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Reviews 165 Bayou Salado: The Story of South Park. By Virginia McConnell. (Denver: Alan Swallow, 1966. 275 pages, $5.75.) and Uncompahgre Country. By Wilson Rockwell. (Denver: Alan Swallow, 1965. 310 pages, $6.50.) For the Colorado reader who likes his local history spiced with details reminiscent of frontier journalism, these two books offer a good deal of useful information. Though they differ radically in organization, each relives the past in its own region with absorbing interest. Particularly is this true because of the inclusion of more than a hundred photographs, maps, and other illustrations in each book. Except when the details come too thick and fast, Virginia McConnell’s pen reveals a sense of style: What was this strange allure of South Park? It was more than just game and robes to trade, furs and dollars. . . . It was adventure and solitude, a place to test a man, and a place to make peace with life, a place to forget what had gone before and a place to begin again. It was an unspoiled land, the dream (pp 60-61). Wilson Rockwell’s pages, in contrast, run heavily to unevenness in quality, ranging from entrancing tales of robberies and murders to sentences some­ times left ungrammatical and raw: “His employees tried to carry on, but production from both the Camp Bird and the Revenue mines were declin­ ing. . .” (p 230). Grammar, however, is not our interest in these books. South Park, a plateau ranging to more than 10,000 feet, can be seen in large part from Wilkerson Pass on Highway 24 northwest of Colorado Springs. Fourteen hundred square miles in extent, the great upland bowl stretches from the gold and silver mining area north of Fairplay toward Arkansas River country to the southwest. Here Ute Indians came into conflict with white explorers and trappers, Mexican desperadoes killed their quota of Gringos, and the wave of white European miners and cattlemen became established in the 1860’s and ’70’s. Though the white man had come to stay, Bayou Salado is most im­ pressive in the eerie sense given of the destructive power of a harsh land. Fortunes were made and lost overnight in the gold and silver mines, popula­ tions rose and fell, so that today only a few foundation rocks or rotting timbers mark many a once-booming mining town. Railroads from Denver, Colorado City, and Pueblo were built, were used to haul sightseers, hay, ore, and supplies; then, following cycles of prosperity, most of the railroads failed, and the rails had to be torn up in salvage operations. Here in South Park is the raw material for judgments that one day must be made on a land that had to 166 Western American Literature become master before Americans could master it. Perhaps here also are the sources for a great saga immortalizing that struggle. Unlike Virginia McConnell’s organization of material around subjects like mining, ranching, and railroading, Wilson Rockwell’s is chiefly the story of each town or region separately, sometimes with disconcerting repetition in the separate chapters. Thus we discover the history of towns like Delta, Montrose, Olathe, and Telluride, and the regions called Paradox Valley and San Miguel Basin. For readers unacquainted with the region, it should be mentioned that the area is western Colorado, where Red Mountain rises high above Silverton and Ouray and where Otto Mears, famed road builder of Colorado, built a toll road above Ouray through terrain that today still offers the traveler dozens of opportunities for instant death from landslides. The struggle of the settlers for water on the farm and ranch lands and the mining booms and recessions occupy the reader’s attention through most of the book; and as in McConnell’s book, the great power of the country to destroy the unwary investor is again obvious. Fortunes made in packing ore over the mountains could be lost in a short time in an investment in fruit orchards. Staggering costs of transportation, up to sixty dollars a ton, meant that the ore sent out must be very rich, as much of it proved to be. Some mines released millions of dollars worth of ore per year. In...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 165-166
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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