Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday

'Twas a good Thanksgiving! Sandy put together a good and beautiful spread, which we enjoyed with four guests while it snowed and fogged outside all day long ... never could see Mesa Verde. Scooby Doo oversaw the preparations, but was outside during the visitation. 

This morning was cloudy , too, but it cleared while we were bell-ringing at Wal-Mart for the Salvation Army. We had a good shift (noon to two) but a cold wind came up and we got pretty chilled. Exercises, swims and showers at the Rec. Center helped that. Before going in, we saw this guy bouncing off the ground, attached to a kite. Never saw such before, but guessing it's a parakite. Anyway, sometimes it looked like he could have been taking a longer and higher ride than intended.

On the way home, the sky had cleared enough to see what the last couple of days left on the mountains. Beautiful in the late afternoon light! tv

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Past, Present, Future

One hundred years ago next year, work started on the Mancos High School. A small group of us got together yesterday afternoon to figure out how to celebrate the centennial of the oldest continuously operating high school in Colorado; I took this evening picture of the school at the end of our meeting.

The year 1909 is engraved on the stone over the doorway, so that's an anchor for the celebration, but then it gets fuzzy. We decided to run the celebration from Mancos Days (which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2009) till graduation in May 2010 (that should be, we figure, the centennial class).

We're a little behind the curve already, but it sounds like it could be an interesting project, both for the school and for the community it serves.

Past, present, future will be the theme for the Mancos Days parade in July. The past (of the school) will take some sorting. The future will probably revisit some issues of the past, like consolidation. The present ... who knows what's going on? Maybe our situation will be clearer by July, for better or worse.

Just yesterday, I had people asking if they could clean up the brush piles on the property for firewood, do we have any yard work they could do, etc. Food banks are empty or running low; we're trying to figure out at Meeting how we can jump-start a special filling of the food boxes we usually do twice a year. 

We are looking forward to a small Thanksgiving dinner with a few friends and we will have much to be thankful for. Still, there will be a fearfulness hanging over our heads for Christmas, the New Year and beyond. tv

Friday, November 21, 2008

Breakfast at the Bakery

Breakfast at the Bakery in Mancos this morning was an unusually good experience.  The dog patiently waiting on the bench outside, for whomever it belonged, was a common small town sight.  We ordered the breakfast special, an exceptionally yummy mixture of eggs,mushrooms, bacon and cheese, served with seven grain homemade bread.   Then we were delighted to see Michael Martin Murphey, legendary country music composer and last night's entertainer at the Mancos Opera House, come through the door.  Bashful Tom immediately struck up a conversation, telling Mr. Murphey how much we enjoyed his performance and moving on to discuss Wisconsin, as it is Tom's home state  and where MM Murphey now has a horse ranch and lives.   The used bookshelf then caught his eye and he scooped up an armful of Time/Life Cowboy books and seemed delighted with his find!  After taking the the books to his vehicle  he returned with CDs and to chat with a young man who has been a championship rider and marksman.  He spent a lot of time chatting with the teenage cowboy and his father and then my last picture is of Michael Martin Murphey, songwriter extraordinaire , and legendary performer ambling out the door of the Bakery in Mancos!  We found him so down to earth, unpretentious and just small town friendly.   Who would have thought it! SF

Cowboy troubador

We had a great evening at the Mancos Opera House! We had seen Michael Martin Murphey at Fort Lewis College last winter and really enjoyed his music and dialogue. So, when we heard he was going to be playing the Opera House, just down the hill, it was a must!

We got there a few minutes after the doors opened (6 p.m.) and the street was already filling up with cars and the first few rows of seats were also pretty well taken. The VFW had 300 tickets and it looked like they sold out. Good for them ... they should have made a good bit toward the restoration work they're doing.

MMM was alone on stage, coming in from La Veta yesterday and going on to Yuma today. He stayed at the Bauer House last night. We understand he called to ask if there was an opera house in Mancos; he likes to play in these old venues, I guess.

Anyway, it was a good show and well-received (especially his critical asides about Federal land managers and the need for ranchers to be more assertive in their own behalf) by his audience, which seemed to be mostly Montezuma County. As he said, the first half was country, the second half was western, with a lot of songs about cowboys. I was impressed with the kinds of feelings his songs represented ... love of the land and its people. At one point, at the end of a medley, he stood and sang the old Shaker tune, "Simple Gifts" a cappella. Very moving!

The top picture was taken when he led the audience in a "Grrr," imitating the Devil's reaction when some rustlers tied a knot in his tail. tv

Thursday, November 20, 2008

On civility ...

A small rant. It's scary to see the views coming out after the election. In a story about an increase in gun sales in Cortez, one person is quoted as hoping Obama is impeached quickly. He's not even inaugurated, and she wants him impeached! Forget the transgressions of the incumbent, who I'm guessing she would not have wanted impeached for anything, why do we have elections? It's so, in a vague, general way, the will of the people can be expressed. And the rest of us are supposed to accept the results and work within that context, whether the process gives us a Bush or an Obama.

Another guy quoted raises the old fear that the Feds are coming to take our guns and says people are buying guns so they can resist that when it happens. Another urban myth, like Obama is a Muslim and a socialist, but one that people are willing to believe at the deepest level.

A letter to the editor recently called Obama a terrorist and exhorted all true Americans to help put the nation back on the path to being a Christian state.

If I were teaching civics in a local high school, I would use the local newspapers as texts for what citizens say they believe and want to see, as compared with the way our system is supposed to work.

What really bothers me is the use of enemy language ... us against them ... that appears to be increasingly prevalent. There is no question that the Bush administration ran on that premise, stated in one form or another over and over again by the president himself. Now, there seems to be a resurgence of that narrow way of thinking at all levels for all kinds of issues ... "My way or the highway," and you are my mortal enemy if you don't agree with me!

Maybe Obama will be a lightning rod that manages to overcome that way of thinking once and for all, but I doubt it. It's too deep-rooted. Sad. Dangerous. Unamerican. tv

Another sunny day

'Twas a beautiful, clear dawn yesterday, as this one is dawning, and we took Scooby Doo and went on a pre-breakfast safari to the Cedar Mesa subdivision on the west side of the Mancos Valley. Partly, it was to check out the view of dawn on the Sleeping Ute; partly for the view of Point Lookout (shown). 

But, as always, we found lots of other things to attract our lenses ... trees, bushes, etc. It was crisp and brisk, but a nice outing.

I made a dash to Durango in the afternoon ... I've been hearing voices intermittently in my right ear. (No, not aliens ... my right hearing aid was cutting in and out!) So, the audiologist waved did a little cleaning and repair and I hear in stereo again.

Last night we ventured out to the Absolute Bakery for "open mike night," featuring readings by new Mancos Valley neighbor Christina Nealson, along with others. We haven't taken this in before, but we enjoyed it. Not a lot of folks there, as you can see, but it's an easy, friendly ambience. Bakery owner David Blaine read some of his reminiscences as a Peace Corps volunteer in Chad, and I learned a lot I hadn't known about that African nation. tv

Sunday, November 16, 2008


After meeting for worship in Durango this morning, we came back by way of Farmington to pick up some items at Sam's Club.

I'm a newcomer to the area, relatively, but I've been in and out of Farmington for more than 40 years now; what a lot of changes in that time!

When I worked at Mesa Verde in 1966, I would still see Navajo families riding in horse-drawn buckboards down the highway south of Shiprock. Then they were all replaced by pickup trucks, with Grandma and the kids riding in the back, wrapped in Pendleton blankets and other warm coverings. King-cabs, vans and pickup shells got Grandma and the kids out of the weather and today at Sam's Club, I saw a Navajo family loading their purchases into a Hummer!

Some things haven't changed ... the Encore Motel is still in the same place on East Main!

And the heart of the town - downtown along Main Street - is still pretty much the same buildings in the same places, surprisingly alive, considering the big-box sprawl at the east end of town. 

When I was at Chaco (1985-1989), we shopped weekly in Farmington. Even since then, the layout and the ambience has changed. Shops come and go in the Animas Mall, but today's shoppers were another generation in the chain of American life ... South Asian shoppers, an East Asian family giving massages at a booth in the hall, New Mexicans whose families came to the area 400 years ago, New Mexicans who were born south of the border, Utes, Navajo, Apaches, Blacks ... and the results of another generation of loving outside the ethnic box.

Lunch at Golden Corral was a perfect stew of American diversity, spiced with sounds of Spanish and  Navajo, as well as English. It looks and sounds very different from the energy-boom-town-gone-bust of two dozen years ago!

The complex of Sam's Club, Wal-Mart, Target, Office Max, etc. at the east end of Farmington is also home to Applebee's, Outback, Fuddrucker's and faster food joints. Sign of the times: Long John Silver's with a sign advertising "healthier," grilled entrees!

On the way home, coming up the Hesperus Highway, we watched the last rays of the sun painting the western slopes of the La Platas pink and then purple. While the ranches and houses in the foreground are new, the peaks and the forests must look essentially as they did to the Pueblo farmers and hunters of 1,000 years ago. TV

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Long day!

The morning started off with the sound of the increased traffic on Hwy. 184 below the house. This usually starts about 5 a.m., and I figure it's early travelers and, to some extent, commute traffic to Durango.

That was punctuated by the banshee wails of some coyotes across the highway, following by their usual political convention gabble, gabble, whoop, gabble.

So, up and out with the dog. On the way back up the drive, the full moon was perfectly centered between two ponderosa pines up-slope from the house. Chilly, but beautiful, pre-dawn walk. 

There was lovely red streaking in the sky at the south end of the valley, and beautiful color in the west at sunset.

Went to Jake Riffel's funeral this morning; it was well-attended. Lots of death notices in the papers lately. Dad used to say they go with the coming and the going of winter ... that seems to be true as winter comes on here.

Sandy met with other Artisans members to get our plans straight for the Olde Fashioned Christmas celebration in Mancos. It will be good to be here and be part of that this year!

I wandered over to the library and was surprised to see art of SWOS kids on their gallery wall. Good exhibit!

Tentatively, we'll show FeVa Fotos works on that wall in March.

Lazy afternoon working on pictures and napping, then out for a meeting this evening. tv

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Gentle pleasures

Sandy started putting bird seed in the feeders a couple of days ago, and the birds are starting to gather ... chickadees, juncos and piñon jays, mostly. This morning there was a flock of evening grosbeaks out there, which are a little more colorful. I think this fellow, who looks like he's trying to conduct a disinterested choir, was coming in for a landing ... a lucky shot! tv


It was with deep sadness that I watched Vice President Dick Cheney lay a wreath and make a speech at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on this Veterans Day. I try to remember he did this as the Vice President, not as the man who, at a time when other young men were being drafted to serve their country, said he had "other priorities" and sought and received five draft deferments. Not as the man who was so eager to send our young men and women into combat against a nation that had not attacked us and was not a realistic threat against us. Not as the man who worked behind the scenes to undercut laws, treaties, the Constitution and many of the principles America stands for ... principles the Unknown Soldier and all other US military have served to defend. ANY other official, including President George W. Bush, would have been more acceptable than this man on Veteran's Day at our nation's most important symbol of ultimate sacrifice. For me, this was an insult to the Unknown Soldier and all his siblings in arms, alive and dead. tv

Sunday, November 9, 2008


I last wrote about the Mancos FLDS properties in the Aug. 28 blog.

We went by there last night, after not having been by in a couple of months. 

The upper property still appears to be largely abandoned, though there were tracks down the lane and some kind of reaper stowed near the metal shed. (Follow pics from bottom up.) Lots of cows on the property, but probably trespassing from nearby grazing leases ... the fence lets critters in, or out. I did notice that the usual "No Trespassing" sign was no longer posted on the upper gate. Sold?

The changes visible on the lower property seem mostly to be an increase in rolling stock (and whatever crop was in the new garden patch at the south end of the big field has been harvested and the ground turned over). The vehicles I hadn't noticed before include a green service truck (a small truck with toolboxes on both sides above the sides) and a green tank truck (both USFS surplus sales?). There's also a flatbed trailer that I don't remember seeing, in addition to the one with the water tank on it. Looks like they're hauling their own water now (and/or fuel?), and in large quantities.

At the north end of the former open barn that was closed in to make (allegedly) a four-bedroom residence, I notice there is also a stack of wood and two bicycles. The bicycles appear to me to be smaller than adult-size, so maybe there's a family in that building now.

So, while the case in Texas winds down and seems to be disappearing into courthouse hallways, and while the properties the UEP held in trust for FLDS adherents in Short Creek (the twin cities of Colorado City, AZ, and Hilldale, UT)  and Bountiful, BC, are experiencing conflict over their trust management, the two 60-acre tracts ... and whoever is living on them ... seem to be quietly doing their thing, increasing their self-sustaining capacity and staying out of sight. tv

Music night!

We were treated to some pretty high-class music last night!

We dined at the Mahogany Grille in the Strater Hotel, where we were entertained on the piano by Grammy-winner Tom MacCluskey (better known in Mancos as the partner of Mancos Valley Chorus conductor Kris Larsen).

Then we enjoyed three hours of music at Fort Lewis College's Community Concert Hall from Loudon Wainwright III (lower) and Leo Kottke (above). I have to admit that I got more out of Kottke's music than Wainwright's; I can't hear and process lyrics well enough to keep up with Loudon's narratives. tv

Two Lincoln Counties

I found my perceptions of probable vote trends in the election to be partly wrong. 

I grew up, graduated high school and was married in Lincoln County, WI. My high school years were in the McCarthy era ... paranoid hatred and suspicion clothed in Cold War rubric. I've carried that feeling - that cold, hostile, overall perception of the politics of that Lincoln County -  for a long time, anticipating that the 2008 election results would shine bright crimson.


Lincoln County, WI, went 55% for Obama! And I should recall that, not long after I was wondering about whether I should be seen with my girl friend and her family at a Democratic meeting featuring candidate Gaylord Nelson, he and perennial candidate Proxmire were actually elected and re-elected. So, change does occur. 

There's long been two Republican traditions in Wisconsin; the socially progressive LaFollette branch, based largely in the southern cities of Milwaukee and Madison (both of which have had Socialist mayors), and the "You're on your own" wing that spawned Joe McCarthy. I guess the LaFollette strain is in the ascendancy again.

Sandy and I were married in another Lincoln County, the Oklahoma one just east of Oklahoma City. That one went almost 3 to 1 for McCain. We were both right on that guess! tv

Friday, November 7, 2008


Though it had nothing to do with the weather, the election marked the turn from late fall to winter.

It was cool and overcast on election day, and we woke up Wednesday to several inches of snow. It was the kind of weather that had the critters hunkered down in a creekbed  near town. 

At the end of the day, on my way back from the audiologist in Durango, I saw that it was going to clear behind the storm cloud in the west. We went out to a viewpoint on the edge of the Cedar Mesa subdivision just in time to catch the Sleeping Ute silhouetted by the sunset.

Had an interesting thing happen in relation to a picture. On our photo safari the day before the election, I saw a bug skittering through the aspen leaves on the ground. I got a couple of not-very-sharp pictures of the bug that I posted on our Flickr page ( I sent the pictures to a mantis group, thinking the critter looked a little mantis-like. I got a nice response that suggested that it was a bug, not a mantis, probably an assassin bug. Further research suggests that my correspondent (who turned out to be a JUNIOR HIGH student) was exactly right. How neat to get such detailed and polite assistance from one so young!

The fact that winter is here was borne home yesterday morning, when it was 14 degrees when Scooby Doo and I took our predawn walk. This morning it was 10 degrees! 

This afternoon, as I write this, it's warm enough to have the west portico door open, but it will get closed pretty soon ... the sun's starting to go down, and he temperature with it.

We have tickets tomorrow night for the Loudon Wainwright III/Leo Kottke concert at the Fort Lewis Community Concert Hall. Looking forward to it, even though, by the time I reserved the seats, the balcony was all that was left. 

In a few minutes, Sandy will pick up our tickets for the Michael Martin Murphey later this month in the Mancos Opera House. No balcony seats for this one!

Planning is starting to speed up for the holidays. We're looking forward to participating in the Mancos town and valley celebration of Olde Fashioned Christmas the first two weekends of December. As I listened to Sandy (now on the chamber of commerce board) talking this afternoon with other chamber folks about the events coming up, I was again so glad that I'm not with the newspaper. Trying to cover everything going on at the holiday season made it no fun at all! Now we can pick and choose and truly enjoy the events. tv

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

It's not over yet!

We stayed up to watch the Obama acceptance speech ... what a crowd! It was so nice to see the Obama family there (and, later, the Biden family) ... they seem so natural, so unaffected. It's going to be nice to see a young, vibrant family in the White House again, another reminder for me of the Camelot years of the Kennedys.

I shook hands with Jack Kennedy at an Ashland, WI, rally during his 1960 race for the presidency, and I feel a lot today as I did with JFK 48 years ago ... excited, hopeful, yearning, dreaming of what might be. 

I only need to look around to be brought back down to earth. Some guy named Mark was on the Sirius Patriot channel this afternoon, screaming at callers, cutting them off rudely and hurling names and slurs at anyone with an idea more liberal than those approved by the John Birch Society. Big hate and anger, vowing to fight, fight, FIGHT to prevent anything those lefties and liberals and socialists might propose. He had an interview with Rep. Michelle Bachmann, the MN Congresswoman who wants to survey Congress to uncover those who are anti-American. Harsh, self-righteous name-calling, determined to stamp out the evil forces that threaten life as they think it should be.

It's a great electoral victory, but for its promise to be realized, there's a lot of work yet to be done! 

Locally, practically all posts went to Republicans by very large margins. The DA race was the closest. The two county commissioners up for election are good guys and have made some good decisions, but their orientation favors the status quo, despite the change that is going on around us. The wind of change may be blowing in DC and Denver, but it hasn't reached here yet!

Winter arrived last night, leaving an inch or so of snow on the ground. Cold, windy and occasionally snowy throughout the day. Brrr!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

New Day Arisin'!

Or at least we can hope!   The beautiful sunrise over the Mancos Valley this morning seemed to be symbolic of this election day.  Whomever should win, let us hope that our nation (which includes "we the people"!) and our politicians have learned from their (and our) mistakes and make it a new era in the history of our country and our place in the world around us.   sf


The top view was yesterday morning's sunrise from the slope above the house ... dramatic clouds illuminated through the notch of Mancos Hill. That's one of the many beauties we enjoy in this location!

Getting down to earth, literally, those biking kids in the lower picture aren't zigzagging to avoid deep potholes, as they would have in any of the almost-20 years I've been here. The process has been long and agonizing, affecting the business of Artisans of Mancos and the Absolute Bakery and Café on the right and Custom Woodworking beyond the bridge on the left, but it's a joy to see that smooth surface stretching down to the south edge of town! The pavement was actually laid down on Halloween.

Polls suggest Obama will win today. We'll see. If he does, I hope we'll be able to look back four years from now at the racist and socialist name-calling in this campaign and say, "What was THAT all about?"

In the meantime, we have the local anecdotal evidence of how deeply race underlies this election. A letter to the editor Saturday recounting racial epithets and obscenities directed by young white males at someone registering voters because the registrar had an Obama sign on his truck. An anecotal report of students in a local high school shouting "Nobama" at each other and liberally using the "N" word in their exclamations about why they wouldn't vote for Obama ... undoubtedly reflecting their parents' views. 

"Indigenous Magazine," a student publication of Montezuma-Cortez High School, just came out with results of a voluntary student poll taken at that school. Responses were received from 341 students, who also self-assigned themselves culturally. Obama won 62% of the Hispanic vote, 73% of the Diné (Navajo) vote, 90% of the Ute vote ... and the Caucasian students voted 56% for McCain! 

I hope whoever wins is capable of uniting our nation and healing some of the deep rifts that still divide our populace. tv

Sunday, November 2, 2008

"Tranquil Twigs"

We went to see "W." this afternoon. It was NOT a distraction from the present political furor. Still, I'm glad we saw it, and it does present 43 in a more rounded way than I expected. 

Richard Dreyfuss is great as Cheney ... a world away from his character in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," which we watched part of last night.

Got back to five new messages on the phone-minder ... all political!

Decided my evening picture of twigs reflected in Summit Reservoir ("Tranquil Twigs") may be what I need for the next 48 hours! tv

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Death ... and life

A couple of Mancos Valley old-timers passed away recently ... Lou Eppich, with family ties to Thompson Park (just east of Mancos hill, barely into La Plata County), and Dominic Aspromonte. I didn't find out about Lou's death till after his funeral, but we went to Dominic's funeral this morning. The Catholic Church and social hall were packed.

On the lighter side, in addition to memories of Lou and Dominic, we had memorable visitors to Artisans of Mancos yesterday, including the STRANGE ladies pictured at the top! 

This afternoon, we went up in the forest near Transfer Campground and rode our bikes for a while. Peaceful! At an overlook into the canyon of the West Mancos River, there was a gnarled root (juniper, I think) twisted into the shape of a "P." 

A Swainson's hawk took off and rode the currents to heights above us, gliding upward in slow circles. 

After we got done riding (and before I backed into a tree and damaged Sandy's bike!), we went a little furhter up the road and wandered for a while through the leafless aspens. So quiet, with the leaves rustling slightly underfoot. As a whole, the leaves are a dull, grey-brown mass, yet each is a little wonder with its veins and serrated edges. Stopping and looking closely, there was a low shrub poking up a bright red leaf here and there, and a mantis-like insect and a small moth showed themselves ... on Nov. 1 at over 9000 feet elevation!

The temperature was about 59 degrees F. when we turned around, sun shining brightly with a few scattered clouds and only a little snow evident on the north sides of the La Plata peaks. Unusual weather ... a few years ago, I took pictures of heavy snow on the La Platas on Sept. 19! 

A beautiful, peaceful afternoon in the hills together. tv

Halloween in Mancos

Halloween in Mancos is all about the kids. . of all ages!   Tom and I enjoyed a tour of events here and delighted in seeing the young and old alike joining in fun and games. . . not to mention sweet treats all across town.   After a fun morning attending to the Artisans shop, serving Tom's homemade  baklava and hot spiced cider to those stopping by,  the early evening tour made our day complete and again appreciative of the joy we find in being part of the Mancos community.sf

Prisoner of Saundra

Our household has an interesting mix of critters. One of them is Fifi, the long-haired black cat Sandy brought from Oklahoma. Her food is kept in a closed bedroom so fatcat Sophie, who needs a special diet, won't get into it. So, Fifi is let into the bedroom to get some nibbles and the door is closed behind her to keep Sophie out.

Frequently, as we pass by the door, there is a black paw sticking out ... the prisoner of Saundra's silent plea for release from her captivity! tv