Don’t Mess With Texas — or Colorado

 It’s a darn good thing I didn’t broach this as a topic yesterday — I would have missed so much blog fodder. Na Ki’o was a huge, huge help in writing this; every last typo is entirely his fault.

yosemite sam 0420Just about 100 years ago, the world was in the grip of a viral pandemic while also in the throes of World War I. Although the carnage of war was far more sensational while simultaneously senseless (the young men of Australia and New Zealand sacrificed needlessly on the shores of Turkey, for instance), the death toll from influenza was far, far higher.

It was called the Spanish flu, not because it originated in Spain (it could have come from Kansas), but because it infected the Spanish king before people started taking it seriously, much as it may have taken covid-19 taking down the British prime minister before at least his own country started taking the current virus seriously.

While Philadelphians 100 years ago were sent out into the streets for one morale-boosting parade that brought about 12,000 deaths (a very clear warning for us modern folk whether we heed it or not), in one little obscure corner of the United States the citizens took the opposite approach and refused to let anyone, at the point of gun, disembark from the trains coming through. No one allowed in, and when the viral dust cleared, everyone in Gunnison County was still standing — not a single case of Kansas-Spanish flu.

For the better part of a century, this was not really part of the local lore, not a point of local pride nor anything taught to schoolchildren. It may have rated a single sentence in a bestseller a few years back that documented the worldwide pandemic, which was where I first learned this interesting factoid. Gunnison County: the only county in the U.S without a single case of Kansas flu.

But now we in Gunnison County are treating this as our birthright, our touchstone, our biggest claim to fame that sadly we can’t duplicate this time around, because we already have 97 confirmed cases of covid-19, based on extremely limited testing. But we’re still trying for our national notoriety.

There are 3,242 counties or equivalents in the U.S., if we care to believe a disgruntled letter writer in this week’s Crested Butte News. And of those counties, he writes, only one has closed its doors to people who own property but don’t live full-time in that county.

I can’t vouch for any other county, but that is indeed what Gunnison has done. I don’t think the message works very well as intended: we love you, but you’ll only be in our way if you’re here. The fifth amended public health order, issued last week, devoted great effort to defining primary residents and telling secondary ones they have to file an exemption if they want to be here — most of which have been denied.

Postcards went out to second homeowners, perhaps more polite than a gun but the message just as pointed: “You ain’t a-gettin’ off’n that there train,” which is how I’m quite sure they talked in Gunnison 100 years ago.

At least one of these second homeowners must have friends in high places, down in the low country of Texas.

Let’s talk about the Colorado-Texas relationship. Texans have often pushed north into Colorado, and no matter how many cattle herds or dollar bills they bring with them, they are very often derided. People, and here I may perhaps possibly be including myself, who otherwise frown upon making remarks along racist or ethnic lines, seem to have no trouble disparaging Texans, especially in jocular fashion.

The truth is, Colorado needs Texas. Maybe not the cattle herds so much any more, but definitely their dollars. Lots and lots of Texas dollars. It’s likely one of our leading imports. Certainly in Gunnison County it is. It’s all about biting the hand that feeds us.

Which appears to be what the attorney general of the entire state of Texas seems to think Gunnison County did last week, and with nothing more pressing on his plate, his “special counsel” put pen to paper to take umbrage with our public health edict.

I don’t know about all of Gunnison County, but our public health officials are trampling on the “constitutional rights” of Texans, and that just ain’t right. Texans want to be “treated as a welcome visitor, rather than an unfriendly alien” to quote a quoter of the Constitution. [When we start talking aliens, my interest increases.]

Case law is cited; suppositions are made; aspersions are cast. A demand is issued: “We would appreciate confirmation that you will modify your Order to protect the rights of non-resident homeowners.” The letter is not signed with love.

This opening salvo, which drew national attention, mayhap didn’t hit the mark directly, but it certainly seems to have stung. Our county attorney had his “special counsel” (his deputy) draw up a reply, bringing the total onslaught to eight pages of indication that unless you’re a divorce attorney, you must not have a lot to do these days.

Case law is cited (and cited, and cited); arguments are declared spurious; one might even venture so far as to say some fun is had at the expense of Texans — all while eating that cake as well. “We want to be abundantly clear that Gunnison County cherishes and welcomes visitors to its County, including visitors and non-resident homeowners from Texas.” But if you’re planning to sue, we find your case laughable.

Then, to prove the point I’m sure I made that publicly-paid attorneys may not be as essential as they think, Colorado’s attorney general weighed in (through his own lackey), although he avoids case law and holds to a pithy three paragraphs while still managing to call Texas “misguided.”

If these aren’t expressions of love, I don’t know what could possibly be. Texas and Colorado may be headed for divorce court, if only we could find some attorneys with time on their hands.

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