Talon News - Good Local News

By Alicia Sharp
SPECIAL TO TALON 

ANIMAS VALLEY ELDER MEMORIES

Chuck Bennett

 

Chuck Bennett-PHOTO-A.Sharp-TALON.

I bought property in '97 in Cedar Hill at the base of Cox Canyon. So I have lived in the area some twenty years. I had leased a ranch in Colorado but after the owner died her heirs had a different opinion on how I should run the ranch so I lost the lease. I lived in a fifth wheel for a couple years on my Cedar Hill seven acres and had two horses, two dogs and two cats. Now I'm down to two cats, a dog and five acres.

I was born in Sunnyside, CO which is between Durango and the state line. My Italian grandfather homesteaded and worked mines in the area. My mom was very sick and my sisters were adopted but I was in a number of foster homes until I was 9 years old and adopted by the Bennett family. Leo Bennett was like the first real dad I had and yet he died. My mother's new husband, my step-dad, had a dairy farm and a museum. My bed was like a sleigh. I basically lived in a museum. Yet he was cruel and whipped me with a horse whip. I threatened to shoot him if he whipped me again and he came after me with a gun. I ran away and got to the Durango sheriff who wanted to take me home. There were no child protection laws at that time. I found out about my real dad decades later reading the obituaries in the Durango newspaper.

So at 13 I was in Michigan in a VFW orphanage because my stepdad Leo Bennett had been a vet. The orphanage was in cottages set up like family groups. The influence of my house mother probably saved my life. She stayed involved in my life and came for my wedding. At the orphanage I saved money for college and a car. A former foster mom in Durango got the car for me but kept it for herself. However, when she died I inherited a Lincoln Continental from her. At my home on Cedar Hill one time I drove the Cadillac to get the mail and then the car wouldn't start so I walked up the drive to get my truck which I left down below after putting the Cadillac up the drive. When I went back to get the truck there was so much law enforcement because someone had said there was a drug deal going on. I wondered if the someone thought my jumper cables were a gun. My license is for cowboy cadillac.

I attended Fort Lewis College majoring in commercial arts, spent four years in the Navy as jet mechanic, married and had four children and worked around the four corners in supermarket management in the '70s. I owned a couple airplanes (learned to fly in the service) and a hot air balloon. Flying was a hobby I always wanted to do as kid and I wanted to be an astronaut. Now I don't fly anymore. At Snowdown in Durango one time my balloon got hooked up on Smelter Mountain because of a downdraft keeping me down. The snow was so deep they had to get a snow cat up there. Balloon life was not cheap. You had to pay for crew. Now balloon life is so crowded.

I farmed around the area. I loved the farm life and bonding with cattle. I still go out to see the calves in the spring. I could have survived in 18th century. I was born 100 yrs too late. My place is kind of a hobby. I acquired two old buildings for $50 dollars for the barn wood. I put one on a foundation and made a house out of it. Then I tore down an old mining cabin up by Purgatory and added this to increase the house. I've put in a new bedroom and flagstone floor. I am an artist at heart and should do some work painting pictures but I don't have the patience anymore to work on a piece.

I have become reclusive. I'm starting to feel effects of age and diabetes is slowing me down. I come to Senior Center for people and I went on a Mediterranean Cruise and to the Holy Lands. I am coming into my second childhood. Someone dropped a dollar bill and I stepped on it and he swore at me. People get so pissed anymore. One guy took the time to take me out because I don't look handicapped and had parked in the handicapped space but I have the sticker for neuropathy in my feet. Note: Chuck Bennett is a important part of the Senior Center lunch bunch and always helpful and caring to friends there.

 

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