Generations
Vonna Dalton
by Laura Haley
Contributing Writer
Apr 24, 2014 | 710 views | 0 0 comments | 30 30 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Vonna Dalton and her great-granddaughter Kendall Dalton, 3, pose for a photo. Photo by Laura Haley
Vonna Dalton and her great-granddaughter Kendall Dalton, 3, pose for a photo. Photo by Laura Haley
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To most people, Cisco, Utah, is a ghost town. The rundown buildings and abandoned vehicles are just a reminder of the small town that once served as a saloon and watering stop for the railroad.

But Vonna Dalton remembers a Cisco where she raised babies, once set her kitchen on fire, and made a life during some of her first years of marriage.

Dalton’s family lived in Gateway, Colo., when she was born. As the daughter of a cattle rancher, she and her family moved frequently.

“We moved around a lot to put the cattle on grazing,” she said, adding that the family spent every summer with the cattle in the La Sal Mountains.

That’s how she met her husband, Ralph Dalton.

“Ralph was feeding 350 head of cattle up on the mountains,” she said. He was 17, and she was only 14 when Vonna’s brother invited Ralph to a dance in Gateway and introduced the two.

Not long after, Dalton’s family moved to La Sal and bought a ranch, which made it easier for the pair to see each other.

“We went together for two years,” she said. “Ralph rode across the mountain to see me every two or three weeks.”

At the time, neither had access to a car, so when Vonna and Ralph married a week after she turned 16, they borrowed a car from a friend. The couple were married in Moab and Vonna said she wore a baby blue dress that she paid $7.50 for and a pair of black patent leather shoes that cost $3.50.

After the wedding, the couple settled on the ranch that Ralph Dalton’s family owned. “I was only 16, but I thought I had to take over all the women’s work,” Vonna said. While her husband and father-in-law took care of the cows, Dalton did all the cooking and cleaning.

When Ralph Dalton got a job delivering the mail from Cisco to Castleton, the couple moved to a ranch near Dewey Bridge, northeast of Moab. Dalton said it wasn’t unusual for her to go three or four months without seeing another woman while they lived there.

The couple lived in a 10-foot by 10-foot, one-bedroom cabin with a dirt floor and roof.

“We had one little dresser in the corner and a woodstove for cooking on,” she said. “When we wanted to sit somewhere, we sat on the bed.”

Eventually, the couple moved to Cisco so they could be closer to Ralph Dalton’s job. “We had a lot of neighbors,” Dalton said. “There was a mixture of everything, but everyone was really nice.”

Once a month, Dalton said the people in Cisco would hold a dance in the empty hotel that stood in town. The town also had a general store, and when he wasn’t driving a truck, Ralph Dalton helped work the bar in the saloon. At the time, Ralph’s trucking job was paying $70 a month during the summer, when he could make two trips, and $36 a month in the winter because he only made one run. The couple paid $5 a month in rent for their small cabin.

One day, Vonna nearly met with disaster after attempting to make wax for her wooden floors.

“The wax was made of paraffin and gasoline,” she said.

The paraffin and gas were on the stove heating up when Dalton took the baby into the back bedroom, just in case something happened. When she returned, the entire kitchen was engulfed in flames.

“I still don’t know how I put it out,” she said.

At one point, Ralph decided he was going to build a house.

“I asked him how he was going to build a house. He didn’t have any money,” Dalton said. “He told me he didn’t need money.”

He spent most of a summer using big rocks and railroad ties to build a house. But when it came time to build a roof, he hit a snag.

“He told me he couldn’t finish it because he didn’t have any money to build a roof,” she said.

As the couple discussed selling the building, a neighbor overheard and asked how much they wanted for it.

“Ralph asked how much money he had. He said he had $18, so Ralph sold the house for $18,” she said.

The lived in Cisco for almost six years before moving to Moab in the early 1940s. Ralph got a job hauling ore for the local mines, and Vonna went to work for uranium king Charlie Steen.

“He had eight offices and 11 motel rooms out back for the drillers to stay in,” she said. “I washed the clothes, cleaned the rooms and changed the sheets.”

Vonna and Ralph eventually moved into a house on Rosetree Lane on Moab’s east side.

“I’ve been here for 30 years,” she said.

Vonna and Ralph raised five children together, and she said at her last count, she had over 80 descendants.

“I had a lot of excitement and a lot of good memories,” she said. “The bad ones I don’t dwell on.”

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