Small paper, small town but deep culture…

As we were getting to lay out probably the smallest off-season paper we do all year because of the school’s spring break, I commented we could easily fill it with a half dozen news stories, a soccer story, a few photos, a bunch of letters and too many obituaries. These small papers are a bare bones reflection of our small community.

The stories show the back-and-forth of small town living. The big issues that might not even get a mention in larger papers are front and center here. There’s the continual affordable housing dilemma, tensions and punches thrown over closing an RV Dump Station, discussion on how to improve the work “culture” in the fire district. There’s a story about the head of the ski area being so successful he got a promotion and will be leaving the valley – taking his talents so to speak to Broomfield. My guess is given his experience with Crested Butte culture, he and his family will be back at some point. Oh, and there is the appeal by the county to get another few hundred people vaccinated so we reach some sort of community immunity and can lower our COVID-19 restrictions. We’ve done so well fighting the coronavirus compared to most other places and this next step would put us again in the forefront of other communities. If you want a vaccine, now is the time.

The letters too reflect the heart of the community. Last week we had correspondence detailing both sides of the RV Dump Station decision. This week the local mayors are urging everyone to get a vaccine so we can get back close to normal, citizens of all ages including a local high school student write about concerns over climate, another resident is expressing concerns over continued development and the resulting sewage impacts on our water, and a retiree is extolling the virtues of local volunteerism. The letters reflect a broad and deep culture in this valley and show the place still has heart.

The photo opps are few this time of year as we transition between winter and summer. With so many people out of town, the chances to snap a shot of people engaging in spontaneous fun are few. Ahh… but then it is 4.20 in Crested Butte and the Flauschink royals didn’t (yet) take off to warmer climes so the annual Townie Takeover filled the photo space. Those who have stayed here celebrated the weed culture as they have for years — having fun on their bikes on a quiet Elk Avenue. Riding in circles, through the bars and prepping for an Easy Jim concert at the I-Bar, the community remains unafraid to “takeover” what is theirs.

And then there are the “In Memories.” As the so-called mid-timers grow old within the community, death becomes more a part of their world. It becomes a part of all of our worlds. Death has never disturbed me and while I can experience some sadness to see who has passed to the other side, it brings me subtle joy to see how family and friends describe the lives of those who have passed. Members of our community who cross over are not the American norm. They all chose to live in a small town, in a high mountain valley with few amenities. While viewing life as an adventure, they all have appreciated the surrounding mountains and understated ties of a close-knit, sometimes contentious community. You have to or you don’t last here.

Just this week we are reassured that Becky “lived an unapologetic life, filled with friends, passions and trailblazing.” To remember that Bryce’s “love of the mountains was equaled by his enjoyment of the community and in striking up a conversation during daily visits to the Post Office, Mountain Earth and Camp 4 Coffee” was wonderful. We have not yet received a formal obituary for long-time local Cotton Harris but he too went to the other side this week and people have described not only his sense of adventure but also his smile and generosity. I knew them all but Jeff was a closer friend and I choked up reading his tribute that focused on his love of family, his adventurous spirit and his respect for the mountains. He was indeed “fearless, inquisitive, resilient, curious, a life embracer, a challenge taker.” He loved these mountains as much as anyone could and not only did he teach me lessons in the backcountry but my kids were lucky enough to have him as a teacher. Like Becky, Bryce and Cotton, Jeff was able to impact his community and he will live here well beyond his physical presence. That doesn’t happen everywhere.

All of these homages ring true both to the individuals and to the community as a collective. There is passion, adventure and love. There is arguing and conflict between the love, the fun and the teaching but that is all part of the deal up here.

As to the paper, this is understandably one of the smallest issues we put out all year. We have a lot more in our system we would love to share (and will eventually) but some things will have to wait. This 28-page edition of the CB News that will hit the quiet streets on Thursday has some life, has some fun, some tension and some death. In other words it is a reflection of the culture you are fortunate enough to be a part of.

—Mark Reaman

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