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My ColoradoSmile and Wave
by Misty Lees
"Do you ski?"
That's the first thing people ask when I tell them I live in Colorado.
"I fall down snowy mountains quite well, yes!"
From there, the conversation progresses through an explanation of no, Johnstown isn't in the mountains; no, I don't live in Denver; and well, it's near Loveland—the town, not the ski area.
Most of the world doesn't quite realize that Colorado has a landscape of semi-arid plains eastward from those gorgeous Rockies. And even if they know the vast expanse of prairie sod is there, they don't believe anyone would actually choose to live there when the jet-settin', snow-frosted, purple-mountain-majesties are within view.
But I fell in love here.
It's not what you think. One day, 12 years ago, I accidentally drove through Johnstown on the way from Boulder to Greeley, racing to reach an interview on time. Somewhere in Weld County my personal rat race slowed to a snail's pace and I absorbed a stunning aqua sky over towering corn. I came upon a lovely small town with wide streets, clean old houses with geraniums on the porches and more railroad crossings than stoplights. People smiled and waved.
I smiled back.
I found a house in Johnstown that month. And I came to love my life in a town not one of my aspiring UCLA friends had ever heard of.
Some might call it boring. I've gazed at meteor showers in midwinter from a sleeping bag in my backyard, unhindered by city lights. My cozy 1946 cottage is on the annual Johnstown BBQ Daze parade route, where kids on fire trucks toss hard candies and the guy next door drives his old Caddie convertible. The county roads are perfect for my hour-long jogs, keeping me blissfully distracted by redtailed hawks, Double Stuff cattle (Belted Galloways) and an occasional bald eagle, coyote, pheasant or red fox. I chat with folks walking by, have dinner with my brother, shovel my neighbor's walk. I actually sit on the porch and do nothing.
Sure, the feedlots smell sometimes, just after the rain on a hot summer day, but it's the scent of hard-working farms. The weeds are tenacious; "Sticker Stadium" is the local ballpark. There are only a handful of eating establishments, and high excitement is when Roosevelt beats a tough high school football team. But I wouldn't trade this life for free ski passes or a condo in Vail or Aspen.
I'm content. So much so that I actually smile at passing motorists.
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