Sunday, July 25, 2021

Adventure is for the adventurous

“Say that I starved; that I was lost and weary:
That I was burned and blinded by the desert sun;
Footsore, thirsty, sick with strange diseased;
Lonely and wet and cold, but that I kept my dream!

my dream!”
__ Everett Ruess 

Although he vanished in the desert when he was only 20, Everett Ruess had already befriended artists like accomplished photographer Dorothea Lange who took this photo of him. Dorothea Lange, American, 1895-1965, Untitled (Portrait of Everett Ruess), 1933, © The Dorothea Lange Collection, Oakland Museum of California, City of Oakland.

By Rob Carrigan,

Everett Ruess was known for making linoleum prints of landscapes and nature, and was associated with Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange. His prints show scenes from the Monterey Bay coast, the northern California coast near Tomales Bay, the Sierra Nevada, Utah, and Arizona.

Ruess wrote no books during his life, but he was a lifelong diarist, and he sent home hundreds of letters. His journals and poetry were posthumously published in two books, both illustrated with his own woodcuts:

  • Lacy, Hugh (Editor) (1940). On Desert Trails. El Centro, California: Desert Magazine Press.
  • Rusho, W.L. (1983). Everett Ruess: Vagabond for Beauty. Peregrine Smith Books.

Ruess's story, along with that of Christopher McCandless, was retold more briefly in Jon Krakauer's 1996 book Into the Wild. He is also mentioned in Edward Abbey's 1968 book Desert Solitaire. Wallace Stegner, in his 1942 book, Mormon Country, devotes an entire chapter, "Artist in Residence...", pages 319-350, to Ruess's travels and disappearance in southern Utah.

"… as to when I revisit civilization, it will not be soon. I have not tired of the wilderness… It is enough that I am surrounded with beauty… This had been a full, rich year. I have left no strange or delightful thing undone I wanted to do," said Everett's last letter to his brother, Waldo.

Ruess disappeared before his last letters could be sent from Escalante and his 1934 diary was never found.

Starting in 1931, Ruess traveled by horse and burro through Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado, exploring the high desert of the Colorado Plateau. He rode broncos, branded calves, and investigated cliff dwellings. Ruess explored Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks and the High Sierra in the summers of 1930 and 1933. In 1934, he worked with University of California archaeologists near Kayenta, took part in a Hopi religious ceremony, and learned to speak Navajo. Ruess had limited success trading his prints and watercolors to pay his way, and primarily relied on his parents' support.

On November 20, 1934, Ruess set out alone into the Utah desert, taking two burros as pack animals. He was never seen again.

Earlier in 1934, Ruess had told his parents he would be unreachable for nearly two months, but about three months after his last correspondence, they started receiving their son's uncalled-for mail. They wrote a letter to the post office of Escalante, Utah, on February 7, 1935. A commissioner of Garfield County, H. Jennings Allen (the husband of Escalante's postmistress), saw the letter and decided to form a search party with other men in the area. Ruess' burros were found near the north side of Davis Gulch, a canyon of the Escalante River. The only sign of Ruess himself was a corral he had made at his campsit in Davis Gulch, as well as an inscription the search party found nearby, with the words "NEMO Nov 1934".[10] Allen reported the discovery of the burros and the inscription to Ruess' parents in a letter dated March 8, 1935. On March 15, after completing a last attempt to find Ruess in the Kaiparowits Plateau, Allen wrote a final note to the family calling an end to the search efforts.[11]

Later searches in late May and June 1935 included an aerial survey of the land from an altitude of 12,000 feet, covering the ground from Lee's Ferry to Escalante. On the ground, a party of nine horseback riders joined the search, but discontinued their effort a week later.

Some believe Ruess may have fallen off a cliff or drowned in a flash flood; others suspected he had been murdered.

“Nearly 65 years after Ruess disappeared in the Escalante Desert, you can rouse a lively debate in almost any bar between Santa Fe and Flagstaff over the possible ways he met his fate,” wrote Roberts in a 1999 article in National Geographic Adventure magazine.

During his quest, Roberts hiked much of the same land as Ruess and spent three days in Davis Gulch where the young explorer disappeared, searching for answers. Despite all of the leads Roberts followed, including interviews with dozens of people in the region, he was no closer to solving the case.

In 1971, a Navajo named Aneth Nez told his granddaughter, Daisy Johnson, that he witnessed from afar the murder of a young white man near Bluff, Utah, in the 1930s by Ute Indians. Nez told her he buried the body in a crevice on nearby Comb Ridge, a jagged, 80-mile-long ridge of Navajo sandstone peppered with yucca and piƱon pine that stretches from Blanding, Utah, into northern Arizona.

The discovery of a grave site on Comb Ridge, near the town of Bluff, Utah, added to the mystery. An elderly Navajo claimed that Ruess was murdered by two Ute Native Americans who wanted his burros. Bones and teeth found in the grave allegedly matched Ruess' race, age, size, and facial features. 

In April 2009, comparison of DNA from the remains and that of Ruess' nieces and nephew and comparison of the skull to photographs, seemed to confirm that the remains were those of Ruess. Two months later, however, Kevin Jones, state archaeologist of Utah, advised the remains probably were not Ruess', since dental records from the 1930s did not match those in published photographs of the body.

On October 21, 2009, the Associated Press reported that DNA tests conducted by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology showed the remains were not those of Ruess. They identified them as of likely Native American origin. A later article in National Geographic Adventure Magazine identified problems in the DNA matching software as the source of the error.

In March 2010, the family of Joe Santistevan was contacted by the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) and was informed that the Y-DNA of the remains initially identified as Ruess matched exactly to Santistevan. AFDIL found a 13-marker exact match between the man buried at the Comb Ridge site and Santistevan. AFDIL then ran another Y-DNA test and reconfirmed the 13 markers and confirmed four more exact matches. Santistevan's remains were returned to the Navajo Nation.

"Everett Ruess was an artistic, adventurous young man who set out alone several times to experience the beauty, as well as the fury, of nature in the American West. During the 1930s, he met and discussed art with painter Maynard Dixon, and with well-known photographers Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Dorothea Lange. He was lured first by the splendors of Yosemite and the California coast, and later by portions of the lonely red rock lands of Utah and Arizona. In November 1934, at age twenty, Everett disappeared from the canyon country near Escalante, Utah, and was never seen again. Although his burros were found near his camp, his fate remains a mystery," says the current site.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Images of hardrock hazards and mucker's hard luck in Silverton celebration

Like a rock, I was strong as I could be
Like a rock, nothin' ever got to me
Like a rock, I was something to see
Like a rock

__ Bob Seger

Thing of the past ...

By Rob Carrigan,

On Labor Day in 1940, American photographer and photojournalist Russell Lee, best known for his work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA), attended hardrock mining competitions and labor celebrations in Silverton, Colorado.

"Hardrock miners in the San Juans tend to be very proud. Mining required a great deal of arduously achieved experience and skill. Compared to other occupations available to them, the job paid very well. Supposing a miner survived his job, he could earn his weight in gold and generate an esteemed reputation to pass on through generations," notes Caroline Arlen, in her book "Colorado Mining Stories: Hazards, Heroics, & Humor." 

As he traditionally did, Lee's images documented the ethnography of various American classes and cultures.

Lee grew up in Ottawa, Illinois, and went to the Culver Military Academy in Culver, Indiana for high school. He earned a degree in chemical engineering from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

He gave up a position as a chemist to become a painter. Originally he used photography as a precursor to his painting, but soon became interested in photography for its own sake, recording the people and places around him. Among his earliest subjects were Pennsylvanian bootleg mining and the Father Divine cult.

In the fall of 1936, during the Great Depression, Lee was hired for the federally sponsored Farm Security Administration (FSA) photographic documentation project of the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. He joined a team assembled under Roy Stryker, along with Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein and Walker Evans. Stryker provided direction and bureaucratic protection to the group, leaving the photographers free to compile what in 1973 was described as "the greatest documentary collection which has ever been assembled."

Silverton’s mining heritage is still celebrated at annual three-day competition. There are events for men, women, and children and range from horseshoes, hand mucking, machine drilling, tug-of-war, arm wrestling, and much more.

Children’s events are on Friday. Some evening activities, including live music.
Food, beer and other beverages are sold on site. Concessions benefit the Fire Department. Come cheer on the competitors and help keep our mining heritage alive.

Other nearby celebrations were canceled. Located adjacent to Fellin Park, on the south side of the park near the gazebo, the Miner’s Heritage Park is the location of the Highgrader’s Holiday, Ouray’s annual hard rock mining competition held at the end of August. Highgrader’s Holiday is a non-profit competitive event showcasing the strength and skill of the men and women who make their livings extracting ore from the hard rock of the San Juan Mountains. During the rest of the year the Mining Heritage Park offers visitors an opportunity to see mining tools and equipment once used in area mines.

In nearby Ouray recently, the Hardrockers Holidays Committee wasn’t sure the 46th annual event would be able to go forward last year, said Kuhlman, who has competed there 44 times. All the other mining competitions, the ones in Creede, Leadville and other historic mining towns, had been canceled due to the coronavirus.

Ouray’s Highgraders Holiday mining competition, typically held the weekend after Silverton’s, was canceled last year. Board members Adam Kunz and Steve Martinez announced the decision came after “heart-wrenching deliberation.” The competition attracts miners from across the West to compete in feats of strength and skill, keeping mining traditions alive just as lumberjack competitions are held in places traditionally connected with the timber industry.

"The final OK for Hardrockers came from the county after organizers made changes to comply with the county’s health order in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus," according to Liz Teitz of Ouray County Plaindealer.

"Entrants were required to wear masks, though compliance varied. Some, like Kuhlman, wore them constantly throughout the event, while others wore their face coverings around their necks most of the time. Temperatures were taken at the gate, and all attendees were asked about symptoms before entering. There were frequent reminders to maintain social distancing throughout the weekend, though many competitors seemed happy to celebrate with hugs and handshakes. At one point, everyone scrambled to pull up their masks when an accidental siren went off on a bullhorn, in case law enforcement had arrived to check on compliance," said Teitz.

They canceled arm wrestling and children’s events, and altered tug-of-war rules to allow for more space between competitors. Masks and gloves were also required during the tug of war, which veteran competitor Kuhlman said made it harder to hold on. In a joking nod to the pandemic panic-buying, organizers handed out rolls of toilet paper alongside raffle prizes.

"Otherwise, though, the festivities went on largely as they have in past years, Contestants still pushed half their weight around an obstacle course in wheelbarrows, scrambled to fill buckets in hand- and machine-mucking races, and challenged each other in drilling holes in boulders, driving spikes into timber and hammering steel into concrete and rock," the Plaindealer reported.

All images by Russell Lee taken in Silverton on Labor Day, 1940. Bottom Photo of Russell Lee, about 1942.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Colorado shipbuilding in a landlocked state

Denver, Colorado. Twenty-four hours a day the sparks from acetylene torches of steel workers in eight Denver fabricating plants are flying thick and fast that the U.S. Navy may carry the battle to the enemy in all parts of the world. Here in secluded Denver, the world's largest city not on a navigable waterway, this war production worker, who has never seen a battleship or an ocean, fashions the steel hull parts which are being assembled at Mare Island Navy Yard--1,200 miles from where he and his fellow workers are on the job to help "keep 'em sailing." May, 1942

Hundreds of miles away and a mile higher, Denver doesn't miss out in the Naval war effort

By Rob Carrigan,

It may seem odd now that Denver played such a 'solid steel' role in Navy shipbuilding during World War II,  but it was even more bizarre back in early 1940s, when shipbuilding was really a 'coastal' thing. 

"August 18, 1942, a delegation of forty Denver manufacturers and War Production Board officials, headed by Governor Ralph Carr, left Denver for Vallejo, California, to officially launch the first destroyer escort built in Colorado. Cynthia Carr, the governor’s daughter, was selected to christen the first such vessel almost entirely prefabricated in an inland city. Originally slated to join the US Navy as the USS Bull, the ship was given to the Royal Navy as the HMS Bentinckand launched on August 22, 1942, amid much fanfare," wrote Tom Lytle, “Shipbuilding on a ‘Mountaintop’: World War II’s Rocky Mountain Fleet,” Colorado Heritage Magazine 18, no. 3 (1998).

During World War II, Denver’s war production industry expanded to include the production of ship parts bound for assembly on the West Coast. Known colloquially as “the Rocky Mountain Fleet,” dozens of ships would eventually see production at the Colorado works. Today, the Rocky Mountain Fleet serves as a historical example of Colorado’s contribution to the war effort as well as how national industry operated during “total war”—before World War II, it was unheard of for prefabricated ship parts to be produced in a landlocked state, says Colorado Encyclopedia.

Two ingenious American steel fabricators who "took a quick look at a blue print and in less time than it takes to tell it" turned from making steel guard rails for a gold mine shaft to building parts for Navy escort vessels. May 1942, Denver.

But war production in Colorado, and by August 22, 1942, the destroyer escort Bentinck launched at the Mare Island Navy Yard in Vallejo, California. The occasion might have been ordinary, had it not been for the fact that the Bentinck and twenty-three sister warships were largely constructed in landlocked Denver, Colorado—more than 1,000 miles from the ocean and a mile above it. 

The unusual consortium of Denver steel fabrication companies, working in cooperation with Mare Island, began in the Washington office of Democratic Congressman Lawrence Lewis when he met with G. H. Garrett, general manager of Denver’s Thompson Pipe and Steel Company, in July 1941. The Great Depression had damaged Denver’s economy, and city leaders were anxious to attract defense contracts to help restore the city. Denver successfully lured large defense-related employers such as Remington Arms and the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, but smaller local companies such as Thompson Pipe and Steel were in danger of going out of business because of their low priority for critical war materials—in this case, steel.

Interior of a once-abandoned railroad machine shop, now producing fabricated steel parts for the hulls of escort vessels, showing an overhead crane which once lifted switch engine boilers and old box car axles, now moving a heavy steel plate which will become the sturdy belly of a fighting ship. May 1942.

Lewis arranged an appointment with Commander M. L. Ring, a navy purchasing agent, who put aside the pressures of his job to spend time with Garrett to discuss the navy’s shipbuilding requirements. Garrett spent three days in Washington discussing the navy’s construction priorities and how Thompson Pipe and Steel could help meet them. His final appointment in Washington proved instrumental in Denver’s involvement with Mare Island; before he boarded the train home to Denver, he met with Lieutenant Commander E. P. Simpson, who had just arrived in Washington from Mare Island. Simpson suggested that Garrett contact Captain F. G. Crisp, the industrial manager of the Mare Island Navy Yard, who Simpson knew required additional manufacturing facilities outside the Bay Area, wrote Tom Lytle in his piece for the Colorado Historic Society.

Ship production begins for the Denver manufacturing interests in November 1941, when the navy designated Mare Island the site for the construction of destroyer escorts. The yard was already working at full capacity, and the navy wanted the ships completed by summer 1943. Denver’s manufacturing consortium helped provide the answer. 

"The subsections of twenty-four ships were to be prefabricated in the Mile High City, shipped to Mare Island via railroad, and assembled there for launching. On December 2, 1941, in conjunction with Director Hartzell, Commander Antonio Pitre and a delegation from Mare Island formally announced the signing of contracts for building ship hull sections, bulkheads, decks, and other parts," Lytle said.

The following Denver firms contributed to early shipbuilding efforts:

• Ajax Iron Works
• E. Burkhardt and Sons Steel and Iron Works
• Denver Steel and Iron Works
• Midwest Steel and Iron Works
• Silver Engineering Works
• Thompson Pipe and Steel
• R. Hardesty Manufacturing
• Eaton Metal Products

"Weicker Transfer and Storage was to receive and handle all steel when it arrived in Denver by rail, and reload the finished pieces for shipment to Mare Island. The terms of the contracts called for the Denver consortium to fabricate parts for twenty-four destroyer escorts with a total estimated value of $56 million, to be delivered by June 1943. Construction was scheduled to begin in January 1942," notes Lytle.

Though secret, the agreement between Denver and Mare Island marked the navy’s first foray into “farming-out” work and would be watched closely. The success or failure of the Denver program would help determine whether other navy yards would be allowed to use outside facilities to help fulfill contracts.

Steel ship parts getting a bath of sulphuric acid at one of the eight Denver plants which prepares the parts and sends them to Mare Island for assembly. May 1942.

The navy work meant that the Denver contractors needed to hire additional workers. The Emily Griffith Opportunity School assisted by providing welding training sessions around the clock. In addition to handling and storage facilities in Denver, the steelyard producing the ship parts needed space for two tanks fifty feet long by five feet wide and ten feet deep, plus a 25,000-gallon acid storage tank, all to be built by the navy. The tanks were to be sunk into the ground to form acid baths into which raw steel would be dipped to remove scale and dirt. The Denver program experienced an early problem with these tanks, colloquially known as “pickling tanks,” when the navy failed to specify that Weicker Transfer and Storage use corrosion-resistant steel bolts: the tanks collapsed after two weeks when the acid ate through the bolts.

The railroad delivered the first 3,000-ton shipment of steel from Mare Island in December 1941, and fabrication began the following month. All subsequent shipments of steel came from US Steel’s eastern mills. Under normal circumstances, the navy would have relied upon the principal trunk lines—the Northern Pacific, Union Pacific, or the Southern Pacific—to transport the completed sections from Denver to California. However, these lines were already running at capacity, carrying war materials across the country. The rail route through and under Colorado’s 14,000-foot mountain ranges imposed limitations upon the size of the ship pieces to be shipped. The Moffat Tunnel, on the line linking Denver and Craig, was the principal bottleneck. The tunnel’s narrow dimensions meant that ship pieces had to be reduced in size to fit through it. None could exceed seventeen feet from the rails in height, nine feet, six inches in width, and fifty feet in length.

Shipbuilding expanded when the destroyer escort program was so successful that on February 26, 1942, the navy named Denver as one of the major steel-fabricating points in the country for naval vessels. 

"With this designation came an agreement to build more ships, resulting in a major expansion of shipbuilding operations in Denver. By being named a major shipbuilding center, Denver was also awarded new contracts to help build fifteen more destroyer escorts worth an estimated $3 million. Mare Island had been ordered to build the ships in 1942, with delivery for early 1944. However, the Allies won the Battle of the Atlantic by the summer of 1943, before all of the ordered ships could be delivered. Thus, five contracts were canceled, and the ships were ordered scrapped on March 13, 1944. Three others were canceled in September 1944.

The interior of one of eight Colorado plants engaged in 56 million dollar ship-building program, showing workers who once made highway bridge girders, gold mining machinery and water culverts, laying out parts of an escort vessel. The parts will be assembled at Mare Island Navy Yard on the West coast.

"By late 1943, the tide of war was beginning to turn against the Axis. Allied defeats of the Germans in the Battle of the Atlantic and in North Africa initiated a shift in ship construction priorities. Destroyer escorts and other ships designed to combat the U-Boat menace were no longer the focus of Allied shipbuilding. On July 6, 1943, the navy ordered Mare Island to build eighty-seven LCT-6s (Landing Craft, Tank) for delivery in October. In spite of the limited time the navy allowed for the LCTs’ construction, production in Denver was ahead of schedule. The first vessel was ready for shipment to Mare Island in September. As with the first destroyer escort 'launching,' Denver prepared an elaborate ceremony to commemorate the occasion," says Colorado Ecyclopedia.

According to records, Denver contractors continued working on army barges and navy pontoons until the Japanese surrender in August 1945. The end of the war saw the end of “the Shipyard of the Rockies,” as defense contracts were cancelled and the companies were on their own again. Eaton Metals returned to peacetime work within twenty-four hours of Victory in Japan Day. On August 15, 1945, the workers who had previously built warships for service around the world returned to fabricating sheet and steel products such as storage tanks and farm equipment. Had the experiment in 'farming out' defense contracts not been successful in Denver, later, much more common defense contracting efforts probably would not have been tried in other inland cities, Lytle notes.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Potato pickers San Luis Valley

Thing of the past ...

Potato picker empties basket into shaker screen, Rio Grande County, Colorado

Creator(s): Rothstein, Arthur, 1915-1985, photographer
Date Created/Published: 1939 October.

Potato pickers in town, Monte Vista, Colorado

Creator(s): Rothstein, Arthur, 1915-1985, photographer
Date Created/Published: 1939 October.

Potato pickers, Rio Grande County, Colorado
Creator(s): Rothstein, Arthur, 1915-1985, photographer
Date Created/Published: 1939 October.

Sewing a sack of potatoes, Rio Grande County, Colorado

Creator(s): Rothstein, Arthur, 1915-1985, photographer
Date Created/Published: 1939 Oct.

Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives

The legend of 'Rattlesnake Kate'

Look to the left
Look to the right
You're dead, you're dead, you're dead with just one bite
Look to the front
Look to the sides
Don't forget your back else they'll have your hide
__ Neyla Pekarek, "The Attack"

'She earned the title the hard way'

By Rob Carrigan,

The legend of 'Rattlesnake Kate' was a big enough deal locally to make the front page of the Greeley Daily Tribune and Greeley Republican that Thursday, in early October, 1969, after Kate died in Weld County General Hospital the preceding Monday. Her story was placed right there at the top alongside the casualty considerations from Saigon, and above the stories of growing opposition locally to the war in Vietnam. 
"She'was known as 'Rattlesnake Kate' and she earned the title the hard way," wrote Jim Briggs, Tribune staff writer at the time. 
"Yes, Ms Kalherine Slaughterback, was buried Thursday afternoon but the legend she leaves behind was not buried with her."
The saga of "Rattlesnake Kate" was recalled Wednesday by Mrs. Leta Woolridge of La Salle, a close friend of Ms. Slaughterback.
"Early that morning hunters had been banging away before daylight at the ducks that stopped overnight at the pond. Kate Siaughterback knew from experience that there would be some wounded ducks there. 
some wounded ducks so she , saddled up her horse, got down her .22 Remington, lifted Ernie into the saddle and off they went to the pond to search for ducks for supper.
She hopped off the horse to open a gate and there at the gate post, coiled up and ready to 'fight anything that came — along was a huge rattlesnake."
"This didn't bother her much. She took the rifle out of the saddle and blew the head off the reptile. But he had his gang with him, and Kate heard the dreadful warnings from three directions. Three, glistening, thick-bellied rattlers slithered into the open toward her," wrote Briggs.
Katherine McHale Slaughterback was born on July 25, 1893 (or 1894) to Wallace and Albina McHale in a log cabin near Longmont, Colorado. She would go on to attend nursing school at St. Joseph's School of Nursing and move to Hudson, Colorado. She also had skill as a taxidermist. She frequently wore pants instead of dresses, which was unusual for a woman at the time.
Slaughterback married and divorced six times—one of her husbands was Jack Slaughterback —and had one son, Ernie Adamson. It is disputed if Ernie was an adopted child or born to her out of wedlock.
According to the lore, Slaughterback singlehandedly killed 140 rattlesnakes Oct. 28, 1925. 
Slaughterback and her three-year-old son Ernie were on horseback headed to a lake near her farm. Hunters had been there the day before, and she was hoping to find harvested ducks left behind. However, she instead found over 100 migrating rattlesnakes. Kate shot the snakes until she ran out of ammunition for her .22 caliber Remington rifle, at which point she grabbed a nearby sign (reportedly, it said "No Hunting") and bludgeoned the remaining snakes to death.
Of her snake-killing spree, Slaughterback later said:
"I fought them with a club not more than three feet long, whirling constantly for over two hours before I could kill my way out of them and get back to my faithful horse and Ernie, who were staring at me during my terrible battle not more than 60 feet away."
She was "frantic that [the snakes] would frighten the horse, and cause him to rear up and throw Ernie into the snakes."
The story goes she returned to her farm afterward, a neighbor learned of what had happened, which eventually led to a reporter coming to photograph and interview her. She strung the dead snakes together on a rope for the photograph, which became famous. She would later make herself a dress, shoes, and belt from the snakeskins. The dress, made from the skins of 53 rattlesnakes, was particularly famous. She claimed later that she received an offer from the Smithsonian Institution to buy it for $2,000.
Her story became popular and was written about it the New York Evening Journal. News of her exploits was reported as far away as Germany, Belgium, Scotland, France, England, Mexico, and Canada.
Later in life, Slaughterback reportedly raised rattlesnakes, milking them for their venom and selling it to scientists in California. Three weeks before her death, Slaughterback donated her famous rattlesnake skin dress to the Greeley Municipal Museum; Ernie donated more of her possessions after her death, including her Remington rifle.
Slaughterback was a nurse during World War II and served in the Pacific Theater. She lived in El Paso, Texas for a few years. She died on Oct. 6, 1969, and was buried in Mizpah Cemetery in Platteville, Colorado. On her headstone, her name simply reads "Rattlesnake Kate," per her request. She was survived by her son, two grandsons, and two great-grandchildren.
Former member of The Lumineers and Colorado native Neyla Pekarek wrote a folk opera about Slaughterback called Rattlesnake. Pekarek was then commissioned by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts to create a full musical about the legend of 'Rattlesnake Kate.' Other songwriters, including Carter Sampson, have also touched on the subject.