This is a snippet of family history a relative asked me to write. It may, or may not, be of interest to anyone else.
My late father was born in Sunbeam, CO., a spot on the map. When he entered the Army in WWII, his official home of record was a Post Office Box at Skull Creek, CO. That Post Office has been merged with Dinosaur, CO. Dinosaur will always be Artesia, CO to old timers. He was teased about both towns, and had a First Sergeant nickname him “Sunshine”.
Skull Creek was the site of a sheep/cattle war fight, supposedly, when cowboys stampeded a flock of sheep over a steep bluff. Family lore is some of the family “might” have been involved. In any case, the area got the name from the sheep skulls.
The extreme Northwest Corner of Colorado is known as Browns Park. The winters are milder than the rest of the area and many livestock owners let their horse roam free there to “winter”. Probably the largest single owner of horses in Colorado is the Sombrero Ranch, that stocks multiple dude ranch sites in the summer. Their spring roundup is a sought after adventure.
Damned if I would pay $2,000 to do that hard work (that as a youth I had to do for free).
The town of Maybell is part of the tradition.
It is a foolish man that tangles with the Maybell Women’s Club. I’m related to a few. Nice ladies, mama bears under their genteel exteriors.
One of the better sources for the history of the region is by John Rolfe Burrows.
The area was home to various outlaws and other outcasts. One of the more notorious family’s were the Bassetts.
My father’s maternal grandfather operated a toll suspension bridge over the Yampa River at Sunbeam. Some of his descendants (and affiliates by marriage) still live in the area.
At one side of the river were the family home, road house, stable, and a small store. Family lore has it Butch Cassidy was a frequent visitor.
My father was born in the middle of twelve children. His father died when he was fifteen and his mother moved her children from the Golden, CO area (Wheat Ridge) back to Moffat County, and Maybell. She sold the Wheat Ridge property, including a sod house,
that was originally owned by my father’s grandfather.
This was in the middle of the Great Depressions. My father’s older brothers and sisters had scattered leaving him the oldest son still at home. He worked at many different jobs, as did his mother, to keep the family going. At one point he delivered mail to the Browns Park area. In the summer, by a Model T., in the winter by horseback. The various ranchers, including the Bassetts, would give him a place to sleep and meals. These were hard, desperate times. One of his sisters contracted polio and was in a coma for three months. Still going strong today, she is a prominent business owner.
My father was a subsistence hunter. Seasons? Licenses? Hah! He was the best shot I’ve ever met. My sister and I could beat him on paper targets, but never taking game.
He had a gift for languages and math. Which I didn’t inherit, blast it. In India, in WWII, he learned several regional dialects. Many years later, he accompanied his sister and brother -in- law as guests aboard an Indian freighter. The crew as amazed he knew their language. His brother in law asked the captain about his level of fluency, to which the captain replied, “total fluency”.
During his life, he was a cowboy, logger, ran a gold mine dredge, a rancher, operated a dude ranch, guided hunters, was a section foreman for ten years on the old Denver and Rio Grande, worked in two coal fired electrical plants, delivered milk, was a shop steward while the Republican County Committeeman, was a machinist, and owned and operated a restaurant. Hard man to pigeonhole.
He died, at age 64, from congestive heart failure, brought on by undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea.
His brother and sisters, and their children, all were, or are, workers. Not a slacker in the bunch. What needs to be said is we are not unique. In that corner of the world, our family is part of a hard working community of tough people. Traveling around the country, I see a lot of the same thing, at least in the rural areas.
So, if you’ve come this far, hope you weren’t bored. As to the relatives who will want to argue over details, well, hell, I would expect nothing less. As a clan, we make a herd of hogs on ice look like a precision drill team.