Showing posts with label criminals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label criminals. Show all posts

April 13, 2019

Bird Festival, Cattle-Rustling, and Elk in Beetle-Kill Forests


Plan now for the Mountain Plover Festival.
  • You’ll get the chance to mingle with farmers and ranchers who choose to live in the local community and learn about their lifestyle.
  • Eat home-style food at every meal. Most meal are prepared by the community non-profit organizations.
  • Saturday evening includes a chuck wagon dinner with authentic Western entertainment.
  • Learn about conservation practices and history of the area.
  • Tour Private Land that would normally not be accessible.
  • Make new friends! Here's the website.
Sounds perfect if you are allergic to cities.  

• Cattle-rustling still happens in 21st-century Colorado.
But even keeping a close eye on livestock sales doesn’t prevent Colorado ranchers from experiencing their share of losses. Annual reports of missing or stolen livestock — the vast majority being cattle — average a little over 100, with losses ranging from a little over 400 to more than 650 head over the past four years. But that’s where the numbers get a little fuzzy.
• Pine beetles and the fungus they carry have killed huge amounts of lodgepole pine forest in the northern Rockies. As the dead trees drop their needles and become just standing trunks, more grass comes up between them. So that would be good for elk, right?

The evidence, however, is mixed. Some species do benefit, but not much the elk.
Looking at elk daytime use during the summer in Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest in south-central Wyoming, [University of Wyoming researcher Bryan G.] Lamont’s team expected to find mixed results. The loss of canopy would likely mean a loss in thermal cover, and more downed trees would make it difficult for the elk to move, forcing them to expend more energy. On the other hand, with new understory growth, elk would have more vegetation to forage. They expected elk might avoid the densest areas of downed trees but take advantage of the forage in other places.

Instead, elk tended to avoid beetle-killed areas overall, resulting in much less forest habitat that the elk use to keep cool during summer days. Beetle kill, researchers found, was different for the elk in important ways from wildfires or other disturbances.
 Time on the elk's side, however, as the dead trees start to fall and decay. Read the whole article here.

October 26, 2015

A Mountain Cabin Mystery, Part 2


M. and I were gone on vacation from September 1–30. Then we came down with terrific colds (thanks, Swiss Air), and the weather was a little showery. She took the dog up back for a walk and came back saying something about a "board" on the Quonset cabin.

I had a look on my next walk up there and yes, a 4 x 8-foot piece of particle board was nailed across the empty hole where the living room window had been removed. Well, that was odd. Did Tim, the new owner of the adjacent property to the south, come up from his house and think he was doing me a favor?

I could have investigated more, but as I said, the head cold was killing my brain power, and I had a lot else to do. That may seem too laid-back, sorry.

But then came something I could not ignore. After my contractor friend said he thought that the dirt road to the cabin was too rough and rocky for his trailer, I decided to improve it. I contacted a neighbor who does "dirt work" locally.

He showed up with his tractor, blade, and rock-ripping teeth, and I went to open the gate for him.  What's this? The gate normally was secured by a chain with two padlocks on it. One was for the rural electric co-op, and the other was mine. Now someone had cut the chain and inserted a third lock!

Hike across the land and poke around a little, that's no big deal. Start cutting your way in, and that is something else.

After he finished his road work, I started making phone calls. How about the former owner of Tim's property? He owns hundreds of acres here and there, has a crew employed fulltime on various projects, and has been known, shall we say, to extend his fences beyond where he should. We had already had one go-round with him about that habit.

I called him, and we had an amiable chat. He was in his "the squire" persona. Oh no, he said, it was not his crew. (When they follow his orders and get him in trouble, he blames their poor language skills. Algunos no hablan inglés.)

I called the real estate agent who has listed property to the north of ours. Did he sell it, and did the new owner think that my road gave them access? Oh no, he said, the property had not been sold, and he knew that any buyer had no right to that road.

I called my contractor friend. Had he changed his mind about the salvage project and come back up there? Oh no, he had not.  (Too bad.) Maybe someone is "homesteading," he suggested.

To make things worse, the local paper ran a "25 Years Ago" item about law-enforcement officials launching an "intense vigil" right hereabouts for a fugitive described as "homicidal." Tracking dogs had followed him into these hills.

That was two years before we arrived. I had heard too about some fugitive hiding in the camping trailer that was there before the Quonset, but I cannot say if it was the same individual or a different one

M. and I paid an armed visit to the cabin. The rear door was locked — and as I wrote in Part 1, I never locked it.

I finally walked over to Tim, the new neighor's, house. No, neither he nor his kids had been inside the cabin. But "three weeks ago" he had heard a truck going up the road, followed by "banging." Maybe that was the nailing of the board.

I went home and called the sheriff's dispatcher. After about three hours, a deputy called me back. I gave him the facts. He clearly did not want to drive to this corner of the county — it was after dark, and he was the only patrol deputy on duty. That was OK, I told him, I just wanted to get something on the record in case I found a meth lab or a dead body or something else nefarious inside.

The next morning, I located the keys, and we went back. I sidled up to the door and unlocked it. Nothing was changed, except for the number of mouse turds. A ladder that I had there seemed to be in a different place.

So these are the facts:

1. Someone had cut the gate and installed their own lock, as if they planned to come back. (I, of course, took bolt cutters and removed that lock.)

2. Someone, maybe the same someone, had boarded up the empty window. You would do that only if you wanted to protect the property or make it more usable later.

3. Someone had locked the door, which makes no sense if you do not have a key to let yourself back in.

4. There were no signs of occupancy. No lights, no food, etc. The dog did not react when he was near the cabin.

Right now, it seems to us that Dick Y., the former owner, fits the frame for these reasons.

1. Because he helped to build the cabin and his family owned the land for 30-plus years, he probably feels a sense of ownership, and it may bother him to see it neglected. (Too bad, Dick, I would have the fire department burn it were it not for the wildfire hazard.)

2. He doesn't like us, why, I never fully understood. Neither does his sister.

3. He knows his way around up there, and he lives only an hour away. He could have retained a key to the house.

So Dick is the prime suspect, but I have absolutely no evidence. The sheriff is not going to get excited over a cut gate unless something else goes with it: burglary, cattle-rustling, poaching, etc. All we can do is be more vigilant.

As we were finishing supper, the telephone rang with a Reverse 911 call to all residents. "There is an armed and dangerous subject in your area. Last seen on foot near highway XXX and County Road XXX. Subject is wearing a blue polo shirt, khaki shorts and a khaki hat. Caucasian male, brown hair, tattoo of  'Ezekiel' on his neck. Please do not approach. Do not pick up any hitchhikers. If seen call 719-XXX-XXXX."

That at least ten miles away. Rural life goes on.

A Mountain Cabin Mystery, Part 1

Not what you think of when you hear "mountain cabin"?
In 2011, M. and I dug deep and bought the twenty acres up behind our house when they came on the market. We gained lots of rocks, the little dirt road where we walked the dogs anyway, many pine and juniper trees — including enough beetle-killed pine to keep us in firewood for a while — and "the Quonset."

It's not a true Quonset hut, but that name comes near enough. It is a pre-fab metal structure like you would see sheltering farm implements (tractors, etc.) out on the High Plains, but finished inside with a drop ceiling, walls, and carpeting.

When we came here, the owners, a family from southeastern Colorado, had a old travel trailer parked up there, with a wood-frame extension and a porch built on to it. But in about 1994, the younger generation apparently decided to build Mom and Dad a proper mountain get-away, so they visited their favorite ag-machinery-prefab-building dealer and ordered a 20 x 40-foot model. They brought up a small electric cement mixer and poured their own foundation, erected the galvanized metal roof — all of it.

And then their frequency of visits dropped way off. The cabin just sat there, looking like a big blister on the mountainside. The Y____ family, the owners, were not terribly friendly. Once, when I approached them about chipping in on the maintenance of our shared driveway, part of which led to their road, I got a small contribution, wrapped in a diatribe of a letter about how people were cutting trees on their property (not me), how people were saying nasty things about the metal cabin, etc. etc.

Fast-forward to 2011. We made an offer, two-thirds of what they asked. The agent conveyed it, but then he said they had turned it down. "Oh well," we thought. And two weeks later, he came back and said that Mom had told the kids (now in late middle age) that they should take it, and they did. (Dad was no longer alive.) After a very chilly closing — the kids, Dick and Judy, would not even speak to us — we owned it, down to the expired and bulging canned goods in the kitchen cabinets.

My friend Ray helped with the initial clean-out. Furniture was hauled away, scrap aluminum — the skin of the old trailer —sold to the recycler. The refrigerator went to the volunteer fire department, where it cools our bottled water and Gatorade. Lots of things went to the department's annual yard sale.

The cabin was not up to code: no well or cistern, and no indoor plumbing either, although it did have electric service. Located at the top of a steep dry-weather-only road, it had zero potential as a rental, and we already have a guest house.

One neighbor was interested in taking the metal shell to build a garage, but his eight-day-a-week job as a ranch manager got in the way. Some friends scavenged bits: a door here, a window there, a kitchen counter unit.

Then progress stalled. I pulled some of the carpet, but I kept having too much else to do. A contractor from Pueblo thought he might tear the building down for scrap — the metal roof and studs — but he was not sure he could get his big cargo trailer up the road.

I never locked the place. There was nothing to steal, and if an occasional person hiking around looked inside, I did not care. The terrain and the locked gate kept motorized visitors out — I thought.


October 31, 2011

Some Colorado Springs Ghosts—and the Unquiet Ghosts of Teller County

Western Federation of Miners hall, Victor,1903.
A Colorado Springs blogger offers some ghost stories, mostly from the West Side.

In my young newspaper reporter days, I did my part for Cripple Creek and Victor.

At the time, I was covering both the gold-mining boomlet of the early 1980s and also some Colorado labor history, such as the activities of the Western Federation of Miners in the early 1900s.

They did not make it into the book, but I had a couple of woo-woo experiences in Cripple Creek and in the nearby ghost town of Goldfield of my own.

In one of them, I was walking into faded glory of the 1904 Teller County Courthouse to cover a hearing about leakage from a cyanide heap-leaching operation killing some horses. Just ordinary reportorial stuff.

I had never entered that building before. At the foot of the staircase leading up to the courtrooms, I almost had a panic attack. I was sure that I was walking up to my doom — but I wasn't "me."


In the second, I was leaving Victor and decided to drive through the site of the mining town of Goldfield, "a strong union town," instead of back via Cripple Creek on the way to Colorado Springs and the newspaper office.

The scene out the windshield was 1980 or 1981 Goldfield, which is to say, not much.  But to my ears and inner senses, it was all shouting and turbulence and emotion of the 1894 miners' strike, when the Cripple Creek police shot down the Goldfield constables, mines were dynamited, the militia was called out, and gunfights flared between miners and sheriff's deputies back by the mine owners.

It was like being in two places at once, one foot in the past and one foot in the now. The experience lasted less than minute but left me feeling emotionally exhausted.

That strike was just the beginning of the Colorado Labor Wars, when things got even worse.

Bad times—more or less swept under the rug of history now. Now we hear only of a street vendor selling  "hot waffles to miners, railroad passengers and barflies."

August 20, 2010

Off-roading Jerk Required to Confess on YouTube



Rickey Sharratt of Camas, Washington, possessed of more horsepower than brains, rams a state forest gate with his Chevy Blazer but is busted and forced to confess in public.

A "less-than-convincing performance," say critics.

I never thought of YouTube as the new electronic pillory, but if enough people link to it ...