Doctor Who has the most unique phone booth in the Universe. but on our way back to Creede, Colorado, Richard’s idea is to stop and pay respects to one of the last pay phones in America.
On site, Richard and I both pick up the phone and listen to the dial tone to confirm the antiquated technology is working and take our obligatory pictures. I wish Columbus had had a camera to document his first landing and native Indians had been able to shoot videos of foreigners sticking a strange flag in their hallowed ground. Seeing a You tube video of the universe created in real time would also be inspirational.
Dr. Who would know if there are payphones or push mowers on Mars.
He would know if there was a Denny’s hidden in the rings of Saturn.
He would know what the Gates of Heaven are made of.
I can’t call Dr. Who though because this last of its kind pay phone doesn’t take credit cards, phone cards don’t let us call outside Earth’s atmosphere, I don’t have a truckload of quarters, and the Operator is on break.
Watching a piece of human history disappear has sadness wrapped inside its wrapper.
Back in the day, we didn’t use our phones much.
We had mostly the same complaints but shouldered them better.
There are picks, shovels,axes, some wrapped with gauze, injured from too much use. There are scythes, traps for animals, lanterns, hammers, levels and long thick nails used to secure railroad ties upon which cars carried ore away from deep mines.
In the eighteen hundreds, young tough men prowled these streets.
Daily, they went underground into tunnels secured by hand cut timbers, never certain they would come out alive. They ate bad food on metal plates that doubled as gold mining pans in the river that tumbles through town and into the valley below.
In the winter, snow was up to their waists and bitter cold seeped through cracks in log houses that had been stuffed with newspapers and torn shirts to keep Old Man Winter from sneaking in.
Iron stoves, vented through the roof, got so hot they looked like meteors.
This wind sock, inflated early, has arms flailing and a big smile on its face.
Creede hasn’t awoken yet, but June, the lady that lives in the parked Tiny House and sells food from her trailer cafe, is cooking already, at eight in the morning.
” I like your house….. ”
” It has everything I need, ” June says as she sips her morning cup of hot chocolate, turning on burners and slicing onions, looking at me like a suspicious pirate.
She has a big pickup for pulling her home away in a month when the first snow hits Creed, Colorado. Her truck plates are Texas but she volunteers that she will pull her rig to Florida and sell smoothies to tourists in swimsuits and bikinis, wearing hippie bracelets around their wrists and ankles.
You can see this blue sock from blocks away and it has big black eyes and long Ichibod Crane fingers snapping the air.
Big multinational corporations sell using Madison Avenue advertising giants with MBA’s and associates with degrees in Psychology, Sales, Marketing and Sociology. Once they turn us into cookie cutter people and make their products our choices,their job becomes easier and more profitable.
This wind sock works better in Main Street America.
Inside June’s Tiny House,, there is room to stretch out, fix dinner, watch a big screen television, read a book, have special people over, clean up, curl up on the couch, let sunlight crawl through the blinds.
A home base doesn’t have to be anchored to be a home.
A chalkboard street sign on Main Street reminds us all to, ” Follow your soul! It knows where to go.”
June follows her soul, and the wind sock, this morning, says her soul is open for business.
Creede was established in the late eighteen hundreds.
At the north end of town is a silver mine that has become a museum. Running through the middle of town is a river that carried mining sludge into the valley below that is now being reclaimed by environmentalists. Main street is a Historical landmark with old red brick buildings turned into shops, restaurants, museums, and a repertory theater. The two cliffs on the north side of town look the same as they did when our family came to vacation here in the 1960’s.
While Richard fills out a police report on the deer that ran into us on a highway turn last night, I take a walk about.
In its prime, this town would have been filled with dusty miners who cleaned up in the cold stream and put on Sunday clothes for a chance to dance with dance hall girls in local saloons. Their picks and shovels would be leaned in a corner of the cabin they shared with other boys and a silver dollar would have bought them dinner and drinks all night.
The people who founded this town were tough, rough and ready.
Out here, in the West, you keep your powder dry, your mouth shut,your ears open.
Why that deer turned, and ran in front of our van, haunts me?
When Richard exits the police station with a copy of the police report, he says the insurance company is taking care of damage to our rented truck.
On our way back to his cabin site, we both watch both sides of the highway extra hard.
Deer don’t have insurance and they make mistakes too.
This isn’t Niagra Falls or Victoria Falls, but it is a waterfall nonetheless.
At North Clear Creek River, Colorado, we walk down a dirt path that ends at the river and a fifty foot drop. The river rolls to the edge of the drop, then tumbles over and smashes into the rocks and pool below.
A mist hits my face as I lean over a fence overlooking the falls and look down into the chasm.
This water feature hints at the power of water in bigger quantities, cutting through rock, able to generate power by turning wheels and turbines, harnessed for human purposes.
This little stream, transported to the Sahara desert, would be worth more than it’s weight in gold.
This eight foot by forty foot shipping container, with red primer and dents, has been around the world.
Buried in the hold, it has braved fierce winds in the Magellan Straits, turned north at the Cape of Good Hope, waited in line to traverse the Panama Canal, slid by icebergs in the cold north seas that sank the Titanic.
It’s final trip is to Hermit’s Lake, Colorado where it is turning into a vacation mountain cabin.
Loaded onto the most level part of Richard’s lot, it points down the valley cut long ago by a glacier, towards three private fishing lakes at the private fishing club.
Richard has been coming here for twenty five years and this is the year of his cabin. Teaching school with Richard, back in my Truth or Consequences days, we still talk. Long time friends all start as short time acquaintances.
Our work order, for three days, is to insulate and frame the bedroom, install flooring, build a bed, run wire.
Three days in, with most of our time in transit, we have the work done.
Next trip up, the bathroom will be started, white paint will be put on the roof to reflect heat and the place will be okay to spend the night. By our next trip up, electricity may be in and a water well may be completed and we will bring Maria’s outside lawn furniture from their Albuquerque backyard.
Cano has his castle, but now Richard has one started too.
Twenty five years is a long time to wait for a dream.
At seven in the morning, South Fork, Colorado is Closed and a place to quickly drive through.
The Rainbow Grocery, down from the Rainbow Motel, opens at seven. The Rainbow gas station, next to the Rainbow Grocery, is open but their coffee is not worth a pause much less a full blown stop.
Across the highway, as fifth wheels and pickup trucks pound past me, the new Gallery Coffee Shop has lights on and movement inside.
Waiting for seven thirty, in front of the coffee shop’s locked front door, with last night’s raindrops still beaded on outside tables and chairs, I find a dry spot and watch a delicate hummingbird.
He sticks his proboscis into one of the plastic flowers of the hummingbird feeder.
When I raise my phone to capture his image, he jets away.
When the shop’s proprietor sees me outside, he unlocks early and I have coffee and a pecan fried pie made by the Amish in nearby Monte Vista and talk art.
The western art on display took Frank thirty years to get to the point he can finish a small canvas in weeks instead of months and he tells me about his ” process of art. ”
It takes skill and patience to make all these little lines in a cowboy’s face, make a horse’s mane look real. Frank says he has been drawing since he was ten years old.and his wife has a business breakfast this morning in Monte Vista and will take the reins of the shop back in a few hours so he can go finish up a watercolor.
Hummingbirds, I Google, are cold blooded and, at night, perch on a tree branch, let their body temperature sink to conserve energy, and sometimes go into a torpor if it is really really cold.
In their state of torpor, the hummingbirds can dangle from a branch by one foot and appear dead.
We humans also know about torpor, but we don’t dangle from branches.
These mounted animals look down at me like judges ready for my sentencing.
Hung over the aisles of rods and reels, shotguns and rifles, fishing tackle, ammunition, these guys are frozen in their final moment of life.
Hunters have always stayed close to their prey.
In New Guinea, deep in jungles, hunters wear shrunken heads of enemies around their waist. Plains Indians danced under the moon at night wearing buffalo robes with horns hooking the air. Ancient Incas wore feathered head dresses. Seafaring whaling men carved walrus tusks with designs of ships and harpoons. Oceanic islanders wear shark teeth around their wrists.. Texans put cow horns on car bumpers. Sportsmen hang calendars in their garages that feature big game animals and buxom women. Presidents pose with one foot on the body of a downed lion.
Nature’s variety is on display here and, fortunately,for these trophies, our eating habits have changed. Most of us urban folk don’t dine on deer, raccoon, llamas, opossums,alligators, snakes or geese.
Human consumption of alcohol, ironically, saves more of these fine animals than the Sierra Club can dream about.
Elk, sitting at the bar at the nearby Antler Inn, raise beer mugs each evening and pray for coolers filled with Old Milwaukee beer and coffee tweaked with Jim Beam left where hunters can easily find them.
Looking up at these guys, you can feel their spirit.
Even in death,they seem too regal to be stuffed and hung on a grocery store wall.
If this was ” Twilight Zone, ” I’d be hung up there on the wall and an elk would be buying his hunting license.
The Rainbow Grocery is South Fork’s main grocery and, besides food, you can buy fishing licenses, camping gear, lures and flies, ice and bug spray. Right on the main drag, it is next to the Rainbow Motel , close enough to walk to on a chilled morning.
By September, tourism will begin to slow and cabins for rent will be shut down for the winter. The town of South Fork will shrink to hundreds instead of thousands. Deer on the roads won’t have to be as vigilant. Locals will still gather in small cafes early in the morning and talk politics, weather, and football.
This bulletin board has standard fare – ads for travel trailers and ATV’s, promos for upcoming Art Shows and Music concerts,cabins for sale, who to call to get your septic tank pumped.. If you need your dog groomed, your health improved, a place to live, a place to worship, you have times and dates and phone numbers.
Most people’s most important messages never make the Bulletin Board. They stay locked up deep inside their hearts waiting for the right person to reveal them too.