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            The Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum will serve hot cider, hot chocolate and snacks and unveil its new exhibits at an open house on the evening of Thursday, December 3.

Revisit your favorite exhibits and view the museum’s new exhibits about the Ute people of the Gunnison Valley, the Crested Butte Mountain Theatre, the Croatian Fraternal Lodge, health and safety in early Crested Butte and local Olympian David Chodounsky. Don't miss the new textile exhibit featuring a mink shawl and muff (recently donated by the Kikel family) from the 1950s Kochevars mink farm.

Families are invited to participate in historic games and craft projects based on Ute traditions. Activities will be hosted by the WSCU Anthropology Club and will include creating clay pottery, model tipi building, weaving, and braiding beaded wristbands.  Everyone is invited to this free reception 5-7:30 p.m. on December 3. Donations will go to the Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum and WSCU Anthropology Club.

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My pockets are full of poop pick-up bags and training treats, I can’t remember whether I brushed my teeth or hair this morning, and my hands bear the scabbed evidence of teaching little Barley the difference between gentle mouthing and Cujo-worthy flesh-tearing. Yes, I have a new puppy. He has won my heart and dominated my days for the last two weeks.

            I intended to write a blog about the joys of new puppy parenthood, but every time I sit down to write, it’s time for a potty break, play session, or intervention between Barley and whatever household object he’s deconstructing. So instead of writing something new, I’m posting something I wrote for the Crested Butte Magazine 15 years ago after we got our first golden retriever puppy, Luke.

            Oops… no, Barley, that’s not a chew toy, that’s the couch….


Luke the puppy guru, reprinted from Crested Butte Magazine 1999


Last year, a friend and I started comparing notes on our "hidden gurus" — the waitresses, mortgage brokers, or teenagers who impart meaningful insights in the course of passing encounters. Recently, I've expanded my realm of secret swamis to include four-legged beings, thanks to my newest hidden guru — Luke, my five-month-old golden retriever puppy.

I know, I know, gurus typically do not stain their students' carpets or eat their students' earphones. What a clever disguise my resident rector boasts.


The Freedom Mobile


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by Luke Mehall

(See his presentation July 3 at Townie Books in Crested Butte.)

Our vehicles make statements about our lifestyles, and in the mountain town of Crested Butte, there is quite the diversity in modes of transportation. From the high class Hummer SUVs to the old Subaru station wagon that checks in well over 200,000 miles, the car we drive can be a dead giveaway to the activities we pursue. I often wonder what strangers think of my car, an old 1988 Mazda that is spray painted red, white and blue, most commonly known as The Freedom Mobile.

Ever since I saw the classic 1969 American road movie Easy Rider with Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson, I’ve wanted to paint a vehicle in the colors of our country. I’ve always sensed that us mountain folk are living out our own version of the American Dream up here in the Gunnison Valley, and my car is representative of our unique culture. Adding to the mystique, I also wanted to feature the OM symbol, to show that the east and west can come together. To represent that I am a proud American, who has also been heavily influenced by the ancient, Indian-based art of yoga. 


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            Instead of “mud season,” maybe we should call April and May our “pet-sitting season.” It seems like half of Crested Butte’s population has been either escaping to warmer climates or hopping around taking care of the escapees’ pets. I just returned from a couple of weeks with three cats, during which I wrote the following observations on life with felines.


            Pardon my typos. I’m typing with one hand because every time I stop petting McGregor the cat, who’s purring away in my lap, he taps my arm firmly with his paw as if to say, “I know you’re new around here, but we do have certain expectations…”

            His brother Hamish crouches on the nearby windowsill like a tiny sable-black panther, all sleekness and grace. Hamish’s eyes may be half-closed, but his tail-twitch reveals his vigilance, and no squeaky toy is safe from this honed mini-predator.

            Meanwhile, tawny Heather, ensconced in her upholstered cubby across the room, stares at me with unblinking yellow eyes. “Sure, you seem nice enough – but don’t think you can fool me,” her glare seems to say. “I’ll catch you at some misdeed… eventually.”

            Yes, I’ve taken up temporary residence in a friend’s house of cats. And despite my resistance, they’re winning me over. 


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            As the summer Crested Butte Magazine hits the stands and the website, I find myself mentally chewing on two other events: the funeral service for Richard Rozman set for next Tuesday (May 26) and high school graduation the following weekend. In my mind, the thread that connects the three is community.

            How shocking to say farewell to Richard Rozman, 71, whose good heart touched many lives as father, husband, brother, water commissioner, fourth-generation rancher, teacher and long-time owner-operator of Rozman’s Motor Lodge.

            Amid the sadness, I also see beauty: the people who sprang into action to try to save Richard’s life after his car accident last Thursday and the many, many people gathering around the family now to help them through this time.

            Next weekend’s high school graduation ceremony seems like the opposite end of the spectrum – the celebration of a passage into the great wide world. Crested Butte typically hosts the world’s best graduation ceremonies, personal and touching and funny, and people flood the audience to watch our seniors get ready to fly from the nest. As much as our young people might chafe under the scrutiny of growing up in a small town, they are also valued and supported here.

            As I look over the Crested Butte Magazine fresh off the press, I realize I’ve written for this publication since I was a pretty new college graduate set loose on the world. Now I’m only a decade away from Richard’s age. I’ve seen a lot of Crested Butte memorial services, graduation ceremonies and magazine issues. Each one is special and unique, but each highlights the kinship of a shared place.

            Almost four-dozen people contributed their words, images and talents to this issue: retirees, new moms, rock climbers, resort executives, ranchers, photographers, artists and biologists. As in raising our children and holding together in times of sadness, this magazine is a collective endeavor. As diverse as our voices and lenses may be, they come together in this issue as a gift to our community.

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On Wednesday I dumped a pail of freezing water over my head as part of the “ice bucket challenge” for the Strike Out ALS campaign. I’ve watched my goddaughter, friends and coworkers do the same; in fact, Crested Butte must have a pretty high per-capita dousing rate by now.

“Trendy” has never been my middle name; most fads and crazes pass by me like tsunamis under a gently bobbing boat.  But this ALS ice bucket challenge is an odd fit for me – and for my hometown.

Eighteen years ago, my husband, son and I moved in with my mother to take care of her as she died of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). In less than two years, we watched her fade from a doting, zoo-strolling grandmother to a gaunt woman propped in a rented hospital bed laboring to pull in one more breath.

But Mom wasted no time on self-pity or drama. As her body failed, her sense of humor blossomed, and she used jokes and wise cracks to help us cope. When the going got rough, she turned on “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” She didn’t “go down fighting”; she went down laughing. How she would have chuckled to see all these random people throwing ice water over themselves, gasping and hopping in red-faced shock. 


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            I spent Thursday afternoon among newborn calves on the Maldarella ranch near Parlin, and it reminded me that April and May do have their beauties here. Yes, it’s mud season, off season, quiet season. Yes, today the snow is melting into muck, the sky is gray, and half the restaurateurs in town have put up “Back in May” signs. But tomorrow the sun will shine, more green shoots will power through to greet the light, and we have so many fine restaurants, it’s almost a relief to have fewer choices.

            Here are a dozen of my favorite things about quiet season.

            1. Sports roulette. Snow covers the backcountry biking trails, and the Nordic ski trails aren’t groomed any more. But on any given day, you can use quite a few pieces of gear: snowshoes, backcountry skis, tennis racquet, running shoes, kayak, road bike.... (No hurry getting out the golf clubs, though Dos Rios isn’t far away.)

            2. To celebrate the above: the April 27 CB3P, Crested Butte Pole, Pedal, Paddle. Hot competitors and super-cool partiers ski up, around and back down the slopes, bike the highway to Gunnison, jump into various watercraft to float the Gunnison River to the whitewater park, and join other celebrants shoreside for the picnic/awards festivities. A mud season specialty!

            3. The first bare skin. Yes, when we shed our longjohns and reveal our pasty-white flesh, we all look like we’ve just had body casts removed after a long convalescence. But oh, how luscious it feels to have sun on skin without chillbumps.

            4. Enforced outdoor moderation. We have a tendency to overdo it when warm weather hits: pounding pavement, baring skin and ignoring indoor responsibilities. Spring seems to follow each irresistibly glorious day with a soggy one good only for soaking muscles, lotioning sunburn and answering emails.


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