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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
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org ADVERTISING email@example.com 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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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€™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