Philly writer slathers cream cheese a bit thick in Western Slope article

Western Coloradans are snickering a bit about the description of the sometimes Wild, sometimes Mild, West that appeared in the pages of a Philadelphia arts publication.

Some western Colorado transplants now living in the Philadelphia area were thrilled to see Colorado National Monument get some Brotherly Love.

Thom Nickels wrote in the “The Broad Street Review” of his visit to western Colorado, asking, “Where have all the hippies gone? A journey to the New West.”

“Funny stuff,” was Terri Chappell’s reaction to Nickels’ recounting of his visit to western Colorado.

Chappell, a former television reporter now working on park status for the monument, wasn’t on Nickels’ trip.

Nickels’ first stop on his visit to Grand Junction was “Colorado National Monument Park, where my guide, who is also a local TV celebrity, has planned a picnic breakfast for me.”

Bad idea, Nickels learned.

“I know about the gnats,” Chappell said. “Who on earth would take a picnic to the monument?”

“You can be certain it wasn’t me because he would have written about an annoying woman going on endlessly about an effort to make the NM a national park,” Chappell wrote.

Not even the gnats, however, could take the sheen off the monument for Nickels, who called his drive up Rimrock Drive a “momentous climb” on “a treacherous mountain road where one careless move means going off a cliff.”

The payoff was a ride through lands that conjured “a theme park by Jacques Lipchitz or Giacometti. The jaw-dropping scenery keeps getting better and better.”

Lipchitz was a Cubist sculptor and Alberto Giacometti a Surrealist who was inspired by Etruscan art.

Once atop the monument, Nickels wrote, he was floored.

“Later, as we head off toward the first lookout, a cliff precipice with a Grand Canyon sweep, I encounter one of those ‘Oh God’ moments that demand nothing less than a full prostration before the grandeur of it all.”

Seeing references to the monument in a Philadelphia 
publication “kind of tickled me,” said Daniel Webster, a Grand Junction High School graduate who was for 35 years the music critic for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Now a Delaware resident, Webster said Nickels’ description of turbulence aboard the plane “struck a chord.”

The photo of the monument, though, “reminded me of all the things I did as a kid,” Webster said.

Nickels’ discovery that Montrose was a den of iniquity, however, was one Webster said he had to wonder about.

Nickels found “the infamous trapdoor inside the men’s room in the old Montrose train station.

Discretion sometimes, is everything, even in the Old West, where men with reputations to protect would enter the men’s room, but rather than flush and exit, they’d open the trapdoor and descend into a tunnel that took them to a whorehouse not far away.”

Yes, said Richard Fike, founder of the Museum of the Mountain West, Nickels’ description of the men’s room in the depot built in 1912 is accurate.

It might be that Nickels slathered on the cream cheese for a Philly audience, said Richard Brown of Delta, who sat for 22 years on the district bench hearing criminal cases for Montrose and Delta counties in the 7th Judicial District.

“I never heard of anything like that but it wouldn’t surprise me,” Brown said.

“I know that towns do elaborate on some things. They take little facts and make them into big deals.”

Montrose had nothing on Grand Junction, said Webster, whose recollections sparked by the story included one as a young newspaper carrier of collecting for The Daily Sentinel from the house of ill repute on Fourth Street.

“They were always very decorous,” Webster said of his visits. “Of course I hadn’t the slightest idea what it was all about. I never asked who was reading the paper.”

Nickels wrote also of Mennonites, Hotchkiss, hippies, wine, coyotes and pit bulls as he rounded out his account of western Colorado.

If Nickels’ search of the Old West demonstrates anything, said Martha Hitchins, another Grand Junction High graduate who lives and works in Philadelphia, it’s that western Colorado is full of “warm, friendly people and jaded Easterners appreciate them. That was very touching.”

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