Fat & Salt & Sugar, Oh My!

When we moved to Paradise, we bought a house with a sea of rocks covering half of the back yard. It was some person’s idea of xeriscaping, and it worked for that purpose, saving water and all, but it didn’t work as a visual. It was boring, colorless, and impossible to walk on if one was barefoot.

So we hired a landscaper/builder to make us a large wooden deck. Very large. He built it, and for at least a month, it looked great. But then the boards began to warp in our intense Colorado sunshine and low humidity. When I called to discuss this problem with the landscaper I found that his office was closed and he was nowhere to be found. In fact, the business had ceased to exist.

Six years later Robin and I gave up on continually replacing warped boards several at a time and never liking how the whole dreadful and dispiriting mess looked. We even found ourselves thinking back fondly on that sea of rocks. At a tipping point this summer I began to demolish it, pulling up one deck screw at a time (hundreds and hundreds of them), piling up those wretched boards alongside the driveway, and finally getting back to the naked stones we started with. Along the way I had many encounters with a community of yellowjackets that lived beneath that deck. Most of the time they just swarmed me and drove me indoors, but on one bad day four of them stung me when I wasn’t paying attention to their protests.

Our next plan is to create a proper patio using paver stones to replace the now disappeared wooden deck. Much smaller, quite a bit less pretentious, and the stones are guaranteed not to warp … ever. Even better, the person doing the work for us is a contractor who lives next door, which makes him much easier to find should events ever go south on the project. Even thinking about it makes me smile, which is something that our mega-deck never did (except for that first month).

BTW, we found an excellent place to recycle all that wood. There is a woman who operates a wildlife rescue service out of Olathe. It is a labor of love on her part, and her operation depends a great deal on contributions from the public. She takes in wounded or lost creatures, and helps nurse them back to wholeness when this is possible. It turns out that a large pile of used lumber fills a real need, and yesterday we loaded the last of our contribution onto her pickup. Took her two trips to get it all

She is turning them into pens and animal housing. I think this is a much better second life for the wood. Its first one was a bummer all around. But we have already reaped one benefit … the yellowjackets are gone … hallelujah!


Thursday Robin and I went exploring on the Uncompahgre Plateau. We decided to take the second of the two major roads up there, one that we’d never traveled. The first one, the Divide Road, has a good and very civilized gravel surface and the only problem is dustiness when it’s been a while since the last rain. The second is called Transfer Road, which started out beautifully but about fifteen miles in it turned into something quite different. Strictly speaking, it was not a “jeep road,” primarily because as long as you drove about 5 mph you were okay, as none of the protruding rocks were higher than 4 inches.

But the rocks were the road. For about four miles. Every thirty seconds as the car heaved up and down and back and forth I would think “It must be almost over … it can’t be this lousy for much longer … should I turn back? … and finally it was better. The scenery during this highly uncomfortable stretch, however, was outstanding.

After such a stress-out, we decided to reward ourselves with a trip into the past and had supper at an A&W on the north side of Montrose. They have all sorts of forbidden foods to eat there, doubly so since it is combined with a Long John Silver’s franchise. All the fat and salt and sugar a person could ever want or tolerate without completely foundering is available at reasonable prices.

When we finished our meal, we drove immediately home so that we could be seated safely before the toxic nutritional tsunami caught up with us and made ambulation temporarily impossible. This one trip to the A&W may have taken a month off my life, but lordy, it was worth it.

(A day later I still have little fat droplets in my field of vision. My oh my.)


From The New Yorker


I borrowed this photo from CNN because I thought it was such a great one. That, my friends, is an athlete. Everything is in the picture – “I am strong, I am disciplined, and by God I just won my race!”

AUGUST 06: Allyson Felix of Team USA reacts after winning the bronze medal in the Women’s 400m Final on day fourteen
of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)


Three hours from Montrose is the small town of Creede, Colorado. We’ve spent a couple of days there at different times, and each time promised ourselves to come back and stay longer. It definitely has the kind of dusty charm that I love about Western towns, but have more and more trouble finding. For former South Dakotans, it is like Deadwood was before it was corrupted by the gamblers and the money they brought with them.

The NYTimes of August 6 did a story on Creede and on its community theater, which has been going now for more than fifty years. Creede’s origins were in mining that produced silver, gold, copper, lead, and zinc.

My advice to would-be visitors is that if you like the ambience that the article describes, come soon.

There is evidence that the sort of change may be coming that turned Deadwood into a soulless zombie-town. You can see it in the luxury home developments in the valley leading into Creede when you approach from the north. The sort of folks that build and buy those estates often prefer sleek and shiny over dry and dusty.

I hope I’m wrong, but that happens so rarely …


From The New Yorker


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