In our little gypsy-like association of artists acquaintance Mark Beling’s Mountain Arts Festivals summer alternation in Breckenridge, we apperceive them as “The Boys.”
They’re actuality afresh this weekend, affairs their gallery-wrapped paintings with demurred black oils depicting automated and amusing scenes from America’s yesteryears, aback in the WPA canicule of the 1920s and ’30s.
“We like Mark, he treats us well,” they offer.
David Ritchey Johnsen and Thomas Elmo Williams are from Helper, Utah, south of Salt Lake City, on the southern abject of Soldier Pass. It’s a atramentous mining association with its appropriate accessory railroad. Helper got its name from those added locomotives – “helpers” – bare to abetment coal-laden trains in their ascend up and over the 7,477-foot pass.
Today, atramentous is still arresting in the town’s economy, as is the railroad. David and Elmo are able association supporters and acreage owners in the boondocks of 2,000.
They met 20 years ago in Helper aback David, built-in and aloft in Salt Lake City, and already a acknowledged painter, had confused from Los Angeles, and Thomas, bigger accepted locally as “Elmo,” was alive underground, plying the barter of his West Virginia ancestry in mining atramentous to accumulation powerplants.
Elmo alone knew nine of the 14 miners who died in that Crandall Canyon Abundance adversity aback in August 2007.
Several mishaps in the mine, and actuality bent in a cave-in, led Elmo to carelessness his career as a roofbolter in bendable bedrock mining and was gluttonous another.
Like mining, he helped the ex-miner ascertain a hidden talent, bringing blush to activity on an easel.
They abide painting and now own an old auberge and a big barn they angry into a flat gallery, The Boxcar Gallery, and four mining “camp” houses, active in all of them.
“When we go out on the town, they don’t accord me the time of day – it’s all Elmo,” says David.
David and Elmo accept not to fly afterwards a bad acquaintance during a storm.
When not active to a agenda of artshows, they consistently booty the Amtrak alternation from a annex abutting by in Helper.
While Elmo is a brilliant in his adopted community, it’s David who has a accomplishments few apperceive about: He’s a great-grandson of Edwin “Big Ed” C. Johnson, the Colorado governor for whom the additional bore of the Eisenhower Adit is named.
Johnson served three two-year agreement as governor; three as a US senator; and four agreement in the Colorado House of Representatives. He died at 86 in 1970.
The I-70 tunnel, at an acclivity of 11,158 feet, was ceremoniously opened in 1973 (westbound) and 1979 (eastbound).
David explains that his grandmother, Gladys, was adopted by Big Ed.
Later on, David’s mother, Shirley, affiliated a man with a agnate name, but it was Johnsen, not Johnson. The Democratic governor gave his granddaughter 360 acreage up abreast Craig, in Northwest Colorado, area they had homesteaded.
As a adolescent boy, David recalls visiting Gov. Johnson bottomward in the Governor’s Mansion, benumbed in Big Ed’s Denver and Rio Grande clandestine railcar, and aback the Colorado baton was visiting the continued ancestors in Salt Lake City, they would accommodated at the Auberge Utah.
He recalls audition shouted often: “Hey, Big Ed.”
David has ancestors photographs he is planning to donate, but has yet to actuate to what entity.
Meanwhile, in added news, RE/MAX agent BJ McCarthy appropriately and alluringly angry 60 this anniversary with a abruptness affair at Silverheels.
Good accompany Mary Frances “MF” Ahlquist and Bonnie Arnold got it all arranged.
Another bounded hitting 60: Chuck “CJ” Julin.
In boondocks from New Jersey were Linda and Mike Curry, who active the Copper Mountain absolute acreage and amusing scenes from 1990-2005.
Miles F. Porter IV, nicknamed “Spike,” a Coloradan back 1949, is an Army veteran, above Climax miner, alum of Adams State College, and a bounded back 1982. An award-winning analytic reporter, he and wife Mary E. Staby endemic newspapers actuality for 20 years.
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