The good ol’ days in Basalt | AspenTimes.com
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The good ol’ days in Basalt

The excitement is big down in West Basalt (is there really a coterminous line between the town’s “east” and “west” portions, or are the politicians just lazy?), now that a Whole Foods store has decided to buy into the frenzied and astounding growth in the midvalley.It could be said that Basalt owes me absolutely nothing, but historically, I may be somewhat indebted to her. It all started with my mother’s paternal side of the family, who were early settlers in the Basalt area, and until recently, still maintained a small claim on the town. My great-grandfather, John Sloss, owned the Emma Store and surrounding land for a time and then had an establishment on Basalt’s Second Street, a building that still has the Sloss moniker across the front. He also ranched in the Sopris Creek area and his brother, Stirling, owned the Cap K Ranch up the Frying Pan for many years. My grandmother and grandfather Sloss (Nellie and Bates), along with other family, are buried in Fairview Cemetery. My mother, Kathleen, played basketball for and graduated from Basalt Union High School.We used to run some of our cattle through Basalt on a two-day drive from Woody Creek to the Cap K, where we then turned them up the mountain toward the Red Canyon summer grazing grounds. The shopping center containing Clark’s Market was, at that time, mostly a boggy swamp full of cattails, but a good shortcut through town for cows. Seemed like we always hit civilization too early to draw a good crowd, though.Jimmy Gerbaz and I used to visit Basalt on school dance nights, get smuggled in by family friend Arwinna Bogue and have the time of our lives. Sometimes, she couldn’t get us into the regular dance but would tell us where the after-party get together was taking place and we’d be sure to show up. I fell in love a couple of times and remember my dad telling me about the call he’d gotten from a Basalt rancher, threatening my father to keep his son “up the valley” where he belonged.In my 20s and 30s, a good night might involve a warm-up at Newt Klusmire’s Frying Pan Inn, then a trip across the street to the Midland, where some live music could sometimes be found. It was a careful walk, however, as the Frying Pan “cowboys” seemed to stir up the mostly “long-haired” clientele of the Midland (or vice-versa), and fights were as common as Sunday morning hangovers. If you were smart, you wouldn’t screw up badly enough to draw the attention of Buck Davis, the town marshal. Buck would give you every chance in the world if you were honest with him, but try to bullshit your way out of trouble and he’d have you in the backseat of the cop car quicker than a hobo on a ham sandwich.Basalt really started getting upscale when they took out the wooden sidewalks, I reckon, but even then, she went kicking and screaming into the limelight, much like a miscreant being dragged into church. But, alas, the cards had been dealt and there was slim hope of sustaining her originality and individualism, although she remains one of Colorado’s last bastions of mountain hippies.In the winter of 2001, a lady on a Highlands lift talked proudly of how her daughter and son-in-law had just moved here from California, eager to start his law practice and to raise their family in the mountains. The woman went on about how great Basalt was, and in her exuberance, asked if I thought Basalt would be able to maintain its small-town charm. Succinctly, the answer was, “No, not as long as yuppies from out of state keep moving here.” Maybe I should have just kept my mouth shut.Tony Vagneur isn’t sure, but he thinks the town, she may be a changin’. Read him here on Saturdays and send comments to ajv@sopris.net.


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