Eight Years Before the Mast(head), Part Four
Bill Hudson | 11/30/12

Read Part One

As I explained in Part One, I've never read the well-known book, Two Years Before the Mast, written by Richard Dana following a two-year voyage from Massachusetts around Cape Horn and up the Pacific Coast to California — and back — during the years 1834 through 1836. 

During his time aboard two different sailing ships, Dana bunked with the other common crew members in the forecastle, in the bow of the ship: before the mast.  The officers on the ship, then, had their quarters amidship, or aft.  My partner Cynda Green spent many years sailing in competitive sailboat races, and she explained that the forecastle of a ship takes the worst punishment during stormy weather — which is why the common sailors are awarded sleeping quarters there, while the captain and officers enjoyed the smoother, more comfortable ride in the aft section.

Does this arrangement remind anyone of Pagosa Springs?

I understand that Richard Dana intended his book as a way to describe in detail — for nineteenth century American readers — the rough, unkind treatment received by American sailors at the hands of the ship owners and their captains.

You might say the Pagosa Daily Post has had a similar aim, over these past eight years.  Pagosa — like most small towns — is run largely by a small group of "ship owners and their captains," and we working class folks have been expected to handle the hoisting of the sails, the bailing of the hold, the swabbing of the deck.  Sure, the working class gets some real benefits from this arrangement; we get to earn enough money to pay our monthly mortgage (to the bank) and our taxes (to the Town and County and School District) and to put City Market brand food on our tables.  We might someday be able to put Walmart brand food on our tables, thanks to the ship owners and their captains.

The underlying goal of the Daily Post, my little online news magazine, has been to promote a conversation about the conversations that take place in the Captain's Quarters.  We're all sailing this mighty ship — the Brig Pagosa Springs — and if the ship truly belongs to all of us, if democracy truly does exist, then we have a right to listen to, and participate in, those conversations that take place in the Captain's Quarters.

Cynda and I are in the process of moving to Salida.  It's been a challenging and sometimes uncomfortable job, dwelling in the forecastle of the Brig Pagosa Springs these past eight years while writing about the Captain's Quarters, and Cynda and I recently decided to jump ship, and try out a different captain and crew.

Happily for me, the Pagosa Daily Post will continue to sail the troubled waters of Archuleta County.  Local business owner and volunteer extraordinaire Lauri Heraty has signed on to edit the Daily Post and keep it on course through the winter, and — if all goes well — into the indefinite future.  I expect Lauri will set a slightly different course from the one I have tried to hold these past eight years; we will be steering the boat on a cooperative basis through the storms of December, and then she hopes to take the helm on her own come January 1.

One of my other long-term goals for the Daily Post was the creation of a "community magazine" — a free and public forum where all ideas could be shared; where all events could be publicized; where all concerns could be aired; where all garage sales could be advertised.  We made a start in that direction, over the past eight years, despite the obvious and ongoing attempts by the Pagosa Springs SUN to discourage businesses and individuals from sending press releases to our free community magazine.  I would love to see even more community participation — and maybe that is something Lauri will generate, as she learns the ropes and adjusts the sails.

There's no possible way I can thank the numerous Pagosa residents who've helped the Daily Post on its journey since we hoisted our sails in 2004.  Our readers have met some of those caring contributors, in the articles they posted in our pages — but many more were involved behind the scenes, offering me advice privately in emails and in street corner conversations.  And of course, the Daily Post would never have lasted eight years without the participation of our numerous advertisers — again, too many for me to name.

But you know who you are, and please accept this simple acknowledgment: I couldn't have done it without you.

Last night, I attended a public meeting hosted by the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation, the Chamber of Commerce, and a group calling themselves "Imagine Downtown."  The meeting was mainly a brainstorming session.  Are there ways, in this difficult economy, for Pagosans to come together and revitalize our historical downtown?  If so, where shall we invest our limited time and resources?  If we make innovate plans for the future, will those plans simply end up on a dusty shelf just like so many other "community plans" created by our local government entities?

I've often used the word "funky" to describe Pagosa's downtown.  Our mixed commercial and residential area holds none of the "historic Colorado" charm of, say, downtown Durango or downtown Salida; its architecture reveals no cohesive style; the major highway serving as our main street destroys any possibility of a friendly, pedestrian atmosphere; the fact that most of the population live in a separate "town" — Pagosa Lakes — presents even more challenges.

What Pagosa has going for it cannot be described in terms of "urban infrastructure."  Our physical downtown is... well, it's funky.  What Pagosa has going for it are people.  That's all we really have.  Each other.  Focusing our dreams on physical changes — big government investments and "festival streets" and mega-campuses and quaint "historic" neighborhoods and hilltop amusement parks — sorry, folks, that's not Pagosa's future, if Pagosa has a future.

The sailors are the future.  I wish the captains could understand that.


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