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Or the beach, in this case. I remember this day. I had stopped on my way back from Cow Wreck, which had a few more people than I wanted, and laid out in the sand to read and doze, when I heard a noise. I looked up and saw these two looking at me. I think we were all a bit startled, but no one stampeded. I let them check out Backpack and they moseyed on.

It’s not beach weather here, but it is coatless weather, and that’s good enough for me. We’ve had our share of trauma here in Colorado again, with a school shooting last Friday, but prayers are going out to the lovely young lady who was a victim of this violence. She’s not my daughter, and it wasn’t my daughter’s school, but it hits too close to home, knowing my daughter as I do. My daughter would have been the first to try to disarm the shooter.  So please, all, send prayers for Claire Davis.

IMG_4812

Pomato Point, Anegada, British Virgin Islands.

Quote of the day: “Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.” — Maya Angelou

Daily gratitudes:
The emergence of the Santa Hat
That I now have a Christmas tree (it’s not up yet, but da tree is in da house)
Getting to watch Season 3 of Downton Abbey again
Being all snuggled up
That the automated voice announcement system on the bus cannot say the letter “A”, so it announces that we are approaching “Gate Ah”.

 

He speaks (or sings) for himself.

Cripple Creek, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “The experience of beauty does something profound and powerful within the heart and soul of every human being.  Beauty creates wonder in us.”  —  Steve DeWitt

Daily gratitudes:
Changes
Stillness
Book titles that come to mind and then escape me
Commercials that make me cry
The endless supply of books that have revivified Sherlock Holmes

Photo title: Ass Stand-off

Pomato Point, Anegada, British Virgin Islands.

Quote of the day: “Perhaps our eyes need to be washed by our tears once in a while, so that we can see Life with a clearer view again.”  —  Alex Tan

Daily gratitudes:
Kelsea
Cashmere
How traffic lights remind me of Christmas
Counting the full moons until I am back on an island
Chuck Testa’s commercial

(Kudos to waywardbound for the perfect post title!)

Kelsea and I packed so much hoopla into our two-day getaway that it felt like we were gone for much longer – in a good way.  It’s awful when that happens on a getaway that doesn’t go well (she says, remembering an endlessly hideous car ride from DC to NJ.)

On my trip to the Cripple Creek Ice Festival in February, I decided that Kelsea would really like this little mining-cum-gambling town.  I hadn’t been so sure of the place before my first visit.  In 1991, the state of Colorado legalized gambling in three rapidly declining mining towns: Black Hawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek.  Black Hawk and Central City are towns I knew well both prior to and after gambling came to them thar hills.  In fact, we lived outside of Black Hawk when ex-Pat worked up there around the time Kelsea was born.  One of the “requirements” of legalized gambling was that the casinos had to respect and retain the original characters of the towns.  Apparently, in those two towns, that requirement was interpreted as “Well, we left a brick with a plaque on it.”  Horrible, in my opinion.  So I wasn’t too keen on seeing Cripple Creek, but I wanted to see the Ice Festival.

The Ice Festival on Bennett Avenue in February 2011

I was so amazingly surprised.  The casinos in Cripple Creek, while in many, if not most, buildings along Bennett Avenue, the main drag, are somewhat unobtrusive.  The buildings truly are original and the town still has real residents who hold real jobs.  Mining is still an active industry in the area, as is ranching, and that helps.  The only impact that the casinos have on a non-gambling visitor with a teenage daughter is that there is a dearth of places to eat – no one under 21 allowed.

The town has museums, live theater, and festivals like the Ice Festival and like the purpose of our visit this weekend, the 80th annual Donkey Derby Days, which will be the topic of several posts this week.  And today, you get to learn a bit about the history of the town and the event.

Oooooo, that smell...

Cripple Creek was founded around 1890, when Bob Womack discovered gold and started one of the State’s final gold rushes.  At one point, the population was over 35,000 and the town lost its bid to become the state capitol by a mere three votes – obviously, Denver won.  How different many things would have been had that not been the case.

The town burned in April 1896 when a bartender knocked over a kerosene stove in a fight with a lady of the evening whom he accused of stealing his money.  Unfortunately, a second fire occurred several days later, when some hot grease from a local restaurant came into too-close contact with some hot coals from the first fire, virtually destroying what was left of the town.

Cripple Creek Fire - 1896 (image courtesy of Cripple Creek District Museum)

But we are hardy and determined folk here in the mountains, and the town was rebuilt with primarily brick structures, many of which are still standing today.

Donkey Derby Days was started in 1931 when Charley Lehew decided that the town needed to do something to draw in tourists during the summer.  He and two business partners had the light bulb idea to capitalize on the herd of donkeys that roamed the town.  Donkeys had been a key component of successful mines – they were used to carry loads up from the depths of the earth.  Unfortunately, the only way to get the donkeys onto the shaft lifts was to knock them out with sledgehammers.  The whole process seemed kind of bizarre and certainly no fun for the donkeys.  As they graduated out of the mines, no doubt with brain injuries, they were allowed the freedom of Cripple Creek.  Many residents treated them as pets.

Donkey Copping Some Shade

At any rate, Charlie and his pals built a race track, and started the event.  It has gone on for all these years, changing in character, but always retaining its mining root flavor.  In some decades, people rode the donkeys.  At one point, the race consisted of a ride between Cripple Creek and the neighboring mining town of Victor, eight miles away. The town has its own herd of donkeys, descendants of the original herd.  They are impossible, love to mingle with townsfolk and tourists, and are contained (when they are contained) behind the old jail, which closed in 1992 and became a museum in 2004.  The donkeys are tended to by the Two Mile High Club (which until several years ago was called the Mile High Club, but changed its name for obvious reasons.  At an elevation of 9494 feet, the town decided that was close enough to being two miles high.)

Up To Two

For the current Donkey Derby Days, there are two versions of the race: one in which pairs of participants lead donkeys down a mile-long stretch of Bennett Avenue, stopping at five waystations to do things like bob for apples or kiss a cardboard cut-out of a prostitute.  The donkeys that participate in this event are borrowed from a local outfitter, and are halter-trained and relatively docile, as far as donkeys go.  The second race variation is open only to town businessmen (and women) and the donkeys that participate are all members of that legendary, ornery, obstinate heritage herd.  Pat Conner, one of the docents at the Jail Museum, told me that it’s a hoot and that most of the businessfolk can’t even get the donkeys down the first hill.  I think the locals (like Pat, who has lived there 50 years) enjoy it mostly because it puts these interlopers in their place and humbles them a bit.  You can’t help but be humbled when you realize that it’s really a donkey in charge.

The festival now has street vendors, a parade, and wonderful little competitions such as best beard, best donkey call, cutest/smallest/largest/most talented dog, and hairiest legs.  We saw it all, along with a live performance of a melodrama, a whorehouse tour, and an overnight in the town of Victor, in its haunted Victor Hotel.  So stay with me, and I’ll give you all the poop from the weekend

The event certainly lived up to it’s slogan –  It was ReDONKulous!!

Re-DONK-ulous!

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