Monthly Archives: April 2014

Four Mile Historic Park


Four Mile

The House at Four Mile

When I give a house tour, I always say, “This is a museum.  What’s the rule?”  “Don’t touch!”  is their response.  All through the house I have to remind them, “Don’t touch.”

I work part time at Four Mile Historic Park.  I help with elementary school field trips and birthday parties.  Four Mile was a stagecoach stop on the Cherokee Trail from the 1859 Pike’s Peak Gold Rush until the railroad came to Denver in 1870.  It is four miles from the Intersection of Colfax Avenue and Broadway, where the Colorado State Capitol building stands.

The Cherokee Trail came down Cherry Creek to Denver, then went north to close to the Wyoming border, then west to Fort Bridger and on to California.  The stage line came west from Leavenworth, Kansas on the Smoky Hill Trail across Kansas to where Limon now is.  It then came across present Elbert County and down Smoky Hill Road to the Cherokee Trail and Denver.

The Four Mile station operated from 1859 to 1870 when the railroad came down to Denver from Cheyenne.  It then was a farm and informal neighborhood center until around 1940.  Today it is owned by the City of Denver and operates as a nonprofit.

The original house dates to 1859 and is the oldest standing structure in Denver.  It is the museum I referred to in the first paragraph.  We have horses and wagon rides, a stagecoach and several other wagons.  There are goats, chickens, a tipi, a trapper’s cabin, wells, barns, gardens, and lots of places to picnic.

Our goal with school trips is to give students a taste of life in the nineteenth century.  They are often shocked to find out that people managed to survive without iPads.  Another goal is for them to have fun doing some of the things children did in the 1860s.  They cook over an open fire, make butter, feed chickens, wash clothes in the washtub, pan for gold (fool’s gold), and play some pioneer games.

I tell stories about my pioneer family, tell them that the horses favorite food is third graders, that trolls live along the creek, and that the children emptied the chamber pots, brought in firewood, carried water, gathered buffalo chips for fuel on the trail, and fed the animals.  Yes, they get some tall tales as well.  Second graders are too little, fourth graders are too tough, but third graders are just right for horse food.  I tell the girls the secret:  “Girls are smarter than boys.”

Four mile is a fun place to work and the kids make it so.  Of the hundreds of kids I have worked, only two seemed like they were headed for big trouble.  I have as much fun as they do.

It’s Not Easy Being Green

kermit-the-frogI chose this title because Kermit and I are kindred spirits.  I went through most of my life thinking I must be green or something because things just did not go as well for me as for others.  An ADD diagnosis and treatment has made my life easier.  Poor Kermit, however, is still green.

I do try to be green in the other sense of the word.  I am something of an environmentalist.  I give money, feel self-righteous about environmental issues, write about issues, and live a typical American consumer life.


Note:  the American consumer life is not very green.  Two people, two cars.  We are so committed to two cars we are replacing our one car garage (with no room for a car) with a big two car garage with room for two cars, three bicycles, workbench, emergency generator, power lawn mower, and all the tools.

You know the formula for the number of bicycles: n+1.  N being the number of bicycles you currently have.  That is the American consumer way.  Spend to the end.  When I was growing up in Fruita, I thought we were pretty well off.  Car (even if it was a Nash), travel trailer, two week vacation and several weekend jaunts every year, a good TV, a remodeled kitchen, and all our needs met.  The closets were not jammed with clothes, we didn’t get ten catalogs in the mail every week, the furniture and carpets were worn, and the garage had a dirt floor.

The consumer society was in operation in the decades after the war, but it has drastically accelerated in the last thirty years or so.  I am sitting in Starbucks with my $4.00 cup of coffee looking at the Mercedes SUV’s parked side by side.  The customers are served by well-educated Millennials glad to have a job in the service sector so they can pay their rent.

Most current middle class families are two income families struggling to support lifestyles centered on spending.  Cars, computers, smartphones, iPads (I’m writing this on one), Italian granite countertops, 30 cubic foot refrigerators, Viking ranges, 52″ TV’s in several rooms,   It goes on and on.  This debt-ridden opulence is in contrast with the debt-ridden Millenials in the service sector and the millions trapped in poverty.

There is too much income disparity and entirely too much wasteful consumption.  The consumption, fueled by all the demand created by sophisticated marketing, is socially and environmentally harmful.  I look around, and I am part of the problem.  As the Buddhists say I am trapped on the wheel of desire.  The gasoline I burn in my 4×4 comes from Alberta tar sands.  The cheap natural gas heating my home is produced by fracking.  Most of our food is produced hundreds or thousands of miles away.

We try.  We recycle, compost, use drip irrigation, have a small lawn, and a small house by current standards.  We just upgraded our attic insulation to R50.  We are adding LED light bulbs regularly.  We have to avoid fluorescent bulbs as Carol is sensitive to the UV light they emit.

We are buying more organic produce and dairy products.  We buy meat from grass fed livestock raised using sustainable methods, and it’s local.  We are cooking more at home and when we do go out, we are picky about the restaurants we visit.

Are we green?  Not so much.  We are working at it, and we may someday be as green as Kermit.