When I heard about the Artist-in-Residence program at Caribou Open Space, memories of summer days spent there flooded my mind. Those memories are from the brief time that Tom and Lynn Williams and their daughters Terrie and Lori lived at the Caribou Ranch, which is just outside Nederland, Colorado. Lori was my age, and Terrie was a year or two older.
The summer days I spent at the ranch with Lori are some of the happiest times I can remember. I’m not sure whether Lori and I met prior to kindergarten—we may well have—but by the summer of 1965 we were fast friends, as were our mothers. Mom and I were at the ranch often, if only to pick up milk. Lynn had milk cows, and we bought gallons of fresh milk thick with cream from her. It was often my job to hold the gallon jug as we bounced down Sugarloaf road on our way home.
I don’t remember exactly when the Williams family moved off the ranch and into Nederland, but it was sometime before 1969. So there were only three or four summers for me to soak up all those indelible memories of the ranch, but they have stayed with me for almost 50 years.
Terrie and Lori had their own horses and were very competent cowgirls. On any given day, a number of local girls would show up at the ranch, and we would roam the ranch on horseback. A couple of sandwiches and apples, and we were set for the day. Maybe we would throw in something to drink, although there were plenty of streams in which we could lie on our bellies and drink the clear, cold water. I didn’t hear of giardia until much later.
One such day some of us girls were hot and tired from riding around the ranch, so we headed for the creek. Thinking we were alone, we stripped down and skinny-dipped in the creek, the whole time singing “Puff, the Magic Dragon” over and over. Alas, we really were not alone, and the ranch hand who spotted us told Lynn, who was waiting for us when we arrived back at the ranch house. Even now, I cannot hear “Puff, the Magic Dragon” without feeling the warm sun and cold water on my body.
Then there was the time Lori and I were riding her horse—I think his name was Joe—when the saddle swung under his belly and dumped us both on the ground. I was fine, but Lori landed on a rock and broke her arm. We had to fix the saddle and get back on to ride back to the house. Poor Lori was in a lot of pain, but Terrie thought she was faking it.
One of my best memories was from the summer of 1965 when Twentieth Century Fox filmed parts of Stagecoach (the remake with Bing Crosby and Ann-Margret) on the ranch. They used exterior shots of both the Blue Bird mine bunkhouse and the DeLonde ranch house along with scenic shots around both ranches. We got to watch some of the filming and meet some of the stars, including Bing Crosby. Then when the film opened in May 1966, many of the stars came back for a big barbeque at the ranch. I got to meet Slim Pickens and Van Heflin at that time.
For a while the Williams had buffalo on the ranch. One day shortly after the buffalo arrived, we all went down to the corral to see them. I can still remember how the men—Tom, dad and others—who were crowded along the rails to get a better look ran when they were charged by one of the buffalo.
The buffalo are long gone, but I understand that you can still see moose, elk, bear, mountain lion, or maybe one of the 90 species of birds at Caribou now.
Which is why I am thrilled to have a chance to relive those early days of roaming Caribou and DeLonde. I don’t have the exact dates yet—I’ll post them when they are determined—but I have been chosen as one of five artists to participate in the 2012 Artist-in-Residence Program at Caribou Ranch Open Space between August and September of 2012. I will be staying in the DeLonde Barn for a week. You might find me humming “Puff, the Magic Dragon” if you come to visit, but there won’t be any skinny-dipping or drinking from the stream this time. You will likely see some of these Caribou creatures make appearances in my future quilts.