However, while this is going on, and we anxiously await the emergence of new directives, another story continues to unravel, such as the rest of your story: Part II of "Incident at Gold Hill: The Valley Floor War."
(For Part I, please see the Jan. 8 edition of The Watch)
Timmy Bahama, the county’s duly designated emergency services officer, called a meeting at the courthouse building. Bahama sought volunteers to fight the Utes, who had reportedly gathered approximately 500 braves and a loose-knit tail of young joiners on the Valley Floor. The Ute-a-farians had already managed light resistance at the Texaco and were moving in on the San Miguel Power Company station.
“Mountain Village has fallen like a house of cards,” the Columbia raingear-clad Bahama told the stunned and increasingly mutinous gathering, which was really, for the most part, concerned about having beer helicoptered in, if and when shortages were finally to occur. Bahama had drawn a lot of attention to himself really quickly, as reports of that day have recorded. Originally coming to Telluride with something related to real estate in mind, he ended up as the vice-mayor of Town, and since the mayor was at the time of the incident attending the World Court in Hague's final deliberations on what should actually be built (or not built) on the Valley Floor, he was left in charge, Alexander Haig-style. “We have attempted to notify the absentee residents. But they can’t get their lawyers here because the airport has been destroyed. The Peaks has been looted and now it’s being used as command post with excellent sighting to cover the Utes’ rear. They are firing arrows at us from the Coonskin Ridge. Apparently the statues of the skier and the miner on the Mountain Village Square have been toppled, and many of the Utes are luxuriating in confiscated condos.
“What’s worse, they have set up for a morning raid from Gold Hill. More waves of antisocial savages in hang-gliders are sure to come,” he said, as the crowd gasped in unison. “We’ve got to set up barricades at Town Park and on the west side. If we let them land, we’re toast.”
It was then that an injured gondola employee, his green jacket tattered and a broken arrow protruding from his bloody shoulder, stumbled into the meeting room. “The gondola has been spliced!” he said, sputtering as he tried to mess with the buttons of his tattered jacket. “We are entirely cut off!”
“See!” cried Bahama (yes, Telluride at this time really had a ski-bum vice-mayor named after an island in the Pacific). “We gave them the high ground. This is going to cost us. I assure you.”
People scurried from the meeting in a hushed fast-forward to their homes, thinking about their hitting their bank machines, about packing their bags, about the inherent risks of late autumn mountain passages to Ouray.
We stayed indoors that night as arrows and tomahawk clubs clattered on the sidewalks and streets. We drank and carved our skis into weapons, made phone calls to friends, love as if it were our last night on earth.
In the Last Dollar Saloon, a captured Ute was being tortured for information. Tonic water was poured down his throat and he choked and wept. His wet “I (Heart) New York” T-shirt clung to a solid strong ribcage. Tears ran across the cheek and down his neck. “Wait a minute, fellas,” he spit. “I’m just here for the beer ... like you.” And then they let him go and the lights went out, the stereo system stopped. With the electricity gone, beer was given away. When the beer was gone, there was talk of surrender. The captive Ute was pushed into the streets.
By dawn the battle lines had been drawn. The gunwale was manned by a concerned group of property owners, real-estate agents and ski company loyalists donning their green and red company uniforms. On the west end, a barricade of Volkswagen vans, Jaguars and Sport Utes had been built from one side of the canyon to the other. There was some debate about setting up defenses on wetlands, but such considerations were quickly dismissed. Especially considering the excellence of the natural sightline against the hordes provided by the buildings overlooking the automobile barrier. The streets were empty, save for the stray dogs that had become intelligent bands of marauders themselves. Apparently, during the night, vast numbers of local rastas and snowboarders had abandoned their pets and crossed over the barricade. Many painted their faces to join the Utes for battle. Historians would note how the underclass drifted quickly to the other side, in terms town leaders would later decry as “the day the Trustafarians turned.”
That left only hardcore band of Realtors to man the barricades. Though their number was still in the hundreds, the Pearl, Shandoka and the River Trail could only be sparsely defended after a series of probing raids by the Utes.
The rumor was that Bahama had been wounded. That his Maginot line had been breached down by the river. It was decided to withdraw to the commercial core, setting up a latticework of crossfire around the T-shirt shops and bars and offices stacked with deeds, water rights and future boffo development plans. Such documentation would be needed after the chaos cleared, everyone was assured.
When the order was given to withdraw, the giddy Utes moved onto the West End barricade, turning the Sport Utes and Mercedes and VW buses back on their wheels, driving them away. They whooped. They hollered. They gunned the engines and roared.
When the final attack came, I was in the basement of the newspaper, coughing on dust as the floorboards shook, writing my personal peace treaty. My intention was to hand it over to the first Ute I met. It happened to be the guy they interrogated in the Buck, a Ute, for sure, but certainly not part of the raid. A nice guy who had just been taking time off from his classes at Harvard. It was this first-available renegade to whom I handed my unconditional apology.
It did little good. Despite the Harvard connections. Fortunately, the Realtors couldn’t hit much with their rifles, and deaths were kept to a minimum, save for Bahama, who had been been mowed down in a gust of friendly fire in front of the County Courthouse. The Utes were far more magnanimous in victory than we had been, a century ago. Only a few real-estate agents, those threatening to bring in their lawyers, were “re-educated.”
A chilling term, at least to all who saw it firsthand. The rest of us were herded on the now famous “Long Birkenstock Walk” to our new reservation at Dennehotso, where the desert winds blow fiercely this time of year.
There are a lot of spooks out here.
These days I look forward to my weekly check from the government and tend to eat less red meat. I’m learning to deal cards, the white casino mafia seeing some talent in my sly hand and jaded ways. I spend my days looking northward to San Juans, knowing that somewhere out there are magnificent peaks as a fortress against the world that I once called my hometown. Someday, it is said, the ski bums will return.
As the old hippie-dippy prophet Navy Davy says: “They will return during those days when darkness is harvested to produce light.”