Thursday, January 1, 2009

Listen to the oldtimers

“There is much good sleep in an old story,”
— German proverb

I like listening to old timers about the way things used to be — especially the way it used to be in Colorado. A few years ago, I got an old codger going on real estate in this and surrounding areas. To hear him tell it, all you would need to do make a bundle in land speculation is follow him around, buy his property after he’s given up on it, and then wait for the money people.
Before it was the exclusive Castle Pines residential area in northern Douglas County, it was his 400 acres of cow pasture. Before it was dozens of high-dollar, five-acre, gentleman farms near Franktown on Highway 83, it was his barely sustainable dairy with an unreliable water source. He even had good yarn about losing his brakes on a new truck in Ute Pass in the ‘40s and not running into a problem because they hit the only light on Platte Ave. in the Springs while it was green.
His luck, it seems, was not confined to Colorado. In World War II, he was stationed, and camped in the exact spot where the Chunnel resurfaces in England. A place he lived in Philadelphia for a few months later became a professional sports stadium. And so his stories went.
I joked with him, that in my own case, I have been able to eventually wreck almost every economy that I have been exposed to.
In the ‘70s working in a small town hardware store in Dolores, Colo., I was able to turn the boom of preparing and building McPhee Reservoir on the Western Slope into an early ‘80s bust when they finished digging tunnels, doing archeology, and clearing brush.
After college, I told him, the heydays of Wyoming oil exploration and exploitation began to fade almost as soon as I arrived. My first years up there, the schools had many of the grade school and high school students in trailers and other makeshift digs until they could get permanent schools built. By the time they were built, there were few students to attend.
In California in the late ‘80s, it was same, I said. Whole cities of 100,000 homes appeared in the desert north of Los Angles and in commuter towns of the Central Valley near the Bay Area. By the early ‘90s the value of those homes was dropping like a stone. Equity refugees and those trying to escape the wild fires, earthquakes, riots, taxes, regulation and other personal disasters made it almost impossible to rent a U-Haul headed out of the state.
Many of those refugees landed here, in Colorado. As the tech sectors and financial services ratcheted up, south Denver grew and grew. Colorado Springs stretched out toward Kansas.
But now things are really slowing, I said.
“It goes in cycles,” was his answer. “What goes around, comes around. What’s up, falls down. What’s down will rise.”
I like listening to the oldtimers, I thought to myself.

In memory of Harold T. "Andy" Andersen.

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