Viele’s life so far features plenty of noteworthy dates
Post Independent Staff
It’s not that hard to shear a sheep, said Russ Viele, 73.
“You catch a ewe by one of its front legs and grab it and shave it,” Viele said. “It’s no big deal.”
Viele bought sheep in 1955 and introduced them onto his father’s ranch in Yampah after he came back from Honchu, Japan, where he was a motor sergeant for the Marine Corps.
Viele enlisted in the Marine Corps during the Korean War because his two older brothers were drafted into the army.
“I didn’t want to go into the army,” Viele said. “At that time it was possible for me to join the navy or the Marine Corps so I joined the marines and I’m not sorry I did.”
Viele was trained as a gas and diesel mechanic.
“I didn’t like the job, but I did like the pay,” Viele said. “We got overseas pay, $147 a month. That was money. And I would only draw just enough to get by.”
When he returned home from the military, he held a number of different jobs. He worked the ranch; he opened a car repair shop and gas station and later worked in logging.
“What we started out cutting and hauling, you won’t believe,” Viele said, smiling. “Aspen (trees).”
He explained that aspen trees are very absorbent and are used, he admitted with some hesitation, in ladies’ sanitary napkins.
Today, Viele trades stories about where he trained and where he was stationed with the other veterans at the Colorado State Veterans Home in Rifle.
He came to Rifle from the ranch in Yampah, where his older brother still lives, after his wife, Lucile, died on Dec. 31, 2000.
Viele knows dates. He has a mind for history and can recite the date of every major event in his life, including the birth dates of his seven siblings. And the date of a major accident that changed his life forever.
On Dec. 4, 1990, Viele and his older brother were working the sawmill they owned together. They didn’t hire anyone to help, choosing to run the show on their own.
“I was on the circle saw and a slab came back and hit me in the head,” Viele said. “I don’t remember anything from that day. The doctor tried tell my wife I was going to die.”
A helicopter took Viele to the Swedish Hospital in Denver.
“I lost my left eye and I lost my forehead,” Viele said.
That accident has left Viele with a rather unusual appearance. Without a forehead, Viele’s features jut backward above his eyebrows and what was a gentle slope to the top of his head is now more like the sharp face of a mesa.
That’s not such a big deal. Viele’s happy he lived through the accident. He has four children and now quite a few grandkids as well.
“It is quite funny,” Viele said. “The human body can do a lot of things.”
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