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Rabbitbrush Rambler: And the winner was . . .

Posted: Tuesday, Nov 6th, 2012

The Giants. We hardly had time to get warmed up for the World Series before it was all over. What a letdown for the fans, and for the sellers of tickets and hotdogs.

Some excitement did happen before the Series, though, like when the Tigers shut out the Yankees in the playoffs. Earlier, the Washington Nationals had us holding our breath, too.

Silence has replaced the organ, clamor, and hot dog vendors in ball parks, but the rituals of football with barbecues in parking lots, sexy cheerleaders, and wannabe winners will keep the adrenalin pumping until the Super Bowl and finally the half-time show to end all shows.

Psychologists tell us what the owners know, that marketing and manipulation and marketing are the key to getting masses of people to pay their money and come. Although TV makes it easy vicariously, because we can stay home and eat our own popcorn, we still pay the piper in other ways.

When the serious competition for Academy Award winners comes along, an easy guess is that we are more interested in ogling the celebrities on the red carpet than in learning who won the statuette for the best screen play or cinematography. Then we follow the bait, the celebrities, into the movie theaters.

But did you hear anything out here in the hinterlands about the American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards last June? Probably not, although the Wing puts on a pretty good show, too, with a red carpet and fanfare.

We may know what a Tony Award is, but, unless we are tourists or business people who get to New York City occasionally with enough money to buy those high-priced tickets, we probably don’t see or think about the Broadway productions. And most were closing when the Tony Awards were being given.

Large investments, wealthy supporters, and hype are needed to lure audiences to live performances. Try to imagine what keeps CRT running at Creede year after year in our small corner of the world.

My random thoughts today now have come back to the Tony Awards because of my passion for trivia about Colorado history. So, “back in the old days,” there was an actual person named Tony, Antoinette Perry, the actor-director-producer for whom the American Theatre Wing named the awards.

She was from Denver. Her grandfather, Charles Hall owned the Salt Works Ranch in South Park, not so far from here. There is a brief link to the San Luis Valley too.

For readers who are interested in the kind of historical trivia that fills my head, here is a brief summary of the story:

Charles Hall and Antoinette’s grandmother, Mary Melissa Nye, with about 100 other foolhardy prospectors, passed through the San Luis Valley in the dead of winter in 1860-1861. Led by Charles Baker, a main character in one of my books, they were en route to the San Juan Mountains near Silverton.

With Mary Melissa were a husband and their two small children. Charles Hall, a bachelor, got lost and suffered illness or injury in the wilds, and Mary Melissa nursed him back to health. Romance blossomed.

The Baker party broke up by July 4, after the outbreak of the Civil War became known, and Mary Melissa’s husband conveniently disappeared from the story. Among other interesting participants were “Noisy Tom” Pollock and his 16-year-old bride Sarah Ann Chivington, who later lived for a time in the San Luis Valley, and Benjamin Eaton who became a governor of Colorado.

Charles Hall established the Salt Works Ranch in 1864. The area of Salt Creek, near Buffalo Peaks, had attracted wildlife and American Indian hunters, where Hall set up evaporating pans, built a brick chimney that became a landmark along U.S. 285, and shipped salt to early silver smelters, especially at Georgetown.

The granddaughter of Charles and Mary Melissa, Antoinette Perry, lived in Denver with her mother and relatives, who were performers and introduced Antoinette to stage life. Eventually, she moved to New York, and the rest of her story is history.

Antoinette may belong to Broadway now, but someone should write a play or a movie about the adventures of Charles, Mary Melissa, and their companions.

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