Postcard from Colorado

Moffat, Colorado, 7500 feet above sea level and just a few miles north of Colorado Gators Reptile Park, is zoned. A sign posted along Highway 17 told me so as I crossed into town. I assumed municipal ordinances directed the little town’s growth, so that one could not slap a home anywhere, anyway. Except that’s how Moffat had been settled, trailers scattered aimlessly along the highway. I stopped at a store—the store—that could not afford to be one thing, advertising coffee and jewelry and ice. On the store’s broad, frontier porch, a man with a collection of backpacks propped against a post rocked on his heels, talking happily into his ragged gray beard. Inside, among the vaguely Navajo knickknacks for sale throughout the Southwest, two women were hanging butterfly kites, either for sale or decoration, I couldn’t tell. (The decision was ultimately made that the kites looked best flying to the ceiling, not descending from it.) One of the women took a break to put a frozen burrito in a microwave for me. As I sat next to the microwave, waiting to retrieve my food, the women discussed the man on the porch, gliding now through a series of Tai Chi poses. They were trying to figure out how to get him to drift along down Highway 17, to the next town, the next porch with a big view of the high plateau. I shifted to sit in a way evocative of someone with a very full car. Lucky for me, the women had their eye on another possible ride, a man who emerged now on the quiet road, headed for the store. This character had also been hanging around all morning, but the women spoke of him not as another pest to be shooed away, but a troubling presence it was best not to agitate. And maybe, they said hopefully, when this Ill Wind blew out of town, he’d take Tai Chi with him. The microwave dinged and Ill Wind came inside, as shorn and tight as Tai Chi was shaggy and lose. He backed up to the wood stove in the middle of the store and, after a quiet moment, told all of us and none of us that his doctor’s appointment had gone well. Not much to say to that. And, really, no need for three stragglers in Moffat. The whole place is zoned.