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A salute to the women of Pagosa

I love reminiscing with the old timers of Pagosa.

I recently wrote about the Girls of Pagosa, now I want to salute the women who left even bigger shoes to fill. In the ’70s and ’80s there were few licensed builders and with no money the women worked alongside their men hammering, sawing, painting and building. The women of Pagosa raised children with a lot of heart, not afraid to work and with guts to stand in a man’s world.

The school needed a bus driver for the Lower Blanco. I thought I could do it, how hard could it be, just picking up and delivering children? Wrong. In January of 1979 with four feet of snow on the ground, worst winter in history, I became a bus driver. I left home in the dark at 6 a.m. every morning. It was so cold I couldn’t get the door open to my own frozen vehicle. I drove to the bus shed to warm up the bus. I didn’t last long as a bus driver but apparently long enough to give a few people a laugh or two.

Recently I met a lady who grew up in Pagosa. Her dad was the head of the bus shed for the Pagosa School District. She reminded me of something I had forgotten. This is one of those things I would like to forget.

This is how the conversation went, “My dad knows you.”

“How’s that?”

“You were that crazy lady that stuck the school bus several times. He had to come and dig you out.”

“Oh, those were hard days,” I told her. “I remember when I had to put chains on the bus. I thought I was going to die. It was so cold my fingers stuck to the metal. There were a couple of sixteen-year-old boys on the bus and I said, “Get out and help me.’”

They looked at me and said, “We don’t know how. We don’t have to.”

“Get out here anyway. You’re too big to sit there watching a lady put on chains.” We got the chains on the bus. Today I am sure a lawsuit would be in the making. But then, it was growing boys to be men and girls to be ladies.

I talked to Jane Stewart who owned a business in downtown Pagosa in the late ’70s when it wasn’t popular for women to be in business. She taught many of Pagosa’s youth how to work, including three of our children. I’ve thanked her many times for putting good work ethics into our children. She tells about the time when Judge Hyde was holding court. The jurors had parked in front of her establishment during lunch. She walked into the courtroom, stopped the court and told Judge Hyde to have the jurors move their cars. He did and they did. It took guts, which she had and has.

I remember seeing Mrs. Ross (Troy and Cody’s mom) every week at the laundromat washing the team’s football uniforms after practices and games. She was getting them ready for the next game.

And who could forget Mrs. Helen Ash on the front row singing her heart out, “I’ll Fly Away.” Also, there was Mrs. Lucille Rackham, grinning from ear to ear, with a skillet frying up Rocky Mountain Oysters.

There was Evelyn Davidson with seven children, several adopted. She was the best mom in the world. Gilbert tells of the time when he and the boys went out hunting; they came back with nothing, but while they were gone, Evelyn shot a big bull elk off their front porch. When he got home, she told him to go out and skin it.

How many of you bought milk from Mrs. Fay Brown? Our family bought four gallons every week in big glass bottles for a dollar a bottle. We raised healthy kids on farm milk. Today, the health department would step in. No telling how many cows Mrs. Brown milked everyday.

I remember seeing Mrs. Ruby Sisson driving her green 1955 Chevrolet down the dirt road coming in from the Upper Blanco every morning. She was on her way to school to teach the youth of Pagosa. She was one tough little lady.

My daughter reminded me of the Gallegos girls and women who went on cattle drives every year.

I wish I could mention all the Pagosa women’s names; their faith, their hearts and the legacy they left behind. They have written their lives on the hearts of the children and people of Pagosa. They were moms, teachers, bus drivers, church goers, business owners and farmers who showed up every day.

These women and others have left some big shoes to fill. With the same heart and grit, the girls of Pagosa are showing up every day living their stories and hopefully one day someone will show up and write their stories.

Final brushstroke: Who can find a virtuous woman, her worth is more than rubies. My salute goes out to the women and girls of Pagosa.

Reader’s comments

If you remember some of those days, send your stories to bettyslade@centurytel.net You can read other articles on my Blog. http://bettyslade.blogspot.com. I also have provided free mini-art lessons at http://bettysladeartistworkshop.blogspot.com.

Artist’s quote

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” — Albert Schweitzer.

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