After marrying in Idaho, Clarence and Elise Rogers began a trip by horse and wagon down towards Arizona, but ended up in Ouray, Colorado instead. It was getting late in the year of 1921. One of Grandpa Clarence’s first jobs in the area seems to have been ranch work at Piedmont.
As time passed, he rented a small mountainside farm about three or four miles west of town where they were able to raise some hay, a commodity that was as important to them as gasoline is to us nowadays. They apparently stayed on that place for the next few years.
Grandpa Clarence leased a pool hall in the town of Ouray and Grandma Elise got herself a few milk cows. I don’t know if Grandpa made much money at the pool hall or not, but it’s likely he did OK as there were a lot of miners in the area. I do think Grandma did pretty well selling dairy products to the townsfolk and the miners. She was always very good at wringing the most out of things.
In December 1922, about a year after arriving in Ouray, the young Rogers couple was blessed with Clarence Jr., or “Bub” as he’s always been called by the family. He was the first of four children. About a year and a week after that in 1923 my Aunt Dawn was added to the family. Fourteen months later my Uncle Robert showed up. About a year and a half later, in October of 1927, my Dad, Lester, finally arrived to finish out the bunch.
I can’t help but think Ouray, Colorado had to have been a pretty interesting place to grow up. I think it’s still an awesome town with mind-blowing scenery. I look forward to getting back there every so often, even though it has become overrun with the touristo’s we all know so much about here in Grand County. In the 1920s, Ouray must have still been pretty dang real.
On the other hand, Ouray had to have been a serious challenge during a tough winter, or even an average one, most likely. In those days of wood heat and non-insulated houses, people knew more about true cold than most of us ever have these days. My dad used to tell us about getting chillblains every winter when he was a youngster. It’s a skin condition resulting in sores and bumps that occur after exposure to very cold temperatures.
Dad said it didn’t matter how many quilts you piled on because when it got way below zero you just couldn’t get warm.
After prohibition became the law of the land, Grandpa couldn’t sell alcohol in his pool hall anymore, but he apparently had no qualms about bootlegging it to his customers. Since he often delivered the milk Grandma’s cows were producing, he found it convenient to also deliver some hooch in milk bottles he’d painted white on the inside.
When someone, in later years, teased Grandma about her 100-proof milk bottles she just replied, “We had to make a living somehow.”
One time my dad’s oldest brother, Bub, was on his way to the day pasture to bring the cows home for the evening milking. He was only about six years old. Along the way he heard some cattle lowing from the wrong direction. Not realizing it was someone else’s cattle he went off in search and ended up lost. He spent a long cold night cuddled with his two dogs while the whole area turned out in search of him.
The next morning the dogs were probably feeling hungry too, so they led Bub back home. Bub also told of a time when he was a little kid that some federal revenuers cornered him somewhere on the ranch while his folks were gone. They had some little metal toy cars to bribe him with, promising the toys if he’d tell where his dad hid the hooch.
Bub said he knew better, but those cars amounted to more than a few Christmas mornings, so he just told those old boys that they might take a look down a certain little trail that led into the trees. When Bub told that story about 60 years later, he still had the little cars, and he also mentioned that maybe Grandpa Clarence spent about six months in the Grand Junction Jail around about that same time. That is certainly something that Grandma never mentioned during my lifetime.
I’m sure there were a lot of things worth telling about what happened while the Rogers family lived in Ouray, Colorado, but it was all very old news by the time I started paying attention. I failed to ask enough questions when I had the opportunity and so lost my chance to tell them now.
I’ve been very lucky to have a lot of written material, mostly in the form of personal letters to share with you all in this column. Sadly, they are from the family members of other folks like the Ballards or the Harris family.
My Grandma Elise probably wrote two or three letters a week during most of her life, but they were not saved. Now and then one appears from some old box of junk, but they tend to be of day-to-day stuff from a later time than the Ouray years. That being the case, I have to skip telling very much about the Rogers family in the years 1922 through the rest of that decade.