Denver Archives - StoryCorps

A Life In The Rodeo: A Bull Riding Champion Looks Back

It was a summer day in 1968 when a traveling carnival pitched its tent just outside South Central, Los Angeles. Then 11-year-old Charlie Sampson visited with his Boy Scout troop. He remembers the monkeys, bears and snakes. But it was the pony ride that really caught his attention.

“I gave the man a quarter to ride the ponies. Went around five times and that was the beginning of a lifestyle that I never dreamed of,” he said.

Charlie would later take a job cleaning horse stables in exchange for riding lessons. Eventually, a group of older cowboys took him under their wing and showed him how to rope and ride bulls. Years later, in 1982, Charlie became the first Black man to win the Professional Bull Riding World Championship.


 Charlie Sampson riding a bull in 1984. Bern Gregory, courtesy of the Dickinson Research Center at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. 1999.025.2422.33.

He came to StoryCorps with his son, Daniel Sampson, to talk about life as a father and a traveling cowboy.

Top Photo: Charlie Sampson and his son Daniel Sampson at their StoryCorps interview in Denver, Colorado on May 30, 2023. By Tamekia Jackson for StoryCorps.

Transcending Blindness, a Marathon Runner Thanks His Daughter for Her Support

Jason Romero suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, a condition that causes progressive blindness. In 2015, he was forced to stop driving and quit his job, which plunged him into a deep depression. But Jason was most concerned about how it would impact his family. “The most important thing to me is to be a good dad to you and your brother and your sister, and I just didn’t know how I was going to be able to do it if I couldn’t see,” he said.

Jason Romero and his youngest daughter, Sofia Romero, in San Diego, California in August 2022. Courtesy Jason Romero.

Jason turned to running as a way to prove that he could push his body past what people thought possible. After becoming an ultramarathon runner, he had the seemingly crazy idea of being the first blind person to run across the United States. So he hit the road.

Jason Romero in his 2016 run across the United States. Courtesy Jason Romero.

In 2016, he set off on a 3,063 mile, 59 day run from Los Angeles to New York City. But while he was away, he thought about his family – especially his youngest daughter, Sofia.

Top Photo: Sofia Romero and Jason Romero in Denver, Colorado on January 4, 2023. By Esther Honig for StoryCorps.

Originally aired January 6, 2023, on NPR’s Morning Edition. This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.  

With your support, StoryCorps is able to record more stories that help lift up underrepresented voices, bridge political and social divides, and preserve personal histories for the future.


A Columbine Survivor On Going Home To Teach

Warning: the audio version of this story contains strong language.

Mandy Cooke was a sophomore at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado in 1999, when two students opened fire at the school, killing 13 people and themselves.

Mandy later became a teacher back at Columbine.

At StoryCorps in Denver, Mandy sat down with Paula Reed — her former teacher from Columbine — to talk about the two decades that followed, and the lasting impact of the shooting.

Originally broadcast May 27, 2022 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Top photo: Paula Reed (L) and Mandy Cooke (R) at StoryCorps in Denver, CO. By Kevin Oliver for StoryCorps.

“I don’t break”: How Two People Found Strength in One Another After Police Violence

In 2009, Alexander Landau was brutally beaten during a routine traffic stop by police in Denver, Colorado. His charges were dropped, and he later won a settlement from that city.

Years later, Nina Askew — another Colorado resident — had her arm broken in three places during an arrest. Her charges later resulted in a conviction of resisting arrest, and a hung jury on second degree assault of a police officer. 

Nina knew of Alexander from the media coverage of his case, and while their cases had very different outcomes, Nina was looking for moral and logistical support as she went through her trial.

Although Nina first reached out to Alexander for legal advice, she found something deeper in their connection. 

Top Photo: Alexander Landau and Nina Askew at their StoryCorps interview in Denver, Colorado on July 17, 2021. By Nick Sullivan for StoryCorps.

Originally aired November 12, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Strangers Talk in Hopes of Bridging Their Political Divides

Here at StoryCorps, we’re used to hearing conversations between two people who know and love one another.

In this story, we eavesdrop on a conversation that’s a little bit different. It takes place between two strangers, and was recorded as part of One Small Step, our new initiative that brings people together from opposite sides of the political divide.

In summer of 2018, Tiffany Briseño and Israel Baryeshua met for the first time in Denver to have this discussion.

Photo: Tiffany Briseño and Israel Baryeshua pose at their One Small Step interview in Denver, Colorado on July 18, 2018. By Camila Kerwin for StoryCorps.

Originally aired November 9, 2018, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

A Soldier on Suffering from PTSD and Finding a Home in Fashion

Army Specialist Duane Topping served three tours in Iraq before medically retiring in 2012.


Although he comes across as a tough guy with his tattoos and leather jacket, while deployed he found comfort from an unlikely place. Duane came to StoryCorps with his wife, Jamie Topping, to recall the difficulties of transitioning to civilian life while struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.


Today, Duane and Jamie run a successful design house out of Denver, Colorado. In September, they returned home from their first official show at New York Fashion Week.

Top photo: Jamie and Duane Topping pose during their StoryCorps interview in the Topping Designs studio in Wheat Ridge, Colorado on May 17, 2018. Photo by Mia Warren for StoryCorps.
Middle photo: Duane Topping poses in Kuwait while deployed as an Army Specialist in 2006, during his second deployment to Iraq. Courtesy of Duane Topping. 
Bottom photo: Duane Topping works at his design studio in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. Photo by Mia Warren for StoryCorps.

Originally aired October 6, 2018, on NPR’s Weekend Edition.

Calvin Burns and Stepheni Bellamy

Calvin Burns has trouble getting his 15-year-old daughter, Stepheni Bellamy, to talk, which is something parents of teenagers everywhere can understand.

Calvin knew that Stepheni was having a hard time adjusting to being one of the only Black students in her school. Having grown up in a similar situation, Calvin could relate to that, but he had never taken the time to talk to his daughter about it.

He thought that bringing Stepheni to StoryCorps and sharing stories from his teenage years might help Stepheni open up.

Please note that this conversation contains a racial slur.

Originally aired April 21, 2017 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Photo courtesy of the Burns family

Cheri Lindsay and Phillip Lindsay

Cheri Lindsay and her father, Phillip, both have vitiligo, a rare skin condition that runs in their family.

People with vitiligo gradually lose pigment in their skin, often in patches that appear randomly and can grow over time.

Cheri’s condition has spread so dramatically over the past four years that most of her face and body now appear white.

At StoryCorps, Cheri remembered when her vitiligo first started to spread.

Originally aired June 20, 2014, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

Thompson Williams and Kiamichi-tet Williams

williamsth2Thompson Williams (above left) grew up in Oklahoma as one of eight children. His father, Melford Williams (pictured at left with Thompson), was a tribal leader of the Caddo Nation and a World War II veteran who had a big impact on Thompson’s life.

At StoryCorps, Thompson’s son, Kiamichi-tet (above right), sat down with his dad to learn more about his grandfather.

Thompson also told his son about his father’s death from a heart attack in 1978.

Originally aired June 6, 2014, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Photo courtesy of Thompson Williams.

Sexual Abuse Victims, Ages 14 and 15

In October 2011, two sisters, ages 14 and 15, whose names are being withheld to protect their privacy, came to StoryCorps to remember the horror of being sexually abused by their uncle, a police officer who was also their part-time caretaker.

This conversation took place 10 days after their abuser was found guilty of sexual assault.

Originally aired November 8, 2013, on NPR’s Morning Edition.