Pera:How Green Was My Valley? | Musings of a Mountain Man
by Jack Pera
Sep 13, 2007 | 187 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I was born 70 years ago in Telluride, have lived in the region all my life, and can personally relate to its history from the mid-1940s to the present time. Having read and heard stories from the various decades prior to the 1940s, however, I do have a feel as to what life was like prior to my arrival on the scene.    

Prior to the maturation of the ski area (some time after its official start in 1972), there were very few beautifully landscaped lawns in Telluride. I repeat, from the mid-1940s, and for about 40 years hence, beautiful lawns accompanied by gorgeous landscaped flower beds were an anomaly in the Town of Telluride.

In my early years, Alta Cassietto’s, Bessie Wagner’s, Arlene Reid, Don O’Rourke’s and the Wunderlich/Visintin yards were the town’s best, by far. Forgive me if I’ve overlooked any others who arguably might deserve being in the top-of-the-line category. For sure, other people had decent lawns, but what set apart those I’ve mentioned above were the meticulous care given to them, plus the flowers they contained.

Later, a few others followed. Allen Davidson refurbished and nurtured a beautiful lawn at the northwest corner of Fir and Columbia. The Tom Hedlund lawn at the northwest corner of Aspen and Columbia was also a beaut. I myself also had a very nice, lush, large and mostly dandelion-free lawn on four vacant lots at the corner of Galena Ave. and Davis Street. No flowers, but a respectable and well-manicured lawn, nonetheless.

As I wonder why there were so few really good lawns in Telluride prior to the growth of the ski area, I come up with several reasons, the prevailing one being that the Great Depression of the 1930s changed Telluride’s culture dramatically.

As I gaze in awe at the absolutely fabulous lawns and accompanying standout flower beds that saturate the Town of Telluride today, the contrast in landscaping between “back then” and now is beyond what anyone not here before the modern-day Telluride we observe now could ever imagine. The number of beautiful yards versus the unkempt “weed lots” between then and now has been a veritable flip-flop. Back in the period I describe, there wasn’t a single yard that could hold a candle to so many of the gems made possible by professional landscaping scattered throughout the town today.

I’m especially impressed by the different species of flowers found in the flowerbeds around town today. In my younger years, I always wondered why there were only a few varieties of flowers in the few flower beds that existed around town at the time, and I always attributed it to our climate. I thought the altitude was too high and the climate so cold that only a few of the hardiest domestic flowers would grow here. Wrong, wrong, dumb, dumb and backwoods hick mentality. It’s just astonishing how well domestic flowers do at this altitude, as proven by the magnificent exhibits on display every summer. With global warming on the upswing, what’s the next big surprise? Orange, mango and palm trees?   

The Incas Had It Right

I read an article some time back that said one of the great mysteries of archeology is why a civilization as advanced as the Incas didn’t have a written language. They did, however, have knotted strings called khipu that apparently (surely) functioned as a means of communication of some sort that people are trying to figure out. Possibly it was their written language.

This reminds me of something I figured out years ago: Of course it’s easier and better to use modern tools, but give me a piece of specialized flexible string 12 feet long or so that won’t stretch and on which tiny, permanent marks can be made, and I can use that alone as a measuring tool to build a house. A house that will be square, plumb and level. Here’s how:

1)    By making repetitive marks the length of the string at exact (perfect) intervals apart with a fine-point ballpoint pen, one can make a tape measure. It doesn’t have to be in inches, meters or anything that we use for a standard measurement nowadays, just marks that are an identical distance apart from one another. (After all, the yard and meter are merely arbitrary selections.) The identical periodic markings can be halved, re-halved and re-halved again and again to give one an accurate measuring device on an increasingly smaller scale. Isn’t that exactly what a tape measure is and does?

2)    Tying a weight to the end of the string will give you a plumb bob, which is a tool used to measure exactly what it says: plumb. Plumb is a vertical orientation related to balance.

3)    Using the 3-4-5, 6-8-10, or 9-12-15 Pythagorean theorem principle (you carpenters know what I’m talking about here) can quickly give you a perfect 90 degree angle (square). Sure, a piece of plywood is supposed to be cut square and most likely is, but is any particular one perfect? The perfect square created by this method will confirm it. Or, better yet, let’s assume we’re building the house back in the days before plywood or any other material with a square-cut end was manufactured that would give us a pre-cut pattern to use. 

4)    Using a square placed against something that is plumb will give you level, because level is a perpendicular orientation to plumb.

That’s it! Simple, eh? If nothing else were available, a piece of flexible, markable, non-stretchable string could suffice as the only measuring tool you would need to build a house.

Obviously there are countless modern devices that make the job far faster and easier, but none much more accurate for general purposes if you were meticulous in your work than using the piece of special string as I have described.       

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