Background: John Mansfield wasn’t a statewide name, but in our small rural corner of Colorado he was a big presence. He wore many hats. Artist. Peace Officer. Town Trustee. Founded the local recreation district, a community center, several youth organizations. He did it all with humor and compassion. As San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters told me at the Norwood memorial for John this past summer solstice, he and John didn’t like using the word “law enforcement” since it suggested the use of force. Rather Bill said, “People should call us what we are: peace officers.”

We made folks in this county get development permits
Be it fixing a roof or replacing a window
But you just off & die on us?

No permit. No notice
That big fat Buddhist almost-circle of no thing
On the way home to Colorado from Cali

You knew the heart sutra
Nothing’s permanent about
a Zen cleaver

Chuckled along with Telluride when the Blues lost the Valley Floor
Got incensed when someone in the courts
copped a raw deal

You took risks
Worked with kids who said they wanted a lifeline
A new life. Running them through the rapids to bond

I liked you best over coffee in the morning’s
repartee at Mesa Rose. Veteran old-timers. Ex-Telluriders
Feisty short-timers who loved to crocodile & then told great snapping stories

You took leadership
Wore your advocate jeans. Mixed drinks
& mediums

Some saw you as a fine art cartoonist
who illustrated our absurdities
Watercolored in the silences

But golly, John. You took a damn quick exit
After shuffling up & down Grand Avenue for the last decade
Manifesting that intelligent calm underneath the masks

Coyote scholar. Trustee. Officer of the Peace
Tickling wit out of whim
Fancy out of the common’s materials

One fine spring day, all of a sudden,
you spun on an eddy in Whitewater
& left us

Leaving us now unable to imagine
a Wrights Mesa without
your ambling shoes. Your tinkering humor

John Scott Mansfield (1942-2023)