My grand folks, Clarence and Elise Rogers, had left Idaho in the early 1920s, lived in Ouray, Colorado for nearly a decade, then moved to Thompsons, Utah in 1930.
By 1936 they had built a number of businesses along the new U.S. east-west highway 6 & 50. They worked very hard; 16-hour days were probably the norm. The prohibition on selling liquor had been repealed in 1933, so bootlegging was not such a hot business anymore. It didn’t matter though, as the Rogers bunch had plenty to keep busy with. The Depression was kind of winding down and their future was looking sort of rosy even though they had a tall stack of loans to pay off.
My grandpa knew how to lay down his work and take a break now and then. I’m not sure my grandma ever did. Grandpa had a good fishing buddy from Moab by the name of LaDue Williams, son of Dr. and Mrs. J. W. Williams, and brother of Mitch Williams. Grandpa Clarence and LaDue liked to go to Colorado camping and fishing when they got a chance. Their last trip made the local news and was reported in The Times-Independent as follows:
September 2nd, 1937 LaDue Williams, 30, of Moab, and Clarence W. Rogers, 37, of Thompsons received injuries in an automobile accident on Highway 50 near Whitewater, Colo., Monday evening, as a result of which they died at St. Mary’s hospital in Grand Junction several hours later. The accident occurred at about 7:15 Monday evening. Mr. Williams, who never regained consciousness after the crash, passed away at 11:30 Tuesday night and Mr. Rogers whose back was broken, died at 12:20 Wednesday.
The two men were en route to the mountains near Ouray, Colo., where they planned a two weeks’ fishing vacation. They had left Grand Junction Monday evening, planning to stay at Ouray that night. While descending a hill a short distance from Whitewater and about 10 miles from Grand Junction, the accident occurred. Tracks indicated a front tire blow out sent the car hurtling out of control at apparently high speed. The car turned over six times throwing the men out.
Somewhere in some drawer in some home of one of my family members is the handwritten letter I remember reading many years ago. My Grandma Elise wrote it to her four kids from the hospital in Grand Junction sometime after arriving there in the company of the Williams family from Moab. I remember it starting out thusly:
Then it said something like: I’m sorry to have to tell you that it looks like we are about to lose our Daddy…
Grandma had no choice but to knuckle down and deal with life. She was now the sole proprietor of several new businesses, had a ton of loans to pay off, and four kids ranging from the ages of 10 to 15. My dad said she would open the café at 6 in the morning and run it till 10 at night. In between customers she would clean hotel rooms and launder bedding. After closing time, she might spend her time making bed quilts from any clothing thrown away by her hotel customers. There was also an orchard to tend and a garden to weed.
Dishwater was carried to the trees and garden. Of course, all four kids had plenty of chores and they helped out all the time. Grandma used to tell the story of my Uncle Robert, as a youngster, standing on a box in the café washing dishes. A customer paid up and hollered toward the back saying, “Hey Bob, you get those dishes good and clean, you hear?” Then the young kid hollered back, “My names not Bob, It’s Lobert!” (He lisped.)
Grandma never gave up. She was known to all as Ma Rogers, and her cooking was revered far and wide. She paid off all her bills, put her kids through school, then bought a 1,000-acre ranch above Collbran, Colorado.
When World War II ended, she married a Collbran-area cowboy fresh home from Europe by the name of Allen Cadwell. She had a ranch and he knew how to run one. When my dad, Les, turned 18 he was the only one of the kids who had not already left the nest for greener pastures. Grandma Elise gave him the keys and the deeds, then moved away to Colorado with a little wild horse colt named Sonny in the back seat of her Chrysler.
The colt’s mother had been killed by a train, and some of the railroad hands told her about it. When grandma caught up with the little guy he was still near the dead mare and trying to suckle a knot on a telegraph pole. My grandma proceeded to put in another 30 years into her career as she and Grandpa Allen raised two or three hundred range cattle, four or five hundred acres of hay, and milked about 30 cows twice a day and every day. That ranch was a wonderful part of my summers as a kid. Grandpa Cadwell was a good guy and meant a lot to me, but I sure am sorry I never got to meet my real Grandpa Rogers.