I Have Written An Exact Copy Of You

 

  Artwork by: Daniel Workman

Artwork by: Daniel Workman

When we fuck, you tell me you want to bite chunks out of me.  In your dreams, you are naked and beautiful. You sit on top of my mutilated body, blood covering the walls.  It’s a love like horror.  It’s a love like sitting in your kitchen watching Scream – you pressing me up against the oven with your hand wrapped around my throat.

            Your name is October. I never learned to press your weight into words.  Is it that your parents named you a month and thus named you an abstraction, or is it that your body sinking into mine can never be written into thinness?

            I write poems, so you know that the flowers that bloom blue in the fall are holy.  Or at least you know what I mean when I tell you that.  The truth is, all the poems that I’ve written in these last months have been the same, they perfectly eclipse you.

            Or, to say it simply, when the moon is swollen at the hips, I love you.  Your name is October; your name is Henry; your name is Tyler; your name is your own.  Do you feel the tendrils that creep from ink? How the words dream of you and wear your skin?

            I was born at the end of September and that means I’m cursed.  Or so my grandma says.  My mother ate catfish on the first new moon she was pregnant with me, and from that day on, I was destined for misfortune.

            At first, it manifested itself strangely.  My ability to conjure my mother’s nightmares into waking life. I got a bloody nose in the middle of the night and left small handprints all over the walls – my mother tells me that her biggest fear is to lose her children in plaster catacombs. Though it worked in the opposite direction too. When we lived in the building that had a car crash through the living room window, I told stories about a ghost who lived on our fan. Every night, his feet brushed my mom’s nose into terror.

            I started writing stories when I first found the words. When I first learned to dislocate “you” and “me.”  The words slipping away from my body and latching onto someone else.  It’s a possession for the ages.  Canonization and all.  The unholy “I” the taker of bodies and souls --

 

            I am the ghost that lives in these woods.  All the roads lead back to me.

 

            Your name is October, and I’m sorry that when you dream of eating me, I dream of wearing your skin.  I’m sorry that I’ve sewn you into my poems in the night, sedated by sex, drugs, and labyrinthine black sky.  My stories still stitched to your back, my love, I’m sorry that they will become your own skin.  You are the “him”; you are the “me.”

            You are the hero, you are the dragon, you are the witch, you are the lover. Your chest hair still hasn’t come in.  You’re older than me, but at night, I can feel your small frame crouch inside of my bones.  We walk into my room one day, and there’s a dictionary page hanging on the wall, marred with our sonnets. 

            Borges, first entry.  I can tell that you don’t understand.  All you see are the big black words:

 

            I am the ghost that lives in these words. All the pretty things die with me.

 

Then there’s a picture of you. I say, “You just gotta relax your eyes. ”

I learned this at home, but I don’t tell you that. No knowledge worth having comes from somewhere else.  As a child, my father hung a pixelated abstract on the staircase that was a spaceship if you looked just right.  He said you just had to look through the sign to see the image. 

He didn’t know the effect that it would have on me. He didn’t know I would look into the frame for hours while he was at work, trying to relax my eyes more to find out what else could be hidden there.

One night, when the moon was milky enough to light the house, I slept on the fourth step staring up at the photo.

Did I see you there?

“I saw him there. ”

I saw you there.

 

            My love, when I write these stories, they always look like you.

A Suit and Tie

by Josh Miles

 

Untitled54 by_ Daniel Workman.jpg

Artwork by: Daniel Workman

Doors often lead to adventures. They open at the beginning of new stories, and close at the conclusion.

            Looking up at the enormous brown doors ahead of me I took a deep breath, adjusted my tie, and pushed my hands against the firm wood in front of me.

The building itself stood tall in front of me. A simple building, mainly brick and thatched wood. Vines and dark green plants grew up the rustic walls giving a sense of age and wisdom. Much of the building had been standing for over a hundred years. The newer parts—pieces rebuilt after bombings in WWII—were easy to spot among the old architecture of the building.

Walking in, was something entirely different and perplexing. I took in what laid in front of me; long halls, deep blue carpet and the buzzing of young, high-pitched British accents. My eyes scanned the hall. We all looked the same; dark grey trousers, light blue button-up shirt with a matching blue striped tie. Some in grey jumpers and all in dark blue blazers. Hundreds of us, identical in look, filled the halls. Yet I stood alone, an alien. Lost and confused in a bustling hallways of boys. This was my new reality.

Chaos engulfed the hallways, making it nearly impossible to navigate. It was the first day of school, so most of the boys crowded the halls catching up with their friends. Hurriedly telling the over-embellished stories of their eventful summer. I spent most of my time weaving my way through the swarms of boys in the vain hope that I was going in the right direction.

Finally I stumbled into my class, with what was most likely a bewildered look on my face. Two dark brown eyes met mine as I looked up. They were fiery and passionate with a hint of crazy. I quickly found the face that the eyes belonged to. “I’m Mrs. Brown.” I quickly snapped out of my confusion and introduced myself.

Mrs. Brown, the music director, had an aura of authority about her that quickly filled the room. Even the obvious jokesters in the class hushed when she spoke. I wasn’t the most social, but I still took that as a tell-tale sign to keep quiet.

We went around the room and introduce ourselves. When my turn came there was a noticeable change of tempo that clouded the air. Being the new kid, from America, I drew a lot of attention, which didn’t help my plan of staying unnoticed and in the shadows. I was now the hot topic of discussion.

Chatter erupted between the boys. One went out of his way to introduce himself to me. Jonny was a month older than me, which he would later love to point out. We stood about the same height, but he had bright blonde hair and a warm welcoming smile. We quickly got to know each other, he seemed fascinated with where I came from. He too was a foreigner. Originally born in South Africa, he had moved to England as a young boy. Looking back, it’s funny how a small similarity sparked such a strong and quick friendship.

Almost instantly we became best friends, and he took the role of my tour guide for the rest of the day. “Here is the math hall,” “That’s Tom over there, he’s a real twat so watch out.” I learned everything I’d ever need to know about my new school all in an hour. Most of the day went in this way. We continued our tour through lunch and into the highlight of any nine-year-olds day, recess.

The old school owned an expansive amount of land for its size. The primary field stood directly outside of the school. An ancient dark green forest surrounded the field—which proved to be wonderful for laser tag, hide and seek, or any other mischief nine-year-olds might get into. Behind the forest were acres of fields mostly used for rugby or the school triathlons. But on this day, recess was held on the turf and cricket fields outside the lunch hall.

The field itself was beautiful. Oval in shape with bright green blades of grass, always perfectly cut for matches. The boys we were with chose to play a game of headers. I became utterly lost almost instantly. Quickly, I learned that the purpose of the game is similar to soccer; however, you can only use your head and the ball is significantly smaller than a soccer ball. The majority of the game, I got smacked in the face with the ball. But by the end I had hit the ball correctly at least once or twice.

Laughter and cries of outrage echoed across the field, and others flocked to join like moths to a flame. Intensity rose, and tempers grew passionate with rage and aggression.  Insults became the language of the game. Something that was normal to everyone but me. However, the game was too intense for me to care and the “Piss off American what are you doing?” and “Bloody hell get the Fuck out the way,” comments that would have bothered me earlier, fell to the wind. No one remembers who actually ended up winning, but for me it was it was a fantastic experience that still lingers in my memory.

The rest of the day moved like a blur. The afternoon slipped under my nose and I didn’t catch sight of it until the final bell. I made my way home through the narrow streets surrounded by enormous dark green hedges towering over me like giants. I thought of what to tell my parents.

Dinner dragged on as it always does on the first day of school. My parents berated me with trivial questions. “How green was the grass? How blue was the sky?” But in all honesty, I loved giving them every detail. I rambled so much they had to silence me so my brothers could have a turn. Something about stepping out of my comfort zone and having everything work out, had brought me out of my shell.

            Looking back now, most of my memories of my time in the private british school for boys have fallen to the hazy memories of childhood. But standing in front of that enormous brown door, and taking those first steps in will always be engrained in my mind.

What The NFL Doesn't Want You To Know

by Corey Koyama

Untitled 16 by_ Daniel Workman.jpg

Artwork by: Daniel Workman

Get the pizza, grab a beer, and turn on the television—it’s Sunday football. Every Sunday, starting with the first weekend of September and continuing into the beginning of February, millions of people come together to watch their favorite NFL teams. The National Football League (NFL) is a professional American football league consisting of 32 teams, divided equally between the National Football Conference and the American Football Conference. The league brings in elite players from all over the country for every position and combines them with the smartest coaches, best managers, and sharpest team owners.

Baseball was America’s favorite in years past, but as baseball’s popularity dropped, American football’s popularity rose. Soon enough, the NFL significantly surpassed the MLB in many regards. To put the difference in perspective, last year’s NFL Super Bowl with the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons drew an average of 111 million viewers.[1] Comparatively, last year’s MLB World Series accumulated about 28 million views.[2] Football is America’s sport, but there are many dark areas in the industry that the people don’t see. “As of January 23, 2103, there were 205 concussion-based actions pending against the NFL…while the allegations included myriad causes of action, five claims appeared most frequently: Negligence, Fraudulent Concealment, Fraud, Negligent Misrepresentation, and Conspiracy.”[3] In considering these allegations, is important to remember that all professional sports leagues are a business. It is estimated that Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, pulls in around $20 million every year, just $5 million short of the highest paid players.[4]  Reluctance to put the health of athletes ahead of the needs of the business often plagues the league, thus, there are reasons why we don’t hear about most athletes after they retire.

            Football has the highest rate of injuries in all professional sports. Participants in the sport suffer from all sorts of injuries ranging from simple leg strains to fatal neck injuries. The most controversial injuries involved in football are injuries to the head/brain, such as concussions. One of many incidents deals with former University of Colorado football star, Rashaan Salaam, who recently killed himself due to depression.

Rashaan is the only CU Heisman winner (the MVP award for College Football) and was also drafted in the first round by the Chicago Bears. In his rookie season, he started off incredibly strong, rushing for over 1,000 yards and winning the NFC Rookie of the Year award. Unfortunately, Rashaan faced several traumatic injuries, and what seemed to be a promising career in the NFL would only last five more years. In 2016, Rashaan Salaam was found dead in a park in Boulder, Colorado with a suicide note. He was forty-two years old. For reasons unknown, his family decided to not let scientists test for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). “There are four stages of CTE symptoms; the first includes ADHD, confusion, headaches, and dizziness. Second includes memory loss and social instability. The third and fourth stages include the most extreme symptoms such as dementia, movement disorders, tremors, depression, and suicidality.”[5] While it has not been definitively proven due to the lack of testing, Salaam could easily have sustained CTE during his years playing football. Depression was believed to run in his family, but his injuries seemed to be the main cause of his depression. The concussions and head injuries football athletes face during their careers often add up to destroy their mental and physical health, even years after their careers are over.

            When football athletes experience injuries, trainers give them heavy medication so they can resume playing as soon as possible. These medications are usually highly addictive. In an article from the Washington Post last year, Des Bieler writes about one of the greatest wide receivers, Calvin Johnson, and his experience in the NFL. In this interview, Johnson opens up about the outrageous behavior of the NFL in handling player’s injuries. He said that “painkillers were handed out like candy… If you were experiencing any pain, you could get as much Vicodin as you wanted”.3 Johnson surprised the world when he announced his early retirement after another incredible season; however, nobody knew what he was going through behind the cameras. He found himself taking the painkiller Toradol every day in order to continue to play. He felt that he needed to stop even if it meant to retire early.

In the article The Pain Never Dies, former lineman Walt Sweeney openly blames the NFL for his drug addiction. “As a rookie with the San Diego Chargers, Sweeney says he was given steroids, amphetamines, codeine, and Seconal by team doctors and trainers from day one.” [6] Sweeney, who is now fifty-six, is still addicted to the same drugs he took during his playing days. He has been hospitalized twenty-three times for overdosing and struggles to keep a steady job. Sweeney sued the NFL for causing his addictions, and won the case in the US Supreme Court. He was granted a $1.8 million pension plan from the NFL. He is not alone: as of today, thousands of ex-football players have filed lawsuits against the NFL for brain damage and addiction.

             Out of any professional sport, the NFL has the most cases of domestic violence. While domestic violence among NFL athletes has been kept largely under the radar, an incident involving Baltimore Ravens superstar running back Ray Rice has received exposure. “On February 15, 2014, Baltimore Raven's Ray Rice delivered a horrifying punch to his then fiancée (now-wife), Janay Palmer, leaving her unconscious in the elevator of the Revel Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Rice proceeded to drag Palmer's incapacitated body out of the elevator by her shoulders while the hotel surveillance camera recorded it all on video.” [7] Not only was this controversial because of how violent it was, but also because of how poorly the NFL handled the situation. Their initial reaction was to suspend Ray Rice for only two games. Weeks later, the media released the full video of Rice beating his wife in the elevator, after which the NFL kicked him off the team indefinitely. That the NFL made no effort to address the issue until prompted by the media revealed how little they cared for the personal integrity of their players.

       The NFL has grown immensely from its humble beginnings to become America’s favorite sport. Millions of people ranging from high school math teachers to the president of the United States watch their favorite football team every Sunday. As the sport continues to gain traction, the organization has become increasingly focused on business progression rather than the purity of the sport. Football fans are starting to realize that this isn’t the same professional football we were watching ten years ago. This year, the TV ratings for football have decreased. Perhaps, they will continue to do so if the NFL doesn’t start to take better care of their players. After all, without the players, there is no game. 

 

[1] Pallotta, Frank. "More than 111 million people watched Super Bowl LI." CNNMoney. February 07, 2017. http://money.cnn.com/2017/02/06/media/super-bowl-ratings-patriots-falcons/index.html.

[2] Patten, Dominic. "World Series Game 7 Hits Near Record Viewership For Fox & MLB – Update." Deadline. November 02, 2017. http://deadline.com/2017/11/astros-win-world-series-game-7-ratings-down-dodgers-mlb-fox-survivor-1202200057/.

[3] Reich, J. Brad. "When "Getting Your Bell Rung" May Lead to "Ringing the Bell": Potential Compensation for NFL Player Concussion-Related Injuries." Virginia Sports & Entertainment Law Journal, vol. 12, no. 2, Spring2013, pp. 198-231. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=s3h&AN=110585449&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[4] La Canfora, Jason. "Roger Goodell's base salary would be roughly in the range of $20M per year." CBSSports.com. November 19, 2017. https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/roger-goodells-base-salary-would-be-roughly-in-the-range-of-20m-per-year/.

[5] Byars, Mitchell. “Drew Wahlroos, Former Colorado Buffaloes Linebacker and NFL Player, Dies of Suicide.” The Denver Post, The Denver Post, 8 Sept. 2017, www.denverpost.com/2017/09/07/drew-wahlroos-colorado-buffaloes-dies/.

 

 

[6] Reno, J. "The Pain Never Dies: Former Lineman Walt Sweeney Claims the NFL Turned Him into a Drug Addict and Ruined the Rest of His Life - and a Federal Judge Agrees." Inside Sports, vol. 19, no. 8, Aug. 1997, pp. 52-54. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=s3h&AN=SPH456977&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

 

[7] Brown, Maleaha L. "When Pros Become Cons: Ending the NFL's History of Domestic Violence Leniency." Family Law Quarterly, vol. 50, no. 1, Spring2016, pp. 193-212. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=116821737&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

 

 

 

Gotta Run

by Aaron Benjamin

Untitled37 by_ Daniel Workman.jpg

Artwork by: Daniel Workman

I remember the day. Crunch. Crunch. Well, at least I think I remember. I know I remember that sound. Crunch. Crunch. I’ve heard it so many times now that it’s embedded in my head, like a track on repeat. The sound of two feet beating the hard sidewalk. The sound of just two small pieces of my flesh pushing my weight forward, yet simultaneously falling and fumbling on the concrete, one after the other. Only miraculously do they spring back up, escaping the ground, and repeat the process. How do they do that? Better yet, where are they taking me?

It was the first time I had ever really gone on a run. It was the summer after my first year of high school, in the small city of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. I sat doing nothing in the two bedroom apartment that my mom and I had lived in for that past year. Eventually, I couldn’t take the silence that judged me as I drowned in boredom anymore. I put on my piece-of-shit tennis shoes, and I told my mom, “I’m gonna leave my phone and go for a run; I gotta get out of the house.” Instead of her usual inquiring protocol, she simply looked at me and said, smiling, “That should be good for you.” She looked peaceful as she laid in bed under a flickering ceiling light while she read A Woman After God’s Own Heart. I kissed her and closed her door on my way out.

At first I could hear everything around me, but soon the noise faded and my mind separated from my body. I turned down Graham Rd. and I noticed buildings I hadn’t seen before. The low sun was gleaming off of an abandoned hardware store. Wind rustled the heavy trees where the houses went down into the valley. “This isn’t too bad actually, I’m not even tired yet,” I thought to myself. Crunch. Crunch. What the heck was that? Oh, that was my feet. I had forgotten I was actually running. I can’t be running, can I? I’ve just been viewing, thinking, feeling. Wait, I’m actually lost now. Eventually, I made it back home, long after sunset. My mom said I was gone for three hours.

Retrospect is a weird thing. Time nudges past you like a dark stranger on a crowded subway, difficult to read or discern, and then for reasons known or unknown to you, you are different. Life has changed, your people have changed, your mind has changed. Throughout your life you will think about the past, and if you choose to evaluate it you are gaining retrospect. For some, the past is just an internal photo album, a collection of memories and lessons and moments. For others, especially those who bear the painful burden I call self-awareness, the past has another life itself. For those people, maybe the past is what has made them who they are. Maybe for us the past is better forgotten. What if I’ve changed too much? What if I don’t even know if I’ve changed for better or worse? What if things had gone differently? I bear this burden. I bear this burden of, “what if?”

            I grew up in a Christian home. I went to Christian schools for ten years. I knew things. I knew my parents were supposed to love each other. I knew my family all loved Jesus. I knew we could slip up but ask for forgiveness. By the time I was in seventh grade, I saw that I was wrong. When I was only twelve, I had to learn the truth about my father and his habits, you could call them. I saw the anger and violence exploding in my brother. I saw the depression eating at my sister. I saw things. But time passed and all three of them moved out of the house. I had to hold my mother while she cried the month my dad finally packed up his stuff and bought an apartment closer to Cleveland. My mother meant everything to me. At this time, I had to become a man for her.

            You could say I grew up a lot that year. Fifteen-year-old me wrote essays, like this one, about that year and called it, “My defining, maturing climax of tribulation from God.” I had thought I had myself all figured out. Looking back now, this boy may have been mature for his age, but he had no idea that, years later, he would still be just as lost as he was before.

 

Mom and I moved out of that small apartment at the end of the summer. We found ourselves in another house back in the neighboring town, Hudson, where my family had lived before the divorce. Mom got a house big enough for my brother and sister to come home to for the summers. However, they would never really come back from college. But for now, we settled into our house and life settled with it. I started to run almost every day sophomore year, but it was something that I always kept to myself like a secret treasure that I didn’t want to share. I would come home from school while my mom was still at work and, before I had my license, I would take my brother’s old car out somewhere where I could hit new roads with my new shoes. If I finished an assignment, I would reward myself with a break to go run as a healthy way to put off all of my other work. My younger self was simpler back then, and he didn’t care about how much exercise he was getting or how adventurous he had to be, he just wanted to do it.

I understand now, and I think I might have known back then too, why running is such a beautiful thing to me. It’s just you and the earth. It’s man’s purest sport. You’re connected to an entire massive world and everything on it by just your two small feet. When you are stuck in your own life, succumbing to the predetermined routine, you can step outside and just run. It doesn’t matter when or where, how or why, with or without anyone, you can just get up and go, if you are blessed with health. You can listen to that peaceful sound of your two feet gliding across the terrain. To me that’s beautiful. I would turn down random streets to see where they would take me. I memorized the road signs on the new routes I would take. I got to view my small world in a way you can’t when you just zoom by in a car. In my mind, I was transported to any world I wanted while my ears were filled with the hopeful cries of “Deep Blue” by Arcade Fire or the climactic pounding of drums in “Festival” by Sigur Rós or that billowing organ of “House of the Rising Sun” by the Animals.

 

            But I kept it to myself. I became pretty decent at the sport these years, but I didn’t really take my fitness seriously. Running was my leisurely escape from my time in high school acting in theater or causing trouble with my friends. When I told friends who were runners about what I did, they said I could be great. “You should definitely come to our summer practices. You could be on the team, man!” I could see the genuine delight behind Chris’ eyes. He was one of the kindest and smartest kids I knew. “Yeah dude, that would be cool,” I made myself say. I would go to one practice before junior year, and I sucked. I couldn’t keep up, I made excuses to stop on the trail, and I walked the rest of the way panting as Chris and Ryan kept pushing. “I hate running with people, and I don’t think I’m cut out for this now,” the thought weighed down on me. I thought I’d be happy keeping it to myself, to my own schedule. I could tap into my performance potential anytime I wanted. However, this thought was representative of the rest of that year where I ended up just drifting. A lack of drive and apathy quickly crept upon me. Why?

 

Crunch. Crunch. Jump ahead now. On May 15th 2016, at seven in the morning on Sunday, the race started out with a calm, sunny sky. It was cold as hell out there. However, soon clouds rolled in and gave freezing rain, then hail. Thirteen-point-one miles of this was going to be agony. But, it was also very extraordinary. For the first time ever I was in a city race along with thousands of other souls there in downtown Cleveland. The sight of such a community coming together to run on that day overcame me with a sense that I truly belonged. At the start of senior year, I finally joined the cross country team, although I was one of the slower guys because of my long hiatus from the sport. I forced myself to train more, and I even logged my miles on a board in my room. Now I was actually there in the race, and I pushed myself to accomplish a real goal as I powered through the rain, while I listened to the crunches of all those other feet beside me. Somewhere along the route my mom cheers, along with my girlfriend, Gabby, and her mom. Again, I did something I felt proud of while my mom was the only representative of my family who could watch, and usually it would just hammer into my jadedness. But this time I had my girlfriend who shared her family and love with me. She really was a sweetheart.

I finished the race as soon as the sun came out. Nice joke, God. I shook furiously as I felt my muscles clench and scream in the bitter cold after I stopped running. I finished in 1:46:53, fourteen minutes faster than my goal. On that day, I felt it. I felt like I tapped into the potential that everyone told me I had. It was the most positive I felt in a year, and I asked myself why I couldn’t experience this all the time. I could definitely be a marathoner and hit the trails every day next year in Colorado. I could be that guy who really connects with his friends and community every day. I could pursue this sport, and pursue God, and pursue happiness. I could.

            Soon the sound of the crunch is gone. The inspiring picture of two feet pounding the road one after the other that I used to imagine is no longer playing in my head. The physical and mental aches and pains arise now. What happened? How come I haven’t thought of these memories for years until now? How come I have to look back at pictures to remember what I was like, what I felt? Well, I told you retrospect is a weird thing.

            I’m sure that first run was amazing. I discovered something new that I enjoyed. Honestly, however, looking back at that day and all of it now kind of scares me. What if my discovery of running was also a discovery of how to run away from my friends, how to run away from my problems. Was it yet another thing that I could just do without really having to commit to a plan or to others?

            I think my family’s split when I was twelve did mature me into the form of man I am today. But it was far from bringing me to what man I should be for the rest of my life. Maybe it eventually made me think I was too good for that of this world, or just already good enough. Fast forward to today, and I am still struggling with the fallout. I struggle to feel the same boyish thrill for the things I get to do and the time I spend with others. Interestingly, I can see that when I’m running frequently I feel better, I am being driven by something. When I’m not running, I don’t stride through life, I am merely drifting. Drifting some place, only God knows where.

            You cannot let apathy control your life. I know that I will always be thankful for that beautiful sport and welcoming sound—I’m damn certain about it.

 

The Duality of Place

by Clayton Montgomery 

Untitled39 by_ Daniel Workman.jpg

Artwork by: Daniel Workman

Deep in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado’s Park County lies a valley teeming with beauty.  Tarryall Creek meanders through woodlands and lush grasslands – the valley itself owes its existence to the creek’s sculpting powers. In some places, beavers have blocked the creek, creating massive ponds where fish swim aplenty.  Wind tugs at tufts of grass and sways the tallest trees.  The wind can be heard long before it arrives thanks to the resounding whoosh it makes as it rips through the forest. Gnarled pine trees watch over the wandering current of water below.  A castle-like rim of snow-capped peaks surrounds the valley – a constant looming presence.  It looks straight out of a Jack London novel.  The valley itself sits perched at 10,000 feet; the crisp, thin air almost burns the lungs.  Some afternoons, storm clouds invade the small valley. One can stand out on the road and marvel at the churning and boiling of the dark clouds.  At this altitude, thunder crashes with intense ferocity, and lightning strikes close to home.  This place has always had a special feel to it.  But beneath the beauty lies a bitter juxtaposition. Fond family memories contradict a shadowy and callused past.  

 

 Overlooking Tarryall Creek as seen from County Road 50

Overlooking Tarryall Creek as seen from County Road 50

 

Across from Tarryall Creek rests a small cabin.  A single room comprises the entire building. Inside sits a small wood burning stove, a corner bed, and a table for eating dinner on cold autumn nights.  On most evenings, logs around the fire replace a dinner table. Sometimes flakes will fly seemingly out of nowhere, forcing those eating to retreat indoors.  Outside on the porch, a small swing built for two sways in the breeze.  The scarred logs on the walls of the cabin reveal its past; one log in particular features a set of claw marks where a black bear foolishly tried to gain entry.  It’s a quaint cabin, most would call it rustic.  It’s a Montgomery sanctuary.

            The Montgomery clan started building the cabin in 1979, after purchasing the land a few years prior.  By ’81, construction on the cabin finished, after strong winters delayed building efforts.  Surprisingly, all workers’ limbs remained intact and un-mangled, despite most construction being done with chainsaws – the worst injury, a mere sunburn.  Since the assembly of the cabin, Tarryall has served as a perfect mountain get-away where one can spend time fishing, hiking, or gold panning in the nearby creek.  The place oozes tranquility.  One can sit out on the road in the morning and watch the beavers revel in their aquatic playground.  Or if luck is on one’s side, they might even spot a moose, stomping around in the undergrowth with its massive hooves.  Tarryall teems with life and beauty – a constant bustle.

The area surrounding Tarryall Creek once shone with gold.  Prospectors flocked to the area in herds; a great migration of hopeful men trying to strike it rich.  The surrounding area thrived. Towns and mining camps turned up left and right.  When the gold finally ran out, the “Tarryall Diggings” as they were called, had yielded two million dollars in gold – a tremendous sum of money for the time[1].  The two principle towns of the area went by the names of “Hamilton” and “Tarryall.”  They sat just across the creek from each other, and as it so often happens when gold is involved, bad blood ran thick between the two towns.  

 Glenn Montgomery, the author's father

Glenn Montgomery, the author's father

Newcomers to Tarryall arrived to disappointing prospects.  Nearly all promising claims near Tarryall Creek had already been staked.  Newcomers argued that most claims could sustain two men instead of just one.  They nicknamed Tarryall “Grab-All” in reference to their greed; these new arrivals moved a few miles south-west and called their new settlement “Fairplay” which, unlike Tarryall or Hamilton, survives to this day.  According to local lore, gun battles repeatedly erupted across the creek between Hamilton and Tarryall townspeople.  Eventually, the promise of Tarryall and Hamilton dwindled until everyone left the two towns for greener pastures.  After the towns’ heyday, dredges made their way through the valley and buried the entirety of the settlements under the tailings.  Today, they lay buried under a mountain of gravel and dirt, with the occasional pine tree growing beyond the rubble – so much violence hidden under tons of rock[1].  This violence and destruction, however, marks just the beginning of the tumultuous history that plagued Tarryall Creek.  

There were murders, and a lot of them.  Como, the next town downstream on Tarryall Creek, had a terribly bloody history throughout the years.  It had its beginnings as a railroad town. It served as the end of the line on the Denver South Park & Pacific Railroad, complete with a giant red roundhouse, used to turn the trains around.  Entrepreneurs flooded this small town - restaurants, bars, and hotels popped up everywhere.  Despite all the excitement, a cloud of tragedy followed this town until its dying days.  

The raucous, railroad folk of the town frequented the saloon, and once drink got into their bloodstream, trouble always followed.  Countless fights broke out in the building, often ending by means of deadly force.  The first murder happened on December 9, 1879, when one J.W. Laughlin shot and killed his cabin-mate Augustus Cornog[2].  The chaos in Como, however, went far beyond simple bar disputes; tragedies of greater magnitude happened regularly as well.  Take, for example, the case of Benjamin Ratcliff. Ratcliff resided in the Tarryall Creek valley, where he lived as a homesteader.  The man had a series of grievances with the Jefferson County School Board. On May 6, 1895, he acted on those grievances.  He marched over to the local schoolhouse and used his Winchester rifle to kill the three board members in cold blood[3]. The town hung him a year later.

 Mt. Baldy watches over the valley on a cloudy day

Mt. Baldy watches over the valley on a cloudy day

 

Maybe the greatest tragedy to curse this beautiful, stricken area, was the King Coal mining disaster of 1893.  On January 10th of that year, a powerful explosion killed 24 miners[4].  Catastrophes of this magnitude were few and far between for a community as small and rural as Como.  The town buried 17 of the 24 miners in an unmarked mass grave in the local cemetery[5] - a quiet and anonymous end to 17 lives.  

The Como cemetery itself has a certain eeriness to it.  Rarely do people visit this small graveyard; it is no tourist attraction.  Almost 500 graves sit nestled among a trove of looming aspen trees.  One can peer over the cemetery’s dilapidated fence and gaze upon the vast ranchland that lies beyond.  Day and night, a deafening silence consumes the quaint burial grounds. Children’s graves litter the yard – evidence of life cut far too short.  Even in this quiet cemetery, animosity runs deep.  One disgruntled townsperson went to the trouble of creating small tile plaques to place on headstones.  The headstone of a man named McCurdy, the tile reads, “McCurdy spread immoral lies about a handicapped girl.”  A bad-mannered approach to social commentary. Another, on a different headstone, states, “Wyatt shouldn’t have been shot. Sorry.”  These tiles, and the cemetery itself, are evidence of the violent and tragic tumult that makes up Como’s past.  

This place, so full of beauty and family history, can make anyone’s head spin.  So special, but at the same time, staggeringly brutal.  It’s easy to stand out on the silent dirt road after dark and gaze into the night sky.  The crisp air overwhelms the body, the nebulous, dark, oblivion overhead is dizzying.  If one isn’t careful, their mind might drift to days past.  Not only of fond family memories, but also savage tales of murder and greed.  It’s all too simple to wonder. Right where one stands in this beautifully enigmatic valley, could someone have died here?  Herein lies the rapturous duality that is Tarryall.  

 

[1] Brown, Robert. Ghost Towns of the Colorado Rockies. Caldwell; The Caxton Printers, 2006. p. 352-353.

 

[2] The Chaffee County Times. January 3, 2016. http://www.chaffeecountytimes.com/free_content/parked-in-the-past-early-days-in-como-bespoke-a/article_26592d04-92b3-11e4-a3e1-7f39120557da.html

 

[3] Barth, Richard. Pioneers of the Colorado Parks. Caldwell; The Caxton Printers, 1997. p. 249-254.

 

[4] “Coal Mining Disasters: 1839 to Present.” Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed October 10, 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/mining/statistics/content/coaldisasters.html

 

[5] National Register of Historic Places Registration Form. Como Cemetery. United States Department of the Interior. OMB No. 1024-0018. p. 13.

 

Write here…

 

Diving In

by Madeleine Seltzer

Untitled43 by_ Daniel Workman.jpg

Artwork by: Daniel Workman

All of my mother’s hair fell out when she started her chemotherapy treatment. She finally tossed to sea her rule of “only up to the neck” in a pool. Her skin became the color of flour and her bald sphere matched. My father called her “The White Seal,” and we would all laugh with him, still distantly aware of the difficulty this held.#

“A special trip, for just me and you,” my mom whispered into my ear. After recovering from her double mastectomy at home for weeks, she finally felt allowed to find herself again.

            I packed my yellow bikini, two pairs of fresh underwear, four mismatched socks, my light blue Levis, a thin white t-shirt, my denim jacket, and my Goose Bumps book, Creature Teacher. My mother and I took off in her navy blue Volvo for Palm Springs. After an hour of singing oldies on K EARTH 101.1, we arrived at The Esmerelda Hotel. I felt like a princess with my mother existing as my queen as we checked in, sliding the plastic key card into the slot of our room like one would do at an ATM. Inside, the wood looked glossed. It smelled of artificial citrus, and our white surroundings shone bright. I felt in heaven.#

My mother getting her hair wet felt like a special occasion to me. The kidney bean shaped pool in our backyard glittered, filled to the brim with a watered down blue. On hot summer days, I’d lounge beside the pool with a popsicle. The sticky juice would dribble down my chin as I sucked at the frozen treat, sliding down into the crease of my arm near my elbow. As soon as my body punched the top sheet of that water, I became clean and new. My mother never made the jump into the pool, no matter the scorching hot temperatures.

She only wore makeup to go out at night, so I knew the reason: her frizzy hair. When she did go in the water, my brother and I would wrap our bodies around her, just to ensure that it’s all real. When her hair would transform from sleek and smooth to unruly, it came to life and I felt closer to her. I recognized myself in her and I trusted her.#

            Back in the hotel room my mom, motioning with her hand for me to hurry, said “Get in your bathing suit! Go change, we only have one full day here.” I tore my clothes off and slapped on the yellow bikini. I struggled to get through the head hole of my sundress. Once through, I straightened the sides and ran out of the bathroom, deciding to forget my shoes. My mother wore her blue and purple paisley two-piece underneath the clothes she’d arrived in. Always prepared. She reached into her straw summer bag packed with towels, several different sunscreens, a giant bottle of water with an expensive name, and a novel called The Red Tent, and pulled out a white tube of clear ointment.

“Can you put this on my back honey?” She asked, handing me the medicated moisturizer and turned around so I had access to her back. Looking over her shoulder at me, she said “Be gentle around my scars, okay?”

I unscrewed the top and the clear ointment oozed out like toothpaste. I dabbed a little bit of it on to my middle finger and spread the remainder onto the back of my hand. My fingers skated over her thin pink skin; raw like uncooked chicken. The cool clear moisture made me feel at ease. I poked the middle of her back like I often did. She had horrible posture, so it became our secret signal for her to stand up straight. Her spine lifted from the curve and her linen tunic dropped like a curtain.#

After walking down the maze of several different concrete paths, we found the glistening pool. The desert heat laid on our necks and fell down our backs. My mother’s head no longer shone bare and the short hair she did have became sweaty, the dark melting into her. We scanned the area for two prime chaise lounges, preferably near an umbrella, and definitely next to each other. The moment my mom spotted them, I had to sprint to keep up with her. She removed her shirt like someone unwrapping a present. Her skin looked shiny, her tummy tight, and her legs like two long straws. Since she got sick she repeatedly reapplied her sunscreen and reminded me to do the same. She propped one foot upon the lounge chair, making a ninety-degree angle with her leg while she rubbed sunscreen back and forth until the white disappeared.

“What the?” A woman whispered loudly to her daughter. The woman wore a red and white polka dotted one-piece with an overly floppy hat and had plump pink skin. Her daughter wore a blue bikini, similar to mine, with sunglasses too big for her face to match. “Well, that is just such a shame, Sheena.”

I remembered the kids at cotillion teasing me because my mother wore a wig or the other kids at school telling me that the word cancer also meant death. It felt strange to see a grown woman behaving so recklessly.

“Excuse me,” the polka-dotted woman said, poking my mother in the back, “Miss?” Mom turned around puzzled.

 “What are your scars from?” The woman asked as the air became hotter. “The two lines on your back?” She clarified when neither of us responded, as if we weren’t answering because we didn’t know what she meant. “We were just curious,” she tried again, her daughter backing away into the shade of her umbrellas as if to escape.

Nobody moved, nobody spoke, and if felt as though the sky began lowering down on me as the ground raised.

My mother replied, “They had to clip my wings when I came down from heaven.” Always prepared. She snapped the sunscreen lid, closing it with a royal finality, and stood up. Then she walked elegantly to the edge of the pool, pausing there, and lifted her hands into the shape of an arrowhead. The sky took a step back then, as if to admire her, and I felt myself exhale the air I held inside myself like the last breath I’d ever get to take. The polka-dotted woman froze, her mouth agape in the shape of the “oh” she hadn’t stomached to say. My mother dived then, her form spreading at the bottom of the water where her scars magnified in wavy patterns. She emerged from below and whipped her bangs to the side. Her smile soaked into her face as she looked up at me, someone new.