A life of service to the community
Ryan Summerlin April 21, 2014
Note: This story is a collaboration of the Mt. Sopris Historical Society and the Immigrant Stories Project.
Louise and Carter Jackson moved to the valley in the early ’50s to take over the Glenwood Veterinary Clinic. They ran the business for 32 years.
Louise: I grew up in Chester, Pennsylvania. My father was Dutch, and my mother’s family was French. Growing up there was wonderful. My father was the town physician, and his office was in our house. So we had to eat a prompt breakfast and a prompt dinner to make way for the patients.
I remember them coming and going while we played but we weren’t allowed to go the back of house where his office was.
Gallacher: What was your father like?
Louise: He was a big man, six-foot-three, but very kind. I thought he was super. He loved to travel, and he loved to fish and camp, so we had a lot of fun. He took us to the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin where I saw Adolph Hitler. I don’t remember much about it except my father telling me to stand up when Hitler came into the stadium during the opening ceremony.
I can’t imagine standing up for him, knowing what I know now.
Gallacher: But that was at the beginning of his rise to power.
Louise: I still find it hard to believe that everybody stood up and saluted him.
Gallacher: What was your mom like?
Louise: She was very deaf and had been since she was a little girl, so she was very quiet. Hearing aids finally came along and that helped her a lot.
Gallacher: How did you make your way west?
Louise: Well, I had just graduated from Mt. Holyoke College, and I had a good friend who knew about a dude ranch in Dubois, Wyoming. So we came out and spent the summer, and that’s where I met the horse wrangler, Carter. We got to know each other pretty well that summer and eventually got married.
Gallacher: What was it that you liked about him, early on?
Louise: Well, besides being a great horse wrangler, he was very kind. I learned to love the West because he was out here. I moved out here and got a job teaching chemistry at Colorado State University while he was going to vet school.
I wasn’t much older than some of my students, but it all worked out well. I learned to love cooking because it reminded me of chemistry lab.
Gallacher: Was it hard to give up your career in chemistry and become a mom?
Louise: No, not really, I don’t have any regrets. I have loved my life with Carter and my girls. It was pretty hectic, though, when we first started here in Glenwood. We had our first daughter and a new business to set up.
Sometimes Carter wouldn’t get home ‘til two or three in the morning. People hadn’t had a veterinarian for months, and they were anxious to have their livestock looked after.
We had the only practice from here to Rifle, so his territory ranged from Aspen to Vail Pass. There were some very busy days back then.
Gallacher: You were running the office and raising your girls. Would people come to the house looking for help?
Louise: Oh, yes, I remember one time one our daughters, who shall remain nameless, answered the door in nothing but her cowboy boots. We have never let her forget that one.
Gallacher: Ah yes, part of the family folklore. With people coming to the house, how did you find time for yourselves?
Louise: We found the best way was to just go away for the weekend. Carter and I would pack the girls up and take them camping. We had some wonderful times.
Gallacher: You have four daughters, is that why you got so involved with Girl Scouts?
Louise: Yes, that’s how it started. I wanted my daughters to have that experience, and I wanted to be part of it. I loved hiking and cooking over campfires, and I loved working with children. So we set up a two-week summer day camp here on the ranch, down by the river.
We also went backpacking in the mountains around here, canoeing in the boundary waters in Minnesota and sightseeing in Europe and Mexico.
Gallacher: How did you find time to do all of that?
Louise: Well, I didn’t have time in those early days but gradually we were able to hire help and that gave me more time to get involved in activities with the girls.
Gallacher: You’ve been quite involved over the years, 40 years with the Girl Scouts and 4-H, 11 years as a tutor for Literacy Outreach, longtime volunteer at the Glenwood Springs Library. What motivated you to do all of that?
Louise: Well, I liked doing it, and I got a lot in return. I love this valley and the people, and I felt it was something I could do to give thanks.
I have really enjoyed living out here in the West, instead of Chester, Pennsylvania. I have been blessed with four wonderful daughters and a kind and considerate husband. There’s a lot to be thankful for.
Carter: My mom grew up in the Philadelphia area and my dad was raised in Missouri. He came west as a young man and settled in Dubois, Wyoming, where he gained a reputation for being a prospector and a trapper, a mountain man of sorts.
He eventually went to work on a dude ranch there in Dubois. One year, my mom came out during the summer to vacation and work on the ranch, and that’s how my parents got together.
Gallacher: What were those early years like for you?
Carter: They were pretty primitive, but I didn’t know any better. We didn’t have water in the house, so we took a bucket to a nearby stream. The only hot water was in the reservoir of the old wood stove, but that was the way it was done in those early days.
Gallacher: You moved a lot as a kid.
Carter: My parents were really different, so they never quite meshed. When I was 13 they sent me off to boarding school in the East. When I came back that next year, they were divorced, and my mom had married Elmer Sinclair, a Dubois cowboy and rancher. It was about 10 years before I saw my dad again.
Gallacher: That must have been difficult for you.
Carter: It was. I had no idea that things had gotten that bad until I came home and found my father was gone.
Gallacher: How did you take to your stepfather?
Carter: Very well. He was a kind and gentle man who taught me the value of hard work. We moved that next year, first to Rifle while mother and Elmer looked for a place to buy and finally to the ranch they bought eight miles up Four Mile.
Gallacher: What did you do after high school?
Carter: I spent a year in Indiana studying to be an engineer and didn’t like it much, and then President Roosevelt sent me greetings and I went into the Army and served as a medic.
Gallacher: Where did you get sent?
Carter: To the Front in Europe. We started in France, then Belgium, then Germany and finally Czechoslovakia. When we crossed the Rhine River in Germany I was captured by the Germans and taken as a prisoner of war, and that’s how I ended up in Czechoslovakia.
The Germans marched us all day and then held us in different places overnight, usually a barn. But one night we ended up in a large holding cell with no doors or windows at Dachau, the concentration camp. They kept us there for three days and then marched us on. I will never forget the awful things I saw on our way out of there.
We ended up in Czechoslovakia where they held us in a woolen factory. By now there were about 50 of us — American, French, Russian and British.
That night a few of us figured out how to get behind a door and into another part of the factory. We hid as best we could, and the next morning the rest of the group was moved on without us.
Gallacher: What did you do?
Carter: We didn’t know what to do, so we stayed put. That night we were all startled awake by people from the town. One of them, Marie Zokowa, spoke English and she was a wonderful person. She told us to stay there and they would be back.
The next morning they came with food and clothes for us and took us two at a time to stay with families in town. We hid in these houses with German soldiers passing by every day. Finally, Marie came one day to tell us that the Germans were moving out to surrender. The next day our guys showed up and the nightmare was over.
Gallacher: Did you suffer from PTSD after your war experience?
Carter: No, I was just thankful to have it over with. After I was discharged, I came home and worked on the ranch for the summer and then headed off to vet school at CSU (Colorado State University).
When school let out that summer I took a job at the Trail Lake Ranch in Dubois as a horse wrangler for my Uncle Charles and Aunt Suzie. It was a guest ranch in the summer, and in July people started showing up.
One of those that caught my eye was Louise. She had just graduated from college, so she showed up a few days later than the rest. She made quite an impression on me.
Gallacher: What was it about her that impressed you?
Carter: Well, she was pretty and smart and she was from Philadelphia like my mother.
By the end of the summer I had fallen head over heels in love with her.
Gallacher: Tell me about coming back to Glenwood as the only veterinarian for miles.
Carter: We arrived in the middle of the winter and didn’t even have time to get moved in before the phone was ringing off the hook.
Fortunately, my brother Bill came down and helped Louise get the house organized, and that gave me time to get the animal hospital set up. In those early days, I averaged 100 miles a day, seven days a week.
I was a young vet just starting out, and one of the hardest things was not having anyone to discuss some of these medical problems with. I had to figure it out and do the best I could.
Gallacher: Looking back on your life, what is it you are proudest of?
Carter: Louise and I have had a great life together. We’ve been able to raise a wonderful family and grow a business. I’m proud of that, and I’m proud of our efforts to conserve the land and leave it like we found it.