I was most recently telling you about the Miller family who lived here in Thompson Springs for about 40 years, from the 1940s to the 1980s. Ted and Nana were like my other parents while I was growing up. Wonderful folks they were! I’ll never quit missing them.
I keep calling Mrs. Miller “Nana” though her name was really Lillian. I guess I better explain that. You see, way back, when I was about 4 years old, Lillian took me along to Grand Junction where we attended a movie at the grand old Mesa Theater.
It was “Peter Pan,” and oh my goodness, it was so-o-o-o good! The kids that Peter Pan flew off to Neverland with had a big old dog named Nana. I thought that big old cute dog looked ever so much like dear Lillian, so I renamed her Nana. It stuck for the rest of her life with all my siblings, and my parents as well, for that matter. A lot of other folks just called her Miller.
They say she was a stern justice of the peace and you better not get on her bad side. She had also become an RN before moving off to the various railroad section towns with Ted, so she was always the go-to gal when you needed local medical advice, or, had to have something bandaged up in a professional manner.
Nana worked for my folks at the Desert Moon Café for several years and at the Crescent Junction café for the Lang’s for quite a while. She was a wonderful baker, as well. Oh, what I’d give for a taste of her pies one more time. She sometimes added a caramel and walnut topping to an apple pie, but one time she got mixed up and poured the gooey stuff on a tart gooseberry pie by mistake. She was going to throw it out, but I got there just in time to save it and I fell in love with that concoction. I called it Sweet-n-Sour pie. Wow, was it good! I’ve not had a bite of anything like it for over 30 years, but I’ll never forget it.
Nana had grown up in the high country of Colorado. Breckenridge comes to mind. I remember parts of stories she told me before I had enough sense to pay attention properly. I can’t remember what her parents did for a living in those days. I believe her father died young. Probably during the flu epidemic of 1918.
I do remember her mother, Grandma Sando, was a telephone operator towards the end of her working career. I remember a fine old pedal-type organ that came west with Nana’s parents on a covered wagon in the 1880s. I believe the youngest son, Bruce, still has it. Nana and Grandma told me stories about skiing everywhere they needed to go in the Colorado wintertime. They said they would frequently ride the train to somewhere far off and then ski all the way back to where they’d started.
They talked about the huge old steam locomotive snowplow engines that powered way up into some of the most hellacious high country 100 or more years ago. Back then everyone depended on the train as the main source of motorized transportation and the railroads offered a lot of jobs for a lot of folks. I suppose Nana must have met Ted while they both were in one of the same section towns along the D&RG W line.
Nana did all the driving for the family until the kids grew up. Ted just wouldn’t have anything to do with it since the horrible accident back in Texas I mentioned in the last installment.
Grandma Sando lived to be 90-something. She resided in Denver for the last 30 or 40 years of her life. Since Ted worked for the railroad his family got free ride passes. When I was knee high Nana took me along a couple times to visit Grandma Sando and I still remember being so excited to travel through all those tunnels along the way. Especially while riding in the cool old California Zephyr’s “Vista Dome” cars.
I remember counting 47 tunnels once. The most impressive is the Moffat tunnel. It’s seven miles long and pretty dark and smoky for sure. Not too many locals take that train ride anymore, but it’s sure worth your time. Just ask me, as I just recently rode the train over to Denver myself, about 50 years ago. My how time flies. I do plan to take that ride again before long. My wife-ling, Brenda, has never been on a train. It’s time to remedy that situation.
Ted loved to go fishing and hunting. It was his passion. He joined a gang from here, including George Dutos, Jesse Gruver, Oscar Paxton, and others at their annual deer camp up on Andy’s Mesa. That was back in the ’50s and ’60s when there were lots of deer and plenty of big bucks. It must have been wonderful. Ted always had to catch a ride with the other guys as he didn’t drive, but he was never bashful about asking.
The pheasant hunt in Green River always began on the first Saturday in November. In those days it was every bit as important as the buck hunt to the folks around here. Ted would often hook up and ride over with my dad. My brother, Dana, and I tagged along every year even though it was taking forever for us to get old enough to have small game licenses.
Ted would generally bring his youngest son, Bruce, who was seven years older than me and was a nimrod in his own right by that time. We’d stop just a little ways up Long Street in Green River and buy a special permit for two dollars each. That allowed us to hunt on almost all the private ground up the river. It was wonderful. We had some good dogs, too. Sometimes we also hunted with the Pene family from here. Life was good!
I had to wait until I was 14 to get my first small game license. That was the law. Dana turned 12 the same year I turned 14 and during that very same year the Fish and Game department changed the rules to allow you to get a license at the age of 12. Boy that burned me up! #!%!#%!!
But I got over it and we had a fine hunt, with the Millers playing a memorable part. More on that later.