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A Heritage in Iron by Rafael Routson
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A Heritage in Iron

by Rafael Routson

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From the website [http://www.silverstage.net/Routson.htm]
Reviewed by Samantha Tisdel Wright
A great and beautiful story has been quietly unfolding in southwestern Colorado over the past decade and a half, as two historic ranches, one at the foot of the Sneffels Range, the other spreading across the Uncompahgre river valley, have been purchased and lovingly restored by the Kontny family.
Now, the whole thing has been chronicled by author Rafael Routson, in the recently published, lavishly designed coffee-table book.
“These two ranches have come together under the dream of one man, one family, whose intentions are to preserve a cultural heritage: one of craftsmanship, horsemanship, ranching, and Western lifestyle,” writes Routson, the great-niece of Vince Kontny.
Her book is a unique and ambitious effort to gather up all the strings of this previously untold story, and hinge them together with the theme of ironwork. It is a mini-primer on the Utes, the gold rush, and the homesteading of the area, an intimate portrayal of the families who originally carved the Last Dollar Ranch and Centennial Ranch out of the wilderness. It is an introduction to the Kontny family and the cast of artisans who envisioned and carried out the restoration of existing ranch buildings, and the creation of new ones. Finally, as the title suggests, it is an extraordinarily detailed tribute both to the ironwork showcased at the two restored ranches, and to the visionary American blacksmiths responsible for the renaissance of this long-declining craft in our country.
The book is a true visual treat, generously illustrated with photographs and sketches that will please not only those interested in architecture and ironwork, but anyone who loves the San Juan Mountains and their history.
Routson writes with a warm, genuine empathy for her subject matter. What in other hands could be dry and difficult material is forged by this author into compelling prose: “Somehow working with logs in the mountains like this seemed natural—as though the round statures of
ponderosa trunks, the rough, peeling bark that smelled faintly of vanilla and cinnamon, the sawdust and bite of the chisels into wood complimented the cold wind that marched through timber and lifted off the slopes of the high peaks.” She is fluent in the language of the crafts of timberframing and blacksmithing, effortlessly slinging terms like king post, knee brace, broad axe, foot adze, mortise and tenon, and cross-peen hammer like old familiar friends who need no introduction.
A Heritage in Iron is, like so much of the subject matter it portrays, a finely wrought piece of work. It is a book that tells an important and compelling story.
  kootenay_blacksmiths | May 3, 2007 |
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