Friday, September 30, 2011

Where the Gold Is

I Know Where the Gold Is

I would have heard “Goin' up to Cripple Creek” seventy years ago, no doubt played by Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys on the Grand Ole Opry. I'm sure that, at the time, I would not have known if there was a real Cripple Creek, nor would I have been interested. But just this week, my wife and I made our annual visit there. Our excursion was, for me, a moveable feast of colors and memories, both of which I experienced against the remembered mandolin of William Smith Monroe.

In 1941, my mother and I were living with my Grandaddy in south Alabama. We lived comfortably with no electricity or indoor plumbing. Our evenings were lit by an Aladdin lamp. The radio was the source of our entertainment and was our window to the world. Saturday evenings it carried us to Nashville, Tennessee—that's where I would have heard Bill Monroe.

Cripple Creek, Colorado, a cattle pasture in the old days, turned gold mining camp, now a legalized gambling town, sets just below tree line at around 10,000 feet altitude and is about an hour's ride up the mountain from our house. A hundred years ago, tens of thousands were there seeking their fortunes in gold dust. Today 1300 folks call it home but many more come every year, seeking their fortunes in one or more of the casinos.” That part of Cripple Creek has little appeal to me; buying a hot dog and losing five dollars in the slot machines is enough to satisfy my gambling urge for the year. I should note, however, that last week I came away with a dollar twenty-five in winnings.

The gold that draws me back year after year is in the leaves of the Aspen trees, not in the gold dust, some of which still lies a thousand feet below the surface, nor in the “loose slots”. The video shorts I took, before my camera crashed, tells that part of the story.

This awesome blast of color comes just before the leaves die and the trees goes to sleep—I know that. But put the beauty of the moment together with the buoyancy of the mandolin and I hear a call to the future. At eighty I have the freedom to contemplate what has happened during my lifetime. I will do that. I believe it is good to visit the past, I just don't want to live there—not when there's gold out there.

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