The undersized bars were packed. The streets were not.

I remember it a lot differently in high school. Mike and I cruised Main Street Pueblo Colorado  in my white, worn out Toyota Corona looking for girls. Then, inevitably disappointed and at the same time somewhat relieved, we meandered off somewhere to drink beers and talk to hobos in the dark by the railroad tracks where the air reeked of old creosote.

Pueblo Colorado

“Say goodbye to the railroad,” I remember one guy telling us. “The veins of this town are drying up.”

The whole town dried up.  That was then. Somehow it is still around.

Just last month, after twelve years, Mike and I met outside the Shamrock Brewing Company on Third Street, right downtown. This used to be the Irish Pub. When I was a kid it was owned by one of my father’s hooligans. An Italian by the name of Ted. He taught me how to play pool.

My parents had their first date at the Irish Pub. A Catholic priest set them up. I have a picture of them sucking face in one of the booths sometime in 1967.

The downtown bars of Pueblo are tucked between darkened stores, wide empty parking lots and abandoned red-stone buildings built in the 1890s. In contrast, black and white photos show trolley cars easing along streets packed from edge to edge with people and cars and horses and life in, say 1900. Or 1910.

It is nothing like that now even if there is a 15- year old project under way to revitalize the area by diverting a portion of the Arkansas River to run through downtown. The idea is to create a miniature version of San Antonio’s famed river walk.

Clear success has proven elusive.

I had driven up the three hours from where I live now in New Mexico to take pictures at the Colorado State Fair.

Extraordinarily obese women plied their kids with cotton candy from pink and white stripped booths. Fuzzy-faced boys shadow-boxed one another near a sausage stand. A pre-pubescent girl in a mini-skirt from a local dance school gave an astonishingly over-sexed dance performance to a crowd of grandparents. The 4H kids sat in circles by their cows thumbing their smart-phones. One boy fed a row of sheep. They all wore tight jeans.

Pueblo Colorado

The whole scene got me feeling that I needed to see Mike. I called him up. Our friend Sandra joined in.

After I put down one beer we walked down to the Senate Bar for another. Mike sipped soda. He’s been dry for seven years. Wounded but still climbing.

Mike was pleased of the fact that he has a back yard. “Bring your boy up and we’ll turn him loose back there,” he offered.

It must be because the backyard he had growing up in the old union neighborhoods by the steel mill was a narrow gravel alley shaded by overgrown Chinese Elm, lined with electricity and telephone wires and interspersed with ridiculously tall hills of red ants.

When we were kids we used to pour gasoline siphoned from the lawnmower into the anthills and light them on fire.

That’s just what you do in a place like Pueblo.

Pueblo Colorado




  1. Comment by Jim O'Donnell

    Jim O'Donnell Reply October 10, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    John and Victoria – try this brief "ode" to our hometown. Michael R. Montez and Sandra Harris co-star.

    • Comment by Sandra Harris

      Sandra Harris Reply October 11, 2012 at 2:29 am

      Love your writing and love being a co-star!

  2. Comment by maria lemus

    maria lemus Reply October 10, 2012 at 7:39 am

    Amazing like always, :)

  3. Comment by Lane

    Lane Reply October 10, 2012 at 7:45 am

    You can’t go back in time. And, sometimes that’s a good thing. :)

  4. Comment by John Mata

    John Mata Reply October 10, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    Lighting ants on fire with gasoline. What joyous nostalgia it brings to mind.

    After we had left Pueblo, on this last go around, I had realized that I had never made my way South of the Arkansas! Sheez, what a major mishap! Most of my memorable years in Pueblo took place in the deep South of Pueblo! We stayed on the North-side this go around, and in hindsight, it was like staying in a town I had never before been to. Nah, that last line was BS, Pueblo is Pueblo, dammit!

    • Comment by Thaddeus Mata

      Thaddeus Mata Reply October 10, 2012 at 10:50 pm

      Lower east side.

    • Comment by Jim O'Donnell

      Jim O'Donnell Reply October 11, 2012 at 3:07 am

      I feel like I'm ALWAYS finding new parts of Pueblo. How did I miss this and that?

    • Comment by Jim O'Donnell

      Jim O'Donnell Reply October 11, 2012 at 3:09 am

      Thaddeus Mata – I remember always driving WAY out to the lower east side to find vic….now that seemed like a different town.

  5. Comment by Jess Van Wickel

    Jess Van Wickel Reply October 10, 2012 at 10:39 pm

    Love it! Great blog, I can almost smell the creosote and grit, however, you might be able to call it "Manytown USA", as I have similar smell memories in old San Fernando, CA walking to/from Junior High near the tracks in the early 60's.

    • Comment by Jim O'Donnell

      Jim O'Donnell Reply October 11, 2012 at 3:08 am

      Thats so true Jess. I think there are alot of people with similar memories of growing up. Such an American experience.

  6. Comment by Scott Clemens

    Scott Clemens Reply October 12, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    creosote — how many memories it brings to mind. I wonder if my kids even know what it smells like.

    • Comment by Jim O'Donnell

      Jim O'Donnell Reply October 16, 2012 at 12:02 pm

      Isnt that a funny thought Scott? Because of where I grew up, hearing and smelling trains 24/7 was part of my life. Where I'm raising my kids, there are no trains. My son is a train fanatic but that daily tactile experience of them is not there.

  7. Comment by Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot

    Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot Reply October 19, 2012 at 5:20 am

    Haha, so are you going to take your lad there so he can try it. My boys would love to do that:) The middle pic is fabulous.

    • Comment by Jim O'Donnell

      Jim O'Donnell Reply October 20, 2012 at 11:39 am

      Annabel, we are actually in Pueblo alot because of the grandparents so the lad will try it all! But what “it” are you referring to? I’m so glad those folks in the middle pic didnt turn around when I lined up the shot……

  8. Comment by Michael Sekelsky

    Michael Sekelsky Reply February 9, 2013 at 7:07 am

    I burned an ant hill two days ago in my backyard in pueblo it was a blast…

    • Comment by Eric Z Fox

      Eric Z Fox Reply February 9, 2013 at 7:20 am

      you must be the mike. well written

    • Comment by Jim O'Donnell

      Jim O'Donnell Reply February 9, 2013 at 3:44 pm

      Hahaha. What else is there to do in Pueblo!?!?

    • Comment by Jim O'Donnell

      Jim O'Donnell Reply February 9, 2013 at 3:44 pm

      Eric Z Fox – it was a different Mike but still as twisted! Thanks Eric!

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