Hitchhiking Colorado- “I Make Crutches for Animals”

Date:  Saturday, May 26, 2013

Time: About 5:45 pm (Denver to Colorado Springs)

Wait time: less than 10 minutes

 

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After a day spent helping Kathy work on egress windows, she sets me off at the usual Castle Rock hitch point.  Her son’s graduation is this week, so she seems both excited and highly stressed about the whole thing.  As we pass the train tracks, and I start half-joking about hopping a train, she tells me of one of her friends from a long time ago who killed himself on those very tracks.  “When we heard about it, I knew right away that it was him,” she says.  “He had told me that he had contemplated it and stood there in front of the tracks during the night a week earlier, only to jump off the tracks at the last minute and back out.  Well this time, apparently he laid down, closed his eyes, and that was it.  It made me feel really bad for the conductor of that train…. everyone told me that he had no friends, and it wasn’t worth having a service for him… but I brought some people together, and we remembered him.”

It’s a bit somber to hear, but there’s something in the story about life that I won’t analyze here.  It wasn’t all depressing conversation though; that story just stands out in my mind, a story that needed a sudden escape and needed to be heard. 

While driving earlier in the week, Kathy’s friend Rob made the snide remark of the women in Sedailla, ” Hey, what do you call a pretty girl in Sedailla?”

I don’t know… what do you call her? 

“A tourist.”  We both shared a good laugh on that one.

So it’s been a crazy week, but I find myself sticking my thumb out again, guitar slung over my shoulders, and the curve ball in the hitchhiking experiment now is how does carrying an instrument affect your wait time, and does it have an affect at all?  So far, it is proving that carrying an instrument does indeed help, as the wait times for the last hitch was less than two minutes and today turns out to be just under 10 minutes, shorter than I have ever waited before without my guitar slung over my shoulders.

A young lad named Jason swings over to the shoulder in his slightly wrinkled red Nissan pickup truck, sending a few dust particles into the air.  “Hop in”, he says casually.  I help him adjust some of his camping supplies and tools from the front passenger seat and we set the items, along with my guitar and backpack into the bed of the pickup truck. 

I thank him for stopping, and he tells me that he just got done working in the mountains.  “I do all kinds of landscaping in the mountains throughout Colorado,” he says.  “Been doing it for quite awhile.  I’d be on my 1700 cc motorcycle if I wasn’t heading to pick up some fertilizer I’m getting for a really good deal on Craigslist in a bit here.  I’ve got a cousin that lives in Colorado Springs, so I’m going to visit him too, I work and live in Denver most of the time.”

That’s funny, I say.  Jason has an easy-going laugh, reminds me of someone I know that lives in Wisconsin, and as we talk some more I find out that he has spent a majority of his life in Wisconsin and travels to the Midwest frequently to visit with old friends and family.  We both agree on the one-of-a-kind, addictive flavor of Wisconsin cheese curds. 

“Is the dirt you are picking up for your landscaping business?,” I ask him.

“Well no… for growing.”  He laughs, and gives me funny look.

“Ah, a certain type of landscaping….”

“Yes.”  He laughs.  ” I have a whole greenhouse full of plants,” he tells me. 

It seems like a lot of people that have picked me up are involved with growing marijuana in some way, shape or form.  Being one of the few states that has decriminalized sales and production of the plant, many people have moved west to pursue their hobbies and business interests.  I mentioned another guy that I had met while hitching, who had won awards at the Colorado Cannabis Cup two years in a row.  Jason laughs.  “Yeah, Snoop Dog hosted the event a few years ago… and he won some kind of award for his hemp too.”  I imagined a glass eyed Snoop Dog up on the stage, reciting his speech, stoned out of his mind.  “I just wanna thank all my peeps…. know what I’m sayin…. it’s all gravy baby… just happy ta be here… know what I’m sayin’  shout out to my boys….”

Jason and it both live in Denver, but have a family member that lives in Colorado Springs, and both enjoy going to the Springs to escape the city.  ” The traffic becomes to much,” Jason says, and I agree.  I also mention the smog that you can see sometimes stretching over the Rockies, when driving back to Denver from the Springs.  “Oh yeah, that’s nasty,” he says, ” it’s like one huge, giant God fart.”  We both crack up.

I learn that Jason is in a peculiar and interesting line of work, outside of his other interests, making prosthetic legs for animals.  “I make crutches for animals,” he says, laughs.

  I ask him how it works.  “Well, basically the pet owner will take his or her pet to the vet, the vet will then find out exactly what is wrong with the animal physiologically, and then the vet will send a diagram of this to the engineers.  The engineers will then design the prosthetic aid, which they will send over to me for the build…. I will then build the prosthetic part, which does not involve factories or anything like that… it’s all custom built for that specific animal.”

Jason tells me that he has some kind of degree in horse care, but according to him, the horse industry is not doing well.  “It basically sucks,” he says,” I was making like eight dollars an hour cleaning up horse troffs for eight-dollars-an-hour, which is pretty messed up.”

Jason also makes custom-built animal tables for kids, which is a business model that he is trying to start-up and entrepreneur himself.  ” I just made a horse one for a family recently,” he tells me.  ” The tables’ legs are actually the legs of the horse, it’s pretty cool.”

Jason sets me off at Briargate exit, which is one of the first exits once you get into Colorado Springs.  I’m starving, so I walk over to Culver’s restaurant and buy a burger along with some fried cheese Wisconsin cheese curds, ironically. 

I get lost and find an old surly man that looks like he was in the Marines just getting off work at the local Wag N’ Wash, which is a place for pampering dogs with baths and treats.  If you would have seen this guy, it was the last likely place you would have thought he worked.  The gentleman pointed me the right direction and led me onto the river trail. 

 

The distance turns out to be much further than I had fathomed, and I find myself walking for over three hours along a trail that follows the river in the dark.  As gorgeous of a night it is, I really can’t complain and the full moon follows me every step I take, like a giant glowing Wisconsin cheese curd. 

Three and a half or so hours and 10 miles later, I walk in the door, collapse onto the couch, and pass out immediately. 

 

 

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