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Despite this we stay for October 10, 2013

White Elephants

by Carol Dunn
In Southeast Asia, white elephants are considered holy, and when a king owned one, it meant he had power and prosperity. And, wow, if the king gave you a white elephant – what an honor. Of course, all your money and time would be spent catering to the revered white elephant, and that turned out to be pretty much a curse.
Here in Huerfano, we have our own white elephants. They are called “historic adobe structures.” Oh sure, they’re neat. They are the ultimate “green” buildings. They are made out of nature’s original raw material, dirt. Well, wet dirt – known affectionately in the green world as mud – and straw. Simple.
Of course, back in the Adobe Age, there weren’t widespread amber fields of grain in Huerfano, so the “straw” was probably tumbleweeds or some other weed. We have so many to choose from. And if a guy wasn’t in the mood to pick weeds to make his adobe bricks, there was a plentiful option.
I read on the Internet that if you were desperate to make adobe bricks and didn’t have anything else, you could mix horse manure with your mud.
Talk about recycling. Imagine sitting around in your snug little adobe building on a cold winter night, the wood burner crackling with a toasty fire, and the walls start to heat up. Whewwwweeee! The kids would be begging you to let them muck out the barn so they could get some fresh air.
The thing about these old adobe structures is that they are, well, old. Frankly, you have an irreplaceable piece of history standing there, you are responsible for it, and it’s not getting any younger.
This is worse than a marriage – not that marriage is bad or anything – but you can’t divorce an adobe building.
You’d better take good care of your old adobe or something bad might happen. Like it might fall down – or even worse, half fall down – leaving the evidence that you didn’t take care of it so people driving by can shake their heads and say, “Tsk, tsk, those slugs didn’t take care of that historic adobe structure.” Talk about a white elephant. So you have to fix the roof and shore up the spots that get rained on and make sure the windows are airtight. Hey, all it takes is water in the wrong place, and you can end up with one huge mud pie. Have you ever seen any references to huge mud pies in history? No. It is simply understood that shall NOT happen.
An adobe is a special part of Huerfano history. Sometimes it makes you want to sing Kumbaya. Other times you (did I say you? – no, I meant a friend of yours) decides maybe it would be better to just knock down the darn thing with a bulldozer.
And yet, how could you face humanity? What would you tell your kids? Well, Suzy, I realize we were entrusted to an important historic relic, but every summer it smelled like baked horse manure.
It sure would be great if you could have the Historic Adobe Coordination Keepers Society (HACKS) come in and airlift your adobe to a museum or to Boulder. But no. You can’t move an adobe building because it is just a big pile of dirt with a decrepit roof. Ok, it might be organized dirt, but it’s still dirt. You start messing with it, and before the day’s over, your white elephant is gonna look like a motocross jump.
People would never look at you the same way again.