Looking back at 2020’s top feature stories | PostIndependent.com

Looking back at 2020’s top feature stories

Wendy Tennis,left, and Jean Winkler work to prepare masks for the final sewing steps at Valley View Hospital in March. Chelsea Self / Post Independent

This year saw a slew of interesting and profound feature stories covered by the Post Independent. Here’s a list of the most dominating headlines in news category:

I’ll be your huckle… bearer?

COVID-19 wasn’t the only bit of pressing news to hit Garfield County this year.

In perhaps one of the most highly contentious claims to ever wedge itself among Wild West historians, a respected Glenwood Springs gunslinger guru said that Doc Holliday didn’t actually say “I’ll be your Huckleberry” to folks before shooting them dead.

Instead, according to Frontier Museum and Doc Holliday Collection executive director Bill Kight, Holliday actually weaponized the term “I’ll be your huckle bearer” before delivering demise by way of lead bullet.

Kight said that the huckle bearer was one of the handles found on a dead man’s casket, and that by Holliday saying “huckle bearer,” it insinuated that he would quite literally carry a man to his grave after taking that man’s life.

In addition, Kight would say that Holliday, who died in Garfield County, wasn’t necessarily the mean killing machine some might paint him as. Instead, Holliday was a gentleman who rarely used brute force to get his way.

In fact, he only really killed between 3 to 5 men, said Kight.

Nurses use down time to make masks

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

While COVID-19 initially created an alarming shortage of personal protective equipment among medical staff at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs, it left some nurses what they could do to help mitigate the anticipated situation.

Using a surplus of blue wrap cloth, Valley View nurses Brady Heuer and Kristen Dirksen used some downtown related to a hold on elective surgeries to amass critical PPE for staffers. The nurses had enough material on hand for 16,000 hospital-made masks.

Once the idea was approved by medical officials, Heuer and Dirksen made some trips to Walmart, where they purchased sewing machines and supplies. After, with the help of fellow Valley View staffers, they assembled the masks in a hospital conference room. The room was appropriately coined “The Sewing Center.”

Valley View doctors were simply amazed by such inventiveness.

“Brady and Kristen’s innovation is absolutely remarkable. These are the kinds of ideas that will carry us forward in the care of our patients,” said Dr. Murphy, Valley View CEO.

Samurai sword finds its place

An amazing story of rare circumstance came out of Rifle this year.

Tradesman Pawn Shop Gun Store owner Edward Wilks, an avid collector of Samurai swords, tracked down a mysterious man who left him a family heirloom 14 years ago. The heirloom was a Japanese Samurai sword that was used to almost kill the man’s father during the Battle of Iwo Jima.

Tradesman Pawn Shop Gun Store owner Edward Wilks demonstrates the proper way to display and present a Samurai sword. Chelsea Self / Post Independent

According to Wilks, he had just landed his plane in 2006 at the Rifle Airport during an emergency landing when he met a mechanic. That mechanic, knowing Wilks collected Samurai swords, later brought his father’s sword to Wilks’ shop to be restored. However, the man never left his contact information with Wilks and never returned to his shop.

Instead, through a social web of mechanics, Wilks had finally pinpointed the mysterious man’s whereabouts. From there, Wilks has made plans to give back the priceless military sword to the man.

“There is an honor code with Japanese swords and Bushido,” Wilks would say. “I do study Kendo. I do study Japanese martial arts. And the first rule is this — we are not owners of these swords, simply custodians for the next generation.”

Wilks said the man plans to hang the sword above a picture taken of his father during Iwo Jima.

Four-legged neighbor hero

When a 93-year-old woman fell in front of her Rifle home in freezing cold weather, Sitka the dog didn’t waste any time.

Out on an early-morning walk with his owner, Stacey Wilz, Sitka kept pulling on the leash and stopped in front of the house of Jane and Dot Holt. The dog’s rather abnormal behavior during such an otherwise normal morning walk led Wilz to see that Dot, who has dementia, had fallen in front of her house.

The dog leading the human to trouble helped save Dot Holt from freezing to death.

“It couldn’t have been much longer, it was like 15 degrees,” Jane Holt said of the situation. “I’m so in love with this dog, and I always have been. He is such a great dog.”

Sitka the dog was adopted from the Rifle Animal Shelter in July 2018.

COVID Diaries: Grace and patience amid a pandemic

Carrying out everyday life amid a global pandemic has created plenty of opportunity for improvisation.

Local pastor Daniel Self was no exception.

When the practice of social-distancing came about, Self had to begin pastoring from a chair in the corner of his bedroom.

Though not the most ideal set-up, Self was successful in interacting with his flock amid COVID-19.

“I lead prayer meetings from here, do counseling, Facetime with people … faith transcends circumstance, and people are finding faith and reengaging from their bedrooms and kitchens in the midst of crisis,” Self said.

Maybe the coolest pastor in the Roaring Fork Valley, by the end of the night Self would also Facetime with friends for a “pandemic pub,” when every party involved would share a beer and talk.

“When there’s uncertainty, there’s fear. So, the first thing is to partner with faith over fear. I also choose to partner with peace over panic … and with wisdom over worry,” Self said.


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