Outlaw Reflections: Looking Ahead at Telluride’s Raunchy Past

Outlaw Reflections: Looking Ahead at Telluride’s Raunchy Past

The following is a story about change, perhaps the only constant in the known universe. Like mountain weather. Like winter (and may it be wet) follows one of the most show-offy falls Telluride has ever seen.



He smells transition, feels change in the season, first solid rain in months awakens him long before daybreak.  No getting back to sleep, a multitude of things course through the darkness on the wings of his somnolent imagination.

He’s aware of the smooth give and creak of the old pine tongue-in-groove floor on the way to the kitchen in half-light. After putting on water for coffee he returns to the covers and dawn-dreams his way into daybreak.

Files and gas can stand ready next to the saw in the shop. The chain gleams, oiled, sharpened, adjusted. He’ll gas up the truck before he leaves town in case it turns to adventure today.

The incense-like smell of beetlekill spruce fills his dreams as orange, cream, pink and pale gray rounds drop off felled standing dead. There’s loading and stacking. If he’s lucky the road won’t be the consistency of mucous by the time he’s ready to leave.

He saves the spare for the top of the rounds in back of the battered old Jimmy. If he doesn’t a flat is assured. The bump in the turn for the bridge usually jars the spare off and it rolls down the embankment into the creek. The climb out of the creek is a chore, packing the wheel. With a full load the front tires hardly touch the dirt. Makes steering tricky.

May as well pack the .22 in case there’s grouse on the menu today. He spotted a bunch on the way home from town. Soon as he puts down the saw for a break, sits on a stump at the edge of a clearing to have a long drink of water, spruce chickens take off with knife-sudden whirrrrs. He spends the next half-hour checking out treetops for little gray heads peeking to see if it’s safe. Just about the time he’s ready to give it up because he figures he imagined the grouse, one’ll come out and it’s a crisp, small caliber invitation to dinner.

He seeks boletes, oysters, chantrelles along the road to the wood stash. Still early for inky caps poking up though the hard pack alongside the gravel. ‘Caps won’t be out until deer season and he’s done cutting wood. And then there’s the pinon nut harvest. No use going into the forest that time of year unless you’re prepared to shoot back. He stopped shooting deer and elk some years ago when the idea crossed his mind to shoot Texans instead. Now he keeps his wilder ideas to himself.

His thoughts turn with the change in weather, about what needs to be done on the house and the shop. If he’s lucky there’ll be huge snowfall and plenty of water for fields in spring and summer, in ditches for asparagus, running rivers and plenty for fish. First there’s cracks need filling and the roof on the shop leaks.

Time to check pipes and ready the stove and make sure the heat tape works on the water pipes so he doesn’t come home to a skating rink in the kitchen because the pipes burst and the damned floor froze over like the first winter in Telluride long before his hair turned gray.

And there’s a ton of stuff to do on the truck. He got the heater to work by fixing the cable controls but it’s time for replacing the wipers and getting those pesky squirters to work. A lighter grade oil change is in order and it’s time to check the antifreeze before the first really cold night.

His Sorels are in good shape since he bought a new pair last winter. No need for patching but a good, solid greasing is called for. A couple of pair of wool socks would be handy.

Best part is this is the season when big German Browns hit with signature fierceness no other fish in the river displays. You know when a Brown takes your fly. No doubt about it, you’re in for a tussle, something actually wild you connect with.

Water for coffee is ready. May be enough wood in the stash to last. The road’ll be incredibly greasy. Browns could be biting today. The rod and fishing gear are already tucked away in the truck.

Editor’s note about Oleh:

I am reminded of the man every day. A talented sculptor, one of his mobiles sits on the coffee table in our living room. But I had not seen or heard from Oleh Lysiak for over 20 years. Ah, the wonders of social media. We rediscovered each other a few months ago, which was when I also discovered the artist is also a writer – at least nowadays – though making marks on paper is only one among a very long list of talents, some slightly sketchy.

O. Z. Lysiak winking

 O.Z. Lysiak has from time to time worked as a reporter, editor, columnist, photographer, public affairs officer, restaurateur, festival booth owner-operator, ski technician, carpenter, sailor, smuggler, tree planter, fishing guide, truck driver, river guide, cook, wood-cutter, trash collector, marine gravity operator, reclaimed wood broker and sculptor. He has written for The Ukrainian Weekly, The Oregonian, and closer to home, The Aspen Daily News, The Aspen Times, The Crested Butte Pilot, The San Miguel Basin Forum – and The Telluride Daily Planet. Oleh’s poetry has been widely published and his is author of  several books, including “Neighborhood of Strangers”; “Art, Crime & Lithium”; “Scars In Progress”; “Geezer Rumba.” 

One of Oleh’s more ethereal mobiles

One of Oleh’s more ethereal mobiles

Given his street cred and the fact he wrote extensively locally in the bad old days, I asked Oleh if he would mine his files for past columns that might be of interest to our readers. I am thankful the man said “yes.”

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