Shootin' the Breeze

and random targets

Archive for the tag “northern Colorado”

Close to Home

When I see something in the news about a tsunami in faraway lands, I have compassion for the victims, but the victims are strangers to me and I have never been to those places.

When there is a natural disaster, such as tornadoes in the Midwest or hurricanes on the Gulf Coast, or wildfires in the West, I can relate better.  The victims are Americans, like me.  Maybe I have been to the location of the disaster.  Maybe I have friends or family in the area.

But enough about people I don’t know.  Now let’s talk about me, me, me.

Now the news is showing the clean-up from the flooding in northern Colorado.  This is my neighborhood.  I have been on those roads now destroyed, like Highway 34 up the Big Thompson Canyon to Estes Park.  I can’t get to Estes now.  I love going to Estes Park.  It is a beautiful little tourist town in the mountains, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park.  We camped there this summer.  My wife did an art show there in June.  We have been to the stores shown on the news as being flooded. We live in the very same county.

We have family members in Boulder and Longmont.  They were not harmed, yet we worried until we learned that.

I called a lawyer friend last week to see how he was doing because he lives in an area that is a mountain valley.  Last summer, his family was evacuated during the High Park fire.  This year his family was not evacuated, but his home was damaged by some of the flooding.  Still, they stayed.  The road to his house is not a priority in the rebuilding efforts.  He was told that it might not be repaired for a year.  In the meantime, he literally has to use a ladder to cross a washed out section of the road that is now an open crevice in order to get to a car he parks on the road.  He has to hike quite a ways to get to that car.  For a year?

We have been to his home.  It is in a lovely setting.  I understand why they moved there.  Now I have difficulty grasping how they can stay there, cut off from vehicle access.

There are many stories like that.  Worse stories.  True stories.

The people who lost everything in a tsunami can feel compassion for families like my friend’s, and probably do.  Even so, Colorado is a faraway place to them.

I guess you had to be there.

It helps to remember that God, who knows when a sparrow falls from a tree, is here and was there with the people in the tsunamis, the hurricanes, the tornadoes, the wildfires, and the floods.  For nothing can separate us from the love of God.

The Abbey of St. Walburga

These are our neighbors. They are cloistered nuns who live very disciplined spiritual lives in a Benedictine order.

As part of their ministry, they host some retreats and classes. This week my wife taught a clay art class for children held at the Abbey.  Last summer she taught a watercolor class for adult women.  The year before, Sugar and her mother participated in a contemplative art retreat.

They also operate a farm.  Get a load of their bottle-fed Oreo calf.  They grow hay and have an apple orchard.  They have chickens too.  I’m not sure what good the llama does, but I see that they have one.  They raise bees for honey.

They have a gift shop too, with books and crosses as well as some hand-made items.  Sugar bought an afghan there.

Another money-maker for them is making wooden caskets, which are shown in the video.  I’m not in the market for a casket just yet, but Sugar might be picking one out for me since I saw her thumbing through the life insurance policy on me the other day.

An interesting fact:  One of the sisters is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and was a Naval officer for 20 years before becoming a nun.  They come from diverse backgrounds.

Frontier Justice and Hospitality

There is a local story hereabouts concerning a stint in Leavenworth Prison   To be more accurate, the story is about two separate stints in prison.  Well, not totally separate because they were related, however, the sentences were not served at the same time.

Miss Sugar and I were at The Forks, which is a convenience store that serves ice cream and has a bar upstairs.  We were having ice cream, so the bar is irrelevant to this story, but mentioning it might be good advertising for The Forks.  And another thing — there is live entertainment on certain Saturday nights.

As Sugar and I were enjoying our cones, we were accosted by a store employee, who was talking to some customers.  The employee, name of Mary, said,  “Al, how long have you lived around here?  These people are looking for the Zimmerman Ranch.  Do you know where it was?”

“No,” sez I, helpfully.  “We have only lived here about twenty years.”

Anyway, Sugar and I talked to the Zimmerman people.  They showed us photos from long ago, before my time.  Sugar thought she recognized a group of three trees in the photos.  The trees are still there, but the house in the photos is not.  We offered to take them there.

They followed our car in their car.  On the way, we stopped at the home of an 80 year old  neighbor who did know where the Zimmerman place was formerly located.

Now, here is the part about prison.  When I introduced old Mr. Zimmerman to the helpful rancher, he recognized his name.  Without regard to politeness, Mr.  Zimmerman said, “I heard that my grandfather had your grandfather put in prison for moving fences or something.”  I did not think that was a good conversation starter.

He was corrected.  The story my friend told is that in the late 1800s, some of the first ranchers did not welcome the newer homesteaders and burned their barns and such.  He said his grampa and his grampa’s brother, i.e., his own great uncle, each went to prison as a result of being accused of such activities, perhaps based on accusations made by Zimmerman’s grampa.

The judge who sentenced the brothers to federal prison in Leavenworth recognized that having  both brothers in prison at the same time would destroy their ranch, so he let each serve six months at separate times.

Ironically, the descendants of the jailed ranchers are still here and the Zimmermans can’t even find their own family homestead without the help of someone from the family with which their ancestors had a conflict.

No hard feelings…..

P.S.  We took them to the trees.  Sugar, with her artistic eye, was correct.

The Abbey

Last weekend, from Friday night until Sunday afternoon, Miss Sugar taught a water color art class at a women’s retreat hosted by the sisters at The Abbey of St. Walburga, which is just ten miles up the road from  our place.

The sisters have crossed paths with us before.  Sugar and I immigrated to Larimer County from Boulder County, Colorado.  So did the convent of St. Walburga.  I never visited the Boulder County location except to drive by.  They had a farm on a busy road east of Boulder.  Surrounded by subdivisions, they no longer felt so cloistered, I presume.  They sold what had become valuable real estate there and purchased or were given a beautiful valley in northern Colorado, just a few miles from the Wyoming border.  They made the move in 1997.  The distance between the locations is approximately 100 miles.

The sisters started out living in modular buildings.  Over the years, a beautiful building was constructed, which includes an inspiring sanctuary in which they worship, as well as living quarters, dining area, offices and even a bookstore.

Although the religious order is considered cloistered, the members are not isolationists and welcome visitors.  They are part of a Benedictine tradition that emphasizes hospitality.  Accordingly, they host a number of retreats during the year.

(You could look at their website, they are technologically advanced nuns.)

Sweat Lodges


My friend Rodney, who claims to be part Injun, knows how to build a sweat lodge. This particular blog is mainly about sweat lodges, but first I want to tell you that Rodney, who wears cowboy attire whenever I see him, also dressed like an Indian as a movie extra when they filmed the TV mini-series, Centennial, out here on Roberts Ranch. It was a good choice to film it here because, as those of you who watched the movie or read Michener’s book, on which it was based, know, Michener wrote about this very area of Northern Colorado.

Despite Rodney’s identity crisis concerning whether he is a Cowboy or Indian, I like him anyways. He also knows how to build teepees and make leather stuff, like knife sheaths, but, like I already said, this is about sweat lodges.

Miss Sugar, my trophy wife from Texas, wanted a sauna here at Cross Creek Ranch. As you know if you have read my blogs about all the stuff I done for her, like killin’ snakes and, especially, the post called My Station in Life, I try to let her know that I’m crazy about her. I married above my station in life, which is naturally humbling, so if Sugar has a hankering for somethin’ it tickles me plumb to death to get it for her.

So I got her a sweat lodge. I should have just asked Rodney to build one, but instead I got a store-bought one, made in Finland, although I would have preferred a Swedish model. Which got me to thinking. At the same time as my Viking ancestors invented saunas, Indians in North America were doing about the same thing, independently. Apparently, for centuries, people in different parts of the world have been doing similar things in order to sweat. There are probably similar things in Asia and Africa, but I ain’t done the research. I’m just saying it dawned on me that Rodney and I have in common Indian sweat lodges and Viking saunas.  Plus, we both turned into cowboys.

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