Earning the right to live here


By Betty Slade

Loving and living in Pagosa Springs is like enjoying a good marriage for the long haul. There have been times we wanted to throw in the towel, but we knew we had something too good to let go of. So, we hunkered down and, by faith, tackled life as it was being thrown at us.

Pagosa Springs has become a hot spot for newcomers. Visitors have come to the mountains, snatched up houses and settled into our little town. The honeymoon is still in high bloom and their love is abounding in the heavenly clouds. They have entered a relationship that will try them at every turn. Some will call it quits. Others will sink down in the snow and mud season and hold on.

Their romance is infused as the area colors change from green to yellow and red, and every place looks like a picture postcard. The first snow will take everyone outside to catch a snowflake or two and make angels in the snow. All will be too good to be true.

Winter will test honeymoon love. Roots of character will be forced to dig deeper. More than 45 years ago, my Sweet Al and I moved our family from the city to the mountains. We missed paved roads and sidewalks. But, soon came the day we gladly forfeited rocks on our fingers for rocks on the road, a nice luxury sedan for a four-wheel-drive truck and high heels for work boots.

When leaving the Lower Blanco was a matter of life and death, we buckled ourselves in and held on as we negotiated icy roads, avoided swerving into a nearby ditch and felt frigid temperatures.

Then came the mud in the early spring when cabin fever checked in and we wondered if winter would ever go away.

I was reminded of “The McGregor Saga,” a story of a young man coming of age. Jim Craig, 17, lived in a small town set in the mountains near Melbourne in the Snowy River backcountry of Australia.

His father was killed in a logging accident. Instead of feeling sorry for Jim, the mountain men living in the wilderness said to him, “You have to earn the right to live up here.” In other words, you must prove yourself before you belong here.

Jim worked as a laborer on a big ranch and proved what it took to live there. He grew into a fine man and was known as “The Man from Snowy River.”

Just like building a good marriage, my Sweet Al and I both agree that our love for living in the mountains has been tested beyond ourselves. We have gone through trials and problems, but we can say, “We have earned the right to live here.”

Our children also know what it takes to call Pagosa home. Recently, our daughter and son-in-law planned a shrimp boil. Forty-six guests were to arrive at their home in three hours when their well ran dry. No water. No showers and no bathrooms.

The family, along with their out-of-town guests, all showed up at our house for showers and water. I told them, “We can always count on an upset in the weather, electricity or water, but we’ve never let a good party go to waste.”

And they didn’t. They met their guests of the evening with excitement and told them that with a twist of the wrist and a gallon of water, they could flush the commode. The guests took it in stride as a matter of “that’s how it is in the country.” The water situation was not a problem. They ate to their fill and played Wiffle ball. The guests went home happy and it was as if the lack of water meant nothing to the day.

Our little town is full of faithful people. So, how did we earn the right to live here? When our love for the mountains was tested, we surrendered to the harshness of the winter by fighting to stay and we added another log to the fire. 

Final brushstroke: Love for each other gives us staying power. We look out for our friends as we pull a stranded neighbor’s vehicle from a ditch. When we find ourselves knee-deep in mud, or our car is high centered in a snow bank, we know we are standing on common ground. We fight to stay because we love where we live. We have earned the right to live here.

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