December 08, 2004

One small step

The journey of any man's life begins with a step. Some are small, some are big, and some really don't qualify for much more than a "baby step." Okay well not all journey's begin with stepping............for you see my first steps were really more of a truck ride. Being forced to move was my own experience that still gives me a strong connection to the native people of this land and their trail of tears. For you see it was a strange day when my father announced to the family back in January of 1976 that we were packing up, leaving California, and moving to Colorado to run a hotel. None of us wanted to move. I of course would have nothing of it. My brother Chris had even less of it, and moved out as a result. Renee, my older sister became quite a handful for some years, and the other two kids.......um, yes Julie and Tony, well they're still brats to this day. I can quite firmly blaim that all on my Father and Mother for it truly was their faults!

Now granted I was only six years old, but my six years carried the weight of everything I had ever known up to that point. Really, what would happen if I left my world with all of it's friends and places I know and love, and moved to Colorado? It would be disaster! Well I carried on in such a fashion that I was told quite firmly that if I didn't stop crying and such they would drop me off and leave me by the ocean.

Of course that was almost bliss, but then who would sew my capes and make my supper? So I stopped my snivelings and helped load up the car. I do believe I was entrusted with the care of the dogs, Jennie and Jacque, daughter and father respectively. This held me in thrall only a short time, and soon my mother had to create a way for me to want to go to Steamboat. Finally she gave up and told me that my best buddy was waiting there for me, and he would be glad to see me!

What? My best buddy? A cohort in my effort to fight crime? A side kick, a pseudo masked partner? Who was this person, and why had he been kept a secret for the past 6 years.

"Who is he?" I asked without end for days whilst the family was packing.

My mother would sigh, mark a box and reply, "His name is Chester. He's a year younger, but he has a sister who is your age." A sister, whatever....Girls, yuck.

"What's he like? Is he tall?" Being six I was relatively short in comparison to the rest of the world.

"No, he's a little smaller than you are." Packing continues.

"Does he like Mighty Mouse or Batman too?"

Mother was done, "Yes, but if you ask any more questions you won't get to meet him. Now go check on the dogs!"

Now the trip took on a whole new meaning. It is significant also to note that it snowed in San Francisco that January. Why significant? It was the first time I had ever seen snow. And let me tell you, snow shall become the foundation for a life time for me. Though I didn't know it yet.

"Look Thomas, it snowed." My mother was excited because she had grown up in the snow.

"Snow?" The word was familiar, but its application was not.

"Yes snow, here put on your mittens and boots and go outside." Mother wanted me to see it.

"Mit-t-ens?" What the hell are those?

"Your gloves!" Mother bundled me and pushed me out the door.

The snow, it's first sight and smell (yes it does have a smell), were amazing on my six year old senses. By the time I was outside it had already started to melt, and the green grass was poking through it's new, thin blanket. What I remember the most about the snow was that on it I could make an impression. My feet, my mittened hands, snow angels as my sisters were showing me (angels? ugh). I saw that in the snow I could make things, and the snow was everywhere! I played until it melted, and I was soaking wet. Running inside my Mother asked me, "Well did you like the snow?"

"Yes! Is there snow in Steamboat too? Can I play in it? Does Chester like to play in the snow?" I was jumping up and down for joy!

"There is so much snow in Steamboat that it won't go away for a long time and it covers everything." Mother was pulling off my coat and my mittens.

"So can I play in the snow there too?" Stupid mittens, what the hell are those, I couldn't even use my fingers.

"Yes, no go get cleaned up for supper."

Well two days later we were loaded up by the Mayflower company and on our way to Steamboat. I remember the trip in bits and pieces mostly. A hotel here, a rest stop there, the two dogs sitting on my lap or at my feet the whole way. The final and most vivid memory I have of the trip is when we were coming out of Hayden Valley and entering into the Yampa Valley, there is point at which the entire valley is before you, and on the horizon is Mount Werner. Covered in snow. It's majestic and magical. Seeing these mountains and snow like this for the first time amazed me. This was home.

If you've never been to Steamboat you should go. In the morning, especially in the spring, the place is alive. Take a moment. Sit by the bank of the Yampa River. You'll know why the Ute Peoples called the Yampa Valley sacred. It did forever change my life, and as we pulled into the Valley, little did I know, or even realize until much later in life, that it with its quiet charm and beauty would be the foundation upon which the rest of life has been laid.

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