Here in Paonia, the apricots are ripe and visitor season is in full swing. The 61st annual Cherry Days celebration on July 3 and 4 drew several reunions of Paonia High School classes, along with a family gathering of the town’s founder, Samuel Wade, who brought fruit trees to the valley in the early 1880s. We had a great talk with Wade’s great-granddaughter, the indomitable Vada Sandes, who’s a year short of 90 but still working part-time at the Department of Motor Vehicles in Gardena, Calif. “I’m the longest-working employee,” she told us proudly. Sandes’ daughter, Roberta Simpson, explained that since 1963, her mother has taken pictures of drivers and administered those sometimes-daunting tests of driving laws. One of her fellow workers, a much younger black man, likes to call her “mom.” Whenever someone overhears and looks startled, she whispers confidentially: “You should see his father.”
In June, Brian Park and his mom, Nancie Hummel, came to say hello while on their way to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Brian studies journalism at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, and Nancie teaches at a community college in Maryland.
While visiting friends at
the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in nearby Gothic, New York
City resident Eric Waltari came by. Eric is an
evolutionary biologist at the American Museum of Natural History,
where he maps the evolutionary lineages of various mammals.
Glena Records of Petaluma, Calif., dropped in. As a child, she spent summers visiting friends in the nearby coal-mining hamlet of Somerset. Glena is the director of communications and education for the Polly Klaas Foundation, which helps families locate missing children.
From Colorado Springs, Colo., came Rob Gilliam and daughters Maya and Isabel, along with John and Lisa Harner and their son, Cole. The families came to visit Paonia and local organic farmer Glenn Austin.
On a recent Monday, we found two notes tucked in our door. One was from David George, Pam Circuit and Phil Bates: “Thanks for all you do for us!” The three were on a tour of the area with the 55th annual MG Car Club Rallye in nearby Glenwood Springs. The other was from Peter von Christiensen and Ginger White, who wrote, “Sorry we came through on a weekend. (You guys don’t work very much.)” Well, HCN staffers used to work seven-day weeks until OSHA busted us.
During a multi-day motorcycle journey around Colorado, Bill Patterson of Colorado Springs stopped by. He says he subscribed to HCN soon after moving here from St. Louis, Mo., but quit after “getting too bummed out about the environment.” We hear you, Bill, and wish there was more good news to report.