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Friday Q&A

Cora Natal
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Cora Natal, a native of the valley now living in an assisted living center, was interviewed by local author Anita Witt for Witt’s book, “They Came From Missouri,” about the ranching heritage of the Roaring Fork Valley region. Cora and her late husband, Stanley Natal, ran a small ranch in Woody Creek for decades that remains part of the local lore.Name: Cora Louise Natal. My maiden name was Holgate.Age: I am now 87 years old, born on Feb. 11, 1923.Children? I have two sons, one, Dennis S. Natal, is living in Paonia, on Pitkin Mesa there, about a mile or two before the turnoff to Paonia. And the other son, Ronald M. Natal, is in Pueblo. He’s working for the southern Colorado Equipment Co. down there.And their families? My oldest son in Paonia, he and Karen, no they don’t have any children. My son Ron, he has two girls, and the oldest one has two children. And my other daughter-in-law, Heather, has a son. So, I have three great-grandchildren.All raised around here? My two boys, yes, all in the valley here. Then they went to college in Pueblo, in mechanics. As farm boys, they had an interest in mechanics and all that. Ron stayed in Pueblo … and my oldest son couldn’t work for the mechanics around here, so he had a garage here [in Carbondale] at one time. He’s retired now, he’s 64 years old. … He’s into antique farm tractors, and he enters the Fourth of July parade over there [in Paonia], the Cherry Parade. He has, oh, I’d say about four or five [restored antique tractors].Where did you grow up? I was born and raised on a farm up on Missouri Heights, near the old Missouri Heights school, where the farmers all got together, and my dad [Fred Holgate] was a carpenter, and so he and the rest of the farmers up there built the school. So, I grew up there, I went to all eight grades there, and then I went to high school in Carbondale [at the old Union High School]. It was brand new at the time. Then I married Stanley Natal, and he lived up the valley in Woody Creek. And the two boys went to the [Woody Creek School], and I don’t know if the old school is still there or not. I haven’t been up there for a few years … and then they went up to Aspen to high school, and then to Pueblo to college. I didn’t go to college. Back then, the tuition was a little bit high, and our income was a little bit low.Was Stanley’s family from Woody Creek? Yes, he was a native, too. [His siblings included] two boys and two girls. And Arthur, Stanley’s brother, he worked for the town of Carbondale, and he worked as a ranch hand for the ranches around here.What was it like living in Woody Creek? We lived up at the end of the farming area of Woody Creek, and five miles beyond our ranch was just a valley, and pine trees, and a crick, and a sawmill, the Flogaus sawmill. And there was a little Woody Creek Store, with gas pumps and the like. We went to the store for the necessities, sugar, flour, bread, gasoline for the car and everything like that.What did you farm? We grew hay for the horses and the cattle, and we had pigs, we had chickens. We planted potatoes, too. … We had just a little bit of everything on the ranch. We had a team of horses, and that was to pull the hay mower to cut the hay and use on the ranch. And then, of course, Stan had his horse to go on the range, because he had to go about once a week to check on the cows up on the forest and everything. And eventually, we got tractors, and it modernized, and it was easier to do everything.Any ranch hands besides you, Stanley and the two boys? Once in a while I think we did have someone to help, to work the grain, or the neighbors always came and helped. We helped each other.Were you all pretty sociable with each other, hold barn dances, that sort of thing? No [again the small smile appears] we didn’t do any of that. I had grandparents over into Brush Creek to visit now and then, this was the Robertsons.Where did you sell your potatoes? To the Carbondale Potato Co-op. And for Potato Day [an annual Carbondale festival], mother would pick out the four best potatoes, and enter them, and she’d win ribbons. I still had those ribbons. I gave them to Linda Criswell [with the Mt. Sopris Historical Society] the other day, and she put them into a box of some kind. I haven’t gotten over to see them yet.And so the two of you ran your farm until quite recently, isn’t that correct? Yes, it was in 1997, we sold and moved down to Westbank, just out of Glenwood Springs. And we lived there for a while, and then my husband passed away.And you’ve been at Heritage Park how long? I came here a year ago or so.What do you fill your time with? Not much of anything, actually. I work at the Near New on Tuesdays, I take my turn with my cousin, Louise Holgate and her daughter, Candy. And, oh, here we do a little bit of everything. Some of them play poker, and bingo, and I think there’s dominoes on the agenda, too. They do keep us pretty busy. And I have a cat. I was the first one here to have a cat. And my son comes over from Paonia, his mother-in-law, Dee Blue, lives up there at the Crystal Springs area, and we go up there. We had a birthday not too long ago, and she cooked a turkey dinner for us.


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