Two weeks ago, the Watch reported on Ridgway’s latest attempt to clean up its act. Town council, noting the proliferation of vehicles with expired plates scattered around town, proposed a new, or rather a revised, ordinance to deal with the “junk” problem.
Councilmember Paul Hebert recalled with a rhetorical sigh a similar effort 20 years ago, and the mixed results it engendered. Some unlicensed wrecks were hauled away, and some yards were spruced up. But if I remember correctly, that particular crackdown also inspired a 12-foot high plastic fence to be erected completely encircling one family’s compound. This had the effect of screening any offending treasures from prying eyes and at the same time created a sense of downscale intrigue around a certain north Ridgway block.
That’s the trouble with this kind of legislation: one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. And no amount of fine-toothed legalese is going to solve the conundrum of aesthetics.
It reminded me of a column I wrote almost exactly 20 years ago in the San Miguel Journal. Telluride’s often contentious efforts at historic preservation were much in the news then, as was Ridgway’s attempt to spiff up following decades of weedy hibernation. I thought, why not turn the two civic goals on their heads?
With your indulgence, here is the recycled column.
“We’re here at the corner of Myrna and Bob Streets in downtown Ridgway where Mr. Horse Bedordies’s yard has just been designated an official historic junk heap. With me is Mr. Bedordies himself. Tell me, sir, what was your first thought when the town notified you that your yard had been selected to receive the historic designation?”
“Well, Pete, I was surprised. And honored, of course. There are a lot of pretty interesting yards in town. But I did question, you know, the use of the word junk. I’ve always thought of my place as an action painting.”
“It seems the city fathers have taken a bold step toward preserving Ridgway’s heritage.”
“Yup. That’s right. I think the community’s right to say we’ve got to start saving some of this stuff before it’s to late.”
“You’re referring to the recent wave of gentrification to sweep Ridgway?”
“Yeah. The yuppies, you know. Foreign cars and lawn food and all. Coming down from Telluride.”
“Whatever. They figured that some of the authentic stuff oughta be preserved. I’m not sure I like the part about having to get permission before I can remove anything, but I guess that’s progress for ya.”
“Horse – may I call you Horse? – how about a tour of the grounds? I’m sure our viewers would appreciate a look up close.”
“Sure. C’mon through. Look out there – watch your step.”
“If we can just get our Channel 8 Handi-Cam through these old engine blocks… I notice a lot of automotive memorabilia, Horse.”
“Yeah. I am kinda partial to vehicles. My favorite’s that old Studebaker over there.”
“Love the fins.”
“Yeah. But then sometimes I think I like the Toronado better. The wife spun it up on the
“It’s a beautiful faded blue… Where’d you get all these antlers?”
“That’s the fence.”
“Oh, so that’s actually functional?”
“Oh, yeah. A few more seasons of collecting sheds and you won’t be able to see in here from the street at all. There’s a lot of functional stuff here, Pete. This refrigerator, for example. I always keep a few cold ones in here so I don’t have to run all the way into the house. There’s another one in the back yard. And these old bedsprings over here? I’m fixing to wire them up on top of this stack of tires and see if they’ll pull in ESPN. I’m pretty sure it’ll work.”
“I was going to ask about the tires.”
“Well, I don’t have any particular fondness for tires, Pete. But they sure make a mess when they’re on fire, you know what I mean? I save tires to keep other people from burning ’em.”
“Very thoughtful. How about the back yard?”
“Sure. Watch your feet on that wire. You can’t ever have too much wire.”
“I don’t know if our sound crew can get through this tangle of wild rose thorns…ouch!”
“That’s habitat, Pete. I like to keep that up for the animals, you know.”
“What do we have here?”
“Oh, those old toilet bowls make great planters. The bulbs’ll be up any day now. There’s tomatoes over in that bathtub if I can ever find some more Visquine to, you know, greenhouse ’em.”
“There was a pretty good size piece flapping in that thicket…”
“Did you see these? I’m proud of these. These are pieces of the original chairlift towers at
“A regular museum, Horse.”
“Yeah. I’ve been thinkin’ about charging admission.”
“Oh, my! And look at this. Horse, can we get in and get a shot of this? Ladies and gentlemen, THE KITCHEN SINK!”
“Yup, that’s right. Got two more ’round the side.”
“Well, Horse. It looks as if you never threw anything away.”
“Hell, I’ve got four lots! And I sure don’t want to risk a code violation. Guess that’s progress for ya.”