The Rockies

On Natural Education

Review of “Educated” by Tara Westover

April 18, 2018 in The Rockies,U. S. Politics | Comments (0)


“Educated” is an ironic title for a memoir by a young woman, Tara Westover, who showed up at Brigham Young University from rural Idaho at age 17 without any education at all, not even home schooling. All she knew was the mountain where she lived and the personalities of her extended family and the beauty of the seasons and animals and junk cars and how to ride and tame horses and how to cook and identify herbs and their healing properties, and how to sing before an audience and how to trust her own instincts. The meaning of “educated,” then,  must lie in her flyleaf quote from John Dewey that “education is a reconstruction of experience.” 

At 27 Tara Westover received a PhD in history from Cambridge University in England. Her story, published in March, is sure to provoke public schoolers and believers in Jeffersonian democracy. They will have explanations and investigations. All I have is the suggestion that you read this book.

If it were simply about “another young person who left home for an education. . . and isn’t going back,” as the New York Times review concluded, then her memoir would not be a best seller, despite her skillful story telling. The success is in the setting, the surrounding, which is a mystery to most Americans. Most of the book takes place in what is being called The American Redoubt, by fringe writers and their followers. This is the mountainous spread of the interior northwest (Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, and parts of eastern Oregon and Washington).

The survivalist culture of the Redoubt (a fortified refuge) involves severing dependance on government, its schools, its police powers its health care requirements, its systems of water, power, and transportation, and its distribution of goods. The culture involves preparing for the political-economical system’s collapse by stockpiling guns, food and fuel and other necessities. Culture is the business of anthropology and this memoir, along with its literary virtues, is anthropological.

Her father is a tyrant, a doomsday prepper who has dozens of guns and a thousand gallons of fuel wrapped and buried. He draws his absolute family authority from random biblical passages. He supports the family with his junkyard salvaging and barn building, in which the seven children as they grow are expected to help. He ignores safety as a matter of crazy religious faith — the angels of the Lord will protect them — and Tara is slashed, impaled and twice nearly crushed to death by his frenzied junkyard sorting. “Dad lived in fear of time. He felt it stalking him. I could see it in the worried glances he gave the sun as it moved across the sky, in the anxious way he appraised every length of pipe or cut of steel,” she writes. (more…)

Puma, Panther, Cougar. . . Lion!

“Close enough to hear them purr”

December 10, 2017 in Rio Grande West,The Rockies | Comments (6)


National Park Service photo

By Larry Joseph Calloway

Mountain lions live here in the Sangre de Cristo mountains of Colorado. So you’d think Ron Garcia would not be surprised to see one. He’s the longtime manager of the Baca National Wildlife Refuge five minutes from Crestone, and lions are, of course, wildlife. They are unmistakable, with adult males about eight feet long from nose to tail tip and females a foot shorter.

Yet, one evening a few years ago as he left work at the historic ranch headquarters of the refuge Garcia was very surprised. First he noticed a barn door was open. He got out of his truck to close it. The winter shadows were long. Suddenly he saw something move in the dark at the base of a barn wall. It was a full grown lion lying in wait.

Ron Garcia

Not waiting for Garcia, who instinctively reached for a pistol he wasn’t carrying. He knew mountain lions eat deer almost exclusively, and this one likely was waiting for the deer that wander into the cottonwoods at the headquarters — and nowhere else on the flat, watery refuge. It has an over-population of about 3,000 elk, but they are not the natural prey of lions, whose normal habitat is higher ground — beginning with the pinyon-juniper belt where most us live.

There is no record of fatal attacks on people here. And though occasionally a lion will kill a small mammal, in Garcia’s view pets are safe. “Taking a small dog is rare. If they attack one it’s more from fear or hunger.” With all the deer wandering in the Baca subdivision and in town, there shouldn’t be starving lions around.

Anyway, the shadowy lion by the barn that evening padded softly away. (Like this: Garcia showed with his hands like paws.) It was not seen again, and lions are seldom seen on the refuge generally. “Typically when you see one in the flats there’s an issue with the animal — usually a health issue — because the animal is out of its element. It’s the same thing with bears,” he said. (more…)

My Homage To The Rocky Mountains In A Time Of Hope

Going North To South In An East-West Land

April 11, 2009 in The Rockies | Comments (0)

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In the new year before our inauguration of a new president I computed a route home from Alberta to southern Colorado that would skirt the cities and track the Rockies. I dragged the blue Googley lines along old roads to old places, cross-cutting the Can-Am grain. When it was done and printed out I had 2491 miles to go in 12 days, with stops to ski and see friends. (more…)

The Village At Wolf Creek: Salesmanship Trumps Meteorology

About that snow removal complexity. . .

December 13, 2006 in The Rockies | Comments (0)


What falls on Wolf Creek Ski Area falls on Alberta Park. The Texans who dreamed up The Village at Wolf Creek don’t seem to understand that. Their urban-density land development at 10,300 feet elevation will get 40 to 50 feet of snow a year. The Forest Service environmental impact statement acknowledges “snow removal complexity” as one of the access problems. (more…)

A Besieged Government Agency Goes “Wild”

The National Park Service Takes The Lead At The Dunes

May 1, 2006 in Rio Grande West,The Rockies | Comments (0)


Great Sand Dunes in Colorado’s San Luis Valley is the newest full national park – and also probably the most fun. People run, jump, hop, skip, roll, and frolic down the steep slopes of pure sand. They play in the strange surges of Medano Creek. They hose off happily at the headquarters parking lot. Surely some of these happy visitors are conservatives. (more…)

Holy Cities Of The West: The Centers Could Not Hold

December 6, 2005 in The Rockies | Comments (0)


There were two holy cities in the Mountain West, Salt Lake and Santa Fe. By holy I mean they were centered on sanctuaries, the LDS Temple on Temple Square and St. Francis Cathedral just off the Santa Fe Plaza. The sadness of their secularization invaded my thoughts as I surrendered to Salt Lake commuter traffic on my way home from Alberta to Colorado in December, and I thought I saw what the evangelical Mega Christians see. (more…)

Cool It, New York Times. Sheriff Bell Is Not Running For Office

A Counter-review Of Cormac McCarthy’s

November 4, 2005 in The Rockies | Comments (0)

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The Texas sheriff in Cormac McCarthy’s new novel belongs on the conservative side of the culture war, as politicians, both red and blue, like to call it. But America’s deep national misunderstanding is not owned by the politicians. And “No Country For Old Men” is not a political novel. (more…)

High Desert Golf And Carting Around Saguaros

Running on empty symbols

June 27, 2005 in The Rockies | Comments (0)

One morning in May 2003 news photographers were let through the high security system at Las Campanas, a luxury subdivision northwest of Santa Fe, to record President Bush playing golf. It was a publicity coup for the company of Lyle Anderson of Phoenix, the developer who against substantial public opposition built two 18-hole signature courses in the high desert hills between the artistic city and the Rio Grande. (more…)

New West Powder Snow: Start Yer Engines, Get Yer Gun

But who ya gonna Call? The sheriff or the NRA?

March 7, 2005 in The Rockies | Comments (0)

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A bitter competition between skiers and snowmobilers that did not exist the last time there was this much snow in southwest Colorado, about 12 or 13 years ago, has revved up in the San Juan Mountains. It’s a fight over the New West’s new commodity: deep virgin powder.

And it was forced into the headlines by the Old West’s oldest dispute resolution device: a shotgun. (more…)

Revised View of The Texas Rangers: Secret Police

It’s not exactly Bush World

November 20, 2004 in New Mexico Politics,The Rockies | Comments (0)


George W. Bush, like most Texans, loves the legend of the Texas Rangers. He once owned the baseball team of that name, and he calls his club of $100,000-plus contributors the Rangers. I myself grew up with the legend as a Colorado kid, hearing “Tales of the Texas Rangers” and episodes of “The Lone Ranger” on the radio.

But, as a new book from the University of New Mexico Press chronicles, the legend has a dark side. I had not been in New Mexico more than two months when I first encountered this Ranger shadow. I was sent as a wire service reporter to Rio Arriba County to cover the takeover of a U.S. Forest Service campground by Reies Lopez Tijerina and his following of land-grant heirs. (more…)