Government & Politics  March 8, 2024

Amundson: Not always what it seems

Editor’s note: This is the third in a five-part series of columns detailing notable news stories from the past 51 years, leading up to the author’s retirement.

I wonder how many times it has happened over the years, but we likely all recognize that not everything turns out to be what it appears to be on the surface. Scratch a little, and a clearer picture might emerge.

I’m not talking about the myriad conspiracy theories that seem to dominate social media these days. It doesn’t take much work at all to dispel the purported “facts” of those stories.

I am talking about individuals who take a truth or two and spin them into a tale worthy of the great novel. Of course, at its core, the tale is fiction.

The city of Loveland over the past 35 years has gone through incredible periods of strife followed by calm, followed by strife. It is in the middle of a tumultuous period now.

But in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Loveland government was characterized by calm. Disagreements were few. It was so calm that an unexpected mid-term vacancy on the City Council resulted in just one applicant who sought appointment.

Glen Cain was his name. He was a big man, towering over most others, and he was a good communicator. He had worked as a magistrate in West Virginia, he said, but his claim to fame was as a member of the Dallas Cowboys football team. He played in the Super Bowl with the Cowboys, he said. (Dallas has played in eight). He was a member of the Denver Broncos youth organization, which required pro football credentials in order to participate.

“He’s my kind of man,” one member of the Loveland council remarked after conducting an interview with him.

But his story didn’t ring true. Reporter-Herald reporter Gale Robinette was working the city beat at the time, I was managing editor, and Bob Rummel was editor and general manager. 

Bob and I have been friends and colleagues for 50 of my 51 years in the business, having worked together years earlier in Minnesota. His approach in cases like this — and when hiring employees — was to take a yellow legal pad and start to outline in chronological order a person’s background. When there were gaps, he tried to fill them.

And Cain had gaps.

First of all, no one could remember a Glen Cain who had played for the Cowboys. With all the sports trivia buffs out there, surely someone would have remembered a championship-level player.

We interviewed Cain over a weekend, just prior to the Tuesday meeting at which the council was poised to appoint him. He claimed to have a Super Bowl ring, but it was locked in a safety deposit box and would not be available to him until Monday. 

Work began early that Monday. We verified that he had been a magistrate in a small county of West Virginia, where law experience was not necessary and a pulse was typically the only requirement. The Cowboys organization did not have him on any roster. The Broncos did have him as a member of the youth organization and could not explain how he had secured membership. Cain didn’t come to show us his ring.

The Reporter-Herald was an afternoon publication in those days, and our story appeared in the Tuesday afternoon edition. 

By 7 p.m., the council had rallied around former council member Rollie Clark, who had not been considered for the position the week prior. Cain received no votes.

Cain disappeared from town.

In those pre-internet days, research was more difficult. But Lehman Communications Corp., which owned both the R-H and the Longmont Times-Call, maintained detailed, organized clip files of every local story written. Museums in the two towns now have possession of those libraries.

It hadn’t occurred to us at the time to check the Times-Call file; Cain had made no reference to that community in his interviews with us or with the council.

For grins, we checked the T-C file, and we discovered a full-page feature story about Cain. Not about his Dallas Cowboys exploits but about another claim, that he had been a stuntman for John Wayne.

The reporter on that story said he sounded credible, but it also turned out to be a tall tale. John Wayne had multiple stunt people over the years, in addition to doing his own stunts, but the primary one was “Bad Chuck” Robertson, who served for 30 years with the Duke.

The nickname “Duke,” by the way, was given to Wayne as a child; it was the name of his airedale terrier. He liked it better than his given name of Marion Robert Morrison. 

Click to view additional stories in Ken’s series.

Truth: Stranger than fiction

Collaborative journalism: A joint effort to protect a community

Amundson: Not always what it seems

Amundson: Stories some don’t want told

Amundson: Local events take a toll

Amundson: Career focused on community journalism

Amundson to retire from BizWest after 51 years in journalism

Ken Amundson
Ken Amundson is managing editor of BizWest. He has lived in Loveland and reported on issues in the region since 1987. Prior to Colorado, he reported and edited for news organizations in Minnesota and Iowa. He's a parent of two and grandparent of four, all of whom make their homes on the Front Range. A news junkie at heart, he also enjoys competitive sports, especially the Rapids.
Sign up for BizWest Daily Alerts