For the first time since I’ve lived here, I was able to go in an underground mine Tuesday. It was pretty cool. At the invitation of the EPA, which is in charge of remediating the Standard Mine on Mt. Emmons, several people took a tour of the grounds and got to put on the headlamp and emergency air belt and walk back into one of the shafts. It’s dark in there. It’s wet in there. The ceilings (for a guy over six feet tall) are low in there. I gained much respect to those who earn a living underground.
As part of the remediation, a big bulkhead is being poured this Friday to manage water in the mine. Talk about blowing your mind. Half-filled concrete trucks will crawl up Red Lady to the opening and 90 cubic yards of cement will be pumped 800 feet inside the mine. It will be a long 12 hours for the boys. The bulkhead will be 25 feet thick and will take a month to cure. Special caulking will be used to seal the edges. Spending the morning around a bunch of really smart engineers and scientists was a good exercise for a newspaper guy. My mind was blown several times.
It’s not always smooth sailing, even here, but the relationship between this community and its cops is sort of mind-blowing as you look out in the real world. And one big reason for that is leaving this week. Tom Martin, Crested Butte’s chief marshal, is hanging up badge 601 to spend even more time (yeah, it’s possible) on the links. Tom embodies the principled small-town cop. He is honest. He is fair. He is not afraid to take the other side of an issue and has an ability to do it in a way that makes you think, instead of getting defensive.
Being a cop is not like most jobs. You are dealing in the muck. You are constantly between a rock and a hard place. Constant conflict is part of the deal. Tom has seen some nasty things. He has weathered them all with calmness, style and dignity.
Quick story: Tom had said many times he had an outstanding offer for years with pretty much anyone to call him no matter what time of the day or night if they were too inebriated to drive home. No one, he said, had ever taken him up on the offer. So one evening while discussing local politics at an Elk Avenue watering hole I remembered his offer. Being ever so slightly inebriated, I gave him a call shortly after I saw the late news ending on the bar’s TV. Sure enough, he answered the phone and he said “no problem” when I said I might need a ride home. I told him I would call him right back and then I somehow got sidetracked into another conversation—a three-hour conversation that ended when the bar closed. By then I was inebriated enough to call him back at 2 in the morning and he said “no problem” and came and picked me up and drove me home. The next day, Tom saw my son working at the Club and told him the story. He told Ben he was glad to do it (and disagreed with my 2:30 a.m. assessment that I could have made it home safely on my own) but next time asked that I call once, when I really wanted to go home. Fair enough. Sorry about that Tom—but thanks.
And really: Thanks for everything. Thanks for understanding this quickly changing community and being an integral part that keeps it special. Thanks for your leadership in trying to pass on the things to your deputies that will make them better officers for Crested Butte and not just big dudes in uniform in a resort town. Thanks for explaining the other side when I came with hard questions or concerns about the department. Thanks for working through another Vinotok and really trying to work with anyone and everyone who showed respect for you, the department and the town. That is a lesson worth remembering in life in general.
I remember Tom once explaining that the department was hiring marshals to enforce the laws, but it was his job to explain how to do it in Crested Butte. Right on. Now that responsibility will fall to new chief marshal Mike Reily. We hope Mike has gleaned some lessons from a good man who is heading to warmer climes.
My mind was blown the entire end of September but the beginning of October blew the leaves—off the tress. The last remnants of the glorious fall color are hanging on but it is safe to say the peak has come and gone. And what a great color show it was. No wonder so many people claim this time of year is made up of their favorite weeks. We are now left to bare aspens, time to chat, open parking spaces, cooling temperatures and the beginning of the next ski season. After the busyness of the summer, that is enough to blow anyone’s mind.