Oral Histories

Dennis E. “Pete” Byrd, Sr.


Pete Byrd

Q: And you came to live out in Castle Valley.

Pete: No. Fisher Valley.

Q: Fisher Valley. I’m sorry.

Pete: Fisher Valley is very different from Castle Valley. You can get to Castle Valley. There’s three of these big valleys. There’s Moab Valley, then there’s Castle Valley, and then there’s Fisher Valley and they kind of parallel each other.

Q: I see.

Pete: We stayed in the Moab Motel the first night and then we moved down to the Red Rock Lodge where Lena Shields let us have a hot plate in our room. We ate most of our meals at Charlie’s place and that was an experience that’s beyond comparison. For Christmas, they bought these four boys tricycles. The oldest one was about eight, and mining boots. They were the most rambunctious kids I’ve ever seen. They had this Dalmation dog named Butch. He had this red Lincoln out of his money. It wasn’t from the money but, before he went to Texas, he went down to Cortez and traded a strip through his mine for this red Lincoln which, according to Alan Darby, was the most expensive car anyone ever bought. It was bright red, had white leather cushions that were covered with melted chocolate and strawberry ice cream and dog hair. You’d try to eat at that place and, in the time that I knew him, I never heard Charlie or his wife discipline the kids in any way. M. L., his wife, might say “Well, you kids are driving me crazy. I wished you’d be quiet” but she’d never discipline them, not ever. The kids were going from one end of this three-room apartment to the other as fast as they could go on these tricycles, screaming, and the dog running alongside of them barking. When they got off of the tricycles they were running around jumping off a wardrobe trunk in the other room.

Q: Did you have your three or four girls there?

Pete: My four girls. Yeah.

Q: So there were eight kids.

Pete: Eight kids and then Charlie’s sister-in-law and her husband had two kids and they were living in the other side of the duplex and they were usually there. One time as they ran down the table, the dog went through stuff and grabbed a pound of butter. Charlie and M.L. thought that was the most wonderful thing that they could afford to feed that dog butter. Another time it was a steak.

Q: So the dog wasn’t disciplined, either?

Pete: The dog was totally undisciplined. Neither were the kids.

Q: I imagine your kids thought this was great fun.

Pete: Oh, my kids were raised too strict. Then somebody said if you want to rent a house in Moab, you find Sog Shafer. Sog has a lot of rentals. He bought up Sheriff’s tax sales and things like that. The population of Moab was 1271 when we arrived and when we drove by the sign my wife says “Well, we’re going to add six more to that number, 1271 will now be 1277. The only trouble was that wasn’t right because there’d been an out-migration after the 1950 census, because people couldn’t make a living in Moab. We were the first family, other than Charlie, that came as a result of his uranium discovery, that had kids in school. Jennie and Elsie were in school. We found Sog and we rented a little house that was made out of a bedroom of an old trailer that was just big enough for a bed. I bought a horse and milk cow and some calves. There was room enough beside the place we lived to put them. This house was along what is now Second South Street, just east about the third house. It would be about the third house east of Fourth East. There’s a little house in there now, but the one that we lived in burned down later. Sog was quite a character but that’s a whole, another story. He was the guy that pioneered the Shafer Trail and took this (gal?) down there by the river and then he would leave only long enough to come out and pay his debts during the depression. He became a lifelong friend. I hadn’t been here but a few weeks and that horse fell on me and broke my foot. He let us get behind in the rent. He was just a help to us and we became we became lifetime friends.

Q: Was this your horse that fell on you?

Pete: Yeah. He was one of the first people born in Moab Valley. He was born in a shack, log cabin over here about two hundred yards from where we are now.

Q: About when was he born, do you think?

Pete: Lydia Skewes was born before him and I don’t know what year it was. He was one of the early ones. I think he graduated in the first class of Junior High School. He had a phenomenal memory. I wished I had recorded what he told me because he (?). Then we bought a house from Mildred Young’s daughter. I guess it’s about Third East or Second East, someplace over there. It was a pretty nice house. On the 16th of May, Charlie decided to get an airplane. By that time, the idea of farming and homesteading had got suppressed by this mining thing that was getting so big. Before that Bob Barrett and I bought a Tri-Fisher(?) airplane together, on his credit, not on mine. Bought it down in Cortez and (?). I could even fly it with a broken foot. When people got rich, about one of the first things they did was buy an airplane. Charlie put out an announcement that he wanted to buy an airplane and the only airplane that was close to our airplane that was built that would hold two couples and a pilot was a Cessna 195. They brought in two, one came from a used airplane dealer in Denver and the other one was from Casper, Wyoming. A Dodge dealer up there had this plane fixed up special to fly back between Casper and Phoenix. It had a big engine and extra gas, extra equipment. So Charlie bought it. It was real nice, almost like a new airplane. So I went out when the guy brought it down here. I went out and rode with him and shot a few landings. I hadn’t flown but a couple of times between the time I got my flight time in the Corsair in July 1950. This was ‘53 so I hadn’t flown in that period of time. I guess we shot two or three landings in that 195 then the guy left. I figured the next morning I’d go out and fly around a little bit and get the feel of the airplane and try to learn how to fly it because it was totally different than anything I’d ever flown in my life. The next morning I had three people to take to Grand Junction. That was the beginning of it and, for nine months, I seldom hit the ground.

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