The Mountains of Colorado
1963 to 1965
I had always wanted to live in the Colorado Mountains. When a little house came up for sale in Poudre Canyon, west of Fort Collins, for some reason I had enough money for a down payment, so we moved our little family 10 miles up Cache La Poudre Canyon and about 25 miles from Fort Collins. It was a very old house that had been built over a great big boulder, so we always joked that we have a rock in the basement. It had a large living room with a large fireplace, a teeny tiny kitchen, one small bedroom, and a porch surrounded by windows that looked out over the Poudre River. I turned that into our bedroom.
It also had two guest cabins, and I worked hard fixing them up with the idea of renting them out so I could make payments on my little dream home in the mountains. One of the cabins was made out of logs and had a cement floor. It had been used for a little souvenir shop. It had no heat. The other cabin was slab built and in good condition. I rented it out right away to a young kid who I should have done a background check on. Oh, but not me! I trusted everyone!
I painted, I cleaned, I made curtains. We played in the sun, and went for long walks along the Poudre River, picked chokecherries and wild plums. We even had horseradish plants. The kids played with the large leaves and waved them at log trucks as they went by, who tooted their horns back at them.
I bought an agitator washing machine. Every time it rained, I gathered the rain in buckets, heated the water, dumped it in the washing machine, ran them through the wringer, and hung the clothes out on the line to dry. I also gave the kids a bar of soap, shoved them under the dripping eves and they got a bath.
Our little place also had a cellar dug in the side of the mountain. It had rock walls, rock ceiling and a cement floor. It also housed the resident Bull snake. I was told that he would not hurt anyone, that he took care of the rattlesnakes that were in the area. Well, a snake is a snake, and sorry to say, I never used the cellar. On sunny days, we would see him sunning himself on a rock. He must’ve done his job because we never saw any rattlesnakes in our yard.
We saw the cougar, or mountain lion, as we called him, sunning himself on a large rock most of the summer. One day I went down to the mailbox across the road, turned around and he was stalking me, his tail swishing from side to side. From then on I was very cautious about where my kids played and always scoped out the territory around us before we went outdoors. He always kept his distance. I think he was more curious than dangerous.
Winter came, the kids and “The Dad” and I loaded up in the pickup and all went to a saw mill to get wood slabs, so we could burn them in our big fireplace. The kids had fun sliding down the sawdust mountain, so we brought more sawdust home then we did slabs. But they had fun and we kept warm that winter, even though the fireplace emitted smoke from time to time. We also had a little electric heater.
At Christmas time, the kids were given a Creepy Crawlers set. All you people that raised children in the 60s know exactly what I’m talking about. It was a little mold with an electric plug to warm it up. The kids poured multicolored plastic into the molds, and “cooked” bugs for a small amount of time. They had brightly colored green, blue, yellow and red, centipedes, snakes, bugs and frogs. They made creepy crawlers until the ran out of compound. They had so much fun with them, laying them under boots and shoes, on tables and cupboards, just to watch me squeal when I saw one.
One of the three kids, I am not saying who, came up with the bright idea of putting them on “The Dad’s” side of the bed under the quilts. Well, I thought that was a pretty funny idea, so I went along with it. That night, Mr. Dad came home, at his usual very late hour, took off his shoes, socks and clothes and the last thing he took off was his glasses. He pulled back the covers on the bed, saw some bugs, sucked in his breath, grabbed his shoe and started beating on the bed. The harder he beat on the bed the higher the Creepy Crawlers jumped. He screamed at me, to get out of bed… there’s bugs in the bed! I jumped out of bed hiding a big smile on my face. I looked up and saw all three kids peeking around the doorway, with their hands over their mouth, their eyes lit up in total delight. I motioned for them to hurry and get back in bed before “The Dad” used his shoe on their bottoms.
I turned around and hollered at The Dad, “they’re just plastic, just Creepy Crawlers.” He screamed back at me… NO they’re not! They are jumping around in the bed! I told him to quit beating on the bed and they wouldn’t jump. He put his glasses back on, bent over and took a look, and stomped off to sleep on the couch. I gathered up the creepy bugs in the bed, trying not to laugh out loud. For years and years the kids used to talk (and still do) about Dad and the Creepy Crawlers, with tears running down their cheeks in fits of laughter. He NEVER did think it was funny!
That kid in the cabin, ended up in jail, because he shot some cattle with his rifle, not too far from where we lived. My children had told me from time to time someone was looking in their bedroom window, but when I would look I never saw anything. I know now it was the kid in the cabin. It still raises a hair on the back of my neck.
I loved that place but it was too difficult in the wintertime to keep warm, and drive 10 miles up the snowy, icy, winding road. I worked at the hospital, and the kids had to be dropped off at school, kindergarten and daycare in Fort Collins. After two years we moved closer to town, work and schools. I still owned the place when I moved to Alaska, and traded it to my dad for money to buy fishing sites in Alaska.
And there is another fish tale to tell.