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Twenty years ago

Twenty years ago, the Carbondale cops knew me. I lived a couple of miles outside of town and sometimes they would give me a ride if I was walking home late at night (the nice ones would even stop by 7/11 for nachos.) My husband worked part-time as a bartender at the Nugget, along with our good friend, Bruce the Juice. Bruce is a long-time local; well-liked and respected in Carbondale. A year and a half ago, he had a run-in with the Carbondale police (an officer he didn’t know) and Bruce requested the paramedics stay with him until another officer arrived because of the cop’s ferocity. Then there was the infamous episode when a local cop tasered a kdnk volunteer who was delivering hay bales for an event on Main Street. I believe that ended with a rather large settlement against the police department and a transfer for “No Way, Jose!”

Now, I’ve just heard about the incident at City Market last Christmas, and it sounds like militarization of the police has even affected our little mountain town. At the very least, it seems we could use a refresher course on how to protect and serve all of our community. After all, we are a close-knit bunch of cowboys and hippies and bikers and boomers, and most of the time the police blotter printed in the paper is enough to deter the criminally minded from acting out their sinister plans. I’m not advocating for a lawless situation like the towns up McClure pass, but surely, we can do a better job of keeping the peace.

Twenty years ago, my husband came to Carbondale to work construction for my uncle, along with my cousin and another young man named Pat Bailey. These three jack-of-all-trades, who embodied the phrase all who wander are not lost, helped my uncle build a garage in Satank and then commuted over McClure pass every day to build a barn near Paonia. Their routine included a stop in Somerset at the Portal on their way home. The Portal was the only bar in town— in fact, it was the only business in town if you didn’t count the post office. Somerset, a mining town squeezed in between the river and Highway 133, has always offered a peek into the working man’s past; a real-life tiny Western town with train tracks running through the middle and little clapboard houses with driveways and carports crammed full of the kind of things that would be kept in the garage, if only they had one… As opposed to the private tiny town built by Bill Koch a few miles away, which reportedly has a red-light district wax museum and a helipad.

Now, Oxbow Mining (Koch Industries) has announced they will no longer pay for the water treatment in this company town. So, the residents of Somerset are left without a pot to piss in— and as of this July, without any water to flush it down. Boy, they sure don’t make billionaires like they used to. I think about men like John C. Osgood, who built and operated the town of Redstone with the understanding that his prosperity was directly connected to the health and well-being of the people who worked in his mines. I’m nostalgic for the old timey days when it really did take a village. When you could wander through town looking, talking and pointing at strangers without the fear of being hauled off to jail. The days when you could belly up at the Portal and enjoy a cold one at 9:30 in the morning, sans judgement, because hey, that’s when the shift ended.

Twenty years ago, Carbondale had a lot more in common with Somerset. We were a small town with much less traffic. A home for miners, hunters, and handymen— Oh my! We boomed, while Somerset went bust. But I have a plan… We can invest in their infrastructure and turn the town’s industry from mining to Wild Wild West tourism, complete with a full-service saloon (a.k.a. the Portal) and shootouts in the street at high noon. Just actors, mind you. We’ll leave the real gunslinging to the cops over in Carbondale.

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