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  • Writer's pictureRichard A. Jones

A Few More Friends, Neighbors, and Acquaintances

Walking the Same Ground

10

“A Few More Friends, Neighbors, and Acquaintances”

Earl and Dortha (Dot) Cress ranched below the Pines Road and just South of Verdemont Road on the Hugg homestead (Earl’s maternal grandparents). Dot was a school teacher and Earl had the highest respect for her. He always told me that he considered himself blessed, by God, to have Dot for his lifelong companion.

The Hugg family came to the Valley in 1869, and the Cress family in 1879. Earl was born in 1906 and was in the first graduating class from Custer County High School’s “new” brick school house. Others in the class of 1924 included August (Augie) Menzel, and Annie Hansen. I didn’t have an early picture of Annie, but I’m including one of Earl and Augie. Those of you who knew them will have no trouble knowing which one is which. For those who didn’t know them, Earl is on the left.


Augie became the Custer County Judge and also the county undertaker. His funeral home was located a block off Main on the East side of 2nd Street. Augie’s grand daughters, Laura and Linda McIntosh, were students of mine.

After graduation, from Colorado State University, Earl Went west to Seattle to work for Boeing. He also worked on a trade ship to the orient. I think it was in the early 1930”s when he returned to the Valley to work the family ranch.

When I preached at the Methodist church, Dot and Earl usually sat on my right, near the back, behind Ruth Lange, across the aisle from Lawrence and Wilda Entz. Earl’s eyes were sometimes closed during the sermon, but I can vouch that he heard every word.

During the week, I would sometimes end up at the Cress home and Earl would share his opinions on what I had said the previous Sunday (as well as his ideas on a few other subjects). Earl was strong minded, strong willed, and we disagreed often, however, we remained good friends until he died when he was over 90 years old.

Earl was never concerned with maximum profit from the ranch, but only that he did his best, protected the land, and provided needed products for humanity. Earl understood and lived what Teddy Roosevelt once said, “One of the best gifts life has to offer is to work hard at work worth doing.”

When Dot and Earl moved to Canon City, they sold the last part of the ranch to James and Mabel Feree. They were Quakers form the east coast who lived, part time, in the county for twelve years. Both James and Mabel are gone now, but what a gracious couple they were!

They invited our family for supper every summer. Our boys, Jason and Jarod, were in elementary school then, and every time we went to their home James’ first question to them was always, “Well, boys, what did you learn today?” And they knew that he expected an answer.

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Harvey Rusk usually kept a spotting scope near the living room window just in case wildlife ventured into view. One evening, in late November 1977, when Barb and I were visiting, Harvey spotted a herd of elk on Sampson Ridge. This was before the Ute Mesa sub-division, and the old North Taylor road went straight up from the Pines Road through the Kennicut / Comstock ranch.

The winter of 1977-78 had the least recorded snowfall in over twenty five years, so the road would be passable—sort of. You see, the dictionary definition of a road reads, “a wide way leading from one place to another, usually with a specially prepared surface which vehicles can use.”

The only part of this definition that could be applied to the North Taylor Road, back then, was that it did lead from one place to another. It wasn’t wide, there was no specially prepared surface, and the road’s use was limited to those who were not very fond of their vehicles.

Even though Barb was eight months pregnant, all four of us jumped into Harvey’s pickup to get a closer look at the elk herd. Of course, this was back when we could all still jump into a pickup.

As we bounced from one boulder to the next, the thought crossed my mind that we might need to name our first-born either Taylor or Sampson in honor of his / her birthplace. However, we made it back to the ranch with no labor pains.

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When our first son actually was born, January 9,1978, we lived about fourteen miles from town. In those days, when the labor pains began, we called Dr. Karen Dolby and told her that we were on our way.

We picked up Dr. Dolby at her house on Highway 96 at about 2:00 A.M., drove to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Florence (now the Florence City Hall, and State Patrol Headquarters.), and welcomed Jason into the world at 5:30 A.M.

The rule was that when a baby was born that early in the morning, you had to take Dr. Karen out for breakfast before you went home. I don’t remember where we ate in Florence, but afterwards, we headed up the Hardscrabble. I dropped Karen off at her house, and since I was already awake anyway, I taught school that day.

I think that breakfast on me, in Florence was the only bill we ever received from Karen.

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A few months ago, Clara Reida, rancher, teacher, mentor, and long time friend, died in the old log house on Highway 96 (Singing Acres Ranch) where she had lived for almost 60 years.

I had the privilege of speaking at a memorial service for Clara that was held in the old high school gym. Since I have posted my words from that service on this blog, I won’t repeat myself.

However, I do want to mention that as we left the gym that morning, I told Barb, “If it had not been for the sad circumstances, this would have been fun.” I probably saw more people I knew than I see on the streets of Westcliffe in a month. It was so good to catch up with former (you noticed that I didn’t say old) students and friends.

Those present offered a greater tribute than I ever could. Some drove several hundred miles, and their presence bore witness to the influence that Clara had. A few weeks later, my son, Jarod asked me, “What do you think identified the life that Clara lived.” Without hesitation, I said, “her honesty, her care for the land, and her love for children. I think that these go a long way toward a life well-lived.

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B Long
B Long
26 jul 2023

Once heard an Augie Menzel story that if it's not true, it should be. Back before Karen Dolby or a medical clinic, Augie's hearse also functioned as an ambulance to get folks down to a hospital. One of the cowboys had a pretty bad horse wreck and was loaded unconscious into Augie's hearse. About halfway down the Hardscrabble the cowboy woke up and said, "hay Augie, is this the hearse or ambulance?"


When father told the story he used the name of the cowboy, but i have since forgotten.

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