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  • Writer's pictureRichard A. Jones

Three Sides to Every Story

Someone has said, “There are three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the truth.” Usually, no one is intentionally lying, it is just that my story is not exactly your story.


It seems to me that our remembering of the past is a combination of truth mingled with perspectives and interpretations which are shaped by our own personalities, relationships, and experiences. All of these threads combine to help weave the fabric of our memories.


I’m sure that these “threads” have been involved in my remembering and writing of Walking the Same Ground. My mental editing of history has no doubt added, deleted, rearranged, and maybe embellished some of the “truth.”


My hope, however, is that, in some small measure, my writing has opened a few of us to what I would call, the HEART OF THE PAST. I use heart as a metaphor which speaks of that intuitive and intangible sense that touches meaning.


Understanding the meaning of my past can help me discover the significance of my life’s journey, and maybe give insight to help me navigate the present a little better.


Although my memory is growing a little thin, I think there still may be a few stories to tell. I just have to decide which ones. As they say, “Some books are best left on the shelf.” In other words, some of us know stories of the Valley, which should not be re-told at all. At any rate, I will continue a little longer to share the “heart” of my years in the Wet Mountain Valley.

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Not long ago, I ran a stop sign in Westcliffe, and it wasn’t the first time. When Main and Third Street became a four way stop (When was that?), I must have run it half a dozen times when going East.


I guess I do feel that I have somewhat of an excuse because, in many ways, the Westcliffe I have known, has become the Westcliffe I don’t know.


Let’s begin with Custer County’s population







In fact, as the statistics above show, 1973-1975 saw Custer County’s lowest population in 100 years, before and 50 years since. The population of Westcliffe itself has more than doubled, from approximately 270 fifty years ago to 612 in 2020.


In the past 15 years, Westcliffe and Silver Cliff, by my count, have added about twenty stop signs.   


More and more houses continue to dot the landscapes, while old ones continue to be torn down. Bob and Lola Baker’s house on 3rd street is now gone, as is John and June Coleman’s at the corner of Colfax and Marble.


Restaurants come and go, and fewer businesses are owned locally: Dollar General, Family Dollar, Subway, Lowes grocery,United Business Bank, JR’s shell station (which has recently sold again), and some ranches are now all owned by those who don’t live here.


Taken in 1974—Lea and Celesta Adams’ cows grazing.



The sign North on Highway 69, now says that we are a town instead of a city. The Oxford dictionary tells me that a city is larger than a town, so I suppose this is more accurate. However, the dictionary also says that a town is larger than a village.


2022 Town Limit Sign (No cows in sight)




City Limit Sign—1974


The National Geographic Society says that a village has between 500 and 2500 inhabitants. So, to be precise, maybe Westcliffe (Population 612) should have a “Village” limit sign. In fact, based on National Geographic’s criteria, all of Custer county was a “village” fifty years ago.


In the 1974 photo you can still see the old Feed Store building in the background, just below and to the right of the sign. In the newer photo, you can’t. The houses blocking it from sight are in the development, started by Celeste Adams several years ago. Today, there are about 45 houses and a church in the Adams subdivision


These signs also reveal another change. Westcliffe seems to have sunk! For decades the Westcliffe “City” limit sign stated that the elevation is 7888 feet above sea level. The new “Town” limit sign now informs me that Westcliffe has sunk by twenty one feet to 7867 feet. Personally, I have not notice the ground shifting under my feet, so I assume somebody merely made some new calculations.


In light of these ongoing changes, I thought I would offer ten ways to know that you have lived long in the Valley…

—If you have run at least four new stop signs in the past few years.

—If you have been tempted to make a U-turn on Main at the theatre.

—If you complain about the amount of traffic.

—If you have actually, without thinking, started to give directions such as, turn left at the Texaco station,… or go west on Main, past the Post Office… or when you get to the Co-Op in Silver Cliff…

—If you remember Falkenberg’s, Evies, Christoff / DeWall, and Susie’s, but  there are now businesses on main street that you have never even been into.

—If you can give directions to Brush Hollow, Elze Lane, Verdemont, Muddy, or Horn Road, but you are no help at all when someone asks you how to get to County Roads 260, 139, 182, 150, or 130.

—If you know how to pronounce Koch, Geroux, Ula, and Medano,     

—If you still call a ranch the ___________ place, even though the family you named was three owners ago.

—If you see more people you know in one hour at a funeral than you do in a week in town. 

—And number 10—If you could name, at least one of the Matriarchs of Westcliffe shown in my last post, without first looking at their names.

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All of the following businesses were in the Valley long before we came here, but all of them were still here after we came. I need to say a little about the people who owned them, as they are all a part of our Westcliffe journey.









George (Shorty) Byrne had already died when we came, and the older Byrne girls (Maureen, Coleen, and Kathleen) had left Westcliffe by the early 1970’s. However, George's wife Francie was a good friend, I spoke at Patti (Byrne) Schultz’s baccalaureate when she graduated from high school with the class of 1975, and I coached Bernie when he was a Sophomore on the JV basketball team. Debbie has also been a good friend all these years.


Gene Coleman told me that he first met Fred Luthi on the train at Texas Creek, just after World War II. Fred and Ruth were coming to Westcliffe to run the Hotel. Fred was also the janitor at the school when Barb and I started teaching. He and Ruth lived in a trailer between Silver Cliff and Westcliffe, just East of where Valley Assisted Living is today.



Alpine Lodge no longer rents horses at all, and I’m sure that current owner, Richard Kastendiek rents cabins for a little more than $55 per person per

week. Richard, has served great meals for the past fifteen or so years.


The old Alpine Guest Ranch is where Rod and (Pauline) Paulie Canda first met. As Pam (Canda) Camper tells it, Paulie was with a friend from the midwest working at the Alpine Guest Ranch for the summer, and Rod was trying to impress these city girls with his horsemanship. I’m not sure how that worked out, but it was the beginning of a long romance.   




The Kettle’s have been friends ever since we came to Westcliffe. When I was teaching high school, Bonnie and Marnie Kettle were students. I also coached both of them in basketball along with Sarah, the youngest of the Kettles. I was privileged to officiate at Kettle weddings (Bonnie and Marnie) and speak at Kettle funerals (Ben and Bet).



Sue Canda attended the Methodist church when I was pastor, and I used to visit her at her main street home. The theatre had already become the Jones when we came to the Valley, but when I was lucky enough to get a deer or an elk, we rented freezer space from Canda’s locker. I think Sue charged us $5 per month.




The first place I bucked bales in the valley was at Lea and Celeste Adams ranch which bordered Hermit road on the South between Kettle lane and Macy and from the Schneider place (how many owners ago was that) to Westcliffe on the North side of Hermit.



Evie—who didn’t know Evie? I can still see her standing in front of her store  on a summer morning. Her kindness and generosity toward our two boys, and all the children in the valley cannot be forgotten.    



Stan DePriest was the county sheriff for many years. When we came to the Valley, He and his wife Ruby lived in Silver Cliff. I remember a dinner for the basketball team that they hosted at their home in 1975. Barb sang at Stan’s funeral in 1977, and we remained friends with Ruby even after she left the Valley.


The Valley continues to change, as it has for the past 150+ years. I am trying not to run the new stop signs that occasionally seem to pop up. However, I can make no promises.

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