I remember the first time I saw Nederland. Well, actually, there was the first time I saw Nederland in the light of day and the night-time version.
We accidentally “stumbled” upon Nederland trying to take a short cut from Idaho Springs to Boulder. Traffic became gridlocked on I-70 and looking at a Colorado map, I directed Bryon to take an alternative route through Central City and Blackhawk. The town seemed to consist of two main streets and Highway 119 — a quiet evening along the shores of Barker Reservoir.
That perception of it being a sleepy little mountain town didn’t change when I finally got up and close with our mountain town in the light of day. Since that daytime visit included a visit to prospective homes, we spent a lot more time exploring our mountain hamlet. My perceptions didn’t change as I saw some people walking along Second Street, and some dogs hanging out in Chipeta Park. If you’d asked me where the local police station was, I’d have responded with “What police station?” Honestly, I would have thought there was no need for a police station.
Living here the past ten years, my perception has changed little. The closest thing to unlawfulness I’ve witnessed is someone speeding on Ridge Road. Of course, we did have the incident of a 1970s renegade trying to blow up the shopping center, but that’s about the biggest crime Nederland has seen in its 150 year history.
The Nederland library exemplifies this persona of serenity. Kids gather in the corner with moms to read stories. Local people come in and use the computers to surf the internet, but oh so quietly. When I have had the occasion to meet with my writing circle, I feel guilty just for exchanging pleasantries with my fellow writing companions. The sound of my voice seems to carry through this refuge of peacefulness.
So to hear that a man assaulted a police officer inside the library — this was news. Heck, the story that the library staff called the police for someone loitering was news. For Nederlanders, our threshold for allowing people to hang out in a parking lot is pretty high. Almost every time I visit the local B and F Market, someone is “loitering”, often with a canine companion. I don’t give a second thought to it.
So I’m guessing, something about this guy seemed off, and tipped others off that he wasn’t your typical mountain resident killing time. When confronted, he didn’t run away down the street, like you’d expect (especially if you watch way too many police shows on television), he ran into the library. The quiet, orderly Nederland library.
When the office sought to apprehend him, he commenced hitting him. Then the story got really weird. He tried to use a computer to hide behind, then took off his shirt and told the officer to shoot him. The incident mercifully ended when the officer used a stun gun on him.
Strangely, the man had no criminal record. Leaving me with two conclusions: He’s either on mind-altering substances, or mentally ill. If this same story unfolded in a city like Chicago or San Francisco, most people would think “just another day in the big city.” But not here in Nederland.
Situations like this become the talk of our mountain town for the simple fact that this never happens here. Barking dogs, someone speeding on Ridge Road, a neighbor getting a little rowdy — sure. But not assault and disorder in our library.
Let’s hope it’s a once in 50 years kind of thing.