Beaton by the Potholes

The Managing Editor of your fine newspaper, Joanna Bean, invited me to write a column or two about the old days.   Those days and I are about the same age, you see.

In fact, I knew the Gazette when it was called “The Gazette Telegraph.”  And I knew Colorado Springs when it was called “The Springs” and not “The Potholes.”  I’ve been gone for 42 years, but now I’m back for a spell.

I attended Harrison High School – home of the Panthers — where I was shaken down daily for my lunch money.  I was famous there for being the younger brother of Mark Beaton, a terrific baseball pitcher who dominated the Gazette’s sports page as thoroughly as he dominated opposing batters.  A pitching Panther, was he.  A typical Gazette sports page headline from spring of 1970 was “Beaton Strikes Out 15.”  (Look it up!)

As for me, well, I got cut from the freshman baseball team that year.  If I’d been in the sports page headlines, it would have read something like “Beaton Strikes Out 15 Times.”

But I earned my own glory, of a sort.  I went on to . . . (drum roll) . . . play trombone in the marching band.

The Panther lunch money shakers were not impressed – they continued to shake me down.  (Yes, you know who you are.  And no, I don’t have any cash on me.)

I finally left The Potholes and the Panthers for Boulder.  A college degree eventually bought me a ticket to an airplane factory in Seattle.  There, I was asked to use my so-called skill as a 22 year old engineer, together with an eighth inch of aluminum, to separate innocent passengers from certain death at 34,000 feet.

That job being too challenging and terrifying, I came home to Colorado and became a lawyer.

I learned a joke too:  A mathematician, an engineer and a lawyer were each asked, “What is two plus two?”  The mathematician answered, “Four.  It’s exactly four.”  The engineer answered, “It’s approximately four, give or take, depending on the accuracy of your measurements.”  The lawyer answered, “What do you want it to be?”

For the next 28 years, I made two plus two be what my clients wanted it to be.

When eventually too many of my answers came too close to “four,” I retired to Aspen and began writing a newspaper column for the Aspen Times.  (As a token conservative there, I’m proud to say that I get hate mail.  The mayor even asked me to leave town.)

Back here in my old stomping grounds, I see that The Potholes — and the potholes — are bigger now.  But much is the same.  Poor General Palmer and his horse are still stranded in the middle of Nevada Avenue, surrounded by “Keep Right” signs which the citizens usually follow insofar as automobile traffic is concerned and religiously follow insofar as political issues are concerned.

The Broadmoor is still a world class hotel – better than the best of Aspen.  They haven’t chased me away yet, as they did in the old days, but they do insist that I remove my hat in The Tavern.  I don’t like that rule.  I think a tavern called “The Tavern” should allow hats, and perhaps require them.  And the scallops are excellent, but in a tavern?  Oh well, I suppose that after 97 years the Broadmoor knows what it’s doing.

Even so, it would be priceless to see some of the earthy fellows with Harley’s over in Manitou take a little road trip to The Tavern.  I imagine them driving their choppers right in without opening the door first, laying their pieces on the bar over the carrot cake, demanding a cheeseburger and pitcher of domestic beer – hold the scallops — and daring someone to confiscate their hats while they and their biker babes take over the dance floor.

Speaking of hotels, the only remaining evidence of the old Antlers is the little “A” in the Broadmoor.  Imagine if the grand dame were still there, complete with her bookend bosoms framing Pikes Peak, rather than replaced by concrete buildings that look like they were transplanted whole from suburban Cincinnati.

I like the soldiers and cadets around town.  Nothing strokes my ego like a young man in pressed fatigues holding the door for me with a solemn, “Good morning, sir.”

I’ve learned to respond with, “Good morning, soldier.  Thank you for serving your country.”  And I mean it.

I’m settling into at a wonderful apartment with a view of the hip and recharged downtown.  From my balcony, I can spot soldiers two blocks away. I often rush out so they can hold a door for me.

I love The Potholes.  Well, except for the potholes.

(Published July 13, 2015 in the Colorado Springs Gazette)

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