Grand Junction Moons

Before leaving Carbondale, we headed down to the campus of Colorado Rocky Mountain School and walked around a bit, with lots of pointing and gesticulating and exclaiming (Maggie was a tremendous good sport through all the endless reminiscing).

Walking (and pointing and gesticulating) down memory lane: The Barn, CRMS

To our delight (it was Sunday) we found an unlocked door along one side of  the familiar Barn, and in that way broke into the library,

which along with a number of classrooms occupy the exterior rooms; the middle is reserved, as it always has been, for stage productions and, Monday-Friday, Morning Meeting, established by the founders, Anne and John Holden,

John & Anne Holden, Founders of CRMS

as a Quaker style time to air community issues. Cushioned chairs on risers have replaced the wooden pews in what in my memory was a vast room. My sophomore year, I sneaked across campus in the middle of the night to join a few other friends in that room. Joan Baez had just released Joan Baez/5; we turned the stereo up to 10 and lay on those pews as out of the speakers mounted high on the Barn’s walls that soaring voice warned us that “There But For Fortune” go you and I. I wasn’t much of a rule-breaker, and if we’d been discovered we’d have been at least reprimanded if not expelled, which thrill contributed to making the experience all the more exquisite.

Memory also placed Jewelry Making in a different building; the Chicken Coop, where I studied Spanish, has been replaced by a dorm; the student lounge, where on Monday nights I took Folk Music as an evening activity,  and where I made my first painstaking efforts to learn Travis Fingerpicking, is now fronted by a mural of Mesa Verde’s cliff dwellings.

With Swin (Sarah Swinerton) in front of what was once the Student Lounge

The dining room looks similar, although now the school grows all its own vegetables and even raises its own pigs and cows—attending their slaughter is a learning experience one can have.  Thank goodness Lee Ann was with us, as she is a repository of knowledge of how the campus has shifted and changed and grown over the last four decades.

Sarah Swinerton and I had to take a look at the Old Girls Dorm, where, as Freshmen, we were assigned to each other as roommates.  The Old Girls Dorm is not intended to imply that the older girls live there, although Swin and I had a good laugh about that; rather, in the early days of CRMS there was once only one girls’ dorm, but when a second one was built, and dubbed the New Girls Dorm, the other dorm received its moniker.  All that said, Swin and I, aware that we were the only freshmen in the Old Girls Dorm, felt not only lucky, but very significant.

Dorm Room & Window

The dorm is under considerable renovation but we found our room, although the beds were neither bunk nor fixed when we inhabited it. The purpose of the lower level of the bunks appears to be desks of sorts. Late at night I used to help Swin out that window, and she would scurry along the River Path to the Old Boys Dorm to visit her boyfriend, Harry.

Cherished Mt Sopris is visible from everywhere on campus.


We visited the old stables, too, now in ruins.

Stables, CRMS

I rented a horse from the school my first year, earning the privilege by scooping ice cream. Simmy, his name was, a Tennessee Walker. We had many adventures, including magnificent rides high on Red Bluff, above campus, but that year with him also taught me just how much work goes into owning a horse, and that childhood dream faded away.

Red Bluff

After hugs and goodbyes

Goodbye to LeeAnn

we headed to Grand Junction. Our next concert, and the final one in the Southwest states, would be held in the patio of Amanda Bailey’s house. Amanda is the sister of Tracy’s ex-husband, David, who is the father of the handsome Justin, Nico, and Emma.

Justin Bailey and girlfriend, Danielle, Amanda’s Patio

We arrived as Amanda was playing music with a band she’d created, called Big Daddy and the Orphans. (“We all take turns being Big Daddy,” Amanda told us.)

Big Daddy and the Orphans rehearse
Amanda Bailey’s patio

Amanda, who has a huge and vibrant voice, plays guitar.

Amanda Bailey, trying out Maggie’s travel guitar

Other musicians contribute violin, mandolin and upright bass.  Lovely to sit there under a ramada listening and even playing with them as they rehearsed.

Around 7:00 audience began to arrive, and arrayed themselves around Amanda’s beautiful patio.  We started with “Rustler’s Moon,” and as I talked a bit about the genesis of the song, a woman named Melody said, “Oh, I love songs about the moon!”

And as we played through our two sets, we realized that many of our tunes have some mention—explicit or implied—of our lunar orb:

In addition to a mention in both title and chorus, the first line of “Rustler’s Moon” is “the moon’s a pale sliver in the dark night sky.”

“When the Mountains Cry” has a “bloody moon.”

“We Heard the Owls” asks that love run “out of the shadow and into the light.”

In “South Coast the Wild Coast” a young wife lies “dead in the moonlight.”

“The Stars Fell Down” begins with the line, “I met you on the new moon.”

In “Dancin’ Through the Heavens” the “moon wore shrouds”

And that’s just our first set.

Sands, Amanda’s concert

As the darkness crept in and a not-quite-thin-enough-to-be-a- rustler’s moon floated up into the sky, we kept singing about moons, including “Night Rider’s Lament,” where it shows up  “as bright as a reading lamp.”

Maggie, Amanda concert

And as Maggie said about her beautiful tune, “When the Sun Goes Down in the Sky,” the lyrics pretty much imply that as the sun goes down, the moon is soon to come on up.

Amanda Bailey concert

Amanda’s house is filled with the most marvelous collections of everything: Elvis paraphernalia, fruit box signs, miniature musical instruments. In addition to an excellent bottle of Petite Syrah from the Nevada City Winery, I brought her a little stone heart as a thank you-present, and she exclaimed, “It can join the Sea of Hearts!” and so it did.

Sea of Hearts

Now: across the desert states, to Squaw Valley, and a concert on the deck of the house in which I grew up.

0 replies
  1. Randall
    Randall says:

    Loved all the small stories about CRMS that personalized it. “Durango to Carbondale” also imbued the School and environs so that while the photos are unchanged, the pictures to me are forever changed. Buildings became a school that became a place of transformation and inspiration and then a place of healing and friendship. A mountain went from a majestic vista to something like an eternal friend. Loved it! Thanks for sharing!


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