From My Window… After Front Range visit, beauty of small towns becomes clear

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Sean McMahon, Editor
Sean McMahon, Editor
Looking out my window I saw a lot of pollution, a lot of red taillights and stoplights, a lot of concrete barriers, construction barriers, lots of police cars and heard an abundance of police sirens, ambulance sirens and fire truck sirens.
Such has become a regular part of traveling Colorado’s Front Range, and such was the case when I took a rare week off to go to Fort Collins for a mix of vacation and family business last week.
From the moment my wife Cris and I hit Highway 6, which led us into Golden, then all the way through Boulder, Longmont and into Fort Collins, there were constant reminders of the reasons I live in Meeker.

The driving conditions were horrific, the traffic was heavy, loud and smelly; the city traffic was congested, filled with rude drivers who insisted that they come first be it in their lane, into the turning lane and even into parking places in grocery store parking lots where there are several hundred acres in which to park.
I don’t miss it, and it reminded me once again why I left the Front Range (Boulder) in 1972.
Sure it was nice to pay low gasoline prices, food prices and to find some items (particularly food) that you just can’t get on the Western Slope, but I don’t believe the stress of the daily commute would be worth the benefits.
The highlight of the week was going into downtown Denver (my Fort Collins-based sister drove) right at rush hour so we could eat at one of the downtown restaurants before we went to the Buell Theater to take in “Motown: The Musical,” which covers 25 years of Barry Gordy’s Motown music dynasty.
The musical featured more than 125 of Motown’s most famous songs, sung just like the originals by an incredibly talented cast portraying such stars as Diana Ross, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, the Jackson Five and Gordy’s confident, best buddy and one of his top acts, Smokey Robinson.
The dinner was very good and the play was just terrific, bringing back a host of memories from high school and beyond, including meeting Diana Ross twice in one day when I lived in Aspen.
I met her at lunch at one of Aspen’s restaurants when she sat right next to me and a couple pals and I met her that afternoon at a sporting goods store in Aspen. That one caught the group I was with, including myself, off guard because in 1973 it was just very rare to see any blacks in Aspen.
At the sporting goods store I was making polite chatter with her and, since she was buying a whole lot of gloves, ski jackets, ski pants, etc., I asked her if she was getting all the clothing she needed to go skiing. She laughed quite loudly and said, “Oh mercy, no; I don’t ski; I just want to look good sitting in the lodge by the fire.” We both had a good laugh and went our own way.
It was pure coincidence that her well-received movie, “Lady Sings the Blues,” was playing that week at the old Jerome Opera House. Since we had seen her that day, the thought came for a whole bunch of us to go and see the movie that night.
About 10 of us did so.
The movie started, and we were intrigued when all of a sudden, about 40 minutes into the flick, the projector turned off and the house lights came up.
To make a very long story shorter, Miss Ross got up on the stage and sang some of her hits for about 20 minutes.
Needless to say, she received a lengthy standing ovation, thanked the crowd for letting her perform, then she disappeared, not to be seen again while I lived in Aspen for the next two years.
I loved the Supremes and never missed a chance to see them on TV, but that one day remains with me of what a very friendly, funny and classy lady she was—and is.
So, anyway, sis drove us back to Fort Collins after the two-hour and 45-minute performance, and we returned to Meeker the next day.
We did some shopping on the way home, ate lunch at Vail and got a snack in Rifle and we were within about 10 miles of Meeker when we caught about five minutes of snow flurries, just like we had in Golden on our way to Fort Collins.
But it didn’t take long on Highway 13 between here and Rifle to realize that it sure is good to be back home again. All it took was about two hours of driving in Front Range communities to realize what it is to have one stoplight in town, much less traffic, fewer cars cutting you off in almost all driving situations and how nice it is that it takes less than five minutes—in either Rangely or Meeker—to get from one side of town to the other.
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I was wise enough to decide to attend Friday night’s opening performance of “School House Rock Live! Jr.” The production was initially billed as a Meeker High School Drama Club presentation, but that was changed to a Meeker School District presentation when Barone Middle School donated a few performers and MHS instructor Shana Holliday took on the main role of Tom.
Adding to the leading roles were students Sam Baylie and Sena Zellers, who were joined by Annalise Amack, Savana May and Sydnie Main.
Early attempts at getting the production were rough, director Gary Zellers said. Then there were a number of cast changes and background changes and just several complications, illnesses and other problems so that, Zellers said, “Only three of the original cast members made it to the actual production nights,” which were Friday and Saturday.
I saw a short presentation from the play a couple of weeks ago, and, to be honest, it didn’t make me want to attend.
I am most happy, however, that I did attend Friday’s performance.
The singing was great, the actors presented a fun production, the presentation flowed very well and several member of the audience seemed to enjoy joining in with the singing because they obviously knew the songs.
I did not.
I do remember the song from many years ago called “Conjunction Junction,” which is a Sesame Street-type learning song. But I didn’t remember any of the other songs although my wife, who is five years younger than me, said she knew every word of every song. Oh well!
But congratulations go to directors Gary and Laurie Zellers for a job well done, and praises go to all the cast members who had to work extra hard to prepare, some with a minimum of practice, to turn out a most enjoyable performance.
When I first saw the brief presentation a couple of weeks ago, I was truly quite dubious about the success of the show, but the performance turned in Friday night really should make the crew, cast and directors proud.
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It was a good-weather weekend to be outside in Rio Blano County, but roughly 30 people, including myself, found it a good afternoon on Sunday to catch the presentation by the Rio Blanco County Historic Society of “Colorful Characters of Rio Blanco County.”
There were a series of presentations on famous people who happened to more than stumble through Rio Blanco County
Some of those folks included Calamity Jane, Eleanor Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt, Ute Indian Chief Colorow, noted Western author Zane Grey and Buddy Roosevelt.
(Buddy Roosevelt, who was born Kenneth Sanderson and whose family moved to Meeker in 1888, became quite well known in Western-style movies before returning to Meeker for the 1968 Range Call. He returned again in 1972 to live with his brother, Cuppy, then he bought a home in Meeker, where, unfortunately, he didn’t live very long before dying at the VA hospital in Grand Junction in 1973.)
The highlight was Meeker residents Ethel Starbuck (inching ever closer to the century mark in age) and Sandy Shimko. Both spoke on their various meetings with Eleanor Roosevelt, who visited the area quite frequently in the 1950s due to family living in the eastern reaches of the county.
Starbuck spoke of what a wonderful, friendly and unassuming woman the former First Lady was. Shimko retold some of the stories her parents had told her of that time and other encounters with Roosevelt, but she also told of the time she was at the library, looking through the book case and what a thrill it was to see Roosevelt across the room in the library.
It is good to know the history of Rio Blanco County and kind of fun to know some of the anecdotes attributable to this area of the country. I had nothing to do with any of it, but it still makes me a touch proud to know some notable folks have traveled through this way.