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Sunday, July 6, 2014

It's Good To Be Different

Post written and copyright by Doris McCraw

We all like to have our work favored by the public. To that end, we may sometimes try to fit what we write into the template that we think readers want. Not everyone mind you, but sometimes we do wonder if only...

Here is what some early women wrote about the same area, Colorado Springs and the surrounding region, and for fun I thought I would share there words with you. Each different, each worth reading.

I will start with Grace Greenwood, aka Sara Jane Lippincott. If you wish to know more:

Sara was the first to arrive in the territory, traveling through Colorado in 1871. She did later return to the area and lived here for a while. As she says in her book “New Life in New Lands: Notes of Travel”:

“The narrow-gauge road, when finished to El Paso, will be a wonderful route, for pleasure as well as commerce, as it will be almost unrivalled for variety and grandeur of scenery. The mountain view, the pictures of river and park and place, between Denver and Colorado City, are especially magnificent.”*

She goes on to say “I shall be obliged to leave Colorado without seeing Pike's Peak and the Garden of the Gods....It may be that heretofore my descriptions of life here have been colored by my own pleasant personal experiences. Other tourist less fortunate or enthusiastic than I, might tell a slightly different story...”

They did.

Next, Isabella Bird, an English lady who traveled in the Rocky Mountains on horseback, by herself in the 1870's. For more in Isabella: She arrived in Colorado Springs from the area around Monument, Colorado. Her arrival was somewhere between the end of October, early November of 1873. Her words from the collection of letters she wrote to her sister titled "A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains":

The next morning was gray and sour, but brightened and warmed as the day went on....[I] was directed to leave the main road and diverge through Monument Park, a ride of twelve miles among fantastic rocks, but I lost my way and came to an end of all track in a wild canyon. Turning about six miles, I took another track and rode about eight miles without seeing a creature. … The track then passed down a valley close under some ghastly peaks, wild, cold, awe-inspiring scenery. After fording a creek several times, I cam upon a decayed-looking cluster of houses bearing the arrogant name of Colorado City and two miles farther on, from the top of one of the Foot Hill ridges, I saw the bleak-looking scattered houses of the ambitious watering place of Colorado Springs, the goal of my journey of 150 miles. I got off, put on a long skirt, and rode sidewise, though the settlement scarcely looked like a place where any deference to prejudices was necessary. A queer embryo-looking place it is, out on the bare Plains...”

The third and final woman to comment is Helen (Hunt) Jackson. She arrived around the same time as Bird, (October/November 1873)but there is no indication they met or knew each other. Here is what Helen remembered of her first view of the area in her essay “Colorado Springs” from “Bit of Travel at Home” first impression of the Colorado Springs. I shall never forget my sudden sense of hopeless disappointment at the moment when I first looked on the town. It was a gray day in November. I had crossed the continent, ill, disheartened, to find a climate which would not kill. There stretched before me, to the east, a bleak, bare, unrelieved, desolate plain. There rose behind me, to the west, a dark range of mountains, snow-topped, rocky-walled, stern, cruel, relentless. Between lay the town—small, straight, new, treeless.
One might die of such a place alone,” I said bitterly. “Death by disease would be more natural.”

As you can see, three different women, basically talking about the same area. Each, with their own experience told a similar, but different story of their impression.

Each of us has experiences that allow us to tell our own story. It is good to be different!

Certain of these searchers arrived from Kansas in July, 1858, under the leadership of John Tierney. Certain stragglers in their wake, under command of O'Donnell, mapped out on paper the magnificent town of El Paso. It never existed off the map, but it should have covered the town site of Colorado Springs. The sole actuality at the time was one log cabin, a number of tents, and some wagons collected near the Monument, on the present site of Roswell, and then called Red Rock Ranch. The tents and wagons eventually drifted over to Colorado City. (From the history of El Paso County, Colorado)

HOLD THE PRESSES: While editing this piece I received word that my short story/novella "Home for His Heart" will be arriving soon from Prairie Rose Publications. 

Haiku -


  1. Doris,

    First, I want to congratulate you on your upcoming release, HOME FOR HIS HEART! Everyone be ready to hear a shout of GLORY from Colorado on June 17! LOL

    What a neat look at how three different people saw the same place. It's amazing, isn't it, how different people love different places--and others can see the same thing and wonder, "What in the world is so wonderful about that?"

    I know that from experience--oddly enough, when we moved to West Virginia my senior year in highschool, I was struck by the beauty of the "mountains" there--the wide rivers with barges of coal on them, the beautiful fall colors of the leaves as they changed...but I missed my native land--Oklahoma. It was so different, and beautiful in its own way. For me, I never really realized how much I depended on being able to see the sky. In an area like WV with the mountains around, I felt like I was in a box, trying to look over the edge. Rainstorms are different in different areas, too! We had a lot of rain there in WV, but I missed the kinds of storms we have here, in Oklahoma. There's beauty to be found everywhere, if we look for it--just different kinds of beauty. Most of my friends and my hubby's relatives who visit OK from WV have one thing to say: "It's flat!" LOL Yes, it is, but there's a kind of beauty in that, too!


    Thanks for a wonderful post that made me think. I've never been to Colorado, but hope to get up there one day--I know it's beautiful.

    1. Cheryl, this is what my grandmother said after moving from the plains of North Dakota to the Shawnee forest in Southern Illinois. She never got used to not being able to see.

  2. Cheryl,
    Yep, a big shout from here, and as loud as I can be, you might hear it all the way in OK.
    It is true, the idea of beauty is so different for everyone. I also think it reinforces the idea of how important our unique voices are. I've been to WV and didn't mind it, and grew up along the Mississippi in the midwest, but for me nothing can replace the majesty of the mountains.Still I could hear the love of OK in your words. COOL!

    1. Yes, and this is also why sometimes you just can't put too much stock in what reviews say about your work, either. It's all opinion and what one person likes or doesn't like. (I think of this example--when I was growing up, everyone in my family LOVED celery...except me. I can taste it a mile away, even the barest hint of it...and it ruins a dish for me while it enhanced it for everyone else in my family.) Just a matter of personal "taste" -- in reading or writing, as with anything else.

  3. I loved your post. A recurring theme in much of my writing is how our perception alters (our) reality. The first two women, while traveling under different circumstances, seemed positive and adventurous and so they looked with favor and excitement upon the new surroundings. The last woman was evidently traveling west against her will in order to find a climate that would help her health (tuberculosis, I presume?). She's sick and depressed and doesn't want to leave home but feels forced to. Nothing looks good to her. Why eye-witness testimony is no longer accepted without question! We all look at the same thing and we all see something different.

  4. Hi Doris! What an interesting post, very thoughtful. Hey I do admire the lone Brit in there! (of course!) What a brave lady she was. Well they all were, but for her to travel that journey alone on horseback in those days must have been quite unusual. Big cheer for Isabella! I love how different people looking at the same scene will describe it differently every time. Thank you for this.

    1. Jill,
      You should read her writings. An amazing lady and she also traveled all over the world. We are fortunate to have those letters for us to read. By the way, her horse was named Birdie. They had an adventure in the Rocky Mountains. She was also defying convention by traveling alone.

      I appreciate your kind and supportive words.Have a great rest of your day, what might be left of it. GRIN!

  5. Patricia,
    Thank you for your kind words.Perspective is everything, isn't it.

    Helen actually didn't have TB, but did have lung problems. She later came to love Colorado Springs and made it her home, when not traveling and writing. She also took up the cause to the American Indian in the last five years of her life, writing "A Century of Dishonor" and "Ramona", which has been in continous publication since the 1880's.

    I am glad the the 'eye-witness' testimony is being questioned. Unless you are recreating an individual life the more input you have from the different perspectives the better your work will be, in my opinion. Doris

  6. Isn't it curious how different we are and what are perceptions of the world around us are? It could be we just love what is familiar to us.
    When I lived in Omaha, Nebraska for a little over a year, I thought it was bleak, cold in winter and hot in summer. I just couldn't come to like it. I wanted lots of trees and friendly southern voices. My good friend who was raised next door in Iowa, loved the open spaces. She didn't want trees getting in the way of her sky and the stars. I guess it's all about perception and the familiar. As much as I am awed by the wild beauty of Wyoming, I like living in the green hills and big oaks of North Carolina with its Smoky Mountains and beautiful coast..
    Congratulations on your upcoming release, Home For His Heart. I wish you the greatest of success and happiness.

    1. Sarah,
      It is fascinating isn't it, how our perceptions color how we see things? I enjoy Wyoming, but the mountains are futher away from the cities than here in Colorado Springs. I look out on Pikes Peak every day and watch the sun and shadows across the foothills and know that everything, no matter what is happening, is right with the world.

      I also thank you for the wishes for "HOME". It is exciting and nerve wracking at the same time. If this were non-fiction it would be a breeze. SMILE


  7. Doris, congratulations on the upcoming release of HOME FOR HIS HEART!

    Thanks for this unique look at Colorado Springs. I enjoyed reading the three perspectives from three women I want to learn more about.

    Happy 4th (weekend)!

    1. Tracy,

      Thank you! I am looking forward to seeing how others like the story that wouldn't let me go until I told it.

      These three women were among the many who traveled the West. We are so fortunate that they were writers whose work has remaind. I am always awed by their observations. Just wish there were more hours in the day to get all the reading, writing and (shudder) working done I want to.

      Hope your 4th has been pleasant and full of joy. Doris

  8. Doris,

    Congratulations on the new release!! Great post on how different perspectives color our stories and how we see the not only the landscape, but the people who inhabit that world.


  9. Kristen,

    Thank you. It is exciting when you see your work coming to fruition.

    I have been fascinated by perspective and memory since my days working in the criminal justice field. (Juvenile). Each person can see the same thing and tell a totally different story. The same goes for historic research. Weeding out and using the various stories is a gift and a chore.


  10. Doris--beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. The three different views of the women might also show three different personalities. We're all different. My best friend and her husband love to go away about 6 weeks, dragging their travel trailer behind, and roam around in the mountains. This sounds like pure torture to me. In those six weeks, I'd fly to Spain, or France, or anyplace where I can see things... and look at the world's treasures.
    Very good post...I enjoyed it. And congratulations on your coming release.

  11. Celia,

    You are right, personalities play a large part in our perception of the world. If I had six weeks, I'd hope in the car and take day trips to museums, overnights to some historic spot and try to find out more about the subjects I research. Those are my treasures. It is good to be different. We can share our perspectives which can broaden our views.

    Thank you also for the congratulations on the upcoming release. Scary and exciting at the same time.


  12. Doris,

    I'm a native Coloradoan. I grew up in the northeastern corner of the state about 90 miles east of Denver out on the plains. I could see the Rockies and Long's Peak in the distance. Years later, I moved to the southeastern corner of the state and can't see any mountains from here. *shrug* I like both views, but the draw for me is the expansive prairie all around.

    During the years I lived in the eastern US, I felt smothered by all the trees. It seemed that the sun suddenly appeared in the sky sometime during the morning then as suddenly disappeared in late afternoon. I missed being able to watch the sun as it touched both horizons.

    I'm a wide-open prairie girl, so my perspective is certainly slanted. ;-)

    1. Kaye,

      I grew up in the midwest near the Mississippi so it wasn't as flat as the rest of Illinois, but nothing like the mountains here. There is also a beauty in the grasslands and prairies. I am thankful not everyone wants to be in the mountains...not really enough room. One lady in the town I grew up in came back after living in Denver for while because she felt like the mountains were going to fall on her.

      Thank you for stopping by. I also like watching the sun traverse the sky. Doris

  13. Doris, congrats on your new release! And sorry I'm late to the party. :(

    Loved the three perspectives you presented. It's difficult for me to understand how anyone wouldn't love the mountains, so that's my perspective. But my great-aunt thought our playground was horribly frightening. So obviously she didn't share my viewpoint. LOL

    1. Jacquie,

      I thank you for the congrats. I admit to being a bit nervous and am so comforted with all the support from everyone.

      These ladies did have their opinion and we are the richer for it. I agree about the mountains. They are what I get up and live for each day. But like I told Kaye, I'm kinda glad not everyone wants to live here. It's crowded enough as it is. (Smile) Doris