Quick and Dirty

Joy Martin & Missy Votel - 03/16/2017

Straight from the horse’s tail

The average American home has over 30 brushes in it.

“Start counting,” David Parr, Durango resident and executive director of the American Brush Manufacturers Association, says. “You’ll be amazed.”

"A Brush With History,” a collaborative effort between several artists spearheaded by Maureen May and Sandra Butler. The sculpture, made of brushes, is currently traveling the country.

Brush manufacturers are among some of the oldest businesses in our country, some dating back to the mid-1700s, he says. From the iconic Fuller Brush Man smiling on doorsteps to the Noble Comb that helped shape the out-come of World War II, brush-centric stories are surprisingly endless, serving as a mighty reminder of how there are no small parts in this world; only small actors.

The ABMA celebrates its centennial birthday this year. In search of a fun, whimsical art piece to commemorate the occasion, the association announced a contest for a 100th Anniversary Interactive Museum Project, the winner of which would be funded by a grant from association members. Parr reached out to the Durango Arts Center, and DAC Art Director Sandra Butler and local artist Maureen May came up with a sculptural concept and design – a kinetic work rooted in the history of the industrial revolution, the same era that forged the ABMA.

The concept ended up winning the grant, paving the way for what would become known as “A Brush With History.” In addition to May and Butler’s vision, engineering of the sculpture was led by Ryan Good and Renata Martinez, while fabrication and art consultants Shawn Lotze and Dave Claussen saw the sculpture through to completion.

Inspired by the carousel, “A Brush With History” is constructed of a colorful array of industrial and household brushes and materials manufactured by ABMA members. The horse form is fitting, says Parr, considering how the tale of these two indispensable common “workers” has been so intricately intertwined over the last century.

“Many of the early brush makers manufactured brushes specifically for the horse industry,” says Parr. “And horse tail hair has been used for many years as the natural fiber of choice for fine dust sweeping.”

Actually, adds Parr, male horse tail is preferred to female because male horses pee out the front, away from the tail. It’s a fascinating factoid coming from an equally fascinating organization that exists to promote networking and profitability for the nation’s broom, brush and mop makers.

“A Brush With History” made its debut March 9 at the DAC before being shipped to Florida for the annual ABMA convention. Afterwards, it will go on the road to visit ABMA member companies across the country.

“It would be great if the sculpture could eventually end up back here in Durango,” says Parr.

Parr and fellow ABMA members could not be more excited to share the joys of the brush-making industry with you, the consumer. Headquarters are just north of Durango Coffee Co. on Main Avenue, so don’t be shy; everyone has a favorite brush anecdote to divulge, right?

“We may not be as sexy as your new phone, but you live better when we are a part of your life,” says Parr.

Balancing bighorns and livestock

Once pushed to the edge of extinction, bighorn sheep in the Weminuche will play a role in devising strategies to better manage and protect the state’s official animal.

This week, Colorado Parks and Wildlife will attempt to fit area bighorns with GPS collars in order to track the animals’ daily movements over the next five years. It is estimated there are about 70 of the iconic cliff-dwellers living in the Weminuche between Vallecito Creek and the Pine River.

Biologists will also swab nasal tissue and take blood samples to determine if the bighorns have been exposed to diseases, such as those carried by domestic sheep.

“We don’t know a lot about how these bighorns use the landscape,” CPW Biologist Brad Weinmeister said. “We’d like to get more information to help us with management plans.”

CPW recently launched the Bighorn Sheep Working Group to promote discussion between stakeholders on balancing habitat for bighorn and domestic sheep grazing. The group will address the challenges of mixing species on multi-use lands in order to provide consistent planning for domestic producers as well as wildlife managers.
“We want both bighorn and domestic sheep to thrive in Colorado,” CPW Assistant Director for Wildlife and Natural Resources Reid DeWalt said.

Bighorns, which are native to North America, are susceptible to disease brought from domestic sheep, which were introduced by European settlers. Bighorns also venture widely in search of resources and other herds, which can increase their chance of contact with domestic sheep.

The group, which first met in November 2016, will rely on the data and available science to gain a better understanding of disease transmission, population dynamics, public land use and management boundaries. The group includes field managers, recreationalists, industry and tribal representatives, local government and other elected officials.

"It is in all of our interests to manage for effective separation between bighorn and domestic sheep," said DeWalt. "And it will take a diverse group to come up with solutions to this complex issue."

CPW, land management agencies and permittees are currently managing for effective separation using a variety of tools, including altering allotment boundaries, animal husbandry and herding methods, radio-telemetry to determine where and when range overlap occurs and removing animals from wild herds where contact has taken place.

Once nearly extinct in the state, CPW successfully reintroduced the animal starting in the 1940s. However, diseases introduced by domestic sheep and goats have negatively impacted the size and viability of bighorn populations. Colorado is home to the largest population of the bighorns in the world, with an estimated 7,000.

– Joy Martin and Missy Votel