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(Ames) Local standout and member of the 14er Club, Wilson Peak, will be the featured live guest on Meet the Press Sunday morning. The mountain, which recently shed an amazing 85 pounds in just twelve weeks, will appear as part of a weight-loss reading list promotion.

     (Break for ice cream commercial).

Joining her on the popular talk show will be her half-sister Mount Wilson who also lost a substantial amount of weight (45 pounds) during the same time period. The two will talk about their victory over fat and lingering  snowfields.

Wilson Peak (right) is shown in the attached photograph with her half-sister Mount Wilson. The almost twins were named after Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and are no relation to the late President Woodrow Wilson as local legend records it.

“I remember when we had to dress Wilson Peak in mounds of white just so she wouldn’t look so very obese,” said Mount Wilson. “All of us full-figured mountains soon discover that lighter colors are far more flattering and make us look smaller.”

(Break for ice cream commercial).

If all goes well during the filming of the program both mountains are sure to be invited back for a follow-up on chronic complexion problems slated for late August. That show will also celebrate a recent Department of the Interior decision to approve the construction of trophy homes above 14,000 feet by 2002.

The chore of traveling with and delivering mountains to a set in New York or Los Angeles is a daunting task, one that often requires more muscle than intellect and more diligence than common sense.

Network spokespersons refused to comment on the proceedings until after the snow melts in June.

“We’re expecting great things here,” said one broadcaster. “Weight loss with a touch of wilderness is a sure winner in these days of reality television, concussions and your simulated breathing experiments.”

Rip-Snortin’ at Animas Forks

The soft autumn sunlight hung on the edge of the porch toasting the cabin in coveted warmth. The nights had turned flat cold since the August rains had quit, leaving Eliot T-Bone wondering what winter would bring.

At 74, he hardly made it over to American Basin anymore, where he had toiled for some 45 years in search of the big bonanza that was always at the end of tomorrow’s pick and shovel. With the Finns he had mucked out enough rock to build a city larger than any in Hinsdale County. When claims played out they had survived working for wages at larger mines and tending to their placer digs on Henson Creek. Hand to mouth and back to work. It was worse over there in Europe according to the Austrians with wars overlapping wars and peasant sons plugged in for cannon fodder on the battlefields while kings grabbed glory and gold.

After a edgy lifetime he had accumulated worthless piles of ore, shafts almost to China and tobacco stains on everything. Living on beans, flour biscuits and elk meat had taken a toll on th

e system but there were few vegetable gardens at 9500 feet. Sure, his claim was secure and they couldn’t run him off, at least today. He still had his mules and the friends who hadn’t died off yet. He had this fallen down cabin at Animas Forks. Living off the land he was, or wasn’t it the other way around. He just didn’t see any reason to travel up over Cinnamon to Lake City anymore.

Silverton was another matter. He still made weekly trips to Howardsville for supplies, and then traveled on for a night on Blair Street with all the desperate Silverton miners and the far more desperate Silverton whores.

When the weather was bad he would just stay home by the fire soaking beans, making jerky, firing up his dutch oven. He had been home on one such night last winter when one of the prostitutes went mad killing three miners with a butcher’s knife accentuated by sticks of dynamite. That was some big excitement and he almost wished he had been in town to see the blood and the fireworks. Yes, things were that boring out in Animas Forks now that everyone had deserted the place and morbid rock faces stared him down every morning and night.

He scratched his ribs under a dirty union suit and stretched. The deer and the whistle pigs didn’t worry or fret about this life. They just lived it happy to survive another afternoon. Why were people so damned difficult? He had become a near recluse but still welcomed several of his old friends to the porch Emil Turlough, the local doctor, long retired came by every Thursday on his way back from Gladstone. Stan Celkirk still ran sheep up toward the pass in the summer. Oral Stishnik and Peter Leary quit guiding hunters up and down these mountains some time ago. Now their sons did the deed while the old men gave advice and smoked their pipes. They still stopped in and he visited them in a town that boasted electric lights and carriages straight from Paris, or so they said.

The rest of them could pretty much go to hell. Pistol wielders, flimflam men and painted women, and let us not forget the righteous out to save souls and make a profit too. The Utes and Chinee were mostly gone. Murdered and disappeared in the dust of progress and comfortable living. What about the souls of these dead? Where do they hang their ghostly hats?

Most of the newcomers in Silverton had no connection to the place…except money. Were things really that bad other places? They had the combined charm of a pan of burnt eggs and the warmth of a basket of rattlesnakes. Flatlander bastards. They didn’t know a thing about life as it once was in the boom days. They wouldn’t have been able to make it back then. They didn’t pay him any attention, much less a sprinkle of respect, when he wandered into town. They only stared at his bad teeth and skinny string of mules with saddles that didn’t fit any of them. They all dressed up like they were going somewhere, but there was nowhere to go. The mindless march of lemmings served well by the presence of so many convenient cliffs and deep ravines.

Don’t matter anyhow…since most don’t journey far from town except in the summer. They leave us fellows out here alone and we should return the favor. That new preacher from Mancos said he’d pick up whatever I needed from town and haul it out here but I’m afraid there are celestial strings attached. Before you know it this boy will be holding services and singing psalms right here from the porch. Too much.

My few neighbors, the deer and the bear wouldn’t have any of that. They get by without all these fairy tales. They don’t even know where they came from or where they’re going. They just live. The marmots in the ground, the hawks in the sky, the ponderosa stretching up toward the heavens. They just exist without all the trimmings, the dogma.

He remembered when he had come to this country, seeing the glory of the San Juans for the first time. All the enthusiastic unbroken bodies scrambling for their fortunes in gulch camps and tent cities that sprang up after the Great War. Refugees from the madness embracing another kind of insanity far away in these ragged mountains. The snow covers up the mess. It’s clean and fresh for a while.

The years go by. More elk stew, beans and biscuits and more dreams of striking it rich. He stared at his pile of firewood, then out across the dim light. There had been bighorn sheep crossing over about a mile down toward Silverton. He had seen the tracks in the snow. He wondered if he had the energy to shoot one and pack it back up here. The price of solitude.

Having never married, he had no family to care for him in his old age. He remembered courting and heartbreak, custom brides from far away Missouri and escapes from the entanglements of it all. Sure he’d gone shopping for a wife in Durango back some 30 years ago. He even brought one curious prospect up the hill but by late afternoon it was clear she would grow to hate him and the mountains. Better left alone.

It was quiet here and he had no one to make happy but himself. He went to slept when he pleased and got up when he damn well wanted to. He snored and wore socks to bed. He ate elk stew that he couldn’t taste anymore despite the peppers that he bought in Hermosa the summer before. Every day was pretty much the same.

Just then a sudden explosion ripped through the evening causing bull elk to raise their heads, sending fuzzy marmots scurrying into rocky holes. Fish stopped swimming, eagles stopped soaring, sows looked around for their cubs.

This was no mere elk bugle. It was an excurrent discharged, an outburst expelled as if from a buffalo stampede, a bonafide T-Bone bugle that surprised even him. A highly audible sonic boom from the vicinity of his drop-drawers. Thunderous repercussions! Burgeoning landslides! Curious windbreaks! Gaseous dynamite in the digestive tract. The flatulence ripping with major magnitude that echoed down the valley. Inadmissible punctuation quite relevant for the times, or so he thought. He laughed out loud a little surprised, a little proud of himself. The world stopped for a flash.

     Eliot T-Bone stretched, scratched his ribs, yawned and walked into his cabin.

– Kevin Haley


(Ridgway) Even as a young girl Lucy Mills had a thing for trains. Growing up near Dallas Divide she witnessed the passing from narrow gauge to split rail to the more modern welded steel rail tracks. She saw freight trains, boxcars, hoppers and flatcars. What ever made her want to chase them is anyone’s guess.

All it took was a whistle or maybe just the rumble of a caboose and she was off. One morning, in a rush to catch a slow gondola car she ran out of the cabin with nothing on but her boots and longhandles. That got some attention.

“We aren’t sure what she’d do if she ever caught one of the trains,” quipped one engineer. “In the beginning I figured she was just a little short of sense but when I saw those eyes gleaming in the light of the engineer’s lamp I knew we were dealing with someone quite special.”

The generally reliable source says he actually observed Mills biting at the cross-ties and the rails themselves.

“She’s like a mad dog when the train comes through town,” he frowned. “Not only is she a danger to herself but she scares our passengers.”

That may not be completely true since many tinhorns and other visitors to our country have taken to wagering bets on Mills and her curious endeavors. Last week, near Portland, a Chinese prince lost an estimated $350 when Mills failed to catch a slow freight. Sadly Mills had to be hog-collared by a nearby hump conductor and three gandy dancers who were busy placing ballast on the roadbed.

One of the fastest women in Ouray County Mills does manage to stay in great shape through her questionable hobby.

“We’d rather see her chasing horses or running down elk but she’s hooked on the trains,” said her father known in town as Pa. “I think it’s the sound and the fact that the trains make such a production of their arrivals and departures. It drives her nuts.”

Several of the leading freight companies have even attempted to hire Mills so as to distract her from the chase but that didn’t work. Apparently she didn’t take to a series of desk jobs preferring to be outside along the tracks.

“At least she doesn’t attempt to ram locomotives like that guy over in Placerville,” said Toole. “Now there was a man obsessed with technology.”

– Casey Jones 

Just a liitle rusty around the edges?

State cracks down on counterfeit barbecue aromas

(Gunnison) With the summer coming to a close, the Colorado Health Department has set new restrictions on escaping food odors, especially when the gastronomic source is unconfirmed. Popular fragrances, like those emanating from slowly smoked meats, are expected to be the first to go under the microscope.

Is this simple protectionism from an overzealous government agency? The effort is aimed at a less than appreciative populace that overwhelmingly feels it can make its own olfactory decisions.

Many industry spokespersons say the state has no place in curbing non-threatening scents and that the diversity in their culinary art is celebrated through the familiar bouquet generated by the cooking over traditional hardwoods. They demand an end to the interference which they claim diminishes the entire eating experience.

Meanwhile the government insists it is reevaluating phony aromas that may mislead people as to what’s for dinner.

“We don’t want a lot of culinary disappointments clouding prospective menus,” said one official. “We want people to smell the right smell and react in a positive manner. If we allow the presence and acceptance of bogus aromas we could throw off the entire food chain.”

The source went on to say that her agency is highly concerned with maintaining a passive population at all times.

“Pavlovian expectation can be devastating to a social order that wallows in promises of better days to come” she explained.

Pulling out a handy anatomical chart, she reminded consumers that the sense of smell is one of the five human senses along with sight, sound, feeling and taste. That said it was apparent everyone was not buying in to this latest safeguard.

“Why doesn’t our benevolent gov’ment address the subject of pollution and the rotting ozone instead of instituting high-handed limits on secondary aromas? asked one consumer advocate. “We’re not talking life threatening rudiments like fossil fuel pollution or even cigarette smoke here.”

Other critics say that governments prefer to frighten its citizenry with mindless concerns while ignoring real issues that are beyond its reach. They cite decisions to drop bombs rather than repair bridges.

“Diversions like barbecue smells mask the inability to solve real social problems and maintain infrastructure,”said the consumer advocate. “Sadly. the voters get the leaders they deserve.”

Colorado and other states fear the federal wing of the growing mess will cut off matching funds if they do not comply with the new precincts.

-Uncle Pahgre

Cattle Truck Tours in Hot Water Again

(Ouray) A local company offering authentic cattle truck tours of the Uncompahgre Valley has been called onto the carpet again this year due to what civic leaders are calling bad taste.

     A throng of detractors from both the public and private sector say Melvin’s Cattle Tours Ltd. has breached the thin line between what is entertaining and what is deplorable.

     “This is the proto-type of bad tourism,” said a chamber source. “It’s not in keeping with the image that we are trying so very hard to project for the summer season.”

     The unconfirmed comments went on to suggest that the operation, owned by Melvin Toole of Elk Meadows, creates an extremely  bad precedence, ridicules the cattle industry and demeans innocent tourists out for some good clean fun. A mounting contingent of critics say hauling tourists around the mountains inside a cattle truck is unsavory enough on its own, and when coupled with the poor driving and bad judgment, common to Toole’s derelict staff of reckless drivers, it becomes downright dangerous.

     Stopping short of banning what Toole calls “See The Mountains Like the Cows See Them”, the concerned citizens say they hope the proprietor will quit his bovine adventures voluntarily, adopting a more civilized method of making a living.

     “Maybe he could arrange jeep tours, offer sky diving or open an art gallery,” said one county commissar.

     Following a plethora of 2004 complaints relating to the condition of the cattle trucks and the bullying of passengers by drivers, the city has considered pulling Toole’s license. Last year hordes of angry visitors, feeling gouged by the $150 hourly fee, formed a constant parade through both the chamber and the mayor’s office.

     When contacted at what he calls his Natty Dread Love Shack, nothing more than a corrugated bindle shift sans pinchbeck office, Toole said he didn’t care if the authorities pulled his license since he never really wanted the thing in the first place.

     “I can just get me another one of those licenses up in Silverton for about ten bucks,” he blasted. “Now there’s a town that’s commerce friendly. This is America!” he raved on, “or at least it used to be. I will not be intimidated by this bureaucratic schlock, no sireeee. When the tourists hit I’ll be a-waitin’. Hell, I might even arrange to pick some of them up when they arrive at the airport.”

– Fred Zeppelin