The Beginning of Life as a Ranger Kid
In 2004, the National Forest Service celebrated its 100th anniversary. During that year, I received a call from a woman in the Regional Office, which was located in Ogden, Utah. She asked me if I was a “Ranger Kid.” I did not know what that term meant, so I asked her to define it for me. She said, “Oh, that is a kid that was raised on a ranger station in the National Forest.” That meant that Jared and I were “Ranger Kids.”
This is a photo taken from the view that you see as you enter the ranger station. I am the child who is pictured standing under the sign.
We were raised in the remote, breathtaking Manti-La Sal National Forest in southeastern Utah, where my father was the forest ranger. It’s an area that was made famous by the likes of John Wayne in numerous westerns and other Hollywood productions.
A few months before I was born, the U.S. Forest Service transferred my father from a ranger position in Duchesne, Utah, to another ranger district in Monticello, Utah. The name “Monticello” means “little mountain” in Italian. The town of Monticello was named in honor of President Thomas Jefferson’s estate. It became the county seat of San Juan County, Utah in 1895 and was incorporated as a city in 1910.
In December 1944 my parents, along with my older brothers, Neal and Jay, loaded a wild horse that Dad had tamed, along with some hay and our dog, Boot, into a trailer that they hooked to their old Model “A” Ford. They then headed to their new home in Monticello at the foot of the Blue Mountains. On the face of one of the Blue Mountains is a shape that resembles a horse’s head. That mountain is famous for its equine image.
At that time, people thought that their journey might be impossible. Now, more than a century later, farmers still plow the fields surrounding Monticello. Farmers turn their livestock out onto the area rangelands. When I was born in 1945, Monticello was a quintessential small western town. There were only about 1500 residents when I lived there. There was no hospital in Monticello. The only doctor was a physician who traveled between Blanding and Monticello in San Juan County. The county charged fifty dollars a year per family for his services. When the time came for me to make my grand entrance, Mother needed to be driven fifty miles north to Moab so I could be delivered in a hospital. On May 19, 1945, at 9:00 p.m, my mother gave birth to her one and only daughter.
Dr. Allen was the doctor who delivered me. When I was a few days old, my Dad and my brothers, Neal and Jay drove our Model A Ford to come and see me in the hospital. On the way to Moab, the car broke down and had to be towed. They had the car fixed and returned to Monticello.
My parents and brothers were all happy to have a baby girl. Before I was born, my mother had sewed several dresses for me and decorated them with embroidery. She also made a silk quilt and crocheted some cute sweaters. Nellie Clemens, our landlord’s sister from Duchesne, sent a beautiful silk embroidered dress that I wore when I was blessed in our church in July 1945. The Clemens were cousins of Mark Twain, whose real name was Samuel Clemens.
While we were in Duchesne, my Dad brought home a little wild colt. Our family raised it like a pet. When Mom hung my diapers on the clothesline, the colt chewed them, as if he were a goat.
When I was six weeks old, my family packed our camping gear and drove our Model A Ford to Monument Valley. “Darling Clementine,” a movie starring Victor Mature, was being filmed there. Previously, Victor Mature played Samson in the film, “Samson and Delilah.” My family watched the filming. We camped in Monument Valley all night and watched the Navajos bring their sheep in the morning to be included in the movie. The Navajo women were dressed in beautiful velvet dresses in bright colors.
On the way home, we went to the Goosenecks on the San Juan River. We didn’t stay long because Dad was afraid that Neal might fall off the cliffs because he was so unruly and adventuresome. We also stopped at Bluff, which is a town the early pioneers settled on the San Juan River.
Grandma Thomas came to see us that fall. We all went to Mesa Verde to see the cliff dwellings. That night we stayed in a lovely rustic motel in the park.
During the summer we went with my dad to stay in each of the Ranger Stations. These included Kigalia and Gooseberry stations on the Elk Ridge Mountains and the Indian Creek in the Blue mountains. They were beautiful places, especially Indian Creek.
When I was little, I had to have my pink blanket before I could go to sleep at night. One evening, my Dad took me for a walk. I had my blanket with me. When we returned home, I had somehow lost the blanket. Because it was almost dark, my parents tried to put me to bed without the blanket, but I cried so hard that my Dad took me outside and we found the pink blanket. As soon as I found it, I went right to sleep. When I was little, I loved to suck my thumb. My parents did everything they could to get me to quit this habit, but it wasn’t until my little brother, Jared was born, that I finally quit on my own.
Before Jared was born, my mother had to be careful not to lift anything. I woke up at night to go to the bathroom, Mother would help me out of the little iron baby bed that they had bought at a secondhand store. She recalled that my little feet padded on the floor to the bathroom and back to bed. At this time, I was only about 21 months old. Mom told me that I didn’t even complain about going to the bathroom by myself at night. Of course, she walked along behind me.
Our furnace heat came up from the floor through a large square opening. One morning, I climbed out of my bed. Then I walked to the front room and stepped on the hot iron heater. I screamed and just stood there until my mom rushed to get me. My feet were burned everywhere that the metal had touched them. My parents took me to the doctor, who bandaged my feet with thick bandages. Mom was afraid I wouldn’t be able to walk on my feet for a long time, but the doctor told her to let me walk if I wanted to. When my feet healed, there was no scar where the blisters had been.
While Dad was thrilled to welcome his only daughter, he often used to say he wasn’t quite sure of it because I was such a tomboy. Even as a toddler, I wore pants more often than dresses so I could play outside with my brothers, much to my mother’s dismay. It was a time when girls wore dresses most of the time. Mother had been looking forward to dressing her only little girl in dresses and frills. But when there was a whole world of wonder in the outdoors for me to discover alongside my brothers, what could she do about it?
I have four brothers. Neal (8 years older) and Jay (4 years older) are older. Jared is two years younger. I was thrilled when Jared was born on July 15, 1947. I took a great interest in him. Sometimes I used to slip his bottle out of his bed and finish the milk. Clyde is eight years younger than I am. He was born when I was in the second grade. Again, was so thrilled to have a baby brother. When my father broke the news of Clyde’s birth, I rode my bike to school in feverish excitement. One of our neighbors said she knew my mom had given birth to the baby, because, for once, my hair was not combed.