An improbable tale about my life at The Rolling OM Ranch on Hay Creek in the Tarryall Valley, Colorado.
There have been detailed histories written about the old homestead ranches & families along the Tarryall Scenic Byway. As our homestead is off the beaten path in a box canyon beyond the Gold & Sprague Ranches it has remained a hidden gem. It is a good time to tell our unique story.
Unlike Isabella Bird in “A Ladies Life In The Rockies” I arrived not by horseback but by truck.
The meadow below Lionshead Rock was a solid frozen sheet of ice. Jim took a sudden right turn off the dirt road & spun wheelies. With a thirst for adventure & a passion for the outdoors Jim was never one to miss a thrill.
I fell deeply in love with Jim the moment I looked into his beautiful blue eyes. I fell hook, line & sinker. Jim had a calm grounded nature with a high energy core. His birthday was on the cusp between July-August, July 23, 1942, thus a Cancer/Leo personality. He was a passionate, loyal, dedicated person with a courageous heart, a deep thinker with deep, strong roots for home & place.
He loved animals & always had a Labrador by his side. When Shred died of old age he said “never again”. The loss was too much to bear.
Our menagerie included horses, mules, a pony & burro, goats, chickens, cats & cows run by neighbors in the meadow. When Jim was young he had a raccoon & crow & even babysat a monkey for a brief time
We took road trips over Independence Pass to Aspen to buy Appaloosa horses from Lou Wiley. Lou & Annette were old friends who had hired Jim for construction work. They had a motel. Lou was a very prolific sculptor. His large pieces are installed throughout Aspen. Later they bought an incredible property on the river towards Independence Pass where they had an aviary, barn, horses & a grand sculpture garden.
Jim often said he preferred dogs over people; playful, positive, dedicated, cheerful, sometimes obedient, always eager for an adventure, at your feet & by your side, running circles around you. Perfect for a Leo, the center of the Universe after all!
For me the Ranch was my nesting place, a heavenly refuge, a home sweet home on the range.
Our children were home birthed in the loft of the homestead log cabin. Miraculously they were both positive experiences with Jim at the helm. My family & friends said quiet prayers of relief when it all went well.
They were summer babies. Quintana was heralded not by a stork but by the sudden appearance of dozens of hummingbirds at the feeder inches from our open loft window. It was a flurry of energy, multiple flashes of iridescence & lots of chirping. It was a quintessential lifetime memory.
Q John, an August baby, was also born early on a bright sunny morning. At the moment of birth Jim was astounded to see the incredible resemblance to his father Malcom Craig Carpenter. If he had been standing I think he would have fallen to the floor in surprise. I managed to take a picture of Jim & Quintana looking very happy & just plain glowing with wonder.
Both children were healthy & the most beautiful ever.
I was just one of many other “Pioneer Women”. There were plenty of women who came before my time living the good life in the Tarryall.
EJ Sprague was a first class fly fisher woman on the Tarryall & mentor to Jim, The Spragues had a summer cabin & then built a home on Sand Creek. EJ & Marshall lived on Wood Avenue in Colorado Springs & north of Colorado Collage. Steve Sprague & Jim met at school & spent summers fishing in the Tarryall. EJ & Marsh traveled hours on jeep trails researching the many wonderful books Marsh wrote throughout his career.
Peggy Marshall was a dynamic force to be reckoned with! She was a neighbor, dancer & art philanthropist as well as the founder of Cheyenne Village, Inc,, The Villager Antiques & Collectibles Shop & co founded The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Tactile Gallery. A handicapped garden Peggy designed is in the Smithsonian Institutions Archives of American Gatdens. Jim built the garden in the backyard of Peggy’s little Yellow House on the north end in Colorado Springs. I have a framed photo from a Sunset magazine article.
Dorthy McClain a neighbor & friend from whom we bought the Crag Cabin. The original cabin was built by the Disney photographer Herb Crisler who filmed in Alaska & Colorado. Lois Crisler, his wife, did foundational research on wolves. They raised the wolves at the Crag Cabin. She authored Captive Wild: One Woman’s Adventures Living With Wolves. Https://www.encyclopedia.com/women/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/crisler-lois-1897-1971
Dorothy & Don built their home after years in the military traveling the world. They knew about Badger Flats which had an airstrip on the “Flats” used by the army for training. From the flats they gazed upon the Tarryall & discovered our corner of paradise.
They were famous for entertaining & loved to put on lavish exotic dinner parties for neighbors from the valley. Dorothy was formidable in stature & personality. There were always projects to be completed. With red hair & lipstick she commanded her grandchildren in road repairs & general maintenance. I have an indelible image of Dorothy, hands on hips, overseeing projects on the dirt roads which always seemed to “wash out”.
Gretchen & Walt Ford were the owners of the Tarryall Stagestop at the Matukat Road where the South Platte River & the Tarryall Creek meet. They lovingly restored their historic log cabin. Their grandson Steve inherited their properties & is our great friend. He is a full timer & lives the good life.
Midge Harbor was the author of “Tarryall Mountain & the Puma Hills, A History”. Midge had a column in the Fairplay Flume.
Friends Annette & Jim Quick had lots of advice about mountain living & encouraged us to put our kids in Lake George Elementary. Our daughter was one of 5 girls in the Kindergarten class taught by a teacher from Fairplay 3 times a week.
We eventually had to pack up & moved to Manitou Springs for 1st grade – 12th.
The Gilley family had a garage in Lake George. The family is the rock of the community. They were always friendly & willing to help out any time day or night going above & beyond at every turn of the wheel. They helped us move an entire log cabin, install & eventually remove our iconic Rolling OM windmill sign & hosted The Tractor Pull, summer bbq’s & Jim’s memorial luncheon. They are one of a kind. We miss Pat.
Looking back I could not have been more blessed. Life was a study in contrasts, the yin and yang of existence. Life was quintessential; harsh winters, sublime summers, iconic, rare light, ferocious mosquitoes, world class trout fisheries, big horn sheep habitat & iconic landscapes growing smoky quartz crystals, with unique rare fens & meadows to take your breath away.
It was tough lux to be sure. We were young & strong & life was an adventure. We were far from the maddening crowd. Days were spent raising kids, caring for livestock, gardening, hiking, fishing, swimming in the pond, cross country skiing, crystal hunting. star gazing, eating, reading & napping. How could I not mention wood runs & picnics in the Aspen groves? Riding horseback through a majestic Aspen grove is like a dream.
Town trips were for shopping, the laundry, dance class at Colorado Collage, coffee & dinners with good friends, Denver was fun. We stocked up on green coffee beans for home roasting, barrels of grains & beans, olives & a bamboo cask full of soy sauce.
Park County lies in the heart & soul of Colorado. Draw an X through Colorado to locate Tarryall. Our tributary, the Hay Creek feeds into the Tarryall Creek which meets the South Platte River. We are a Landscape Heritage Area. To the north lies Lost Creek Wilderness in the Tarryall Mountain range as seen looking west from the Denver International Airpot. Hankins Pass, a gateway to the vast South Park, can be viewed to the south looking past Lionshead Rock. Bison Peak was used by surveyors as a starting point to lay out the sections and townships of Park County. It is said the last Buffalo was killed here.
Further south & east lies Divide & Pikes Peak, the inspiration for the song America The Beautiful. It stands alone, a beacon seen for miles. To the west beyond South Park is the Collegiate Range, the Arkansas Valley, Independance Pass, Aspen & world famous Glenwood Springs. All stunningly beautiful & scenic.
Jim proposed with a gift of a family heirloom ring. On December 29, 1971 we put on our wedding finery to drive to Colorado Springs for a small civil ceremony. As we drove out the first gate we promptly got stuck in a snow drift. Jim shoveled us out, changed into dry clothes & off we went! After our ceremony we dined at the Broadmoor. Oops, no they turned us away as Jim did not have a tie. Just a silly fantasy. A few extra ties would come in handy. I think I will write a note for customer service.
Next spring we had a lovely garden wedding in Santa Cruz for family & friends hosted by a very generous family. They were so kind to open their beautiful home for the wedding party.
Jim loved being spontaneous. Overall no regrets!