Ranching icon, veterinarian Doc Jackson remembered
It tended to take Carter Jackson a little longer to get the irrigating chores done after the Rio Grande bike trail went in next to his ranch south of Glenwood Springs about a decade back.
“He would wave, and people would stop and come over to the fence to say ‘hi’ and have a little conversation,” recalled Sandy Jackson, one of his four daughters who still lives in Glenwood Springs.
Dr. Jackson, a large animal veterinarian until his retirement in 1982, well-known in the ranching community and a lifelong, genuine cowboy himself, died Saturday morning surrounded by family on his cattle ranch overlooking the Roaring Fork River. He was 91.
“He was still interested in looking after the cows and going up for cattle drives, right up until his last days,” Sandy said.
And the Jackson ranch will remain part of his legacy, becoming the first large ranch in Garfield County to be preserved under a conservation easement through the Aspen Valley Land Trust in 1995.
“He was a big supporter of the land conservation movement locally, and became very passionate about the land and specifically preserving it for agriculture,” said Martha Cochran, executive director for AVLT.
“Carter believed we were going to need places to raise food to feed people, and he would talk to his fellow ranchers about that,” Cochran said.
Jackson was born Aug. 14, 1923, in Lander, Wyoming, the oldest of four. The family moved to Glenwood Springs, settling on Four Mile Creek in 1937, and Jackson graduated from Garfield County High School in 1941.
He served in the U.S. Army during World War II, during which he was held prisoner by the Germans before escaping thanks to some kind Czechoslovakians who gave him shelter. His story was documented as part of a question-and-answer interview with Carter and his wife Louise Jackson by Immigrant Stories author Walter Gallacher last year.
After completing his military service in the U.S., Jackson studied veterinary medicine at Colorado State University, and met his wife of 66 years on a dude ranch in Dubois, Wyoming, where he was a horse wrangler.
They moved to Glenwood Springs in 1952 when Jackson started the Glenwood Veterinary Clinic. The Jacksons bought the Lazy H Slash Eleven Ranch in 1955, moving there permanently in 1961 and raising their four daughters, Patty, Thersa, Susan and Sandy.
Fellow veterinarian and partner in the clinic for 18 years Dr. Allan Bowles said Jackson was well-respected, especially among ranchers during a time when there were not a lot of veterinarians in the rural west.
“We covered a lot of country, going out on ambulatory calls out in Rifle, or Minturn or up in Burns,” Bowles said.
“Between the two of us we probably checked 15,000 cows every fall,” he said of the time each year when the cattle are brought down from summer range in the high country.
Bowles also recalled Jackson’s sense of humor, quipping one time when a local resident inquired about an injured pet chicken whether it was the front or back leg that was lame.
“We worked well together, and we were good friends,” Bowles said. “He was just a great guy, and had a heart as big as gold.”
Jackson also inspired a young veterinarian by the name of Ron Carsten in his early years.
“After I got out of high school he allowed me to ride around with him for the summer and was very much my inspiration to go into veterinary school,” said Dr. Carsten, the longtime owner of Birch Tree Animal Hospital in Glenwood Springs.
He said Jackson confided with him years later that he had been a little under foot during those ride-alongs.
“I very much appreciated his kindness and his patience for indulging my curiosity,” Carsten said. “He’ll always be the old-time country vet we all fondly remember from our youth.”
Garfield County Commissioner John Martin presented Jackson with the county Human Services Commission’s “Spirit of the West” honor as part of the annual Humanitarian Service Awards in 2010.
Martin said he, too, had a similar mentoring experience with Jackson as the city of Glenwood Springs’ animal control officer in the 1970s.
“I learned a lot from Doc Jackson about handling animals and how to talk to them to calm them down,” Martin said. “He was a lively guy, and smart and just always willing to help somebody. He surely will be missed.”
Together, Carter and Louise Jackson won the Glenwood Springs Chamber’s Citizens of the Year award in 2004, and Colorado Mountain College named Carter its “Outstanding Friend of the College” in 1996.
Jackson was also a founder of CMC’s farm and ranch program at Spring Valley, which evolved to become the college’s Veterinary Technology program. He was also one of the early board members for the Sunlight ski area and the Holy Cross Electric Association board, as well as a past Glenwood Chamber board president and longtime Kiwanis Club member.
Jackson is survived by his wife, Louise, and his four daughters and their families, including seven granddaughters.
A private memorial service will take place in the summer. A full obituary appears in today’s print edition of the Post Independent and online.
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