Saturday, December 4, 2010

East of the Great Mountain

East of the Great Mountain and West of the Sun
Helen’s Colorado Springs 1873

In 1873 Helen Hunt arrived in Colorado Springs. This was ten years after the death of her husband in 1863 followed by her two children in 1854 and 1865 respectively. That arrival and subsequent observations became part and parcel of her essay “Colorado Springs” published in August of 1874 in the New York Independent approximately nine months after her arrival in town.

So what was really happening in this town that she wrote about?

At the time Colorado was still a territory with S. H Elbert as the territorial governor and M.A. Shaffenburg as the United States Marshall.

We know the town had a population of around three thousand. The town was “governed by the following trustees.”: Matt. France, W. H. Macomber, C.T. Barton, A. H. Weir and J. T. Wilson. They even had a town herder by the name of Thomas Hughes.

As Helen says in her essay “it might be said that three years ago the town of Colorado Springs did not exist….that it is also known as “The Fountain Colony””…. Helen felt that The Fountain Colony was a better name for, “ there is not a spring of any sort whatever in the town...” The trustees of the Fountain Colony as she stated in the essay, were “men of means, position, and great executive ability.” (It should be noted the city and the Fountain Colony trustees were separate entities) The Fountain Colony Board consisted of: Gen. Wm. J. Palmer, President, Henry McAlister, Jr., Executive Director, Gerald De Coursey, Secretary, Wm. P. Mellen, Treasurer, M.L. DeCoursey, Assistant Treasurer. The Trustees: Wm. J. Palmer, Dr. Robert H. Lamborn, Col. Josiah C. Reiff, Col. W. H. Greenwood, Wm. P. Mellen and the Chief Engineer, E. S. Nettleton. Furthermore she states these men are, “enthusiasts in their determination to exert their controlling power in the right direction.”

One of those directions was in the “contest of wills” between them and the liquor dealers. This contest appears to have gone on for some time and in 1873 at the time of Helen’s arrival the town was trying yet again to deal with the liquor dealers who continued to sell their wares despite a ban against such actions.

This is the only mention of the growth pangs of the town. She then moves onto a description of the scenery in and around the town. But there was so much more going on in the area.

In August of that year there was discussion and later voting on whether to retain Colorado City as the county seat or move it to Colorado Springs. The results of the voting: Colorado Springs became the new county seat of the county of El Paso, in the territory of Colorado. This change would eventually help fulfill the vision of men like Gen. Palmer and others who were called by Helen, “enthusiasts in their faith in the future of the region.”

The financial crisis of 1873 also touched Colorado Springs. At the end of October of that year the bank of Wm. B Young & Co. had to suspend operations due to the drains on the deposits of the bank. This was the result of the financial panic in part caused by the failure of Henry Crews and Company of New York. At the same time the “El Paso County Bank” was opened. The men who formed this banking house were: W. S. Jackson, who was the Secretary/Treasurer of the Denver & Rio Grande Railway as well as Mr. Wolfe, Mr. White and Mr. Goodrich. (This is the same W. S. Jackson that became Helen’s second husband.)

Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region received a boost with the Signal Corps deciding to place a signal station on the top of Pikes Peak. The local paper would print the readings that were taken at the top of the mountain. The Colorado Springs Company also purchased from a Mr. Nat Colby the entrance to Cheyenne Canyon, so that “the enjoyment of its beauties may be assured to visitors for all time.”

Although not mentioned directly in the Colorado Springs essay Helen would speak at length about Cheyenne Canyon.

One of the last events that happened that year was the death of Judge Baldwin. His death on November 3 created a mystery that is still unsolved to this day. (His body was found in a well and the circumstances were not conclusive as to whether it was foul play or accident.) This may have occurred just before or around the time Helen arrived in Colorado Springs.

Regardless of the events, both positive and negative, as Helen stated in her essay “for those alone whom I might possibly win to love Colorado Springs as I love it, I repeat that it is a town lying east of the Great Mountain and west of the sun." Helen continued to experience and love this city at the foot of Pikes Peak as a place of both beauty and growth for the remainder of her life.

copyright November 2010 by Doris A. McCraw all rights reserved.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Humor and Laughter

A 'plastic' corpse.

The say laughter is the best medicine. I love the following quote about laughter. "We are in the world to laugh. In purgatory or in hell we shall no longer be able to do so. And in heaven in would not be proper." Jules Renard, Journal, June 1907.

So what is humor and why does it not always lead to laughter. Many of us feel that if we are laughing then people will look at us and wonder why we are laughing. There seems to be a moratorium on laughing out loud in public. If you are in a comedy club, fine. If you are in the coffee shop or heaven forbid a store, is seems that is not an appropriate place. So instead of giving a good belly laugh, we subjugate our laughter and say, that was humorous. I say hogwash.

To me laughter is something to be shared. In case you haven't noticed laughter can be very contagious. Maybe that is why people are afraid of laughing in public places, they might start something.

I remember going to a show that was very, very funny. I couldn't help myself. I couldn't stop laughing. Now most people were laughing with me and enjoying themselves. There was one lady who just kept giving me dirty looks and telling me to be quite. Talk about purgatory, I believe she was already there. Not because of my laughter or that of the audience, but because she was above humor and laughter. How very sad.

I know my male friends love the Three Stooges. For me, if I am blue I put on a Marx Brothers or Abbott and Costello movie and all is right with the world.

If there is one thing I have learned in life, laugh. It is good for you and really for those around you. Laughter is contagious. Pass on the contagion and laugh out loud. Soon the world will laugh with you. Remember, we are in the world to laugh!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Following your Heart

With a title like Following you Heart you might think this post is about finding love. In a way it is, but not as most would think. To me following you heart is finding what makes your mind, body and soul quiver with joy. It may be someone or something to love. For me it is creation. I love creating stories, be they fiction or non-fiction, performing in front of an audience and have them respond to my words, singing and bringing emotion to my listeners.

In life I have had the blessing of being able to follow my heart and still succeed at making a living.

I was able to study with the voice teacher I wanted, even though she was not taking on new students.

I went to the private college of my choice, even though the financial expense was steep.

I spent twenty years working in a field that I had chosen at the age of fifteen, and retired at an age that allowed me to continue with my other passions.

I have met and become friends with people who not only support me with their friendships, but also their encouragement in continuing to follow my passions.

I have decided for me the only way to live is follow my heart and know that in the end I will find that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

If you decide to go on this journey remember to keep moving and if the road swerves, follow the swerve, it will only be a learning spot along the way.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Honoring A Mother

One of my mothers favorite flowers. I think of her every time I see one.

In honor of Mothers Day, this post will be about my own mother. In some ways this post is harder to write than most. I imagine it is because as most of you know, the relationship you have with your parents can be a bit difficult, sweet, convoluted and just plain scary sometimes.

Let me say from the outset I admire my mother. In many ways she was way ahead of the curve in her parenting skills. Still, don't think that there were not moments of tension and anger. There usually is when you are young and trying to stretch your wings, and mom is trying to make sure you don't fall too soon, that your wings are ready to hold you on the currents.

Probably what I remember most are the little events that ended up impacting my life in huge ways.

1. My mother had a way of treating both my brother and myself as only children. I don't know how she did it, but I never felt slighted in the least little bit. Of course......there is always enough love to give to everyone.

2. One time when I was complaining about something my younger brother had done my mother calmly told me to take care of it. I had spoiled him and it was my responsibility to handle what I had created. Yes...a great way to learn responsibility.

3. When I was preparing to leave for college I was trying to let my mother know I loved her and my father, but it was time to leave. She very graciously said,"If you didn't want to leave I would think something was wrong with you. Why do you think I raised you the way I did." Now that is a wonderful way to say...your wings are ready, go fly with my blessing.

There are probably many other stories and lessons that I could relate. Instead I will close with probably one of the greatest blessings a mother can give her child. The gift of friendship, an equal footing once you have grown. I don't know how she does it, but while still being my mother, she is also my equal. For that and so many other gifts I wish Mom, HAPPY MOTHERS DAY!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Poets - Helen Hunt Jackson

This final week of April and National Poetry month I want to write about Helen Hunt Jackson and not only how she, but also her poetry have made an impression on my life.

As most of you know, I perform as Mrs. Jackson. This woman, her work and personality have become a passion of mine. What most remember about Helen and her work are the last five years of her life and the dedication she gave to her cause of Indian rights. In the years prior to that time she made her living after the death of both her husband and two sons as a writer of poetry and essays. It is her poetry I want to share with you the reader.

A number of her earlier poems were infused with the grief she was feeling over the death of her last remaining son who passed away at the age of nine. (She had lost her first son at the age of eleven months and her husband to an accident while he was working on an underwater project for the Army during the Civil War) Her work grew from that point and to many people she was one of the premier poets of her time.

In the the book Poems by Helen Jackson, Little Brown and Co copywrite 1906, the following verse is indicative of some of her work.


Bending above the spicy woods which blaze,
Arch skies so blue they flash, and hold the sun
Immeasurably far; the waters run
Too slow, so freighted are the river-ways
With gold of elms and birches from the maze
Of forests. Chestnuts, clicking one by one,
Escape from satin burs; her fringes done,
The gentian spreads them out in sunny days,
And, like late revellers at dawn, the chance
Of one sweet, mad, last hour, all things assail,
And conquering, flush and spin; while, to enhance
The spell, by sunset door, wrapped in a veil
Of red and purple mists, the summer, pale,
Steals back alone for one more song and dance.

As you read these words the picture becomes clear in your mind. You can hear the sounds of fall and glory in the wonderful use of language. I enjoy not only reading her works to myself, but sharing, reading aloud so that others can hear the music also.

Many people cite her poem Cheyenne Mountain as one that holds the key to her thoughts of the area around Colorado Springs. This is true, but by far the one that I think describes Helen herself is her poem Last Words.

Last Words

Dear hearts, whose love has been so sweet to know,
That I am looking backward as I go,
Am lingering while I haste, and in this rain
Of tears of joy am mingling tears of pain;
Do not adorn with costly shrub, or tree,
Or flower, the little grave which shelters me.
Let the wild wind-sown seeds grow up unharmed,
And back and forth all summer, unalarmed,
Let all the tiny, busy creatures creep;
Let the sweet grass its last year's tangles keep;
And when, remembering me, you come some day
And stand there, speak no praise, but only say,
"How she loved us! 'Twas that which made her dear!"
Those are the words that I shall joy to hear.

I consider Helen a classic poet, but it does not change the depth and joy of her words for today's readers. As the above works show, the skill with which she 'painted' her thoughts is truly amazing. Yes, I am partial to this woman and her work, but I would encourage everyone to take a step back in time and see what so many of her generation knew, Helen Hunt Jackson was a woman of considerable talent that continues to inspire people today.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Poets- KL Bates

This week I am taking a trip down memory lane with Katherine Lee Bates. About eight years ago I had the privilege of performing as Katherine in an original piece called "Scandal and Scones". This was part script and mostly improvisation. In order to speak as the character it was necessary for me to study the life of Katherine Lee Bates.

We all know she wrote the poem "America the Beautiful", that is the poem not the song. The song/tune is a hymn written by a gentleman named Ward called "Materna". What I found was a poet who kept a journal and started writing poems at an early age. One of her first was called "Romance of Count Hymbo". It begins with the lines:

Count Hymbo was a gallint knight
Of honor and renown
None braver was there in the fight,
Pride of his native town.

It ended with the lines:

From his couch up started that night,
His handsome face was deathly white,
The figure vanished from his sight,
And Count Hymbo died of fright.

She signed it Katie L. Bates

An interesting piece from a young girl. Her later years saw so many varied and interesting works. A few of my favorites are:

Pigeon Post

White wing, White wing,
Lily of the air,
What word dost bring,
On whose errand fare?
Red word, Red word,
snowy plumes abhor.
I, Christ's own bird,
Do the work of war.

and the second

If You Could Come

My love, my love, if you could come once more
From your high place,
I would not question you for heavenly lore,
But, silent, take the comfort of your face.

I would not ask you if those golden spheres
In love rejoice,
If only our stained star hath sin and tears,
But fill my famished hearing with your voice.

One touch of you were worth a thousand creeds.
My wound is numb
Through toil-pressed, but all night long it bleeds
In aching dreams, and still you cannot come.

As you can see there is so much more to this poetess/writer than one poem indicates. Although 'America the Beautiful' is such an iconic work, Katherine Lee Bates other works deserve a second and third look. I am so glad to have been put into the position of learning more, it has opened up worlds and words I might never have experienced.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

April, National Poetry Month-Masters

April is National Poetry month. This month I decided to spend some time with some of the poets and poetry that had an effect on my life. In this posting I will be revisiting Edgar Lee Masters and his Spoon River Anthology.

I became acquainted with Masters in high school. His free form verse about the people in Spoon River reached a responsive cord in me. In some ways those stories were like reading about the small towns I grew up around.

The three people whose stories I responded to as a teen were:Dorcas Gustine, Mable Osborne and Lucinda Matlock. Each one reacted to life in such a unique way, and though each is very different, even time has not dimmed my love of their stories.

Dorcas: Her story began with the following line:
I was not beloved of the villagers,
But all because I spoke my mind,

and ended with:
The tongue may be an unruly member—
But silence poisons the soul.
Berate me who will—I am content.

In between with just a few lines is a woman who lived life on her own terms regardless of the consequences.

Mable: Her story is completely different, yet just as powerful
She starts:
Your red blossoms amid green leaves
Are drooping, beautiful geranium!
But you do not ask for water.
You cannot speak!

She ends:
Voiceless from chasteness of soul to ask you for love,
You who knew and saw me perish before you,
Like this geranium which someone has planted over me,
And left to die.

A woman who wanted so much, but failed to receive it.

Finally there is Lucinda Matlock, based on Masters own mother. Her final lines say it all:
At ninety—six I had lived enough, that is all,
And passed to a sweet repose.
What is this I hear of sorrow and weariness,
Anger, discontent and drooping hopes?
Degenerate sons and daughters,
Life is too strong for you—
It takes life to love Life.

I hope you have a chance to revisit some of the works that you enjoyed during your lifetime. Perhaps some of what I have shared will hit a responsive cord with you and send you on a search for those lines that spoke to you.

Happy reading until next time.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Part Two of the Helen Hunt Jackson 'Interview'

First I want to thank Mrs. Jackson for joining us again today. I would like to spend some time with questions about your work for the Indians in the late 1870's and early 1880's.

In your article 'Oldest House' you mention the fate of the people who lived in the area prior to the Spanish residence in Santa Fe.

When Coronado explored Mexico in 1540, he found many Indian pueblos on the Rio Grande River, and speaks of several which must have been near the present location of Santa Fe. The one which it is generally supposed was on its precise site at the time stretched along its river-banks for six miles. Colorado reported that he found here a beautiful and fertile valley, under high cultivation by the Indians. It is hard to realize...that a race which, over three hundred years ago, had reached comfort and success in agriculture and pastoral occupations, should be today an abject, supine, wretched a melancholy comment on the injustices they have received.

Those are pretty harsh words. It is obvious you have strong feelings about the issue.

The book, Century of Dishonor, as its title indicates, a sketch of the United States Government's dealings with some of the..tribes.

Right sentiment and purpose in a senator..representative here and there, are little more than straws which make momentary eddies, but do not obstruct the tide.

a..states representative argued in Congress that is is very hard if the government will not for..advantage, break a few treaties when it has broken so many for the advantage of other states....what a logic of infamy...because we have had one century of dishonor, must we have two?

Do you think anything can be done for about this issue?

The only thing that can stay this is a mighty outspoken sentiment and purpose of the great body of the people. ....for the American people,as a people, are not at heart unjust. If there be one thing which they believe in more than any other, is fair play. As soon as they understand....they will rise up and demand it...

Thank you so much for taking the time to share some of your thoughts and words with us.

(It should be noted that these 'interviews' contained words used by Mrs. Jackson. Also prior to the publication of Century of Dishonor and Ramona, Helen did not use her real name. Century was the first to carry the name Helen Jackson. The use of Helen Hunt Jackson did not appear until after her death in 1885.)

I hope you enjoyed a bit of insight into the interesting, complex and fearless woman. She seemed to always state her opinion, regardless of what others may have thought. She is a woman to be remembered.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

'Interview' with Helen Hunt Jackson

For fun this week I thought it might be fun to 'interview' Helen Hunt Jackson using her own words. I hope you enjoy. The photo is from my recent performance at the Pikes Peak Library District as Helen Hunt Jackson

As you were traveling to the west you made some unique observations. Would you share some of those thoughts?

Prairie, unfenced, undivided, unmeasured, unmarked, save by the different tints of different growths of grass or grain; great droves of cattle grazing here and there; acres of willow saplings, pale yellowish green; and solitary trees, which look like hermits in a wilderness. These, and now and then a shapeless village, which looks even lonelier than the empty loneliness by which it is surrounded, - these are all for hours and hours. We think, “now we are getting out into the great spaces.” “This is what the word ‘West’ has sounded like.”

You seem to like the lower elevations as opposed to the high peaks. Why do you think that?

I think that true delight, true realization, of the gracious, tender, unutterable beauty of the earth and all created things are to be found in outlooks from lower points—vistas which shut more than they show, sweet and unexpected revealings in level places and valley, secrets of near woods, and glories of every-day paths.

You are quoted as saying there are nine places of worship in Colorado Springs. What are the?

There are nine “places of divine worship” in Colorado Springs, -- the Presbyterian, the Cumberland Presbyterian, the Methodist, the South Methodist, the Episcopal, the Congregationalist, the Baptist, the Unitarian, and Cheyenne Canyon.

What do you do when the snow covers the ground?

... winter..... memory and fancy will have their way; and, as we sit cowering over fires, and the snow piles up outside our window sills, we shall gaze dreamily into the glowing coals, and, living the summer over again, shall recall it in a minuteness of joy, for summer days were too short and summer light too strong. Then, when joy becomes reverie, and reverie takes shape, a truer record can be written....

Thank you Mrs. Jackson. I hope you will join me again later to share more of your insights.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Varina Davis

Varina Howell was 17 when she met Jefferson Davis, 18 years her senior. Then married when she was 19 and within a short time, Varina found herself in Washington DC as the wife of a politician.
This was a huge step for a young southern lady born and basically educated at home, much like other women of her time. Born May 7, 1826, Varina was a bright, outgoing and charming woman. Still, for a woman at that time, options were limited. According to writings and letters, Varina tried to be the good wife the Jefferson expected her to be. Her first trip to DC was a trial, but by the second trip she had found her step. In some ways she may have understoon politics better than her husband.
Varina has the distinction of being the only first lady of the Confederacy. To some she was a saint and others a vile creature. Does that sound familiar? Some would say the same thing about Mary Lincoln.
As I have studied this woman and her times I come away with a person who did her best in what we now know were very trying situations. After the war, she feared for the safety of her children in Georgia, to the point she sent them to Canada to live with her mother. She petitioned tirelessly for the release of her husband from his prison. A remarkable and yet perhaps misunderstood woman. The pictures above are of the home she and Jefferson retired to in 1879. A picture of another time and era. As you can see in the second photograph the home suffered damage during Katrina and has been slowly restored as seen in the first photograph.

I want to thank my friend Ken Oyer for his willingness to visit Bouvier and share these recent photos.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Katherine McNeal Lamont

In honor of National Womens' History month I will be highlighting women in the Colorado Springs, El Paso County area of Colorado.

Todays focus is Katherine McNeal Lamont. There is not much known about her. Accourding to her obituary she was born August 2, 1871 in Rock Island, Illinois and moved to Denver where she married a Scotsman named Duncan Lamont on October 3, 1901.

From Denver they moved to Colorado City where Mr. Lamont became the pastor of the First Baptist Church at 1 S. 24th ST.

Her obituary says she was active in the church and social groups. When you study the city directories you see that most of her married life was spent in Colorado City (later a part of Colorado Springs) except for about two years spent in Victor Colorado. Still even in Colorado City the Lamonts moved no fewer than three times.

What is found in the local papers is a woman who seemed to do her best as the wife of a pastor and later postmaster. She took part in church events, even to the point of singing a duet with another woman. It appears she was a member of the WTCU while her husband was preaching against the sins of alcohol.

The more I try to find out about this woman the more questions I run into. Why did she wait until thirty years of age to marry? Was she instrumental in her husband moving into politics? What was her early life in Illinois and Colorado like? Perhaps some day these questions will be answered. In the meanwhile, Katherine Lamont is one of the women from the early days of Colorado who walked the land, but has been overlooked. Even the large headstone is shared with her husband, then two identical smaller ones on each side.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Interview with Mike Stevens

Although I have not posted for awhile, I wanted to share with you my questions with Mike Stevens. Mike is a poet whose work I enjoy. In addition Mike also writes some of the Red Herring Production scripts, is a history/western enthusiast and is one terrific whip handler (if that is what you call someone who is really good with the whip) Hope you share my enthusiasm.

"A little snow means big snow," as the old ones used to say,
And from the sky some tiny flakes come drifting down our way

So begins one of my favorite poems of Mike's "Little Snow"

Why did you chose to write poetry?

I think we write to be heard. There is so much noise in the world now that nobody pays attention to us. Go to a business meeting and try to inject the right answer: they’ll ignore you for an hour, and by then it’ll be somebody else’s idea. Or try to tell your kids something important: they’re so drowned in music, media, and texting that they’ll just roll their eyes at you.

But if you’ve got some talent and are willing to put a lot of effort into crafting your message, you can create a work that, at least for a moment, people will notice. It may be right or wrong, meaningful or silly, good or evil; but at least they’ll listen to it. And that’s poetry – or rap music, or a screenplay, or a novel, or ad copy, or whatever you’re good at.

What genre do you consider your poetry to be?

I write Cowboy Poetry. There is some really good Cowboy Poetry out there, and a lot of really bad. I’m somewhere in the middle.

Do you have anything published and if so where can a person find your work?

I have 5 poems published on the Cowboy Poetry Website. Try:

You also are one of the owners of Red Herring Productions, does that type of entertainment influence your writing?

I’m afraid so. It means I’m very focused on the entertainment aspect: on getting up in front of people and reciting poetry and creating a relationship with the audience that we both enjoy. I’ve read some disparaging remarks from cowboy poets about folks who are nothing but performers. I try not to be one of those. I may be a ham, but I do write my own material and I try to make an honest job of it.

Anything else that someone should know about you?

Yes. Please ask me if I “really” know how to crack that bullwhip I’m carrying. I’d love to show you, your wife, your girlfriend, or your kids how the “wrap around” trick works.