Lois and Gale Norman on Sunday at their home in Craig. Gale's family has been in the area since the 1920s.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Lois and Gale Norman on Sunday at their home in Craig. Gale's family has been in the area since the 1920s.

They called it 'proving'

Reflections on a family homesteading in Northwest Colorado



100 Years in the Making

Saed Tayyara speaks about what he loves about America

Saed Tayyara speaks about what he loves about America

December 1922.

The winter is harsh, and Howard and Emily Norman are carrying precious cargo.

They are piloting a sled - carrying their newborn son, Gale Norman - to their homestead about 48 miles northwest of Craig to what was known then as the Great Divide.

Upon arriving at their small house - which had previously been built - life as a homesteader begins.

Homesteading is not an easy task.

Harsh winters and remote land don't provide much of a comfort space.

But the Norman family makes it work, putting on blankets to stay warm during the cold winters.

The gathering area was in the kitchen, where a cooking fire was always burning, and they read at night by kerosene lamp.

Homesteading was about more than braving the climate. It was about land.

There was no cash payment for the soil under their feet.

Simply put - to homestead, you must fence in the 320-acre plot and farm 40 acres of it. And after you've lived there three years, it becomes yours.

They called it "proving."

April 2008.

Gale and his wife, Lois, sit on their living room couch at their house, which sits on the north end of Craig.

They have been married for almost 64 years.

Their four children, Margaret, Marie, Ruth and Richard, still live in Craig and attend the same church that Gale and Lois met at all those years ago.

The family has grown to include another 12 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

Their roots remain strong in Moffat County.

Gale sifts through old photos and points to a map of the area where his homestead laid.

He talks about how the schoolhouse moved according to where the children who attended lived that year.

He talks about the area postmen who also kept a supply store, which carried milk, cured meats and other small items.

He talks about how he and his brother, Forrest "Bud," would visit their closest neighbor - a man by the name of Allen Bochemeul - who had a subscription to The Denver Post, so they could read the "funnies."

He laughs about the shingles on Bochemeul's house, made out of used cans of milk that were flattened.

"You'd do anything you could," Gale said.

He picks out the pictures of the horses, pigs, cows and chickens the family owned, mom's large garden, and one of his father transporting sour cream, which is how the family made the largest bulk of their income.

For a "simpler" time, things seemed so busy.

In the end, it apparently has paid off.

Although the family sold its homestead and moved to Craig, Gale speaks about the time with a sense of pride.

"He owned the ground," Gale said of his father.


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