Saturday, March 29, 2014

The craft: Passed on from one generation to another

Bound to be musical because he was brought up around a piano

By Rob Carrigan,

Fifty or sixty years ago, you could wander into a newspaper office and take up a craft that was pretty much same as it had been for 150 years.
Now, as noted in a recent CBS Sunday Morning story, there is really only one Saguache Crescent, run by Dean Coombs, last of the hot-type publishers.
"The press itself dates to about 1915 -- about as long as the Coombs family has been publishing the Crescent, every week, since 1917. The same intricate choreography -- perfected and passed on, one generation to the next," according to CBS.
"They hooked my baby carriage to the back of that press," Coombs said. "The carriage would go back and forth," rocking him to sleep.
"To put it another way, Benjamin Franklin or Mark Twain could walk into the Crescent office and go right to work. The Linotype machine might be a novelty to Franklin (And Twain lost heavily with an investment in a competing machine which, he claimed, “could do everything a human printer can do except get drunk on Saturday night,”) but the cases of hand-set type would be familiar, as would the mutton quads, rules, dingbats, platen pins, chases, quoins, galley trays, and proof press," wrote the late Ed Quillen, way back in 1995.
"I don't actually think there might even be another newspaper in the world using Linotype," Coombs said. "There are none on the United States."
Another paper I am familiar with, of course, The Courier, had a hot type history. The Courier, which is a direct descendant of several papers from Teller County, was started by one Ernest Chapin Gard, who also founded The Palmer Lake Herald, and the Monument Register, as well as about 20 other papers around the country, 11 of them in Colorado.
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. It is now simply the Pikes Peak Courier.
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.”
To confuse matters a bit more, the Geddes family armed with a loan from the Golden Cycle Corporation,  Kenneth and Margaret, bought the daily Times-Record of the district on 
April 1, 1941. Descendant of the Crusher and the product of consolidations of the Victor Record and the Cripple Creek Times, the Geddes closed on the deal, and then had to turn around and get an eight-page paper out that afternoon.
"We went to the office the morning after we settled the deal and realized we have to fill up eight pages in time to distribute by 5 p.m.," wrote Margaret Geddes in "Gold Camp Indian Summer."
"We discovered how our lives would be changed on the first day. We met the force, which included a foreman, two Linotype operators, two men for general shop work — and then there was Freddie., who admitted he had a difficult time with second grade," Geddes wrote.
"Freddie had a little boy, Eugene, who also had trouble with second grade. Eugene was bound to be musical, his daddy said, 'since he was brought up around a piano.'"
My own history is reflected similarly. Having grown up watching the hot-type Dolores Star being put to bed every week, I was bound to be inked-stained, as I was brought up around a Linotype. The craft, it seems, is passed on from one generation to the next.
And then there is the Dolores Star.
But that is the world of the first newspaper I came in contact with.
The first time I set foot in the Dolores Star, I might have been all of three years old. My next-door neighbors, Larry and Marilyn Pleasant owned “The Star” at that time and their son Andy, was a few months younger than I.
Andy and I played in the attic balcony office, somewhat out of danger of running our tiny fingers through the machinery in busy office below. The Star then, was in between John Lambert’s (the one-legged blacksmith) and Mary Akin’s little shop, but with growing job printing and the tendency for the Pleasants to collect stuff, things were pretty tightly crammed in there. A huge, white, clapboard cabinet contained a few toys in the overhead office but the real entertainment was below.
As the business grew, (and the amount of stuff collected), it became increasingly necessary to find a bigger home for Dolores Star.
The Exon Mercantile Building, built by old man Exon shortly after the town moved up from Big Bend in 1891, was just across what we called Main Street then, and on the corner.
It was a typical turn-of-century, brick building, with decorative cornice work and wood floors, an office up front that looked out on the sidewalk though large windows, and a massive open room with wooden shelves that ran up the walls all the way to the 12-foot pressed tin ceilings. There was another long room extending the length of the building on the side behind the office; and wooden locker-like storage rooms near the back of the open room. Behind them was my favorite ‘old building’ feature of all time — the rope and pulley-powered platform elevator to the basement. Out the back door on the downriver side, was another room that had been the old smoke house. A barn and assorted sheds filled out the property toward the back.
The move of “The Star” building to what formerly constituted Exon Mercantile was quite a deal, as I remember it. Linotype machines, and presses, and other heavy printing equipment rolled across the street on iron pipe, that was moved from the back of the machines, up to the front. Tons of iron inched forward across the street, pushed and pulled by straining men and a few women. Amazingly, I think moving the big stuff took less than a week. But for years afterward, additional items (some involving the newspaper or printing business, but much of it, local historic arcana) continued to collect in the sprawling buildings at the corner of Fourth and Main.
Today, a rusted Linotype parked on the sidewalk, still calls attention to a craft, almost forgotten.


Monday, March 17, 2014

An 'Oh Crap! moment' in Colorado mining history

"The usual shift was about 125 people. It would have killed everybody."

By Rob Carrigan,

We have all been there.

My dad called them "Oh crap! moments," but some are worse than others.

In the mining and exploration industry, my brother tells of the dangerous predicament of 'setting a post' or a concrete plug that blows out of a well head at extreme velocity, destroying everything in its path.

At Lake Peigneur, Louisiana, there was 'the swirling vortex of doom.' Nov. 21, 1980, a twelve-man Texaco drilling crew was forced to stop by loud popping noises, the precarious leaning of the rig, and then a fresh-water lake covering 1,300 acres in about 11-feet of water creates a steadily accelerating whirlpool a quarter of a mile in diameter, with its center directly over the drill site and drops 3.5 billion gallons of water (over about three hours) into Diamond Crystal Salt Mine, just below. Fifty miners are still in the the mine, rigs and other structures are being pulled into the vortex.

"Meanwhile, up on the surface, the tremendous sucking power of the whirlpool was causing violent destruction. It swallowed another nearby drilling platform whole, as well as a barge loading dock, 70 acres of soil from Jefferson Island, trucks, trees, structures, and a parking lot. The sucking force was so strong that it reversed the flow of a 12-mile-long canal which led out to the Gulf of Mexico, and dragged 11 barges from that canal into the swirling vortex, where they disappeared into the flooded mines below. It also overtook a manned tug on the canal, which struggled against the current for as long as possible before the crew had to leap off onto the canal bank and watch as the lake consumed their boat," according to

"After three hours, the lake was drained of its 3.5 billion gallons of water. The water from the canal, now flowing in from the Gulf of Mexico, formed a 150-foot waterfall into the crater where the lake had been, filling it with salty ocean water. As the canal refilled the crater over the next two days, nine of the sunken barges popped back to the surface like corks, though the drilling rigs and tug were left entombed in the ruined salt mine," said the site.

"Despite the enormous destruction of property, no human life was lost in this disaster, nor were there any serious injuries. Within two days, what had previously been an eleven-foot-deep freshwater body was replaced with a 1,300-foot-deep saltwater lake. The lake's biology was changed drastically, and it became home to many species of plants and fish which had not been there previously."

Here in Colorado, just a few years before, there was Lake Emma, and the Sunnyside Mine incident.

"On June 4, 1978, a major physical disaster struck the Sunnyside Mine. At that time rich gold was being mined on the Spur vein under Lake Emma. Although previous core drilling had been done to determine that the mine was a safe distance from the bottom of the lake, 70 feet above.  The lake had been formed thousands of years ago by the scouring action of a glacier. When the glacier passed over the hard quartz-gold vein, it plucked a thin sliver of rock from the downhill side of the vein.  The sliver, about 20 feet in diameter, extended downward about 65 feet below the bottom of the lake," wrote Allen  G. Bird in "Silverton Gold," in 1986.

"On a Sunday afternoon, when the mine crews were at home, lake Emma broke through the spot and emptied thousands of gallons of water and over one million tons of mud into the mine. The crater on the surface was the length of three football fields and about 500 feet wide. The water and the mud had about 1,800-foot fall to reach the American Tunnel level. A 20-ton Plymouth Locomotive parked below the main ore pass was completely flattened. All timber, except for a 200-foot section between "G" and "F" levels, was stripped from the Washington Incline Shaft. All mining tunnels, including the mile-long Terry and the two-mile-long American were filled to the top with mud. Although the mine was insured for $900 million, the insurance company refused to pay any damages. After an expensive court battle, the insurance company was ordered to pay, although they actually paid only about $5,500,000. Had the breakthrough occurred any time other than Sunday, over 125 men would have been killed, leaving no survivors," wrote Bird.

"We all had a close call when Lake Emma  flooded and caved in the mine," said Silverton Miner Terry Rhoades in oral histories captured in "Colorado Mining Stories, Hazards, Heroics, Humor" by Caroline Arlen. " The engineers had actually tested it under the lake for depth. They figured it was a fault going up there, because there was real bad water coming through. They didn't realize it was half full of mud," Rhoades said.
"The guys that were driving that stope — I think it was Fred and Harry Castle — they refused to go to work that Friday night because they said that water was pouring out of there. That Sunday it came through. Luckily nobody was underground. There were places, like where I had been working, where the mud wouldn't have got you, but there was no way you would have been able to make your way out of there, You would have starved to death." 

In the same book, Rick Ernst agrees.

"When Lake Emma caved in and flooded the mine, that was the beginning of the end, right there. The lake was over the mine. I guess they had us mine up too close to it. It was real lucky it waited until Sunday to cave in. it could have happened any other day of the week. Nobody was underground Sunday. The usual shift was about 125 people. It would have killed everybody," Ernst said.

Oh crap!, to say the least.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A true story: Day or two before St. Paddy's, up early

Try to squeeze though there, you devious, sad-eyed, slack jawed, droopy-necked beast

 By Rob Carrigan,

 True story.
A day or two before St. Paddy's Day, and I'm up early. Nothing new. Working on the fence today. Dogs know when, and how, to take advantage of me when the fence is down. 
Last night, that slow-living blue tick was a dark streak on bee line for neighbors spread.
"I'm too familiar," she said. "Expanding my horizons."
Fifty feet of pigwire will put a stop to that.
Cowboys build fence. Wish I was a cowboy.
So about 9:30 a.m., my knuckles are bloody already. I am thinking about beer, and it really is starting to get cold. Staples, stretch, line it up, watch your fingers. This was never this hard before arthritis, bursitis, tendentious and Johnny Unitas. My elbow, my back, my knees, and I'm not one to complain. But why am I thinking about beer, so early?
It is a little known fact that most taste is linked to what you are able to smell. I love the smell of beer.
Hops, When I finish this fence job, I am headed to the brewery.
"IPA will possess a nose of perfumey alcohol, fruitiness, and malt, although newer versions frequently overshadow the malt with strong hops."
Hopped up. I am not afraid of that. Columbian coffee in the morning, and India Pale Ale in the afternoon. But how are we going to make it to afternoon?
The damn fence is done. It is not even noon yet. Let the dogs out. Try to squeeze though there, you devious, sad-eyed, slack-jawed, droopy-necked beast. Tight.

I think I will take a nap. 
Afternoon always has something else that needs done, It is past 4 p.m. when I load them in the back. Those dogs love a ride, and are righteously perturbed. Cars, trucks, cows in the field, pedestrians and God help another dog, when sighted. Bark, Bark, Bark, repeat ....
You meander down to the brewery.  "Stay here, girls. Watch  the back of the car while I go fill this jug up."
They are skeptical but, after all, he is driving.
Chaos, from entry, in the shadow of the hop tower.
"Are you in charge of this weather?" asked a vaguely familiar fellow on my way in, though the wind and snow..
"Cause if you are," he said. "You suck."
A leprechaun-looking fellow with green tail coat, green hat, and sad mutton-chop side burns, is in the way of my approach to business end of the bar.
"Do you have any objection to a leprechaun giving your friendly hug?" asked the green topped, green-coated, green-faced and friendly hugger obstructing the bar in front of me.
Didn't really want a hug, but he was determined. 
"I have whole lot hugs to dispense," he slurred, but he meant it. Because it wasn't St. Pat's until Monday. Just now getting into the swing of it. Two days more, and rare form already.
Sixty four ounces of hopped-up Elephant Rock Ale, I ordered, when finally asked. Medication for fence building. Returned to dog-guarded car.
Dogs asked, "Where have you been? Ladies in kilts, men in stumble, at least,we don't try to dye the river green."
Hate to say it it, but those droopy-jowled, sad-eyed, coon hounds  know what is going  on.  
But, of course, they are not in charge. Not until, the hops take hold. And even then ,,,,
What am I thinking about beer, so early? 
A day or two before St. Paddy's Day.... Mostly, it is the smell, I like. 
In the morning, I will be up early. 
True story.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Tree removal for a safer, more healthy reflection

If you look at it like Mahatma Gandhi, “What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.” 

In the burn area of the Black Forest Fire, thousands of damaged and dangerous trees, are not only making the forest unsafe for people, but also unhealthy for the forest itself.

"Public health, safety and welfare are El Paso County’s chief priorities. All of these are affected by the free and unconstrained use of public property by El Paso County citizens. Hazard trees with roots, trunks and branches weakened by fire can easily topple, posing a serious safety risk to both people and property,"according to the county's statement about hazard removal on their site.
"The Black Forest Wildfire in June 2013 produced many such trees. The first step in making the public safe is for the County to begin removing trees that pose a hazard to the public. The county cannot remove all hazard trees in the burn area but is responsible for the areas that are owned by the county - the areas people use most. The first priority will be removing unsafe trees that are on and adjacent to county maintained roads and trails."
The site explains how hazard tree removal is funded:
• On July 26, 2013, the President declared the Black Forest Wildfire a national disaster. The county, along with Mountain View Electric Association (MVEA), provided estimated costs of the damages incurred and mitigation of dangerous situations to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The costs included hazard tree removal.
• FEMA will provide reimbursement to the county (and MVEA) for 75 percent of the actual costs incurred. El Paso County will pay for the remaining 25 percent.
United States Forest Service (USFS) and FEMA, along the El Paso County established the following criteria to determine which trees are removed.
If a tree is tall enough to fall onto or into a structure, a county-maintained road, or a county- maintained trail, or if a tree’s diameter is six inches or greater, and measured 4.5 feet above the ground on the uphill side of the tree, the tree will be removed.
The county-contracted crews will also remove a damaged tree if it is within county right-of-way, or within 60 feet of a county-maintained trail.
Dead trees, or those likely to die as defined by all needles and/or leaves are burned off; or the crown volume scorched is greater than 50%; or cambium kill circumference is greater than 50% at the base will be removed.
Ceres Environmental will perform the tree removal services and the county, with the assistance of True North Emergency Management, will oversee the work which began last week and will continue until done.
Hopefully, the work will offer a healthy, less-hazardous reflection of our public county property.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Help us to keep the Pass open

The problem in the Pass, of course, is there is no buffer zones between the canyons and communities 

Interestingly, this was written in early March of 2014, more than four years ago. The message still has value today.

By Rob Carrigan,

To many, it offers a path from one world to another. It has been for years.

"The pass includes the towns of Cascade, Chipita Park, Green Mountain Falls, Crystola, Woodland Park, and Divide. It skirts the north side of Pikes Peak through the Fountain Creek canyon west of Manitou Springs, and climbs 3,000 feet to its summit in Divide at 9,165 feet," by description of the Ute Pass Historical Society.

Now U.S. Highway 24 snakes its way up the the old Indian trail as a gateway to the mountains, and to slightly different ways, and a slower pace beyond.

The county of origin's name is even derivative. One of the original 17 territorial counties garnered the Spanish designation El Paso, or “the Pass” in 1861 when Territorial Governor William Gilpin asked the new territorial legislature to extend boundaries across the entire territory. In 1899, when Teller County was carved out, a portion of one county's namesake fell into another.

Today, "26,000 vehicles per day travel on this critical U.S. Highway connecting the Front Range to the mountains," according to a 2014 presentation to Congressman Doug Lamborn created by El Paso County officials.

The presentation noted that the Waldo Canyon Fire, which started June 23, 2012, near Colorado Springs in western El Paso County, killed two people, burned 18,247 acres, destroyed 347 homes, and has required more than $30 million spent on fire recovery and flood mitigation to that date. That does not even consider the amount that the Colorado Department of Transportation has spent.

The problem in the Pass, of course, is there is no buffer zones between the canyons and communities and the ancient path is closed anytime the National Weather Service issues a flash flood warning.

El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark calls attention to an unprecedented coordinated regional effort and alphabet soup involved. The players striving to mitigate flood risk include El Paso County, U.S. Forest Service, City of Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs Utilities, City of Manitou Springs, Flying W Ranch, El Pomar Foundation, Coalition for the Upper South Platte (CUSP), Navigators/Glen Eyrie, Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), U.S. Congressional representation, U.S. Weather Service, just to name a few. The recovery group for 2013, spent more than $30 million and needs ongoing funding to continue and maintain completed projects.

As of September 2013, 45 detention basins had been created, 30,560 feet of reshaped channels worked, 2,383 derbis deflectors installed, and 89 hand treatments completed to reduce catastrophic events.

But this is what the collective recovery group has identified as what they need.

• Emergency Watershed Protection Program funds to initiate and complete mitigation projects.
• Funds to restore healthy forests and prevent catastrophic wildfires and damage to watersheds and communities.
• Aid for healthy forests and hazardous fuel reduction.
• Continuation of Good Neighbor Authority and Forest Stewardship Program under the Farm Bill, critical in mitigation projects.
• Fund (Hazard Mitigation Grant Program) needed to purchase private property that is repeatedly flooded to reduce long-term risk and insured losses.

Perhaps, with some success in securing these needs, the path from one world to another can remain open and accessible, as it has been for years.