Thursday, October 31, 2019

Fear's power and the threat's proximity

“If you're not haunted by something, as by a dream, a vision, or a memory, which are involuntary, you're not interested or even involved.”
Jack Kerouac, Book of Sketches

 Close calls in our own back yard

 By Rob Carrigan,

We tend to measure fear by how close it comes to us. If some thing threatens — especially in our own backyard, next door, or even down the street, we pay attention. That applies to the street near my house, on which I drive everyday to work.

"This town, known as Colorado’s Sweetheart City, had a little more sweetness than it could handle Friday," read a wire piece in the Los Angeles Times February 16, 1990, when the large storage tank exploded sending Molasses into the neighborhoods around the the Western Sugar Company in Loveland, Colorado.

"A molasses storage tank sprang a leak before dawn, spilling its gooey contents onto city streets and an industrial park. The molasses, stiffened by near-zero temperatures, flowed slowly and more than a foot deep about one-half mile down a city street. City officials estimated that about 100,000 gallons spilled from the tank, which was at an old sugar factory."

 It called to mind a much more devastating accident in the Boston area nearly 100 years ago.

"Around lunchtime on the afternoon of January 15, 1919, a giant tank of molasses burst open in Boston’s North End. More than two million gallons of thick liquid poured out like a tsunami wave, reaching speeds of up to 35 miles per hour. The molasses flooded streets, crushed buildings and trapped horses in an event that ultimately killed 21 people and injured 150 more. The smell of molasses lingered for decades," wrote Emily Sohn for the History Channel.

"Already pinned down by fallen buildings, some victims then became stuck in molasses. The liquid was a foot deep in some places. At least one person died by asphyxiation hours after the accident, Sharp says. Rescue efforts would have likely been easier, she speculates, if the accident had happened in the heat of July and the molasses had been able to spread further out from the tank."

Seems like an uncommonly cruel way to go, to me. 

Fortunately, the Loveland spill was not nearly as catastrophic. On February 16, 1990, when the large storage tank exploded sending Molasses into the neighborhoods around the the Western Sugar Company in Loveland, Colorado. It was a sticky mess even covered by the national news but no reported deaths.

Though, we are not always so fortunate. 

"On Sept. 26, 1973, an explosion trapped workers atop a grain elevator in Loveland, Colorado. Authorities summoned a helicopter to help rescue workers from the roof of the Big Thompson Mill and Elevator. The explosion destroyed a section of the "Big T" structure from levels three to seven. The section measured 25-feet in width. The Loveland Fire Department received mutual aid from the fire departments in Berthound and Fort Collins." according to Loveland Fire Rescue Authority archives.

“Loveland elevator blast kills two, injures five," read the Greeley Tribune at the time.

“A devastating explosion ripped through the Big Thompson Mill Grain Company Elevator in downtown Loveland Wednesday afternoon, killing two men and injuring five. The explosion, which occurred at about 1:45 pm, Wednesday, blew out the concrete side of the 90-foot structure and large chunks of concrete and other debris were thrown a block away. …" reported Mike Peters, Tribune Staff Writer.

" F. J. (Bud) Westerman, owner of a clothing store located less than 50 yards from the elevator, at 565 N. Cleveland Ave, said he thought the blast was an earthquake at first. … There was concern for a while that the 70-year-old elevator would collapse, and spectators were cleared from the area. The building was leaning toward the west, but Westerman said it has always “listed” a little. ….” Greeley Daily Tribune.  September, 27, 1973. 

Photo 1:
Big T explosion in Loveland.

Photo 2:
Rescue worker looks for survivor of  molasses spill in Boston.

Photo 3:
Tank collapse near Madison Avenue in Loveland in 1990. Loveland Reporter Herald photo.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Outlaw, God's Problem Child in Centennial state

Colorado Has a Story to Tell

Willie and Colorado: To all the states I've loved before

By Rob Carrigan,

Songs come easy to him, says Country music legend Willie Nelson.
"When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around," says Nelson's hemp-infused coffee beans as his first product in a recent health and wellness line called, "Willie's Remedy."
 According to Nelson's website, the coffee is infused with "certified organic, full-spectrum hemp oil grown in Colorado" and the coffee is sourced from smallholder farms in Colombia.
Nelson's brand is aimed at selling "non-intoxicating hemp-based products." His current wife, Annie, helps in the curating of the brand that will roll out more "hemp-based health and wellness products." 
The couple introduced "Willie's Reserve" in 2015. The cannabis brand helps tap licensed cultivators for their legal, medical, and adult-use cannabis products. The company claims when brewed properly, each eight-ounce cup of Willie's Remedy coffee will contain seven milligrams of hemp-derived CBD.
According to Willie Nelson himself,  his family's foray into Colorado and other connections started out as a remedy for several things.
In his recent autobiography "It's a Long Story, My Life, Willie Nelson,"  he explains.
"To take a break, Connie (another wife) and I went on a skiing trip to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. This was the winter of 1975. Because I didn't want to rush the vacation, I decided to drive. The skiing was invigorating and the cold mountain air did me good. On the long haul back, I got to thinking it was time to get serious about pulling some new songs outta my feeble brain."

The result was his album "Red Headed Stranger," which features the song "Denver."

The bright lights of Denver are shining like diamonds
Like ten thousand jewels in the sky
And it's nobody's business where you're going or where you come from
And you're judged by the look in your eye

She saw him that evening in a tavern in town
In a quiet little out-of-the-way place
And they smiled at each other as he walked through the door
And they danced with their smiles on their faces
And they danced with a smile on their face

Later, his wife at the time, Connie, talked him into relocating here in Colorado.
"Connie was convinced  I was helping too many friends and neighbors. After she and I enjoyed some great vacations in Colorado, she argued it would be the perfect place for a permanent escape," Willie said in his book.
Though he said he was not all that sure. Connie prevailed.
"If Connie wanted Colorado, well, let's move to Colorado. Colorado has fresh mountain air. Colorado has beautiful Vistas. Colorado has small towns where no one would find us. Connie found a hundred -acre ranch with a twelve-room chalet right there on the property," Willie said.
"She said it was perfect.
I said it was too far from Austin.
She said, if I had my own jet, Austin would only be an hour away.
I got my own jet.
We got the property in Colorado," says Willie Nelson's account.
"Once a Nashville renegade, later a favorite son of Texas, Willie Nelson boasts a popularity that has elevated him to a stature approaching that of a contemporary national folk hero," writes G. Brown in Colorado Music Connection.
Brown serves as podcast moderator, curator and executive director of the Colorado Music Experience. He has navigated the Rocky Mountain musical landscape for decades, both as a journalist and as a radio personality. He covered popular music at The Denver Post for 26 years, interviewing more than 3,000 musicians, from Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen to Bono and Kurt Cobain. He is published in numerous magazines including Rolling Stone and National Lampoon, Brown also covered music news and hosted and programmed for a myriad of Denver-based radio stations. He is the author of five books, including the award-winning Red Rocks: The Concert Years, Colorado’s Rock Chronicles and Telluride Bluegrass Festival: The First Forty Years.
"In the 1980s, the venerable country singer maintained residences in Texas, Malibu Beach—and a mountain home in Evergreen, Colorado, described as a two-story, 4,700-square foot Swiss chalet on a 116-acre estate. It included a large teepee. Nelson also found the Little Bear, a nearby bar that gave him a place for his music," Brown writes.
“I had lived down in Texas for a long time,” Nelson explained to Brown. “I wanted to get away for a little while just to check out the rest of the world. My nephew, Freddy Fletcher, had a little band, and they were traveling around. He was coming up to Colorado a lot. So one day I took my daughter Suzie and we drove from Austin up to Evergreen, up where Freddy had a little cabin. I thought, ‘Well, this is a spot to come to.’ The first place I had was up on Turtle Creek; then we bought a place over in Evergreen, on upper Bear Creek.
“But I only had a few days to spend at either Colorado or Texas because I was touring so much. I had a place in Austin with a recording studio and a lot of other different things—a golf course, for one—that were calling me back there. I had a run of bad luck with the weather in Colorado—every time I’d fly back home, it would be snowing! So I got to thinking, ‘Wait a minute, it’s snowing here, there’s a golf course over there—what do I really want to do?’
“So mid ’80s, I decided to head back and spend most of my time off down in Texas.”
Nelson owned the house in the Colorado mountains until November 1990, when it was seized by IRS agents who nabbed him for $16.7 million in “unpaid back taxes” for the years 1975 through 1982.
“I wrote a lot of songs while I was living in Colorado, had a lot of fun, did a lot of nice things that you can only do there,” Nelson said. “It affected me a lot of ways. I sure hated to leave, I know that,” according to Brown.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Long view from high in the Cottonwood tree

Wrapped up carefully in a bison robe or blankets and placed in a fork of the tree or tied to a heavy branch

By Rob Carrigan,

 A huge gnarled Cottonwood tree, 100-feet-tall, and more than 16-feet-around the trunk, looked out from its sandy perch on plains — with a long view all the way from the mouth of the Cache La Poudre River and south, to Big Thompson Canyon. The tree positioned northwest of Timnath for nearly 100 years in northern Colorado, was strategic because of that long view and Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes found it a convenient meeting place for councils and more.

"Mrs. A.K. Yount, a pioneer lady of Larimer County was the first to give an authentic account of the tree," According to Loveland historian Zethyl Gates. "She was acquainted with Chief Friday of the Arapahos, and he told her, 'We meet there.'"

"Another pioneer woman, Mrs. John Rigden, who lived near the Council tree as a child, told of playing under it. She recalled seeing pieces of cloth tied to the top branches, where at one time, the body of an Indian woman had been placed on a burial scaffold in the tree," Gates wrote in "The Pioneering Past of the Thompson Valley."

"Not long after the Indians had been removed to Wyoming, a party returned and took the body of the squaw, together with other bodies from burial trees near La Porte, Colorado to Wyoming. The pieces of the cloth remained until the storms of passing years broke the thongs holding the platform together and whipped the strips of cloth to shreds. Branches bent down in growth by weight of the platform were still visible, (years later) according to Mrs. Rigden."

A number of Native American tribes used a burial tree as the last resting place for a dead relative, either as a regular practice (along with a scaffold) or as an alternative to other methods, such as a ground burial.

The corpse was wrapped up carefully in a bison robe or blankets and either placed in a fork of the tree or tied to a heavy branch. Both grown persons and small children were laid to rest in this way.

"Early settlers of the valley noticed the custom of placing the dead on platforms in the tall cottonwoods," wrote Gates.

"In 1860, a massive cottonwood tree stood in a broad, lush meadow near the Cache la Poudre River’s banks and served as a meeting place for Chief Friday and his band of Northern Arapahoes. It would later become a symbol to white settlers of Native American life, and known to them as the Council Tree. Also in 1860, George Robert Strauss settled about a thousand feet downstream from the tree. At that time, the area along with all the land between the Arkansas River and the North Platte still belonged to the Northern Arapaho as determined by the 1851 treaty," according to the The Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area's site about the nearby Strauss Cabin and the Council Tree.

"Today, the cottonwood is long gone. The Great Western Railway bisects what used to be the flat, lush meadow. Directly to the west is a gravel-mined pond. To the south are more gravel-mined ponds. Just beyond the Poudre to the east, four lanes of Interstate-25 traffic whines, whooshes and roars. All that seems to remain of the former valley of 1860 are the river and the view of the white-capped Rockies," says the Cache La Poudre NHA site.

In such a transformed landscape, what can written descriptions of the early explorers and settlers tell us about the landscape that the Native Americans enjoyed before being forced off the land.

Ansel Watrous of the Fort Collins Express Courier tells the story of the times.

“The waters of the river were as clear as crystal all the way down to its confluence with the Platte. Its banks were fringed with timber not as large as now, consisting of cottonwood, boxelder, and some willow. Its waters were full of trout of the speckled or mountain variety. The undulating bluffs sloped gently to the valley which was carpeted with the most luxuriant grasses. … In coming up the South Platte River they struck the mouth of the Cache la Poudre River at noon, and on the evening of the first day’s travel on that river they camped. Game was plentiful, herds of buffalo were seen on the plains, as well as deer, elk, and antelope. To the travelers the Poudre Valley appeared to be the hunter’s paradise. Trout were caught then along the Poudre River from its mouth to the foothills, and the small streams in the mountains were alive with them," according Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.

Northern Arapaho chiefs White Wolf and Friday, and their bands, gathered in the Cache la Poudre River Valley in the summers of 1863 and 1864, as tension grew.

“Chief Friday implored the U.S. government to set aside land for his people on the north bank of the Cache la Poudre, extending from Box Elder Creek to the South Platte River and reaching as far north as Crow Creek. U.S. Indian Agent, Simeon Whitely advised against this, as it would have required relocating sixteen non-Indian families living along the river in the proposed area. As the government negotiated with the Indians, homesteaders were busy excavating ditches, buildings shelters, planting crops, and transforming the land,” writes Lucy Burris in People of the Poudre: An Ethnohistory of the Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area AD 1500-1880.

“By 1869, Friday had joined the rest of the Northern Arapahos under Medicine Man in Wyoming, giving up hope for a reservation on the Poudre. In January 1870, Washakie, the Shoshone Chief on the Wind River Reservation, allowed the Arapahos temporary accommodation. By 1878, a permanent place was made for the Northern Arapaho at Wind River. Friday died on the Wind River Reservation in 1881,” says Burris.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Cripple Creek haunting story is one for the books

Mysterious talking, singing, laughing and music 

By Rob Carrigan,

Local historian and publisher Leland Feitz sometimes would pop in on us afternoons, at the large office downstairs at the Courier, and tell a story or three. At times it was about history, or hauntings, or possibly both.
A favorite of mine, was about the house he once owned and later sold to bestselling American astrologer and poet, Linda Goodman. She is notable as the author of the first astrology book to make The New York Times Best Seller list.
Goodman, (real name Mary Alice Kemery) who died in 1995, but published multiple astrological and metaphysical books during her lifetime —to the point of being described as responsible for accelerating the growth of the New Age movement through the unprecedented success of her first astrology book Linda Goodman's Sun Signs in 1968 — told stories of apparent psychic manifestations from the first night she rented the house on Carr Avenue in Cripple Creek from Leland in the summer of 1970.
"... The Carr house, which she later bought and renovated, from local publisher and historian Leland Feitz, and while the night time streets of Cripple Creek seemed eerily quiet compared to those of Manhattan, the situation inside the house was just the opposite," according to writer Chas Clifton, in his account "Ghost Tales of Cripple Creek."
"When Ms. Goodman tried to sleep, she kept being awakened by the sounds of music, by voices of people singing and talking, in particular a man and a woman singing duets. She was convinced that Feitz, her landlord, had left a radio playing somewhere in the house. She checked the laundry room, the kitchen, even the basement, but the sound always seemed to come from somewhere else in the house," wrote Clifton, author and historian who specializes in the fields of English studies and Pagan studies and holds a teaching position in English at Colorado State University-Pueblo, prior to which he taught at Pueblo Community College.
"I was getting aggravated," Goodman is quoted. "I went outside to see if the neighbors had a TV or stereo on." They didn't. "On my honor to God, when I went to sleep I had to put a pillow over my head to muffle the sound."
She reported later that she and her house guests had heard the mysterious talking, singing and laughing and music as many as six additional times. At least a dozen people told her of hearing a baby crying in the middle of the night, while one guest told her of seeing an apparition of a man in military uniform in the living room.
The house at 315 Carr Avenue was built in the 1890s as a replica of a two-story brownstone row house by a Jewish business man who came from New York City to open a dry goods store. In addition to being a private residence, it served as a mining company office, and later, for a short time, a brothel, associated with a Bennett Avenue hotel following the demise of the red light district. Recently, it was known as a Bed and Breakfast Inn called the Last Dollar Inn.
Goodman's books also reference what she referred to as the "disappearance" of her eldest daughter, Sally Snyder in the 1970s, and the mystery around her reported death. Linda Goodman spent much money and many years trying to find Sally, long after police closed the case as a suicide or accidental suicide. Goodman never accepted the official police report and continued to search for Sally for the rest of her own life, according to reports.
Feitz died back in February of 2013, but was a real, down-to-earth Colorado native, born in La Jara, Colorado on Saint Paddy's Day in 1924 and was a resident of Colorado Springs since 1942, when he came to Colorado Springs to attend Colorado College. Feitz followed a career in public relations and advertising. He worked for 18 years for the Alexander Film Company, a Colorado Springs firm prominent in the field of movie advertising. Feitz as a young man held top jobs in agencies of New York City and Chicago. Later, in the Springs he worked for several advertising and printing firms, the last being Graphic Services.
Feitz's real interest was history and in 1967 at the advice of a friend began to write and publish concise history booklets about Colorado people and places. His Little London Press was established in 1973 and published over forty Colorado history booklets by various authors, including Chas Clifton's "Ghost Tales of Cripple Creek." Twenty of the titles were written by Feitz himself, several about the Cripple Creek Mining District. Colorado titles included books on Victor, Creede, Platoro and the Conejos County. And there were popular pictorials on Cripple Creek, Colorado Springs and Pueblo as well.

Photo Info:
Linda Goodman in the house on Carr Ave. in 1970.

Photo of Leland Feitz, from his obituary in Colorado Community Newspapers in 2013.