Category Archives: Family History

I am an Evangelical

Augustine

Well, not really.  But I was one.  I was raised a Methodist, and had a profound conversion experience into a Pentecostal denomination.

Yes, they were evangelical.  Evangelicals tend to take the Bible literally and have traditional beliefs about sexuality, marriage, abortion, and politics.  I hold none of those views.  I’m a liberal of the kind vilified on Fox News.  I retain some Christian beliefs, but am a practicing Buddhist.

I have an extensive library on Christianity.  Most of the books are about the relatively new thinking about Jesus and the Bible, most of them anathema to an evangelical.  I do accept the historical reality of Jesus, but that is about as far as it goes.  I tend to view it all from an historical perspective.

Regarding God, nobody knows for sure.  Most every culture deals with God in some fashion, but my view is he was extrapolated from the spirit world, entities who exist, but in my view are no more deities than we are.  Like us they would like to be gods, but only Donald Trump has made it.

I am from a milieu steeped in the old time religion.  It is ironic that the concept of original sin came from Augustine, a Catholic Scholastic.  His idea about the event in the garden leading to human depravity rather than free will leads directly to the idea Jesus assumed our sinful nature to release us from God’s curse.  John said God loved us and freed us from sin on the cross, but Augustine said God let Jesus atone for our depravity.

John Calvin

American evangelical Protestantism adopted Augustine.  Conservatives: we’re bad.   Liberals: we’re good, but need help because the event in the Garden gave us free will.  We can choose, a coyote can’t.  But, we sometimes make bad choices.

For several reasons, deep down I believe I’m bad.  I am engaged in overcoming that belief, with limited and intermittent success.  Sometimes I feel good about myself, sometimes I don’t.

I really don’t like Augustine, Calvin, and their wrathful God.  My father and grandfather had that Scots Presbyterian Calvinist outlook even though they were not religious.  I caught it from them.  The underlying attitude was nobody could ever measure up, including me and them.  There, ladies, and gentlemen, is a prescription for an unhappy life.  My mother was raised Congregationalist, another Calvinist denomination (no longer, however).

Grandfather, Father, and Mother were pretty nice people, which revealed their true natures, but under it all they thought they were lost souls.  As our current self-appointed deity would say, “Sad.”.   I’m afraid some part of me will always believe I am really a bad dude, which I caught from them.

Our culture remains contaminated with the evangelical attitude.  I sit here in the coffee shop next to Denver University, started in 1864 as a Methodist school.  The Methodists have never been quite as infected by Calvinism, coming from Anglican roots, but that need for redemption is still there.  The idea behind DU was to bring the gospel to the wilderness.  That was fine, but there was an underlying belief those naked heathen Indians were beyond redemption.  John Evans, the Methodist territorial governor in 1864 and a co-founder of DU, and John Chivington, a Methodist minister and Colonel of the Third Volunteer Cavalry Regiment decided those murdering heathens had to go.  Thus, the Sand Creek Massacre.

The streets at DU are Methodist, starting with Wesley, the Anglican who founded Methodism.  Looking west from Evans Avenue one sees Mt. Evans, both named after an Indian killer.  I live between Evans and Asbury Avenues.  Asbury is named for the first Methodist Episcopal Church Bishop in the United States.  I don’t seem to be able to get away from it.  The current DU students, however, don’t seem to be as infected with that stuff as I am.  The architects designing buildings at DU don’t seem to have gotten the message.  Even the big athletic field House has a bell tower. The old part of the campus has several spires and bell towers.

The University of Denver has, to its credit, recognized the tragedy of Sand Creek and the role of the Methodist founder of DU in the act of genocide.  DU is no longer evangelical, but has the history.  I am no longer evangelical, but I carry the history.

Leadville

Leadville

Leadville

As part of our week in Breckenridge, we did a day trip to Leadville over Fremont Pass.  This country figures in my life.  My father grew up in Leadville, and I worked at the Climax Molybdenum mine one summer when in college.  Breckenridge is low country, around 9600 feet.  Leadville is over 10,000 feet in elevation, the highest incorporated city in the U.S. Climax is at the summit of Fremont Pass, 11,360 feet in elevation.  Some years, it doesn’t snow in July.   

Climax, Elevation 11,300 Feet

Climax, Elevation 11,300 Feet

Climax is at the foot of Bartlett Mountain, once one of the largest bodies of Molybdenum in the world.  Moly is used in alloying steel and as a lubricant.  Moly alloyed in steel makes it tougher, useful in high stress applications.  It’s first big use was in gun barrels during WWI.  Much of Bartlett Mountain is gone, hollowed out, crushed, had the metals removed, and the tailings dumped into a once beautiful glaciated valley.  Common with most mining operations, Climax has gone through several boom-bust cycles, and is currently just limping along.  Leadville is limping as well, still dependent on mining. 

I worked at the Storke level, 300 feet down the mountain from the original portal and mill.  I lived in a company hotel there. There was once a company town, but it went away as the milling operation took the land.  The store and the beer joint were still there in the mid-1960’s.    

I worked as a miner.  Drill, shoot, and muck.  That’s mining.  The drill was a jack leg, a pneumatic rock drill with a leg attached to be extended as the drill hole got deeper.  It was powered by compressed air, and had a water feed to keep dust down.  Drill holes in the face, load them with explosive, shoot, then remove the broken rock (muck).  I plan to go into the whole operation some time.  I did it for the money, and I can now say I was a miner. 

Leadville is down the pass.  What a place.  First gold, then a lot of silver, then bust as the silver market collapsed.  Mining has always gone on, from small independent operations to massive developments supporting a fairly large town.  My grandfather lived there for about twenty years as a railroader, a good Union job.  Born in 1903, my dad grew up there until 1918 when the railroad went broke and the family moved to Grand Junction.  Growing up, I heard lots of Leadville stories.  I will tell some more sometime.  If you go down the hill from the hotel on Harrison Avenue, the house at the bottom on the right is where my father grew up. 

Mining Hall of Fame

Mining Hall of Fame

When we visited, we drove around and I bored everyone with Leadville stories.  We ate at the Golden Burro, where I ate in the 1960’s, and went to the mining museum.  If you have any interest in mining, that’s the place.  Mostly, mining is taking metals and fuel from the earth and leaving a mess.  Leadville has lots of messes.  The worst ongoing mess is the water.  As it comes out of the mines it is highly acidic and loaded with toxic metals in solution.  It will have to be treated forever, at least in human terms.  Mining built Colorado, and we will always deal with the legacy.  Oh, what a mess we made.

Declining and Arising

The Quarter Moon

The Quarter Moon

A few years ago Carol, my wife, her sister Judi, and I wrote a blog about caregiving for aging parents.  The aging parents are gone and so is the blog, but one piece I wrote sticks with me.  Watching the decline.  I wrote the piece about Frank, Carol’s and Judi’s dad who went into a serious decline in his ’90s.   

Frank is gone, so now I am watching my own decline.  I had it come home to me when I forgot where I parked the car in downtown Minneapolis and spent three hours searching for the damn thing. By the time I found it I was tired, relieved, and a bit ashamed.  Not finding the car has always been a problem for me, a function of my ADD.  I keep a little yellow ball on the radio antenna of my pickup so I can see it in the parking lot.  Losing the car for three hours is a new one, however.  Yes, I have a GPS in my cell phone. 

Losing the car is only one symptom.  My knee, wrist, shoulder, and back hurt.  I fall down.  I can’t remember names.  Carol and I make a plan every week, and I forget what I am supposed to do.  I go downstairs to get something, do three other things and end up back upstairs without what I went for.  Three times. 

I will be 74 in October.  What do I have left?  Ten, maybe fifteen years?  Aging is reality for me.  Usually I take these things in stride.  After all what is important is the moment, which is almost always pretty good.  The trip to Minneapolis threw me into something of a funk.  I got scared when I couldn’t find the car.  I went to help my brother-in-law, who is facing some aging issues as well.  I still haven’t recovered from the trip. 

My life is good.  We have a nice home and garden, good things to do, travel some, and have fun together.  I can write, which I was unable to do until the last few years after getting diagnosed and treated for ADD.  I have gone places and done things.  I can ( http://www.insightmeditation.org/ )meditate which I could not do for most of my life.  I have found an important role as family caregiver. Caregiving is especially meaningful because it didn’t exist in my family. 

The meditation has opened up a spiritual life I have sought since I first asked “Why?”.  I now  know the answer: Because.  The secret to because is becoming.  The sun is up every morning.  The birds sing, even if I have trouble hearing them.  The new in my life outweighs the difficulties.      Most of the time.  I get myself in trouble when I stare at that unknowable wall out there.  If I stay where I belong, here and now, I’m fine.  Events, however, sometimes present that wall-my brief time on this world and in this body.  I’ll get through it.  Writing this has already helped.

Those Damn Cars

Tacoma. Mine has lots of brush scrapes on the sides.

Tacoma. Mine has lots of brush scrapes on the sides.

Living in the USA almost always means having cars.  It is possible to do without, but difficult except in New York, Boston, and San Francisco.  I was eighteen when I got my first car, a 1957 Ford.  I have lost count of how many since 1961.  I have had sedans, a panel truck, 2wd pickups, 4×4 pickups, SUV’s,  and sports cars.  I have also crashed a few.  It’s a combination of ADD and poor eye-hand coordination responsible for the crashes.  I was even in one crash that wasn’t my fault. 

My favorites?  Pickups and sports cars, sort of on opposite ends of the automotive spectrum.  I learned how to drive in a pickup, and their versatility appeals to me.  Lately, the pickups have been four wheel drive so I can risk my life on really bad mountain and desert roads.  Currently my four wheeler is a Toyota Tacoma.  It is just went in to get its rear springs replaced.  That is the third recall. 

Matrix

Matrix

Carol’s car is a Toyota Matrix, sort of a mini SUV.  It has had recalls as well, those Takata airbags that throw shrapnel.  I still like Toyotas.  They are reliable and are for the most part well thought out.  We have friends with Priuses, but I am still not sure. 

We have another resident in the garage.  It is a 2006 BMW 325i four door sedan.  Don’t be fooled, the thing is a sports car with four doors.  Power, handling, looks, and some snobbery.

That thing is fun.  I turn corners without slowing down.  It just turns, no squeal, no big deal.  The steering varies with speed.  At slow speeds, it hardly takes any turns to corner.  At higher speeds, you have to give the steering wheel more input. 

BMW 325i

BMW 325i

The BMW is fast.  I don’t have any comparison with, say, a Mustang, but it goes when you mash down.  To me, it has just enough power.  Passing those RV’s in the mountains is no problem at all.  Speeding up or slowing down to change lanes, zip.  I have never spun the tires to show off. 

It is helpless in the snow.  It has traction control, but no help.  The tires are wide, the car is low, and it just sits there and spins those rear wheels.  The BMW’s with an X in their model name have all wheel drive.  Carol’s daughter didn’t need AWD in Silicon Valley, where she bought the car. 

The thing is automated.  Everything is programmable, even the rear view mirrors.  There are buttons everywhere and a digital interface controlled by a knob you turn to scroll through options.  I think I can operate about ten percent of the stuff.  I keep telling myself to get out there with the owners manual and learn, but I haven’t done it in seven months. 

BMW’s cost too much, they are expensive to fix, not very roomy, and so much fun to drive.  We don’t need three cars.  We could probably be fine with one.  I don’t know what we are going to do.  we will probably sell the Matrix and the BMW and get Carol a cool AWD car.

My Meditation Practice

The Buddha

The Buddha

As I mentioned in the last post, for years I was unable to meditate.  I have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and as soon as my eyes closed my brain would go into high gear.  The idea of meditation is to let those thoughts go so you can be aware in the moment.  For ADD’s, the moment is often chaos, with thoughts leaping from subject to another, or hyper focus, with the thoughts totally engaged on one topic or task. 

After a diagnosis and treatment, I can meditate.  Now meditation is not spending all one’s time in the moment.  At first and often those thoughts arise and with my addictions, they can be compelling.  So, sit, watch my breath, the thoughts arise, I let them go, and they arise again.  It can be excruciating, dealing with all that meaningless thought.  I find a prayer helps me instead of just focusing on the breath.   

Paradoxically, my prayer is Christian.  At its core, Buddhism is essentially atheistic and in my view a psychology, not a religion,  being 2500 years old from a culture soaked in religion, it adopted all the trappings.  I grew up nominally Christian and became a toung-talking holy roller Christian in my forties.  I don’t do that so much any more, but Jesus is in my life to stay. 

I use the Jesus Prayer, an ancient Eastern Orthodox prayer dating back to the desert fathers.  “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  The most famous book about the prayer, “The Way of a Pilgrim“, suggests starting with 3000 repetitions per day.  I recite the prayer a lot, but never 3000 times.  I sit, start praying, and time the words with my breath.   When those thoughts rise, as they always will, I return to the prayer.  Those times of being in the moment come, and I drop into watching my breath.  Thoughts arise and I gently return to the prayer. 

I find the moments of stillness are slowly growing.  I also find the poisonous thoughts are diminishing.  When poisonous thoughts about pretty girls arise, I pray for them.  “May she be happy, may she be free, may she be safe”.  Then back to the Jesus Prayer until more thoughts arise. 

The thoughts aren’t just about pretty girls, I find myself planning, plotting, reviewing past mistakes, feeling guilt or shame; being angry, sad, sick, hurting, happy, horny, old, tired, loving, lonely, excited, the entire range of feeling and thought.  All that stuff comes from my past or is about the future.  Thus, they are all meaningless.  The past is gone, and the future is unknown.   

All there really is is the moment.  My brain tends to disagree.  I experience all those thoughts and feelings as real because they are wired neural connections.  The task of meditation is to rewrite those connections so I can spend more time in the moment. 

Now, lots of those connections are important.  I need food, shelter, my long baths, some rags on my back, all the stuff of daily living.  I don’t need Donald Trump or the Kardashians.  I mention those because I was in the  doctor’s office yesterday reading those stupid magazines.  Why didn’t I have my book or just pray? 

I find myself wanting to meditate more.  The toxic thinking is diminishing, although lots of people continue to be prayed for.  I have purged the computers, my library, don’t watch the wrong television or movies, and am able to spend more time in the moment (still not much time, alas). 

Next is some retreats.  Retreats last from one day up.  I have done them in a Christian context and found them useful.  I am looking at attending a four day retreat in the mountains.  There are lots of retreats available, mostly led by Dharma teachers who are therapists or in other helping professions.  Retreats allow intensive meditation with little interruption from the outside world.  I need that.

 

Riding in Cars

Bad Drivers

Bad Drivers

The holidays are always stressful, and we find ourselves going places with family members we don’t often ride with.  I have to confess that I am a terrible passenger.  They aren’t doing it right, going too fast, and not paying attention.  I am, of course, without peer as a driver.

I have been in several accidents but there were always extenuating circumstances.  The people I ride with have had less accidents, but they are lucky.   I just do not understand why they won’t follow my lead and drive properly.  My gentle, caring suggestions go unheeded and are often received with hostility.

Oh, the injustice, the way they treat me when I have the best of intentions.  I only wish to share my vast experience and expertise.  Unfortunately, I have to resort to cowering in my seat as they recklessly endanger me with their driving.  They especially resent it when I stomp on my imaginary brake pedal when they aren’t stopping when they should.

This is bad for my mental health, forced to live with the fear and anxiety they create in my delicate psyche.  The worst part is not being allowed to express my panic at being put in one life-threatening situation after another.

Christmas Eve we went to see Theory of Everything, one of the best movies I have seen in some time.  On the way home, Steve drove us around the University Park area to look at all the wonderful Holiday light displays.  It was difficult to enjoy the lights knowing my life was in danger with the reckless 10mph driving I was forced to endure.

DrivingI do prefer to drive, but my family members, usually loving and caring, are united in disliking my driving.  I always resolve to be especially careful when I have passengers, not honking or giving the finger to other drivers, but no one seems to appreciate my selfless generosity.

Is there no justice?  Am I doomed so suffer at the hands of my loved ones?  I only want to do what is right and good.  (That sentence seems familiar.  Oh yes, George III.)  I find myself driving alone, meaning I am always searching for ways to help other drivers improve their skills.  They seem unwilling to learn.

Oh, well, I guess I will just have to take other’s driving as a test of my equanimity.  It is strange that the tests come so often.

Holiday Decorations

 

?????????? Carol and I have always been ambivalent about elaborate holiday decorations.  We have had natural trees, artificial trees (boo), and now a little painted plywood tree made by a former coworker.  Decorations go on the mantel; there are colorful magnetic ornaments on the refrigerator door, a Santa on the stand in the foyer, and a Menorah in the front window.

 

Holiday Lights

Holiday Lights

The big one is the 20 foot tall tree in front of the house.   A few years ago something inspired me to light the tree.  This entailed quite a project.  The tree is between the street and the sidewalk, so I had to tunnel under the sidewalk to install a two inch pipe for the electric cord.  We didn’t want a cord tripping people on the sidewalk.  I dug, I pounded, tried a water jet,and dug some more.

 

The pipe is in, is capped and doesn’t show most of the year.  After Thanksgiving I run a long extension cord from the tree, throughout the pipe, and up to the outlet on the side of the house. We decided to be old fashioned and use large colored bulbs rather than the mini lights popular today.  Seven strings of lights for that big tree.

 

Next comes the hard part, getting those lights up.  We have a big lighted star on top.  Several seasons of trying methods have come up with the solution of putting the star on a stick and bungeeing it to the trunk.  The problem is getting it up there without killing myself.  That tree is TALL.  I have wobbled on the top step of my eight foot stepladder, tried to place it with the long hooked pole I use for hanging the light strings, and prayed, while Carol is on the ground crying and wailing.

 

This year I drug out the 20 foot extension ladder after deciding my life was worth breaking a few branches on the tree.  It turns out there is a sturdy side branch in just the right place to support the ladder.  I firmly believe I have a guardian angel.  Without that angel I would be dead many times over.

 

Menorah and TreeWith the star up, is is just the matter of winding those strings of lights around the tree.  Carol holds the string, and I put a kink in my neck placing the wires around the tree.  The whole process took three hours this year, and I am still alive.  The timer lights the tree from 4:00 PM to about 10:30 PM.

 

More neighbors on our block have lights, and it is festive out there in the evening.

 

Happy Holidays!  Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All!

Pearl Pass Part Two

North Side to Summit

North Side to Summit

In Part 1 I discussed the history of Pearl Pass and my family connection. I also covered the four wheel drive experience travelers have on the pass.  I have been rambling around the Rocky Mountains most of my life.  There is a lot of good country here.  I am fortunate to have spent time in some of the Rockies from New Mexico to Alberta.

Some of the best pieces of mountain country are the Elk Mountains. I have not spent much time there because of Aspen. A Western Colorado native, for many years I harbored a prejudice against ski area development.  Aspen is the ski town that started the Twentieth Century Gold Rush, this time mining tourist pockets.  The place is just too rich for a small town boy.  Over time I lost my bias, but still tended to avoid the Aspen area.  I have never been to the Maroon Bells.

Living along the Front Range influenced not visiting the Roaring Fork Valley as it is a four hour drive to Aspen from Denver. Rocky Mountain National Park and the Collegiate Peaks are a lot closer.  Recapturing my interest in my family history has drawn me to Pearl Pass.  If Grandmother Pearl could drive a wagon over the pass in 1887, I should do it as well.

Pearl Pass has seen no change in the last 130 years. Between Aspen and Ashcroft the road is paved and there is development, but once on the four wheel drive road it is as it was.  It goes between the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness and the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness.  Together, they harbor the largest cluster of 14,000 foot high peaks in North America.

Sandstone

Sandstone

That huge area of high mountain wilderness means wild. Pearl Pass is one of the wildest places I have ever visited.  Up high, what you see is almost all above timberline.  To the east, the mountains are granite, what I am familiar with in Colorado.  To the west is sandstone.  Layered sandstone, capped with basalt.

To me, that layered rock seems wild, out of place. It is gray, with a hint of red.  When I see sandstone I expect red or tan.  The view is so striking and beautiful I am at a loss for words.  I have been trying for days to come up with a description that matches what I saw.  The pictures will give you an idea, but cannot portray the impact of so much wild space with little human influence.

One reason for the view is because the Elk Mountains are west of the central Colorado?????????? Mountains and get more moisture. The glacial cirques are huge, creating a series of basins surrounded by many high peaks 13,000- feet or higher.  The pass itself is 12,700 feet high, surpassed by Mosquito Pass for example, but unsurpassed in sheer majesty.

I am now committed to more exploration of the Elk Mountains. There are Taylor and Schofield Passes that are four wheel drive accessible.  A winter drive to the Maroon Bells is on my list.  I may even break down and get out and walk.  My backpacking days are over, but there are lots of day hikes.  Lots of people on the trails, but most of them are nice people.  The high passes are for solitude.

Pearl Pass Part One

Road to Ashcroft

Road to Ashcroft

On Wednesday, September 3, I drove over Pearl Pass.  Pearl is one of those four wheeling trips that have been on my list for a long time.  My grandmother, Pearl Willits Shanks, drove a team and wagon over the pass when the Willits family moved from north Texas to Colorado in 1887.  Pearl was 12 when she drove over the pass.  She may have been a Texas girl before Pearl Pass, but she was a mountain girl after that.

The road was built as a toll road in the early 1880’s from the railhead in Crested Butte to the newly discovered silver mining area in Aspen.  It was in use until the railroads came to Aspen in the late 1880’s.  The main use was hauling coal from mines at Crested Butte to Aspen.

Today the road is much like it was in the nineteenth century.  From the start of the four wheel drive portion until it drops into the valley on the Crested Butte side it has no dirt, just rock.

Pearl Pass

The Bad Ledge

Fist sized rocks, baby head sized rocks, rock ledges, big rocks in narrow places, and big rocks in the middle of the road. One can grow tired of rock.

It is also narrow, made for wagons a long time ago.  There is no room for error. In reading about the pass, most of the reports involving trouble were where a vehicle got too far to the side.  When that happens, there better be good help available, because it is a long way to the bottom if the vehicle rolls over.

I was able to drive over all those rocks with no real damage to my Toyota Tacoma other than losing a mudflap.  The forest ranger had suggested a Jeep Rubicon.  I find my Toyota does just fine, although I may add a limited slip differential someday.

The Road and a View

The Road and a View

At the Summit

At the Summit

This is probably the most difficult road I have driven.  Steep, narrow, and did I mention rocky? I will do it again.  The history is important to me, the story of my family.  I spent the afternoon on that road marveling that a 12 year old girl from flat Texas could marshal the courage to drive a wagon over that hill.

I don’t know how long the entire trip from Crested Butte to Ashcroft, 10 miles from Aspen, took the Willits family.  I do know that they misjudged the time it would take to get over the highest part and did not get off the hill into Ashcroft until 11:00 PM.

That road is scary enough in daylight.  At night?  It is good that horses are better at seeing at night than we are.  Once I got down into the timber on the Crested Butte side, the alternating sunlight and shadow made it hard to see any serious obstacles. I can just imagine what Pearl was feeling.

I have given you some history and road condition information about Pearl Pass.  My next piece will be about the other big attractions.  The Elk Mountains that the pass traverses are some of the most spectacular and geologically unique mountains in Colorado.  Next time.

Pearl Comes To Colorado

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Horse Drawn Wagon

Pearl Pass 2

Pearl Pass

It is 1887 in North Texas and Lee Willits’ ranch is not doing well.  Lee applied and got a job as a ranch foreman in Colorado.  The next thing was to make the move.  With all the ranch equipment and a horse herd, he decided to travel with wagons.  His daughter Pearl drove one of the wagons.

They travelled from Texas into New Mexico, then north into Southern Colorado and Taylor Park, where Crested Butte is located.  The task then was to get over the Elk Mountains to Aspen and down the Roaring Fork River to El Jebel Ranch north of Basalt.

The wagon road from Taylor Park to Aspen went over Pearl Pass.  At 12,700 feet high, it was steep, narrow, and rocky.  They traveled the road with more than one wagon, the horse herd, and probably with Lee on his horse.  It is a shelf road, with the mountain rising on one side of the road and a steep drop-off into a canyon on the other.  The road sloped to the outside, and was only wide enough for one wagon.  The Willits family was not familiar with mountain roads and misjudged how long it would take to get over the pass to Ashcroft, today a ghost town outside Aspen.  They got in at 11:00 PM.

Pearl drove her wagon down that mountain road in the dark.  She was a tough kid, though, at twelve years old.  She must have been terrified, as she told that story the rest of her life.  The family settled down and Lee did well, acquiring land of his own and working it as well as the big El Jebel ranch.  Pearl, her two sisters and a brother went to Basalt schools.

As Basalt was near Aspen, an important mining town, it was served by two railroads.  A spur of the Denver and Rio Grande Western came up the Roaring Fork from Glenwood Springs; and the Colorado Midland came over the Continental Divide from Leadville via Hagerman Pass, again over 12,000 feet high.  One of the railroaders on the Midland was William Shanks, my grandfather.

Will was a conductor on the Midland, assigned his own red caboose, and in charge of the train.  He lived in Leadville, a division point on the Midland.  In the morning his train went west past Turquoise Lake, over the pass, and down the scenic Frying Pan River Valley to Basalt.  At that point, another crew took the train on to Grand Junction.  Will laid over in Basalt and took another train to Leadville the next day.

There he was in Basalt two or three nights a week, and he met Pearl, by that time a mountain girl in her own right.  After a courtship they married and she lived in Leadville with Will. They had three children; all born at the ranch in Basalt, as it was much safer having babies at 6500 feet in Basalt rather than over 10,000 feet elevation in Leadville in the days before antibiotics.  The middle of the three children was Rollin, my father.