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Friday, November 21, 2008

An Interesting Contrast in the Local News Today

Lance Hering, a Marine on leave from Iraq went missing two years ago up in Eldorado Canyon. His friend said he had fallen while they were rock climbing and been knocked unconscious. When the rescuers returned, Hering was gone. The authorities and volunteers searched the area for five days, until it was revealed that Hering had just split.

There was surveillance footage of him getting on a Greyhound bus, and then he was gone. The friend was arrested, and Hering disappeared. Turns out, he went up to Washington, changed his name to "Nine," and worked on a tree farm for a few months. He grew his hair out and started a hippie beard. But he was in deep shit, and he knew it. The Marines wanted him for going AWOL, the state wanted him for false reporting and wasting five days of rescue efforts.

Now he's going to be spending the new few months in court and the new few years in jail.

And then there's Sgt. Jon Stiles of the Colorado National Guard. Lived down in Highlands Ranch, a nice part of town. Was married for eight years to his wife Launa. He served in the honor guard, presenting families with the traditional flag. Had been in Afghanistan since March, was wounded in an explosion, but came back for more anyway. He was killed a week ago and buried today at Fort Logan National Cemetary.

Two soldiers, two very different stories.

Lucky Man

As we drove back into the city last weekend, the radio was tuned to a country station that played Montgomery Gentry's song "Lucky Man." The first verse hooked me instantly:
I have days where I hate my job
This little town and the whole world too
Last Sunday when my Broncos lost
Lord it put me in a bad mood
Just based on that, this song had the potential to be one of my favorite country tunes. But there's more. The whole song is like a delicious enchilada, full of all kinds of cheesy goodness.
But I know I'm a lucky man
God's given me a pretty fair hand
Got a house and a piece of land
A few dollars in a coffee can
My old trucks still running good
My ticker's ticking like they say it should
I got supper in the oven, a good woman's loving
And one more day to be my little kid's dad
Lord, knows I'm a lucky man
I've never been accused of being a "glass is half full" dude, but I liked that.

But then I did a little digging into the song. The actual lyric mentioning the Broncos really refers to the Bengals, and the group (because Montgomery Gentry is really two guys) made something like eighty versions for all the different markets. Dallas got "when my Cowboys lost," Green Bay got "when my Packers lost."

I'm not so sure I like that. It's clever marketing, sure, but I feel a bit suckered. You mean you're not really Bronco fans?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Chaco Canyon 2: This Time For Real


The true account is here: The Trip

The Sites:
Una Vida
Hungo Pavi
Pueblo Bonito: Part 1, Part 2
Chetro Ketl
Casa Rinconada

A look back at the Mesa Verde expedition.

The Trip


We stayed in a KOA Kozy Kabin outside Bernalillo, New Mexico, about three hours away from Chaco Canyon. It's kind of like camping, but with cable TV and electricity and, you know, a bed. And a free pancake breakfast.
As documented in The Chaco Incident, the dirt road to Chaco is a mess. Rough? Yes. Rocky? You betcha. Washboarded out? Definitely.It is also quite remote.But we made it this time.And now we don't ever have to do it again.

One last thing. Not too far south from Chaco is Cuba, New Mexico and a little restaurant called El Bruno's. If for some reason you're just passing through or feel the need, stop by. The food is excellent.(This is the door to El Bruno's.)

Casa Rinconada


From the guidebook:
The Chacoans constructed the Casa Rinconada great kiva atop a natural hillside, within a large community of small villages. The imposing public architecture of the great kiva dominated the view from the villages. Across the canyon, Pueblo Bonito, Chetro Ketl, Pueblo Del Arroyo, and Pueblo Alto formed the core area of Chaco.
It's the largest excavated kiva in Chaco Canyon and can be seen in this Carl Sagan video.

Chetro Ketl


From the guidebook:
Chetro Ketl is a Chacoan great house. As is the case with most other great houses in the canyon, its original construction was modest. Beginning with a single-story room block around A.D. 1010, it grew to become a monumental structure that covered almost 3 acres by the early 1100s. The overall ground plan of Chetro Ketl is a D shape, with the front wall of the plaza forming the arc of the D. There are an estimated 500 rooms in the site - approximately 225 ground-floor rooms, and 275 second-and-third-floor rooms.
Aside from being one of the largest sites in Chaco Canyon, Chetro Ketl has some unique features. There's a colonnade along the wall, reminiscent of Mexican architecture, that was later filled in.The Chaco Handbook says:
Two great kivas were situated in the large open plaza, and a tower kiva was constructed near the middle of the central room block. Excellent examples of stone discs found in great kiva seating pits can be seen in the excavated great kiva. The smaller great kiva was backfilled with soil following excavation, and its location is not readily apparent today.
Here's the tower kiva, visible from the back of the ruin.The back wall. The horizontal slit along the second floor indicates where a second floor balcony once stood.The beams that once lay in these holes are gone, but the holes remain, a testament to the Chaco masons.Some ruins just next to Chetro Ketl called the Talus Unit, a separate dwelling but probably integrated with the Chetro Ketl community.Anasazi rock art.

Pueblo Bonito Part 2

Going inside.These doorways are actually quite small. I had to crouch and hunch my shoulders in just to get through them.There are no roofs in these rooms anymore, but look: they left a metate! (A metate is a stone the Chacoans used to grind corn. The wear on this one indicates it saw a lot of corn in its day.)The southeast rooms on the second floor have these corner windows. The guidebook says there are only seven of them at Pueblo Bonito and that they were later additions. One of them (not this one) was probably used as an astronomical marker of some sort.The rooms seem to go on forever, all of them connected by these meticulously constructed doorways. One of the T-shaped doors common to Anasazi architecture.

Pueblo Bonito Part 1

From The Chaco Handbook:
The best known of all Chacoan great houses, located at the center of Downtown Chaco, less than half a mile away from Pueblo Alto, Chetro Ketl, Pueblo del Arroyo, Kin Kletso, and Casa Rinconada. Though it covers somewhat less ground than Chetro Ketl, this D-shaped great house is the largest of all Chacoan great houses with almost 700 rooms, 32 kivas, and 3 great kivas.
Here's a cluster of kivas seen from atop the boulders that once made up Threatening Rock, a rock formation that fell in 1941 and destroyed the northeast side of Pueblo Bonito.This is the interior of the back wall. Rows of tiered buildings would have curved along here, accessible only by ladder.This section of wall is at least four stories.Here's an area with a couple of very deep kivas. These are much larger than any we saw at Mesa Verde and at Chaco, they're all over the place.Here's my brother and nephew resting on a bench. This picture also gives you a sense of scale about the place. It was massive.This is the interior of one of Pueblo Bonito's great kivas. The stone pillar in the middle is probably the fire pit, while the ones on the sides are "raised floor vaults," whatever those are.Here's a view of the plaza and the rows of buildings surrounding it.

Hungo Pavi

From the brochure:
Hungo Pavi is one of the few Chacoan buildings to remain unexcavated and undisturbed. When the Chacoans migrated away in the A.D. 1200s, forces of nature slowly collapsed the roofs and upper walls. Centuries of windblown sand covered the building and native grasses and shrubs grew on top, leaving the upper walls protruding from the mounded site to indicate its former glory.
This wall is a testament to that former glory.
Here's another view.
Hungo Pavi probably had 150 rooms and only two kivas, one of them a great kiva you can't even really see.
Detail of the stonework.
It's been reinforced with concrete since, but you can see how intricately shaped the stones were. It wasn't for beauty, as all this would have been covered in mud plaster, but its strength has lasted a thousand years.Fajada Butte in the distance.

Una Vida

The first site we visited at Chaco Canyon was the also one of the earliest. Una Vida, a partially excavated and fully backfilled ruin located a few hundred yards from the visitors center, was a D-shaped "Great House" located at the confluence of the Chaco Wash (the deep gap in the valley floor shown in the picture below) and the Fajada Wash.
It's hardly visible now, just the occasional ruined wall rising through mounds of earth, but a thousand years ago, it stood 2-3 stories off the desert floor and had over 150 rooms and at least one great kiva.
Check out Fajada Butte in the background.

A good hike takes you up to the canyon wall, where you can see anasazi petroglyphs pecked into the rock face. I can make out a couple deer, a guy holding a shield, a lizard, some kind of bird (a turkey?), and maybe a coyote.
From up here, you get a better view of Una Vida's architecture, most of it covered in earth or already gone.
And we're not too bad looking, either.