museum in Palmer Lake.
In its heyday, forty or fifty men, working eight teams of horses, would pack 20,000 to 30,000 tons of ice into the icehouses and rail cars. Each layer of ice cakes, which were roughly 2-foot cubes, were covered and packed in about 12 inches of saw dust. In the summer, the ice company would employ 15 or 20 men, for 30 to 40 days, shipping ice.
Bob Kuhlmann, a longtime Monument storeowner who now lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, recalls the ice harvest fondly.
“That was my first job. I got my Social Security card from there in 1937; it is stamped right on the back. American Refrigerated Transit Company. I still have the original card,” he said recently in phone interview. Kuhlmann will be 91 in April, and said he worked filling the cars and stacking blocks in tiers. Kuhlmann moved to Monument from Nebraska as a kid in 1933 and his father had a ranch with 745 acres that encompassed Elephant Rock and Rabbit Ear Rock within its boundaries. He graduated from high school at “Big Red” in 1936. He later owned and ran a store on Front Street in Monument from 1940 to 1964 but still has a soft spot in his heart for his first job harvesting ice.
“I was paid 37 and half cents an hour and worked 10-hour days, six days a week,” Kuhlmann recalls. “Fred Simpson was my boss.”
Wilbur Fulker, who now lives Colorado Springs, but grew up Monument also remembers the ice harvest with fondness.
Fulker, the tuba-playing former principal of the Blind School at Colorado Deaf and Blind, and the namesake for Uncle Wilbur’s Fountain in downtown Colorado Springs, recalled some of the details.
“One fellow, Albert, drank like a fish and for some reason he always was the channel rider, rowing up and down the channel to keep it open. Almost every week, he would get drunk and fall in. He would end up in the hospital with pneumonia,” according to Fulker.
The ice business on the lake began in 1901 when W.E. Doyle and Thomas Hanks leased the lake, (then known as State Reservoir) and set up ice operations on the east side of the Lake. Doyle eventually acquired all of the business. He and his brother-in-law, Fred Lewis, built his arts and crafts style home (which is still there today) near there and ran the business until 1932 when the operation was transferred to American Refrigerated Transit (A.R.T.) and the railroad spur was acquired in 1936 by A.R.T.
Twice during the half century of ice harvesting on the lake, high winds destroyed the ice houses where the blocks where stored. Once, on Dec. 31, 1909, a 75- to 100-mile-an-hour west wind destroyed the icehouses on the day before the harvest was to start. The structures were rebuilt. Then, again, in 1943, another west wind blew down the icehouses, heavy timbers and all. It was reported that 2” x 4”s from the icehouse were embedded in the side wall of a house on Second Street.
“A god-awful strong wind came through this part of the country and it blew parts and pieces all over the place,” recalls Bill Simpson. “For years afterward, anytime someone had a flat tire where they picked up a nail or chunk of metal, they would turn the blame to those icehouses.”

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Photos courtesy of Palmer Lake Historical Society/ Lucretia Vaile Museum and Jim Sawatzki, when he and I visited Wilbur Fulker at the assisted living facility in Colorado Springs, in 2007.

Ghosts hang out at the old school


I know where the ghosts are. They hang out around the old school. Maybe they don’t live there — but that is where they hang.
Henrik Ibsen suggested as much in his 1881 text “Ghosts.” Ibsen said, “I’m inclined to think we are all ghosts — everyone of us. It is not just what we inherit from our mothers and fathers that haunts us. It is all kinds of old defunct theories, all sorts of old defunct beliefs, and things like that.”
Maybe you, as I, have felt them on several occasions. As you wait in crowd to ascend the steps to Ute Pass Cultural Cultural Center in Woodland Park,. you think back to its days as gymnasium — the days in which Friday night crowds waited on the same set of steps for entry to a basketball game.
Or maybe when you read the chalk board messages in the guest rooms of Carr Manor in Cripple Creek. The building, built to serve as the high school and later used for K-12, is the only one of the five original schools in Cripple Creek to survive.
The view from that corner classroom, er... I mean guest suite, how could any student keep there mind on the three Rs?
If you rush down the stairs, past the fountain that now sports a plant in it, and into the Grand Ball Room, you can feel it. ... It’s the same rush, and sounds, and sights and texture of a feeling that thousands of students from the turn of the century, all the way through to 1977, could feel as they rushed to class. The ghosts, we know are there.
Driving by the lonely white one-room building, complete with bell tower and weed-choked playground, out on the Wyoming plains you must feel a presence.
Or in the meeting room of a South Dakota park that was converted from a similar one-room school — yes ghosts. And in the museum in Keystone, S.D. that is housed in the old school where the first class was the largest. The parents followed their lust for gold, the students followed the parents, but the gold ran out and soon, so did the students.
Even in your memories of the Mrs. Denby’s first grade, or of the coat rooms behind each of the class rooms in grade school, and as you wander down the halls in the old High School with all the students from previous classes staring down at you from the class portraits on the walls above.
As you see the rolled up maps that once allowed a teacher to pull down the world, and in the abandoned biology texts, or the old-fashioned desks with the ink well hole in the top near the center edge, or ...
That’s where the ghost are. They hang out at the old school.
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Making money in Colorado


I have heard more than a few people say, “It can be tough to make money in Colorado.” But of course, that hasn’t ever stopped folks from trying. Historically, some are more successful at it than others. In June of 2006, the first Colorado quarters were released from the U.S. Mints in Denver and Philadelphia. Last year, the Denver Mint itself produced nearly 1.5 billion quarters. The U.S. mint in Denver struck its first coins there 1906 as a federal institution, but operated as a successful private minter as early as 1860 under name of Clark, Gruber and Company. The government purchased that company and its equipment for $25,000 and began operating as the United States Assay Office in 1863. “Unlike Clark, Gruber & Company, though, the Denver Mint performed no coinage of gold as first intended. One reason given by the Director of the Mint for lack of coinage at Denver was, ‘…the hostility of the Indian tribes along the routes, doubtless instigated by rebel emissaries the other being a Civil War) and bad white men,’” according to the United States Department of the Treasury. It took construction of a new building (the current location, with construction beginning in 1897), new equipment, and delay after delay before the first coins were finally struck in February, 1906. Of course, others had tried making money as well. Many of them right here in the Pikes Peak area. “Since gold dust and nuggets serve as exchange for the prospectors, in 1861, Dr. John Parsons began to mint coins to provide more convenient currency. Parsons had come to Tarryall Diggings from Illinois in 1859,” wrote Virginia McConnell Simmons in her 1966 book “Bayou Salado: The Story of South Park.” “His gold pieces were minted in $2.50 and $5 denominations. These coins had an eagle side encircled by the words ‘Pike’s Peak Gold” and the denomination. On the other side was the stamp mill and the words ‘J. Parson (sic) and Co., Oro’ Parsons considered moving his mint to Buckskin at one time, but by 1864 the mint was no longer in existence because of government prohibition of private minting,” Simmons wrote. According to CoinResource, “At the same time, John J. Conway & Co., jewelers and bankers, briefly struck gold pieces in Summit County.” “Only a handful of the coins produced by these early minters remain in collections today, and the finest examples from the Fredrick R. Mayer Colorado Pioneer Gold Collection,” and were recently included in “Mountains of Money: A Colorado Story” exhibit at the Money Museum in Colorado Springs, according to CoinResource. Victor too, got into the money making act when one of its own successful miners, Joseph Lesher began producing his own “dollars” in 1900 and 1901 as a silver advocate in protest of the Gold Standard Act of 1900. “Merchants who signed on with his program could have their name engraved on the silver pieces,” according to CoinResource. Today, the Denver Mint operates five days a week, 24 hours a day cranking out coinage. The Colorado quarters, with an image designed by Len Buckley of Damascus, Md. The quarter’s design was based on a photo Buckley took of Longs Peak while on vacation in Rocky Mountain National Park 20 years ago. That design beat out several others including one that depicted Pikes Peak. After the coins are struck, they are placed in large, box-like sacks, with 200,000 quarters in each 2,500-pound sack, according to the Denver Post, and then shipped in armored vehicles to points west of the Mississippi River. So as you can see, it certainly is still possible to make money here in Colorado. ###

Jimmy Stewart serves as icon of Air Force


When the Air Force celebrated its 60th anniversary (Sept. 17, 2007), it was tempting to search for an icon. The United States Air Force has a tremendous presence in the Pikes Peak Region with the Academy, Peterson Air Force Base, Schriever Air Force Base, and more than a few retired Air Force personnel.
The Air Force Academy, by itself, has nearly 6,500 active duty personnel and an economic impact of $700,693,967, according to its 2006 economic impact statement.
Being civilian, it is impossible to miss an impact like that, but still we try to put a face on it. Yes, the Air Force to us is the beautiful Academy campus, or the retired Colonels living next door, or the flyovers during football games. But still, for convenience, some of us need something emblematic to tie to 60 years and the image of the Air Force.
I choose James Stewart.
Maybe that is right, wrong or irrelevant – you are the judge – but here is my reasoning.
Jimmy Stewart, the eldest son of hardware store owner from Indiana, Pennsylvania, saw WWII coming and joined the Army Air Corps as a private in 1940.
Stewart had already won and Oscar for “Philadelphia Story,” according to the official website of the United States Air Force but put service before himself.
“Despite attempts to use him for publicity, he fought to become a pilot and fought to get into the war,” the site says.
“Stewart went on to fly B-24 Liberator bombers over Europe, commanding at the squadron and wing level. Ironically, his first film back after the war was “It’s a Wonderful Life,” in which he played 4-F George Bailey. After the war, Stewart also played a major role in the formation of the Air Force, serving as a spokesman for the Air Force Association’s effort to advocate the need for a separate Air Force – ultimately succeeding when President Truman signed legislation in September 1947.”
Stewart continued to serve in the reserves and eventually reached the rank of Brigadier General in 1959. Among his military awards are: Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster, Air Medal, French Croix de Guerre and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Stewart did not try to call attention to his service, preferring instead to avoid mixing his celebrity status and military accomplishments, if possible.
He died at the age of 89, on July 2, 1997.
“When interviewed about his techniques, the self-effacing actor replied characteristically,” according to his obituary that appeared in the New York Times.
''I don't act, I react,'' and described himself as an ''inarticulate man who tries,'' without having ''all the answers, but for some reason, somehow, I make it.'' He offered his criterion for success: ''If you can do a part and not have the acting show.''

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

On type lice and pouring pigs


"Madame, we are the press. You know our power. We fix all values. We set all standards. Your entire future depends on us." — Jean Giraudoux, The Mad Woman of Chaillot (1945)

I enjoyed recent discussions with another "ink-stained wretch" on the "old days" of hot type. The weathered newspaper veteran seemed to enjoy it as well.
"It was refreshing to hear words like "Elrod, Ludlow, type lice and one of my favorites, pouring pigs," noted Rich Leinbach, Director of Publishing Systems for the Goshen News in Goshen, Indiana. For the uninitiated, a "pig" was a lead casting used in Linotype typesetting machines. And, on hearing of our common reference points, he told the following story.
"This brings me to a fond memory of pig pouring, back in the late 70s. I was fresh out of high school and although our newspaper had already converted to offset, we still used a decent amount of hot type in our commercial printing department.
"It was late one day and I had the job of firing up the lead furnace to pour a fresh batch of pigs. I had the pot filled with molten lead, had skimmed off the dross and was just beginning to pour the pigs when the valve broke, in the open position.
"Needless to say, gravity took over and the entire pot of lead became one giant pig on the floor, in a matter of a few minutes.
"To make matters even worse, just after my masterpiece had cooled into a solid mass, the entire staff of "Big Wigs" came parading through, after a late meeting. There I stood, pry bar in hand, trying to get rid of the evidence before anyone could find out. Ah . . . those WERE the good old days."

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Twain on risk vs. return in tech investing


“Prophesy is a good line of business, but it is full of risks.” __ Mark Twain

When considering printing technology, no one knew those risks better than Mark Twain. His pet project, the Paige Compositor, nearly sent him and his family tumbling into bankruptcy and never did see mass production. But the former printer’s devil would never give up on the idea of using new inventions to enhance the presentation of the written word.
He would have been awe-struck with the possibilities of news aggregators, interactive novels, and new and improved display technology. But he most certainly would have wanted to get in on the ground floor of the most promising of the lot. And he would have promoted it vigorously.
“All other inventions of the human brain sink pretty nearly into commonplaces contrasted with this awful mechanical miracle. Telephones, telegraphs, locomotives, cotton gins sewing machines, Babbage calculators, jacquard looms, perfecting presses, Arkwright’s frames – all toys, simplicities! The Paige Compositor marches alone and in the far lead of human inventions,” wrote Twain in letter to his brother Orion, in 1889.
The Paige Compositor, an automatic-typesetting machine invented by James W. Paige, was designed to save time in the printing process. The well-known author invested as much as $300,000 in before pulling the plug on the project.
“Though the Paige Compositor was faster than the Linotype, its 18,000 parts were prone to malfunction. Paige’s invention exhibited superior technological achievement, but its price and temperamental nature made it unattractive to a business world that had already embraced the Linotype. Still, it is regarded today as one of the finest examples of nineteenth century mechanical engineering,” notes The Mark Twain House & Museum, where the only remaining one in existence resides in the basement. It has never been taken apart since it was loaned to the museum by the Merganthaler Linotype Company and installed there in 1958, for fear it may be impossible to put together again.
In addition to his investment in the compositor, Twain is also credited with writing the first novel in America to be written on a typewriter. Twain, in his autobiography remembered that first as the manuscript for “Tom Sawyer” in 1874 but typewriter historian Darryl Rehr holds that it was “Life on the Mississippi” in 1882. Regardless, the Remington Typewriter Company seized the opportunity to drop his name to promote its product for years following the disclosure in his autobiography.
The Twain (Clemens) House in Hartford Connecticut was one of the first to have a telephone in that city and revered author was known to pal around with eccentric inventor of alternating current, Nikola Tesla.
“I have just seen the drawing and description of an electrical machine lately patented by Mr. Tesla and sold to Westinghouse Company, which will revolutionize the whole electric business of the world,” wrote Twain in his notebook in 1888.
Later Twain visited Tesla’s lab and they both frequented The Players Club in New York and attended parties with contemporaries such as a Teddy Roosevelt, Rudyard Kipling, and John Muir.
Tesla’s inventions, of course, have made possible some of the wondrous developments of the modern day. Like a “Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” Twain already saw such possibilities. But, as he was also fond of mentioning, “The more you explain it, the more I don’t understand it.”
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Connected? Who is related?


In history, you can never be completely sure what and who is related to who and with what. As St. Patrick Day approaches, I submit the following. It is up to you to call ‘Blarney.’
“As North Denver’s pioneer parish, St Patrick’s has an exotic history involving a bitter struggle between Bishop Matz and a pastor powerful enough to twist the 20th Street Viaduct – Joseph P. Carrigan, who also inaugurated festivities that have evolved into Denver’s popular St. Patrick’s Day parade,” according ‘Dr. Colorado’ Thomas J. Noel.
Michael J. Carmody first said mass in the fire station at 15th and Boulder Street but by 1885, Father Carrigan became the steady pastor and almost immediately set to work expanding the parish. Carrigan had previously served at St. Mary’s in Breckenridge and Denver as well as St. Ann.
“North Denverites in those days were separated from the city by the South Platte River and a maze of railroad tracks, where trains killed and maimed people every year. Further more, the 15th Street bridge over the Platte was so rickety that the city posted a notice at either end: ‘No vehicles drawn by more than one horse are allowed to cross the bridge in opposite directions at the same time,’” wrote Noel in Colorado Catholicism.
“Father Carrigan and his parishioners joined the crusade to build a viaduct from downtown to North Denver as a safe crossing over river and rail lines. Mayor Robert W. Speer cleverly persuaded the railroads to put up most of the cost of the viaduct. Completed in 1911 for $500,000, this three-quarter-mile-long trussed viaduct left Denver at 20th Street but landed in North Denver at 33rd Avenue – at the front door of St. Patrick’s. Parishioners praised God for what is now the oldest and largest trussed viaduct in Colorado, and North Denverites still call its bend ‘Carrigan’s Curve,’” according to Noel.
Fighting City Hall was one thing, but Father Carrigan felt compelled to take on the Bishop as well. He was publicly critical of Bishop Matz diocese almost immediately after he succeeded Bishop Machebeuf, some saying he wanted an Irish bishop instead of another Frenchman.
“In defiance of his bishop, Father Carrigan, in 1907, undertook the erection of a new church. After touring Spanish missions of California founded by the Franciscan friar, Junipero Serra, Father Carrigan became enamored with the mission revival style. With architects Harry James Manning and F.C. Wagner, he designed a beautiful stone church with asymmetrical front bell towers connected by a curvilinear parapet. An arcaded cloister along Pecos Street connected the Church with a large courtyard and rectory. Fund-raising difficulties and Father Carrigan’s ongoing feud with the bishop prolonged construction for three years. Priest and parishioners finally celebrated completion of the new St. Patrick’s, a block northwest of the old church, in May 1909. A year later, Bishop Matz reassigned Father Carrigan to St. Stephen parish in Glenwood Springs. This solution followed a rather uncivil civil court case, numerous appeals to Rome, and a scandalous public fight from the pulpits,” wrote Noel.
Father Carrigan is given credit for initiating St. Pat’s fundraising gala the old Broadway Theater in which it’s mostly Irish congregation donned costumes, played bagpipes and celebrated in collaboration with the Daughters of Erin, and the Ancient Order of Hibernians as early as 1885.
“A more militant approach was taken on March 17, 1902, according to the Denver Times, by Captain Stephen J. Donleavy, secretary of the Denver Fire and Police Board: He announced plans to recruit a volunteer army in Colorado in order to invade England and free Ireland,” says Noel.
Anti-immigrant organizations like the Ku Klux Klan wielded substantial power during the 1920s in Colorado, and ethnic celebrations such as St. Patrick’s Day fell by the wayside at the risk of appearing as “un-American.”
The St. Patrick’s tradition was reportedly revived in 1962, when Denver Post columnist Red Fenwick and his “Evil Companions Club” staged a march.
“Witnesses claim it was a short march: the paraders walked out of Duffy’s Shamrock Restaurant, went around the block, and back to the bar,” according to the Post.
By 1974, the revived Denver March 17 celebration was claiming it was the second largest parade in the U.S.


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Colorado tales of revisionist history



Two recent Colorado tales are favored by revisionist history.
First, Doc Holliday’s tombstone in a Glenwood Springs graveyard was erroneous.
“A monument at Linwood Cemetery has offered such details as when Holliday was born — 1852 — and the place of his birth — Valdasta, Ga. Visitors learn that he attended Baltimore Dental School, and that he died in a Glenwood sanitarium,” notes a recent Associated Press article.
“The trouble is, however, this information is wrong.”
Holliday was born in Griffin, Ga. in 1851, not 1852, and he went to school at Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery in Philadelphia, not Baltimore. He died in the Hotel Glenwood before the town had a sanitarium.
The Frontier Museum in Glenwood Springs with help from the city corrected the errors a few years ago by installing a new monument built by Snyder Memorials of Grand Junction.
The original monument was put up sometime in the 1950s when little historical data was available. Holliday died Nov. 8, 1887 and is believed to be buried in Linwood Cemetery near the monument.
In another possible instance of correction presents itself in the case of Alfred Packer, the “Colorado Cannibal.” A Denver Post article by Nancy Lofholm notes that Packer ate his five fellow travelers during an 1874 snowbound winter in the San Juans .
David Bailey, curator of the museum of Western Colorado, led a crew of archeologists that spent several days in the fall a few years ago, using ground-penetrating radar and ultra sensitive metal detectors to examine the massacre site in Hinsdale County. Bailey will be happy if he finds anything that upholds his belief that Packer was wrongly accused of murdering his five companions.
Bailey has no doubt that Packer ate the would-be prospectors in Slumgullion Pass in the winter of 1874 but he thinks evidence will eventually prove another member of the party, Shannon Bell, actually did most of the killing.
“Packer wrote in a confession that after subsisting on rose buds, pine gum and boiled moccasins for weeks while trapped in the deep snow, Bell went berserk and killed the others with a hatchet.,” according to Lofholms article.
“Packer became a diner rather than dinner because he was scouting for food when the massacre happened.” In his confession, he said he shot Bell in self-defense when he attacked him upon his return.
Dumbbell-shaped nuggets, believed to be bone bits, were found buried in soft dirt down a hillside from where the five victims of the crime were buried, the Denver Post reported a few years ago. No definitive word yet whether this new information proves either guilt or innocence. In the meantime, Bailey and other will continue to review information to try and find out what really happened up there in snowy San Juans.
Bailey has written several articles since the 2001 discovery by Dr. Richard Dujay of Mesa State College turned up microscopic fragments in the dirt taken from under Shannon Bell’s remains that were matched with the bullets remaining in Packer’s pistol. He holds that this corroborates Packer’s version of what happened, but many historians disagree saying that it only proves Bell was killed by a gunshot.
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Friday, November 14, 2008

L-208 was a dirty word


Attorney Ken Geddes grew up in Victor during the ‘30s and ‘40s. His parents owned and published the Time Record from 1941 to 1951.
Talking with Geddes a few years ago, the conversation meandered, twisted, and turned through how things have changed over the years. He brought up one of the biggest agents of change for the district. He called it by name, “L-208.”
War Production Board Limitation Order L-208, issued on Oct. 8, 1942, forced the closing mines here and all over the nation. Geddes said it was basically a ‘dirty word’ in the district.
During the Depression, participants in the local economy were relatively prosperous here and in other mining locales around the country, when compared to other areas that were not relying on mineral extraction.
Gold production started to rise during the ‘30s because of lower operating costs. In 1929, at the pinnacle of the post World War boom, gold production nationally had reached the lowest point since 1849. But by 1935, the price of gold had increased to $35 an ounce. With higher prices and lowered costs, gold mining looked pretty good when you considered the economic slowdown in other sectors. Mining in the Colorado, Alaska, California, Arizona, South Dakota and other areas, showed great promise until the U.S. became involved in World War II.
Geddes said his parents’ newspaper was a daily until that time but went to a weekly as the local economy soured on the heels of L-208. The order restricted the mining of all non-essential metals and virtually shuttered gold mining locally.
Longtime area mining historian Ed Hunter appreciated Geddes' comments on the economic impact of L-208, and added a few of his own.
“In the minutes from the Congressional hearings on L-208, Al Bebee or another Golden Cycle official testified that he knew of only about five miners from the District that ever went to work in the copper mines and that was touted as one of the great things about L-208. We'd get more of a metal that could be made into shells and bullets rather than that gold stuff! A great many hands went to the service which probably didn't leave many to go to other mines” wrote Hunter
“Years later, I was told when I went to work in New Mexico at what had been a lead/zinc mine and produced the metal needed for the war, that the year before L-208, the government restricted materials like timber. The mine, for some reason, was not on the approved list. When the mine needed timber for underground support, they had to go over at night to the adjacent mill and "borrow" the timber they needed. The mill was on the list 'cause they actually produced the metals. Kind of like the thinking that electricity comes from the light switch so you don't need the coal to produce it,” Hunter said.
He hinted that there may have been even bigger and more complex political agendas to consider.
“Seemed kind of funny that Roosevelt and Churchill decided to cut out gold mining in the US but Great Britain, South Africa, Australia, etc. could keep on gold mining throughout the war. About that time there was reference in the trade journals to leaders in both countries wanting to go off the gold standard culminating in the Breton Woods accord. I'm afraid that is all way beyond me.”
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Christmas for everyone, even the dog



Probably the least demanding member of the family is the old dog. It is not a tortuous decision-making process to try to come with an adequate present that will make him happy. Throw him a bone any day, and he is convinced it is Christmas time.
He believes in keeping on the sunny side of the room — and life in general. Nothing suits him better than the morning rays beating down on his favorite, carpeted spot and reflecting off the light-colored wall behind him.
We don’t ask too much of him and his only requests come in the form of whiney little pleas for a taste of something off the grill, or pitiful petitions with his suppliant eyes for table scraps.
In turn, he offers the protective services of a thunderously menacing bark combined with the wild look in his eye that unnerves even the most-determined of door-to-door solicitors.
Though small in stature, he fears no dog, or any other creature for that matter. In fact, if it came to a scrap, he is so cocksure— beyond a thread of self doubt — of his own military might and physical superiority as to attempt bear wrestling, or a bout with a mountain lion, or even wage war with a porcupine. And though I am sure in each case, he might suffer debilitating damage in such battles, he is convinced he will eventually emerge victorious.
He gets up early because he believes the day should start with a brisk walk, preferably before daylight. Hopefully, it is not so cold as to make him want booties for his tender paws, but he will manage if necessary. If stiff and limpy from arthritis at first, by the end, his gait is natural and relaxed. If dogs know to smile, his is the widest.
Sometimes around the holidays, the kids dig out his red and white fur Santa suit, and the poor mongrel dresses the part. The first few years he was mortified, but now he barely notices.
Of course there is stocking for him. And he doesn’t know what is going on. But Christmas is for everyone, even the dog. Merry Christmas.

A natural refrigerator


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 Gillett 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 continue to search.
“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.
Attorney Ken Geddes, graciously answered my inquiry 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.
“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. “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.
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Christmas at Taylor Hardware


Christmas today carries texture and color from our childhood. It is always enhanced by our memories from the past.
For seven years, beginning in 1978, the holiday season was represented for me by the warmth and the sounds, the comings and goings of a small-town hardware store.
Starting the Friday after Thanksgiving, right after we got the hardwood floors mopped, the season began. Taylor Hardware (the Red Dog Hardware) signaled the start by asking the hired help (a couple or three high school kids including myself) to attach a 2” x 4” frame that allowed us to elevate the front two counters into a three-tiered mega gift center -- where if you couldn’t find something to give Mom, or Uncle Bill or your pain-in-the-butt brother, well then, they didn’t need a present.
Then, after cleaning the front windows with a pail of sudsy water and a sisal brush as the help commonly did once a week anyway, it was time to build the holiday display in the four compartments behind the plate-glass windows in the front entrance.
One window was always filled with ideas for mom’s stuff: fancy silver trays, furniture, food processors, microwaves, decorative lamps, ladies watches, even an occasional elegant shooting iron.
Another window for dad: fly rod and reels, ice augers, power tools, Case and Oldtimer knives, chain saws and maybe a Toro snow blower with a bow on it.
One for the kids: solid Red Flyer wagons, steel Tonka trucks with authentic rubber wheels, real china-faced dolls, porcelain figurines and BB guns.
The final one could contain most anything, depending almost entirely on mood and inclination of the owner or his son or daughter-in-law. Ashely woodstoves, power splitting mauls, decorative glass dishes, it was hard to guess. One year, I remember a western working horse theme including a packsaddle, tack, bridles, lariat rope and other cowboy necessities.
But Dolores was the kind of place then that a rancher could come running in the store after an expensive item in emergency, grab and go, with instructions to “put it on a ticket and I’ll pay later.”
Though such shoddy accounting practices would never have been tolerated at the hardware store, one local story relates the hurried purchase of a new saddle at another local business. The owner of a saddle shop forgot which outfit the “in-a-hurry” cowboy worked for so he billed it to each of the nine biggest stock concerns in the area thinking that surely the responsible one would settle the bill. That turned out to be an error. Six of the outfits ended up sending a check in for the entire saddle amount with no questions asked.
Don Setser seemed to be the only one Merton Taylor, the owner, was comfortable with enough to hang the outdoor lights. Many years ago, as part of the high school student help, Don had won the local lighting contest in the business category and ever since, he was “forced” to roll back into town every year to string up an increasingly complicated and elaborate display.
The store, always a busy place, tended to hum for the next few weeks. What, with getting ready for inventory and the big bowl of eggnog and the ever-free and hot coffee at the back corner pot – along with busted pipes and broken chain saw files – this was ‘hammer time’ at the hardware.
Finally, on Christmas Eve, usually shortly after noon, came time for the deliveries. Owners Merton and his wife Cecil, had selected and wrapped presents all morning, and we loaded them in the beat-up 1965 International Scout, along with a couple of the Irish Setters of the ‘red dog store’ namesake, and began a distribution that would have made Santa proud.
Ironically, or perhaps symbolically, the store and nearly the whole city block, caught fire and burned to ground on the day after Christmas in 1984. With a changing retail landscape, aging owners and shifting loyalties, it was never rebuilt.
Those memories are not better or worse than many Christmas holidays that followed but certainly provide me a foundation of texture and color, sounds and warmth, the comings and goings of a small-town hardware store, and yes, a feeling of Christmas, that I can never forget.

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Saturday, November 8, 2008

Native language belongs to the people


Back in the 1960s, I think it was Malcolm X or LeRoi Jones who said, "The landscape should belong to the people who see it all the time."
Not long after that, in November 1978, Boulder resident Robert Shaver came up with the idea of identifying locals to this landscape. Shaver created the Colorado Native Society.
"For $18 a year and affidavit saying you were born in Colorado, you could join. With your membership you got a certificate, T-shirt, decal and a subscription to Colorado Native News," according to Linda Murdock, author of Almost Native: How to Pass as a Coloradan.
"Shaver claimed that historic preservation and the environment were his major concerns given the crush of newcomers to the state. Although he hoped it would become a political force, it did not, and even Shaver eventually dropped his membership," Murdock said.
What Shaver's rebellion did set off however was the "native" bumper sticker trend still evident today. While driving Interstate 25 from Denver to Colorado Springs on any given day, you are likely to encounter a variation of "semi-native," "transplant," "alien," "native," or perhaps "who cares."
For me, a "card-carrying native," the most-noticeable identifier is the language.
You can absolutely tell if someone has been here since the beginning of time - at least theirs - by the way they pronounce proper names associated with this state.
With help from the Map Guy at Geocities.com, the short list of tell-tale markers includes some of the following mispronunciations of Spanish origin:
* Del Norte: del NORT
* Buena Vista: byoo-nuh VIS-tuh
* Pueblo: PWEB-low, but sometimes PYEB-low
And even Colorado: pronounced call-uh-RAD-o - accenting the syllable rhyming with "bad".
But we long - time relics don't limit ourselves to butchering Spanish, we are able to confuse things of American Indian origin as well.
* Ouray: yer-AY
* Towaoc: TOW-ay-ock
Which is Ute for "it is good".
* Unaweep: YOU-nuh-weep.
But how about this for confusion?
* Saguache: suh-WATCH, which is Ute for a blue-green color. We spell it that way for the creek, the town and the county, yet it is spelled Sawatch for the mountain range, and in Colorado Springs at least, it is spelled Sahwatch for a street name.
Now let's throw in a little French.
Platte is how we spell it, yet we pronounce it: plat - one syllable; the "e" is not pronounced.
It first appeared on the maps as the French-named Riviere Platte, or "flat river." Spanish maps called it Rio Chato, which means the same, and before that, the Omaha Indians called it ne braska, or "flat water."
So how do we determine what is the "native" way to say things correctly. I guess it depends on the people who say it all the time.

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Nobody remembers who finished second


(This originally appeared as a newspaper column in July, 2007.)

“Nobody remembers who finished second but the guy who finished second.” _ Bobby Unser

You can tell right away when you are speaking with a legend. He says precisely what is on his mind and never pulls a punch. Confident, opinionated, an inhabitant of righteous ground, Bobby Unser -- the man that the International Motorsports Hall of Fame calls the undisputed king of the Pike Peak Hill Climb -- even answers the phone that way.
“To me, if I had a choice, I would have run Pikes Peak every day of the year. I made a science out of racing on that mountain,” Unser said last week from his home in Albuquerque, N.M.
“That is my mountain. I figured out how to utilize the mountain best.”
The evidence backs his him up. Bobby Unser won the Hill Climb 13 times over a span of 30 years but says his first and last were the most memorable, with this qualification however, “For all you know, I will come back and win it again.”
His first win came in 1956. It was important to him because it “kick-started a lot of demand for me as a driver.”
His last win (to date) was in 1986.
“I had been gone 12 years and a lot of people had given up on the ol’ boy. They were saying, ‘he’s been gone too long and he’s lost his timing.’ I came back and kicked their butts.”
By 1986 he had matured even more as a driver. “You don’t quit advancing. But going back was a challenge. My brother Al, advised against it. ‘You are already king of the mountain,’ he said but I wanted to go back. I had a good car and good team… It was fun. And the road really hadn’t moved at all.”
As a child, his uncle Louis, known as ‘the old man of the mountain’ was an Unser brother’s hero as they grew up in Albuquerque. Three of his brothers were born here, though Al is a New Mexico native.
“Louis was my mentor and as a child I told him I will be the new king on this mountain. I told him I was going to take all his records and I did, one at a time. He provided a lot of desire and it helped me an awful lot. I set out to beat him and that is how I became the racer I am.
Winning at Pikes Peak helped open doors in the racing world. And lead him to Indy.
“Of course Pikes Peak didn’t have the juice of Indy, but what does.”
He continued to win at Indianapolis -- three times, in 1968, 1975 and again in 1981.
After first winning at Pikes Peak, he said, “I decided to see how far this (racing) could take me.”
He only lost four times on the Peak. “I should have won those as well, but something went wrong each time.”
Bobby Unser says the Peak allowed him to develop in other ways. “I am a self-taught engineer and conditions on the Peak are perfect for developing that kind of thing --trying to figure out how to make your car go faster.”
He thinks that is the main thing that sets apart the racing stars of today from the legends of yesteryear.
“Drivers of the ‘60s and ‘70s were better than they are today. Now, they have become specialist and only drive one kind of race. The universal drivers like me and my brother Al, Parnelli Jones, Mario Andretti, Gordon Johncock, and Johnny Rutherford are gone. They would race anything there was if there was a chance of getting paid for it.”
That is related to the single most-asked question, Unser says.
“How much of it is the car? And how much of it is the driver? Today, I would say it is 75 to 80 percent the car, and 20 to 25 percent the driver. Back then, it was the opposite. Simply because of the change in technology.”
Though he knows and likes most drivers running the race today.
“I know all the people running in Hill Climb. They are basically clean-cut, good people that truly like the mountain. Though, now they are going to pave it and screw it up.”
He blames the city for that, particularly the city council that allowed the Sierra Club to force that issue.
“That road should have never been paved… It is just not right. It was a thousand times safer with better traction and there is thousands of miles of crushed granite roads just like it. In general, the city should have never caved in. Never even a fight. I can’t understand how they could do that.”
But that is characteristic of a man who could never picture himself doing anything other than winning.
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