BARBWIRE BOB – 8-25-22

BY BOB SWEENEY

This past week my life’s companion, Gerri and I, set out to make a tour around Western Colorado,  my immigrant ancestor’s homeland, starting with the arrival of my Irish grandfather to America in 1865 and my mother’s grandparents arriving in Leadville from Scotland in 1895. 

The trip was following an invitation from the Palisade Historical Society about the Palisade Tribune that we owned and published for 20 years.  I donated  historic newspaper binderies to the Society and became a lifetime member of the group.  The newspaper was sold to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, who published the newspaper for only two years, closing  it down, leaving the town without a local newspaper.  Alas, happening in far too many towns across the nation.  Who will guard the citizenry as the 4th Estate newspapers dwindle away.  But, there are a few diehards like us, who still believe in printing newspapers. Many accolades to our subscribers who agree and continue to subscribe year after year through print or digital.  

I reminisced with the group located in a former Palisade fruit shipping warehouse, now converted to a winery and restaurant.  They  invited me back for another program at some future date.  Palisade is heaven on earth as a fruit capital. The fruit is seasonal and has to compete with South America and Florida where crops can be harvested throughout the year.  The empty shipping warehouse  is a reminder of  former days of shipping fruit by rail that runs thru town.  

It was my plan to own the Palisade Tribune and live in that community in my later years. I could toddle up to the main street newspaper office and continue my writing and newspaper activities.  

Instead of moving to Palisade, we moved to Denver in1980, where our four children obtained higher educations. Two attending CU, and two at CSU.  All four ended up in the publishing business, with older daughters now retired, and two still active in the business.  Susan is heavily engaged in daily operations and sales, and Patrick doing IT work, keeping his father’s computer running and the newspaper’s servers and computers working.

We left Palisade at 7 p.m. and headed l20 miles north to Craig, traveling through Rifle and Meeker; traveling on a dark road where  once my grandfather drove a freight wagon on a dusty trail to Rifle. Highway 13, heading north, is famous for being deer laden, but nary a deer on the highway. Rifle is the home of U.S Representative Lauren Boebert’s “Shooter’s Restaurant,” now closing for lack of a lease. Her four boys recently making the news riding their off-road vehicles too fervently in the Silt neighborhood, a minor event, making national news. She is now somewhat of a national celebrity running for re-election.

We rented the last room in Craig at the Hilton Hampton Inn for $250 a night, the last room in a town full of motels.  Seems that construction workers are renting the motel rooms working on the doomed power plants, road construction, and gas lines. 

The trip to Craig coincided with the death of my high school pal, life-long friend William L. “Bill” Terrill.  He became a national “Million Dollar Roundtable” member, year after year, representing the New York Life Insurance Co.  He was married four times, had a very exciting life, and passed away in his sleep alone suffering from a heart ailment.

A celebration of his life was held at Vallarta’s Mexican restaurant.  The popular site was once owned by his family, named “Signal Hill” during the oil boom days. Bill owned a “Signal Hill” sign that he donated to the new owners that hangs behind the wall at the restaurant bar.  His father was also Moffat County Sheriff and was appointed Colorado’s U.S. Marshall by President John F. Kennedy; his Uncle, John Terrill,  received the same presidential appointment in Wyoming.  The two were very famous lawmen.

It was old home week at the outdoor patio celebration for “Billy.” We saw many Craig friends, especially five Peroulis brothers who grew up in Craig with our family.  We were  close friends with their parents, John and Kate Peroulis.  There is a large Greek population in Craig, all related to the early day sheep industry with the nation’s largest wool warehouse located in Craig.   The brothers all ranch and own the historic truck line in Craig.

I was thrilled to sit by old friend  Louis Wyman, the founder and operator of the Wyman Museum, located directly East of Craig.  A former rancher, he has accumulated a vast collection of Western antiques, including a steam gold ore stamping press out of Central City. He has an early day military tank.  I have a tank driving license from Ft. Knox army days. His museum was featured nationally on the Antique Roadshow, a popular television program.

Another Craig native was Dr. Neal McCandless, Veterinarian graduate who I knew at CSU.  His father, Ted McCandless, wrote a  clever column in The Craig Empire-Courier called, “Shot of Scotch.”  McCandless was a member of the Colorado A&M Board of Agriculture and a very prominent veterinarian, and an avid Democrat. His son, Neal has served in many positions in Moffat County, including being a County Commissioner.  My father loved to read his dad’s column.

Highlight of the trip was dinner Friday night with one of my last two living relatives, my first cousin, Patricia Sweeney Pierce.  Now a widow, she was raised in a log cabin on the original Sweeney ranch.  A registered nurse, she married a local cowboy and state champion wrestler, spending her life in Craig.  Her mother Edna lived actively to age 104.  My son, Patrick is named after her father, and my  grandfather.   My other first cousin, Jason Sweeney, also grew up in the wilderness on a cattle and sheep ranch and is like a brother.  He worked the summer hayfields with me, and attended CSU, having a successful career working for IBM in Boulder.

At home Sunday I caught up on local news, reading  The Denver Post.  I’m really tired of those New York Times editorials. While I may write about family history and events, the information is still about Colorado. I really miss some of those great Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News writers, like Gene Amole, who shared how to make good turkey stuffing.  The Villager now has a great sport’s writer, Denny Dressman, formerly of the Rocky Mountain News.

Colorado Masons are gathering in Central City this weekend to celebrate the founding of their first lodges during the gold rush. The Lodges were here prior to Colorado becoming a state in 1876.