From My Window… RBCHS seeks young blood; prom a mess; Grandin a coup

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Sean McMahon, Editor
Sean McMahon, Editor
Looking out the ol’ back window, last week was a crazy time.
And since the look is a retrospective, we’ll start with the most recent and work back.
Sunday afternoon offered a pleasant lunch, business meeting and historic presentation with the Rio Blanco County Historical Society.
The presentation, which was broken into three skits, took a look at the romantic life of teachers early in the 1900s, when teachers were transported into the area from much farther east. Obviously, these young ladies, each with a full education, were single, and it was obvious that the new blood would attract a wide array of new suitors.
While the presentations were most entertaining, a more important issue cropped up at my table, and that is the average age of the members of the historical society.
“It is really important that we keep our history alive and interesting,” one woman said. “But there is no other way to say it than we are all dying off. We need some new blood in this group and we need to find a way to bring some younger folks into the group.”
There were a few younger members at the presentation, perhaps six or seven who were clearly under 50 years of age. But as the same woman said, “We may not want to admit it but we are all basically a bunch of white-haired and blue-haired old ladies with a few men thrown in. We need help.”
There are currently 120 members in the historical society, and they are an incredibly active group year-round. The group meets on the fourth Tuesday of the month at the museum, and is open to anyone who wishes to help out in the endeavor of preserving area history, promoting area history and, in some cases, reliving area history.
Two of the projects set for this year are a cleanup of the old garrison, keeping the old garrison in operation and then building a large, beautiful gazebo at the Milk Creek Battlefield Park.
The hope is to obtain a grant from the Freeman E. Fairfield Trust to cover lighting for the new Wilderness Exhibit scheduled from June to August in collaboration with the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act and our Flattops Wilderness.
Besides the gazebo, the final steps to complete the Milk Creek Memorial Park with signage is in process, and a grant for $5,000 is also being sought for that project along with individual donations, reaching a goal of $25,000.
Content is also being added continually to the website serving the historical society and the White River Museum. So far this year, the site has had 27,532 hits, 665 new visitors and 10,459 page views.
The RBCHS also has an ambitious schedule of activities lined out for the summer, running from June to October. Activities after Sunday’s presentation on rural school histories include: June 7 for Old Timers’ Reunion; June History Camp for Young People; June 29 for Music in Rio Blanco County; July 4 for the annual Range Call and Bank Robbery Re-enactment; July 19 for Community Appreciation Day (with pioneer demonstrations); Sept. 3 for the International Sheepdog Trials; and Oct. 5 for the History of Natural Resources.
There are a number of other activities planned, including work to improve lighting at the museum, maintaining an exhibit at Mountain Valley Bank, working to add membership and maintaining an exhibit on display at the Museum of Western Colorado in Grand Junction through at least May 3.
The direct goals for 2014 include adding an educational kiosk at Milk Creek Battlefield Park, to archive collections with photos and description for the new website, edit and archive video oral history already captured, initiate themed tours and events at the museum, complete the lighting and exhibit project (Phase 3, Room 7), acquire adjoining building for expansion and a research center, register the museum complex for historic preservation, and to initiate a youth intern program.
Needless to say, the group is ambitious, dedicated and, I found, most welcoming to anyone who is interested in their cause of area history and preserving such.
The group made it pretty clear they are looking for younger members — from interested teenagers and young adults to others of any adult age.
The Meeker area and all of Rio Blanco County have quite interesting historic pasts from the days of the dinosaurs and fossil fuels to the days of the settling of the surrounding valleys and the Old West.
If any of this sounds interesting to you, why not stop in the next meeting of the Rio Blanco County Historical Society, and you will find out that the involvement will be most appreciated, most interesting and involves more than the RBCHS’ famous root beer floats.

All of last week, it seems, centered on the Meeker High School prom, starting with Monday’s announcement that prom has been moved up from April 19 to April 12, the Tuesday meeting of the Meeker School District Board of Trustees, the Wednesday meeting between parents and adults then the Thursday meeting of the public with MHS Principal Kim Ibach and her activities and prom committees.
Looking back on the week, it is most disappointing that the entire Meeker board of trustees wasn’t at all of the meetings, particularly the public meeting on Thursday, where it became most obvious that a lot of half truths and assumptions surfaced that should not have seen the light of day.
The best thing that happened all week was that many of the affected students came forward to directly confront those who had made the decision to change the date. Many students at many schools would not have stood up to the powers-that-be like many of these MHS juniors and seniors did — pointing out how difficult a change of dates with nine school days remaining before the prom would have been.
Another sad experience at the Thursday meeting was the “set of rules” established at the meeting, leading several adults to say they felt like they were treated as 4-year-olds or kindergartners.
And one subject that really never did get answered was why the words of “a priest, a pastor and roughly eight parents” caused a change of date in the first place.
As Rio Blanco County Commissioner Shawn Bolton stated, “There is no room here for the church to enter into the issue. There is a constitutional separation of church and state, and it is not only wrong what happened here, it is illegal.”
After attempts were made to separate the MHS activities and prom committees into “a fishbowl full of fish” working on the solution so they could come up with a date, someone in the audience stood up and said, “Forget the fishbowl thing; let’s vote on a date.” Ibach asked all in the room if that is the way they wanted to proceed. All said it was.
With the exception of Ibach, who didn’t vote because she was “facilitator” for the meeting, every single person in the room voted to reset the date back to April 19.
So be it.
Prom will be held April 19, decided after nearly a week of activities that should never have occurred in the first place.
Meeker School Board member Todd Shults made the statement during the meeting that, “I am convinced by this entire thing that we have lost the confidence of the people of Meeker. And now we, as a board, are looking at going out and asking again for a tax override. We are going to have a problem. We have to do something to get the confidence of the people back.”

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What a coup it was for the Meeker Chamber of Commerce and the Friends of the Meeker FFA Alumni to bring Temple Grandin to Meeker as part of the Second Annual Ag/Business Summit on April 26.
When I was told about it, my nose kind of scrunched up. Who?
I had heard the name. I knew she was famous for something. That’s about it.
Then trusty Google came into use and I discovered the computer is filled with information about the woman who was born autistic and went on to and continues to do great things in the realm of livestock handling as well as autism.
Simply put, Grandin, now a part of the agriculture college at Colorado State University, is a genius. She is the foremost expert on dealing with all aspects of livestock as well as a leader in the world of working with autism.
Ms. Grandin’s story is featured on the front page of today’s edition of the Herald Times. Perhaps as you read more about her, the more impressed you will be and the more information about her you will seek.
Rio Blanco County is very fortunate to have Temple Grandin coming here on April 26, and her appearance should prove to be entertaining, informative and interesting. This is one of those can’t-miss activities. Hope to see you there.

Congratulations to the Meeker chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elks Foundation, which raised roughly $81,000 at Saturday’s annual banquet and posted a net profit of $50,000 for the foundation and local projects.
The Rocky Mountain Elks Foundation spends millions of dollars each year throughout the West improving habitat for not only elk, but for a myriad of critters out there from big game to wetland habitat for fish and fowl.
To raise that amount of money in such a small town as Meeker is almost unheard of. Those with the local chapter as well as those who took part in the banquet and auctions should be most proud.