The Unexpected Road Trip: The Ranch ~ July 22

While driving down the lane to my grandparent’s family home, so many emotions tugged at my heart. Stories about my family swirled in my head as I slowly approached the old cabin. Weaving along the dirt road, I wished that my mother were with me, so she could answer the many questions that started to form as I took my first glimpse back into time.

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In the stillness and in the heat of the day, the old cabin appeared as I pulled into the long driveway. It was smaller than what I remembered, and one of the rooms of the two-room home had collapsed. Nearby the old outhouse still stood. As I child, I believed it sat much farther away from the home. I guess my little legs thought so anyway.

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As I glanced at the mountain scenery and the nearby mesas, I began to wonder about what my mom and grandmother would think about when they took in these beautiful views. The house sat on top of a mesa, and when I looked into the valley, I noticed the railroad tracks. When I was little, mama told how she would grab the coal bucket and gather coal that had fallen from the trains and bring it the house. Grandma had a coal stove that she cooked on to fix the family meals. For many years, she had that old coal bucket in our home. She painted it and used it as a magazine holder.

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Mama told stories how during the Depression, homeless men would often follow the tracks and stop at the ranch for a meal or a place to sleep. Grandpa would have grandma fix the men a plate, and then he would take them to the barn where they could spend the night. Sometimes the men would offer to do some ranch chores in exchange for their meal and temporary sleeping quarters.

Since World War II was also taking place at this time, many items were rationed, including shoes. Mama once over heard a conversation between her parents after a man had stopped for the night during the winter months. In hushed tones, grandpa told grandma that they could not let the man leave in the morning without shoes; he had arrived wearing rags on his feet. Grandma asked grandpa if he could repair the girls’ shoes one more time, and he said he could. In the morning grandpa took their visitor into town to buy him some new shoes.

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Looking across the land, I could see the sage and the brush that grew in spots. Mama told me that when she was little she would play as if she were a rancher setting up a sheep camp as ranchers did in the day. One year when my mother had moved to California, grandma told her that grandpa was clearing brush when he found “that little one’s sheep camp.” When he told the story to grandma, his eyes were misty, and he was a little choked up about his discovery. He left mama’s camp and continued his work away from her camp.

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Although I lived in the town of Hotchkiss when I was very young, I do remember bits and pieces of the old ranch home. For one, I remember the old outhouse, and I thought it was such a long walk when grandma would take me to it. On one side of the cabin there was a long bench, and I would play house. My grandma gave me some old pans and an old muffin tin, and I would make mud pies in those old tins. But I would get mad at their dog, Lucky, when he would not eat my pies.

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My first birthday party, July 4, 1962

Of course, I do not remember, but I found the old photos and recently discovered that the ranch is where I celebrated my first birthday. For some reason, this gave me such a loving connection to the old place. In the background of the photo, I could see the ceiling timbers and grandma’s old dresser.

When I walked into the remaining room of the cabin, I glanced around the small room that was only about 14 x 16 feet. This room housed the kitchen and the bedroom for my grandparents. I noticed the ceiling timbers and the old electric box. When my mom moved to California, she found a job as a telephone operator. She saved her money and paid to have electricity brought to the cabin; she also bought grandma a stove and a refrigerator.

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While looking around the old home, I glanced at the floors and noticed the green linoleum with specks of red and white. How many times had my mom and grandma mopped those floors? When it was time to leave, I looked through the windows while knowing that my family often gazed out those very same windows. My heart felt heavy; I missed them all. I wondered if my grandfather felt it too when he left his ranch and Hotchkiss, his childhood home.

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