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Monday, October 6, 2014

Colorful Colorado: Aspen Leaf Peeping on Highway 165

                                       Fall From Inside Abandoned Homestead On Highway 165


One of the many joys of living in Colorado is being able to take off on a fall day trip and enjoy some leaf peeping.

In the over two decades that we've enjoyed Colorado, this is the first time we've chosen State Highway 165. And we're glad we did. There are certainly more well-known and spectacular views on other roads. But even at the height of leaf peeping (Oct. 5) the highway had very light traffic and ample opportunities to pull over and take pictures and enjoy the crisp, but balmy mountain air.

SH 165 starts at the junction of SH 96, about 15 miles east of Silver Cliff. Continue on SH 165 and you'll drive by the unique attraction of Bishop's Castle and also eventually hit stunning San Isabel Lake.

                                             Leaf Peeping And Some Great Rock Formations

Yet another bonus of the mostly undiscovered SH 165 is there are two roads to the tiny town of Beulah that intersect. Both roads are rather rough and a 4-wheel drive or high-clearance vehicle is recommended.

                                                                 Uncrowded Views

Like most highways off the beaten track in Colorado, there is always something unique to discover. The altitudes on this road reach well over 9,000 feet, so bring plenty of water. There aren't many amenities along this stretch of SH 165 and the only opportunities for food are drink are a concession stand at Bishop's Castle and a good restaurant by Lake San Isabel.

                              A Lone Aspen Makes A Statement Above An Abandoned Homestead



pictures and text submitted by D. H. of southern Colorado

Have a story or pictures of a place of interest in your neck of the woods? Submit to: wildwordsclub@gmail.com for possible publication on this blog. Let the world know what is special about where you live.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Florence Colorado's Finest: Officer, There's A Rattlesnake In My House!

Duct Tape: One of Law Enforcement's Finest Tools In Snake Wrangling

I came home after a long day's work at an antique store on Florence's Main Street. For those of you who don't know, Florence Colorado is a friendly, small town that is also the Antiques Capital of Colorado. And for those of you who don't know: Florence is also home to one of the finest police forces. I should know--I've had enough interactions with them in my few short years here. 

And for those who don't know: Florence has quite the bunch of animals alternately amusing and scaring the heck out of some of its residents.

I put my feet up and heard a few crackling noises. I didn't think much of it. We had had a mouse in the free-standing pine cupboard in our kitchen a few weeks ago. One day when I went to get some dog food out of the cupboard, I scared the mouse and it flew onto me, as we both screamed and both went running for cover. I figured the mouse was back.

But the rustling noises were so persistent, I finally called upon my mellow Collie and feisty (but chicken)  Terrier to be of some use, other than being adorable and loyal, and check out the noises. Both pooches dutifully went into the kitchen and the Collie looked alarmed and herded something, possibly by the kitchen sink.

I went back to relaxing. Got dinner on. My husband came home from a really long day at work and we settled in to watch Sleepy Hollow.    I heard a crackling noise, grabbed the remote to turn the TV down and asked my husband, "What is that noise?"   

I still had the remote in my hand when he got up and yelled, "My gosh! There's a rattlesnake under the bookcase!"

Always calm under pressure, he told me to get the dogs into the bedroom. Of course, they were timidly walking towards the little serpent. We all ran to the bedroom. Well, not my husband. I'll call my husband, Dirk.

Dirk, stood in the living room staring at where he last saw the snake disappear under the bookcase. I hissed, from the bedroom, "Call 911! And come to the bedroom NOW!."

I'm calm (in my actions) in threatening situations--but I tend to flap my arms like a bird and hiss a lot when a mouse jumps out of a cupboard on me, or when a rattlesnake rattles for at least 30 seconds under any of my furniture.

"Call 911!"

Dirk attempted to get Siri (or whatever the heck that lady's name is on the I-phone) to get the non-emergency number for Florence Police Department. But he refuses to run like a chicken to the bedroom and tells me he needs to see where the snake is and if it stays in place. Our conversation goes like this:

Dirk: Find Florence Police Department.

Siri: I've found two police departments. Do you want me to call emergency services?

Me: It's a damn emergency! Tell Siri to call 911. Or better yet--you do it!

Dirk: Find Florence Police Department.

Siri: I've found two police departments. Do you want me to call emergency services?

Me: Call 911 right now or I'll strike worse than a rattlesnake.

Dirk is finally compelled by my hysterical tones to call 911. If my phone hadn't been too close to the snake, I would have called 911 without getting Siri involved. Dirk later told me that he was trying to call non-emergency because he didn't want to get chastised for calling 911 for a questionable reason. I wonder what would have qualified for an emergency in Dirk's opinion? Godzilla busting through our roof? An escapee from Super Max knocking on our door and asking for cupcakes, a change of clothes and traveling money? 

Officers from Florence Police Department arrive a few moments later. I peek my head out of the bedroom door and saw two uniformed officers. I somehow expected them to have big leather gloves, I guess like the kind you use to train falcons and perhaps a beekeeper's headgear and some boots. And maybe a snake-catching hook. I see nothing of the sort and yell at one of the officers," Do you have some type of tools or equipment?"

One officer chuckles, "Nope. The only tool I have is a lack of common sense."

My adrenalin levels were so high that I seem to remember mumbling something to Dirk about having concerns that they aren't trained for this--and where the heck is someone from wildlife or the humane society, or the snake wrangling society.

The officer assures me that he can handle this and I tell him I am just concerned for their safety. After all, I had stuffed clothes and plastic under the bedroom door cracks in case something went wrong.

I decide to close the door and keep my semi-hysteria to myself and let Florence's finest do their job. After all, Dirk is watching out for them. Dirk later confided that he would have done the snake wrangling himself, with possibly the help of a male friend a few blocks away, but he knew I would not permit that. He got that right!

I have the bedroom door shut and nearly hermetically sealed, But I do hear the officer ask if we have a wire coat hanger. The words are barely out his mouth and I'm flinging a wire coat hanger down the hallway. I then ask if a metal trash can would help. "It sure would," the officer answers.

I fling that like a hockey puck down the hallway and this time keep the door closed.

I hear some rattling. I'm quivering and consider yelling,"Just shoot the darn snake, I don't care about my house or belongings!" I shut my mouth. And in case you don't know--I get upset if I accidentally step on a snail and am a member of the ASPCA and the Humane Society. So, killing a snake is not first on my list of options.

I hear more rattling. Then the officer, the lead snake wrangler, screamed an expletive. "Oh, pardon my French."

"Don't worry," Dirk muttered, "I've said a lot worse."

This is not going well, so I stuff more things under the door and another expletive is heard. I'm actually thinking more and worse expletives in my thoughts than the officer could ever utter.

More rattling, thumping and then silence. I decided to pull up my big girl panties and see what's going on.

The officer said," Hey, do you have any duct tape? And hey, what about a piece of cardboard box?"

Ah, the high-tech world of snake wrangling.Dirk runs to the garage to trim some cardboard. I'm still shivering in the bedroom and finally get enough guts to see what is going on.

Ah, the officer and lead snake handler is proudly crouched by a large vintage Quality Candies tin that we use as a trash can. He is holding down a neatly trimmed piece of cardboard and waiting for Dirk to bring some duct tape.

Now, I purchased this candy tin (now a snake cage) from a fellow antique dealer who used to work at the same shop as I did. And come to think of it, I also purchased the lovely pine bookcase the snake was hiding under from her. We no longer work at the same antique store, but she still works downtown in the trade--so I think I'll have to pay her a visit this weekend and tell her to take her voodoo hex snake powder curse off the two items I purchased from her that were involved in the rattlesnake battle.

The officer, whom I will now refer to as, Officer Hero, was smiling and asked me if I'd like to take a peek at the rattlesnake before the cardboard got taped down.

"Thanks, but heck no!"

"Oh, come on," he cajoled," Curiosity will get the best of you!"

"No, it won't," I screeched.

Seeing my obvious agitation and lingering affects of adrenalin, he decided to comfort me with the information that there were a lot of rattlesnakes around here. Well, I'll be darned. We live in a newer house in the developed part of Florence. Certainly not on farmland or in the more rural areas.

Dirk brought in the duct tape. Officer Hero and the other two officers--I did not notice until I calmed down that there were three officers-- did a bang up job of duct taping the cardboard to the candy tin.

I ask all of them what I can do for them, since I am grateful for what they did. "Nothing, we get paid for this," one of the other officers replied.

You don't get paid enough, I am thinking. I was thinking along the lines of buying tickets for the Policeman's Ball, if Florence even has such a thing, or donating to some police charity--but am too rattled (pun intended) to pursue that idea.

"Okay," Officer Hero said," We'll take care of the snake and be back to return the tin later. And if it's too late and you're not up, we'll just leave it on the porch."

"Oh, I think I'll be up most of the night after this."

Officer Hero was truly fantastic. He had attempted to get the snake by just blindly scooping at it with the hanger and then later this hook-type thing called a Thera-Cane that one uses to reach sore spots in places you can't reach.

Dirk later told me Officer Hero and the other officers didn't wish to move the bookcase because they were afraid of breaking things. Of course, Dirk told them that people were more important than our things.

So, right before the officers left to take care of the rattler, he had the other two move the bookcase back. It turns out Officer Hero is a bit of an interior decorator. He told the other two officers after they moved the bookcase back, "Hey, that's not centered!"

They immediately centered it.

If you look at the above picture, blurry as it is, due to Dirk still being a bit rattled when taking the picture, in the foreground is a pile of dust bunnies. As I came staggering out of the bedroom that's the first thing I noticed before the snake  candy tin. "Oh my God," I yelled," Are those dust bunnies?! On top of this, do I have to be embarrassed in front of the police due to dust bunnies?"

Dirk later told me the officers were going to release the sneaky serpent back into the wild.

I asked Dirk what all the mild cussing and noises were. "Oh, the snake just kept escaping and striking at him."

"Oh, is that all?"

I asked Officer Hero if he'd ever done this before. "Unfortunately, I've done it a few times."

Officer Hero grabbed the tin, which was rattling louder than a tambourine.

And that kids, is why the Florence Police Department is great. It really helps to have an officer with the same twisted sense of humor I have.

Dirk later told me that Officer Hero was teasing me about showing me the snake, because if he lifted the lid it would have continued striking at him. 

So, next time you see one of Florence's finest--raise your respect and a roll of duct tape for all they do.                                

Friday, August 15, 2014

Oh, Snap! He Came Out Swinging More Than His Towel

Everyone who is tired of reading and hearing about the stereotypical danger breeds of dogs, raise your paws. Aha!

I suffered through a true story that proves just about any type of breed of dog may be hazardous to one's health--and in this case, one's modesty.

At one time my husband and I lived in a small apartment about our landlord's house. The landlord's family owned an English bulldog. I'll call the bulldog Max. Max, of course, is not his real name, since I wish to save the pooch and his family any embarrassment. But come to think of it, it was my family that suffered some embarrassment.

It was a hot summer day and we had our front door open since there was no cooling system in the apartment. Can you say slum lord? I can--but they were actually nice people just trying to make an extra buck. May came galloping up the stairs into the living room. He did that every so often just to be friendly.

This time it was different. The landlord allowed no pets. Why, I have no idea. They had a pet. And the apartment was, well, just a touch dumpy. We had two dogs that we boarded with my mother in the country. Every couple of months, we'd bring our favorite dog, Guido (his real name) to the apartment to visit for a few hours.

Guido (long gone to dog heaven) was a small mutt, who though full-grown, looked like a puppy. Max ran through the doorway and pounced on Guido. I don't believe Max was on a killing mission; I believe her was simply shocked that there was a dog in our apartment when there had never been one there on his previous, impromptu visits. But the attack was a bit scary.

I tried reasoning with Max--then yelling. Just as I was panicking, a teenager, the girlfriend of the landlord's son, came bounding up the stairs after the missing dog.

She, too, screamed and attempted to separate the snarling dogs to no avail.

I yelled to my husband who was in the bathroom taking a shower. He couldn't hear what I was saying, just the semi-hysterical tone of my voice.

He was so intent on rescuing Guido that he didn't notice the girl in our living room. Yep, he came out of the bathroom swinging more than his towel. He snapped his towel and bellowed at the dogs, which startled Max enough to let loose of Guido.

Apparently swinging more that his towel shocked the girl enough to run out of our living room, bulldog in tow, without a word to either of us.

OK, at the time I was a writer for a small-town newspaper. I might have mentioned this incident in my weekly column the next week. Of course, I changed all the names.

This was in the days before the Internet, but it didn't take long for reaction to come in. People started stopping by the newspaper office giving me the thumbs up, leering and chuckling. So far, the response was 100 percent positive, until THE GIRL showed up at the office hinting my head needed to be pounded into the pavement.

We were standing outside the newspaper office, since she requested I step outside. I had no idea she wanted to step outside into the alley so there would be no witnesses.

Her: Why the f--- did you print that? she screamed.

Me: Because it was funny. And I hate to tell you this, not much happens in this town, or my life for that matter, and we are always looking for newsy tidbits to fill up the paper.

Her: Well, the story NEVER F--ing happened.

Me: Well, it did. I was there. You were there. But I didn't even mention your name--or the dog's name for that matter.

Her: FOR GOD'S SAKE! The whole town knows you. They know where you live, so they would figure it out, you dumb...

Me: Oh! Well, I do apologize. You see, I never did complete my degree from journalism school and...

Somehow I got her to calm down and she left the alley without breaking my fingers. I went back into the office. My phone was ringing.

It was my towel-snapping husband calling from the restaurant where he worked. He was gasping. "I just got a phone call that Jamie has been calling people all over town. One or two, or maybe a whole bunch of them, came in the restaurant today, and said she was coming after you!"

"It's too late. She already did."

"Are you OK?"

"Yep, for a sweet-faced girl with those adorable cheeks ya just want to squeeze, she curses like a sailor and threatened to kill me."

I didn't tell Jamie, that at heart I am a chicken. But the next week, column deadline rolled around and for some reason I could NOT think of a thing to write about. Then I got to thinking that Jamie really had a lot of nerve thinking she could threaten my fingers and the freedom of the press. After all, if one lives in a Podunk town, just about everything more exciting than the farm report will end up in the paper.

I wrote another column--no, not about corrupt politicians, but errant pooches and unfortunate towel placement. After the column was published outlining her thuggish tendencies, we never heard from her again.

Barely out of my teens myself, I learned that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword. And that a man's voice and a snapping towel are indeed mightier than two girls screaming.

Right after the girl ran out of our apartment, my husband, red-faced and mortified, commented that now this girl--a virtual stranger was only the third person to see him naked, besides his mother and me.

I had news for him--make that only two people. I close my eyes.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Florence, Colorado: Welcome To My Mayberry-- Pack Rats

Welcome To My Mayberry


                                                                       The Rural Life

Apparently only about three out of ten Americans know what it is like to live in a rural area or a small town. I am one of those people.

I've lived in areas of all sizes, from the New York area to a small town in California. By choice, I now live in another small town--this time more in the geographical center of the United States.

Welcome to my Mayberry. The stories are true, but all names and certain details have been changed to protect privacy.

We used to live in a small town in California and I used to complain that everyone knew everyone's business. It was my goal to get to a bigger city, which we did. And as maturity set in, my goal was to get to a smaller town where most everyone knows everyone's business and watches everyone's backs.

My Mayberry is quaint. There are 1800's buildings lining the small main street and many antique shops and art galleries. But the town is not touristy, even though perhaps it wishes it was.

I occasionally work at one of the town's many antique shops. That sounds rather dull. And sometimes it is. But usually it is not.

In my Mayberry most everyone knows everyone. In the real Mayberry, of TV fame, Mayberry had it's dark side. There was Otis the drunk. And rebel hillbillies. And con men.

Why did we move to our Mayberry? Lower real estate prices. And lower crime.

In many small towns, the weekly newspaper runs the police blotter. This week there was a report of an unknown robber stealing a bag of donuts, for the second time, from a convenience store.

There is something about donuts and small towns. I once read of a female police officer, also in a small town, who got the heck beat out of here by an elderly woman who was angry that the store was out of her favorite jelly donuts.

There are no doughnut shops in my Mayberry--so local law enforcement is safe. Perhaps one doesn't really know what goes on in a small town until one is sitting on the main street. In my last Mayberry, many years ago, my job involved being all about town. This time, my job involves sitting in a staid antique store.

I can't go looking for action, it comes to me.

Local stories have it that my Mayberry was a ghost town of sorts about 20 years ago. Abandoned buildings lining the main street. When the sun would start to set, travelers down main street would see lines of snakes leave the cooler side of the street to go to the warmer side.

The snakes are mostly gone. But now there pests of another kind invading the town.

Every antique store I've ever worked in, or was a customer at, attempted to present a decent facade. Soft music. Tasteful arrangements. Even if the store was dusty and piled with junk and some treasure, there was a certain gentility.

Now, in my Mayberry there are those types of stores. But unfortunately the stores or antique malls I work in or have my merchandise in, lacks a certain gentility.

The other day I went in to stock my booth and discovered that all my bouquets of dried flowers, harvested from my own yard, had been ripped to shreds. At first I thought it was human caused. But when I took the bouquets home to repair them, I noticed many had been chewed.

When I went back a few days later, I saw the real evidence. Poop. Big poop. In piles all over my booth. The size of the poop, mouse-shaped, was so big that I couldn't imagine there would be rats that big outside of New York City.

The booth next to me had baskets of dried corn that was shucked and piles and piles of poop.

So, I went to the store where I work to tell my co-worker, who also has items at Poop Antique Mall, about my discovery.

But Ruby was too excited about all the excitement at our antique store, which I will call, Brand X Antiques.

One of her friends, a male in his sixties, was visiting at the store. That's way it is in our Mayberry. People drop by to visit and stay for hours. Her friend, Len, let out a bloodcurdling scream. I believe it was akin to a schoolgirl howling, Ruby said.

Ruby went running to see what could make a grown man shriek like a schoolgirl watching a horror movie.

Now Ruby is a  woman who has been around the block a few times. But sometimes those type of folks are pretty soft underneath with hearts as big as, well, as big as a New York City rat.

She followed Len's screams and came to a screeching halt at a $200 waist-high  glass vase, circa 1960's. The vase is hideous in my opinion and is about three-feet tall. But the vase was even more hideous when she followed Len's finger, pointing to the inside of the floor vase.

Now, I am no expert on rodents. But Ruby noted there was a "pack rat" in this grotesque vase. He apparently was close to a foot long. Now, if I had heard her story a few hours earlier, I would have written it off to exaggeration. But I had seen the ginormous size of the poop at Poop Antique Mall.

I'm no expert on rodents, but I thought it was hilarious since most people in the antique trade are pack rats and, ahem, hoarders.  What kind of mouse or rat could be trapped in an antiques store other than a pack rat?

I'm pretty sure Ruby could take any man down in a bar fight, but she got on the horn to the local Humane Society.

The Humane Society was not interested in coming over and dealing with a rat.

So, Ruby called one of those rid a critter outfits and they said they wouldn't come over unless it was something like a raccoon that was causing a problem.

Hmmm. Where I grew up, there was an expression: " Welcome as a turd in a punch-bowl."

It seems to me that a rat in a $200 vase in an antique shop would be even less welcome that a turd in a punch-bowl or piles of poop and corn and shredded flowers in a classy antique display.

Ruby didn't think to call the police. But I am sure the police were busy trying to find the doughnut bandit. Perhaps the doughnut bandit was really a pack of pack rats that are plaguing our classy Mayberry.

So, Ruby's tale of woe didn't make it to the newspaper's police blotter. You'll only read about things like this in My Mayberry.

Ruby did the next logical thing. She ran to the antique store next door and told the owner. It so happens the owner's grandson was there. He was very excited to be given the job of "humane pack rat relocation."

But the grandson, age 13 or so, was in no hurry, to free the pack rat from his hideous retro glass prison. He made Ruby wait until his friend arrived at the shop for the excitement. So, the two boys, carried a bizarre three-foot glass vase several blocks to the railroad tracks and set the grateful rat free.

Ruby paid them a small fee for their services, which delighted them. But I have it on good authority, that would have done it for free. You see, teen-age boys love stuff like that.

So, next time you go into an antique store and purchase a  mid-century modern vase for $200--make you sure you wash it out. You never know what might have been in there.

Mayberry Dweller--USA

photo courtesy of FreeFoto.com