Recording the past for the future

RBC I The Rio Blanco County Historical Society had their quarterly meeting Sunday and 27 people showed up to enjoy the Cowboy Heritage theme.
John and Virginia Barton and band members Sam Stranathan, Jeanne Newman and Jimmy D. Mcfarland entertained everyone with their classic country songs. The meeting got underway with a very positive treasury report from Trudy Burri. The organization raised $1,300 in the museum donation jar and had more visitors then last year during construction. The Pennies Plus project has been a success and will conclude Nov. 15. The goal was to pay off the loan used to print copies of “This Is What I Remember” and that will be done very soon thanks to the support of the community as well as a grant received.
“We appreciate the community for pitching in and the community appreciates us for keeping history going,” said historical society president Ellene Meece.
Rio Blanco County also donated money and part of that will go toward the gates for the Milk Creek Park. They are hoping to get $6,000 for signage in the future to complete the project.
The school committee that has been working so diligently for the past four years completed their brochures in time for the sheepdog trials and handed them out. They are looking into a grant to pay for signage for their self-guided tour of the old rural schools. During the sheepdog trials many great contacts were made, inviting people to the museum and promoting our history. Many books were sold and the museum saw a great deal of visitors.
Following the meeting, the group gathered to share stories while Bob Amick filmed the interaction to capture oral history. The Capturing Our Culture Committee is committed to documenting stories and lives of our area historians. John Barton shared a great story of a bull purchased because of his gentleness and quality but the stress of branding, vaccination and the whole ordeal was more then the bull could bear and he dropped dead when released. Laughing, Barton said, “Them that got em’ lose em’, them ain’t, can’t.” Joe Sullivan shared a story about a bull coming toward Ethel when she was graining her horses and how fast she could move under the circumstances. He was asked about farming in his time and said he leased land after World War II and had some good wheat crops. He was very astute regarding what worked and didn’t at the time, trying to get more than the average 20 bushels of grain off the designated piece of land. He was very complimentary of Lucy Jane Howey who was hired by the Department of Agriculture at the time and did a marvelous job for 31 years. She remembered the details of the grain, which had 16-19 percent protein in those days. The cowboy days of Frank Hicken were recalled as there was a picture of him from the 1920s and his horse named Pershing, perhaps after General Pershing of WWI. It was said Frank could roll a cigarette with one hand on horseback. Norma Oldland shared great stories from the time when she, her new husband at the time, Ruben, and their crew would push 450 yearlings down an incredibly steep trail from their camp at 10,000 feet off Rohn Creek into Rifle to load on the railroad. The trail was little more then a deer trail and dropped 2,000 feet. Norma said, “My horse’s stomach hung over the edge and in some places the trail was washed out and we would follow the cattle along the side hill.” That was just one example of courage and perseverance, as the family has owned and operated a cattle business since they homesteaded the land more than 100 years ago. She talked of growing only oats to feed their 40 head of horses, horses known for their quality, from the Hancock and Paycheck breeding lines. Anybody that owned an Oldland horse knew they had a good one. She shared stories of the original Steward School where a teacher rode 12 miles every day even in -20 degree weather to teach. Her husband died of tuberculosis and she moved away. Dick and Merle Dean Moyer shared the story of growing barley on Lime Kiln and raising pigs to trail to Rifle as well. The stories had to be cut short after an hour but they will hopefully continue at the next meeting as they left off with the benefit of both sheep and cattle using the land. “Sparky” Pappas has a story from her paternal grandparents coming from Price, Utah, after working for a sheep man. The history is exciting and absolutely priceless. We are fortunate to have people willing to share their stories and the dedicated people like Ellene Meece and her husband David, and Bob Amick to capture the valuable tales.