Sunday, September 22, 2019

Ain't never been to heaven, but been to Oklahoma

By Rob Carrigan, robcarrigan1@gmail.com

I think it was Mae West that postulated that “Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often.” Along those lines, one of my favorite characters from the 1960s and early 1970s was
American folk music singer-songwriter, guitarist, and a film and television actor Hoyt Axton.
I was drawn to coincidence, and surprised by how often the fellow's name popped up when I found something that I liked — when I was just a kid.

"Joy to the World," for example, is a song written by Hoyt Axton and made famous by the band Three Dog Night. The song is also popularly known by its opening lyric, "Jeremiah was a bullfrog." 
The song, which has been described by members of Three Dog Night as a "kid's song" and a "silly song," topped the singles charts in North America, was certified gold and has since been covered by many different artists.

The song is featured prominently in the film The Big Chill. It is sung by a child character at the beginning and the Three Dog Night recording is played over the end credits.

For Colorado ties: It is also played at the end of every Denver Broncos home victory. Notable playings of this song after Broncos victories included then-Chicago Bears head coach Abe Gibron's singing along with the song in 1973; and at the end of Super Bowl XXXII, played at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. It was also played at the end of Super Bowl XXXIII at Pro Player (now Hard Rock) Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida and Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, California.

Other songs notably written by Axton include "The Pusher," made famous by the 1969 movie Easy Rider which used Steppenwolf's version, Ringo Starr's hit "No No Song", and Kingston Trio blockbuster "Greenback Dollar," "Della and the Dealer", and also "Never Been to Spain," also by Three Dog Night.

Louis Weltzer, writing for Ralston Creek Review notes that Hoyt Axton was born on March 25, 1938, making him 31 years old when My Griffin Is Gone was released.  He was old enough and smart enough to understand that he needed to overcome his problems with substance abuse, and it was during this period – the late 1960s and early ’70s – that he wrote some of his best anti-drug songs.  Here, in Colorado, we run into a relative obscure offering on the subject of getting and trying to stay clean,  “On the Natural.”

Shortly before recording the album, Hoyt lived for a time in Crested Butte, Colorado.  It was a slower paced lifestyle than he was used to on the road or in California.  He seems to have realized that if one just catches his breath and looks around, Nature (especially in the Colorado mountains) is miraculous and a better and more lasting “high” than is possible with chemicals.  He tells us that in “On The Natural.”

In the liner notes to the album, Hoyt himself wrote,  “Someone once told me in a dream that truth was a great white bird. Here are some feathers I found.” "On the Natural," was listed as one of those feathers.

“On the Natural”

Would you like to go to Colorado?
Heaven’s there I’m told, in Colorado.
Well I’m leavin’ in the morning
And I’d like to take you with me,
I feel that Colorado is a place we could be happy
In the mountains,
La-da-da-da-dum
Rocky Mountains
La-da-da-da-dum.
Everybody talk about the place of their dreams
Where they can find peace of mind
I’m not sure but I think it seems
I’ve finally found mine.
In the mountains,
Rocky Mountains.
Up on the mountain
you don’t need your little blue pills,
And there’s a golden light
In them thar hills.
On the natural,
On the natural,
La-da-da-da-dum,
La-da-da-da-dum
Would you like to be in Colorado?
Something’s drawing me to Colorado.
You can leave all of the hangups
Of the city in the city
And the crystal morning sunshine
Is so pretty
In the mountains,
La-da-da-da-dum,
Rocky Mountains,
La-da-da-da-dum
*********************************
[I cannot understand all the words to this verse]
Where have all the buffalo gone?
Up on the mountain you don’t need to blow no grass,
And all the tea you need is sassafras.
On the natural,
On the natural,
La-da-da-da-dah,
La-da-da-da-dah.
Everything is real in Colorado,
And real is how you feel in Colorado,
I’m tired of plastic people
With their neon souls aglow,
So I’m going to Crested Butte, babe,
I’ve just got to try once more
In the mountains,
La-da-da-da-dum,
Rocky Mountains,
La-da-da-da-dum


Axton however continued to struggle with cocaine addiction and several of his songs, including "The Pusher", "Snowblind Friend," and "No-No Song,"partly reflect his negative drug experiences. However, he was a proponent of marijuana use for many years until he and his wife were arrested in February 1997 at their Montana home for possession of approximately 500 g (1.1 lb) of marijuana. His wife later explained that she offered Axton marijuana to relieve his pain and stress following a 1995 stroke. Both were fined and given deferred sentences. Axton never fully recovered from his stroke, and had to use a wheelchair much of the time afterwards. He died at age 61 at his home in Victor, Montana, on October 26, 1999, after suffering two heart attacks in two weeks.

In 1965, he appeared in an episode of Bonanza, then followed with other TV roles over the years including credits in McCloud, I Dream of Jeanie, Dukes of Hazzard, The Bionic Woman, Murder She Wrote, Different Strokes and many more. As he matured, Axton specialized in playing good ol' boys on television and in films. His face became well known in the 1970s and 1980s through many TV and film appearances, such as in the movies Liar's Moon (1982) playing poor-but-happy farmer Cecil Duncan who is crushed to death when a stack of metal pipes falls on him, The Black Stallion (1979) as the main character's father, and Gremlins (1984) as the protagonist's father.


Thursday, September 19, 2019

Black Forest Fire left a mark on us


“Unless we are willing to escape into sentimentality or fantasy, often the best we can do with catastrophes, even our own, is to find out exactly what happened and restore some of the missing parts.”
Norman Maclean, Young Men and Fire 



In the aftermath of Colorado's most destructive wildfire


 By Rob Carrigan, robcarrigan1@gmail.com

I could see the black plume of smoke, up in the general direction of home, when I left the printer that early afternoon.
"Oh no," I thought to myself, "Not again."
The Black Forest Fire began near Highway 83 and Shoup Road in Black Forest, Colorado around 1 p.m. on June 11, 2013. When it was completely contained nearly ten days later, on June 20, 14,280 acres (22.31 square miles) were burned, at least 509 homes were said to be destroyed, and two people had died.
There was really no way to prepare for a heartbreaking trip touring the burn area on June 21, when they finally deemed it safe enough to let reporters in.  Widespread devastation, twisted landscapes, disrupted service roads, and downed power lines — surrounded by the the charred remains of the forest and unrecognizable remnants of residents' dreams and promises. Many of the photos from that trip, I still struggle with viewing today.
Historically, this devastating fire leapfrogged over two other nearby fires I had covered as a newspaper guy, as the most destructive fire in the state's history, surpassing the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire which also began near Colorado Springs, and the Hayman Fire, which began years earlier near Lake George.
The evacuation area covered 94,000 acres acres, 13,000 homes and 38,000 people. Three shelters were established in the area, including Elbert County Fairgrounds, which accepted humans, pets, and large animals. Two other shelters were designated for large animals only.
By June 13, nearly 500 firefighters were working the fireline, including agencies around the fire, the Colorado Air National Guard, and select personnel from fire suppression teams on Fort Carson and the nearby United States Air Force Academy. Governor John Hickenlooper addressed Emergency Managers at the command post on June 12. U.S. Northern Command assisted with fire fighting efforts.







“Probably most catastrophes end this way without an ending, the dead not even knowing how they died...,those who loved them forever questioning "this unnecessary death," and the rest of us tiring of this inconsolable catastrophe and turning to the next one.”
Norman Maclean, Young Men and Fire

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Cannibal dwarfs, the dangerous curse, and a Left Hand legacy for Chief Niwot.

 In Arapaho legend, the Hecesiiteihii, (sometimes Hantceciitehi, and possibly other spellings) are Cannibal Dwarfs, and dangerous man-eaters making them particular enemies of the Arapaho tribe. Their name is pronounced similar to heah-chass-ee-tay-hee (the first syllable rhymes with "yeah.").
Descriptions of the cannibal dwarfs vary but they are usually said to be the size of children, dark-skinned, and extremely aggressive. Some storytellers say that they had the power to turn themselves invisible, while others say they were hard to spot simply because they moved with incredible speed. Some suggest that the dwarfs' warlike temperament comes because they must be killed in battle to reach the dwarf after-world. Others believe that they were gluttons who habitually killed more than they could eat, just because they could. According to most versions of the story, the race of cannibal dwarfs were mostly destroyed in an ancient war with the Arapahos and other allied Native American tribes. 


Left  Hand warned early arrivals of the curse


By Rob Carrigan, robcarrigan1@gmail.com

In the fall of 1858, just as the beginnings of the Colorado Gold Rush started to take shape, Arapaho leader Niwot (Left Hand) rode to meet the first white intruders at the confluence of Boulder and Sunshine Creek. Captain Thomas Aikins and fellow prospectors, riding in from Fort St.Vrain some 30 miles to the East, camped in Boulder Valley and planned to search for rumored-gold.

Niwot planned to ask them to leave, and warn them of the curse. The leader had learned English from his trapper brother-in-law John Poisal, (married to Niwot's sister,) and is said to have told them of the curse of the Boulder Valley.

"People seeing the beauty of this valley will want to stay, and their staying will be the undoing of the beauty."

As the conversation heightened, he proceeded to threaten them with a visitation by War Party if they did not leave.

The visitors were encamped at what the Arapaho considered to be a sacred site, Valmont Butte, some four miles to the north east of what is now central Boulder, Colorado. Niwot and his closest elder braves, Bear Head and Many Whips, had ridden out to the site where the new arrivals had decided to camp, near the place where Boulder Creek releases from the Front Range onto the Great Plains.

Some see the Curse as portentous of the settling of not only the Boulder Valley, but of the entire Western United States

According to the city of Longmont, Niwot had a lasting legacy:
"We have Left Hand Brewing Company, Left Hand Creek, Left Hand Greenway, and Left Hand Creek Park, and in Boulder County there is Left Hand Canyon. All of these references to ‘left hand’ refer back to the southern Arapaho tribal leader, Chief Niwot. Niwot means left-handed, so even the quaint town of Niwot, Colorado (7 miles west of downtown Longmont) and everything with the word Niwot in it (Niwot Mountain, Niwot Ridge) also means left hand."

Most recognize Niwot played an integral role in Colorado’s state history.
"He and his people lived along the Front Range, often spending winters in Boulder Valley. In the fall of 1858 during the Colorado Gold Rush, early prospectors were welcomed by Niwot and his people to the area, even though it was Arapaho territory. Chief Niwot was an intelligent man, not only urging his tribe to coexist peacefully with the white man, but also learning English, Cheyenne, and Sioux, which allowed him to communicate with white settlers and other tribes.

Peaceful relations between the southern Arapaho and the white prospectors, however, did not last."

Following the 1862 the Sioux Uprising in Minnesota and the Battle of Little Big Horn, against U.S. Army troops,  It was a tumultuous time in U.S. history between the white man and Native Americans across the Plains, and tensions ran high. Tribes raided wagon trains, and settlements along the Front Range.

When the Hungate family was murdered 25 miles southeast of Denver in June of 1864, Colorado Territorial Governor John Evans said he believed all Native tribes were responsible and decided to get rid of the “Indian problem.”

"He then ordered the peaceful southern Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes to relocate to Sand Creek, an area in southeast Colorado north of Fort Lyon, a United States Army fort at the time. Governor Evans then ordered the Third Colorado Cavalry, commanded by Colonel John Chivington, to patrol the land for hostile Indians," according to Longmont's site.

"Colonel Chivington and his men had patrolled Colorado’s eastern plains for months without finding any hostile tribes. Frustrated, they headed to Sand Creek. Despite Major Edward Wynkoop, commander of Fort Lyons, stating that the Native people at Sand Creek were peaceful, Chivington and his men attacked the Araphao camp the morning of Nov. 29, 1864.

There are no exact statistics on the number of people who were killed that day, but most historians believe approximately 180 people were killed during the Sand Creek Massacre, including Chief Niwot, and mostly women, children, and the elderly."

At the behest of men like Wynkoop and Captain Silas Soule, ( Who was in command of Company D, 1st Colorado Cavalry, which was present at Sand Creek on November 29, 1864,) the story of the massacre came out over time. Soule had refused an order to join the Sand Creek massacre.

President Abraham Lincoln, bogged down by the Civil War, called for a Congressional investigation into the tragedy. Congress ruled the “gross and wanton” incident a “massacre” rather than a “battle.” Chivington was reprimanded for his actions and lost his commission, Governor Evans was removed from office, and Colorado was placed under martial law. Soule, during the subsequent inquiry, testified against the massacre's commanding officer, John Chivington, and soon after, was murdered in Denver.

The Sand Creek Massacre site is now designated as a National Historic Site.




Photo Information 1: September 28, 1864, Group portrait of the Camp Weld Council, Denver Colorado, shows white and Native American (Arapaho and Cheyenne) men arranged in three rows. Identification: Left to right, kneeling: Maj. Edward Wynkoop and Capt. Silas S. Soule; seated: White Antelope, Bull Bear, Black Kettle, Neva, Na-ta-nee; standing: unidentified, unidentified, John Smith, Heap of Buffalo, Bosse, unidentified, unidentified. 
 Source of identification: "Halfbreed : the remarkable true story of George Bent : caught between the worlds of the Indian and the White Man / David Fridtjof Halaas ; Andrew E. Masich (2004), photograph on page [6] of plates.

Photo Information 2: Native American (Arapaho) men pose outdoors with white men, about 1890. The Native American men wear moccasins, leggings, breechcloths, vests, and hats. Some men wear blankets.


Friday, September 13, 2019

Hollywood's first "King" from Colorado

Yeah, but now I'm gettin' old, don't wear underwear
I don't go to church and I don't cut my hair
But I can go to movies and see it all there
Just the way that it used to be

That's why I wish I had a pencil thin mustache
The "Boston Blackie" kind
A two-toned Ricky Ricardo jacket
And an autographed picture of Andy Devine
__ Jimmy Buffett 

Had to do you own stunts in "talkie" era

By Rob Carrigan, robcarrigan1@gmail.com

"The King of Hollywood," of course, learned the trade in Denver.
Silent film star Douglas Fairbanks began acting at an early age, in amateur theatre in Denver, performing in summer stock at the Elitch Gardens Theatre, and other productions sponsored by Margaret Fealy, who ran an acting school for young people in Denver, at the time.
Though he started high school at Denver East High School, he was expelled for cutting the wires on the school piano.
In the spring of 1899, when he was 15 — and variously claimed to have attended Colorado School of Mines and Harvard University — but neither claim is true, he joined the acting troupe of Frederick Warde, beginning a cross country tour in September 1899.
Fairbanks later became a founding member of United Artists. He was also a founding member of The Motion Picture Academy and hosted the 1st Academy Awards in 1929. 
With his marriage to Mary Pickford in 1920, the couple became Hollywood royalty and Fairbanks was referred to as "The King of Hollywood."
Though widely considered as one of the biggest stars in Hollywood during the 1910s and1920s, Fairbanks' career rapidly declined with the advent of the "talkies."
"Swashbuckled in Zorro, duelled exuberantly in Robin Hood, and soared magnificently in The Thief of Bagdad, " wrote Pamela Hutchinson recently for The Guardian, he often described as one of Hollywood’s founding fathers. In 1919, together with his best friend Charlie Chaplin, his bride-to-be Mary Pickford, and director DW Griffith, he started the United Artists studio, which is still, despite some recent uncertainties, a Hollywood player.
The silent-era film stars like Fairbanks, risked life and limb doing their own stunts.
"In 1927, Fairbanks was a founding member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. As the host of its first prize-giving ceremony in 1929, he handed out 14 awards to his peers, though he was never to receive an Oscar in his lifetime.
In 1929, he was involved in the establishment of the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California – one of the first film studies faculties – and gave its opening lecture, on “photoplay appreciation.”
"Today, film studies courses are unlikely to linger on Fairbanks’s work: it’s considered generic Hollywood product, with little more to it than dazzles the eye. That’s a shame, because the man and his photoplays were anything but ordinary," says Hutchinson,
A new biography, which Hutchinson describes as "doggedly researched and sharply written" by Tracey Goessel, and is called "The First King of Hollywood: The Life of Douglas Fairbanks" It gives readers a chance to consider the star in a new light, not least because it persistently interrogates much of his own myth-making.
"Discarding Fairbanks’s own merry tales, Goessel straightens out the facts about his education and early career, details the injuries caused by his daredevil stuntwork and, with reference to the blizzard of messages sent between husband and wife, gives an intimate and moving account of his marriage to Pickford. "
For example, Goessel shows that Fairbanks demonstrated markedly progressive attitudes to race. In other films of the era, offensive racial terms and characterizations are depressingly familiar, but Fairbanks scoured his scripts (notably, those otherwise witty inter-titles penned by Anita Loos) for all such terms before production began. Revealingly, Fairbanks never chose to make public the fact that his father, H. Charles Ullman, was Jewish, constructing a smokescreen figure called “John Fairbanks” instead; this name even appeared on Fairbanks’s death certificate.
"It was impossible not to notice that Fairbanks was devoted to fresh air and exercise: his athleticism on screen and deep tan attest to it. But while he was more than comfortable with public nudity, his Hollywood neighbors were not."
Goessel reveals that when he and Pickford built their studio complex in the early 1920s, complete with a fully fitted gymnasium, exercise yard and steam room, Fairbanks requested an underground running track, so he could jog, naked, between scenes. The concrete-lined trench ran parallel to Santa Monica Boulevard for about two blocks, but six feet below the road. "It’s a typical Fairbanks solution: breezily practical, but undeniably eccentric."

Hollywood's first "King" from Colorado



    • Yeah, but now I'm gettin' old, don't wear underwear
      I don't go to church and I don't cut my hair
      But I can go to movies and see it all there
      Just the way that it used to be
      That's why I wish I had a pencil thin mustache
      The "Boston Blackie" kind
      A two-toned Ricky Ricardo jacket
      And an autographed picture of Andy Devine
      __ Jimmy Buffett

       Had to do you own stunts in "talkie" era

      By Rob Carrigan, robcarrigan1@gmail.com
      "The King of Hollywood," of course, learned the trade in Denver.
      Silent film star Douglas Fairbanks began acting at an early age, in amateur theatre
      in Denver, performing in summer stock at the Elitch Gardens Theatre, and other productions sponsored by Margaret Fealy, who ran an acting school for young people
      in Denver, at the time. 
      Though he started high school at Denver East High School, he was expelled for
      cutting the wires on the school piano.
      In the spring of 1899, when he was 15 — and variously claimed to have attended Colorado School of Mines and Harvard University — but neither claim is true,
      he joined the acting troupe of Frederick Warde, beginning a cross country tour in September 1899.
      Fairbanks later became a founding member of United Artists. He was also a
      founding member of The Motion Picture Academy and hosted the 1st Academy
      Awards in 1929. 
      With his marriage to Mary Pickford in 1920, the couple became Hollywood royalty and Fairbanks was referred to as "The King of Hollywood."
      Though widely considered as one of the biggest stars in Hollywood during the
      1910s and1920s, Fairbanks' career rapidly declined with the advent of the "talkies."
      "Swashbuckled in Zorro, duelled exuberantly in Robin Hood, and soared magnificently in The Thief of Bagdad, " wrote Pamela Hutchinson recently for The Guardian, he often described as one of Hollywood’s founding fathers. In 1919, together with his best friend Charlie Chaplin, his bride-to-be Mary Pickford, and director DW Griffith, he started the United Artists studio, which is still, despite some recent uncertainties, a Hollywood player.
      The silent-era film stars like Fairbanks, risked life and limb doing their own stunts.
       "In 1927, Fairbanks was a founding member of the Academy of Motion Picture
      Arts and Sciences. As the host of its first prize-giving ceremony in 1929, he handed
      out 14 awards to his peers, though he was never to receive an Oscar in his lifetime. 
      In 1929, he was involved in the establishment of the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California – one of the first film studies faculties – and gave its opening lecture, on “photoplay appreciation.”
       "Today, film studies courses are unlikely to linger on Fairbanks’s work: it’s considered generic Hollywood product, with little more to it than dazzles the eye. That’s a shame, because the man and his photoplays were anything but ordinary," says  Hutchinson,
      A new biography, which Hutchinson describes as "doggedly researched and sharply written" by Tracey Goessel,  and is called "The First King of Hollywood: The Life of Douglas Fairbanks" It gives readers a chance to consider the star in a new light, not
      least because it persistently interrogates much of his own myth-making. 
      "Discarding Fairbanks’s own merry tales, Goessel straightens out the facts about his education and early career, details the injuries caused by his daredevil stuntwork and, with reference to the blizzard of messages sent between husband and wife, gives an intimate and moving account of his marriage to Pickford. "
      For example, Goessel shows that Fairbanks demonstrated markedly progressive
      attitudes to race. In other films of the era, offensive racial terms and characterizations are depressingly familiar, but Fairbanks scoured his scripts (notably, those otherwise witty inter-titles penned by Anita Loos) for all such terms before production began. Revealingly, Fairbanks never chose to make public the fact that his father, H Charles Ullman, was Jewish, constructing a smokescreen figure called “John Fairbanks” instead; this name even appeared on Fairbanks’s death certificate.
      "It was impossible not to notice that Fairbanks was devoted to fresh air and exercise: his athleticism on screen and deep tan attest to it. But while he was more than comfortable with public nudity, his Hollywood neighbors were not."
       Goessel reveals that when he and Pickford built their studio complex in the early 1920s, complete with a fully fitted gymnasium, exercise yard and steam room, Fairbanks requested an underground running track, so he could jog, naked, between scenes. The concrete-lined trench ran parallel to Santa Monica Boulevard for about two blocks, but six feet below the road. "It’s a typical Fairbanks solution: breezily practical, but undeniably eccentric."

    • Harold Lloyd, Charles Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks in 1932. Hollywood legends 
    • … Harold Lloyd, Charles Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks in 1932. 
    • Photograph: Bettmann/Corbis