Will Rogers famously described Durango as “out of the way ... and glad of it.” (Look him up, young’uns).
When I arrived in Durango in 1988, you could still pull a U-turn on Main Avenue and nobody’d even bat an eye. And you could still put pennies in the parking meters. This is the place, I thought. I don’t think you want to know what we paid for our modest 2,000 square foot house that year.
Durango has seen much change. Most Durangoans, or Tangs if you prefer, would say that more people, more traffic and the escalation of home prices would be at or near the top of the list of changes they’ve seen. I certainly wouldn’t disagree with the obvious changes mentioned above but there is another way to illustrate the changing of the times in our fair hamlet – the police blotter. It has been a barometer of change as well.
The Durango Herald used to print the Best of the Blotter as part of its wrap-up each year. Some of the items were refreshingly hilarious depictions of wonderful small-town America. They were so good that I made a point of sending them to my family members so they could share in the delight of reading them.
All of these blotter items appeared in the Herald between 1974 and 2003. I have edited to be able to fit more.
- Vandalism to the monkey bars at Park Elementary School to the tune of $75.
- One Monday in 1995: 12:57 p.m. – Ostrich running loose in the 1900 block of Highway 550. 2:48 p.m. – Pot-bellied pig running loose in the 26000 block of Highway 160.
- Group of children seen mooning cars passing in front of the Steaming Bean.
- Five boys were running across Main Avenue at 21st Street.
- House egged on Delwood Avenue. Another house TP’d at East Fifth Avenue and Eighth Street.
- A drunken man was sleeping in a flower bed.
- Someone had siphoned 18 gallons of gas valued at $10.
- My two favorites were the report of a peeping Tom that turned out to be a moose. And the woman in the street screaming loudly in the middle of the night because of a bad haircut.
- Raccoons stuck in a dumpster.
- Tim Maney, member of the band at Farquahrt’s, found a cow’s head on the seat of his unlocked van (1975).
- Four male juveniles arrested in connection with a $460 meat theft. A 9-year-old, two 11-year-olds and one 17-year-old. Only a small portion was recovered as much of the meat had been consumed.
- Some things haven’t changed: On one Monday in 1990, there were two different instances of stolen bikes reported. The following was a slow day with only two mountain bikes stolen at Purgatory.
I remember a story told to me by one of our former police chiefs. When he started out as a rookie, one of his jobs was to go down to the train station end of town (a lot of bars) and round up all those who had too much to drink and lock them in a boxcar overnight for their own safety. The next morning, he would let them out after they had slept it off. One morning, he couldn’t complete his task as the boxcar had been hooked up to a train. The overnight “guests” awoke to find themselves in Alamosa.
Ahh the good old days. They sound a bit like Mayberry of “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Of course, we had crime back then, but it sure is easier to be nostalgic. Sadly, our police blotters are filled with more serious crime now. Either today’s blotters need new or better writers or the criminals need a better sense of humor.
Jim Cross is a retired Fort Lewis College professor and basketball coach.