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FOR THE LOVE OF MUSIC.
JOIN THE CRESTED BUTTE MUSIC FESTIVAL FOR OUR JULY 26TH LAUNCH
Events run through October 2020 Visit CrestedButteMusicFestival.org for full schedule and ticket information.
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SHORTIES 10 Freak flags a-flying by Beth Buehler
Debut-dancing dudes showcased their moves and alter egos for the 2020 Move the Butte.
14 Farming inside the box by Cassie Pence
With four new Freight Farms, Mountain Roots will add year-round cultivation to its local-food efforts.
18 Those musical Horne sisters by Dawne Belloise
Inspired by the Dixie Chicks, Linda and Essie Horne became Crested Butte performers before they hit their teens.
22 Making art from the earth by Sandy Fails
Theresa Rizzo is reinventing herself as an artist, using ancient stone-working techniques and often materials from Crested Butte’s back yard.
FEATURES 28 Tuck naked by Janet Weil
The complicated life of a Crested Butte icon.
36 A helluva chore by Cara Guerrieri
The valley’s ranches rely on this unheralded, relentless task: keeping the water flowing.
44 Doc Rockefeller, kingpin of Crested Butte’s ‘golden age’ by Brian Levine How physician, banker and entrepreneur John W. Rockefeller (1846-1931) powered Crested Butte through an innovative half-century.
56 Trailblazing, with flair by Cassidy Tawse-Garcia
The Women’s Work Force rides and builds trails, powered by camaraderie, muscles and occasionally a touch of glitter.
61 Quiet steps, old trails and good camps
by Polly Oberosler Did thousands of ancient people once populate our valley? A lifelong rock hound finds intriguing hints.
67 After the gold rush by Dawne Belloise
Tin Cup now draws trail-hungry ATVers instead of fortune-hungry prospectors, but the town is still rich in splintery character.
74 Coronavirus chronicles
Five writers reflect on embracing the pain, struggles and hidden gifts of the times: Shelley Read, Brooke MacMillan, Polly Oberosler, Janet Weil and Karen Janssen.
THE VIEW FROM HERE 81 Finding home on foot by Leath Tonino
A spontaneous hiker discovers his future habitat.
85 On hunting by Cosmo Langsfeld 50 Photo break | 92 Events 94 Dining | 96 Photo finish Dave Kozlowski
Connecting to his roots, a young hunter sustains himself both physically and spiritually.
89 A night on Baldy by Robert Couchman
An alpine photography outing brings exposures of an unexpected kind. 5
Inspire your passion ...
Vol. XXXXII, No. 1 Published semi-annually by Crested Butte Publishing & Creative PUBLISHERS Steve Mabry & Chris Hanna EDITOR Sandy Fails ADVERTISING DIRECTOR MJ Vosburg DESIGN AND CREATIVE Chris Hanna
705 TEOCALLI AVENUE
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ADVERTISING DESIGN Keitha Kostyk WRITERS Dawne Belloise Brooke MacMillan Beth Buehler Polly Oberosler Bob Couchman Cassie Pence Sandy Fails Shelley Read Cara Guerrieri Cassidy TawseKaren Janssen Garcia Cosmo Langsfeld Leath Tonino Brian Levine Janet Weil PHOTOGRAPHERS & ARTISTS Dave Kozlowski Glenn Asakawa Sandra Mabry Nathan Bilow Constance Mahoney Trevor Bona Chris Nute Sophia Chudacoff Polly Oberosler Dawn Cohen Rebecca Ofstedahl Bob Couchman Dusty Demerson Mark Robbins Lucas Stein Petar Dopchev Sarah Steinwand Xavier Fané John Holder Lydia Stern Allan Ivy
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COVER PHOTO Xavier Fané ONLINE crestedbuttemagazine.com E-MAIL email@example.com ADVERTISING firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2020, Crested Butte Publishing. No reproduction of contents without authorization by Crested Butte Publishing & Creative.
Xavi Fané and Karen Janssen do the Soul Train isolation boogie.
Remembering empty streets and full hearts I hope this issue sees us easing into the exuberant bustle of a Crested Butte summer. But I also want to carry forward some images from the mid-pandemic uncertainty of spring. This morning, amid April’s social distancing, I sought solace in the talking puppies and coronavirus parodies of Facebook. Among the spiritual verse, political outrage and family lip-synch videos, one post stood out. In it, singer/songwriter Paul Williams comments on photos of the world’s empty streets during this time of selfisolating. The scenes appear desolate, but to him they represent something very different: “What you’re seeing is love in action. What you’re seeing, in that negative space, is how much we care for each other, for our grandparents, for the immuno-compromised brothers and sisters, for people we will never
meet…. Look into the emptiness and marvel at all of that love. Let it fill and sustain you. It isn’t the end of the world. It is the most remarkable act of global solidarity we may ever witness.” Today I tried to look through that lens. I drove down Elk Avenue, almost deserted at midday – in what normally would have been the festive last week of the ski season. In that emptiness, I bore witness to our pain and loss: financial, physical and emotional. But also in that vacancy, I saw caring. So many people have sacrificed paychecks, revenue and rich times with friends – to protect the community’s venerable and vulnerable. A detour led me past Mikey’s Pizza, now plastered with photos, messages and mementos honoring a good man. Mikey’s death in early March stunned us into taking coronavirus seriously. Driving past his eatery,
I felt a hole where this smiling, kind, easygoing man used to be. At the same time, in that makeshift shrine, I felt the community’s love – for Mikey, his family and each other. Back home, I found my husband Michael still in his PJs, slogging through federal stimulus documents and pondering how to take care of the fine people who work at our inn, which is shut down perhaps for the first time in its history. On Michael’s face I read his frustration and stress – and the maddening itch of an early-stage isolation goatee. Behind the facial bristle, I also read his loving concern. A week ago, my son and his honey (one recovering from COVID-19 and the other a possible carrier) arranged a Zoom “party” for my birthday from their home a mile away. On my laptop screen, I saw two sweethearts I couldn’t hug and two muffins bearing 7
T H E
C E N T E R
P R E S E N T S
the arts in crested butte art heals | crestedbuttearts.org
Editor’s note lighted candles I couldn’t blow out. But mostly I saw loving smiles. These two had just boogied with KBUT’s late-March “stay-at-home Soul Train.” It featured sequined DJ Lunch Lady Laura live-streaming the vibes beneath a strobing disco ball in the KBUT studio (solo, except for her groovily attired husband). Screen shots from that evening show dozens of wigged and bell-bottomed dancers getting funky in their separate living rooms. Even in the tiny squares of the screen shots, I find playfulness, resilience and connection. Meanwhile, I learned that Dr. Laura Villanueva, who returned to serve her hometown community, has had to separate herself from her two small children and husband to prevent infecting them during this pandemic. Another doctor came out of retirement to help – until he got sick with COVID-19. If this is not love, then what is? My eyes behold it in every direction. Food pantry volunteers, Nordic trail groomers, neighbors stopping (at a distance) to check on each other, donations abounding, cardboard hearts in windows, free food and services. I know the world also holds meanness and greed, deceit and corruption. Maybe I’ll need to look at that tomorrow. Today that is not what I choose to see. Yes, I hope this issue of the magazine accompanies us forward, as we tiptoe out of isolation, once again welcome our visitors, and together celebrate this beautiful place. We might look a little feral by then; we might be chubby from tuna noodle casserole; and occasionally we might have struggled, amid tedium and bills, to let our higher angels guide us. Perhaps we’ll also be wiser, having taken time to sing, run, pray, meditate, paint or whatever tunes us into a deeper place of love and clarity. Let’s hope we will have tapped the best of who we are, individually and collectively: creative, funny, strong, healthy and caring. As another Facebook post said today, “Let us come out of this BETTER, not just relieved.” —Sandy Fails, April 9, 2020 For more community reflections on these times, see pages 74-79.
Our thanks to the advertisers who were able to take a leap of faith with us and make this issue possible!
good company bringing dreams home 211 Elk Avenue PO Box 1788 Crested Butte Colorado 81224 bbre1.com 970.349.6691
By Beth Buehler
Debut-dancing dudes showcased their moves and alter egos for the 2020 Move the Butte. Even amid the wild energy of the 2020 Move the Butte community dance show, the “Freak Flag” finale stood out: 12 men – known for their bartending, tattooing or other skills far removed from dancing – confidently and comically strutting their stuff. Spectators Andrea Rybarz rehearsing clapped, cheered and raised quizzical eyebrows with her brave recruits. at each other: How exactly did that happen? The story befits their animated performance. It started when a group of 14 people, including The dance was two years in the making for Rybarz, who choreographer Andrea Rybarz and future “Freak Flag” dancer Jeremy typically choreographs one or two dances for Move the Butte each Walck, vacationed together on a houseboat at Lake Powell, Utah. year. For work, she’s a seamstress and also slings drinks at Kochevar’s “Jeremy is a DJ and always plays great music, and we dressed up and Brown Labrador Pub. That gave her a pool of men to recruit for in costumes every day, wearing capes all the time,” Rybarz explained. her dance, including fellow bartenders Walck (Elk Avenue Prime), “One night, the party had dwindled and only six of us were awake. Joey Reed (The Eldo) and Alex Shelley (Kochevar’s). A tattoo artist, When we went back on the boat, our capes went up in the air and Kochevar’s cleaner and a few Western Colorado University theater the song ‘Freak Flag’ was playing, and I was inspired to choreograph alums also jumped in to break out their moves. a dance.” “I thought six or eight would show up, but 12 were at the 10
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first practice,” said Rybarz, remembering how entertaining it was to see a group of men “prancing from one side of the dance studio to the other.” For costumes, she envisioned the guys wearing individualized capes and costumes that represented their true selves. Mission accomplished. “Freak Flag” represented Rybarz’s final bow on the local stage (she made a cameo appearance in the dance as the Fun Fairy and performed in other numbers), as she plans to move after living here for a decade. She said, “This was my last Move the Butte, and I wanted to go big and go out with a bang!”
“’Freak Flag’ is really your alter ego, like being transformed into a bigger or crazier version of yourself or being the person you always wanted to be.” – Andrea Rybarz, choreographer
“FREAK FLAG” CREW Choreographer: Andrea Rybarz Dancers: Troy Birdsall, Rusty Bones, John Cowan, Will Jarvis, Nate Miers, Joey Reed, Will Scott, Alex Shelley, Andrew Smith, Alex Stevenson, Kevin Troiano, Jeremy Walck Music: “Freak Flag” by Nick Monaco
Spring Awakening • Marin Dobson • 36x36
inside the box
By Cassie Pence
Francesca Mazzilli harvesting container-farmed greens.
With four new Freight Farms, Mountain Roots will add year-round cultivation to its local-food efforts. During the coronavirus pandemic, trips to the grocery store were fraught with fear — not only of exposure, but also of empty shelves. For the first time since the Victory Gardens of war times, Americans considered their food security, or rather, food insecurity. Thinking about food security is nothing new for Mountain Roots Food Project, a non-profit leading the local-food movement in Gunnison County. For 10 years, the organization’s programming has focused on broadening access to local food, increasing sustainable food production at the community level and educating the community, both young and old, about nutrition and the environment. Mountain Roots runs the school gardens in Crested Butte and Gunnison, for example, adding student-grown food to cafeteria trays. Mountain Roots also facilitates community gardens, giving neighbors the space and the know-how to grow their own food. Mountain Roots runs a multi-farmer Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, too, creating new markets for small farmers. The organization also produces vegetables, fruit, chickens and eggs on its own two-acre educational farm at Coldharbour Ranch near Gunnison. All of Mountain Roots’ programming, in one way or another, works to increase food security. Now Mountain Roots plans to bolster that effort with the purchase of four Freight Farms, a container14
farming technology. The non-profit will grow nutrient-dense food year round in these repurposed shipping containers, located on South Main in Gunnison, regardless of season, weather or climate.
“Community food security is vital for everyone, not just low-income households. Everyone in the valley needs a source of clean, healthy, fresh food. What if the trucks don’t deliver fresh vegetables to the grocery stores? We look to our local farmers. But what if it’s winter? The container farms offer a promising solution for cold climates and food deserts like ours to produce food year round, with more predictable crop yields and using fewer land and water resources,” said Mountain Roots Executive Director Holly Conn. Freight Farms use hydroponics to grow food vertically inside the containers. Instead of soil, the plants’ roots are submerged in nutrient-rich water that provides all the nourishment they need. Lights lining the containers provide the “sun.” Conn estimates that Mountain Roots can produce 10,400 pounds of fresh organic food per year. That’s three times what it currently produces on its twoacre community farm. This increase in year-round food production will result, in general, in more people eating more local food. It will also allow Mountain Roots to donate more fresh food for those in need. “Testing the true viability of this theory is important work for Mountain Roots to do, because if it works, we can teach more people to produce food this way and scale it up,” Conn said. “We don’t know yet if it’s a silver bullet, but we do know that producing fresh greens and vegetables year round close to home creates more overall food resources, giving us more self-sufficiency and fewer links from farm to fork.” Production is slated to start this June. Mountain Roots plans to first grow a variety of greens, like lettuce, kale and arugula, along with herbs such as basil. The Mountain Roots crew also hopes to use some of the bounty to create shelfstable products like pesto, adding even more value to the new endeavor. The public will be able to purchase the greens, and those who are CSA members will find more fresh greens in their weekly produce box. Mountain Roots also has a list of commercial clients, like restaurants and schools, ready to purchase the greens when the Freight Farms are up and running. Watch for “Mountain Roots’ Salad” on local menus this summer and begin to eat your way to a more foodsecure future.
721 S 9th Street | $500,000
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970.713.2000 | 326 ELK AVENUE | SIGNATUREPROPERTIESCB.COM We conduct business in accordance with The Fair Housing Act and do not discriminate based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or handicap.
By Dawne Belloise Precocious musicians Linda (with guitar) and Essie Horne.
Inspired by the Dixie Chicks, Linda and Essie Horne became Crested Butte performers before they hit their teens. Linda Horne was only seven years old, and her sister Essie two years younger, when they watched a documentary that would deeply move them and forge their musical path. The film was a feature about the controversy surrounding the political statement of the Dixie Chicks, who openly condemned the Iraq invasion of 2003 by then-President George W. Bush. The once-popular group was boycotted by fans and blacklisted by conservative radio and media. The documentary was called “Shut Up and Sing,” and to the young Horne sisters, the Dixie Chicks were heroines, strong women to be emulated. Linda recalls, “They went against the politics of the day, so they pretty much lost their fan base. That spoke to me. I thought it was inspiring that they stood up for what they believed in and didn’t sell out. They wrote an album about [lead singer] Natalie Maines’ experiences of getting attacked by fans.” The story prompted 18
Linda and Essie to pursue music. Linda got her first guitar that year and began learning Dixie Chicks songs, and proceeded to win her kindergarten talent show. Essie remembers being equally inspired by the documentary, even though she was only five years old. “It was more about the strong will and powerful women, and we loved their music.” Essie wanted to play drums so they could have a band, so her father, Shaun, bought her a cheap toy set that quickly fell apart. Realizing Essie was serious about percussion, Shaun stepped up his game. “The next year Dad drove to Denver on Christmas Eve to get me a real drum set. I was six. I had the biggest present under the tree that year.” She began taking lessons from local drummer Ben Wright, which she still does. Most kids drop their early fascinations as they age, but both sisters continued in their musical pursuit. Linda began to expand her genres. “I realized music is a bottomless pit; you can never stop learning new things. There’s no roof to what you can learn as far as the music goes or whatever instrument you play.” She began attending the Crested Butte Music Festival’s Gypsy Jazz Camps as well as bluegrass and opera camps. She explored pop, folk and jazz classics, focusing on the great jazz singers.
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7/17 Ozomatli 8/06 The Bellamy Brothers 8/14 The Goonies 8/20 Israel Vibrations 8/29 Pearl Jam Tribute Chicago 9/03 Sierra Ferrell
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The sister duo took to the streets of Crested Butte in the summers, and booked a few gigs while still preteens. “The drum set isn’t very practical for busking.” Essie laughs. “At first I tried to learn bongos but switched to a cajon because it had more of a drum set sound.” A cajon is a rectangular wooden box; the percussionist sits on top and bangs out rhythms on the front and sides with her hands. Eventually the Horne sisters became regular performers in Crested Butte’s live-music scene. When Linda was a junior at Crested Butte Community School, both sisters enrolled at the prestigious Denver School of the Arts for a year, Linda as a guitar major and Essie as a percussion major. “We learned a lot about our instruments and made a lot of connections and friends,” Essie says. As a percussion major, Essie’s studies were more structured and more classical than she could receive at a public school program. She learned more concert band percussion instruments like xylophone, marimba and vibraphone and participated in the percussion ensemble. “It was the first time I really played with other experienced percussion players, and they were all my age, and they were all boys,” she mused. Now 18, Linda just finished her freshman year at the University of Colorado Denver, studying recording arts and audio production. “I’m having a really good time, trying to move forward and have a real career.” She envisions that career including performance, composing and producing her own work. “I’d love to be able to make a living off my art, like my parents do.” Her parents, Dawn Cohen and Shaun Horne, own an art gallery and brave the summer sun and winter elements to paint en plein air. “They figured it out, so why can’t I?” Linda smiles. As a sophomore at Crested Butte Community School and now 16 years old, Essie is excited about their future. “I just really love playing and especially with my sister. The better you get, the more fun it is to play with other people. I think in the beginning when you’re learning, it’s difficult because you have to be alone. It’s really a solo pursuit. Eventually you get to reap the rewards of spending all that time practicing on your own, you get to play with other people and that’s a lot of fun.”
from the earth
By Sandy Fails
Theresa Rizzo is reinventing herself as an artist, using ancient stone-working techniques and often materials from Crested Butte’s back yard. When Theresa Rizzo hikes the Oh Be Joyful valley with friends, they stare agog at vibrant wildflowers and waterfalls cascading down the mountainsides, but her eyes are fixed on the ground. A flat piece of slate, a crystal, a chunk of rose quartz… these are the beauties she seeks. In Crested Butte, Theresa is known as a funny and forthright Italian, a fiction writer and co-director of the former Crested Butte Writers Conference. These days she’s reinventing herself as an artist in a rare medium: making dimensional wall décor from earthly finds, including what she discovers in Crested Butte’s back yard. “I’m a good writer – but there are a lot of good writers,” she said. “Not many people can do what I do with a tile saw.” Born and raised in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, Theresa got her 22
nursing degree and married her high school sweetheart, John Brooks. Nursing wasn’t the best fit; she lived in fear that someone in her hospital would code while she was on duty. She left that career, but the training (and her surgeon dad stitching up the children’s wounds at the kitchen table) did make her an “unflappable” mom. She raised four children while John pursued a career as an integrated circuit chip architect. The family lived in Illinois and California before settling in Niwot, Colorado. The two discovered Crested Butte on a family vacation in 2002. They came back on a 20th anniversary trip in 2003, and in 2004 bought a condo. (An early memory: when they got their oversized Expedition precariously stuck while searching for the Capital Peak trailhead, they were rescued by indomitable Crested Butte adventurer Talie Morrison in her undersized 4WD jeep.) Theresa joined the Chateaux condominium board and began expressing her creativity through extensively landscaping and gardening the Chateaux’s oncescruffy property along the Gothic Road. The Brooks kids grew up skiing in Crested Butte, and John climbed every peak possible, in between building both the Chateaux and Crested Butte Writers websites. Theresa wrote, hiked and got to
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know the townspeople. “Crested Butte is a magical place – and it’s all about the people,” she said. As her children grew, Theresa began writing fiction more intently, using Crested Butte as her retreat. For seven years, alongside Barbara Crawford, she co-directed the successful Crested Butte Writers Conference, until it became too time consuming. Theresa then completed and independently published five novels, won awards, and climbed the
Amazon sales lists. But after marketing and other costs, she made little money for the huge time she invested. Meanwhile, she’d dabbled with art. She crocheted elaborate afghans, made each child an annual Christmas ornament, and crafted home decorations and gifts for friends and family. When Theresa began experimenting with mosaics, she found that her fingers were too weak to use the hand tools. Then,
in helping a tile-worker friend meet a big deadline, she discovered a knack for using a wet tile saw, which allowed her to bypass traditional mosaic tools and create her own style. As her skill grew, she cut leaves of onyx to embed in tiles and slate silhouette bears, moose and other animals. Then she began to craft more complex pieces, like chickadees in petrified wood trees, owls, bears, rams on mountains and forest scenes. As she incorporated three-dimensional natural materials into the compositions, she turned tile sawing into an art form. In 2017 she and John built their dream home in Erie, Colorado. Unfortunately, it quickly outgrew its budget, forcing the sale of their beloved Chateaux condo. But as Theresa lost one connection to Crested Butte, she forged another. Using rock foraged from around Crested Butte, she crafted an intricate landscape of a bear fishing in a mountain stream as a backsplash in their new kitchen. The project was a labor of love. “It took me three solid months, but it was so much fun and makes happy every time I look at it,” she said. Craftsmen working on the home were awed by the piece and asked if she took
New neighborhood a short walk or bike ride to downtown Crested Butte.
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custom work, and Rizzo Custom Creations was born. Though she gets some of her stones, minerals and crystals from the annual Denver Rock Show, Theresa particularly loves finding materials in nature. Now, while her husband hikes during their visits to Crested Butte, Theresa wanders, scouring the ground for useful treasures. When she finds a bit of rose quartz near Irwin or a small chunk of marble near Redstone, “I feel like it picked me,” she said. “It’s fresh, not fabricated.” A wall sculpture might include familiar rocks like slate, granite or petrified wood alongside semi-precious stones like black agate, peridot, honey calcite, raw emerald, tourmaline, amber or citrine. “Each emits something different into the environment; for example, labradorite is highly protective and soothing,” Theresa said. With each piece, she includes a personalized letter detailing the stones, where she found them, and “their energetic properties that radiate positive vibes into their new home.” Theresa can also create custom artwork based on a client’s favorite photo or subject. After working with the client to pick a background with the desired feel, she researches, composes an image and then sections it into small segments. For each area of the composition, she chooses materials with the appropriate texture and color. After cutting and shaving each piece so the whole fits together, she inlays it into the stone background. True to her Italian heritage, Theresa’s process combines two rare and ancient stone-working techniques: opus sectile (like an inlaid rock jigsaw puzzle) and pietra dura (incorporating semi-precious stones, crystals and minerals). Information and videos are available at theresarizzo.com or via Rizzo Custom Creations on Etsy. The work is painstaking and time consuming, and therefore not cheap. Theresa estimated that a wall sculpture of two chickadees in a pine tree took about 38 hours, not including her time collecting the raw materials. The payoff of working with unpredictable natural objects, she said, is that clients get a unique piece of art and often feel a strong emotional attachment to it. “It’s really cool being able to touch people – through writing, and now through art.” She added, “I thought it would break my heart to stop writing. But I’m learning to embrace my artistic side. I hope I inspire people to know that we can move on and be happy and successful in a different way.”
KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE 7 TREASURY HILL ROAD IN CRESTED BUTTE A promontory .32 ac. homesite on the WEST SIDE of Crested Butte with incredible views over the Town and adjacent to open space on the east and north. Very private on the cul-de-sac and an easy walk along the Woods Walk path to downtown. Convenient enough that you will enjoy walking to dinner and the walk home. $1,880,000
251 SLATE RIVER DRIVE #9 AT SKYLAND A 2-bd top floor Powderview condominium with unrivaled views over Crested Butte and to the Elk Mountains. Powderview Condos completed a new roof last summer and remodeling the exterior is approved. Located 2.2 miles to Town with Skyland pedestrian paths, fishing , the Slate River, Grant Lake boating, paddle boarding and XC ski trails in winter. $395,000
RIVERFRONT RANCH 540 ACRES NEAR CRESTED BUTTE The outstanding Pogna Ranch with 1 mile of the East River, known as a prized stretch of river by local anglers, and generous 31 cfs water from Cement Creek & Granite ditches. Includes a fine hilltop homesite, County maintenance to the front gate and a variety of landforms incl. conservation easement protected irrigated grazing meadow, evergreen forest and stunning rock outcroppings. $4,995,000
DUPLEX HOMESITE IN CRESTED BUTTE In-Town duplex or single-family homesite on Butte Ave. Build a duplex with north views and the south residence is accessed by the Sunshine Alley neighborhood. $719,000
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22981 State Highway 135, Main House, Crested Butte, 4 BR, 4.5 Bth, 5 car garage, 5,000 SF, 38.08 acres, 1,100+ feet of the Slate River, Offered for $5,400,00
327 Elk Avenue, Crested Butte, 862 SF commercial space, 4 BR, 2 Bth & 1 BR, 1 Bth remodeled apartments, 3,160 SF total, Offered for $2,495,000
25 Cinnamon Mountain Road, Mt. Crested Butte, 7 BR, 6 Full Bth, 4 Half Bth, 1.5 car garage, 4,935 SF, .53 acres, Elevator, Offered for $1,995,000, or as 1/4 ownership for $549,000
2074 Wildcat Trail, Crested Butte, 4 BR, 4 Bth, 2 car garage, 4,725 SF, 35.32 acres, Absolute privacy and tranquility, Offered for $1,850,000
41 Wildhorse Trail, Mt. Crested Butte, 4 BR, 4.5 Bth, 2 car garage, 3,479 SF, Best location in neighborhood, Offered for $1,800,000
4121 Wildcat Trail, Crested Butte, 4 BR, 3.5 Bth, 2 car garage, 4,264 SF, 36.98 acres, Borders National Forest, Offered for $1,795,000
59 Cinnamon Mountain Road, Mt. Crested Butte, 4 BR, 3.5 Bth, 4,822 SF, 1.05 acres, Plans available for a 2 car garage, skier access, Offered for $1,795,000
450 Oversteed Gulch Road, Crested Butte, 3 BR + Office, 2 Bth, 2 Car Gar, 1,497 SF, 35.11 acres, National Forest access, Offered for $1,295,000
251 Neville Way, Crested Butte, 4 BR, 3.5 Bth, 3 car garage, 5,680 SF, 1.28 acres, Custom built log home, Offered for $1,395,000
515 Oversteeg Gulch Road, Crested Butte, 2 BR, 2 Bth, 1,808 SF, 35.11 acres, Borders National Forest, Abundant wildlife, Offered for $1,150,000
Lots 19-23, Belleview Avenue, Crested Butte, Commercial/residential lots, Offered for $1,000,000 or $200,000 each
319 Zeligman Street, Crested Butte, 4 BR, 3.5 Bth, 2 car garage, 3,129 SF, .37 acres, New construction, Offered for $995,000
108 Big Sky Drive, Mt. Crested Butte, 3 BR, 2.5 Bth, 2 car garage, 2,185 SF, .06 acres, Incredible views and year round bus service, $965,000
9 Hunter Hill Road, Black Bear Condos, Mt. CB, Unit 209, 3 BR, 3 Bth, 1,607 SF, Heated garage parking, Offered for $825,000
16 Hunter Hill Road, San Moritz Condos, Mt. Crested Butte, Unit K203, 3 BR, 2 Bth, 1,331 SF, Ski in/ ski out, Offered for $625,000
18 Snowmass Road, Gateway Condos, Mt. Crested Butte, Unit 303, 2 BR, 2 Bth, 973 SF, Ski in/ski out, Offered for $599,900
11 Hunter Hill Road, Mountain Edge Condos, Mt. Crested Butte, Unit 402, 3 BR, 2 Bth, 1,359 SF, Creek front, Offered for $575,000
15 Marcellina Lane, Mountain Sunrise Condos, Mt. Crested Butte, Unit 109, 3 BR, 2.5 Bth, 1 car garage, 1,087 SF, Offered for $496,000
25 Emmons Road, Evergreen Condos, Mt. Crested Butte, Unit 27, 2 BR, 2 Bth, 1,108 SF, Corner unit, Offered for $475,000
11 Emmons Road, Emmons Condos, Mt. Crested Butte, Unit 433, 2 BR, 2 Bth, 794 SF, Ski in/ski out, Offered for $469,000
427 Belleview Avenue, Units 103 & 104, Crested Butte, Newly remodeled office space in one of townâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s newest commercial buildings, 718 SF, Offered for $400,000
214 Sixth Street, Commercial Spaces, Crested Butte, Unit 5, 707 SF, View of Mt. CB, $355,000, Unit 6, 332 SF, Two massage rooms, $169,000
20 Marcellina, Timbers Condos, Mt. Crested Butte, Unit 305, 2 BR, 1 Bth, 603 SF, Remodeled top floor unit, $349,000
620 Gothic Rd, Lodge at Mountaineer Square, Unit 510, Mt. Crested Butte, Ski in/ski out, Studio, 1 Bth, 400 SF, Air conditioning, Heated garage, $327,953
Grand Lodge Condos, Mt. Crested Butte, Great base area location, Walk to restaurants, shopping, the bus loop and lifts. 9 units available, Priced from $159,000 - $299,000
110 Pitchfork Drive Mt. Crested Butte, Unit A, 1 BR, 1 Bth, 622 SF, Carport, HOA dues include heat, Offered for $199,900
701 Gothic Road, Three Seasons Condos, Unit 243, Mt. Crested Butte, 1 BR, 1 Bth, 406 SF, Affordable corner unit close to resort, Offered for $185,000
VACANT LAND: 997 Saddle Ridge Road, 65.24 acres, $695,000, 620 Eagle Lane, 1.45 acres, $695,000, TBD W Denver Avenue, 14.28 acres, $695,000, TBD Hidden Mine Road, 35.10 acres, $595,000 601 S. Avion Drive, 1.45 acres, $299,000, 5 Peakview Drive, 1.07 acres, $275,000, 30 Castle Road, .33 acres, $239,500, 465 Teocalli Road, .33 acres, $159,000
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By Janet Weil
When Tuck, decked out in buckskin, ambles down Elk Avenue practicing bojitsu karate with his walking stick, few people pass by without sharing a greeting or smile. It’s Tuck. A Crested Butte legend. Celebrated animal trapper and hunting guide. Horse whisperer, wrangler, free spirit. A problem when he drinks. Bus driver, thespian, karate black belt. Former undercover narc, sniper in the Vietnam War. Storyteller, mountain man, lawbreaker. A black man living in a white town. Partly truth, partly fiction. A walking contradiction. It’s Tuck, the funky heartbeat of Crested Butte. “When I came to CB in 1971, I walked down Elk Avenue and there was coal dust everywhere. The kids looked like dirty little urchins right out of ‘Oliver Twist.’ The streets weren’t paved. The first person I talked to was Marie Campbell, on her porch quilting. ‘Hi, how are you? Who are you? Where you
from?’ she asked me. Her front yard was filled with beautiful poppies. We sat on the porch chitchatting for a while. Everyone was so friendly. Kinda strange.” Tuck smiles his big toothless grin, chuckling at the memory. “It felt good to be in such a friendly place. I’d just gotten out of jail in Grand Junction.” On that day almost five decades ago, Donald Earl Tucker thought he just might have found his home in the mountains. He’d been working in the oil fields near Grand Junction and had landed in jail for six months for defending himself from two cops who were beating him up. There were no other blacks working in the oil fields. “I’ll never forget my neighbor taking me down to the yard to get a job. I could hear the guys from inside saying, ‘You bring that nigger in here, boy, you better bring your old lady to take him out of here.’ With the money I made in the oil fields, I paid off two houses, supported three kids and had money saved.
After I got out of jail, I never went back.” Tuck came to Crested Butte with his friend, Chuck Burell, whose brother Ramon lived at the old Clark ranch. Telling the story, Tuck pauses, scratching his head, to piece together memories of his early days in town. “I got a job with the ranchers breaking horses. I really settled in with the ranchers, the Verzuhs, Niccolis, Dannis, Veltris, all of them. I needed help and they, in turn, made me feel like a prodigal son returning home. I helped those guys, wrangling, hauling hundred-pound bales of hay, branding, irrigating, fencing – you know, cowboy stuff – and they taught me how to break horses. The old ranching families took me under their wing.” Eyes dancing, laughing at himself, Tuck continues, “I decided to build a little rock shelter in the boonies. I was into martial arts and I was trying to be a monk and all. But, all I did was think about sex, cold beer and pizza. Not very monkish. I came into town and got a job washing dishes at Angelo’s.” For 20 years, Tuck guided in the summers for Fantasy Ranch, taking people on wilderness
horseback trips. It was his dream job, riding horses all day through flower-filled meadows, passing under aspen groves, riding alongside alpine lakes and up to the spectacular Maroon Bells wilderness. “In the winters, I was a bus driver. I got the bus job to get a free ski pass. I did that for 34 years.” When local kids boarded Tuck’s bus, they each got their own special handshake with him, sharing a moment of Tuck’s magic. For eight years during that time, he lived in an old shack on the highway three miles south of town. “Kinda had it made: saving money, meeting people, taking care of horses.” Since he was a kid growing up in Plainfield, New Jersey, the oldest of six kids, Tuck has had a special bond with horses. He has a mysterious connection with them, instinctively sensing their needs. When he was a young boy, his grandmother had ice delivered in a horse cart. Tuck fondly recalls stroking that horse’s huge head, looking into his eyes, rubbing his soft nose and smelling his hot breath. “I love horses. We get along great.” Tuck plops down on the museum bench, at ease in his beaver-fur hat and his hand-sewn elk-hide coat, and drapes his arms over the back. But everyone in town seems to know him, and when someone familiar approaches, he jumps up, voicing a friendly, “Hey, how you doing, brother?” He laughs at an invitation to sign his Tuck Naked poster in the museum, slaps a buddy on the back, and entertains locals and tourists with a funny anecdote. Early on, Tuck seemed destined to become a mountain man. As a kid, he spent his free time in the woods of New Jersey, bow hunting and trapping. His father called him ‘nature boy.’ “My grandfather gave my father a .22, which I still have, and my father taught me how to be a sharpshooter. He and my uncle would take me down to the brook and teach me how to shoot. I like the woods. I love living in the mountains, hunting and trapping. Crested Butte is like heaven.” Tuck’s home is filled with animal furs and hides: beaver, fox, pine marten, coyote, elk and horse, flung over chairs or draping from the rafters alongside his collection of cowboy hats. Unfinished beaver mittens lay next to a poetic array of feathers spread across a table. Bows, arrows and rifles hang on the wall or stand at attention against it. A large carved bird sits proudly, center stage. Tuck grabs his heavy, hand-sewn buffalo coat from the end of his bed and puts it on, clutching it close. Nearby rest
his old hardwood snowshoes with rawhide laces and his much-loved telemark skis, which used to carry him gracefully down the mountain. A photograph shows the back of a uniformed vet walking in the cemetery with Tuck, dressed in camouflage. Tuck has his arm around the veteran. “It was Memorial Day and the guy was having a hard time,” Tuck explains. Though long a mountain man, Tuck didn’t attend the Mountain Man Rendezvous (out Washington Gulch) until Mike Ratterman talked him into it in 1983. “It wasn’t long before I knew I was going to like this,” Tuck says playfully. “We all sat around the fire telling tall tales late into the night, naming people crazy things, laughing and drinking whiskey.” Contests continued the next day: black powder shoots, splitting bullets with an axe, shooting bows and arrows, and throwing knives and tomahawks, mostly for bragging rights. To join the mountain men and women, Tuck made outfits from the hides of animals he’d hunted and trapped. “That buckskin shirt I wear is thirty years old. I come walking into the Rendezvous all proud and spiffy with my new buckskin, and the first thing they do is get handfuls of soot, dirt and grease all over it. ‘You gotta get patina on that,’ they said. That was my introduction to the Mountain Man Rendezvous.” Tuck stands tall, buffalo coat flowing, rifle in hand. “I’m known by the name Elk Heart,” he says proudly. Tuck made his buffalo coat from a hide he got at a mountain man rendezvous in Creede, Colorado. “There were about three hundred camps gathered at the rendezvous and the food truck never showed up. There was a buffalo ranch about twenty miles south, and the owner agreed to sell a buffalo to us for seven hundred bucks. We all chipped in, bought one, shot it and cooked up the meat. I got the hide.” From 1963 until 1965, Tuck was a military advisor and a sniper in Vietnam. He came home a very angry man. “Me being nice and cordial is so important to me because it helps me not to be violent.” Tuck confesses, “I can’t drink any more because I get crazy when I get drunk. People hate me when I’m drinking, so I quit. It’s always there… it’s always there…”
he mutters under his breath. “Drinking makes it worse. You got a lot of these young people at the bars getting drunk and wanting to start fights. For a while, I was putting people in the hospital.” Tommy Martin, former chief marshal, told Tuck he was banned from all drinking establishments in town and warned him he needed to make changes or he’d end up in jail. Tuck gets solemn. Looking straight into my eyes, he relates some of his war experiences. “I first went over to Vietnam in 1963 with Turks and Ethiopians. We flew into Da Nang by way of an Australian Caribou aircraft. The pilot who flew us in got all shot up. Da Nang sat between two mountains, and the Vietcong were bombing the area every night.” Tuck looks away and takes a long drink of water. He slams the glass on the table. “Some horrible shit happened there. People were dying and some of us became butchers.” Staring at his hands, he tentatively continues, “They told us we weren’t going home. We felt like we were left there to die. The Vietcong were doing some really awful things to our men. No matter how many times you see a soldier dying, or his head on a stake…the hard part is, it never leaves you.” He stops talking for a minute. Then, shaking his head, he relates how in June 1964, they got hit by a mortar. “It messed me up. We lost nine guys who either died or got badly wounded, and I’m alive instead of them. Every day, for 13 months, you wake up killing…killing…killing. Watching people die. The terrible suffering from diseases. Finding your buddies all shot up. I got discharged in 1965 after eight years of military service. I still have a hard time with the memories.” Last June, Steve Otero, a veterans’ service officer in Gunnison, noticed Tuck’s Vietnam license plates, talked to him and offered to put in a claim on his behalf. Tuck got a letter from the Veteran’s Administration advising him to see a psychiatrist in Hotchkiss. After that three-hour meeting, the VA found Tuck to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder since 1963 and gave him a monthly lifetime award for his Vietnam War service. “At first, I didn’t think I deserved it. I always thought the guys who are dead are the ones who deserve it. After two divorces, losing three kids, going to jail and all that, this was a great thing to happen to me. Now, I can live comfortably here, pay off my debts and save some money for a little ol’ place in the quakies.” When Tuck returned from Vietnam, the 32
narcotics and crime were so bad back in his neighborhood in New Jersey, he felt he needed to carry a gun. There was another war going on, the drug war. He got into undercover narcotics and vice law enforcement in the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut area and tried to fight that war. “Being a cop is a tough profession, especially when you’re coming from a war trying to blend in with society, having kids and a home. It just didn’t work for me. I was arresting corrupt government officials, sending criminals to jail and confiscating all their drugs and money. They weren’t happy with me. Some very bad people were out to kill me.” He quit the police force after three years and came out west. Almost half a century ago, Tuck moved to Crested Butte, the mountain town at the end of the road that attracted the strange and the wild. Freedom from the constraints of society brought hippies in the seventies. Outlaws came to hide. Vietnam vets came to reclaim their lives. Tuck taught martial arts in the military and as a cop, and he had a school in New Jersey where he taught disarming, restraining and self-defense. He had first studied martial arts in Japan while being stationed there for six and a half years prior to Vietnam. In 1961 he earned his black belt. After moving to Crested Butte, Tuck gave back to the town he loves, teaching martial arts to kids and adults for two decades. “I taught Shotokan, which is the original art of karate do, which means ‘empty-hand way’.” He slides off his hat, revealing his shiny-bald head covered in colorful tattoos. He points to a tiger, the insignia for the art itself. “I have a tattoo that says hatsun jin do, which means ‘parting the clouds, seeking the way.’ The kids who were in my school turned out to be really great people. They come back to see me once in a while.” Still fit and strong at age 80, Tuck now does bojitsu, a martial art using a staff. Tuck uses his walking stick. Costumes play an important role in expressing Crested Butte’s character – and Tuck’s. Almost any occasion calls for a costume: parades, races, plays or holidays, real or created. Tuck is a familiar face at the hilarious Alley Loop Nordic ski race every February. As costumed participants ski the town’s alleyways, Tuck keeps warm in his fur-and-hide parka, mittens and hat. “No one wears critters any more,” he laments. Tuck has also worn costumes of many sorts on the stage of the Crested Butte Mountain Theatre. He recalls: “One day, while I was sitting on a bench talking to
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Paulie Veltri, this guy pulls up, jumps out of the car and throws a bundle of scripts at me. ‘You’re the only one who can do this. Be at the theater tomorrow at three o’clock.’ It was Eric Ross, and he was doing the play, ‘Whose Life Is It Anyway?’ That was my first play in Crested Butte. I had so much fun with it.” Tuck was immediately hooked on acting. He could immerse himself into the character he was playing. That time rehearsing and transforming himself felt magical. Another time, he remembers, “I was out in the fields working the horses, and this kid comes out there. He’s only 21. This chubby kid asked me, ‘Is your name Tuck?’ ‘Yeah, why? What do you want?’ ‘I’m Richard Huvard and I’m directing a play. I’d like you to be in it.’ ‘I don’t do that. I can’t remember nothing. Now, get outta here.’ He came back the next day. ‘I really need you. Please,’ he begged. ‘Are there a lot of lines in it?’ ‘No. We just want you to play the orderly.’ So I agreed. I ended up being Chief Bromden in ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.’ Richard conned me into it. It was an awesome role. Oh my God, it was so incredibly good.” Acting is a challenge for Tuck, but something he needs to do for his head. He can still command the Mountain Theatre stage, drawing laughter or touching hearts. “The theater helps me escape my demons. It’s a rush for me, being in front of people, being someone who is not me.” Why is Tuck such a well-loved man, such a larger-than-life figure? Perhaps because he’s a genuine, one-of-a-kind character who carries forward the myth of this warm, wild, funky mountain town. When I ask Tuck why he’s become a legend in Crested Butte, he shrugs. “All I do is live my life.”
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By Cara Guerrieri Photos by Nathan Bilow
Each spring, as if by magic, 83,400 acres in the Gunnison Valley seem to turn from yellowed grass to bursts of green shoots in the blink of an eye. Behind that transformation, of course, are ranchers up and down the valley like Hannah Cranor, vice president of Cranor Ranch. “We literally chase the snow with irrigation water,” Cranor said. “With our short growing season, only about 98 days, we have to take advantage of every single one of them. And it’s a lot easier if you don’t let the subsurface water from snowmelt dry up. On our ranch, that means we’ve only got about a week to get the ditches cleaned, the headgates checked and repaired, and the water turned on.” Of those tasks, the biggest is cleaning
the ditches so that irrigation water flows unobstructed. Spann Family Ranches manager Doug Washburn said cleaning ditches takes him a full two weeks of backbreaking work with a pitchfork pulling out ‘trash,’ and he doesn’t just mean sticks and grass and roots. “Oh, you wouldn’t believe the junk I find in ditches and headgates. Flipflops, paddles, life vests, once even a busted-up canoe.” With hundreds, perhaps thousands, of miles of ditching in the county, every inch of which needs the debris cleared out, that’s a lot of collective pitchfork time for area ranchers. “We use everything in our arsenal to get the ditches and headgates cleared,” said lifelong rancher Burt Guerrieri. “We burn, we use backhoes, shovels, chainsaws, ditchers
and pitchforks. It’s a helluva chore. Ninety percent of the work of irrigating is getting the ditches set up in the spring – which of course comes at the busiest time of year. Most ranchers are still overseeing calving, the fences for summer pasture need to be checked and repaired, and there’s the branding and vaccinating of calves to be done.” Even after the ditch cleaning’s done, it’s not like the ditch work is over. “You gotta keep checking them,” said Washburn, “because a new blockage can come at any time. If there’s an overflow in the wrong spot, before you know it somebody’s driveway is washed out.” To make matters worse, said Guerrieri, “Cows have an incredible knack for stepping on ditch banks in irrigated grazing pastures. Out you go again with your shovel, fixing the same spot again and again.” Most irrigation ditches in the valley were built over 100 years ago using shovels and mule- or horse-drawn digging devices called slip scrapers. Modern surveying equipment wasn’t available, so old-timers used whatever tools were available, sometimes simply a string and a level, to get the grade just right. Too steep and the ditch would erode. Too shallow and the water wouldn’t flow. They did a remarkable job, creating a system which, with subsequent improvements, is still in use. This is the sustaining factor for area agriculture: the network of ditches and the 683 headgates in the Gunnison watershed directing water from rivers to meadows. Some of those ditches, representing massive ingenuity and effort, start many miles from the meadows they irrigate. At the Rock House Ranch, Washburn’s ATV odometer measures
11.5 miles between a headgate and the meadow it serves. “Irrigating is the hardest job in ranching,” he said. “You have no choice but to do it every day. In the spring you’re freezin’ off your fingers, waist deep in a ditch, just hoping you don’t swamp your hip waders. Then when the weather and the water warm up – here come the mosquitoes.” Cranor echoed Washburn regarding the harsh conditions. “We’re out there all times of the day and into the evening. I’ve gotten a boot-full of 34-degree water more times than I care to count. It can be a miserable job.” It’s also one of the least visible jobs in ranching. All summer as the cattle graze in high mountain grasses, giving rise to a romanticized version of ranching starring cowboys on the range and iconic cattle drives, somebody down in the valley is quietly walking the ditches, changing the headgates, coaxing the water. Someone needs to attend to the water level fluctuations day to day and even morning to night. In addition, the crowns of the grasses need to dry up slightly between waterings, and someone needs to track that schedule. Jan Washburn, Doug’s wife, is the regular irrigator of the Spann Ranches acreage in Crested Butte. “She’s the best irrigator we’ve got,” he said. This daily responsibility, in all kinds of weather, requires a person willing to commit to a task far removed from both romance and limelight. Only in the fall, when the haying is done, does the public get a good glimpse of the multitude of ditch lines that make agriculture possible in our valley. Then squiggly uncut hay lines criss-cross the
Hannah and Clara Cranor
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freshly mowed meadows. “I’ve had people ask me why I don’t mow the whole field, why I leave all those tufts of hay sticking up. They don’t know how flood irrigation works here, with all the ditches we have to mow around to get the haying done,” Guerrieri said. Bringing in that hay crop, though, “is one of the most satisfying things we do,” said Washburn, “especially knowing you had a hand in growing it. Even though I hate irrigating, I love it, too, because a good hay crop is its own reward.” Stacking up the bales in the fall means the cattle will be well fed with Gunnison’s high-quality mountain hay for another winter. For Hannah Cranor and her dad, Walter, in addition to the pleasure of growing good winter feed, irrigation means spending time on the land that’s been in their family for three generations. “I love the peacefulness,” he said. “I’ve experienced incredible sunrises and sunsets that I would have missed if I hadn’t been out irrigating. I’ve seen more rare birds than most – cattle egrets, ibis, pelicans on migration, and snowy egrets. Irrigation supports the habitat for many of those birds, and by being the guy behind the shovel, I get to see that beauty.” The rest of us might not be as lucky in seeing rare birds, and we might not know much about headgates, ditches or flood irrigation. No one in the valley, however, can miss the end result of the ranchers’ handiwork: lush meadows sweeping across the valley, providing a beautiful and productive foreground to the sage hills, snowy peaks and blue sky. A more careful look at those meadows might even reveal one of the shovel-wielding ‘magicians’ who keep this valley green.
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Written by Brian Levine, through the perspective of G.V. Benson
DOC ROCKEFELLER, KINGPIN OF CRESTED BUTTE’S ‘GOLDEN AGE’ HOW PHYSICIAN, BANKER AND ENTREPRENEUR JOHN W. ROCKEFELLER (1846-1931) POWERED CRESTED BUTTE THROUGH AN INNOVATIVE HALF-CENTURY.
I need to say this now, that throughout the years, Doc Rockefeller was nothing less than honorable. In his 50 years or more in Crested Butte, the Doc did nothing but good for the town – for the whole county. Doc Rockefeller was a fine physician, always helping the injured and sick – like after the 1884 Jokerville Mine explosion, or in 1918 when he was quarantine physician during the influenza. But he was also a tireless entrepreneur, a forward-thinker, generous personality and, for the most part, goodnatured soul. That’s why I’ve got to make you see that things should have turned out so differently.... Doc’s story started in 1846, when he was born in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. Though he was raised amid farms and coal mines, he pursued medicine at Jefferson Medical College. Shortly after earning his degree, Dr. Rockefeller established a practice in Northumberland. After eight years of serving that community, he uprooted and opened a medical office in Gunnison City in 1880. There he witnessed the development of the Gunnison Country, traveling to Crested Butte, Gothic, Irwin, Schofield, Crystal and the other Elk Mountain mining camps. He teamed up with physician A. J. Robinson, and together they solidified a remarkable reputation. Then, in 1888, the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company (CF&I) offered Doc Rockefeller a position in Crested Butte. The Doc had long been a friend of John Phillips, owner and editor of the Elk Mountain Pilot. Phillips knew almost everyone in Crested Butte, and he introduced the Doc into the workings of society. Soon Doc Rockefeller was another welcoming face about Elk Avenue, with his thick-brush mustache, balding pate, oval face and soft Derby hat. He became the coal miners’ surgeon. This physician in Levi’s was a modest fellow, despite his notable medical skills, variety of scientific interests and number of entrepreneurial endeavors. He favored innovation over striving to ride an aerial tramway to success. The Doc remained a loyal CF&I employee, even after oil magnate John D.
Rockefeller (no relation) wrested its control from regional owner John C. Osgood. That was in the late 1890s, when Colorado was experiencing a lot of labor unrest. The people in Crested Butte naturally favored Osgood and his implementation of socialistic capitalism. They knew John D. Rockefeller was pure capitalist, and the corporate battle for CF&I only deepened their hatred for that robber baron. In ’93, Doc purchased the Elk Mountain Pilot, and John Phillips moved on to the new Cripple Creek goldfields. Doc hired Frank Sanger to be the Pilot’s new editor, followed a few years later by Charles L. Ross. Ross was a big, curly-haired, amiable fellow whose journalism experience came from the town of Crystal’s Silver Lance. The Doc and Charles Ross worked well together. The Doc understood Ross’ risk-oriented spirit. In fact, in 1900 those two bought the Combination No. 1 and No. 2 lodes, incorporated the East River Gold Mining and Milling Company, and started digging. Lot of work that, and even with their best intentions, the business never made a profit. But I’m getting ahead of myself. After the Pilot, Doc saw part of the future in the Crested Butte Light and Water Company. For context: this was just after 1890. Entrepreneur Lucien L. Nunn had been analyzing the operations of the Gold King Mining and Milling Company near Ames, Colorado. Why was it not profitable, even though it produced a significant amount of gold? Nunn discovered the problem was the method by which the Gold King’s machinery was powered. He found the solution in Nikola Tesla’s alternating current (AC) generators. Unlike Edison’s direct current generators, alternating current allowed for consistent, long-distance energy transmission. Nunn had a newly engineered power plant installed near Ames so the Gold King Company could make use of the area’s abundant hydroelectric possibilities. The Ames hydroelectric plant became the first industrial use of AC power in the country, and the Gold King became highly profitable. In no time, other Colorado companies sought to cut power expenses in the same manner.
Dr. John Rockefeller in his Crested Butte office.
Courtesy of Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum.
Doc Rockefeller calculated that a similar alternating current, hydroelectric plant could generate power for Crested Butte and many of the surrounding mines, with a surplus during the torrential run-off season. Rockefeller, George Thompson and C.W. Badgley formed the Crested Butte Light and Water Company, raised capital, bought land on Elk Avenue, built a powerhouse and began generating Tesla’s electricity. This was around 1895-96. Superintendent Thompson made continuous improvements on the system, and by 1900 water and light were provided throughout town on a profitable basis. In 1901, the Doc entered a different
Armistice Day near the Rozich Saloon on Elk Avenue, 1919.
Courtesy of Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum.
sort of partnership. He married Mary Elizabeth Simmons, an English woman with a child, Edna Guild, from a previous marriage. Mary and Edna complemented the Doc’s industrious life. The Doc and Mary lived in Crested Butte – except for a short time, 1918-19, when the Doc managed the county’s influenza quarantine in Gunnison (a fascinating story for another time). Around 1905-1906, Thompson and Badgley thought it time to move on. So Doc hired William Whalen as the power company’s new superintendent and found new funding partners in Charles Ross, Joe Ball and the Town of Crested Butte. Ball was a Scotsman from Ayershire, a state coal mine inspector who’d met the Doc during his surgeon’s work with CF&I. The Crested Butte Light and Water Company’s reorganization initiated both a business and a power shift in Crested Butte. The Doc sold the Pilot, and Charles Ross also left the newspaper to focus on his new enterprises, including a book, cigar and stationery store on Elk Avenue. C.J. Diel, who ran an undertaking business in town, 46
invested in the power company. Their newly formed Ross, Diel & Company (involving the Doc as well) sold insurance and real estate. Intentionally or not, the Doc was becoming a Crested Butte kingpin. There were more incorporations and reorganizations. William Whalen became a county commissioner, his uncle was elected town mayor, and more of Doc’s associates were voted into this office or that. I was made town treasurer, and sometimes I got confused as to who was the head of which company, who held what office, and how everything was being financed…. In 1907, Doc and Ross partnered with another town physician, Angus Taylor, and incorporated the Crested Butte Telephone Company. The plan was to connect Crested Butte with Ashcroft, which would then tie us to Marble and Redstone. Then, as if Doc’s associations weren’t intermingled enough, V.E. Metzler asked Doc to serve as vice-president of the Bank of Crested Butte. Just a year after that, Metzler looked to retire. So Doc, Ross, Diel, Whalen and others bought out the Metzlers. V.E. had been in the business since the 1880s, when he and his brother started the Bank of Irwin. His banking tenure ended that July of 1911, when Dr. John W. Rockefeller assumed the presidency of the Bank of Crested Butte. Was that ambition or just opportunity? C.J. Diel, once the town undertaker, was now vice-president of the bank. Charles Ross, past editor of the Pilot, became cashier. And I, while still the Town’s treasurer, became the bank’s assistant cashier. William Whalen, a director of the bank, was re-elected Gunnison County commissioner. And Taylor Angus, business partner of Doc and Ross, was voted in as Crested Butte’s mayor. It seemed a golden period for Crested Butte. Twelve hundred people lived in town. We had churches, schools, the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, and daily stages to Anthracite, Gothic, Irwin and Pittsburg. There were producing mines and cattlefilled ranches. We were all members of the Gunnison Snow-Shoe Club, even the Doc. We often met at Tim Dowling’s or John Rozich’s Saloon to discuss business, politics or the day’s events. I was so proud to live in Crested Butte then, work at the bank, act as the Masons’ secretary, and be involved in so many different business ventures. One day, Ira Littell decided to sell his coal business. Things were going well for us – at Ross, Diel & Company, at the Bank of Crested Butte, in the town and
throughout the county – so we considered it financially prudent to buy the Littell-Allen Coal Company. That meant we owned the Horace Anthracite Mine at the base of Mt. Emmons, just north of Crested Butte. In our hands, the Horace’s production grew, and the Littell-Ross Coal Company remained profitable throughout World War I. In the early 1920s, we installed new machinery and employed 75 men. Payroll totaled $15,000 a month. We were the only locally owned coal company and second in production to CF&I. The Pilot printed a gamut of praise about our operations and diligent work to keep the Crested Butte community vibrant. It appears that had been Doc Rockefeller’s main goal all along: to constructively influence the Crested Butte community. His oval face glowed throughout the twenties. He was reasonably well off then, drove a new automobile about town, and had more than enough money for his and Mary’s bit of modest luxury. Their daughter, Edna GuildRockefeller, had married Andrew Thorson in 1911 and moved to California. So it was just the Doc, Mary and all us business partners. We sported a certain honor being associated with him. And as for the State Bank of Crested Butte, its total resources were now $150,000 with a capital surplus and profits amounting to $35,000. Doc Rockefeller had done well for himself – as well as for Crested Butte. About the mid-twenties, Charles Ross became vice-president of the bank. I was made cashier. Ross looked to Denver to expand our coal mining business. He opened a branch office there, and we saw less of him. The Doc, Diel and I soon promoted another of our businesses, the Crested Butte Insurance Company, mainly established to replace the businesses that had left town. Then, 1929 barreled in, and by the fall everything was disrupted. Spare capital evaporated. Silver and gold mining ceased. The county’s ranching industry suffered. And people left town, permanently. We’d made it through Prohibition and thought that had been a struggle – but this economic upheaval turned out much, much worse. For a while, railroads, manufacturers and power companies still needed coal, so we kept the Horace producing. But the bank’s surplus had rapidly dwindled, and it became impossible to plug the many leaks in our cash flow. Soon, the strain of funding all our various intermingled businesses was more than I could manage. As the Doc approached 85, he no
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longer had the acumen nor the drive to keep us all focused. In truth, old Doc was being crushed by our troubles. So many of his grand ventures were becoming impossible to keep afloat. That hurt him, and us, and Crested Butte. Doc and Mary still lived a reasonably comfortable life, driving about town in their aging automobile, but the rest of us hadn’t been so astute with our planning. We were from another generation; we’d seen a world war, been humbled by disease, and then been raised to great heights by incomprehensible wealth. However, we never thought poverty would break our windows and paper our walls with blinding dust. As did the Doc, I wanted to keep men employed, people eating, children at school. I did what was necessary to keep people’s accounts open. Like when the Ladies of Smith Hill were raising money for the war effort with bake sales. Or when Charles Ross needed to pay some of the Ross Coal Company bills. I advanced money upon expected receipts to their various accounts from internal bank resources. There had never been a problem in the past. We all knew each other. We were all friends. The money always showed up as promised and none were the wiser. But this time – in the spring of 1931 – Charles Ross asked too much for his Denver expenses and the coal company. What’s more, the Horace’s payroll was too big to meet. The Denver & Rio Grande’s freighting bills seemed unjustifiably high. And we had too many payments going out, on machinery, property, loans, maintenance, insurance claims. By April, our assets were depleted. Let me assure you, it had never been my intent to take the Doc’s savings permanently, but all these businesses and people needed his $20,000. At least temporarily. So I moved the funds… and yes, then there was the $23,000 or so the District Attorney claimed I “embezzled.” I don’t call it that, but…. Sadly, I know it broke the Doc – he died later in ’31 -- and for that I’m so truly sorry. People failed to meet their obligations, and the bank collapsed. I don’t want to say it, but that was mostly Charles Ross. He overextended the Colorado Anthracite Company, had expenses he never told us about, and committed crimes only I could account for: embezzlement, larceny, felonious conspiracy…. My wife, Jennie, comes to see me here. Few else do. Mary Rockefeller did for a time. But Mary recently sold off the balance of her estate and moved to California, to join her daughter. So now this cell is really empty...and our golden age has definitely passed.
Photos by Allison White Photography
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WWF members pump up their wrestling personas for the Chainless Race (left) and get gritty on local trails (right). 56
n back dow ot one to N ed .” in e g rm d le te was de of know a nge, Laura ils and her e d ll n a u h c ro a a a from beers both the tr e ere orm over be of use to emed to her that th rested Butt s a brainst a C to a t a er re tt fi li ) se g g n A , o in It B b v ex t y. M o d h it B n -l on (C ur bike late-nig lored spa commun e Associati nd. Now urces in o ut e ik o in neon-co th so B d rs h re e la g in e v u C ta b o ro n -l Mou should weeke of bike search th s rk e e s. o p d w w ty ee s, il p st ll a in o a y tr -t t ta r st e fo and high overnight for our tru valley to g nds, helping to main s a platform ail work of bicycles nt of our F provide c la tr li ce W b d is u n W in a p e m mountain ip to th re in sh lled out, t-Up steward ca -I , n e o ck re e all use. ri o a is e w L n d storm, . s es n ra ir il u m a a a Na cam the tr more fl side brain of the G it re n b fi e a e m k h o th in it w p n w o ber Hilary ing hotBased own, but among the board mem Whiting, front, rock p h in te it F ts w “s g ru W to n st s W att ls, a Laura Valley. Laura, alo llenging u resident M s kett Danie is and cha and then-p er deputy Laura Puc lia, who ha -specific, n Ju ry rm e bike cham n p e fo m o -U H d w n ed a a ic r f e o Ju t b a a .” e m g e n ed id m BMBA e the e arriv into the ri founding brought th ining group to the C A, recalled cter since w ctuallyB ra M a B C a ch f to tr o in d curre 8, WWF her a stayed director trail-skills ent: “It oc mmer 201 , shows off m rt su o a e m r in st w n d s ce o n a a ti ra the incep it was clea rnight, eps. board, at the ove ur way, mediately, -strong bic ost o r ly nd a e lm Im g a e k a . y in a n z e e rn re m a e n o m d o b m w o n a us was d there e “by w r bikes a n b u a e o re ld w d e d u s n n o th u A fi , w ro g e. e io W decis ns ing lin workin looked a this group ere all key to the start le-rousers n the trail , h n s. O w o e . be ti d ,” n a u e n e d m rm 0 m o in fo no w on would and 8 w rabb for wo five of us we up’s directi ry and Laura g our fello , e n ro b o ss ’” g y a ? m a e P a is m r th it th le t a re u w we f Keb hy is abo Hila n the top o members. tter ere like, ‘W mmunity trail ir gathered o ade by its moves. Gli And we w o m c to be “the re e p tu a u th n ro y, g g ll s, si r t bump attitude ant the istorica nts for e es w H e v th ch ’t e , t n practice ou u id ig id o b d sa le n ra ,” er; we do have bee stead, Lau rs in the n reaching “body slam meets glitt build days thing.” In omen ride d and ndees ofte the famed e w d tt e n a y, a a th h d s t it o T ck le g w gettin elbow lo CBMBA, passersby. was, “Let’s ecide what is neede ra started usement of yd ays. “It women digits. Lau d f o il le a p ip to the bem u tr tr ro communit .” se g e ugh th d. simply a re the ro re t a e o th ere e b for n d w th m e re e y, a lv m a m e o o d w To inv go fr she re open house ride bikes. free form,” hosted an wledge, F – ready e o y ry W n th e e k h v W f in T s e o a who love to rs t th e w – a lo rid ork Force med eople had -identified ea Women’s W l in Crested Butte’s fa “Lots of p nging to b all women e ll a h es c ti il ld it ti h o b a iden resh to fly down but it was r assumed re was a th Race in ou ecause the b , ie b w Chainless e n restlers. e began as female w Work Forc s ’ n e m o The W
WWF trail workers haul bridge materials for Baxter Gulch.
valley. “The response was awesome to see,” recounted Hedda Peterson, CBMBA board member and founding member of WWF. The women riders confirmed they would LOVE more training in trail work techniques. Perhaps even more inspiring, the riders agreed they were craving camaraderie with other women within the bike community. “As a board member and a woman in a community where trail days are extremely well attended but women are typically outnumbered five to one, this idea really excited me,” said Hedda. “I was especially excited when I heard [Colorado Representative] Kerry Donovan was really into it! I was like: this is a really good idea even outside of CB.” That summer brought the first-ever women-specific trail-building training, led by International Mountain Bike Associationtrained trail expert Lani Bruce. This was followed by four women’s work days and trail rides. With group leadership in mind, instead of one program director, WWF trail work days and group ride are coordinated by different volunteers. Each woman can bring her flair to the experience, from snacks to theme music. WWF has done work on 58
redirecting the Snodgrass trail, putting in the Red Lady Open Space trail, and advancing the Baxter Gulch trail, a massive community project. A public Facebook group, “Women’s Work Force,” is a landing for all things bikes, riding and outdoors for women in the Gunnison Valley. Forum members often gather unofficially, from shred dates on Teo Ridge to community skills clinics. Today, the group hosts 118 members. The most important marker of the WWF’s success is its members. “The WWF has taught me how to properly build and maintain trails and has connected me with women who share the same passion of mountain biking,” said local rider and CBMBA member Sarah Steinwand. “It has also connected me more closely with CBMBA and has motivated me to attend community trail work days. I always look forward to hanging with the ladies at work days and shredding with them at group rides.” While WWF was created to make trail building and friendship around bikes more welcoming to all, WWF members quickly saw they could also impact the direction and stewardship of the valley’s public lands. “I wanted women to have a voice and to
feel welcome within the mountain bike community,” said Laura. “At first, I just wanted more women to get involved. But then I started realizing that the people involved in mountain biking were making decisions about what happened on our public lands, and I wanted women to have a seat at that table.” Hedda, the former director for stewardship at the Crested Butte Land Trust, noted that her commitment to CBMBA was solidified when the organization codified its mission around stewardship. Most public lands in the Gunnison Valley are managed by Federal entities like the Bureau of Land Management or Forest Service, as well as local municipalities; but organizations like CBMBA, with “boots on the ground,” are at the forefront of new trails, as well as maintenance and upkeep of existing lands. “In general, the land management field is pretty male heavy,” Hedda said. “So I wasn’t surprised that the trail-building community was also male-dominant. I didn’t feel there was a lot of opportunity for inserting a female perspective outside the WWF, and I wanted to be included.” Some people question whether our valley needs a gender-specific mountain bike and trail maintenance group. While the answer is multi-faceted and layered in many things grander than mountain biking (including our shifting world landscape, the male-dominated bike and sports industry, and the #MeToo movement, to name a few), the answer for the women involved in WWF is clearly YES! Hedda said, “The WWF mattered in a different way to each woman there. For some, it was an opportunity to step up and show true leadership skills, for others a convenient outlet to meet other women. And for all, the common denominator was camaraderie.”
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Laura noted that when she began to get involved in trail building in Crested Butte, “I did not see clear entry points for beginners, regardless of gender.” While not all women are beginners (far from it!), fewer females had been given the opportunity to be properly trained in building and maintaining trails. There’s not one “why” for the WWF – because the very nature of a space for women by women is that there is no singular path, dogma or code. Instead, the WWF seeks to create a safe, supportive, educational, genuine and sometimes very silly space for the valley’s women riders to thrive. These women, newbies to professionals, are finding friends who accept them as they are and enthusiastically chase them down a single track, and this breeds a more diverse and welcoming community as a whole. At the end of the day, if more women are showing up for community trail work days, and if the female-male ratio is better than five to eighty, the WWF is not only succeeding, it’s also filling a gap in our current bike culture. In a flurry of glittery pink and gold, we roll down Kebler Pass Road, propelled by glee and gravity. With our chains zip-tied to prevent pedaling, our laughter rings out into the bluebird day. Our rickety “townie” bikes swerve and bop, up and down over the gravel road. This is not quite the single track we usually ride together, but nothing beats getting out and on a bike seat alongside your friends. In over-the-top spandex nonetheless! As we close in on town, taking the quick right onto Elk Avenue, chaos ensues. People are falling off their bikes; the crowd is screaming. But we’re ready. Like any good wrestlers, we’ve practiced our ending fight sequence. Head-Lock Hedda and Lock-it-Up Laura don’t miss a beat. They’re off their bikes and into the ring. All the practice pays off, and at the last minute Lock-ItUp Laura comes out victorious. At this moment, it doesn’t matter that the whole town is watching us and waiting for us to move out of the way; we are out with our friends, enjoying a day of fun on bikes, and nothing can stop a group of women on a mission like that. Writer Cassidy Tawse-Garcia (a.k.a. Knock-Out Cass) is a founding member of the Women’s Work Force.
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Quiet steps, old trails and good camps
Did thousands of ancient people once populate our valley? A lifelong rock hound finds intriguing hints. Words and photos by Polly Oberosler An artistic arrowhead used for fishing or small game, one of hundreds the author has found over the decades.
Mostly hidden rock art near Gunnison, long protected from weather and defacing.
An arrow tip honing rock: the arrowhead fit into the round opening for sharpening.
Growing up in Almont, I felt the outside world was for exploring, and you could find me most any day on a quest. I would take off hiking or riding my horse, most of the time my parents knew not where. To this day I’ve never stopped looking for some elusive “thing.” I was always particularly interested in geology and archeology and came by that honestly, since a family outing was often visiting old mines or looking for arrowheads. The Gunnison Valley is covered with abandoned mines, and I’m a glorified rock hound that became interested in both Native American and mining history in my wanderings. It’s often an excuse to get outside on my own, where I spend more time looking at neat rocks than chronicling Native American existence. In my youth you could scarcely walk anywhere without stepping on fragments left by Native Americans from “knapping,” the art of chipping small flakes off larger pieces of rock, creating projectiles or tools. Arrowheads hid on almost every acre of land in the Upper Gunnison Basin. Sadly, this valley has been virtually cleaned of artifacts from that time, but thanks to some real archeologists (unlike me), some of it will be preserved. In my view, there’s much yet to be discovered. Some years ago, Western Colorado University professor Mark Stiger led a team that over time uncovered several Paleo Indian structures at the Mountaineer site on Tenderfoot Mountain south of Gunnison. The objects found there are of the Folsom Tradition, a style of artifacts thought to be mainly from plains civilizations. Those who have excavated or studied the Mountaineer site agree the structures are among the oldest in North America, dating 10,400 Before Current Era (BCE), and they may have been permanent, year-round dwellings. Little is known even now of the Paleo people, much less the possibility that they lived in the mountains year-round. 62
A hand-fitting, quartzite scraper/ knife for skinning game.
Other ancient sites south of Gunnison show transitional evidence of Paleo occupation. The National Register of Historic Places, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, mentions the Fremont people having used the Chance Gulch site here, and that followed late Paleo and Archaic use. In my wide wanderings around the Gunnison Basin, I’ve noticed that good camps are always used again and again, so it’s no surprise to me to read of civilizations crossing paths for more than 8,000 years and leaving evidence of their passing in the same camps. One major site even harbored a British penny and other copper artifacts taking its use clear up to 1925. There were also some artifacts that could have come from only California or Texas. The well-used camp where I spent summers for my Forest Service Ranger job was clearly a place the Utes had camped; my husband and I both found points there. I have limited knowledge of projectile points and who made them, so the use of that camp could have gone back 10,000 years. I do know the camp was used over and over again – by the Native Americans, prospectors, cattlemen, hunters and backpackers. Below that camp, there’s vague evidence of a really old beaver dam infrastructure which might have been part of an even larger dam complex, contributing to the deep, rich soils. The fish were abundant there, and it’s a natural game crossing – a perfect place for the Ute to graze their sheep or the Paleo to harvest and dry fish. If you look around while recreating in the Gunnison Basin, you can find geological evidence of ancient small streams and some not so ancient, as this author can attest, for I’ve seen them run in years past. Exposed streaks of sandstone, granite and huge cliffs of volcanic tuff were once the pathways for running torrents in spring, scrubbing away the topsoil, and later small springs that seeped all year. That was a wetter time, even as recent as the middle of the nineteenth century
when this country was covered not with sagebrush, but with high-altitude grasslands and earlier the pinion pine. As this area began to dry up, grasses gave way to sagebrush, for the sage has a way of surviving the dry ground but also loves a little moisture, making it the perfect transitional plant that thrives in these drier times. Some suspect the pinion, which provided subsistence for those early civilizations, burned in massive fires, possibly contributing to the Paleo’s undoing here. The basin is dotted with petrified wood, but I’ve never asked if it is pinion. The good camps are always found near free-running springs, and you can see the progression away from some older campsites as this area moved into a cycle of drought and springs began to dry up. The Ute, coming along as a distinct group about 1000 A.D., preferred to camp in the open or backed up to a group of cottonwoods where they could wrap their hides around trees and a few additional poles to quickly set up their teepees. Since they were nomadic, following the buffalo into this valley and hunting the game that resided here, they didn’t need much for camps. They weren’t here for the long haul, rather moving through to harvest game and dry hides, fish and mountain berries. Most of the knapping scatters here now are Ute, but occasionally you’ll see a fragment of a larger point. Gunnison Bureau of Land Management archeologist Liz Francisco tells me the larger projectiles were often Paleo or Archaic, used with the atlatl, a throwing or launching device. The DNA evidence points to the Paleo having an Asian connection, so it’s anyone’s guess where their use of the atlatl came from, but it seems to me similar to harpoon throwers of the Arctic north people. Either way, their diets included bigger game such as the mammoth, so they manufactured bigger points. Perhaps the bigger projectiles were better balanced in their throwing apparatus and carried farther than lighter points. The style of each civilization’s projectiles and tools is distinct, something I don’t know how to determine, but I marvel at the designs. They are incredibly artistic, with tiny serrated edges on arrowheads, some the size of a thumbnail. Hide scrapers and butchering tools have hollowed-out places for resting thumbs or fingers. Whether by happenstance or design, many of the tools fit my hand like a glove. There were even left-handed and righthanded tools, by my observation. Most of the tools found at the three official sites south of Gunnison are made of 63
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quartzite, a hard, rough stone with a feeling of sand. But at least one site here held obsidian from Idaho. Did these people trade for the obsidian or transport it to this site? Many primitive artifacts found in this basin are made of non-native stone; some appear to have come from the San Luis Valley; and others are so distinctly different, they had to have come from neighboring states. We have only a few rock art examples here, unlike in Utah; however, they are distinct. I wonder how many drawings on rock are hidden out there among the pine trees and aspen. Some particularly nice carvings near Gunnison have been defaced so it’s hard to make them out, while a few are pretty much intact. A friend showed me one that is visible only because the juniper that hides it has protected it from both the elements and human touching. Other drawings beside it are scarcely discernable. I’ve written of this drawing before because it represents to me the sheer simplistic lives the Native Americans led. The pecking of the image into the rock is simple and yet brilliant, because it represents a recognition of “I am.” I am here or I recognize what I look like. Perhaps, it was even copied from the shadow of the artist. It speaks to me of something I can’t quite grasp. A naked and pure truth about life perhaps? Maybe I’m too bent by my world to step into theirs far enough to hear the story they were telling? Trails we use today were trod by the ancients, just as they were followed by European and colonial explorers. Most of the trails came to existence by way of animals, from coyotes to elk and buffalo as they traversed the natural curvature of the land. It’s only the modern humans who show their lack of savvy by clambering straight up hillsides that in time erode to deep gouges littered with rock. The ancients and the animals they sought traveled barefoot, so they left the earth’s surface in a more natural state. They traveled those trails repeatedly, telling those that followed of their passing and leading to the best water sources, game or camps. Even in my wanderings in the West Elks, I’ve seen evidence of old trails, not heavily used now because there’s no longer water along them. Two books sum up my thinking on the ancient lives here and across the West: 1491 by Charles C. Mann and The Secret Knowledge of Water by Craig Childs. The book 1491 presents much evidence that historic and prehistoric humans populated the West not by tribes of a few dozen people, but of many thousands in vast civilizations. Mann contends there were people never seen by arriving explorers
– because the sailors passed on disease near the shores of the American continent or in the surrounding islands, and the sickness traveled like a wave across the country ahead of the ones who would chronicle what was left of the native civilizations. When I walk this basin, I get the feeling, based on what I’ve seen, that the ancient people here numbered in the thousands and some at least were winter residents, as local archeologists believe. The sheer number of artifacts, however small, cements my guess that this might have been a thriving commerce area of the ancients or at least provided them bounty they could trade in a more central region. Similarly, in the book The Secret Knowledge of Water, Childs talks of mapping water holes in the Southwest and, even at the time of his fairly recent book, finding small lakes in rock outcroppings interspersed across the desert. Our imaginations are far too shallow when we assume Native Americans couldn’t possibly have lived here in numbers because we see no evidence. They lived in a biodegradable world where only their hard projectiles and bits of charcoal survived. Only they knew where to find the life-giving water that would allow them hidden existence for weeks on end. The ancient ones lived a life in which “want” might never have been in their vocabulary. They needed things to survive, and they knew how to find these necessities. They wasted nothing, so all we find are the fragments of their bones. They walked softly or ran the trails with biodegradable footwear or nothing at all. The natives made bowls of hides and baskets of native willow and grasses. They ground grains on granite stones with granite tools. They followed a progression of their ancestors, whomever they might be, on trails trod by the animals they sought. They lived in a harmony of nature we have forgotten.
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REFERENCES: • www.coloradoencyclopedia.org/article/ mountaineer-archaeological-site; • Pitblado, University of Oklahoma, project manager for the Chance Gulch site; • “Paleoindian archeology of the Upper Gunnison Basin, Colorado Rocky Mountains”; • National Register of Historic Places, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Gunnison. • Many thanks to Liz Francisco, Bureau of Land Management, Gunnison Field Office, for more material than I can read in a year. 65
Tin Cup now draws trail-hungry ATVers instead of fortune-seeking prospectors, but itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s still rich in splintery character. Words and photos by Dawne Belloise
the Taylor Reservoir southwest of Crested Butte, a dirt cutoff heads toward the former gold mining town of Tin Cup. Eight miles up that road, a wooden sign welcomes people to the tiny cluster of rough-hewn cabins, with just a couple of eateries and the humble General Store anchoring its dirt main street, optimistically named Grand Avenue. But one could imagine what Tin Cup was like during its Wild West boom days, with its salacious dance halls, gunfights over mining claims and soured gambling games, and dashed dreams of making hasty fortunes. In 1859, prospectors Jim Taylor, Gus Lamb and Ben and Charlie Gray stumbled on gold in what would become Tin Cup. The legend says that Ben Gray had gone to the stream for a drink of water and, scooping some gravel into his tin cup, found gold. Hence the name of the town, which became the most lucrative and busiest gold mining town in Gunnison County. In the late 1870s, Leadville was swarming with gold and silver prospectors, but three millionaires, Tabor, Moffatt and Fields, owned most of the claims, so many seeking their fortunes eventually wandered over to the Tin Cup area. In 1878 Captain T.G. Hall struck the motherlode on what was
grubstaked as Gold Hill. When Hall returned to Denver boasting of his find, he set off a full stampede to Tin Cup. At one time Tin Cup Camp, as it was known, and the surrounding mountains boasted 5,000-6,000 residents. Buildings and businesses sprang up. By 1884, the town had two banks, a hardware store, a bakery, two drugstores, two meat markets, five grocery stores and two hotels, along with a Masonic Temple and a town hall that was also used for church services. But 26 saloons and gambling houses outnumbered all those businesses combined. The town of St. Elmo was only 12 miles away over the 12,156-foot Alpine Pass (now Tin Cup Pass), which crossed the Continental Divide. Narrow and steeply hazardous wagon trails carried passengers, supplies and mail daily to and from Tin Cup and St Elmo. In the winter, when the snow piled high, blizzards howled and temperatures dropped to fifty below, carriers made the treacherous trip by toboggan and sled. Tin Cup lost most of its businesses and residents after fires essentially wiped out the town in 1906 and again in 1913. Only one store, a livery stable and a hotel were left standing in the Tin Cup business district after the 1913
fire. As gold mining declined, Tin Cup dwindled almost to a ghost town with no stores and few people by the late 1920s.
Billy McAuliffe at his family’s Tin Cup General Store.
TIN CUP REBORN A few decades later, enchanted tourists began purchasing and updating the old cabins for their summer escapes, and by the 1950s, Tin Cup’s summer residents numbered about 150. “Pete Smythe’s General Store” was an early 1950s Denver radio show that claimed to be broadcasting live from Tin Cup, even though it wasn’t. Pete Smythe didn’t realize Tin Cup was a real place, let alone that there was actually a General Store. Tin Cup became known to Smythe’s listeners, and in 1954 Smythe finally learned about and visited the town where tourists would stop in at the General Store to ask where he broadcast the show. Smythe fell in love with the place and bought property, which he visited for decades. Frenchy Perault, who had opened Frenchy’s Saloon in 1879, was in bed with pneumonia when the 1913 fire broke out. As he was a man of 300 pounds, too sick to get himself up, his friends tore off the back door and used it as a gurney to carry him out of his room in the rear of the saloon. He survived, but his building burned to the ground. Today, his name lives on in Frenchy’s Cafe on Grand Avenue. To get to the wooden building, ringed by decks with mountain views, patrons walk a wooden bridge over a pond filled with noticeably well-fed trout stocked from Roaring Judy Fish Hatchery. Kids can fish or buy bags of trout food to plump them up even more. At the end of the season, the spring-fed pond waters recede, but locals know to come take the fish for dinner, and some trout find their way back into the creek. In the spring, when the waters rise, the pond gets restocked with 150 trout. Unlike in the original Frenchy’s Saloon, there is no gambling, alcohol or dancing girls; but the homemade cuisine (from breakfast to dinner), atmosphere and setting are well worth the scenic drive from Crested Butte. Dianne Wesolowski, who’s been coming to Tin Cup for summers since 2004, manages Frenchy’s. Dianne’s cook, Rudy Jimenez, has been
The bridge to Frenchy’s, home of Tin Cup Pie.
with her at Frenchy’s for 12 years. Neither of them gets a day off all summer, but she insists that she enjoys working. Tourists and locals lounge outside on the deck, gobbling up the views and the pies, especially the historic favorite known as Tin Cup Pie, a chocolate-drizzled, chocolate-pudding extravaganza fluffed into a pecan crust. Customers have to get there early or risk losing out on the Tin Cup Pie. Dianne explains that, as in its historic days, Tin Cup is still a community, but now it’s a community of longtime summer-only residents, many of whom own cabins passed down through multiple generations. Nowadays, summer residents
Frenchy’s manager Dianne Wesolowski and cook Rudy Jimenez.
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Tin Cup’s rustic cabins house a small but loyal circle of summer visitors.
number about 250. Frenchy’s Café bustles non-stop for the 90 days it’s open, June through Labor Day. The main clientele comes from visitors who camp in their tricked-out RVs in the many nearby campgrounds and locals who live in the three subdivisions that began in the mining days: Tin Cup, Rainbow and Murdy. “This is an amazing place. I mean, look at all the beauty, so how could you not mind getting up every day? You get to see all your people, because the same people come back year after year,” Dianne says. Pitkin summer people hop in their ATVs and bounce over Cumberland Pass, and St. Elmo folks drive ATVs over Tin Cup Pass and around Mirror Lake, navigable only by high-clearance fourwheel-drive vehicles. “They’re like family,” Dianne says of her regulars. “I open these doors, and this is their home too.” Directly across the road from Frenchy’s sits a small food wagon with tables set up on a deck, buzzing with hummingbird feeders. The aroma of pulled pork, brisket, baby back ribs, turkey legs and chicken catches the mountain air and hits as you drive up Grand Street. Cynthia Norris-Whatley and her hubby Jessie own KaiCyn’s Fine BBQ. Cynthia has been coming to Tin Cup since her parents brought her there as a seven-year-old, more than 50 years ago. Her folks are now buried in the Tin Cup cemetery, having spent many summers in the town they loved. Cynthia tells of three people who winter in the isolated, snowbound town: “Mr. Albert,” who’s an older veteran, and the Walkers. She also remembers an old miner, Frank Seaton, “who’s 95 and who’s lived up here since he was ten months old.” Billy McAuliffe sits on a bench in front
of the Tin Cup General Store, which his family has owned for decades. He talks about how angry the chipmunks are with him because he had to take their feeder away since the bears were getting into it. “The chipmunks are especially mad because the hummingbird feeder is still up – but I take that in at night.” He started coming to Tin Cup from Oklahoma and Arkansas in 1978, when he attended a kid’s camp for a month every summer. After ten years, he says, his mother Eleanor decided to find summer work for the family. “So we bought Eivert’s seven cabins. We rented to weekenders, but some people would stay a week.” In 1994 his mother bought the Tin Cup General Store and Frenchy’s Cafe. Inside the General Store, the crowded shelves hold tzchokies, souvenirs, tee shirts, mugs, knives, paperbacks on the history of Tin Cup, and a few sundries. Billy says the ATV visitors have discovered the area in the past 20 years. “We’re in the middle of thousands of acres of trails, so they come up to ride.” Though the store and town have become a lot busier, especially with the ATV enthusiasts, he figures he’ll always want to be in Tin Cup for the summers. “Except for the amount of traffic, the town itself hasn’t changed. You still have pretty much the same number of buildings and structures as you did 40 years ago.” Summers bring the cattle run up to the pastures around Tin Cup – and the parade of ATVs. But the rustic cabins, beneath layers of coal dust, still hold the survival stories of Tin Cup’s miners and the happy memories of its more recent fans.
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Willy, Billy and Bill (William Earl Coburn I, II and III) on their cabin porch; Gracie’s Tin Cup wedding in 2014; Billy Coburn with new son Joe (now 19) on the cabin’s swing.
Bill Coburn’s roots grow deep into Tin Cup’s rocky soil – and, partly because of him, dozens of other Crested Butte people have ties to the rustic town as well. The Coburn cabin has been in the family since Bill’s grandfather “won it, sort of, in a card game” in the 1920s, Bill said. While hunting for food in the Taylor Park area around 1917, his grandfather and friends discovered the mostly-abandoned Tin Cup townsite. A few years later he and two others pooled funds and bought three adjacent cabins there, as base camps for adventuring. For the next few years they bickered over the cabins’ upkeep and finally decided to divvy up the ownership based on cutting the cards in a deck. “Grandpa lost,” Bill said. “He got the biggest cabin – but it was in the worst shape. Luckily, he was mega industrious. He fixed it up.” The cabin has been the focal point for family gatherings ever since. Bill spent much of his childhood summers in Tin Cup and married his sweetheart Annie there 36 years ago. The place meant so much to their four children that elder daughter Gracie also got married there. “Now my grandkids are fifth-generation Tin Cuppers,” Bill said. Tin Cup initially brought the Coburns to
Crested Butte. After graduating from the University of Colorado, Bill and Annie set up housekeeping in Boulder. But Annie and the children spent much of each summer in Tin Cup, with Bill joining them on weekends. “We’d go to Crested Butte for groceries, laundry and hardware items. That’s how we started connecting to Crested Butte.” They moved to Crested Butte in 1998 and began inviting friends and neighbors to visit their Tin Cup retreat. Many Crested Butte kids have memories of joining the Coburns for overnights, often timed to hit Tin Cup’s famous Friday night square dances. Now a handful of Crested Butte families own property or regularly spend time in Tin Cup, though most of its loyal fans come from Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado’s front range. Snowmobiling into the mostly-deserted townsite (eight miles from the nearest plowed road) gradually became a Coburn winter tradition. “Winter’s almost my favorite time now,” Bill said. Since water to the house must be turned off to prevent freezing, “we have to melt snow for water, and go to the outhouse, and the only heat sources are the stove and fireplace. In winter, it’s pretty rudimentary.” All of which made the great fire of 2007 even more devastating.
That winter, when younger daughter Emma was a high school junior, the Coburns snowmobiled into Tin Cup with two of Emma’s friends. Crested Butte neighbor Scott Hargrove also snowmobiled in with his teenage son Daniel and two buddies and settled into their own cabin a few streets over. “We had a bunch of Crested Butte kids up there,” Bill recalled. “I went to bed. The kids stayed up a bit. I woke up to a crackling sound and a room full of smoke. Fire had burned through some wires, so there was no electricity or lights. I rousted the girls and they ran to the Hargroves’ cabin. On the way they met two Hargroves running to our cabin.” Inexplicably, both cabins had caught fire at the same time. The Hargroves were able to extinguish their flames, but the Coburn cabin burst into an inferno. Bill was able to rescue some prized family artifacts, like the elk antler chair his grandfather made, but the building was lost. Amazingly, the Gunnison Fire Department showed up on snowmobiles, alerted by one of Tin Cup’s rare year-round residents. “For hours we all threw snow on the other little cabin to keep it from catching fire.” Bill also recalled a moment of panic when he couldn’t find daughter Emma and thought she was still inside; instead she’d become disoriented from carbon monoxide and gone out the back door. “We have a pretty serious bond from that,” he said. “She had smoke damage to her lungs but obviously recovered [and is now a world champion and Olympic bronze medalist steeplechase runner].” The Coburns rebuilt the structure just as it had been, using reclaimed wood. “You’d think it was the same cabin,” Bill said. Many of the family’s favorite memories are set there: backyard horseshoes, competitive charades, pseudo-nasty arguments over card games, “house of butter” foil-wrapped corn cooked in the fire, hunting and exploring the nearby mountains. Bill’s mother and sister have markers in the Tin Cup Cemetery, an attraction in itself with its hillocks (Catholic Knoll, Protestant Knoll and Jewish Knoll…) interlaced by brooks and edged by wetlands. The ashes of family members and pets were spread on mountainsides to the south. “We’re all intending to end up there one way or another,” Bill said. “That place means everything to me.”
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CORONAVIRUS CHRONICLES FIVE WRITERS REFLECT ON EMBRACING THE PAIN, STRUGGLES AND HIDDEN GIFTS OF THE TIMES.
ON PANDEMICS, FLY FISHING AND LOVE By Shelley Read, March 27, 2020 No, I’m not a fly fisherman. And, no, I never thought I’d write something with this title. But these are surreal times indeed. I’ve heard that word – surreal— an awful lot lately. And I get it. It’s pretty much the only word I, too, can come up with for this pandemic. That is, until my son and I go fly fishing. Owen and I have long been well-suited fishing buddies. He’s happiest spending hours of hyper-focus pursuing even one satisfying catch and release, and I am content doing just about anything (except fishing) along the edge of a river. On the first warm day post-quarantine, we are both itching to get out. As we cross a bridge together south of Roaring Judy, tiny trout bolt through the clear waters beneath us. “Nothing faster than a scared minnow,” Owen says. Nothing faster than an exponentially exploding virus, I think but dare not say. As we walk in the woods, COVID-19 doesn’t exist for him for just a little while, and I want to get there, too. We push through leafless red willows to emerge at the East River. Owen prepares his fly rod, turning inward to that quiet place he goes where idle chatter is over and it’s just him and the river and the fish. I walk along the snowy banks until I find a dry patch to sit. I pull off my shoes and, for the first time in months, push my toes into actual dirt. The divine normalcy of this transports me. For a glorious moment, there is no pandemic, no global suffering, no uncertainty. There is only the flow of the late-winter river and my boy’s graceful cast and miraculous dirt beneath my feet. Migrating songbirds spiral overhead, doing what they do. I can’t help but think of the coronavirus, doing what it does. I think of Edward Abbey. Three decades ago, I headed into the Utah wilderness with a worn copy of Desert Solitaire at the top of my pack and emerged a changed person. What I learned most profoundly is what I really need right now: a reminder of the great illusion
of separation. Nature, Abbey says, is not a fantastical “garden of bliss” but “the actual, tangible, dogmatically real earth on which we stand.” That real earth is the glistening East River and green sprouts sprinkling blond grass tufts and these bare cottonwoods like white sparks against the impossibly blue sky. But the real earth is also, as Abbey puts it, “scorpions and tarantulas and flies, rattlesnakes and Gila monsters, sandstorms, volcanoes and earthquakes, bacteria and bear, cactus, yucca, bladderweed, ocotillo and mesquite, flash floods and quicksand, and yes—disease and death.”
ill. One is home doing schoolwork; the other is just out fishing. And that word again – surreal – plays in my head. For how surreal is it that as I bathe in gentle sunshine, celebrating dirt and healthy children, so many others suffer? While families mourn, can I bear the simple luxury of hoping my son will lure an elusive trout? It helps me to just admit it: existence is so much more It’s tough to swallow, this pill called the whole immense than any human will caboodle. But, ultimately, it offers me the humility I ever comprehend or dictate. We desperately need to make some sense of this pandemic. are all – human, bird, fish, river, COVID-19 is not nature gone mad or nature gone evil. dirt, virus – inextricably linked It’s just nature, as the East River is nature…and we are on this one wild, infinitely nature, too. complex, horrific, mysterious, To be very clear: I have no affection for the gorgeous ride. When nature coronavirus. As I write, the global confirmed unleashes an ass-kicking that infection count has topped one million, and tens of jolts some deeply buried, thousands have died. I mourn for the Chinese, the primordial memory of this truth, Italians, the Iranians, the Spanish, New Yorkers, for what we call surreal is actually all. Our country reels with indecision and fear at just real. Painfully, minddire predictions. Our Crested Butte community is bogglingly real, and a powerful locked down amid widespread illness and hardship, reminder of the essential lesson having already lost one of our own beloveds, nervous humans just can’t seem to learn: about who might be next. Several of my friends are we’re all (and I mean ALL) in hospitalized. My husband, Erik, is on the exhausting this together. front lines as a CareFlight medic, risking his own The pandemic leaves me health and going longer and longer stretches without feeling incredibly small. It is coming home, terrified he’ll infect us. My niece and deeply humbling to peel back elderly parents, in-laws, aunts and uncles are at high our carefully woven cultural risk. My daughter Avery’s final weeks of college and buffers to lay bare existence here graduation are cancelled. My summer teaching plans on the “real earth.” But humility in Italy are a faded memory. I’m heartsick and afraid. rarely seems a bad choice, I’m as daunted by this damn virus as anyone. especially when something really needs to give to make But, sitting at the river, I find some solace in the crux of Abbey’s point: get humble, more room for love. If that’s the lesson here, get real, dump the hierarchies, lay bare the let’s take it. I pull on my shoes and walk upriver. Just illusions. If we’re going to do this thing – this being human, this living in the world – we as Owen comes into view, he hooks a fish. need to try to embrace it and each other, clear The two move together in the elegant dance of predator and prey until he scoops his net. eyed and completely. I watch Owen move up river, navigating Silver scales shimmer in the sun. He crouches, mud, snow, rock and water, utterly lost in his admires, carefully removes the hook. Then in own quest. He throws me a quick smile before his gentle, lovely way, he lifts the trout and disappearing around the bend. Gratitude lets it go. This simple, tender act feels to me floods me. My children are safe. They are not like hope. The fish swims free, the river flows, and the rolling white landscape inches toward spring. My son and I head home, to wash our hands and shelter in place, as the complex world goes on, doing what it does.
HALLWAY BOWLING AND OTHER PANDEMIC BRIGHT SPOTS By Brooke MacMillan, April 7, 2020 We live in a shotgun house on Butte Avenue, and the distance from the back bedroom to the edge of the living room is 60 feet, or the length of a standard bowling lane. During this coronavirus outbreak, my husband Jason, our toddler Charlotte and I routinely “bowl” the hallway with bouncy balls, or race its length in different modes of ambulation — standard sprint, horsey-back, obstacle course, crab crawl. Charlotte pumps her short legs, fluffy brown hair flying as she squeals in high toddler. Hide-and-go-seek happens daily, sometimes on the hour. We cook elaborate meals, play Hungry Hungry Hippos and frequently break into dance. It’s been less than a month of social distancing and these are some of the details of my life that keep me buoyant amid the absolute tragedy happening around us. I am devastated for what this outbreak is costing the world – precious lives and livelihoods – but the bright spot within this crisis is time. Like many, Jason and I were overscheduled to the point that even socializing with friends could feel like drudgery. Our lives had become a constant sprint with endless to-do lists. Now, even though we’re both still juggling work and caring for a very busy three-year-old, the days seem to have opened up into a different, amorphous dimension. There are no fixed schedules, no routines. Nothing is the same or ever will be, and no one knows what the future will bring. These facts seem to have rattled something loose in our family, and unlocked the ability to get behind our eyeballs and really see and appreciate each other. We finally have the time to do everything we’ve wanted to together, even if it’s largely confined to our 1200-square-foot house. This time has also given ample room for the silly and spontaneous to seep into the endless carousel of meal prep, doom musing, and cleanup. Charlotte just skidded down the hall to where I’m working. “Mommy.
MOMMY. Will you put this outfit on my bunny? Mr. Scottishbunnyloaf.” It’s not easy, though. The epidemic’s psychic toll wears on us as we worry about our parents, older family members, our jobs…everything. Add to that full-time parenting and it can be hard to concentrate and accomplish much at all. The other day I looked up from the grant application I was working on to see Charlotte, naked, banging a toilet brush against the wall. She had unspooled an entire roll of toilet paper down the hallway. I don’t know which made me more distraught.
hundreds by generous individuals to circulate like pizza-boxed platelets through the arteries of need in our community. Benchmark Mortgage, Team Prep USA, Mountain Roots, restaurants, gyms, other businesses, churches and nonprofits have provided food, sewn masks or created free online workouts, music or kids’ activities. Montanya turned its resources from crafting rum to producing hand sanitizer. Individuals have offered support through online “tip jar” funds, church donations and private As I pry the toilet brush from Charlotte’s hands, giving – and resources have been I realize it’s been helpful to gain perspective from the pumped into the community online community. One of my favorite authors, Paul from the County, IceLab, Crenshaw, recently Tweeted, “I know parenting is Community Foundation of the hard. I truly do. And this time is horrible. But there Gunnison Valley, the Center for are a whole bunch of us with just-grown children who Mental Health, KBUT and so would give anything on this planet for what you have many other entities. Hundreds of right now.” people signed up for the County’s We think back to the moment everything changed. volunteer program during the For us, it was March 12, and incidentally my birthday. pandemic. All these gestures All of the events and programming through my job at have created an economy of the Center were canceled or indefinitely postponed. giving that has helped to insulate There was no longer anything ahead of us but a our community from impending long period of wait-and-see. This was the vanishing hardship. We look after each point from the previous normalcy of our lives, to the other, and I hope that no one “new normal” of isolation and curve flattening. Then feels alone in this crisis. everything began to close. Pulling Charlotte down Our town, now mostly cleared of visitors, Elk Avenue in a wagon the resembles the place many of us fell in love with. Little other day, I read aloud the traffic, the streets alive with cyclists, meanderers, sidewalk chalk messages of musicians, bench talkers. Everyone chin dipping as encouragement people have they pass, or calling out greetings and inquiring after written. We will get through family and health. this, together. We got this! Crested Butte has never been an easy Charlotte and I count the homemade place to live, and that fact attracts (and hearts propped in windows and fixed to breeds) a hardy brethren who have always fences, and I try to explain their meaning. banded together to play and also to look after “They’re meant to show love and appreciation one another. That spirit endures within this for all the helpers. The people brave enough crisis. Business owners have stepped up to to keep caring for us all, even when it’s take care of not only their employees, but also dangerous.” Charlotte says nothing for a couple of the community. Michael Marchitelli, Stephen Alonzo and Sean Hartigan collaborated to blocks, but as she spots a hand-drawn heart start Feed the People, pulling together food and teddy bear in the window of a house on and resources and making meals for people First Street, she says, “Look, Mom! For the in need. Money and food have poured in for brave people!” One day this curve will bottom out, and the cause, because as Michael put it, “It takes we will begin to rebuild. Charlotte will return a village.” Kyleena Falzone, with help from others, to preschool, and the tourists will come back is organizing “free farmers’ markets,” and the to town, and we will celebrate. The precious Secret Stash is churning out handmade Pizza tedium of this time will give way to the steady Survival Kits that have been bought by the thrum of business as usual. Until then, I am content to shelter in paradise with my family and our community.
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A BIRTHDAY APART By Karen Janssen, March 27, 2020 My father turned 88 this week. Two infinity signs turned on their sides only throws into relief the reality of the passage of time. He’s still wonderfully healthy given that number, but this year, as I called to sing him well wishes, is very different from all the rest. The world is in crisis as COVID-19 sweeps across the planet. People across the world are grappling with situations and emotions never before experienced. Some are rising nobly to the occasion; others are sinking into unexplored depths. The world is peculiarly united by a virus, waiting for it to run its course so we all can emerge into the reality left in its wake. And, in one small condominium too far away from me, sit my parents. Both are survivors of World War II. They don’t much like to talk about that, so I haven’t asked, but are deep-rooted memories resurfacing? “We have plenty of books,” says my father, who spends hours each day with headphones on, listening to tales since his eyes no longer work well. “We have plenty of food in the freezer,” insists my mother, forgetting she just told me that five minutes before, and the phone call before, and the phone call before. But I savor each time she tells me. Their voices seem even more precious than ever. Everything seems more precious to me right now: from the frenetic calls of the newly arrived blackbirds to the pole-click salutations on the Nordic trails with friends (keeping a respectable six-foot distance) to the faces of faraway house-bound Catalan friends. Given the demand on home deliveries, the cake, ice cream and two ‘8’ candles that I ordered from the nearby grocery store won’t make it to Mom and Dad’s condo until today, five days late. But it doesn’t really matter, does it? Time is relative. Though it may seem difficult now, each day should be celebrated. “Don’t take anything for granted,” whispers our precious planet.
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IMAGINE: COVID-19 By Janet Weil, March 24, 2020 Every morning, I open my eyes and look out the window at the distant snow-covered peaks set against brilliant cobalt blue skies. Birds fly in formation across the emptiness. Everything looks so normal. Am I dreaming? Who knew a coronavirus would unite the people of the world? Can politicians put politics aside for the greater good? People sing from their balconies. People die without ventilators. Imagine the world living as one.
ONE LONELY ROOM By Polly Oberosler, March 25, 2020 Kenny Rogers and the First Edition released an album in 1972 that was totally unlike any music and lyrics before or since. The album, “The Ballad of Calico,” has 18 songs that describe various aspects of life in a silver boom town in the Mohave Desert of California in the late 1800s. It was not unlike mining towns across the country: buildings thrown up haphazardly, winners and losers, and tragedy. The lyrics speak of the boisterousness of a Saturday night, the school teacher who sold herself to men as a matter of survival, and the rocking chair on a porch that, if it could talk, would tell all. One of the songs, written by Michael Martin Murphy, then a First Edition member, was “One Lonely Room.” It described the plight of the miner as each sought refuge in nearby caves or boarding houses. Alone and removed from the life they had before, they cast their fortunes to the bowels of the earth; they “could touch all the walls.” It reminds me of the space we all dwell in now, both within our heads and without. Unfamiliar to even ourselves. We will certainly be changed, all of us, but how? The shadows we cast on our walls cannot tell us, they simply won’t talk back.
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FINDING HOME ON FOOT A spontaneous hiker discovers his future habitat. By Leath Tonino Taneda Santoka was an itinerant Zen poet, a scribbling rambler of Japanese hills and hamlets. He composed free-verse haiku (no syllable count) during long journeys in straw sandals, at a time – the early 20th century – when automobiles and trains crisscrossed the country, offering far easier and speedier means of transportation. “Nevertheless, by venturing to do something so ludicrous,” he wrote in his diary in October of 1930, “I, who am not very clever, justify my existence.” Encountering landscapes deliberately, rhythmically, step after step after step, was Taneda’s literary and spiritual practice, his life’s through-line. Last summer, while I was lounging
atop 12,500-foot West Maroon Pass, Taneda came strolling into my mind, unannounced but hardly unwelcome. It was a bright, cloudless weekday at the start of July, and I was continuing an annual tradition: hitch the Gothic Road, ascend the open basin below the pass via my own secret trailless route, gaze for an hour or three at the East River Valley and distant Mt. Crested Butte. For me, a jaunt to the crest of the watershed sometime around the solstice is mandatory, the height of the season demanding the height of land. I’m not alone in this, of course. Hundreds of locals and visitors celebrate, with oohs and ahhs, these particular
wildflower slopes and craggy ridges each summer. However, my relationship is unique, or so I suspect. Back in 2012, though I had explored Colorado extensively in search of wilderness thrills, for some reason Crested Butte remained elusive, off my personal radar. Finding myself in Aspen with a couple of blessedly unplanned days to fill, I decided to remedy the situation by trekking to the other side of the range. My impromptu kit (threadbare raincoat, two ham sandwiches, bottle of Gatorade) was nearly as light as Taneda’s (a robe, a begging bowl, a notebook). There aren’t many corners of the Rockies where an unencumbered hiker can 81
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casually connect towns in the manner of a Buddhist pilgrim. Accordingly, the West Maroon traverse has attained “classic” status: 11 miles, skyrocketing peaks, a taco shop or tavern or B&B (pick your pleasure) waiting at either end. Having forded a knee-deep creek, weathered a quick gray rainstorm at treeline and slogged the final alpine stretch, I reached the pass, duly impressed. Before me: cirques, spines, eroded outcrops, layers of upthrust earth receding to the western horizon, everything nameless, untarnished, newborn. Why nameless, untarnished, newborn? Simple. Because I carried no map, no topographic knowledge, no expectations or assumptions. Beauty, I thought, such friggin’ beauty. I stood there, soaked to the bone, laughing aloud beneath the drying sun, entirely unaware that a few years into the future I would settle in Crested Butte and begin calling this epic vista my home. In the industrialized modern world, it’s common to initially experience a town, a valley, a place, by driving to it, smartphone robot-voice droning directions in the ears. Fair enough. But let’s at least recognize that this mechanized, digitized, civilized style of approach forever colors our relationship to – our perception of – the surrounding terrain. By a totally lucky accident, I met Crested Butte and environs somatically, on foot, at a two-mile-per-hour pace that begets (Taneda might argue) a proper sense of scale, a proper sense of how the teensy human animal fits into the larger habitat. For a moment on the glittery, rain-washed, storm-freshened pass, I got to see things with a kind of pure perception that felt timeless, archetypal: weary walker, yonder village beckoning, wild sprawling nature holding both, holding all. Years later, that fleeting glimpse still informs my understanding of the Elk Mountains and Crested Butte, though I admit to needing a reminder now and then. And so, like last summer and the summer prior, I soon will lace tight my old leather boots and climb to West Maroon: recline against a boulder, chat with chirping marmots, allow the elemental scene to recalibrate brain and heart. Height of the season, height of land. Mandatory. As Taneda, my oddball buddy, once put it: “got this far / drink some water / and go on.”
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Left: Cosmo Langsfeld packing out meat from a recent hunt with Drew Holbrook (foreground), and playing as a young hunter-in-training.
ON HUNTING Connecting to his roots, a young hunter sustains himself both physically and spiritually. By Cosmo Langsfeld From my birth until the summer after first grade, my family lived in Crested Butte South. In the late eighties and early nineties, the subdivision more closely resembled the open ranchland from which it was developed. Before there was Tully’s, Camp 4 or any business district at all, you turned left off of Cement Creek Road, drove past J.R.’s condos and the little bus station/post office box shed, and found a smattering of homes scattered across sage-y pastureland. There were half as many streets, none of them paved, and in those days we often looked out the window of our house on Shavano to see a herd of elk that had wandered down from the hills. My earliest memories of hunting are tied to that house on Shavano. Every fall, my dad’s hunting buddies would make the trip from Connecticut to Colorado. Sometimes they packed the canvas wall tent out somewhere
and set up a camp, while other years they hunted out of the house, making daily forays into the woods. On successful years, they hung quarters in the garage to age. Sometimes whole animals were dragged home behind a truck over snowy roads. I remember a year when I was very young when my dad and all three of his hunting buddies filled their elk tags, one of them shot a deer, and a neighbor also got an elk. All six animals were hung in our garage, a couple of them whole and the rest quartered. I recall being very small and standing in the garage staring up at them all hanging from the ceiling, a sea of game bags and fur, the intermittent pat…pat of blood dripping on tarps and cardboard laid out on the ground. That and the smell of meat. When I was seven, my family moved to property above a ranch that butted up against
National Forest land. We hunted out the back door, literally. The elk I got when we lived up there were all taken close enough to pull them down the hill whole to where a truck was waiting to tow them back to the house. Folks who know my family joke that my dad is the only man anyone knows of to have successfully moved his entire family up to his hunting camp. Needless to say, the hunting mentality was pretty all encompassing throughout my childhood. Peering out the windows of the dining room in the mornings or evenings, looking for brown specks on the hillsides, wasn’t limited to a couple of weeks in the fall but was more of a daily activity. Growing up, I knew I was expected to hunt, and that expectation was tied, in my opinion, directly to my being the oldest son. Hunting, for better or worse, remains an 85
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overwhelmingly masculine enterprise. I know women who hunt, but still the vast majority of hunters I meet are men. That I would hunt was never in question. My sister, who is older than me, was never expected to hunt, nor was it ever presented to her as an option. I don’t know whether she ever expressed an interest in hunting, but that’s not the point. At one time, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, which manages hunting in the state, in an attempt to attract more women to the activity, changed the rules so that hunters could not only wear blaze orange to announce their presence in the woods; now they could also wear bright pink. The assumption appeared to be that the main thing holding women back was the inability to wear what everyone knows to be every woman’s favorite color. Maybe if more fathers took their daughters hunting, the sport would expand further across the gender gap, but who knows. Whatever the case, in my adolescent years, I could not escape the implication that hunting, at least in my household, was very much a fraternity of men, and the activity could be seen as a rite of passage from boyhood into manhood. Fast forward 15 to 20 years and I’ve actually grown into an adult man, at least in terms of years and physical stature. For the third winter in a row, I have a freezer full of wild meat. There are many times, especially in the summer, when I sit down to a dinner comprised entirely of food that I have produced. Elk from last fall. Potatoes stored from the previous season, and fresh vegetables from the garden. Hunting has become part of my way of life. A way of sustaining myself both physically and
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spiritually, and a way of connecting myself to the land and my roots. Today, I live by myself. An entire elk’s worth of meat is more than enough to feed me for a year, but that’s what friends and family are for. And the Food Pantry is always open to donations. In certain circumstances, wild meat can be a reliable food source for vulnerable populations. Roadkill is a ubiquitous hazard in our part of the world and, perhaps, an untapped resource. In Alaska, any moose or caribou that is killed on the highways is quickly butchered up and the meat is donated to homeless shelters and other people in need. Regardless of your opinions on hunting, whether you like it or disapprove, most of us agree that being more connected to where our food comes from is a positive thing. There’s something about knowing the stories behind our food that feeds not only our bodies but our souls as well. It connects us to those around us. Even when I hunt by myself, I have friends that I rely on to help pack the meat out of the woods. I hang the meat to age in other friends’ garages. They give their effort or space, and when I thank them with a gift of meat or bone stock, it brings with it the shared experience of the hunt and the pack out and all the work that went into making it. In that way the food we eat connects us to one another. Food is never as simple as something we put into our bodies to feel full. When I sit down to a meal, it carries the weight of everything that went into putting it there; not only that specific meal or animal in the freezer, but the years and countless hours of experience dedicated to developing the skills required to bring it into my home. For all of that, I say thanks.
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A NIGHT ON BALDY An alpine photography outing brings exposures of a different kind. Words and photos by Robert Couchman “Congrats,” I said to myself and took a sip of the coffee I’d just boiled up on my little MSR stove. This was my first backpack/ campout in many years, and I’d had some pretty high pre-trip anxiety about pulling it off. For one, I hadn’t been backpacking in a very long time. My camping of late had been out of the back of a vehicle on climbing trips in places like Yosemite and Indian Creek. Secondly, I had a lot of new gear I hadn’t put to the test, particularly my Black Diamond single-wall I-tent. (It’s a nuisance to pitch because the poles are interior and require some Houdini-style fidgeting to insert and secure, but once in place, they make the tent bombproof.) Finally, I was on a solo trip. Not such a big thing; many people do it, but not usually when they’re 70 years old. Xavier Fané (say Chevy with a hard Ch), long-time Crested Butte resident and my friend and photography mentor who is no stranger to solo outings, had both encouraged me and suggested my
location. So here I was, safely set up next to some scraggly krumholtz (the dense, low vegetation that hugs the ground near tree line) on the otherwise wide-open ridgeline to Mt. Baldy. My tent was pitched, stove fired up and camera on its tripod, with the spectacular backdrop of Mt. Avery, the Elk Mountains and the Maroon Bells Wilderness to the north. Wordsworth’s words came to mind: “A beauteous evening, calm and free.” My plan was simple now: take a few photos; fix a simple dinner; hike back up the hillside and photograph the tent and the Elk Mountains; then snuggle into the tent and sleeping bag until midnight, when I would get up and take star photos for an hour or two. A good plan and one I have since implemented on several campouts. There was only one flaw this time: the storm. Back in Crested Butte a day or two later, Xavi told me what he’d seen from town that night. “It was total mayhem over Paradise
Divide. Just incredible lightning and thunder like I’ve never seen in all my years in CB.” He and his partner Karen and some friends were celebrating his birthday on a nice June evening when the storm erupted just west of town over Paradise Divide and stopped them in their tracks. And he knew something the others didn’t: I was camped in the middle of it. On the mountain that evening, after I finished my coffee, I walked over to my camera to check my photos and take a few more with my tent in the foreground and Avery and the Elks in the background. A storm centered over Avery provided some dramatic clouds and lighting, including a partial rainbow that arced over the summit. “Cool,” I thought. “This is great!” I fired off a few more shots before realizing in a moment of panic that the storm was speeding right toward me. “What?” I thought. “It can’t move that fast!” But it did, and I needed to move fast 89
myself. I yanked my camera off the tripod and stashed it inside the tent entrance. I stuffed the tripod, my stove and other camp gear, including my backpack, as far into the innards of the krumholtz plants as I could, then crawled into the tent. Secure inside, I snuggled into my sleeping bag to wait out the storm until it was time to get up to a starry sky and an hour or so of night photography. Summer mountain storms usually travel quickly (this one had been miles away when it was over Avery), and I figured this would be the same. I dozed for a while listening to the raindrops bounce harmlessly off the tent wall. Then came the thunder. And then the lightning. I-tents stand up to gale-force winds and rain and snow on mountaineering expeditions, but they do nothing about lightning. And here I was, camped on an open ridge with nothing between me and the lightning but a thin sheet of fabric and a couple of metal tent wands. Great. I wondered what else I had in the tent that would conduct electricity. As the sky crackled, rumbled and crashed around me, I cursed my hasty decision to camp on the ridge because of the view rather than choosing a more protected location. What could I do now, though? Nothing. I lay stiff 90
in my sleeping bag, afraid if I moved the lightning would find me. I was as scared as I’ve ever been. Eventually, the storm let up. I extricated myself from the tent, hoping to see nothing but stars, but no such luck. Light rain, yes. And to the west, coming over Baldy, more lightning. “I can’t go through that again,” I thought. “I’ve got to do something.” So I did. I pulled the tent stakes and picked the tent up at the top where the wands crossed and carried it wholesale — sleeping bag, camera, lenses, snacks, personal items, the whole shebang — in search of some place to hide. It made no sense. Wandering around in the dark lugging a tent sagging from the weight of its gear, hoping for some place of refuge. Maybe I had my headlamp on. I don’t remember. Fear knows no logic. Lo and behold, I found something. Stumbling around the perimeter of the krumholtz, I spied a little passage that gave way to a niche just big enough for the tent. I re-pitched the I-tent in there and burrowed in for the rest of the night. It didn’t rain another drop. Or thunder. Or lightning. So what? I was safe in the place I had made safe, to echo Nick Adams in Hemingway’s story “Big Two-Hearted River.” I knew something of how he felt.
Flash forward two years. Again, I am camped out in June near Crested Butte, looking to take star photos. My location this time is a basin above Lake Irwin. Again, I am tucked in near some krumholtz, but this time in a more protected location. Less exposed. Ruby, Owen and Purple peaks hover over my right shoulder like sentinels. I look down over the lake and farther on to the south to mountains whose names I don’t know. On this lovely evening, my plan is the same: early exit into the tent and sleeping bag. Awaken around midnight to see what the night sky has in store for me. It’s an easy exercise this time – no storm – and I sleep comfortably until my phone alarm goes off. I unzip the tent entrance and back out on all fours, avoiding a direct look at the sky. I want to have my camera in place before I really look. It’s so quiet that making a sound seems like a sacrilege, and so utterly dark I need my headlamp and little Fenix flashlight. Gathering up my camera and lens, I cautiously step around the tent stakeouts and make my way to the tripod, which is waiting and ready to go. I turn on my camera and check my exposure settings one more time, then turn around, place the camera on the tripod, and – finally – look up and take in the scene I’m going to photograph. The photo above is what I see.
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