Evergreen Cemetery is a wonderful place to walk if you’re into that sort of thing. Reading the inscriptions on the gravestones is often a lesson in history, and at the very least you leave with a better feel for the hardships the earliest Leadvillians experienced as you note the number of stones commemorating the death of a child, or two or even more. Women often died in childbirth; men were prone to accidents, especially while mining. Diseases were something to dread. There is one tombstone in the cemetery that lists all the children that were lost to one couple. The oldest listed lived perhaps two years. Some died at birth. At least five or six are listed, and it’s impossible to imagine how a couple could cope with all that loss
It’s not surprising that several tombstones are inscribed with this phrase from the Bible : “I will lift mine eyes up to the hills from whence comes my help.” Other times, the verse reads “from whence comes my comfort” or uses the word “strength”.
It’s a unique experience to look at our mountains and think of all the eyes that saw this exact same view and found it comforting, or perhaps exciting and challenging. In any case, when Horace Tabor, or Baby Doe, or Doc Holliday looked west or east, they saw what we see today.
A dozen years ago I was talking to one of our subscribers from another state who once had lived in Leadville. When we spoke, she was in her 80s and had moved away long ago, but she never forgot her time here, and she obviously treasured the memory. She told of leaving her home on West Seventh Street each day and looking west toward the mountains. She said that the memory of that scene stayed with her. She could close her eyes and see Mount Massive and, I believe, this memory brought her comfort.
But the mountains don’t only bring comfort, strength and help. More practically they serve as a way to tell in what direction you’re traveling.
I lived in Denver for about 20 years before moving to Kansas City. Shortly after arriving in KC, a town with which I had no familiarity, I was on my way to a job interview. Suddenly I realized that I had no idea where I was or how to get where I needed to be. It was noon and the sun was directly above. No clue there. With no mountains, how was I to know which way was west? This was before each vehicle had GPS.
I was tempted to forget about Kansas City and just head west until I found the mountains. I might have done so if I could have figured out which direction to drive.
In Leadville, we have it even better than the people on the Front Range. We have the Sawatch Range to the west and the Mosquito Range to the east. It’s almost impossible to not know in which direction one is traveling.
There’s a lot of talk about people getting out of their comfort zone in order to achieve great things. Maybe so. In Leadville the comfort zone lies between two mountain ranges, and although we may leave, we know we can always find our way home.