This is my Westcliffe story.
I first came to Westcliffe in 1976 with my boyfriend after we met some people who lived here. We were thinking of moving from Pueblo to the mountains and drove up to visit them.
The wind in the Valley was as harsh as the ranchers’ attitudes toward hippies, so we moved to Beulah instead.
We did, however, meet lots of cool people in Westcliffe who became lifelong friends.
There was a big Beulah-Westcliffe-Gardner connection. We spent a lot of time in Gardner where there was also a food co-op. And more hippies.
Highway 69 from Westcliffe to Gardner wasn’t paved yet. That was no big deal. Most of our travels were on dirt roads. We either came over North Creek or Twelve Mile. Jim Bishop was on the first layers of foundation for his castle. In Pueblo, Pueblo Boulevard north of Highway 96 was unpaved and only went to 11th Street until 1975. It was a different, innocent time and a slower laid-back pace.
When I got pregnant, we toured St. Mary Corwin Hospital which was the only choice back then. The rule was that a woman had to have her wrists strapped down during labor and delivery. I decided that was not the way for me, so decided on a home birth. Our close friends in Westcliffe were also contemplating home birth, so we spent a lot of time together.
One day my boyfriend and I got our marriage license in Pueblo and decided to celebrate by driving up to Westcliffe to see friends who lived in the big old Wolff house (now demolished) just up Oak Creek Grade.
Well everyone was having a good ’ol time, and the mood was festive, so we decided to go ahead and get married that afternoon. Our friend called Augie Menzel, the judge, at home. He met us at the courthouse and performed the ceremony. Woo hoo.
(My second marriage, for inquiring minds, was a big biker bash on top of Greenhorn. Always the mountain girl.)
There was a medical clinic in Gardner where my friend went. She arranged midwives for her home birth. My husband and I took midwife classes, and my husband was my midwife. All went well for us through two home births in Beulah.
When my daughter was three weeks old, we drove the old pickup to Crestone Needles to camp. You could still drive up there at that time. It was grand.
Another mountain adventure had me flying off my dirt bike heading up Medano pass to camp. Yes kids, those old shoulder injuries will come back to haunt you.
When I was separating from husband number one, I camped out on my friend’s land with my dog, my mandolin and a bottle of whiskey. Unbeknownst to me, that was where I would live thirty years down the road.
I spent a lot of time in the mountains, had learned to use a chainsaw and haul water in five-gallon jugs. Having grown up in the rural parts outside Chicago, I loved camping and the rustic life.
During summers, I came over to Westcliffe on busy weekends and waitressed at Clevers to pick up some quick cash. In those days we hung out at the Silver Bell, The Red Garter and The Silver Dome. We canned fruits and vegetables. We beaded jewelry and macramed. We watched each other’s kids.
Fast forward to 2003 after my teaching career turned into a tattoo career, divorced twice and was back in Pueblo after living in a motor home traveling to motorcycle rallies with my tattoo shop.
My friend’s son from Westcliffe came to visit my daughter one day. They’d been born two weeks apart and remained close. Well, he went back to Westcliffe and told his dad that I was back in town. One thing led to another, and I ended up moving to that property where I had camped so many years before. There was a house by then but still no water or electricity. Ah, the rustic life.
We got married a couple years later and moved to a different place, got indoor plumbing and solar and wind for electricity. Woo hoo.
I had jobs at Native Woods Garden Center, Marian’s Restaurant, Jacque’s Body Art (my tattoo shop), the Wet Mountain Tribune and the library.
I got involved with the art guild. I helped organize the first Art Hullabaloo after an artist came to my shop to discuss some kind of art festival idea he had. I asked him what he planned to call this art hullabaloo. And that’s how that came to be.
I had small parts in three plays at the Jones Theater and Shakespeare in the Park. One time, the director told me not to act but just say the lines. Laughing emoji here.
A friend was renting space for her marketing business at what is now 3rd Street Gallery. She thought those empty walls would be great for artists to display works since she only used the back office. I managed the gallery and organized Hullabaloos for about five years, taught art classes and was involved with volunteer organizations.
While working at the Trib, I traveled all over the Valley, learned the back roads, interviewed folks from all walks of life and got to attend all the events.
I’ve hiked up to mountain lakes and painted while my husband fished. I painted everywhere all the time.
I left the library after eight years, and a year later the pandemic struck.
I went from flitting around the country painting at every plein air event I could manage to isolating at home.
The wind still howls. The population in the county has grown and diversified.
These days I watch the shadows roll over the mountains, paint the occasional landscape and leisurely hike around with my dog. Mountain girl, biker chick. Here I am. Jacqueline. The artist formerly known as Jacque. Woo hoo.
To see some of Jacqueline’s art, head to her website!