Shootin' the Breeze

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Archive for the tag “Larimer County”

Rainy Day

In the movie Primal Fear, Richard Gere plays a criminal defense lawyer.  In one scene, he says about himself, “First thing that I ask a new client is ‘Have you been saving up for a rainy day? Guess what! It’s raining.’ ”

Guess what!  It’s raining.  Again.

A meteorologist on TV last night said that 10″ of rain, which we have gotten in Northern Colorado, is the equivalent of 100″ of snow.  That is difficult to imagine.  In a normal year, we only get about 14″ on average.

The court house and other government offices in Boulder County and Larimer County are closed due to flooded roads.  Schools are closed.  And our law office is closed.

With the inventions of the telephone and internet, I am able to work from home.

With the invention of the Ford F250 SuperDuty Supercab diesel 4-wheel drive pick up truck, Miss Sugar might be able to make it to the grocery store for provisions for a rainy day.  I sure hope she does not have to go “off road.”  Our ranch is 20 miles from town.

horse and dallas days

We have saddlebags.  Maybe she would be better off taking one of our horses because a horse can swim, whereas a Ford F250 pick up truck cannot.

Maybe we should have gotten a Hummer.  Or an ark.

“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.

Donating to the County

I noticed that my pickup is soon going to need new tires.  Also, as a diesel, it will need new glow plugs, which cost about $900.  I love my truck, but I don’t love the expense of maintaining it.  So, I am going to enter into negotiations with Larimer County about donating it to the county, but with some strings attached.

I got the idea from reading about the potential donation of Roberts Ranch to Larimer County, Colorado.  The deal that was on the table, as I understand it, is that the ranch will remain a ranch in perpetuity and the donor will have a life estate in the property, meaning she will still be able to live there, but the county will pay for operating the ranch and the public will not have access to it like normal open space owned by the county; instead there will only be limited tours and some fishing and hunting permits.

That got me thinking.  The county can own my pickup.  That way I won’t pay the taxes on it for keeping it licensed.  It will be in the county’s name.  The citizens of Larimer County  won’t get my payment of the registration fees and taxes.   Instead, they can all chip in as taxpayers.

As the owner, the county government will pay for the new tires, glow plugs and other maintenance.  I’m especially looking forward to having them pay for fuel.  After all, that is part of keeping it running.

I will reserve a life estate and thus continue to drive it.

What is the benefit to taxpayers?  Well, they will get to look at it as I drive around.  (This is negotiable, but I might be willing to have a Larimer County decal placed on the truck so all will know it is owned by the county.)

If this works out the way I want, I could next donate my law office.  The overhead is killing me.  The county can pay my rent and other costs of operation.  One of the costs of operation will be my salary.  That will be a relief for me to not have to worry about.  If other lawyers become jealous, they can do their own negotiating.

Query:  Will the taxpayers of Larimer County be glad to pay for upkeep on a gift that they cannot fully use?

Home Building on the Range

In my previous post, I described moving two cabins from Estes Park to Cross Creek Ranch.  So, if you need to catch up, read Home on the Range first and come back to this, which is Part 2. 

So, we got the small cabin placed on its new foundation.  That was the easy part. 

The hard part took over a year.  Beginning in the Spring of 1993, Ray and Brian worked to put back together each log.  This house had a new foundation too, poured 12″ thick in order to support the heavy logs.  We used a steel beam below, under the floor where the heavy fireplace would be built.  (When I say “we,” I am referring to myself as the contractor and the people with skills who actually did the good construction work). 

One of the issues in many log homes is that they can be dark, probably because the walls are wooden and not normally painted.  To bring lots of natural light into our log house, I put in several skylights in strategic locations.  We needed a new roof anyway.  Also, the front of the house faces directly south and has eight windows, including two that are about fifteen feet higher than the floor. 

On the west side, facing the mountains, we have a bank of three picture windows totalling twenty feet wide.  We call it the sunroom.  It provides passive solar.  The floor is tiled with saltillo tiles to help retain heat.  This room was an addition to the original log house. 

Additions present another aesthetic challenge, which is that one cannot match 100 year old weathered logs.  Our solution was to do the addition with stone in order to complement rather than match the old logs.

We harvested the rock for our hearth from our own ranch, where there is a vein of what I call fieldstone.  Miss Sugar and I have made many trips to our “quarry” filling the bed of the pickup again and again and again.  We picked each rock for some dry-stacked outside walls and for a water fall and pond.  We were not willing to pick enough for the walls to the addition.  Thankfully, Mike, our mason, found stones that look like the ones we have on the ranch.  We love how it turned out.

The kitchen in the house as it was in Estes was too small and out-dated.  Miss Sugar, who is a great cook, deserved better.  So the old kitchen, which was small for that function, makes for a roomy laundry room, including the old kitchen sink. 

The new kitchen was built by enclosing what had been a covered porch.  The exterior is the same stone.  The interior is equipped with professional appliances for my bride.  Raphaelle, designed a wonderful deep farm sink of granite as well as granite counters.  Because our house is so rustic, we got cabinets made of distressed pine from a custom shop. 

We made a small bedroom into a large walk-in closet with a skylight.  We made another small bedroom into a big bathroom. 

Yesterday I wrote of the old becoming new.  That, in a nutshell, is how we did it.

Home on the Range

Here is a riddle.  What is both old and new?  What was built in the 1800s and by me?

The answer is that our home, which was old, became “new” through an unusual process and sequence of events.

 President Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act, which allowed settlers to claim 160 acres of land and eventually own it after meeting the requirements of the law by staying on the land a requisite number of years. 

Pursuant to the Homestead Act, a log cabin was built on an original homestead in the area of what is now Estes Park, Colorado.  Later the homesteaders built a larger log house.  I did not build the cabin or the house, nor did I claim the homestead.  Someone else did all that before I was born. 

What I did was rescue those buildings when a developer purchased the last eight acres of what had been a 160 acre homestead.  Over the years, the homestead was cut up into parcels that became valuable parts of the Village of Estes Park.  The last eight acres were across from a golf course and up the street from the high school and the fairgrounds.  It became a desirable spot for building condos across from the golf course, or so the developer thought.

The Village of Estes Park interfered with his plans when the board refused to approve a demolition permit for the log structures on the old homestead site, which was probably unconstitutional since the homestead had not been designated an historic landmark.  The developer offered to donate the buildings to the town if it would move them off his land.  “Put them in a park if you like them so much,” he told the board.

Around that time, I came along.  As self-proclaimed King of the Wild Frontier, I offered to move the buildings to my land, which is in the same county as Estes Park, on the condition  that the Larimer County building inspectors would look at the buildings as they stood in Estes and pre-approve me for moving them to our ranch.  I knew we needed a new foundation and new plumbing and electric and new roof and new windows, and I knew we could not move the 30 foot high stone fireplace and chimney, but I wanted the structure of the logs approved.  I did not want to be told after moving them that the beams were not engineered correctly or according to current codes.

Well, the building inspectors did approve my proposal and the developer was glad to get me to do the removal, which turned out to be a complicated project.   That is when I became a contractor. 

I took a friend of mine to see the buildings before I made the deal, to ask if he thought it was worth doing.   He had moved a cabin out of the mountains himself, which he used as the core of a house he built.  An old cowboy, Ray offered, “Me and Brian could move them for you.”

Brian had just graduated from high school.  A rodeo bullrider, he was a big help as an acrobat tearing down the steeply peaked roof.  Ray and Brian and another guy lived in the original cabin while they took apart the larger one log by log.  I rented a crane for the job.  They numbered the logs. for each wall in order to put the walls back together in the same order.  It took from November 1992 until February 1993 to take it apart and get it off the Estes property. 

The small cabin was not disassembled.  It was jacked up and moved intact, then placed on a new foundation.  The big house was moved by log trucks.  It was too wide and tall and heavy to be moved in one piece.

Then the fun began of putting them back together.  I will write about the rest of the process in serial style.

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!

Life’s Challenges

Presently, there is a wildfire in our county, Larimer County, Colorado, near Fort Collins.  It has been named The High Park Fire.  This wildfire has burned over 43,000 acres, an area that could contain both the cities of Fort Collins and Boulder.  The fire is not in the cities, that is just a size reference.  The fire is burning in the mountains where there are many trees dead from beetle kill and the underbrush is dry from lack of snow and rain this spring.  So there is plenty of fuel.  And wind has fanned the fire out of control.

Over 100 structures have been destroyed, including homes, of course, but not all are homes as the count does not distinguish between residences and outbuildings such as barns, sheds and garages.  Regardless, that is a lot of property loss.

One life has been lost.  A 63 year old woman, who had twice been called by phone to evacuate, either chose to stay or did not receive the messages.  It is sad that she died in the mountain cabin that she loved. 

Many others, hundreds, have evacuated.  They are dealing with the fear of the unknown about whether their homes will burn.  Others already know their homes have burned.  Others have been allowed back in.  Others on are pre-evacuation alert.

There is an evacuation center at the county fairgrounds.  It used to be at a middle school but had to be moved farther from the fire due to smoke.  At the fairgrounds, large animals of evacuees may be kept as well.  Small pets were taken to the Humane Society until filled to capacity.  Now a vet clinic is taking overflow.  Many of the evacuated folks are staying with friends and relatives.  There are kind people helping those in need in addition to Red Cross and Salvation Army.

The real heroes are the firefighters, of course, ranging from local volunteer fire departments to professionals from other states.   The number keeps growing as the fire has grown.  Today there were more than 500 firefighters, including “boots on the ground” and pilots of planes and helicopters that drop retardant and water on the flames.

There are many to praise and no one to blame.  The fire was started by lightning, not even negligent humans, and especially not evil terrorists like those responsible for 9/11/01.

The Bible says that “It rains on the just and the unjust.”  I pray it will rain on this fire.

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