Jamestown, Colo., as I knew it, no longer exists. The September floods devastated the town, which sits on James Creek above Boulder.
Kim, my late dear friend, and I went out to Colorado in 1978. She was reuniting with an old boyfriend; I was along for the ride. She had just turned 24, and I was almost 26. It was the first time I had been west of Nashville, and my first major road trip.
BF, as I will refer to him, lived in Jamestown, a former mining town. At the time, the population was made up mostly of hippies, mostly from Ohio, who made their living from carpentry and other seasonal trades. It was a barter-and-trade existence, but they got by. Jamestown’s children seemed to be thriving. It must have been a wonderful place to grow up.
BF rented a small house that sat next to Little James Creek. It was spotlessly clean, which impressed me, with two bedrooms, a fairly large living room and a small kitchen with a gas stove. It dated back to the town’s mining days, as did the other houses in the very small town. The houses seemed boom-town fragile, not built to last, but they had endured. I wondered how the miners survived the Rocky Mountain winters with so little between them and the elements. Actually I wondered the same thing about BF and his friends. It was early August and snow had already fallen in the mountains above us.
Being in Jamestown was like being in a grown-up camp with private housing. There were potlucks and softball games, fishing trips and sing-alongs. BF played a washtub bass, if I remember correctly. Sometimes Jamestown life was so idyllic it seemed contrived, like a screenwriter’s idea of what life in a mountain town should be like. But I’m cynical.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy myself. We went on a horseback ride on mountain trails, and drove up to Nederlands for a wedding reception. You could stand on the couple’s back deck and look out at the Continental Divide.
In Jamestown, I got to make brownies using high-altitude directions. I don’t think I’ve ever seen bluer skies.
When I heard of the flooding “above Boulder,” I immediately thought of Jamestown. In the next breath, the broadcaster said, “the town of Jamestown was hit hard.”
New images showed people being airlifted out, the main road buckled, house crumpled and tumbled along the creek.
Lifelong residents were interviewed. Now in their 40s, these were the kids who wandered in an out of Jamestown’s open doors. Could the man named Reuben be the tanned, smiling child in my photos?
For the 10,000th time since she died, I wished I could talk to Kim. We would bring out the photos, laugh at her tube socks and my big glasses, then tell a hundred stories of the fun times we had.
There is a saying in Jamestown: Once you’ve seen Porphyry Mountain, it will draw you back.
I remember standing in the softball field staring up at the mountain, wondering when I would come back and who I would be.
It never occurred to me there might be no Jamestown to come back to.
Jan Hearne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.