Summer “up the mountain” sparks fond memories

Pictured with her four younger brothers, Lealand, Donald, Phil and Clifton, Meb was “tough enough” to endure trips to the cabin

Pictured with her four younger brothers, Lealand, Donald, Phil and Clifton, Meb was “tough enough” to endure trips to the cabin
RANGELY I The change of seasons brings back many memories of winters down the White River and summers atop Douglas Mountain for Meb Wardell.
Venna Meb Smith was born in Vernal, Utah, and made many trips back and forth to Rangely while growing up. She attended school in Vernal and was graduated in 1942. She married Harold “Hal” Wardell on July 11, 1942. As the second Venna Wardell in the family, she went by Meb from that day on.
Harold had acquired a small herd of sheep and he and Meb lived in the homesteaded Mercer Cabin once owned by her grandparents on Douglas Mountain. There was no road up the mountain until the late 1950s, so the couple would drive to the trail head, hike up to get their horses, return to the trail head and load the horses with supplies. Harold and Meb made the trip to Nichols’ Store in Rangely about three times each summer.
Meb was the oldest of five children and the only girl. Having four younger brothers made her “tough enough” to endure the countless trips up to the cabin.
Through the years they enlarged their sheep herd to nearly 2,000 head and enjoyed trailing their band downriver to spend winters 10 miles from Rangely and back up to the beautiful mountain cabin for the summers.
“I liked it best in the summers,” Meb said. “When the sheep went up, I went too.”
She remembers there being a lot more sheep ranchers in the area then. They wintered close to the Theos herds. Theos sheep still winter along the river, near the Bonanza area.
A member of the Woolgrowers Association, Meb remembers attending dances in Meeker and the friendships they made through the association.
The ranchers shared a love for their land and livestock as well as sharing necessities such as shearing corrals. A set of corrals used to be on the hill approaching Rangely from the east and another set was built on the N Bar Ranch where the east and west fork of Douglas Creek conjoin. The cooperation of the sheep ranchers is still practiced today with a common trail and corrals for the week to 10-day trip between pastures.
After 11 years of marriage Harold and Meb adopted a daughter, Sharon Wardell. When Sharon was old enough to start school, the family moved to town. By the time they bought a house in Rangely the oil boom had hit. Meb remembers when Nichols’ Store and the Post Office were in the same building when she was a young girl.
In 1942 there were only “sputters” or shallow drilling rigs in the area. By 1944 the deep drilling started and the building boom began. The Wardells were busy with their sheep at that time and the growth, such as the Chevron Camp and the many homes built in town, were things she noticed but that did not directly affect her way of life.
“That’s all we did,” Meb said with a smile.
Meb has seen many changes in Rangely, but appreciates the things that haven’t changed, too. Like long-time neighbors Carl and Peggy Rector, who live in the house Peggy’s grandmother lived in. The house the Wardells bought across the street from the Rectors “was and still is one of the neatest spots in town,” said Meb. They could watch football from their living room, and game time brought friends and neighbors who enjoyed the view and the company.
When Meb and Harold had time to relax, they visited one of Harold’s siblings in San Diego where Meb took up the game of golf. They eventually built a cabin where Carr Creek runs off Douglas Mountain toward Debeque and Lake Creek falls towards Rangely. According to the Wardells, there’s no better view than the one from their cabin.
Meb has very fond memories of the life sheep ranching provided. Her eyes brighten when she speaks of “falling for” her husband of 60 years. Meb still knows the country and appreciates her summer memories “up the mountain.”