Sunday, October 27, 2013

Rare oxen pull living history down the trail


"Happy the man who far from schemes of business, like the generations of mankind, works his ancestral acres with oxen of his own breeding, from all usury free." ___ Epodes (c. 29 B.C.)

For more than 2,000 years, it has been been a good idea to raise your own teams of Oxen.
Rollie and Paula Johnson, with the help of their hired hand of the past nine years, Dulces Granados, have been doing just that, since 2006 at Three Eagles Ranch, just over the Douglas County line near Monument. The ranch is one of the few western ranches that raise American Milking Devon Oxen.
"As some of the first cattle in America in 1623 two heifers and a bull from north Devonshire, England were received in the American colonies. In later years, other Devon cattle were imported and contributed to the American Devon which developed as the ideal multipurpose breed. No other cattle could surpass it for draft work (they can walk at six miles an hour); the milk was high in butterfat content, making it excellent for cheese and cream; and the carcass developed fine lean beef on relative poor forage," says literature from the ranch.
Rollie Johnson, CEO for a group of more than 50 radio stations all over the country, showed his prowess at hooking log chokers Tuesday in Monument, as Davy and Dandy skidded logs across the field. The four-year-old team weighed in at about 2,000 pounds each and will continue to grow for three more years.
"Oxen were used extensively to pull wagons of the pioneers along the Mormon, Oregon, California and Santa Fe trails. At one point in the 1850s, an average of 750 wagons left Omaha daily and the majority were pulled oxen. Oxen could eat while walking. You could milk the cows at night and, if one died, you could survive their meat. Once the pioneers arrived at their destination, the oxen were then used as draft animals on the farms and ranches and towns created. An ox can be any breed of cattle but is basically a steer that is more than four years old and has been trained as a draft animal and, ultimately, will be called an ox. If you can trace your family's history in the 1800s to the use of any of the four major trails, then your ancestors' goods most likely arrived by being pulled by oxen," according to a Three Eagles information piece.
The breed is now extinct in England and were down to just a handful in the United States until about 30 years ago. Efforts by the American Livestock Breed Conservancy and others have been able to increase the American herd to about 600 animals, mostly in New England states.
"Three Eagles Ranch began its herd in 2006 when it purchased a cow from Missouri. A bull, nicknamed Jesse James, was purchased from Washington's Birthplace Farm near Williamsburg. The first trained oxen team — Clark and Coolidge — was sold to Bent's Old Fort at La Junta along the Santa Fe Trail and can be viewed at historical presentations at that site. Today's second trained team from Three Eagles — Calvin and Chester — were born in 2008 and are still growing and live the Plains Conservation Center in Aurora, Colo.  A third pair, Ike and Earl, are going to Arizona to be used in an experiment to prepare equipment that can be easily replicated in rural Africa. Three Eagles Ranch has four other teams in training at the ranch — David and Dandridge, Fitzgerald and Ford, Grant and Garfield, George and Grover," says ranch information.











Sawing logs: New ways to preserve the old days














Railroad building and general development in the Denver and Colorado Springs area has made logging in this area at least a century-old tradition. Early mills in the Forest and at Husted, Perry Park, and on Cherry Creek, date back to days of Pikes Peak Gold Rush in the early 1860s.
General William Jackson Palmer's construction and planning of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad accelerated the process. Interestingly, if you look at early 1900-era photos, you will notice the level of logging operations along the Palmer Divide.
Palmer established the Colorado Pinery Trust in 1870. Logging in the Black Forest, or Pinery, reached its height in the summer of 1870 and eventually more than one billion feet of lumber was removed to provide ties for the Kansas Pacific, Denver and Rio Grande and New Orleans Railroads, and lumber for projects along the tracks. 
The Black Forest Fire in June of this year, and related mitigation efforts, has re-focused attention on the nearby logging operations.
This past week, Bob Olson, who lives in the Black Forest area himself, has set up his modern answer on Jim Maguire's property on State Highway 105 in Monument, in the form of his WoodMizer portable sawmill. The mill looks something like a big bandsaw and automates some of the complicated setup with its high-tech operation. Logs from a house lot down on Old Ranch Road, areas in the burn area, and locations in Woodmoor, as well other areas, all contributed to this week's cut and mill process. The Maguire property milling operation was abuzz all week. 
For  his part, Jim Maguire plans to build a stage stop log cabin 18 feet by 16 feet, dedicated to recalling the losses suffered by some in the Black Forest Fire. Some salvageable, but slightly burned logs, originated in the burn area and 44 timbers, seven inches by 10 inches, were milled for the structure.
"This place is part of an old homestead," says Maguire. "And a stage at one time was the only way of getting here before the rails." 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Nobody has time for that anymore


Hear that lonesome whippoorwill?
He sounds too blue to fly.
The midnight train is whining low,
I'm so lonesome I could cry.
___ Hank Williams, 1942

Nobody has time for their memories anymore. We seldom ride trains, buses, or even planes — for long, thoughtful trips into the nights and mornings of our past.
But I try to remember — because she can't.
Back in the fall of 1978, just a little before 8 a.m., any of six days of a week, Fifth and Main Street, meet me at the side door, Taylor Hardware, Dolores, Colo. Let's take a walk.
Jiggle the big ring of keys in the heavy wood frame door with thick plate glass in the center, beveled all the way around, glazed tight and solid nearly 90 years prior.
Inside the light switches are low, near the hardwood floor up front, and then in ceiling as we pass on either side, past the gun case, the cabinet hardware, t-hinges, gate hooks, flat bastards. Cant hook handles there, sanding belts under the stairs, and different-sized dowel rods in a rotating swivel display.
After the stairs, the high shelf carried items overhead. Calf feeder buckets, Gerry cans and pump sprayers, Number 10 galvanized pail (sometimes still half full of water from last night's rain)...
The building seemed to grow taller as you moved deeper into it. The leaky skylight illuminated the balcony filled with furniture, and the nail counter tucked in below.  Live plants, needing water at least every other day, draped over the balcony banisters.
But then the building tightened again, as you moved back from the side door, with its crossbar strips and glove counter. Linoleum, in eight-foot rolls, stood a sentinels against the back wall on the front room guarding the double doors, each latched at the top with a spring-loaded tooth, that could be released with the chain that hung from it.
On the other side of the doors,  was the tiny, 30s-era bathroom, with sink outside, two exterior hose bibs underneath (at times with a garden hose attached) and appropriately enough, the wooden bins with the bathroom parts. A steel case with closet bolts, and toilet rods, along with bins of Johnny rings and tank balls. Off to the left, as you looked toward the bathroom, and then the nail counter, was the big wooden rotary cabinet filled with fender washers, and expansion anchors, hitch pins and cotter keys, twirling with abandon.
The ancient scale rested on the corner of the nail counter, complete with inspection stickers from the '20s and beyond, certifying it accurate, and want books slipped between it and the excess weights.
Behind that, was a cave of sorts. Surrounded by dog collars, and horse tack, the coffee percolator topped a steel cabinet covered in contact paper. An aluminum tray, with seven or eight coffee mugs that were washed every day in the small sink, accompanied it like a best friend.
The second stair well (a ladder really) went through the balcony flood there. Customers, and some employees, drinking coffee — liked to lean on it as they told wild tales of times past.
In the back, thought the double doors, the plumbing counter and the high wall of bins of elbows and tees, bell reducers and bushings. Somebody was constantly standing there sharpening their knife on the well-worn oil stone, swapping lies with Merton Taylor at the check-in stand, or the micro-fiche machine.
Further back, the rope machine, and the paint equipment, and open area to receive shipments from Amarillo Hardware, or NW, or wherever —  delivered at the sliding door in the far corner.
And that was just the main building.
Sometimes, late at night or early morning, on a chilly bus (or if I'm lucky enough to ride a train), or in the stuffy space of a cramped plane, I drift back through that building, take a walk back through time, and space, and memory.
She doesn't remember much. And generally, nobody has time for that anymore.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Collectsperts: Maguireville is a world-class museum





Jim and Donna Maguire collect things: cars, wagons, railroads, windmills, phone booths, antiques, stories and friends.
In fact, they have the contents of an entire town tucked, here and there, into a few acres in Monument. Since the early 1980s, or before, they have been working on creating the town of Maguireville. Their Card says they are co-mayors.
With barns bursting at the seams, full of items from the last century, Maguireville has developed into a world-class museum of 20th Century Americana.
"Every piece here has a story," noted former D-38 School District Superintendent Ted Bauman, at a recent fundraiser held there for the current Mill Levy Override effort.
"And some of them are true," Donna joked at the time. "Though he tells it different every time.
If you were to run into Jim down at Serrano's some morning, where with his collection of friends and neighbors, he holds frequent court, you might have a chance to hear one.
He will introduce himself as if he has known you all his life, even if he met you last week. "I've known him for years," Jim says. "I was his parole officer."
He might also joke about Christmas presents he has given Donna, on occasion.
"One year I gave her those branding irons," he says, pointing out irons arranged in a circle on the barn wall.
"And the next year he got those hammers," answers Donna, pointing out another circle.
10,000 pound safes, quarantine huts from old TB sanitariums, well equipment, bells, and even a phone booth or two, make up parts of the collection. An old wooden booth from Southern Colorado was traded for an Overhead Door installation. And British phone booth is there as well, with a story of its own.
"There are three things about the British phone booth acquisition that made it difficult," he starts in. "Number one: It weighs a ton. Two: It's nine-feet-high and it is in a garage with a door that is only eight feet. Three: I need you to come and get it out Thursday, (it was Wednesday.) Those are things you need to keep in mind, if someone says you can have a British phone booth if you come and get it.
Indeed.