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Recent Writings III
Our mountains in the past 50 years have been characterized by a desire for individual and familial freedom. From the influx of WW II veterans like Otto Walter in the 40s to the disaffected hippies of the 60s, hermits like Bill Waite and Chain Saw Maggie Walter, who took a chain saw to advertising signs she didn’t like, our valley has had more than its share of people who want government, and mostly everyone else, to leave them alone.
In 1973 and 1974 I worked for the National Security Agency in Southeast Asia. The mission was Airborne Radio Direction-Finding, ARDF, a mission called Combat Cougar, accurately described in James Branford’s The Puzzle Palace. I can tell you what it was, but I’m not allowed to tell you how we did it. You will just have to take my word that I know something about how the NSA works. Granted, it was a long time ago. The way we did it, however, is still classified and I think with good reason. The name is, like many things the NSA does, misleading.
The NSA is in the news because some people in the NSA thought listening to American citizens’ telephone or e-mail transmissions without a warrant is against the law. So they talked to The New York Times. Not surprisingly, the government is more interested in finding out who blew the whistle than in discussing the legality or morality of spying on American citizens.
We don’t take polls up here, but only 56% of Americans think it’s wrong for the government and the NSA to know what you and I are saying in emails and texts and on the telephone without asking for a warrant that demonstrates probable cause.
The government says that this listening is only about American citizens with known Al Queda ties. But if that’s true why haven’t those people been apprehended? It makes no sense. We know who they are and we just let them make plans on the telephone and by e-mail to blow things up? The more important fact, which most Americans don’t understand, is that the NSA, when it listens, listens to everything. Indiscriminate data is downloaded into very big computers which then look for words, names, phrases that are marked for further analysis. These computers look for all manner of codes and are capable of decoding entire conversations based on older data.
The listening/decoding abilities of the NSA are far beyond the understanding of nearly everyone in the United States, including, by this time, me. It would be good to say that the only things analyzed are communications by known Al Queda operatives, but that would be a lie. The computers don’t discriminate that closely. And without a warrant and probable cause, any communication, any communication can be and might be analyzed by the NSA.
In our mountains and our beautiful valley we sometimes think of ourselves as impervious to the madness of the flatlands. We want to make a simple living or enjoy our vacation homes in peace, as my father and grandfather did. They came here specifically to be isolated, where those they dealt with all year couldn’t bother them. My grandfather didn’t allow a radio in his cabin. My father resisted the installation of a telephone for years. He would not have tolerated e-mail. He worked all year to be able to go fishing by himself or to sit and do nothing at all. Many of us feel the same way.
Still, 44% of Americans think it’s worth having the government and the NSA listen to their telephone conversations and read their e-mail. Most of those apparently feel that this invasion of their privacy holds no threat to their freedom. Many believe in smaller government, but still want to allow government to monitor much of what they do and say, both orally and in writing. George Orwell wrote about this notion in his book 1984, which detailed this very kind of monitoring. Orwell called it Big Brother. It’s 21 years late, but Big Brother (Orwell had not envisioned the NSA) is here.
Is the NSA involved in ARDF missions in the United States or in Colorado? I don’t know, but I wouldn’t bet against it. With the NSA doing what it’s doing, if you want the government to leave you alone, our valley will no longer protect you.
An Old Motorcycle
Like many of our subscribers March is the month when I begin to plan moving to Tahosa Valley for the summer. And, like many of our subscribers, for many years I’ve had a vehicle in storage for summer use. Mine hasn’t had much use.
In November of 1972 I purchased, for $175, outside the main gate at Yokota Air Base, Japan, a little Honda motorcycle.
Originally purchased for my older son who was 11 at the time, I put it on our airplane and it was flown to Guam, where I was stationed with the Air Force. The next year, while I was in Southeast Asia, it was shipped to Colorado and my son sometimes rode it to the bus stop where he was picked up to go to school in Estes Park. (Picture)
This is a Honda White Dax 70, a version never sold in the U.S. In 1973 a young family member who will remain unnamed wrecked it, pretty much destroying the front end. The headlight bucket was broken, the forks bent, several other elements bent or broken. As a result, it remained in storage, unused, for the next 32 years.
For years I looked at it now and then, as the sheet covering it slowly turned to stains and holes. Last year I decided to restore it for another generation. This machine has recently been copied by the Chinese and is sold to RV owners as a means of transport when the RV is parked. The new version costs about $1000. But my version was never sold outside of Japan and is thus quite rare, so I decided to restore it.
Restorations like this are not for the faint of heart, or pocketbook. I was fortunate to find a source for classic Honda parts in Holland. They specialize in motorcycles like mine; apparently there are many in Europe purchased in Japan by military people and in need of parts not usually available for export models. But the parts are expensive. The seat cover, which is green and yellow flowers, is an exact duplicate of the original and is one of the few parts not a genuine part.
Because I bought it in Japan it did not have a title or license plates. I decided that it should have both if it was to be used on our county roads. I had no idea what kind of task I had set for myself. Without a title, a vehicle just doesn’t exist in the eyes of the Colorado bureaucracy. In order to make it exist, one has to complete seven steps, only five short of a Twelve Step Program, each of which is expensive, time consuming and defies common sense. By a stroke of pure luck, I still had the original receipt and the owner’s manual, which had the frame and engine numbers, so while it took all seven steps, two months and more than $200 for the state, the end result was never in doubt. I finally did get both a title and a license.
The total cost? You don’t want to know. And there’s a psychic cost as well I can’t even calculate. But thieves shouldn’t bother looking for it in the winter, because it’s now too valuable to store where it’s been all these years. I suppose at some point some young person will wreck it again. I hope it will be after I’m long gone. I can’t go through this again.
Talking About the Weather
As I descend into senility, like most old people I just can’t get over how much things have changed in my one short lifetime. Jet airliners, wireless telephones, electric cars, computers, the Internet is just a short list of things that have positively changed the world around us in the last 50 years. There is, of course, a downside to almost everything. Our population has more than doubled. We have polluted the atmosphere burning fossil fuels. More people than ever starving or dying for lack of medical care, but not enough to curb the numbers and needs of the global population. My country has been involved in four wars since I was born, only one of which we won.
Here in our valley, if one looks around not much has changed. Many more cabins and houses. Better, wider paved roads. The forest is bigger, older, more dangerous.
The weather has changed quite a bit, it seems to me. Sixty years ago there was enough snow for downhill skiing and plenty for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The apron between Longs and Meeker above Chasm lake was big enough to call a glacier, even if it didn’t move. It was there all year long. In the Park we used to visit Iceberg Lake. It’s gone and the parking area now invites you to admire Lava Cliffs.
Now it appears that my memory is faulty, or maybe not. It’s complicated. Our esteemed weather person, Dr. Will Rense, tells me that the average temperature in Allenspark has risen 4° in the past 40 years. He thinks there may be many reasons for this rise and he’s not certain what’s caused it or how long it may last.
I certainly don’t have Dr. Rense’s credentials but I did fly into the center of Pacific typhoons 99 times and I had to know quite a bit about weather. And while it seems to me the weather has changed quite a bit, I may be wrong. Furthermore, if it has changed, whatever change it’s made surely won’t last. Global weather is really just one very big system; what happens to wind, precipitation and water temperature and many other things in one part of the planet affects other parts of the system. As you and forecasters know, the results often defy predictability.
Is the planet getting warmer? Apparently it is, including our mountains, but the question of why and for how long is a difficult one. The problem with predicting the weather is simply that the system is so complex and there are so many variables. We don’t really understand the entire system yet and we have no control over the variables. We all know how often forecasts of more than 72 hours can be wrong; sometimes very wrong. Too many variables. Is the burning of fossil fuels making a permanent change in the planet’s weather? Maybe, and maybe not.
La Niña cooler temperatures in the eastern Pacific at the moment seem to be moving the jet stream over the United States farther north. How long will that last and what will the weather be like as a result? Like most weather related questions, the answer is uncertain.
None of this, however keeps us from talking about the weather, complaining because it’s too hot or too cold, to dry or too wet. You don’t hear people saying the weather’s just right.
We probably wouldn’t like it much if we knew exactly what the weather was going to be. An entire area of everyday social intercourse would be gone. What would people in barber shops and hair salons do for conversation? I really enjoy telling young people how much the weather’s changed since I was a kid. Even if I’m wrong.
I’m getting really old and I’m going to be dead a really long time. I sometimes wonder why I worry about a future I’m not going to see. What will this and coming centuries bring to our beautiful valley and our mountains? I read that air pollution is poisoning our fauna and killing our trees. Will our valley be still and barren in the 23nd century? Will our government be intact or will it be bankrupt and taken over by its debtors?
What about the planet? Recently we’ve seen quite a bit about the Arctic ice cap. Not so much about Antarctica. The journal Science recently reported that the Antarctic ice sheet is losing as much as 36 cubic miles of ice a year.
The new Antarctic measurements, using data from two NASA satellites called the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), found that the amount of water pouring annually from the ice sheet into the ocean -- equivalent to the amount of water the United States uses in three months -- is causing global sea level to rise by 0.4 millimeters a year. The continent holds 90 percent of the world's ice, and the disappearance of even its smaller West Antarctic ice sheet could raise worldwide sea levels by an estimated 20 feet by the end of this century. Even just 4 feet would flood many parts of our coastlines.
I’m not at all sure why I should be worried; I won’t be here if and when our coasts are inundated. The insurance companies may take a big hit, but neither I nor my heirs have stock. Maybe there won’t be insurance.
Still, it bothers me. At the moment we are fighting two undeclared wars, neither of which we seem to be winning, although 98% of Iraqi children have been vaccinated. We might have done that without a war. Many people simply ignore the wars as though they don’t matter. It was easier when we could put faces on the enemy. One person doesn’t seem to be enough to be concerned about. Still, it’s been expensive: 20,000 casualties means many more families, not to mention the money involved.
Our President in 2005 said he had won “political capital” in his 2004 election and “I intend to spend it.” What I didn’t expect was that he was going to spend our capital as well as his. My mother advised, “Never spend your capital.” Good advice.
Not only is our country spending its capital, but forces outside both our control and our interest may shape the future of our children. What can be done to our air quality to arrest the death of our flora and fauna? We see the evidence in the dead trees by the side of the road and chalk it up to the cost of progress. We see the disease in our wild animals and pass it off as the cost of a great economy. We make excuses and hope that our children will do better.
I suppose what worries me most is that we seem to be losing the confidence that made our country so great in its early years; we would create a government that could solve anything. Granted, it took a civil war to settle the slavery question, but the result was a stronger, better Union. We made citizenship what it was for several cultures before us; something to be earned, something to be proud of, something to defend to the death. We faced problems and solved them. We abolished slavery. We made women full citizens, defended the oppressed around the planet, and we became rich and powerful in the process. We became able to have a second home, on the beach, or in the mountains. We feed the hummingbirds, support the Guild, go to our fabulous 4Th of July Parade, fish, hunt, hike, enjoy the tourists, get the mail and read the Wind. A pretty good way of life compared to most of the rest of humanity on the planet. But it can’t last forever.
It happened to the Mesopotamians, the Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans and it’s apparently going to happen to us. The only question is, will it be sooner or later?
I have two children and three grandchildren and I hope it will be much later, but it worries me.
Around here we don’t worry very much about classified material, much less leaking it to the press. But in 1972 I was involved as a navigator in a very classified project in Thailand, the making of rain on the Ho Chi Mihn trail through Laos. I wrote about this in July of 2004 and I thought it was well the past, but it’s back in the news.
It was not just secret, it was SPECAT, Special Category. Only four general officers in the area knew about it. The ambassadors to South Vietnam, Laos and Thailand were not informed because they might not have liked rain they might be entitled to going somewhere else. In addition, the idea of weather modification as a weapon off war was sure to be politically sensitive in the U.S.
In March of 1971 Jack Anderson, a powerful syndicated columnist whose column, Washington Merry-Go-Round was such a thorn in the side of President Nixon, wrote about Project Pop Eye, code named Compatriot.
Someone had leaked the information.
The mission was fairly straightforward. Our WC-130 using the call sign “Motorpool” carried 104 silver or lead iodide flares in two racks attached to the fuselage just forward of the tail section. We flew into promising looking clouds and shot the flares downward hoping to make it rain on the trail, thus slowing the passage of supplies to the enemy.
It was a relatively inexpensive program at $3.6 million a year. The number of people who knew about the project was small and the classification level was such that our families were not supposed to know what we were doing. But someone had leaked it to Mr. Anderson, who, although he died in 2005 at the age of 83, is once again in the news.
The F.B.I. wants to look through his papers, some 200 boxes of them, and says any documents classed as Confidential or above will be removed.
So 35 years later the government thinks they can find out who leaked the information about Compatriot to Jack Anderson and then what? Throw the culprit into Leavenworth?
Anderson’s papers have significant value as historic documents, but only if left intact. Redacted, they’re worthless to scholars. And it’s very unlikely that Anderson, smart as he was and as careful as he was in protecting his sources, left anything either classified or names of sources in his papers.
So what’s really going on here? Anderson was often called a muckraker, particularly by those whose rice bowls he broke. And leaks are in the news. President Bush, Vice-President Cheney and members of their staffs are accusing muckrakers and themselves have been accused of leaking classified material. Now we have a get tough policy about leaks and let’s start by going through the papers of a dead guy and see what we can pin on him and his sources 30 or 40 years ago.
I was none too happy about being involved in a project so secret. Clearly its secrecy had nothing to do with keeping things from the enemy, but only with keeping secrets from the people who were paying for it. Why? Because it was unethical. In 1976 the treaty making weather modification internationally wrong became fact, largely as a result of Jack Anderson’s exposure of our rain making project in Southeast Asia. Without people like him we are, as we have recently seen, at the mercy of arrogance, lies and megalomania as in “I’m the decider.”
We need more Jack Andersons, not fewer, and we need to protect his and everyone’s rights, granted in the Bill of Rights, to speak up, to expose the misadventures, follies and stupidities of those we elect.
Can we say that this fishing expedition into Jack Anderson’s papers is designed to take the heat off more recent leakers, some of whom got us into this mess and are responsible for the unconscionable expense in both lives and treasure? We can, and we should.
“Systems analysis” is one of those arcane terms people sometimes use but don’t really understand. “Something to do with computers,” we think. And that’s largely true these days but that’s not how it started out.
Howard and Eugene Odum began applying a systems view to biological ecology in 1953, building on the work of Raymond Lindeman (1942) and Arthur Tansley (1935). The object was to try to understand the complexity of the elements, processes and structures of biological ecology. Instead of thinking of individual parts, the attempt was to understand how single things affect everything else. Systems analysis helps us understand how something like global warming affects many other aspects of life on earth.
People who live here in our mountains like to think of themselves as independent. Many of us came here to escape, to enjoy some solitude, the peace and quiet, to live simply. But we’re social animals, so we have a great many groups to which we belong: the Hilltop Guild, the landowner associations, the Area Club, the fire volunteers, our several churches, even the very loosely organized group that produces the WIND.
My family has been more dependent than most. Mr. Ionides surveyed the place, Charlie Baker and his father built our house, Otto Walter put in our septic system, Mr. Ingram drilled our well and various people have roofed the place and put in windows. Mike Donahue did our foundation. Dan St. John remodeled our front porch. And of course we’ve added electricity, telephones, satellite television, Internet service and much more. When it comes to the simple, independent life, we just don’t qualify. A systems analyst would be quick to say that we have a complex system, and a failure in any part of it would pretty quickly cause the rest of the system to collapse. Sometimes I think I spend quite a bit of time just trying to keep the system from collapsing.
Those of us who don’t live here all year are very dependent on those who do. They look after our places, maintain them, build them. The work provided makes it possible for them to live here all year, provide for their families, educate their children. The summer residents and tourists are part of the system. Gene Mackey, our esteemed editor, works for the county maintaining roads, a vital part of the system. Without roads, there would be no summer residents or tourists. Indeed, human life here would be nearly impossible. And his work makes it possible for him to volunteer his time and talent for the WIND. There are many others like Gene, whose work makes it possible for them to fulfill many other mostly unpaid roles in the system.
In the end it’s the system that counts. Individuals come and go, but the system survives and may improve as people fill vacancies. In the past century all the people in the system have been replaced, but the system itself survives as land and houses and goods as well as goals and values have passed from one generation to another.
It can be very comforting to know, even with our desire for independence, that we’re part of a system that takes care of us. It doesn’t take an analyst to tell us it’s a good system. Of course we need to remember that at some point even the best human system won’t survive. Only the earth abides.
The first instance of stealing in our valley of which I was aware was in 1946 or 1947, when a large number of ice-boxes and other stored-outside items disappeared without a trace. What anyone wanted with ice-boxes at that time remains a mystery; two years later we had electricity in the valley. Probably bad timing by the thieves, but some thieves aren’t notable for their brilliance.
1n 1973 someone broke down the front door of our house, stole my son’s piggy bank and caused the cats to stay under a bed for two days. I was on the far side of the world and Mary and the boys weren’t home. The sheriff found tracks in the new snow but lost the trail. The perpetrator was never found. We installed a stronger door.
We’ve had occasional rashes of burglaries in the valley, and most have never been solved. But theft has been sporadic, the amounts involved not huge and most of us have never had our homes invaded and our property taken. Indeed, the opposite has most often been the case; many of us have been the beneficiaries when we needed things. Our friends and neighbors have helped us when we’ve been in need, given us money or things. There is a tradition of sharing in our valley.
So I was surprised the other day when someone stole the newspaper from our box on Big Owl Road. It was the 4th of July weekend, with large numbers of people not usually here. Still, it surprised me. Is this, I thought, a sign of the times? Do some people think that such a theft is so minor that no one will care? Of course newspapers, which cost five cents when I was delivering them years ago, now cost one dollar on Saturday and $1.50 on Sunday for the Denver Post. Still, it doesn’t seem like much when gasoline sells for $3 a gallon. A sense of perspective seems to be in order.
We have been learning lately about the money stolen surrounding the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The attorney general last September established the Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force.
Among the expenses that investigators have described as abusive or otherwise questionable:
More than 2,000 sets of dog booties, costing $68,442, that have sat unused in storage since emergency responders decided they were not suited for canines assisting in Gulf Coast recovery efforts.
Three portable shower units for $71,170 from a contractor who investigators said overcharged the government. Customs and Border Protection agents could have gotten similar showers for nearly a third of the price and faster.
12 Apple iPod Nanos and 42 iPod Shuffles, worth $7,000, for Secret Service "training and data storage." Because the Shuffles cost less than $300, the Secret Service said they were not required to track them to ensure they were used properly.
37 black Helly Hansen designer rain jackets, costing nearly $2,500, for use in a firing range that the Customs and Border Protection purchaser later acknowledged shuts down when it's raining.
Conference and hotel rooms at a golf and tennis resort at St. Simons Island in Georgia, worth $2,395, for training 32 newly hired attorneys when they could have used a nearby federal law enforcement training center.
A beer brewing kit and ingredients for more than $1,000 for a Coast Guard official to brew alcohol while on duty as a social organizer for the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. "The estimated price for a six-pack of USCG beer was $12," the investigators noted, adding: "Given that the six-pack cost of most beers is far less than $12, it is difficult to demonstrate that the Academy is achieving cost savings by brewing its own beer."
Investigators also noted that Customs and Border Protection wasted up to $464,586 by buying meals-ready-to-eat over the Internet instead of contracting through the Pentagon, as is standard procedure. And they found that the Federal Emergency Management Agency cannot locate 107 laptops, 22 printers and two GPS units worth $170,000. FEMA also cannot find 12 of 20 boats the agency bought for $208,000.
Abusive? Questionable? Sounds like stealing to me. It’s hard to work up much enthusiasm about a 50¢ newspaper in the face of this kind of theft although it may be a sign of the times. It certainly does give one a sense of perspective.
Percy Bysshe Shelley
I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,
From the seas and the streams;
I bear light shade for the leaves when laid
In their noonday dreams.
From my wings are shaken the dews that waken
The sweet buds every one,
When rocked to rest on their mother's breast,
As she dances about the sun.
I wield the flail of the lashing hail,
And whiten the green plains under,
And then again I dissolve it in rain,
And laugh as I pass in thunder.
We think about rain quite a bit. Lately we’ve been thinking that we’re not getting enough. We worry about the threat of fire. We worry about our water quality. We worry about the condition of our wells and our streams. We read stories about people to the east of us who covet our water. And it all hinges on our snow in the winter and our rain in the summer.
For a few days this July and August we had the kind of weather I remember here as a child: clear mornings, growing clouds, a shower in the afternoon and a clearing evening sky with a few clouds for a beautiful sunset. We’ve not had enough of those days in the past few years and it may be that as a usual summertime thing they’re gone for at least our lifetimes.
Rain in our valley is different from rain down on the plains. We see the beginning of storms that sometimes bring severe hail and flooding to the plains. We’re fortunate in that our splendid views of the Arapahoes, Mt. Meeker and Longs Peak let us see the clouds and rain as they sweep toward us and watch the lightning as it strikes Meeker and Horse’s Tooth and Buggy Top. We count the seconds even though we know the distance of these familiar targets.
And there are other differences. There is the wind in the trees preceding the rain, the grey curtain as it slowly comes toward us, blotting out the mountain, the thunder getting louder from the west, the occasionally tiny hail, small and soft because of our altitude, thunder crashing around us, the reappearance of the mountain as the shower passes, the thunder receding to the east. And the smell. Ah, that aroma. Stepping outside after a rain shower, smelling the water on the pines and the crisp freshness of the rain-washed air. It’s a delicious fragrance like no other, a sweet perfume our readers recognize.
In the middle of August we had an unusual nighttime rainstorm and a day later a third of an inch in the afternoon.
Walking along the forest floor after rains like that the pine needles give up that fragrance with every step, better than the crackling of a rainless surface, drab, lifeless and the fuel for a wildfire.
When it comes to our feelings about rains and storms each of us is unique. How much it too much? You’ll not get the same answer twice. And what about lightning and thunder? Patty Dever’s dog, the late and lamented Booty, was terrified. Some of our cats in the past ran under beds, but our current pair are sure to be found on the screened porch enjoying the show. One lady of my acquaintance many years ago was so frightened she came to our cabin whenever there was lightning about. It happened so often I wondered why she bothered to come here at all.
One thing about rain here in our valley hasn’t changed. We do like to talk about it. When it’s not raining we’re not getting enough, and when it rains for three days straight we hope the sun will shine tomorrow, but anyone who says sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain.
Nostalgia is a common thread running through the warp and woof of the Wind. Much of what’s printed here is about what has happened, rather than any speculation about what might happen. I speculate in these pages fairly often and I’m not proud of it; people who predict the future are always, to some degree, wrong.
But in my dotage I more often reflect on the past and consider how it has affected the present and may affect the future. John Fielder has helped us along with his two picture books which show us old pictures of Colorado along with Fielder’s recent pictures taken from the same vantage points. So I was pleased to find, at the Estes Park Museum, signed by the author, a similar book; 263 pages of old and new photos of places in Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park: “Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, Then & Now.”
The book stops going south at Longs Peak’s Keyhole, but there is quite enough for old folks to remember and plenty for newer folks to consider in what’s been lost. The book is grouped by areas: Estes Valley Scenes and Sites, including the usual, but also the mostly forgotten, like Beaver Point. The Village, which is what my parents always called it. Hotels, Lodges and Ranches, including the Rustic Hotel, Ferguson’s Highlands Hotel, and the Columbines, plus two sections on RMNP, East and West.
The text is by Dr. James Pickering, who has written numerous histories of the area, including the excellent “This Blue Hollow” in 1999, about the early years of Estes Park.
The old photographs in the current book come from a number of sources, but most of the new ones, which duplicate exactly the viewpoint of the older photo, are by Mic Clinger, who has been painstaking in finding the precise vantage point, often with some difficulty.
Anyone who has been here any length of time can attest to the many changes along the main streets of Estes Park, as businesses come and go. Still, a surprising number of buildings remain largely intact, their earlier incarnations hidden behind what amount to false fronts. Estes Park’s growth is well documented by photographs. People who come here take lots of pictures. Many of them have found their way into local archives.
When you get to the section about the east side of the park you will find a number of places that no longer exist: Dear Ridge Chalet, Moraine Lodge, Sprague’s Ranch, Brinwood Ranch and Hotel, Forest Inn, Fern Lake Lodge, Bear Lake Lodge, Longs Peak Inn, Columbine Lodge, Hewes-Kirkwood Inn. Almost nobody left alive can remember that Charlie Hewes had Mr. Ionides create a plat for a town south of the Inn.
These places were run by families who thought their chalet, inn, or lodge would be here for many years, if not forever. Charlie thought he’d be the mayor, but he died and the Inn became Rocky Ridge Music Center. Nearly all those inside the Park were bought by the Park only a few years after the park was created, burned to the ground and turned into, for the most part, parking lots. The Music Center, outside the Park, is certainly a gain, but the end of Hewes-Kirkwood is certainly a loss.
I’m old enough to have known all of them, and in truth I miss them. I wonder if what has subsequently been built outside the Park is a good substitute. Does a room in a motel with a view of Lake Estes have the same ambience as a room at Fern Lake Lodge? Would those lodges in the Park today command premium prices that would provide funds for the Park? What would it be worth to wake up with a view of the Little Matterhorn? The questions boil down to what has been gained and what has been lost and whether the gains have been worth the losses.
There’s been much talk about the Park as “wilderness,” but the problem is that the ecosystem in and around the park doesn’t recognize the boundaries. Maintaining a piece of land as wilderness while a foot away or a mile away is a condominium may be a hopeless enterprise. The flora and fauna, particularly the elk, don’t know anything about boundaries.
If the history of the area interests you at all, this is a book you will enjoy. And it will invite you to ask that question: What has been gained, and what has been lost forever?
The WIND’s Future
Every three months we have a WIND board meeting. If you look at the next to the last page of this issue you can see that there are eight voting members. As I looked around the table at the last meeting it occurred to me that our combined age approaches 500 years. Our founder is dead as are many previous board members. Several of us who have edited the paper at one time or another are well beyond middle age. We’re fortunate that Gene Mackey is still only middle aged and relatively happy with his responsibility as editor.
The WIND has been through some difficult times, times when there was little money to produce it and not many people to read it. At the moment, as a result of good leadership by Ms. DeWeese and sound business management and circulation by the Mrs. Newton and Walter, we’re more than solvent and our subscription list, at 579, is the highest it’s ever been.
But there’s that 500 years thing. We have no one on the board of directors under the age of 40, and this worries those of us who are substantially older. Substantially.
The WIND is a volunteer enterprise and will soon be entering its 34th year of continuous publication, all without paying anyone a dime. It’s a remarkable record. Yet this record is always in jeopardy. The loss of an editor, a business manager, a circulation manager by death, incapacitation or simply old age instantly faces the publication with the specter of missing a publication date.
The record of publication and the number of subscribers is a testament to the willingness of people in the area to devote a few days a month, often just a few hours, to insuring the continuation. In looking back at the board members over the years, one finds familiar names and some not so familiar. Ruth Jackman, David Bjorkman, Sharon Donald, Eula McCollister, Cathy Bird and Leslie Kermath are just a few of those who kept the WIND blowing. Some of the current board members have been on the board for more than ten years. But nobody can beat the clock.
If the WIND is going to reach well into the 21st century it will have to find new people willing to do more than read it. We need young people to learn and assist those currently pulling the wagon. In that way, and only in that way, we can continue to make the WIND better. If you are one of those young people who want to see it continue I hope you will call a board member and be a part of the coming years of the WIND.
Most of us in our mountains don’t have much admiration for laws. Big Brother Boulder County especially comes in for plenty of invective for its many rules, regulations, ordinances and laws that complicate our lives or cost us money, many of which seem useless, stupid or just plain weird.
Still, we rarely have fewer laws. They just keep piling up. In the last election there was an item on the ballot to remove a few lines from the state constitution deemed obsolete, and voters hastened to pass it. We like getting rid of government whenever we can.
The Denver Post has a columnist who lives in Fairplay, Al Knight. He’s a conservative who is in favor of deporting illegal immigrants, against a measure granting status to homosexual couples and in favor of an amendment to the state constitution defining the sacrament of marriage as between one man and one woman. He’s also a bit of a sore loser; “When the Republicans took control of Congress in 1994, then-President Bill Clinton and his fellow Democrats didn't like it very much. Now that the tables have turned, why should Republicans be any more generous?”
Like most avowed conservatives, Knight is in favor of smaller government. Still, he wants government to get involved in sacraments. Conservatives in favor of smaller government also like to tell women and homosexuals what they may or may not do with their bodies. Heterosexual men can pretty much do what they like.
Knight in a recent Post column has proposed that the state should enact a law forbidding, in most instances, carrying a dog in the back of a pickup truck.
This is coming from someone in favor of smaller, less intrusive government.
Many years ago I had a pickup truck and I had dogs, a pair of greyhounds. They routinely rode in the back of the pickup because there was no room for them in the cab. I could have, as Mr. Knight suggests, restrained them or put them in cages, but they were well behaved, never fell or jumped out, and seemed to enjoy the ride. Maybe they were just smarter than I was. Knight claims that 100,000 dogs die every year either falling or being dumped from pickups. That really doesn’t seem like many when we know that between 4 and 6 million dogs are euthanized every year because homes can’t be found for them.
Perhaps it would be nice if those 100,000 didn’t die because the owner or the dog was inattentive or stupid, although replacing them is obviously not a problem. You and I know many folks here who have pickups and dogs and the owners enjoy the dogs and many of the dogs enjoy riding in the back. Now Mr. Knight and others supposedly in favor of smaller government want to crawl into the back of your pickup with your dog.
A great many laws are the result of a few people doing really stupid things. We have double yellow lines on roads because a few people are so dumb they want to pass even though they can’t see the road ahead. So the government does it for them. We have stop signs because some people pay no attention to cross traffic. So now we have to stop even when there’s no cross traffic at all. We have laws about turning on headlights because some people are dumb enough to drive without them. People do stupid things and we have laws that are supposed to stop them from doing stupid things. But really stupid people will do stupid things in spite of laws. They ignore stop signs and double yellow lines and endanger others and they should be punished for breaking those laws. But do we need Big Brother in the back of our pickup?
The Iraq War (2007)
I was taking a break from writing for the WIND when the war in Iraq began, but it's clear from the columns I wrote subsequently that I was not in favor of the war in Iraq. From its inception I thought it ill considered, uncalled for and a waste of lives and treasure. Yet every day I hear people, from private citizens to senators to our President say that the lives of our young people must continue to be lost in the sandy wastes of Iraq so that the good name of the United States of America will not be associated with the loss of yet another war. “We cannot accept defeat.” “ We can't leave until the job is done.” But those saying these things are not those who will be coming back in flag-draped coffins.
The good name of our country has already been sullied nearly beyond redemption by a war that did not have to be fought to protect us. The vaunted “coalition” is a humorless joke. There was no firing on Fort Sumpter, no sinking of the Lusitania, no sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, not even a trumped up fight in the Gulf of Tonkin. Only an attack by an Arab and his Arab cohorts, hatched in Afghanistan. And he and many of his lieutenants are still alive, as we have wasted 3,000 of our dead and more than 20,000 of our wounded, 9,000 seriously, in a futile war in Iraq. The monetary cost approaches $1 trillion and in the end will cost much more.
The 20,000 wounded will have to be cared for until they die. In Denver that will require the building of a new Veterans Administration hospital and it will cost almost one billion dollars. The money isn't available because the Iraq war is costing so much. The cost of just four days of that war would build the new hospital. Win or lose, and we will surely lose, it will have to be built.
The people who conceived this war had not read their history and they had not been to war. The Germans in WW II found France impossible to control because of the resistance. “Insurgent” is a word used by those who foisted this war on the American people, but an insurgent is someone who rebels against a lawful government. When we invaded Iraq, we were and still are the insurgents. The Iraqis who kill Americans are first cousins of the French in WW II and they are the Resistance. An entrenched and determined resistance cannot be beaten. The British found that out in 1783. We found that out in Vietnam. The Russians found it out in Afghanistan and our leaders, civilian and military, having learned nothing from history, are learning it yet again in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This war was begun by people who know too little about war, never having served, who never saw friends die in combat. General Douglas MacArthur, in his speech to the Congress in 1951 said “I know war as few other men now living know it, and nothing to me is more revolting. I have long advocated its complete abolition, as its very destructiveness on both friend and foe has rendered it useless as a means of settling international disputes.” No one I know who has seen war up close disagrees. War, in the end, is always useless, and these present wars will be no different, but those who sent us to this war have been too ignorant, too arrogant, and too stupid to know and understand the lessons of history.
I spent 25 years of my life in the service of my country and I consider the time well spent even though I spent several years fighting a losing and immoral war in Southeast Asia. I would do it again. But the lives of our current service men and women are the substance of our present and the foundation of our future. Wasting them in a war that has no moral basis and cannot be won is immoral.
Fueling the Future
This past year was a difficult one in our mountains as far as fuel costs were concerned. Propane was more expensive than ever and gasoline hovered around three dollars a gallon most of the year. Business people added the costs to their work, deliveries often had a fuel surcharge tacked on. Everything from fuel to garbage cost more.
We're very sensitive about fuel costs because we often have to travel to get to the necessities of life. Now President Bush has suggested reforming and modernizing Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for cars and extending the current light truck rule. “In 2017, this will reduce projected annual gasoline use by up to 8.5 billion gallons, a further 5 percent reduction that, in combination with increasing the supply of renewable and alternative fuels, will bring the total reduction in projected annual gasoline use to 20 percent.”
If we examine this goal closely we can see that it isn't a reduction at all, but simply not an increase, since by 2017 there will be a 20 percent increase in the number of vehicles and hence in consumption.
Our family has always tried to drive fuel efficient vehicles. But the need for a side-lift van meant buying a minivan that gets 15 miles per gallon. Many of us need our pick-ups and four wheel drive vehicles for work or simply to be able to drive in the winter. Sometimes we don't have a choice.
Much about the future of our fuels is uncertain. Our new governor is promoting 85/10 ethanol, fuel that's 85 % ethanol and 10% gasoline. But there are questions about the electrical energy required to convert corn to ethanol. It's possible to convert coal to gasoline and our country has the biggest coal supplies on the planet, but once again there are questions about the energy required to convert it. Our President suggests that we should make fuel out of grass. I think I won't hold my breath on that one.
In 2006 there was a demand for hybrid vehicles but since the current cost of gasoline has dropped by almost a third, hybrid vehicles are no longer in great demand. There are questions about the cost of battery replacement and the costs of battery recycling. Furthermore, charging the batteries requires gasoline, water, coal or natural gas to produce electricity. But the cost of gasoline has risen again in recent weeks, and in the future it can only go higher. A study released last month by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory determined that plug-in hybrids cut carbon-dioxide emissions by one half and save owners more than $450 a year in fuel costs.
One thing is certain: we are dealing with finite resources. One day there will be no more oil at any price, no more natural gas, no more propane and no more coal. But enough money is currently being made to stifle serious research into alternate, renewable sources of energy. General Motors made 1,000 electric cars, called EV1, between 1997 and 2003 and leased them to customers in California and Arizona. The last private EV1 lease expired in August of 2004. GM donated a small number of the returned EV1s to colleges and universities for engineering students, and to several museums including the Smithsonian Institution. The rest were destroyed. GM stated that it could not sell enough of the cars to make the EV1 profitable. Will the rising costs of fuel eventually have an impact on our valley? Will the costs significantly reduce the number of tourists? Will the costs force full-time residents to live closer to schools, hospitals and stores? Will the electric car make a comeback? We live in hope that solutions will be found as they have been in the past. But it may be later than we think.
Freedom of Speech and Ward Churchill
One of our esteemed, valued and faithful readers asked me the other day what I thought about Ward Churchill. He didn't ask because he thinks I'm insightful and brilliant. He asked because he knows I've been teaching at CU, Boulder, since 1984, for a number of years in the same department as Ward Churchill.
I hasten to point out that I've never met the man.
Mr. Churchill is certainly the uproar du jour at CU at least on the surface about free speech, and I am, of course, reminded of our own uproars over the years about the very same issue.
When about eight of us were tapping away on various typewriters at the Pee Wee Ranch more than 30 years ago, none of us gave much thought to such weighty issues as the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. Well, maybe some of them did. I wasn't one of them.
In those days we wrote pretty much whatever we thought about local issues and some of it was pretty vitriolic but it made us feel better and the 30 or 40 people who read it didn't seem to care. When we passed a circulation of 150 or so and began mailing them, it was different, and we began to think about the limits of the First Amendment. Over the years we've become much more aware. A few years ago a board member suggested that we should have liability insurance to protect us against a libel suit, and recently we've added a disclaimer to the masthead proclaiming that columnists opinions are their own. Still, I don't worry much about being sued for libel. Nobody hired me to write for the Wind. The only qualification is a willingness to make a fool of one's self in public. There are no minimum standards for this job. We do, however, try our best to be honest and to not bring discredit to the Wind.
The First Amendment is one of our better ones, certainly better than the eighteenth, and while there are limits, we can still say pretty much anything about anyone and not be sued. In academic circles it's called academic freedom and you can't be fired just because people don't like what you say. Tenure provides still another layer of protection. Still, you may not advocate the overthrow of the government by force and violence. You may say our President is an idiot. You may say Ward Churchill is an idiot. Freedom of speech isn't really the issue. It's the minimum standards, not the question of free speech, that concerns me.
For example, analogies are a dangerous rhetorical tool, as Churchill, who worked for the Communications Department, should have known in his comparison of workers in the towers to Adolf Eichmann. Cases with not enough similarities make bad analogies.
There are some questions that need to be asked about the facts of this case. For example, how could the Dean/Chancellor/President be unaware of the 9/12/2001 essay? Certainly they must have been aware of the nature of Mr. Churchill's rhetoric in his various writings, many of which have been severely criticized by scholars for their lack of academic rigor. Was his Curriculum Vitae not reviewed when he was proposed as Chair of the Ethnic Studies Department?
And speaking of his CV, what about his claim of being a Cherokee, and his military record? It now appears that he has no Native American blood at all. Should he claim membership of a tribe on his CU departmental web page? Is that claim false and did Mr. Churchill knowingly make that false claim?
He claims to have had combat experience in Vietnam. Is military experience on his CV? If so, is it true?
What about the Master of Arts degree from Sangamon? There have been questions about that as a terminal degree. Only 5% of CU tenured teachers have only a Master of Arts degree. Mr. Churchill is one of them. What was that program? What is/was that school's reputation? Sangamon doesn't exist any more. It was an “Alternative” school begun in the late 60's as a draft dodge. They gave no grades, only “evaluations.” Does that degree, in Communications, qualify him as a tenured professor of Ethnic Studies? Who was responsible for making that judgment?
Are these questions not researched as part of the hiring/promotion process? Is his CV false or deficient? If so, is it possible that other job applications in the faculty have been falsified or are deficient? Who is/was responsible for this process?
These are pretty good questions and they deserve pretty good answers before anyone draws any conclusions about Mr. Churchill's future at CU or CU's administration. Maybe he should be exonerated, maybe he should be fired. Maybe others should be fired. First we have to know all the facts.
The freedom of speech issue with regard to Mr. Churchill is what we call in rhetoric a red herring. Obviously Mr. Churchill has the right, as a free person, to say, within legal bounds, anything he likes. The question is whether Mr. Churchill should be teaching at CU or, indeed, at any accredited institution of higher learning. The answer to that lies in the real issue of honesty. Academic freedom carries with it the absolute requirement of honesty; the honesty of the administration and faculty. Before any conclusions are drawn about Mr. Churchill's employment the university (and the public) must find out if he has been honest, and whether the administration has been lax and/or dishonest in its hiring and promotion processes. [He was fired, sued and lost. No one in the administration was censured.]
The High Cost of War
The cost of waging war is high and the costs continue when the war is over. When I was injured in Southeast Asia in 1974 I was flown to an Air force hospital at Clark AFB (which no longer exists) in the Philippines. From there I was flown to Fitzsimons Army Hospital (which no longer exists) in Denver and from there to Letterman Army Hospital (which no longer exists) at the Presidio in San Francisco. At each place I had some surgery before definitive surgery at Letterman.
When I was airlifted to Fitzsimons I was put in a room that shared a bathroom with another patient. My injury was minor. He was in a helicopter when a bullet came through the floor and hit him as he was seated. That was five years before I met him. He was at Fitzsimons for his 22nd operation.
Since that time I’ve been routinely cared for at Fitzsimons before it closed and at the Veterans Administration hospital in Denver (which is slated for closing) since, so I’ve had more than 32 years of personal experience with how the government has treated me and many other wounded veterans. As a whole, the treatment has been excellent and costly for the American taxpayers.
Apparently I’ve been fortunate. Recent stories about Walter Reed Hospital and some Veterans Administration hospitals have cast doubt on the government’s ability adequately to fund and care for the casualties of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Among the many things the government didn’t anticipate in these wars is the large number of very badly wounded who nevertheless have survived. Many of these have brain injuries and many have lost limbs. Both categories will require lifelong and very expensive care.
The VA hospital in Denver is more than 50 years old, is next to the University of Colorado hospital and the two hospitals work closely together. Both hospitals will eventually move to the old Fitzsimons campus. The VA hospital has been renovated many times and it always has some maintenance going on. The pharmacy was recently upgraded to handle more people more efficiently. The Emergency Room is often crowded. The four public elevators are rarely all in service because they are the originals. A new parking garage was completed a few years ago. It is almost always full. The move for the hospital has been approved, but so far no money is available. The war in Iraq is currently costing two billion dollars a week and that cost is preventing the funding of the new VA hospital which is necessary because of the war.
In fact the entire military health care system has been shrinking and becoming more costly since the end of the Vietnam War. In Colorado there are eleven outpatient clinics and a 23 bed Medical Center in Grand Junction. The Denver hospital has 128 beds. Originally it had many more. It also has 100 Nursing Home Care beds. The influx of wounded currently has had a significant impact; it takes much longer to get appointments.
These days at the VA hospital I see the very old, like me, and the very young. The WW II patients are quickly disappearing. Now the old guys are from Korea and Vietnam and the very young are from Iraq and Afghanistan. Four wars, and not a winner among them. Four wars begun in haste and regretted at leisure.
The 2008 VA budget is $84 billion. The 2008 budget for the wars is $141.7 billion. The wars will be over eventually. The government assumes only $50 billion for 2009 and no funding after that. Somehow that seems very optimistic. The Department of Defense budget for 2008 is $481.4 billion and that figure will not decrease in the foreseeable future. As the costs of medical and mental health care continue to rise, and the number of veterans grows, so must the services and budget of the Veterans Administration if it is to fulfill its obligations to the nation's veterans and their families. The costs of war don’t end when the fighting is over.
The Mountains Don’t Care
Anyone who has climbed anything in our mountains has seen the sign at trailheads: “The mountains don’t care.” Unfortunately, people have to care. So every year we rescue people who ought to know better but who require help because they did something stupid. What’s more, they expect us to pay for their stupidity.
I was sixteen when I climbed Mt. Hood 45 miles east of Portland, Oregon. My journalism teacher at Lincoln High School was Margaret Oberteuffer. Mrs. Obie, as we called her, was a member, along with her husband Bill, of the Mazamas, which is still the premier climbing club in Oregon, named after the volcano that no longer exists but whose remains are now Crater Lake.
We climbed Hood on Memorial Day in 1951 from the south, starting from Timberline Lodge. The lower slopes by that time had no snow. Hood is the tallest mountain in Oregon, 11,237 feet. In terms of climbing it is a much more vertical climb than Longs because Hood’s base is at less than 3,000 feet. The main cone of Mount Hood formed about 500,000 years ago. In the last 15,000 years the volcano has had four eruptive periods. During the most recent eruptive period, 250-180 years ago, lava domes collapsed and produced numerous pyroclastic flows. Crater Rock, a prominent rocky pinnacle just below the summit, is the most recent lava dome. It still produces steam.
Later that same summer I climbed the east face of Longs Peak, but on Hood I learned a valuable lesson, as I watched the ice-axe my father had rented for me skitter away down an icy canyon. I learned to have a keeper on my wrist. I learned to take care of my equipment. It was a hard but useful lesson and I was embarrassed.
Mrs. Obie didn’t give me a hard time about the axe. She roped me behind her and I had no further trouble. She was a wonderful person and teacher. The things she taught me about journalistic writing have been reflected in these columns for the past 33 years. I remember a sign over her desk: “’Got’ to get another word.” I saw her at a reunion in 1992 and had the opportunity to thank her, which I’m sure I didn’t do in 1951. Her husband, also a teacher in Portland joined her in creating the 113 acre Oberteuffer Research and Education Forest for Oregon State University. She died in 2004. She was 83.
People like the Oberteuffers and the other members of Mazamas make it all the more difficult to understand why people continue to get themselves into trouble on Hood and other mountains by idiotic behavior. Every now and then we have some jackass who climbs Longs in the winter and dies in the attempt. But Hood seems to attract people who enjoy having others risk their lives and spend the taxpayers money to try to save them, sometimes unsuccessfully. In the most recent event, they took along their pet dog, in February. Now the Oregon legislature is trying to pass a bill requiring the use of locaters by climbers going above 10,000 feet. Locaters are a good idea, but there are an awful lot of stupid climbers. Most of them will take a dog instead of a locater.
Not only do the mountains not care, the planet doesn’t care, and weather at any time on the south and eastern slopes of mountains in these latitudes is difficult to predict. Climbing with the expectation of help in case of emergency is always both selfish and arrogant.
Mrs. Obie taught us to be responsible in everything we did; how we wrote, how we behaved and even in how we climbed. To depend on others to excuse our behavior, to overlook errors in fact or judgment in our writing was simply wrong. If we did it, we owned it.
People who belong on mountains always feel that way. What they do is between them, the mountain, and, if they choose, the Almighty. They understand that to ask others to risk their lives because of their mistakes is a greater failure than not making the summit.
As we have more and more people climbing our mountains we can expect many more incidents such as those on Mt. Hood. Mrs. Obie would not approve.
The Professional Military
You may not know that only one percent of Americans have been or are in the military. Still, we depend on our military to defend us if we’re attacked.
I entered the military through ROTC, which produces about 60 percent of all officers. The program has been around since 1862 and was compulsory for many years, becoming voluntary as a reaction to the Vietnam war. I went to Grinnell college, which has 1500 students and an endowment of $1.4 billion. It’s 60 miles east of Des Moines is one of the premier small private colleges in the country and has been since its founding in 1846. When I went there, ROTC was required in the first two years. But the program was short lived. Between 1950 and 1971 Grinnell graduated just 153 Air Force ROTC second lieutenants.
Most served just a few years. Some became colonels. One became a payload specialist for NASA. One became a physician and a member of Grinnell’s Board of Trustees. In my class of 12 in 1957, three of us stayed on, one way or another, to retirement. Two of us were Phi Beta Kappa. Neither was me. One served in KC-97s as a navigator. Another, became an instructor and later sold insurance. Another became a very big part of the Air Force intelligence service, made and sold intelligence equipment to the Air Force, some of which I used, and still serves as a civilian consultant to the DOD. Another served as a personnel officer in Spain before getting an MBA from Harvard in 1963 and becoming a banker. Another served as a Commissary Officer in Duluth before having a career as a CPA in New Mexico. Another worked in accounting and finance and became a commodities trader in Chicago. Another served as a personnel officer, got a Ph.D. and became a research scientist. Another went to law school before going on active duty, worked as an Air Force Lawyer and became a partner in a Minnesota law firm. Another was an F-102 pilot and became a Lt. Colonel. Finally, one became an Air National Guard pilot after serving on active duty and worked for an international electronics firm.
In 1971 Grinnell, along with many other colleges, closed its ROTC detachment under pressure from the student body. I often wonder, in the light of what has happened since, how those students feel about the wisdom of their efforts to demilitarize their school.
In my 22 years of active duty I saw many officers like me, the product of ROTC programs, but I also saw more and more graduates of the Academy, particularly in upper level management. Shortly after I finished my Ph.D. in 1969 I was asked to interview for a teaching position at the Air Force Academy but when I got there I heard all about the perks, the quarters and the escape hatch from the Vietnam war. I told them I was not interested and went to Guam instead to fly into typhoons and classified missions in Laos.
I did not trust then and I do not trust now an all “professional” military. Just two ROTC graduates have been Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Air Force Academy graduates I knew were, compared to ROTC graduates, sorely undereducated, probably through no fault of their own, but undereducated nevertheless. I grew up reading our history of citizen soldiery, about Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain boys who plucked the rifle from the mantle and went “on a wolf hunt.”
Countries that come to depend on professionals simply don’t last as world powers. It happened to Greece, it happened to Rome and to Great Britain and it will happen to us unless we involve every able man in the possibility of defense of our country. Depending on “volunteers” of the sort we have now are not our best and brightest, and not our best informed.
It’s far too easy to look on our professional, volunteer military as available for any military adventure a civilian might envision. It’s quite another thing to ask every able man to pick up a rifle from the mantle for an invented cause.
We should not be closing ROTC units, but opening them in our best schools and asking our best informed citizens to participate, if only for a few years, and to take that experience back into the civilian world and to their friends, coworkers and children. Every citizen should, at some point, serve their country.
We have tried an all-volunteer defense force, and it isn’t working because it’s detached from the people. Ours is a nation whose military works best when it’s of all the people, by all the people, and for all the people.
Our State Song
Since 1915 the Colorado State Song has been “Where the Columbines Grow,” music and lyrics by A.J. Fynn. He was inspired to write it in 1896. You can see and hear it at http://www.colorado.gov/dpa/doit/archives/symbols/song.htm
In March of this year John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” was made the second state song by the state legislature. There was considerable discussion about the line “Friends around the campfire and everybody’s high, high in Colorado.” But a convincing case was made that being in Colorado is a natural “high.” In 1985 he testified before Congress about the allegation: “This was obviously done by people who had never seen or been to the Rocky Mountains, and also had never experienced the elation, celebration of life, or the joy in living that one feels when he observes something as wondrous as the Perseids meteor shower on a moonless, cloudless night, when there are so many stars that you have a shadow from the starlight, and you are out camping with your friends, your best friends, and introducing them to one of nature's most spectacular light shows for the first time.”
The legislature ignored Denver’s song “Poems, Prayers and Promises,” which contains this line in the chorus: “Its really fine to have the chance to hang around and lie there by the fire and watch the evening tire while all my friends and my old lady sit and pass the pipe around.” That may not be about the altitude.
The song was number nine on the U. S. Hot 100 in 1973. The seventh stanza makes a reference to destruction of the mountains' beauty by commercial tourism and too many people, but he built a big house at the gated Starwood development in Aspen and had a sign on his gate: “You are not welcome here.”
His father was an Air Force pilot and his real name was Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr., born in Roswell, New Mexico in 1943.
I met him once in 1975, when I was taking some ROTC cadets on a tour of the NASA research facility at Sunnyvale, California. I told him I liked his music. He thanked me. In fact “Rocky Mountain High” had been released in late 1972 and my family and I were on Guam at the time, thinking about returning to the mainland and anticipating a vacation in Colorado. So the song had a special meaning for us. It reflected how we felt about Colorado and our hopes to retire there.
He died in 1997 when an airplane he was in the process of purchasing crashed into the Pacific just off Pacific Grove, California. The plane was a Burt Rutan design, a Long E-Z, a tandem two-seat kit aircraft. Denver had 2,700 hours of flight time, which is quite a bit for a civilian, but only a few hours in Rutan’s designs. This aircraft had been modified by the previous owner; the fuel valves had been moved from the front cockpit to the back. He flew it from the front, a mistake, and when it ran out of gas he had to turn around to try to turn the fuel valve. In the process the plane stalled and crashed.
In 1976 he started the Windstar Foundation, which continues at Snowmass. About it, he said: "Nothing would please me more than to know that there is an ever-expanding group of individuals who are working together each in their own way to improve the quality of life for all the life here on Spaceship Earth. That is what the music is about, that is what my life is about and that is what the Windstar Foundation is about."
Some complained that the state legislature wasted an hour making “Rocky Mountain High” the second state song. The legislature has wasted time on things far worse.
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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