Cheap Land Colorado

One Book Community Discussion: Cheap Land Colorado

Wednesday, June 14, 2023 - 7:00pm to 8:00pm
  • Conference Room - Administration Wing
Join your friends and neighbors in a One Book Steamboat community conversation about Cheap Land Colorado by Ted Conover

Anyone interested in participating is encouraged to join this inclusive conversation about Ted Conover's book. Sign up at the registration button above.

In May 2017, Ted Conover went to Colorado to explore firsthand a rural way of life that is about living cheaply, on your own land—and keeping clear of the mainstream. The failed subdivisions of the enormous San Luis Valley make this possible. Five-acre lots on the high prairie can be had for five thousand dollars, sometimes less. 

Conover volunteered for a local group trying to prevent homelessness during the bitter winters. He encountered an unexpected diversity: veterans with PTSD, families homeschooling, addicts young and old, gay people, people of color, lovers of guns and marijuana, people with social anxiety—most of them spurning charity and aiming, and sometimes failing, to be self-sufficient. And more than a few predicting they’ll be the last ones standing when society collapses.

Conover bought his own five acres and immersed himself for parts of four years in the often contentious culture of the far margins. He found many who dislike the government but depend on its subsidies; who love their space but nevertheless find themselves in each other’s business; who are generous but wary of thieves; who endure squalor but appreciate beauty. In their struggles to survive and get along, they tell us about an America riven by difference where the edges speak more and more loudly to the mainstream.

We will be kicking off this discussion with the insight and expertise of Tom Baer, a local retired television photojournalist who worked on some remarkable stories in the San Luis Valley in the 1970s. We'll watch Tom's particularly poignant 1976 segment called Sage Brush Estates to kick off our conversation. More from Tom:

In the 1970’s I was working at 9 News in Denver as a television photojournalist. Looking back on that time one of the most worthwhile assignments was working on projects with reporter Frank Currier. We spent a good deal of time telling stories of Rural Colorado, many of those on the Western Slope. Our series was called Assignment Colorado, in addition Frank was the host and producer of a monthly magazine formatted show named First Saturday. That show incorporated features as well as investigative stories. One such investigative piece was titled Sage Brush Estates. We spent time in the San Luis Valley to investigate the methods of marketing the sale of seemingly worthless five acre parcels of land in Costilla County. The story aired 47 years ago on one of the first Saturday shows, that was 1976. I hadn’t given much thought to the many projects that I worked on during my career but when Cheap Land Colorado became our community read this spring I knew there would be a connection. I checked out one of the first book’s here as soon as they were available and finished it in just a couple of days.  
Frank and I have stayed in touch over the years and knowing he would be interested I passed on the information that I was enthusiastic that Ted Conover’s book was  Steamboat’s community read. Frank was way ahead, he had read the book, connected and shared the story with Ted.  As you will see not a lot has changed in the San Luis Valley since our piece was aired. We were still shooting 16 mm film in the 70s; video tape was just beginning to be used by TV News. The quality and format has a vintage look, not what we’re used to in the digital age.
Frank went on to work as the mid-west correspondent for CBS News in Chicago and from there to teach broadcast journalism at Syracuse University. I stayed working in Denver Television until 1992 when I was able to move here and work as the video guy in the PR Unit at Steamboat Ski Corp.  It was a big pay cut and a big decision, but the life style choice was well worth it, I’ve been here 32 years and as we like to say I’m living the dream. A subtitle to Sage Brush Estates could be "selling the dream."

Get a copy of Cheap Land Colorado

The Library now has ample copies of Cheap Land Colorado circulating locally in our collection (including digital, audio and print copies). Books are available so everyone is able to check out a copy, read it and participate in the community conversations.

Borrow Cheap Land Colorado from Bud Werner Memorial Library.

Buy a copy of Cheap Land Colorado from Steamboat Springs' independent bookstore, Off the Beaten Path.

One Book Steamboat

This is a featured event to enhance the ONE BOOK STEAMBOAT community reading of Ted Conover's Cheap Land Colorado.