I was born to a middle class white family in a small town in Southern Colorado. We lived in a modest 1920’s stuccoed Spanish colonial style house made of cinder blocks and painted solid white. The roof was peaked and shingled gray. There was a chimney, but the fire-place didn’t work. A great black American Elm grew in our front yard. I lived there from birth to eighteen years old. My mother is still there.
In the backyard she grew roses, lilacs and rhubarb for pie. She made my younger brother mow the grass. My father had a plum tree for homemade jam and the lady across the wire fence held a massive wounded crow captive in an oversized cage.
On weekends we went to the mountains. In the Huajatollas we crashed up old mining roads in our International Harvester Scout. In the Greenhorns we ate fresh trout from Lake Isabel and picnicked on the grass next to Ophir Creek. In the San Juans we perused places like Rico, Dunton and Sawpit and climbed steep paths dappled in aspen.
At Monarch we skied, in the Arkansas we rafted, and in the mountain ghost town of Victor my dad bought a miniature, tumble-down miner’s cabin, from which we explored Long Hungry Gulch, Wilson Creek, Little Pisgah and Grouse Mountain. To the cabin we brought the things we found scattered over the nearby hills and mountains. It was Victor’s past: giant star shaped drill bits, amethyst colored bottles, blue and white Lenox porcelain chunks, milk-glass, pewter cups and rusted open-top cans.
I also brought to the cabin a curiosity for the mountain bluebirds, vireos and hummingbirds I saw, the elk that cut our path, the mountain lion we hoped to see, the bear tracks in the mud, the butterscotch ponderosas, the fescue, the Columbine and the way the wind blew rain from the West onto my face in August.
Yet, I failed to understand the pits the rain dug where the cows had eaten all the grass. The streams I wasn’t allowed to touch that flowed from the mine tailings. The hill sides that sloughed where all the trees had been cut.
The reason I couldn’t hear wolves howling at night, no matter how hard I tried. In the ruins of the ghost town there was a nutty old woman with spiked white hair and breasts that sagged to her knees. Her name was Mary and she collected fossils and miner’s lamps. She said the wolves had been massacred in the 20’s and 30’s and that they would never come back.