Tony Vagneur: We’ll get to the Sloss side, so stay with me on this one
It’s not every day you pick up a national magazine and find a story about your family. A necessary part of the story, anyway. At first, I was a little insulted that no one had asked me to write about that side of the family, but then I got over it and moved on.
Besides, it happened way back when. In 1958, a man named Clyde Sweeney told the story to Vess Quinlan, a regular contributor to Range magazine, the quarterly publication devoted to issues of the West and its inhabitants.
Anyway, as the story goes, good ol’ Clyde started off talking about local legend Jim Crowley and then segued into being a cowpunch for the Sloss Brothers Ranch, up the Fryingpan from Basalt, where he was sent to a Nebraska spread to buy some cross-bred cows for Alvin Sloss, the other twin of Alfred. The Nebraska rancher had an intelligent, professional, published geneticist for a daughter, who in addition to being a great cook, was more than a little homely. At least according to Clyde, who described himself as, “I’ve only legs enough for three-quarters of a man, arms enough for a man and a half and ears enough for three or four men and a mule.” If Clyde had a mirror in the bunkhouse, I’m sure he knew homely.
From an after-dinner until early-morning conversation shared over a bottle of tequila, it seemed Clyde and this woman were a perfect match, but in the shy ways of lonesome cowboys, Clyde never went back to further the relationship, even though he had the next best thing to an engraved invitation. He stayed working for the Sloss Brothers outfit.
The Sloss brothers were relatives of mine. Their father, Sterling Price, and my great-grandfather John W. were brothers from Missouri who ran an early 1880s dairy in the town of Ashcroft. They hung on until 1885 when greener pastures called and they homesteaded what is now Sopris Mountain Ranch. Their original ranch house is still there. According to old newspaper accounts, they were quite busy trading horses, buying and selling cattle, boarding horses and raising grain.
Sometime later, they bought what is now called the Cap K Ranch, up the Fryingpan River. They were in partnership for several years, raising cattle, until John W. bowed out, leaving the operation to Price. The Midland railroad station at the ranch, originally called Sloane, was soon changed to Sloss Depot, the name still visible on the right as one travels toward Ruedi Reservoir.
My great-grandfather, John W., married Emmaline Bogue, a beauty of the valley. They had four sons, my maternal grandfather Bates Sloss being one.
Price, who is mentioned extensively in “Roaring Fork Valley an Illustrated Chronicle,” by Len Shoemaker, long-time forest ranger and historian, married Edith Bogue, who became the mother of the twins, Alfred and Alvin.
Alfred and Alvin took over their father’s ranch after he died. My grandmother introduced me to Alvin in Glenwood Springs, where he had moved after the ranch sold. He was then in real estate and I remember him in a suit and tie, sitting along Grand Avenue, greeting friends as they strolled by. His presence always intrigued me and I think I knew even then that I was talking to a big part of local history when I’d always stop to say “Hi,” whenever I saw him.
John W., my great-grandfather, bought a couple of ranches in the Emma area, where the unnamed grave of a teen-aged girl may belong to a relative. No one knows the entire story, and I pay her homage several times each summer as I irrigate my horse pasture, placing some wildflowers on the horizontal marble cross. John W. was justice of the peace in Basalt at the time of his death.
Not to complicate matters, but one of John W.’s brothers, James, bought the Emma Store, ran it for five years and then moved his business into the Sloss Building, on 2nd Street, across from the IOOF Hall. The adults had some great parties there in the ’50s and ’60s, of which some of us teens smartly took advantage. Many times, my adolescent hormones were stirred as I danced with the two beautiful daughters of Jim Crowley, and dang if he didn’t run me off more than once.
Bates Sloss married my grandmother, Nellie Stapleton, to whom were born my mother and her sister. And in the shortest way I could tell it, that’s how I’m related to the Sloss family. Bates died when I was 2 months old.
By the way, and it must be said, Su Lum, long-time popular Aspen Times columnist, was a Sloss cousin of mine, as well.
I wonder where Clyde Sweeney hangs his hat today.
For more information on early Basalt history and families, check out “Basalt: Colorado Midland Town” by Clarence L. and Ralph W. Danielson. Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s almost time to ring in the new year and if your holiday schedule is shaping up to be as packed as mine, I wish you a well-deserved rest in 2024. In the meantime, it’s our chance to party, and party we shall.