Valley Voice August 2021

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August 2021 . Issue 10.8


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Wes Dearborn cooling off at Elkhead Reservoir/ Photo by Joel Berman


August 2021

Valley Voice




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Valley Voice

August 2021


Contents Get to Know Wes Dearborn

Page 4

A Tale of Two Medians

Page 4

There's More Work Ahead

Page 5

Your Social Security Benefits

Page 6

Out of the Cooler

Page 7

Milner and the Micheletti Family

Page 8

The Man Who Turned to Wood

Page 9

Yampa Valley Crane Festival

Page 10

Hayden Wish List Taking Shape

Page 11

Crooked Woods and Elfin Forests

Page 12

So You Want To Be In Pictures...

Page 13

Valley Voice is published monthly and distributed on the last Wednesday of each month. Please address letters, questions, comments or concerns to: Valley Voice, LLC, P.O. Box 770743 or come by and see us at 1125 Lincoln Ave, Unit 2C, Steamboat Springs, CO 80477. Or contact Matt Scharf: 970-846-3801.

Looking at Old Ranchers

Page 14

In Praise of the Classroom Window

Page 15

Poems for the Fourth of July

Page 15

Website Subscription rate is $40 per year (12 issues). All content © 2021 Valley Voice, L.L.C. No portion of the contents of this publication may be reproduced in any manner without the written permission from the Valley Voice.

The Guitar Player

Page 16

Mistaken Checks

Page 17

By Trevor G. Potter

By Gary Suiter/ City Manager By Dylan Roberts By Scott L. Ford

By Sean Derning

By Ellen and Paul Bonnifield By Fran Conlon

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Eric Kemper

By Ellen Bonnifield

By Brodie Farquhar By Karen Vail

By Stuart Handloff By Ted Crook

By Fran Conlon By Ann Ross

By Aimee Kimmey By Wolf Bennett

Where Are You Page 17

Official Fine Print Advertisers assume full responsibility for the entire content and subject matter of their ads. In the event of error or omission in the advertisement, the publisher’s sole responsibility shall be to publish the advertisement at a later date. Advertisements and articles are accepted and published upon the representation that the author, agency and/or advertiser is authorized to publish the entire contents and subject matter thereof. The author, agency, and/ or advertiser will indemnify and save Valley Voice, LLC harmless from all claims and legal action resulting from the contents of the articles or advertisements including claims or suits resulting from libel, defamation, plagiarism, rights to privacy and copyright infringements. The views and opinions expressed reflect the views and opinions of the authors and may not necessarily reflect the views and opinion of the editor, staff or advertisers in Steamboat Springs’s Valley Voice.

By Joan Remy

Your Monthly Message By Chelsea Yepello


Page 18

Comics Page 19

Please send us your RANTS, RAVES and SAY WHATs! The Valley Voice wants to hear your thoughts as we struggle to find our center. Send to:

Glenwood Canyon… You have no idea the strain you put on Steamboat Springs… Forest fires in our county, or any other county for that matter… The relentless construction zones and cones… The scourge in our community due to vacation rentals, bed and breakfast facilities and short term rentals… Guests and visitors are heard saying, “What happened to Steamboat Springs?” Driving east on US40 to turn up Hilltop Parkway, a truck turning left refuses to leave the intersection putting everyone at risk, with a “SHARE THE ROAD.”sticker on his truck The Olympic Committee. Light one up and watch literally anything else this year…

Raves... Sha’Carri Richardson, Simone Biles and all the Olympians worthy of their praise… Four new peace officers patrolling the core trail looking for misbehavior… Hiking your favorite trail before the crowds wake up… Feeling lucky to live in the country… Oak Creek where the people are real. Real cool. This glorious rain!

Say What?... “You just say it was corrupt. I’ll take care of the rest.” “I know I’m crazy, but that’s what keeps me from going insane.” “It doesn’t run at the moment.” “Yeah, but does it run?” “Getting old is Life’s cruelest joke.” “Is it true cranes taste like chicken?”

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August 2021

Valley Voice

On The Cover

City of Steamboat Springs

Trevor G. Potter

Gary Suiter/ Steamboat Springs City Manager

Get to Know Wes Dearborn

A Tale of Two Medians (the medians one of them), in addition to reductions to the city’s operating budget, resulted in service level reductions to all streetscape areas.

A resident of the Yampa Valley since 1992, and always one to forge his own path Wes Dearborn has contributed to a vast array of projects, causes and creative endeavors over the last three decades.

The reductions can be classified in two categories:

Having arrived in the Yampa Valley nearly 30 years ago, Wes established himself as an originator in the field of Adaptive Downhill Skiing. Starting as a ski instructor with Horizons and moving into the Stars Program upon its onset. He has continued to work as a certified Ski instructor with the organization for over 20 years. A highly experienced builder, innovative carpenter and sports enthusiast, Wes applied his experience in the adaptive ski industry to become the Founder of Innovative Adaptive Technologies, and to invent, build, develop and market the Sit Ski Trainer. The Sit Ski Trainer is dry land ski simulator, the first of which was sold to The Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Always moving forward, Wes created the The Bluegrass Jam and Silent Auction in cooperation with The Jimmy Heuga Snow Express For MS. Jimmy Heuga, An Olympic medalist and pro Skier, diagnosed with MS, established the Jimmy Heuga foundation to benefit MS research. With Wes's work creating The Bluegrass Jam and Silent Auction and hosting the event for 10 years, 6 years held at Steamboats Historic Art Depot, over $150, 000 was raised for The Jimmy Heuga Center. Wes, an avid downhill skier himself, was clocked at 82 miles an hour down the face The See Me run at Steamboat Ski area during the Jimmy Heuga race. Never one to miss an opportunity, Wes used his experience and fund-raising skills to start the Cog Ride Gravel Grinding Fund Raiser. An annual Yampa Valley event for 7 years, which running contributes its proceeds to The Hayden Museum. This Year's Ride The Cog Fund raiser will be held Sept. 18th. In addition, Wes is a serious motorcycling enthusiast, Wes has ridden over 10,000 mile a year for over 10 years and, as pictured on this month's issue of the Valley Voice, he's more than just your average water skier. Wes's being pulled by his vintage 1973 Ski Nautique, piloted by Tracey Burke. The cover photo was taken by Wes's good friend and steamboat resident, Joel Berman. Joel, long time ski instructor and founder of Adaptive Adventures, relocated to Steamboat for the spectacular cycling, hiking, paddling, skiing and wide range of outdoor accessible recreation opportunities in the area. As the owner of Dearborn Builders and a builder/designer for the last 45 years, Wes has left his unique style of custom design outdoor living additions in all parts of the Yampa Valley. A licensed Massage therapist, and huge supporter of music in the valley, for years Wes has hosted his own small private music festival called "Wesfest". Weather downhill skiing or water skiing, motor cycles, bikes and boats. Always moving, always building, a strong foundation himself and the community around him, a real Routt county renaissance man and Yampa Valley visionary.

1. No maintenance (no irrigation, no mowing - all vegetation to be removed due to construction in 2021/2022; and, 2. Minimal maintenance (scoria cleanup, limited irrigation and potential weed management, contractor dependent). Areas receiving no maintenance due to budget reductions and current and future construction projects are the streetscapes along Mt. Werner Rd and the US40 medians from Old Town Hot

The entryway into the city is a simple beautification feature, or, at least one would think. However, there is much more to the story as has been explained over the past several weeks due to the community attention on the medians along US40 from Walton Creek Road to Old Fish Creek Falls Road.

Springs to Anglers.

First, let’s go back a decade on the stretch from Anglers Drive into the heart of downtown at Old Fish Creek Falls Road. The buffer zone between traveling directions on this road was planted with grass and trees to enhance the arrival experience. The area was first maintained by contractors before city staff assumed the role.

Compounding the issue, the city has reached out to 21 professional landscape companies in Routt and Moffat Counties, four in Summit County and three in Grand Junction to contract the maintenance. Many have declined due to not having the capacity to take on additional work and being short staffed, while others have not returned calls.

Over time, the maintenance of this landscaped middle island grew more expensive (blossoming over $100,000 per year); saw increased water run-off from inefficient irrigation; became more dangerous each season for maintenance personal and violated the Colorado Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) highway safety standards due to limited sight distance and trees now over six inches in diameter. Not to mention ever increasing traffic.

In addition, several of these companies have noted safety concerns for their staff working in medians. The same reluctance the city has for placing employees or as some have suggested, community volunteers, in this hazardous location.

With that in mind, the medians on the east side of town, between Walton Creek Road and Pine Grove Road were re-envisioned and transformed featuring stone pavers and smaller landscaped areas with drought tolerant vegetation. This blueprint was to be used as the city transitioned the medians closer to downtown into the same lower maintenance and xeriscape style formula this year. So, maintenance costs were cut from the 2021 budget ahead of this planned enhancement. Due to extensive work already planned on US40 this summer, as well as budget reductions resulting from a tiny germ – coronavirus, the city’s median improvement plan was postponed to the 2022 summer. As the financial impacts of the global pandemic became more apparent; current and future construction projects

For those who live here and for those who wish they did.

While areas receiving minimal maintenance include downtown/Yampa Street, the Highway 40 medians from Pine Grove Rd. to Walton Creek Rd., and the Mt. Werner Circle medians and roundabouts.

Like other local businesses this summer, the Parks division continues to be severely understaffed and currently has 6 out of historically 22 seasonal and 5 out of 7 fulltime positions filled. The city’s priority remains maintaining our assets to highest level possible, however significant service reductions should be expected in the near term due to labor and budget shortfalls. Additionally, prioritizing asset maintenance and frequency will be a factor with greater emphasis given to parks and fields and lesser to lower priorities such as medians. The tale of two medians has been in the making for several years. Everyone who works for the city takes great pride in our community and we understand that the medians may not look their best right now. We recognize that our citizens have the same high standards as our staff, and we are asking for the public’s patience until the medians are replaced next year.

Valley Voice

August 2021

State Representative/ Eagle and Routt Counties

August is Vaccine Awareness Month!

Session Concludes But There's More Work Ahead By Dylan Roberts

Your Colorado General Assembly ended its 2021 legislative session in June and Governor Polis just finished signing all the bills that were sent to his desk during the course of the session. Yet, just because we are only in Denver at the Capitol for just half the year does not mean the work stops when the session concludes and things are just getting started. No matter how you look at it, the 2021 legislative session was a historic one with major steps taken to hasten our state’s health and economic recovery from the pandemic and we are well on our way to building a strong Colorado. Yet, we know this recovery has not reached everyone and there remain both old and new challenges in our communities like housing and the rising cost-of-living, workforce shortages, mental health needs, and much more. In this month’s column, I am highlighting legislation that will set in motion three task forces that will conduct important work over the rest of the year that will hopefully result in transformative change for three major issues facing our state: economic recovery, housing, and behavioral health. First, my bill to create the Economic Relief Cash Fund was signed into law last month setting up the economic recovery task force. This bill takes money sent to Colorado by Congress in the American Rescue Plan and through my bill, the state legislature decided to use $50 million in immediate direct small business grant funding and we set aside the remaining $800 million to use in the coming years. A task force of legislative, business, and community leaders will convene during the rest of the year to determine where and when to best use those funds so that we can bolster not just a quick recovery but also a strong and sustainable one. As the bill sponsor and Chair of the House Business & Labor Committee, I look forward to


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being involved in this extensive outreach process over the coming months. On housing, we know that affordable housing has reached a crisis level in our mountain communities and that more must be done if we are going to sustain the workforce that keeps our economy moving. This will take an all-handson-deck approach of government at all levels as well as private sector and community efforts. The legislature is ready to help. This past session, we passed a package of affordable housing bills - legislation that will both help fund development but also policies that ensure communities across the state have the tools and resources to identify and meet their unique housing needs. We also set aside $550 million of the federal dollars sent to us for housing and that spending will be informed by a robust task force process with local voices from across the state working with the legislature to determine how to best deploy that funding. Finally, the legislature this year took significant action on the issue of behavioral and mental health and set the stage for even more transformative change in this area in the coming years. The pandemic and its accompanying economic recession have taken a toll on Coloradans, with mental health challenges and substance use disorders disproportionately impacting people of color and people who live and work in frontier and rural communities. We passed legislation that invested $114 million in various behavioral health grant programs to assist providers, nonprofits and local governments address substance abuse, maternal and child health, and other behavioral health prevention and treatment programs around the state. A bill was also passed that guarantees that state-regulated insurance plans cover an annual mental wellness exam, just like they cover physical wellness exams. We also created the Behavioral and Mental Health Cash Fund to be used in the future for transformational investments in addressing the state’s mental health and substance use disorder crisis informed by a robust and diverse task force over the next several months. 102 Anglers Drive


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Economic recovery, housing, and behavioral health are not small topics and they deserve our immediate attention and work. That groundwork was laid this past legislative session and now the real work begins to ensure that federal dollars are spent responsibly and that changes are positive, sustainable and transformational. These task forces will allow for a deliberative, inclusive, and hopefully impactful way to make that happen. This is an exciting opportunity for our state and I look forward to the work ahead. Have thoughts to share on these topics or others? As always, I invite you to contact me anytime on my cell: (970) 846-3054 or email: Rep. Dylan Roberts represents Eagle County and Routt County in the Colorado House of Representatives

The road to success is always under construction. — Lily Tomlin


August 2021

Valley Voice

Your Money - Your Life

The Windfall Elimination Provision May Reduce Your Social Security Benefits By Scott L. Ford

This month I am continuing the discussion about Social Security retirement benefits. In the first column I discussed how to reasonably calculate the breakeven point if you decide to begin receiving Social Security retirement benefits albeit at a reduced amount before your Full Retirement Age (FRA). The breakeven calculation is relatively easy to calculate if you know precisely when you are going to die. Most of us do not know, nor do we likely want to know the exact date of our demise. This means you need to guess. The Social Security Administration has an actuarial calculator that estimates how long you are going to live using birth date and sex. Using this calculator, it estimates I will die at age 84.5 years. All this means is that as of today there is a 95% chance I will die within 3 years on either side of this date. Although sobering, this date range based on my family genetics and my lifestyle sounds about right. In the second column of this series I discussed working while receiving Social Security retirement benefits before FRA. In 2021 if one were to earn more than $18,940 in a year, their Social Security benefit are reduced by $1 for every $2 they earn over this amount. It is possible to earn

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enough that one’s Social Security benefits are essentially eliminated completely. After FRA, Social Security retirement benefits are not reduced regardless how much one may earn. This month I am going to dive into Social Security’s Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). If during your working years you worked for an employer that did not participate in the Social Security system, your Social Security retirement benefits are going to be reduced. In Colorado, the Colorado’s Public Employee Retirement Association (PERA) is the retirement system for most teachers and state employees. The surprise is that even if you work even for just one year under the PERA system, your Social Security retirement benefit will be reduced. As of 2021 they can be reduced by as much as $498 per month, or about $6,000 a year for the rest of your life. How can this be? Every year you worked and paid into Social Security, the Social Security Administration produces an Earnings Statement that estimates your retirement benefit as of FRA. The amount shown on the statement is an estimate of your benefit. If, however, you worked for an employer that did not pay into Social Security but instead paid into a state retirement system like PERA, do not get your hopes up that you will receive the full benefit amount reflected on the statement. Here is where it becomes tricky to understand. At its core Social Security is not a retirement plan but a progressive social program through which low-income workers benefit the most. As a social program you paid, and your employer paid into the system on your behalf. These payments are a tax on wages, not a contribution. The Social Security Administration determines your Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME) based on the number of years of you had substantial covered earnings and paid into Social Security. The AIME is used to determine the amount of benefit one is eligible for. This benefit is known as the Primary Insurance Amount (PIA). The AIME, however, is not a straightforward average.

Social Security uses weighted income brackets. There are three brackets, however, only two brackets really matter for the vast majority of the population. These brackets thresholds are adjusted every year. In 2021 the first bracket is the initial $996 of monthly AIME. This is the starting point. For example, let us assume that one’s annual AIME is calculated at $18,000 or $1,500 per month. To calculate the PIA (benefit amount) 90% of the first $996 of AIME is credited to the PIA or $896. For the next bracket only 32% of the balance of ($1,500 - $996) or $504 x 32% or $161 is credited to PIA. This simply means that the PIA in this example is $896 + $161 = $1,057 of monthly benefit. Realizing the elements of this calculation are key to understanding how the WEP is applied. If you have 20 years or less of covered substantial Social Security earnings and also worked for an employer who did not participate in Social Security, the $996 (the first bracket) in the above example is reduced by 60% or to $398. The PIA is then 90% of $398 or $358. This reduction applies only to the first bracket. So, building on the example above if the full WEP is applied the Social Security benefit would be reduced from $1,057 to $519. ($358 + $161). This is the big unpleasant surprise many folks learn about when they first apply for Social Security retirement benefits. However, there is a small silver lining. It is that one’s Social Security retirement benefit cannot be reduced by more than 50% of the first bracket. In 2021 this means that the benefit cannot be reduced by more than $498 ($996 x 50%). There is a sliding scale for those who have 21 or more years of covered Social Security earnings that met the substantial earnings threshold. Keep in mind that the WEP applies only to the first bracket. If one has 30 or more years of substantial earnings, the reduction is capped at 10%. Adopted by Congress in 1983 as a means to keep Social Security solvent the reduction associated with the WEP is viewed by some as unfair. It is viewed as unfair specifically by teachers, firefighters, police officers and others who have paid into Social Security for part of their working lives but not all of it. In essence, they view WEP as a means to punish public workers. There has been discussions occurring in Congress to find a way to reduce or eliminate the impact of the WEP. The easiest possible reform would be moving every newly hired public worker into the Social Security system so that these consequences of opting out over time would become a non-issue. Like with any reform involving a federal entitlement program, the devil is in the details.


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Next Month – I will conclude this series with a discussion about the taxation of Social Security benefits which is yet another unpleasant surprise that impacts your benefits you need to be aware of.

Valley Voice

August 2021


The Beer Fairy

Out of the Cooler By Sean Derning

Last week I spent several nights tossing and turning, unable to wrestle with something that had been gnawing at me for the last year or so. Perhaps it was the effects of Covid burnout, being on the front lines and trying to stay healthy. There was something missing from my life of over fifty years and I couldn’t put my finger on it. Something that was leaving part of my soul depleted. And then, in one of those twilight moments between slumber and consciousness, I asked myself a question; “Am I a Beer Fairy?” Beer Fairies are real people who delight in sharing their knowledge and love of beer with others. True, it is a fine, magical beverage as it can make the timid bold, the ugly beautiful and the simple brilliant. But before coming to a conclusion, I needed to do a self-check; -As a homebrewer, do you delight in sharing your brews with others? And if they share their efforts with you, you are polite and do not make a face when their beer sucks? -Can you recognize going over the line when you start to orbit the Beer Geek universe when it comes to international bittering units, diacetyl rests and the Schnitzenbaumer effect oats have on beer? -Do you find yourself giving beer advice to complete strangers in liquor stores, then they ask if you work there and you reply, “No, I’m just a beer lover.” And you disappear before the cooler door closes. -A six pack of quality beer has often been a staple gift idea to all of your friends and family, even if they are not fond of beer; weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, Irish wakes. -Do you fantasize about making trips to distant lands just to drink their beer at the source? Is a pilgrimage to Munich for Oktoberfest on your bucket list? -Do you pooh-pooh hard seltzers, cocktails in a can, premixed margaritas or other trendy alcoholic beverages? -Do you plan your meals around what beer is in the fridge, such as a lager might spark the decision to have brats for dinner?

I answered yes to all these questions. It was a hard issue to accept but I felt comfortable with my decision. Now I was going to have to confess to my family. Assembling them around the dining room table, I was so nervous I started to peel the paper label off my beer bottle, leaving small strips on the table top.

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My wife gave me a concerned, worried look, “Honey, what’s wrong?” “Go on, Dad, you can tell us,” said my son. “It’s OK.” “I’ve been thinking,” I said slowly. “My life is incomplete. There’s a hole in my life and I’ve been living a lie for all these years. I’m...I’m a Beer Fairy.” “A what?!” blurted my wife.

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“Huh?” said my son. “You know. A Beer Fairy. One who takes delight in everything and anything beer related. The colors, the smells, the history. The refreshment of slaking your thirst after a hard day of work or play. Watching craft breweries thrive because people revolted against inferior products produced by the industry leaders. Beer consumes many of my thoughts every day.” “Oh my God!” said my wife. “I thought it was another woman or some kind of kinky sex fetish.” “Wow!” said my son. “So do you, like, dress up in a tu-tu, put on wings and carry a magic wand?” “No, but I’ve thought about it...” as I trailed off. “Don’t you dare touch my lipstick!” warned my wife. A great burden has now been lifted from my shoulders. So a Prince of Pilsner and Disciple of Doppelbock is what I will become! I will start a website exposing the finest fermentation, and conduct unbiased reviews of low brau and high brau. I need to tell all who will listen that they too can find a beer that reaches their pinnacle in a pint glass. And I will start today! Many Valley Voice readers have known me for my variety of articles in the past. The theme of these monthly contributions will now explore seasonal beers according to the time of year, or what is best to drink right now. I will not baffle you with terminology, but how and why a beer is worth considering based on its value. Looking forward to this challenge, I hope you will join me on our odyssey toward finding the Zen of foamy refreshment. And when you do find this perfect elixir of hops and barley, raise your glass and proclaim, “Cheers to you, Beer Fairy!”


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There is no such thing as a bad beer. It's that some taste better than others. — Billy Carter


August 2021

Valley Voice

Bonnifield Files

Milner and the Micheletti Family By Ellen and Paul Bonnifield

Hitchens example and raised grain, it does not appear that they ever attempted to build elevators or flour mills. Instead, a flour mill was built in Steamboat Springs (Rainbow Flour). Hayden also had a grain elevator and a flour mill.

Esther, Joseph, Catherine and Joseph Jr. Micheletti Milner was the town with everything, yet it had nothing. It was a coal mining town, but it wasn’t a coal mining town. It survived because two immigrants from the old country, Joseph and Catherine Micheletti, chose to open a general mercantile store and direct their enterprising energy into Milner’s success. In the pioneer days, back when the land was new, the area near the confluence of Trout Creek and the Yampa River served as a gateway to vast dreams and schemes. Going up Trout Creek is the opening to Twenty Mile Park with its deposits of coal and fertile farm land. A short distance down the river, oil mixed with water seeped from the mountain in oil springs. Along the south bank of the river a large coal vein rises from the water. The birth of Milner, lost in the cloudy past, appears to have two separate beginnings. James Hitchens in 1884 located his homestead house near present day Milner. Needing irrigation water, he and fellow pioneers dug a ditch from Lake Windermere. To store water and regulate the flow onto the fields, James hooked a team to a slip, dug a large hole, and damned the lower end forming a pool. Being proud of his accomplishment, he named the area Pool. Within a short time, Hitchens’ ranch house became a stopping place for freighters. More settlers arrived and a school was organized at Pool followed by a post office in 1898. Unlike many in the area the Hitchens family were dirt farmers, primally raising grain. Hitchens was postmaster for thirty-five years before the post office was moved to Milner. Although nearby settlers soon followed

While Sam Hitchens settled at Pool, another group made plans for the area near the junction of Trout Creek and the Yampa River. In the mid-1880s Sam and John Cary established their large ranch headquarters west of Hayden with the bulk of their range stretching across Twenty Mile Park. Although they raised cattle and horses, they were seriously interested in obtaining coal and oil land. Anticipating the construction of a railroad, the Carys became involved in fraudulent coal claims. (For one hundred dollars, a person filed on 160 acres. When the filing was complete, the “dummy” turned their claim over to companies fronting for the Carys, Dawsons, even Charles Leckenby and James Crawford.) At some point the Cary family became interested in developing a town in the Milner area. A high roller, E. E. Eddy, also became involved in promoting the town site of Eddy at the confluence of Fish Creek and Trout Creek. (Routt County has two Fish Creeks. The lesser known one runs through Twenty Mile Park.) In the Milner area in 1900, Standard Oil announced its control of 10,000 acres of oil land. Following in short order were Wheeler’s Northwestern Oil Company, John and Si Dawson’s Routt County Improvement Company, and the Colorado and California Oil Company. Wells were drilled and oil discovered; however, lack of transportation delayed further development. Following the beginning of actual construction of the Denver Northwestern and Pacific Railroad, two large companies, Yampa Fuel and Iron and American Fuel and Iron, publicly announced their plans. One of the original railroad surveys planned for the line to follow Oak Creek to the north end of the canyon, Junction City, then using a low saddle it crossed to Trout Creek. Following down Trout Creek to the Yampa River, the road then turned west. Milner is located here. The route saved eighteen miles of rail, but it put Steamboat Springs on a branch line. David Moffat went broke and Sam Perry was one of the major investors who finished constructing the line to the coalfield. In 1906, Perry purchased James Crawford’s interest in Steamboat Springs and insisted on building the rail line to Steamboat Springs. Adding to the turmoil, the federal government began legal action against the illegal claims in Twenty Mile Park and the large fuel and iron companies and oil companies went belly up. Construction

For those who live here and for those who wish they did.

Joseph and Catherine Micheletti

of the railroad west of Steamboat Springs was delayed. Thus, the promise of Milner becoming a leading community shattered.

i About 1902, F. E. Milner purchased the land at the b stream’s junction and platted the town of Milner. His t motive is not entirely clear. He was a banker in Steamboat m Springs and, like all bankers in the region, he was closely c connected Moffat’s First National Bank of Denver. Milner a may have intended to hold the site for future development of the main line or he may have simply intended to M make a good investment. He was lackluster in developing e the town, although a few buildings were constructed. The p price of a lot ranged from $150 to $1200 per lot. Then o the Denver Northwestern & Pacific did not come down s Trout Creek; instead, it terminated at Steamboat Springs t while legal matters of coal ownership were resolved in the g courts. The court action completed in 1911, allowing the w railroad quickly to extend through the Milner/Mt. Harris coal district. M fl Coal mining boomed accompanying extension of the g railroad to Craig. Colorado-Utah (Mt. Harris) Mine was f the largest of the diggings. Dawsons sold their interest in e the Wadge Mine to Victor America in 1916 and the mine R became a firmly established operation. P&K floundered n with fits and starts. The Bear River Mine became a profit- a able mine for a few years, but it never reached its full h potential. South of the river, the Curtis Mine struggled h due to its steep railroad grade. The mine operated a shay a engine to pull loaded cars from the mine to Bear River for transfer onto the railroad. A run-away resulting in a I wreck destroyed the locomotive. The McNeil (also known a as the McGregor Coal Company) Mine near Milner soon a developed its own history. (According to Doc Utterback in M the Three Wire Winter it had an 800-foot vertical shaft.) c m The arrival of Joseph and Catherine Micheletti and their t store marked the big change in Milner’s future. In the early 1900s, coal companies or their agents recruited A thousands of Italians and Austrians to work in and C around the mines. Joseph and Catherine were among the p migration. They first operated a store at a Delta County N coal mine. Keeping with the custom of the day, Joseph, a being a businessman, dressed in black slacks and businessh shirt. In 1912, he opened the general mercantile store t at the Curtis Mine (also known as Coalview). He operO ated the store until 1922 when the mine closed. Joseph a purchased choice lots in Milner, dug a basement, and laid a M foundation of concrete. (Using concrete was quite a thing i

Valley Voice

August 2021



The Man Who Turned to Wood By Fran Conlon

The conversation seemed to hit a glitch, My companion's heart was quite still, Perchance the topic drove into a ditch, Of stuck thoughts that have no thrill.

in 1922.) He then moved the store to Milner. Moving the building was an engineering feat. The store was cut into ten-foot sections, loaded on hay wagons, and hauled ten miles from the mine to town. It took nine or ten trips to complete the move. Then the building was reassembled and restocked. Micheletti’s store soon became a center of activity. Joseph enjoyed discussing politics or any other subject. He was proud of his “liars’ bench” in front of the store. A post office was added to the store and residents gathered in the store to socialize after the west bound train arrived. Mail time became the social media of its day, where everyone gathered to gossip and on rare occasions say something worth saying. Micheletti built a large dance hall with a strong hardwood floor. He hired live bands from all over, allowed poker games to be played in one corner, and served excellent food. On a regular basis, boxing matches were held. The evening’s six matches were scheduled for six rounds each. Rattlesnake Carson, an accomplished boxer himself, organized the matches. He normally boxed in the feature bout and seldom lost. Rattlesnake Carson kept live snakes in his car and house. For effect, he hung a dead snake around his neck before the boxing match. He moved to California and lived to be 90 years old.

Joseph died in the fall of 1938 and his wife Catherine, daughter Esther Micheletti Compestine and her husband Modesto continued to run the store. Modesto worked in the mines in addition to his duties at the store. Although Esther had very little formal education, she was a shrewd business woman. Esther became postmistress, a position she held until her death in 1965. She had a little red wagon to carry mail sacks to and from the store to the railroad. In the morning she met the east bound train and, in the evening, the west bound train. After Esther’s death, Modesto ran the store until his death in 1983. His son, Modesto Arthur “Comp” Compestine and his wife Doris ran the store until it was sold in 1989. Afterwards Milner lost its unique character. A special “Thank You” goes out to owner Lora and barista Nate of the Emerald Closet for so warmly welcoming us as we interviewed Comp (now 94 years old) and his daughter Sharon for this article.

The man at first had a smile, Open laughter seemed at the ready, And, together we might go the next mile, But a long pause and silence was steady. I shared the effort to understand, And he stopped where he stood, Compatibility I hoped had a wide span, Surprised, I realized he was now wood. Neither filled with hate or love, He soberly presides over his space, Not to be taken below or above, He'll just hold his frozen face. I hate to see him with such tarnish, Perhaps I’ll give a coat of varnish. (Some folks seem so very stiff, 'Tho given a smile as a gift.)

Improved roads and increased use of automobiles created a demand for a gas station. Enterprising Joseph built a Texaco gas station across the street from the store. Milner also had a grade school employing two teachers. Because each teacher taught multiple grades, the school had more than one room. A separate library building added to the cultural activities of the town. Adding to the over-all life of the area, in the mid-1920s Colorado Utilities Corporation constructed a coal fired power plant at McGregor. Coal was brought from the McNeil/McGregor mine to fire the furnace. The mine operated at various levels from 1908 – 1947. Mine employees were housed with the power plant employees. The company town of McGregor was probably larger than Milner. The Osage/Black Dan strip mines opened in 1938 and operated until the coal ran out. (The mine pits are the current Milner landfill.) In 1964 the McGregor Plant was retired in favor of the Hayden Plant.

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Modesto Arthur “Comp” Compestine


At every crossroads on the path that leads to the future, tradition has placed 10,000 men to guard the past. — Maurice Maeterlinck


August 2021

Valley Voice

The Craniacs

Yampa Valley Crane Festival By Ellen Bonnifield

Photo by Abby Jensen

Photo by Abby Jensen

Crane Viewings, Bird Walks, Films, Speakers, Crane Art, Raptors, Family Activities & More!


SEPT 2-5 STEAMBOAT SPGS, HAYDEN, CRAIG, CO Keynote talk by International Crane Foundation CEO Dr. Rich Beilfuss Birder Murder Mystery Author Steve Burrows Crane Viewings with Paul Tebbel Bird Walks & Talk by Birding Editor Ted Floyd

Presentation by Bird Conservancy of the Rockies’ Scientist Arvind Panjabi Live Raptors & Colorado Native Animals with Nature’s Educators schedule & info: Presented by Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition, Inc.

Festival lodging: Residence Inn (970) 879-1298

“The cranes are back!” echoes through Routt County each March as excited Craniacs (sandhill crane enthusiasts and lovers) vie to spot the first beloved birds on their yearly migration. For the next six to seven months, crane viewings and activities continue in multiple ways to finally culminate in the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition’s annual Yampa Valley Crane Festival. Nancy Merrill and a few fellow crane lovers dreamed of a festival celebrating the annual visit of the greater sandhill cranes to Routt and Moffat counties. When limited hunting of the cranes was proposed in 2012, Nancy and friends realized this was the ideal time to implement their festival dream. The hunting proposal created such opposition that it was soon withdrawn and the Yampa Valley Crane Festival was instituted. Now celebrating its tenth year, the festival offers a varied program for all ages and abilities. Participants will have multiple opportunities to view and photograph cranes both mornings and evenings. Dr. Richard Beilfuss, President and CEO of the International Crane Foundation, is the Keynote speaker. Other specific crane activities include local artist Leslie Lovejoy’s Sketch-a-Bird workshop and Nature Journaling by author Ellen Bonnifield and artist Cindy Wither. Yoga instructor Liz Leipold will lead Crane Yoga. Crane Yard Art features wooden crane cut-outs decorated by local artists and offered for sale on a silent auction. Take home one of these extremely creative cranes to adorn your patio or yard. Enjoy the breath-taking Spirit Wind Aerial Arts, crane-inspired flying dancers led by Heidi Miller. An experimental project this year involves the live-steam web camera placed at the site of a nesting crane pair. Learn about the perils and joys the crane couples face in laying and hatching their young.

For those who live here and for those who wish they did.

Karen Vail, local botanist and naturalist, will lead an informative nature walk and for the cyclists, enjoy the Tour de Cranes to view crane art along Steamboat’s Core Trail led by Karen Whitney, Barry Kaplan, and Cindy Kinnear. Marianne Capra will entertain you with tales of the Crawford family and their experiences in the early history of Steamboat. Her multisensory walk includes “wild pets” of pioneer children. For the armchair birder, author Steve Burrows is sharing his conversion from birder-to-birder murder mystery writer! Enjoy the native raptors of Colorado provided by Nature’s Educators, a wildlife education and rehabilitation program. See and hear these birds while you learn about the raptor’s important role in nature. Take advantage of the opportunity to photograph the birds and receive information on how to improve your photographic skills. Multiple activities, especially for the younger visitors, include storytelling and educational games about nature. Activities for all ages and activity levels are sure to inform and entertain craniacs, birders, and nature lovers. This unique festival presents the current “state-of-thecrane” the 2.5- to 10-million-year-old bird which continues to inhabit every continent except Antarctica and South America. The tenth annual Yampa Valley Crane Festival presented by the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition will take place September 2-5, 2021 in Steamboat Springs, Hayden, and Craig, Colorado. For more information about the program and registration, go to the website at and click on the 2021 Yampa Valley Crane Festival. Enjoy these magnificent birds, learn more about them, and share the enthusiasm with other bird lovers. We welcome you.

Valley Voice

August 2021

Hayden Surveyor

Hayden Wish List Taking Shape


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The $61 million Hayden schools complex was founded on public input and suggestions from community members. Some of the suggestions were a little “out there,” others were essential, and others were somewhere in between. The pre-K through 12th grade project was made possible by a $38.8 million BEST grant, and a $22.9 bond issue approved by voters in 2017. Students, teachers and staff moved into the new facility last November. The architects, contractors and executive committee of board members, administrators and community members knew that the project needed to focus first on the essentials of education and safety, said Superintendent Christy Sinner. But there were some worthwhile ideas in that “in between” space, so the executive committee took all the leftover ideas and suggestions, winnowed them down to items that would enhance education or athletics, and made a prioritized “wish” list, should any surplus money be left over after project completion. Thanks to disciplined project management, there was some money left over and the school district is working on that wish list, with some items completed, others underway and some pending, said Sinner. “We’ll wrap up many of the wish list items by October 30,” said Sinner, per terms of the BEST (Building Excellent Schools Today) grant. • Public Safety – distributed antennas and radio communications throughout the complex. • Welding Booths in the career and technical education section. • Synthetic athletic football field made of Astro Turf and a concussion pad under the turf to cushion falls/ tackles. • Outdoor Amphitheater in the north courtyard. • Hayden exterior logo and lettering in the career/tech and athletic entry.

• Add colored concrete paving at the entrance and the courtyard. • Provide bleachers at the north side of the gymnasium and increase bleacher seating count in the main gym to 882. • Add retractable theater seating (380 seats) in the gym. • Add electric heating coils under the main entrance and back of house kitchen area, to prevent ice hazards and melt snow. • Add custom interior graphics • Add wrestling-friendly flooring in lieu of polished concrete • Add exposed concrete risers and wood seats on the “Learning Stairs” in lieu of carpet risers and platforms • Add Display Cases • Add wood columns in the cafeteria commons. • Add concessions and ticket booth at football field. • Provide additional shade structures in playgrounds. • Climbing rocks added to playgrounds. • Playhouse in the pre-kindergarten playgrounds. • AV equipment for the “Learning Stairs” area. • Gym projector. • Wood signage around school • Tack able wall surfaces in corridors. • Wrestling mat lift machine. • Decorative fencing at the pre-K playground, in lieu of chain link. • Two additional cable connections to each classroom. • Digital controls for gym equipment, in lieu of key operated • Synthetic turf play area in pre-K playground. • Solar panels on the roofs. Sinner said August 3 will be a day for students to preregister for fall classes, as well as an open house for the public to see the new school facilities. “There will be guided tours every hour,” she said.

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August 2021

Valley Voice

'Boat Almanac

Crooked Woods and Elfin Forests By Karen Vail

Photo by Karen Vail

I played hooky for three days to the crooked woods. Oh, and I met some elves along the way! Sounds like the makings of a good book! Translated: I went backpacking in my beloved krummholz. To get there I started in the bountiful subalpine meadows bursting with color and buzzing pollinators, traipsed through the dark and lush subalpine forest with tall stately trees and arching canopies that eventually, as I went higher in elevation, became smaller, sparser and gnarled. Here, where the trees look like matted bonsai, is the beginning of the krummholz, and where the magic begins! Tree line, or treelimit, is the highest elevation at which trees grow. You might have also heard the term “timberline,” which is the highest elevation where forests form a closed canopy. All the magic is near tree line. Here the trees become sparse, stunted and shorter and shorter. Higher still they become gnarled, twisted and dense. This is the krummholz, a German word translating to “crooked wood”. Then the trees end and just open alpine tundra stretches away. To understand what is limiting this upper elevation tree line, we need to look at the climate of the high mountains.

Of all the limiting factors of the alpine, cold temperatures, high UV, short growing season and poor soils, it is the wind that is the most limiting to tree growth. One of the first things you notice as you enter the open alpine is the incessant wind. When I spend a lot of the time in the alpine it seems that my skin has been sanded smooth by the winds. A study in the Front Range alpine found an average wind speed of 10 mph, in the White Mountains of New Hampshire it was 25mph. Being a plant in that constant stress limits their growth. Next time you are in the alpine kneel down next to those cute alpine plants, down to their level, and feel the difference. The wind ceases to a whisper, and it is warmer down there. If you were a tree seedling just sprouting behind a rock, you have the protection of the stone to begin life. As soon as your terminal bud emerges above the stone it will be wind damaged, killing the terminal bud and beginning the impressive survival mode of horizontal growth. The tree will fill the tiny, sheltered microclimate of the stone, then will be wind pruned to grow horizontally in its own protection, taking root where the stems touch the ground. These dense krummholz “forests” are so tight you can walk right on top of them. They have earned another name, the elfin forest, because of the Bilbo Baggins hovel look, so always make sure you check for the wee sprites! The shortest stands, some just a foot tall, are called cushion krummholz. These islands of protection in the alpine provide valuable refuge for birds and animals, as well as little pockets of subalpine plants where their seeds have blown up into the alpine and found refuge. Snow level is easy to see. The krummholz only grows as tall as the winter protection of snow. In low snow years, trees will be damaged, and the bright orange dead limbs signal the lack of snowpack. Because krummholz grows in its own protection, the original trunk can be found and dated. These are impressive! In fact, the oldest clonal tree species is a krummholz of Norway spruce in Sweden’s Fulufjallet Mountains which has been root dated using C-14 to 9,563 years. Interestingly Old Tjikko, the name given to this tree by its founder geologist Leif Kullman, started out its first several thousand years as true krummholz of dense foliage.

For those who live here and for those who wish they did.

Then during the warming of the 20th century, it sprouted a “normal” tree. I have cored a couple of krummholz trees and had to use a microscope to count the dense rings of growth. Sometimes there was only a cell or two of growth put on each year, and occasionally no growth ring at all. The factors that limit tree growth at high altitudes indirectly promotes longevity. Specifically, smaller tree size, slower growth rate, more carbon stored in the roots versus the tops, cold hardiness, efficient use of water, no or little seed production and fewer pathogens. Below the rocky soil the root systems are asymmetrical. Compare the growth to a large 50-foot-tall Engelmann spruce of the subalpine where the roots fan out radially from the trunk. Krummholz roots reflect the soil blown under the leeward side of the tree and diagram the placement of moisture laden snowpack. High altitude forests are often in protected areas that allow some upright growth. But the wind is still incessant, and prunes branches off the windward side leaving a “flag” of branches on the lee side. These flag trees, also called banner trees, are some of the most beautiful bonsai trees in the alpine. They also tend to grow in tree islands; dense stands spaced far apart providing a valuable steppingstones from the subalpine to the krummholz and alpine above. So, who are these hardy trees? In our area it is only conifers that are adapted to the harsh alpine climate, deciduous trees tapering out in the upper reaches of the timberline. Hahns Peak provides a good example of the upper limit of aspen trees. The highest reaches will be Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii) and subalpine fir (Abies bifolia (A. lasiocarpa)) becoming the stunted gnomes of the krummholz. Occasionally limber pine (Pinus flexilis) can be seen in more upright form. These are unique conditions defining a unique forest type, whose growth depends on certain temperatures, precipitation, wind flow, wind and sun exposure, length of growing season and depth and duration of snow cover. But the climate is changing and will certainly affect this special area. There are many, many studies looking at how a warming planet will affect the alpine life zone, and they all seem to come to the same conclusion: it’s complicated. In a long-winded nutshell, many areas of the Southern Rockies are, and will, see an increase in density of the upper altitude forests. This will change the biodiversity of the alpine areas as forests creep higher into the baren tundra. This was not found across the board in all sites, with some sites seeing no change in upward forest creep (“Multiscale Influences on Climate of Upper Treeline Dynamics in the Southern Rocky Mountains, USA: Evidence of Intraregional Variability and Bioclimatic Thresholds in Response to Twentieth Century Warming” Elliott, G, Kipfmueller, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 2011 –whew!). Perhaps the still harsh alpine climate is still inhibiting growth and seed production. And if seeds are blown up from below, their germination and success at establishment is minimal (“Hope in the Hills for Tundra? Moore, P., Nature, 2004). For now, it seems the krummholz and its elves will continue to grace the harsh slopes of the mountains. Pay them a visit and give thanks to a fascinating part of our natural world. I’ll see you in the krummholz bonsai!

Valley Voice

August 2021


Piknik Theatre

So You Want To Be In Pictures... By Stuart Handloff

Or maybe you want to write your own film screenplay? Or better yet, a real play for performance on the stage?? Well, you’ve missed this year’s Colorado New Play Festival - a weeklong local gathering of professional playwrights and nationally known theatre companies - but there’s always next year. Well, that’s my column for this month….NO! WAIT!!! There’s more. There are more opportunities to learn the unique skills required for play and screenwriting. As usual, I’m not an expert but I can give a few suggestions. Do schedule the New Play Festival in your calendar for 2022 in early June with a lineup to be announced by Jim and Lori Steinberg, the Executive Producers and longtime Steamboat residents. You’ll be able to listen to plays in their infancy and watch the playwrights at work, especially if you attend the rehearsals that are open during the week. If you do, I’ll likely see you there as I’m usually the only one, together with a couple from Wisconsin, who like to watch hours of actors and writers banging away at text and the creation of a stage play. The process is rarely pretty and filled with stops and starts, false steps and missed story lines. And it’s time consuming and sometimes boring; many plays take years to get ready for prime time (although my favorite playwright, Martin McDonagh, claims to have written his first trilogy of Irish plays in a matter of weeks). He’s also quoted as saying that playwriting is the easiest form: “Just get the dialect, a bit of a story and a couple of nice characters, and you’re away.” But being a bit of a showman himself, I think he’s simplifying the process that takes mere mortals months and years. But I do think that McDonagh has hit upon a formula that can be followed to write and produce meaningful dramatic art. The most important is coming up with a story that asks a meaningful dramatic question. If we use Shakespeare’s Hamlet as an example, the story is about a young prince who discovers that his father, the king, has been murdered by his uncle who then marries the boy’s mother and takes the throne. Heavy stuff, but it demands action to bring it to life and the resolution of the dramatic question of what will the prince do in response to the crime? I’ve always thought that, although there are eight million stories in the naked city, it’s really all the same story told eight million ways: someone you care about (maybe that’s you?) wants something that’s very, very difficult to achieve and sets out anyway, overcoming one obstacle after another, until finally finding success (a comedy) or failing brilliantly (a tragedy). Screenwriter and director Billy Wilder puts it another way: when writing your story, find a way to get your protagonist - the person you care about and for whom the audience will have some degree of empathy - up a tree. Then set the tree on fire. If you recall, this is exactly what J.R.R. Tolkien and Peter Jackson managed to do to Gandalf and the Gang; and what George Lucas does to Han, Leia, and Luke; or where Michael finds himself when his father Vito Corleone is almost murdered: up a burning tree. So the good story well told is essentially coming up with characters you can care about finding themselves in a high stakes predicament. A melting ice

cream cone only counts as a meaningful dramatic question for two year olds. Don’t go there. Empathetic characters aren’t always good guys, as the Corleone’s demonstrate with high powered automatic weapons, garrots, blackmail, and extortion time and time again. But their story of immigrants who face discrimination and violence, underdogs who overcome societal oppression and families who stick together through thick and thin is a tale we all know. If you’ve lived that story, you’ve already got a great play in your DNA. These characters must have distinct voices. When McDonagh casually remarks on nice characters and dialect, he’s not just referring to your empathetic and inspiring protagonist who happens to have an Irish accent, but also a voice that’s unique in its pitch, volume, and tempo. If all your characters sound alike (Mine do, and they all sound like me!!!), your play will be boring on stage. Even characters in the same predicament have different wants: Leia is fighting injustice in the universe; Han wants to get the bounty off his head and also is attracted to Leia; Luke has the whole father/son dialectic going on. Meanwhile, it’s off to destroy the Death Star and the Emperor. Reading a play out loud is really the only way to determine if your characters are as unique in their sound as you think they are on the page. That’s the strength of the New Play Festival for writers: they get to hear their characters speak. Maybe you just have a group of friends to support you; or you take advantage of the professional actors of the Piknik Theatre who are living in Steamboat through the month of July and early August for the summer 2021

Piknik Theatre Festival (shameless promotion). Actors are always keen to try on new roles and new characters in exchange for beer and good food and the best ones know how to give insight into creating a powerful and distinct voice for a character. Paul McCudden, astronomer and former Hollywood screenwriter, who teaches at our very own Colorado Mountain College has some good advice for prospective writers for stage and screen: it’s all about what you hear and what you see. Your story must be told physically, through the movements of your characters, as well as through the words that are spoken. Actions, as they say, do speak louder than words and whether live or on a screen, we watch what the actors do that support or deliberately undermine their text. As Frodo approaches the Cracks of Doom to destroy the One Ring, we know from his body movement and the look on his face that he’s not going to do it. There’s no dialogue other than “the ring is mine” that conveys this final twist but it's clear where the story is going. Fortunately, the indomitable Gollum saves the day and he has no dialogue at all; just showing us the incredible joy at finally finding success getting what he so desperately wants and has been searching for during all of the thousand plus pages. So please get started writing your story: the one that asks a compelling and dramatic question with empathetic characters who are distinct in how they look and sound and desperately want something that may or may not be achievable but for whom the journey is equally as important as the outcome. We’ll follow the tale with joy and excitement, and I’d love to put it onstage.

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August 2021

Valley Voice

An Old Coal Miner...

Looking at Old Ranchers By Ted Crook The Fencing Tool We have all your camping and fishing supplies! Downtown Yampa 970.638.4531


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about the part of farm and ranch life I do know a tiny bit about: fences.

I remember my jazz musician father’s attempt to play with a guitar wielding cowboy--the rather nice man who bought the family dude ranch. My father, steeped in Strayhorn and Glen Miller, lover of the minor seventh, major ninth and flat five, tried playing with the man who knew all 4 of the chords in G. They parted on good terms after my father admitted he’d never heard of Hank Williams.

You can spend millions on fences. I recently saw a beautiful new fence--five tight wires (probably tuned up to one of the 4 chords in G), new posts exactly every ten feet exactly the same height. It almost certainly cost at least a hundred thousand dollars.

Or Jambalaya--"too much mixture.”

If your new hobby ranch lacks good fences, usually because the previous big hatted owner loved the look he saw on “The Big Valley” or “Bonanza” and made the fences out of wood, you will need to fix them often.

They usually have day jobs to make the actual money. There are also the others, who come in several forms. One simple rule of thumb, if you are new to the west: the larger the cowboy hat (and the bigger the horse), the more likely you are to have trouble with them.

Video of the Month:

Getting Star Distance with a Cheap Camera

The posts were untreated, so it might not last 5 years.

I’m a big fan of the ratchet strap to stretch wire and pull it out of the grass. A small one, carried in the pocket or small pack is invaluable. Most new fencers buy one of the 35 dollar fencing tools which does so many things that it can’t do anything very well. I use it mostly to hold the staple while I hit it with a real hammer.

Also watch out for the guys with the smaller hats turned up sharply on both sides to ensure that any rain that hits them will fall in their lap.

In my experience, in ten staples held with the fingers, the thumb will be struck on three and the forefinger on another two, making a probability of .5 for macerating a part of the hand with any given stapling attempt.

If the hat is beat up or sweat stained, those are good signs.

Stopping that is probably worth the 35 dollars.

Also, if they have “the big iron” on their hip, avoid them like the plague.

Stockade staples, by the way, are the only thing that will hold up in Routt County winters, though they will split an old post if driven by the inattentive.

I did know a rancher who rode his Harley with his 45 revolver strapped to the handlebar. He needed it because he often saw suffering, car-damaged, and elk on his way home from the work that actually paid the bills. He was a nice guy and one of the best diesel mechanics I ever worked with.

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I have had a long and variegated history around the farm and ranch scene.

There are real ranchers in the valley--hard working, often highly educated, men and women who wear baseball caps and spend their days arguing with the bank, working on farm machinery, and fixing fences.

Simplifying Things for the Rest of Us

Pinchers Smasher

I never saw him with a cowboy hat--ever. If you’ve just put your life savings into a hobby ranch yourself, I want to impart some hard earned wisdom

For those who live here and for those who wish they did.

Don’t buy all of them; however, leave a box on the shelf for me. If you want a fence that actually works, use steel posts. Wear eye protection and ear plugs while driving the posts in. You can wear your baseball hat as well.

Valley Voice

August 2021

The Clunker

In Praise of the Classroom Window By Fran Conlon

The principal and maintenance chap donned coveralls, headed for the furnace room, and removed the clunker from the coal-feed line. The classroom gradually cleared of coal smoke, and the windows were again closed to the chilly winter air. Wonderful heat poured from the ducts. Such an adventure in education! Saved by big spacious windows. Nowadays, in the modern classroom, natural or similar clean-heat devices do their warming work (most of the time). The modern windows are smaller, and sometimes have a screened portion that opens. But it's not the same. Especially with the ebbing of the pandemic, the role of windows and views of mountains, clouds and the sun can return from the dimmed virtual classroom, where shades were drawn to allow enhanced definition to the video transmission by teacher, and responses from students somewhere out in educationalmedia land.

The old school building, with coal furnace for heating, had the biggest windows—almost floor to ceiling of the classroom—single pane glass, and the windows could be thrown wide open for fresh air in autumn and spring. In emergencies in winter, when the loud shout of “CLUNKER!” echoed in the hallways, we knew the coal-feed to the furnace was temporarily blocked. A moment of preparation, and the huge windows were thrown wide open; and then came the billowing black cloud of coal smoke through the heat ducts.

There is the suspicion that the “virtual classroom” is overrated, somewhat. In my virtual classroom, I was the sole person. Shades were drawn; the electronic connections were hooked up and working (most of the time). Academic jokes and witticisms don’t play well in the virtual classroom, where there's always the feeling of isolation. My classroom was the place for storing the full-sized, first-aid manikin on a gurney. She was pleasant enough but very quiet. Entering the room she always gave me a passing shock of “What's up, doc?” Later, she was moved to the EMT classroom. I will raise the window shades in my next classroom.

Chip Beckstrom reading the history of the Meeker Massacre (Thornburgh Massacre) at the Milk Creek Battlefield Park



Fourth of July 1776 By Ann Ross

Goodbye King of Brit , 13 colonies say “no fit” “Happy birthday USA”‘ Love a parade this year Down Lincoln thru town hope it never ends Flags and Floats adventure fun Red firetrucks loud blasting! Children wave and laughing Blow fire siren once again. Veteran walks the way Cowboys and horses once “Wild West" Routt Beer Floats the best! No fireworks sparkle splash DARK sky tonite 2021 Fire danger for animals and timber! Hope RED,WHITE and BLUE Howelsen Hill flash next year


Fourth of July 1899 By Ann Ross

Atlantic Constitution Dr Wade, "It’s Hot" "It’s hot enuf to fry eggs on the sidewallk" Oatman, Arizona Picked up on that! Let’s have a "CRACKING" contest here! Who wins next year? Death Valley Park Rangers No "CRACKING" eggs No cartons, shells no mess or litter here! SAVE THE WILDERNESS FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS

The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions. — Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.


August 2021

Valley Voice

Tales from the Front Desk


The Guitar Player

"Hey." He said in his raspy voice, as if he'd thought real hard about smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, but hadn't actually committed to it yet.

The story you are about to read is true... More or less.

"Hi... Can I help you?" She asked.

By Aimee Kimmey Tuesday. 7:38 pm. Front Desk.

Even smack in the middle of the busy summer, Tuesday nights are notoriously quiet. Especially after 7 pm. By this point, most of the guests are checked in and settled for the night. For the clerk, it's the best time to catch up on tasks left over from the day. With only the occasional visitor or phone call to interrupt her, she could comfortably leave the bell out and walk away from the front desk for several minutes at a time. On this particular Tuesday evening, she was wrapping up some paperwork from the busy afternoon of check-ins. Then she was headed out to prep tomorrow's breakfast buffet. The front door chime interrupted her, she looked up with a friendly smile ready. A lone, shadowy figure hovered in the doorway, guitar slung over his shoulder, like a gunfighter heading into a duel. He hesitated there, half in, half out of the lobby. At first the clerk felt a tingle of mystery and anticipation; who was this wandering musician? And what did he want? But the longer he waited there, the more the feeling became annoyance.

Finally he moved through the door into the lobby, nearly catching the neck of his guitar on the entry way. As he stepped into the light, the clerk recognized him; it was the kid from 108. She'd checked him in herself a few hours ago. He'd leered at her with one eyebrow or another cocked up the whole time, desperately shooting for smoldering intensity, but missing it by a mile. When he spoke, he pitched his voice low and breathy, almost whispering. It was probably meant to be sexy, but actually it just grated on her nerves. Now, he stood there in the middle of the lobby, eyebrow cocked up, mouth curled into a... smirk? Smile? Gas? She couldn't say for sure. He waggled his chin in the briefest nod that left her wondering if if he was shooting for cool? Or he had some sort of neurological disorder?

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"It's quiet down here. Too quiet." He breathed... ugh. The clerk's eyes twitched, she struggled to keep them from rolling all the way back. "Yeah...?" He stepped closer to the counter, pulling his guitar into position. "You like John Mayer?" "Um, no... not especially..." She shook her head. Actually it was music that made her contemplate violence. "I know all of his solo stuff." He ran his fingers awkwardly down the strings, the missed notes raked uncomfortably on her ears. "How about I play some?" Oh Lord! The clerk thought, what is happening? Terror rippled down her spine; he's not seriously going to start playing, is he?! Now, the clerk was no guitar aficionado, but the fact that this kid hadn't spent much of his short life practicing was obvious from across the room as he juggled the instrument ineptly. He bungled down the strings and the clerk's head filled with images of cheesy college boys trying to woo freshman girls around a campfire. She shuddered. "Uhh..." The thought of trying to work while this kid tortured his guitar made her blanch. The clerk loved music; she'd spun her way through many concerts in her day. And she was all for supporting any young artist in learning their craft. But at this time of night, the likelihood of anybody else coming in to enjoy the 'show' was pretty slim. It would just be him sitting in the corner, plucking painfully through music that would make her want to punch him even if he was Eric Clapton, while she... worked around him, trying not to smash his guitar over his head? She didn't want to crush his dreams, but she could not get with the idea of a personal concert from this smarmy man child. She smiled, trying to be gentle, "No... thanks really, but, um, I don't think so. It's pretty slow tonight, and I have some work I need to finish up before my shift ends, so you won't really have any audience." The kid shrugged, cool as any good rocker, "K' maybe next time Momma."

Her teeth grated at being called 'Momma,' but she had to give it to him, he took the rejection well. He slung his axe over his shoulder and strolled back out of the lobby. For half a second she could almost picture him as a real musician... well, maybe one day. Hopefully he'd spend some time practicing before his next attempt at a concert!

109 East Main St Oak Creek, Colorado 80467 970-736-1104 For those who live here and for those who wish they did.

Feeling like she'd dodged a huge, awkward bullet, the clerk turned back to her chores. She had to admit, she'd never been happier to go set up the breakfast buffet in the quiet, too quiet, lobby!

Valley Voice

August 2021


Mensan Musings

Mistaken Checks By Wolf Bennett

I reordered my carbon copy, duplicate, mountain scene checks a few weeks ago. Quite the adventure. I had ordered checks from this company before but had to reenter all my information. I was very dutiful and verified every number and sequence typed into every box they had. Name, address, bank number, account number and check style – everything. The first order came back with the wrong bank number and 2 digits off in the account number. The second batch had an address from I have no idea where. And the third batch was some cartoon character, though the information printed was correct. Each time the person who answered my questions was very friendly, heavy accent and helpful. They repeated information, verified addresses and did good due diligence, on a recorded line, of course. English was not their first language but that is fine as we got through each interview supposedly successfully. It has been entertaining but also enlightening and triggered a thought process. Have you ever had the experience of something being taken to the printers and had it not work out? Typos, errors, shipping failures and other mistakes? Pretty common isn’t it? As one would expect there are numerous things that can go wrong and according to Murphy’s Law those things that can go wrong, will go wrong. The errors can be traced fairly easily and workers are simply human and most are quite honest. Printing is a business and so it has traceable finances, taxes, banking and business models of keeping costs lower and profits higher and often employees can be under-trained, mistake prone, poorly educated, lazy, tired or unfocused. Language barriers exist so misinterpretations, grammar and errors occur very commonly. Each person in the chain to simply print some invitation, letter, card or check has a distinct role that can make the entire system work well, or not,

and there are hundreds of ways to follow up and find those difficult spots. It is stunningly difficult to have no errors. Freight is the same way. Have you ever had shipping flaws even from very reputable companies? Weather delays, damage, misprinted addresses, delivery drivers who made an error, clerks who didn’t track things correctly, cartons that were not packed correctly or mis-opened, trucks that broke down, forklift operators that missed the pallet and bashed the boxes and hundreds more possible failures all that are easily traceable? I’m certain you can think of your own experiences and you and your friends and businesses have certainly been frustrated with the simplest of things going wrong. I think you get the point, even though I could probably go on for several more pages. What we see is the fact that our orders went wrong. On a large scale it would be absolutely certain to have problems and probably many more issues. We simply don’t look much deeper, we don’t ask questions of simple probabilities. We fail to consider the odds or even simple percentages. So here is my question. How could millions of items for multiple states and thousands more municipalities, ordered from multiple countries with tens of thousands of miles of shipping and postage with tens of thousands of people involved have been designed, ordered, printed, paid for, packaged, shipped, delivered and processed without a single traceable error? Not one person erred, not one order ever went wrong in any way and not a single person has ever come forward with any evidence, even though easily obtainable? The accusation that millions of ballots were faked is an easily provable lie. Our erstwhile president has led millions of people down a rabbit hole.

Belief is a powerful tool and often blinds us when facts disagree with that belief. Science is simply a process of looking at and measuring things. Scientists are far more likely to change positions after seeing better proof, but it takes looking more deeply, questioning more fully, paying attention to the discrepancies, having humility enough to admit our own mistakes and listening to things we don’t want to hear for possible flaws in our own ideas. We need to educate ourselves and the broader the base, the better for all of us. There are rules to logic just as in math and they work. Logic needs training. Belief is simply that, a belief. Literally anything can be believed as there is no basis for comparing it to anything. A comfortable belief ultimately doesn’t matter. Thinking is not just something we do but is something we can improve upon just as we can train our bodies to get stronger and faster. Thinking about thinking yields amazing results. Our brains are constantly learning anyway, and just a little effort focusses that training in useful and helpful ways. How we deal with mental discordance distracts us and it is simply easier to just believe nonsense. It isn’t that hard to learn new things but it does take effort. We have to accept our flaws and errors first. We have to admit that we could be wrong. Leaping to conclusions and a ton of other metaphors may have led us down some dark path that simply seems normal to us because it is familiar. Maybe we should look around, question ourselves seriously and be aware that we and our systems are flawed. I think that I’ll keep a bunch of Mickey Mouse checks as the important information is correct.



"You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline - it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer." -Frank Zappa

On the corner of US40 and Hilltop Pkwy

New Hours: Mon. thru Sat: 10 am - 9 pm Sunday: 11:30 am - 7:30 pm


Walking up endless stairs To the crown of Liberty A child with no fear Way above the skyline In a New York State of Mind Hopeful hearts Picking up pieces Coming to America Starting again Where is “God” In a world gone mad I run through the forest With Fairies and magic Breathing in beauty Love and Freedom

Life is a journey that must be traveled no matter how bad the roads and accommodations. — Oliver Goldsmith


August 2021

Valley Voice


Your Monthly Message By Chelsea Yepello Aries


March 21 - April 19

If guardian angels existed, they wouldn’t be beautiful ethereal beings who quietly and elegantly protect you from harm. Everyone would share one angel and he would be a middle-aged ginger, who is a master of karate and a skilled thespian.


April 20 - May 20


May 20 - June 20


June 21 - July 22

It’s presumptuous to decide it’s a zombie apocalypse just because there are questionable individuals attacking and devouring each other in the streets. They could just be the everyday occurrence of demented cannibals who have escaped their shackles and are hungry for human organs. Be logical. Zombies? Such an imagination.




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1755 Lincoln Avenue Steamboat Springs, CO On the Free Bus Route


For those who live here and for those who wish they did.

You will reach a new level of confidence and finally start to give yourself the respect you deserve. You will conclude that you are a strong and prosperous creature with not one, but two opposable thumbs. It is not appropriate to go skinny dipping in the kiddy pool no matter how appealing the giant plastic alligator is, even if it shoots water out of its nose and has welcoming and warm eyes.


July 23 - August 23

You are so relieved that August doesn’t have a national holiday to plan or stress about, you decide to organize a huge party for all of your friends and family, send out personal invitations, plan and prepare a complicated and extravagant menu, buy everyone a thoughtful gift, spend hours wrapping presents and decorate your house with colorful decorations.


August 23 - September 22


September 23 - October 23


November 22 - December 21

Punctuality had never been a strong suit of yours. Luckily, coming up with an impressive balance of unbelievable and realistic excuses for your tardiness that are convincing enough no one wants to put the effort in to cross check your story is a strong suit of yours.


December 22 - January 19

The narrator describes a serial killer as an individual that spends most of their time alone, they have a difficult time with intimate personal relationships, have bizarre hobbies and almost never leave the house. And thus, you come to the realization that you and a serial killer have a lot in common and would most likely be friends.


January 20 - February 18

One of the challenges of sleeping in the summer? You overheat when you cover your legs with a blanket, but when they aren’t covered, they are vulnerable to being attacked by monsters.


February 19 - March 20

People think summer is a few blessed months of barbeques, vacations, campfires and long, hot days. Yet, you are one of the few that find summer a confusing and disheartening season because you have to go to bed at your regular bedtime, even though the sun is still up.

After the domestic cats begin their attempt at world domination, you put up a valiant effort to pick them off one by one while distracting them with a laser pointer. That is, until the battery runs out and they corner you and wait for you starve to death so they can eat your face off. Nothing is certain but change and a necessity for diapers at the beginning and end of your life.


October 24 - November 21

It's that time of year to temporarily shut down all your social media accounts, simply to avoid your friend’s posts about “time going by so fast” and pictures of their awkward kids in their back to school outfits.

Do you know where this is located?

Valley Voice

Kid Ranchers

By Matt Scharf

Relentless Construction Cone Zones

August 2021

Kid Revolutionaries

Kid Rockers

Kid Contractors

Kid Rappers

Kid Plumbers

Kid Cops

Kid Business



August 2021

Valley Voice

We know what ails you.

$25. each

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P.O. Box 770743 Steamboat Springs, Colorado

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For those who live here and for those who wish they did.