by Darrell Arnold
WALSENBURG- The Masons have been in Walsenburg for well over a hundred years. The Walsenburg lodge, established in the late 1800s, is designated at number 27, one of the earliest in the state.
According to Lodge Master Bill Hix, the organization has somewhere around 65 dues-paying members, but "only about 12 are what you’d call active."
He says, "Most of our members are getting quite elderly, but we have a few ‘young elderly,’ like myself, who are running the lodge. And we are taking in some new, younger members." Hix has been a Mason for 40 years and has been in the Walsenburg lodge since 1974.
"The purpose of the Masons is to make men become better men. Masonic men are living an exemplary life. The idea is our example will make others want to emulate Masons, and they will ask to become Masons, too. We don’t ask men to join the Masons. They come to us."
People do not have to be Christians to be Masons, but religion does play a part. Hix says, "You have to have a religious belief in God."
Masonry traces back to the Old Testament and the stone masons who built King Solomon’s temple. Indeed, lodge rituals are allegorical and trace back to those earliest masons. Masons are spread throughout the world, and members identify one another by the emblem on the rings they wear.
There has always been a mysterious quality about Masonic rituals because members do not volunteer those details. But Hix dampens the idea that Masons are some kind of secret order.
"You can go to the Library of Congress and look everything up. Everything is laid out. You just have to know where to look. You can find out about it if you are willing to go to the trouble to look it up."
Much of Masonry involves members taking care of their own. If a member dies, his fellows will help support the widow and orphaned children. But Masons also perform charitable works that affect the larger community.
"We have a statewide Masonic scholarship," explains Hix. "Any graduating student can apply. The local lodge interviews area applicants, and those recommendations are sent on to the state’s Grand Lodge. The winning scholars are selected on the basis of their grade point average and their need."
Further, other orders of Masons provide additional services. Hix says, "Knights Templar run an eye foundation for people who need glasses. They also collect used glasses and refurbish and distribute them to people in need. Another order, the Shriners, establishes and operates hospitals for burn victims, mostly children."
Local lodges are noted for laying cornerstones in new buildings. Hix says, "The state Grand Master comes and performs the ceremony. You can see one at the Walsenburg Masonic Hall, just across the street from the courthouse."
Hix says, "Ours is a worthwhile organization. We provide an opportunity for people of like minds to gather together. Masons new to the area or sojourners can attend our meetings on the fourth Thursday of every month, starting again in April. We convene at seven pm."