I mentioned that Sue and I consider the Town of Genoa to be our spiritual home. We could actually expand that to say that we love the wide open space of eastern Colorado. There is something special about watching the sun set on a horizon that is straight long and beautiful. Try it sometime! We discovered that trees are really overrated!
My uncle Jess is an intimate part of this story. He was a loveable guy who could smile your socks off and talk anyone into anything. He was a retired Captain in the Marine Corps and the Executive Vice President of Carson and Barnes Wild Animal Circus (more about our circus days to come). Jess was my father's older brother who lived his life in alinement with the Sinatra "my way." One of my favorite people of all time!
Jess decided that he wanted to move to his historical home town of Genoa. He, along with my father and his younger brother, was born in a sod house just outside Genoa. My grandfather and grandmother were homesteaders there in the late teens and early 1920's. Grandpa cut the sod, stacked the walls, and packed the cracks with mud to create a home. The old soddy is still there today just about a mile north of Genoa.
So...Jess got tired of traveling the world and decided to settle down in Genoa. He asked us if we would help him with the move. We loaded our GMC pickup with odd assorted boxes and set a course to head east on I-70 just ten miles outside of Limon. We pulled into town and laughed. Who in the world would ever live in a place like this? There were tumble weeds blowing down Main Street and a young man walking to up the sidewalk carrying a rather large bull snake. It was the Twilight Zone without Rod Serling's voice track!
We unloaded the boxes in the Genoa Hotel building that now belonged to Jess. We continued to laugh as we looked across the street at a two story grocery store building that was obviously abandoned. It had spring loaded pull down yellowed shades that were drawn, water stained, and torn in strategic places. We peeked through the large plate glass window and continued to laugh. What in the world was my exotic uncle going to do in this town?
I remember the moment. We were headed west on I-70 somewhere between Limon and Agate. We were still laughing. Somewhere on that strip of concrete Interstate, we looked at each other and said, "I wonder what that abandoned store is worth?" We laughed some more.
By the time we got home to Denver, we had successfully laughed our way all the way to the phone book where we started our search. Ultimately we found a number and made a call to Marvin and Alice Hicks. They owned the building and had operated the store for almost twenty years until the frustration got to be more than Marvin could handle. One day, out of the blue, he just shut the front door, pulled down the shades, turned the key, and walked away.
Marvin was surprised by our call. You see, commercial real estate in Genoa was not really a hot market in the mid 70's. On top of that, Marvin and Alice were content to never ever look for a buyer almost three years after the lock and key event. He came up with a price, we laughed a little more, then we called him back and made an offer. He accepted!
We resigned from Fort Logan Mental Health Center, cashed in ten years of PERA pension funds, left Denver behind, and moved to a town where tumble weeds blew down Main Street. It was the best thing that ever happened to us...well, almost the best thing...it set the stage for incredible blessings that were about to change the lives of two non-believers who were left over from the 60's.
By the time we moved into the little three bedroom apartment in the back of the store we discovered the the boxes of cereal, jars of baby food, and rotted produce were still there just the way they were on 'the day' the Genoa store closed. We started to clean everything in sight, paint the entire store, scrub the shelves, and looked around for someone who knew something about running a grocery store.
It was beautiful. A place for people to gather. The coffee was always on. The guys from the county road crew could drop in before we were actually open to make a sandwich or get something to drink They just walked in through the unlocked front door, helped themselves, and left a few bucks on the counter. It was beautiful...not exactly 'business' in the strictest sense of the word but it was beautiful.
Just down the street, north of the Post Office, was the Genoa United Methodist Church. Two non-believers were about to discover the joy of Jesus.