Colorado Springs was the first place I could call a permanent home because as a military brat I lived in two countries and four states before third grade.
Colorado Springs "The Springs" is the second largest city in Colorado but still only has about 500k people. Part of the fun growing up here was that the city has personality. Whether it's the statue of the city's founder in the middle of a major intersection or having Pike's Peak in our back yard, the city has a good claim as a tourist destination.
But it's the little things that tourists will never see that give the city local charm.
Once upon a time there was a couple who lived at the intersection of Fillmore and a most confusing but aptly named street called Templeton Gap which pops up throughout town but disappears at least three times along the way.
This couple's little piece of heaven was an acre of land at a busy intersection that looks like the city had played chicken with the country and lost. A farm fence separated the four-lane road from a small yard where a donkey munched on grass. Behind the donkey stood a white-washed brick or cinder block barn with a hay loft and a dutch stall door.
While the bit of country surrounded by city was notable on its own, what made driving by worth while were the murals that were painted on the side. No one could call them works of high art but they were works of love. You see, back in the 70's Dessie Taylor had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and given six months to live. Her surgery was a success and to celebrate, her family painted a flag and the words "We are Proud to be Americans" on the side of the barn in 1972.
Our family drove by every couple months to get from our home in the suburbs to downtown and the little barn was along the way. I don't know how often the mural changed but I always noticed and had to ask my mom if she had too. Each mural was always accompanied by an inspirational quote.
All through my childhood and on into high school and when I came home from college and after I was married and had my own children this little barn was a fixture in my world. A couple of years ago I noticed that the mural wasn't being changed and that the donkey wasn't patiently chewing grass anymore outside the barn. I didn't remember what the mural was but the message said "Happy Trails, Dessie and C. Bob."
Today I drove by and noticed that weeds had taken over the yard and that a new mural had been painted on the side of the barn. The mural was really the best I had seen. It was a sunset painting showing the jagged edges of what could be the Grand Canyon. In the bottom of the mural are the words "Vaya con Dios." Attached to the weather-worn fence, that I remember being white long ago, is a red for sale sign.
I never met Dessie or her husband Bob who died of cancer in 1996 but I thank them for the little bit of joy they brought to the city for forty years.