Mountain Pathfinder, Misfit Filmmaker, Musicians’ Fundraiser
by Leslie Vreeland
Jun 28, 2012 | 900 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CHIEF OURAY AND OTTO MEARS (Photo courtesy of the Ouray Historical Society)
CHIEF OURAY AND OTTO MEARS (Photo courtesy of the Ouray Historical Society)


There are only a few more days to take in the Otto Mears exhibit at the Ouray Historical Museum before it closes until mid-August. The exhibit space will soon be taken up by the Museum’s eighth annual juried photography show. Mears is well known in this region, having built 450 miles’ worth of railroads and toll roads that earned him the nickname Pathfinder of the San Juans. Two of Mears’ achievements are the Million Dollar Highway over Red Mountain Pass, from Ouray to Silverton, and the railroad route from Ridgway across Dallas Divide, over Lizard Head Pass, and down into Durango. There was a time when no one could come or go from the town of Ouray without paying Mears a toll. But he did more than construct paths for trains and (eventually) cars. “The one word I’d use to describe him is, ‘amazing,’” says Ouray County Historical Society Vice President Tom Hillhouse. Mears owned hardware stores, mines, and newspapers, was a respected politician, spoke Ute (he was friends with Chief Ouray), and was president of the Mack Trucking Company. Not bad for an orphan who emigrated to the U.S. from Russia at age 11 without a ruble to his name. 

The exhibit relates the story of Mears’ life in words and photos. A few of the pictures are curious, such as those of the elaborate railroad passes Mears bestowed on his best customers between 1888 and 1892, which let them ride for free. The typical railroad pass of that era was on thick stock paper. Mears’ were in buckskin, or silver, or even gold; some were composed of elaborate filigree. Few of these passes have survived, and those that did are highly collectible (they turn up on eBay and other auction sites from time to time; a silver one sold last year for over $12,000). “The Ridgway Railroad Museum and OCH would each love to have one of these,” Hillhouse said. “We don’t.” Mears was married for over 50 years and had two daughters. In retirement, he and his wife, Mary Kampfshulte, relocated beneath the more-benign peaks of the San Gabriel Mountains in Southern California. But he did return to the San Juans one last time: Upon his death, at his request, his ashes were strewn over Engineer Mountain. 


This evening at 6 p.m., the latest film from sharp-eyed satirist Todd Solondz (Welcome to the Dollhouse) screens at the Palm. Dark Horse concerns a chubby, misfit thirtysomething named Abe, who still lives with his parents, and his courtship of Miranda, a listless, overmedicated young woman who lives with her parents. Sound like fun? That’s a Todd Solondz movie. Which means, writes critic A.O. Scott in The New York Times, “that Abe is neither a sweet Apatovian schlub nor a stoner saint like the title character in Mark and Jay Dusplass’s Jeff, Who Lives at Home. He is, instead, an emblem of loneliness and failure, whose cocoon is carefully dismantled by the sharp, remorseless tweezers of Mr. Solondz’s sensibility.” This quirky film is a natural for local audiences, says the Palm’s Kathy Jepson. “We have a devoted and passionate group here in Telluride,” she points out, many of whom are Solondz fans and appreciate his edge. In the case of Dark Horse, however, audiences may be in for a surprise: it seems the director’s point-of-view, so often searing, may have softened ever so slightly. Solondz “surveys the human geography of his native suburbia with what looks like unbridled disgust but is actually an unquenchable and steadfast love,” Scott writes. “Dark Horse may be his warmest, most generous movie, but it also casts a beam of empathy backward, illuminating the baffled, benighted, icky souls who have populated Mr. Solondz’s universe from the start.” On Friday at 6 p.m., the Palm will screen Quill, a critically-acclaimed film by Japanese director Yoichi Sai, based on a true story of a gentle guide dog assigned to assist a cranky, reluctant advocate for the blind who has never deigned to use an assistance animal himself.  Dog and man eventually become inseparable. The screening is to benefit Ridgway’s Second Chance Humane Society and the Wags and Menace medical fund, two charities that do a lot of collective good for local pets. 


When Grand Junction cellist Tyme Mientka passed away in March, his family was determined to keep doing what they had always done: making music together. Tyme Mientka and his wife, Katherine, a pianist, had toured Europe as musicians for years before relocating to the Western Slope to raise a family. Together, they, their offspring and their musical guests have brought over 200 concerts, both chamber music and as the Celtic band Feast, to Grand Junction, Paonia and Montrose since 1999. Now they need funding to be able to keep doing it. The family’s goal is to hold 15 concerts later this year, and they are hoping to raise $24,000 in order to make that happen. “We’re almost there,” Stephanie Mientka says. She plays viola; her mother, Katherine, plays piano; and her brother, Gabe, plays cello. They’ve assembled a series of five concerts, beginning in October with the Brahms String Quartet and the Schumann Quartet. A concert with Feast will be held in January; the series ends with a solo piano performance from Kathryn Mientka next May. “She can’t really replace what she had with my Dad – the musicianship and artistry that came from being part of a team.  But she wants to continue the legacy. To me, that’s very brave,” Stephanie Mientka says. As for her own inspiration, “Essentially, I just want to perform. I especially love bringing classical music to the Western Slope, because people don’t really get that here. It’s definitely misunderstood. Classical isn’t hoity-toity – it’s music for the people. And our highest goal as performers is to please the audience.” The pledge drive runs until the end of this month. To make a pledge online, listen to the Mientkas’ music and learn about their new program, visit http://junctionconcerts.com. You can also pledge by emailing cellopiano@juno.com or by calling 970/241-0741.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet