Back in the saddle, again

It’s been nine months since I rode my horse, due to foot surgery and complications related to the surgery. But Sunday was my 65th birthday, and it seemed like an opportune time to get back to work with Moose.ride

So, with the help of my good friend, Cricket Donoho, Moose was lunged and I was able to mount up. It went great, except for one brief stumble by Moose when I thought I might go off.

However, my foot is not entirely healed yet, and it’s important that pressure be distributed across my whole foot, and not just right under the arch, where the surgery was done. So I drew a rough design of a protective stirrup, and my friend and farrier, Brian Crandall, constructed it. There are still a few tweaks we need to do, but basically, it worked just fine. There are no vertical bars on the inside of the stirrup, so I can get my foot out quickly if I need to. But it stays in the stirrup well for basic riding.stirrup 1

Tartar: An Incredible War Horse

Just read this amazing story about Tartar, a U.S. Army horse that served in the Army expedition against the Mormons in Utah, and later in the Civil War. He was repeatedly injured, given up for dead several times, including on the plains of Wyoming one freezing winter. But always, he found his way back to the Army and to Sgt. James Stewart.

Flint & horseThere aren’t any photos of Tartar that I could find. This is of another Civil War horse named Flint. But it shows how Tartar would have been outfitted, minus the flowing tail in his later career. Click on the link below to read the full story.

Tartar the War Horse

A book in the works

The History Press of Charleston, South Carolina, is going to publish a book based on my history columns for The Daily Sentinel. I signed a contract with the company this month.

The book will focus on columns dealing withCarnegie horses1 historic travel in the Colorado Plateau region, such as these horse-drawn wagons confronting a newfangled automobile near Vernal, Utah.

I’m very excited. Now I just have to complete the necessary rewrites and get all the photos and maps I need.

The anticipated release date for the book is February, 2018.

Finally, a plan for Dominguez-Escalante

Earlier this month, the Bureau of Land Management gave final approval to the management plan for the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area Management Plan. It’s a dnlcs-2ocument that’s been in the works since the NCA was established by Congress in 2009. A citizens advisory group and many representatives of different user groups worked for years with the BLM to develop the plan. So, thanks to everyone involved.

This is a photo of my buddy, Alan, and me on our horses in Dominguez Canyon. The photo was used on the cover of a BLM brochure a few years ago.

And here’s a link to the Colorado Canyons Association website, which works with BLM on Dominguez-Escalante and two other NCAs in western Colorado. I’m a member of the CCA board.

CCA info on Dominguez-Escalante plan



Happy New Year

Hi everyone, and welcome to 2017. It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. I had foot surgery in October, and haven’t done enough to warrant writing about it. But, it’s the new year, I’m still on crutches for a few more weeks, so it’s time to move forward.

bearded-menJust to show I haven’t entirely been sitting on my butt, here’s my history column that was published in The Daily Sentinel today. This day, by the way, is the 240th anniversary of the end of the famous Dominguez-Escalante expedition. This drawing is a close-up from one of the maps of the expedition.


In addition to writing, I’ve been spending a lot of time — too much, in fact — watching college bowl games and NFL football. Glad to see the Packers won this weekend, as did the Badgers, although the rest of the Big 10 hasn’t been doing too well. And sad news about the Denver Broncos coach Gary Kubiak stepping down for health reasons. He’s good guy.

But as for my watching too much, I think if I see another Chick-fillet ad with those cows telling people to eat more chickn, I’m going to go butcher a few Holsteins, just for spite. I grew up around Holsteins. Even spent a couple summers on a farm helping to milk and feed them. But those ads are annoying as hell. Plus, I like beef much better than chicken.


Century Ride

Alice2It was great to meet eighty-eight-year-old Alice Hoffner this weekend and talk to her about her Century Ride Sunday at the Grand Valley Dressage Society Fall Show.

She’s an inspiration to all of us who are getting a bit older, but still trying to stay in the saddle.

To be eligible for a Century Ride, the combined age of the horse and rider must be over 100. The horse Alice rode Sunday is 16.

I caught up with Alice after her ride, and below is a link to the podcast I did with her.

century ride podcast







Making noise about Driggs

I’m attempting something different here, at least for me. I’m trying to incorporate some audio into my post. It’s a little clunky for now, but I hope I’ll get better with time.

You have to click on this link to hear the audio:

Noise about Driggs

Here is the column I wrote about Driggs in 2013:

As darkness gathered
one October evening
in 1920, Arnold Adair swept up Unaweep Canyon
in his biplane, then climbed above the canyon walls and soared over the treetops in the nearby national forest. When he spotted the small forest fire, he banked low over the blaze and dropped chemical bombs to extinguish the flames along its leading edge.

021513 the first draft driggs
Laurence La Tourette Driggs, right, author and builder of the Driggs Mansion, with his son, Laurence La Tourette Driggs Jr., left, and grandson Laurence La Tourette Driggs III in a photo from 1938.

Adair hadn’t put out the fire, but he had demonstrated to his forest-ranger passenger that “aero planes” could be used
to quickly spot and limit the spread of wildfires.

Arnold Adair and his high-flying firefighting were fiction. They burst from the imagination of a man who knew both Unaweep Canyon and early aviation: Laurence La Tourette Driggs.

Driggs was way ahead of his time. The first actual use of an airplane to fight fires by the U.S. Forest Service was in 1930, when a wooden beer keg full of water was dropped on a blaze. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the Forest Service used airplanes to drop chemical retardants on fires, according to the Forest Service website.

Driggs’ name is recognized in western Colorado as the man who built the Driggs Mansion. The Daily Sentinel has published several articles recently about the efforts to stabilize the remains of that mansion, which lie just off Colorado Highway 141 some 18 miles east of Gateway.

When Driggs and his family began work on their home, probably in 1914, it was in an extremely isolated part of the West. But Driggs was hardly a recluse.

He was born in 1876 in Saginaw, Mich., grew up in Oregon and became a lawyer in New York. He married Mary Ogden in 1904, and the couple later had two sons. Driggs became a deputy attorney general for the state of New York in 1909.

Driggs’ life changed in 1913, when he learned to fly. He soon became an outspoken advocate for aviation and one of America’s leading authors on the subject.

It’s not clear what piqued the family’s interest in western Colorado, but by 1915, Laurence and Mary had moved their family here, son Ogden recalled.

In 1916, Driggs acquired the mining rights for the Mayflower copper mine in Unaweep Canyon. Through the Desert Land Act, he obtained legal title to 160 acres near Mayflower Gulch in 1917, and another 159 acres the following year. He began work to acquire title to the land several years earlier.

In 1914 or 1915, Driggs hired the Grasso family, Italian stonemasons from Grand Junction, to build a home, the sandstone structure we now know as Driggs Mansion.

But Driggs was gone during much of that process. He and Mary were in Europe, where Laurence observed and wrote about air battles in World War I, becoming one of the premier authors on aerial combat.

He met air aces like U.S pilot Eddie Rickenbacker, with whom he cowrote a book on heroes of the air war.

He accompanied Britain’s Royal Air Force to the front. Later, he joined the Royal Air Force Flying Club, a model for the American Flying Club that Driggs organized in 1918.

Before the war ended, he conjured up the character of Arnold Adair, “American Ace.” Adair would appear in four novels from 1918 to 1930. He also would be the lead character in short stories such as “Fighting Forest Fires From the Air,” published in Outlook magazine in January 1921.

Driggs enthusiastically promoted and explained aviation to the American public, discussing issues such as military airplanes, and using aircraft to assist commercial fishing.

He also lamented in print the fact the United States wasn’t rapidly developing a commercial air industry. He touted the safety of flying, gave regular talks about aviation, and garnered publicity with events such as taking the founder of the Girl Scouts, then 70-year-old Juliette Lows, for a ride in his biplane.

Throughout the 1920s, he and Mary were active members
of the East Coast elite, getting frequent mention in both society columns and news articles. Perhaps that’s why they lost interest in western Colorado. They sold their mansion and property to George E. Turpin in December 1923. Driggs died in 1945 while living in Maryland.

He left behind an iconic structure in Unaweep Canyon. But his larger legacy is the U.S. aviation industry. He was an early investor, through Colonial Western Airways, a predecessor to American Airlines. More importantly, he was a tireless advocate and booster for aviation — with the daring assistance of Arnold Adair.

Information for this column came from the Museums of Western Colorado, from books and articles written by Laurence Driggs, and from newspaper archives.

The cover of one of Driggs' novels featuring Arnold Adair.
The cover of one of Driggs’ novels featuring Arnold Adair.

Baxter Pass adventure

Spent Friday with my good friend, Mike Perry, searching for the remains of a 1909 train wreck just off Baxter Pass near the Utah border. Mike had been to the site about 25 years ago, and was able to find it again. Not much left but a big chunk of steel that is believed to be part of the locomotive’s boiler, atrain1Baxter1nd some odds-and-ends pieces.

The Baxter Pass road is built on the old Uintah Railway grade, which operated from 1904 until the 1930s. This particular train went over the cliff during a snowstorm in February, 1909. I’m standing near the point where the train went off the tracks.

A great day with a good buddy.