A Tinier Dubois, in the World Next Door

Watching the parade and pondering their future.

genoa2The brutal heat was easing as the sun sank. Waiting for the barbecue to be ready, we’d been talking with the couple next to us ­­­­about horses, and about brucellosis in buffalo. I changed the subject.

“So what’s the population of Genoa?” I asked Sue.

“It’s pronounced ge-NO-ah,” she said. Ah yes, like it’s DEW-boys, not du-BWAH. No hifalutin’ European here, either

­­­­”About 275,” she replied. “Or tonight,” she said with a chuckle, “325.” She gestured toward all the RVs tethered to their hookups nearby, one of them being ours.

I felt like I was channeling those folks who turn up in Dubois in high summer, unprepared, hoping for a bed. We had been barreling north toward Denver on that summer Friday, yearning toward home, over a vast flat plain covered with crops and studded with new wind turbines.

It was as I feared: No RV spots available anywhere in the parks that turned up high on the Google searches, well-reviewed.

So we washed up on the sand of this bare, empty lot that has been newly fitted out with water hoses and power outlets, as well as two one-stall toilets. We were a little out of our way, east of Denver.

genoa4The new RV parking lot sits on the site of the former school, whose dated playground equipment remains, on the other side of a dirt lane. Some children were playing merrily on the kind of merry-go-round that has gone out of favor elsewhere, as the adults enjoyed Haden’s barbecue dinner under the metal shelter.

“Yeah, Haden is saving our town,” Sue said. “These folks are so nice! We’re so glad they came.”

And that’s what they are: Nice. Haden, the owner of the park, is much younger than us, extremely laid back and untroubled. He wears a T-shirt that says something like  “Colorado Springs. Rocky Mountain High.” He doesn’t take credit cards for reservations over the phone; just give him your name, and he’ll hold the spot. He comes by later in his golf cart, in person, to collect your fees.

The playground is flanked, predictably, with a ball field and a basketball court. Behind them, Sue’s husband Tom pointed out the shiny huge silos built last year to store the bumper crop of wheat.

The large barn behind, Sue said, is full of marijuana plants.

Sue and her husband Tom used to ranch; now he does drywall and she works for the state. Genoa seems never to have had an industry other than agriculture. But Sue tells me it’s considering a new future, as a bedroom community for distant Denver.

“It’s so much cheaper here,” she told me. “And that’s the problem. I know it may not seem like much to you, but I know a single mother who’s looking for a place to live with her two kids. She used to pay about $350 a month, but now it’s gone up to $700. Crazy. She can’t afford that.”

Haden’s sister-in-law scurried around the tables serving potato salad and bison burgers. She and Haden’s brother came here a few months ago, all the way from Tampa, to help out with the new RV park.

“We were really over living in the city,” she said. “We came out here and saw this and said, Why not? I mean, the kids are grown and they don’t care where we are. It’s so nice here, and quiet.”

genoa3It’s also flat, with not much visible to commend it — except that it’s close enough to what is attractive.

“I guess you know everyone in town,” I said to Sue.

“Oh, sure,” she replied, “and everyone in Hugo and Limon. There’s only 5,000 people in the whole county. We all know each other.”

I asked Tom how often he drives the hour and a half to Denver. “Oh, once in a while, when I need a big box store,” he said. The nearest Walmart is about the same distance away in a different direction.

“Where’s your grocery store?”

“Limon,” he said.

“So what do you have here in Genoa?”

“An RV park!” He chuckled.

A large fifth-wheeler was making a lumbering U-turn at the entrance. There was a murmur at the next table, and a young boy spoke up. “Closed out? What does that mean?”

“That means there’s no place left for them here,” his Dad replied.

genoa1“But where will they go?” the boy asked. I wondered too, having booked the second-last spot here and perhaps in the whole region.

“Crazy,” the father said thoughtfully. “I don’t know where all these people are coming from.”

For an instant, I felt caught up in a surreal otherworld: A transient place where it’s hot as an oven and everyone is in transition—traveling here and there, relocating, retiring, or doing this or that job now and then.

Not long afterward, the large party at the next table stood up to leave. Haden came over to collect their fee and say goodbye. Turned out that the father and son and their family are no more locals than we are.

“You sure you won’t stay another night, on the house?” Haden said. “We’d love to have you.” But they had to keep going.

Haden told me that next year his park will be only for tourists; no more full-timers. “But where will they go?” I ask.

“Doesn’t matter,” he said. “The hi-tech interns will go back to college in September. All those trailers” – he pointed off toward the end of the lot – “those are just the installers for the wind turbines. They’ll be gone in a few months too. Out of sight, out of mind.”

“But it will just be seasonal,” I said.

“That’s right,” he agreed. His eyes twinkled at the prospect. He went on to tell how he plans to plant trees and install showers. Oh, yes. I was only thinking of the mountains; I’d forgotten the huge draw represented by the big new barn behind the grain elevators.

The tables gradually emptied, as people returned to their rigs. I had taken them for townspeople enjoying a warm summer evening in a new picnic shelter. But they were just a group of travelers like us —  the transient third of the populace that comes and goes.

Meanwhile, GeNOa watches the parade and ponders its future. Crazy.

© Lois Wingerson, 2018
You can see new entries of Living Dubois every week if you sign up at the top of the right column at www.livingdubois.com.

Red, White, and Blooms in the Dubois Desert

Explosions of color in what looks like dead landscape.

A few weeks ago, I hosted some visitors from England. We hiked up a long draw in the badlands. They were especially interested in seeing the red rocks up close.


Turning a corner toward a steep ridge, we encountered masses of bright red Indian paintbrush. “You’re very lucky,” I told them. “Usually we only see these much higher in the mountains.”

They took out their phones and snapped away, as did I.

They had been worried about encountering snow in late June, and it was not a foolish concern. The ground underfoot was slippery with mud — an unusual feeling in this desert climate.

Flowers060516Back on June 5, at Sheridan Creek, I had encountered my first harbinger of spring: This tiny white blossom. I don’t know its name.

I found it hiding in the straw-like dead grass. There were no signs of green yet.

It had burst forth only a few feet from some remaining patches of snow.

Recently, I took my cousin and a friend on the same hike I had enjoyed with the visitors from England. The ground was already dry and cracked.

Badlands_062418I couldn’t resist a calling out in pleasure: “The lupines are out!” These lush blue flowers — my favorite of the wild flowers we see every year — had arrived in force, to join the Indian paintbrush.

Could I write about mere flowers on Independence Day? Of course, I realized earlier today: The first flowers I saw during my wanderings this year were red, white, and blue.

I have so many pictures of flowers that I never get around to posting here: Small orange blossoms hidden beneath the sagebrush, purple daisy-like blooms that pop up on the sides of dirt roads, yellow cactus flowers that bloom and are gone in a few days. I can’t resist taking their pictures, because to look from a distance (say, in a passing car) this landscape often appears dead, or at least boring.

We know that many visitors want come to this area hoping to see wildlife, and we do see plenty of it crossing the fields on four legs or swooping across the sky. But this, I remind myself, is another wonderful form of wild life — and one which many passersby will miss.

JadeLakeWildflowers0817_5Soon, if not already, at higher elevations the wildflowers will burst out in explosions of colors, as bright and extravagant as any fireworks we see on this day every year.

A friend told me that it sometimes makes her feel wistful to see these vistas, thinking of others who are no longer fit enough to get up into the mountains to see them. I also feel sad for those who don’t know, or don’t bother.

Seize the day, and always cherish your independence …


© Lois Wingerson, 2018
You can see new entries of Living Dubois every week if you sign up at the top of the right column at www.livingdubois.com.