Review by Ken Wright
Ed Quillen isn't
exactly a voice crying in the wilderness; he's more like that guy
with a beer and a Camel Straight in his hand, yelling from the
sagging porch of the house down the street - the one with all the
weeds and the 1975 Jeep Cherokee on blocks in the front
Quillen has been a columnist for The Denver
Post since 1986, writing from the recently gentrified mountain town
of Salida, Colo., where he also publishes Colorado Central, a
monthly magazine dedicated to his area's small towns and rural
As any reader of his columns can tell you,
Quillen doesn't rest easily in any of the handy traditional
political or philosophical categories. He hates pandering
politicians from either party and hypocrisy from both big business
and the environmental movement. He distrusts concentrations of
power, either political or economic, including the police (-It
isn't the saying that if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have
guns," he warns at one point. "It's that if guns are outlawed, only
cops will have guns." ) He also likes the impoverished, rough-hewn
life once offered in Colorado's mountain towns and believes freedom
should include the freedom to be both poor and irresponsible. And
he loathes water diverters of any type.
And so on
and so on, as he grabs another beer and sparks another Camel
You get the idea: There's something here for
everyone to both cheer and fear. Deep in the Heart of the Rockies
is a hefty helping of some of Quillen's finer ravings, doled out in
brief and unconnected doses perfect for the outhouse privy (where
Quillen would prefer to be read, I'm sure), or the top of the water
closet of a modern mandated low-flow toilet (which he, of course,
also gets around to poking fun at).
some of his literary mortars at growth in the rural West. "We
mistakenly believed that more water, more industries, more tourists
would make us prosper," Quillen muses. "We never saw a dime of that
prosperity. And we lost most of those intangible qualities that
made Colorado a pleasant place to live," where, he explains,
"nobody made much money, but nobody needed much money."
Not only do our Western economic emperors have
no clothes, Quillen believes, they're not decked out with morals or
visions, either. Now, he mourns, "they're trying to make it illegal
to be poor in Colorado."
Quillen has a clear
sight on an enemy in this battle. "Apparently, the best way to ruin
a community is to have it discovered by people with taste and
money, who like the town so much that they move in and change
everything they liked about it ... How do you destroy a laid-back
and ramshackle little mountain town? Easy. Just add money."
So why doesn't Quillen give up and move on? "As
to why I've stayed in Colorado, I suspect it's mostly sloth. Moving
is hard work. It's easier to stay in place and put up a fight
against all these folks who, merely to enrich themselves, are bent
upon destroying everything I like about my home."
Ken Wright writes in
Colorado curmudgeon defends the rural West
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