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Paco Loved the Broncos

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  • Paco Loved the Broncos

    The world is a little less interesting today.

    Paco Russell died Sunday. Those who knew him, even casually, were influenced by this salt-of-the-earth, heart-as-big-as-the-sky fellow.

    I don't know much about Paco, as whole-life narratives go. But I recall several vignettes he reluctantly shared. It's not that he was ashamed of the paths he chose or the inordinate difficulties he faced on those roads. It was that Paco knew the intrigue of his own existence. Rather than draw eyes to himself, he wanted to know you and share a spark of joy with you, whether in a wry joke or barside, beer in hand, as the saloon band took away the cares in your pocket.

    Paco’s childhood was chapter after chapter of neglect, unmoored from family and its support. He was kicked out of the house at a young age. He made a bed in the bushes and spent several weeks, perhaps months, sleeping there. Eventually Paco ended up in a series of foster homes. One, in his mid-teens, finally became semi-permanent. Through this, Paco’s formal education suffered. But his naturally bright intellect combined with a compulsive attention to detail as he strived for perfection. He may not have had education, but he was one of the smartest people I knew.

    Paco was a child of the late 60s and early 70s. He left foster care around 16, trying to find his own way. Paco ended up participating in the six-day White House Conference on Youth in 1971, where Nixon called on America’s 14-to-24-year-olds to address the issues facing the country. Paco recounted this as he showed me a photo of himself with waist-length hair and U.S.-flag butt-hugging bell bottoms.

    “I don’t remember us agreeing on much,” Paco mused. “Except that marijuana should be legalized. That was our solution to everything.”

    I asked of the girls hanging on him. (Almost every photo of Paco, at any age, has women hanging on him.) Paco’s eyes sparkled brightly as he told me of one woman who was not invited to the conference, but was smuggled in. She had gone to sessions, met several high government officials (I think a Cabinet member or two, and perhaps even Nixon). Paco almost burst with glee when he explained she was on the FBI’s most wanted list at the time. And here she was, meeting government officials, participating in the political world, and smoking pot in the dorm rooms.

    Paco ended up in Denver. He started a landscaping business which had some success, at least in terms of recognition. I suspect that Paco’s desire to be perfect, even in the care of his equipment, may have kept him on the margin of profitability. But no mind: it was enough to live on, and he loved the work. He often hired women crews. They proved to be harder working and more suitable for Paco’s perfectionism. He clearly liked having “his girls.”

    Nights were spent listening to bands at local bars, sharing the music and laughing for a few hours with friends. Everyone in a bar quickly became a friend, drawn in by Paco’s warm nature.

    Somewhere in this came Danielle, Paco’s daughter who he raised largely as a single parent.

    When I talked with Paco about his joys and his cares, he always had a note of hope, a certain upbeat tick in his spirit, even on his worst days. He always had a joke or clever observation, whatever the pain.

    When Paco talked of Danielle, it was as if his layers turned to fog and were burned away by the sunshine of his life. His tone lowered a bit, the joviality in his voice was replaced with an undertone of awe. You were immersed with him in the soft, passionate, endless love springing from his core, the love-that-has-no-word love he had for his daughter. To be with him at these moments was to stand on a mountaintop, eyes closed, and feel the breath of an eagle on your face, its wing breeze gently brushing your hair. You were unsure whether you stood or fell, but it mattered not. For a moment, you were suspended eternally, as Paco sank in the proud comfort of Danielle.

    Later in life, Paco lived at what he called “Rancho Heartbreak.” The name reflected Paco’s open door to the emotionally wounded. I never heard him say so, but I suspect the name also reflected his heartaches.

    The house was in a rural area south of Denver, with creekwash in back and farm wire fence roadside. Paco decorated the house and yard with items he collected. An old barber chair on the porch. Christmas lights and barbed wire sculpture adorning the railing. Every item at the house seemed to have a soul embodying the amusement of kitsch, appreciation of antiques, and the value of junk. You weren’t quite sure if you were in a neatly arranged junk yard, or a Dadaist art show.

    One feature of the house was the Fence of Shoes. Paco had seen a western art painting of worn cowboy boots and new red pumps. It caught his imagination. So he nailed an old boot to the top of a fence post, and a pump to the next post.

    Over time, Paco added other shoes. The display eventually took on a life of its own. People passing would stop and add shoes, either nailing them to posts or tying them to the wires. It became a public, ever-changing exhibition. Paco never called it art, for he would never presume to be so talented. But the Fence of Shoes had some magical quality to engage.

    Sadly, this bit of country chic was ordered dismantled.

    Paco never saw one expression die that he didn’t create another. From the Fence of Shoes came Paco’s Last Stand. A party. Celebrating, well, … celebrating. Friends and fun.

    Paco described the Last Stand events as “a party with three thousand of my closest friends,” with a chuckle. When I first met him, I assumed the joke was obvious: no one has three thousand close friends. But maybe Paco’s chuckle was because he really did have these friends, and no one would take him seriously. It was perhaps one of his little subversions.

    I never got to attend Paco’s Last Stand. I was at first dubious about the idea of a party from Friday to Sunday with rednecks, bikers, and barflies stoked on free beer, barbecue, music, motorcycle rodeos, horses, tents, and a church service on Sunday morning. Later, once I knew Paco better, I wanted to go, but was traveling or had other commitments. I was a fool not to make time.

    Christmas had a ritual for Paco. Throughout the year he would collect small toys he found, or bits of trash that held some dimension of interest, however slight. Friends would collect things for him. On Christmas Eve, Paco would go from bar to bar with a sack delivering Christmas gifts to patrons, wishing all a Merry Christmas. Paco took the detritus of our lives, presented it as gifts, and brought hope and joy to countless souls. More than one bar patron had tear-stained faces as they said to Paco, “I didn’t think I’d get anything for Christmas this year. Thank you. “ Each would finger lovingly the twisted metal hinge or broken matchbox car he had given them.

    Paco was not without fault. I am sure his closest family and friends can recount his failings. Paco was arrested for drunk driving. On his last day of probation he got behind a steering wheel when drunk and hit the car of an off-duty policeman. That fault framed the last of his years.

    The accident came amidst a public prosecutor and judge wanting to crack down on drunk driving as Denver suburbs were expanding into their jurisdiction. It came with a record of 20-plus arrests when Paco was protesting Vietnam and supporting other causes in the 70’s. And it came with a victim who wanted more than just compensation.
    Paco lost his business, his money, everything he had. He spent time in jail, and years in a release program. Years, when sentences of comparable second offender drunks was measured in months.

    Paco finally saw freedom in mid-2009, only to find he had cancer.

    Never did a drop of bitterness fall from Paco’s lips for the trials and injustices that fell on him. He embraced his responsibility for his actions while lamenting the injustice with almost a belief that by his actions he had forfeited the right to equal treatment and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment.

    Paco survived this period with wry humor. He found ways to frustrate the Catch-22 rules laid on him. I think Paco’s subversions, while rooted in his youthful experiences, were his way to have some control and freedom in a life where neither was permitted.



    Paco was a Christian. His faith in Jesus Christ was strong. Yet Paco wasn’t churchified. He reflected a grace in his life that went beyond most Christians’ comprehension. His lack of bitterness must have stemmed at least partly from this. And while his childhood may have formed him into the uber-pleaser he could be, Paco’s generosity was married to wisdom in such a way that he reflected God’s love more purely than any. Paco embraced his place in the world, never presuming to know what God was doing. He was genuine, knowing that Jesus redeems the sinner.

    I have a Paco’s Last Stand t-shirt. It was buried in the drawer. Tonight I got it out, put it on, and thought of Paco. I’m not sure my memories are accurate, or my stories true. They are nevertheless what I have of the man I knew, remember, and loved.

    The world is a little less interesting today.

    But heaven just got a helluva lot more interesting.
    - Go Broncos 2017 and Beyond! -

    Super Bowl 50 CHAMPIONS!

  • #2
    Services for Paco - It will be held Saturday, March 27th 2:00 P. M. at Colorado Community Church 3651 South Colorado Blvd. Reception held after at Platte River Grille, 5995 S Santa Fe Dr, Littleton, CO, 80120
    - Go Broncos 2017 and Beyond! -

    Super Bowl 50 CHAMPIONS!

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    • #3
      May the Lord of Peace be with his family!:salute!:

      REST IN PEACE PACO!
      Ask me about My Jesus and how to have a relationship with Him.

      Red Sox Mafia RLF4 Life! Boston 617 Strong!
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      • #4
        Paco's Memorial is today.

        A celebration of life.

        The man was just way too cool.
        - Go Broncos 2017 and Beyond! -

        Super Bowl 50 CHAMPIONS!

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        • #5
          I'm sorry to hear of your loss, it sounds like he was an amazing person
          :usa: *** God Bless Our Military Men And Women*** :usa:

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          Adopted Bronco 2015 CJ Anderson

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