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Essay: Library card campaign the perfect excuse to reconnect with community, and the wonderful world of useful information

Libraries were a special place for me growing up and into my college years.

I lived right next door to my small town library from middle through high school — quite convenient for that summer or holiday break read, or a little World Book research for a school paper in the pre-internet days.

My mom volunteered in the school library when I was in grade school, and I remember being excited whenever she was around to help point my classmates and I to that special book or magazine.

High school study halls were always in the library, which I found to be very distracting. I’d much rather be deep in the stacks looking for a good book, instead of doing my math homework.

My college library had a basement level with steel spiral stairs leading into the depths, kind of like a submarine. My favorite hideout to tuck myself away and cram for a test or write a term paper was down in that hole.

I have to admit I’ve fallen in and out of my library routine as an adult, especially as the internet has replaced reference books for most of my journalistic research.

Whenever I do re-enter those magical doors, though, I remember the special place that these community institutions are, and why they’re so needed — especially now.

John Stroud/Post Independent

September is National Library Sign-Up Month. In conjunction with the American Library Association, the Garfield County Libraries have been promoting “Lasso a Library Card — Libraries are Wonderful” in an effort to sign up more library users.

So, I decided to take part. And it couldn’t be easier, even if you’re an every-now-and-then card renewer.

Simply walk in to your local library branch (there’s one in every Garfield County municipality) and ask for a library card, or to renew your old one. They’ll still have you in the system. Or, just go online from the comfort of your own home at garfield.marmot.org/MyAccount/SelfReg and sign up for a card there.

Turns out I hadn’t renewed my library card since 2017 — perhaps the last time they had a fun promotion. This year’s campaign has a Wonder Woman theme. A display at the Carbondale Library also promotes banned books as part of the campaign, which I thought was pretty cool.

The libraries of today are a mix of old school and modern digital technology, with a world of information at your fingertips; however you choose to search for it.

John Stroud/Post Independent

It’s also still a great place to find that local or regional history book to learn about this place we call home, and to escape the real world with a good fiction book — two of my favorite rows of bookshelves.

A few years ago, I helped organize an effort to hand over all of the old bound volumes of newspapers to the local libraries, including copies of the Glenwood Post dating back to the late 1880s.

We used to keep those volumes on site until we downsized. So, they now live at the libraries, including the archives of the former Valley Journal and Roaring Fork Review newspapers at the Carbondale branch, and the former Rifle Telegram and more recent Citizen Telegram volumes at the Rifle library.

It’s comforting to know that little bit of history is in good hands, and available to anyone who wants to take a peek — by special request, though current pandemic restrictions may apply at this time.

While you’re there, get your limited edition Wonder Woman library card.

John Stroud is senior reporter and managing editor for the Glenwood Post Independent. He can be reached at jstroud@postindependent.com

Bear column: Too much stuff

I’ve never seen the TV show, “Hoarders,” and I never want to. Homes piled high with useless stuff are equivalent to a house of horrors at Halloween to me.

In the late ’90s I spent two years installing home security systems in the Denver area — a job that required me to hop over, squeeze through, or wriggle around every nook and cranny of people’s homes.

It shocked me to see the sheer amount of excess stuff most people filled their homes with — newspapers, magazines and books stacked up everywhere, bedrooms filled to overflowing with clothes and shoes, boxes filled with… whatever… that they’d never unpacked from a previous move.

It was a good lesson in tolerance, and it did make me feel better about the little extravagances I allowed in my own home. Suddenly my vast collection of records and CDs didn’t seem so excessive.

My parents grew up during the scarcity of the Depression era, so I have no doubt that my tendency toward minimalism came from them.

My dad was an extreme minimalist who demanded that our family home contain no more than what was necessary for a family of six to survive.

He did have a large collection of tools, but most of them were hung neatly on a pegboard above his workbench in our garage. Every tool he owned resided in a specific place, so he never had to search for anything.

I once borrowed his hammer to build a tree house with my friends, and promptly lost it. He knew the second he drove his car into our garage after work that day that it was missing.

That’s right, people used to park their cars in their garages. Now, garages are mostly used as an extra storage space for stuff.

We all have so much stuff now that our homes can’t contain it. Rental storage spaces have proliferated to the point they’ve become an integral, and visible, part of every community in America. Apparantly it’s not enough to fill our homes and garages with stuff, we need more space for all the other stuff we don’t really need.

When my kids were young, I was guilty of the out-of-control consumerism I find so abhorrent today. Their mom and I bought them every toy their hearts’ desired, and what we didn’t buy them, their well-meaning grandparents, aunts and uncles bought them.

Their rooms looked like a Toys R Us store, and everyone dreaded the inevitable drama of “room cleaning” days, when we’d designate toys they no longer played with for donation to the local thrift store.

These days I buy almost nothing that isn’t a necessity. But that’s more a product of shifting priorities than a protest against consumerism. I’d simply rather spend my money on experiences than stuff.

I understand how important consumerism is to the U.S. economy, because if it were dependent on people like me to keep it thriving, we’d all be in big trouble.

I’m not in the preferred demographic anyway. Marketers spend nearly all of their dollars luring people in the 25 to 34 age range to buy their product, and almost none of it on us older folks. They do that because they know single people and young married couples with kids buy the most stuff.

But couldn’t we all stand to downsize a little? To cut out the excesses?

I’m not talking about stuff that actually gets used, worn, is a keepsake or part of a collection. I’m talking about stuff that we store in our closets, basements or garages just because we might need it “some day,” or the stuff we buy simply because we can.

Do we really need the latest iPhone? The popular new toy? The latest outdoor gear? Aren’t many of our purchases simply about status — keeping up with the Joneses — in a society where status isn’t so much about who you are as what you own?

A few years ago my wife and I moved from the Front Range to a studio apartment in Sedona, Arizona. We both downsized to the point where everything we owned fit in a Honda Civic and a Subaru Legacy.

It was freeing — like cutting loose an anchor. And the most surprising part? We don’t miss any of it.

Jeff Bear is a Copy Editor for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. You may reach him at jbear@postindendent.com.

Stein column: To beat pandemic, policymakers need to define goals

Authors Dan and Chip Heath, who have written several bestselling books about success in business, offer some good advice about achieving goals: they must be reachable and specific. Goals, they explain, are not just resolutions; goals are measurable, resolutions are aspirational. For example, losing weight is resolution; losing fifteen pounds in the next three months is a goal. Contrasting to great goals that have been pursued with relentless purpose–for example, President Kennedy’s proclamation that the U.S. “should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth”–we seem to be winding our way through this current pandemic without clear direction or a means of measuring success.

With some notable exceptions, such as the clarity with which the federal administration is pursuing a vaccine to combat the coronavirus, state and national leaders have been slow to articulate measurable objectives or map out a comprehensive strategy. While we are waiting for the vaccine, which might just be the moonshot that helps return us to normal, what might be reasonable goals, and how might we measure progress, as we navigate this pandemic?

Earlier this summer, the American Academy of Pediatrics, along with three of the country’s largest educator associations, proclaimed, “Educators and pediatricians share the goal of children returning safely to school this fall.” They touted the known benefits of in-person learning: not just academics, but social and emotional learning, healthy meals, mental health services, school lunches, and other vital services. Many people have seized on this, and other similar statements, as the clarion cry for returning to school. The problem is, returning to school safely is a resolution but not a real goal unless it is defined with specific measures.

A less often quoted passage from the American Academy of Pediatrics reads, “Science should drive decision-making on safely reopening schools. Public health agencies must make recommendations based on evidence, not politics. We should leave it to health experts to tell us when the time is best to open up school buildings, and listen to educators and administrators to shape how we do it.” What, precisely, does that science tell us?

Enter Meira Levinson, Muge Cevik, and Marc Lipsitch, whose New England Journal of Medicine article also makes the case for reopening primary schools. They, too, lay out the moral imperative of opening schools as soon as possible but, based on research from around the world, identify three specific conditions necessary to reopening schools: first, lowering infection rates to acceptable levels; second, firmly establishing public health measures such as testing and contact tracing; and third, universal application of protective measures. Now that sounds like a strategy.

Defining acceptable levels is a moving target, but that’s partly because understanding of the disease is constantly evolving, and treatment methods are improving. The Harvard Global Health Institute and the World Health Organization recommended two indicators for determining when infection rates are low enough to start reopening schools: an incidence rate of fewer than 25 cases per 100,000 people over 14 days; and a positivity rate of fewer than five percent of people tested coming back as having the disease over the same period.

About a month ago, the Colorado Department of Health and Environment distributed a draft set of metrics using almost the same thresholds. Last week, the CDPHE produced a final draft of statewide metrics for tracking the spread of the virus. They increased the number of acceptable cases from 25 to 75 per 100,000 people because, “Clinical management of COVID-19 has improved significantly over the past few months.” Now, more than six months into the pandemic, policymakers have given us the means to monitor a goal.

It’s no wonder that the return to in-person learning has been so controversial in Colorado. Lacking a statewide strategy and clear metrics, each of the state’s 64 county public health departments and 181 school districts have been charged with feeling their way through the crisis. But the science is there, and the Roaring Fork Schools have decided to follow it.

That doesn’t mean our interpretation of the science is infallible. The science of the coronavirus is not like the science of Newton’s laws of motion; it is constantly shifting and there are still points of disagreement among experts. We stay in constant communication with three county public health departments, regularly consult local medical providers, and are willing to change our tactics as we learn more.

Everybody is frustrated that kids aren’t back in school, and the stakes are high. On one hand, students are missing out on valuable learning and life experiences, and their parents are saddled with the burdens of childcare which inhibit their ability to work. On the other hand, many more lives have been lost in the U.S. due to an incoherent strategy and an unwillingness to abide by the precautions that keep us all safe.

The American Academy of Pediatrics statement observes, “For our country to truly value children, elected leaders must come together to appropriately support schools.” A scientific strategy for fighting the pandemic, adequate resources for teachers and schools, and less political rhetoric about universal precautions against the disease would help.

Rob Stein is superintendent of the Roaring Fork Schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt and writes a monthly column for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.

Neubecker column: Yes on River District ballot question 7A, to support important river protections

This November, the Colorado River Water Conservation District (River District) will ask voters to approve ballot question 7A, a mill levy increase supporting their important and growing responsibilities. They provide a vital service in protecting the water and rivers for all of us on Colorado’s Western Slope and deserve our support.

The River District and the area it covers has changed considerably over the past few years and continues to evolve. So has the ever-widening and diverse array of problems and issues facing water supply and rivers on Colorado’s West Slope.

Today’s River District is not the River District of the past. The focus on agriculture is shifting. Agriculture will always remain a critically important part of the River District’s mission, but as economies and demographics of the West Slope change, so has their mission. The focus on water for communities, recreation, changing economies, and healthy rivers has increased tremendously.

The River District has been a vital player for all of us on the West Slope in working to solve Colorado’s increasingly complex and urgent water issues.

The River District was instrumental in developing the recently approved Upper Colorado River Wild and Scenic Stakeholder Group Management Plan. This plan aims to protect flows in the Upper Colorado River to benefit recreational float boating and the gold medal fishery this reach of river supports. The River District has been a constant and valuable voice in this process over the past 12 years.

The River District has also just inked an agreement with the Colorado Water Conservation Board that takes water from Ruedi Reservoir to boost winter flows in the Fryingpan River. This is the result of a request from the Roaring Fork Conservancy to help protect the world class fishery below the reservoir from anchor ice, which can be devastating to both fish and the insects they eat.

Both of these examples show how the River District has evolved to meet the needs of all its constituents, especially here in the headwaters.

American Rivers has worked with the River District and other organizations, including conservation NGO’s, water providers, and the agricultural community for more than a year to develop the Fiscal Implementation Plan. If 7A passes, about $4.2 million will go to partnership projects equitably throughout the District that support water quality and supplies, productive agriculture, conservation and efficiency, infrastructure, and healthy rivers.

While American Rivers does not support all of the measures that this initiative might fund, we do support 85% of them, and we support the measure as a whole.

The ballot measure and implementation plan will also create more accountability to member counties, environmental issues, and the non-agricultural constituents who provide the majority of the River District’s funding. Some claim that the so-called “un-elected” District Board is unaccountable. This simply is not true. More than half the board members currently serve or have served in elected office, including current county commissioners. All board members are appointed by elected officials in their respective counties and are responsible to them.

Another false claim is that this mill levy increase would be a burden during this time of pandemic and a down economy, that a 100% increase would be too great. The reality is that a 100% increase of something that’s pretty small is still pretty small.

Currently, people who live within the River District’s boundaries pay one quarter of a mill on their property tax bill. The request is to increase that mill levy by another quarter mill, increasing the levy by $1.90 per $100K of actual value.

I live in eastern Garfield County where my assessed values are slightly above the county median. For me, that assessment last year was about $6. If the measure passes, that assessment will go up to just over $12. That’s less than what I’d pay for a six pack of good beer. The River District is worth far more than a six pack to me, and to all of us.

I urge everyone who lives within the River District boundaries to support 7A. We need to make sure that the River District remains a strong, effective, and vital force for water and rivers on Colorado’s West Slope.

Ken Neubecker of Glenwood Springs is the Colorado Project Director for the national waterway resources advocacy group American Rivers.

Writers on the Range column: These fires will happen again and again

We should not be surprised that much of the West is on fire. Or that more than 3.1 million acres already have burned in California, another million in Oregon and in Washington, and that tens of thousands of people have been forced to evacuate.

The downwind consequences shouldn’t come as a shock, either: Toxic plumes have darkened the skies of the small Oregon town of Sisters as well as the metropolitan areas of Seattle, Portland, the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles.

The least surprising thing about this summer’s conflagrations is that we have done this to ourselves. We are the architects of the world that is now going up in smoke.

Picture this Los Angeles Times photograph: a paint-stripped car resting on its buckled roof, its tires and hubcaps incinerated, windows shattered, and wheels weirdly melted. Framing the backdrop are the ash-white remains of a Sierran forest.

The photograph was snapped in the furious aftermath of the Bear Fire, since subsumed into the North Complex Fire, which has burned 250,000 acres in California’s Plumas National Forest. But it could have been taken at any of this summer’s infernos, because its symbolism is impossible to ignore.

Even as we fear for the owners of these abandoned automobiles, and are astounded at the intensity of heat that could turn tempered steel molten, we can’t miss how burned-out cars explain our fiery circumstances. After all, no sooner had this four-wheeled, fossil-fueled, late-19th-century technology been invented, than it became one of the icons of the Industrial Revolution, a sign of economic prosperity.

But the greenhouse gases spewing from these vehicles’ tailpipes have contributed to the profound change in the Earth’s climate. As a result of planetary warming, large swaths of the West have been drying out. Since the 1980s, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and California have borne the brunt of this process, according to the Palmer Drought Severity Index; and the pace has quickened over the past two decades.

Other EPA data indicates that warmer and drier conditions will persist for the rest of the century, altering vegetation cover, endangering wildlife and sparking a significant increase in intense fire activity. The result is anthropogenic, meaning “we did it.”

Less well understood is that this rapidly evolving human geography has forged a close link between sprawl and wildland fire. Consider that booming Clackamas County near Portland and fast-growing Deschutes County in eastern Oregon are both under a fire-siege.

Los Angeles is the poster-child for the history of this larger western experience. Between the 1950s and 1970s, for example, its elite began to build mansions in the Hollywood and Beverly Hills. No sooner had celebrities set up house there than devastating fires ripped through the neighborhoods. In 1961, a tie-wearing Richard Nixon was photographed atop his Bel Air home, hose in hand, wetting down its shake-shingled roof.

Since then, a migratory surge has flowed out on a dense freeway network, whose every exit contains an interlocking set of subdivisions, gas stations, restaurants and big-box centers. Fire mitigation has not been high on residents’ agenda, and these insta-towns, some with low-income residents, have generated the same smoke-filled results. Fires have swept through the town of Sylmar, located in northern Los Angeles County, four times since 2008.

This pattern of build-and-burn will continue in Southern California and elsewhere because city representatives and county commissioners, along with those developers who underwrite their political campaigns, green light housing projects. This includes some that are slotted into high-severity fire zones. One example is the gargantuan 12,000-acre planned community called Centennial that is being built in the flammable foothills of the Sierra Pelona and Tehachapi mountains. When completed, it will be home to 60,000 people, many of whom will commute into Los Angeles on an already gridlocked I-5.

What could halt this suburbanizing march into the woods throughout the West? Stronger local control over new development with a hand from insurance companies, weary from shelling out money to subsidize building again and again in fire zones.

Everything else seems to have failed.

Meanwhile, a bit of unsolicited advice to residents of California, Oregon and Washington: Better keep a go-bag handy so you’re ready when told to evacuate.

Char Miller is Director of Environmental Analysis at Pomona College in Claremont, California. His teaching and research reflect his fascination with all things environmental. Classes on U.S. environmental history, water in the U.S. West, and public lands management, like those on urbanization and the interplay between the natural and built landscapes, have deeply informed his writing. He is a senior fellow at the Pinchot Institute for Conservation.

Chacos column: My parents are stalking me

My parents have been following my brother and me around the country for years now. They’ve tried to be nonchalant, but I’ve seen through their shady reasoning and flimsy alibis. I’m not buying, “There’s better property tax in your state” or “We were just looking for a warmer climate.” They’re hunting us kids down to get to the grandchildren, and worse, I think they want to be our adult friends.

I left home at eighteen, meaning I said goodbye to obligatory household chores, weeknight family dinners, and guilt-laden events. I was free from family-movie nights and weekend trips to boring, historical sights up and down the east coast. I no longer had to load the dishwasher the way my mom insisted. I was liberated.

Over time, my parents found ways to infiltrate their childrens’ budding independence by employing subversive mind games to make my brother and I spend time with them. They would pick up the tab on family vacations and make delicious meals that warmed the heart. To make us think of home, they would send pictures of the family dog looking ridiculously adorable. Their dubious tactics didn’t fool me for a second. They wanted us to be their comrades but we were too cool to hang out with them willingly.

Then I moved out west and started a family of my own. My brother eventually did the same. The addition of grandchildren seemingly blinded my folks from the healthy distance we craved. Wherever we went, our parents soon followed in a moving truck filled with old photos and tchotchkes they were hoping to unload on us. We were doomed.

Finally, the inevitable happened. In a most obvious turn of events, my mom and dad moved in down the street from me, a mere stone’s throw from my sovereignty. We now share the same neighborhood and I can’t even walk the dog without bumping into my mom getting the mail. My brother finds this amusing.

Then something changed. My mom would call to check-in and hear something in my voice prompting her to walk over and visit for a bit. She would quietly fold the laundry, fill the dishwasher (albeit her way), and help the kids with homework. Sometimes my dad would join us at the dinner table, with food from his weekly trip to Costco, and share stories we’ve heard a hundred times before while my mom took the opportunity to passionately focus on her grandchildren’s table manners. I’ll admit, their psychological warfare was working. I wanted them in my life.

Some thirty years after I disavowed my parents’ regime, I was surprised to find myself adopting a similar parenting style with my own family. For example, there have been weekly tutorials on how to properly load the dishwasher hosted by my husband. We eat as a family most nights and try to light candles on Friday evenings. I find it all comforting, yet eerily annoying, because I’ve stolen my parents’ routines and traditions and they’re not even smug about it. I’m cautiously optimistic I’ve been spared our family’s favorite saying, a rousing, “I told you so,” yet I see those words in the way they watch me watch my kids.

However, serious encroachment aside, I would have balked at the move a few years ago when I believed autonomy from family meant success as an adult. Now I see things differently. I’m learning to cherish the beauty in our multi-generational family dynamic, and quite honestly, I don’t have much of a choice. My parents are now part of our lives in a way I didn’t know I wanted and didn’t know I needed. Most importantly, I could never deprive my children from being near their grandparents. And, although it comes with its own set of issues, I’m warming to the thought that my parents are already a part of our circle of friends. I’ve had to let my brother know to brace himself for the inevitable. One day soon, he will want mom and dad down the street, too.

Andrea Chacos lives in Carbondale, Colorado balancing work and happily raising three children with her husband. She strives to dodge curveballs life likes to throw with a bit of passion, humor and some flair.

Youthentity column: Career options in the hospitality industry

At Youthentity, we believe that one of the tenets in setting kids up for future success is allowing them to “try on” different roles and careers to better determine their individual strengths, along with their interests and passions. In presenting young people with career options through our youth development programs, we love to introduce them to the Hospitality industry. When considering career tracks to offer our students through our high school career exploration program, Career Academy, hospitality is an obvious choice as our local economy largely relies on tourism.

COVID aside, Hospitality also offers a fair amount of stability, and a multitude of opportunities. In 2019 the industry employed 16.8 million people in the United States alone, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Hospitality comprises myriad roles, which is one of the reasons it’s such an interesting industry in which to work. Hotels and resorts need finance experts, housekeeping, marketing teams, security, engineering and maintenance, conference sales and human resources management, to name just a few common industry jobs and careers. They also need talented and dedicated chefs and restaurant managers, which is our focus at Youthentity.

The industry exists in an expansive geographical range. Cities, small towns, mountains, seaside destinations –hospitality jobs exist everywhere. Industry salaries are quite diverse as well, depending on years of experience and size of the business (employment in a large chain hotel vs. a boutique hotel, for example). The industry employs many entry-level jobs that require basic education and skills, as well as an abundance of management and mid-level positions. Hospitality jobs are often accessible from an educational standpoint as well. Larger hotel chains, such as Marriott or Hilton, may offer management training for employees and encourage participants to experience roles at different hotels in the chain.

Snapshots of common jobs in the hospitality industry

Hotel General Manager

Average salary: $77,000 a year with 10-14 years of experience.

Education required: Most hotel managers will have post-secondary education such as a bachelor’s degree, though it is not a requirement.

Sous Chef

Average salary: $45,000 to $65,000 annually, depending on level of experience and location.

Education: Although a degree is not required to become a sous chef, they are generally required to complete formal culinary training after high school. Associate and bachelor’s degree programs in culinary arts are available at culinary institutes, colleges and technical schools. Culinary students can expect to pay about $30,000 for a two-year associates degree at Johnson & Wales University. A four-year bachelor’s program at the Culinary Institute of America can cost over $100,000.

Hotel Accountant

Average salary (national): $53,000

Education: Although not required, most accountants attend college and earn a bachelor’s degree. However, a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field is considered the minimum education requirement for those who plan to become a CPA.

Restaurant manager

Average salary: $45,000

Education: College not required but encouraged.

There are many benefits of the hospitality industry, including: living in a desirable place; relative job stability; and opportunity for growth, particularly within a larger company. There are, of course, potential drawbacks. When the economy shrinks, hospitality can be one of the first industries to see negative effects. Tourist destinations rich with job opportunities often come with a higher cost of living. Hours can be long, and employees can expect to work many holidays. Through Career Academy, students are able to explore the industry and determine whether it is something that matches their interests and aligns with future goals.

Next month: Careers and jobs in health care and veterinary medicine.

Kirsten McDaniel is executive director of Youthentity.

Mulhall column: An unlikely poet

IL existe à la base de la vie humaine, un principe d’insuffisance.

— Georges Bataille

That’s one of two epigraphs to the novel Deliverance. Translated, it reads, “There is at the base of human life, a principle of insufficiency.”

One summer in the mid-1980s, I signed up for a CMC writer’s workshop featuring Harlan Ellison and James Dickey.

Ellison taught short-story science fiction, if I recall correctly. That summer, he had just settled a plagiarism lawsuit against the producers of The Terminator. As I remember, they had borrowed too liberally from several of Ellison’s works, including an Outer Limits script titled The Soldier that involved retroactive birth control.

Dickey, on the other hand, taught poetry. In the grasp of a hand meant for bending things with pry bars, Dickey’s pen looked frightened. I knew Dickey as the author of Deliverance, with all the banjo licks and biological stereotypes that arose from the motion picture, so the poetry gig struck me as a bit of an incongruity.

What I didn’t know is that Dickey wrote more poetry by far than novels, and in the years after the publication of Deliverance in 1970, Dickey settled into a position as professor of English and writer in residence at the University of South Carolina and taught poetry.

Notwithstanding Dickey’s considerable poetry bona fides, in my view Deliverance is one of the greatest novels in American literature.

The novel has several ingredients that lend to its success. For one, there’s the Cahulawassee, a fictional north Georgia river slated for disappearance by the never-blistered hands of environmentally indifferent bureaucrats.

For another, there’s whitewater, and four amateurs who scarcely know how to paddle. Add to that serious cultural differences, back woods murders, sodomy, and a whole lot of lying, and you’ve got a still full of pretty high-proof chaos.

Deliverance is as much poem as it is novel. This not only accounts for the novel’s brevity—280 pages barely qualifies as a novel—its poesy is the very basis of its greatness. Point-wise, the novel wastes no word.

Shortly after the novel’s characters push their canoes away from the Cahulawassee’s bank, for example, the novel’s foursome float out of a willow woods and into a small town with a chicken processing plant:

“I pulled my paddle out of the water; a white feather was stuck to the end of it. I shook it off and peered into the river. Off to the right and getting ready to go by under water was a vague choked whiteness. It was a log completely covered with chicken feathers with all the feather-hairs weaving and wavering in a perfect physical representation of nausea. When you are sick enough, I said truly to myself, that is the thing you feel.”

Dickey’s focus on the river’s use as a dump for unwanted body parts foreshadows things to come.

Despite the popular southern red-neck stereotypes that percolate out of the movie, the novel is the struggle that its protagonist, Ed Gentry, goes through when forced to measure up to something far greater than his own insufficiency.

By his own admission, Ed’s a get-through-the-day-man, not particularly great at anything but living by antifriction, which he describes as “finding a modest thing you can do and then greasing that thing on both sides so you can groove in comfort.”

That all changes, of course, and it’s never clear whether Ed has anything like what it takes to survive, or to even understand what survival means, until the end. Equally clear, too, is that Ed will never be the same.

Despite some of Dickey’s shortcomings, which according to most sources were legion, he struck me as a patient man, or so he was with me.

There are few things in life more pathetic than a twenty-something English major who thinks he can write verse like John Keats.

For Dickey, that had to be tedious. Nevertheless, for a few days one summer he listened to my readings and nudged me toward a sufficiency he could see but I could not.

Sometime later, my dalliance with poetry lost its sparkle, and while I’m quite certain the feeling was mutual, I never lost my appreciation for the word, nor for the prose of a big-handed poet.

Mitch Mulhall is a husband, father and longtime Roaring Fork Valley resident. His column appears monthly in the Post Independent and at postindependent.com.

YouthZone’s annual fundraiser to share local youth films

Our communities have recognized YouthZone as a pillar in positive youth development and advocacy for 44 years. Serving adolescents and parents from Aspen to Parachute, YouthZone strives to keep our communities safe, our families strong and our youth responsible by providing young people the tools to succeed.

Once a year, local teens take a turn helping YouthZone and their communities during the annual Ascent fundraiser. This year, high school students share their perspective of the upside-down world of 2020 during the Youth Film Fest – An Inspired View of Today’s World. Through the films, young people express the emotional impact of living in a quickly changing world and the hopes and possibilities they envision moving forward.

“We chose to call our fundraiser the Ascent, because our goal is to have every young person we work with look up and see new, higher possibilities in their life,” said Lori Mueller, Executive Director of YouthZone.

Typically, the Ascent fundraiser has been a live talent showcase in a theater setting. With the rise of COVID-19, YouthZone had to get creative in choosing the best way to move forward with this year’s event. In order to keep everyone safe, healthy, and creatively stimulated, the staff decided a virtual film festival was the best way to go.

A fundraiser of this size is naturally a challenge, and transitioning to a virtual format created new obstacles. In order to give the young creators as much support as possible throughout this process, local filmmaker Hannah Pike was brought on as a mentor. She has worked in the film industry for years and has a history and a passion for working with education through film.

YouthZone staff is proud of the teenagers who have decided to participate. They’ve worked hard to create something that artistically speaks of what it’s like to live as a youth during a year of transition due to COVID-19 and the movement for social justice.

This fundraiser is vital to the success of YouthZone and the services it provides: counseling, juvenile diversion, substance intervention and education, Life Skills classes, community service, restorative justice, and parenting education. During the initial Colorado Stay-At-Home period this spring, YouthZone had 89 intakes between late March and June 1.

“Our Ascent fundraiser is an opportunity for each of us to show up and shout from the mountain tops that we love our youth and that they are important to us, now more than ever,” said Lori.

YouthZone’s mission is to provide comprehensive assessment and advocacy to inspire healthy relationships between youth, family and community. Since 1976, YouthZone has been, and still is, the only non-profit organization that intervenes with youth in the juvenile justice system.

Youth are referred by the juvenile courts, schools, parents, law enforcement and self-referred. Over 85% of all juvenile cases in regional courts are referred to YouthZone. According to 20 years of evaluation, 90% of kids that receive services do not repeat another offense and there is a significant increase in self-esteem and decrease in delinquency and substance use.

YouthZone wants the community to know that though teens may slip or falter, there is always an opportunity for growth and understanding. “YouthZone has always engaged youth as contributing members of our communities. It is important to recognize that our kids have something to give back to our communities,” said Lori.

The Ascent event begins on Sept. 23 with a silent auction. The film festival starts at 7 p.m. on Sept. 25, but the audience can check in at 6:45 to settle in before the show starts.

YouthZone’s goal is to raise $150,000 through Ascent. Tickets can be purchased for $35 at https://bit.ly//3j9hhDR. If you would like to be a sponsor of the event, please email cwolff@youthzone.com.

Carol Wolff is Director of Development at YouthZone. She brings to YouthZone 11 years of experience as Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre in Grand Lake, Colorado and then of the Colorado Honor Band Association in Denver since 2015.

Merriott column: GarCo should balance O&G rules challenge with climate action funding

By now most everyone in Garfield County is aware that the county commissioners committed $1.5 million of the Oil and Gas Mitigation Fund to challenge parts of the state of Colorado’s new oil and gas regulations. The main goal of the new Colorado law changes the primary directive of the COGCC (Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission) from promoting oil and gas to protecting the public health, safety, welfare and the environment.

In fact, on the Front Range the coverage is saying “Garfield County is spending big to challenge Colorado’s new oil and gas regulations.” This action was taken by our county commissioners, all of whom I consider my friends and fellow public servants from my time on Carbondale Town Council. That said, I would not have voted to allocate these funds this way had I been in that position.

Just why are we doing this? It seems to be backward and not forward-thinking. Clearly, natural gas is a bridge fuel to a renewable energy future. I think we would be best served by readying ourselves as best we can for that future.

I would challenge the Garfield County commissioners to put in place their own Climate Action Plan, which would be to attain a net zero county. This is similar to what Carbondale did in 2006 and revised in 2017.

Yes, this would entail a changeover from what has primarily funded Garfield County government spending. We could begin to move from taxes on oil and gas properties and severance taxes on gas production to other sources such as sales and use tax, lodging taxes and property taxes.

Not all counties have had the luxury to depend on gas production like Garfield and Weld counties. Garfield at some point must begin to wean itself off fossil fuel taxation and move to something more stable for the future of all our citizens.

As I write, Glenwood Springs is exploring enforcing mandatory water rationing and Carbondale is calling for voluntary water reductions. Colorado, it seems, is no longer in a drought but is making a transition to aridity caused by climate change.

Science is now clear climate change is mainly caused by the burning of fossil fuels. Colorado has just had its biggest fire in history. The fire burned almost 140,000 acres of farm and grazing land and wildlife habitat. It may never be the same.

My home state of Louisiana just had one of its strongest hurricanes in history (stronger than Katrina). It was still a Category 1 storm when it got to Ruston in North Louisiana where I am from. This has never happened before! I have friends that still do not have water and power. California is on fire, as well, resulting in unsafe air to breathe warnings in Colorado; 1.6 million acres have burned.

I would challenge the county commissioners to commit an equal amount of lump sum money, $1.5 million to GCE (Garfield Clean Energy) out of the remaining balance of $16.8 million in the Mitigation Fund to implement a Garfield County Climate Action Plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2040.

These monies could be used for any number of energy efficient and clean energy projects in assisting Parachute, Rifle, Silt, New Castle and Glenwood to create a stronger, more resilient, and forward-thinking economy.

In implementing their own plans, there would be money for grants and rebates which would leverage job creation. Garfield County has been an invaluable part of GCE since its inception and kudos especially to Tom Jankovsky for his steadfast support. I know some of your supporters in West Garfield will wonder if you’ve gone off the deep end, but the history books will look back and say those guys had some big cohones! They really stepped up to lead when it made a difference for Garfield County and Colorado. It’s time for Garfield County to take it to the next level and GCE is just the vehicle to do it.

P.S. — Understand we all dodged a bullet recently when a lightning strike started some trees on fire on Mt. Sopris? A helicopter quickly dropped a big bucket of water and a roving fire team was on it in short order. A heartfelt thanks to all you fire fighters for all you do and have done.

Frosty Merriott is a registered Independent and former Carbondale Town Trustee for 10 years. He is a fiscal conservative and an admitted tree hugger from Louisiana. You can contact him at frostycpa.com