Mr. A and I are rolling up on our wedding anniversary. It's still a few weeks away but the recent fires in Colorado brought it to mind. I know...that's a strange connection but it will make more sense as the story goes along.
We got married on a Saturday and he left me on Sunday. It didn't come as a surprise; we knew it going in. Off he went to a two-week class on some new computer language in Dayton, Ohio, and I went back to work on Monday just like usual. I suppose you could make a valid argument that we aren't exactly hopeless romantics but we had bought a house and were ready to get married; postponing the honeymoon just seemed like the logical thing to do.
So six weeks later we packed our bags and headed to Colorado. I'd never been, and Wayne was eager to show me all the sights in one of his very favorite places. His family spent two weeks in the Colorado Springs area every summer while his dad did summer camp for the reserves so he knew all the fun things to see and do. And we discovered some new ones of our own too.
There are so many stories from that trip that have become "classics" in our family lore. How I almost became a widow when he slipped at the top of Seven Falls and I thought for sure he was going to plunge clear to the bottom. Fortunately, he only went a few yards. Or our adventures on horseback at the Garden of the Gods. A word of warning if you go: Don't let the horses make any turn in the direction of the stable until you're ready to go in. They're going to make a bee-line for the barn and there's no turning them around. We still joke about Wayne being like a Garden of the Gods horse when he's ready a trip is coming to an end. And there's the wind chime we bought at a shop near Patsy's Saltwater Taffy stand. We laugh and say as long as it holds together, our marriage will too. It's still chiming away.
One night during our stay there we headed for the Flying W Ranch for an old fashioned chuckwagon supper. The families that owned the ranch had ties to our hometown and it looked like a fun way to spend an evening. There were some western buildings and a cowboy shoot-'em-up to entertain us before it was time to work our way through the food line. As they handed us a tin pie plate, they began the explanation of how the line would work. Down we'd go, stopping at each station to get steak, baked potato, beans, bread and a peach. Grab the plate by the peach, they said, because everything else would be hot and you'd have a cool space to hang on to the metal plate. It was both practical and silly at the same time and I suppose that's why it stuck with us.
For 60 years the Flying W Ranch served those chuckwagon dinners, dishing up more than 1,000 a night during the summers, although it looks like the tin pie plates and the peach have disappeared over the years. And in a sense the Flying W Ranch has disappeared too, a victim of the Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado Springs that burned it to the ground. They've vowed to rebuild so those memorable chuckwagon suppers will be back one day for a new crowd of tourists, even if the diners don't come away chuckling over grabbing the plate by the peach.
The fires and accompanying loss of homes, iconic businesses and natural beauty fills me with sadness for all involved. But it's tempered with a lot of good memories too. Colorado in general, and the Springs in particular, is such a special area and I hope it comes back better than ever.