Oral Histories

Blankenagel, Norma P.

b.1930

blankenagel

This big room was divided at one end by a movable wall and the other by stage curtains. I put my desk up on the stage. We didn’t have to use that. I just used that whole section and the eighth grade, which was much smaller, used the walled off section. Some of the children were really naughty, because some of them didn’t go to school that much and didn’t like school and were poor students and made a lot of trouble. They loved playing tricks on the teacher. One boy once put a lizard on my shoulder and said, “Oh, look what I brought for you teacher.” I am not a country girl and don’t enjoy lizards. I just looked up and said, “Oh, isn’t that cute. Now take it off.” If I had made a fuss, they would have had things in my drawer every morning. But it was a lot of fun.

We had four teachers, just first to eighth grade. We didn’t have a kindergarten at that time. One was later added, and now we have around 25 students and two teachers there. Each of them teaches two grades, and one of them takes kindergarten a half day, too. Even though they have only twelve students or so, they still have to teach two or three grades, which is difficult.

Later on the older students, fifth grade on, were taken by bus to Monticello.We still have two buses. By 1980 the prices on uranium had dropped and mining uranium had become less profitable, so the school population dropped again into the thirties. In 1956, 1 think we had under twenty students. And when the influx came over the summer, when Charlie Steen hit his strike, they began getting groups of miners in once the excavation work was done. We went from 15 to 185 students between June and September. The school board saw it coming and built just as fast as they could, but they couldn’t possibly get that building done by September. So that is why we wound up in the CCC building. One nice thing, the new building did have two bathrooms, a boys’ room and a girls’ room. Now there is another set of bathrooms. Later two more rooms were added, so the room I taught in is used for a play room when it’s raining and the children can’t go outside. It is now also used as a kitchen and dining area for hot lunches.

 

Area Stockmen – Now about the cattlemen, first came the individual cattlemen, lured by the long waving grass “up to a horse’s belly,” was often used to describe it. It would be nice if we had that kind of grass now, wouldn’t it? Then, there was very little stock on it but deer.

Tom Ray came to La Sal first, with 60 head of milk cows. Then the McCartys and Maxwells came with a couple of thousand head of cattle. Soon the Taylors and Shafers brought herds to the northern slopes of the La Sals. Spud Hudson, of Colorado, brought several thousand head and settled in double cabins on Carlisle Ranch near Monticello, near Peters Springs. But Peters, of Peters Springs, brought 2000 head. Soon larger cattle companies made their appearances, the LC for the Kansas and New Mexico Land and Cattle Company came to south Montezuma Creek, Eli Iliff and Harold Carlisle, two Englishmen, brought several thousand head of cattle into San Juan County. Some of the individual cattlemen sold their interest to the Carlisle Company, which became the largest in the area. Their foreman was Latigo Gordon (Carlisle’s step-son), and he is probably Lassiter in Zane Grey’s book, Riders of the Purple Sage, because that story was based on this area. He hired a number of the Robber’s Roost gang, such as Butch Cassidy, Kid Jackson, and Monte Butler. Green Robinson brought a thousand head of cattle to Coyote. There were at least 10,000 head of cattle in Dry Valley alone in 1885.

In 1884, the Pittsburgh Cattle Company bought out the interests of Maxwells, McCartys, Robinsons, Olsens, and Rays of La Sal, and branded their cattle with a cross H, which is still being used as the brand for La Sal Livestock Company. In 1888, John Cunningham was the manager of this company at La Sal, and in 1887 Thomas B. Carpenter was made ranch foreman of this La Sal company.

In 1915 it was sold to the La Sal Livestock Company. In 1885, D. M. Cooper and Mel Turner came into Indian Creek with a small herd. John E. Brown settled there in 1887 and planted a fine orchard. Then Goudelock, Cooper and Martin formed the Indian Creek Cattle Company. In 1936 they sold out to the Scorup-Somerville Cattle Company. The Scorups were from Salina. The Scorup-Somerville Company sold their large holdings to La Sal Livestock, which was organized in 1915 with Charles Redd as the manager. He later changed the name to Redd Ranches. John Albert Scorup, and his brother Jim, came in from Salina with 300 head of cattle. This herd increased as they bought out the number of outfits until they ran thousands of cattle under the lazy TY brand. They ran cattle from Elk Ridge to the Colorado River, thousands of acres. In 1918 they sold part of it, but in 1927 they held a United States Forest Service grazing permit for 6,780 head of cattle, the largest in the United States. There is a lot of history here. It’s actually part of Moab’s history as well as San Juan’s history.

The cattlemen of the area would combine forces twice a year, in June and October, to gather and drift cattle, brand cattle and ship to market. Thousands of sheep were brought into the area from 1896 to 1900, and soon the sheep outnumbered the cattle. So you can see why the land was overgrazed. The early men didn’t care, they just moved the cattle where the grass was good and where there was water. But the cattlemen from then on, after these big huge ranches were broken up, took better care of the land. Because the range land is so important in this desert country, the ranchers take good care of it. I’ve seen my family get off of the land before the BLM suggests, because they know it’s been grazed enough and they want the grass to come back. My husband even planted grass in Dry Valley to make a better pasture. You know, broke out some of the sage brush and planted good pasture. So most cattleman now days take care of the land, probably even better than the BLM does. At least we feel thatwe do.

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