August 17, 2010
“Tis A Privilege To Live In Colorado” was the state’s tag line for many years. Using that slogan, media outlets and advertising companies, effectively drew tourists and businesses to our state. The only problem was, western and northern Colorado benefited greatly, while points south of Colorado Springs were neglected.
Recently an ad hoc group representing five counties in south central Colorado banded together for the purpose of increasing tourism south of Colorado Springs. “Gees, it’s like the world ends for northern Colorado and the rest of the country south of Colorado Springs.” quips Gloria from Freemont County.
Our meetings are held monthly rotating between the 5 counties. Most destinations are around a 2 hour drive through incredibly beautiful country side. I am in heaven each time I take to the small, narrow, highway to Westcliffe or LaVeta. Tons of dirt and gravel roads entice me to take a left hand turn on a back road where I know I will discover another haven, another spot to soothe my ruffled feathers, another magic moment.
My first trip to Westcliffe was beyond my wildest expectations. Sweet, early morning rain had escalated to a blustery down pour as I headed out of my loft. By the time I reached the edge of town my windshield wipers were working overtime. “Great,” I thought. We need all the rain we can get.
Turning onto a small highway heading northwest, the weather was reduced to drizzle with fog playing hide and seek between canyons and arroyos. Reminded me of Sherlock Holmes mystery movies, wherein Dr. Watson is roaming the foggy Scottish moors.
Suddenly a break in the mist revealed a rare sight. Buffalo! This was either a hallucination or a mystery. I brought my car to a screeching halt half way into the ditch, and ran to the other side of the road mouth agape. The haze slowly lifted revealing a huge herd of lazing buffalo. This was no mystery. There were real buffalo on the moors; a walking a tourist attraction.
Fortunately or unfortunately I could not get very close. Even though buffalo weigh over 2 tons they have been clocked running 45-50 mph, can turn on a dime and will charge to death anything in their path.
Naturally, I had my camera at the ready, taking ample advantage of my happenstance. I didn’t want to be late for the meeting, but how could I pass up these *beastly beauties on hoof? I watched in amazement the agility and grace these huge bison displayed moving toward the stream to quench their thirst, and gently nuzzling their young.
Images of these beasts remained with me for several days. These once proud animals that roamed the Great Plains, feeding and clothing Native Americans, are now contained behind re-enforced fences on buffalo ranches. Buffalo burgers and steaks appear on menus in upscale restaurants. Specialty stores tout fashionable outer wear made of bison hides at exorbitant prices, and Native Americans, whose existence relied on their beloved tatonka, are on reservations.
Western images of a home on the range is glorified in movies and books, but the reality is, it is a part of our painful history.
*This photo was entered in a photography show which placed second.