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Face to Face with Mort Fadum

Morten “Mort” Fadum has traveled to the Arctic Circle as well as Africa and several places in between, but he’s proud to call Colorado home.Born in 1946 in Fox River Grove in northern Illinois, Fadum described his hometown as a place that was “home to gangsters and mobsters.””It’s a town that should have a book written about it,” he said.Fadum said he enjoyed growing up in Fox River Grove but found true excitement when he took his first trip to Colorado at age 13. “My first big adventure was coming out here in 1959 for the big Golden Jamboree – the 50th anniversary of the Boy Scouts,” Fadum said. He said he found many things memorable about the trip, especially the mode of transportation. “We rode in slate-sided cattle cars with half doors and picnic tables nailed down the middle,” he said. “[We rode] all the way from Rockford (Ill.) to here and it was the most spectacular thing you could do as a kid.” Fadum said after having his first taste of Colorado, he couldn’t wait to get back here.In 1964, Fadum graduated from Cary Grove High School and then went to college with dreams of becoming a forest ranger. Fadum said the field of study for forest rangers was not as developed as it is today, and his idea of what it meant to be a forest ranger was not as developed either. “They hadn’t coined the educational phrase ‘conservation’ yet,” he said. “[But I wanted] to have a pair of tall leather boots and one of those flat brimmed hat and stand with the wind in your face.”Fadum attended the University of Wisconsin on and off for four years; he eventually took the advice of his guidance counselor and left Wisconsin and headed to Chicago, where he opened a leather shop.Fadum said that starting a business in 1968 was different than it is today. He said in addition to money, anything was possible with a little imagination and a lot of ambition. “With a hundred dollars in your pocket, you’re a rich person in ’68,” Fadum said. “You could rent a storefront and just go at it.” He stayed in Chicago for a couple years before heading to Los Angeles. Fadum said he was curious about what it is like to live in other parts of the country. “If you wanted to know about something, you had to go there,” he said. “It’s not like that for kids today. If they want to know about something, they just go on the Internet.”He got a real taste of the California lifestyle after setting up another leather shop on Sunset Strip in Hollywood, Calif., he said. “It was wild,” he added. “The music was on the street.” Even though he enjoyed the West Coast and the free-spirit lifestyle, Fadum packed his bags and returned to a place he remembered from his childhood – Colorado. He and a buddy traveled around the state before settling in Colorado Springs.Although he continued to do leatherwork, Fadum also found that Colorado was a great place to get into the outdoor recreational business. He started a business setting up leases between landowners and recreational parties. “Most of them were ranchers who were third and fourth generation, and they would lease their land for people to hunt, fish and camp,” Fadum said. “I got paid to evaluate the land and arrange a lease between the user and the owner.” There wasn’t a lot of bureaucracy, he said. “It was good ‘ole’ boy stuff.”Fadum said he enjoyed all the people he met in his new line of work. There was one person in particular he enjoyed meeting – his wife, Patty. Fadum said he met her while she was running The Mountain Chalet, which, at the time, was a premier outdoor recreational shop in Colorado Springs. “She worked there and she was a doll,” he said “And I would go in there to buy boots, and I finally couldn’t afford to buy any more boots.” They married in 1973.The two stayed in the recreational business until the mid-1980s, when they started to take an interest in photography. They couldn’t pass up the opportunity to travel to Africa, where they were hired to make documentaries of safari experiences. Fadum said it was a great time to live in Africa, when a lot of the land was still “untouched.”Eventually, they moved back to the United States – first to Illinois and then to Virginia. Fadum took up the arts, and he and his wife traveled throughout the U.S. and Canada selling his wildlife sculptures. However, in 1993, their daughter Jemma was born, and they slowed down their travels.Fadum eventually brought his family back to the one placed they loved – Colorado. In 2005, they settled in the Latigo Trails development. Shortly after, Fadum opened his own art and leather studio in the Latigo Trails Heritage Center. “It started out by just making some chaps for my daughter and fixing a few saddles,” he said. It didn’t take long for his business to grow, and he now offers saddles and custom-made chaps. He also works three days a week in the farrier shop next to his studio.”I’m a very lucky guy. I have a great wife and a great daughter,” he said. “I have nothing to complain about.”More on Morten FadumWhat is your favorite thing about Colorado?I just have some good friends here and that’s why I came back. Plus, I enjoy the hunting and fishing, and I like the horses.Name a person you admire and why.Jens (pronounced Yentz) Zimmermann. He is a friend of mine who is fighting cancer at a clinic in Nebraska. And I don’t know anybody tougher than him, and I respect him.What is your favorite memory?When Jemma was born. We worked really hard at it. I mean we had been married 20-plus years. So, we got healthy and set some money aside. It was very intentional. And then after she was born, we built a bubble around our house and took that time to get to know Jemma.Who are some of your favorite authors?Barbara Kingsolver. Jim Harrison. Cormack McCarthy. Great writers of enviable talent. Just good writers. I like authors who can develop good characters.

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