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Settling the West

Visiting Durango Colorado was a wonderful walk into the past for me. It also reinforced my thoughts that there were many reasons for people to come west. There were beautiful ranches there, and farms, and a very famous train to visit. There were also a couple of amazing museums I visited, and yes, I bought books for more research 😊

I had lunch at one of the ranches near Durango, the James Ranch, (, they prepare food that is completely organic and have items in their market that visitors can purchase and bring home to enjoy later… I still have some of their cheeses in my fridge.  

The Animas Museum was full of history, there was a classroom to walk through that was set up like they had them long ago, before Durango was Durango, ( The area was first settled and called Animas Valley, after the nearby river before Durango was ever thought of. The Waterfall Ranch was one of the first ranches in the area, the waterfall is sometimes, not falling, due to lack of water but I saw pictures of it in full flow and it looked beautiful. The Waterfall Ranch changed hands a few times but maintained the name throughout, it also contributed to the history of the Animas Valley and Durango. There was a real west battle over water rights, which included the attempt to divert water, claim water, and someone getting killed in the process. The Lamberts owned the ranch at the time of the water war, and J.P. Lamb who was a sheep rancher, (no pun intended at this time), wanted to divert the water. So, there was a sort of, “I’m gonna!” and an, “Oh no you’re not!” situation that evolved. A few years later, the ranch was sold to a railroad man named Thomas Wigglesworth (I had to use this name! How often do you hear a name like that?) took over, the gun fights ended, and according to my research the ice-cream socials began. His wife was a southern lady and liked to socialize in nice polite ways – no guns. The ranch only changed families one more time, the present day owner’s (the Zinks), ancestors were the next to step into this piece of history.   

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad was built in 1881-1882. The train is an integral part of the history of the Durango area, it was built to connect the silver mines in Silverton to the surrounding areas. The train is based in Durango, and now takes visitors back and forth from Durango to Silverton. The route is quite an adventure through the glorious countryside, and along some dodgy looking narrow tracks that skirt around the edges of cliffs. I went to the D&SNGRR Museum and explored the wonderful history that was preserved there, they had old engines, old motor cars, miniatures, stuffed wild animals, and so much more. They even had old movie posters featuring movies that were made in the area. I’m sure I spent over an hour there, and it’s only a two room museum.   

This cowboy history is what builds the history of my characters, or at least the western characters. I love bringing them to life with real historical backgrounds.

Excerpt from New Parish:

““Well, I was riding a horse when I was four,” Max admitted. “Uncle Alex said it was a necessity for every boy to do.” He chuckled then went on, “We were going out to round up some stray horses that had escaped the corral overnight.” He paused in thought then went on, “They made it all the way to the ridge, Uncle Alex used some colorful language when we found them,” he smiled at her and winked again.

            Sarah wished he wouldn’t do that, it was very discombobulating, she tried to smile back but wasn’t sure it had worked. She looked out at the expanse of prairie with the dead looking sage brush and short pine trees, there were tufts of straw colored grasses in some places and some small prickly pear cacti, which Mary had told her about. She could imagine Mary getting a good case of the giggles if she could see her now.

            “Didn’t you ever get scared as a little boy riding such a big animal?” Sarah asked. The question came out in spite of her efforts to not engage him in conversation.

            “Uncle Alex taught me when I was little that if you have a fear, well then, you face it. He told me about when he was doing the rodeo, and they would have a real bad bull to ride, some guys wouldn’t get on that bull, they’d refuse. He said one time there was a bull that he was about to refuse to ride then he heard the announcer say ‘cowboy up’ for another fella that was coming out of the gate. He said that hit him hard, he rode that bull, and from then on throughout his life when there was something difficult or something he maybe was scared of, he could hear the Spirit telling him to cowboy up. So, he taught me that when you’re afraid first you pray then you cowboy up,” he smiled and winked at Sarah, “you get the job done, no matter what it is.”

            Sarah couldn’t help herself, she had to smile back…”