Monday, December 26, 2016

Bullfights, BS, Soap, Gillett and we are still telling the story

First, and apparently only real American bullfight was a short-lived success

By Rob Carrigan,

The story was so compelling that United Press International was still retelling their own versions of the yarn across the country 71 years later, in 1966.
"One of Teller County's most famous historical events, the nation's first authentic bull fight back in 1895, was recalled this week in a widely circulated article by the United Press International, the wire service feature published by a large number of daily newspapers across the country," noted the Ute Pass Courier in its Dec. 8 edition in 1966.
"The sheriff said, 'Shoot the bull!' and the Governor cried 'Bring on the militia!" — but the only true bullfight known to have been staged in the United States went on to it's blood conclusion," the UPI story dramatically related.
"That was here in Gillett 71 years ago and the humane association that was ag'in it then, is still ag'in today. So are all the states of the Union, where it is outlawed," went on UPI.
"Mock bull fighting,  in which the bull is teased, but neither wounded or killed, has been tried in various parts of the country but without any resounding success and against the continuing protests of the be-kind-to-animals groups.
"Even that first and apparently only real American bullfight was a short-lived success. The promoters of the 1895 were towering 'Arizona Charlie' Meadows, said to be seven feet tall and noted wild west performer of his day, and Joe Wolfe, a wild west show promoter and hotel operator.  They advertised a 'lady' bullfighter but actually the lady proved to be one Jose Marrerro, described by the Denver Rocky Mountain News as a "magnificent figure with a long, shining sword."
Wolfe himself had a legendary reputation as scoundrel, and locally crossed the path of Cripple Creek Crusher (forerunner to Cripple Creek Times) editor E.C. Gard 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 Gillett Flats landed him in jail and fleeing from creditors. But that is part of UPI's yarn.
"'Arizona Charlie' and Wolfe took over the fight at the race track with seats for 500, and 3,000 shouting aficianados  showed up," according to UPI's version. "Written accounts of the bullfight reported that the bull soon began faltering under Marrerro's repeated stabs and the local sheriff was so moved he ran to the promoters to demand it be shot. They said 'no,'  and the fight went on," reported UPI more than seven decades later.
"Another man caught in the middle was Colorado Governor Albert W. McIntyre who wanted to call in the militia to put a stop to the affair but was talked out of it," said wire service version.
"Marrerro was, of course, the victor that historic night of Aug. 24, 1895, although he apparently was not the most accomplished bullfighter extant. In the supreme 'moment of truth,' he missed with his first intended fatal stab, then killed the bull on his second try."
After the first bull, Meadows and Wolfe were arrested and the show was stopped.
"The $5 fines weren't enough to discourage 'Arizona Charlie' and his partner, however, and the show went on the following day.  Apparently though, most of the good folk of Gillett and environs, had had enough. The crowd dwindled to 300,  the fines were upped on the promoters, and that was the end to bullfighting in Colorado," reported UPI more than 50 years ago, 71 years after the only known fight.
Jan Mackell Collins, in her excellent new book,  "Lost Ghost Towns of Teller County" clarified some information and added detail about the bullfights in Gillett, not the smallest of which was the actual stature of "Arizona Charlie."
"The six-foot-six, long-haired, mustachioed man from Arizona must have been startling to the citizens of Gillett," she writes and explains that he started in Payson and Prescott rodeos before working his way into a seven-year stint in Wild West Shows, including Buffalo Bill's traveling troupe. Wolfe's contribution included the purchase of nine and half blocks of real estate. The two partners, after borrowing $5,000 to print tickets and build the 5,000-seat amphitheater, hire matadors, and promote the event with posters faced opposition right from the start.
"The authorities did ultimately stop the bulls and their keepers at the Texas border. But the matadors still came, and Wolfe and Meadows managed to wrangle some local bulls who were anything but fighting bulls. Things took an equally nasty turn when Wolfe invited renowned bunco artist Soapy Smith to set up games of chance outside the entrance to the event. Soapy took so much money from his victims that some of them could not afford the $5 ticket to get in," wrote Mackell Collins.

Photo information:
1. Outside the arena on the first, and most-crowded occasion of the American bullfight in Gillett.
2. Wolfe and Meadows constructed a 5,000 seat amphitheater in Gillett.
3. Wolfe had recently promoted the construction of several hotels in the mining district, including the Clarendon Hotel and the Palace.
4. By the third day of the fights, Aug. 26, 1895, the seats were nearly empty.

Photos by H.S. Poley.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Weekly miracle at Christmastime, and throughout the year

Three main gifts of story telling exchanged

By Rob Carrigan,
After nearly 50 years of knocking around community newspapers at Christmas time, I think it is time to try and distill some wisdom about them. Or if nothing else, some observations.
There are other things involved, but there are really three main gifts from the community newspaper at Christmastime, and throughout the year.
In a nod to short-form story telling ace William Sydney Porter (known by his pen name O. Henry), and his most-known work, let’s call them “Gift of the Magi.”
Porter, in true form of most ink-slingers, wrote a story a week for over a year for the New York World Sunday Magazine. His wit, characterization, and plot twists were adored by his readers, but often panned by critics. And while there in New York, he wrote 381 short stories.
Almost every one of them had a surprise ending.
Which brings us to the first gift.
A valuable community story offers surprise, week in, and week out. Maybe not a jaw-dropping, stun-them-in-their-seat, blow-soup-out-your-nose revelation — but true tidbits that you can’t find anywhere else. And when you read one religiously, and we are doing our job well, you will receive that gift every week, as you read it, and notice something you were not aware of.
The second gift is harder to articulate, but critical for mission, as well.
I call it local character, and it has to do with providing consistent, recognizable, and true-to-community standards coverage, of the personality you strive to cover. That is, a newspaper’s readership, and market, and universe. Local is the key word. And it requires encouraging participation, inclusion, diverse subject attention, and becoming one, with the community.
The third gift we can offer you at Christmas, and every other week, is the hardest to pull off.
Let’s call it the magic. I know, that might sound a bit presumptuous, that we can perform magic on a regular basis with nothing but word processing, digital images and the organization contest that occurs with the weekly miracle.
But I have seen it happen, when we help get the word out about a family in need, or social problem that bedevils the community, or a hero that rises like cream to help us all.
In 1897, Dr. Philip O'Hanlon, a coroner's assistant on Manhattan's Upper West Side, was asked by his then eight-year-old daughter, Virginia O'Hanlon (1889–1971), whether Santa Claus really existed. O'Hanlon suggested she write to The Sun, a prominent New York City newspaper at the time, assuring her that "If you see it in The Sun, it's so." In so doing, Dr. O'Hanlon had unwittingly given one of the paper's editors, Francis Pharcellus Church, an opportunity to rise above the simple question and address the philosophical issues behind it.
I think we can accomplish some of the same kind of magic.
"The Gift of the Magi," Porter’s (O. Henry’s) story about a young couple who are short of money but desperately want to buy each other Christmas gifts. Unbeknownst to Jim, Della sells her most valuable possession, her beautiful hair, in order to buy a platinum fob chain for Jim's watch; while unbeknownst to Della, Jim sells his own most valuable possession, his watch, to buy jeweled combs for Della's hair. The essential premise of this story has been copied, re-worked, parodied, and otherwise re-told countless times in the century since it was written.
And the take-away? Perhaps value does not reside in the gifts themselves —  but in the exchange.

Photo Information: From top, down. 

1. William Sydney Porter (known by his pen name O. Henry).

2. Virginia O'Hanlon, about 1895. 
3. Francis Pharcellus Church, editor for New York Sun.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Words remembered, games called, spell it out, and Paul Simon on Spotify

That is how it goes, and that's how it went

 By Rob Carrigan, with lyrics from Paul Simon,

Thought about a poker game, maybe 30 years ago. Right now I'm in my comfortable chair, listening to Paul Simon on Spotify. Trying to think in story form. The words are sometimes friend ... sometimes foe.

"Seven card stud, ace-high Chicago, low-holy split. Don't forget the pagan babies," he called the game this round.

Click on the URLs to wander with me.

 In a couple of days they're gonna take me away
When the press let the story leak
Now when the radical preacher comes to get me released
Appears all on the cover of Newsweek
And I'm on my way, I don't know where I'm goin'
But I'm on my way, takin' my time, but I don't know where
Goodbye to Rosie, the queen of Corona
Seein' me and Julio down by the schoolyard

 A man walks down the street
He says why am I soft in the middle now
Why am I soft in the middle
The rest of my life is so hard
I need a photo-opportunity
I want a shot at redemption
Don't want to end up a cartoon
In a cartoon graveyard
Bonedigger Bonedigger
Dogs in the moonlight
Far away my well-lit door
Mr. Beerbelly Beerbelly
Get these mutts away from me
You know I don't find this stuff amusing anymore
If you'll be my bodyguard
I can be your long lost pal
I can call you Betty
And Betty when you call me
You can call me Al

They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world's
a sunny day
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So mama don't take my Kodachrome away

Now I sit by my window
And I watch the cars
I fear I'll do some damage
One fine day
But I would not be convicted
By a jury of my peers
Still crazy after all these years
Still crazy
Still crazy
Still crazy after all these years 


 The Mississippi Delta was shining
Like a National guitar
I am following the river
Down the highway
Through the cradle of the civil war
I'm going to Graceland
And I could say Oo oo oo
As if everybody here would know
What I was talking about
I mean everybody here would know exactly
What I was talking about
Talking about diamonds
People say I'm crazy
I got diamonds on the soles of my shoes
Well that's one way to lose
These walking blues
Diamonds on the soles of your shoes  


"Maybe you should play a round of three-toed Pete, to build up your reserves, so you don't have to set the rest of the night out," I said, trying to be helpful.
"Nonsense!" you cried. "Seven card no peek, twos, fours, whores, one-eyed Jacks, and Kings with an axe are wild."
And that is how it went.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Hotel business thrives as thousands take cure

The Monument Hotel was considered one of the finest for complete rest and relaxation when it was built in 1870

By Rob Carrigan,

The 'Camp Cure' and 'West Cure,' as well as other various takes on outdoor cures were popular in Colorado in the late 1800s, which in turn, led to a Hotel boom locally — the likes of which might have made hospitality developer Donald Trump happy 100 years later.
Monument benefited from the popular practice of hospitality building with at least three hotels of its own the early days.
Anxious and tired male intellectuals (including Theodore Roosevelt) were sent West to rough ride, rope steer, and bond with other men.
"Physician Silas Weir Mitchell is perhaps best remembered for his 'Rest Cure' for nervous women, depicted by his onetime patient Charlotte Perkins Gilman in 'The Yellow Wallpaper' (1892). In the harrowing tale, the narrator slowly goes mad while enduring Mitchell’s regimen of enforced bed rest, seclusion and overfeeding. This oppressive 'cure' involved electrotherapy and massage, in addition to a meat-rich diet and weeks or months of bed rest. Historians now view Mitchell’s “Rest Cure” as a striking example of 19th century medical misogyny," said Anne Stiles in a 2012 American Psychological Association publication titled Go rest, young man.
"Less well known is Mitchell’s method of treating nervous men. While Mitchell put worried women to bed, he sent anxious men out West to engage in prolonged periods of cattle roping, hunting, rough-riding and male bonding. Among the men treated with the so-called “West Cure” were poet Walt Whitman, painter Thomas Eakins, novelist Owen Wister and future U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt," wrote Stiles.
"The Monument Hotel was considered one of the finest for complete rest and relaxation when it was built in 1870. It was owned and operated Col. J. Ford and his wife. It had 19 sleeping rooms all furnished and carpeted in the early style. It had an elegant parlor, office and adjoining reading room. Col. and Mrs. Ford came to Monument from Maine," according to local historian Lucille Lavelett in Through the Years as Monument, Colorado.
"The dining room was supervised by Mrs. Ford and her meals were the finest, The windows and the veranda to the West afforded a beautiful view of the mountains and invalids desiring a quiet, comfortable home found the hotel a lovely place to stay. The charges were $2 per day with generous reductions by the week. Others who operated the hotel were Dr. and Mrs. Ballou, Dr. and Mrs. Rupp, and Mr. and Mrs. Roy Petrie. Other hotels in town were Park Hotel, Ironside, and Grand Arm.
"The climate of Colorado is consider the finest of North America," said British explorer Isabella Bird, who in her letters extolled the curative effect of the Colorado climate.
"Consumptives, asthmatics, dyspeptics, and sufferers from nervous diseases, are here in the hundreds and thousands, ether trying the 'camp cure' for three or four months, or settling here permanently. In traveling extensively through the Territory, I found that nine out every ten settlers were cured invalids."
The current location is now where the building for the proposed methadone clinic was being considered and served as the former post office from 1975 to 2000 on Front Street Monument.
The Fords resided themselves, at  175 Second St., about 1875.
A Civil War veteran, Colonel and Mrs. Ford were founding members of the Monument Presbyterian Church in 1874. Their home had the first water system as evidenced by their tank and windmill.
But the hotel boom was somewhat short-lived, as the large wooden frame structures were susceptible to the ravages of fire.
On Feb. 27, 1904, the Park Hotel, and the Post Office at the time, burned. Francis Bell was postmaster, and Clerk of the Presbyterian church.  All church records up to that point were burned. These buildings were on Front Street, south of Second Street.
"I not sure about the the date, but this is the same time, Iron Side Hotel burned. This was near the (Limbach) park," writes Lavelett.
On March 24, 1922, the Monument Hotel burned. Roy Petrie and his wife were operating the hotel at that time, but it was an end of an era for the hospitality business in Monument.

Photo information:
1. Monument Hotel, built in 1870.
2. The South end of Front Street, also known as Five Points to early settlers. The Monument Hotel is the larger building to left of center.
3. Monument Hotel, under Dr. Rupps ownership.
4. Col. J. Ford and his wife.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Coin he gave me has heft, and weight, and size, and art

Not really worth anything to anyone but me

Rob Carrigan,

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