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 as we do today. We just 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.
The sign on the wall says ” No Sniveling. ‘
If something can be done, do it.
If you can’t do it, find someone who can.
The pioneer spirit, in America, in 2019, is fighting for it’s life.
This wind sock, inflated early this morning, has flailing arms and an ambiguous smile on its face.
Creede hasn’t awoken yet, but June, the lady who lives in her 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 to me 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 agencies packed with employee’s with MBA’s and 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. In Creede, and most of Main Street, where we live,this wind sock is more than enough advertising to get the point across.
Inside June’s Tiny House, there is room to stretch out, fix dinner, watch her big screen television, read a book, have special people over, clean up, curl up on the couch, let sunlight crawl through the window blinds.
A home base doesn’t have to be anchored to be a home.
A chalkboard street sign on Creede’s 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 but heading to Florida as the first snowflakes fall on the windshield of her big Chevy truck.
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.
At seven in the morning, South Fork, Colorado is Closed.
The Rainbow Grocery, down from the Rainbow Motel, opens at seven this morning. The Rainbow gas station, next to the Rainbow Grocery, is open but their coffee is not good enough to make me want to pour a cup this early in the morning.
Across the highway, as fifth wheels and pickup trucks pound past, I spot the new Gallery Coffee Shop with lights on and movement inside.
Waiting till a seven thirty open, in front of the coffee shop’s locked front door, with last night’s raindrops still beaded on outside tables and chairs, I keep my dry spot on a bench and watch a delicate hummingbird cutting through the air like a seasoned helicopter pilot.
He sticks his proboscis into one of the plastic flowers of the hummingbird feeder just above my head and loads up with sugar.
When I raise my phone to capture his image, he darts away.
When the shop’s proprietor sees me, he unlocks his shop early and I step inside,order myself a hot coffee and pecan fried pie made by the Amish in nearby Monte Vista. We talk some about his ” artist ” life.
The western art displayed on the big open dining area walls took Frank thirty years to get to the point he can finish a small canvas in weeks instead of months. He tells me about his ” process of art ” as well as coming to South Fork from Texas in the summer months to paint and help his wife run their small business because his wife especially likes it here and there are tax advantages.
It takes skill and patience to make all these little lines in a cowboy’s face, make a horse’s mane look real on a flat surface. Frank says he has been drawing since he was ten years old and his wife right now is at a business breakfast in Monte Vista but will cheerfully take the reins of the shop in a few hours so he can go finish a new watercolor in his studio.
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 saving.
Even in death,these animals seem too regal to be stuffed and hung on a grocery store wall.
If this was ” Twilight Zone, ” I’d be hanging up there on the wall and an elk would be buying his hunting license and talking about two legged trophy humans who are easier to shoot than ducks on a pond.
The Rainbow Grocery is South Fork’s main grocery and, besides food, you can buy fishing licenses here, 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. Their bulletin board is so full of notes it needs some cleaning up by an assistant manager, or higher.
Their bulletin board has all the 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, though, will never make the Bulletin Board. Their special notices will stay locked up deep inside their hearts waiting for the right person to reveal them too.
I don’t want to know any deep secrets this morning and am relieved to see only trivial stuff.
I’m looking for what real estate goes for here in a place that is too cold for me to ever want to live.
I don’t want to know why someone can’t find love in a world precious short of it.
Warning about the side effects of exercise, however, are mildly amusing.
Leaving Antonito, Colorado, it is not hard to see two gleaming towers off to the east, the sun glistening off silver spires made out of hub caps, flattened beer cans, wire, window casements and whatever other material comes into the hands of it’s builder.
You drive a few blocks to the east, off the main highway, and, in a residential neighborhood, you come to temples created by a Vietnam vet who came back home after the war.
Dominic Espinosa, who prefers to be called ” Cano”, lives nearby the castle, in a little trailer, and tends to his garden, living off the land as he did when he was a kid with eleven brothers and sisters, his mother a cafeteria worker at a local school. There are interviews where he explains that ” Jesus lives in the castle, ” and that ” God built it. ”
Besides Jesus there are two crossed arrows at the entry to the yard that warn that alcohol and tobacco are poison, but marijuana is the best answer to many things.
It is normal to wonder about people, but the fact that one man would so consistently pursue a goal most others would label eccentric, causes me to think about personal obsessions.
On a personal level, Scotttreks not far from Cano’s castle.
Highway 285 winds it’s way through Espanola, Ojo Caliente, Tres Piedras, Antonito, and eventually Alamosa, Colorado.
Another way to see this high country is riding a narrow gauge railroad that runs from Antonito, Colorado to Chama, New Mexico and back.
This narrow gauge train runs on steam and there is a man who works his shovel the entire trip, pushing coal into a hot firebox that heats water that makes steam that moves rods that turns wheels rolling on narrow tracks.
Richard and I pull off the highway and watch the antique train pull into the Antonito station.
These cars used to carry goods and people but now carry sightseers who want to revisit the past, imagine themselves in an old John Wayne movie and take their kids on an afternoon trip.
I look for John Wayne to climb down off the train with a big wide brimmed stetson, a red bandana around his neck, six guns wrapped around his waist and a badge on his chest.
All that get off the train this afternoon are kids with cell phones, overweight adults with walkers and oxygen, and railroad employees getting ready to go home.
Re-living the past is not for the faint of heart.
Real railroads, these days, carry shipping containers filled with stuff made in China.