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The March of Time (1997)
I was splitting stove wood, admiring the action of my new hydraulic log splitter and thinking about the contrast between pushing a lever and swinging an ax. My 29 year-old son, handing me the logs to be split, was thinking about how I was polluting the atmosphere with the 3.5 horsepower Briggs and Stratton engine.
Twenty years ago I would have said a log splitter was for wimps and trashers of the environment. Now I not only have a log splitter, but an electric saw, an electric air pump and a cordless drill/screwdriver, along with a host of other labor-saving devices. A friend of mine who thought nothing of using a brush and paint bucket all day now has a big compressed air sprayer. Is it us, or is it progress? Or is it just getting old?
The WIND, which Lorna Knowlton in Weaving Mountain Memories describes as “scrambling trying to find enough volunteers to continue this excellent publication” in 1988 has indeed continued, and now has its own office, computers which publish the paper and manage the books, a scanner, a modem, answering machine and enough volunteers to ensure its survival into the next millennium. Would it be in such good shape without those devices? One wonders.
The competing forces of our desire to protect our valley and the advances in technology are everywhere around us. The building of trophy houses, with swimming pools and four car garages, is an outgrowth of these forces, as the rich seek to enjoy the mountain environment while at the same time intruding on it. The travails of Crystal Spring and our other water resources display the same warring factions in the struggle to maintain the purity we once took for granted. Estes Park is widening Highway Seven north to its outskirts to accommodate the increased traffic to Carriage Hills, but as a result the project will certainly increase the number of accidents involving elk and cars.
When my grandfather came here in 1917 there was no electricity, no phones, not even any radio. He regarded all those things as intrusions on the tranquillity of the place. What would he think of the ten-year-olds who race their four-wheel all-terrain vehicles up and down Big Owl Road? What would he think of my log splitter? The thousands of people who spend their summer hiking the trails and climbing the mountains have the leisure to do so because of technology: the machines that help them do their work and the cars, planes and busses that bring them here. When Alonzo Allen made the trip from Longmont to our valley it took all of a long day. When I was a child it took a couple of hours. Now it takes less than one. Do we really want to go back to the Good Old Days?
My son is certainly entitled to worry about what my log splitter is doing to the environment. I’m glad he worries. I worry about it too, when I’m not celebrating the lack of sweat on my brow and the calm of my bursae. But if this machine means I can enjoy this place for a few more years, I’m going to use it, and any other gadget the Technology Genie can produce out of its bottle. If the widened roads mean I can have access to this place for more years, I’m going to approve of them. Sure, it’s completely self-centered, but I have plenty of company with that attitude. I want to hang around as long as I can, and I’ll be in favor of whatever makes that possible. I like the ramp at the post office, and my newspaper delivered in the box and satellite television and the dust suppression on Big Owl Road. And every time I toss wood into the 1919 Kalamazoo Prince in the kitchen I’m going to thank whoever invented the log splitter.
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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