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Extraterrestrials pay visit to La Plata County

Crop circles near Ignacio. A sign from aliens?

Dear Action Line: Can you explain this crop circle near Ignacio? – Aliens Ate My Buick

Dear Buick: This sets a personal Action Line record for shortest question, so thanks and congratulations.

Some other strange things are about to happen as we get into this week’s Action Line, not least of which is that Cristo will be mentioned twice. A conspiracy? A coincidence? That Cristo, an obscure artist who decorated landscapes, would come up twice in one column seems preposterous.

Yeah, so what is the story on these “crop circles” just north of Ignacio? We all know that crop circles, the ones that mysteriously pop up overnight, often in corn fields, are made by vastly superior beings from the planet Beldar. Sure, some “scientists” will tell you that these often very intricate designs can be explained away by natural and human causes. Action Line prefers not to be blinded with science.

But in this case, someone is taking credit for the crop circles, which he refers to as a “snow spiral,” so, with a bit of skepticism, we’ll go along with what he says. The snow spiral is on a field owned by Roger Dale, a local glass blower and river guide.

“I have always enjoyed crop circles and artists that use the materials that are provided by nature, rocks, leaves, in this case snow,” Dale said. “Artists like Goldsworthy, Smithson and Cristo.” (There’s that name!)

Dale said he was out feeding the cattle he and his wife, Cindell, own, and began clearing snow in the pasture to help the cattle get to and from the creek. He drove his tractor to the middle of the field, dropped the blade and around he went.

“I decided to have some fun and create something that would make people smile, forget about the virus and the political storm we are living with,” Dale said. “The idea was to create a spiral like the ones the early Puebloan cultures carved into rocks here in the Southwest. … The next day, I climbed onto the roof of our barn and took the photo and posted it on social media. It has put a smile on lots of people’s faces this last week.”

Dear Action Line: On U.S. Highway 160 west of Hesperus between mileposts 68 and 70, there are short lengths of snow fence placed diagonally to the highway. Are these CDOT’s experimental design gone awry? These sections do not keep the snow off the highway. Or are they experiments in art? – Not Catching the Drift

Dear Drift: This question is giving Action Line flashbacks of those whiteouts when you can’t see where you are on the road, but you don’t want to stop because someone might rear-end you. Palms are sweating just thinking about it.

This fencing may not work all the time, but hopefully there are many occasions when it will help drivers avoid these and other scary situations.

The fencing, near the Montoyas’ ranch, has been in place for around a decade, said Craig McCall, regional maintenance supervisor for the Colorado Department of Transportation. It is designed to prevent snow from accumulating on the highway, thus making driving conditions safer and saving CDOT time and money.

CDOT can control many things, but McCall was forced to admit that it can’t control the path of the breeze.

“So there are times when Mother Nature decides to blow her winds in varying directions, and the fencing may not help as much,” McCall said. “But when her winter gales are blowing just right, the wind pushes the snow up against the fence, stopping it from making its way to the highway. And that’s exactly what we want.”

As far as artwork, CDOT is categorically denying any involvement.

“If only CDOT had the time and resources for art installations!” he said. “We had no hand in the sleek monolith in the Utah desert or the miles of fabric planned to someday suspend over the Arkansas River. We didn’t even have anything to do with the infamous ‘Arc of History’ at the junction of U.S. 160 and 550.”

Miles of fabric? Cristo again!

For those not keeping track, Cristo tried for decades but never could get permission to suspend silvery fabric over the Arkansas River between Salida and Cañon City. We true Cristo fans know that he recently died – in May 2020 at 84.

Snow fences are in place all over the state, and some are likely more effective than others. Some are just a few feet high, while others tower to 20 feet high, “like the mega-fencing near Fairplay,” McCall pointed out. Action Line will vouch from plenty of winter trips to the Denver area that the stretch south of Fairplay on U.S. Highway 285 is one of the most desolate, chilly and wind-blown anywhere.

Anybody else ready for a hot cup of tea?

Email questions and suggestions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301.

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