Saturday, September 27, 2008

Reading the paper before I was born

We’re not the nation’s authority on mining, but were not dead yet

By Rob Carrigan,

I was reading an interesting edition of the Gold Rush published a few months before I was born, “the Vacation Edition,’ from Friday, June 30, 1961, Richard W. Johnson, editor.
Of particular note, a column titled “This is Victor.”
“The biggest payroll mines were near Victor and in the early days when they all got paid in gold, there would be a queue of miners three or four blocks long on paydays marching four abreast past the bank to receive their pay. And the golden eagles were piled so high on the paymaster’s tables that the tables had to be reinforced with steel to stand the weight.,” noted one story under the title “This is Victor.”
The city of Victor, according to the paper, was founded in 1893 by the Woods Brothers and named for Victor Adams who fathered the town of Lawrence, southwest of Victor on Wilson Creek in 1892. The Woods Brothers made their original fortune with the Gold Coin Mine in Victor, which they discovered while digging a basement for a hotel. With some of their fortune they built mansions in Colorado Springs on Wood Avenue and other Cripple Creek district miners followed suit to create a “Millionaires Row” that is still partially intact today.
“The only hard money seen in the District now is silver, and silver dollars are still popular with the natives to the delight of tourist,” notes the 1961 edition. “Gold coin went out in 1933, during the Roosevelt’s ‘bank holiday,’ a fact much bemoaned by the miners.”
Gold Rush Days recently, sponsored by the City of Victor, still features a parade, family events, and traditional mining games presented by the Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Company that include loading a one-ton ore cart by hand, jack leg drilling, hand drilling and mucking. Also the historic home and building tours are conducted this weekend as well.
“Victor has been through the years, and still is, Cripple Creek’s chief rival in top honors in the District,” notes the 1961 newspaper. “The other thriving towns have gone with the wind. There are a few residents left in Goldfield, two in Independence, a very few in Elkton and Lawrence and none at all in Cameron, Midway, Anaconda, Altman, Love and Gillette.”
Of the paper itself. “We’re not the nation’s authority on mining, but were not dead yet,” notes a subscription advertisement.
“True, we have what we call our “selective readers” who buy the paper just for the weather column, those who read only “Them Was The Days,” or “The Evesdropper,” and then wrap up the garbage with the rest of our wasted efforts. We have a man in Oklahoma who subscribes because he got cut off from Sears and Roebuck’s mailing list. A few friends subscribe because they don’t dare not to.”
And other content comes into question. “We almost forgot about the editorials. They’re not always good and you won’t agree with us all the time, but a least you don’t have to read them over two or three times to find out what we think. We call a square point a square point. That’s a shovel, in case you don’t dig mining jargon.”

A missed thank you

With an Orange Crush bandana and anything else flashy

By Rob Carrigan,

Life is shaped by experiences and the people you rub up against as you go through it.
Lynn Leavell was a close friend of mine. He grew up directly across Seventh Street in Dolores from me. As kids we catacombed entire city blocks with Tonka Truck tunnels, under sidewalks, through city storm sewer systems and in to neighbor’s yards. In the winter, when city crews created 30-foot piles in the middle of the street, we would tunnel through them as well.
I can’t remember a grade in elementary school when he wasn’t in my class. He had 12 years perfect attendance. I missed a day in third grade. We walked the five blocks to school every day together and Granny (his technically), who was a cook at the school cafeteria, would always offer us something when we arrived.
When we both were 11, we went into business together with a Durango Herald paper route that covered the whole town. He took “upriver,” I had “downriver.” We bought 10-speed bikes with some of the first of that money and rode the all the way to Cortez and back a few times. Our folks were ready to ground both of us for life when they found out, but they were usually about ready to ground us for life. They were probably still cussing us in recent years during their regular “community updates” in front of the Leavell or the Carrigan house or in the unpaved street between.
In high school, he was the student architect and quarterback behind a number of Dolores’ successful Single A football seasons, even though his cousin Scott was the star. That didn’t stop him from being easily the most identifiable Dolores Bear, with an Orange Crush bandana and anything else flashy that Coach Rice allowed him to get away with wearing to perpetuate his regional reputation as a Prima Donna.
We worked together off and on at the hardware store, me being the boss by virtue of six months seniority.
He bought a motorcycle and used to wear this army-surplus leather aviation helmet and old-fashioned aviator goggles with the Orange Crush bandana as he scooted through, the sagebrush, scrub oak, juniper and pinion “downriver.”
Today that whole area is under 500 feet of McPhee Reservoir. I had to buy a motorcycle myself so I wouldn’t miss out on swimming with the “bonedigger” girls at Big Rock. College students from Washington State University and University of Colorado did $7 million worth of archeology in that river valley before water started to backup the eight miles into town. Lynn, myself, and the rest of our friends knew every square inch of the lake bottom.
We had regionally famous run-ins with local history and mythology. We lived true stories. Stories that you could never have imagined on your own — things like brushes with death and catching a local politico with someone other than his wife “buck naked” in a cave. Government agencies are probably still looking for someone to pin a killer phone bill on from the old Graystone farmhouse where we had big ol’ party our senior year. The Graystone two-story was one of the few structures left on the lake bottom for fish habitat. Folks tell me they catch monster trout in that area today.
When we graduated from high school, Lynn, James Biard, and myself pooled our resources and purchased what we were later to decide was an excessive amount of Tennessee sour mash in celebration. James tells me he doesn’t care much for sour mash to this day. Except for medicinal purposes, I avoid it myself.
Lynn went to Mesa State in Grand Junction and I went a year to Fort Lewis College before transferring to Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Dolores kids and folks that we knew from Mancos, Cortez, Dove Creek, Pagosa, Bayfield would run into each other at college, and road trip back and forth with abandon. His friends at Mesa, became our friends at Fort Lewis, and with others we knew at School of Mines, and Boulder, and Western State and CSU and Adams State and Metro and UNC and where ever else we circulated.
Some how after college Lynn ended up in Akron as a teacher and assistant football coach under Coach Rice. When Rice left, he became head coach, and eventually principal of Akron High School. Most years his teams were successful in making it to the state playoffs at least, and by most accounts, Lynn lived at the school. He married, had two boys and one day, after trying to figure out why he couldn’t see as well as he used to, was diagnosed with an inoperable tumor that wrapped around stem of his brain.
For eight years he fought the cancer, and also lived his life, principaling, finishing a masters degree, continuing to coach, teach, raising his kids, working summers for the city as rec department coordinator — and always the Prima Donna, tooling around Akron with a pith helmet on.
One May, having received a call from Lynn’s family informing us that the experimental wafers that they put in his head were not working, myself and another buddy from Dolores, Rusty Hector, went to visit him in Akron. We spent the day going over some of our mutual history and things were pretty normal with him. He remembered with great clarity events in Dolores 20 years hence but seemed to slip a few gears when it came to recalling things he had told us that morning. By the end of August, a few weeks from his 35th birthday, he was dead.
That was more than 20 years ago. I learned a million things over the years with Lynn and from him. There are really two main lessons that I think standout. Life is short — and winning isn’t everything, but trying to win, makes it interesting. I never really thanked him.

Three presidents lost in less than 40 years

Comparing and contrasting now to 100 years ago is an interesting exercise. But context is the difficult variable.
Turn of Century characters today can point to a collective memory of Viet Nam, completion of interstate highway system, the assassination of President John Kennedy, The Civil Rights movement, increased reliance on computers, cell phones and assorted other technology.
But 100 years ago, at the turn of that century, of course they had their struggles as well.
After all, that generation had experienced the American Civil War — pitting brother against brother — the coming of the railroads, the opening of the West, the invention of the electric light, telephone, and automobile, and the implementation of running water.
Through out much of this time, the relatively young nation thrashed about in the violence that was a big part of the America of that time.
As evidence of this violence, the public witnessed was the first assassination of a President of the United States, then the second, and the third, all in a span of less than forty years.
Just five days after the end of the Civil War, actor John Wilkes Booth took President Abraham Lincoln’s life as he attended a play at Ford’s Theater In Washington, D.C. with his wife.
Then, in 1881, after just four months into his presidency, James Garfield was shot by one of his own supporters because he reportedly did not receive a patronage position he felt he was entitled to. The former teacher and college president that could write in Greek with one hand, while at the same time, write in Latin with the other, lay dying in the White House for 11 weeks after being shot.
Then again, on Sept. 6, 1901, William McKinley, sporting his traditional red carnation on his suit coat, offered the carnation (his own personal lucky charm) to little girl in the crowd when, an anarchist produced the fatal shot just as he bent to give the child the flower. He died eight days later.
Today, when we consider how much the world has changed in our life span, and when we evaluate how much it is likely to change by the next turn of the century, I think it is important that we keep some sense of context in perspective. It seems we are relatively civilized in comparison to 100 years hence. Let’s hope the trend continues.

Longhorns on the Goodnight-Loving Trail

Everyone needs a good trail to follow -- especially one marked by history, romance and tradition.
Monument area rancher Stan Searle knows that.
Perhaps that is why he follows in the footsteps of legendary trailblazer Charles Goodnight and his partner Oliver Loving every year, when he leads the parade for the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo with a herd of his Texas Longhorns driven down Seventeenth Street in Denver.
“The Longhorn cattle drive preceding the parade was initiated last year, as the National Western celebrated its 100th birthday,” according to a release from Searle Ranch in 2007.
“Tens of thousands of spectators crowded the sidewalks from Union Station to Tremont Place, fascinated by the sweeping horns and wide variety of colors, genetic trademarks that go back 500 years. Reminiscent of the first Longhorns trailed into Denver 146 years ago, these cattle are the direct descendants of the Spanish cattle brought to the Americas by Columbus. Now dozens of Colorado ranches raise these historic cattle---which a century ago were nearer extinction than the bison.”
At the end of the Civil War, Goodnight returned to Texas and joined in “making the gather” – a state-wide roundup of free-roaming cattle left to fend for themselves during the four years of war, notes New Perspectives on The West, a project initiated by
“Having recovered his herd, however, Goodnight now faced the problem of bringing it to market somewhere outside the war-ravaged South. He decided to head west, toward New Mexico and Colorado, despite the fact that getting there would mean driving the herd across a waterless stretch of west Texas,” notes PBS – The West.
Larry McMurtry’s chronicles in Lonesome Dove were loosely based on Goodnight and Loving’s celebrated achievements.
Loving, who prospered during the war by selling beef to confederate troops, joined forces with Goodnight in 1866.
“They set out with two thousand head to blaze a trail from Belknap, Texas to Fort Sumner, New Mexico, which became known as the Goodnight-Loving Trail. Once in New Mexico, Loving headed north to Colorado, while Goodnight headed back to Texas for another herd. Between them, they had made more than $12,000,” according to PBS – The West.
“Loving’s part in this financial success did not last long; he died fighting off a band of Comanches who attacked him on the trail to New Mexico in 1867. Honoring his partners’s dying request, Goodnight turned back from that cattle drive to bring Loving’s body back to Texas. Over the following years, however, as the Goodnight-Loving Trail became one of the most heavily traveled in the Southwest, Goodnight extended his activities, blazing the Goodnight Trail from Alamogordo Creek, New Mexico, to Granada, Colorado.”
Information from the Searles Ranch notes that the cattle eventually ended up in Denver.
“Passing just east of the present site of Colorado Springs and following Cherry Creek, Goodnight brought his herd of Texas Longhorns into Denver where they were purchased by prominent Colorado pioneer John Iliff.”
Searle, who headquarters just east of Monument and winters his herd near Ellicott, says he and his foreman Gary Lake will have the help of cowboys from other ranches including Kit Haddock of Monument, who ranches in eastern El Paso County, when they push the herd onto the streets of Denver. Searle Ranch has provided Longhorns for other parades and events including annual cattle drives through Colorado Springs to promote the Working Ranch Cowboys Rodeo.
“Longhorns are probably the easiest breed of cattle to handle in a strange environment, even though they come off pastures where they live virtually unassisted year around.” He adds that “they are also the most interesting---not only because of their big horns but because they’re the original cattle of the Americas.”
Searle says the downtown drive helps build awareness.
“We like to let people know that the West is still alive, that ranching and cowboys are still a vital part of the Colorado economy.”

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Chivington's history of contradiction

Chivington put his harsh words into action

By Rob Carrigan,

John M. Chivington was a beady-eyed badger of man with a history of contradiction. Early Coloradans knew him alternately as the “hero of Glorietta Pass,” and “the butcher of Sand Creek.” As Methodist minister, he wielded revolvers from the pulpit, turned down a “praying” commission in the first Colorado Volunteer Regiment of the Union Army for a “fighting one,” and carried great contempt for slavery but advocated genocide.
For about two years beginning in 1865, he owned much of what now the western portion of the city of Manitou Springs.
Ordained by the Methodist Church in 1844, he served as a frontier minister establishing congregations and building churches in the growing west.
“Chivington’s contempt for slavery and talk of secession caused him enormous trouble in Missouri,” according to New Perspectives on The West, a PBS film research project. “In 1856, pro-slavery members of his congregation sent him a threatening letter instructing him to cease preaching. When many of the signatories attended his service the next Sunday, intending to tar and feather him, Chivington ascended the pulpit with a Bible and two pistols. His declaration that ‘By the grace of god and these two revolvers, I am going to preach here today’ earned him the sobriquet the ‘Fighting Parson.’”
His frontier church building duties for the Methodist Church eventually landed him in Denver and when the Civil War began, territorial Governor William Gilpin commissioned him.
He rose quickly among the ranks and as a Major, Chivington commanded a group of 400 soldiers that slipped behind Confederate forces in Glorietta Pass in eastern New Mexico by repelling down canyon walls in a surprise attack that cut off the Confederate supply train. The troops under his charge end up capturing or destroying 500 Rebel horses and mules and 80 wagons loaded with ammunition and food. The Confederate troops were forced to withdraw down the Rio Grande to Texas.
The battle became known as the ‘Gettysburg of the West’ and Chivington and the Colorado Volunteers returned to Denver as heroes.
In Denver, many gold seekers and settlers had reset their sights on a new enemy, as tension between the Cheyenne Indians and the growing white population began to bubble over. Denver newspapers called for the “extermination of the red devils” in front page editorials and urged readers to “take a few months off and dedicate that time to wiping out the Indians.”
Chivington himself was in agreement. “The Cheyennes will have to be roundly whipped – or completely wiped out – before they will be quiet. I say that if any of them are caught in your vicinity, the only thing to do is kill them.”
In late November, 1864, Chivington put his harsh words into action, as his troops attacked well known ‘peace’ Chief’s” Black Kettle’s band of Cheyennes on the banks of Sand Creek in what is now Kiowa County despite the fact that Black Kettle’s band flew an American flag and a white flag of truce over his lodge.
Afterward, the Joint Committee on the Conduct of War, which investigated the incident along with other military investigations, declared:
“Whatever influence this may have had upon Colonel Chivington, the truth is that he surprised and murdered, in cold blood, the unsuspecting men, women and children on Sand creek, who had every reason to believe they were under the protection of the United State authorities, and then returned to Denver and boasted of the brave deed he and his men under his command had performed,” wrote the Committee.
According to, Chivington proclaimed before the attack “Kill and scalp all, big and little; nits make lice.” Between 150 and 184 Cheyennes were reportedly killed and some were mutilated. Most were women, children and elderly men. Chivington and his men later displayed scalps, human fetuses, and genitalia in the Apollo Theater in Denver.
A military tribunal and the earlier-mentioned Joint Committee, condemned Chivington and his men for the massacre but no formal charges were ever brought against him. He was forced to resign his commission and back completely away from state politics to which he originally aspired.
On December 1, 1865, he purchased eighty acres that included natural springs in the Manitou area for $1,800 from pioneers Thompson and Sarah Girten. Chivington kept the property only for about two years and sold it for a loss at $500. Later, in 1884, he sued Manitou Mineral Water Company for water rights that he claimed he still owned. The courts, however, disagreed.
After moving first to Nebraska, then California, then back to Ohio where he farmed and edited a small newspaper, and finally returning to Denver and working as a deputy sheriff, he died of Cancer and is buried in Fairmont Cemetery in Denver.

Irish Pat's walk through history

Murphy lived and walked all over Colorado for many years

By Rob Carrigan,

Common people walk through history. History, however, is a recording of uncommon deeds.
And speaking of walks though history — one of my favorite historic characters lived and walked all over this part of Colorado for many years. Patrick Murphy actually homesteaded near Highway 83, about 6 miles east of Monument, but was known to take off hiking just about anywhere. One of his favorite strolls, was reportedly a stage route from Monument to Florissant.
Born the day before St. Paddy’s Day, 1821, County Cork, Ireland, Murphy hit New York on the east coast of United States in 1864 after 14 days on a steamer named the “Kangaroo.” Once on dry land again, he took off walking, according to Lucille Lavelett, author of “Through the Years at Monument, Colorado.” From New York he walked to Nashville, Tennessee, then on to St. Louis, Missouri, then up the Mississippi River and on to Fort Lewis.
A small wiry man of maybe 100 pounds when soaking wet, Murphy was kept out of the regular army by his citizen status but served Union troops as a cook in the civil war.
“When he passed away at age 105, he was the oldest member of the Knights of Columbus in the world, the oldest man in the state of Colorado, and the oldest rancher in the state of Colorado,.. he lived on his ranch until he was 101,” wrote Lavelett.
“At 101 he ran a race in the main street of Monument with a man many years his junior and won, and danced at a dinner given in his honor that night. At 102, Mr. Murphy climbed halfway to the summit of Pike Peak and was only dissuaded from completing the trip through the intercession of a younger man who was accompanying him who told Murphy he was giving out.”
Uncommon deeds indeed. Murphy was a practicing Catholic and parishioner of St. Peter Catholic Church in Monument, and is buried (near his ranch) in Spring Valley Cemetery in southern Douglas County.

Saddle club and the view from the circle

Old stories become new again

“The pace of events is moving so fast that unless we can find some way to keep our sights on tomorrow, we can not expect to be in touch with today,” __ Dean Rusk, 1963.

By Rob Carrigan,

Often change moves in a circle. Everything old might be new again. It becomes evident when you look at things like the Woodland Park Saddle Club and the names, and history past.
In July of 1950, the local newspaper, Woodland Park View, reported a “Large Parade” and “Exciting Rodeo” for the three-year-old saddle club.
An earlier article outlined how the club came into existence.
“Organized under a large pine tree in the south corner of the ball park, in August, 1947, twelve charter members were present: Mr. and Mrs. Ira Hollingsworth, Mr. and Mrs. Bob White, Mr. and Mrs. Ed Bean, Mr. and Mrs. Tom Atwell, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Maximoff, George Klumph, and sister Catherine, Carl Silbaugh, and Jack Willis. Ed Bean was elected the first president, with Herb Lyons succeeding him,” according to the View, which itself was only in it second volume and year. It was undergoing some changes as well.
“In true editorial fashion the Woodland Park View is going from the old to the new this weekend. Moving from Mrs. Whitmore’s Antique Shoppe where it has been comfortably located for more than two months, the View will make its new home in the very modern United Gas Co. building. We welcome you, your news and your patronage,” noted a front page box in the same issue as the story on the successful Ute Trail Stampede.
“Through the generosity of Bert Bergstrom, new rodeo grounds were made available in the fall of ’49. The new grounds are located in the center of town, south of the business section. With the co-operation of the people of the county and active members of the Saddle Club, the new grounds are being completed with a race track and a grad stand to be built later,” reported the View.
A decade ago,  (in the summer of 2008) Oscar Lindholm, 93 at the time, recalled Bert Bergstrom as a “big, rough, tough Swede, saloonkeeper at the Ute Inn, 231 pounds, that could drink quite lot of beer.”
Oscar said at that at that time he, himself, could put it away as well, but added that he hadn’t indulged in the recent 29 years. Oscar claimed he kept in fighting shape then by walking around the lake in Green Mountain Falls several times each day. “That’s the best medicine. That’s why I’m still alive.”
But Big Bert and Oscar were not alone especially when the Stampede was in town.
“… With the casino blaring away, all the local night spots lit up (and others?) and the square dance at the school ‘fillin’ up the floor’, Everybody had a GOOD TIME,” according the 1950’ article in the paper.
Cowboys and spectator alike agreed, “It is the best arena in the state and so beautifully situated with Pikes Peak and the breath-taking mountain scenery in the background,” reported the View.
The paper itself, published by Kenneth and Margaret Geddes, with Maurine Johnson as the city editor, only operated under that name for about five years, according their son Ken Geddes, Jr. Their son was an attorney in Colorado Springs until his death several years ago . He said when his parents sold the Cripple Creek Times to Blevins Davis, (who renamed it the Gold Rush) the View was discontinued.
“But that is the reason my mother called it ‘The View,’ I think, Woodland Park has that great view of the Peak,” said Ken Geddes, Jr. more than a decade ago.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tom Tobin larger than life

He rode a black horse and wore a black hat, shirt, trousers and boots. He kept two loaded revolvers in his gun belt, one on each side. 

By Rob Carrigan,

If casting someone to play the role of Thomas Tobin, to be authentic, I think you would have to contract a larger-than-life actor of the caliber of a young Clint Eastwood. A legend in Colorado’s history on several fronts, Tobin left his mark.
His father Irish, and his mother a Delaware Indian, Tobin, and his half brother Charles Autobees, arrived in Colorado as early as 1837 with Ceran St. Vrain and worked as trapper and scout for St. Vrain and his partners, the Bent brothers, at Bent’s Fort, as well as Taos, New Mexico.
“Tom Tobin was a picturesque figure. He rode a black horse and wore a black hat, shirt, trousers and boots. He kept two loaded revolvers in his gun belt, one on each side. Although illiterate, Tobin actively supported the local school system and eventually became president of the school board,” wrote Ken Jesson in “Colorado Gunsmoke.”
Tobin also garnered a reputation for being able to “track a grasshopper through the sagebrush” and was skilled with a rifle, pistol and knife. He counted among his good friends, the likes of Kit Carson, “Uncle Dick” Wooton, Ceran St. Vrain and Charley Bent.
It was his tracking ability that got him the job that was to make him famous as a bounty hunter. Jose Filipe Nerio Espinosa and his brother Vivian Espinosa began their murderous rampage in San Luis Valley and had extended it over Ute Pass and into Dead Man’s Canyon near Fountain. One of the Espinosas was killed but Vivian and a younger cousin carried on. Basically, they declared war on all Anglos and by their own reporting, had killed 22 people in Colorado, mostly miners in the California Gulch area from Fairplay to Red Hill, in South Park.
In an interview from Oct. 10, 1946, Kit Carson III, the grandson of Kit Carson and Tom Tobin, and the proprietor of Kit Carson’s Trading Post in Sanford, Colorado, told the following tale of the end of the Espinosa’s reign of terror.
“Colonel (Sam) Tappin considered Grandpa Tobin the best tracker in the country, had him brought in and asked to catch the Espinosas, the reward was not mentioned. Grandpa was told “kill them for humanity’s sake,” nothing said about any reward.”
Tobin tracked them to a draw near LaVeta Pass.
“The Espinosas had been working their way from Colorado Springs going south killing anyone they came in contact with.”
By noticing a bunch of crows circling, Tobin identified the murderous villians’ campsite.
“He found them busy making a meal,” related Kit Carson, III. “The older Espinosa was squatting in front of the fire, while the younger one was hobbling the horses. Grandpa waited till the younger one came near the campfire, not wanting anyone to get away in the heat of battle. Hiding behind a rock, Grandpa sighted in on the older man and shot him, he fell face first into the fire, grandpa loaded a charge and spit a bare ball into the old Hawkin rifle and killed the younger Espinosa.”
Tobin finished off the elder outlaw with his knife and took the Espinosa’s heads in a gunny sack to prove the job was done.
“When arriving at Ft. Garland, the Colonel, some of his officers, and their wives had been out riding, an announcement was made that grandpa was there to see the Colonel. He was brought into a large room where the officers and wives were relaxing after their ride. The Colonel asked, ‘Any Luck, Tom?’ Grandpa said, “So-so,” and he held the gunnysack upside down rolling the heads out onto the floor, ladies were screaming, the officers and Colonel even looked a little green.”
Interestingly enough, Tom Tobin’s son, also Thomas Tobin, was the first state correctional officer killed in the line of duty. On June 26, 1899, Officer Thomas Tobin was stationed at Bridge Seven, a few miles below Florence, during the search for escapee Charles Nichols. Nichols was serving a life sentence for the murder of the marshal of Victor. “In the darkness, one of the sheriff’s posse shot Tobin in the center of his chest, thinking the man on the bridge was the escapee. Tobin was brought back to Canon City in a railroad car; he died a few days later on July 4, 1899,” according to information from the Colorado Department of Corrections.

Weird news in black and white, read all over

Strange things done in Colorado sun

By Rob Carrigan,

With my apologies to Chuck Shepard, local papers show evidence of our own “News of the Weird.”
For example ...
From the Cripple Creek Times of March 19, 1908.
“John McClare, and eccentric Englishman who lived in a dugout down the gulch below the city, was found dead there on Monday, having been killed sometime Sunday or Sunday night by the falling in of Sod of his strange habitation. He was about 55 years old and little was known about him.
He came here about two years ago from Idaho and terrorized the people in the northern part of the county by his strange actions, though he is believed to have been harmless. He was at times confined in the county jail and hospital.
The dugout in which he met his death was practically unfurnished and he slept on the floor. How he maintained a living was a mystery to those who knew him. The county will bear the expense of the funeral.”
• • •
 And one of the regular bound-volume combers pointed out this gem in the January 8, 1972 edition of the Ute Pass Courier.
“A copy of ‘A Lazy Man’s 23rd Psalm’ which appeared in a recent National Grange Newsletter, has been provided for Courier readers as follows:
Society is my shepherd,
I shall not work;
It alloweth me to lie down
on a feather bed;
It leadeth me beside
the still factories,
It destroyeth my ambition,
It leadeth me in the paths of a
goldbrick for politics sake.
Yes, though I walk through the valley
of inflation and deficit spending,
I will fear no evil,
for the welfare agencies are with me.
Their generosity an their staff,
they comfort me;
They prepared the requisitions that filleth my table,
By mortgaging the earnings of
my grand children;
My head is filled with mirth
and my cup runeth over without effort;
Surely, the taxpayers shall care
for men all the days of my life’
And I hall dwell in the house of
a parasite, forever.”
• • •
One of the most bizarre articles that I have seen in recent history however was the front page piece in the Cripple Creek Times of March 4, 1987 about Nip-n-Tuck, the skiing porcupine of Victor.
According to the article, Joe Vanderwalker taught Nip-n-Tuck, the porcupine to navigate the slopes of Victor after constructing wooden poles and skis.
“Joe and Nip-n-Tuck would make their way to the top of the slope. At the top, Nip-n-Tuck received a few pointers and ... and a little push and he was off!
The wind would blaze through his bristles as glided down the tundra-like slope overlooking Victor. He expertly maneuvered around the mineshafts and leach pads. Then he would ease to a graceful sort-of-like-a-snowplow stop.”
 • • •
At times, once again in the Cripple Creek Times of March 29, 1908, the weird could take a turn to the macabre.
“A ghastly find was made on the rear platform at the Midland Terminal railway station here yesterday afternoon and as a result an investigation has been started by the authorities. The object in question is a human hand and arm that has been severed at the elbow, and had been off for three or four years. So old was it that the flesh had turned black and the bones were protruding through the finger tips.”
So there you have it. Local cave-dwellers, conservative poets, prickly celebrity skiers in Victor, folks willing to lend you a hand, or someone trying to twist your arm ... nothing ever seems to change around here.

Local gusher in the oil and gas patch

Though the price of oil has come down a bit in the last few weeks, every time I fill up, I long for the old days of 35-cent-per-gallon gas while at the same time, wishing I opted for a petro-based career as a young buck. It brings to mind our local “gusher” in this area, and our own local “oil and gas patch.”
“The first whispers of oil in old Colorado City were heard in the 1880s and were ephemeral and delicate but insistent,” wrote Inez Hunt in the first Occasional Papers produced by the Pikes Peak Posse in 1979. “The oil wealth which nature poured out in Florence, Colorado, encouraged dreamers to try their luck. Along Oil Creek, near Canon City, there were the occasionally small holes which seeped a smelly but tantalizing black trickle of crude oil into the stream.”
Perhaps being fanned by a hopeful newspaper editor in old Colorado City, the flames of oil passion spread like a gasoline fire as The Iris newspaper in that town reported that 48 prominent citizens had already purchased stock, leases had been signed, and drilling was set to start immediately.
“The year of 1894 seemed to be one of destiny to the oil promoters. Operations of the first well began officially on March 18. The well was named the Iris Well No. 1, to honor one of the most loyal supporters of the project, W.P. Epperson. Epperson was an impprtant civic leader, editor and owner of the Iris, a well-educated man from Illinois. He held the position of police judge and also took a special interest in the fire department. As the owner and editor of The Iris, he was able to see that the city kept informed of the front-page action at the drilling site. He was soon appointed manager of the project. He was a born promoter,” wrote Hunt.
Epperson even had his own house plumbed to use natural gas produced in the Iris Well No. 1 and Iris Well No. 2.
“Prosperity was in sight for the city. The belief was strong that property owners, stock owners – everyone would profit. Premature predictions that gas would be sold to future mining mills to roast their Cripple Creek ores were conjured up again. Also, there was talk of a railroad between Cripple Creek and Colorado City by way of Bear Creek. The oil company no longer begged for buyers of stock. It planned to sell only enough to pay for maintenance; the profits would be divided by fewer people.”
Though Epperson was able to produce enough natural gas to run his own home heating and cooking needs, investors eventually became disinterested when no oil was produced.
“Hard luck dogged Epperson. He tried to persuade the investors to allow him to drill farther up nearer the Trenton limestone strata. The investors were growing tired of feeding money into the seemingly endless maws of wells which produced only pretty paper certificates,” Hunt papers says.
Epperson never completely gave up on the possibility of striking it rich in the oil business but eventually pursued other interests including mining projects, a trunk and harness store and other ventures. His final comment in The Iris before he moved on to Utah in 1909 was, “There is a million dollars still in there.”

Monday, September 15, 2008

Despite the dryness, we still must eat

Not only do we try to grow it, but historically, we have been pretty good at processing, packing and packaging our produce.

By Rob Carrigan,

There is an old saying, batted around in farm circles, that it is so dry in eastern Colorado that the water is wet only on one side. The rest of the state is not that much better off, though you wouldn’t know it from a few weeks’ afternoon storms. Colorado’s annual average rainfall is somewhere near 17 inches a year.
But that doesn’t stop us from trying to grow things.
Irrigated farmland in Colorado – with acreage that trails only California, accounts for wheat on the South Platte and Arkansas drainage, potatoes in the San Luis Valley, peaches in Grand Junction, wine grapes near Palisade, corn in the Olathe Valley and sugar beets in several locations.
Colorado led the nation in sugar beet production for decades until the 1960s with giant firms of Holly, Great Western and National prominent and prosperous locally and nationally.
Not only do we try to grow it, but historically, we have been pretty good at processing, packing and packaging our produce.
As early as 1867, the Rough and Ready Mill opened in Littleton. Irishman John K. Mullen, who was known to be proud of his calloused and stone chip-embedded hands (from years of toiling in the flour mills) built an inland empire of mills, grain elevators, wheat fields in the form of the Colorado Milling and Elevator Company. The company is famous for marketing Hungarian High Altitude Flour that is still popular.
Until high labor costs, coupled with cheap imported sugar cane, virtually killed the sugar business in Colorado in the 1960s, the sweet spot encouraged the establishment of related businesses. Candy makers such as Jolly Rancher in Wheat Ridge, Enstrom’s in Grand Junction, Rocky Mountain Chocolates in Durango, and Russell Stover’s in Montrose can all trace their origins to a strong Colorado sugar industry.
The state is also excels in making beer. Hundreds of breweries have called Colorado home. The first one, Rocky Mountain in Denver, eventually became the Zang Brewing Company and was the largest brewery in the Rockies until prohibition. Only four survived the long dry spell between 1916 and 1934. Of those four, only Adolph Coors has survived continously and is around today. Tivoli, from Denver, Walters from Pueblo, and Schneider, from Trinidad were all gone by the 1970s. Tivoli was resurected a few years ago.
But milk drinkers were not forgotten either. Sinton Dairy, which began in Colorado Springs in 1880, is still with us today; as well as Robinson in Denver, Meadow Gold in Englewood, and Hillside in Pueblo.
“The development of inexpensive tin cans around 1900 gave rise to giants such a Kuner, which started out pickling in Denver in 1872 and merged in 1927 with the J.H. Empson Company,” according to Historical Atlas of Colorado by Thomas Noel, Paul Mahoney, and Richard Stevens. Other local canners include Stokes, specializing in chili, which started in Colorado Springs and later moved to Denver.
In this state, I guess it is not really how much water you have, but what you do with it. We all need to eat.

1965 flood, tornados can't stop independent streak

“Greatest calamity in Colorado history” 

By Rob Carrigan,

In the Tri-Lakes area, citizens have a reputation to uphold for pulling off a grand Independence Day celebration every year. But the last weeks in June and the first weeks of July in 1965 were particularly challenging as area residents dug out, mopped up and began rebuilding in the wake of devastating floods, tornado and mud slides.
“Washouts strand hundreds,” “Flood Claims Three Lives Locally,” and “Tornado Tears through Tiny Palmer Lake,” read the headlines in Palmer Lake – Monument News at the time.
“Wednesday, June 16, 1965, when a tornado hit Palmer Lake, letting loose a torrential rain following a day-long rain. Waters accumulated from the run-off down through East Plum Creek and West Plum Creek, various gulches, converging at the south entrance Castle Rock, washed out all the bridges enroute,” according to the News. “Flooded Plum Creek emptied into the Platte and continued washing out bridges, buildings down through Denver.”
The event was labeled the “greatest calamity in Colorado history” and the flood waters rolled on through Nebraska and Kansas. President Johnson honored Governor John Love’s request to declare a disaster area and crews from Lowery Air Force Base, The Air Force Academy, Fort Carson and elsewhere, offered rescue and support with helicopters, buses and housing. Additional helicopters were requested by Maj. Gen. Joe C. Moffitt, adjutant general for Colorado, from nearby states.
Two women were pulled out from under the rubble of their collapsed houses by Palmer Lake Residents and a crew from the Air Force Academy after Monument Creek washed away the foundations. Over 120 4-H club members stranded at Pinecrest, with 25 adult leaders, were finally ferried across a swollen stream a day later and transferred to a shelter at Churches in Colorado Springs. The historic Little Log Church survived high winds but Rev. Russell Jones lost most of his roof in the adjoining structure. Palmer Lake Postmaster Reda Bradley reported that it blew out windows and ripped the door from the building.
Army and Air Force generators were brought in to provide electricity, Mountain States Telephone, Inc. strung six lines in for emergency service to rescue crews and the 7th Engineer Battalion from Fort Carson brought in water purification equipment. Soldiers and engineers from Fort Carson were able to preserve Monument Lake Dam by stacking hundreds of sandbags at a low point there.
By the July 1 edition of the local paper, water was still flowing in Palmer Lake streets but “it’s drying up and things are looking better.” Grading crews from the Academy continued to help in the cleanup. But area residents didn’t let recent events pull them away from a proper observance of the nation’s birthday.
“The Monument Lake Resort will be the setting for the Palmer Lake – Monument Annual Fourth of July Fireworks Display,” read the paper’s local announcement.
The festival featured a barbecue and was sponsored by the following organizations:
Cities of Monument and Palmer Lake, the Monument-Palmer Lake Kiwanis Club, the Monument Lake Resort, and the Texaco Service Station.
“Everyone is invited to enjoy the Barbecue and to be thrilled by the biggest and best display of fireworks ever presented in this area,” according to an optimistic dispatch in the same News reporting ongoing flood and tornado cleanup efforts.

Air Force Academy is a newcomer






Bootleg whiskey, fox farms, governor's horse ranch, and pioneer cabins

By Rob Carrigan,

In the scheme of things, the Air Force Academy really is a virtual newcomer to this area. Selected as the architect of the massive undertaking, the firm (actually a joint venture of several companies) of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, was not even awarded the contract for the project until July 23, 1954, according to author Steven A. Simon in “The Building of the Air Force Academy,” an article appearing the special publication celebrating 50 years of the Academy. Most of the now well-known buildings on the 18,455-acre military reservation were built in the mid- to late 1950s.
But what came before?
As early as 1860, lumber concerns began appearing in an area later to be known as Husted. In what is now located just about at the North entrance of the Academy, Calvin R. Husted built a sawmill, and by the late 1860s, nearly 200 people lived nearby as the town with many businesses, a church and even a newspaper (Husted Banner) developed around the mill.
“Husted operated the mill for many years. Calvin Husted was one of the earliest county commissioners in El Paso County. He was known as a generous man; during his prosperous years he was said to have given many a handout and grubstake. He died in the poorhouse in Colorado Springs,” wrote Perry Eberhart in Ghosts of the Colorado Plains.
Eventually the sawmill was abandoned but the town survived for years as a shipping point for ranches in the area. The buildings disappeared little by little over the years.
“One of the oldest was the Branding Iron cafĂ©; It became a saloon, then a store, then a post office, and finally a church. The service station and store closed in 1956. The last signs of Husted were completely destroyed with the construction of the Academy and the U.S. 85-87 freeway,” wrote Eberhart.
But prior to then, the little burg had an interesting run. There was even a West Husted and East Husted separated by Monument Creek and positioned alternately near the Rio Grande tracks and the Santa Fe tracks. And at one time the D & R.G. maintained a roundhouse or turntable in West Husted.
“The steam trains had power to pull the freight and passenger trains from Colorado Springs to Husted, but not enough power to pull the steep grade to Palmer Lake to the ‘Divide,’ therefore extra helper engines and crews were kept at Husted,” wrote local historian Lucille Lavelett.
It was an area known for train tragedies as well. Rock Island and Rio Grande trains collided head-on near there in 1888 killing only two people but another wreck in 1909 took the lives of seven and injured nearly 60 people.
Interestingly enough, there was also an early airport there.
“An unwitting precursor to the area’s eventual grand purpose, a small airport and flying school were built in the late 1930s on land currently used for cadet airmanship operations. In fact, Charles Lindbergh rented a plane and flew from this location while a member of the Academy Site Selection Commission,” Simon says.
Additionally, in the canyons west of Husted, bootleg whiskey stills proliferated during Prohibition and cattle rustlers, horse thieves and other undesirables were reportedly hanged in nearby Deadman’s Canyon, thereby giving it that rather dubious namesake.
Fox farms operated near there in 1930s, and former Governor Oliver Shoup owned the Cathedral Rock ranch not far from Husted on what is now Academy land.
Other towns at one time existed on or close to what is now the military reservation. Among them, Pring Siding, Edgerton, Monument Station (on the south end of the Academy), Henry, Borst, and Stanley Camp to name a few. But they each have unique stories of their own.
The Burgess Ranch Cabin, constructed in 1869-1870 by William A. Burgess, remains today in the Douglas Valley housing area on the Academy. It is one of the oldest remaining buildings in the Pikes Peak region and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Three small lodges built in 1929 also remain standing close by.

Cheaper to use the horses?

Today there is a substantial movement back to horsepower 

By Rob Carrigan,
On the ranch, my father said it was sometimes easier and cheaper to use the horses than to get the tractor going, especially for mowing hay. Today, with gasoline headed higher once again, maybe we are getting closer to a time when a bag of oats makes as much fuel sense as feeding the John Deere.
If a person drives around the Tri-Lakes area, there is plenty of horse-drawn equipment now serving as lawn ornaments that once plowed, raked, bailed, cultivated, threshed and dug potatoes.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to know a few of those antique implements’ story? Perhaps there are a few of you out there that know those stories?
Perry E. Gresham tells of a close call while raking hay in “The Divide Country” near Elbert in his book “Growing up in the Ranchland.”
“Ranching and farming in those early days was much more rugged than it is today. The technological revolution has influenced the rural way of life. We did many things that are mechanized today.”
By way of example, Gresham talks of the potential danger. “We had mowing machines drawn by horses. The sickle needed sharpening from time to time, which was accomplished by stone wheel or a hand tool. After the hay was cut, we allowed it to dry for a day or two before we moved in with a horse drawn hay rake. When we worked frisky horses, these were dangerous occupations. I had a team run away when I was raking hay. The bumpy ride knocked me off my seat and down to where the tines were about to roll me over and over. I held on to the reins with the grit of a strong young country boy, and by the grace of God, the horses came to a standstill. I was fortunate enough to avoid an accident with the rake.”
The first half of the 19th Century was an age of discovery for farm implementation. Men like Jerome Case, Cyrus McCormick and John Deere successfully developed huge manufacturing facilities that began producing equipment that made the farming job that much easier than the old “scatch” endeavors up until then, writes Sam Moore in the “History of Horse-Powered Farming in America.”
“By 1900 sophisticated farm machines became available that embodied the principles of many of today’s modern implements. They performed nearly all the tillage, cultivation, or harvesting operations on progressive farms of the day. In some areas steam traction engines were being used for threshing or plowing, but they were too large, heavy and expensive for most farmers. The new implements were virtually all animal-powered. Even after the introduction of gas tractors, automobiles, and trucks during the first decade of the 20th century, the horse and mule population in the United States continued to grow until it reached the all-time high of 26.4 million animals in 1918,” writes Moore.
But for the next two decades, a real push to the gasoline tractors by agriculture colleges, extension agents, and equipment salesmen took its toll and by 1950, hardly anyone was still using draft animals.
Today there is a substantial movement back to horsepower in some organic farming circles as modern-day draft farmers claim farming with horses does less damage to land than gas-powered heavy machinery and reduces reliance on fossil fuels.
But before we get all fired up to switch to back draft-horse farming is this area, we need to consider some other factors.
The historic record indicates that it was a bit cooler and wetter back in the days of horses and hand implements in these parts. Rogers Davis, long-time director of the Lucretia Vaile Museum notes that you couldn’t hope to grow three-pound potatoes and get 383 wagonloads full with dry-land tactics in the modern age. All we need is a little water, and cool weather to go with our horsepower.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Lawton first to legally swing in El Paso County

Two bandits ordered the two streetcar employees to "Throw up your hands."

By Rob Carrigan,

Thomas Lawton, a 23-year-old ranchhand from a spread near Divide, had the dubious distinction of being the first to swing legally for a crime committed in El Paso County.
According to a June 8, 1952, article by Bill Young in the Colorado Springs Free Press, Lawton was sentenced to be hanged on April 13, 1892 for the murder of Colorado Springs streetcar motorman John Heming. Lawton was executed on the gallows at Canon City at 10:19 p.m., Saturday, May 7, 1892.
Lawton and 18-year-old Albert Russell apparently started the chain of events on the moonlit night in August the previous summer when they left their jobs on the ranch near Divide to attend a circus in the Springs.
According to testimony that came out in a later trial, Lawton was sweet on a young lady at Fountain and decided they didn't have enough money to properly enjoy the circus. Thus, they hatched a plan to holdup the streetcar.
At the north end of the Roswell-Cheyenne Canyon streetcar run near the platform, Lawton and Russel encountered motorman Heming and Conductor L. A. Ward on the car about 9:30 p.m., Aug. 6, 1891, and the younger of the two bandits ordered the two streetcar employees to "Throw up your hands."
"I guess not," Heming countered, according to testimony, and he dived for the boy.
As Heming grabbed for the old cap and ball pistol in the youth's hand, his weight carried the struggle out of the cart and on to the platform. At that point, there was a muzzle flash from the other bandit's Colt .41 caliber handgun and Heming stiffened, slumped and loosened his grip on the younger assailant. The two holdup men fled on horseback.
Afterwards, Conductor Ward started the car and sped back into the Springs for help.
"The citizens of Colorado Springs — riled over the death of the popular 40-year-old motorman — immediately organized a posse and put up a $500 reward for the capture 'dead or alive' of the murderers," Bill Youngs' report said.
But it was months before the would-be bandits were apprehended.
In fact, the younger of the pair went to the police with his story of what happened the night of the murder, reportedly because his own life had been threatened by Lawton. He also claimed Lawton wanted to go back and "finish off" the conductor.
Lawton denied everything. But conductor Ward's description (he noted the holdup man was short and slight in build, fair complexioned and with a small mustache) — and other details meshed with Albert Russell's version.
News reports of the trial identified the odd countenance of Russell, however.
"Russell had a rather repulsive face," the news accounts said, "with a retreating yet bulging forehead, wandering eyes, a mouth that retreats from his nose, an underlip behind the upper one and chin still retreating from his very peculiar voice."
The peculiar voice was described as an "English accent which left the carpet about the chair covered with dropped H's before he finished testifying."
Lawton maintained his innocence to the end.
"He was only 24 and when dressed in the new suit made especially for him and was all ready for the gallows, he presented rather a neat and attractive appearance. But he showed signs of weakness about 6 p.m. as the execution time drew near he broke down completely, moaning and wailing in a frightful manner," said newspaper accounts of the execution.
"Shortly after 10 he appeared calmer and all within the death chamber was silent as stepped forward to have the noose adjusted. Little time was lost and 30 seconds after he stepped on the platform, the body of Thomas Lawton was dangling in the air."

Photo Info:
Passengers ride on the Colorado Springs and Interurban Railway Company streetcar number 70 in Colorado Springs (El Paso County), Colorado. Signs on the streetcar read: "Seeing Colorado Springs", "Dangerous Keep Off", and "Visit The Zoo." Harry H.Buckwalter. Photos created between 1890 and 1910.


Road building takes its toll

Paying the toll for progress

By Rob Carrigan,

A few years ago, “Super Slab” discussions about a toll road east of I-25 brought to the fore a long history of toll road building in Colorado and here in the Pikes Peak region. Today, in a related ribbon, you might be backed up for a while in "The Gap," between Castle Rock and Monument.
The Pikes Peak Toll Road helps make the peak the most visited mountain in North America with over a half million visitors annually. It was completed in 1916. And within the last decade, a company called CTRI Incorporated looked at the possibility of building another toll road from Woodland Park into the Divide area. And Gold Camp Road was of course a toll road shortly after the tracks where pulled up.
But at the height of the gold rush in the Cripple Creek District, many access roads in required paying a fee.
“The only road into the district that didn’t charge a toll was from Florissant,” noted local rail historian Mel McFarland. “That is why the railroads were so popular when they arrived.”
Daniel B. Klein, a toll road researcher and Santa Clara University professor, estimates there were at least 350 turnpikes in early Colorado prior to 1902.
“Unlike the areas served in by the earlier turnpikes and plank roads, Colorado, Nevada and California ... lacked settled communities and social networks induced participation in community enterprise and improvement. Miners and merchants served them knew the mining boom would not continue indefinitely and therefore seldom-planted roots, ” wrote Klein.
According to author Mathew E. Salek, road building was a concern in Colorado even in the 1860s.
“When Colorado became a territory in 1861, the Kansas Legislature already had authorized some toll roads and bridges, one of which was the toll bridge over the Arkansas River at Pueblo, built in 1860. Otto Mears built some 300 miles of toll roads in and around the San Juan Mountains, including what is today the Million Dollar Highway, US 550, in the 1880s,” wrote Salek in Colorado Highways: History.
By the 1920s, Salek says the Colorado Department of Highways was spending $2.5 million annually on roads.
“Convict labor was used extensively to build roads in Colorado beginning in 1905,” says Salek. “The materials needed — lime, gravel, and stone — were quarried from an area conveniently located behind the state prison at Canon City. ... Colorado led the country in the use of convict labor until ending it in 1926.”

Varying degrees of verbosity

Running a newspaper 100 years ago was the kind of business that required varying degrees of verbosity -- depending mostly on how much advertisement the paper was able to sell.
And it was true also, that even the ads could become long-winded.
Consider the following item appearing in the Pikes Peak Journal of Feb. 16. 1895.
‘There is one department of industry, which, by the general admission of those engaged in it, is exempt from the stagnation which so largely prevails. Indeed it is in a remarkably flourishing state, and the men and women employed at it are kept busy from morning to night. It is that which deals with the supply of artificial sinews and muscles in order to give to limbs the plumpness and symmetry which nature has denied. The great demand at the present time is for well shaped calves for the legs, and for some time the purveyors of the embellishments could not make out why so many of them were wanted, because the requirements of the ladies of the ballet and burlesque actresses are pretty much the same all the year around, and there was nothing going on to occasion an unusual request for the articles.
“But they have now found out the reason. They are required by lady cyclists who wear knickerbockers, and who, naturally enough, desire to exhibit to mankind the limbs which are not covered by these bulky garments in as shapely and attractive a form as possible. The stuffing required for the purpose must be of the best kind, and it is also necessary that the mold should be well fitting; otherwise the lady cyclist would become a kind of scarecrow on wheels instead of a thing of beauty. The articles, therefore, cost more than the ordinary calves, and it may accordingly be said that the latest fashion among women not only encourages cycle making, but also aids the artistic upholstery of the human figure in the highest form.”
But requirements for space varied wildly. A week later the following entry was more straight-forward and to-the-point.
“Ralph Aldrich, one of the carrier boys for the Journal was attacked Monday night on Ruxton Avenue by a pointer dog belonging to Henry Mueller, and badly bitten in the shoulder and side. The boy is the son Alderman Aldrich, and was delivering papers when attacked. Mr. Mueller took the boy to Dr. Oglibee, who dressed the wounds. The dog was shot.”

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Grand Duke Alexis, celebs, and reality

What he really wanted to do was visit the American West

 By Rob Carrigan,

Though they did not have celebrity and “reality” television then, a Colorado visit by Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff of Russia in 1872 might have made a good pilot.
Perhaps one of the more surreal elements of the trip were buffalo hunting excursions by the Grand Duke led alternately by Buffalo Bill Cody and a young General George Armstrong Custer, four years prior to the battle at Little Big Horn.
Grand Duke Alexis had arrived in New York in November of 1871, and had been hob-knobbing with elites in the East for months.
Dinners at the White House with then President Grant, giving Mayor Medill of Chicago $5,000 in gold for those left homeless from the Great Chicago Fire, and touring the Smith and Wesson factory producing pistols for his father’s army, were all on the agenda.
But what he really wanted to do, was visit the American West.
At a dinner at the White House, Lieutenant General Phil Sheridan wowed him with stories of mine activity in areas around Denver and great buffalo hunts on the plains.
That, of course, led to the Pennsylvania Railroad putting together a five-car special train, headed for the buffalo country of North Platte, Nebraska, and south and west into the Julesburg area of Colorado. Who to guide such important guests?
North Platte’s first resident, Buffalo Bill Cody, also enlisted the help (with the promise of 1,000 pounds of tobacco) of Sioux chief Spotted Tail and 100 Indians of the tribe.
The special train picked up General Custer and other army brass in Omaha and on January 12, arrived in North Platte. There they loaded their meager supplies including three wagons of champagne and Alexis’ personal chef, they headed out on the plain to hunt buffalo.
In the next two days, they killed 56 buffalo, the Duke himself accounting for eight, and in the evenings the 1,000 Indians offered shows involving sham fights, dances and lance throwing.
According to Marshall Sprague’s book, Gallery of Dudes, Cody remarked, “I was in hopes that he (Alexis) would kill five or six more before we reached camp, especially if a basket of champagne was to be opened every time he dropped one.”
Following that hunt, the Duke and entourage was entertained at a grand ball in Denver and toured other Colorado Front Range communities including Golden and Loveland. Disappointed by only the 56 animals slain in the first hunt, Custer and others decided to try additionally in the Kit Carson area of the Colorado plain, near the Kansas border. In one day of that hunt, the Duke killed 12 animals himself and the entire party was able to claim over 200 kills.
“In mid-February, Custer escorted him to New Orleans and to Pensacola in Florida, where he boarded his flagship Svetlanna and sailed for home by way of Cuba,” writes Sprague.
Today, The Krewe of Rex formed in 1872 -- principally to entertain the visiting Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff of Russia continues today as a New Orleans’s tradition.

Photo information:
1. Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff.
2. Duke in full regalia.
3. General Custer, Grand Duke Alexis and Buffalo Bill.

On truth and good stories

Jim Beckwourth crossed all cultural barriers during his 68 years

 By Rob Carrigan,

James P. Beckwourth had a reputation for being able to tell a good yarn.
And that was exactly what he did in dictating his autobiography to Thomas Bonner. Bonner, a Justice of the Peace in the California Gold fields. Of course, he was obliged to add or ‘improve’ certain details about himself in “The Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth, Mountaineer, Scout, and Pioneer, and Chief of the Crow Nation of Indians.”
Amazingly, most of it contained elements of truth.
“… While Beckwourth certainly had a tendency to exaggerate numbers or to occasionally make himself the hero of events that happened to other people, later historians have discovered that much of what Beckwourth related in his autobiography actually occurred,” according to
Born April 6, 1798, in Fredricksburg, Virginia, (his father an Irish American plantation owner and his mother, a Negro slave) Jim Beckwourth was educated by his father and could read, write and spoke Spanish, French and multiple Indian dialects. For eight to nine years, Beckwourth lived with a Crow band. He rose in their society from warrior to chief (a respected man) and leader of the "Dog Clan". According to his book, he eventually ascended to the highest-ranking war chief of the Crow Nation.
 “An often-told story has it that when the book appeared, a group of miners who were well-acquainted with Beckwourth, commissioned one of its members to pick up a copy while on a trip to San Francisco. But the man, being careless, got a copy of the Bible instead. In the evening, he was requested to read aloud from the long-awaited book, and opening it at random, he hit upon and read the story of Sampson and the foxes,” according to
“That’ll do!” one of the men cried. “I’d know that story for one of Jim’s lies anywhere!”
One local story, told by Beckwourth himself, involved the legend of Jimmy Camp. Beckwourth related a tale of Jimmy Boyer (other historians have said his last name was Hayes or Daugherty) “a little dwarf Irishman” who had established a cabin and fort about 10 miles east of what is now the center of Colorado Springs. Jimmy would trade items brought from ‘civilization’ to trade with the Indians for furs.
“His wagon train would follow a segment of the Cherokee Trail (before it was the Cherokee Trail) north from the Pueblo area, and his route was called Jimmy Camp Trail, which gave the name to Jimmy Camp Creek,” writes Perry Eberhart in “Ghosts of the Colorado Plains.”
Jimmy would then light a bonfire on the top of a hill to signal that he had returned and it was time to trade. By all accounts, the Indians liked and trusted Jimmy.
Sometime from 1833 to 1835, however, Jimmy was murdered by Mexican bandits, it is believed.
According to Beckwourth, he and Indian friends of Jimmy, tracked down the murders, slit their throats and hung them by their toes in a nearby tree.
Today, the James P. Beckwourth Mountian Club of Denver pays tribute to the noted storyteller.
“Jim crossed all cultural barriers during his 68 years, and the Club incorporates his life in its activities by storytelling, historical re-enactment and written materials,” says the club’s literature.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Don't shoot the piano player

While you are waiting, be sure to confirm your source

By Rob Carrigan,

Language, its meaning, and the way it travels about, has always been fascinating to me. And Colorado may claim its share of the responsibility for coloring some of that language.
For example, during his 1883 tour of the United States the world-renowned author Oscar Wilde, reportedly noted a sign hanging in Leadville saloon.
“Don’t shoot the piano player; he is doing the best he can,” it read.
The phrase became a colorful western variation meaning roughly the same as “Don’t kill the messenger.”
Mark Twain (Sam Clemons) liked the reference so much he adopted it in some of his lectures, but neither Wilde nor Twain claimed it was their’s originally.
Though it has no known Colorado origins, everyone understands what you are talking about when you use the phrase, “rule of thumb.” It is a rough measure, a general policy and universal guideline.
But if you look hard enough, you will likely find an argument on the origins of that phrase. A commonly repeated story harkens back to English common law and determines the diameter of the stick allowed in wife beating: “If a stick were used, it should not be thicker than a man’s thumb.”
English Judge Francis Buller made a public statement to that effect in 1782, resulting in public outcry, satirical newspaper cartoons and his legacy forever being attached to the statement biographically.
Thumbs, in fact, were used to gauge a lot of things. Tailors once thought, “Twice around the thumb is once around the wrist.” People held up their thumbs to measure distance on the horizon, and as a personal favorite, brew masters stuck a thumb in the batch to determine temperature and readiness.
In the Internet age, tracing a phrase back to the original source can be very tricky. I once mentioned a saying that multiple references placed responsibility for in the hands of Hopi elders in Oraibi, Ariz.
The saying: “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”
Shortly after referencing that in a magazine piece, Bertha Parker, Hopi Press Officer for the Hopi Tribe, contacted me and asked if any tribal elders had said that to me directly.
“A reporter asked me to verify the statement and I have been unable to do so,” said Parker.
“I haven’t been able to pin it down and have checked with religious and traditional leaders. Not each and every individual. The portion you attribute to Hopi seems to be something Hopi may say but the rest of the poem is far from the manner Hopi speaks,” she said.
“Hopi is not insulted or upset. The poem refers to swimming etc. No rivers here. Swimming in foot high mud or clay of gray color,” she noted in an email.
“We appreciate the thoughtfulness and the mention of Hopi in a positive manner. I really am trying to find out who wrote the balance of the poem. It would not surprise me to learn that someone has taken a Hopi statement and added other versions.”
Of course I told Bertha that I was sorry if the reference was incorrect. “No offense taken,” she graciously replied.
Other than that, I don’t what to say, except perhaps “Don’t shoot me (the piano player), I am doing the best I can.”

Monday, September 8, 2008

Message driven home

Or maybe he identified a teachable moment.

By Rob Carrigan,

Communication takes on many forms, of course, but my dad is never one to lecture. He usually doesn’t say much at all. It doesn’t mean he can’t drive a strong message home, loud and clear. I remember vividly one such message on a Sunday morning about 30 years ago.
He roused me early that morning by calling down the stairs to my room in the basement, “You need to help me go get a wreck,” was the explanation. Dad worked as an auto mechanic at local garages and supplemented that by driving a tow truck in the off hours.
Over the years, I had helped him on occasion so the request didn’t come out of the blue. Besides, as a teen waiting on being old enough to drive, I really didn’t have anything going on that morning.
He already had the truck out front because he had spent half the night working on this same wreck. He was just taking a break for breakfast and decided he could use my assistance. Or maybe he identified a teachable moment.
We jumped in the old GMC one-ton and it rattled its way the seven or eight miles upriver to where my dad had been able to drag what had been a 1957 Mercury off of a huge cottonwood tree. Near where the straightaway ends and the river elbow bends around Neilson’s hay barn, the crumpled steel lay on the edge of the highway, barely recognizable as once an automobile.
It was really two balls of sheet metal and iron. Soon as we got there, he lined me out by handing me a hack saw and telling me to cut two strips of metal that connected the two balls of wreckage. “We will cut them apart and haul it in pieces,” he explained.
It took less than 10 minutes to separate the two balls, so he had me gather the hundreds of cassette tapes and other miscellaneous debris strewn for nearly a quarter mile from the cottonwood tree that Mercury wrapped around.
“How fast was this going when it hit the tree?” I asked, amazed at the explosive force that apparently blasted everything in the car hundreds of yards in every direction.
“Too fast,” said my dad in his usually limited discourse, but added, “State patrol estimated more than 130 m.p.h.”
Having helped him before, I had seen my share of blood and gore at some of the wrecks he had gathered up but noticed nothing in that manner with this vehicle.
“What happened to the driver? He can’t have survived,” I asked.
“Nope,” answered my dad. “Found him up there against that other cottonwood,” he said pointing to distant tree down near the river. “Neck broke.”
I guess that why my dad never really had to give me the ‘Don’t drive so fast’ lecture.
I got the message anyway.

Palmer Lake Depot moved to South Park

According to area historian Lucille Lavelett, the Monument Presbyterian Church bell was used to sound the alarm in early years when fire broke out in this area and as result, that bell’s toll signified the loss of a number of historic structures over the years.
The bell tolled the night the Monument Post Office burned in 1904 and then again in 1920 as it burned again. It rang out in 1921 when the original dressmaking shop of Mrs. Limbach was lost and again when the old Iron Side Hotel fell. On March 24, in 1922, Roy and Nellie Petrie heard the bell the evening the Monument Hotel was consumed by flames.
By contrast, in Palmer Lake no bell rang out in 1968 when that village lost one of its most historic structures. But fire was not culprit and the long lonesome whistle of a train may have been more fitting.
“After welcoming travelers for more than 60 years, the Palmer Lake depot is doing a little traveling itself these days,” wrote William Marvel of the Rocky Mountain News late in 1968.
“The ancient wooden structure, decorated with carved fancywork in the Victorian manner, has taken to flatbed truck and is being towed towards a final resting place in South Park.”
In its last years in Palmer Lake, the station was used as an office for the Santa Fe Railroad’s agent that relayed orders to passing train that never stopped. The railroad donated it to a Palmer Lake youth group and as soon as the group realized that its members had no way of getting it off the property, they advertised it ‘for sale.’
Denver advertising executive Shelton Fisher saw the ad and talked to the group’s leader who told him he was selling the building to the first buyer that showed up with $100.
Marvel’s story in the Rocky Mountain News quotes Fisher regarding his immediate interest.
“Thirty-nine minutes later, we were down there. I saw it from the highway and told my wife to write out the check,” he said.
His plans called for having a house mover relocate the structure with a trip of 120 miles that required special dispensation form Charles Shumate, who was then head of the Colorado Highway Department. Part of its route included traveling down uncompleted lanes of I-70 that was known then as the Hampden Avenue Extension, to avoid traffic.
“Once there, it will be set up along with another rail road relic – a wooden caboose given to Fisher by the Colorado and Southern Railway (Burlington),” noted Marvel’s story in the Rocky Mountain News.
Fisher planned to create a bunk house that would sleep ten and connect the two structures with a passageway between them for use as guest ranch of sorts for orphans.
Still, bells and whistles aside, the loss is real even if most can’t remember any of those buildings. It is nice to know where they were.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Martial law declared in the district

One of the most strenuous days in the history of the city of Cripple Creek

By Rob Carrigan, robcarrigan

June 8, 1904, at 2 a.m., Adjutant-General Sherman M. Bell declared martial law in the Cripple Creek Mining District.
“Bell, accompanied by a detail of staff officers, is on his way to Cripple Creek bearing acting Governor Hagott’s proclamation of martial law for the district,” reported the June 8 Victor Daily Record.
“He has instructions to use his judgment as to the need of issuing the proclamation and if he decides that conditions warrant it to place the gold camp under the reign of the military for the second time since the strike of the metalliferous miners began last August.” read the nutgraph under a banner headline.
According to the paper, Bell arrived by ‘special’ at 1:20 a.m. in that morning. “Bell and his escort went immediately to the military headquarters. ... After going over the situation with the officers at military headquarters, martial law was declared.”
Another story commented, “Yesterday was without doubt one of the most strenuous days in the history of the city of Cripple Creek. During the recent occupancy of the city by the military no such excitement prevailed at any time as was manifested throughout the past twenty-four hours. The spectacle of large bodies of armed men, many mounted, parading the streets with Western Federation miners kept the populace on the qui vive all day. Incidents that under ordinary circumstances would furnish column stories for the newspapers were relegated to brief line notices or ignored entirely.”
Under another headline in the same paper reading, “Pictures give rise to talk of conspiracy,” a story points to official assertions suggesting that miners working despite the strike were targeted by the Union.
“The men on these pictures are mostly all numbered and their names are listed on the backs of the pictures. Those who have become union men since the pictures were taken, their names have been scratched out, as are also those who have been killed since that time,” said the Record.
“The mine owners and the military are holding these pictures and indicate these men were marked to have been killed at some opportune time and that the crosses were marked opposite the names of the killed simply to check them off.” Interesting reportage, given the fact that The Victor Record is widely considered by historians to be a pro-union paper.

Rats on the peak?

O’Keefe resigned from the Signal Corps just before Christmas in 1881

By Rob Carrigan,

If you were stuck whiling away the hours almost alone at the top of Pikes Peak for days that stretched in months that stretched into years, chances are you would make up a few stories as well.
Such was the case with Sergeant John O’Keefe of U.S. Signal Corps in the winter of 1876. O’Keefe was sent to Pikes Peak to collect data on weather at the summit. That information on wind velocity, temperature and precipitation, was transmitted by telegraph to Colorado Springs and local newspapers carried the reports. But those reports were just a little too dry for O’Keefe and he decided to spice them up a bit.
“Fourteeners: Attitude & Altitude” a publication produced by the Pikes Peak Library District, notes O’Keefe warnings of giant man-eating rats that co-inhabited the summit area.
“One evening, O’Keefe heard his wife screaming for help. She rushed into the room screaming, ‘The rats! The rats!’ O’keefe wrapped his wife in a sheet of zinc-plated steel to protect her. After putting stovepipes over his own legs, he then bravely ventured out to battle the attacking rats. He beat some of the attacking rodents off with a club as they entered a kitchen window, but the hordes were advancing too quickly. They ate a quarter of beef in fewer than five minutes, and with a heightened taste for blood, the rats advanced on Mrs. O’Keefe. Climbing over each other, some managed to scale the steel wrap, leaving deep lacerations on her face and neck.
“In panic, Mrs. O’Keefe grabbed a coiled wire hanging from the telegraph battery. She tossed this to her husband leaving spirals across the floor. As the rats surged forward, the live coils electrocuted them. The squeals of rats in the throes of death drove the remaining rats into the night.”
Tragically, according to his story, O’Keefe’s infant daughter Erin was also eaten.
In Kenneth Jessen’s 1985 book, “Eccentric Colorado,” Jessen says most O’Keefe’s wild tales were fabrications used to pass the time of day during the long winters.
Jessen writes that O’Keefe resigned from the Signal Corps just before Christmas in 1881. Before leaving the area he was given a banquet in Colorado Springs and toasted with the following:
“O’Keefe, one of the greatest prevaricators, equaled by few, excelled by none. True to his record, may his life be a romance, and in his final resting place, may he lie easily.”

On Gard, making his mark

Ernest Chapin Gard seemed determined to make his mark on the world, even as young man. Evidence of his talents became manifested in a talent for stringing words together.
Perhaps he was thinking along those lines when in 1880 as a 23-year-old newspaperman, he scratched out his moniker above those of members of the gold-seeking Lawrence Party on Signature Rock in Garden of the Gods.
Signature Rock, standing on the sunny side of the North Gateway in the Garden, contains 600 names, many which are of historic significance.
Gard’s name is right at home there.
Gold’s discovery in the Cripple Creek District precipitated Gard and his partner’s race to become the first newspaper in Cripple Creek. He pulled out all the stops to beat William McRea by four days, publishing the first edition of the Cripple Creek Crusher on Dec. 4, 1891. Descendant of the Crusher and other consolidations, The Cripple Creek Gold Rush still published until 2007 when it became incorporated into Pikes Peak Courier View, of Woodland Park.
Gard, and partner W.S. Neal, celebrated the feat by printing in gilded ink — a layer of gold over the regular ink — for the inaugural edition. McRea, four days late and perhaps more than a dollar short, sported vermilion headlines that said “New Gold Field.”
In general, Gard was noted for not trying to hold anything back.
For example, consider his description in a booklet published by the Town of Palmer Lake in 1894 of one local landmark shortly after it was built.
“Estemere House commands one of the most magnificent views in the Rocky Mountains. The lake and both railroad depots lie beyond it, is plainly visible. To the southeast stretch the plains, on which can be seen the village of Monument, and the bewildering scene is lost in the dim distance where the meeting sky and plain unfolds the siren mirage to the vision on the desert waste; to the east are the fertile farms and pine groves of the rich Divide. To the northeast can be seen the pretty pyramidal buttes of Greenland and Larkspur. To the west are the ‘rock-ribbed’ mountains, lofty and sublime. It is a scene which, when once beheld, can never forgotten.”
When legendary scoundrel, Joseph H. Wolfe, crossed his path in Cripple Creek in his administration and management of the Clarendon Hotel, Gard let loose because he felt Wolfe was attracting too much attention by throwing money around the gaming tables and consorting with shady characters.
“This curious hostelry is run by a red-faced, cock-eyed boob who ought to be back in Missouri flats pulling cockle-burrs out of a cornfield,” wrote Gard in the Crusher in the early 1890s. He proved to be on target when later Wolfe’s efforts to organize one of the only bullfights ever held in the United States at the racetrack at Gillette Flats landed him in jail and fleeing from creditors.
Prior to his founding of the Crusher, Gard was already wielding his wit and pen in the Palmer Lake area, founding the Palmer Lake Herald with his brother J.M. Gard, just before incorporation to the town in 1889. On April 2,1889, he was also elected to a two-year term as trustee on Palmer Lake’s first board.
“The Gards, who came to town early with the Daltons, were always prominent in the affairs of the town. Their newspaper, however was several times on the verge of suspending publication due to lack of funds …” notes Marion Savage Sabin in her 1957 book Palmer Lake: A Historical Narrative.
In addition to his business endeavors in Cripple Creek, Gard also published the Pikes Peak Populist and the Westcreek Gold Brick in 1896. An item in the Weekly Gazette in 1893 also had him leaving for the Cherokee Strip with printing equipment and plans for paper there during the Oklahoma land rush at that time.
And possible mining riches in the Palmer Lake area attracted his attention. He and his brother J.M. Gard were listed as directors on the boards of “The Puzzler” and “The Apex” which never produced and were soon abandoned in 1894.
Some of his finest work was involved in a promotional advertising piece for the town of Palmer Lake in the form of a complex pamphlet created in 1894 entitled “The Gem of the Rockies.”
“Though grandiloquent in tone it is full of real facts about the town – its buildings, its industries, its natural resources, its geological landmarks, and the many alluring features of Glen Park were set forth,” notes Sabin.
Gard continued to be involved in publishing concerns in this area at least until 1897, but after that period, though there is mention of newspaper endeavors in the Leadville area after the turn of the Century, his trail becomes faint.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Cattle mutilation, cults and 'copters

“Vigilantes? vs Satan Worshippers” and “Knifed – After Death” or “$10,000 Reward” and “Mutilated Bull Staggers – Dies.”

By Rob Carrigan,

The fall of 1975 was a troubled one for cattlemen and livestock owners in this area. Collective nerves across the state and the rest of the western region were frayed by unexplained cattle mutilations. Speculation of the origin was rampant.
El Paso County Undersheriff Gary Gibs, whose office was coordinating the original investigation with the assistance of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, reported as many 60 mutilations had occurred in Colorado since April of that year, according to an August 10 Rocky Mountain News story by Kathy Gosliner.
U.S. Atty. Robert G. Renner had initiated a probe from his office in Minneapolis utilizing agents from the U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Division and Governor Richard Lamm called the mutilations “one of the greatest outrages in the history of the western cattle industry.”
Regardless of what evidence he was able to offer, Renner attributed the phenomena to cult activity.
“I am convinced there was involvement in some areas,” he said, adding there is “some indication” that certain cultists are involved and travel from state to state, as reported in the News story at the time.
For weeks on end, bold headlines in the Tri-Lakes Tribune proclaimed the attention-grabbing possibilities. “Vigilantes? vs Satan Worshippers” and “Knifed – After Death” or “$10,000 Reward” and “Mutilated Bull Staggers – Dies.”
U.S. Senator Floyd Haskell asked the Denver office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to intervene and the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association and other livestock organizations contributed to the reward fund.
One story in the Tribune suggested that a helicopter has been used by the mutilators.
“Approximately 10 p.m., Monday (Aug. 11, 1975,) the foreman of the Newman Ranch, south and a little east of Franktown, just off Highway 83, along with the ranch owners saw a helicopter land within their 2000 (plus) acre ranch,” says the Tribune. “The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and the Colorado State Patrol were notified and they converged on the Newton ranch. Private vehicles from the ranch aided in the search -- to no avail. Search called off at 11:10 p.m., approximately.”
Even Colorado State University was drawn into the controversy when a necropsy report completed by veterinary staff at the vet school in Fort Collins came to the conclusion that animals sent there for study by investigators were ‘cut with a knife” several hours after death.
Earlier mentions of such mutilations, such as the 1967 Alamosa case of “Snippy,” (the horse’s real name was Lady) reported initially in the Pueblo Chieftain, rose to the surface again and the incidents were blamed variously on UFOs, the government, cults, scavenger animals and even some of the investigating agencies. The reward package from stock growing organizations eventually climbed to $25,000.
A report in mid-September in the Cripple Creek Gold Rush said Teller County Sheriff’s Department had reportedly confirmed two more mysterious cattle mutilations.
“Sheriff Gary D. Shoemaker said Thursday three color photographs, taken by private citizens between Cripple Creek and Florissant with a 35 mm camera, clearly show an unidentified blue helicopter with an unusual V-type tail system. A plain white spot on the side of the craft appears to be some type of material to cover identification numbers.”
“The blue helicopter shown in the photographs identically fits descriptions provided by at least six different witnesses last week. A similar chopper was observed near Gillett Sunday and Cripple Creek mountain estates on Wednesday,” reported the Gold Rush and the Summit County Journal.
“The Sheriff said he is further convinced the blue helicopter visible in three photographs is somehow involved in the mutilations, and that a ground crew is also assisting the helicopter pilot.”
That same week the Pagosa Springs Sun had account of an additional incident in Hinsdale County on the Upper Piedra River and a few weeks later, a former publisher of the Brush Banner, Dane Edwards, who was working on a book about the cattle mutilations, was reported missing. He was never located but also left a substantial trail of unpaid financial obligations.
Additional mutilation reports swirled around Colorado and the rest of the West for much of the remaining decade. In 1979, under pressure from organizations and the public wanting a definitive answer to what was going on; the FBI launched an investigation led by agent Kenneth Rommel. His report, costing nearly $45,000 and encompassing 297 pages concluded, with a few unexplained exceptions, that the mutilations were the result of animals dying through conventional means and experiencing natural predation or other documented phenomena, That report was supported by other federal, state and local investigation conclusions offered by ATF and some local investigators. Others, however dispute the findings to this day.