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The Matley Ranch, "The Ranch That I Can't See"
(The following was posted as part of Picture the West in December 2007, and is repeated here as an important part of American ranch history.)
Bruce Matley ("Nevada Slim," half of the popular singing duo Nevada Slim and Cimarron Sue) shared the history of his family's Nevada ranch, photos, and his recent song, "The Ranch that I Can't See." He also sent additional photos, courtesy of his cousin, rancher Wayne O. Matley.
The Matley Ranch was located on Mill Street, and was bordered by the Truckee River to the north, Matley Lane to the west, the Steel Ranch to the East, and the Kietzkie Ranch to the South. All of these ranches suffered the same fate.
My maternal great grandparents emigrated in 1863 from Ohio via St. Joseph, Missouri. Arriving at Honey Lake, California (adjacent to the present Susanville), they were unable to find really prime land available. Moving 40 miles south to Long Valley, California (near today's Doyle), they ranched until the later 1890s, when they took up a small ranch in the Truckee Meadows, where Reno began.
The Steinberger Barn, Doyle, California, 2002
My paternal Grandfather, John B. Matley, arrived from the Italian Alps at age 12, moved west, and at about age 20 married Grandma, in about 1900. These two built the home ranch to 1,000 acres of meadowland, and built nearly all the buildings:
Eventually 10,000 acres of BLM lease land were added.
Bruce at about age four on the porch of the ranch house his father built.
Bruce's cousin Wayne O. Matley shared additional photos from the family ranch:
The Matley children playing around the thresher, Matley Ranch, 1920s
Preparing to lower the boom on completion of the stack, Matley Ranch, undated
Tripping the nets dumps one half wagonload onto the stack, Matley Ranch, 1941
Beginning a new haystack, Matley Ranch, 1943
Wayne C. Matley on the pusher, Matley Ranch, 1943
Grandpa Matley's haystacks; the big stackyard in the meadow, Matley Ranch, 1943
Bruce continues: Percheron draft horses did the heavy work, which continued into my early youth. In summer, cattle were driven to Sierra Valley, California for summer range, a three day task to cover the 40 miles. I participated in the last years of this annual event. Suzi and I were fortunate enough to play the Vinton Cowboy Poetry Show in March, 2007, in Sierra Valley, and had a good chance to visit with old timers who remembered Grandpa and my uncles well. My cousin John F. Matley still ranches a few miles below Doyle, in Long Valley.
Grandpa was dead serious about his breeding of the Percheron draft stock. Here's an ad from the Reno newspaper:
In this photo of a prize winning mare and foal taken in 1938, they are held by my father, Wayne C. Matley, also a singer, then aged 19.
Here is an earlier photo of Grandpa with his prize stallion, Lonroceitus:
The condemnation proceedings began in bits and pieces in the early 1950s. The whole mess went to the Nevada Supreme Court. By 1965, the ranch was gone. It lies under the Reno airport's runways, approaches, and terminals, and the maze of streets, warehouses, hotels and the like that grew up around it. The location of house I was raised in, built by my Dad's hands, is graced by a landing light tower.
This photo of Grandma and Grandpa Matley was probably taken in the early 1940s:
They were incredibly hardworking people, not in the least fancy. I don't know much about highly bred saddle horses or fancy saddle rigging or fancy hats and such because my family simply never felt the need for showy things. I, however, do feel the need to help hold the traditions and heritage together as best I can, and that happens to be by singing. At county fairs, in particular, there is an ongoing opportunity to reach the youngest kids with the music.
The Ranch that I Can't See
All this asphalt makes me angry
Such progress makes no sense to me
I’ll tell you now the story of
The ranch that I can’t see
Overland in 1863
Fleeing civil war and strife
Great Grandpa and Great Grandma came
Hoping for a peaceful life
Settling first up near Honey Lake
Then to Long Valley they moved on
Finally in the Truckee Meadows
The family’s roots at last went down
In their turn granddad and grandma
Built the ranch and saw through change
A thousand acres deeded home place
Ten thousand lease land range
Lean and fat years working side by side
Workhorses, cattle, hay
Grandma she birthed eight youngsters
Six survived to take their place
Winters Dad and all my uncles
Plied the frozen fields to feed
With a team of gentle Percherons
And I’d pretend to drive, you see
And those stove-up old time ranchands
Taught many useful things to me
Gave me my first tobaccy chaw
How they laughed when I turned green
Learning ranchcraft and cowboy songs
There at Daddy’s gentle knee
Now it’s a burning loss to me
The Ranch That I can’t see
Cause Reno town crept ever closer
And the elected thieves decreed
They would take it all “eminent domain”
To serve gambling fools and greed
So they build a sprawling airport,
Warehouses, streets and steel
We had to move right off of there
For years we fought that shifty deal
Yes, They built right on our heritage
Where I’d learned to ride and hay
Though we scattered to ranching elsewhere
The family never was the same
So I weep at all this asphalt
This progress makes no sense to me
Though I know it’s still there somewhere
The ranch that I can’t see
Though I know it’s still down in the land
The ranch that I can't see
© Bruce Matley, All rights reserved
These lyrics cannot be reproduced without written permission of the author
Learn more about the music of Bruce Matley, "Nevada Slim" and Cimmaron Sue at their web site.
Mr. Miley's Palomino
One summer day during World War II, Mr. Miley came from Modesto to Cold Creek Ranch, pulling an empty horse trailer. His purpose was to buy a couple of Palominos, and Uncle Ed had told him there were several in our area that might suit his needs.
After all these years, I've forgotten Mr. Miley's first name. He was an old family friend from the days when he and my uncle had both farmed large properties out Old Oakdale Road from Modesto, in California's central valley.
Part of Cold Creek Ranch -Taken from the meadow - the land went clear up to
the lookout on top of the mountain (see arrow) on the 'dry' side.
The morning after he arrived, Mr. Miley and Uncle Ed drove several miles farther out the road we lived on to see the Spannaus brothers. The young men did have some Palominos, but for whatever reason they weren't what Mr. Miley was looking for. The two men then set out toward Yreka, to look at some other golden horses Uncle Ed knew about. Still, when the pair drove down our long driveway at the end of the day, the horse trailer was empty.
Next morning after breakfast the two intrepid horse-seekers set out once more, this time planning to drive over the Siskiyous into southern Oregon. Mr. Miley vowed stoutly that when they returned this time there would be two Palomino Horses in the trailer. We could count on it, he said.
It seemed like an especially long day, as we waited for the men to return. Because Mr. Miley had been such a critic of the horses they'd already seen, we just knew that whatever he bought was bound to be special.
We waited all that day, visions of gorgeous golden horses with flowing flaxen manes and tails running through our minds.
Cold Creek's driveway
At last the truck and trailer came rumbling down the long drive, and we dashed out, eager to see what they had found. But, wait a minute - it didn't look like there were any horses in the trailer! When the rig quit rolling, Aunt Margit and I went to the back of the trailer. "Land sakes!" said my aunt, as I burst out laughing. One side of the trailer was empty.
There, in the other side, contentedly munching hay, was a pretty little Jersey cow!
"Well," said Mr. Miley, a bit sheepishly, "At least she's the right color!"
© 2005, LaVonne Houlton
Roots...in the Morgan World
LaVonne Houlton writes: Some years ago my daughters and I went to visit one of my uncles and his wife. We took along several photos of our Morgans to show them. Uncle John looked at a couple of pictures of BLOSSOM'S LASS (013320 - Golden West National Junior Champion Mare of 1965), and said, "Yes, she's Morgan all right. She looks just like the team Dad used to have." Well! I really perked up at that, because it was the first I'd ever heard of Morgans in our family before mine.
Blossom's Lass, the mare that Grandpa's team was said to look like.
My grandparents came from Norway in 1880, and first settled in Dakota Territory. Later, they farmed, and raised purebred Jersey cattle in Minnesota's lush Red River Valley. The farm was along the Thief River, a few miles from the village of St. Hilaire. The nearest town of any size was Thief River Falls, some eight miles north of St. Hilaire.
My mother was the youngest of ten children, so by the time I was born my grandparents were already 76 years old. Luckily, they lived 'til I was eleven, long enough for me to know and remember them well. Grandpa was very dignified and soft-spoken, and he walked straight as an arrow, even in his 80's. His hair and moustache were snow-white, his eyes were ice-blue. Though he always seemed so gentle and kindly, he loved to tease, and there was always a spark of mischief hiding in those clear, blue eyes. It must have been really sparking the day he set out to get the Morgan team.
My grandparents in Modesto, California, in their later years. about 1932, I think. When I was little, Grandpa and I would take walks down the long farm lane, holding hands, me chattering away in English, while he answered me in Norwegian (my grandparents would never speak Engllish to me, which was a wonderful thing, really). Anyway, I was such a chatterbox
that Grandpa called me his "little woodpecker' (in Norwegian of course).
Going to town in those days consisted of hitching one of the work teams to the spring wagon and setting off down the dirt road. Grandpa's teams were O.K. in the fields, but on the road they had one speed -- plod. Everyone else's horses seemed to go faster, and finally Grandpa got left in the dust once too often. The next day he took off for parts unknown, and when he returned he was driving a beautiful pair of Morgans - one brown, one black. As Uncle John told me, "Nobody EVER passed Dad on the road after that!"
The Morgans weren't just a Sunday-Go-To-Meeting team, either. They did their stint in the fields along with the big teams, and Uncle John said they came in in the evenings in much better shape than the big horses did. The Morgans would be ready to go again after supper, driving the family to choir practice, or on errands, etc. My uncle couldn't remember where they had come from, or what their names had been.
When we got home, I wrote to my Aunt Mary, who was next-oldest of the children. She was then past 90, but she, too, remembered the Morgan team. She had good reason to remember, because the first night they were at the farm she took them out to the water trough, and as she was used to doing, dropped the lead ropes while they drank. The Morgans promptly raised their heads high, and headed for their old home, miles away. Grandpa was not pleased with Aunt Mary, and the next day he had the trip to make all over again.
Aunt Mary said the Morgans were beautiful horses, and very gentle. Grandpa was very fond of them. I had hoped she would remember just where they had come from, and that they might have had distinctive names that could give a clue to their breeding. What Aunt Mary wrote though was "We called them Brownie and Blacky." So much for pedigree seeking.
They are all gone now, those old relatives of mine, and I will never know more about Brownie and Blacky than I learned from one conversation, one letter. But I like to think about Grandpa Brevik on the day he first drove his fine Morgan pair to town. I can just see him, sitting straight as an arrow, a small smile hiding beneath his moustache, and a big glint of mischief in his ice-blue eyes, as he left all the other farmers -- at last -- in the dust.
The Brevik family and their 10 children, taken just a few years after the Morgans
came to the farm. Aunt Mary is the first lady on the left, back row; Uncle
John is the 1st boy from the left, middle row, and my mother's the little girl standing
between her parents, T. M. and Magnilda Brevik. Margit, the lady on the right, back row married E. R. (Ed) Titus,
of whom I've spoken several times. This picture was taken in St. Hilaire, Minnesota.
© 1979, LaVonne Houlton
Reprinted from the Northern California Morgan Horse Club KORRAL, May 1979
Cousin Don Landes
You may have heard Oakdale, California called "the Cowboy Capital of the World," and Don Landes was a pretty well-known cowboy there back in the 40's and 50's, and he also was an unsung rider in many a Western filmed in the foothills around Jamestown, California. If you could ever get ahold of that wonderful old movie, "Smoky," and watch Fred MacMurray ride the bucking bronc, that's not Fred, that's my cousin Don. Looking at the Brevik family portrait above, Don's mother, Helen, is 2nd from the right in the middle row.
Don and Cecil (that old car, I think, is the Jewett - later at Cold Creek Ranch, a buck rake was
fastened to the front of it, and it was great at haying time!)
When I was 5 and Don was 9, the critter that we had to ride was Cecil, the clever burro. Don used to give the teacher a ride to the one-room little old red schoolhouse at Keystone in a cart behind Cecil. One time he and I were going to 'camp out' in the 'wilderness' on Keystone Ranch - we gathered up cans of beans (no can opener) some coffee(!) and I don't remember what else, except two old blankets for bedrolls. We went up in the hills, and thought a dry creekbed looked like a fine campsite. We unloaded everything from the sledge which Cecil had pulled for us. We were just getting our 'camp' nicely set up when a rattler rattled close by (the area was full of them) - Don grabbed my hand and ran; I fell down, and he continued to drag me across the stony creekbed, dumped me into the sledge, and off we raced, leaving all our gear behind. Boy, did I have skinned knees! We weren't very popular with our folks, either, because someone had to go back up there and retrieve all our stuff!. Besides, it hadn't occurred to either of us to seek permission for such a camp-out!
Don Landes, LaVonne (Hanson) Houlton, Summer, 1930,
with Cecil and Ginger the dog at Keystone Ranch.
(I had to laugh when I looked more closely at that picture. It must have been taken very soon after our excursion up into the hills - Mother always made me wear long stockings, even in summer, if I had skinned-up knees. Ever since that time I've always loved the smell of tarweed, though I sure hated having it stuck all over my legs and shoes if I walked out in it. I remember that we had a whole cigar box full of rattles, from snakes that had been killed at Keystone - sometimes Don and I would get a bunch of them out and see who could find the one with most rattles. Didn't take a lot to entertain us in those days, apparently!)
That Keystone Ranch was also owned by our Uncle Ed Titus, who in turn owned the Triangle Bar Ranch in the Badlands, a dairy farm of the same name in Modesto, California, and later owned Cold Creek Ranch in Northern California.
Don passed away in Oakdale, in May 2001. He was 81 years old.
The Christmases of My Childhood (1930's)
I remember them as being so wonderful! Our Norwegian family seemed so big, and everyone was so happy to be together. Grandma and Grandpa lived with my Aunt Margit and Uncle Ed, so everyone congregated there for Christmas Day. The house was big, with large, high-ceilinged rooms. The star on top of the beautifully decorated, enormous tree just barely cleared the 12' ceiling. Presents were piled high beneath the tree. The house was redolent with the odors of roasting turkey and spicy pumpkin pies.
At home, early on Christmas morning, my little sister and I shared our own gifts, then sat down to a delicious Norwegian snack of lefse and fruit soup. Then we all set off for the big event!
First, I would run to meet Grandma and Grandpa -- "Glade Jul!" Grandpa, with his white hair and moustache and smiling blue eyes -- and Grandma, soft and cuddly as a feather pillow, her red hair faded to a look of apricots in whipped cream. Soon, family by family, everybody began to arrive -- until we numbered about 30 in all.
One Norwegian dish I could never learn to like was the lutefisk - hard-dried cod, that had gone through a series of water baths since Thanksgiving, to leach out the lye it contained. Now, here it was, all soft and white, with accompanying cups of melted butter. The dining room, large as it was, could only accommodate the grownups, so we children had our own table set up in the kitchen. It was like a 'rite of passage' in the family, to graduate to the 'big' table!
One of my father's crops on our ranch was Emperor grapes, a late table variety and so delicious that I've tried in vain to find them again ever since. Anyway, after the harvesters had left, Dad and I would glean the vineyard, getting quite a few lugs of various sized bunches. I would set up a little roadside stand and sell them, which gave me "lots" of money for Christmas presents. Everyone got a gift in those days - no drawing of names for us! On some special day before Christmas Mother and I would go to town, and she would deposit me in the wonderful Woolworth store. Here, I happily bought lace hankies, small jewelry, "Evening in Paris" perfume, things to embroider, mens handkerchiefs, socks and toys, all selected with a particular relative in mind. I have no memory of gifts I received on those long-ago Christmases, but I do still recall the thrill of making my own spending money, and buying and wrapping all those special little gifts for those I loved!
Christmas 2005 - age 80
© 2005, LaVonne Houlton
These words poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
Uncle Ed Titus
Poet, writer and horsewoman LaVonne Houlton shared family pictures from the early 1900s for our Picture the West feature (May 21, 2007). She told us:
[The photo above is my uncle] Elbert R. ("Ed") Titus and one of his Belgian stallions, "King," on the old Triangle Bar Ranch in the Badlands of North Dakota, about1918. The ranch was near Bullion Bluff and the "Little Mo" River, and part now is in the Theodore Roosevelt National Grasslands Park.
Ed was from an old New York Dutch family, and his wife Margit came to America from Norway, in 1879, as an infant. They first tried farming in Minnesota, but their land was too boggy, so they opted for a homestead in Dakota, and a sod house to begin with. The first couple of years Margit baked bread and rolls and sold them in Fryberg and Medora, and to neighboring bachelor ranchers, to help them get started.
I've been told that this barn could hold up to 40 shod horses during the winter.
This is the couple in front of their sod house:
This is their 1901 wedding photo:
LaVonne comments:The story of how they met is kind of interesting, too. E. R. (Ed) Titus left New York, heading for the Klondike and possible riches, working his way across the country as he went. He stopped near Stavanger Township, Traill County, North Dakota in 1900 to work in the Grandin Farms grain fields for the summer.
Liking softball, he got together enough young fellow farm hands to form a couple of teams, to play on their day off. Their 'playing field' was right across the road from the ranch of Halvor A. Nash.
Recently widowed, Halvor had summoned his niece Margit Brevik from St. Hilaire, Minnesota, to help out with his children and cook for the hay crews. It didn't take Ed long to notice the pretty young lady across the road who seemed to work so hard. By September, 1901 they were married, and the Klondike was a forgotten dream.
In 2004, Lavonne Houlton
wrote: I am now 78 years old; wrote my first poem at age 12, and kept right on
writing them - all kinds, but my favorite are the narrative western kind.
I've always loved the country and horses. Raised and showed registered
Morgan Horses for 35 years (Viking Morgan Ranch, Modesto, California). I'm a
mother, and a grandmother. My profession was Social Work, but over the
years I've written many articles on horses, some historical, some current.
These appeared in The Morgan Horse Magazine, Western Horseman,
Thoroughbred of California, Horse Lovers, Horseman's
Courier, and California Horse Review.
In the 1960's I wrote a monthly column, "LaVonne's Line," that ran in the old Piggin' String magazine for a decade or so, and sometimes I included a poem or one of my "Peanuts Horse" cartoons.
Born a "city child," I was lucky to have had an uncle and aunt who ranched in the Dakota Badlands in the early days. Their cattle and horses grazed on land that's now a part of the National Grasslands of North Dakota -- near Bullion Butte, and along the Little Missouri River. From my uncle, I heard many tales of colorful characters - like Bill Follis, one-time boss of the 777 outfit and a veteran of many cattle drives on the old Chisholm Trail. And like Pete Pelissier, the "Buffalo Bill of the Missouri Slopes," who rounded up wild horses every year, and once ran a Wild West show of some renown. I heard of the old Hashknife outfit, of Teddy Roosevelt and the Custer Trail Ranch, of round-ups and disasters, of long gone but well remembered horses named Van Zandt and Bon Dieu.
Thanks to my uncle, this horse-loving child always had something to ride -- be it the broad back of a Belgian draft horse on the way home from the fields in the evening -- or a burro named Cecil whose aim in life was to scrape a kid off against a fig tree or the corner of a barn. There was at one time a Shetland Welsh cross mare, and I even rode the fat and congenial Hereford bull, Prince Domino, a few times. Lastly came Minnie, companion of my teen-age years, of whom I write in my poem "Cold Creek Remembered." Minnie and I covered many miles of tough, lava-strewn terrain in Northern California's Siskiyou Mountains. There were Herefords and horses, dreams to dream, and many trails to follow. And in the evenings there were the stacks of Western Livestock Journals, with poems by Bruce Kiskaddon and Cowpoke Cartoons by Ace Reid with which to while away a few hours.
You can read some of LaVonne Houlton's poetry here at the BAR-D.
Ashes on the Snow
The ranch house that had been home to four generations of Carver families was burned in a training event for the local volunteer fire department in December. It had been condemned two years ago, as the wiring was no longer safe and the well had gone dry in the drought. The earliest entry in the abstract was a receipt from The U. S. Receiver, dated 1888. Alfred's grandfather had purchased it in 1911. It had survived about 25 years of being rented after we moved away.
Ashes on the Snow
They burned the ranch house down today,
Left ashes on the snow.
Inspectors said the wires were bad.
They said it had to go.
Oh, we had sold it some time back.
Sometimes one cannot stay...
But lots of memories were there.
They will not not go away.
The logs were rotting, as logs do
After many years.
But they had held when times were tough
And life was sweat and tears.
Not that it was a fancy place.
For style, it won no prize.
But it was home, and that meant more
to humble rancher's eyes.
It had been moved up from the field
To a place there on the hill.
The memory of the warmth it held
Will let me see it still.
The biggest window faced the lane
So we could plainly see
When friends were coming by to talk
Or share a cup of tea.
Most entered by the kitchen door
Where fresh bread might be baking.
And we might sit out on the step
When backs were tired and aching.
The cow dog joined our reverie
But he is long gone, too.
He added pleasure to our days,
And guarded all night through.
Our sons were raised at that old place.
We taught them what we could
Of honesty and dignity,
And their response was good.
But times moves on, we can't go back
To that time long ago.
They burned the ranch house down today,
Left ashes on the snow.
© 2003, Nona Kelley Carver
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
After Nona Kelley Carver's son Larry read her poem, he wrote:
This wasn't any old ranch house, it was my family's. It had been a big part of our life, four generations of Carver, my brother and I were the last. When we were there, the two bedrooms on the southeast side were his and mine. They were the part moved up from the field, long, long ago. When we were there, they were seventy to eighty years old. I use to imagine my great grandfather and the folks he bought the ranch from.
The logs spoke volumes, the ends hewn fairly square. Two sides of each log smoothed up by hand and filled with chink. The other three sides of the house had siding, paint and trim. But the southeast side had two humungous lilac bushes that hid the corners and a hedge of wild yellow roses that hid the rest. As young children, the old cottonwoods would shed mid summer and the lawn would turn white. Uncle Rich would play with us making toy buck rakes and hay stackers for loose hay. He probably learned from his brothers and Granddad. You know, monkey see, monkey do. We were of the
swather and bail wagon age, so Uncles toys were a novelty to us. When we were older it was race and tag with the dog. We ran around the lilacs, while the dog could run under the lilacs next to the logs. It was a big deal when you could beat the dog in a race, he didn't like to lose and he didn't let it happen too often.
Uncle Rich's future father-in-law remodeled the house to include the big window to the lane. In the winter, we would sit in front of it, watching for the school bus two miles before our stop. Hence another reference to the hill we were on, the views and God's handiwork in the sky.
There was the bee hive, the teapot, sunnyside, Black mountain, Chalk mountain, Powderhorn and last but not least, Grand Mesa.
A time, a place, that was home for many loved ones and lots of memories.
© 2004, Larry Carver (reprinted with permission)
Nona Kelley Carver wrote this history of the house::
Carver Ranch House History
The first entry in the Abstract of Title prepared by the Mesa County Abstract Company of Grand Junction reads: Receipt, Date: March 24, 1888, for the consideration of $200.00 to the U.S. Receiver from John F. Mason, the E1/2 of the SW ¼ Sec. 17, Twp (Township) 10, South of Range 96 West of the 6th P.M. (Principal Meridian) and other lands.
A log cabin was constructed on this 80 acre place, overlooking Coon Creek on the North East side of the property. Land was acquired in section 20, and this cabin was later moved to the hill where it remained until burned in December of 2003. A lane was constructed to meet an existing roadway (currently KE ½ Road) leading to what is now Hwy 65. Cottonwood trees were planted along both sides of the lane from that point on north, and around the cabin.
Hoyt H. Carver purchased this property with the first entry in the abstract dated August 28, 1911. He moved his wife Jessie Myra Carver and young son Glen into the cabin about 1914. Son Harold was born there in 1915, and daughter Thelma in 1924. Another daughter, Artelia Belle, born Dec. 3, 1933, died at birth.
Hoyt and Jessie ran beef cattle and farmed. Hoyt operated a freight wagon to Grand Junction in his early years, hauling produce to merchants in Grand Junction, Colorado, and loads of coal and other needed items to residents of Plateau Valley.
When a house across Hwy 65 nearby was to be torn down or moved, Hoyt and another man bought it together and cut it in half. Hoyt's half was moved by teams and wagons to the site of the cabin and joined to it, making more space for his family. A bay window was added, and shiplap siding applied to three sides of the structure. The back side of logs was never covered, and showed the marks of being hand hewed and fitted together.
In 1945, Glen and Elnora Carver purchased this home and ranchland from Glen's parents. They put in running water and converted a pantry into a bathroom. At a later date, they had the kitchen and dining area remolded, enclosing the front porch and adding large picture windows that gave an excellent view of Grand Mesa to the south, and the sunset skyline to the west. Elnora was an exceptionally good cook, and many tasty meals were prepared and served to family and friends in the new dining room.
Glen, Elnora and their sons Alfred, Howard and Richard operated a Grade A Dairy. In the winter of 1948-1949, Glen rerouted the lane to the northwest side of the ditch to avoid the huge drifts of snow that accumulated at the low, sharp corner.
Alfred and Nona Carver bought the Dairy in 1966, and the ranchland in 1968. They moved into the home with their two sons, Larry and Darrell. The roof did not leak, but one could see daylight through the shingles covering the attic. A metal roof was installed on the back side of the house, and composition shingles replaced those on the front. Insulation and some carpeting added to the comfort of the home. A Stokermatic heating stove replaced the Warm Morning heater. The Warm Morning used to build up a gas from the coal being burned and periodically cause an explosion that blew the stovepipes loose on both sides of the chimney, scattering soot and ashes everywhere!
Propane became the cleaner, more convenient way to heat, so a gas heater was installed and the Stokermatic moved to the barn. However, the heat was not the same, and Nona asked that the gas stove be moved and a potbellied stove of the old kind be set in the corner of the dining area. Around this stove was the favorite place to gather on a cold morning, or after evening chores were done.
The dining room continued to be the gathering place. Home cooked meals were served there morning, noon and night, and all ranch hands were invited to join the family for the noon meal. It was a time of story telling and sharing of experiences as well as sharing our food. We looked forward to spending time with those who came. Dinner was a social event, and was a tradition we were pleased to carry on.
In 1977 the ranch house and land was sold by the Carvers. The house was occupied by different families who rented it until it was deemed no longer safe in 2002. It was burned as a training event for volunteer firefighters in December, 2003. I was sad to know it was gone, but if one life is saved by those who received the training, it will be worth the sacrifice. Memories created there will linger on.
© 2004, Nona Kelley Carver
Nona Kelley Carver presented this history at Cheyenne's Cowboy Poetry Symposium in 2003:
Carver Family History
One cannot retrace the footsteps exactly of their family when they came west in the early days, but here are some of the tidbits gleaned from old records and notes left by those no longer with us.
Alfred's Great, Great Grandfather Townsend Hall Carver was born Feb. 18, 1833, in Stone Prairie, Illinois. Rachel Jane Taylor was born July 26, 1833, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her parents had brought her to Illinois as a young child. We have no record of their courtship, but know that Rachel Jane was a proper young lass, and was carefully chaperoned during the entire time spent with Townsend. The parlor in those days usually had a small alcove with a curtain that separated it from the seating space occupied by a young couple where a parent or other qualified adult could interfere if they thought anything improper was being said or done. But Rachel was lovely, and Townsend soon proposed marriage. I'm not sure he told her of his dream to come west until after the knot was tied. They were married Feb. 22, 1853 in Pike County, Illinois.
Alfred's Great Grandfather Matthew Alexander Carver was one of nine children born to this couple. Matthew helped with his father's farming operation and developed into a strong muscular youth. There were chores to do each day, and plowing and planting to be done each spring. Each one of the family had duties to perform, and the mischief had to be postponed until the work was done. As with any group of children, their minds were active as their bodies, and practical jokes and pranks were their source of entertainment. They were taken to church on Sunday, after having had their Saturday night bath in the washtub, and the girls having slept on rag rollers that allowed them to have curly hair for at least a day.
Matthew married Della May Ketchum on Nov. 29, 1883. They followed his parents to Minnesota, where they farmed and planned until they could begin the journey west. Alfred's Grandfather Hoyt Howard Carver was one of several children born to this couple.
Hoyt was six when his Grandfather Townsend Hall Carver came to Western Colorado and purchased some land in the Pear Park district, near Grand Junction. When Matthew and Della May were able to follow, they had thought they would go to the San Luis Valley, but discovered that only narrow gauge railroads served that area, and they would have to change all their livestock and wagons bearing household items to another set of railroad cars in Denver if they went there. So they chose to come and purchase a share of Townsend's land. Undoubtedly, the parents were thrilled to have some of their family near.
One event stands out in the move. Items most treasured were carefully packed into the family trunk. Della May's wedding dress, the clothes her children were christened in, and Matthew's only suit were placed in the trunk along with the family bible. In crossing the Mississippi River with the trunk tied in the wagon along with other belongings, the current caught the bed of the wagon and pushed it into a hole where it was flooded. Thankfully, the horses were able to swim as Matthew guided them to a place farther downstream where they pulled the wagon to safety. Everything was soaked. Bedding and clothing was spread upon the grass to dry, and the family Bible was rescued with the trunk. We have that Bible today, as it has been passed down to the oldest son of each generation. Its pages are wrinkled from having been wet, but turn freely and are easily read.
When things were dried out and cleaned up, and repacked, the wagon, team, and machinery was loaded into a freight car headed west. No notes were made to tell us if the family was able to purchase tickets for a passenger car or if they made space available for them to travel with their livestock in the freight car as many did in those days. Can you imagine how hot and uncomfortable train cars were before air conditioning? Streaking across the land in humid heat surely made the cool nights of the West welcome!
The team and wagon bearing household items were unloaded at Palisade, Colorado, and the family was taken to Pear Park. We do not know how many days had passed since the adventure had begun. We only know that they had finally realized their dream, and would work until the ranch could produce the living for the family. Della May wanted her children to be mannerly and considerate of others. She taught them to respect those in positions of authority, and to learn from those who had formal schooling.
Matthew and Della May wanted a church in their community. No funds were readily available for a building, so they invited neighbors to come and meet in their home. As the group grew, they were able to establish the Pear Park Baptist Church. This church remains today, and holds services.
In 1905, Hoyt met Jessie Myra Coffin at a dance at Clifton, Colorado. She was dancing with someone else when he spotted her. He was quite taken by her beauty and grace. He asked the manager of the dance if he would find out if Jessie would accept an introduction to him. She said yes, so the formality was performed. They enjoyed dancing together, so Hoyt invited her to go buggy riding with him the following Sunday. She said she would, and a three year courtship ended in marriage May 17, 1908.
Hoyt was able to purchase his grandfather's property when Townsend could no longer do the work. It was here that he and Jessie had three sons. Only one, Glen Hoyt, born Nov. 27, 1910, survived. Hoyt later bought 80 acres at Mesa, Colorado and homesteaded land west of Mesa. He lived on the 80 acre place, and built a cabin on the homestead. Glen's brother Harold and sister Thelma were born at Mesa. Another daughter named Artelia Belle did not survive.
In order to be able to buy cattle and needed items, Hoyt freighted produce out of our valley to Grand Junction, a distance of about 32 miles, and brought coal and needed groceries and supplies back on the return trip. He left early in the morning and was able to make it to Grand Junction, unload and reload, then return to a place called Camp Rock, where he fed his horses and spent the night. A story is told of a horse that balked each time it approached a hill in the road. Hoyt would have quite a struggle getting him to go. One day a friend offered him a tomcat. A grin crossed Hoyt's face as he accepted the cat. When the horse balked, he removed the tomcat from its sack and swung it up on the rump of the horse by the tail. He pulled back and the cat set his claws, and the horse went right up the hill without any problem. From that time on, all Hoyt had to do was reach down and wiggle a gunny sack, pretending he had another cat, and the horse remembered not to balk.
During the Depression years, most families struggled to make ends meet. The Carvers were no exception. But they paid their bills and hung onto the land. When Glen married Elnora Bevan, they purchased an adjoining forty acres and began a dairy operation. Alfred, Howard and Richard are their children. Alfred and Howard are four years apart in age, and one day when their mother was busy they decided to hitch Howard's pedal car to the cow that Alfred had trained to ride. They got the rope on the cow, but when she started to pull the contraption, it rattled and she took off like a shot! The little red car hit the ditch and flew into the air, turning over and dumping Howard out before going through the fence. The rope broke, and the poor cow turned to see what had happened. I'm sure she was a bit more wary the next time someone approached with a rope!
A stroke that paralyzed Hoyt's right leg and arm forced his retirement from ranching. He sold to his son Glen the 80 acres. Glen and Elnora moved their dairy operation to this location when Alfred was about 12 years old. Everyone worked to raise the crops, milk the cows and pay for the ranch.
In 1953, Alfred & I married in Arkansas where my family had moved. He wasted no time in bringing me back to Colorado. He worked for a local rancher and his wife until we could make a down payment on a ranch that joined his parent's property. When his parents were ready to retire, we bought the original 80 acres his grandfather had owned, and our sons were the fourth generation of Carvers to work the land and tend the cattle.
One cannot put their life on a page. There were good times and difficult days. Illness and accidents took their toll. But our dream of owning a ranch of our own and raising our sons to know the value of an honest days work was rewarding. May we always remember.
© 2003, Nona Kelley (Grubbs) Carver
Nona Kelley Carver was born in Colorado, and still lives there. During part of her early years, she lived well beyond the electric lines in a cabin built of logs. She learned to read by the light of a kerosene lamp and rode horseback to school.
She married Alfred Carver in 1953. They began ranching at Mesa, Colorado, purchasing land that had been in the Carver family for three generations. They operated a dairy, and also raised beef cattle. It was here that their two sons were raised.
Nona's ranching experience shows in her work that she refers to as "fiction with a few facts thrown in." Her work has been published in magazines, newspapers and anthologies, and has spread from Australia to Amsterdam. Her major books in print are: Cowboys, Cookstoves, and Catastrophes and Carver Country Cowboys. They can be ordered through any bookstore in the US and Canada (see more information below). Her most recent accomplishment has been recording two CDs of poetry. The first is titled Reflective Moods, and features her most serious work. The second, titled Carver Country Poetry contains the funniest poetry she has written. She also publishes CarverCards, a line of greeting cards for family and friends.
Believing that reciting makes an authors work come alive for the audience, Nona gives her best whether it is to a small group or at the The National Cowboy Symposium and Celebration where she is a repeat performer. She and Alfred treasure friendships they made as part of Cowboy Gatherings.
Her most recent performances were on opening night at Cheyenne Cowboy Symposium and Celebration, and Saturday sessions in the Diamond Circle Theater of the Historic Strater Hotel at Durango's Cowboy Gathering, and the Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering in Sierra Vista, AZ.
Nona has performed in schools in both Colorado and Arizona, and presents some poetry written especially for children. Her work is published weekly in The Plateau Valley Times, her local newspaper, and often in The San Juan Silver Stage. Current projects include work on a Christmas album on CD, and drawing the illustrations for another book of cowboy poetry. She received a nomination for the best female poet in 2000 from The Academy of Western Artists."
Read Nona Kelley Carver's poetry here at the BAR-D.
Trail Drive--Texas to Oklahoma--1932
Barbara Bockelman's drawing of her Grandfather
I remember the trail drive my family made to Oklahoma in the spring of 1932 as thrilling and exciting. My five-year-old mind did not understand the stress my stepgrandfather and grandmother--Ernest and Neva Sitton--endured. Just prior to the drive Grandad had been thrown from his horse sustaining a broken shoulder. He was not fully recovered when the bank at Wichita, Kansas, mandated the move.
Several happenings including a divorce and financial Crash of 1929 had placed Grandad at the mercy of this bank. He owed it so much money it could not afford to write off his debt. The Dust Bowl and the Great Depression of the '30's added to our desperation.
These two had opened their hearts and home to me in 1928 following their marriage. Both had raised families and were looking for happiness not found in first marriages, not a ready-made family. Two months after the wedding, I was on the scene--a two-year old. Grandmother (Doe) was 40 and he was 50. Shortly afterward, we had moved to South Texas where Grandad leased 21 sections of grass green from a recent two-inch rain. No one told him it was the first rain in two-years and it did not rain again as long as we were there. Couple that with having to sell hundred dollar cows for ten dollars and nothing left but debt and the scene was set for what followed. However, the bank respected Grandad's past history of honesty and believed he would eventually honor the debt. He did with the last payment in 1951 after years of careful management, milking cows and selling cream, eggs from our flock of chickens, selling fence post cut on the Y Bar here in the Oklahoma Panhandle, and once peddling garden produce on a street corner on Saturdays. All this and handling a cow-calf operation with low prices, sweat and tears but boosted with our happiness at being together. But all this came after the trail drive we made to Oklahoma when I was five.
Grandad viewed the move as a disaster, but the bank held all the cards. When it said move, we moved. After moves to two different ranches west of Canadian, Texas, from Ft. Stockton (made by train), the bank directed another move to small ranch west of Camargo, Oklahoma. Grandad snorted about this move. As a boy in Kansas, he had watched neigbors leave good land for the Runs of '89 and '93 in Oklahoma. At age five he and his family arrived by covered wagon from Missouri. At age 12 he herded cattle for hire on the prairie, living by himself in a line cabin. He later owned some of that land becoming a prosperous wheat farmer and cattle buyer. This land went in a divorce settlement. Now, we were going to Oklahoma where he had heard there were mostly bootleggers and cow thieves.
Not only that! There was no money for an easy move. The bank said to locate part of the herd to fatten in the Kansas Flint Hills and trail the rest to Oklahoma. Barely able to move about, he somehow had to manage to "hit the trail." The somehow came through the cowboy the bank had allowed Grandad to hire when we moved near Canadien to the Parsell Ranch with pasture reaching miles back into Cap Rock canyons.
Rusty Fitzgerald was a cowboy of the old school. He tended cattle--not fix windmills and fences. He agreed to be trail boss of the drive, but he made it clear he would not stay in Oklahoma longer than he had to. He was a "Texas cowboy and that's where I aim to stay 'til I die." Years later, Rusty visited the Y Bar several times. He shared the trail drive experiences in several letters and the following excerpts are from those letters. Copies of these letter are in the archives of the NATIONAL COWBOY AND WESTERN HERITAGE MUSEUM in Oklahoma City. Here's Rusty's story of that drive in the spring of '32.
We drove somewhere close to 350 head of cows--a few more or less--I took 26 loads of cows and yearlings to Sedan, Kansas, for grass before I started on this trip. Mr. Sitton was unable to go. We were on the trail 16-17 days and stood guard on these cattle every night. On the route we moved the cattle into the Barton creek pasture not far from the house and it was a pasture that they had stayed in. I did this to get them mated up with their calves and to learn what it was to get bedded down and have night guard around them. If anything got loose they would not go far because they would be right at home.
Bill White was the cook. Wes Derrick of Camargo was a cowboy who knew Oklahoma country. Other cowboys were John Archer and Eldon Carr. I was the trail boss. Mr. Sitton would come to us at times. Of course, they had the household stuff to move while we were on the trail bout they would make it to us when they could get to us and bring groceries and fresh eggs. Mrs. Sitton always had fresh baked pies and cakes for us. I know Mr. Sitton spent one night with us right after the herd crossed the Oklahoma line. As we sat around the chuck wagon eating, two riders came up. Seems the rancher had two heifers missing and wanted the check the herd.
Over my protests, Mr. Sitton got on his horse and went with them only to find the count was two head long. Those two had joined the herd as we went along. Mr. Sitton's comment was "As soon as I crossed the Oklahoma line, I became a damned cow thief and I didn't even have to try!
We followed the Canadian River nearly to the bridge on the north side of the river and then picked as smooth a route as we could find to miss those bad sandhills to Glazier. Then we went to the Lockhart Ranch and headed east from there. We spent one night on the Waggnon Ranch south of Arnett, Oklahoma.
The cows calved all the way down there, and when it came time for one to calve, we would just let the cows graze and the calves rest until the ordeal was over and the calf had nursed. We would then look the pair over real good so as to remember them and load the calf into the calf wagon. Lots of times we had 15-20 babies in there and we all tried to remember and it really helped, but it all lay on my shoulders.
We would split the night into three parts on night guard. The cook would have breakfast before daylight and everyone ate. Wes derrick and I would swap off with each other on first and last guards and that left two men for middle guard. Carr and Archer took it.
I cannot think of anything dangerous or even one horse pitching on the trip. Lots of days we didn't make over five or six miles. We just grazed the cattle along and made sure we found water. Animals will not bed down at night if they have not had plenty to eat and drink. They will try to get away all night. When we would stop in the evening early, the cows that had calves in the wagon would be brought up to the wagon and her calf released. Then if the calf started nursing they would be turned back into the herd. Whenever we stopped this herd, most of the calves would nurse and then those calves would lie down and the cow would go on to graze.
Sometimes there would be maybe 100 head of those calves sleeping and maybe not a cow in one quarter of a mile. They would lay there for maybe two hours or longer and then they would get up and start to bawl for their mothers. We would really have to get on the ball then. Two men would ride around the cows maybe one-half to more miles away and start turning cows back towards calves. If you didn't get them back in a hurry those little calves would start going back, and if they got away, they'd go clear back to where they nursed last and they would stay right there.
It was rather amusing, after being driven all day and acting like being give out, and some would be, after resting and nursing, about sundown they would start running and playing after nursing. They were just like a bunch of little children. Some old cows woould follow their babies just throwing a fit.
With Mr. Sitton's permission I traded off the horse that had bucked him off and injured him before the drive for a young sorrel horse. I did everything I could to make him gentle, get on him from either side, slide off his rear end, and got him used to a rope and roped off him some and had him watching a cow pretty well by the time we got to Oklahoma.
True to his word after the drive, Rusty Fitzgerald returned to his home town of Miami, Texas, where he worked around on ranches, eventually married and had a small spread. During WWII he volunteered way past draft age as a medic and served in Europe in some tough battles. He died some years ago in a nursing home in Amarillo, Texas.
I have never forgotten Rusty and the cattle drive nor his place in our lives. Years later he visited the Y Bar Ranch here in the Oklahoma Panhandle a number of times. We always relived that drive.
© 2002, Barbara Bockelman
Barbara Bockleman tells "I live in the eastern end of the Oklahoma Panhandle 3 miles from the 100th Meridian which cuts off the Panhandle (No Man's Land) from the rest of Oklahoma. My address is Laverne, OK, but we live in the Slapout Community--a rural community of ranches and farms. We live on the Y Bar Ranch nestled along a small stream known as Kiowa Creek. I've lived on this ranch for 64 years coming here with grandparents during the Depression and Dust Bowl Days. We had come to Oklahoma when so many were leaving. My husband came to the ranch following our marriage at the end of WWII and we've raised a family of four children here and now have expanded to 21 grandchildren and 5 greats. Ranching is a great life and we've tasted the years with joy. I am also a retired language arts teacher.
I do cowboy poetry programs for organizations and schools in my area. I also appear at various gatherings such as the Oklahoma Cowboy Poetry Gathering at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City and the National Cowboy Symposium at Lubbock, Texas."
Read Barbara Bockelman's poetry here at the BAR-D.
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