A cowboy with a western view
Ryan Summerlin August 24, 2006
Looking west, from the cozy front porch of the Starbuck ranch, you can see everything that Frank Starbuck stood for and believed in. The hills, to the west of the ranch, are the heart of West Divide Creek. Embedded in those hills, is Frank.The Starbuck ranch, resting upon a hilltop southwest of Silt on county road 342, illustrates a simple life. When Frank, and LaVerne (Bubbles) – his wife of 55 years – purchased the 40-acre plot to build their home on, he knew exactly what direction he wanted it to face. Toward the west. Because, from that point, he could literally see – down the valley – to every place he’d ever lived, and everywhere he’d ridden as part of the cattle pools for the West Divide Creek Ranchers Association. It’s an amazing picture that captures the beauty of his life.The furthest point on the horizon, from the front porch of the ranch, is where Frank spent his childhood. Born in New Castle on Nov. 6, 1922, son of Raymond M. and Margaret (Terrel) Starbuck, he lived his entire life in the West Divide Creek area as a rancher and a cowboy. “He loved this area,” Bubbles said of her late-husband. “This was his home and this is where he wanted to be.”According to Bubbles, Frank was one of the lucky ones. He never had to think about what he was going to be when he grew up, because he’d always been exactly what he wanted to be; a cowboy.”That’s why I married him, because he was a cowboy,” Bubbles said. “And he was a good one.”
Being a third-generation rancher, he began riding in area rodeos at the age of 14 and later rode at county fairs all over Colorado and Utah. During the 1944 Garfield County Fair in Rifle, a 15-year-old girl from Arvada – who was visiting family in Rifle – took a picture of him riding a bronco. He didn’t realize that she had taken his picture until he came across the photo nine years later.”He looked at the photo and asked me when I’d taken it,” Bubbles said with a smile. She asked him why he wanted to know. And that’s when she too realized that it was him in the photo.”That’s fate,” Bubbles said, nodding her head.Frank mostly competed in bronc riding at the rodeos, but he also competed as a wild-horse racer and in the relay event. He rode in the rodeos until he was 49, when, according to Bubbles, he got his foot hung-up during a ride. Frank told her that if he ever got “stuck in the stirrup” that he would give it up. “And that’s what he did,” she said. That rodeo was where he hung up his hat in bronc riding.But he didn’t quit. That wasn’t his style.
Even though he didn’t ride the rodeo anymore, he continued to contribute his efforts as director for the Senior Pro-Rodeo Association. After they’d married, Frank and Bubbles lived on another ranch in the West Divide Creek area for 25 years, down the valley from their current home. She was a school teacher for a while before becoming the principal of Rifle High School for 15 years. Frank continued to be what he was – a cowboy. During that time, he was the range boss for the cattle pool of the West Divide Cattle Association. “He loved what he was doing,” Bubbles said. “He felt that he should give back to the community, he felt it was his duty. That’s why he served on so many boards.” Frank served as president or board member on about seven organizations. Along with the Senior Pro-Rodeo Association, and the West Divide Creek Cattleman’s Association, he was also on the boards of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, South Side Soil Conservation, Garfield County Fair board, the Holy Cross Cattlemen’s Association, and the Colorado Division of Wildlife Habitat Partnership Program. He was on multiple boards at any given time. The last six years he continued to ride for the Divide Creek Cattle Pool, along with his younger brother, Joe. His brother Joe still lives down the road from Bubbles and continues to ride for the cattle pool.When he wasn’t on a horse, Frank was said to have had many hobbies that included playing cards, spending time with his family, fly-fishing, hunting, and ballroom dancing, like any gentleman should.He is survived by Bubbles, his wife, his brother Joe Starbuck of Silt. His two sisters, Mae Belle (Cecil) Philpott, of Grand Junction, and Dee (Carl) Mobley, of Silt. He was preceded in death by his parents, and an older sister, Ardith.
According to Bubbles, Frank used to say that he wanted it to always be said, “that Frank Starbuck never pulled up.” And he never did.Frank passed away on July 11, 2006, due to injuries sustained from a horse accident.The best way to understand Frank, would be to look west at dusk. If you look closely, you might catch a glimpse of a man among the shadows of the lingering day. His wide-brimmed hat, glasses, and weathered grin shining through the trees off in the distance. The cowboy’s cowboy.Contact John Gardner: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org