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The Country Life: A fond farewell

April 30, 2017 Updated: May 4, 2017 at 2:59 pm
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Photo by Bill Radford, The Gazette

It's goodbye to The Country Life.

Not farewell to life in the country - I'll still be in the Falcon area with my wife and our menagerie of a horse, a blind mule, two goats, two rabbits, two ducks, 11 chickens, two dogs, two cats and two parrots. But this column has reached its end.

In the beginning, I was the city mouse who had moved to the country. I took readers on my journey of discovery.

I studied our well, reaching 870 feet into the Arapahoe Aquifer.

I dug into the mysteries of our septic system, a column that won a rave review from Pumper.com: "When Radford figured he needed to get his septic tank pumped, he used his reporter's curiosity to learn about the septic service industry ... and did a public service to educate readers about what you do for a living at the same time," the industry site declared.

I learned about our house, which is, like many in the country, a manufactured home - that is, a home built in a factory. About the county's maintenance of the dirt roads. About the yellow flowers that take over the pasture each spring (plains coreopsis).

I delved into the area's fascinating history, such as the distinctive, century-old barn on Judge Orr Road next to Meadow Lake Airport in Falcon (one rumor is that John Wayne had a birthday party there). That column led to an email from the granddaughter of Judge James A. Orr, and that, in turn, resulted in a column on the man for whom Judge Orr Road is named.

I researched the ghost town of Eastonville, once the self-proclaimed "potato capital of the world." There was the surprising history of Cadillac Jack's, the overstuffed antique store in Calhan that contributed to the downfall of a Pennsylvania major and brought a touch of Hollywood to the prairie with the filming of the straight-to-video "The Summer Intern."

I even got to witness a scene from the past: a re-enactment held each year of an old-time threshing, using the same equipment farmers used a century ago. And I traveled in a remnant of the past when I rode in one of Bob and Mary Manley's Model A cars for a column on the High Plain A's, a chapter of the Model A Ford Club of America.

I got to meet with many community mainstays, who brought the past to life with their vivid stories: Marv Maul, who told of his career as a rural veterinarian; Sandra Hawman, whose family roots in the area date to the 1870s; Betty Rickel, who relishes memories of growing up on a farm near Aguilar.

The pioneer spirit still exists, I learned as I visited area farms and ranches. At Bijou Basin Ranch near Elbert, Carl and Eileen Koop raise yaks, an animal more likely to be spotted in the Himalayas than in Colorado. Texas longhorns dominate the landscape at Heritage Belle Farms in Calhan, run by Katie Belle Miller, who sees small-scale agriculture as farming's future.

At Ahavah Farm near Peyton, it's a love of family, land and community that drives Yosef Camire and his family as they grow tomatoes, squash, peppers, carrots, beets, radishes and much more.

I found mini pigs at Colorado Cutie Pigs near Elbert and gentle, giant horses at Thunder Cliff Shires in the Calhan area.

At our place, there were painful goodbyes: Gadget, a feisty, snorting, 15-pound Boston terrier who made for an unorthodox "ranch dog" and who was claimed by cancer; and Christmas the goat, who was euthanized in the face of "an overwhelming infection" that antibiotics could not overcome and, yet, still fought to hang on in those final seconds; goats, the vet said, are tough.

I wasn't sure about life in the country at first. The drive into town for work seemed endless, as did the winds ripping across the prairie.

But I've learned to welcome those lonely country roads; it's the traffic-infested city roads that get to me now. The wide-open views lift my spirits; the sound of the meadowlark soothes my soul.

So take me home, country roads.

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