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People of the Times

Jay Parker (Courtesy Aspen Historical Society)
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Editor’s note: People of the Times, past and present, fill part of our pages on alternate weeks. These vignettes are written by various locals and assembled by the Aspen Historical Society to remind us that history is more than bricks and documents.

It is 6 a.m. on the Fourth of July. You are fast asleep dreaming about the coming day’s festivities. Suddenly a deafening explosion knocks you out of bed. That, my friend, is the work of Jay Parker, retired firefighter, explosives expert and local pyromaniac! Jay is the kind of character that made Aspen of the 1970s and ’80s the very best kind of crazy place one could wish to call home.After Jay moved to Aspen from New Mexico he discovered that survival here was a mixture of constantly changing accommodations, partying, many different jobs, partying, great friends, partying, and the pursuit of family – and did I mention partying? Somehow, thorough it all, Jay managed to raise two great and huge kids: Jackie, of the magic fingers, and Gentlemen of Aspen rugby star, Alec. Later, he married eternal trickster Jama!Jay’s special blend of country common sense and no-holds-barred craziness made him something of a legend. Like most of the local boys, he balanced his yearning for fun with occupations that kept Aspen afloat. He was dogcatcher, city/county heavy-equipment operator, snow-plower, rancher, Forest Service worker, fire department member and Rio Grande Transport driver. Try to beat that for a résumé!Jay’s love of blowing things up was further mastered through his long association with local miner and close friend, Stephan Albouy. Along with a few other old-time locals, he spent countless hours in the Smuggler and Compromise mines (tours available, see Aspen Times Weekly, Jan. 8), discovering what Aspen’s mining past was really all about. This ultimately led to his current business: Jay’s Drilling and Blasting Company.Not only does Jay blast you awake every Fourth of July, but also he is responsible for the Wintersköl fireworks display that follows the show put on by the Aspen Volunteer Fire Department – sort of a personal tribute to the town and the organization that he loves.Jay Parker is the kind of guy who has made Aspen more than just a world-class resort. It is also a very real small town, home to all kinds of nuts, and a wonderful place to get older. Notice I didn’t say to grow up!- Willard L. Clapper

I will not recount how every local anecdotist always says they asked Pope if he wanted a ride when he was walking around Aspen, and he said, “Nope, I’m in a hurry.” Pope came and went out of Aspen in the ’70s like a cat in and out of a cat door. He would get off the bus from Grand Junction and come straight to the Pub where I worked as a bartender, and then tend to the business of defending his lot from city summonses and greed heads. Pope’s lot was catty-corner from the post office (now the ‘Stube), had a ramshackle trailer on it, and was an object of controversy.He hustled around town, preferring the alleys, and his busy sense of purpose, though slightly undefined, depicted his character.At the bar he told me, holding his suspenders, “I spend half my life answering summons’ for my lot and the other half riding buses here from G.J.”- Tim Cooney

Pat Moore slammed into my life in her normal brusque (efficient, to her) manner. She wanted something from me that was not available, and of course she found a way of getting it. In this particular case, it was free rent for her art gallery at The Little Nell. Being larger than life in many ways was not a characteristic she dwelled on, but it certainly affected people’s impressions during her long tenure as a true Grande Dame (let her cringe!) of Aspen. From waiting tables at the original Copper Kettle to shopkeeper extraordinaire, she was never short of opinions and never dwelled on the small stuff. Throughout her many transitions she was unfailingly loyal to Aspen, openly generous to the Music Associates and Aspen Valley Hospital, and quietly always there to help those in need. She amassed a long list of admirers, me among them, who appreciated her frankness, intelligence and smart mouth. She summed it up best shortly before she passed, quietly and peacefully in her home, of emphysema. “Eric,” she told me from her sick bed, “I’ve had a great run. Don’t forget me.”- Eric Calderon

Lurking in the shadows of the rich mining history is the often untold story of the ranching and farming history of the Roaring Fork Valley. It is somewhat ironic that the individuals participating in this forgotten segment of Aspen’s history are sometimes overlooked. Fred Light came to the Roaring Fork Valley in 1880 and prospected for a while before locating a homestead on East Sopris Creek. He cut and sold much needed hay in Aspen. Eventually he proved up on his land, expanded the operation, and raised cattle and horses. In 1885 he was elected to the state Legislature and served two terms.In 1907 Fred became somewhat famous when he started a grazing trespass case against the United States Forest Service. The case eventually reached the Supreme Court and in each case Fred lost. This decision helped verify the government’s legitimacy in charging grazing fees on Forest Service Land.Fred accepted the decision and thereafter paid the appropriate fees according to the rules and regulations of the USFS. He continued to live on the ranch until about 1918 when he moved to Aspen and lived there for another dozen years.Lurking in the shadows of the rich mining history is the often untold story of the ranching and farming history of the Roaring Fork Valley. It is somewhat ironic that the individuals participating in this forgotten segment of Aspen’s history are sometimes overlooked. Fred Light came to the Roaring Fork Valley in 1880 and prospected for a while before locating a homestead on East Sopris Creek. He cut and sold much needed hay in Aspen. Eventually he proved up on his land, expanded the operation, and raised cattle and horses. In 1885 he was elected to the state Legislature and served two terms.In 1907 Fred became somewhat famous when he started a grazing trespass case against the United States Forest Service. The case eventually reached the Supreme Court and in each case Fred lost. This decision helped verify the government’s legitimacy in charging grazing fees on Forest Service Land.Fred accepted the decision and thereafter paid the appropriate fees according to the rules and regulations of the USFS. He continued to live on the ranch until about 1918 when he moved to Aspen and lived there for another dozen years.- Larry Fredrick

Full-time humorist and former audio-visual guy, Barry Smith has, in 15 years of living here, unassumingly become a modern-day embodiment of the “Aspen Idea.” Not content with writing an award-winning weekly column in The Aspen Times, writing and directing award-wining short films, writing and performing award-winning theater (his monologue “Jesus in Montana” won Outstanding Solo show at the 2005 Fringe Festival in New York City), Barry also writes poetry, entertains a vast number of friends with anecdotes and observations, convenes a weekly writers’ salon, and is planning to tour his stage show – among other creative projects.If this makes Barry sound like an overachieving Renaissance man – wait, it gets worse. He can also be found playing blues guitar, snowboarding, hiking, biking and trying not to topple over while holding complex yoga poses.Popular theory may hold that the Aspen Idea is as much a shadow of the past as smooth-running traffic on Main Street, but Barry is proof that the Idea still flows on.- Katherine Sand


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