Friday, November 28, 2008
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.”
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.
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.
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. ###
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.''
Saturday, November 22, 2008
"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."
“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.”
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.
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.
Friday, November 14, 2008
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
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.
(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.
(This originally appeared as a newspaper column in June, 2007.)
After 85 years of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, I found there is a lot of history to boil down and it is difficult to summarize.
It made sense to touch bases with the people who lived it.
David Bachoroski, vice president of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb Historical Association, otherwise known as the "Over-the-Hill Gang," offered the following observations.
"Years ago I was working with Louis Unser ['the old man of the mountain']," Bachoroski said, "and I asked him what was the biggest change he's seen in the hill climb and he said, 'The tires were the biggest improvement.' Back when he started they had plenty of power but the power wasn't doing any good unless you could get it to the ground. It was common to go across the finish line with all your tires flat.
"I am very impressed that those old timers had the courage to drive at the speeds they did knowing that the tires could not take it and any second they were doomed to a disaster."
He said that Pikes Peak International Hill Climb was established in 1916 and is the second oldest race in the country - the Indianapolis 500 being the oldest with the first starting in 1911.
"Through the years the road has become wider and very well maintained, they are now paving the highway due to ecological concerns," Bachoroski said. "The overall record of 10:04.06 set by Rod Millen in 1994 in a '94 Toyota Celica GT could be broken this year. We can only hope so. After all, records are made to be broken."
Bachoroski identified the safety items that racers are now required to have as another major change.
"They could no longer sit on the gas tank," he said. "They had to start wearing seat belts and later shoulder harnesses. They had to wear a solid helmet and not just a leather cap with goggles; their cars later had to be equipped with roll bars and later roll cages, and they had to have working brakes on all four corners."
The early races from 1916-1929 were all open wheel cars.
"The Stock Car division was added in 1929," Bachoroski said. "It was dropped in 1935 and resumed again in 1956. The stock car division is now a permanent part of the Hill Climb but the open wheel class is still the crowd favorite. The open wheel class has been dominated through the years by the Unsers [Jerry, Louis, Joe, Jerry Jr., Louie, Bobby, Al, Bobby Jr., Al Jr., Robby, Johnny and Jeri], and the Stock car class has been dominated by the Vahsholtz family [Leonard and Clint].
"The Rally Class was introduced in 1981 which brought international attention to the Hill Climb."
Bob Gillis, TCI Tire Centers distribution center manager, has been involved in the race for years and agrees with the importance of the Unser legacy.
"With multiple family members winning - Indy winners have won on Pikes Peak - Bobby Unser, Al Unser Sr. and Jr., and in my opinion a very interesting fact is that Mario Andretti in 1969 got his only Indy win, and he also won Pikes Peak that year," Gillis said.
Donald Sanborn, former driver, timer and boardmember, echoed the importance of the Unser family impact.
"There are several Unser family members who have had a larger impact than others - Uncle Louis 'the old man of the mountain,' Bobby Sr., Al Jr. and Robby," Sanborn said. "But the entire family has left an indelible mark on the race. However, you can't discount what other families have accomplished.
"Now that Leonard and Clint Vahsholtz have bypassed Bobby Sr. and Robby as the winningest father/son combo, I've run into a number of people under the misconception that the Vahsholtz family has more wins than the Unser family," Sanborn said. "That's not true. Twelve members of the Unser family have raced on Pikes Peak 113 times for a total of 38 wins.
"The Vahsholtzes - Leonard and Clint - combine for 31 wins total, which puts them pretty close to the entire Unser family. Clint's 11 consecutive stock car wins is unprecedented. It's really an amazing accomplishment to pull off that stretch of wins on Pikes Peak.
"Rod Millen - of course you have to give a lot of credit to the guy who has held the record for so long and who has always brought some really amazing machinery to the mountain."
Sanborn calls attention to the transition from solid rubber tires to tires with air in them.
"Goodyear Pikes Peak Special was created just for Pikes Peak," he said. "Others could give you more details here but I believe the Goodyear Special was developed in the early '60s and is still the tire of choice. Though with more and more paving, it will eventually be supplanted by street tires."
Which brings us to a major change in the race in the last few years.
"The biggest story of the 85 years of racing is the Sierra Club lawsuit against the city Of Colorado Springs which the city lost, and the road has to be paved in its entirety - so after about 78 or 79 races on all dirt - the pavement was started and while not yet done, it is about 75 percent paved now. That took some of the magic away," Gillis said.
But there is still plenty of magic to go around.
Having read a column that I wrote earlier about moving the railroad depot in Palmer Lake, Marianne Zagorski wrote and provided a interesting postscript to the story.
“In ’66 my family and I moved from the USAFA out to Palmer Lake and eventually attended a town meeting, date of which I do not recall. It is a coincidence you should say “fire was not the culprit” because it almost was. Toward the end of the meeting a reminder was given of past business. ‘Don’t forget – our volunteer fire department will brush up on their skills on (date) when the depot will be set fire. Everyone come.’
“Never shy, I jumped to my feet and had my say. In the interest of brevity, I will condense what ensued into: hostility, sharp words, disbelief and a final acquiescence in accepting my plan of putting it up for sale. ‘But remember, you only have two weeks, then we burn it. And you are limited to $100 – tops.’
‘But why tie my hands? You already made it clear your funds are at a low ebb. I guarantee I can get you much more.’
“TWO WEEKS – ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS!”
Zagorski said that they did have a good point about the dangerous condition of the building and how it would be expensive to rectify.
“But I knew my market and lost no time calling The Denver Post Sunday Empire section which also lost no time sending a reporter and photographer to meet me. I was aware of everything dealing with trains was high on their list of priorities. So on the earliest Sunday, there was a good photo and article on a full page.”
The article had the desired effect.
“Early in the morning the phone started ringing and continued for days. Of course, I had to accept the first caller for which I was truly sorry when the second caller was the moving force behind the opening of Woodmoor. He was offering really big money (as many did) if only I would let him have it. He wanted it for the narrow gauge tracks and train he was planning to run around his lake. Even though he never realized that idea, The Depot would have remained here.”
Thus, the depot was saved from the torch.
“I do not recall anything at all said to me by the Palmer Lake commission members when I handed over the check. Not then or later. But I had accomplished my goal.”
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Upon reflection, of the veterans I have known, many were not inclined to tell war stories or call attention to their service.
Paul Butler was a case in point. When I delivered papers for the Durango Herald as youngster, Paul had me set up a paper tube on the corner of my folk's property, so he could come down Dunlap Hill to pick up his papers every day on his way to the Pondarosa Restaurant. The family farm on Granath Mesa, north of Dolores, was too far out for most kinds of deliveries. Occasionally, when he needed to make a winter trip, he would have me and my dad go check and make sure things didn't freeze up or something during his absence.
According to his obituary in the Dolores Star a few years ago, Paul joined the Army in 1941. "He was due to be discharged when Pearl Harbor was bombed. Paul was quickly involved in World War II. "
After training in Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana and New York, he shipped out across the Atlantic with the rest of 45th Thunderbird Division on the Susan B. Anthony, the same outfit as my Uncle "Stub".
"He took part in beachhead landings in Sicily, Anzio Beachhead in Italy, and in France. He was involved in liberating the Dachau Death Camp near the end of the war. For his exemplary service he was awarded the Bronze Star."
After World War II and buying the family farm on Granath Mesa, he married and raised four kids with his wife Marge. He was known as excellent fence builder and a perfectionist at everything he did. He served on the Dolores school board, was a member of the Baptist Church for over 80 years and hiked down and out of the Grand Canyon over 50 times.
"Paul was concerned citizen and a passionate advocate of causes he believed in. He was patriotic and proudly displayed the American flag," according to the Star. "He was known for his outspoken, blunt personality. One always knew where he stood on any subject, yet he had a sense of humor and a soft heart."
There were lots of other good deeds that Paul did and many noteworthy accomplishments in his long, full life. But just like many veterans, he really wasn't inclined to call attention to all of them. We should probably consider that on Nov. 11, and every day for that matter. Remember all who served.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Conventional wisdom and folklore pairs Leprechauns and luck but there is another side to the story — a side that is harder to see or lay a finger on.
In the old country, "the wee people" are also associated with truth, or lack thereof. With the very concept of truth, in fact.
Everyone's heard of Blarney and perhaps some of you have even kissed the stone but few are practiced at the art. Blarney — or distortion to make the story better — had its beginnings in that nether world that lies between sleeping and being awake.
It is that space that the "wee people" inhabit as well. Few Irish have actually made eye contact with a leprechaun, but even fewer are willing to say they don't exist. They, and the wailing banshees, and the Nordic trolls wander the unearthly fog.
But what links them to the truth or in fact to Blarney is a promise.
It is a common promise that you have all heard of, a promise that paired them with luck and good fortune and the pot o' gold at the end of the rainbow.
That promise is quite simply, the assurance of something for nothing. Those chasing rainbows want that assurance so badly. They want to believe fortune lies at the end and that the story told is more than Blarney. And sometimes it does, and sometimes it is.
But truth is the luckiest charm of all. Like the cereal, it's magically delicious.
Gone and just about forgotten. That description accurately characterizes the town of Edlowe in Teller County. At one time, its Post Office was the only one between Manitou Springs and Florissant, according to History and Mysteries of the Catamount Ranch Open Space, a report for the Teller County Division of Parks produced 2000. The report was written by Kim Carsell and Kim Long.
“The town is said to have had a station house, post office, school, church, several homes, a ten-room hotel run by the Hickoox family,” according History and Mysteries. “The Edlowe school district was consolidated into the Woodland Park School District in 1920, incorporating the schools of Spielman, Crystal, and the ‘pink school house at Manitou Park.’ The new school district needed three teachers.”
The town was officially vacated in 1958. Edlowe was near the present day intersection of Highway 24 and Edlowe Court between Woodland Park and Divide and was nearly 50 acres at the time of vacation.
Historically, the record reports that D.C. Oaks surveyed the area in time frame of 1872 to 1877. Another survey was recorded between1876 and 1877 by E. H. Kellog and Albinus Z. Sheldon.
Wesley C. Wheeler and Fredirck Bacon filed homestead papers in 1882 and tracks for the Colorado Midland Rail Road were laid in 1887 through the properties and a wagon road existed as well. Wheeler and Bacon combined and contributed 55 acres each for a town site that was originally registered as “Summit Park.” By 1896, a new plat had been filed by Wheeler’s widow for the part of the town site she owned and registered the site in El Paso County.
“The name ‘Summit Park’ was covered by a strip of paper pasted to the document containing the name “Edlowe” and was signed by Edgar D. Lowe. trustee, in place of Hattie H. Wheeler,” says Carsell and Long’s report.
“The Edlowe stop was a flag stop, meaning the train would stop only upon request. Edlowe was the destination of the Wildflower Excursion run by the Colorado Midland. The Wildflower Excursion carried passengers from Colorado City to Edlowe who were interested in picking ubiquitous blue columbines in the area,” according to the report. One destination, the meadow west of Edlow, was used on almost all of the trips up the Pass, according to local railroad historian Mel McFarland.
“Remains of the town can still be seen if one knows what to look for,” says Kim Carsell and Kim Long’s 2000 report, History and Mysteries of Catamount Ranch Open Space..
The important role that water has played and continues to play in our history and development was reinforced to me in a previous conversation with Tri-Lakes Fire Protection District chairman at the time and former Palmer Lake Historical Society board member Charlie Pocock, The conversation originated with history but as such things often do, it meanders all the way upriver to the source.
Regarding water, Pocock tabbed the historical character of Sam Hackett.
Sam Hackett was described in Marion Savage Sabin’s 1957 book, “Palmer Lake: A Historical Narrative,” as a young Scotch-Irishman looking for a way to get up in the world.
“There was a very odd thing about Sam Hackett, ” wrote Sabin. “His was an unmistakably Irish physiognomy and his rich, deep brogue matched his face — yet there was little or nothing of Irish in his inner makeup. The genial gift of gab had been left entirely out of his composition; he was taciturn and cautious, like a Scotchman. His humor—few guessed he had any — was the sly, self-contained sort and his habitual aspect was dour. He was frugal and a confirmed woman-hater. Yet, he was never a mean man and stories are told of his generosity to visitors and harvest hands in later years.”
Hackett worked and originally ate and slept at the railroad’s section house managed by Camillus Weiss. Among his early duties there, was pumping water from Palmer Lake for the engines. Because of his general standoffishness and other reasons related to economics, he eventually decided to reside elsewhere.
“ He went some distance away to the west of the railroad, nearer the mountains, and made himself a dug-out. It was just a hole in the ground, a low mound set in a hillside. The entrance which faced south, was held up by logs; and a few pine planks hewn in the woods, chipped out by himself and secured overhead in his cave, kept the roof from falling in…” according to Sabin.
At the time of her writing in the 1950s, the ruin of that abode could still be seen on the very edge of the field to west of the Little Log Church.
In order to augment the amount of water available in Palmer Lake to use to fill the 12 or so daily train engines that required water to push over the hump, Weiss, as the section boss for railroad, asked Hackett to dig a ditch. The ditch diverted water from Monument Creek by use of a small dam and reservoir and solved the water problem for the railroad at the time.
“On December 29, 1882, Samuel Hackett filed in the Office of Clerk and Recorder of El Paso County an affidavit describing his ditch and claiming water rights for domestic, mechanical and irrigation purposes,” wrote Lloyd McFarling in footnotes to Sabin’s book in December of 1956.
“He said the ditch was constructed about the year 1872. Two other ditches were also important in establishing water rights, which were later acquired by the Town of Palmer Lake. One was the Anchor Ditch, dug in 1867; and the other was the Monument Ditch dug in 1868 and enlarged in 1875. These ditches were down-stream from the Hackett Ditch. Their headgates were within the limits of the town as established at the time of incorporation in 1889,” wrote McFarling.
In time, Hackett eventually left the employ of the railroad, purchased Weiss’ property and turned to raising potatoes. His prowess at that activity helped create an industry —and a dominant one at that — in this area for several years and earned him the title “the potato king.” He became very prosperous. Much of his success in potato farming business, however, was heavily reliant on his ability to irrigate. His irrigation, of course, relied mostly on “Hackett’s Ditch. So here we are once again, right back here at the source.