Welcome to life in the Land of Bugs and Nuts | AspenTimes.com

Welcome to life in the Land of Bugs and Nuts

John Colson
Aspen Times Weekly
Aspen, CO Colorado

If any of the communities of the Roaring Fork Valley ever decided to issue license plates with a motto, I propose that we call this the Land of Bugs and Nuts.

Now, before I’m accused of maligning an entire region with an undeserved insult for a moniker, let me explain.

California, as we all know, is the Land of Fruits and Nuts, although their state motto, along with the state song, has to do with a certain precious metal that was the foundation of the state’s economy long before the nut cases and fruitcakes moved in.

Colorado, of course, also looks to the past with its state motto, “Nil Sine Numine” or Nothing without the Lord, and its nickname, The Centennial State, because it became a state 100 years after the American Revolution, in 1876.

But, besides being an echo of past glory, those mottos and nicknames don’t resonate with the modern world. In fact, let’s face it, they’re pretty dull and lifeless.

Pitkin County, of course, is nothing like that. It’s a lively place, heralded by tales of adventure and greed and, to be truthful, a little wackiness. And our motto should say just that.

So, let’s look at what we’ve got.

Bugs? That’s an easy one. Foremost among our buggish traits is the pine beetle, that nasty little monster that is rapidly turning the mighty stands of pine that blanket our mountains into little more than a trillion matches standing on end. And those matches are just waiting to flare into life with a little help from wind, lightning and the stupidity of people playing with matches.

But wait, there’s more on the subject, and it comes from the town where I live, Carbondale.

Our town has long prided itself on being a “no-spray” community when it comes to combating parasites, nonnative plant species and other unwanted elements, declining to use chemical disincentives and opting for a more natural path to a pest-free lifestyle.

But now it is known that we have given up the good fight and turned back to Dow Chemical as our best defense against blights of all kinds. The pine beetle, the European elm scale, the absinth wormwood weed ” all are being assailed by chemical weapons.

Absinth wormwood, according to a story in The Valley Journal, was brought here as an “ornamental” plant and possibly for its medicinal properties. As any dedicated drinker knows, the absinth wormwood has long been worshipped as the chief ingredient in a potent liquor called Absinthe, the same stuff that supposedly drove Oscar Wilde mad and which was banned in the U.S. nearly a century ago.

But a liquor of the same name is back on the market now, without the wormwood, and at least one expert has informed me that the madness came to Absinthe drinkers not because of the ingredients, but because lazy distillers refused to discard a toxic byproduct of the distillation process. Instead, they mixed that byproduct in with the untainted hooch and the result was a drink that literally drove the drinker nuts.

So, maybe we could get the ban lifted if we could prove my informant was correct, and then this noxious weed could be seen as an economic boon to our local economy.

But, more on that at some other time.

Getting back to the motto, and in particular, the “Nuts.”

Can anyone deny that this place is as nutty as they come?

In nature, we have pine nuts (along with various berries) that form a mainstay of the diet for one of our most recognizable neighbors, the black bear.

Then there is the human variety, of which we have plenty, and some of them even hold elective office. I don’t need to name names here, everyone has his or her own favorite candidate for nuthood, just among the seats at our area’s city councils, county commissions and so forth.

Then there are the common variety nuts, like the guy who last week shot up the town of Redstone for no apparent reason, thankfully harming no one. If he isn’t nuts, I don’t know the meaning of the word.

Or take the ongoing fight between the Aspen City Council and one of its constituents, one Marilyn Marks. There’s definitely nuts to be found on this ground, no matter which side of the debate you happen to occupy.

I rest my (copyrighted) case, and fully expect to be contacted soon by some bureaucrat or another who agrees with me.