Saturday, March 26, 2011

Go home, leave me to my cave, but after breakfast


Sometimes, it can be very hard to live up to an image. Tastes and distastes contribute to a man's reputation. Ute ‘Chief’ Colorow wasn't bashful about letting his be known. Among other things, the large man made a reputation for himself for his legendary fondness of biscuits and syrup – along with his intense dislike for what he considered encroachment on his native land.
According to the Aspen History Society, “Colorow was one of several leaders of a small, unsophisticated splinter group of Utes in Northwestern Colorado, called the White River Band.
In the spring of 1879, Colorow's followers were pressured by local Indian agent, Nathan Cook Meeker, to plant a field of garden crops in a field they had traditionally used to graze their horses.”
Meeker’s miscalculation made members of the band mad.
“In anger, one of the Utes confronted Meeker and ultimately threw him to the ground. Meeker overreacted and sent telegrams to Gov. Pitkin, 200 miles away in Denver, requesting troops be sent for his protection. The army, lulled by general peace on the frontier, and anxious to give its men some "field experience," sent two companies of cavalry and one mounted infantry, (about 200 men) from Wyoming's Fort Rawlins with specific instructions that the Utes not be molested,” says material from Aspen History Society.
“The Utes, however, clearly remembering the massacre at Sand Creek 15 years earlier, panicked. Many moved to new camps or fled the area. But, in the ensuing confusion, a shot was fired beginning events, which would end in the grizzly death of Meeker and all other agency employees. In addition, 2 women, including Meeker's wife, and 2 children were abducted by the Utes.
Colorow explained at the investigation into these events that the stake driven through Meeker's mouth had been necessary "to stop his infernal lying on his way to the spirit world.”
After what became known as the Meeker Massacre in 1879, the Utes were sent to the Uintah Indian Reservation on the Colorado-Utah border.
“Colorow was one of the last to leave and promised, ‘I go now. In winter I come back - hunt deer and elk.’ Every winter for seven years he returned to his Shining Mountains for the traditional winter hunt. Eventually the white men grew too numerous. Colorow and his men retired to the red rocks and made almost daily rounds of the settlers demand­ing food, clothing and anything else to which they took a fancy. One particularly notable fancy was biscuits, thick with syrup, which Colorow would eat as fast and as long as a ranch wife could bake them,” according a Ken-Caryl Ranch history.
In a reminiscence written for the State Historical Society, Dora I. Foster tells of visiting her aunt in Bradford City and of the day the Indians appeared. Dora and her aunt made biscuits as fast as they were able, but since they did not want the Indians to find their store of flour in the pantry, brought out only enough at one time for a batch or two. Finally the aunt, tiring of the game, told the Indians she had no more flour. The Indians, thereupon, brought forth more flour wrapped in greasy skin pouches and bits of dirty rags. The baking continued.”
Other stories cropped up of his legendary love for biscuits in the Florissant and Ute Pass areas.
“He himself was quarry for the government men, but he eluded them until 1888 when he was wounded in a battle with a posse. He went into hiding at his camp at the mouth of the White River near the Uintah Reservation, but developed pneumonia and died in December. A cave north of Ken-Caryl was one of his favorite places and it is still called by his name,” notes the Ken-Caryl Ranch history.
“Colorow’s Cave” was a longtime gathering place for others as well.
In 1962, an article in the Littleton Independent, by Houstoun Waring, editor at the time, talks about the sale and plans for the cave.
“The giant Colorow Cave, eight miles west of the Centennial Race Track (at Littleton) may soon be converted into a church or some other use. It is proposed to place a plastic roof over the upper portions, as there is a gap of several yards in the ‘ceiling.’ The ‘cave’ is a space between uptilted rocks so characteristic of the region south of Morrison, Colo.,’ Waring wrote in the March 30, 1962 edition of the Independent.
“The property belongs to L.D. Bax , who plans to close a deal selling 350 acres. About 200 select homes will be built there, according to one of the developers. The cave, according to legend, was used by Ute chief Colorow. Early settlers report the place provided shelter for the Indians. It probably contains 2,000 to 3,000 square feet of floor, and it resembles a large room with high vaulted ceiling. Hundreds of picnic fires have been built there. As the floor is level, it provided a good place for meeting — after tables and seats had been added.
“Maurice Frink, Director of the State Historical Society, has some unsigned documents concerning the cave. According to these, Major (R.B.) Bradford, who was born near Nashville in 1813, came to Colorado in 1859 with a letter of credit from Russell, Majors & Waddell of Pony Express fame. Cattle belonging to his firm grazed on the surrounding slopes. Legend has it that Major Bradford brought with him three slaves, and that their remains lie in rocky graves there,”
The first westbound stage stop out of Denver was reportedly on this ranch and travelers stopped for the night there before going up Sawmill Gulch. A little town called Piedmont is said to have been located on the land. Bradford’s purchases in this area began in 1860, with W.H. Middaugh as a partner.
Today, Colorow's Cave is part of Willowbrook and is also known as the Willowbrook Amphitheatre.
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Saturday, March 19, 2011

In search of the truth, it depends on who's telling


Preparing for a lynching, photo taken 1904.

Colorado National Guard soldiers prepare to lynch a man during the labor strike in Cripple Creek, Colo., throughout the room many hold rifles with bayonets. One National Guardsman holds the end of a rope that is slung over a light fixture and knotted around a man's neck. The victim may be Sheriff Henry Robertson. He stands on a chair with his hands behind back. Chairs are scattered throughout the room. Hand written on envelope. "C-Military,Strikes, Cripple Creek, 1903-04." Colorado Historical Society, Original Photographs Collection.

“Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth.__ Mohandas Gandhi

“Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of truth and knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.”__ Albert Einstein

Today, in the environment of Governor Tim Pawlenty doing battle with the teachers unions (and the Democrats) in Minnesota, along with the threats to the coming National Football League season, it strikes me as important to step back and take a look at previous labor fights here in Colorado.

You can’t do that without looking at the Western Federation of Miners and labor strife at the turn of the century in Cripple Creek and Telluride. But it is also true that you can’t take that look without the constraints and filters of considering who is telling the tale. As always, there is at least two sides to every story.

That point was brought home to me by the photo above.

Historian Marshall Sprague and others called it "the Black Time."

Sprague referenced the events depicted above this way in Money Mountain:The Story of Cripple Creek Gold, after the dynamiting of the Independence rail platform killed 13 non-union miners and injured scores more.

"Clarence Hamlin, of the Mine Owners' Association, called a mass meeting at 3 p.m., Monday (June 6, 1904). As early as noon, gold camp resident began converging on Victor. Hamlin and others persuaded Sheriff Robertson, a W.F.M. sympathizer, to resign. Their persuasion was the threat to hang him. Ed Bell became sheriff."

Emma Langdon, of the Victor Record and author of The Cripple Creek Strike, noted that on Sunday, June 5, the day before, Sheriff Robertson had issued a statement outlining his objections to Governor James Peabody declaring martial law in the district.

"TO THE PUBLIC - The commission sent by the governor of the state of Colorado to investigate the strike situation in Teller county, called me at midnight Thursday, the 3rd inst. I went to the National hotel at Cripple Creek, and reached there about 12:30 a.m. Friday morning Sept. 4. I was with the commission about two hours and fully explained the situation. I stated to the commission I had the authority to employ all the deputies I needed; that I had the situation in hand; that I had made arrests and was going to make more; that there was no trouble. Within three hours after I left the commission, the members thereof departed for Denver. There is no occasion for militia here. I can handle the situation. There is no trouble in the district and there has been none. No unusual assembly of men. Saloons closed at midnight. The sending of troops here is a usurpation on the part of the governor. I believe the action of the governor will have much to do toward injuring the district to such an extent it will be a long time before recovery will be had. As sheriff of Teller county, I do solemnly protest against the militia being sent here at this time." __ H.M. Robertson.

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For more posts on Cripple Creek Labor Wars, please click below:

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Possibly headed 180 degrees in wrong direction?


“Any fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”__ Albert Einstein
“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” __ Henry David Thoreau

A few days ago, National Public Radio (NPR) aired a story by Ezra Block and Robert Krulwich about flamingos dropping from the Siberian sky.
The story goes that in November, 2003, two young boys ice fishing on the Lena River in sub-zero weather, noticed a large bird circling lower and lower until it finally dropped and then lay quietly on the ground. The boys contacted their father and he picked the bird up and they took it home. “First time I see a bird like this,” the father said to a TV reporter.
The family fed the flamingo fish and water-saturated buckwheat while the bird recovered enough to pester the family’s dog and had to be relocated to a local greenhouse and finally to a zoo.
“That should be the end of the story. Except that one year later, also in November, and also in Siberia, it happened again. Another flamingo flew out of the sky, landed by another Siberian river, was also brought to the greenhouse, then sent to the zoo and the locals began to wonder, ‘Where are these birds coming from? What are they doing here?’”
The NPR reporters tried to solve the puzzle and enlisted the help of Marita Davison, a flamingo scientist at Cornell University. Davison noted that the birds are social animals and that if there was one flamingo, there was probably more. Determining that the nearest regular habitat for that particular variety of bird was in Kazakhstan and Iran, and also finding historic records of documented flamingo sightings in Siberia a 100 years ago, she came up with a working theory.
“Here is the idea. Suppose a bird is wired to fly one direction every fall and for some reason the wiring screws up so the animal goes 180 degrees the wrong way, exactly the opposite direction. This happens to a few birds in migrant populations every year. When she looked on a map, she notices that the village (where the birds were found in Siberia), was roughly the opposite distance and opposite direction from the flamingo’s normal winter quarters in Iran,” according to the NPR story.
I am not sure what we learn from this story but it brings to mind several ideas related to growing up in my boyhood home in Dolores, Colo.
The social network in a small isolated town (Dolores, in this case) allows you to cross numerous boundaries. Common lines of demarcation such as age, ethnicity, social and economic class don’t mean much there, in my view. However, inclusion and participation was dependent on certain things.
Growing up, I knew and became fast friends with people seven-, maybe eight- times my age, 10-times as wealthy or as poor as me, and from as varied of social and ethnic background as the population would allow. No big deal.
An 11-year-old paperboy commanded almost the same respect as the 80-year-old codger waiting for the paper every afternoon on his front porch.
But God help you, if you at some point became attached to an “incident” or “event” that secured your reputation forever. It takes a long time to ‘live down’ such attachments.
Even minor things could take years. By way of example, once, in a seventh-grade basketball game, I became confused after the half, and headed north when I really should have really headed south. Perhaps I should have discovered earlier something was amiss when Brent Hamilton tried to stop me from completing a layup. But to shorten a long, sad story, Coach Bill Estes, christened me “Wrong Way” Carrigan shortly thereafter. The reference having its origins in name similarity to
American aviator Douglas Corrigan, nicknamed "Wrong Way" in 1938. After a transcontinental flight from Long Beach, Calif., to New York, Corrigan flew from Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, New York to Ireland, though his flight plan was filed to return to Long Beach. He claimed his unauthorized flight was due to a navigational error, caused by heavy cloud cover that obscured landmarks and low-light conditions, causing him to misread his compass.
It took me several years, discontinued participation, Estes’ relocation, and an extra-ordinary public relations strategy on my part to remove that designation. I hesitate to even mention it today.
But at least I didn’t fly 2,000 miles in absolutely the wrong direction and drop out of the sky in a Siberian winter.
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