Colorado curmudgeon defends the rural West

  • Cover of Ed Quillen's book, "Deep in the Heart of the Rockies"

  • Ed Quillen

  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 yard.


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 life.


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).


Quillen fires 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." n





Ken Wright writes in Durango, Colorado.





High Country News Classifieds
  • WATERSHED PROGRAMS COORDINATOR
    Are you looking for a positive and success oriented work environment, the opportunity to join a (small but) dynamic group of people supporting watershed activities...
  • BACKCOUNTRY FILM FESTIVAL MANAGER
    Boise-based Winter Wildlands Alliance is looking for an experienced and highly motivated individual to organize our annual Backcountry Film Festival and Tour and coordinate additional...
  • LAND CONSERVATION MANAGER
    SUMMARY Leads, administers and manages the land conservation, conservation easement stewardship, and property management activities of the City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Department within...
  • CLEAN ENERGY PROGRAM ATTORNEY, NEVADA
    Position Summary: Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is seeking a Staff Attorney who is passionate about Western communities and the protection of the natural environment to...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Deschutes River Conservancy in Bend, Oregon
  • WATER POLICY ANALYST WITH WRA (BOULDER)
    Position Summary: Western Resource Advocates seeks a passionate Water Policy Analyst with knowledge of western water issues to join our Healthy Rivers Team to strengthen...
  • GILA NATIONAL FOREST
    9+ acre inholding. Passive solar strawbale off the grid and next to the Continental Divide Trail in ponderosa pine/doug fir forest at 7400.
  • HIRING BEARS EARS EDUCATION CENTER DIRECTOR
    Conservation nonprofit Friends of Cedar Mesa in Bluff, Utah is hiring an Education Center Director to oversee the operation of the Bears Ears Education Center....
  • PROGRAM MANAGER, SUSTAINING FLOWS
    Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • PROGRAM ASSOCIATE - VERDE RIVER EXCHANGE
    Verde River Exchange - Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • CODE COMPLIANCE OFFICER
    Teton County Planning & Building is hiring! Our ideal candidate is a team-player, a problem-solver, pays attention to detail, and can clearly communicate technical material...
  • ARCHITECTURE DRAFTSPERSON/PROJECT MANAGER
    Studio Architects is seeking a full time Architectural drafts-person/project manager with1-3 years of experience to join our firm. At Studio Architects our mission is to...
  • ASSISTANT MANAGER/TRAINEE, COLORADO RANCH
    needed for 16,000+ acre conservation property in south central Colorado. Qualified candidate would have experience working on a ranch or wilderness property, general forestry/fire management...
  • FARM HAND &/OR NANNY IN ESCALANTE
    Nanny for 18-mnth-old. Yearly salary, vacation, health insurance. Spanish/other foreign-language native spkr prefrrd.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Washington Association of Land Trusts seeks an ED to build on WALTs significant success & to lead the association to new levels of achievement. See...
  • BEAUTIFUL CUSTOM STRAWBALE HOME IN WESTERN COLORADO!
    Secluded, energy efficient Southwestern home on 40 wooded acres. Broker - Rand Porter - United Country Real Colorado Properties. 970-261-1248, $425K
  • FORMER RETREAT CENTER/CONSERVATION PROPERTY FOR SALE
    57 acres in Skull Valley, AZ, 17 miles from Prescott, year-round creek, swimming holes, secluded canyon, hiking/meditation trails, oaks, pines, garden, greenhouse. House, office building,...
  • HISTORIC RANCH HOME W/ 20 ACRES
    Historic 1893 Ranch Headquarters. 4 Bdrm, 3.5 Ba, 4000 ft2. Remodeled 2002. Includes 2 studio apts, stables, arena, workshop, 5 RV hookups. Chirachua & Peloncillo...
  • VICE PRESIDENT OF RETAIL OPERATIONS
    The Vice President of Retail Operations will provide overall leadership and accountability for purchasing, product development, merchandising planning, visual merchandising, retail operational excellence, oversight and...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners seeks an experienced fundraiser with excellent communication and organizational skills.