Colorado's Like Mary Queen of Scots, Published 2 March 1937

Since you are going to see so much of Colorado in the next few days, even though I haven't got you very far along the line yet, you will pardon a middle-aged man his whimsies if he pauses to say he thinks Colorado is a young country with a past. In that way it is like Mary Queen of Scots, whose life was really over before she was 21. True, she lived on to lose her pretty head once and her heart more often, but you may recall that before she was old enough to vote she had been Dauphiness. Queen of France, and Dowager. Thus, in a sense, the rest of her life was anticlimax. Mary Queen of Scots found herself in a bad spot from the time it took her three days' sailing from France to Leith, and her really great days were over, at 21. Now I am not painting so dolorous a canvas of Colorado as all that, but her pristine prosperity is gone. True, Colorado is probably better off today with her well-run mines and her enormous tourist traffic, than ever she was in the great mining boom, but the glamorous old silver days are as dead as demands for paper collars.
Colorado of the days of Silver Plume. Colorado when the Georgetown Loop was the talk of a rail-conscious continent, Colorado when the two-mile-high Leadville was a roistering city that Colorado is as much a thing of limbo as currency of the Confederacy. Let me give you one example to explain what I mean, and I'll call it quits. Way deep in the brushwood, amid second growth forests, far off any highway and certainly remote from railways, you will come upon a chunk of rust. It is the street hydrant of a once-prosperous city. That ghost city is so much the pale wraith of the thing it once was, that there is nothing now standing to show where the booming mining center formerly throve. A town that was once big enough to boast of street hydrants, in days when waterworks were not deemed so necessary as now, is as completely buried as anything the archaeologists have ever dug in Babylonia. And the funny part of it is that people no older than my father can remember when those towns were in their prime. Now do you get my Mary Queen of Scots slant on Colorado?

* * *

Well, we'll leave Queen Elizabeth's dear cousin and get on down to Palmer Lake. The Rio Grande, which seems never so happy as when it is going up hill, soon soared over the 7237 feet at Palmer Lake, and rolled as easily down toward Colorado Springs. We were riding the second No. 1, which carries only a baggage car and a coach, and which is put on to connect with the Burlington Zephyr, and to catch up with the first No. 1, the Scenic Limited, at Pueblo. The big long train, the first No. 1, does some local work, and thus starts from Denver before the Burlington's streamliner arrives.
I was keen to see Colorado Springs again, because I had been there in 1925. At that time, on my first big trip away from Canada after I started newspaper work, I suddenly discovered in Colorado Springs that I had only $4.65 left and that sum had to take me almost 2,000 miles during four days of travel back to Canada. Blithely I had gone along, only to jerk up suddenly in this town when I broke my last five-dollar bill. Yet here, sadly enough, were the places I had principally come to see. Colorado Springs was to be the highlight of the trip. It turned out in a way to be the darkest moment. I did, however, manage to drive up Pike's Peak, and thus found myself 14,109 feet in the air. That was a remarkable treat for me, and it is still the highest I have ever been in the air and no wise cracks from any of you readers: Then that afternoon, I hired the only thing I could, to wit, Shank's Mare, and picking up a donkey trail in the mountains after my careless expenditures of the previous week I felt a donkey trail was most appropriate for me and I walked some five miles from the end of the car line into the Garden of the Gods. I sat down among the grotesque red stones high above the land around, and with the sun already preparing to go behind massive Pike's Peak, I scribbled a few postcards. I remember well seeing those little bugs to the east of me crawling all over the fields, said bugs being the hordes of cars descending like so many vermin on the scenic charms of the Rockies. I recalled how the Rockies seemed suddenly to leap out of the earth from nowhere. There, to the east, the level plains stretched without variation and with endless monotony over to Kansas and Nebraska, and I could personally testify that they stayed that way through Iowa, across Illinois, and into Indiana. I could even find places where that level terrain sneaked over into Canada, and died a natural death only a little west of London, Ontario. At that time I could personally swear that the mountains which leaped out of the soil beneath me, and which even now were beginning to eclipse the sun, went at least 500 miles west. And beyond personal experience I realized they stretched in spots the whole 1,500 miles to the Pacific. The contrast of east and west, as viewed from a stone on the burro trail, between the level, parched prairie to the east, and the watered, wooded three-mile-high mountains to the west, hit me hard then, and did again 12 years later this time, as I rode south toward Colorado Springs from Denver.
I just want to have one more reverie, at this writing, and I meant to say, of that August 2 afternoon in 1925. that I subsequently came to these grotesque red rocks, I visited the cathedral spires and other queer stones, I saw the birds in their gouged-out homes in the soft rocks that looked like garnet-shaded, slab-shaped sponges, and then after gazing with enthusiasm and sun-burned tonsils at these caprices of nature, I walked not less than seven miles, end most probably ten, from the curio store in the Garden of the Gods on through the town of Manitou and back to Colorado Springs. Then, supperless, I went to the station after dark and slept there all night. I was roused from my bench about 4.30 a.m. and in due course I landed in St. Louis, Missouri, where Harold Towsley, old Slater street pal, fed me, lent me some money, and took me off a coffee and doughnuts diet.
In my next, from Pike's Peak to Royal Gorge.

Home   Circle   Cross Articles

Updated 8 July 2019