Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"Once in a Blue Moon" Fear

One more post before the new year and I was feeling sort of poetic ...

The beginning starts with the end.
Up against the wall.
Every year it is the same,
So many memories,
can’t remember them all.
The calendar rolls at the call of my name,
Swimming in the shadows of the sandstone cliff,
deep, brownish water and slow-moving current.
Into the shallows, down around the bend.
Proud moments and comfort.
Smiles with a gift.
The picture has my history.
My daughter performs with skill.
The youngest wakes from slumber,
hamburgers on the grill.
The dogs remain silent, as the buck stands still.
I saw their face before they died,
Their eyes, they told the story.
“Tempus fugit, son”
— in Latin, “momento mori.”
The end – of the day, the week, the month, the year,
At the end of decade, “Once in a blue moon” fear.
The beginning starts with the end.
Skirt around the wall.
So many memories,
can’t remember them all.

By Rob Carrigan,


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Christmas to you and yours

There is a long-standing Irish tradition that, just before Christmas, you start cleaning out everything. Give everything a good scrubbing. Clear the clutter. Sweep out the carriage house and the front walks. Clean the barn. Paint or whitewash the outbuildings. Mop the floors. Change the curtains. Wash all the linens. Make sure the windows are spotless.
Some say it is to make ready for the Christ child, the new-born king. Some pass it off as preparing for Father Christmas.
The Sioux tribe has a custom, though not necessarily exclusive to this time of year, of calling over all their friends and perhaps a few enemies, and giving away most of their belongings. Just start handing stuff out, the more valued the possessions, the better the person holding the giveaway is reported to feel.
Ben Franklin asked the question “How many observe Christ’s birthday? How few his precepts? O ’tis easier to keep Holidays than commandments.”
In the interest of cleaning things out and giving things away, I have tabbed a few holiday related posts.
May peace and plenty be the first to lift the latch on your door, and happiness be guided to your home by the candle of Christmas.
Nollaig faoi shéan is faoi shonas duit.'
A prosperous and happy Christmas to you.
Please click on the following for Holiday-related stories.
Bing Irish Bowie at Christmas
• Yule log warms through the ages
• Christmas is for everyone, even the dog
• Christmas at Taylor Hardware
• Paper boy in the Christmas card
• Things you can count on

Friday, December 18, 2009

A friend of the Devil is a friend of mine

By Rob Carrigan,

Ask the devil whose side she's on. Evil, I guess, resides in all of our souls. That truth was illustrated in the summer of 1904, when all hell broke loose in the form of the Cripple Creek labor wars.
“Most devilish deed ever committed by any human beings,” screamed the Cripple Creek Times on June 7, 1904.
“The cause of the deaths and injuries was an infernal machine or a lot of dynamite which was exploded by some fiend under the platform of the F. & C.C. (Florissant and Cripple Creek Railroad) depot at Independence, while the men were waiting upon the platform for the train that was to carry them to their homes in Goldfield, Victor and Cripple Creek.”
The terrorist attack ended the lives of 13 non-union miners in Independence, on Bull Hill between Victor and Altman, and another 14 men waiting at the platform were gravely injured. The same issue of the newspaper carried a story about two killed, and many injured, in a riot in Victor, as well as government ordered closing of the saloons in Cripple Creek, searches of the Union Halls, and new sheriff and corner appointed for Teller County after forced resignations. Sheriff Henry Robinson was under intense pressure to resign, according to the Times.
“When the Sheriff was first approached about resigning he refused, but after seeing a rope, which was thrown at his feat, and being informed that the great crowd of angry and determined men who thronged the street outside the building, were anxious to receive him and the rope, he changed his mind, and attached his name to the written resignation.”
By the next morning’s paper, martial law had been declared and by Thursday violence flashed here and there all over the district.
The printing plant of the Victor Record, which less than a year previous, had been forced to close at the hand of Colorado Adjutant General Sherman Bell, was destroyed while the employees were held at gunpoint. The Record, considered a Western Federation of Miners (W.F.M.) mouthpiece, was still smarting from the previous closing in which Bell ordered45 armed militiamen to haul off editor George Kyner and four employees. This time Bell publicly denied any responsibility.
“I had not heard of the damnable outrage done at the Record office. It certainly was not sanctioned by anyone in authority. It was un-American and perpetrators should be punished to the full extent of the law. I cannot express myself sufficiently strong in condemnation. I shall personally investigate this matter and see the guilty parties are punished,” Bell issued in a statement to the Times.
The plant, worth $15,000 at the time, suffered about $8,000 worth of damage, according to Kyner and reported in the Times. The telephone, typewriter, linotype machines, presses and forms were completely demolished.
Eight men, armed with Winchesters and revolvers ordered the men working in the office to “line up and hold aloft their hands. The command was immediately complied with and then work of the destruction started,” said the report.
An editorial on Friday’s Times noted that “If the policy of the Record was obnoxious, a way might have been found for the proper and sensible remedy without resort to an act of vandalism such as that employed.”
This period, labeled “The Black Time” by Cripple Creek historian Marshall Sprague in his book “Money Mountain,” resulted in 225 W.F.M members being deported on one-way trains out of the district.
“The dynamiting of the Independence depot was the ghastly event that made it possible for the mine owners to drive the W.F.M. out of the Cripple Creek and Colorado for good,” wrote Sprague.
Independence, 1896. According to caption, "Horses are facing Vindicator Mine. Gold ore hauled from Ruby Mine (near Orpha May) to Beaver Park Stamp Mill, Love, Co (now Beaver Valley Ranch.) Stamp mill owned by Jenkins & Hemenway of Colorado Springs. 5 mile haul." Photo from
Please see other related stories
• Mad Bomber of Cripple Creek
• Big Bill Haywood

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Building railroads and keeping secrets

Teamsters shouted, rail-toters groaned, sledges rang on spikeheads.

By Rob Carrigan,

Love, pain and money cannot be kept a secret. They soon betray themselves.
But building a railroad? Maybe it is possible — at least long enough to get the job done.
In June of 1887, J.J. Hagerman, president of the Colorado Midland, announced that regular passenger trains would soon be running between Colorado Springs and Buena Vista.
He had one fairly large problem, however.
“He had bought a site for the Midland station near the Santa Fe tracks, but he had no means of getting his trains directly from the Midland’s eastern end of the track, near the D. & R.G’s (Denver & Rio Grande’s Railroads) line, to his depot’s location,” notes John J. Lipsey in a historic paper published by the Denver Westerners in January of 1962.
“On Aug. 15, 1887, Hagerman wrote to one of the Midland’s directors (Busk) in New York: ‘I tried to make arrangements with Evans for use of the street (Moreno Avenue) occupied by the D. T. & G. (Denver, Texas and Gulf Railroad) across this town and made him a liberal offer, but in vain. Therefore we had to ‘jump’ him.”’
“Jumping,” in railroad terms of the times, was the practice of — when negotiation and law suits were determined to take too long, or not likely to succeed — laying track in the middle of the night. Tracks were installed before a court could grant an injunction prohibiting the action. Once the track was down, it seemed to settle the matter and was rarely ripped up.
Hageman had tried to get Dr. John Evans, M.D., president of the Denver, Texas, and Gulf Railroad (one of the predecessors of the Colorado and Southern), to allow the Midland to use the D .T. & G. tracks or to lay a Midland Track on Moreno Avenue. At that time, the area was then used as a yard by C. & S.
At the crux of the matter was regionalism. The Colorado Midland was a Colorado Springs railroad. The D.T. &G. was a Denver outfit that diverted mountain traffic to Denver and away from Colorado Springs. Evans, former Governor of Colorado and founder of the Colorado Seminary (now the University of Denver), interests were aligned with that effort.
So it is not surprising that the Colorado Springs City Council at the time was willing to help counter.
“Hagerman persuaded them to call a secret meeting of the council on Saturday night, when no court was sitting which would issue an injunction. At this meeting and ordinance was quickly passed granting the Colorado Midland a right-of-way across the city on Moreno Avenue,” wrote Lipsey.
“Hagerman was ready. With no publicity he had assembled men, mules, horses, ties, rails, engines, cars, spikes, plates, switches, tools, food, coffee and lights. Plenty of lights — torches, flares, lanterns, and fuel for bright bonfires. The six blocks of Moreno must have looked like a World’s Fair Midway.”
The moment that the ordinance passed, horse-drawn scrapers began working on the elevations and smoothing a roadbed. Ties were place at measured intervals, rails followed and were bolted together and spiked down. Ballast was added and tamped to secure positioning. Engines pushed forward a supply of ties and rails. Teamsters shouted, rail-toters groaned, sledges rang on spikeheads.
“Before John Evans, a faithful Methodist, was ready for church on the Sunday morning that followed, he must have been notified by his agents that the Midland track was laid on Moreno, and that Midland trains were able to load passengers at the Midland depot and depart for Buena Vista. It was no doubt an unhappy Sabbath for Dr. Evans. No court would sit on Sunday. Neither then, nor later, was he able to undo what Hagerman and the Midland had done that Saturday night. And very probably he regretted his refusal to take money for the right-of-way the Midland got for nothing,” wrote Lipsey.
Building a railroad across town could be kept secret, at least long enough to get the job done.

Illustration is "Building the Union Pacific, Nebraska, Woodcut by Alfred R. Waud, 1867"

Friday, December 4, 2009

Raise the glass: celebrate Repeal Day

I think I will get up early tomorrow to celebrate Repeal Day.
Seventy-six years ago, on Dec. 5, 1933, Utah became the final state in a three quarters majority needed to ratify the 21st Amendment. Legal booze was back! The 21st amendment repealed the18th, which of course, called for prohibition of alcohol in the United States.
Until last year here in Colorado, if the date fell on a Sunday, you would not have been able to celebrate by buying booze. In April 2008, Colorado lawmakers passed legislation that eliminated the Sunday ban on liquor sales. The law became effective July 1, 2008.
Colorado, like many states, went dry before the 18th Amendment was ratified in 1919 and went into effect in 1920.
According to, an amazing 2,520 breweries were operating in the U.S. in 1879. New York City at that time supported 75 breweries. The nation's largest brewery, George Ehret's Hell Gate Brewery, sold only180,152 barrels that year and made only 1.5 percent of the country's beer. Today, Anheuser-Busch makes more than 40 percent of the beer brewed in America.
Total beer production in the U.S. in 1879 was 10,848,194 barrels. According to beer production figures for Colorado in 2006 -- more than double that amount, 23,370,848 barrels, were produced here making it the leading state in the nation for gross production.
Colorado excels in making beer. At least a hundred 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 is around today. Tivoli, from Denver, Walters from Pueblo, and Schneider, from Trinidad were all gone by the 1970s.
Today, the number of operating breweries in Colorado is fast approaching the 100 count once again.
Beer for breakfast, anyone?