Best known for its wonderful and diverse scenery, encompassing most of the southern Rocky Mountains in the U.S.A., Colorado is simply put, colorful. The word “Colorado” is derived from the Spanish word for “colored red”. For many years Colorado vehicle license plates said “Colorful Colorado”. A little more than half the state in the west, is occupied by the Rocky Mountains and the “front range”, and the western edge of the Great Plains in eastern Colorado contain vast farm and ranch lands. We can’t ignore the fact that there are also deserts with huge sand dunes, high plains, deep canyons, deciduous forests and buttes to delight in.
The state has been a territory of the U.S. Since 1861 (after multiple disputes over a period of years, involving Spain, France, Mexico, the U.S., and other interests), and in 1876 President U.S. Grant signed the proclamation admitting Colorado to the Union as the 38th state. It is nicknamed The Centennial State, commemorating 100 years since the signing of the United States Declaration of Independence. The area has been inhabited by Native Americans for over 13,000 years. The 2020 United States Census listed the population as 5,773,714 people engaged in a wide array of activities such as agriculture, ranching, mining, forestry, manufacturing, government and defense, and tourism. Unfortunately, Climate Change is having an adverse affect on some of these activities. It is just slightly southwest of the center of the U.S.
The metropolitan area of the capital, Denver, known as “the Mile High City”, just east of the front range, contains about 85% of the population of the state. It was built very near sites of the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indian tribes’ seasonal encampments. The Ute Indians to the south also (as one might expect) suffered at the hands of those looking for wealth in Colorado. The infamous Sand Creek Massacre occurred in 1864 about 170 miles S.E. of Denver where the murdering militia was based. Mining was one of the drivers of early Denver history as well as other usual frontier town activities such as gambling, saloons, livestock trading, agriculture, and other commercial activities to support a large population. Denver also aspired to become a transportation hub. On June 24, 1870 the citizens cheered the completion of the Denver Pacific Railroad link to the first transcontinental railroad of the U.S.A. routed through Cheyenne Wyoming. Denver was finally linked to the rest of the nation and this was the beginning of a period of economic prosperity (and notoriety, as explained in my referenced Wikipedia articles). As such, Denver and Colorado attracted a wide variety of ethnic immigrants and people moving to the area with quite different ambitions: military, some religious, and some predatory. Denver is now a very cosmopolitan city (not a complement or a criticism, just a fact).
One especially good thing happened in Colorado on November 7, 1893. Colorado became the second state to grant universal suffrage to women, and the first to do so by majority vote of the men of the state. Colorado was the first western state to host a large political convention- when the Democrats held their convention in Denver in 1908. The Great Depression was very hard on Colorado, but following World War II a major immigration wave helped to stimulate the tourism industry and high technology became an important part of the state’s economy. This author benefited from the technology stimulus when working at several small electronics firms and at Ball Aerospace in Boulder (six years) from approximately 1978 to 1992.
Another notable aspect of Colorado’s history was the Chicano Movement, a civil rights and social movement that began in Denver in 1969 and promoted the well being of Mexican Americans (Chicanos). From the 1940’s through the 1970’s, several other movements were supported in Colorado and in 1967 Colorado was the first state to loosen restrictions on abortion in cases of rape, incest or threats to a woman’s mental or physical health.
Politics aside (and included), my family and I enjoyed our last 27 years in Colorado, at 9000’ on a steep acre and a third, with literally hundreds of Pine trees and about 30 Aspen trees partially encircling our house. Fall was absolutely perfect with the yellows and oranges. We had four or five tall (75’) Blue Spruce trees on one side and many wildflowers, including gorgeous Columbine in our “yard”. We had a view of very tall (12,000-14,000’) mountains to the west and the sunsets were nothing short of spectacular.
We moved to Arizona in 2004, about a year and a half after seven FEET of snow fell in less than five days. I was on the roof, shoveling (some neighbor’s roofs caved in), when I decided I didn’t need the ladder to get down. That was no problem at all but for the fact that on landing, I got stuck. It took me a few minutes to get unstuck and my 17 year old son a few minutes to create a path over to me. After five days of shoveling a path to the driveway and from there to the road, the snowplow left about an eight foot wall of compacted snow for us to deal with. From that point to the nearest grocery store in Nederland, the road was one lane for ten miles, with several turnouts for passing. Thank goodness I had enough beer to last for that five days, and enough firewood, food, and the electric service miraculously continued. Old age convinced my wife and I to move, but we DO miss that beautiful place in the Colorado mountains. I also miss the absolute thrill of skiing in those mountains. In my youth I would say skiing is the next best thing to sex.
The final chorus to Rocky Mountain High by John Denver: “And the Colorado Rocky Mountain High I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky Though he’d be a poorer man if he never saw eagles fly Rocky Mountain High”