Sunday, December 27, 2015

Family farms, legacy and traveling Lakota land


"A traveler has a right to relate and embellish his adventures as he pleases, and it is very impolite to refuse that deference and applause they deserve."
__ Rudolf Erich Raspe, Travels of Baron Munchausen



Lingle, Wyoming, 1985

The Treaty of Fort Laramie, an agreement between the U.S. government and the Ogalala, Miniconjou and Brule bands of the Lakota, Yanktonai Dakota and Arapaho, signed in April of 1868, said the Lakota owned the Black Hills of South Dakota and outlined hunting rights in South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana. The Powder River area was supposed to be closed to western expansion by white settlers.
That is all history, of course, but I'm a dedicated traveler of such paths.
There was about 10 and half miles, distance by car from Fort Laramie to the Stage Coach Restaurant in Lingle, Wyoming.
I lived in apartments next door to the Stage Coach, and worked across the street. I ate there almost every day, and knew the owners Sam and Wilma Bingham pretty well, I guess, for a traveler, and a newspaper hack. Wilma's sister, Meriam Bremmer, worked at paper years before, and years after I traveled on.
Back then, it was the height of the farm crisis. We ran auction ads, selling off equipment that families had worked years to accumulate, at pennies on the dollar. Times were more than tough.
In the summer, bikers headed for Sturgis rumbled through in groups and individually, often stopping and parking their Harleys diagonally in front of the Stage Coach, or Rose Bros. Tractor, or the Corner Bar that had once been a bank. I think now it is called "Bitch's Corner Bar," since about 2000, but there was trouble about that name, five or six years later.
There was also a little grocery store. A fabulously popular barber shop was run by a local woman then, and the Lingle City Hall and Post Office was nearby. Lingle-Fort Laramie High School educated the masses, and of course, the red-white-and-blue band shell with the American Flag flying out front, sometimes kept them entertained.
I remember the divorced woman who lived behind me in the apartments seem to have her eye on me, and worked for Sam and Wilma at Stage Coach. Meriam protected me, however, and besides that, I was always working, trying the get the latest Lingle Guide or Guernsey Gazette out, at all hours of the night and day. Plenty of time for lunch, though.
Merriam's cowboy rancher husband Dale would meet us over there, and we usually ate at one big table with Wilma and sometimes Sam (unless he was still cooking) and other stragglers we picked up along the way. Beef and Barley Soup. And maybe a sandwich, or something. Almost every day. Wonderful stuff, for sure.
On Friday nights, I would take photos at the first half of the Lingle football game, then jump in the car and drive to Guernsey thirty-some miles away and shoot part of the second half of that game — then run home and soup film in the tiny darkroom at our office in Lingle. Other nights and days were not remarkably different, with Lingle Council, Fort Laramie happenings, Guernsey School Board, and some kind of feature for both.  That was, when you could get the equipment to work.
We set copy on an old Compugraphic VDT, transferred the five-inch floppy to a silver monster in the back running three-inch light sensitive paper out in galleys, and under the cover of night (in the dark room) process a hundred yards at a time (or, at least it seemed like it was that long).
But the meanest piece of equipment in the place was an old address machine that still used metal address plates to mail the paper.  Meriam was really the only one that could make that work.
Though the stuff was old, the equipment was pretty hearty however. I recall more than once, when the Pat Davarn had to bring Torrington copy over from our sister paper in the middle of the night because their newer stuff was not working and he knew our old silver beast typesetter would slowly grind through it.
My history was made up of bear stories mostly at that time. My travels were colored by them. Much of my first two decades had been spent among the Dolores Bears in an idyllic river valley in southwestern Colorado. I don't think the life I had lived to date, was quite as rough as the wind-blown sugar beet farmers and cattle ranchers in Goshen Hole, by comparison. Family owned farms were in deep trouble.
Even Willie Nelson felt like he had to do something, despite his own troubles.
Farm Aid, a benefit concert first held Sept. 22, 1985 in Champaign, Illinois, was organized by Willie, John Mellencamp and Neil Young. Reportedly nudged forward by comments made by Bod Dylan at Live Aid earlier, the three hoped to raise money to help farmers in danger of losing their farms under the crush of mortgage debt.
80,000 people, and performers including Dylan, Billy Joel, B.B. King, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and others showed up in Champaign,  and raised over $9 million for America's family farmers that September. I was familiar, at least with the name and idea of Champaign, Ill., because I'd heard of it most of my life from the neighbor kids I grew up next-door to. Their parents had moved to Colorado from there, and gone to school at University of Illinois.
The organization is still going strong, but with the money from that first concert, Farm Aid established emergency hotlines for farmers and farm associations. I remember thinking how good an idea that was at the time.  Reason being, I had attended those farmers meetings and seen the anguish on generational agricultural  families about to lose the farm.
Strike that. They were about to lose their whole identity.
While covering a standoff between local police and a long-time farmer who holed himself up in the barn across the road, because he couldn't take the auction process and evaporation of generations of family legacy — I had heard the shot of his own gun that ended it.
Later, in California, I saw a man that lost everything, he said because banks had convinced him to borrow money recklessly prior to the farm crisis. The fellow worked himself to death in his 50s trying to recover ground, and died on the toilet during one of his few breaks in his 18-hour days.
Even their neighbors were sometimes unsympathetic, and of the opinion that they did it to themselves.
The hotlines were a good idea, though. And probably provided gentleness of words — words, like the shot, that can never be taken back.
But as I said, I was just a traveler in that space and time.  According to the treaty of Fort Laramie, the Lakota owned the ground and hunting rights anyway. It was supposed to be closed to white settlers since 1868.
As Willie said, "There is only one map to the journey of life, and it is within your heart."

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Friday, December 25, 2015

Plans for the Forest, now and 50 years ago

The wheels turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine.
I thought about that when considering plans for Pike National Forest — recent plans, and those from 50 years ago.
Just about a year ago in a meeting at Ute Pass Cultural Center in Woodland Park, I asked Pikes Peak District Ranger Oscar Martinez about any specific areas of concern as it pertains to the threat of wildfire.
He  tabbed the Upper Monument Creek landscape.
"We are just beginning a modelling project to take that landscape and look at how to fragment the way that fire moves there. Our intention is to manage the landscape so that we might be able to design treatments to put speed bumps in place should a major wildfire occur."
Carin Vadala, NEPA Planner for the Forest Service is the lead for the Upper Monument Creek Project, and said things were just beginning.
"The Front Range Roundtable identified this area as a high priority treatment area to reduce the risk of large severe fires and to increase the function of the watersheds. They have worked to garner funding through the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Project which will help fund the work done on the forest. The estimated costs are approximately $10 million over a ten-year period or about $1 million a year to implement. The main objective is to create a forest structure that is varied across the landscape and is also resilient to disturbances. The timeline is not completely set because the district is currently working on the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which will be released to the public for review later this year. Once the EIS is finalized it is anticipated that projects will continue for about 10 years," Vadala says.
According to a description in Forest Service reports, "The landscape is highly urbanized with the Colorado Springs metropolitan area dominating on the southeast border and the community of Woodland Park on the southwest. Two smaller communities, Monument and Palmer Lake, border the landscape to the northeast. The U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) is a significant presence on the landscape’s eastern boundary. The USAFA also maintains the private 655-acre Farish Recreation Area as an inholding within the landscape itself. The northern portion of the UMC landscape includes approximately one-quarter (4,407 acres) of the U.S. Forest Service’s Manitou Experimental Forest and 3,409 acres of designated Colorado Roadless Area. The 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire burned across approximately 11,000 acres at the landscape’s southern tip.
Based on these analyses, it recommended over the next 7-10 years, the USFS use a combination of mechanical, manual and prescribed fire treatments to manage conditions on approximately 18,000 acres within the UMC landscape.Back in July of 1966, the USFS released grand plans of another project, perhaps much larger in scale, but having effects in the same area.
"Rampart Range Road could become one of the top scenic attractions in the country if plans now being developed by Pike National Forest planners become a reality," wrote Dave Richter of the Colorado Springs Free Press at the time.
Thomas Evans, Pike National Forest supervisor then, said the project, called the Rampart Range Recreational Way, is recognized nationally as a priority project. He said then that an impact survey of the affected area was being carried out and would be forwarded to the Denver regional office by Nov. 1 (1966) an after study, sent to the Forest Service chief in Washington and eventually to the Bureau of Budget for Congressional appropriation.
The Rampart Range Recreation Way was tied into development of the Monument Rock Recreation Area on the the site of the abandoned Monument Nursery, and the enlargement and proposed opening to the public of Northfield Reservoir No. 5, (part of the Homestake Project)  and construction of Two Forks Reservoir on the South Platte River north of Deckers. At the time, it was noted that not any of the projects had been appropriated.
The Monument Rock area was to have provided all types of recreation facilities, including game areas, an amphitheater, visitor information center, camp and picnic grounds, group picnic concessions, and parking for 560 cars.  It was to be built on the old nursery beds, which are divided from one another by rows of mature trees.
Supervisor Evans said that the idea of a highly developed recreation area was new to the Forest Service then, noting that historically it concerned itself with more rustic facilities as part of multiple use of the forest. "The idea of such recreational facilities, with their concentration of people and activities, is more in line with the National Park Service philosophy," he said.
Also in the works, at the time, was plans for a connecting road between Monument and Rampart Range Road, although no grade had been picked.
"The road could use the old Mount Herman Road or follow a road being built by American Telephone and Telegraph for access to a relay station," it was reported.
"The idea is to provide access to the recreational way for visitors to the Monument Rock area without a long trip via Colorado Springs or Sedalia,"
Plans for further development along the Pikes Peak Toll Road were also included in the proposed recreational study, and it was suggested that Rampart Range Road would be paved and a strip of land on both sides would of the road would be left in a natural state. Private land along the road would be bypassed by new construction, so that no commercial development, which would ruin the road as a scenic way, could occur.
The route was to provide a scenic alternative to Interstate 25 for travelers between Denver and Colorado Springs, Evans said back then, and it would be easily accessible to residents between Fort Collins and Pueblo on the fast-growing Front Range.
About 80 percent of the state's population resided on the Front Range at the time.
"The effect of the recreation way on the economy of the region would be large. Some small cities, such as Woodland Park, which is at the end of the upper portion Rampart Range Road, may receive a substantial economic shot in the arm from the project," it was reported in 1966.
"It is possible the recreation way, which will be similar to a larger one already in existence along the crests of the Great Smokey Mountains, may become important to the tourist industry as the Air Force Academy and Pikes Peak are now."



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Photo 1: Along Rampart Range Road, mid-December, 2015.

Photo 2: Pikes Peak District Ranger Oscar Martinez.

Rob Carrigan, robcarrigan@yourpeaknews.com

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Low-down, dirty, newspaper at Christmas blues




Guy called, "Hold everything." Knows it's late, but wants to get a letter in.
Copy editor started drinking last year's Christmas party, won't stop this millennium.
Story is late, and corresponding wire content doesn't correspond with correspondent.
Advertising promised position, miners knows its not sexy, but wants to market selenium.
Features ran off with printers, and automotive despairs, crestfallen, disconsolate, despondent.
Widows and orphans require more lead, loose paste up, Exacto knife and "Air" again.
Publisher back from Rotary and wants to know what edition donation printed in.
Setting heads, old 7200 Compugraphic and counts don't fit the space for them.
Reporter's dog ate his story. Assignment says, "Follow it around 'til it is in the bin."
"Can't be any more convoluted than last week's, and the same old spin of him."
Old dogs and children. Guess what leads off the on front ten, and then refers in?
Photographer still trying to light just right, uses timer, two pods, models a friend.
The old red suit, white beard, drops his letter, "Yes, Virginia O'Hanlon."

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Monday, December 7, 2015

Bull-riding blues, it is not for the money, and still in search of the real cowboys




A rosin-covered roped tied my right hand to the 1600-pound bull. I straddled the animal and squeezed my knees hard into the indentions in muscle structure of its massive shoulders. Two men, John Tillotson and Grant Schultz, wearing dusty cowboy hats and the regular gear, explained to me what I must do to survive. Though I had met neither of them prior to that night, I sort of trusted them. Had to: they had been in the same position minutes before and I sure didn’t know what I was doing.
Lord knows it wasn’t for the money involved.
I paid $10 for ticket to ride and might have cleared $70 or $80 after gas and food was considered, even if I did win something. That was not likely.
More than thirty years ago I rode a bull for the first time at legendary bareback rider Bruce Ford’s arena in Kersey Colorado. I was reminded of that last week looking at TZ Ranch’s bucking bulls last week. Owner Ty Rinaldo suggested I come out sometime and climb aboard again.
Easily dismissed. But I thought also about what had changed in thirty years.
When the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy in Colorado Springs closed in January of 2005, just as National Western Stock Show was gearing up for its annual run, Bruce Ford was quoted in a Denver Post story by Kevin Simpson. It reopened again on April 9, 2005.
The PRCA headquarters, established in 1979 in Colorado Springs, also houses the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy.
Since 2003, the PRCA has sanctioned events that feature bull riding alone called the Xtreme Bulls tour.
These events are held in conjunction with less than a handful of the PRCA's several hundreds of annual rodeos. Forty PRCA bull riders compete in a select rodeo arena in a one day competition, and the top 12 riders based on scores come back to the championship round. The rider with the most points on two bulls wins the event. The PRCA crowns an Xtreme Bulls tour champion every year.
“Rodeo is making money now, and it’s kind of detracting from what rodeo is all about, ... an American pie kind of deal,” said Ford ten years ago.
According to most reports, the attraction has more than 50,000 visitors a year.
“To some, rodeo is a sport. To others, it’s a business. But to most competitors, rodeo is simply a way of life,” notes the PRCA web site at http://prorodeo.org/hof/.
Way of life or not, it is changing. There is more rodeo on TV, more fans, more rodeos, more prize money, more, more. More than a half million people a year attend the National Western. The PRCA staff consists of about 70 full-time employees, but grows to nearly 100 during the peak rodeo season, according to recent information from the group.
The Professional Bull Riders, Inc., headquartered in Pueblo, was created in 1992 when a group of 20 bull riders broke away from the traditional rodeo scene seeking mainstream attention for the sport of professional bull riding.
“They felt that, as the most popular event at a rodeo, bull riding deserved to be in the limelight and could easily stand alone. Each rider invested a hard-earned $1,000, a few of them borrowing from family and friends, to start the PBR,” according to PBR information.
“Owned today by 44 cowboys, management and Spire Capital, the PBR continues to establish milestones in organizational revenue, bull rider earnings, record breaking performances, and media attention. It still relishes the title of being the fastest growing sport in the country,” according to their information.
But is more, better?
I don’t know. But I think you need to ask some cowboys. Not me, but some real ones.
The bull I was to ride was one of the last ones in the chutes. Someone else who hadn’t ridden very much wanted the one they picked out for me — but one of Ford’s employees told them it was mine.
They got the big red animal in one of the four chutes with a little help from an electronic cattle prod. I could see steam coming up off the back of the bull. Tillotson told me to put my foot between its shoulders and move it around a little, then slowly ease down on to its back. He and Schultz helped put more rosin on a rope and glove they loaned me and explained how to wrap the rope around my hand. So there I was, strapped like a backpack on a beast 10 times my size.
Tillotson asked, “Are you ready?”
“I guess,” I answered nervously and gave them the signal to open the gate.
The bull went the opposite way they told me it would. I handled that fine but then it tried to throw me backwards twice and forwards once. I was off before I knew what was going on. I saw Tillotson coming out to get me after going over the bull’s head. He told me later, only half jokingly, if the bull came after him he was going to hold me in front.
A couple of cowboys chased the animal through the gates and it was over. I had ridden my bull, maybe only for a few seconds, but nevertheless, a ride. It’s something I can still talk about thirty years later. And the money had no bearing on it all.

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Photo Information: TZ Ranch’s bucking bulls are some of the baddest buckers in the business says Owner Ty Rinaldo and suggested I come out sometime and climb aboard again. 

___ Rob Carrigan, robcarrigan@yourpeaknews.com