Shootin' the Breeze

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Archive for the tag “High Park Fire”

“The Skies Are Not Cloudy All Day”

Last summer, 2012, wildfires in Colorado burned thousands of acres.  These photos were taken by my wife, Sugar, from our front porch during the High Park Fire in Larimer County.  We were not evacuated, but people just a mile away were.

That was scary… and we don’t scare easy.

Now it is fire season again.  There is a terribly destructive fire near Colorado Springs in an area called Black Forest.  Our hearts go out to the people who have lost their homes.

Fine Art and the Pig

Those of us who know Miss Sugar, my trophy wife, know that she is what she calls an “art advocate.”  That means she plans events where local artists can get exposure and even sell their art.  Those of us who know me know that I am not an artist, exactly, but I showed great potential in junior high, before middle schools were invented.  Since then, I have cut back on my creative endeavors into the visual arts, unless you count building our courtyard, which is a thing of beauty, including a wall made of empty wine bottles.  The wall is not portable, so I did not display my works at the art show and silent auction yesterday.

Some really good artists did participate, as well as some non-artists, including a pig named Sausage.  Sausage was there with some friends, each in the role of  marketing assistant.

Miss Sugar, you see, had organized the event yesterday as a fundraiser for the Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department.  Remember the bad wildfire called the High Park Fire here in Larimer County, Colorado?  Well, the Rist Canyon fire department even lost one of its fire stations in that bad fire.  So Miss Sugar, who is nicer than me, thought of the fundraiser and spent many hours recruiting artists to donate to the silent auction as well as artists and artisans to pay booth fees to sell stuff.  And she recruited me to set up tables and carry pictures and pottery and the like.  Which is very important.  I don’t know what she would do without me.

Although I suspect many women in the community attended in hopes of taking a gander at me, none actually stated that out loud, probably because Miss Sugar was there.  Besides me and the art, another draw was Sausage.  Here is how it was explained to me by his owner — when he walks a pig or llama or goat, all of which were there taking turns, people notice and ask, “Why are you walking that pig (or llama or goat) down the street?”  Then he can say, “Since you asked, I am getting attention for folks here in Old Town Fort Collins to ask that question so I can tell you about the Rist Canyon Art Show and Silent Auction.”  That is an effective marketing technique.

So, in addition to the power of my personal presence as an advertising method, Sausage, the llama and two goats attracted some attention as well.  It was a fun art show.

Another fun thing Miss Sugar did was offer face-painting and cotton candy.  I, personally, am not allowed to paint faces, preferring to leave that up to my trophy wife.  However, with respect to cotton candy, who do you think carries the cotton candy machine?

Now, let us turn our attention to yet another interesting aspect of the afternoon.  I have hauled livestock in horse trailers and stock trailers pulled by a pickup truck.  You have seen me and people like me doing that.  What you may not have seen, nor had I until yesterday, is a Jeep Cherokee containing a llama, pig, and two goats.  It is an amazing sight.  I can show you a photo below.  You will have to use your imagination concerning the odors within that particular SUV.  I remain unconvinced about the advantages of hauling livestock without a trailer.

Feast or Famine

As the High Park fire in Colorado was burning out of control, we hoped for and prayed for rain.  I am thankful that we got a lot of rain, particularly July 6th and 7th, in a downpour. Now we are dealing with the consequences of that rain.

The rain helped douse the terrible fire.  It gave our dry land needed moisture.  Our pasture is green again.  That is all good.

There can be too much of a good thing, however.  Now we are facing flash floods which have washed out roads in the same area that was burning.  Highway 14 is the road that goes along the Poudre River up from LaPorte to Walden.  The Poudre Canyon was smack in the middle of the fire that burned on both sides of the river.  Without vegetation, now the ashes are washing, with mud, across the road, which is closed in places. 

A problem with closing Hwy 14, as compared to streets in town, is that detours are not options in many places.  Remember, this is a winding mountain highway built along the river with many spots on cliffs above the river.  When it is closed, rather than going around the untravelable portion, it is more likely necessary to turn around, maybe backtracking twenty miles rather than around the next block.  There are no blocks.  There are canyons, mountains, rivers, streams, boulders and trees.  Now there is mud. 

The Bible reminds us, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.  Blest be the name of the Lord!”

Tonight, my literate wife, Miss Sugar, quoted Robert Frost.  “In three words, I can sum up everything that I have learned about life.  It goes on.”

Oh, Say Can You See?

The High Park Fire here in Larimer County, Colorado burned over 87,000 acres.  Consequently, there has been lots of smoke.  Last week, the wind was blowing it our direction.  Miss Sugar’s eyes were bothering her.  (Mine weren’t bothering me because I am way too tough.)  I went to the pharmacy and purchased some good eyedrops called Systane.  It cost $12 for a little bottle.

When Sugar saw the receipt, she remarked, “Those poor firemen!  If they buy their own eyedrops, they are spending a lot.”  She looked at the bottle and saw the Systane drops came from Fort Worth, Texas, made by Alcon Laboratories, Inc.  So she contacted Alcon, talked to someone about the fire and the 2,000 firefighters.  She worked into the conversation that she grew up in Texas.  She asked Alcon to donate some eyedrops and offered to distribute them.  Her Southern charm worked.  Ask and ye shall receive!  The next day boxes and boxes of eyedrops arrived, sent by Alcon via overnight mail.  Bless Alcon for its generosity.

Since then, Miss Sugar has distributed nearly 2,000 bottles of Systane eyedrops at various fire stations and the Red Cross.  All recipients were very grateful.

I am proud of Miss Sugar for even thinking of the idea.  That is how she rolls.  She saw the cost and thought of the firefighters.  Then she did something about it.  Something kind and generous.  No wonder I love her.

And The Skies Are Not Cloudy All Day

Prerequisites:  Where the Buffalo(es) Roam; Where the Deer and the Antelope Play; Don’t Scare Easy

I love the many sunny days in Colorado with cobalt blue skies.  Since the High Park Fire started a couple weeks ago, we have had hot windy weather with smoke-filled skies.  All the photos on this page were taken Friday evening, June 22nd, by Miss Sugar, from our deck.

The fire has been raging since June 8th.  Now it has covered over 68,000 acres and destroyed 191 houses.  Even the Rist Canyon Fire Station burnt down as the volunteer firefighters were helping others.  Five of them also lost their homes.  Miss Sugar has organized a  silent art auction fundraiser for the Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department. 

Many people in the community have pitched in to help the persons who have had to evacuate, as well as their pets and livestock.  The Humane Society is beyond capacity so other facilities have taken the overflow, including our own veterinarian.

Many people outside of our community are providing generous assistance, including Red Cross and firefighters from other states.

Again I refer to the song, “Scare Easy,”  paraphrasing:  We don’t scare easy.  Don’t fall apart when we’re under the gun.  You can break our hearts and we ain’t gonna run.  We  don’t scare easy for no one.

On the Run

Yesterday I posted something called “Don’t Scare Easy.”  It was about the courage of the firefighters at the High Park Fire and people evacuated.  Today I am writing about creatures afraid of the fire.

My wife and I have not been required to evacuate from our home as have so many in Larimer County, Colorado.  We are near some areas that have been evacuated, however.

On Saturday, June 16th, we went into Fort Collins. When we returned home, we saw two large black dogs behind our house.  We do not have black dogs.  We had left our yellow Labs in their pen in the barn.  The black dogs were rummaging in a pile of wood.  My guess is that they were trying to get to some rabbits which live under the woodpile.  The dogs appeared hungry.  They looked up when we drove in and parked, and then resumed their task of hunting rabbits by digging, a method unlikely to bring success.

One of the dogs was a black Lab.  I think it had a collar.  The other dog was much larger and more furry.  I’d guess it was part Newfoundland.

My wife immediately called Larimer County Animal Control.  We suspected that the dogs belonged to someone who had been evacuated from the path of the fire.  She promptly received a return call from an officer who politely thanked us for trying to help the dogs, but candidly stated that no one was available to get them because their department was working to remove animals in the evacuation areas.  We were advised to be careful about approaching dogs on the loose that we did not know.

So I approached the dogs.  I crouched down in a non-threatening position and gently called them.  The lab stopped digging in the woodpile and came a few steps towards me.  The Newfoundland also paused, but then he warily left his task and trotted away, toward our barn.  His action caused the Lab to turn away from me to join his buddy.

In order to avoid a fight, my plan was to get our dogs out of their pen, into our car and up to our house so I could lure the stray dogs into the pen with food.  I would keep them in the pen until someone could come get them, either the owners or an officer from Animal Control.

One of the ways animals that have been separated from their owners in the fire can be reunited is that a photographer friend of ours went to the fairgrounds, where displaced animals have been brought, and took pictures of them.  Then owners searching for their pets can view the “inventory.”

My efforts to proceed with my good plan did not get very far.  The black dogs just kept going, traveling off our property and into a wooded area along the North Poudre Irrigation Canal.  They are on their own, trying to hunt and scavange.  I wish them well.

They are obviously not feral dogs.  They are somebody’s pets.  Their lives have been changed by and challenged by the fire.  I hope they will be reunited with whomever is missing them.  My heart goes out to them all.

Don’t Scare Easy

History, literature, movies, and music include many stories, some even true, about courage.   People admire courage, and should.  Americans, particularly Westerners, pride themselves on facing adversity bravely.  In Colorado, we have many examples, both fact and fiction, about mountain men, pioneers, and cowboys, who are either fearless or overcome fear, which is probably even more admirable.

Tom Petty wrote a song that was featured in the recent movie, Appaloosa.  The song is called  “Scare Easy.”  Some of the lyrics are:  “I don’t scare easy.  Don’t fall apart when I’m under the gun.  You can break my heart and I ain’t gonna run.  I don’t scare easy for no one.”

The High Park Fire in Larimer County, Colorado has been and, as I write this, is still a dangerous and destructive enemy.  We pray for the many who have lost their homes or face losing their homes, and the firefighters who have valiantly worked to protect lives and property.  These folks have demonstrated that they don’t scare easy.  God bless them!

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