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Brinkley Messick, on his journey as an artist, his passion for the wilderness, and what he struggles with and loves most about fatherhood

(Publication Date: 5.30.23)

In this episode of the We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast, Adam Williams talks with artist Brinkley Messick.


Brinkley dropped out of art school, yet here he is, one of this area’s most recognizable artists with work that is known up and down the Arkansas River Valley and beyond. Brinkley describes himself as “naturally subversive.” He and Adam talk about how that, his study of anthropology, and his parents have influenced his work as an artist.


Brinkley shares about his upbringing and early influences in life, and why he loves music but feels like he hasn’t succeeded in making music himself. Adam asks Brinkley about his love of horses, mountains and trails, and they talk fatherhood, too.



The We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast is a collaboration with the Chaffee County Departments of Public Health and Housing, and is supported by the Colorado Public Health & Environment: Office of Health Disparities.


Along with being distributed on popular podcast listening platforms (e.g. Spotify, Apple), Looking Upstream is broadcast weekly at 1 p.m. on Tuesdays, on KHEN 106.9 community radio in Salida, Colo., and can be listened to on-demand via


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Looking Upstream Host, Producer & Photographer: Adam Williams

Looking Upstream Engineer & Producer: Jon Pray

We Are Chaffee Community Advocacy Coordinator: Lisa Martin

We Are Chaffee Graphic and Web Design: Heather Gorby

Director of Chaffee County Public Health and Environment: Andrea Carlstrom


Note: Transcripts are produced using a transcription service. Although it is largely accurate, minor errors inevitably exist.


[Intro music, guitar instrumental]


Adam Williams: Welcome to We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream, a conversational podcast of humanness, community, and wellbeing based in Chaffee County, Colorado. I'm Adam Williams.


Today I'm talking with artist, Brinkley Messick. I've wanted to learn more of Brinkley's story for quite a while, actually since before this podcast even existed. That's one of the things I love about podcasting; it's a fantastic excuse for me to reach out to people and ask them to have an hour-long conversation of depth and meaning right out of the gate, pretty much as strangers.


And thankfully Brinkley said yes to taking this ride with me, though I've since learned that talking about himself isn't really his go-to move, so I feel extra honored to have this conversation with him. It's a good one, with plenty of breathing room for thoughtful answers.


(00:00:58): Brinkley dropped out of art school, yet here he is, one of this area's most recognizable artist with work that is known up and down the Arkansas River Valley and beyond. But if you don't know his work yet, I've included the link to his website in this episode show notes at Brinkley describes himself as naturally subversive.


We talk about how that and his study of anthropology have influenced his work as an artist. We learned about his upbringing and early influences in life and why Brinkley loves music, but feels like he hasn't really been able to grasp the tools of making music for himself. He's got a love of horses and mountains and trails, so I ask him to share some of those stories.


(00:01:38): He and I have some common ground, like that love of the outdoors and as artists and as fathers who each have two kids and are somewhat stay-at-home dads who prioritize presence in our kids' lives. So we share some thoughts with each other on the experience of fatherhood. And well, we talk about a lot of things.


(00:01:58): We Are Chaffee Looking Upstream is a collaboration with the Chaffee County Department of Public Health and the Chaffee Housing Authority and it's supported by the Colorado Public Health and Environment Office of Health Disparities. Now, here we go; Brinkley Messick.


(00:02:17): Brinkley, I'm glad we're getting to talk. I've been looking forward to this for a while and then I finally reached out and so I really appreciate you saying yes and showing up today.


Brinkley Messick (00:02:27): Thanks, man. I'm a little nervous to talk, but happy to be here.


Adam Williams (00:02:33): Well, if it helps you at all, so am I because it's been a few weeks since I've talked with anyone else. So we'll find our way together though. We can't do this wrong, I tell everybody that every time, we can't do this wrong. It's just an hour of conversation and we did that before over coffee and it always goes so easily when there's not a microphone.


(00:02:52): Look, I want to, and maybe this will help too. I want to tell you, I admire you. From afar, I have been able to observe a few things that, to me, are pretty cool. And I know that we don't know each other too well yet. I hope to get to learn a whole lot more about you just in this hour.


But there's three areas from afar that I have noticed that I really respect and appreciate, and that's your artwork, it's your wherewithal and skillset as it looks to me with the wilderness, and then also I know that you're a dad, like me, who's pretty involved with their two kids. Does it bother you that I just, did it make you more nervous that I started off with praise?


Brinkley Messick (00:03:34): Oh, man. Thank you. I appreciate the praise. I do. I'm kind of naturally self-conscious about talking about myself I guess, and maybe you can tell with just eye contact there, but those are all three things that I love, so it should be easy to talk about.


Adam Williams (00:03:58): Well, and there is no wrong answer on this stuff, right? Because that's what I try to do is get to the heart of this story, which you know better than anybody. Is there anything I'm leaving out? Is there any fourth or fifth area of, "Wow, this is my focus or what I'm worried about or what I'm excited about in my life right now," that I have missed?


Brinkley Messick (00:04:17): I don't think so. I think there's probably some subcategories in there that'll come out, but if I had to divide my priorities into three things, those would be probably the three main.


Adam Williams (00:04:30): Well, that makes me feel good that I'm tracking. So I'm going to do something I've never done in one of these conversations before, and that is present a choose your adventure kind of moment here. Having named these three categories for these three really interesting areas of who you are, you can choose. What's most on your mind out of those three right now? And maybe that was this morning you woke up thinking about it or excited about it or where do you want us to go to start?


Brinkley Messick (00:04:59): Let's start maybe with art probably.


Adam Williams (00:05:02): Okay. What do you have going on with art?


Brinkley Messick (00:05:04): I've got a lot going on. I've got a couple shows currently in Denver. I've got one up here locally at Elevation, but just kind of ramping up for visitor season and summer and getting stuff out in the world. It's just going 100 miles an hour and then combine at least the one of the other two categories with the kids and family. It's-


Adam Williams (00:05:36): Getting outside and spending time with the kids?


Brinkley Messick (00:05:40): Yeah. Yeah. I'm in full production mode right now with art and I like it. I like being really busy with it and it kind of feels like art school cramming, a little nostalgic, staying up late, that kind of thing. So I'm in the thick of it right now.


Adam Williams (00:06:04): So you went to art school?


Brinkley Messick (00:06:06): I started at art school. I went to school at Appalachian State in North Carolina and I had a kind of existential freak out after my junior year about graduating with a degree that didn't really easily translate to dollars in a paycheck and dropped out of art school and ironically switched to anthropology. Not a lot of money in that bracket, but I do miss parts of art school for sure.


Adam Williams (00:06:45): Right. Did you have any influence to pursue art and go to school? Or maybe did anybody, whether that was family or friends, were they contributing to that freak out where they're trying to tell you, "This isn't sensible. You can't choose this. Do something more logical?"


Brinkley Messick (00:07:03): No. Maybe it was some friends. It was definitely, it wasn't family at all. My parents-


Adam Williams (00:07:10): You had support from family?


Brinkley Messick (00:07:11): Yeah. I mean that was the thing that made me the most nervous and the hardest part about it, I remember, was actually telling my mom that I was going to drop out and it would take me an extra year of college to do a victory lap to finish out. But that was [inaudible 00:07:36]. Both my parents were artists and that was the hardest part, but also the most supportive.


I mean got me to actually take the step and change majors, but when I broke the news to my mom, she said, "You don't need a degree to be an artist." And that was kind of what gave me enough confidence to take that step and do something else. And it was a lot of, I was able to combine the two and the studying anthropology and the stuff I picked up there has greatly contributed art.


Adam Williams (00:08:18): How so?


Brinkley Messick (00:08:20): Observation a lot. Just being able to interpret things different or get out of your own head. And in anthropology, you can either be an observer or participant observer. I really like being a participant observer and being part of the experience, you understand the experience type thing and really helped me, being able to get out of your own head to interpret things.


And also helps me, I think, be more effective at conveying an idea in work that other people would understand or more people would understand more effectively. With an anthropology degree, if you put it on job resume, things are out there. You get a lot of ad agency stuff, like people wanting to reach the most amount of people, how to most effectively advertise your product. And I think I took that with art and how can I make my art relatable to the most amount of people or certain people or whatever?


Adam Williams (00:09:44): Yeah. Your art certainly has that appeal. I think lots of people love the work that you do up and down the Arkansas Valley and beyond. I can't really go anywhere in this area without running across a hat like you're wearing with some of your work or some work that's hanging on a wall in a business or wherever. It seems like, at this point, for anybody who's not familiar with what your work is, maybe it would be best if you describe what it is, whether that's visually, aesthetically, anything else you want to about it so we can bring along listeners who aren't yet aware of what it is you do.


Brinkley Messick (00:10:24): Yeah, I'll do my best. I think I'm one of the types of artists that does the work so I don't have to talk about it, but I'll-


Adam Williams (00:10:33): There's a lot of us. Sure.


Brinkley Messick (00:10:35): Yeah. The most current rendition of my work that I think most people are the most familiar with are the things that are more landscape based, which took me a long time to get there, or get here. And I avoided intentionally for a long time, but also somewhat ironically, that's now what I'm known for and do the most with. The natural world and experiencing the natural world through outdoor recreation has been my thing and passion for a long time.


It's why I went to school where I did, why I ended up here, and I mentioned I avoided the landscape stuff intentionally for a while, and I think I'll use the term sellout, although I don't fully agree with it, but I think that's what I thought it was. It seems like it's easier to sell landscape or just pretty stuff rather than things that really try to make you think and that's the work I was doing and wasn't doing landscape stuff at all.


(00:12:09): But I was surrounded by all this natural beauty in my, up until last year, one of my careers was in conservation and trails. I mean I'm a trail builder in the non-profit sector and staring at maps all day, surrounded by mountains, I'm in an area surrounded by mountains. But it seemed I just had this moment like, this is stupid to try to keep avoiding painting this stuff.


Adam Williams (00:12:47):

When it speaks so much to you that it's, how can I bring that in? But I think, if I'm hearing what you're saying in terms of the sellout idea, was it to give, if I work toward what is so marketable that that's the sellout versus I don't know what you were doing before this because I only know of what you're known for now. Was it abstract, was it conceptual? What was your art before that you enjoyed, but yeah, it's harder to find that audience for?


Brinkley Messick (00:13:18): Yeah, it's hard to really nail it down or describe it without referencing photos or actual work itself. But I mean it was kind of pop art-ish. I use a lot of text. I still like to use text, but I mean it's kind of pop art, post-pop type of stuff. My biggest, and really graphically centered, my biggest influences then were definitely skateboard graphics T-shirts, punk rock posters, that kind of thing. So probably maybe gig poster, if that was a probably the best way to describe it.


And back way up when I first moved to Salida, I had a really hard time getting anybody here to even look at my stuff, and I think that's where my animosity and the sellout type thing towards landscape stuff really started to solidify because there's some amazing landscape painters here, incredible, and not dissing them at all, the talent and the work they produce is unreal, but it made it hard for somebody that doesn't do that to get taken seriously.


(00:14:58): Places, galleries, most of them, like I said, I mean they wouldn't even look at my CD of my work. There's another, I'm dating myself there. So I think that, and I'm kind of naturally subversive and that really fit into that. I mean I think for a group show here, I just had this old rusty piece of metal and then white paint, I wrote landscape with the S was a cash symbol, just that was the subversive kind of angry part coming out.


But I don't know. I'm glad I put it off because I think when I started I had a lot of time to think about how I wanted to do it and time to practice. And also, like I said, I was in the field with trails and doing my recreation so much, I always had a sketchbook and so my line work comes from sketching that type of stuff. So though I wasn't doing that, the landscape work to sell or showing in public, it was always in my sketches.


Adam Williams (00:16:18): Okay. Well, and I think something that stands out to me is you're using the word landscape and I'm sure that that evokes a certain image in people's mind that might refer more to some of these other painters. I can't do what they do the way they do it either. So something that appeals to me is how you have found your own approach to what this work is with the mountains and the rivers and the topographical lines and all of that line work that you do. And you're doing a lot of it on, is it reclaimed wood?


Brinkley Messick (00:16:50): Yeah, it's all reclaimed salvage stuff.


Adam Williams (00:16:57): Okay, so you have found your own way with it.


Brinkley Messick (00:17:00): Yeah.


Adam Williams (00:17:00): Which I think is pretty remarkable. It has become what you're known for, and you were talking about production earlier, is there an element of you that now that you have made this leap, and you have gone full-time, right? In the last year or two?


Brinkley Messick (00:17:20): Yep.


Adam Williams (00:17:20): I want to talk about that. I want to learn about how you came to that decision and those things. But I've talked with a number of artists who, when they do, I don't want to use the word sellout and certainly not to describe what you're doing, but when they make that step to say, "This is what is saleable. This is what I can make a living from," that what they find sometimes is, "I'm stuck in production work. This is all people want from me."


Have you felt like that at all? Do you feel like you still have time and energy to maybe explore some of the other creative areas you want? Or are you totally in love with what you're doing and it's all good all the time, dream come true, I'm doing it full-time?


Brinkley Messick (00:17:57): Right now, this tax season was my first year of just doing art and I'm not comfortable enough to, I think I need to do things that I'm pretty sure will sell right now. I'm not comfortable enough to really explore again, although I want to and I'm trying to build in parts of my week where I have one day a week where I do something, I don't care if it sells or not. I'm not quite there. I need to get a little bit more comfortable. Maybe this next year, year two, we'll get there.


But I mean it's a balance. I love this stuff that I'm doing. I don't feel like I'm doing it just to sell it. I feel like I've found a balance. I think I'm really lucky to have done that. But there's weeks where I do S Mountain 10 times and I like it, I don't hate it, but it gets a little old. I can maybe do it with my eyes closed sometimes.


Adam Williams (00:19:10): What were your parents focused on with art? You said they both were artists. What kind of work were they doing?


Brinkley Messick (00:19:16): Both were multidisciplinary. My parents split when I was really young, but my mom actually went into labor at a craft fair. They were, like I said, multidisciplinary. At the time my dad was doing stained glass and my mom was doing handmade dolls, so a lot of folk art things. My dad also taught design at NC State University and Cornell and had a academic side to his work and a lot of theater production stuff. So kind of all over the place. He was a stained glass craftsman, from what I remember, my whole life.


(00:20:10): My mom's a graphic designer professionally, but she's currently a fiber artist. She does this incredible detailed hand dyed, hand stitched work. But despite all of that, it was never really forced on me. We went to a lot of museums and things. And a lot of the time I spent with my dad was at crafts fairs that he was working, but I don't remember feeling pressure to do it. I loved doing it. It was always there. I always had materials and things available to me. But it was supportive but not forced.


Adam Williams (00:20:52): You grew up in North Carolina?


Brinkley Messick (00:20:53): Yep.


Adam Williams (00:20:54): So were your parents both around at that point throughout after they divorced? Were they both accessible to you where you were spending lots of time equally with them? Or-


Brinkley Messick (00:21:05): No, my mom raised me. My dad always lived in other towns and it was a holidays and a couple weekends a year type thing. I was an only child and single parent.


Adam Williams (00:21:26): Okay. I'm curious about the influences toward art, and of course your parents providing just as an environment, without trying to push you toward, that is amazing to me. I feel like I grew up in such a structured, rules-based home that it's taken me decades to figure out with my creative work how to find my own voice.


Is that something that you feel like they encouraged you to unlock your own approach to these things? Versus, "Here are the rules. This is how you do this or this is how you do that?" All that structure. Was there encouragement to be subversive as an artist, which of course is a key piece of art historically?


Brinkley Messick (00:22:15): Oh, I don't think it was really either of those. It was just, "Here's what you can do and here are things that other people have done." It definitely wasn't, all of the subversive stuff I think is more of some of the other routes that I decided to go that also encourage those kinds of thoughts, feelings, and actions like punk rock music and skating and stuff like that, subculture things.


But really, anything I did, it was just talked about with positive encouragement. And I didn't take any art, visual art classes in middle school at all. I did another elective for some reason. So there was a period growing up where it wasn't there at all.


(00:23:18): I do remember being known in my class and stuff for art in elementary school and then again in high school, but it was a rough period, I think, in art and education. My mom actually came and she was our art teacher for a couple years in elementary school because there wasn't any other options. They went from a classroom to a cart to nothing at all, and parents stepped in and started doing it just so the kids would have something, some kind of visual art element.


Adam Williams (00:24:00): What do you mean by a cart?


Brinkley Messick (00:24:01): Like pushing a cart around from class to class.


Adam Williams (00:24:05): Oh, wow. Okay. What size was your school?


Brinkley Messick (00:24:08): Oh man, I don't know. It wasn't huge. Town I grew up in was fairly small. I couldn't even tell you the exact number of my graduating class, probably in the 200 to 300 possibly.


Adam Williams (00:24:25): Oh wow. Okay. Well that's much larger than I had, and than we have around here, I think.


Brinkley Messick (00:24:30): Yeah. It was 2A, whatever that is, I don't know if that translates from state to state.


Adam Williams (00:24:38): Yeah, I think they're their own thing.


Brinkley Messick (00:24:42): I mean that might have been our entire school. I'm trying to visualize our class picture and count heads and-


Adam Williams (00:24:50): You say 2A, I think of that with sports classifications. Did you play sports?


Brinkley Messick (00:24:54): I did. Soccer is what, I played everything growing up at a younger age, but soccer is what took over through middle school, high school.


Adam Williams (00:25:10): You've mentioned punk music a couple times. Were you into music? Did you play things?


Brinkley Messick (00:25:13): I can't play anything. I want to so bad. Music is so important and every time I've tried, it doesn't work. So I've decided to focus energy elsewhere.


Adam Williams (00:25:28): What have you tried?


Brinkley Messick (00:25:32): Most seriously, and when I put the most effort in was banjo. There's a real specific style play from the Southern Appalachians that my other favorite genre is traditional bluegrass old-time stuff, and there's a claw hammer style that I tried so hard and it's just not in the cards.


Adam Williams (00:25:58): Are you familiar with Nathaniel Rateliff?


Brinkley Messick (00:25:58): Yeah.


Adam Williams (00:26:01): And his music. And I've listened to a podcast with him before and he's talking about that claw hammer style that he has, and I think it was something that he just sort of happened into and doesn't even know how to get out of.


Brinkley Messick (00:26:01): Oh really?


Adam Williams (00:26:11): It wasn't something he tried to achieve. And I actually didn't realize until you just said it that it was something that you could actively try to learn. I had only ever heard of it when Rateliff was talking about it and I thought he was just sort of describing what, for lack of a better way of my saying it, was more of a mangled hand position.


Brinkley Messick (00:26:31): It kind of is. Yeah, it's not really, you think of banjo as picking, a lot of finger work, and claw hammer, it's more of a rhythmic hammer motion. But-


Adam Williams (00:26:47): Why didn't it work? Why do you think?


Brinkley Messick (00:26:49): I don't know. I don't know.


Adam Williams (00:26:50): Surely you could, if you wanted to focus energy there, but like you said, you've decided, I mean because we only have so much energy and there's other interests.


Brinkley Messick (00:26:58): I get really frustrated when I don't pick things up easily and that's something that it's not easily for me, it wasn't easy for me to pick up.


Adam Williams (00:27:08): I feel the same way. And creativity is one of those things that I feel like I'm only, in the last few years even, learning to accept and embrace process versus outcome and immediate outcome. So you've had to go through that process. You wouldn't have been, I mean you're using the word landscape and I'm not going to try to change that on you, I feel like it's a little bit of a misnomer for how much I appreciate the work that you do, but it's also accurate of course.


And you wouldn't have maybe come to that without a process of years of doing other artwork first. There's somehow, whether we realize it or not, I think a subconscious process of collecting these ideas and styles and techniques. I mean how do you feel about that, what I'm saying and your, I guess, ability to embrace process in that way?


Brinkley Messick (00:28:02): Yeah, I think it's the concept of there's no original thought. Any thought you have has so many other influences to get you to that point. And that's also something that kind of clicked with me with anthropology, beliefs being cultural and it takes an entire culture.


When I really fell in love or had really an epiphany breakthrough moment with anthropology, there was a discussion of right and wrong is cultural. And I did a internship in a rural community in Honduras. The other thing that I did for a long time, we haven't talked about is work with horses and-


Adam Williams (00:29:11): We're going to get to it.


Brinkley Messick (00:29:11): So we were in Honduras, it was the best way to get there was horseback and it was myself and two other students going to this community together. And one of the other students had had experience with horses, but more of a dressage and showing and just really "pampered" horses and things, and mine was more of a utilitarian, used them for horse packing and I worked with draft horses on farms in North Carolina. And we are not intentionally cruel or mean to them, but it's a tool versus a pet kind of a mindset.



And this person immediately got on the wrong foot in this village, her interpretation of right and wrong really stepped in and totally affected her experience because of the way that they treated their animals, which again, it was a little more harsh than we would do here for sure, in the States, but I didn't think that they were being cruel to the animals or whatnot.


But just that, something as simple as right and wrong is totally cultural. And that is developed by every element of the culture you're in. And I think of that with art. It's like, I got here with every, I seriously doubt you'd see my work on a band poster that I was listening to in high school right now, but it took those things, the skateboards I had, just thumbing through catalogs that have nothing to do with my work now to get to where I am with my work.


Adam Williams (00:31:12): Yeah, sure. Yeah, it's interesting to me how we collect these sources of information and I think as a creative person, just the natural process of that is so inherent that I don't think we even realize where always the influences are coming from. I love that you gave us a segue here to horses because I did want to talk with you about that. But I want to start first with, I was digging back through some posts that you have on Instagram and I found one by Edward Abbey that I want to read real quick and then get your thoughts on.


You posted Edward Abbey's line, "May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds." And I'm curious about what someone like Edward Abbey, the author who is renowned for his sometimes even anarchical views, but deep care for the environment and what that quote maybe in particular, since you chose that one and posted that one, what's the resonance there for you?


Brinkley Messick (00:32:19): My favorite part of that one is, "Your trails be crooked," both as a trail designer, nobody likes straight trails, but also that's the journey. This rough seas make skilled sailors or whatever that quote is. I like the trails be crooked part of that quote more than anything. I like hard work and things that are tough, and that's what the crooked trails invokes to me. With the non-profit side, or the non-profit sector part of trail building, which is what I was involved with the most, was a lot with volunteers and Youth Corps and Ed Abbey's just thrown around so much.


I think that people come, especially on the Youth Corps side, maybe still in high school or taking a gap year or just out of college and are finding Ed Abbey and things. And we throw around these quotes, but it's a little, I feel like a little oxymoronic in that we're building trails, which is getting more people into these natural places and might not have been his favorite.


Adam Williams (00:33:56): Yeah, it's a catch-22. When you want to introduce people so that then maybe more people form an attachment and a connection to nature. So then we take care of it, we care about it, but by doing that, right, there's more of our mark.


Brinkley Messick (00:34:12): Yeah, and you said it perfect, and that's why, I look at what I was doing with trails, what a lot of people do with both trail maintenance but also trail development, it's a tool for conservation. And I think a lot of people need to see different kinds of value in a resource. And I think trails allow access both to experience the natural world, but also our form of recreation, which around here a lot of folks are trail running and mountain biking and things like that. And I think that the more people that are out there, the louder our collective voice is for conservation and defense really.


Adam Williams (00:35:14): Right. So I've said horses, it happens to be the name Ed.


Brinkley Messick (00:35:22): Oh yeah.


Adam Williams (00:35:22): All right? So we said Edward Abbey. Well there's also a horse named Ed that I found another story from you on that I think was what really showed me, when I said I admire your wherewithal and skills in wilderness, that was one that especially, that story resonated with me is, "Wow, this guy's out here working with pack horses. He is in a compromised situation with this horse, Ed." And I'm going to ask you in a second to tell and share that story if you will.


But I'm just saying you are clearly using skills, trail building, working with horses and things that I don't have. And I feel like an awful lot of us, maybe for generations back now in our families, have lost touch with what it means to work with the land, work with animals, work with being outdoors and self-sufficient and things like that that I envision might be part of your story.


(00:36:20): If you want to run with that, I guess, and share to what extent, I don't want to mislabel you, if I'm being unfair or inaccurate, please correct me. But otherwise then if you would share that story with Ed and I've built it up now.


Brinkley Messick (00:36:36): Sure. Well originally I came out to Colorado to work at a summer camp during summers in college, thinking I would do rock climbing and climb 14ers and backpack. And the camp had a horse packing element and I immediately gravitated towards it and it took over and I ended up working there as a wrangler and horse packer for years and stayed on and did ranch work. And we had a cow-calf operation as well, so I wasn't raised with horses, I did a little bit of riding and lessons growing up, but nothing major until college and out here.


(00:37:26): And then I did that for a long time and with trail stuff, I worked as a volunteer coordinator on the Rio Grande National Forest just over the pass. And I got to use my horse packing skills to get volunteers out and get tools and stuff in wilderness. So wilderness areas are not allowed to use mechanized equipment. So we can't take motorcycles or anything up to get equipment, so sometimes we're having groups out for a week, the story we'll get to, that group was actually out for months. They were out almost all summer, so we're taking lots of equipment and gear into the wilderness.


(00:38:17): So, yeah, the story of Ed, I was packing a crew up the Kit Carson Basin in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness and the Sangre's really special to me, spent a lot of time working there. I love the San Luis Valley in general, I think it reminds me a lot of home, both being flat, like eastern North Carolina is really flat, the valley itself is really flat, but just the kind of agrarian agricultural communities and working together and I just love it over there.


And the Sangres themselves, they're so steep and deep. There's places that don't get a lot of sun and it's one of the only places I feel like in Colorado you can smell things rotting and I miss it. I miss the Appalachian smell of just that dense, dank, musky smell. And there's some places in the Sangres that I definitely, it's whatever the smell is, you sense closely tied to memory and for sure, it smells like home.


(00:39:44): But anyway, they are, like I said, steep and deep. And some of the trails, particularly the one I'm talking about, the Willow Lake Trail, there's sections of it that were blasted out of the bedrock and we had horses loaded up. We were on foot to pack in as much as possible, so the horses we would be riding, we actually had rigged up carrying gear. And this horse, Ed, I only had two horses, so I was leading, so it was me and I had a lead rope for one horse in my hand and then Ed was tied to that horse.


Ed is a mustang, so he has a freeze brand on his neck. And I don't know exactly which herd he came from, but the freeze brand is kind of like a zip code. There's seven to nine characters on there in a row, and it really does look like the numbers on the bottom of a barcode. And it tells when he was born and which herd he came off of.


(00:41:08): And when you tie two horses together, you use a breakaway, and it's a thin piece. Sometimes we just use baling twine and it's strong enough to where the horse will lead and follow the horse in front and it won't break if they go down to eat or something. But if stuff goes awry, which it's prone to do, it will do its job and that is to break away. And we were on one of these sections that had been blasted out of bedrock, so the horses are on bedrock and horses, most of them, have metal shoes when you're doing work and metal on bedrock can be pretty slick.


(00:41:59): And I just remember hearing a sound. I turned around and Ed's hindquarters slipped on this bedrock and his rear started to pull him backwards and you could see his front feet dig in as best they can, his neck was fully extended, eyes were really wide, and then the breakaway snapped. So everything he was doing to pull himself up, the inertia or whatever, went the other way. He stood up on his back legs. He was fully loaded, we were going uphill still, and all the weight in his pack pulled him backwards off the cliff.


Adam Williams (00:42:51): How much weight was he carrying, do you suppose?


Brinkley Messick (00:42:55): Less than 200 pounds, but it's dead weight. And you think of a rider, I'm 200 pounds, but it's a lot easier for him to carry me than 200 dead weight pounds. So that weight just pulled him down and I said cliff, it was, if you've been in the Sangres, there's cliffs that are a couple hundred feet tall. It wasn't one of those, it was kind of staggered.


So he landed on the first ledge, which was kind of a funnel, but he landed upside down and he wasn't moving and he was about 20 feet below us at this point and we had to keep going. We couldn't really turn around with the animals we had, so I had to leave him there for a second, get the other horses to a safe spot. And then I was able to get down to him.


(00:44:03): And at this point, he's still not moving a whole lot and I'm panicked. I'm trying to stay cool and calm, but he's also, he's upside down, but it's on a slope, so his head's down low and the clock's kind of ticking. You want to get him up as fast as possible. And he's also wedged in between a dead tree that was down and the rock wall. So just everything was against him at this point, nothing was going his way. And I just started, took out my knife and just started cutting at ropes, trying to get this pack and saddle off of him and I was being really careful. He's on his back, hooves hurt, especially with metal shoes. And it was like the second I cut the last piece of the pack rope, that freedom, he started flailing and trying his best, and I got hit a couple times. I got pinned in between the rock, took a blow to the head that kind of, it didn't put me out, but it was like, "Whoa, I'd better be careful," type of a thing.


Adam Williams (00:45:31): A hoof to the head?


Brinkley Messick (00:45:34): I don't know. It was one of those, something hit my head pretty hard, I'm assuming it was a hoof, but I didn't see it or I forgot it from the blow. But anyway, he flailed around and then stopped and I tried a bunch of things to get him up, tried pulling on his head, tried to flip him over.


There wasn't a lot of option, and I don't know the exact time, but he's been down long enough that we're kind of worried that it might have some other stuff going on internally. It was definitely a big enough fall, especially since we can't see his back and he's just so awkward. I was thinking there might have been a spinal injury and we kind of made the decision the call for extra help and potentially a way to put him down if we needed to.


(00:46:46): And the person I was with was on the phone making that call, luckily we had service, and I decided to give it one more shot and got some of the pieces of rope that we had cut off and tied them around his far legs. And I didn't have a lot of room to pull, it was just so tight in there, and I kind of climbed up on the log that he was pinned in and jumped off the other side with the rope and that was enough to flip him over and he popped up like nothing happened. It was amazing.


Adam Williams (00:47:30): What was that relief for you then to have that sort of breakthrough moment that suddenly fixed what was previously feeling so bad?


Brinkley Messick (00:47:41): Oh man, I cried. I mean it was emotional for sure. Yeah. You feel so responsible when you're working with animals, especially I mean he was put in that situation. I don't know if there's anything I could have done to prevent it from happening. I don't think we made bad decisions from being reckless in any way, but you still feel responsible.


Adam Williams (00:48:14): Sure.


Brinkley Messick (00:48:15): Especially when you've already come to grips that you might have to put the animal down.


Adam Williams (00:48:21): How many years ago was this?


Brinkley Messick (00:48:22): That would've been 2015, I think.


Adam Williams (00:48:27): Okay. The reason I ask that is because the post that you shared this story in was, I'll say a tribute. It was in relation to your receiving the news that Ed would die, of old age presumably, I mean he was an old horse. And so there's some years then between how you were feeling to want to share this news and share this story as a bonding experience between the two of you, several years after this happened when he dies. Did you ever work with Ed again? Or how did that relationship or your sentiment for this experience end up carrying with you?


Brinkley Messick (00:49:07): Yeah, I definitely worked with Ed again. I didn't take him on that trail again. We approached things a little bit differently after that. But yeah, I mean I think as much as we want animals to be bonded to us a certain way, I don't think they are. I think he could care less about me. I certainly felt pretty, I had strong feelings for him after that, just the experience we went to, but I don't know.


Adam Williams (00:49:42): It mattered to you.


Brinkley Messick (00:49:43): It mattered. Yeah, it definitely mattered to me for sure. And even though I didn't work there anymore, whenever they were pastured somewhere where we could drive by, we recreate and spend a lot of time down in the San Luis Valley, but we would stop with the kids to see Ed and the other horses and stuff and-


Adam Williams (00:50:04): Well, does he recognize you? Does he come up and act like he knows who you are?


Brinkley Messick (00:50:08): Well, I would do the same things we do when we come to feed him. So he thought I was food, but-


Adam Williams (00:50:15): Okay. Well-


Brinkley Messick (00:50:16): I mean I do think some horses can recognize individuals. I have had a bond with particular horses that felt more than just in my head. I don't want to be too much of a pessimist about it, like poo poo that relationship that people have with them too much, but I think it's romanticized a lot. But I think it exists. I feel like I've experienced it some.


Adam Williams (00:51:17): Brinkley, I'm curious too about some stuff you did recently this past winter with, it looked like back country snowboarding. I think you went to British Columbia. Was that with just a group of friends? Was that a work-oriented thing? I couldn't quite tell.


Brinkley Messick (00:51:34): A little of both. It was a group of friends. I almost always have some kind of art supplies with me on any trip. But that one, I did bring a lot and I even stayed back a day to just do art, make it a work trip. And actually two of the shows that I have right now in Denver are with the folks that own those businesses I met on the trip. So definitely a work trip.


Adam Williams (00:52:07): Well, there was a really cool video that you had posted, and I wondered how that came to be because it was done so well and it seemed like someone, they stayed back, there's you hiking up this mountain.


Brinkley Messick (00:52:19): That's not me.


Adam Williams (00:52:20): Oh, it's not you hiking it?


Brinkley Messick (00:52:21): I did all the video work on it and I just edited it to look like me, it's me doing everything, but-


Adam Williams (00:52:28): No, that's awesome. I love getting to know that. Okay. So you weren't the one who rode down?


Brinkley Messick (00:52:34): It was me riding down. There's two shots of somebody hiking up and that's not me.


Adam Williams (00:52:39): Oh, okay, you have a stunt double, how cool is that? But you also did the video work and I thought that was done really well. So one, I think I don't have back country skills. I think maybe I need to latch onto you to have a friend to go do this with, because that's another thing that I admire is some of these places you're getting into in the powder and that's so amazing.


And then also having your art supplies with you, which is video shows. But then my question on this comes to, it looks to me like you're riding a sand board like people use on the sand dunes, your feet are not bound in.


Brinkley Messick (00:53:17): Yeah. It's called a pile surfer or a snow surfer. And it kind of goes back to the roots of snowboarding.


Adam Williams (00:53:26): Yeah, they called it a Snurfer or something like that.


Brinkley Messick (00:53:29): Yeah, the Snurfer was, I think came from Michigan, but Burton Snowboards, they all started with bindingless, stand on top with pads, some had a rope on the nose that you hung onto, but it's picked up again the last few years.


Adam Williams (00:53:46): Really? Okay.


Brinkley Messick (00:53:50): Mine's a production model, a big snowboard company's making, even Burton is doing one, but also people are getting into shaping them like surfboards, really messing with... Mine underneath is not flat. It looks like a piece of bacon it's so wavy, but they're really shaping them like surfboards.


Adam Williams (00:54:13): Well, I snowboard, but I guess I'm not sure how you translate that to not having your feet bound in and be able to control the board, not slip off of it. Or if you do go down, how you keep the board from just heading on down the mountain.


Brinkley Messick (00:54:28): You got a leash, just like surfing on that.


Adam Williams (00:54:32): So it's hooked to your ankle or something?


Brinkley Messick (00:54:34): Usually to your backpack or a belt or something. And there's a little bit of a learning curve from snowboarding, but not a ton. Once you get a certain amount of speed, you're stuck to the board pretty good. It's the first 50 feet or so that feel a little wobbly before you get fast enough to really stick to it. But you can carve and there's some people doing pretty crazy freestyle tricks and stuff. And we don't have, right around Salida, a lot of opportunity to use them with snow pack. And you need fresh snow, at least six inches to really have a good experience on them, and certain types of terrain. But they're really nice and high avalanche conditions because you don't need something super steep, you can go under 30 degrees and be pretty safe on moderate avalanche days.


Adam Williams (00:55:51): I think having that avalanche safety training is the thing that I feel like is a key piece for me before I can get out there. But then also having people who know what the hell they're doing so I can have some confidence with where I'm going. Is that training that you have?


Brinkley Messick (00:56:06): I actually don't have an AVY cert. I go out with people that know more than me, which also, I mean they put a lot of trust in me, I guess, on that. But I also, I don't push the boundaries. I don't go into what's considered avalanche terrain. I mean-


Adam Williams (00:56:28): Keep it less steep than-


Brinkley Messick (00:56:30): Things can happen anywhere, but I do pay attention. I read those color avalanche information center reports, incident reports, and everything pretty consistently. And I mean I've learned a lot of things, but I don't have a card in my wallet.


Adam Williams (00:56:53): I think what appeals to me about it is it's not about getting into, certainly not the danger of where avalanches are, into that level of steepness. It simply is being out in the wild, being away from things and hiking up, skinning up on splitboard, whatever is necessary, but just enjoying the overall effort and connection with nature.


And if that means I only get one or two or whatever runs it is in a day because of that energy effort and it's just being out there, I think that's what appeals to me about it. What is it that draws you into these kinds of experiences, I guess, in winter wilderness? Because clearly we've talked about summertime trail work.


Brinkley Messick (00:57:37): Very much the same. It's another way to, it's an immersive experience. It's totally-


Adam Williams (00:57:43): That's a great word.


Brinkley Messick (00:57:44): Yeah. It's totally different than riding a lift, you can be out with a few of your friends and really not see a lot of people. Although, I mean that's changing a little bit, especially I mean definitely with the pandemic, but equipment's more accessible as it's cheaper. I mean splitboarding, it's been interesting, I didn't come in right in the very, very beginning of splitboarding, but I've gotten to see it evolve quite a bit where the only way to get one was to make your own, and there was one or two companies really doing stuff.


And I'm not an avid, avid splitboarder, I like to get out a couple times a season, but I'm not a every week type of a person. I really do enjoy doing it when I can. And also to get back on, we have amazing huts and back country hut systems around here and I've been snowboarding, I started snowboarding in North Carolina when I was 12 or 13, but I've never had skis on my feet. So for me to get back to some of these places, it really took a splitboard or snowshoes. It's a lot of work.


Adam Williams (00:59:04): Yeah. Let's talk about kids and being a dad now because it really does tie together so much of what we're talking about. Just like your parents were artists that influenced you, surely the creativity that you have in the house that you create in that environment affects them. But I also know that getting outdoors is a big piece of things with them too. Describe yourself as a dad.


Brinkley Messick (00:59:30): I'll try. I think my influences as a parent are equal parts positive role model from my mother and my mom, like I mentioned earlier, she raised me on her own, single mom the whole time. I've got so much to aspire to, the bar that she set, and it's so important to me that I live up to that.


And then the other part is, I won't say a negative role model, but definitely things that I would do differently and do differently, and that's from my dad's side. I didn't see my dad that often. I don't remember too many super negative experiences, but just absence is kind of the biggest thing.


(01:00:43): Certainly my love of the outdoors and the natural world has a lot of his influence. My mom helped with that, but he was kind of the catalyst for that. I have a half brother on my dad's side who is an old growth activist and conservationist. So, hunted out stand of old growth trees and kind of a hermit in the Appalachians.


And I spent a lot of time with him and my dad when I was younger, and that really fostered my love and respect for the natural world. But just my mom was both parents. I think there's a difference between being a single parent and being both parents and somehow she did both roles. And first and foremost, that's my biggest influence as a parent.


(01:01:46): But then my love of being a dad surprised me and I think surprised my mom and my wife as well to some extent. And then it was just this immediate overwhelming mix of love, responsibility. I mean for me, it's pretty impossible to describe accurately. But I immediately took over and that's what I am now. As soon as my first kid was born, and I think having a parent that was so absent really makes me want to be as present as possible.


And fortunate enough, I've been able to do that and the career switch to doing just art gives me more time to be with them after school or during the pandemic with no school at all. In our area, childcare is hard for the young ones. So I was able to be there a lot before we had childcare. But it's just experiencing things again for the first time, or when they experience things for the first time, it's, I don't know, the whole thing-


Adam Williams (01:03:15): Yeah, I don't remember, it probably was before my first son was even born, and my kids are now 12 and 10. What are your ages?


Brinkley Messick (01:03:26): Six and my son turns four in July, so we're getting close.


Adam Williams (01:03:31): Okay. But I do remember when my older boy, so at the time, of course, our only child was just a few weeks old and I just remember this, I can even picture being with him and thinking how for somebody so young, you are clearly the most important person to me in the entire world, all these positive things that there's a depth to it that's like, "How can this be?"


(01:03:59): So yeah, this is why I want to talk with you about fatherhood because we both, I think, have a similar or are at a similar place in life in terms of having created these lives that are built around flexibility. We both live creative lives. We both are artists. We are very present for our kids.


And so when I see that you share things on social media, these videos of you going snowboarding with these young kids or whatever the activities are, it's biking, there's a lot of time out in nature and I appreciate seeing that. And then I get this chance to talk with someone who maybe shares a similar view of stepping back from traditional roles.


(01:04:53): I mean I don't know if you feel pressure on that, but it certainly is something that nags in the back of my head sometimes because of the way we're conditioned and socialized. My wife is the primary earner in the house and I'm the primary parent, the go-to that something happens at school, I'm the one with the flexibility to go talk. Your thoughts on that and where you are and what your focus is as dad in that role right now.


Brinkley Messick (01:05:20): Yeah. Yeah. Real similar boat as you with that stuff. My wife's the primary earner and I'm the more kind of stay-at-home parent and point person with the kids. And it felt so natural to me to do that. It never felt weird for me. I didn't feel like I'm going against societal norms or whatever because I'm not the only dad that I know that does that here.


I don't know if things are changing on a larger scale. Where it hit me the first time, I was real sensitive when my daughter was young about real gender-specific toys. And my mom got my daughter a kitchen set and I was aggravated with it, but my wife was like, "You're the one that cooks. She watches you cook. She's not doing what she thinks the mom's supposed to do or whatever."


Adam Williams (01:06:53): So in your mind, she was being handed this traditional idea, but like your wife's pointing out, "Well, traditional in her mind is actually you're the one cooking."


Brinkley Messick (01:07:04): Yeah, yeah, yeah. So now I don't know what to do, but-


Adam Williams (01:07:10): I look at parenting, to me the most essential thing, I think if I had to put it into one word, is teaching. And I feel like a lot of parenting that I have observed, and maybe it's from, I don't know if it's from I mean my parents to some degree anyway, they were teachers, school teachers yet didn't necessarily teach at home in the way that I view teaching as the most significant role for me with my kids now. It's all the life stuff. And it can be the school stuff too, but I look at the teaching as most essential.


(01:07:47): So I maybe almost do that to a fault. And I think part of it, if we go back to your idea of what you really want to do is be present, I have long had this fear, or I don't know, I can't say it's a premonition, I imagine it's just a common anxiety; what if I'm not there for my kids? What if I die young? Whether that's a car accident, a snowboarding accident, cancer, whatever. And so I have felt like from them being very young, I want to teach them enough that if I go away, they might still have enough to carry with them from me. I don't want to put those fears in you, I don't want you to get the-


Brinkley Messick (01:08:38): Oh, they're there. They're there.


Adam Williams (01:08:39): Okay. So it's not just me?


Brinkley Messick (01:08:41): Yeah, no. I've had those thoughts and unfortunately more than you'd like, but especially going through what we did with the pandemic, and I know we're tired of talking about it, but I think it's changed the way you think about stuff or influenced the way we think about it. And even before that, if you experience loss, and unfortunately I've had a fair amount of loss of peers, though that's in your head and you want to prepare your kids best you can.


Adam Williams (01:09:24): When you talk about loss of peers, what are you saying?


Brinkley Messick (01:09:29): I've had a lot of friends die and family, too young. And going back to that kind of collective experience, something that impactful doesn't really go away. It's always there and influences the way you think. And I hate to be morbid, but I feel like, to me it feels unfortunately almost like a premonition. And I think that's some kind of, especially if you're having something similar, some kind of instinct. I wouldn't be surprised if it's in our, kind of cheesy thing to say, but in our DNA to some point, we want our kids to be prepared for anything, even if that means the loss of us.


Adam Williams (01:10:19): Yeah. I mean people have lost their parents. Of course there's plenty of those people with stories. I mean both of my parents lost parents young. Maybe that factors in somewhere. I mean I've seen, of course, that happen. But in the end, for me, the teaching and preparing them as best I can, and I'm going to find out in the next 10 or 15 or 20 years, was it too much or is it something that they can say, "Hey, thanks. That really set me up?" I don't know.


Brinkley Messick (01:10:52): Yeah.


Adam Williams (01:10:55): We've talked about a little bit the parenting thing of, do you go by the modeling of parenting that was provided for you? You said your mom was kind of that for you. For me, that other side you mentioned is more where I'm coming from is, what do I not want to do? And I wonder, well, do you have a relationship with your dad now?


Brinkley Messick (01:11:21): My father passed away 2014.


Adam Williams (01:11:24): Oh my gosh. Okay. So that was nine years ago. Did you have one?


Brinkley Messick (01:11:30): I hadn't spoken to my dad for five or six years before he passed, and there was some mental health things going on, it wasn't just a bad relationship. So I mean that's definitely, that has to influence the way I think and parent. So-


Adam Williams (01:11:46): How so? Are we getting back to that idea of loss too soon?


Brinkley Messick (01:11:54): I think so. I don't think [inaudible 01:12:00] lost too soon, he missed out on meeting his grandkids. I think that that has to influence the way I think about that kind of darker, morbid side of not being there for whatever reason when you do-


Adam Williams (01:12:14): You were an adult when you lost him, you said mental health, if I can ask, you mean on the part of his health?


Brinkley Messick (01:12:22): Yes.


Adam Williams (01:12:24): So, I don't feel like I have an adult relationship with my father who still is alive, and haven't had for nearly 30 years. Now I suspect it would hurt him to hear me say that, but I think an objective look at it, a reasonably objective look at it, you'd have to acknowledge the truth of that. I'm curious your take and how that also might affect you as a parent, besides just as a human and as a man and as a husband, but as a parent. That is another governing idea for me is I want relationships with my sons when they're adults. I want to be there for them and I want them to have me for whatever good I bring their lives as mentors, as support, as whatever, that I don't have right now in my life and haven't had for decades and do not anticipate ever having. I would imagine that factors into how you're thinking ahead as a dad to them?


Brinkley Messick (01:13:30): Yeah, I'm sure it does. I think so much of what I do is just subconscious. I'm not a great planner, long-term planner. I try, but I don't know if I analyze things that way or can look or outlooks to the future. Mine is more of a just a, God, I hate to say this, there's a gut feeling.


Adam Williams (01:14:10): Do you live in the present, do you feel like?


Brinkley Messick (01:14:10): I think so.


Adam Williams (01:14:12): I think you say hate to say, I think that's a great way to go.


Brinkley Messick (01:14:19): I know what I want, I don't know how I'm going to get there I guess, as far as the long-term future and relationships with my kids.


Adam Williams (01:14:25): I think I spend too much time in my head. I think I could use more of the hands-on skills. I think where we get physical and get into some of that manual labor of the trail building and things like that, I think can be a really healthy thing. Whereas most of my work, and I say work in the way that I look at it, it's not job, it's life work, it's creative work, it's just part of my life. But it all tends to be so inward and creative and expressive as a writer, as an artist, as a conversationalist for a podcast. I spend too much time thinking.


Brinkley Messick (01:15:04): We should figure out some way to share it. I don't know. Yeah. The whole long-term goal thing has just never clicked with me. I mean I barely make a weekly plan sometimes.


Adam Williams (01:15:21): I can't stick to it, even if I do. I can't stick to a day-long plan. Half of my to-do list on any given day gets kicked to another day or another week. So let's wrap with this. I want to ask you, what do you love about parenting and being a dad and getting out there with them and sharing the outdoors and art and all those things that you do with your kids?


Brinkley Messick (01:15:44): Well, sharing is what I love the most I think. And maybe it's that kind of training, as with anthropology, as a observing and just the little surprises and stuff. One of the, it's not really parenting advice, but things that have stuck with me, Neil deGrasse Tyson, I was listening to a talk of his before I had kids.


I'm not even sure if we were expecting yet because when I was listening to it, I was thinking a lot about interpreting it from when I was a child, but I've definitely taken it and it was, as parents, we were kind of conditioned, I feel like, and he does too in this talk, we're conditioned to say no a lot and look out and play referee. That gets in a way, especially with younger kids, with their experiments, right?


He's talking about it in the context of science, but pulling out all the pots and pans, which is something I remember doing at my grandparents' house, and not letting kids do that because they're making a mess. You're interrupting an experiment in acoustics. That's what the kids are doing.


(01:17:27): So my job as a parent is to not, what I try to do as a parent is to not get in the way of experiments. And that's really hard to do. I'm constantly checking myself, and especially, again, sorry to say it, but the pandemic. I was recently looking at videos that I took of my daughter before the pandemic of her learning to walk and she's falling and I'm not going to pick her up. And just these things that I feel like I've turned into this hoverer.


I think just, and I'll blame it, some of it's probably my natural tendencies, but I'll blame it on going through what we did with COVID. And I've got to figure out how to get back to letting them fall and not worrying about it, which man, it was a wake-up call seeing those videos and how relaxed I was and now I feel so tense.


Adam Williams (01:18:34): Fair enough. Yeah, for sure. I imagine there's a lot there that we could explore individually in our own time, working it out, for me anyway, in a journal would make sense trying to process because I don't really think that I've looked through all the ways we've been affected by so much of that experience, but we certainly have been.


And I agree with you that I probably get involved too much, and at other times find it much easier to be hands off. I mean there have been times I've tried to referee with my sons. They're 22 months apart and then there have been times one of them will look to me to break up a physical fight and I've just had it and I'm like, "Go at it. You need to figure it out for yourself."


(01:19:21): And they'll swing on each other and resolve it. And one of the best experiences that they ever had, and I think the three of us together ever had was one of those moments where they got to realize, "I can take a punch, I can give a punch and have confidence. We're all okay, we worked it out." Do that part first, then come in, dry up the tears, all the emotions, and tell me what was this about? And of course that's the part we don't even remember because it was inconsequential. But they really took some positives away from my just not refereeing and stepping back and saying, "Go at it."


Brinkley Messick (01:19:55): I mean it's good to debrief those things too. I mean that's where the growth is in the debrief, not just the pounding out of the problems. Talk about it afterwards.


Adam Williams (01:20:07): Yeah. I let them work that out and we went in the living room and yeah, it was that debrief. They were so thrilled and excited to recount and then talk about what it was, but that no longer really mattered. And yeah, we could talk about fatherhood for a long time, but that would be a many years long thing.


And maybe you and I can, but it's not going to fit into this show. We have these areas in common, Brinkley; art, fatherhood, love of outdoors. I appreciate your coming on here. I was looking forward to this conversation. Thanks so much for coming in and having it with me.


Brinkley Messick (01:20:41): Thanks. Thanks, Adam. Thanks for making it easy on me. Some of these things, I spend so much time alone in my own head.


Adam Williams (01:20:51): I hear you. I hear you. Thank you, Brinkley.


Brinkley Messick (01:20:53): Yep.


[Transitional music, guitar instrumental]


Adam Williams (01:20:56): All right. If you made it all this way and you still don't know, that was artist, Brinkley Messick. If our conversation here today sparked curiosity for you, you can learn more in this episode's show notes at


If you have comments or know someone in Chaffee County, Colorado who I should consider talking with on the podcast, you can email us at


We invite you to rate and review the We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or whatever platform you use with that functionality. We also invite you and encourage you to tell others about the Looking Upstream podcast. You can help us to keep growing community and connection through conversation.


(01:21:33): Once again, I'm Adam Williams, host, producer, and photographer. Jon Pray is engineer and producer. Thank you to KHEN 106.9 FM Community Radio where we recorded today's conversation in Salida, Colorado, to Heather Gorby for graphic and web design, to Andrea Carlstrom, Director of Chaffee County Public Health and Environment, and to Lisa Martin, Community Advocacy Coordinator for the We Are Chaffee Storytelling Initiative.


The We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast is a collaboration with the Chaffee County Department of Public Health and the Chaffee Housing Authority, and it's supported by the Colorado Public Health and Environment Office of Health Disparities. You can learn more about the Looking Upstream podcast and related storytelling initiatives at and on Instagram and Facebook @WeAreChaffee.


Lastly, thank you for listening and remember, as we say here at We Are Chaffee, be human, share stories.

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