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Greetings from Steamboat Springs, Colo., site of cattle ranches, ski resorts, and the James Brown Soul Center of the Universe Bridge (about which more later). This is my happy place. Thanks to the generosity of an old friend, I come here every winter to watch the sky fall. Big white flakes of it drift down, often for long periods of time. My family tie themselves to slats of wood and slide down the fallen sky until they themselves fall. I’ve never understood this. I’ve spent much of my life trying not to fall down. But my spouse and offspring all seem to have picked up the tie-yourself-to-slats-of-wood chromosome somewhere. And they’re not alone. Lots of other folks come to Steamboat to do it, and when I wander out to the slopes to watch my family, the hillside is covered with fallen sky covered with fallen people. Seems like this much falling should be done during a different season, but the sky only falls in winter, so that’s when we come here. I don’t do the slats-of-wood thing. By the time I had enough money to buy wooden slats, I had already culled out several knee ligaments playing baseball, and the medical consensus was that an endomorph like me would sorely need the ligaments I had left and shouldn’t be putting them at risk. So I chauffeur and read and knit (very badly) and tackle Sudokus (also very badly) and hike around in the fallen sky and gain weight. Jeez, do I gain weight. Something about vacations. If I don’t mix in a salad or two soon, I’m gonna qualify for my own ZIP code. But mostly, I just sit and watch the sky fall. I’m a Southern California kid. I was well into my 30s before I first witnessed this phenomenon, and it remains nothing short of magical to me. So I light a fire, put my feet up, stare out the window, and try — mostly without success — to reconcile my belief in a just God with how good my life is. STOP THE PRESSES! Periodically, I read a periodical. In this case the periodical is Steamboat Today, which has to be the best daily paper ever produced in a town of fewer than 10,000 permanent residents. (Steamboat hovers around 9,500, but the skiers probably outweigh them during the winter — at least during my week.) Seriously, this is a terrific little newspaper that combines the best of the wire services and major dailies with its own dedicated staff of high school hockey and Routt County Planning Commission reporters. And the best thing about them is they have the good sense to know that the replacement of soda machines with juice machines at Steamboat High and the fact that Kelly Labor has signed a letter of intent to play her soccer at Regis University next year are big news — and whether Iran gets reported to the United Nations for its nuclear program will just have to be moved back to Page 14, next to Justice Samuel Alito Jr.‘s first vote on the U.S. Supreme Court, thank you very much. When your vision is that clear, it’s probably easy to put out a good paper. But, then again, they also get great material. And, as in most small venues, the police blotter is the very best. Keep in mind, this is a place where they haven’t had a murder yet in this century. Three robberies in a year would be a crime wave. A local guy pleaded guilty to possession of less than an ounce of marijuana yesterday — the story got nine column inches and ran with a photo. So help me. He’ll probably have to leave town. So it figures the police blotter here would not look like the police blotter in, say, Los Angeles or Washington. And it doesn’t. Most of it is auto accidents and “gas-skips,” a problem so serious that the gas pumps bear a sticker warning that if you don’t pay for your gas, they will hunt you down and have you and all your cousins sterilized (or something like that; you know I don’t read legal stuff very closely). THANK YOU, OFFICER Some examples of the police calls this week in Steamboat: • “12:40 p.m. A man reported another driver passing cars over double yellow lines in the 300 block of Anglers Drive. Officers found the driver and gave him a ticket.” Can you imagine? Not only do people call the police and report traffic infractions, the police go out and find the infractors! (Of course it’s a word. What else would you call them? Infractionites? Infractitioners?) • “4:07 p.m. Someone reportedly passed a school bus while the bus’s lights were flashing on Fish Creek Falls Road. Officers were unable to locate the car.” Just in case you thought the manhunt launched for the double-yellow crosser was a fluke. • “5:59 p.m. A woman in the 1400 block of Athens Plaza reported almost being hit by falling icicles and snow that workers were shoveling off the roof. The woman said the chunks of ice and snow �were the size of people,’ and the workers weren’t looking where the snow was falling. The workers had left the area by the time officers arrived.” Otherwise, they would have been shot down on the spot. • “6:45 p.m. A woman in the 1700 block of Timothy Drive reported her neighbor had pushed snow onto her yard and broken some trees.” I’m betting it’s the same woman who narrowly survived a brush with death at Athens Plaza. • “10:00 a.m. A woman in the 5900 block of U.S. Forest Service Road 42 in Clark reported someone damaging her garage doors. The woman said the doors probably were damaged several weeks ago, though she just noticed it. Nothing was taken from the garage.” Wouldn’t you love to know why she thought it was probably done several weeks ago and why she wouldn’t have noticed until now? Just got switched from swing shift to days? • “9:42 a.m. An eight-year-old boy reportedly was crying hysterically and running after a garbage truck in the 500 block of Wyatt Way. The boy later returned home, but his mother called the police to report the incident.” This is the kind of police work that somehow never makes it into an episode of “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.” You tell me: If you’re the cop responding to this call, just what is it from your police academy training that you apply to it? And, finally, my favorite of the week: • “10:25 p.m. A woman in the 3000 block of Village Drive reported hearing loud music and seeing people urinating in the bushes and stealing bicycles. Officers contacted the individuals and told them to turn down their music and to stop stealing bicycles and urinating in the bushes.” Now that there, as my uncle used to say, that there is some great police work. (Looking back at the police blotter excerpts now, it occurs to me that Steamboat men may be handling the winter better than Steamboat women this year. I’ve been writing this column 25 years now and I can count on one hand the number of times my gender looked better than the other. Gawd, I love this town!) THE WEIGHTY ISSUE But for all the entertainment provided by the Steamboat Today police blotter, I regret that I will miss the highlight of the winter. No, not the Winter Carnival. Although that’s pretty great. They have a ski-jumping contest and fireworks, and the high school clubs and organizations compete for a prize for Best Ice Sculpture Constructed Outside a Restaurant or F.M. Light & Sons Without Breaking Your Tailbone or Getting Arrested for Shoveling Snow on Grumpy Mrs. Schnaphammer, and all kinds of amazing things go on. But not that. Not the bread bowl full of spaghetti, served with a side of fries at Johnny B. Good’s Diner, either. Although I’m betting that’s pretty special. No, the City Council meeting; that’s what I hate to miss. The one where they discuss whether to change the name of the James Brown Soul Center of the Universe Bridge. Man, I’d give up my Robert Earl Keen Jr. collection and my Yaktrax for that. (I don’t try to be obscure — sometimes I just can’t help myself. Besides, these are two great things you probably don’t know about. So Google them. You’ll thank me.) According to Steamboat Today, “City Council has received a petition from community members requesting that the James Brown Soul Center of the Universe Bridge be returned to its original name of the Stockbridge.” The James Brown Soul Center of the Universe Bridge? In Steamboat Springs, Colo.? James Brown as in “I Feel Good”? James Brown as in “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”? James Brown as in high-speed car chases, threatening pedestrians with a firearm, four wife-beating arrests, and a prison rap for PCP? That James Brown? Yep. The very same. Soul Center of the Universe? Steamboat Springs? A town with more Native Americans than African-Americans? Absolutely. Could I make this up? And could there possibly be a more unlikely combination than James Brown and a cow-town bridge? This is like finding out the Waylon Jennings Luckenbach Texas Obelisk is located in Times Square. How did this happen? How did scientists manage to identify this spot as the Soul Center of the Universe, and did they not consider it pretty bizarre that cattle used to ford the river at this very place? Why is this not listed in the Auto Club Book? How many times has the Godfather of Soul actually played Steamboat Springs? And who opened for him, Garth Brooks? SEND ME A SIGN Intrepid big-time columnist that I am, I sought out these answers. My daughter Cait and I struggled through a blizzard to get to the James Brown Soul Center of the Universe Bridge. (Keep in mind that Southern California upbringing. My standards for a blizzard are not the same as those of the U.S. Weather Service.) It’s an elegant little footbridge across the Yampa River, at the west edge of town, near the Stockbridge Center. It’s about 50 yards in length, constructed of hunter-green iron, and quite lovely. Mr. Brown, if he’s ever seen it, must be proud. But we noted no unusual natural phenomena that would indicate this was the Soul Center of the Universe. I’d expected swirling clouds or mysterious lights, suspension of gravity, whirlpools in the river, three women in miniskirts to sing backup . . . something! Nope. We also noticed no sign. I would think the Soul Center of the Universe would merit a sign. The hot springs that dot the landscape around here all seem to have signs. One even has a gazebo. But there’s nothing to differentiate the James Brown Soul Center of the Universe Bridge from pretty much any other bridge I’ve ever seen. At least nothing I could see. But then again, that’s why I’m only here one week a year — I’m not very bright. If I were, I’d use the City Council meeting as an excuse to stay another month. At least.
William W. Bedsworth is an associate justice at the 4th District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana, Calif. This article previously appeared in The Recorder , an ALM publication in San Francisco.

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