Stories and Poems of Past Memories

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Stories and Poems of Past Memories Articles

2006-100 Year is Here
2006-100 Year is Here

Poem, contributed by Vera Shay, August 2006

 

Since the railroad tracks

Were all laid down

Trains coming into Kremmling town

Only books, left to tell and say

Of the excitement that day

Of the thirties and the forties

It is so

Of the railroad tracks and trains

I do know

I rode on them everywhere

Here and there

During those years in my mind

I owned them all you see

That I would have told you

Had you asked me.

Todays trains all have a brand new look

Inside and out

Riding on the trains from them till now

There is no doubt

The train crew and passengers of today

Still just as fun and great

Though they seem to always be running late

Lots of folks think they're just too slow

For me they've always been

A wonderful way to go

Trains, trains

Let there always be trains

 

A Story from Big Horn Park
A Story from Big Horn Park

And Then There Was Light

They were perched on the side of the road in Big Horn Park peering out the window at twilight as their eyes moved across the Troublesome Valley below and then up to the high mountains of the Gore Range. From this distance it was obvious why early settlers, having trouble forging the creek, had appropriately chosen that name for the valley. Paul pointed out the window to the right and said, "That is where my great-grandparents lived." His ancestors had first homesteaded in Wray, Colorado before moving to Grand County around the year nineteen hundred and eighteen to ranch up on the Gore Range.

They headed down the gravel road to the ten acres of land just purchased not far from his grandparent's property. "Legend has it," Paul continued, "that on a bright, summer morning, Henry rode up to the timberline above his cabin to cut down the last load of trees needed to build a barn.

"Clara, his wife, called after him, ?I will bring your lunch when the sun is high in the sky.'

"Early in the morning", Paul explained, "she cleaned the tiny cabin and prepared food by the light of a kerosene lamp. When the sun was almost straight above the cabin,

she dressed and left by horseback with lunch for her husband. When Clara reached the top of the ridge, she could see Henry preparing to fell the last tree. Excitedly she headed up a final hill and dismounted with the lunch in her right hand. Climbing quickly, Clara called to Henry distracting him from his chore.

 "Then suddenly from high atop the ridge above him," Paul added, "Henry heard the terrifying cry of a lone, grey wolf. The scream was shrill to his ears, and his heart stopped beating for a moment before he looked around to see that the tree had crashed instantly to the ground. All was silent on the mountain as he descended to find Clara dead beneath the branches of the tree with the lunch still in her right hand. It had happened so quickly that Henry never heard one sound escape from Clara's mouth. And even today as the morning sunlight outlines the evergreen trees on Elk Mountain, you can see the silhouette of a woman's face with her hair flying wild and free in the wind and her mouth open wide, crying out for help.

"They called him O'Grey", he added, "but they never saw or heard from that wolf again."

Life in Big Horn Park in the nineteen-eighties when they bought the land was still challenging; no electricity or running water was available to provide creature comforts to local inhabitants. Over the years, while a house was being built, they washed in a small stream of water that trickled down across the property from Monument Creek. Neighbors used kerosene lanterns to illuminate the night and gasoline generators to pump water from wells. Bears often tried to enter basements for food, and mountain lions crawled onto decks to devour small dogs or cats. Only one or two hardy families lived in Big Horn Park in those days through the long winters. Skis provided a way of escape in the event of a winter blizzard that often dumped snow deep enough to cover the tops of the three-wire fences.

          And then there was light. Paul flicked on a switch in the house and radiance encircled them, startling the cats and engulfing the room. That marked the beginning and the end of time; old ways faded and new, exciting possibilities emerged. It was almost Christmas of the year two thousand and two, and the first holiday up in Big Horn Park was beckoning. If not for the electric heat installed during the summer, the trip would have had to be postponed for another year. Only by chance can the mournful howl of a lone, grey wolf be heard today, but the cat cries of the fox emerging from a den can still awaken a soul at midnight in the summer or the yipping coyotes can be heard as they call to one another in the silent, winter night.  And the tracks of a lonely, mountain lion lopping across the hillside beside the cabin can occasionally be found in the snow. 

The experience quickens the heart and revives the spirit as the Jeep is loaded with suitcases and cats, and a turkey with all the trimmings. From Utah across the high, barren desert and up the winding Trough Road the old Jeep transports the family to fulfill the dreams of a lifetime. A slender sled is removed from the Jeep as the attached silver bells jingle. Supporting their bodies against the door, the man and woman grab their snowshoes to slip them on and tie the leather straps securely. Cats and turkey dinner are hauled through the pristine snow like times of old to the garage door. A blast of bitter cold air escapes from the house when the door is opened, chilling the bones, but the electric heat will melt away the cold air while they climb the low hill to inspect tracks left in the snow by tiny creatures.

Soon flickering lights from a fresh, Christmas tree on the second floor loft cast playful shadows across the living room below. In a small room above, two single beds snuggled against the outer walls are spread with warm comforters. All manner of toys, games, and bright objects decorate the room, awaiting a grandson's arrival. For the adults, the smell of the turkey and the taste of pumpkin pie revive childhood dreams of holiday celebrations of long ago. Laughter and pleasure emerges from the snug cabin and records are played on the old turntable chanting, "Silver bells, silver bells, soon it will be Christmas day".

        Thus begins a new life for them; not only can the family survive "up on the Troublesome" again like their ancestors from the shadowy past, but a livelihood can be earned. As summer arrives a light will flash, a screen will brighten, and online learning will occur as distance education courses will be provided to students in Maine and other states from a small cabin located over eight thousand feet above sea level in a remote, northern corner of Colorado.

A Walk's Excitement - Anniversary of September 1945
A Walk's Excitement - Anniversary of September 1945

Contributed by Vera "Stathos" Shay, Kremmling

Granby resident 1930-1945

I walk, walk here there and everywhere;

I walk alone down the hill

I see our beautiful red, white and blue

High on poles waving, waving proudly over town.

No, what is this!

Daddy's with me.  He said to me wait, wait I'm going with you.

This must be important.

Daddy never joins crowds and there is a big crowd.

It seems the whole town is gathering.

Everyone is so happy and excited

Some people are waving American flags.

There is music, cheering, singing and dancing.

Daddy has brought along with us one of his track railroad flares.

He is lighting it.

He before has only lit one of them for our family to celebrate on Fourth of July.

What is going on?

Now everything is quiet.

Then someone is shouting.

Japan has surrendered.  Japan has surrendered.

Now I know.

Hurray!  Hurry!  The war is over.

 

Christmas at Fraser
Christmas at Fraser

The lights dimmed; mothers had already found their seats after coming from the classrooms where they had put makeup on little children’s faces and checked their costumes to make sure angel wings and halos were secure and costumes were on right side round.  I was at the piano, music and script lined out. The gym was full to the brim, every seat taken, with folks lining the sides and back walls, for the whole town had turned out.  Early birds got the seats!  Christmas wasn’t Christmas in the Fraser Valley unless it included the program at Fraser School (now the Town Hall).   I began the overture and chatter stopped.   I had played for this event for ages, starting in 1958.  High school students were gone by then, moved to the new Union High School in Granby, but 7th and 8th graders were still there.  And in 1958, the first kindergartens in the district were established.   It was a time of excitement and anticipation, of fun, and of panic? Well, no, not panic, for the teachers were beautifully organized. 

The program was chosen during October. Each teacher had a specific job. For instance, Martha Vernon, the art teacher, did sets.  Helen Hurtgen was responsible for dialog.  Edith Hill did costumes.  Nancy Bowlby was in charge of the music.  Others coordinated the whole.  And I played the piano, with Nancy sometimes accompanying me on her violin.  

Mothers were asked to contribute sheets and any fabric they could spare.  Patterns and material for costumes went home to be sewn into various sizes and shapes -- angels, gingerbread men, knights or royalty.  In the gym, we stitched on finishing touches, bright patches to decorate jester outfits, townspeople, and such, while watching various groups practice. Bits of tinsel became crowns, tinfoil turned into wands, cheesecloth into wings.  Lace scraps and sequins added color and “class.”   The budget was extremely minimal at first, but over the years, more money was directed to Christmas programs.  Instead of old sheets, we could buy cotton fabrics, velveteens, sometimes satin.  One year I even stopped by a furrier’s in Denver and begged some fur scraps.  Were we uptown then!  We had fur trim around the necks, cuffs, and hems of the costumes for the prince, queen, and king.  

The day before the play, PTA mothers gathered in the gym to fill brown paper sacks with an apple, orange, nuts, and candies, provided by R. L. Cogdell from his grocery store.  

Every single child in school took part in the play, as a class, except for those with speaking parts, of course.  Fraser grew and grew, then as now. Soon the 7th and 8th grades moved to Granby.  Then the 6th graders went, but the 4th and 5th graders handled the leads neatly.  Our stories were usually simple Christmas tales, but sometimes we tackled ambitious efforts such as the Nutcracker Suite or a version of Gilbert and Sullivan.   The only children not included were the Jehovah Witness youngsters.  They couldn’t be in the play and they couldn’t come watch it either.  We all felt very sorry for them, because everyone had such a wonderful time.  Their teachers tried to give them special projects to entertain and interest them while they sat off in a corner or in their classrooms.   The plays always went well.  Tiny kindergartners came out onto the stage, to stand behind the colored lights.  They knew their song perfectly in practices, but I have to admit that a number of them usually stood silent, stunned by that mass of faces looking up at them.  No matter.  They were darling. “Hi, Mom,” some were sure to call. “Mom” beamed.  

There might be a glitch or two every year. For instance, little Diane was chosen to do the Arabian dance in Nutcracker Suite.  Her parents were dark, as she was, and she was slender as a dancer. Trouble was, she didn’t have an ounce of grace in her body at that stage of her life.  I thought Nancy Bowlby was going to have grey hair before she got that child moving properly.  But the night of the program, Diane looked like Anitra herself, doing her exotic dance.   One year the king jumped his cue and entered on stage.  His first words were, “Did I miss anything?”  The prince muttered, in an aside, “Yes, three pages!”  But the cast went on as if nothing had happened, while down at the piano I sat, flipping pages rapidly, trying to figure out where the dialog was now.  

Another year, our son James was to take part in a minuet.  “Uck!  I have to touch a girl?”  By the greatest good fortune, he broke his leg and got to be a guard at the palace door, standing at attention on crutches, while another boy took his place.  (I think he did that on purpose.)   Songs and parts were adapted to the talents of the students.  We had five boys once, who couldn’t talk, dance, sing -- anything.  So they wore monks’ costumes and filed on stage, supposedly singing a Christmas carol, but supported strongly by the cast present.   Another time, Twyla’s parents couldn’t come, so Miss Vernon took her home to get ready. Now, Twyla usually looked like a dirty ragamuffin, but after a bath and hair wash, she truly looked like the angel she portrayed.   For the finale, the entire school came on stage to sing a last carol, with the audience joining in.  Then Santa showed up to distribute the goodie sacks, and the great night was over.  Coming out into the quiet night was a wonderful feeling.  Sometimes we moved through drifts of new falling snow; sometimes the sky was filled with icy stars.  Gay lights showed in windows throughout town. 

We never talked much on the way home, as we thought of the play, the success of everyone¹s efforts, and how happy the children had made their parents and families.   My last program was the first year after the new school was built.  It was fun still, but the school population had grown enough that it was impossible for whole classes to participate as one. Things weren’t the same as they were in the little old school.

Christmas in the Mountains 1951
Christmas in the Mountains 1951

It was my first Christmas in the mountains. Not only that, but it was my first time to be part of a vacation in a cozy ski inn.  This was at Millers Idlewild Inn in Hideaway Park (now the town of Winter Park). I had been married only eight months. Dwight and I had worked hard, getting everything in order: ­clean beds, fresh spreads and curtains, floors shining and bathrooms sparkling.  The woodpile was full and food supplies ready.  Our plans for evenings were laid out too. Dwight would do movies. His brother Woodie would call square dances, with former Moffat Road engineer George Shryer accompanying on the fiddle and his wife, Grace, chording on the piano.  Tom Smith would bring his sled and team of horses, to take happy folks along snow-packed roads for sleigh rides, to the tune of jingling bells. Games were at hand, along with a fine supply of books on the shelves. We expected a wonderfully busy two weeks, which was a good thing, because it had been a long time since our last income, before Labor Day.

Family and friends were coming tomorrow to give a hand over the holiday, and then the fun would begin. As the first guests arrived, I stepped outside, and lifting my nose, I thought, "I smell snow!"  Great!  The area already had a pretty good covering, so that when people called and asked, "Is there snow yet?  Should we come on ahead?" we could gladly say, "Come." That night it snowed,­ 12" of beautiful soft flakes.  Skiers were overjoyed. Dwight got out early to shovel, plow, pull people out of drifts, take others to Winter Park Ski Area, three miles away. That evening we heard that almost no stumps or rocks were evident on the slopes; all had been buried. The next night it snowed again ­ 12" of beautiful white stuff.  We were amazed.  But Dwight got out early to shovel, plow, pull people out if drifts, and take others to the area.  The following night it snowed again, and every night for a week, it snowed, dumping heaps of snow on the whole valley.

Winter Park Ski Area, in those days, wasn't open on Christmas Day; the management wanted to let its employees have the day at home with their families.  So we took our guests to the top of Berthoud Pass; from there they could ski down Seven Mile Trail and we met them at the bottom.  The day after Christmas began the busiest days of all. Back then, many families didn't leave home until the 26th. This was fine, until the passes closed from heavy snows and avalanches. Then visitors, who had to leave, couldn't drive out, but people who were coming by train could still get in!  We had a problem.  The parking lot was jammed with rental cars.  Although some folks went ahead and left by train, many families stayed on.  The rooms were completely full and after all, newcomers were entitled to their reserved space. We had guests stashed all over the lounge, extras in the dorms, and extras in the cabins.  What a crowd it was. I hardly had time to think. 

I cleaned all morning, helped set tables and serve, did dishes, sometimes hauled skiers to or from the area, kept up with the office work, and joined in entertaining folks in the evenings. Thank heaven for family and friends!  There never was such a hectic week. But the Miller hospitality at Idlewild kept our visitors relaxed and happy. Truly, it was a jolly time, with tired skiers loafing in front of the fire, doing puzzles or playing games.  There was always a group playing canasta after dinner, in the dining room, and peals of laughter would pour forth when somebody won a great hand. At last New Year's Eve came and went. The rental cars had gone back to Denver.  The rooms were empty.  We were alone except for a couple of guests.  Making our path through the deep drifts, Dwight and I went home and flopped down on our own sofa.  I heaved a sigh, saying, "Well!  So that's what Christmas in the mountains is like.  I had o idea there would be so much snow."  Little did I know that for Christmas, 1952, we would still have the crowd of guests, but there would be hardly any snow until January!

Colorado Mountain Wild Flowers
Colorado Mountain Wild Flowers

A sight to behold
Not just a story to be told
A beauty of our own Grand County things
of the past of here and now

A sight that will forever last
Field, and fields everywhere down low
More growing the higher we go

Our beautiful Colorado mountain flowers
The prettiest of anywhere
All of those colors

Scattered among the trees
Swaying in the breeze
Yellow, purple, blue, pink and red

Tiny little heads
Names of them all I do not know
Just that here they grow
Making a wonderful show!

Oct 2006

Granby Then and Now
Granby Then and Now

Contributed by Vera "Stathos" Shay, Kremmling

Granby resident 1930-1945

 

I've just read

"Granby Then and Now"

What a great history

My little town, of way long ago

A tiny bit of that time

Was a part of mine

With me forever

Forget you never

I've kept up

I've kept in tact

This little girl that

Lived across the track

That railroader's little brat

I'm proud and happy to say

Was my home, in my childhood day.

 

Ida Laverne
Ida Laverne

"Ida Laverne: My Baby Sister" contributed by Vera Shay

One Grand Essay Contest, 2005

 

 

I didn't remember it at all

I was pretty small

It was the sixth of November

this I do remember

Daddy went a-far

traveling on his railroad motor-car

all the way to Fraser

and in good measure

Dr. Susie he brought back

riding down the railroad track

I think with them, that maybe

they brought us our baby

And that was you Ida LaVerne

now it's my turn

to say

Happy Birthday

 

John the Cat Man
John the Cat Man

Old John, the Cat Man, lived just below the red brick railroad station at Winter Park, in a small log cabin, perhaps 10’ x 12’.  He was Swedish, or maybe Norwegian.  His last name might have been Peterson or Pederson, Swenson or Svenson or Swanson, Larson, Olson, Wilson, or Erickson; all that is lost to history. John surely came into the country first, to work on the Moffat Tunnel.  Now, two decades later after the opening of the tunnel, he was mostly retired.  However, he was the official deliverer of the U.S. Mail to the Winter Park Post Office.  This was in the years between 1945 and 1949 or 1950.  

Each day, after the Yampa Valley Mail went through, John would trudge slowly up to the depot, pulling his toboggan behind him.  Entering the bare waiting room, he¹d stick his grey head and long grizzled beard in at the office window to say hello to Mr. Schaeffer, known as “Schaef” to everyone.

Sometimes Schaef was too busy to talk as he tap tap tapped out a message on the telegraph key.  Or he might be expecting one in; when he was ready to receive, he’d cry into the radio to the man on the other end, “Fire, Gridley!”  But if all was quiet, John and Schaef would talk about “³way back when,” their favorite subject. Soon the two of them would be laughing and cackling at incidents long gone.  Schaef was considered by many residents to be grouchy, but he wasn’t really; he was just old and tired.  He and his wife lived in a little apartment at the back of the station.  In the fall he put his car up on blocks and didn¹t take it down until spring. 

If they needed to go any place, they rode the train. The station was bare; only benches lined around the edges of the room, a schedule nailed to the wall, but it was warm, for there was a coal furnace in the basement below.  John liked to feel that nice heat coming out of the vent while he visited.   After loading the sacks of mail, John hauled the sled down the road, past the Ranger Station, to the Post Office, a small building placed between Adolph¹s Bar and the Idlewild Stage Stop.  Now came the opportunity for another visit, this time with the postmaster, Gertrude Allison, aka “Allie”. Allie ran the post office for years, long before and after there was a post office in Hideaway Park.  She knew everything that went on, and what she didn’t know, she made up. It was considered something of a sport by the locals to start a rumor at her post office one day and see how it had developed a few days later.  

John then moved slowly home, his body bent over with the weight of his years and hard work, to greet his cats.  Long ago, John had gotten a cat; well, two cats.  Then he had four, five, seven, ten.  His tiny home was chock full of cats!  And oh, did it stink.  The place reeked, inside and out.  Dwight asked him one time, “John, why do you have so many cats?”  And John answered, “Well, I yust don’t have the heart to kill them, and they yust keep coming!”    And that’s how John came to be known as “The Cat Man.”

Like Father Like Son
Like Father Like Son

The Wichita Millers lived in one of those lovely old homes, blessed with fine trees lining the streets, large shady yards, and an easy arrangement within, that made family or visitors feel welcome. Three stories and a basement allowed plenty of space for a family of six.  The roomy dining area looked out onto the grassy backyard and flower garden, but the windows were rather small.

About this time, the notion of picture windows came into being. C.D. thought about this for a spell; good idea!  I want more light and a view.  Following through on the idea, he fetched his sledge hammer one afternoon and with a mighty wallop, he broke through the dining room wall! Presto....a larger scene. It took a while to trim out the whole, but the end result was totally satisfying.

This "grab the bull by the horns" attitude was passed through to Dwight.  We had moved into a nice modular home in December 1979.  A few years later, we decided we needed a garage; the solution was to lift the house and build a lower floor beneath it.

Dwight, his Uncle Ed, and I drove to the ski area where some used oak railroad ties had been cast aside.  We gathered a large number of these (Have you ever tried hefting a tie?) and we hauled them home.  Dwight had four extra-powerful jacks that he'd used previously to lift houseboats down at Lake Powell.  After undoing all the foundation bolts, we started lifting, first one end, then another, building increasingly high cross-hatch type supports near each corner as we raised the house higher and higher.

We lived there the entire time this was going on and the house shook with our every step. By the grace of God, no huge winds came up during the whole process.  Each morning, Dwight disconnected the water and the sewer lines. Each evening, he reconnected everything.

When we were up about eight feet, Dwight and his uncle built stud walls and stood the first wall beneath one side of the house.  Would you believe that, thanks to the irregular ties, the house was skewed about six inches out of alignment?  Troubles.  Now what?

Dwight decided that he would take his CAT and carefully push the house back into line, readjusting the braces as he went.  That was the day I chose to go to Denver for supplies, knowing full well that when I returned, my piano and good china would be sitting in Ranch Creek.  But no.  When I got back, all four stud walls were securely in place and the upper floor was resting safely on top.  Was it the luck of dumb dumbs? Brilliance?  Who knows?

Well, in order to go downstairs, we had a fairly steep stairway.  We had looked at our various options for less steep stairs, but one would have ended up in the middle of the garage and the other would have had to start in our bedroom.  Not good choices.  Thus it was steep.  Somebody accused us of having the only carpeted ladder in the county.  It was also rather dark.

One Thanksgiving Day when the family was gathered round, Dwight got the brilliant idea to cut an opening in the upper section of the wall at the top of the stairs, to make it lighter.  The family agreed that this was a great idea and they were excited to see how this was accomplished.

Out came the skill saw, bursts of sawdust flew into my nice clean living room and onto my counters where I was trying to prepare a festive dinner.  I tried to shield the food from sawdust.  I tripped over the cord while setting the table. I scrambled over scrap wood trying to reach pans and dishes.

But the family loved it.  By supper time, a rough hole definitely brought more light, and amazingly, we were still married!

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Christmas at the Crawfords

Jimmy and Maggie Crawford settled in Hot Sulphur Springs in June of 1874.  They left their farm in Missouri with their three children, John not yet two, Logan 4 and Lulie 7 years old to begin a new life in Colorado. The one room cabin was built of round logs and had a sod roof.  In several places outside light could be seen between the logs. The floor was packed earth covered with elk skins which had a tendency to smell while drying out after a rain or melting snow.  The sod roof was far from water proof.  When the children came down with scarlet fever Jimmy promised to cover the roof with wood shingles and had gone to Billy Cozens' sawmill to make them.  Mr. Cozens was very helpful and even gave Jimmy a rusty iron stove to take back home.  Rusty or not, to Maggie it was like new.  She was most appreciative.  The shingles were carefully stacked by the cabin but never made it to the roof.

Jimmy carefully explored the area for suitable pasture land for his small cattle herd.  His explorations took him further and further to the west of Hot Sulphur Springs and as fall approached he became desperate to locate suitable grazing pasture before the snows.  Although Jimmy would return home every few weeks, the time in between his visits became longer and longer as he moved his cows to the west.  Maggie was faced with many hardships in his absence.  Ute Indians would quietly appear, seemingly from nowhere, and ask for food or as in one instance, ask to trade a pony for the little boy John which she of course adamantly refused.  Maggie was able to keep friendly relations with the Utes but never comfortable when they appeared.  The conversations were limited to jesters, hand language and a variety of facial expressions.

But this is a Christmas Story. To begin with, mountain men, prospectors and just plain loafers from Georgetown would stop by the Crawford's for a meal when they were in the area.  Maggie would never refuse them.  A few weeks before Christmas four prospectors enjoyed a well prepared venison stew with Maggie and the three children.  Lulie, the seven year old told the visitors how she was going to hang a stocking at the foot of the bed for Santa Claus to fill with toys and candy.  Her two brothers shook their heads in agreement.  Maggie said, "Lulie, I really don't think Santa Claus could find us way out here in Colorado!"  She knew there was nothing she had to fill the stockings except maybe some sugar candy which would likely be a disappointment for each of them.  Their Christmases in Missouri were memorable with presents, candies and fruit.   One of the four prospectors listened intently to Lulie as she described the Crawford's last Christmas in Missouri.  He had introduced himself as Charley Royer.  Charley was a 22 year old, recently from Kentucky now working in the silver mines near Georgetown. After a very satisfying lunch the men left and a heavy snow began to fall.

By Christmas Eve the snow was deep and drifts were high. The temperature dropped  below zero.  Although Jimmy had promised to be back for Christmas, Maggie thought the snow too deep for him to travel.  He had located what he called the perfect pasture far to the west and had made a land claim close to a bubbling sulphur spring.  He told Maggie it reminded him of the sounds steamboats made on the Missouri River and named his land claim, "Steamboat Springs."   Alone with the children, Maggie read the bible story of Christmas.  Before dropping off to sleep, Lulie said, "I know Santa Claus will find us, I just know he will!"  Maggie sadly shook her head.  Hours later, close to midnight, there was a gentle knock on the door.  Maggie cautiously opened the door hoping it would not invite trouble.  To her surprise it was the young Charley Royer.  He held out a gunny sack and said, "Mam, I've brought some oranges, hope they haven't froze, some candy and a few toys for the children.  Please tell them Santa Claus did know where they lived.  I remember how important Christmas was for me and I wish you and your family a Happy Christmas."  He turned and walked back into the darkness.  Charley Royer had come 60 miles from Georgetown in the bitter cold and heavy snow to make three little children happy on Christmas morning with oranges no less, in the middle of winter, toys and candy, a Christmas they would never forget. Jimmy made it home on Christmas day to add to the joy.  The following year and many years after the Crawfords had Christmas in a comfortable ranch house in a place called "Steamboat Springs."  As for what the future held for Charley Royer, well that's a story for another time.

Topic: Indians

Indians

There is a great deal of evidence of primitive cultures in what is now Grand County, but all seems to have been transient until the modern tribes arrived, probably around 1450. The Arapaho Tribe claimed the northern part of this region and were in frequent territorial dispute with the Ute Tribe, who were dominate in the Colorado Rockies. The Utes did not have “chiefs” in the sense of the organized Plains Indians.

There were five different tribal groupings in Colorado, and those in the Grand County area were known as the “White River Utes”. The Uncompahgre Utes lived in the southern area of the state, near the San Juan Mountains. Their spokesman to the white man was Ouray, and because of his knowledge of Spanish and some English, the federal negotiators designated him “Chief of All Utes”. Thus it was he, who in 1868 agreed that most of the land west of the 107th degree longitude (about one third of Colorado) would be a Ute Reservation “for all time”.

Ouray probably never knew the Utes of the northern region and they were never notified officially of this treaty. Suddenly, their favored hunting grounds of Middle Park, the healing waters of Hot Sulphur Springs, and much of the Front Range and Gore Range were opened to white settlement. Naturally there were tensions between the Utes and the white settlers and there are several well documented accounts of disputes in the area, including the killing of Tabernash, retaliatory strikes by the Utes, and the supposedly intentional burning of Middle Park by Colorow. Finally, there was an uprising in 1879, known as the Thornburg and White River Massacres, and the result was that the Utes were evacuated from almost all of their former reservation and driven to the Utah area in 1882.

Though much of the culture, knowledge and influence of the original Indian people has been lost to time, Ute and Arapaho names still grace many landmarks in Grand County.
 

Topic:

Dude Ranches

Article contributed by Gretchen Bergen

 

Starting in the late 1870s, ranchers took in guests to supplement their income during hard times. Early adventure-seekers from the East made the long rail journey to the wilds of Middle Park in search of big game and unspoiled mountain scenery.

 

With few accommodations available, travelers looked to frontier families for room and board. Ranchers soon discovered guests,
or "dudes" as they came to be known, would pay to fix fences, ride horses, work cattle and sleep in tents....sometimes for an entire summer! 
Entertainment was eventually incorporated into the guest experience.

 

Located on the stage stop between Georgetown and Hot Sulphur Springs, William Z. Cozens was the first rancher in Grand County to provide room and board to travelers starting as early as 1874. The Lehman and Sheriff families also ran well-known turn of the century dude ranches.

 

The years following World War I were the height of the dude ranch era. By the late 1950s, Granby had as many as ten guest ranches between Granby and Grand Lake with others scattered throughout the county. Today Grand County is still home to six dude ranches,
which attract visitors from all over the world for their western charm, high-quality accommodations, horseback riding programs and superb fly fishing.

Sources:
A Dude Ranch Is... 1874-1986.
Grand County Historical Association Journal, Volume VI, Number 1. June 1986. Grand County Historical Association

Topic: People

The Knight Ranch and Charles Lindbergh

In Grand County during the 1920's, you might have been lucky enough to have taken a plane ride over Grand Lake with Charles Lindbergh.  It may sound preposterous, but Gordon Spitzmiller and his father, Gus, were two of the many fortunate people who got private sightseeing tours over the Grand Lake area with Charles A. Lindbergh as tour guide.

In the early 1920's, the aviation industry was a brand new field open to the adventurers, the thrill seekers and the adventurous.  Charles Lindbergh was one of those men.  In the spring of 1926, Lindbergh had the dream of flying solo over the Atlantic Ocean, from New York to Paris nonstop.  He was a determined man and was resolved to be the first man to cross the Atlantic and win the Orteig Prize.

On May 22, 1919, Raymond Orteig of New York City offered a prize of $25,000 "to be awarded to the first aviator who shall cross the Atlantic in a land or water aircraft (heavier-than-air) from Paris or the shores of France to New York, or from New York to Paris or the shores of France, without stop."

Besides Lindbergh, there were four serious contenders for the Orteig prize, one of which was Commander Richard Byrd, the first man to reach the South Pole.  Lindbergh's courage and enthusiasm for such a flight were not enough; he needed financial backing.  Lindbergh found his financial answer in Harry H. Knight, a young aviator who could usually be found bumming around the Lambert Field in St. Louis.  This was the beginning of the Knight-Lindbergh partnership that would soon change the course of aviation history. 

After being denied any financial assistance by several of St. Louis's businessmen, Lindbergh made an appointment with knight at his brokerage office.  Knight, the president of the St. Louis Air Club, was fascinated with Lindbergh's plan and called his friend, Harold M. Bixby, president of the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce.  Bixby also displayed a strong interest in the obscure stunt flyer and mail pilot.  Together Knight and Bixby formed an organization called "the Spirit of St. Louis", which was dedicated to gathering funds for the flight.  More than $10,000 was needed in order to build a single engine plane and acquire the proper equipment.

Knight went to his father, Harry F. Knight, who was a major power in the realm of finance and an equal partner in the firm Dysart, Gamble & Knight Brokerage Company.  Like his son, the senior Knight was interested in the aviation field and backed every effort to make America conscious of airplane transportation.

Without the financial aid and moral support offered by the Knight family, Charles Lindbergh may not have been able to cross the Atlantic in 1927.  Lindbergh's gratitude to these two men never ebbed.  Lindbergh and, his famous wife Ann Morrow, came often to Grand County as guests of Harry F. Knight whose ranch encompassed 1,500 acres on the South Fork of the Colorado River.  The ranch today is covered by the waters of the Granby Reservoir.

Knight, a nature lover, spent much of his time at this ranch.  It was a haven for sportsmen and adventure seekers, and Lindbergh was a natural for these two categories.  One of the largest and best airstrips in the west was added to the Knight Ranch in order to accommodate the owner and his guests.  Besides the airstrip, the ranch boasted a miniature golf course, a 28 room estate, a private guest ?cabin", a good selection of livestock and an array of entertainment that would suit all.  It was a sanctuary for the affluent.

Local people were so enthused about the handsome aviator that they named a 12,000  ft. peak in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area (east of Granby) "Lindbergh Peak". However, during the 1930's the hero was honored by Adolph Hitler and Lindbergh made a speech favoring Nazism.  This lead to a fall from grace in the eyes of the public.  Even though Lindbergh changed his mind as World War II began, it was too late to regain his former popularity. The peak was renamed "Lone Eagle Peak" which was a nickname for the famous aviator.


After Harry F. Knight died of coronary thrombosis in 1933, his son, along with ranch manager Harry Moss, turned the ranch into a major breeding and beef cattle operation.  It continued as such until 1948, when the Knights were asked to sell it to the federal government or have it condemned to make way for the reservoir.  Moss bought out the cattle operation and most of the buildings were sold, but the colorful memories of the Knight ranch were buried in the depths of Granby Reservoir.

Topic: Railroads

Moffat Road

 

"I shall never forget it as long as I live. Nor do I ever expect to experience anything comparable to it again. Civilization had found its way across the mountains into Middle Park," reflected Mrs. Josephine Button in 1955 on her 91st birthday, as she recalled seeing smoke from the first Denver Northwestern and Pacific work-train on Rollins Pass, high above the Fraser Valley and Middle Park. Once those rails made it over the Continental Divide all the way to Hot Sulphur Springs, "changes came thick and fast." Many men, many dollars, many routes and many dreams tried to bring a railroad over the Continental Divide into Northwest Colorado, and the "Hill Route" over Rollins Pass that finally accomplished it a century ago has retained its allure ever since.

The Moffat Railroad built a cafeteria, telegraph station, living quarters for Moffat's "Hill Men" (as the railroad crews up there were known) and a fine hotel - all collectively called Corona Station. Soot-filled snow sheds protected over a mile of this windblown section of track. And where today silence is the most powerful sense, colorful locomotives pulled passenger and freight cars, filling the rare atmosphere with black smoke and mechanical clatter.

Decades of men's dreams lay behind the once massive snow shed that cut the bitter winds from the north and west, behind that fine hotel that offered some of the most spectacular scenery in America, behind the hopeful Town of Arrow nestled below tree-line ten or twelve miles west of Rollins Pass, and behind that first work-train that Josephine Button watched from her hay ranch along the Cottonwood Pass Wagon Road to Hot Sulphur Springs. Competent, often powerful, men in the 1860's through the 1890's filed surveys, graded road beds, and even began drilling before being stopped by severe storms that foiled the best laid plans or their inability to fund the ambitious projects.

Dreams to penetrate the high mountains along the Divide in central Colorado began when the Front Range was flooded with miners during the Gold Rush of 1859. Even before Colorado became a territory in 1861, Golden City, just west of Denver along Clear Creek, recognized its potential as a gateway to the rich mineral resources of mountain towns like Central City, Black Hawk, and Georgetown. Golden City's ambitions went beyond becoming a mountain transportation hub, believing that with the right incentives, enthusiasms, and leadership, its location supported a future as a national commerce center. 

Golden City certainly had men of vision, ambition, and wealth among its ranks. William Loveland and George Vest, both young and feverishly ambitious to see Golden City reach its potential, vigorously pursued their dreams for a powerful commercial center in Golden City. From Missouri River towns like Leavenworth in Eastern Kansas, leading town founders also recognized the benefits of linking their water and rail routes to the east with the resources of the west. Finally, as if destiny had demanded it, Edward L. Berthoud, a young civil engineer and surveyor with energy and ability, arrived in Golden City from Leavenworth in April of 1860 to unite the similar passions of leading citizens from both locations.

From 1861 until 1866, Berthoud, Loveland and Vest focused on bringing a direct transcontinental railroad route through Golden City. First, Edward Berthoud, along with Jim Bridger and a capable young cartographer named Redwood Fisher, blazed a trail across Berthoud Pass through Middle Park all the way to Salt Lake City. Returning to Golden City on May 28, 1861, Berthoud reported "a good wagon road could be ?quickly' built" from Denver to Salt Lake City over Berthoud Pass for about $100,000.00. According to the local hyperbole, a railroad would surely follow.

In spite of considerable enthusiasm, disappointment plagued early efforts to put a rail line over the mountains in Colorado Territory. In 1862, Territorial Governor John Evans sent the Surveyor General for Colorado and Territories along Berthoud's route and others to confirm or deny the potential of a railroad line. About the same time, the Union Pacific Railroad Company sent an independent reconnaissance to examine potential routes over the divide that included Berthoud and Boulder Passes (Boulder Pass became Rollins Pass in the early 1870's, when John Quincy Adams Rollins built a toll road over it, and then Corona Pass when the Railroad crossed it). Surveyor General Case and the UP agreed that neither route offered much hope for a standard gauge railroad. The dream of a transcontinental line over the Continental Divide through central Colorado seemed to die with the UP surveyor's words, "I learned enough to satisfy myself that no railroad would - at least in our day - cross the mountains south of the Cache la Poudre..." 

Multiple failed attempts to bring a rail line over the Divide through Middle Park during the following decades strengthened the UP's "death sentence." Against the odds, Berthoud and Loveland continued to solicit support for a railroad west over or through the Continental Divide, using improved surveys and maps to support their requests. In the 1880's, survey crews from a variety of railway incorporations were scattered over the high country on or near Rollins Pass. Over Berthoud, Rollins and other passes, they marked potential railroad lines with their wooden stakes. It was during this stretch of strenuous surveying activity that David Moffat, a highly successful Denver capitalist, got involved with an unsuccessful effort to bring through the mountains instead of over the top. 

 In the early 1880's, Mr. Moffat invested in the Denver, Utah and Pacific Railroad, which intended to tunnel through the mountains near Rollins Pass. Like the other efforts, though, the Denver, Utah and Pacific vanished in a few short years. Unlike many other lines that accomplished little more than surveys and maps, the DU&PRR completed significant grading and began tunneling before reaching the "end of its resources."

Money, power and success supported Moffat's dream to put Denver on a direct transcontinental railroad line. Doctor Robert C. Black, III, wrote that David Moffat's failed efforts in the early 1880's converted him to the idea that Denver needed to be on a direct transcontinental rail line. Moffat considered the route over Rollins Pass valuable enough to have surveying and grading crews working on it throughout the winter in 1902. The Denver Rocky Mountain News claimed that Moffat's route through Northwestern Colorado included "the largest strip of fertile land as yet undeveloped in the United States..." With his Denver, Northwestern and Pacific Railroad, David Moffat planned to make good his intentions to put Denver on direct transcontinental railroad line.

Moffat's original plan called for the "Hill Route" over Corona Pass ? the name changed from Rollins Pass in honor of Corona Station at the top ? to last for only a few short years. While the "temporary" route over the top generated resources by extracting the resources of Northwestern Colorado, a tunnel was to be bored through the Continental Divide. Even the wealth and power of Moffat, though, failed to adequately finance the tunnel before he died in 1911. The temporary line, therefore, lasted for nearly of a quarter century, from 1904 until 1928.

Its obstacles proved as enormous as the mountains it crossed. Work crews had to cease operations because of snow for most of April in 1920. The road was closed from late January until May in 1921. In December of 1924, engine number 210 busted "a main reservoir pipe," causing the train to fly down the hill out of control until it jumped the tracks and crashed into the valley below. Clearly, the Denver and Salt Lake Railroad, which took over Moffat's DNW&P after his death, needed a tunnel to replace the expensive effort over the "Devil's Backbone."

 As Denver and Salt Lake Locomotive Number 120 came through the tunnel in early 1928, it represented the culmination of a massive undertaking through wet, unstable rocks which required considerable engineering ingenuity and caused six deaths in a 1926 cave-in. It also took an enormous amount of coordination and effort to secure the necessary funding. Through local bond issues, private investors and other means, the project was completed. And through a connection at Dotsero, a railroad station less than 30 minutes west of Vail on I-70, freight and passengers could make a direct Pacific connection from Denver. Posthumously, David Moffat's dream became a reality.

For significant periods of time since the trains stopped operations over Rollins Pass in the late 1920's with the opening of the Moffat Tunnel, on-road vehicles crept along its relatively easy grades and wide curves from Rollinsville on the east slope to Winter Park on the west side of the Divide. Like now, the road ran through an area attractive to backcountry campers and sport enthusiasts. On September 1, 1956, local officials and private citizens met on Rollins Pass to celebrate a "joint state-federal-county project to convert the old D. & S. L. railroad right of way over Corona Pass into an access road for sportsmen." According to the Denver Post, the game and fish department's construction division reconstructed the road during the summer of 1955 for about $20,000. The following year, the road became a scenic route over the Continental Divide for family cars and jeep caravans alike. And after it was built, or at least reconstructed, they did come. Intrepid tourists into Middle Park.

Topic: Water

Water from the Mountains - The Grand Ditch

 Though few, high altitude water ditches have had a major impact on Grand County's history and economy, there were many early valley ditches transporting this precious commodity from water-right sources to the owner's ranch. However, the threat of transporting great volumes of water from our county to Boulder County via high altitude ditches appeared back in 1889.  Certain interests east of the Divide talked the Legislature into appropriating $25,000, for surveying and developing a 20-mile-long canal over South Boulder Pass to South Boulder Creek.  Amazingly, neither Grand County residents nor very many others opposed this notion.  Luckily the state engineer found the terrain so difficult that not even $2000 was ever spent on the project.


The next effort occurred also in 1889.  This privately financed plan was to develop a two-branched canal system that would move 700 second feet of water to a half-mile tunnel just beneath Berthoud Pass at over 11,000 feet, thence down to Clear Creek and on to the Golden area.  Initial surveys were begun that fall and roads laid out the following year.  The effort bogged down but was resurrected in 1900 under the Agricultural Ditch Co., supplemented in 1902 with the Berthoud Canal Co.  The canal was partially completed by the Frank Church family ranching interests of Jefferson County by 1906.  The ditch, which can be walked today, runs from Second Creek to Berthoud Pass, though it no longer carries much water.  However, the Church Ditch water rights coming from Clear Creek still exist and today are owned by Northglenn.

Proposed in 1890 by the Water Supply and Storage Company of Fort Collins, a greater canal was to be built 1000 feet above the Kawuneeche Valley, that would tap the high tributaries of the North Fork of the Grand River, sending the water over Poudre Pass to a reservoir and then into the Cache La Poudre River and on to agricultural areas east of the Front Range.  The water company, later known as the Grand River Ditch Company, appropriated 525 second feet at the time of the initial diversion in 1892.  (When the Grand River was renamed the Colorado River in 1921, the company was changed to the Grand Valley Irrigation Company.)  The ditch was dug by hand, primarily by Japanese and Mexican laborers.  By 1900, water was flowing eastward.  

By 1906, this major canal, known as the Grand Ditch, and draining water from the Never Summer Range, had a capacity of nearly 358 second feet with 12 headgates within 8 miles, running from Baker Creek to the pass at 10,179 feet, plus a smaller canal carrying 183 second feet within 11 miles, coming from Specimen Mountain.  In 1936, using machinery, the ditch was lengthened to 14 miles.  The Grand Ditch is about 20 feet wide and 6 feet deep, though the water is rarely more than 3 feet deep, and this water irrigates some 40,000 acres in Weld and Larimer counties.&gt>

The National Park Service has argued against the allocation of all this water to the canal as it is needed to support plant life and animal habitat.  Becuase river water flow was cut in half, the immediate effect was a reduction in the fish population in the Colorado River.  More recently, a major washout in the ditch caused devastating damage to the slopes below the ditch and to the Colorado River itself.  Hikers climbing up from the valley use the Grand Ditch as a route to the high peaks and lake.  But as viewed from below, the Grand Ditch is often considered an ugly scar on the landscape.

Smiths of the Blue River

Frank John Smith was born October 5, 1852 in Granby, New York.  He married Elizabeth Olive Sanders, who was born in 1860 in Hannibal, New York.  They were married in 1878 in Hannibal and had two children Albert and Lelah.  Albert died as an infant in 1881.  In 1880 Frank homesteaded his ranch close to the Blue River and sent for his wife and baby daughter who came West by train to Dillon in the spring of 1883.

They had 10 more children, all born at the Smith Ranch, between 1884 and 1907.  As the boys grew into young men, they homesteaded additional acreage around the ranch.  The youngest son, Earl, operated the Smith Ranch until 1958, when it was sold to Ted Orr Sr. His son, Ted Orr Jr. and his wife, Virginia Smith (granddaughter of Frank and Elizabeth) operated the ranch until 1967, when it was sold to the Berger brothers.    

Topic:

Regions

Grand County has a stunning variety of terrain, landscapes and distinctive regions.  The county encompasses 1869 square miles with almost 68% of the land is managed by the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management or the National Park Service. The Continental Divide marks the northern and western boundary of the county and the county is also the headwaters of the Colorado River.  Regions have been established by proximity to water sources (The Troublesome, The Muddy, The Blue, and Three Lakes) or by their geographic features (Middle Park, Church Park, and the Fraser Valley).

Topic:

Zane Grey

Article contributed by students of Joe Kelly's Senior History Class

 

Zane Grey was one of, if not the most famous western writer of his time. He spent his life traveling the world and writing until his death. Some of his midlife years were spent in Kremmling, Colorado, and other parts of Grand County, where it is said he produced his best-known book Riders of the Purple Sage. His adventures and experiences shaped his literature into the wonderful western classics that we still enjoy today.

 

Pearl John Gray was born to Lewis M. Gray, a dentist, and his wife, Alice Josephine Zane, on October 1872 in Zanesville, Ohio. Pearl changed his name to Zane soon after his family changed the spelling of their last name. During his childhood, Zane bore much interest in baseball, fishing, and writing, as well as taking part in a few violent brawls. A severe financial setback caused Grey's father to start a new dentistry in Columbus, Ohio in 1889. While helping his father, Zane, who had learned basic dental procedures, made rural house calls as an unlicensed teenage dentist.

 

Grey attended the University of Pennsylvania on a baseball scholarship, where he studied dentistry practices. The Ivy League was an excellent training ground for future pro baseball players. Zane was a solid hitter and a pitcher with a deadly curveball, but when the distance from mound to plate was lengthened in 1894, his pitching suffered and he was sent to the outfield, dabbling in all three positions. Grey eventually went on to play minor league baseball, even without his pitching.

 

Grey got his first taste of the West while on his honeymoon, and although amazed, he felt unready to use it in his novels. Grey later took a mountain lion hunting trip on the rim of the Grand Canyon. There, Grey gained the confidence and authenticity to write convincingly about the West, its characters, and its landscape. Treacherous river crossings, unpredictable beasts, bone chilling cold, searing heat, parching thirst, bad water, irascible tempers, and heroic cooperation all became very real to him throughout his travels.

 

Zane wrote his first western just after the birth of his first child. Soon after, Grey produced his best-known book, Riders of the Purple Sage. These two books sent his career into the western genre, writing classic tales of "conquering the Wild West". Zane Grey was the author of over 90 books and many of them became bestsellers.

 

Zane Grey made a comfortable fortune through the sale of his novels. Almost all of his books were based on his own experiences and travels. Around half of the year was used for traveling, and the second half of the year was used to put this valuable time and experiences into his next novel. Some of that time was spent in Grand County and Grey owned a home in Kremmling.

 

Grey indulged his interest in fishing with visits to Australia and New Zealand. He first visited in 1926 and caught several large fish, with the most impressive being a mako shark. Grey established a base at Otehei Bay Lodge on Urupukapuka Island. This hotspot became a magnet for the rich and famous, as well as avid fishermen. He held numerous world records during this time and invented the teaser, a hookless bait that is still used today to attract fish.

 

Zane Grey lived a wonderful life full of very real and fictitious adventures. While enjoying his later years, he died of heart failure on October 23, 1939 at his home in Altadena, California.

 

References:  Thomas H. Pauley, Zane Grey: His Life His Adventures His Women, 2005, Chicago, University of Illinois Press; http://www.zanegreyinc.com/; http://www.zgws.org/; http://www.zanegreyinc.com/zgworks.html

 

Topic: Biographies

William Byers

Article contributed by Abbott Fay

Born in Ohio in 1831, William Byers became a surveyor in Iowa, Nebraska, Oregon and Washington during the 1850's.  He described himself later as "a mountain tramp". In 1859, he hauled a printing press to the new town of Denver, where he founded the Rocky Mountain News. He also served as postmaster of the settlement.

He was enthusiastic about the mining prospects of Colorado, and wrote endless editorials about the wealth to be found in the mountains to the West.  However, many disappointed prospectors took to referring to Byers newspaper as the "Rocky Mountain Liar".  Among his promotions was the idea that the South Platte River could be made navigable. That vision never became reality due to the size of the river. He wrote inflammatory articles against Indians which contributed to the infamous Sand Creek Massacre, a slaughter of peaceful natives by Colorado militia in 1864.

Fascinated by the co-called "boiling springs" in Middle Park, Byers managed to obtain rudimentary land titles from Indian claimants and promoters to establish the town of Hot Sulphur Springs in 1863.

Byers developed Hot Sulphur Springs into what was probably Colorado's first resort town.  He also tried to grow grapes and other commercial garden crops in Grand County, with little or no success.  He invested in sawmills and was part owner with William Cozens of the Hilry Harry & Company "Brand H" ranch.

In 1901, at the age of 70, Byers undertook the ascent of the peak which had been named for him by the official Hayden survey.  The next year he donated land for the Grand County Courthouse in Hot Sulphur Springs

William Byers died in 1903.  His fame is preserved in the names of Byers Canyon, Byers Peak and the town of Byers. He was one of the founders of the Colorado Historical Society, which owns the Byers-Evans House, a historical museum in Denver.  There is a stained glass window of his portrait in the Colorado State Capitol building.

Sources: Don and Jean Griswold, Colorado's Century of Cities, Denver CO 1958.

Thomas J. Noel, The Colorado Almanac, Portland, OR 2001

Samuel Bowles, The Switzerland of America, Springfield, MA, 1869

Robert C. Black, Island in Rockies, Boulder CO, 1968

Lulita Pritchett, Maggie By My Side, Steamboat Springs CO, 1976

Dougall MacDonald, Long's Peak: Colorado's Favorite Fourteener, Englewood CO, 2004

Carl Ubbelokdre, Maxine Benson and Duane Smith, A Colorado History, Boulder CO 1972

Alice Reich and Thomas Steel, Fraser Haps and Mishaps, Denver CO  1990 

 

Stories and Poems of Past Memories