Books are the Christmas gift that keeps on giving. Here’s a list of books about the West, most written by Colorado authors.
“Weld County,” by John Fielder and Peggy Ford Waldo (John Fielder Publishing)
John Fielder is best known for his mountain photographs. In “Weld County” he turns to the plains, and shows there is beauty in great vistas and dryland vegetation. Photographs range from wildlife to farms to communities. There are shots of lonely deserted buildings and the Greeley Stampede. Most stunning of all: the Pawnee Buttes. The text is by Peggy Ford Waldo, who died in April.
“Boom and Bust Colorado,” by Thomas J. Noel and William J. Hansen (TwoDot)
Not all the Christmas offerings are light-hearted. Thomas J. Noel and William J. Hansen take a look at Colorado history through the state’s boom and bust cycles. The first was the gold rush. Then came the silver rush, which crashed when the federal government embraced the gold standard and stopped supporting silver. The ups and downs in the economy continued until the present day with what the authors call the COVID Bust, “the sharpest and swiftest economic crash in (Colorado’s) history.”
“Becoming Colorado,” by William Wei (University Press of Colorado)
William Wei tells the history of 100 Colorado artifacts, ranging from a Folsom spear point to Crocs. Each artifact is accompanied by a lengthy description of the item and its place in Colorado history. Included are the guns belonging to 1860s serial killers the Espinosa brothers; President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s “Ike” jacket; Baby Doe’s dresser; the 1861 flag of the First Regiment of Colorado Volunteers; and a Colorado leather license plate No. 2.
“Colorado Curiosities,” by Cindy Brick (History Press)
Colorado is filled with wacky stories, and Cindy Brick tells dozens of them in this book. There’s Rattlesnake Kate, who killed 140 rattlesnakes with a No Hunting sign, then turned some of the skins into a dress. Other oddities include the day in 1905 that Colorado had three different governors. She writes about alleged ghosts at Gaetano’s restaurant, favored by Denver’s “old Mafia.” And what happened to Tom’s Baby, the largest gold nugget ever found in Colorado?
“The Mike File,” by Stephen Trimble (Little Bound Books)
In 1976, The Denver Post ran a story about a disabled man who died all alone in a squalid Capitol Hill “personal care” facility. The man, who had been dead for two days, was the older half-brother of author Stephen Trimble.
Mike was the result of a short, violent marriage. His mother later married a loving man who considered Mike his own son. Both parents tried to deal with Mike’s disabilities, diagnosed as “retardation,” epilepsy and various other mental illnesses. Mike was in and out of institutions and finally turned his back on his family and lived on the streets.
Stephen tells Mike’s story against a background of the treatment of the mentally ill and his family’s attempts to give the boy a decent life. Most heartbreaking is Stephen’s realization of the loneliness and sense of abandonment his brother must have felt.
“William O. Collins,” by Brian Carroll (Old Army Press)
Fort Collins was named for Lt. Colonel William O. Collins and Casper, Wyo., for his son, whose name was actually spelled Caspar. Both men served in the Army at Fort Laramie during the Civil War. This biography of the Collins family goes back to Revolutionary War days.
“Treasures of the Mexican Table,” by Pati Jinich (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Award-winning chef Pati Jinich compiles a book of Mexican specialties to tempt tastebuds away from traditional Christmas ham and fruitcake. She’s collected the recipes from Mayan huts to big-city markets, and tested them all in her home kitchen. There are little-known recipes as well as a fresh take on tacos and burritos, all dishes gorgeously illustrated.
“Powder Days,” by Heather Hansman (Hanover Square Press)
Ski bumming has been around since the first day of skiing. Ski enthusiasts, many of them college graduates, flock to ski areas, taking two or three low-paying jobs and sleeping in cheap housing, just to spend their time off on the slopes.
Author Heather Hansman was one of them 20 years ago. Now she returns to Aspen, Jackson Hole and other top-rated resorts to revisit her earlier years. Not much has changed, except that jobs pay even less, making it hard for the areas to find employees, and low-cost housing is hard to find. In addition to skiing and connecting with old friends, Hansman writes about the gap between rich and poor that’s made it harder than ever to live as a ski bum.
“The Healing of Natalie Curtis,” by Jane Kirkpatrick (Revell)
“The Healing of Natalie Curtis,” based on a true story, tells of an invalid who goes West with her brother to regain her health. A classical pianist, Curtis is entranced by Indian songs and melodies. Such music is forbidden by government policy, whose goal is to “kill the Indian, save the man.” With family contacts in high places, Curtis is determined to change the Code of Offenses law as well as to record Native American music before it is lost.
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