The Summer of 1998 Part XXII

The second wave came in, this time it was a young man with his son in a pick-up. Their repertoire for setting up a shelter consisted of a tarp and a rope. Now those were my kind of campers…using the old KISS method (the acronym for “keep it simple, stupid”). We had a brief encounter, and I told them I had plenty of extra firewood if they needed any. Aaron said, “Thanks, I’ll send Christopher over to get some if we need any.” As I was getting my own fire started, a choir-boy voice hollered from behind, “Hey, whatcha doin’, Mister?”

Man, he startled the skeleton out of me. I turned around and said, in a reprimanding tone, “Don’t ever sneak up behind a man when he’s tending to his fire. I could have whipped around and blown your head off with my six-shooter.” Of course, I was drawing from the tableau of Western movies. I settled him down, and asked, “What can I do for ya, pardner?” He said “We could hear you splittin’ this wood from way over there, and we were wonderin’ if we might borrow your hammer and splitter for awhile.” I said, “Sure, have at it, kid. But, remember, you gotta have respect for another man’s tools. You treat them like they were your own.” Before he left, we had nice little chat, and I found out he was orphaned when he was four years old. Aaron was like a big brother to him. In spite of his background, Christopher was pretty squared away for a nine-year old. I had a whole new perspective on their situation, and an admiration for then.

As I was drawing water from the stream, I noticed a half-gallon jug of orange juice, tethered to a string, half-submerged in between some rocks. I pulled it out, and found to my consternation that the seal was still unbroken. Had someone left it for a future rendezvous? One thing was for sure – it had been kept refrigerated. Within a hour, Chris had returned with my “wedge and sledge”, as I called it. I showed him my eureka of O.J., and said, “Lookie there, we got us one big jug of orange juice to enjoy tomorrow morning.” He gave me a thanks, and disappeared into the darkness. I sat in my easy chair, mesmerized by my neighbor’s distant fire. It occurred to me that this was a trip of “firsts”- my first bike rack, my first wheel levelers (the 2 X 8’s), my first end-cuts, and my first charcoal lighter fluid (which I used very sparingly). It’s funny, I had survived just fine for seventeen years without these amenities. Well, there’s always room for improvement. What’s next…a satellite dish on the roof? I hardly think so.

After divvying up the orange juice with Aaron and Christopher, I headed for the Mile High City. It was NFL Sunday, and the Cowboys were in town to battle the Broncos. I figured to catch the game at Charlie Brown’s, one of my old neighborhood haunts back in the halcyon days of the late ’70s and early ’80s. I pulled off I-25 at the exit to the new downtown ballpark (aptly named Coors Field). As I was stopped in the traffic, I noticed an indigent individual posting a sign with his destination scrawled on it. I waved a dollar bill at him and said, “If you’re headed to Albuquerque, you made a good choice. Good luck.” There was still time before kickoff, so I parked near Union Station and did some casual biking around the almost deserted streets of downtown.

When I got back to Ol’ Baleau, I noticed a lively-looking lounge in an annex to the railroad depot. I sauntered in and knew right off this was the place to watch the game. The bar was full of football fanatics and at least half a dozen TVs. I certainly wasn’t going to display any Cowboy partisanship in that den of devoted Denverites. Actually, my allegiance had been with the Broncos ever since I had moved to Denver back in 1978. Nevertheless, it was a no-lose situation. When I wasn’t watching the game, I was panning the patrons. With one or two exceptions, everyone else was attired in clothes with pictures and/or writing on them. While these self-promotions are not entirely an invention of the modern age, they are an unpleasant indication of the general state of things. I mean, be realistic.

If people don’t want to listen to you, what makes you think they want to hear from your T-shirt? Just an observation…you don’t have to shout to be heard. It seems to be the norm of the neon-nineties. During halftime, I wandered next door to the once-vibrant Union Station, meandering about a mausoleum of past glory days, now virtually empty of people. I was visualizing how it must have been, fifty or sixty years ago, teeming with hordes of passengers, to and from a hundred trains daily…almost impossible to imagine in these days of interstates and jet ports. I’ll have to admit, it was like a self-inducing depression, walking inside those hallowed walls. But, I just had to do it, just to get it out of my system. I returned to reality, to the nethermost world of watching football on TV. It turned out to be an entertaining game…Broncos won.

I made my way over to my old “home away from home” area known as Capitol Hill, and found a tree-shaded parking space in front of King Soupers. I made a bunch of phone calls to all my buddies in Denver, courtesy of the pay phone in front of the store. Most of the reactions were: “Hey, if this is September, it must be Early Bird.” I couldn’t fault them on that, because I usually come through town this time of year. After all that falderal on the phone, I was ready to call it a night. I juxtapositioned myself in the King Soupers ancillary parking lot for a night’s respite.

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