Of elk, cats, mud, ice, and a great old guy

We’ve had bands of elk roaming through the area all winter. This little herd was spotted near here this evening. They’ll hang around for the next couple months, then begin to follow the snowline up the surrounding mountains.

It’s been a somewhat peculiar week here at Hardscrabble Times, beginning with the previously mentioned encounter with a suspected bobcat in the barn, and the subsequent disappearance of all the barn cats. There had been at least a half-dozen of the critters living there before the wild cat showed up. Today, one of the barn cats, gray with tiger stripes, returned to the tack room. Maybe the little monster is gone.

The gathering sunlight and warmer days have brought a literal groundswell of mud and ice, a mixed blessing. The warmer temperatures make almost everything I do easier. But the mud and ice are both serious annoyances.

Friday I attended a memorial service for Oscar “Ole” Olson. Ole had been a neighbor of my wife’s family in Pueblo for many years. He and his wife Alice, who died in 2005, are credited with leading many camping, skiing, rafting, fishing and other outdoor excursions for both families. In fact, I once went on one of these famous campouts with Ole and Alice at Alvarado Campground near Westcliffe in the early 1980s.

When I first met Ole back in the early ‘80s and told him I was involved in pack-burro racing, he told me about when he was working for the Colorado Department of Transportation on Highway 9 near Fairplay one summer and watched the race from Breckenridge to Fairplay over Hoosier Pass.

I was new at the sport and hadn’t delved much into its history at the time. I thought perhaps he was mistaken, since the race actually goes up Mosquito Pass, and I knew that it once had been point-to-point between Leadville and Fairplay. I was polite and just nodded.

Many years later while researching my book “Pack-Burro Stories” I found that Ole was right after all — the race actually was held between Breckenridge and Fairplay over Hoosier Pass for three years 1969-1971. The race finished in Breck in 1970, so he must have been there either in ’69 or ‘71.

Ole was born in the mining camp of Primero, near Trinidad. He was a World War II vet, a CU grad, and a civil engineer with both CDOT and CF&I. He was also, I must add, a great old guy.

His passing is yet another reminder that life is short. We should all strive to be remembered as vividly as Ole.

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One Response to “Of elk, cats, mud, ice, and a great old guy”

  1. Pari Morse Says:

    Hey Hal,

    The summer after my first year at college I spent working as a maid in the condos in Dillon. Back then Dillon was pretty small, in fact really small, so for something to do on weekends, I would head over the Breckenridge. That year (1969) I took in the Breckenridge to Fairplay burro race and was duly impressed with man and beast!

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