What type of people are you? Are you downtown people? Redlands people? Near-the-North-desert people? Perhaps where you live you’d be uptown people, south side of the tracks people, or people from The Hills. Me? I’m Orchard Mesa people. If you’re not familiar with my community, you can think of me as Across the River people. Maybe you’ve never considered what type of people you are. Not quite in this sense, anyway, right? I hadn’t. Until last night.
I live just over the Fifth Street Bridge in Orchard Mesa. It’s an older neighborhood, quiet, simple. There are no sidewalks on the side streets and not many businesses, so it has a bit of a country feel to it. It’s a little run down, quirky. But it’s peaceful.
One of the things I like is seeing the Colorado River on a daily basis, walking and driving over the bridge and walking along the river path. The river is fascinating in the spring when it’s running strong and full, fueled by mountain runoff, devouring the land that typically defines its normal path, visibly cresting from its power within.
Two evenings ago, Jim and I were driving over the bridge to my house and decided to try to get a better view of the confluence and the rapids that always form in that area in the month of May. I suggested we turn into Hilltop Liquors (now out of business) and drive behind the building. There is a good view of the Gunnison River there. But you can’t see the Colorado River all that well and it’s the Colorado that’s running wild right now, especially where it converges with the Gunnison. You need to drive north a little to get a better look at the Big C.
So that’s what we did. We drove north, back behind some other buildings that are up on the hill, not far, maybe a hundred yards. It’s basically a large gravelly area with worn out weeds and a few small structures. They may be homes or possibly storage or old business buildings. I’ve never really taken note and I wasn’t then. I had my eye on the rivers, the confluence.
Jim had his eye on a man walking toward us, a man with a beer bottle in one hand and a chihuahua on a chain in the other.
Neither of us had seen the NO TRESPASSING signs. I was checking out the river, the rapids. Jim was seeing the anger on the man’s face and in the way he strode toward us.
I stopped and got out to take a closer look. Jim kept his eye on the guy and said, “Where are you going? Get back in here.”
I took only a few steps when I saw the sign, a big sign that said PRIVATE PROPERTY. So I turned and got back into my vehicle.
I’m respectful. I’m not going to intentionally trespass on someone else’s property if I’m not welcome. And I know that whomever owns that property back there has had plenty of trespassers in the past, plenty of vagrants wanting to get to The Point, hoping to set up a temporary home on the picturesque slice of pie between the rivers at the confluence. But that was a few years ago. That area has been closed off for a while now.
As I hopped back in, I saw him. He was approaching our vehicle and he looked none too friendly.
“You people!” he yelled at us. “Go back to the Redlands.”
“Calm down, man,” Jim said. “We’re not doing anything. We were just going to look at the river.”
“Go to the Redlands! Right over there!” He nodded to the bluffs on the other side of the Gunnison. “Go park in their driveways and look at the river. See if they like it. Can’t you read? It says no trespassing!”
“I’m sorry,” I yelled past Jim and out the passenger side window. “I see this big PRIVATE PROPERTY sign, but I didn’t see any others. I guess I was just looking at the river.”
It was true. I wouldn’t have driven past the liquor store if I realized it was posted no trespassing.
It didn’t matter though. What I said–my explanation, my apology–made no difference at all to this man.
“You people disgust me, you make me sick,” he continued. By now I had started driving. I couldn’t tell if he was drunk, if he was going to continue approaching us. So I circled wide around him and headed back from where we had come.
“Yeah, that’s right, you people! You go back to the Redlands!” he shouted behind us.
When we were safely out of there, Jim said, “That was weird. That really creeped me out.”
“Why?” I asked. “It wasn’t that bad.”
“Yes it was. What was all that ‘you people’ about? ‘Go back to the Redlands?’”
“Yeah, you’re right, that was weird. Why would he think we’re from the Redlands? Are Redlands people more inclined to look at the river? To trespass? I felt like telling him, ‘Hey buddy, I live on Orchard Mesa. Same as you.’”
It concerns me that people think–not to mention speak out loud–like that, in blanket, ignorant generalizations. When he said ‘you people’–meaning you people who live in the Redlands–he was referring to thousands. What could those thousands of people possibly have in common, other than living in the Redlands? And if there is a commonality, how was he seeing it in us? The Redlands is generally thought of as an affluent area in our community, with many beautiful homes that sit along the base of the Colorado National Monument, but in truth there are all sorts of homes and all sorts of people who live out there.
Just as there are on Orchard Mesa, or in any other area of our town. Or your town.
If I didn’t live in Orchard Mesa, myself, I suppose I could shake my head at the guy and think along the lines of, oh, he’s just an Orchard Mesa hillbilly.
But that doesn’t work for me. That’s the beauty of our neighborhood, my community, the world. There are all sorts of people to be found everywhere. And we’re all different.
And there is much to be learned from all people, from any one person. And that holds true for this guy, too. I understand that he was angry at me for being on his property and he had every right to be, but did he handle it well? Was it really me who made him angry or was he angry long before we showed up?
Unbeknownst to him, he is the subject of my blog, and his thinking, his attitudes, his behavior, can teach us.
What do you take away from him?
By the way, the next evening we went to look at the river again, this time by the Blue Heron area. You know, over by the Redlands.