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Over a Cup of Coffee: Quick summer casseroles

When we’re not cooking something on the grill, it’s great to be able to whip up nutritious casseroles for summer dinners. This week’s column features two casserole recipes. I make “Skillet Beef–a-Roni” often. I don’t keep the ingredients for the other casserole on hand so don’t make it as often.

Skillet Beef-a-Roni

• 1 ½ pounds ground beef

• 2 cups elbow macaroni

• ½ cup onion, minced

• ½ cup green pepper, chopped

• 1 cup water

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

• 2 cups (16 ounces) tomato sauce

• ¼ teaspoon pepper

Lightly brown the meat in a skillet. Remove from the skillet and cook macaroni, onion, and green pepper in the meat’s fat until the onion is soft. Put the meat back in the skillet. Add the tomato sauce, water, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook about 25 minutes, until the macaroni is tender. Stir occasionally.

Note: When I have leftover macaroni and cheese, I use it up by following this recipe but add the tomato sauce according to the amount of macaroni. I cook the onion and green pepper with the ground beef.

Seven-Minute Ground Beef Casserole

• 1 pound ground beef

• 1 (1-ounce) package onion gravy mix

• ¼ teaspoon garlic salt

• 1 ½ cups water

• 1/3 cup raw rice

• 1 (10-ounce) package frozen green peas (may use Chinese Pea Pods)

• 1 (5-ounce) can water chestnuts (optional)

• 1 (3-ounce) can French fried onion rings

• Soy sauce

Brown ground beef and drain off excess fat. Blend in the gravy mix, garlic salt, water, and uncooked rice, Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer twenty minutes. Stir in the frozen peas and water chestnuts and continue to simmer until the rice is tender. Stir in onions and serve with soy sauce.

The nice thing about this week’s casseroles is that you don’t have to heat up an oven.

Do you have recipes that you would like to share with readers? If so, please call me at 970-824-8809 or write to me at PO Box 415, Craig 81626.

Janet Sheridan: Why I didn’t major in math

I knew what the friendly lady with fiery hair would ask once she’d found a snack in her carry-on for her grandchildren; I also knew I wouldn’t know the answer. We’d chatted as air travelers do, talking about our flight’s 40-minute delay, our destinations, and where we were from. Now I dreaded the resumption of our conversation as she handed her grandsons a bag of carrot sticks — the perfect snack for two little boys with orange hair — and asked, “What’s the population of Craig?”

I reacted like it was a trick question: I spluttered, looked around for Joel, the numbers guy, thinking, “Where’s that man when I need him?” and then responded, “I’m not sure.”

I don’t know the population of Craig. Nor do I remember the year Richard Nixon was elected, the difference between a mile and a kilometer, the elevation of Pike’s Peak or the mileage between Craig and Denver. I need a calculator to figure a tip and my fingers to determine how many hours I slept if I went to bed at 9:30 and woke up at 5:30. I can’t read Roman numerals; nor can I mentally subtract an obituary’s date of birth from the date of death to see how my age compares to that of the deceased. Worse, I can’t tell others how many siblings I have without giving it serious thought. Now that’s embarrassing.

Obviously, I didn’t enter college as a math major. Instead, I majored in English because, an avid reader, I’d long been immersed in its specialized vocabulary, functions and rules. I might muddle math’s mean, median and mode, but commas, colons, and quotation marks march to my command. I couldn’t tell you how calculus differs from trigonometry, but ask me to distinguish metaphors from similes and, King Solomon threatening to cut a baby in half, wisdom streams from me as implacably as the mighty Mississippi flows to Louisiana. 

I easily soaked up the vocabulary of literature and writing but make incorrect connections with the words of mathematicians, who call skinny angles acute.

I’ve never seen an angle I’d call cute.

Dilation, the word they use to describe something resized, makes me think of obstetrics; and, to me, fractal, a never-ending mathematical pattern, sounds like a rude noise emitted when ill. Yet, I readily admit that, as a striving poet, I appreciate the lyrical sound of multi-syllabic mathematical words I don’t understand, terms like isosceles, Cartesian coordinates, and exponential expression.

I see no need for square roots since I can’t grow and eat them; and have no use for a pi that equals 3.14 rather than a delightful eating experience.

I can’t dance to an algorithm. Sector and tangent don’t hang out in my circles. And, to me, probability theory means trying to predict if the heroine will find true love before the novel ends.

On the other hand, I think punctuation is both logical and useful: You insert the little marks where you would take a breath when reading aloud; then the marks remind folks who are reading silently to breathe rather than passing out from lack of oxygen, which would ruin their reading experience.

I’d have to guess on a multiple-choice test question that asks whether 127 is a rational, irrational, amicable or imaginary number; but I could attempt an essay answer that might receive partial credit: An imaginary number shares secrets and laughs at your jokes. An amicable number is named Miss Congeniality; A rational number is sensible like sturdy shoes; and an irrational number is as crazy as Uncle Fillmore.

I once coaxed our young granddaughters to tell Joel English majors are cool and math majors drool. I coached them until they chanted the rhyme in unison quite nicely and seemed to enjoy it. I thought perhaps I’d convinced them poetry is fun. But when they approached their grandfather, they betrayed me, switching the words so Joel was cool, and I drooled.

And I deserved it.

Editorial: Whittle the Wood’s sacred art should be protected

“20 years — can you believe it?” Dave Pike asked Wednesday morning as his opening salute to all those who have made Craig’s Whittle the Wood Rendezvous event possible these last few decades. 

As director of Craig Parks and Recreation, Pike deserves a lot of credit for championing the event whose meager beginnings have grown to help showcase Craig’s talent and rustic mountain culture. But so, too, do members of the city staff who do so much to make Whittle the Wood special for residents and their families.

Editorial Board

Renee Campbell, publisher

Clay Thorp, reporter

Pete Pleasant, community representative

Desiree Moore, community representative

Contact the Editorial Board at editor@CraigDailyPress.com.

What started as a handful of artists who liked to gnaw on hunks of wood with their power tools and chainsaws has morphed into one of the premier wood sculpting events in the state of Colorado. Take a drive around Craig and you’ll see them — the artful products of carvers who travel from across the country and the world to participate in Craig’s annual event. Our city parks and public spaces are full of beautiful carvings from competitions of years past.

As residents, we really should cherish our city’s wood sculptures and the place they’ll have in the lives of our future generations. That’s why it’s so upsetting to see these sculptures defaced or allowed to crumble in the elements.

The hippie at Craig City Park had his arm sawed off in an act of criminal mischief — and police have no suspects. Some butterflies at the courthouse have flown away. Some of our cherished statues around town need a little TLC — and they need to be protected for future generations of residents and visitors.

They help give Craig its persona — rough on the surface, but purposeful, beautiful and natural, strong enough to stand the test of time. These sculptures are part of what makes Craig attractive to visitors tired of city life — tired of the modern art scenes, the crowds and concrete jungles that enshrine much of our urban social lives. These sculptures help us celebrate the beauty of Craig’s natural wonders and the culture of its wonderful people — definitely worth the small ticket price for a Saturday of live music and wood sculpting.

History in Focus: To name a town

Like many towns across the West, Craig started as a speculative real estate gamble. The work of William H. Tucker and Willard F. Teagarden along with the cash infusion of wealthy investors in Denver, namely the Reverend William Bayard Craig, made our city a reality and was also the inspiration for its name. 

William Bayard Craig was born in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada in 1846. As a young man he came to Chicago, experienced a conversion to Christianity, and became a minister. He graduated from the University of Iowa and later Yale Theological Seminary.

Denver minister William Bayard Craig was the major investor in the land company and the new townsite of Craig was given his name.
Museum of Northwest Colorado/Courtesy Photo

Encouraged by his sister-in-law Eliza Routt, the wife of John Routt (Colorado’s first governor), Craig moved to Denver in 1882. As a dynamic pastor he led the construction of two churches. In 1894 he left Colorado and by 1897 was back in Des Moines as the president of Drake University.

Meanwhile in 1889, Tucker and his brother-in-law, Willard Teagarden, headed north out of Glenwood Springs to survey the Yampa Valley for a new townsite. The goal was to organize a town, attract a rail line, and then sell the valuable lots. In a 1934 interview for the Colorado Historical Society, Tucker determined the confluence of Fortification Creek and the Yampa River was ideal due to its proximity to established railroads to the north and south and its access to the West. (Craig Daily Press, 7/3/89).

William H. Tucker plotted the Craig townsite in 1889, with his brother-in-law Willard Teagarden. He is shown here in his insurance office, many years later, which was located at 530 Yampa Ave., home to present day Kester Jewelry. This is the only image of Tucker in the Museum of Northwest Colorado archives. He is buried in the Craig Cemetery.
Museum of Northwest Colorado/Courtesy Photo

Next, Tucker traveled to Denver and met with Craig, who he already knew from their days in Iowa. An investment group was quickly formed, and as Tucker put it, “They told me to go back and get to it.” He purchased 160 acres from rancher Alvor Ranney, 160 from the state, and then mapped out the original townsite. On July 1, 1889 the Craig Land and Mercantile Company was open for business.

The actual decision to name the city “Craig” is not clear. In 1958, on the 50th anniversary of the incorporation of Craig itself, a series of history articles were published in the Craig Empire Courier. A short introduction to one article simply states, “He (Tucker) gave the name of one of his associates, the Rev. Bayard Craig, to the town and so Craig came into being” (3/27/1958). Besides his investment, it’s possible naming the city after a celebrity minister of the Front Range would help spur development.

But growth was slow, and by the early 1900s, Tucker wanted to lower lot prices to kick start growth, “but the men back in Denver could only see the dollars and would not hear of it. So we split up and each of us took lots according to our stock,” stated Tucker in his 1934 interview.

However, Craig did visit and had an affinity for the people. On July 4, 1891, he described the early settlers as “well dressed” and with “the energy and intelligence that belong to the pioneer.” (Colorado Prospector, 1/84 cited in Moffat County News, 11/2004)

In a 1902 visit, he preached at the brand new Congregational Church and also gave a more practical interview on the future of the city. The Craig Courier stated, “he feels beyond reasonable doubt the Moffat line must come here if it follows the lines of permanency, an easy grade, and the best and most feasible route.” (9/26/1902)

The newspaper described Craig as “an affable gentleman, an up-to-date businessman, and doubtless is a man who can be counted upon to do the right thing at the right time.” In 1912 he was true to his namesake and deeded 25 of his 80 acres to the south of town for the right of way, side tracks, and depot grounds, and the railroad finally arrived in 1913 (Moffat County Courier, 12/12/1912)

The reverend also had a tough business edge. He owned land around Grand Lake, and in 1908 he filed suit for control of a strip of land bordering his property that just happened to contain 400 valuable feet of north shoreline. After a seven-year legal battle, the state Supreme Court finally decided against Craig. The Steamboat Pilot described Craig’s ideas for the boundary dispute as “strange and unaccountable.” (10/13/1915)

Even though he lost the shoreline, Craig did gain more geographic fame. 12,007 foot Mt. Craig (aka Mount Baldy), hovering over the shores of Grand Lake is also named in his honor (Craig Empire, 7/24/1911). While his investment in Craig was vitally important, it was the “boots on the ground” hard work of Tucker that forged Craig into a reality.

Thanks to Dan Davidson for photos and access to the archives of the Museum of Northwest Colorado.

Gar Williams: Fiduciary responsibility

The “Historic Donation” article in June 12’s newspaper brings up several questions in my mind.

The Moffat County Board of Education Superintendent and the Memorial Regional Health Director have agreed to have the School Board sell a property with an assessed valuation of $1,641,664 or more to the Memorial Regional Health for nominal fee, $10 is the fee quoted to me by Superintendent Ulrich.

The article states MRH plans to use the property to “invest in” Providence Recovery Services of Colorado, a for-profit drug rehabilitation facility which has stated they will import the majority of their clients from 2 or more hours away from Craig.

As I understand Colorado Statutes, the Board of Directors of an organization as a group and individually each has a fiduciary responsibility to the institution they serve to do what is best for the operation of that organization.

The Board of Education, which has a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers and students of Moffat County to get the best return for the taxpayers and students in the disposal of any “excess property.”

Is the School Board getting the best return on the taxpayers investment by selling a piece of real estate valued by the County Assessor, at over 1.6 million dollars, for $10 cash and a promise of a 33% discount for future services which amounts to $218,126.19 (for school nursing support), over a period of only three years?

Is the School District getting 7.5% of the assessed value of the School District’s Building really the fiscally responsible thing to do?

Do any members of the School Board stand to benefit from giving the building to MRH for a “nominal fee?”

Why doesn’t the School Board lease the property to Providence and require Providence to modify and maintain the facility at Providence’s expense as part of the lease? This would provide the School Board with an additional funding source other than taxes.

Is the City Council doing what is best for the taxpayers and residents of Craig by approving a drug rehabilitation facility in a neighborhood that will lower the residential property values by up to 20%?

As a tax-supported entity, will MRH, which is cutting back on finishing its medical office building because of insufficient funds, going to the County Commissioners again for “supplemental funds” to cover cash shortages for building and investment expenses?

Will the School Board be coming to the taxpayers for more tax money in the near future?

Will the City of Craig follow its Zoning Ordinance to protect property values?

Do any members of the Planning and Zoning Commission, or City Council stand to profit from the construction or remodel of the Administration Building?

This looks like the taxpayers will come out on the short end of the stick again! If the school admin building was back on the tax rolls “we the people” still lose money because the property taxes will take decades to equal what the building originally cost us.

Gar Williams

From Pipi’s Pasture: Here an onion, there an onion

This past spring we were supposed to start calving in March, but, surprise, we got our first calf on Valentine’s Day. Gestation times vary somewhat with individual breeds so our Simmentals may give birth earlier than other cattle or maybe it was just the cows—whatever the reason, with the snowy winter and all, it wasn’t a “pretty” calving season. So I vowed, “the bull doesn’t go out until July this year.”

When we moved the cows to summer pasture, I remembered what I had vowed. The bull, #66, remained in the corral at Pipi’s Pasture. He’s a big, mild-tempered bull that has never caused us any problems, but he likes to rub on everything, especially corral poles. There’s probably reason for this because after a long winter, his skin is undoubtedly itchy. Anyway, earlier in the spring he had rubbed down a pole in a rickety section of corral fence.

This small section of fence was broken a couple of years ago when two bulls got into a fight and one bull cleared the fence, breaking poles in the process. We didn’t have time to redo the section so we “temporarily” fixed it by wiring a long panel in front of the spot. So when #66 broke off the pole we put it back and thought about how the fence needed to be fixed.

But then #66 continued his rubbing. Pretty soon he had a bottom pole hanging down. Then he discovered that he could push the panel upwards. I wired the panel to the remaining poles so he couldn’t push it up.

That brings us up to a week or so ago, after the main bunch of cows was moved to summer pasture. I went out one morning, and #66 had broken off the bottom pole again and bent two of the panel’s bars. I enlisted Lyle’s help, we took the panel down, re-wired the poles, and replaced he panel, moving the bent part over.

Lyle said, “Well, maybe that will hold him for a day or two.”

He was right. It was a morning or two later when I was opening the big gates to the hay yard/garden area that I spotted #66 standing next to the fence that separates the garden from the little pasture. He had bent the panel’s bars up far enough to crawl out of his pen.

The only alternative I had was to put #66 in the other corral pen with MoCo, our granddaughter’s cow that is waiting to calve. I rolled a bale of hay to the gate and called #66. I couldn’t believe my luck. The bull came up to the gate, stood beside me, and as I threw out hay, he walked into the corral.

After feeding the animals I surveyed the garden for damage. Luckily I had planted only onions that were starting to sprout. Because the garden had been well-tilled, the bull’s big footprints were deep. Some of the soil appeared to have been re-tilled. As far as the sprouted onions were concerned, it was “here an onion, there an onion…” and onion sets were scattered around the two big rows.

Perhaps worst of all, #66 had gotten his feet tangled up in string that was attached to two stakes, marking a row. I’m not sure how he did it, but string was tangled up in the trees that grow along the fence. It was like working on a puzzle to get it untangled from the trees’ lower branches.

The next day #66 started rubbing on the corral’s back gate, prompting Lyle and me to wire a panel in front of it.

To sum things up, it isn’t July yet, but #66 is going to summer pasture this weekend.

Lance Scranton: Taking stock

Pike are destroying native species of fish; so taxpayers spend, spend, spend to find ways to control the non-native species. Coal is destroying the climate; so taxpayers fund studies to find out how to transition communities whose economy depends on this environmental predator. People are struggling with opioid abuse; so communities open up drug rehabilitation centers to combat the epidemic. Marijuana has a bad reputation; so elected officials will let the “voter” decide how it should be viewed.

If you really pay attention, it is as if anyone living in a rural community who depends on any kind of natural resource economy is on the wrong side of culture. Craig doesn’t have the right kind of fish in our rivers, or the correct kind of power-producing plants in our communities, or the right kind of mining to support our local economy, or the correct view of cannabis or how much it would benefit our tax base.

From hundreds of miles away in a polluted, smokey, crime-ridden city; we’re being told that we simply don’t understand how our way of life is destroying the delicate balance of nature and the planet that we should all take responsibility for protecting. Our rivers aren’t right, our coal is dirty, our power plant pollutes, our people need help with drug abuse, and we need to make sure that people have access to other drugs whenever they wish.

It must be excruciatingly difficult to look out over the vast western slope from the urban centers — where a heightened awareness of what makes the world a better place — and wonder just what exactly is wrong with these rural communities and their fondness for doing little to care for our planet as much as those who obviously know so much more about it are trying to help us country bumpkins realize.

I would love to live my life and stake my fortunes on the backsides of people who are constitutionally powerless to self determine their own course of action and are told constantly that we just don’t understand the bigger picture (because it’s complicated!). Where else does understanding come from except in the centers of intellectual brilliance where reside our governmental leaders.

I’m just taking stock but as far as I can figure (and I am just a small towner); the people who know better live in a city where pot is legal (and “magic” mushrooms too?), pollution is a daily concern, power is consumed without concern as to its source, homelessness is rampant, and responsibility for drug addiction is a community responsibility.

Like the pike in our local river; small towners like me aren’t an endangered species, maybe more like a dangerous species that needs to be shocked and placed somewhere where I can’t do so much harm to myself or mother earth!

Prather’s Pick: A novel that isn’t easily forgotten

I can best describe this week’s novel for adults as “haunting” because it explores some of the issues that are relevant in today’s world, primarily the inappropriate use of social media. “Before She Was Found” was written by Heather Gudenkauf. It’s a new novel, published by Park Row Books.

The novel is a mystery thriller. The mystery remains unsolved until the very last pages of the book, a surprise twist, indeed. The novel’s plot was skillfully crafted by the author; it’s “complicated.”

The story takes place in the fictional town of Pitch, Iowa. The plot revolves around three twelve-year-old girls: Cora Landry, Jordyn Petit, and Violet Crow. Interestingly, the girls live in homes with different parenting styles.

Cora lives with her two parents and a sister, but Violet and her brother are being raised by a single mom. Jordyn’s grandfather is caring for her by himself right now as his wife is convalescing in a skilled-care facility.

In “A Conversation with the Author” at the end of the book, Gudenkauf explains that the inspiration for the novel came from a news headline. Two girls were obsessed with Slender Man, a character who originated online.

Joseph Wither is a similar character in this week’s novel, except that he apparently lived in Pitch when he was young and, as the legend goes, burned down his parents’ home and ran away. Girls started showing up dead on the railroad tracks, and everyone believed that Wither was responsible.

At school, in Mr. Dover’s class, Cora, Violet, and Jordyn choose Wither as the subject for a school project about a local legend. They do research and make a movie about him for their presentation. Things get a little out of hand, however, when Cora and Violet come to believe that Wither is alive. Cora, in particular, becomes obsessed with him. She believes she is conversing with him via DarkestDoor.Com. The character claiming to be Wither even gets her to go to the abandoned rail yard where he leaves her a little gift.

Jordyn and two boys, Gabe and Clint, decide to play a trick on Cora so one night when Violet and Jordyn are at Cora’s house for a sleepover, they decide to go to the abandoned rail yard. Later, the police find Cora sitting on the track. She’s covered with blood, having been stabbed several times, and her face is so badly hurt that she needs reconstructive surgery. Violet has some bumps and bruises and is in shock. Jordyn and the boys are not there.

The police department and Dr. Madeline Gideon, a psychiatrist, get involved in the case. The chapters in the novel are narrated by the adults so each one is from a different point of view. The reader finds out more about the events from text messages, direct messages from DarkestDoor.com, Cora’s journal, and interviews with the police.

The author wrote that she wanted to” explore how misused social media, lack of mental health services, and family dynamics can impact our actions and decisions.” She did just that, while writing an entertaining novel. I could hardly put the novel down.

This haunting novel is a must-read.

“Before She Was Found” costs $16.99 in paperback. It can also be found in the new book display at the Craig branch of Moffat County Libraries.

Bill Hesselgren: Museum, library have so many benefits

Voters elected months ago not to fund the library and museum. Why they were joined at the hip, so to speak, as one issue for voters puzzled me. They are not the same thing, and deserved individual consideration.

Commonality is their educational merits, but the approaches are different, the users are different, and their purposes are different. Let’s consider them different and take each to task. 

The library is like the rest of these facilities across the country and is suffering from the shifted paradigm of what the users want. Almost everything in print is available these days on a smartphone or tablet, so why go to a building full of paper versions of internet of Kindle staples?

Almost everything is key.

Modern information and popular writings are digitized because it’s easy and pays. Source books for study are not so accessible, and out of print books and essays are rarely available. Because libraries link with each other, these rare or obscure books are available on request in our library. Another benefit is the social side of library visits. You can meet like-minded individuals or maybe better yet, readers with different views that can maybe, just maybe, broaden your insights. Children can experience the fun of books with tutors’ aid, expressively reading and responding to questions or even facial expressions. Can’t get that online. 

That the libraries must evolve is obvious because of the advent of the liberation of people’s thinking thanks to Apple, Kindle, and the like. How to serve the needs, but mostly the desires and keep the interest of the community has yet to be resolved, but I’m confident it will be solved, hopefully before our library closes. 

The museum is another matter. We have a good one that represents an attraction to visit with hands and eyes on history. We have a lot of significant history represented in our museum, and thanks to good management, it stays pertinent, providing a backdrop behind our current culture. The roots of the community are proudly on display for our perusal, and these beginnings and developments are foundations of our present and future. Unlike the library dilemma, the museum needs to continue in its role to bring the past to physical light. It was unfortunate that voters could not choose to support the museum separately from the library or vice-versa. 

I along with my wife would like to challenge everyone who voted to support the library and museum to make a donation to whichever one or both you must have thought worthy. We do not want these entities to become an historical footnote, and neither do you. 

Bill and Patricia Hesselgren 

Paul James: No conflict of interest

Since my election, and to be more pertinent, since the last city council meeting where I made a motion to begin the process to put recreational cannabis on the ballot for November, my “conflict of interest” has been thrown around a lot, mainly by the same people who have been trying to prevent our success since we began this process.

When we were running our petition, before I was elected to city council, the owner of the Craig Apothecary offered to give me a significant portion of the business (at no cost to myself), should we be allowed to open for recreational sales. At the time I of course agreed to the offer. However, since being elected, I have now declined the same offer, because I don’t want to engage in any sort of conflict of interest whatsoever. In short, the most I stand to gain is a job, whether that be maintaining my existing employment, or the ability to look for a new job while still being able to live in my hometown. Anyone can reach me at 970-701-1114 with questions or comments.

Paul James