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How Old is Charles Eagle Plume?
Whenever more than two people get together around here, the question will certainly turn up in a discussion of the ages at which various local characters died. Mrs. MacDonald, for example, was a fixture in her book shop until she died at the age of 86. John, who was “Johnny Mac” to a great many people, but was always “Mr. McCollister” to me, ran the Conoco station in Allenspark for 40 years or more before he died at the age of 86.
On the other hand, Enos Mills was only 62 when he died, and nobody knows how old Rocky Mountain Jim Nugent was, but those names come up in these discussions, too.
I happen to know how old Charles Eagle Plume is, but first of all I want to be quick to say that Charles isn’t dead. [He died in 1993. He was 85]
He has been saying for a good many years that it takes a lot to kill an old Indian, and he must be right, because he has been telling me about his poor health for at least 20 years. It’s certainly no secret that Charles is not exactly an eaglet. He has been around a long time. In fact, he came to Tahosa Valley at about the same time as my mother in the late 1920s.
The building which is now the Trading Post was then the Perkins’ What-Not Inn, and Mr. and Mrs. Perkins of Topeka provided afternoon refreshments in those heady, dusty days as people ventured south from Estes Park toward the wilderness of Wild Basin, past Enos Mills’ Longs Peak Inn, the Columbine Lodge, Mrs. Dings’ Kentucky Homespun, and the entrance to the Hewes-Kirkwood Inn, now the Rocky Ridge Music Camp.
My mother was a little Quaker girl from the east, and Charles, well, let’s just say their backgrounds were dissimilar. In spite of the differences, they became good friends.
Charles, of course, has a well known affection for young people who are starting families. His admonitions to them on the rearing of children are almost as well known as his recitation of Old Mountain Man’s Last Speech to His People.
So when my mother and father began their family about five years after Charles came to the valley, a bond was formed, which has now spanned three generations.
There is considerable irony, of course, in the naming of various landmarks in the area. Enos Mills has his share, I suppose, but not very many long time residents have landmarks named for them. Indeed, Joel Estes has been more than amply rewarded for his six years in the area.
In some ways it’s unfortunate that those who came later and who, like Charles, spent most of their lives here have their names attached to nothing more illustrious than a place of business or a rural mailbox, rather than mountains, lakes or streams.
What is most important, of course. is how their lives have affected others around them, and a name on a map isn’t nearly as meaningful as the respect and affection of one’s friends and neighbors.
My mountains are full of such good people.
How old is Charles Eagle Plume? As I said, I happen to know, because long ago he and my mother discovered they shared the same birthday. So now you know: Charles Eagle Plume is the same age as my mother.
And how old is my mother? Hey, I may be dumb, pal, but I’m not that dumb.
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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