Punkin Center

 

One of the few trucks that whiz into Punkin Center.  In the distance can be seen the outline of Pikes Peak.

Punkin Center, Colorado

Punkin Center is one of those wide spots where two highways cross, SH 71 and 94.  Here at the junction, there used to be the gas station, restaurant, store, and garage.  The state highway dept. also has a district shop at the junction.  Years ago, the intersection was a busy place.  Cars would stop for fuel and the café stayed busy.

The fella that ran the gas station was a true westerner.  He carried a side arm on his hip and more then once, the presence of the pistol thwarted a robbery.  Late 1940’s, the proprietor was not so successful.

Couple young joy riders stopped for gas and overpowered the owner.  In the ensuing scuffle the owner of the gas station was killed during the robbery.

The county Sheriff, investigated, gathered evidence, went back to his office.  Making calls to adjoin counties and asking about incidents in their areas, The local sheriff was able to garner some leads.  After a year and half of investigation, the Sheriff gained enough evidence and information to arrest a couple from the valley down south.

Two young men were out joy riding and they decided they were going to stop at the gas station, fill up, then rob the owner.  During the robbery, they also killed the attendant.  Which resulted in a lifetime visit at the Canon City Hotel.

Today, Punkin Center is pretty quiet, the traffic passes through the junction.  The north/south flying through.  The east/west, pausing to salute the stop sign.  The highway dept still has their district shop there and a few folks still call Punkin Center home.

Punkin Center is the home of the World Championship Garden Tractor Pulling.  Through the summer, the garden tractors take center stage.  There is a pulling course and the garden tractors roar down the track.

 

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Rollins Pass, Colorado

 

 

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A town at the top of a pass, on the Rocky Mountain Continental Divide.  Yet that is what the Denver Salt Lake RR did when they crossed the mountains on their way westward.  When they went over the summit of Rollins Pass, the RR built a depot, some homes/cabins and a hotel with a restaurant.  These were all interconnected with snow sheds, for winter access.

This lasted for a couple of decades, until a tunnel was bored under the mountain.  The RR on Rollins pass was abandoned and the little town of Rollins Pass became a memory.  No longer did the trains have to fight their way up the mountain and get stuck in the snow during the winter.

The Forest Service, used part of the old ROW for a road over Rollins Pass.  Put in markers along the road indicating various stops along the road way.  Such as water stops, man made lakes for water and other information.  One could buy a trail map guide with interpretative information about the signs posted along the trail.  At the summit. the Forestry people had built a nice display talking about the buildings up there.

There were old photographs of the old hotel, depot and other buildings.  Pictures of people walking in the snow sheds and interpretative information.   The structures had collapsed and were rubble piles, scattered about the summit.

At one time a person could get one of map guides and drive over Rollins Pass to Winter Park.  Over the years, things changed, the signage was vandalized or stolen for souvenir’s.  The the roof of the Eye Of The Needle collapsed blocking the roadway.  There were numerous conversations about clearing the short tunnel, about 200 yards but it never happened.   With the trail blocked most of the Forest Service displays went by the wayside and today the summit is only accessible by foot trail.

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Not many people like going up to the Moffat Tunnel and the Rollins pass area because of the rocky dusty road.  The road gives one the notion of why the mountains were called rocky mountains.

 

Trains still travel though the South Boulder Creek Valley on their way to the Moffat.  There had been some gold mining in the area with very little of the shinny yellow stuff found.  About the only gold in the Fall colors of the aspen.

 

It is amazing to watch the cola train exit the tunnel, down the hill.  Five or six engines, their dynamic brakes singing as they begin the descent into the Denver basin.  Amtrak still has the Zephyr go through the tunnel and the Ski Train is operating again.

Yet, back in the 1890’s folks lived on the top of the pass through the winter.  Kept the trains rolling through the snow.

 

 

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Rago, Colo

 

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Rago, Colorado

 

Rago was a small community in the NW part of Washington County, next to the Morgan County line.  It had a Post Office, shops, stores and a roller skating ring.  The skating rink was an unusual amenity in these small settlement communities on the prairie.   Scattered across the land are other communities with roller rings.

There is not much left of the little burg.  There are some trees that mark the spot and out in the pasture are the rubble piles and foundations where the stores and homes had been.  Today cattle graze among the ruins, listening to the whispering winds of the past. 

It is mostly range land in the area and there are a couple of ranches nearby and some old, falling apart buildings.  The windswept land had its horrible moments during the dirty thirties.  Reminders of the Dust Bowl can be seen on occasion.  One ponders the hardships the early day settlers had to deal with. 

A roller rink would be a good diversion.  It probably also the social center for the area.  Many a young couple met and romance flourished on the hard boards.  The rink was probably also used as a community center.  Meet and discuss the problems of the day, quilting Bee’s, card parties and the weekend hoe down.

One can sit on the empty country road and hear the voices of the past.  Let the imagination roll back to a time that has passed.  Today it seems like hard times.  Back then it was life and people rolled with it.  There was no big government, people made their own way.  This is the heritage our forefathers handed off to us. 

A song of the land that rolled all the way across and ocean and traveled westward.  A spirit that was undaunted by the land.  The land held dreams of their own piece. 

 

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Woodrow School

 

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Woodrow Schoolhouse

 

            The Woodrow schoolhouse is located to the south and west of the town of Woodrow.  A true country school, surrounded by prairie and farmland.  The land is now pretty empty, most of the farmhouse are gone.  There are a couple of farm homes nearby and the home of the folks that bought the old schoolhouse. 

            The building has set neglected for years and shows the wear.  Trees have sprouted up next to the foundation, windows are broken and the roof is crumbling. 

            In the late 40’s, oil was discovered in NE Colorado, the Julesburg Basin, that stretched into southern Washington County.  This oil boom provided some taxes for the local school districts and the folks of Woodrow got together with the people of Lindon.  They agreed to consolidate their schools and a new school was built in the pasture.  Woodrow School would be no more.  It would become a part of Woodlin School. 

            At the time the new Woodlin School was built, it was a state of the art facility.  Best equipment, school labs, classrooms, cafeteria and sports facility.  But the rural population decline did not halt.  The new consolidated school lost students and today it is a country struggle to keep things going.  Yet the country folks do not give up, their school is still their home pride and Woodlin is one of many schools out east that roll along, turning out some of the best students in the state. 

            The old Woodrow school building still stands, for how many more years is a question.  Like a waning beacon it stands on the prairie. 

 

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Flat Top

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Flat Top, Colorado

 

The community of Flat Top was located near the four corners of Lincoln, Arapahoe, Elbert and Washington counties meet.  Situated at the base of the mountain that it took its name from, it was a Post Office, General Store combination.  The first Flat Top Post Office was located in a ranch house about 4 miles north.  With the opening of the store the PO was moved. 

Way back in the early 1900’s there was a good collection of homesteaders in the area to support the little sore and the other businesses that popped up.  Like so many little communities on the High Plains, the Dust Bowl blew many off their land and today it is pretty empty country. 

Today there are a few ranches in the area and the bovines keep the prairie grass mown.  Traffic on the highway flies past going down hill and the south bounders begin climbing up the hill.  On the high plains the 7500 foot hill is just a big hill, not a small mountain.  Because over that a way are the snow capped peaks of the Rockies.  The big mound of dirt called Flat Top is just that, a big hill, an elevation of around 6000 feet.

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The old highway winds across the hill.

 

To the south was the Railroad and many of the local farmers went to Genoa, rather then going over the hill to Limon.  Going around the hill was easier then going over it.  One of the farmers, when he hauled his grain to town, would stop and fill up with coal for the home trip.  That winter he had coal to sell to his neighbors. 

Short distance away was Walks Camp and the Churches that many attended.  To the West were the Breaks.  Here were cool woods, small streams and plentiful wildlife.  The site of many summer family outings.  It was also the hiding grounds of a small band of Indians that did not want to go the Reservation.  By estimates, they were able to avoid the government until WWII. 

It was a land of many faces that held a great allure until the drought of the 30’s reared its ugly head.  Many did cling to their land and survived the dust storms and today their ancestors still live in the area working the land. 

 

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Gary Community School

 

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Gary Colorado

 

          Gary was a community situated in the SE corner of Morgan County. The schoolhouse is about the only reminder that there once was a community.  There are no buildings in the area that look like they could have been stores.  The Post Office, mor then like;y was operated out of a private residence..

          The schoolhouse has been neglected for years and is overgrown that is has almost disappeared.  The small gym/auditorium sits high enough to be visible. 

 

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          The landscaping out front has gone un tended and has covered over the front of the school.  In the back it is overgrown with weeds and assorted rubble.  The driveway around the school is maintained and appears to used to park equipment on occasion.  The back of the gym had double doors and may have been a garage at one time.  Now it house a fox and other critter. 

          Not a one room school but an interesting school to find and ponder as I walk around it.  Back in the day it was probably a primetime school for the country kids that went to school there.  From the classrooms and size I would guess it schooled 40-60 students, grades one thorough twelve.  Kindergarten was a city thing years ago. 

          The roof has caved in, windows are broken, doors stand ajar and mother nature continues reclamation work. 

 

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River Bend Graveyard.

 

 

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Cemetery on the Hill

 

            For years and years, I have driven past the graveyard that sits on the hill just north of I-70.  It was one of the “One Day, I’m gonna go up there.”  Well that one day arrived a while back.  I got permission from the rancher to travel across his pasture and visit the cemetery. 

            So a blustery cold day I went down the highway to the exit off the Interstate.  Bouncing along the gravel roads to the pasture ruts.  Up the hill I went, following the ruts, bouncing over the pot holes, to the old graveyard on the hill.  The River Bend Cemetery has a tremendous view across the Big Sandy Valley. 

            Here I stood, gazing across the land.  On far ridge to the west is where the town of River Bend had once been.  Like its name says, the town sat on a bend in the river.  Over that ridge down to the tracks is where the village once was. 

            Talking with a local museum docent, she told me that there had once been evil people living there and they are now buried up on the hill.  She was probably right about the residents of the town, for it had been built by the railroad.  Then the spring of 1879, Colonel Reno garrisoned his troops here to protect the railroad workers. 

            This mixture of people would have attracted the saloon keeps, painted ladies, gamblers and other notorious folks.  I’m sure there would have been all types of conflicts and few resulting in the exchange of bullets. 

            The cemetery is over two miles to the east, would they of carted these folks that far or just planted in a hole down by the creek.  One thing the River Bend Cemetery has, is lots of unmarked graves.  There are slight depressions or flowers growing where the grave had been. 

            There are also the grandiose family plots with the towering markers and wrought iron fences.  There is one surrounded by a corral fence and no grave markers.  Some have elaborate stone work in the graves.  A few headstones have toppled and there the fading wreaths. 

            A lone tree has survived on the ridge, the other is but a barren, scoured trunk, standing nearby.  There is little moisture and the wind easily scoops the dirt out and carries it off. 

            It is a forsaken bleak land, until the spring showers arrive and the grasses greens up.  The graveyard on the hill becomes and emerald beaming out across the land, a green carpet.