By Pat Noel
PHNH Newsletter Staff Writer
There are no tidings of comfort and joy here in Geezerville, which is what we call our end-of-life storage facility: The Purple Haze Nursing Home.
It’s located in the township of Chipeta. Chipeta used to be part of the township of Satank, but we seceded many years ago when the other part of town got in an argument with this part of town on the quality and quantity of our yard art.
So we quit ’em and called our part of town “Chipeta.”
And just so ya’ know, Chipeta is way cooler than Satank.
And we’re taller.
And better lookin’.
And way smarter than them.
I mean, some of those people in Satank are so damn dumb, they were old enough to get their driver’s license in fifth grade but couldn’t pass the written test.
I mean, some of them are so dumb, they’re like dumb blondes.
“How do you make a dumb blonde’s eyes twinkle? Shine a flashlight in her ear.”
“How do you get a one-armed dumb blonde out of a tree? Wave.”
“How abut the one where the dumb blonde goes in for a checkup and the doctor tells her that she’s pregnant and she says, ‘Is it mine?’”
Anyway … I know a guy who loves these jokes. He’s been a good friend to the geezers at the Purple Haze for many years and even though he lives in Satank, he’s smart and brave and good looking, too.
Pat Menke is his name.
Patrick Louis Menke.
But … he’s gone missing.
So lemme tell you a little bit about him and in case you see him on the road, maybe you could ask him to phone home.
He was born in Wray, Colorado, out on the eastern plains but grew up in Greeley. He went to Greeley High and then to Colorado State College (know known as the University of Northern Colorado). At both institutions, he was a champion wrestler in the 160-pound weight classification. The sport of wrestling was one of his passions.
Another one of his passions was his college sweetheart, a girl named “Kathy,” who he met and married his senior year in college. They both graduated from UNC in 1969 and Pat landed a job at the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind in Colorado Springs, where he taught physical education, coached wrestling, learned sign language and attempted to instruct some of his blind students in the art of cross-country motorcycle racing. (“They weren’t real good,” he once told me. “Hardly ever made it a mile.”)
But Kathy got knocked up while they were at the Deaf and Blind school, so with a pregnant wife and a crappy salary, he began looking for a better paying job. He found one and the couple moved to Leadville, where hard-rock miners were paid big bucks to blast molybdenum out of the Climax mines. Later on, they came over the Divide to the Roaring Fork and Crystal River country and he took a job at the Mid-Continent coal mine above Redstone.
That’s where he discovered another passion: mining. He loved it. Loved the danger and the dark and the brutishness of it.
He once said, “Coal mining is a high-ball operation. You can’t compare it to hard-rock mining like Climax, for instance. In hard-rock, you might move 10 feet in one shift because you have to drill, shoot, muck it out and then timber it. But mining coal, , you can move 150 or 200 feet in a shift. That’s it, man … move, move, move. That’s what it takes. But really, I did it for the money. Wife. Two kids. I got on at the mine because I wanted to live here and I could make enough at the mines to do it comfortably. I couldn’t make that kind of money doing anything else around.”
Making good money, Pat bought a lot in Satank and built a log house on it between his mining shifts.
But then the shit hit the fan.
MS. Multiple sclerosis.
First diagnosed in 1975, he’d spend the next 40-some years fighting it at every turn, trying anything he could think of to arrest or reverse the incessant decline of his strength.
I remember once, about 25 years ago, when he though he might have to start using a wheelchair to get around. He called me one up one day to tell me he’d seen this news report on “Good Morning America” about this guy who was crippled up with MS really bad, but was able to get up on his feet and start walking just fine after he was attacked by a swarm of bees.
Knowing that my wife was a beekeeper, he told me “Bring ‘em on.”
So I did.
Every day for a week I’d go back to the hive, capture some bees in a Mason jar, go over to his house, tweezer one out and hold it against his skin, ’til it stung him. He started with three bees and told me to add a bee each day. On the day about a week later, when we’d gotten up to about 12 bee stings, he said: “Bring 50 bees tomorrow. This ain’t getting’ it done. Not enough venom.”
Seemed like plenty to me.
Those bees beat the crap out of him. He was swollen up all over and looking pretty shockey – anaphylactically speaking.
So I told him, “No way. 50 bees? They’ll kill you and the cops are gonna arrest me for murder. No more bees.”
“Wimp (or a word to that affect)” he said.
Not long after the bee incident, he was put in a wheelchair and stayed in one for the rest of his life.
But even then, Pat raged against the dying of his mobility, ranging far and wide on many an epic journey. Especially after he got one that was motorized and local law enforcement began getting 911 calls that started out with “There’s a guy in a wheelchair
… turned over in an irrigation ditch …
… with a flat tire on Highway 82 near the CMC turnoff …
… stuck up at the Thompson Creek mines …”.
And the classic: “Hey. There’s a dead guy in a wheelchair hanging from the Satank Bridge!”
He wasn’t dead … then.
Although I heard a rumor … he is now.
Anyway, that’s just a rumor.
But we here in Geezerville don’t believe it.
We think he’s just missing, off in his wheelchair somewhere.
So we’re putting his picture on milk cartons, issuing alerts and asking you to be on the lookout for a man in a wheelchair answering to the following description (c/o the novelist Peter Heller):
“A scarecrow who looks resigned, like he had been handsome and imposing once, but was now in tatters and just happy to be outside looking over a strong, beautiful afternoon.”
If we can’t find him soon, his family will be putting together a search party to go look for him on Saturday 25, beginning at 11 a.m. at the Menke home in Satank.
Note: Here are two of Pat Menke’s favorite dumb blonde jokes:
A blonde walks into a bar with a pig on her shoulder and the bartender asks “Where’d ya get the pig?” The pig replies, “I won her in a raffle.”
What’s the difference between having sex with a prostitute, a nymphomaniac and a dumb blonde? The prostitute says, “Are you done yet?” The nymphomaniac says, “Are you done already?” the blonde says, “Beige … I think I’ll paint the ceiling beige.”
Pat Noel splits his time between Chipeta and Collbran (pronounced Cole-burn).