Sunday, January 10, 2016

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Doc Coulson

            The Coulson Trail commemorates one of Hugo, Colorado’s early doctors.  Sitting on a ridge, the Doc's final resting place has a spectacular view.  Below winds the Big Sandy Creek with the woods of cottonwood trees, on far horizon is Zebulon Pike’s mountain.  From the vantage point, he can watch the first morning rays to the evening shadows as they race over the face of the peak.  Below, he can watch the seasons pass by in the trees that line the Big Sandy.  The first catkins of spring becoming a green ribbon that appears to reach on forever, to the glistening colors of fall as the temps cool.
            For over a century the good doctor has resided on this ridge.  The railroad that brought him to Hugo is still there.  The wagon ruts have been replaced by a super slab of concrete ribbon.  The trains still echo over the high plains, while the big trucks huff n puff to climb out of the small valley that Hugo is situated in. 
            Doctor Coulson came to Hugo to open a practice in the growing railroad town.  Hugo was a small hub for the railroad and had become the county seat.  There was also some ranchers and homesteaders in the area.  Prospects for a thriving practice looked good.  There were the railroad workers, their families, the shop keepers and the government people to take care plus the ranchers and farmers.  A country doctor he would be.
            Setting out his shingle, Doc Coulson began to tend to the needs of his new home.  House calls were made, accidents bandaged, babies delivered and assorted illnesses tended to.  Then smallpox raised its ugly head and the people of Hugo became fearful.  A rancher south of town came down with the pox.  No one wanted to tend to the rancher but Doctor Coulson agreed to nurse him and bring him back to good health.
            The Doc did a good job, the rancher survived the smallpox but the Doc caught the pox and did not make it.  Doc was not able to survive the ordeal and passed away in 1892.  For whatever reason the townspeople buried him on the ridge rather than the town cemetery, a couple of miles away.  A few people said that the locals back then were worried about the Doc’s pox spreading so they isolated him.
            For years the grave site sat on the ridge, little attention was paid to the single grave site.  About a dozen years ago some local citizens decided to honor the early day doctor.  Some funds were secured and the Coulson Exercise Trail came into being as part of the town’s park system. 
            Beginning on the east edge, near the town water tower, the trail followed the perimeter of the land, being about a mile and half long.  It was also a Nature Trail.  There are exercise stations along the way, and markers for the various flora and fauna, some of them rare for the eastern plains. 
The trail followed along beside a county road, down a gully, following and back up the hill to return back, crossing a small bridge, circling a communications tower.  Benches have been placed along the route plus a few picnic tables. 
            About 300 yards into the park is the grave with a memorial plaque with a fence around it.  Nearby are a couple of benches.  Here on can pause and enjoy the view.  In the distance Pike’s Peak rears up, the guide on for the gold seekers that passed through Hugo on their way to the gold fields. 
            No longer do the creaks of wagon wheels roll across the plains.  The sound of the trucks now whisper up the ridge.  Overhead can be seen the falcon circling overhead or maybe one the eagles.  The little birds flit among the scrub brush and grasses searching out seeds n insects.  Even the roadrunner makes an appearance looking for lizards.

            It is a place where one can sit and ponder the Indians that used to wander looking for the buffalo.  The good doctor gave his all trying to help. 
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