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Old and New
Old and new things seem to be very much on our minds. When the snow melts, the aspens finally leaf out and the alders sprout beside the stream we begin to look around to see what’s new and how well the old things have fared. I was reminded of this shortly after the WIND readers did their part by cleaning up the litter along Highway 7. Mostly we found bits and pieces of cars and we collected a sack full of truck parts, including the license plate, a quarter of a mile south of Eagle Plume’s. I found that Budweiser is the predominant choice of those who toss their beer cans out the window. But there wasn’t really a large amount. The road in front of St.Catherine’s was very clean; no film canisters or other photographic trash, which is amazing, considering the number of pictures taken there every year.
A few days later Patty Dever, who helped pick up with us, told me that a section of the road now had more beer cans and a whiskey bottle. She has picked them up. Old and new. It’s new trash, but it’s old stuff. Fortunately, the amount of trash is much less than it was before organizations gathered trash. Must be something about the setting that keeps people from littering. Perhaps most of us are more conscious of the need to protect the environment.
We are ambivalent about the old and new. A friend of mine who doesn’t move as fast as he used to, won’t buy a cordless telephone, even though he can’t hear the telephone from his front porch. “Newfangled," he sneers. On the other hand, he enjoys playing music on his stereo system.
I went on a short walk up the Wind River Trail the other day, to see what remains of the Wig-Wam Tea Room. It was out of business when I was young and I walked down the trail from a point about a quarter of a mile north of Wind River Ranch. That part of the trail was closed years ago because it was on a dangerous curve and there was no place to park. The trail head is now across the road from the Ranch entrance. The 160 acre homestead was sold to a family in 1950 and sold again in 1989 to the Nature Conservancy which donated the land to RMNP.
The Park hasn’t figured out what to do with the property, but the original homestead cabin is still there. It’s not in very good shape, but it’s a monument to Anna Wolfrom, AKA Anna Wolfrom Dove, who built it and raised a crop of potatoes to “prove up” the place and secure ownership. Below the cabin you can see the field next to the stream where she planted. It must have been very hard work.
The Wig-Wam was just one of several tea rooms in the area: the Perkins’ at what is now Eagle Plume’s, Katherine Garetson’s Big Owl, among others. Now we are having a resurgence, this time with coffee. Perhaps it won’t be long before we see a Peaberry’s or Starbuck’s nearby. It would be a welcome addition, and a reminder of the old days.
We also see the old and new in the people of the valley. Almost every month we run an obituary about a person who has been here for years. We have new arrivals, some of whom put down roots, some of whom move on after a few years. Several commercial properties are for sale at the moment. The new store next to the Post Office, Dusty Trails, is the latest in a long line of occupants. It’s new, but it specializes in things of the past. John Calden makes boots and shoes the old fashioned way, by hand. June Wesel weaves rugs, place mats and such the old fashioned way, by hand. Sinn’s Western Trail deals in antiques.
We are caught in a tug-of-war between the past and the present. The past seems more important to us. We forget that, as Billy Joel put it: “the good old days weren’t always good and tomorrow’s not as bad as it seems.” People come here to live and work, retire or have a summer home. Some stay and some go, but the things they build most often stay until they burn down. Some are palaces and some are shacks, but there’s a story, about the people who built them, lived in them and created a past, in every one.
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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