The Bank Barn in Summer

Bank Barn: June, 2009 The Wesley Johnson Barn: June, 2009

It had rained yesterday afternoon, another one of those short-lived but intense afternoon thunderstorms.  This morning we ran by the bank barn, and I could see someone else had gone exploring down the old farm lane, perhaps even waded through the waist-high grass to go poking around in the main house:

Farm House: June, 2009

The Johnson Farmhouse: June, 2009

Bank Barn: June, 2009

Bank Barn: June, 2009

“Doctors’ Labor of Love”

Every now and then, a columnist will comment on the deficiencies of American doctors when it comes to patient care.  In an opinion piece published in the  Denver Post of 18 June, 2009, Ellen Goodman wrote about a cardiologist who walked out of a consult because the patient’s allotted time — 15 minutes — was up.  Was the consult for just 15 minutes?  Did he really walk out on the patient?  Who knows?  I can imagine a lot of things: harried physician who thought he had enough information,  a patient who needed more time and who thought she didn’t have enough information, a more pressing case to be seen, a cardiologist with a God-complex and zero bedside manners . . . .  I can imagine it all, but I will never know.  Chalk it up to “anecdotal evidence.”
A few days later, a response to the story (under the wince-inducing “Doctors’ labor of love”) from Heather Loughlin, aspiring doctor.  I don’t know where she is in her training — premed?  medical school?  — but she knows enough to proclaim:
I am here to say there is light at the end of this tunnel. My peers at the University of Colorado and I are on the journey to become physicians. Many of these bright young people have been known to take communication courses just to improve an empire that has been defiled . . . .

An empire that has been defiled?  Medicine is many things, but an empire?  I have the suspicion that had Ms. Loughlin actually been paying attention in her history classes — or if she were a better communicator — she would have realized that the conception of empire does not have the glorious connotations she has assigned to it.

After the courses that I have taken to get where I am in pre-med, I can assure you all that the next generation of physicians will be astute, active listeners, along with being healers.

And I can assure her that she doesn’t have a clue.  Yet.  However, she does already possess to a remarkable degree the one thing I would have thought she would abhor: Arrogance.

Gone . . . .

It began with this book . . . .

Gone: Photographs of Abandonment on the High Plains

Gone: Photographs of Abandonment on the High Plains

and these photographs from the book, in particular the rather stunning one of the neatly-made bed with the framed bucolic landscape over the headboard.  Came the questions: the things you leave behind mean something — what do they mean, and what do you mean ?

Historian Patricia Nelson Limerick, in “Haunted by Rhyolite: Learning from the Landscape of Failure,” wrote of the settling of the American West:

Growth, advancement, and construction are certainly part of the region’s history, but so are contraction, retreat, and abandonment.


Rhyolite stands as physical evidence of the fact that the West was a place where pioneers met the forces of urbanization and industrialization head-on, not a place where innocents and individualists escaped those unsettling forces.

Throwing down the gauntlet:

In assigning a chronological deadline for western expansion, Frederick Jackson Turner was off by a century.  Before the idea of a watershed in western American history could make any sense, we had to spend another century running through boom-bust cycles in agriculture, ranching, logging, and mining.  We had to reach a point where water, in an arid and semiarid region, is stretched just about as far as it will go . . . .  we had to accumulate ruins, inarguable physical evidence that testifies to the mixed outcomes of western expansion.

The ruins of Ryolite are stark, concrete forms, dry like the desert, slowly crumbling into dust.  They are not romantic, or sympathetic, or magical.  Neither are Steve Fitch’s abandoned interiors.  What does it mean that a half-built house and an abandoned house will meet somewhere along a timeline, where they are indistinguishable from each other?


H. G. Wells quote of the day, from Meanwhile (The Picture of a Lady), 1927:

“I perceive I have been meanwhiling all my life.  Meanwhiling . . .  Have I been living?”  (Shrug of the shoulders and gesture of the hands.)  “No, I have been meanwhiling away my time.”

And for once his own bright observation pierced back and searched and pricked himself.

I have never read H. G. Wells, although as a kid I was rather fond of the 1960 film adaptation of The Time Machine and watched it a few times on midnight TV.  Since I didn’t know anything about Wells, I didn’t understand the contexts of the man and the writer, and hence didn’t know his science fiction works (or, in the words of his publishers, “Fantastic and Imaginative Romances”) were social/cultural/political commentaries.  And I certainly did not know about his non-SF novels.

I no longer remember how I got onto Meanwhile — yesterday, or two weeks ago, gets to be a long time ago.  I thought it was going to be a drawing room comedy-satire — something Wilde- or Coward-like — and it isn’t.  Meanwhile is not sharp or ironical enough — it is far more earnest, insistent and demanding, the apprehension of class and gender roles a product of its time.  And despite the utopographer in the garden, its audience is long dead.  So now I have a vague understanding of the General Strike of 1926, and a certain discomfiture in the conclusion that there are sometimes good reasons why certain books, even by great writers, are consigned to storage.

Meanwhile …  obligatory Opie pictures:


Opie, decorated

Opie, decorated in beads

Opie, decorated in polka dots

Opie, decorated in polka dots

Bobcat Ridge Natural Area

Bobcat Ridge Natural Area is one of our newest designated “natural areas,” even though it is outside the city limits.  Pioneers arrived in the area beginning in the 1860s, and various families through the years used the land for agricultural purposes — subsistence farming, dairy operations, then cattle ranching — before the last owners decided to let the city buy the land as a nature preserve.  And it is gorgeous up there!

This morning we strolled (on an accessible trail) to the restored 1917 log cabin:

Bobcat Ridge: Kitchen/Smith Cabin (1917, 2008)

Bobcat Ridge: Kitchen/Smith Cabin (1917, 2008)

View from the Kitchen/Smith Cabin, built in 1917, restored 2008

Bobcat Ridge: View from the Kitchen/Smith Cabin

It was apparently marginal crop and stock land around the cabin, but families managed to live off it for years.  One family had a kitchen garden, and also raised chicken, pigs, and milk cow — no money, but enough to eat — until the well ran dry.  The Natural Areas people installed a new well and hand pump in front of the cabin when they took over the land.

The Kid snapped a picture of a cottontail — she remains rather fond of these bunnies, despite the fact that one (or perhaps a family) of them ate her Arbor Day tree last year:

A Bobcat Ridge Natural Area cottontail

A Bobcat Ridge cottontail

Scattered behind the little cabin are various old farm equipment, including a hay raker, a press wheel for planting different grains, a wheat thresher, a ditcher, a plow, and this:

Bobcat Ridge Natural Area: Corn Planter

. . . . a corn planter, of course!