Off Limits

"Insure your soul with Jesus Christ -- avoid hell," reads a handwritten note on one of Stephanie Schultz's Colorado Insurance Professionals business cards. The businesslike red, white and black cards -- their printed information supplemented with scrawled messages of hell or salvation ("No Jesus -- Know Hell; Know Jesus -- No Hell") -- are tacked to a series of telephone poles along Twelfth Avenue in Capitol Hill. And if you say the prayer stamped on the back -- "Lord Jesus, save my soul by the holy spirit and be God and savior of my life, amen" -- you'll be saved!

Not a bad Sunday: Get a latte at Diedrich and then redeem your soul while waiting for the traffic light to change.

There's just one hitch: Schultz says she isn't the one crusading for Christ. "I have no idea what you're talking about," she replies, when told of the cards. "Unless someone's got my business cards, I have no idea. That is so bizarre."

The commercial account rep says she hasn't received any calls from people seeking her assistance in salvation -- not yet. And if they do call?

She hasn't a prayer.

Shagalicious: 'Tis the season for using Santa and his elves to sell everything from diamonds to drills, but the guys at Rocky's Autos really raised the bar this year. A recent commercial for the dealership, which is renowned for hawking cars with Shagman (Jay Stickney) and crew, featured a couple of buxom young lasses playing poker and getting drunk with Santa and his merry crew. The hand-held video footage was no more distasteful than your usual local car ad -- until one of the elves puked on camera, with brown fluid spewing everywhere.

"Oh, my God, that's terrible," says Rocky's Autos president David Rothrock. Asked about the commercial, he at first insists he doesn't know about it, even though Rocky's ads are produced in-house (and look like it).

Once his memory is jogged, though, Rothrock remembers getting a few compliments "from some people who happened to see it, I guess, during the Jerry Springer show and maybe on the sci-fi channel." But other viewers called in to say it was "terrible to poke fun at Santa," he adds.

It's still up for debate as to whether the pukester was actually Shagman. Rothrock will neither confirm nor deny the elf's identity -- and now it's too late to see for yourself.

After a one-week run, the spot has been replaced by Rocky's annual Christmas commercial, a winter scene augmented by nothing more than the words "Happy Holidays: 30 Seconds of Peace from Rocky's Autos."

Peace, love and trampolines: A glowing, twenty-foot-high peace sign hovers just above Field Street in Cañon City. At night, people can see the beacon's message of unity and pacifism from more than two miles away.

During the day, though, they see only a trampoline strung with fifteen strands of holiday lights, leaning against a telephone pole at Desert Canyon Farm.

"My husband, Chris, and I feel like there's no accomplishing peace with violence," says Tammi Hartung, owner of the organic farm. "So a peace sign is sort of our rebellion against the current Bush administration's approach to calling for war and irritating other people of the world through arrogance. The trampoline was the biggest thing we could find that was round -- so we figured, the bigger the better."

Not just in size, either. The couple e-mailed friends across the country, urging them to craft and hang peace signs. A student (the Hartungs also teach a certified herbalist program) who lives in Cripple Creek took them up on it, as did friend Kenneth Wajda, who also lives in Cañon City.

But since not everyone has open farmland, Wajda updated the Hartungs' concept, suggesting a hula hoop in place of the trampoline. He then e-mailed friends with instructions for wrapping the talisman with two strings of a hundred lights.

"People in Boulder are starting to do it," says Wajda, a former New Jersey photojournalist who moved to the area two years ago. "Several people on the East Coast have made them, too. The goal is to make it so that people will jump on it so it would spread rather quickly."

The friends are urging their e-mail list to submit the story to USA Today in hopes of gaining national attention. Back in Cañon City, a town of 15,000 that's best known as the home of the Royal Gorge and the state penitentiary, residents find the whole thing amusing. Says Hartung, "Everybody seems to be enjoying it and taking it in good humor."

Check this: Coloradans love animals, we really, really do -- particularly the endangered kind, despite the fact that we're divided about what should be on the list. (The Prebles jumping mouse is the bane of Colorado Springs developers, while Western Slope ranchers harbor violent thoughts about the black-tailed prairie dog; urbanites may find the gray wolf and grizzly bear beautiful, but they certainly wish they'd stay out of their yards.)

Last year, state taxpayers gave the Colorado Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Fund $590,261 in donations from their tax refunds -- 30 percent of the total $2 million checked off in those little boxes on tax returns.

Colorado, which was the first state to implement a voluntary "check off" option in 1977, this year is offering two new funds to choose from, rounding out a list of very strange bedfellows. Joining such perennial favorites as the United States Olympic Committee and Special Olympic Committee are the Colorado Watershed Protection Fund (which gives money to community-based groups in planning and implementing watershed-protection efforts) and the Colorado Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Fund (which advises the courts on what to do with children in abusive and neglectful situations).

If kids and endangered animals aren't your thing, you can also support the operation and maintenance of the only veterans' cemetery west of the Continental Divide, or groups that run low-cost spay and neuter programs, especially in rural areas, or organizations that help curb domestic abuse or prevent homelessness.

But not just any charity can be a "check off" -- in fact, some of Colorado's biggest nonprofits are absent. For an organization to be included on the tax form, the Colorado Legislature must pass a law authorizing its placement there. Each fund is then reviewed annually to ensure that it received at least 10 percent of the total donations; if not, the charity is pulled off the list.

And while Colorado's animal affection is no real surprise, the fact that so many people are enamored of the Western Slope veterans' cemetery sure is.

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