Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cannibals and Frozen Dead Guys

This is a photo of a saloon in Lake City, Colorado, a town of about 250 people and as far as I can see, there is no lake. That is not Bret Favre in the #4 green jersey but a gentleman by the name of Alfred Packer. In February 1874 Al was commissioned to guide five men from Salt Lake City to an Indian agency. They were lost in a snowstorm and in mid-April our pal Al arrives alone at the destination with somebody else's hunting knife and rifle. Upon interrogation he claimed as each of the men died from exposure and starvation the others would eat his flesh. Al said he only killed one person and that was in self-defense. That summer the bodies were found at the site and each head had been crushed.

Al was arrested and convicted of murder and cannibalism and served jail time. He spent the rest of his life professing his innocence.
The saloon keeper made the comment when he heard of Al's interment, "You man-eating son of a -----! There was seven Democrats in Hinsdale county and you ate five of them."
Coloradoans like their quirky customs and Al was the inspiration for Lake City's Alfred Packer Jeep Tour and Barbecue and the University of Colorado-Boulder's Alfred Packer Grill.

Above the door of the Packer saloon is a plaque, "Like Alfred says, I never met a man I didn't like to eat."
Oh, yeah.

And you know, the People's Republic of Boulder - as the Boulder populace like to be known - are the only Democratic majority in the state. The rest of Colorado is Republican redneck cowboy. The kind that like to spit in the street and eat chicken-fried steak with a bottle of green chilies at their elbow.

Nederland is another owner of a wacky historical character celebration. Now Boulder has been heralded as the all-around hippie town, having discovered marijuana and the Grateful Dead in the 60's but things have changed as you walk through the city. Granted, the hippie influence is still apparent among some boomers and homeless guys but the city is pretty much the domain of young yuppies. You see mostly 30-somethings in their lambs' wool-lined suede vests with matching knee-high boots, fashionably bobbed hair, lattes and large dogs. After a few days you

may notice an absence of older citizens, and not too many children either and the percentage of African-Americans is in the low single digits. Plenty of Hispanic laborers as usual and they tend to reside in Denver. What you do have is a large concentration of domestic responsibility-free bikers and runners, hikers and boarders. They fill the outdoor cafes at night eating their sushi and pasta, swirling glasses of wine and laughing at their own secret jokes. Let have it, I say. So more importantly, where did the hippies go? To "Ned," a tiny little berg nestled in the hills seventeen miles west of Boulder, which means seventeen miles up winding mountain roads. On a frosty September morning there is a dusting of snow on all the cabins nestled up on the hillside and smoke from the wood-burning stoves is creating a marvelous smell. As Steve Knopper has observed, "the people who live here are taking a break from civilization, in a good way." Anyway,
every March the Ned folk celebrate Frozen Dead Guy Days. The dead guy was Bredo Morstoel and he suffered a fatal heart attack in Norway in 1989.

Bredo's nephew, Trygve (pronounce, please) Bauge lived in Boulder and is obsessed with frozen cryonic storage of dead bodies. Illegal in Norway Trygve has his grandfather shipped from Norway to a California cryonics facility and then to a freezer in a shack behind a local house in Nederland in 1993. That's when things got strange, Colorado strange. First the Ned town council decided they didn't want frozen dead guys around and passed a law banning such things on locals' property. But it was after the fact and Bredo was allowed to stay. All this created a lot of international buzz and he was eventually shipped back to Norway. What a great excuse for a festival, thus Frozen Dead Guy Days. There are coffin races, a plunge in an icy lake and Frozen Dead Guy ice cream: blue with gummy worms and crushed Oreo cookies.

And then there's Mike the Headless Chicken Days in Fruita, Colorado. A Wyandotte rooster named Mike was decapitated in 1945 and the story goes that it continued to live 18 months. The explanation was that the ax missed Mike's brain stem and a clot formed to stop the loss of blood. And there will be beer, chicken, drive in car shows and dance contests.
And don't forget Bolder Boulder: a 10K footrace x 3: the early one for elite runners around the world, the second race for the citizens (and many of them are quite fast) - and they dress up in goofy costumes like Father Time and Elvis Presley. The third is for wheelchairs.
Only in Colorado? Oh, yeah.

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