Colorado: The Inside Story

Last month, with wildfires raging throughout Colorado, we thought long and hard before deciding to follow through on a booking made last spring and take our kids to Vail.  They’re twenty-two and eighteen, and it’s getting harder to find a time when everyone can get away–we didn’t want to miss this chance.  We were a hundred miles from the nearest fire, and while it was the hot topic of conversation, on everyone’s mind and in their thoughts and prayers, we never felt we were in danger.

Colorado was beautiful.
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We hiked…

And played…

Toured beautiful gardens…

…and sculpture parks…

Saw wildlife…

…and admired the local color.

They say travel is broadening, and now I know why…

Best of all, Colorado is rich in history.  The kids are collaborating on a web comic set in the Old West.  Research has been crucial to my own writing, and this was a perfect opportunity to let the kids do research for their project.   They were excellent pupils!

We went to the Barney L. Ford House Museum in Breckenridge and The Historic Park and Museum in Frisco.

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In Denver we saw the Black American West Museum and the Byers-Evans Mansion.  In Leadville, after touring the National Mining Museum and Hall of Fame …

….and The Healy House Museum and Dexter Cabin, we ate at The Golden Burro (AKA the Brass Ass), an establishment with its own colorful story.   Each one opened up a window in time…

…which we could look through for a peek into the lives of those people, the challenges they faced, their success and their failures.  There were big stories about fortunes won and lost and won again, and little stories from their daily lives.  Their joys and their sorrows were not so different from our own.

They say in Colorado, “Everything begins with mining.  Everything!”

So we visited The Country Boy Mine, which closed down mining operations after World War Two, and opened up again as a tourist attraction in 1991.

It was a trip that would take us a thousand feet into a cold dark mountain, and a hundred years into the past.  We suited up…

…and prepared to mine The Country Boy for the inside story.  We learned that after big mining companies came in and took over in the 1880s, few miners struck it rich; most worked for minimum wages and were subjected to the indignity of body cavity searches each time they left the mine.  Conditions were brutal and life expectancies short.  They went deaf from the hammering, and worked in muck up to their knees, by only the dimmest light, as they were forced to pay for their own candles.  Many died of lung disease, if they weren’t killed in an accident first.  Canaries were hard to come by and too fragile to live at such high altitudes, so the men lured rats into the mines by sharing their midday meals with them.  The rats could sense the ground tremors and anticipate a cave-in.  If miners heard the squeak of fleeing rats, or felt them brushing past their ankles, they too would run for their lives.

Here’s what we learned in Colorado.  The people there have a history of boom and bust, hardship and hard work.  Whether it’s faith, pluck, or sheer inner strength of will, if you knock them down, they will pick themselves up and find a way to keep going.  My heart is aching for them right now.  The entire nation is grieving with and for them, holding them in their thoughts and prayers…

…sending them wishes for peace and healing.


All material copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck