Oral Histories

Maxine Newell

b. 1919

Maxine Newell & George Andersen

Before I worked for the Park I worked for the local newspaper for six years and I remember going out there [Arches] one time and they were celebrating their first 100,000th visitor for all times, during the whole era of the Park. And, of course, now they have more than that in one year. So the Park just grew but it never stopped being a pleasure.

We had a thing about Tuesday. Everything bad that happened in the Park happened on a Tuesday. I wonder if they still have Tuesdays at the Park, just a black day usually.

I got involved in the Wolf Ranch history and was absolutely fascinated by the story. I interviewed people in connection with that a lot. We interviewed the descendents of John Wesley Wolf at Columbus, Ohio, and we ended up with a lot of pictures and everything with no deed of gift for them. Esther Stanley Rison was the little girl who lived in the cabin and was still alive and she’d have us [Dave May and me] out to her place for dinner and just pull a few things out of a box and say, “Here, take these back” so we just ended up with a little museum full of stuff before we even knew what was happening.

[A.K.] What was your uniform like?

[M.N.] The first uniform I wore they gave me a regular official Park Service green skirt and told me to go out and buy a white blouse and some brown shoes and we had a hat that kind of looked like the old airline hat with a little peak that you wore down on your forehead and it matched the skirt. Brown shoes were really hard to find. The next one they came out with these beige dresses and they had round collars and that’s when they put the Smokey Bear hats on the girls and they wore the dresses and the Smokey Bear hats. I had a Smokey Bear hat but I never wore mine, left it at the Park when I left. It was an identification point. People would recognize you immediately. Seasonals didn’t wear the official uniform. They had something in the badge that was different.

The only grazing in Arches was that there’d be a sheep herd come in once a year. Then , of course, the George Whites had a long-time permit to bring their cattle through the Park in the spring. They’d drive them right down the Arches road into Courthouse Wash and across the Colorado River bridge. When they’d go across the bridge, they’d put hay pit so the cattle would go toward the hay to cross the bridge. There was a year or two that I went up on patrol to drive ahead of the cattle when they were being driven and I was on patrol with the flashing lights to warn the public that there were cattle coming. Well, I found out that every time they saw this cattle drive, they (the public) were more interested in that than they were in the features of the Park. Some of them had never seen a cow outside a zoo. And this cattle drive became a real event for the interpretive part of the Park. We just drove in front of them but I always thought it would be a good thing to have had a special program around this cattle drive. When they turned down into Courthouse Wash, it would have been fun to do something with that because cattle drives…Bates Wilson recalls the last cattle drive that went from the Needles through Moab (3000 of them) and what happened to the cattle drive is that they were replaced by trucks. (Bates didn’t see much of it as he was too busy keeping the cows out of the Park!) So this was one of the last cattle drives some people will ever see. We were bringing these cattle down through the Park all the years I was there. I don’t know if they still do that.

There were great experiences. In the wintertime, I’d close the Park. I’d be there alone and I’d close the Visitor Center about three o’clock and make a swing through the Park and if anybody was up in the Park, if there was a car, I had little tags to put on saying that the Park gate shut at five o’clock and to be sure to be out. Most times you wouldn’t see anybody, but one time I drove up and there was a camper parked at Devil’s Garden and I stopped and reached up and was just about to put the tag on the window when somebody spoke from behind me, a man’s voice. He said, “Did you want something?” I turned around and, like the efficient Park Ranger who was out to patrol the Park, I said, “You scared me!” He was out of the Park by five o’clock.

One morning I went on a morning patrol and went into Wolf Ranch and there was about three or four inches of new snow. I took off and drove down the hill into Wolf Ranch and there wasn’t a sign of a car track. Only sign of life I saw was one deer track that went by the cabin and went through the ditch and up over the hill and you could just imagine the family living there and waking up one morning and looking out and seeing that beautiful sight. It was lovely. The land was unmolested. Great experiences like that.

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