Fort Collins, Red Feather Lakes, Grace Creek and T-Bone Ranch and Shamrock Shorthorn Ranch, Colorado 1950s


My dad, John McClure, owned two ranches besides the home farm that he called the Shamrock Shorthorn Ranch. He raised a breed of cattle known as Shorthorns. They are what we showed at the livestock shows while we all were in 4-H. We always came away with blue and red ribbons. The showing of these cattle was a lot of work — they had to be shampooed (with DUZ “D. U. Z. does everything!” Soap.) Then we rinsed and rinsed-rubbed dried, then curry combed and combed and combed. I had a white Shorthorn and when I combed him his white hair would be wavy. Of course his name was, what else, “Whitey!” The sad side of the whole 4-H showing was they were sold for slaughter to the highest bidder. Usually to meat markets in our area.

Dad bought the Grace Creek and T-Bone Ranches after I was married. I have to rely on my brothers and sisters for the information about the ranches. There was a creek running through one of the ranches and Dad and Mom and anyone else that came along spent endless hours fishing for brookies (small trout). Mom would fry them up rolled in cornmeal, in the very hot skillet with bacon grease.

Our lake here in Alaska has small rainbows in it. I used to “con” anyone into catching me a few. I’d freeze them and then grandson Grey and I would have a special treat and we would eat “pish.” (Grey’s words when he was small.) He now catches the “big one” and runs up the hill to the house, cleans it and I fry it up for him — the way my Mom did, rolled in corn meal, but not fired in bacon grease, just vegetable oil.

My first recollection of Mom frying brookies was at Red Feather Lakes. Grandpa and Grandma Cogswell and Uncles, Les and Marvin and I think Aunt Ruth and Uncle Norman were all gathered around the table as mom fried brookies. I remember so well Grandpa Cogswell showing me how to take the whole backbone out of the fried fish, so you could eat the fish without worrying about swallowing bones.

One particular time at Red Feather Lakes when I was very young, my Grandpa got up to “go outdoors” in the middle of the night. He pushed his screen door open, which pushed a porcupine away. The little critter took exception and Grandpa ended up with quills in his leg. There was a great discussion about how you could get quills out of Grandpa’s leg. Dad did the Doctor work. I thought Grandpa was so brave not crying and my Dad was even braver being a Doctor in a crisis.

The following story is from my sister Elaine who now resides in LaSalle Colorado on a farm with her husband Ted.

The first year Ted and I were married (b.k. — before kids) we went to the Grace Creek Ranch with Mom and Dad so Ted could help repair some equipment at the ranch and at the T-bone. Dad found out that a neighboring ranch — not nearly as good as his, of course — had sold for $500 an acre. “That piece of junk brought $500 an acre!” he said over and over again. That night everyone was in bed and all was quiet, then from the next room we heard dad exclaim “$500 an acre!”

Another time we were up at the ranch, this time Amy was a baby. Mom and I were frying up a mess of brookies. Cowboy Red (Dad’s caretaker at the ranch) and his wife were in the trailer house next door. We heard a big “ka-boom!” We were still trying to figure out what it was when Cowboy Red came out of the trailer door and said to Dad: “Me and the War Department (what he called his wife) are going to town to get something to eat!” Turns out they had put a chicken in the gas oven but the pilot light went out. When Red opened the door and struck a match to light the oven again, the accumulated gas exploded and blew the oven door and the chicken across the room! Coulda’ kill the old guy!

— Thank you Elaine!

This is written by my brother Jim who lives in Colorado Springs with his wife Sandy.

Old Red was a constant source of amusement to Dad and Mom such as the time when he declared Mom’s fried chicken as “musty.” After sensing his pending demise at the hands of our kind and gentle Mother he added, “so durn good, I must-eat more!”

I distinctly remembered Dad, Red and I standing near the barn when he saw his wife coming down the lane. “Ought OH!” he declared, “Here comes the Grim Reaper!” Dad’s chuckles and guffaws came when he got a chance to retell his stories to people like the president of the First National Bank, Tom Gleason, or the lawyer, Gene Fischer or the CPA, Chuck Weible or any of the receptionists who would listen to him! His joy of telling jokes was as contagious as listening to them.

And finally, the time Dad got up for a midnight snack, got a plate and stepped on a way-ward grape lying on the floor. Thinking it was one of those big ugly spiders with the big butt; he dropped the plate on his big toe and let out a yell that scared Mom right out of bed. Dad ended up with black toenail a week later. He eventually lost the toe nail. Mom could not tell this story without laughing until tears poured down her face. One of the few stories she told on Dad!

— Thank you Jim!

And my sister Ginger adds:

I remember Red calling his wife the Grim Reaper. He’d say “I gotta go now the Grim Reaper is shaking her horns at me!” Then on the way out the door he would pickup the leftovers, like shriveled and wrinkled hotdogs from the counter and put them in his pocket. He would do the same with leftover pancakes. Mom, catching on, would always make extra and leave them on the counter!

— Thank you Ginger!

My brother John has many stories to tell. When I get him pinned down from his busy schedule — his daughter Sarah is recovering and has been declared cancer free after her 18 month battle with stage IV colon cancer. We praise God and thank all who said daily prayers.

AND FINALLY: For the brave souls who are battling the “jello-mud” problem right now, do not feel alone — we are too. The rain and snow last week and the melting snow banks, did not help the already muddy problems. Our yard is off limits to every one! I cannot complain too much because we now have a new water line replacing the old water system we had for 23 years. It was dug in October, when the frost was slightly in the ground. So the back fill and trench that was dug through the yard to the house, is now a huge mud bog full of jello mud. It is slowly firming up so we can get sand and gravel back in here. Bob has for years hauled gravel in by the pickup loads. It is wonderment where it goes. Every spring the mud replaces the gravel. It does not help that the soil is volcanic ash, fine dirt and some inlet mud. So just relaying the fact that after 46 years in Alaska, the ever present mud problem is a sign that spring will be here soon! My little friend, 4-year-old Lily, and I go for walks and she has a great time stomping through, in her words “the muddy puddles.” Of course they are!