A wealth of life and love: Byron and Jo Linden

Byron and Jo Linden on their Meeker area ranch.

Byron and Jo Linden on their Meeker area ranch.
MEEKER I Thomas Jefferson once said, “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”
Byron and Josephine “Jo” Linden are perfect examples of Jefferson’s statement.
Byron was born in Meeker in 1922 to Ralph Byron Linden and his wife Thelma Francis Fairfield, a first cousin to Freeman Fairfield. They had a ranch outside of town and sold milk and ran cattle on LO7 up Flag Creek. When Byron was 5 years old his father was drilling a well on Thornburg that fell in on itself and the company he was working for left the area. The man in charge of the company offered Ralph a job in Long Beach, Calif.
The family, with Byron and his older sister riding in the back of their Ford pickup and his his baby sister riding between his mother and father, set out on a five-day journey to their destination.
Byron attended school and graduated from Long Beach High School in 1939. He enlisted in the Navy in September 1942, and served for three years and four months. He was stationed in the Philippines at the end of World War II. The troops were to be sent home according to a point system. He had earned more than the allotted number of points but no ships were available to send him home immediately. Some of the soldiers made speedy returns on carrier ships but Byron was on an LTD ship that took 30 days to return home.
Byron was stationed on the same street his future wife lived on in Monterey, Calif. Josephine was born in Monterey and graduated from Monterey High School in 1943. she was working as a junior hostess through the USO at Fort Ord. The dances and activities they provided were a high point for the soldiers. Byron and Jo were married in 1943.
In 1946 Byron returned to Meeker to work on the family’s TI ranch on the mesa. His grandparents had paid for the ranch in gold. Byron’s grandfather had teams of horses that worked the ranch as well as work in town to fix roads and such.
Just before the Great Depression struck the country, Byron’s grandfather loaned a man the money to buy the TI ranch. He was allowing the man time to work off his debt but when he found the man resting under a shade tree instead of putting up hay one July day, Byron’s grandfather took the ranch back.
When Jo left her California home two blocks from the ocean and came to Meeker all she saw was “sagebrush and nothing else.” The couple moved into the house now owned by Terry Mobley. They did not have electricity, indoor plumbing, running water or transportation. Jo cooked their meals on an old coal stove. She finally took a stand when two men rode nearby while and she was in the outhouse that had no door.
“Boy, did I catch it for that,” Byron said.
They started out with just three cows. Before Byron joined the Navy, Arthur Amick gave him a heifer for working for him. Amick kept track of the heifer and her calves and when Byron returned, he had three cows.
Byron and Jo dragged out an old car that had the back cut out of it. They got it running and Jo learned to drive in that vehicle. She helped on the ranch until a new heifer in for milking threw a fit, banging everything around. Jo came to a decision after that experience.
“I was going to town to get a job so he could hire a man.” She went to work for the district court as a clerk in 1962.
Harry Jordan from the 101 offered Byron the “cream check” to keep 10 milk cows through the winter. Byron milked between 12 and 14 cows that winter on his own. Then Tom Watt started a creamery and needed the milk. Byron had built up his herd to 100 cows when the demand rose.
At that time there were 76 dairy farmers in northwest Colorado. As regulations on dairy farms increased, Byron built a milking shed with a concrete floor and eventually got a holding tank. He and David Smith outlasted everyone in the area until transportation and costs rose and everyone stopped milking in the 1970s.
Before the Lindens sold their business, they’d expanded from three to 265 cattle, built nearly every building that stands on the property today and even had one of the first irrigation systems to cover the entire farm. The system operated for more than 30 years. Along the way, Byron served 10 years on the school board and eight years on the hospital board.
Byron and Jo have two daughters, Jody Meakins and Mary Elliot. They have five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Their nephew Rick Rodriguez and his wife Christa ran the ranch for some time and built a beautiful house just down from the home they lived in.
The family gathered together to celebrate Byron’s 90th birthday on Jan. 21 and shared some of their family history. Byron’s grandmother was only 6 years old when she came to the area following the Civil War. Jo’s parents were from Spain and ended up in California via Cuba and Ellis Island in search of a better future.
Byron and Jo have been married nearly 70 years and have rich memories and a shared sense of humor that matches their strength and perseverance. They’ve seen their world transformed from having none of the modern amenities to enjoying retirement in Palm Springs, Calif. At 90 and 86, they still attend historical society meetings for Jo and occasional golf games for Byron, living proof age is not an issue.