Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Key is forgiveness and finding out what really happened



He walks through the house of his past, hoping he'll find the right door, hoping he'll find the key.” 
__ Steven Herrick


Generally, I am a peaceful man. But on at least three occasions, Scott Weinmaster has gotten my back up. It involved a key in each case. 
I could of beat the guy senseless, if I could have beaten him senseless. However, that would have required me to wait for him to fall asleep, and then strapping him down like the Lilliputian army did in Gulliver's Travels. A task that I was up for. But I assume it takes all the fun out of beating somebody senseless when they are strapped down.
The first case involved the key to my 1974 green Vega. I can't remember what kind of cockamamy story he told me originally to convince me to hand over the key. Chances are it had something to do with a girl. Many stories that started with Scott, and ended in trouble had that common theme.  
The only thing I know is, that he said he only need to borrow it for about a half hour, and he would be right back. 
Wasn't that about three and half hours ago? Steam is coming out of my ears. And when he finally shows, it looks like the right front tire is flat. I go to change it — and what the heck, the spare is flat too. "I don't know," he says. "You ought to buy some new tires, man."
It took me about 30 years to forgive him, but that was only after I learned what really happened about a year later. 
Ordinarily, I am an intelligent man. You would think I would never fall for "let me borrow the key to your car, I will be back in about 30 minutes," again. That did not prove to be the case.
Once again, I loan the key. But hey, this was a big party at the Rico Court House. I personally was having a great time and my defenses were apparently compromised.
Once again, long after the prescribed half hour has come and gone, I am searching for my car and my "so-called friend" when I see red lights down the street, behind what looks like a green 1974 Vega. 
"It is lights," I confirm. "And it looks like the the car is halfway hanging over a retainer wall in that little, old lady's yard."
Turns out, it was lights on the Rico Town Police car. The green Vega was hanging over the retaining wall. And we spent the next few hours explaining to Officer Sheperic how we planned to remove the car, repair the damaged wall, and manage to get home to Dolores, without getting into any additional trouble.
It took me about 30 years to forgive him, but that was only after I learned what really happened, about six months later.
Commonly, I am easily-educated man. That is why, when Weinmaster says one day, "Lets go over to Durango," I say "Okay, but you are driving."  We hopped in Granny's Ford Fiesta and made our way over high trail to the big city. Me, thinking all the way over, "I am in safe territory, because I am not driving, and my car is not even here to worry about."
Fort Lewis College happened to be having "freshman orientation" that evening, and somehow, we ended up in the presence of a particularly beautiful young woman with long wavy hair and stunning blue eyes. 
As was his custom, Weinmaster was once-again very adept in striking up a conversation with such creatures, and I, once again, was the odd man out. Which wouldn't have been so bad  if that particular night hadn't been about 40 degrees, having no coat, and you guessed it, the absence of a key to get into Granny's Ford Fiesta.
He told told me later, "I couldn't give you the key. You would have left me there." Probably correct.
It took me about 30 years to forgive him, but that was only after I learned what really happened, about three weeks later.
Weinmaster can really get my back up at times. The key is, I feel like I probably should have beat him senseless several times. But it would take him 30 years to forgive me — and then only, when he found out what really happened.




Saturday, December 21, 2013

Not really worth anything to anyone but me


It was about Christmas time, two years ago I think, when he pressed the big round steel coin in my hand at the nursing home as I was leaving.
The coin was bigger than a dollar, with a Big Horn Sheep on it. But Dad knew I always liked coins and this one appealed to me, for its heft and size, its weight, and art. I think it appealed to him for similar reasons.
Not really worth anything to anyone but me.
I had a hard time figuring out what had happened to him. He had always been solid as a rock, and still was in most, important ways. Except he really did not know what was going on.
It was like the the record-player was skipping. He talked about the way "they" had changed the maps on him. Moved all the streets around. I think he felt the county was responsible, or the state. Maybe even the army.
My dad was in the army, in the '50s, and knew that they required respect, but you have to keep an eye on them.
He would tell you he was making good money at "Cornbinder" in Detroit when when the army needed diesel mechanics for International Harvester powered tanks. He thought it was just cheaper for the army to draft him and pay him corporal wages, instead of contracting IH, in the buzzing '50s.
Oh well, they could have sent him to Korea,  but instead, tank school in Japan.
His two older brothers had been at war with Japan in WWII, he was teased, but he went over there to educate them. How to fix tanks.
He was a monkey under a hood... Popeye arms and a sense of how the gear turned, where the cog fit, sound of the click... part of the machine.
I never understood that sense. I liked cars, respected them, sometimes even knew how they worked. Never felt them, like he did. He could just drive any of my beat-up old rigs for a few days and the vehicle would run better for a time.
I think it was different in later years. The sensors, computers, putting it on the monitor to read the chip, he tried to keep pace, but by the time he retired, he had enough, I think.  And after that, it was even more confusing.
He still kept pretty busy after retirement, helped on wrecker calls for years.
My friends in the Dolores all marveled at his dedication to walking Amos, my brothers part Great Dane that he reverse-inherited and the damn dog dragged him around the river city.
When the dog was gone, he still liked to walk. Dogs are good for that. I like to walk, especially with my dogs. Up early, no need for an alarm, get going, we are burning daylight.
My dad always, always, always understood that he was to take care of us, and my mom.
Part of the job was, he knew, to get us to the point where we could take care of ourselves.
He did that, I think. And take care of Mom.
The challenges can creep up on you in a lifetime.
Cars and engines change from a thing you sense and smell, and feel, and know by their click. To something you need a $200,000 monitor to figure out.
That monkey muscle gets tired, and your joints twist,  and your cogs slip, and your gears don't mesh.
Reality becomes someone else's.
When you are used to taking care of things, it is really hard when you can't. But you try with all your heart, and soul, and memory, of what once was.
In the end, it is almost impossible... painful ... frustrating...
But the coin he gave me has heft, and weight, and size, and art.
It is not really worth anything to anyone but me.



Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Seven Wonders of Dolores


The Seven Wonders of the World has historically been a listing of seven sites known to the Ancient Greeks as the most notable locales in their known world. 
The originalsThe Colossus of Rhodes, The Great Pyramid of Giza, The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, The Lighthouse of Alexandria, The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, The Statue of Zeus at Olympia, The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus. All fine attractions.
Over the years, and down through history, others have developed their own lists. The Seven Natural Wonders, developed by Cable News Network in 1990s, The Seven Modern Wonders, developed by the American Society of Civil Engineers, and even the "New" Seven Wonders. 
But like most secondary contrivances, the second string is just that. 
I intend to remedy that by naming a new list: The Seven Wonders of Dolores, and my selection criteria follows.
7. Rope elevator in the Exon Mercantile building. 
Never has an eighteenth-century marvel been so underrated as the the platform rope and pulley system near the back of the Exon Building that drops a 10-foot by 15-foot  section of the very floor out of one building and into the basement below.  Sure, maybe it is dangerous and maybe, Yes, you could fall down an poke your eye out, or perhaps run your fingers through the pulleys (or maybe even squash something like a bug if you dropped it while someone was below) but hours of entertainment offset all the dangers and then some.
6. Painted D on the side of the hill. 
Certainly a maintenance nightmare, once again rife with the dangers of actually falling from a sandstone cliff,  and less than environmentally sound, the faded black paint peeking from the tree-line stands as an icon of Doloresdom. Not to mention, the hours beneficially 'wasted,' instead of being in school attending to regular studies.
5. Second staircase in the Taylor Hardware's shop.
I know this is an obscure reference for many, but any that have known of, and witnessed the wondrous flight that drops out of the wooden ceiling to the cement shop floor below, and the pulley and weight system that allows it to do so, then be retracted if nothing occurred, are often awe-struck beyond belief.
4. Plywood raft in Town Pond
Utilitarian in nature, the raft bounced around the edges of the town pond for many years,  serving as a de facto fishing vessel, frogging operation, mud bog vehicle, and upon occasion search and rescue conveyance.
3. The retractable basketball supports on the stage in the High School Gym.
Two bolts removed, and retraction via cable and a hand winch, allowed the complete transformation of a stinking, hardwood-floor, basketball arena, and other athletic endeavors; to a stage and auditorium suitable for graduation, plays, and all school assemblies. No one knows the transformative powers better that the wood-ribbed edifice in the center of Dolores Schools.
2. Fourth Street Bridge.
A personal favorite, long-since removed, the cast iron structure, darkened with the rust of the ages, connected the outside world with the little town in the valley, as a ribbon of highway drops off the ridge and down into the mouth of a Lost Canyon. Fish lined up in the depths of the channels below, and hobos and delinquents camouflaged in the red willows and Cottonwoods nearby.  But as Neil Young noted "Rust never sleeps."
1. Big Rock between 7th and 8th Street.
Never in the course of human events in such a small town, have so many, owed so much to a single rock in the middle of the Dolores River. Entire languages have been developed and learned in the shadow of that stone. Working on mysteries without any clues, working and practicing... Perhaps my entire lyrical base (as well as Bob Segar's)  owes such a debt. "Like a rock, I was strong as I could be. Like a rock, nothin' ever got to me. Like a rock, I was something to see. Like a rock." 
I wonder — if there are other such wonders.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Work in progress: Time now for forgiveness?



First, let me say this. Forgiveness is by far, the hardest lesson I've ever tried to learn. And I'll tell you straight out, that I haven't mastered it.
Let's just say it is a work in progress.
It is complicated for me by the knowledge, that no matter how deep the betrayal suffered —  most of the time, the betrayers didn't mean anything by it.  It was unintentional.
But life is about lessons, and we all keep learning to the grave.
Teachers are all around us.
As a kid growing up in Dolores, I embraced that life-long learning by loving school.  Not just the classrooms, books, and math instruction, and spelling education... things that I observed just by being in room (any room) or outside on the hill, or submerged in the river.
Lets think back, and visit some of the teachers.
The first clear memory (that I can place) was helping to plant two small Colorado Blue Spruce trees in the front yard of Pleasant's yard.
I am told that my dad dug the trees up on wrecker call near the Rico ball park.
Andy Pleasant and I, with adult supervision, planted them ourselves. It was a gift of sorts, or a suggestion by both of our parents, on Andy's fourth birthday, in July, if my memory serves me.
We dug a hole twice as large as the root ball,  filled it up two or three times with water, dropped in the tree, and then created a little basin around it.
We kind of took care of the trees, when we thought of it, especially during the tail-end of that summer, and then, any time we thought of it during the next few years, when we weren't careening down the sidewalk in his X-15 or my pedal-powered fire truck. Later, there were Schwinn bikes and climbing the towering Broadleaf Cottonwood that was out in front of the Spruce trees. And later still, the hill, and cub scouts, and little league baseball.
When Andy and his family moved away, just as we both were to go into fourth grade, my access to the trees was limited, as other families occupied the 'old Pleasant' house.
I was a little torqued a few times in the next few years when the Dentons tied their horses to one of the trees,  and rarely, if ever watered it; and maybe even a little more so later, when Norths put a little border around it, and took good care of those trees.
The last time I saw the Blue Spruces trees, they were over 70 feet tall.
A few years ago, I was told one of them had to be cut down because it had grown so much as to threaten structures in the area.
Lesson learned: Neglected or well-cared for,  most of us survive and perhaps even thrive. We generally grow up eventually.
Andy and I, kept in contact over the years, first closely, as he was just over in Cortez and his parents business was still here in Dolores— and then, less so, as we moved on to different worlds.
I knew, as adults,  we both worked in his family's business (newspapers), for a number of years, and then he went on to different pursuits. Quite honestly, I had lost track.
When my dad died, he apparently saw the obit, and reached out.
"So sorry to hear about your father's passing. Hope all is well otherwise," he said.
I was glad to hear from him. It meant a lot. I told him so. And we tried to catch up, if just a bit, on each of our family's whereabouts.
A few days later, I heard from him again.
"Ironically — my father passed away in his sleep last night."
Truth be known, time (and perhaps distance) had been the real betrayer in this case, but it was unintentional.
Not sure I'm ready to forgive time — at least not yet.



Sunday, November 3, 2013

Regular guy, janitor at the Academy, and Medal of Honor winner







Bill Crawford seemed like a regular guy.
He grew up in Pueblo, served in the Army until his retirement as a master sergeant in 1967.  After retirement, his life was fairly unremarkable, getting a janitor job, serving as director of the Lucretia Vaile Museum.  In fact, as a janitor at the Air Force Academy, he didn't really stand out. Went to work, took care of his custodial details, returned home to Palmer Lake in the evening.

Cadet James Moschgat described it this way.

"As a janitor William “Bill” Crawford certainly was an unimpressive figure, one you could easily overlook during a hectic day at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Mr. Crawford, as most of us referred to him back in the late 1970s, was our squadron janitor," he wrote later.

"Maybe it was Mr. Crawford’s personality that rendered him almost invisible to the young people around him. Bill was shy, almost painfully so. He seldom spoke to a cadet unless they addressed him first, and that didn’t happen very often. Our janitor always buried himself in his work, moving about with stooped shoulders, a quiet gait, and an averted gaze. If he noticed the hustle and bustle of cadet life around him, it was hard to tell. So, for whatever reason, Bill blended into the woodwork and became just another fixture around the squadron. The Academy, one of our nation’s premier leadership laboratories, kept us busy from dawn till dusk. And Mr. Crawford...well, he was just a janitor," wrote Moschgat.

"That changed one fall Saturday afternoon in 1976. I was reading a book about World War II and the tough Allied ground campaign in Italy, when I stumbled across an incredible story. On September 13, 1943, a Private William Crawford from Colorado, assigned to the 36th Infantry Division, had been involved in some bloody fighting on Hill 424 near Altavilla, Italy. The words on the page leapt out at me," said Moschgat

The citation he stumbled upon read as follows:
"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy near Altavilla, Italy, 13 September 1943. When Company I attacked an enemy-held position on Hill 424, the 3d Platoon, in which Pvt. Crawford was a squad scout, attacked as base platoon for the company. After reaching the crest of the hill, the platoon was pinned down by intense enemy machinegun and small-arms fire. Locating 1 of these guns, which was dug in on a terrace on his immediate front, Pvt. Crawford, without orders and on his own initiative, moved over the hill under enemy fire to a point within a few yards of the gun emplacement and single-handedly destroyed the machinegun and killed 3 of the crew with a hand grenade, thus enabling his platoon to continue its advance. When the platoon, after reaching the crest, was once more delayed by enemy fire, Pvt. Crawford again, in the face of intense fire, advanced directly to the front midway between 2 hostile machinegun nests located on a higher terrace and emplaced in a small ravine. Moving first to the left, with a hand grenade he destroyed 1 gun emplacement and killed the crew; he then worked his way, under continuous fire, to the other and with 1 grenade and the use of his rifle, killed 1 enemy and forced the remainder to flee. Seizing the enemy machinegun, he fired on the withdrawing Germans and facilitated his company's advance." 

Bill Crawford, the janitor, was a Medal of Honor winner. 
Though, because Crawford was captured by the Germans and presumed dead in the battle following, in 1944 the Medal of Honor was presented posthumously to his father. Later in the year, Crawford was among a group of soldiers rescued from German captivity. He had not been presented the medal himself, as was the custom for living recipients.

Years later, in 1984, the commencement speaker at the Academy was the President of the United States, President Ronald Reagan. Looking over the sea of young faces that represented the very best our Nation has to offer, he said: "America's men and women of today have made us a great Nation." And then the President turned his attention to the past, calling forward a 66-year old janitor crisply dressed in a uniform that still fit his trim frame. Forty years after his heroism at Altavilla, Italy and 17 years after his retirement from a military career, the President hung the Medal of Honor around the janitor's neck. 

The cadets themselves, had decided proper recognition of their janitor was long overdue, and had taken steps to see an "oversight" corrected. 

Crawford died at his home in Palmer Lake on March 15, 2000.  He is one of four Medal of Honor recipients from Pueblo, Colo.




Yo Hablo: It is all part of the program



“Honor to the soldier and sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country's cause. Honor, also, to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field and serves, as he best can, the same cause.” 
__ Abraham Lincoln

At 82, Bill Frier knows about honor and service. Twenty years in the Air Force, third in a line of West Point graduates in 1954, flying C-130s, teaching at the Academy here in Colorado Springs — it is all part of the program for him.  
And the thing is, he knows about programs, too.
As the one-time Chief of Television for the Air Force, that is to be expected.
One of his proudest moments he will tell you, however, is development of his "Yo Hablo" program teaching conversational Spanish and pioneered in the early days at the Air Force Academy.
"In 1961, B. Gen. Robert McDermott (Dean of Academies, U.S. Air Force Academy and future CEO of USAA) launched a pioneer program teaching conversation Spanish over a newly-installed, close-circuit TV system to over 500 military families on base. He chose me, then an Associate Professor Spanish, to write and present, three times daily, the program — live, as there was no videotape available," says Frier.
"I was given the freedom to present my course my 'fun and easy way,' with cartoons and humor which had proven very effective when teaching the cadets. The pioneer experiment was a grand success."
He duplicated that success again in 1968 when the program was launched on CBS and later Educational Television, the forerunner of PBS, aired the program, and the president of CBS at the time, granted him use of the company's studios to put the production together. Today the course is certified in the Colorado prison system for inmates and employees.
Frier's enthusiasm for Spanish and Spanish speakers began in 1935 when his family moved to Mexico City, according to forward in the "Yo Hablo" book created to supplement the program. He returned to the US when he was 13 speaking Spanish like the natives. He also has a Master's degree in Spanish.
"Pulling from his memory of childhood cartoon characters he drew while growing up in Mexico, and using that musical language which was his second tongue, Bill devised the "Yo Hablo" show. The childish cartoons were revised, humanized, and sophisticated under the subtle hands of friend and artist Bob Dover of Colorado Springs. The artist transformed the ideas of the child into living people. These people populate the view's guide accompanying the series as an integral part of the learning experience."
Bob Dover polished his craft working with the Walt Disney Company.
"I last met with General McDermott approximately eight years ago (he was the CEO of USAA) on his last visit to Colorado Springs. We renewed old memories of the pioneer Spanish course and its successes. He strongly urged me to 'turn Yo Hablo upside down' teaching English to Hispanics — he emphasized the huge need it would fulfill, and with modern technology ... even one program could reach millions of families through the internet — and the central script already exists for 52 lessons.
"I launched in 2008, in the Hispania News, (a free newspaper in Colorado Springs) 'Y Ahora Yo Habo Ingles' one lesson per week," said Frier.
"I put together all of the lessons presented in 2008 and early 2009. Sadly, the editor of Hispania News, Bob Armendariz, died suddenly and Hispania News closed its doors."
Despite the setback, Frier hopes to share the value of his Spanish/English program that potentially could reach millions. He wants to transfer the entire course to the internet and perhaps sell, for a small fee, the cartoon text to fund future endeavors, such as editing the Spanish program "upside down" on to video, and teaching basic conversational English to Hispanics, as General McDermott suggested. 
The program, if he is successful or not, is just one more example of a lifetime of honor and service.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Rare oxen pull living history down the trail


"Happy the man who far from schemes of business, like the generations of mankind, works his ancestral acres with oxen of his own breeding, from all usury free." ___ Epodes (c. 29 B.C.)

For more than 2,000 years, it has been been a good idea to raise your own teams of Oxen.
Rollie and Paula Johnson, with the help of their hired hand of the past nine years, Dulces Granados, have been doing just that, since 2006 at Three Eagles Ranch, just over the Douglas County line near Monument. The ranch is one of the few western ranches that raise American Milking Devon Oxen.
"As some of the first cattle in America in 1623 two heifers and a bull from north Devonshire, England were received in the American colonies. In later years, other Devon cattle were imported and contributed to the American Devon which developed as the ideal multipurpose breed. No other cattle could surpass it for draft work (they can walk at six miles an hour); the milk was high in butterfat content, making it excellent for cheese and cream; and the carcass developed fine lean beef on relative poor forage," says literature from the ranch.
Rollie Johnson, CEO for a group of more than 50 radio stations all over the country, showed his prowess at hooking log chokers Tuesday in Monument, as Davy and Dandy skidded logs across the field. The four-year-old team weighed in at about 2,000 pounds each and will continue to grow for three more years.
"Oxen were used extensively to pull wagons of the pioneers along the Mormon, Oregon, California and Santa Fe trails. At one point in the 1850s, an average of 750 wagons left Omaha daily and the majority were pulled oxen. Oxen could eat while walking. You could milk the cows at night and, if one died, you could survive their meat. Once the pioneers arrived at their destination, the oxen were then used as draft animals on the farms and ranches and towns created. An ox can be any breed of cattle but is basically a steer that is more than four years old and has been trained as a draft animal and, ultimately, will be called an ox. If you can trace your family's history in the 1800s to the use of any of the four major trails, then your ancestors' goods most likely arrived by being pulled by oxen," according to a Three Eagles information piece.
The breed is now extinct in England and were down to just a handful in the United States until about 30 years ago. Efforts by the American Livestock Breed Conservancy and others have been able to increase the American herd to about 600 animals, mostly in New England states.
"Three Eagles Ranch began its herd in 2006 when it purchased a cow from Missouri. A bull, nicknamed Jesse James, was purchased from Washington's Birthplace Farm near Williamsburg. The first trained oxen team — Clark and Coolidge — was sold to Bent's Old Fort at La Junta along the Santa Fe Trail and can be viewed at historical presentations at that site. Today's second trained team from Three Eagles — Calvin and Chester — were born in 2008 and are still growing and live the Plains Conservation Center in Aurora, Colo.  A third pair, Ike and Earl, are going to Arizona to be used in an experiment to prepare equipment that can be easily replicated in rural Africa. Three Eagles Ranch has four other teams in training at the ranch — David and Dandridge, Fitzgerald and Ford, Grant and Garfield, George and Grover," says ranch information.











Sawing logs: New ways to preserve the old days














Railroad building and general development in the Denver and Colorado Springs area has made logging in this area at least a century-old tradition. Early mills in the Forest and at Husted, Perry Park, and on Cherry Creek, date back to days of Pikes Peak Gold Rush in the early 1860s.
General William Jackson Palmer's construction and planning of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad accelerated the process. Interestingly, if you look at early 1900-era photos, you will notice the level of logging operations along the Palmer Divide.
Palmer established the Colorado Pinery Trust in 1870. Logging in the Black Forest, or Pinery, reached its height in the summer of 1870 and eventually more than one billion feet of lumber was removed to provide ties for the Kansas Pacific, Denver and Rio Grande and New Orleans Railroads, and lumber for projects along the tracks. 
The Black Forest Fire in June of this year, and related mitigation efforts, has re-focused attention on the nearby logging operations.
This past week, Bob Olson, who lives in the Black Forest area himself, has set up his modern answer on Jim Maguire's property on State Highway 105 in Monument, in the form of his WoodMizer portable sawmill. The mill looks something like a big bandsaw and automates some of the complicated setup with its high-tech operation. Logs from a house lot down on Old Ranch Road, areas in the burn area, and locations in Woodmoor, as well other areas, all contributed to this week's cut and mill process. The Maguire property milling operation was abuzz all week. 
For  his part, Jim Maguire plans to build a stage stop log cabin 18 feet by 16 feet, dedicated to recalling the losses suffered by some in the Black Forest Fire. Some salvageable, but slightly burned logs, originated in the burn area and 44 timbers, seven inches by 10 inches, were milled for the structure.
"This place is part of an old homestead," says Maguire. "And a stage at one time was the only way of getting here before the rails." 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Nobody has time for that anymore


Hear that lonesome whippoorwill?
He sounds too blue to fly.
The midnight train is whining low,
I'm so lonesome I could cry.
___ Hank Williams, 1942

Nobody has time for their memories anymore. We seldom ride trains, buses, or even planes — for long, thoughtful trips into the nights and mornings of our past.
But I try to remember — because she can't.
Back in the fall of 1978, just a little before 8 a.m., any of six days of a week, Fifth and Main Street, meet me at the side door, Taylor Hardware, Dolores, Colo. Let's take a walk.
Jiggle the big ring of keys in the heavy wood frame door with thick plate glass in the center, beveled all the way around, glazed tight and solid nearly 90 years prior.
Inside the light switches are low, near the hardwood floor up front, and then in ceiling as we pass on either side, past the gun case, the cabinet hardware, t-hinges, gate hooks, flat bastards. Cant hook handles there, sanding belts under the stairs, and different-sized dowel rods in a rotating swivel display.
After the stairs, the high shelf carried items overhead. Calf feeder buckets, Gerry cans and pump sprayers, Number 10 galvanized pail (sometimes still half full of water from last night's rain)...
The building seemed to grow taller as you moved deeper into it. The leaky skylight illuminated the balcony filled with furniture, and the nail counter tucked in below.  Live plants, needing water at least every other day, draped over the balcony banisters.
But then the building tightened again, as you moved back from the side door, with its crossbar strips and glove counter. Linoleum, in eight-foot rolls, stood a sentinels against the back wall on the front room guarding the double doors, each latched at the top with a spring-loaded tooth, that could be released with the chain that hung from it.
On the other side of the doors,  was the tiny, 30s-era bathroom, with sink outside, two exterior hose bibs underneath (at times with a garden hose attached) and appropriately enough, the wooden bins with the bathroom parts. A steel case with closet bolts, and toilet rods, along with bins of Johnny rings and tank balls. Off to the left, as you looked toward the bathroom, and then the nail counter, was the big wooden rotary cabinet filled with fender washers, and expansion anchors, hitch pins and cotter keys, twirling with abandon.
The ancient scale rested on the corner of the nail counter, complete with inspection stickers from the '20s and beyond, certifying it accurate, and want books slipped between it and the excess weights.
Behind that, was a cave of sorts. Surrounded by dog collars, and horse tack, the coffee percolator topped a steel cabinet covered in contact paper. An aluminum tray, with seven or eight coffee mugs that were washed every day in the small sink, accompanied it like a best friend.
The second stair well (a ladder really) went through the balcony flood there. Customers, and some employees, drinking coffee — liked to lean on it as they told wild tales of times past.
In the back, thought the double doors, the plumbing counter and the high wall of bins of elbows and tees, bell reducers and bushings. Somebody was constantly standing there sharpening their knife on the well-worn oil stone, swapping lies with Merton Taylor at the check-in stand, or the micro-fiche machine.
Further back, the rope machine, and the paint equipment, and open area to receive shipments from Amarillo Hardware, or NW, or wherever —  delivered at the sliding door in the far corner.
And that was just the main building.
Sometimes, late at night or early morning, on a chilly bus (or if I'm lucky enough to ride a train), or in the stuffy space of a cramped plane, I drift back through that building, take a walk back through time, and space, and memory.
She doesn't remember much. And generally, nobody has time for that anymore.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Collectsperts: Maguireville is a world-class museum





Jim and Donna Maguire collect things: cars, wagons, railroads, windmills, phone booths, antiques, stories and friends.
In fact, they have the contents of an entire town tucked, here and there, into a few acres in Monument. Since the early 1980s, or before, they have been working on creating the town of Maguireville. Their Card says they are co-mayors.
With barns bursting at the seams, full of items from the last century, Maguireville has developed into a world-class museum of 20th Century Americana.
"Every piece here has a story," noted former D-38 School District Superintendent Ted Bauman, at a recent fundraiser held there for the current Mill Levy Override effort.
"And some of them are true," Donna joked at the time. "Though he tells it different every time.
If you were to run into Jim down at Serrano's some morning, where with his collection of friends and neighbors, he holds frequent court, you might have a chance to hear one.
He will introduce himself as if he has known you all his life, even if he met you last week. "I've known him for years," Jim says. "I was his parole officer."
He might also joke about Christmas presents he has given Donna, on occasion.
"One year I gave her those branding irons," he says, pointing out irons arranged in a circle on the barn wall.
"And the next year he got those hammers," answers Donna, pointing out another circle.
10,000 pound safes, quarantine huts from old TB sanitariums, well equipment, bells, and even a phone booth or two, make up parts of the collection. An old wooden booth from Southern Colorado was traded for an Overhead Door installation. And British phone booth is there as well, with a story of its own.
"There are three things about the British phone booth acquisition that made it difficult," he starts in. "Number one: It weighs a ton. Two: It's nine-feet-high and it is in a garage with a door that is only eight feet. Three: I need you to come and get it out Thursday, (it was Wednesday.) Those are things you need to keep in mind, if someone says you can have a British phone booth if you come and get it.
Indeed.




Thursday, September 26, 2013

The short and rocky life of The Rocklands


It has been attributed to Mark Twain, but he likely lifted it from others.

Life is short. Break the Rules.

Forgive quickly, Kiss SLOWLY.
Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably
And never regret ANYTHING
That makes you smile.

"For 31 years, Palmer Lake could claim one the finest resort hotels in Colorado. Hundreds of guests from around the country checked in during the season to spend a weekend or enjoy a longer summer vacation at the Rocklands Hotel. Its visitors choose among a variety of local activities: attending session of the Rocky Mountain Chautauqua or other events held in the Glen Park Auditorium; hiking; fishing; playing tennis; riding horses; taking excursions in horse-drawn carriages; and participating in entertainments arranged within the hotel," wrote Daniel W. Edwards in his Occasional Paper No. 4 "The Rocklands Hotel at Palmer Lake."
Dr. William Finely Thompson had the idea of marketing Palmer Lake as a health resort as early 1884. Tuberculosis (TB) or "consumption" as the disease was then known, was widely treated in high altitude areas such as Colorado and Switzerland and the good doctor (and dentist) established the Colorado Hotel and Sanitarium company whose purpose, according to records from the Colorado State Archives,  was to build and operate a hotel and sanitarium at Palmer Lake.
By the fall of 1889, The Rocklands was built with borrowed money. The original plan called for building 20 cottages in addition to the hotel. But by the time the hotel opened, Thompson and Dr. Thomas Gaddes, a dentist (who quickly earned an M.D. at the University of Denver to qualify him) was brought in to serve as superintendent of the Palmer Lake Sanitarium, had little borrowed money left to complete that aspect of the project.
"Limited available evidence indicates the sanitarium neither attracted many patients, nor was it a financical success. In the spring of 1890, Dr. Thompson was unable to make payments due on the promissory notes he signed, and his debts by then totaled thousands of dollars. He and his family departed Palmer Lake and moved to New York in August. Dr. Geddes, who must have known Dr. Thompson's dire financial condition, left Palmer Lake that June to spend the summer at Steamboat Springs," wrote Edwards, in the paper cited earlier.
The Rocklands went through a string of different owners in the next few years, with varying degrees of success.
E.A. Tunnell ran the hotel for nearly three years, and later operated the Broadmoor Hotel and Casino.
Under E.A. Tunnell's direction, at least the dances were well-recieved. For example:
"The (Rocklands) hop Saturday night was almost too well attended. The parlors and verandas were full and dining room, which is used for dancing, was not large enough by half for the occasion. The young ladies wore white organdies and other light fabrics. The costumes of the gentlemen varied from golf to bicycle suits, blue coats and white duck to full black dress suits," according to the Rocky Mountain News of August 8, 1897.
"The Rocklands continues full of contented people. Why not? They are the most comfortably lodged and well fed, all the luxuries of the Denver and Colorado Springs markets are daily shipped in and a first-class chef prepares it."
But despite times of great popularity, owners came and went.
Success at The Rocklands waxed and wained.
The end came with a bang.
"Mrs. Lillie E. Hill was 35 years old, divorced, with three children. She had been a music teacher in Illinois, and was managing a rooming house in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in January 1920. Lillie had just signed a deed from a Denver real estate firm to take over The Rocklands, even though it was the end of August. The hotel normally closed for the winter by October 1, but Lillie may have intended to keep it open all year," wrote Edwards.
"Mrs. Hill and her three children arrived at Palmer Lake on August 31 to take charge of The Rocklands Hotel. So it was on the evening of September 2, 1920, Oliver, Mildred, and Mary Hill went down to the basement of The Rocklands, either to light a water heater or make some adjustment to the generator. They carried a candle or kerosene lantern to make their way in the darkness. The youngsters probably knew nothing about the hotel's lighting system and did not realize the risk they were taking. The instant they drew near to the lead tubing pipes or gas tank there was a violent explosion:"
The Colorado Springs Evening Telegraph described what happened.
"The Rockland Hotel, the oldest hostelry at Palmer Lake,  23 miles north of Colorado Springs, was totally destroyed last night following an explosion at 8:30 o'clock of the acetylene lighting system that shook the entire village and could be heard for miles. Oliver Hill, 18, Mildred Hill, 14, and Mary Hill, 10, children of the proprietor, Mrs. L.E. Hill, who only took over the hotel on Tuesday, were severely burned by the blast from the gas tank. The explosion cause by the children entering the gas room in the basement with a lighted flame where a leak in the system caught the flame and in a second the big frame structure was rocked by the blast. Flame started at once and in a few minutes the building was in a blaze throughout the four stories. Volunteers from the village and surrounding cottages saw the futility of attempting to save the building and concentrated their efforts on protecting property nearby. which was showered with sparks."
Astoundingly, there were no fatalities and the children escaped the blast, and were treated immediately. Thus, ended the short and rocky life of The Rocklands Hotel of Palmer Lake.




Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Turning the radio off on my way in


“9/11” of course, is shorthand for four coordinated terrorist attacks carried out by al-Qaeda, an
Islamist extremist group, that occurred on the morning of September 11, 2001.
The attacks killed 2,977 people.
A dozen years later, nearly every American can recall what they were doing that morning, and has some sort of story.
Maybe not profound, or inspiring, or perhaps even interesting, the stories mark the watershed moment for their owners.
Like many days, today for example, my experience started when I hopped in the car, and headed to work at our office in Woodland Park.
Editor Donna Richards was on vacation that week, and the lead reporter at the time, Charles Jones, was charged with putting together the paper that morning.  Usually, both before and after —even today,  I listen to the news on the radio on my way up the Pass.
But for some reason that day, I snaked my way up U.S. 24 in silence.
It is odd, but I remember John Shubin, who was in charge of publicity for "Cruise Above the  Clouds," was scheduled to meet me that day to go over the upcoming event.
When I arrived at the Courier, at about 8:15 a.m. in 2001, it was surreal how subdued and troubled everyone was. Still completely in the dark, I sensed immediately that something was terribly wrong (but until that moment of arrival, was clueless).
In the days and weeks, and now years, that followed, everyone develops their own reactions, opinions, emotions, and understanding of what that day means.
I recall talking later to my Dad about that, and the similarities of his recollection of the attack on Pearl Harbor, many years prior.
"Before, with Pearl Harbor, we were gathered around, trying to figure out what was happening by listening to a car radio."
But this was different.
"Much more terrifying and real," he pronounced. "I saw the planes hit the building, I saw people leaping, I saw the building drop. I saw them dying."
Since, I have talked to a few who were there in New York, and in Washington, and in planes kept in the air, and others who went there shortly after to help.
I saw the whole experience change people, and it probably changed me.
Todd Vess, a fellow publisher at the time at the Windsor Beacon, was at a conference in Washington then. I recall him telling me later, that what he saw that day, prompted him to scrap the journalism gig, and become a firefighter.
Since that time, locally we have been through the worst fire in Colorado history, and then a worse one, and then another. In the Pass, the guardrails are still choked with debris from a killing flood and slide. We endure wars in the Middle East, theater shootings, correction official assassinations, campus evacuations, and the threat of even worse. But endure, we do.
On this anniversary, 12 years and counting, it is odd that I run into to Vess, once again, as make arrangements to bury my dad. Vess is still a firefighter, and a part-time funeral director,  and we all are still changed.
I plan to turn my radio off on the way in today, when I hop into the car and head for Woodland Park.  We have 'Cruise Above the Clouds' story and photos in this week's paper.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Long-time Dolores resident Wayne Carrigan dies


Everett Wayne Carrigan, long-time resident of Dolores and former Dolores Volunteer Fire Department Chief, died Tuesday night at Windsor Healthcare in Windsor, Colorado. He was 84 years old.

Carrigan was born November 15, 1928, and grew up in the Craig and Meeker area on his father's homestead near Thornburg, (on Morapos Creek) in Rio Blanco County, Colorado. He graduated from Meeker High School and attended Colorado State University, where he recalled sleeping in the Field House in 1946, with a student influx at the school following the end of World War II.

He worked first as diesel truck mechanic in the Detroit, Michigan, area for what he called "Cornbinder" or International Harvester, and in Idaho, Grand Junction, Montrose and later as an auto mechanic in Dolores and Cortez at Kinkade Chevrolet and Keesee Motor Company (among other places). For many years, Carrigan also operated a tow truck for area garages and retrieved damaged and broken-down vehicles on area roads and over the embankments, all over the Four Corners area.

He served two years in the United States Army during the Korean conflict, stationed much of that time at armored tank schools in Fort Knox, Ky.,  and locations in Japan.

Carrigan was married to Patsy Jewell Loveday, of Middlesboro, Ky., on May, 4, 1957, and they have been constant companions since, recently celebrating 56 years of marriage together.

Carrigan was active in town and school organizations, and attended events involving his four children, all of which graduated from Dolores High School, and served on boards and commissions including the Dolores Town Board and Dolores Fire Protection District.

Survivors include his wife Pat, and his four children and their families: Elaine and Tom Andersen, and their three children, of Fort Collins;  Rob Carrigan and his wife Niki Miscovich, and their two daughters, of Colorado Springs; Keith and Angela Carrigan, and their two children, of Bayfield; and Denise Carrigan, of Nucla. He was preceded in death by his father and mother Owen and Cecil Carrigan, his two brothers Cyril (Stub) and Bill Carrigan, and his sister, Evelyn Kruger.

A graveside service will be held Tuesday, Sept. 9, at 10 a.m. at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver. The family suggests memorial donations be made to Dolores Volunteer Fire Department, PO Box 599, Dolores, Colorado, 81323-0599.



Monday, September 2, 2013

Dropping names before the Yankees were strong





It is weird, but I think I ran into Rick "Goose" Gossage when walking the dogs today. 
He was jogging, but said "Hello." 
I thought about legacy, coincidence, high-powered names and old-time baseball. I didn't have my Yankee hat on, and the dogs didn't recognize him, or if they did, they didn't realize he was in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
So much for dropping names.
Long before the Yankees were strong, Carrigan was a household name in Boston, Maine, and all over New England. 
Bill "Rough"Carrigan was "deadball era" catcher and played 10 seasons for the Boston Red Sox. In the middle of the season in 1913, he replaced defending World Series manager Jake Stahl as a player manager. Later, he returned as Boston's manager in 1927 and stayed until 1929. Carrigan was fairly small for major league baseball, only about 5 foot, 9 inches, and weighed about 175 pounds.
"In the spring of 1906 Carrigan was signed to a Red Sox contract by Charles Taylor, the father of Red Sox owner John I. Taylor. Carrigan joined the struggling Red Sox directly in the middle of the season, immediately catching the likes of Bill Dinneen and Cy Young," according to Mark Amour, for the SABR Baseball Biography Project.
The next few seasons established him as a reliable contributor on the field and in the box. 
"In July 1913 the Red Sox were grappling with a series of injuries, fighting among themselves, and limping along in fifth place. Team president Jimmy McAleer fired manager Jake Stahl just months after his World Series triumph, and replaced him with his 29-year-old catcher. Carrigan liked Stahl, as did most of the team, and was reluctant to take charge of a team filled with veterans, many of whom were just as qualified for the job as he. McAleer persuaded Carrigan to take it. The Red Sox were a team fractured along religious lines, as Protestants like Tris Speaker, Joe Wood, and Harry Hooper often crossed swords with the Catholics on the team, including Carrigan," says Amour.
"Smoking Joe" Wood began his baseball career on town teams in the Colorado San Juans, playing for Ouray teams in Telluride, Rico and Silverton, before his outstanding major league run.
"The well-mannered Carrigan earned the nickname 'Rough' for the way he played. He was a well-respected handler of pitchers, and had a fair throwing arm, but it was his plate blocking that caused Chicago White Sox manager Nixey Callahan to say, “You might as well try to move a stone wall.” On May 17, 1909 he engaged in a famous brawl with the Tigers’ George Moriarty after a collision at home plate, while their teammates stood and watched. He had a fight with Sam Crawford a couple of years later, and maintained a reputation as someone who would not back down from a confrontation," according to Amour.
After he replaced Stahl as manager, he led Boston to a second-place finish in 1914 and then, two world championships in 1915 and 1916, stacking up an 8–2 record as a manager in World Series play. Until Terry Francona duplicated the feat in 2007, he was the only manager to have won two World Series titles with Boston. Babe Ruth called Carrigan the best manager he ever played for.
"The most important event of the 1914 season was the purchase, at Carrigan’s urging, of pitchers Ernie Shore and Babe Ruth from Baltimore of the International League. Although Ruth gave his skipper a lot of credit for his development as a player, Carrigan was humble in his own assessment: “Nobody could have made Ruth the great pitcher and great hitter he was but himself. He made himself with the aid of his God-given talents.” Old Rough did allow that his protégé needed quite a bit of discipline, and Carrigan was there to provide it, even rooming with Ruth for a time. Carrigan caught Ruth in his pitching debut, on July 11," wrote Amour.
"In early September 1916, Carrigan announced that he would be leaving baseball at the end of the season. He had actually wanted to quit after the 1915 Series, and had so told owner Joe Lannin, but his owner talked him into the one additional campaign. Carrigan later wrote, “I had become fed up on being away from home from February to October. I was in my thirties, was married and had an infant daughter. I wanted to spend more time with my family than baseball would allow.” He retired to his hometown of Lewiston and embarked on careers in real estate (as co-owner of several movie theaters in New England) and banking. A few years later he sold his theaters for a substantial profit and became a wealthy man."
He returned home to his banking career, eventually becoming president of People's Savings Bank in Maine. In 1946 he was named to the Honor Roll in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, in 1968 was named to Holy Cross College's Hall of Fame, and in 2004 named to the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame. "Rough Bill" Carrigan passed away in a Lewiston, Maine, hospital in 1969 at the age of 85. 
Today, it occurs to me, that legends and names are relative. So much for dropping names.
Our name is written in the dirt alongside the plate. 
But the umpire can sweep it away — the next time there is a close call at home.

Photo information: 
Photo 1: 
Cy Young, Jake Stahl, Bill Carrigan and Michael T. McGreevey, Boston Red Sox Spring Training, 1912.
photo 2: 
Babe Ruth, Jack Barry, Bill Carrigan, and Del Gainer of the Boston Red Sox






Saturday, August 31, 2013

Eastonville rich in history: Ghost town memories from Charles M. Hobbs



In August of 1965, the following firsthand account was related to Jean Evans of Monument. This account was told to her by Charles M. Hobbs, a longtime resident of Eastonville, a once thriving community on the Black Forest’s edge about 12 miles east of Monument. Evans was described as a prolific writer, intensely interested in the historical areas of which she is living. Her conversations with Hobbs have become the definitive source for information about early Eastonville. She published that information in the Palmer Lake-Monument News that year.
“I first saw Eastonville in the spring of 1886, and we lived at that time on the John Smalley place, about seven miles northeast of Eastonville, in the eastern edge of the Table Rock community. In the month of June, I was sent to Eastonville on an errand, as that was the nearest store, and as I stood on the top of the divide, just northwest of the little town, and gazed down the Squirrel Creek Valley, I thought it was certainly a ‘Cattleman’s Paradise,’” according to Hobbs as recorded by Evans.
Eastonville at that time had only about 30 or 40 inhabitants, according to Hobbs, and the railroad from Denver to Pueblo had just been built in 1882. That road was first known as the Denver and New Orleans; and later as the Denver, Texas and Fort Worth and finally, the Colorado Southern.
“The main line did not enter Colorado Springs, but there was a branch line from Manitou Junction, which came to the Springs and the depot was located on Sahwatch, just south of the Puffer Mercantile Company’s location. This was a very busy road for years, and it was the main line for transportation of southern cattle to northern pastures in the spring of the year. There were nine passenger trains each way though Eastonville daily, and numerous freights. The depot was never closed. There were two agents, Mr. Taylor and George Sprout,” Hobbs said.
“The station was first named McConnellsville, Easton was the first post office in that community and was located about one mile north and east of Ayer Ranch on Jonathan Goodrich’s place. The mail was carried there from Colorado Springs, usually on horseback. When it was decide to move the post office to the new railroad station, there was objections raised because of the similarity of the the two post offices Easton and Eaton, and then it was decide to call the new office and station Eastonville, as it has been since.”
The town grew quickly with the advent of rail depot. By 1900, the community had nearly 500 residents and growing business sector.
“The first store in town was owned by John Brazelton. He sold it to John and Orlin Gates. (No relation to Russel Gates.) Then they sold it to Russel Gates Mercantile Co. Russel Gates then proceeded to erect an immense store building, which laid in an ‘L’ shape and had about 400-foot linage and was a two-story affair. Business was good and they soon added a big lumber yard and creamery,” according to Hobbs.
“Mr. Gates was a very energetic man and proceeded to organize stores in nearly all the neighboring towns. He owned the Z Bar Z Ranch on the head of the Big Sandy. Later, he moved to Denver and left James Durkee on the ranch. Mr. Gates was once an unsuccessful candidate for mayor of the city of Denver. The upper story of this big store in Eastonville contained a hotel, a furniture store, and a large hall with a splendid stage,” he said.
“Eastonville was surrounded by a splendid farming community, and huge crops of grain and potatoes were grown.Two-pound spuds were common, and there was a great demand for seeds of these dry land potatoes from other growing centers. No, we didn’t have any price controls then, and we had to take whatever the market was, and that was sometimes 25 cents per hundred weight. Trainloads of potatoes were shipped from Eastonville and Monument. These two towns were the agricultural center, employing many people in loading and shipping. Potato bakes were held in both Monument and Eastonville. John W. Black was the big buyer for eastern markets. But alas, one year, our potato crop failed and never has returned to normal production. However, there is a few potatoes raised, but it took all the profit out of the business to do the necessary spraying and doctoring.”
Also, changes were in the works with the coming of the automobile and with help from Mother Nature.
“When the automobile and truck began to appear on the scene, small towns began to feel the effects of them, and Eastonville and Monument were two of the towns that really felt it. When the flood came in 1935, it so completely demoralized the railroad, that soon it was taken up. The Gates Mercantile Co. began to disintegrate and Mr. Ragsdale took over the Eastonville store and continued to run it for several years. Houses were torn down and moved away. A rural mail route was established from Elbert and the post office at Eastonville was discontinued. The stockyards were torn down. In few years, only a few buildings were left of what was once a very prosperous place.”
Today, you can see a few remnants of old Eastonville by traveling straight east on Baptist Road from Monument, as it turns into Hodgen Road, past the burn scar to where it is at an intersection with Eastonville Road, then south, a little less than a mile, then east onto Sweet Road. Remnants of what was once the town are along either side of Sweet, until (and after) your reach Elbert Road. The Presbyterian Church on the south side of Sweet Road survived for many years as the community center, and is still standing. Eastonville Cemetery is on the corner of Latigo Boulevard and Meridian Road.