Where does all the time go?
I stepped out the back door onto the deck early the other morning. It was one of those crisp, clear mornings under a steel-gray light that creeps east to west ahead of the sunrise, just below freezing, a veil of frost on the still green grass highlighting the round pie-plate webs of a spider whose story I know not yet. In that cold morning air the sounds carried beautifully and I found myself surrounded by roosters near and far, sending greetings and challenges to each other at the break of day. I imagined a jungle, where chickens had their start, with each flock rooster identifying himself under the jungle canopy.
When we first settled in Niwot and started our own herd of chickens there were several roosters within earshot, but as time went on people moved away, oldsters died, and finally our roosters had no answers to their calls, then ours were silenced as well by a neighbor’s dog. We went chickenless for several years, but in 2004 I built a new coop and we were back at it.
I really like having chickens around, which comes as no surprise to regular readers because I mention them often. I turned them out into the garden for the first time yesterday and it was an interesting event to watch. They didn’t quite know where they wanted to go first, everywhere it seemed, and for the first few minutes there was a lot of clucking, flapping and running as they hurried from one spot to another.
The rye is high enough now that it can stand some grazing and scratching. The greens are good for the chickens and brighten the color of the yolks. I started them on lights when I got back from Yakima, to keep the egg laying going, and the egg production is coming up again. It had dropped to one egg or less a day, I probably should have started the lights in mid-September. It took about two weeks for the egg laying hormones to kick in again.
I haven’t used lights in the winter, thinking that the chickens would benefit from the winter off, but this year I am trying lights so I can keep myself, Harold and Red in eggs. Other than the two survivors from the original flock they are all young so they should do just fine, and if I can get them out into the garden on a fairly regular basis to forage they should remain strong and healthy through the winter.
This was a busy week for beekeeping. Friday evening and Saturday was the winter meeting of the Colorado State Beekeepers Association (CSBA) at Roxborough Park. This is an interesting organization, one of the oldest agricultural organizations in Colorado. It was founded in Denver in 1880 by three forward thinking beekeepers; J.L. Peabody, Elisha Milleson and Olive Wright, and it was incorporated in 1888 as the Colorado Bee Keepers’ Association. Despite the fact that there were only a few hundred colonies of bees in the entire state in 1880 those beekeepers saw what lay ahead. By 1890 annual honey crops were nearly 2 million pounds (at 15 cents per pound) and by the turn of the century Colorado was home to 75,000 colonies of bees. Today we have 22 to 24 thousand colonies.
In addition to the CSBA winter meeting, Denver beekeepers had scheduled a visit by two beekeepers; Christy Hemenway from Maine and Phil Young from England. Both were here to conduct classes for local beekeepers. Miles and I were able to connect with Christy and Phil Sunday evening and we all went to dinner at the Ale House on 16th just west of the Interstate. That brought back memories for me. When I came back to Colorado after college in 1965 I worked for a while for Santa Fe Truck Lines loading semis out of the old Moffat Railroad Station. This was before I landed the job with IBM that October. I also made deliveries around downtown Denver and one of the places was a small mattress factory in what is now the Ale House or maybe right next door. Where have the years gone?
Where have they gone indeed. At lunch at the CSBA meeting I struck up a conversation with a beekeeper from Summit County and I mentioned that I had worked on the Dillon Dam in 1962. In fact, it was that very day, November 3, when cold weather finally shut the project down for the winter and I headed back for Wisconsin in my 1957 Volkswagen bug. That was 50 years ago! Where have the years gone indeed?
I got the job on the Dillon Dam because the Teamsters Agent in Denver was a drinking buddy of my dad’s and I had a little experience, I’d driven a dump truck for a road building company the summer before in Wisconsin. It was the best paying construction job in Colorado at the time and the money I was able to put away from that job helped me get through the rest of college.
It was heavy stuff for a 19-year-old college kid. By the end of the season I was driving a 40 yard Euclid bottom dump, reputedly the largest of their kind ever built. Typically they would be used in strip mines and open pit mines where there was a lot of earth to move. So the story went, the R.B Potashnick Company, the contractor for the dam, had taken delivery of 12 of these “Eucs,” as they were called, the year before, as a publicity stunt for the dam project, Euclid and Potashnick. The Eucs were paid for with a briefcase containing 1 million dollars in cash.
I was driving one of those 12 by the end of the season. The wheels were 8-feet high and the cab was 13-feet off the ground. It was exciting, but dangerous too and I had a couple of close calls during the season that could have ended it all and deprived you of this story.
The Dillon job also gave me enough cushion that I asked Barbara to marry me, and she did. Tuesday was the 6th anniversary of her death and after sunset I drove over to the cemetery just to sit a while. A friend called just as I was leaving and she came along. She brought a short stub of one of my candles and we reminisced a bit in the candle light and the cold night air. Six years. My friend asked if it seemed like a long time or just yesterday and I’m not sure what the answer is to that. I guess I’ve adjusted, as much as you ever do to the loss of someone who was so important in your life, but sometimes at unexpected moments it reaches in and grabs my heart and memories flow back. Sometimes it seems like a lot of water has gone under the bridge, at others the pain is much to near.
Sometimes when I start a column I have no idea where I’m going to wind up. Life is like that too. Where does all the time go? I don’t know, but it has all been interesting so far and I’m ready for more. ❖