The beauty of self-reliance

  • Portia Masterson of Golden, Colo., and bike cop Neal Schwieterman

    Greg Hanscom
 

Reader Portia Masterson walked into the office on a drizzly day in late March. It was an unusual moment for a couple of reasons: first, Portia usually sticks close to her home in Golden, near Denver; second, when she's out and about, she's usually riding her bike.

Masterson owns Self-Propulsion Inc., a bike shop that caters to bicycle commuters and long-distance tourers. She doesn't think much of the adrenaline junkies who tear up trails on their mountain bikes. "Every once in a while, we'll have someone walk into the shop with a bike just covered in mud," she says. "Our first question is, 'Where'd you get that?'... Well, don't do it again.' "

Her Self-Propulsion newsletter is full of tips for serious bikers - how to keep your hands from going numb, your buns from hurting and your ears from freezing. Her mechanics are mainly women, who, she says, give "great attention to detail," and she offers discounts to only two groups: folks who pedal to work each day and bike cops.

In theory, Portia's friend, reader Neal Schwieterman, ought to qualify for a double discount. Neal spends his days pedaling around Paonia on his knobby-tired, two-wheeled police cruiser. After only a year here, he knows just about everyone in town.

Before coming to the Western Slope, Neal was a Jefferson County, Colo., sheriff's deputy for 11 years, three of them on a bike. He's full of harrowing tales - like the time he was run over by an irate Christmas shopper searching for a parking spot, or the time a bunch of kids tossed firecrackers at him, thinking he was just a biker in a yellow shirt (he stopped and introduced himself, then got to know their parents).

His most heartbreaking experience came during his last week with Jefferson County, when he answered a call to Columbine High School. "It was eerie," he says. "The first call said, 'There's a 911 call from Columbine High School. There's a party down in the southwest parking lot.' The next call said 'multiple shots fired,' and the floodgates just opened."

Neal spent much of the next five hours hunkered behind a football outbuilding with 10 kids; "Four of them were almost 1084 - that means almost dead." He called for help while the two student gunmen fired down at them from a library window. Amazingly, all the teenagers with him survived the experience.

"I thought, 'I'm never going to live through that again,' " he says now. "I decided to do something active to make sure that doesn't happen again."

That something is teaching Paonia High School students how to kayak. He starts them out with rolling lessons in the county swimming pool, then takes the braver souls out into the local rivers to try their paddle at whitewater. In the process, the kids learn about self-reliance and determination.

Government officials can throw all the money in the world at preventing disasters like the Columbine shootings, says Neal, but it won't do much good. "The biggest problem was that those two kids didn't have the coping skills they needed."

High Country News Classifieds
  • CONSERVATIONIST? IRRIGABLE LAND?
    Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.
  • EXPERT LAND STEWART
    Available for site conservator, property manager. View resume at http://skills.ojadigital.net.
  • ANCESTRAL LANDS ADMINISTRATIVE MANAGER
    Starting Salary: Grade C, $19.00 to 24.00 per/hour Location: Albuquerque or Gallup, NM Status: Full-Time, Non-Exempt Benefit Eligible: Full Benefits Eligible per Personnel Policies Program...
  • GRAND CANYON DIRECTOR
    The Grand Canyon director, with the Grand Canyon manager, conservation director, and other staff, envisions, prioritizes, and implements strategies for the Grand Canyon Trust's work...
  • ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT
    Great Old Broads for Wilderness seeks a part-time Administrative Assistant to support the organization's general operations. This includes phone and email communications, office correspondence and...
  • HISTORIC LODGE AND RESTAURANT - FULLY EQUIPPED
    Built in 1901, The Crazy Mountain Inn has 11 guest rooms in a town-center building on 7 city lots (.58 acres). The inn and restaurant...
  • ONE WILL: THREE WIVES
    by Edith Tarbescu. "One Will: Three Wives" is packed with a large array of interesting suspects, all of whom could be a murderer ... a...
  • PROGRAM DIRECTOR, SALAZAR CENTER FOR NORTH AMERICAN CONSERVATION
    The Program Director will oversee the programmatic initiatives of The Salazar Center, working closely with the Center's Director and staff to engage the world's leading...
  • WILDEARTH GUARDIANS - WILD PLACES PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Salary Range: $70,000-$80,000. Location: Denver, CO, Portland, OR, Seattle, WA, Missoula, MT or potentially elsewhere for the right person. Application Review: on a rolling basis....
  • RIVER EDUCATOR/GUIDE + TRIP LEADER
    Position Description: Full-time seasonal positions (mid-March through October) Organizational Background: Colorado Canyons Association (CCA) is a 10 year old nonprofit organization fostering community stewardship of...
  • BOOKKEEPER/ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT
    Position Description: Part-time, year-round bookkeeping and administration position (12 - 16 hours/week) $16 - $18/hour DOE Organizational Background: Colorado Canyons Association (CCA) is a 10...
  • LAND STEWARD
    San Isabel Land Protection Trust seeks a full-time Land Steward to manage and oversee its conservation easement monitoring and stewardship program for 42,437 acres in...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Ventana Wilderness Alliance is seeking an experienced forward-facing public land conservation leader to serve as its Executive Director. The mission of the Ventana Wilderness Alliance...
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education,...
  • GRANT WRITER
    "We all love this place we call Montana. We believe that land and water and air are not ours to despoil, but ours to steward...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    The Development Director is responsible for organizing and launching a coherent set of development activities to build support for the Natural History Institute's programs and...
  • WILDLIFE PROJECT COORDINATOR
    Founded in 1936, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF or Federation) is America's largest and most trusted grassroots conservation organization with 53 state/territorial affiliates and more...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Cinnabar Foundation helps protect and conserve water, wildlife and wild lands in Montana and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem by supporting organizations and people who...
  • OLIVERBRANCH CONSULTING
    Non-Profit Management Professional specializing in Transitional Leadership, Strategic Collaborations, Communications and Grant Management/Writing.
  • GREAT VIEWS, SMALL FOOTPRINT
    Close to town but with a secluded feel, this eco-friendly home includes solar panels, a graywater reuse system, tankless hot water, solar tubes, and rainwater...