Laura Haley-McNeil

4/29/18, Loving the Cowboy Life

Hello, Everyone!

As I write this, I give thanks for the weekend! At my office building, we are in the middle of a major remodel, and it’s been anything but relaxing. Thank goodness, God created weekends, even though I spend it cleaning the house then with the warmer weather, move outside to clean out the flowerbeds that are the blight of the neighborhood. In a few weeks, the flowers will be planted and I’ll spend my weekends watching the blooms from my little corner in the family room and pulling weeds. I’m so anxious for spring. Winter just didn’t seem to get the message that its invitation had been withdrawn, but finally it appears to be packing up and leaving town until the fall.

I hope all is well with you, and that you’re having some quiet, blissful days, some pleasurable, and prolific times doing something you love.

There are many wonderful things about living in Colorado. A few of my ancestors are from Colorado so I’ve tried to include the stories I’ve heard in my Crystal Creek Series. In the early 1900s, my grandfather moved from Denver and bought a ranch near Steamboat Springs and also homesteaded some area surrounding the ranch. Some of the property was owned by the government so he leased that land. I’m sure there were several reasons why he left Denver to live in the mountains but the one reason my family retold was he wanted his father to stay out of the bars. That had to be difficult because my great grandmother, my great grandfather’s wife, owned a pub. She was from Ireland so naturally her business was called a pub and not a bar. My great grandmother refused to relocate to Steamboat Springs because she had to attend church every day. Go figure. This woman who owned a pub was also religious. She died before anyone was old enough to remember stories about her so I know little about her, but my great grandfather, nicknamed Baba because my father couldn’t pronounce grandfather, was colorful. He and my grandfather tried to raise various livestock on the ranch but because of a mountain flower called the loco weed, cattle and horses who at it didn’t do well on the property. My grandfather decided to raise sheep which created a stir. The cattle ranchers and the sheep ranchers didn’t get along. Whereas cattle ate the blades growing wild in the mountains, the sheep munched the entire plant preventing it from growing, but my grandfather stood his ground. He needed a livelihood and sheep would provide it.

When it came time to sell the sheep, my grandfather, my great grandfather and the hired hands would herd the sheep to Denver, a trip that took several days. During one trip, one of the mares foaled. The colt was sickly and my grandfather knew he wouldn’t survive the trip and would delay his travel plans, so he planned to put the colt down. My great grandfather protested. He’d take care of the colt, which he named Pokey. The colt trotted along the trail after his mother and true to my great grandfather’s word, Pokey survived the trip and made it back to the ranch. My great grandfather and Pokey were friends forever.

As I mentioned earlier, my grandfather left Denver to keep his father out of the bars. Unfortunately, he didn’t succeed. According to family lore, my great grandfather visited a bar at every opportunity, and also had a still on the ranch during prohibition. During his trips to town, he’d drink his fill and stumble out of the bar to find Pokey waiting for him. Pokey knew the way home, all horses know where the food is, and apparently kept a proper pace so my great grandfather could remain in the saddle. He’d get Baba home safe and sound.

Growing up, we loved hearing these stories about Dad’s life on the ranch. Sadly, he’s gone now, but his colorful tales live on in our hearts.

Have a wonderful week, enjoy the spring weather, if that’s trending in your part of the world, and remember to curl up with good book!