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Queen of the Old Timers

* Colorado bare-back *

COLORADO: Gives "bare-back" riding a whole new meaning. Courtesy Cherie Morris

NEW MEXICO

Magdalena, a high-plateau town of about 1,000 people southwest of Albuquerque, N.M., once served as a center of mining for lead, zinc and silver in the 1880s, before it took on another role as a shipping center for cattle. The cowboying peak came in 1919, when 150,000 sheep and 21,000 cattle found their way to Magdalena, ending their 10-mile-a-day trek on what was then called the "hoof highway." These days, Magdalena attracts artists and early retirees who help the town celebrate its historic past every July with a three-day Old Timers Reunion that features rodeos, a street dance, a quilt raffle and even three kinds of "villages" -- Indian, Spanish and Cowboy. There's also the crowning of an Old Timers Queen, and this year that queen was an extra-special one, partly due to her age -- 91. Thelma Reynolds told the Mountain Mail that she was born in a log cabin in Nemo, Mo., in 1921, and that she later worked at a variety of jobs for some 70 years. Waitressing and other restaurant jobs accounted for 36 years of her working life, with her first food-serving stint coming at a men's boardinghouse in Springfield, Mo. –– "quite an experience for a young woman," she recalled. Reynolds went on to a job refurbishing spark plugs in an aircraft plant during World War II, and also worked at a nursing home caring for the elderly. Finally, at age 82, she retired from a job at a Walmart Sam's Club. The secret of her longevity? "I just believed I could do it."

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From my Alaska trip: I flew into a small town that is not reachable by road, then hopped on a motorboat and drove across lakes and rivers for 2.5 hours to reach the scientists' camp way out in the boondocks -- out there they have a few rough cabins and a generator that makes electricity only in the evening and two outhouses -- and lo and behold, for reading material in the outhouses they have issues of the Economist magazines and HCN -- amazing to discover HCN readers way out there!

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