Thursday, August 7, 2008
There has been a lot of activity over the past few days. The brothers McMains and Cousin Robert, after a week of spectacular hikes decided to take the waters at Radium Hot Springs, a few hours south of Golden. The trip was a bust, the town had turned the springs into concrete pools that had all the charm of middle-school summer camp, radium or not. As much as irradiating the young appeals to me, we were about to see the downside of living around radioactive water.
We stopped at a local (it sounds much nicer than wild-assed eccentric) woodcarver’s house/shop. It had the creepy, down-the-rabbit-hole feel that is only rivaled by the Jerry Lee Lewis Family House, Museum and Drive-Through Liquor Store in Ferriday, Louisiana. A real carnival freak show. Rolf, the proprietor/inhabitant, sculpts bearded and pipe-puffing faces out of gnarled juniper stumps.
Where the Lewis Family Museum has neck high piles of bottles wrapped in Christmas tinsel, Rolf has goats. Rolf’s goats paced the stockade like compound on an elevated walkway that circles the whole property. A black teddy and various pieces of women’s underwear flew high above the split wood palisades like signal flags in some sort of kinky semaphore and a rusting ski-gondola dangled over head.
The walls were lined with doors, clearly leading to nowhere and all bearing cryptic messages like “No two or four legged dogs.” A low, piñon fire smoked under something that might have been an oil drum or an artillery shell from the Spanish Civil War. An unhinged mind was at play in a garden of its own creation.
It was at this moment that Robert, somewhat unnerved, asked if any of us had seen The Wicker Man. “You know, the original British version?” “Because” he continued, under his breath, “this feels like that movie and I think we should leave, like right now.”
Robert edged toward the exit and from under the shadow of the now somewhat menacing gondola. My brothers and I only had a few seconds to look around at each other before small, high-pressure water jets rose up out of the bark covered ground and trapped us in a dousing crossfire. I made a run for it, precious camera held above my head, but I still got a good soaking. Daniel and Cooper took a little longer to decide what to do and ended up wetter for it. I should mention that we discovered the purpose of the doors along the walls. They did not lead outside, like doors should. When you turned the knob or pulled them open, explosions of water leapt out of dark and previously innocent looking corners, dowsing you. Rolf fancied himself a joker. The four men standing before him in wet jeans were less sure.
It probably does not need to be said that we chose not to buy any of Rolf’s artwork. We had had quite enough of Rolf. Rolf was lucky to avoid violence. Not that we are a tough and brawling family but he was outnumbered and wearing a pink, taffeta cape that would have made fighting back difficult.
Wet, feeling a little abused and with a two-hour drive ahead of us, we headed to our car and out of Radium Hot Springs. I stopped to take a final picture of Rolf’s compound and was rewarded with a parting soak from a water cannon high in his lunatic battlements. I should have known.
The town will not be getting many stars in the family guidebook. But, for raw comedy, it stands apart. The next morning Robert flew back to New York and the day after that Cooper returned to Chicago. It was back down to the original traveling band: Daniel, Dad and Me.
I am holding back on you all. The days since Radium Hot Springs and Golden, British Columbia have brimmed with all manner of sights: deep, sandstone canyons, salt fields like burning ice, Hell’s Angels, petraglyphs, tiki bars, modern art and other wonders. All that will have to wait for further emails. Right now, we are headed to Albuquerque, today is Daniel’s birthday and it is just too pretty outside my window to spend all morning typing.