They came here to make a living off the land. A ditch that goes by my place, which I had presumed was built to divert water from the stream for drinking, was actually built to supply water for a dairy, and so I’m trying to imagine cows lolling around in the meadow now filled with willow bushes, ground squirrels and bluebirds.
People told me about their parents and grandparents growing peas, carrots, and potatoes, and raising chicken and turkeys. But how do you get anything to grow out of this rocky soil that has little nourishment even for the pasqueflowers, columbines and grasses?
And somewhere in this small valley a sawmill hummed with the sound of trees being sliced for lumber.
We suit our landscape to our needs. At my beloved Thunder Lake in Wisconsin, as a child, I saw a pure wilderness filled with forests of birch trees and pines. Yet I found out a few years ago that a farmer once raised pigs, so instead of woods across the lake there would have been pig pens.
It was a different philosophy and time, and not so long ago, that saw the land and wildlife to be used for something productive. In Colorado, the deer and elk were killed for food, bears and beavers probably for their coats, and coyotes have always been hated in the West.
Even when tourists started arriving in Meeker Park, sometime in the 1930s, it was a different form of leisure. People stayed for several weeks or even all summer, so families got to know each other, and children from different families played together. Down the road from my cabin, a small grocery store once offered milk, eggs and bread to those tourists, who wouldn’t have had to drive the nine miles into Estes Park for groceries but could spend their days close by, fishing, hunting, playing cards, reading.
I know the landscape will continue to evolve, as climate change turns the mountains dryer and warmer; there will be less water and fewer trees. There’s still not a lot of deer and elk in the valley but now we have moose. Over time, some of the older cabins will be abandoned and bigger cabins will be built. Perhaps more residents will stay year-round, and we’ll get a small grocery store that we can walk to.