The Legend-News

Monday, 2002 March 4 : Volume 5, Number 5

What We Got Here in this edition of The Legend-News.

Counting The Days
Upcoming events.

A couple of short reminders: the The World's Largest Truck Convoy will take place in Orlando, Florida on July 20; and C.W. McCall Tour 2002 happens on June 7 and 8.

For more information on The World's Largest Truck Convoy, see last week's Legend-News; for more information on Tour 2002, see the Tour 2002 section of the web site.

World's Largest Truck Convoy logo

Meanwhile, Back At The Critter Ranch
What the fans are doing.

Mike Madonna found a funny trucker song, and it's definitely for modern truckers only. The song is "Comfortable Wired" by Earth, Worm & Fire, a parody of "Comfortably Numb" by Pink Floyd (which is on their album The Wall, but you knew that). And for you Tom T. Hall fans, Earth, Worm & Fire also has "I Like Crank".

Riverside Slide
Weird blue lights

Each winter (in the Northern Hemisphere, of course; in Oz, the season is summer) The Legend-News revisits the scariest song by C.W. McCall: "Riverside Slide". It's the scariest song, because it's true.

You've probably seen avalanches in movies and television shows. Usually they're giant rolling clouds of snow about to bury skiers. Our favorite scene is from the James Bond adventure, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and we still think that George Lazenby made a good 007; but we digress.

In real life, the threat of an avalanche is present to anyone who ventures onto U.S. Highway 550 between Durango and Ouray, Colorado. Since 1877, at least 65 people — mostly miners — have died in avalanches in Ouray County, six of those deaths having occured in the infamous East Riverside slide area about four miles south of Ouray in Red Mountain Pass.

Three plow drivers have died in the Riverside Slide: Robert Miller, on March 2, 1970; Terry Kishbaugh, on February 10, 1978; and the last was Eddie Imel on March 5, 1992. Miller's death was the inspiration for C.W.'s song about the slide.

Plow driver's memorial near East Riverside slide

But those plow drivers weren't the only deaths in the Riverside Slide. On March 3, 1963, Reverend Marvin Hudson was travelling south on 550 with his daughters Amelia and Pauline. His destination was Silverton. The road was snow-packed, and he had stopped his car to put on tire chains.

By the time of the March 1992 avalanche, a concrete snowshed had been constructed at the point of the main slide area. Four motorists were trapped in the snowshed for 12 hours; but the snowshed was only 400 feet long, and 200 feet north of the shed the plow with Eddie Imel and Danny Jaramillo was swept over the side. Jaramillo, using a small shovel, dug his way to the surface and walked to the snowshed; that effort took him 18 hours. Imel's body was recovered the following day.

After every heavy snowfall, efforts were made to control avalanches by closing affected roads and manually triggering a slide. Then the plows would clear the road of snow and debris. Until 1986, 75mm Howitzers were used to fire explosive charges into the snow high on the sides of known slide zones (and over 100 slide zones are known). But the storage of the necessary shells for the guns became too hazardous, and since 1986 helicopters have been used to deliver explosives into the slide areas. Basically, the helicopter's pilot flies over a slide area, and a bombadier drops a charge into the snow.

Avalanche forecasting has become a priority during the winter months. Beginning in 1992, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center has stationed two forecasters in Silverton (which is near the center of the slide areas) from November 1 until May 1. Their job is to identify those slide areas which are most dangerous and likely to fall.

If you're planning to vacation in avalanche areas, particularly if you'll be skiing or snowboarding, you may want to attend a class at the Silverton Avalanche School. They'll teach you how to identify the stability of snowpacks, and how to avoid causing (or being in) an avalanche; and what to do to survive if you're caught in an actual avalanche.

On a related subject: the Silverton-to-Durango train doesn't run in the winter months because of the possibility of slides, and the expense of keeping the tracks clear of snow.

Song A’ Th’ Week
Words without music. Call 'em poems.

Driving on U.S. 550 between Durango and Ouray is a taxing journey during the summer. You're usually above 9000 feet (2700 meters) and going up or coming down. There's little "flat" up there.

Now imagine driving that route with snow on the road and more snow over your head. Something's going to slide.

Riverside Slide
(C.W. McCall, Bill Fries, Chip Davis)
From the album Wilderness

One coal-black night of a Colorado winter
It snowed on Red Mountain Pass
We warned ev'rybody that the Slide was runnin'
An' 5-5-Oh was a mess
But outta the plowshed, south a' town
Come a blade with a flashin' blue light
We told that boy: "Whatever you do,
Beware of the Riverslide Slide."

Now that plow-jockey knew he had a job to do
Been dodgin' them slides for years
But we all knew, deep down inside,
He was livin' with a thing called fear
'Cause you don't mess around with an avalanche, son
A lotta men tried, and died
Yeah, you get them plows past Bear Creek Falls,
You lookin' at the Riverside Slide

Now all a' us folks around Ouray County
Seen a lotta them cold, black nights
When the only thing movin' is a big ol' plow
Flashin' them weird blue lights
You drive them snowplows around these parts
You gotta have a real thick hide
'Cause ya never quite know what time a' the night
You gonna die in the Riverside Slide

Well, it snowed six feet on the mountain that night
An' we knew what was comin' on down
An' so did the boy an' his flashin' blue light
When he rolled that blade outta town
Well, he took that plow up 5-5-Oh
An' he felt it lean to one side
An' before he knew it, he was buried alive
At the bottom of the Riverside Slide

Yeah, all a' us folks around Ouray County
Seen a lotta them cold, black nights
When the only thing movin' is a big ol' plow
Flashin' them weird blue lights
We found the boy in the early spring
Still settin', the plow on its side
Yeah, ya never quite know what time a' the night
You gonna die in the Riverside Slide

The Legend-News is Copyright 2002 TechRen Enterprises. "Champagne! Champagne!" Thanks to Bill Fries and Chip Davis for the words and music.