Woman Learns to Stand on Her Own Two Feet on Colorado Homestead
From prairie dogs and rattlesnakes to working cattle, a Colorado homestead was no place for those of feeble spirit.
As a 20-year-old bride, I went to
live on a Ft.
Morgan, Colorado homestead. My
husband had filed claim to a 320-acre tract in 1909, a year before we were
married. He built a small 10-by-12-foot house there, and after I arrived, he
added a 12-by-14-foot half-dugout.
For two years after our baby
daughter was born, she and I stayed on the homestead while Bob worked on a
ranch. It was a large ranch with about 1,000 head of cattle and 500 horses. My
husband worked for $30 a month, and it was like getting blood from the
proverbial turnip to collect his wages from that tough, bewhiskered old
rancher. When Bob would ask for his monthly wages, Old Mike would exclaim,
"Hell, Laddie, why didn't you tell me you was goin' to need money so I
could've made provisions for it!" The old duffer was wealthy, but hated to
turn loose of a dime.
In his barn Old Mike kept three
saddle horses ready for riding. There was Trix, a beautiful white mare with a
gait as smooth as a rocking chair; Brownie, a horse that could shake your teeth
even when he was walking at a slow pace; and Mile-Hi, a long-legged sorrel that
could outdistance anything on the ranch. To be caught out after dark on the
fenceless prairie with Mile-Hi or Brownie could prove disastrous, for they
would travel in circles all night. But Trix would bring her rider home on the
darkest and stormiest nights. Her homing instinct was amazing.
Bob's brother worked on another
ranch during roundup time. The owner's wife did the roping; the men did the
branding. Few men could match her when it came to swinging a lariat. She was a
large woman, but attractive and feminine in spite of her size, and it was a
marvel to watch her working the calves, riding a large brown horse she had
The prairies were beautiful in
spring and early summer, with the green buffalo grass and the cacti with their
pink and white and yellow hollyhock-like blossoms. The cactus needles were
wickedly sharp and stiff as nails. You were no longer a tenderfoot when you had
learned to walk across the prairie without getting your shoes full of needles.
Everyone was advised to carry a
snake stick when walking on the prairie as diamondback rattlesnakes were numerous.
One day when I had forgotten my snake stick I met up with a rattlesnake. I took off
my shoe and killed it.