It was an above average spring runoff in the early 1980s, and energetic volunteer crews from Basalt to Silt threw sandbags around like pillows, until gravity started flexing its muscles.
Some friends lived in a funky house a few feet from Three Mile Creek that year, and for a few nights heard the fast moving waters from up high roll large rocks along the creek bed like bowling balls going “thump, thump, thump.”
Other friends up Three Mile lived in a “repurposed” single-wide trailer that looked and felt like anything but, with a spiral staircase that led to a garden-level walk-out apartment, deck that overlooked their green lawn from above and kitchen/living room whose walls of windows opened up to spruce-lined views of the narrow canyon.
They enjoyed showing visitors the hitch that was still affixed to the original trailer home to prove its pedigree.
So, what’s all that got to do with anything?
Well, it sort of touches on the diversity of housing scattered about the Roaring Fork Valley and surrounding areas. Think about the housing we’ve got. You wouldn’t hear river rocks tumbling down mountain creeks in, for example, Texas. We’ve got unusual “hand built” homes at 8,200 feet on Serpentine Trail outside Marble, 100-year-old brick farm homes, penthouses in downtown Aspen that were hippie flop houses in the late 1960s and early 1970s, tiny apartments above former livery stables in downtown Carbondale, straw bale houses, yurts and teepees.
Victorian houses whose foundations are river rocks just laid on the ground decades ago are not uncommon. I know a guy pushing 80 who lived in the old Aspen A’s across from the North of Nell building in the 1960s, who said people used to knock on his door thinking his home was a store.
It’s not unusual for people to view mountain lions, skunks, deer, elk and other wildlife sneak, creep, strut and wander through their yards. Some porches and decks feature feeders that attract swarms of darting hummingbirds. Irrigation ditches, some only a foot or two wide, are used to water lawns in Carbondale or just flow through town.
Areas of settlement include: No Name, Oklahoma Flats, Holgate Mesa, Cattle Creek, Emma, Wingo Junction and Missouri Heights. Satank is an unincorporated part of Garfield County that sits between the northwest boundary of Carbondale and the Roaring Fork River with a population of what, 200-300? The one long-time family became Satank residents when they squatted on land owned by the late Shorty Pabst many decades ago – according to published reports.
If you’ve lived in these parts for a while, or your whole life, you probably lived in at least one place that boasted a tale to tell, or at least brings back memories to tell friends and family. I’ve lived in at least 10 places around here since 1979, and decided to take a little tour of most of them to see what kind of memories they jogged.
The house up Red Hill, north of Carbondale, climbed up a hill in five levels, topping off with a small apartment where my partner and I lived. The guy in the main house downstairs grew pot under grow-lights in the basement, which sometimes tripped the breaker switch and our lights went out.
An architect built the house in the early 1990s. By the time my partner and I moved downstairs to the main house, a small elevator was no longer in service, and the tree in the second floor atrium had grown up 15 feet and pushed against the skylight. My partner, whom we’ll call “Ms. X,” enlisted me to help trim the tree’s long, skinny green leaves twice a year.
A raven we named “Edgar” liked to fly across the pasture to our shed and scrounge for food. It didn’t take long for Ms. X to have Edgar eating out of her hand, although he never warmed to my palm. One time, Edgar dropped what appeared to be a chicken wishbone on our driveway, which Ms. X determined was a gift.
In 2009, we moved to Flaven Cerise’s old place up Prince Creek south of Carbondale. Cerise was a rancher and Garfield County commissioner in the early 1990s – a Democrat one at that. The best thing about the Cerise place was the detached two-car garage with its two walls of built-in shelves.
We stuffed those shelves from floor to ceiling with cardboard boxes of stuff, with enough boxes left over to cover most of the concrete floor two or three boxes high. We were forced to move after a 1-percenter bought the property, plus the 40 acres along the Crystal River that featured a fairly new McMansion and skeet range.
The rich guy tore down the mansion. The new owner left the Cerise house to continue to sit where it had for many decades, but tore down an historic cabin and modular house.
After the Cerise place, Ms. X and I moved to a nice house with horse pastures on two sides on a high point on Missouri Heights, not far from the schoolhouse. When the wind blew, which wasn’t all that often, the term “wind swept” location would apply. One time, the wind blew our loafing shed halfway over the rail fence it backed up on.
Speaking of loafing sheds and horses, one of the neighbor’s steeds almost ran me down once, but I zigged when he zagged, or the other way around, and we both escaped injury. The most distinctive thing about the Missouri Heights house was the morning and afternoon light that slants in at a 45-degree angle that makes photographs glow.
Living in a shotgun shack
The first place I lived, in 1979, was the Pinion Pines apartments (aka “The Beats”) on the Colorado Mountain College Spring Valley campus. I was a somewhat-but-not-really worldly 29 year old living amongst 18- and 19-year-old freshmen and sophomores. I moved out after a few months and later learned the unit I shared with three other guys was nicknamed “The Swamp” because it flooded every spring and the entire carpet turned soggy.
The next place for me was the basement of a ranch-style house on Grand Avenue in Glenwood Springs. The only visual image of that house was the time I walked in on the owner when he was sitting on the toilet. Funny how memories work sometimes.
In about 1980 or ’81, I moved to the closest thing to a shotgun shack I’ve ever lived in on Bennett in Glenwood Springs. In a straight line, the apartment was composed of a kitchen (with a white Norge refrigerator), bedroom and bathroom equipped with a tub. At some point, I discovered a tiny hole in the wall above the bathtub faucet that allowed me to peer through my neighbor’s closet and right to her kitchen table. She sometimes floated around with her flimsy night shirt unbuttoned, revealing a pretty nice rack. I don’t remember wondering whether the peep-hole worked in both directions.
I lived in a one-bedroom apartment on the third floor at the Elms in Glenwood Springs from about 1982 to March 1990. The Elms was built as a hospital in the early 1900s and converted to an apartment building in about 1937 or so. If the Russians ever drop an A-bomb on Glenwood, the Elms will probably be left standing.
I could hear every barking dog within a two- block radius of the Elms. I remember charging downstairs and throwing a trash can at a barking dog one time. I love dogs; it’s some of their owners I have a problem with.
In March 1990, I moved into a 1,200-square-foot house I built at 756 Sopris Ave. in Carbondale. I bought the lot for $16,000 in 1987; the late Frank Smotherman hooked me up. One of the best things about that house was its close proximity to Sopris Park for Mountain Fair – one block. Party central. The worst thing about the house was the gurgling noise the radiant heat system started making a year after I moved in.
Coulda been the contractor who didn’t lay the pipe right, or the carpet layer who put a nail through it. The folks who bought my house discovered this construction flaw when they ripped out the carpet and found that the mat was soaked. They got it fixed, though, and we are still on speaking terms.
At some point after 2009 and after the Cerise place, Ms. X and I moved to a converted detached garage off of County Road 100 near the rodeo arena. Good thing the house had a concrete floor. One time our two dogs got into a brief but vicious fight. I tried to break it up with my bare foot and was rewarded with a puncture wound that sent blood flowing to the floor and later the kitchen sink, and me to the emergency room.
Somewhere along the line, Ms. X and I lived in a small house on Missouri Heights that was a part of a larger complex that featured a lodge-style house, mini-mansion and tennis court. I don’t remember anything remarkable about that place, other than the llamas that shared the property with us.
Which brings us to my current resting place in a bedroom in a house on Seventh Street in Carbondale. A short foot bridge crosses an irrigation ditch on the front side of the house. Next door on the backside sits the “Pink Bunny” sculpture that once romped around at the corner of Eighth and Main.
The “Architects Ghetto” is across the road to the north. That enclave was vacant land until some local architects discovered it about 20 years ago and started building homes for themselves. Today, I like saying “ … I live next to the Pink Bunny and across from the Architects Ghetto.” Where else can someone describe their house in that way?