Connie Theos named Colorado Wool Grower of the Year

Connie Theos was named Wool Grower of the Year at the Colorado Wool Growers Association convention in July for her dedication to the lamb and wool industry. Reed Kelley photo

MEEKER | Connie Theos of Meeker was named the Colorado Wool Growers Association (CWGA) Wool Grower of the Year at the association’s summer convention last month in Montrose. CWGA underscored Theos’ lifelong love of sheep, her dedication to protecting ranchers, both large and small, and tirelessly advocating for the roots of the ranching business while advancing the interests of the lamb and wool industry.
Theos related her life experiences to the association after her nomination. She also shared her story with the Herald Times, writing, “I was born April 14, 1945, in Hayden, Colo. When my grandpa DeLos Parr took my mom Aileen to Hayden (the closest hospital) from Meeker, there was green grass showing everywhere and everyone thought spring had sprung. When he came to pick up the two of us, however, the snowfall was above the fences on Nine Mile, so Dad, who had to stay with the snow ensconced sheep, didn’t see me until I was 10 days old. In the Theos family, the sheep always come first. Early lessons taught us that if we take care of the sheep they will always take care of us.
“My dad Nick, my mom and I lived at the ranch up Little Beaver until I started fourth grade when we had to move to town because the ‘outfit’ was split between Dad and his brothers, and of course we didn’t get a part that had a house. Until then, I spent all my time outside with Dad and the sheep. Mom worked in town at the county clerk and recorder’s office, so suffice it to say, I’ve never been much of an inside person or what some folks might call a ‘lady.’
“I was almost 11 when my sister Renae was born. It was kind of a shock not being an only child anymore, but I adjusted quickly, and got her on horseback really early. Off we went to the sheep.
“After graduation from Meeker High School in 1963, I attended the University of Colorado for three semesters. I took my horse with me. Dad always said he was the only one to have both a daughter and a horse in college. He also said that my horse and I both quit school to come back to the ranch.
“Due to extenuating family situations, I moved to Arizona in 1979, where I married, divorced, worked and raised some really nice American Quarter Horses. I did lots of rodeos, horse shows and the like. Anytime the Arizona sheep men were shearing, I would get a call from the shearing crew and at least be able to participate for a day or two each year in what I loved the most … sheep.
“In 2001, Dad asked if I could come back to the ranch and ‘give him a hand,’ so in a month’s time I liquidated my life in Arizona and brought 11 horses I had raised to Meeker. Dad’s question was why did you bring all these horses and I told him because they are good ones and a whole lot younger than the ones he was using. Two of those horses are still working. Martin Inda, my ‘better half’ for life, has been riding the youngest, ‘After Burner,’ since November of last year with no break for either of them.
“Up until the time of Dad’s death in 2013, Dad, Martin and I kept our operation alive and solvent through some pretty tough legal issues. One day in the pickup, Dad said to me, ‘I can’t believe that you and Martin and me have never had a cross word since you came home, that’s really something.’
“My interest in sheep doesn’t stop at our ranch. I’m actively involved in Rio Blanco Wool Growers, Colorado Wool Growers and Colorado Make It With Wool. I’m also a member of Colorado Cattlemen’s Association and Rio Blanco Stockgrowers. I serve on the District BLM grazing board as the sheep representative and am one of three county committee members for our USDA Farm Service Agency.
“If I had to say anything about myself and what I do best, I guess it would be that I’m a pretty decent ‘middleman.’ I serve in that role in family situations, with friends, and sometimes just because I’m there and don’t always keep my mouth shut. I love sheep, horses, border collies, livestock protection dogs, friends and family. I find I’m disliking, more and more, radical individuals that think they know better about people’s lives and lifestyles which they truly know nothing about—from either the left or the right—whether they live in the city, on the coasts or just down the road.”
Theos’ father, Nick, was once the CWGA Wool Grower of the Year himself. Connie’s cousin, Meeker’s Butch Theos, has also been Wool Grower of the Year. Butch is currently finishing the last six months of a term as president of CWGA.
Asked what some of the most important issues she had been involved in as a wool grower leader, Theos said predator control, of course, public lands management, and labor which has been critical in the last few years as politicians have tried to cut back on immigrant labor on which wool growers depend heavily. Theos said now, for example, wool growers have to prove that they’ve advertised for U.S. workers first, to no avail, before they can arrange for foreign help. She said that since she’s been back here (2001) they’ve had one U.S. resident actually apply for a sheepherding job. One of the other ranches hired him and a friend. They lasted four days.
One of her most rewarding endeavors has been educating folks that the CWGA represents goat producers, too. Goat-interested people now make up a part of the Rio Blanco County Wool Growers.
Connie Theos expresses her appreciation to her fellow Colorado Wool Growers for the distinct privilege and honor of being Wool Grower of the Year.