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COBWEB CORNERS: Don't make fun of the tourists!

By Mel McFarland

        When I learned to be a teacher, one of the things we were taught was to not make fun of the kids. Not that we could not laugh at the funny things they said or did! This column is not about that; this is mainly about TOURISTS!
       Even back in the 1890s, every spring there was an editorial in the newspaper warning locals to not make fun of the tourists. Most of you know I spent 16 years as a conductor on the train up Pikes Peak, and I encountered some very funny things done and said by tourists.
       Tourists are definitely funny when they have been taken to 14,000 feet above sea level. The lack of oxygen even affects those who live at this altitude. People also seem to be affected by seeing the sheer grandness of the view.
       In any case, I have over the years been asked some pretty unique questions about this area. I have talked to tour guides from Yellowstone Park, the Grand Canyon and other popular places and it's the same with them. The most common question is: "At what altitude do deer turn into elk?" I have had people ask that who live in areas where they ought to know better!
       I have written several books on local railroad history, but the book I have been told would be REALLY popular is one on these silly questions. The reply I give is that even though these questions are funny to those who get asked them, the average person does not think they are all that funny.
       For example, I have been asked at the top of Pikes Peak, "Is this the top or the summit?" You must remember, there is a little marker for the actual summit, and then there are the two signs that say SUMMIT. One of the really odd questions people ask there is, "Is this as high as we are going to go?" (A century ago there was a tall tower where you could go higher.)
       Here's another odd question, from those who do not really look too closely: "Does the road come up to the same summit?" People also ask, "Is that the same road the cars race on?" You see, many do not notice the large parking lot on the other side of the Summit House. We see only one curve on the road as we climb to the top, because the railroad goes up the south side while the road is mainly on the north.
       Which leads one to ask, based on current plans that have been announced: Does the mountain really need a new Summit House? If you spend any time up there in the summer, or even in the fall, YES! At times there are more 500 people on the summit at one time, and they all seem to want a cup of hot chocolate and a donut... or the bathroom.

(Posted 6/22/15; Opinion: Cobweb Corners)

       Editor's note: Local historian Mel McFarland has been writing his Cobweb Corners column in the Westside Pioneer since early 2004. To see past columns, go to the Pioneer's Archives. Either look for desired articles under the Cobweb Corners category for any year, or search by keywords in the Find box.

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