Clark Ewing – a life well built |

Clark Ewing – a life well built

Allen Best
Special to the Daily Clark Ewing, a McCoy-area rancher who served on the school board, co-wrote a small history book, helped create a volunteer fire department and played the trumpet, died Sept. 26.

McCOY – Some years ago, Clark Ewing was pounding on an anvil at his workshop in McCoy. His hammer missed the mark, driving a sliver of steel deep in his thumb, next to the bone.He did nothing at first. But his mother Margaret, who summered with him most years, needed to see a physician in Eagle. Taking her, Clark used the opportunity to find out what would be required to remove the steel from his hand.The procedure, he was told, would cost $60. Instead, he got an anatomy book, fashioned the tools he needed, got anesthetics and then performed the minor surgery on himself.That story may stray from truth in details, but it absolutely captures the self-reliance that distinguished Clark Ewing. He died Sept. 26 of cancer, at the age of 59.Ewing had many dimensions. He built his own house out of salvaged items, operated a ranch and played jazz trumpet. He served on the school board, co-wrote a small history book and helped create a fire district.His life was filled with sparking anomalies. He was a reliable church-goer who subscribed to the magazine called Heavy Metal. While strictly conscious of property lines, he unstintingly gave of himself to the betterment of his community. A Republican in his voting habits, he had moved to McCoy to found an artists’ commune.He could be stern, maybe stubborn, and sometimes brooding, but more steadily was “just a warm, huggy person,” in the words of Pam Telleen, a former neighbor. “He was a really kind man, and moral as well,” she said. Miraculous tinkeringBorn Aug. 7, 1945, in Kansas City, Ewing moved to Colorado Springs with his parents, Kenneth and Margaret, when he was an adolescent. He graduated from Western State College with a degree in fine arts in 1969.

Even in college, Ewing had begun spending time at the small ranch at McCoy that his father had acquired. Several classmates moved to McCoy with him after graduation, but few were as industrious. They left but he remained, glued to the landscape, devoted to the community, and drawn to a lifestyle that allowed freedom but also demanded resourcefulness.Ewing chose a life of modest income and modest needs. In the 1970s, he figured he needed $4,000 cash a year, a figure that had escalated to $7,000 when he met his future wife, Annie, in late 1994. With her assistance, his world expanded, but he remained a testament to frugality.For cash – but occasionally for nothing – he operated a backhoe from Steamboat to Eagle. A garden was also part of this plan. It was always orderly, and it even produced corn – if not completely a miracle at McCoy, still evidence of careful tinkering.An easier proposition were the 30 to 40 tons of hay he put up, much of which he sold. Most years he also ran a dozen or so head of cattle, which in later years were free of artificial chemicals.Ewing also was skilled with welding torches. Steel was something he understood. He was frustrated by plastic components and computers, which you couldn’t weld back together if they broke.Miles DavisHis two-story house, both odd and wonderful, was the obvious product of a tinkering, but purposeful mind. The six sides are made of railroad ties, their corners affixed to rails that are anchored into concrete. A boiler salvaged from Camp Hale is used in the heating system. A circular stairway was made of old hay tines. All this cost maybe $10 a square foot, when standard construction costs ran $70.The house was also a studio. Clark was a sculptor and also a jeweler, but he liked painting best. He settled on a realistic style of landscape painting that is best described as the Hudson River school.

From emerald green pastures to redrock desert to wide-eyed alpine country, the Colorado River country enchanted him. By all accounts, his vision was greater than his commercial success would suggest.In painting, as in other things, he was not necessarily fast, but always efficient and attentive to details. Pam Telleen, a former neighbor, recalls one time seeing Clark pull a hair off the nape of his neck. “What are you doing, Clark?” she asked. He was, in fact, going to assemble several into just the right paintbrush for the detail he wanted.Ewing also loved music. He sometimes played jazz trumpet with a band in Routt County. “He drove all his college roommates crazy, playing Miles Davis when they were all listening to Steppenwolf,” says his wife of six years, Annie. But he also immensely enjoyed classical music, and even went to Denver for concerts.Enough wood for winterHe was a stalwart of community causes. In the early 1970s, he helped draw up land-use regulations for Eagle County, and from 1973 to 1977 he was on the Eagle County School Board.He worked hard to retain a public school in McCoy, but when it closed in the early 1990s, he helped ensure it would remain a community focal point. Among other tasks, he painted a mural of Black Mountain at the new community center.In recent years, he helped create the Bond-McCoy Volunteer Fire Department, a project that at times raised neighborly tensions. But, with others, he did not wilt in the struggle. Emergency services are now much improved.”He was central in driving the spirit of the community, in keeping us together and keeping us moving toward the bigger picture,” says Britta Horn.That same public-mindedness continued even as his cancer advanced. In helping draw together his neighbors in a plan to protect sage grouse habitat, he missed only one meeting, just weeks before he died. “We think that we’re sweating bullets, and he shows a whole different level of commitment,” says Cathleen Neelan, a Steamboat Springs-based mediator.

Even as he prepared to die, Ewing took great pains – literally, at times – to get his house in order. He split enough wood to get his wife through winter. And just three weeks ago, he returned a water pump to a hardware store that he had concluded was inadequate. He wanted all steel components, no plastic parts, to serve the needs of Annie for decades more. And then, he finished the $2,000 job by installing the $500 pump himself.More than one person has said that meeting Annie was the best thing that ever happened to Clark Ewing. Reflecting on several decades as a neighbor, Gary Horn says Ewing’s motivations could be questioned in passing, but not in retrospect.”When you look back, he wasn’t driven by ego or money or anything else. With Clark, he was steered by his heart.”==========================================Memorial serviceIn addition to his wife, Annie, Clark Ewing is survived by his mother, Margaret of Littleton; and two sisters: Elaine Swanson of Littleton and Barbara Smith of Elbert.Donations can be made to the Clark Ewing Fund at Alpine Bank to defray medical costs, or in his name to the McCoy Community Church, the McCoy Community Center, and the Bond-McCoy Volunteer Fire Department. Condolences can be mailed to Box 293, McCoy, CO 80463.A memorial service will be held this Sunday, beginning at noon at the McCoy Community Church, followed by a reception at the McCoy Community Center. ==========================================Vail, Colorado

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