Enjoy a little beer and bull with the valley’s ranchers
They are the remnants of the Roaring Fork Valley’s backbone – families with names like Glassier, Gerbaz and Grange.
Their ancestors toughed it out through the quiet years. They kept the valley’s economy alive through ranching while places like Aspen nearly withered away.
Although farming and ranching is now on its last legs in the valley, credit is due. Aspen’s legacy was built on mining, but ranching actually proved more sustainable over the long haul.
The silver mining heyday lasted only 14 years, from 1879 to 1893. Ranching persevered in the area for roughly a century before poor cattle and crop prices coupled with high land values made working the land less viable in the 1980s.
“We called it an agricultural era. It’s gone now, as far as I can see,” said Janice Duroux, whose grandparents started the Diemoz Ranch on Hooks Spur Road in 1910.
Duroux wants to capture some of the stories of the ranching life before it’s too late. She and other founders of the Basalt Regional Heritage Society have invited 25 midvalley ranchers or retired ranchers to share their tales.
The gathering, called “Beer and Bull,” will be held Thursday, at 7 p.m. at the Valley Pines Community Room, just off Highway 82 and the Midvalley Medical Center. The chat is open to the public. Beer and pretzels are on the house.
The gathering is the first of several the heritage society hopes to organize on various topics regarding Basalt’s history. The year-old organization also hopes to start a self-guided historical walking tour of Basalt this summer. Historical information on some of the town’s oldest structures is being compiled and will be printed on plaques donated by Myers and Co. Architectural Metals.
The society is gladly accepting financial contributions for that project.
For the “Beer and Bull” chat, operators of some of the last working ranches have been invited, such as Steve Child and the folks at the Monastery at Snowmass. Many of the invited participants are third- or fourth-generation members of midvalley ranching families.
“A lot of them are Italian families that came at the turn of the century,” said Duroux.
Freda Glassier, 86, one of the last members of the generation from the agricultural boom time, has also been invited.
Glassier was born in Emma and lives on the same ranch on Hook Spur Road where she spent her entire adult life. And it’s just “across the fence” from where she grew up as a kid. Her family, the Vastens, came from Italy and settled in the valley in about 1916.
Glassier said she and her late husband, Ed, grew potatoes, wheat and oats and raised cows. For many years, potatoes from area ranches were loaded onto box cars from the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad and shipped out.
Cattle were taken to a stockyard in Emma, where the four-lane highway is now located, then also shipped out on the railroad.
Glassier said she quit growing crops in the early 1970s. “We couldn’t get anybody to pick them any more,” she said.
When asked what her fondest memories were of the ranching life, Glassier couldn’t narrow it down to any one thing.
“I liked everything about ranching – except picking potatoes,” she said.
Duroux said convincing Glassier to share more of her stories at “Beer and Bull” would be a real coup for the heritage society.
“We’ve missed most of the generation that has the best stories,” she said.
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