word craft


Colorado, the Centennial State

I found the map in a port­fo­lio of old maps at the back of a used book­store in Boul­der Col­orado. It’s an 1876 map of the then-new state of Col­orado, pub­lished by the map-mak­ing com­pa­ny of Ash­er & Adams, as they styled them­selves. 1876 being the one-hun­dredth anniver­sary of the Dec­la­ra­tion of Inde­pen­dence, the new state took on the nick­name “The Cen­ten­ni­al State.” 

The map now hangs on the wall of my log home in Clark, Col­orado.  If you look at the map and seek where I live, and its main and largest com­mu­ni­ty, Steam­boat Springs, the map informs me there is noth­ing there, save the Bear (or Yam­pa) Riv­er and the Elk Riv­er. The immense, emp­ty area is ref­er­enced as Grand Coun­ty, which still exists but with much-reduced bound­aries. These days the coun­ty in which I live is called Routt Coun­ty, larg­er than the State of Rhode Island.

Colorado The Centennial State
Although not the map on my wall, this is a good map drawn by Gre­go­ry Mitchell of The Cen­ten­ni­al State, avail­able from I Am Here.

The Ute, Ara­pa­ho, and Cheyenne Indi­ans were the orig­i­nal occu­pants of the area until they were forcibly removed. Over the years, Spain, Rus­sia, Mex­i­co, France, and the USA all claimed sov­er­eign rights. The French and Anglo fur trap­pers were active in the ter­ri­to­ry in the ear­ly 19th Cen­tu­ry. 1875 was the time when the first white set­tle­ments were record­ed. In time it would become a min­ing, ranch­ing, and ski resort area. In 2000 Steam­boat Springs record­ed a pop­u­la­tion of about six thou­sand. Today it’s about four­teen thousand. 

Steam­boat Springs is said to have earned its name when French trap­pers heard the gur­gling sounds of the area’s many nat­ur­al hot springs and thought they were hear­ing steamboats. 

The area is also the inspi­ra­tion for a num­ber of my books. 

Writ­ten for my skier/s­now-board­ing sons, it’s an adven­ture fan­ta­sy about the Mont­mers, rab­bit-like crea­tures with long feet that enable them to ski among the mountains. 

When a Routt Coun­ty 1925 one-room school­house los­es its teacher, the eight stu­dents choose 14-year-old Ida to run the school secret­ly so they can graduate. 

McKin­ley, an Alaskan Mala­mute, who lives in Steam­boat Springs, has to choose between join­ing a wolf pack and pro­tect­ing his dog com­mu­ni­ty as well as his human family. 

A tale of the Col­orado Gold Rush of 1859. 

Nasho­ba, an old wolf, the raven Mer­la, and Casey, a teen-age boy, strug­gle with life and death along the edges of Routt Nation­al For­est. Illus­trat­ed by Bri­an Floca. 

A sequel to The Secret School, Ida, hav­ing earned the right to go to Steam­boat High School, moves from a rur­al world to encounter the fast-chang­ing roar­ing twen­ties world of 1925, and strug­gles to become a mod­ern young woman. 

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