A case of teleconfusion

The pair of matching yellow jerseys drew closer. After playing leap frog for the better part of an hour, they were poised to overtake us yet again as we stopped to take in the well-earned view. But I must admit, as they closed in to display not only matching jerseys but the words “mountain bike patrol” emblazoned on the chest, curiosity got the better of me.

After exchanging the requisite mountain biker pleasantries, I just had to ask: what on earth is a mountain bike patrol? Were they flagging down speeding downhillers? Writing tickets for unlawful passing? Issuing citations for Spandex abuse?

Rest assured, the two, on a his-and-hers getaway from the Front Range, came in the name of singletracking and a little self-appointed do-gooding.

“We’re here to help,” he said as he adjusted his medical fanny pack and wiped the sweat from his wraparound shades. “You know, people who are injured or lost.”

When I asked what kind of carnage they had seen so far that day, they just shook their heads. “None,” she piped up, “But we sure do enjoy the riding over here in Horseshoe Gulch.”

OK, so call me one of those snobby, jaded localcentrics, but if the matching outfits didn’t push me into fits of derisive snickering, the obvious misnomer did. Horseshoe Gulch? Let me guess, they took a ride up Googlyen, followed by a spin around Chinchilla and a trip up Telephone.

What a bunch of … wait, what’s that?

Call it a classic case of getting our lines crossed, but apparently after nearly eight years of blissful ignorance under the mast of that stylized icon of the Old West, the joke’s on us. Turns out, our beloved, rustic telegraph logo really is a just another lowly, run-of-the-mill, everyday telephone line. So much for the romanticized notions of the wild frontier, Pony Express, cowboys, Indians and cattle rustlers. We’re talking Ma Bell, civilization, party lines … and now, mountain bike patrol?

The horror.

Alas, the humor of the whole situation is not lost on me. In fact, upon hearing the unfortunate news, I couldn’t help but wonder what other sorts of revelations would surface over local name places? Maybe it wasn’t a horse at all hanging out in the gulch on the fateful day its name was bestowed, but some other, less glamorous pack animal. For a brief moment, I considered the possibility of “Burro Gulch” or “Donkey Gulch.” (And yes, I did toy with Jackass Gulch. Thankfully, it doesn’t quite roll off the tongue as well as the current namesake.) In a moment of panic, I also contemplated the palatability of The Durango Telephone, but bad puns aside, it just didn’t have the same ring.

Instead, I took comfort in the fact that apparently we weren’t the only ones duped by the obvious similarities between a really old telegraph pole and a really old telephone pole. I mean, you’ve seen one crappy old pole, you’ve seen ’em all, right? Let’s face it, for decades, all of us locals (except you smug History Channel types) have been laboring under the delusion that anything that rickety and ancient-looking could only be a relic from a bygone era. Eons before modern day phones existed and definitely way before the first rubber knobbies ever hit dirt. An obvious former lifeline to the outside world from our once hardscrabble, remote pocket of the world. An anti-technological testament to the price we all pay for living here and a reminder of what lurks just beyond those rolling piñon and juniper canyon walls.

OK, so the telephone “discovery” may nudge us a bit closer to that reality (not to mention make for some derisive snickering at our expense.) But the good news is, thanks to some strategic maneuvering, hard work and dedication on the part of the City of Durango and its citizens, that old phone line is about as high tech as it’s going to get up there. While Durango and La Plata County grow by leaps and bounds, more than 1,100 acres of unmolested land in Horse Gulch have been preserved in perpetuity, with the prospect of more to come. That means no longer living in fear that golf courses, lawns and McRanchettes will consume our beloved oasis – all in the name of “progress.”

While I can’t say for sure if we’ll be free of mountain bike patrols, I’ll take geeks over golf any day. And who knows, if we’re lucky, maybe some day our kids will be have the chance to stumble upon that old weathered telephone pole high on the hill and marvel upon its novel obsolescence as we all once did. “Hey look, it’s an actual telephone land line,” they’ll say in disbelief. “Can you believe they actually once used those things?”

And that’s the sort of progress I can live with.

– Missy Votel