Prather’s Pick: Recollections of life at Browns Park
This week’s column features another nonfiction book about life at Browns Park and Douglas Mountain. Art Gardner wrote down stories he had lived or heard about in the 1930s through the 1950s. That’s when he homesteaded in this part of Northwestern Colorado. His daughter, Norma Gardner Snow, contributed stories about her childhood.
From the introduction to the book, the reader learns about the homesteading laws and what the would-be landowners were required to do to secure their land. In this part of the book Gardner also wrote about the differences between the people who lived at Browns Park — the “lower country” — and those who lived in Craig and Steamboat Springs — the “upper country.” For example, the people in the lower country never locked their doors. There was an “open-door policy” at Browns Park.
If visitors arrived at someone’s home in the lower country, they were expected to stay the night. If they arrived when the homeowners were away, the visitors were supposed to go inside, cook supper, and go to bed. The next morning they cooked breakfast, washed the dishes, filled the wood box, left fire starters, emptied the water bucket and turned it upside down— and last, left a note. This would have been unheard of in the upper country.
According to Gardner, another example of how the people in the two parts of the county were different was that people in the Browns Park area weren’t in as much of a hurry. That’s because they did most of their work on horseback instead of on a tractor.
Gardner wrote that in 1932 he, his father, 11-year-old son, brother, and brother-in-law came to Moffat County to look for a homestead. Their destination was Greystone. They found a sign that read, “Greystone, Colorado, Population 1970, 100,000.” The population in 1932 was “three.” In 1978 it was “two.”
There is an index at the back of the book with a list of characters featured in the book. The reader may recognize some of them, such as Bassett, Blevins, Buffham, Steele, Krieger, Sheridan, Walker, and many, many more.
An example of just one of the stories in the book is “A Slick Character,” the story of Slick Roberts who worked for people in the Browns Park area. He couldn’t read, write, or count. As the story goes, one day a homesteader named Jess Taylor offered Slick a job. He told Slick he would give him room and board and $30 a month. Slick answered that he couldn’t work for less than $25 a month so that’s what Taylor paid him.
Norma Gardner Snow wrote her own stories which are found at the end of the book. Especially interesting is her account of “Growing Up on Douglas Mountain.”
There are lots of interesting “recollections” in the book, most of which can’t be found anywhere else.
The book, published by Lulu Publishing Company (2017) costs $35 in hardcover. You can find the book at the Museum of Northwest Colorado, in Craig.