Opinion | Kim McGahey: Colorado’s conservative independence is gone
Conservative Common Sense
What happened to the Bergenhof Restaurant at the Base of Peak 8? And the pub crawl, the April Fools’ party, the July 4th and New Year’s Eve fireworks, the Ullr Fest parade snowball fights and the rest of the small-town shenanigans that used to set us apart from the real world and attract people to our slightly insane little town?
Somewhere between politically correct over-organization and underemployed personal injury attorneys, we lost the heart and soul of our politically incorrect ski town.
Forty years ago, we were a small group of ski bums, corporate evacuees and erstwhile mainstream America dropouts looking for the life we were promised at Woodstock. Somehow the sun, the moon and the stars lined up over Summit County, and the oblivion express that we piloted made a crash landing right in the middle of a half-dozen wonderful ski areas and some of the prettiest mountains in the Rockies.
We lived by one rule that said there were no rules above 9,000 feet. The Wild West had barely passed away, and the remnants of that untamed era were still evident with the hitching posts, on the only paved road in town, where the sheriff’s deputies tethered their horses. There were more dogs on Main Street than people, and they were all asleep in the middle of the road.
Those local constables spent more time drinking coffee in the Skelly gas station than solving whodunits since the only crimes in town were parking tickets and the occasional “borrowed” car driven over Hoosier Pass the night before by a drunk who didn’t want to hitchhike home in the freezing cold.
Most of us didn’t have two nickels to rub together, but we knew how to have fun. Chasing dollar bills was not part of the High Country counterculture. But chasing powder and single hippie chicks sure was. The county was a giant party, the main occupation of which reflected what Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen sang: “I ain’t never had too much fun!”
Somehow, through no credit of our own, we managed to keep our young resort town prosperous enough to sustain our debauchery along with a growing tourist trade on the side. Somewhere in the blur of the 1970s and ’80s, mainstream America discovered Main Street Colorado, and those urbanites living their lives in quiet desperation in Emerald City figured out that they, too, could use the keys to our kingdom to unlock their dreams of an irresponsible, worry-free life in the mountains.
So they came in droves to Ullr Fest and July 4th parades. They clogged Interstate 70 in order to attend the April Fools’ party on the 6 Chair. They called in sick on Fridays and Mondays to spend long weekends strolling down Main Street in the pub crawl and betting on the rubber duck race.
They bought T-shirts, dingle dangles, cabins and condos and anything else that gave them absentee rights of ownership to that crazy little place near the Gathering at the Great Divide.
But alas, they became envious and possessive of our lifestyle and sought to control our freedoms for their own monetary advantage. While we were busy raising our families and trying to keep the American dream alive above 9,000 feet, we didn’t notice that the independent, free spirits who settled this town were being steadily replaced by dependent lefties who wanted to put us all in a tidy little box with labels on it.
Our version of the Wild West paradise had to be tamed, had to have limits, had to be controlled so it could be paved, packaged and sold to the highest bidder. Our rugged individualism that gave Summit County and all of Colorado its “don’t tread on me” identity, had to be restrained so that we didn’t offend anybody, so that nobody got their feelings hurt, so that everyone got a participation medal, so that identity politics and the entitlement mentality could enable the social warrior agenda that dominates us today.
No more live and let live. No more do what you want to do as long as I don’t have to pay for it. No more to thine own self be true. All that sweet, Colorado conservative independence gone the way of the hitching posts on Main Street.
Now when you see the bumper sticker that asks, “Breckenridge, what the hell happened?” you’ll know the answer. It’s right there with the Bergenhof.
Kim McGahey’s column “Conservative Common Sense” publishes Tuesdays in the Summit Daily News. McGahey is a real estate broker, tea party activist and Republican candidate. He has lived in Breckenridge since 1978. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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