Letters #192

Reader Letter

Envelope: Rod Tatsuno, Idaho

We’re in the market for decorative envelopes to help beautify our Letters pages. If you’ve got an artistic envelope bent, pull out your weapons-of-choice, decorate an envelope with our snail mail address on it, mail the resultant envelope to us, and, if we print it, we’ll give you a year’s subscription to the Mountain Gazette.

Arrested for shooting Hitler

MJF: Inspired by your “Arrested Development” column (Smoke Signals, MG #186): In late 1976, I was a Physics major at CSU. My wife was working at some mundane vitality-sapping job with a bunch of lifeless zombies to pay the bills and concurrently put her husband through school. I was at my desk, fulfilling homework requirements and feeling weighted-down by whatever I figured the oppressive demands of the quotidian sought to drain from my soul. Like rainwater, my attention went from the textbooks to listlessly turning the pages of a CSU general information booklet. I flipped through the requirements for other degrees, and, lo and behold, there was a certificate I was well on the way to fulfilling, which was somewhat similar (maybe only in name only) to that which I had two years yet to attain. I could graduate with this other degree in one year. I felt better already.

Physical Science. I already had the biology (a prior attempt at another major), all the math (hard-core physics mandated an additional four or so courses), most the miscellaneous requirements, except for two categories. Humanities and upper-division courses.

I became an expert at upper-division humanities without prerequisites. I believe I took all classes in that category that the university offered. History of Jazz. Introduction to Formal Logic. The Nature of Culture. History of Ancient Israel (at least I had to, finally, read the entire Old Testament, among other things). The only non-post-grad-level Linguistics course. And Politics and the Environment.

Politics and the Environment was intended to be somewhat “left-leaning,” in that the professor who had always taught it was of the viewpoint that The Environment usually got screwed when coming up against Politics. The first day of class, Professor Meeks took the lectern and made his introduction. Apparently, the usual teacher for this course was missing in some foreign country or something like that, so the university procured a last-minute stand-in. And he announced that, though he did not share the other teacher’s view of the environment needing some assistance in the fight with politics, he’d try to present the material as even-keeled as he could.

He was an enthusiastic lecturer. He’d pace back-and-forth on the stage (the venue for the class was a small auditorium) gesturing and debating points, usually smoking a cigarette, with a NO SMOKING sign high on the wall over-head. He’d finish each smoke, looking down to crush the butt under his heel while maintaining his monologue. I’d look around at the three or so dozen other students, most of whom appeared to be in a trance, or between bouts of light sleep. It seemed incongruous — no, not the smoking — that he’d be pontificating loudly, sometimes waving his arms to make a point, and we’d seem to be … well, so dead.

One day I sat for coffee with him after class. I mentioned the seemingly strange phenomenon of him lecturing enthusiastically, while most or all the class sat there quietly, as if in a stupor or something. I said that I’d been considering doing something to liven up the class. I had a starter’s pistol at home (used to start running races) and thought of staging a mock assassination as he lectured. I am pretty darned sure that he was not adverse to this idea.

THE VERY NEXT DAY the lecture topic was Politics and Overpopulation. And, I had packed the aforesaid starter’s gun in my daypack. Professor Meeks paced back and forth as usual, puffing on a cigarette every few sentences. He progressed toward the scenario of a regime in a country deciding that having many more citizens would be an asset. Out-number the neighbors, more bodies for the army.

“Now, imagine that I am the dictator of your country. I am not a democratically elected leader; I have seized control through ruthless  means. And I appear on the national media and issue an edict: YOU MUST HAVE MORE CHILDREN! How would you REACT?”

I’m sure he looked right at me. “He’s calling my bluff!” I thought. Professor Meeks repeated the ultimatum. “You must have more children! How would you react?”
“Why, I’d shoot you,” I said as I stood, aiming the pistol at him and pulling the trigger. As expected, the class was stunned, and it’s safe to say everyone was awake. The Professor did not miss more than half a beat.

“That fellow would shoot me,” gesturing in my direction.  “What would the rest of you do?”

“I’d complain and write to my congressman,” announced a girl. A few other classmates joined in the discussion. This was more group interaction by far than this class had ever had. I thought my job was done, until the next day.

I should not have continued to carry the pistol in my knapsack, but after class the following day, several town and university officers were waiting for me to leave the room. I was arrested, and led away in handcuffs. After telling my story, more than once, ending up with the chief of the University Police, most of them thought that this circumstance was not only ironic, but a little silly. Arrested for shooting Hitler. The Chief was surprisingly human, and in spite of the uniform, very much like a normal open-minded reasonable person.

I was called a few days later and told that the charges were dropped. The CSU police had consulted with the County D.A. Charges? “Using a facsimile weapon in a manner intended to cause stress and alarm.” Oh, the things I do to help make class interesting.

Rosco Betunada,
Whitewater CO

High Praise for MG’s Covers

J. Fayhee and Gazette Crew: Congrats on your 40th anniversary! It is great to see that, after so much time, you continue to put out quality articles, pushing the edge of political correctness and imagination. Although I have not been alive as long as my dear Gazette, I have been an avid reader since my late teens, first drawn in by the visual appeal of your covers.

I was pleasantly surprised after reading through my first Mountain Gazette, and was glad that you were more than just a pretty face. I grew to love your covers, and love your stories. It was around issue #104 that I stopped throwing away the covers and started papering the walls of my college dorm with them. The covers have been torn from wall after wall only to be rehung in new locations. They have graced my ski bum cottages, houses in Colorado, Utah and Florida, and they all now reside in my classroom, where I am an 8th grade science teacher in Aspen (minus certain issues, specifically #113, which would distract the 13-year-old boys in my class for a long, long time). After covering my cabinets, they have slowly snaked around the room.

One day, while the kids were taking a test, I let my eyes drift through the beautiful artwork you all have created through out the years, and I made a rough estimate that I will be set to retire around issue #490. I am looking forward to reading that issue, but more importantly, I look forward to pinning that cover up in some off-the-grid cabin deep in the mountains, where I only have to visit with folks when I come into town to pick up the new Mountain Gazette.

Until then, thanks for all you do.

Brandy Keleher

Cover contest angst

Dear Mountain Gazette, I will not be voting in your cover contest today. I am too disappointed in the cover choices that you made available to voters. When I saw the “Cover Contest” headline on Facebook, I jumped to the MG page knowing exactly which cover I would vote for, but it was, alas, not on the list of options. The cover I reference, and have framed and hanging in my house, is from issue #96. It is a photograph of an ancient old man standing atop a rocky crag high above a mountain lake. He is wearing a rack of climbing gear and is tied into the end of a climbing rope. He looks cold and exhausted and utterly happy. His giant hands are gnarled and probably aching. His furrowed brow exclaims the feat he’s just endured. It’s a great moment captured by whoever had the pleasure of climbing with the tough old gent. And, in my opinion, it deserves a spot on the list of options for cover contest, as it captures mountain life at its finest moments. Maybe you could replace one of the five half-dressed female figures on the list (Fayhee’s picks no doubt) with #96.

Jeannie M. Barton

Editor’s note: The cover photo referenced was of none other than Fred Beckey.

Futile Book Search

M. John (I can call you that, can’t I?): Although we’ve never formally met, I feel like we’ve known each other for years, being that I’ve read the Mountain Gazette and your columns since its resurrection. In fact, you may not recall, but at the time you were bringing it back to life in ’99, I was living in Summit County and working in the marketing department at Copper Mountain — “working” being a relative term, if you call being cooped up in an office during Summit County summers for nominal pay “work”; more like … well, anyways, it was soon after that that I saw the light and spent the following six years working outside in the county every day, like the Postal Service says — through rain, sleet or snow — tons of snow during a good winter and tons of sun, followed by afternoon rain storms that operated like clockwork in the spring and summers.

Anyways, getting back to my tangent before I get to my point for writing … you were calling the Copper Mountain marketing department and trying to line up meetings with the director in order to figure out a way Copper could support the Gazette’s return and since I was the hired summertime help that answered the phone, all your calls usually went through me and I helped you and whoever it was that you were working with at the time line up those meetings. Not that you don’t know the rest of the story, but the Gazette opened up shop shortly thereafter on Main St. Frisco and I’ve been a reader ever since. I’d see you around town — usually at the Moose Jaw and other watering holes in the county, and, as typical in Summit, recognized you as one of the locals, but we never really interacted. I’ve been from the county to the California coast and now in Boulder for the last six years, where I never fail to snag a copy of the Gazette whenever I see it. Which brings me to why I’m writing …

I remember seeing the ads not too long ago in the Gazette for the book that was published that’s a collection of your writings — the “Colorado Mountain Companion” — we’ll I’ve searched all over. You name the local book store, and I’ve looked there; you name the used bookstore, and I’ve looked there; you name the big-box book retailer, and I’ve looked there; you name the internet site, and I’ve looked there. I give up. I can’t find it anywhere. I’ve been told it was printed in limited quantities and is out of stock (Amazon will even sell it to you for $25 and send you a copy “if” it gets one); but this is Colorado, and I know there’s gotta be a copy somewhere. I’m not the one to give up easily … and I’m patient, so I’m still determined to find it. I like to consider myself fairly intelligent, resourceful and intuitive, but not so much when it finally dawned on me to email you and ask if YOU could tell me where I could get a copy???

Hope you get back to me, keep up the good work, and one of these days I run into you somewhere in these hills I’ve always told myself I’d buy you a beer for being one of the contributing forces behind a magazine like the Mountain Gazette, which has shaped and articulated and reflected so much of my experience of living in Colorado.

Thanks. Let me know.
Andrea Meneghel

P.S.: By the way, where is the Mountain Gazette’s office these days??? In the masthead, there’s a Boulder P.O. box listed with a Virginia phone number. What’s up with that?

Editor’s note: Thank you for your diligence. The book to which you refer, “The Colorado Mountain Companion: A Potpourri of Useful Miscellany from the Highest Parts of the Highest State,” has finally been released. As to the P.S., our sister publication, Elevation Outdoors, has an office in Boulder. Therefore, we use that as our mailing address. The company that owns us both, Summit Publishing, is HQ’d in Charlottesville. Ergo the Virginia phone number. MG operates as a virtual office. Yours truly lives in the Border Country. Our art director lives in Oregon. Our ad people are spread all over the place.

Let there be light

Dearest Mountain Gazette,

I am just partaking in your 40th Edition and lovin’ every minute of it. 1969 was a year of innovation. Bob Gore developed Gore-Tex, but, being skiing dirtbags we were still in the 60/40 material era, what rocked our world was Bob Smith’s new goggle. I was working at Pete Lane’s in Sun Valley, a gathering place for the old-world cognoscenti of skiing. We had tried everything to see in the powder: Boutons, Uvex, Carreras with Band-aids over the air inlets. Bob walked in with some prototypes, which we fought over. The result: Let there be light! We could see. We proudly displayed Smith Scars on the bridges of our noses for the season, a result of going over the front in the deep snow with our narrow Head Standards, the powder ski of choice in those days. The goggles were a bit stiff and unforgiving in their earliest stages, but we didn’t care.

Keep up the good work, showing the fun side of the mountain experience.

Steve Riley,
Ketchum, Idaho

Monkee Voodoo on Halfmoon Creek

Dear M. John: Greetings from Half Moon Road. We read the most recent Smoke Signals with great interest (“The Fire Rings of Halfmoon Creek,” MG #190). We are the only people that truly reside on Half Moon Road. We have the purple barn with the United States and Peace Flag flying. We do hope you noticed us. We have been here 18 years in August and are heading into our 19th winter. We have seen it all.

Interestingly, we know very little of what goes on up Half Moon Road. We have other, better options. Our local friends refer to it as “Little Denver.” We do have many tales of the general public visiting our spectacular, easily accessed piece of the Divide.

We ate dust for years until we figured out that this road was illegal for Colorado Air Quality Standards. Too much traffic.

An endless parade of RVs, macho SUVs, beat-up pick-ups, ATVs, dirtbikes, plain old cars and bicycles and runners. Trying to get away from it all and simultaneously bringing it all with them.

2,375 “trips” past this house in seven days of rain following the 4th of July, 2007.

We got recycled asphalt laid down and improved the air quality by leaps and bounds.

Another problem was the tendency to plow to our house and stop in the winter. This created a winter trailhead, literally, outside our front door.

The general public has a tendency to keep going through unplowed snow until they get stuck. Or they forget sunscreen. Or water. Or gloves. Our favorite is the group that came knocking on the door at 4 a.m. looking for a pipe so they could get stoned for the sunrise in January.

Oh the stories!

We have resolved the trailhead issue through many years of battle with Lake County.  We have an awesome county commissioner now who has worked with us to fix things.

We have direct access to private land and the federal wilderness beyond. That place is our cathedral.

We know nothing of the fire rings up Half Moon Road. We laugh hysterically at your descriptions. We are not surprised. We love reading about your interpretation of Halfmoon. We have gone up there a few times and have run into some real Monkee Voodoo. It is ridiculous, the traffic going up into the campgrounds!!

We love this place. We belong to it. It belongs to us.

If this letter were to be printed, we are not sure we are comfortable with our full names being attached. This is a funny place to live in terms of being both isolated and very public.

Therese and Rocky

Gun Thoughts

John: I’m not a climber, but enjoyed #189 about those who do — dog issue is still the best  — but, thinking about topical issues, have you ever considered one on guns?  I’ve lived in the Colorado mountains most of my life. I own guns and I used to hunt. But, ever since I was a Boy Scout in the 1950s, it has never occurred to me to carry a gun when I camp, fish or hike. Lately, I have become aware of several acquaintances who do carry weapons in their backpacks, even on short day hikes. Is this becoming the norm these days? It might make an interesting issue just to try to find out how your readers feel, experiences they’ve had, etc. You have at least one reader who’d be interested.

Roger Miller,
Nathrop, CO

Parodied Parody

John: When I first read the “Rumble in Hawai’i” story by Craig Childs  in #187, I thought it was well-done and useful, a cautionary tale of how easy it is to get on the wrong side of the locals even in your own country and with the best of intentions. But I have to give credit where it’s due. Robert Shepherd’s parody of the “ugly Coloradan” in #189 — booted, backpacked and obtuse — is brilliant. I especially loved the conceit that if a natural disaster — fire? flood? windstorm? — wipes out your gazebo, your land becomes everybody’s. A perfect expression of cultural arrogance. (I’m just glad he didn’t identify himself as a Californian. We already have a bad enough reputation!) OK, kinda mean but definitely funny.

Walt Read
Fresno, CA

J-Tree Paradise

John: Charles Clayton’s “Jesus and the Joshua Tree, or How I Almost Became a Climber” (MG #189) reminded me of J-Tree’s effect on this non-climber. While not a religious experience per se, I certainly thanked Gawd for that place during my visit. It’s a park that always held some level of enchanting curiosity for me. If I had to place on objective attraction on it, it’s the desert Seussical landscape, groves of goofy-looking lily relatives resembling toy poodle arbors, the botanical reincarnate of the Muppets’ “Animal” in the hugantic desert palms, and, of course, the rock formations, some literally appearing as vertical  geological jigsaw puzzles or even ice cream cones. I recall one that was a perfect V cut into the cliff with a perfect sphere cradled perfectly in the top! J-Tree was all I’d hoped for.

What I didn’t expect was the climbing-friendly rocks! I am not a climber and have little, if any, interest in (though appreciate the skill involved) scaling up walls and back down when I could be coursing in and out of canyons seeking oases and staking out austere mountain passes looking for desert bighorns. However, by the amount of climbing one sees there, you can’t help but feel some sort of tacit peer pressure, and the fact that the large-grit sandpaper rock surfaces make for fairly easy jaunts up 89-degree surfaces made me a dilettante free climber for that week.

In the mornings and after dinner, all I’d have to do is put a boot up and lean forward and upwards to start my way to some outcropping 100 feet above me. It was on some of these perched rock jumbles I have some of my fondest J-Tree recollections. The friendly free-climbing allowed me to scale up to vantage points to see the solar carpet and purple shadows see-saw with each other across this fantastic landscape — a religious experience of its own kind.

Tony Smith
East Longmeadow, MA

Editor’s note: Given the fact that our snail mail address is two states away from where our editor lives, handwritten, typed and scrawled Letters to the Editor often take a while to reach the Official Desk. These next three letters were sent our way last spring. The stagecoach to Gila Country is running slower than ever.

Even More Colorado Songs

Hi, Mr. Fayhee: The Colorado Songs article was wonderful. (Smoke Signals, “Colorado Songs,” MG #185.) It was surprising how many songs exist referencing Colorado. Many of those listed are new to me. And you are right, in that this reader and others can come up with more. Here’s one: A group called Grubstake has a folk-oriented tune that might be called “The Colorado Song”. Harry Tuft, a local folk legend, is one of Grubstake’s musicians, along with three or so others.  He runs the Folklore Center in Denver.

The song deals with visitors to CO that stay, thereby adding to the population.

I recall one stanza running something like: “Now we’re having trouble with the jet set/Them lazy no good bastards love to ski/ And they all want fly to Colorado and buy up all our mountain scenery.”

The chorus is roughly: “Oh you can visit now and then/Bring your money and your friends/Just don’t forget to leave when you get through.”

I suppose other Western states enduring an influx of folks have similar songs and sentiments.

Thanks again for a fun article,

Rainer (Said Ry’-ner) Hantschel
Denver, CO

Utah Songs

Hello: I live in Colorado. I know all these Colorado songs and like them, but let me make a suggestion for the finest song about our neighbor to the West. “Utah,” by the Osmonds, off of their hard-rockin’ 1972 album “Crazy Horses.” It is one of the most amazingly non-specific songs ever written … no references to anything that might make Utah a special place, except that the Osmonds live there, and they are going back there because it’s home and “the place to be.” (The least they could have done is make a pro-Mormon pitch like they did on their follow-up album, “The Plan”). That said, it’s a good solid rocker by a truly astounding and underrated group of young men.

Dan Groth
Durango, CO

Shouldn’t have got that MBA

Dear John, Hey — I figured I could call you John as 1) I love the Mountain Gazette, 2) Sometime in the ’80s, my ex-wife & I were just coming down from hiking Greys Peak ( I believe … at 57 now I can barely remember my name, much less which 14ers we hiked) and you were hitchhiking down the road + we gave you a ride, 3) I’m re-reading your book, “Up At Altitude” 4) I pick up this great copy of MG at Ken Sanders’  Rare Books — EARTH FIRST!

Hey — great magazine — A. Stark’s article, “Cosmic Justice” (MG #185) strikes a cord — in 1975 myself + ex brother in law + other best friend camped up the rock north of Nederland + hiked Arapahoe Peak — then, as the road was too tough to drive a fucking Ford Fairlane back down to Boulder to get booze (before Pearl Street was rebuilt) my pal + I hiked from Rainbow Lakes to Nederland to hitch to Boulder. I too noticed these cows, all smarter than me — all trying to deter me from getting my MBA.

I should have listened.

Anyway, I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your publication — like Bowden’s “Tucson City Weekly” in the ’80s — like Jim Stile’s Moab Rants — like DeVere Hinkley’s ’80s single-spaced typed eight-page missives from Cowley, Wyoming — “The Cowley Progress” — the must-read “A Man Can Believe Anything.”

Take Care – keep it going!

In the Service of Her Majesty — Mother Earth! EF!

Dave Naslund
Loving life behind the ZION CURTAIN

A Sport That Encourages Drinking & Smoking!

Hi! Well March did come in like a lion in these parts — but it sure seems way to lamb-ish too soon! Snow is certainly fading fast — faster than ever I’d bet! Some would claim it’s been mud season all winter. Of course, we’re spoiled here with our geographic advantage — skiing’s been fine to great — alpine @ Wolf Creek and nordic all over our little corner of the state. I don’t mind the mud — it goes away on ground and shoes —eventually. I only hate the wind — the Chinese claim it’s evil — I won’t argue that. I am looking forward to hiking now, I must admit, though, I suspect the beetle-killed pines may pose a real danger when the winds rip!

In the meantime, there’s disc golf — I think you’d really like it ,M. John F. You can smoke & drink before, during & after and throwing things at a target satisfies the primal urge — hunting?

Anyway, I wanted to send in a decorated envelope, haven’t gotten to fully digest the dog issue of MG and didn’t want to wait for the next issue. Love ’em all — only wish they were LONGER — with more info, fotos, etc.

If you want to play Pagosa’s sweet disc golf course, look me up and I’ll get you discs & show you around the course — it’s truly a sweet one! Won’t be ready for a bit of course, got to dry up the ice, snow & mud!

Happy Spring!

Addi G.
Pagosa Springs

Editor’s note: The following two Letters were addressed to long-rime MG contributor George Sibley in response to his article, “The Colorado: The First River of the Anthropocene,” which appeared in MG #188.


Hi George: Greetings from Silverton, where the aspens in my yard finally popped their buds just yesterday …

Really enjoyed your piece in MG and the turning two-by-four studs back into trees analogy! Thanks for injecting this much more useful perspective into the mind-numbing litany of “woe is us” literature on the River.

FYI — CSAS, in discussing our organizing premise, talks about the “anthroposphere” and the “music of the spheres” (atmos-, litho-,cryo-, and anthropo-spheres) … the anthropocene is the context for all this!


Chris Landry, Executive Director,
Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies

Silverton CO

George: Beer or wine? I want to know what to buy you in appreciation of your latest work. In fact, whiskey is not out of the question.

I thoroughly enjoyed this essay each time I read it and only curse the Gazette’s format for the difficulty of scanning it so I can distribute it to my fellow members on the Grand Mesa Water Conservancy District board — even if it’s to watch them choke on the word Anthropocene. Congratulations on another fine job.

Thanks again.
Jim Durr