Western Memories: Parachute Creek still flowing with stories for Ivo Lindauer
Citizen Telegram Contributor
PARACHUTE – There were 52 families living along Parachute Creek when Ivo Lindauer was a boy in the late 1930s and helped to herd cattle between his father’s ranch on one end and his grandfather’s on the other end.
“Now there’s only one property along there,” said Lindauer, now 82. “That’s our ranch.”
His daughter, Sarah Orona, her husband, Howie, and their family live on the ranch. Lindauer and his wife, Betty Jo, left the valley to teach on the Front Range decades ago and returned in 1996 to retire in Battlement Mesa. He said he didn’t have any interest in going back to live on the ranch.
“Ranch work is never done,” Lindauer said. “When five o’clock comes, you’re just part-way through the day.”
Lindauer was a professor of botany, biology and natural sciences at the University of Northern Colorado for 37 years and his wife taught all ages, from kindergarten through graduate school, during her career. The Lindauers were looking forward to a relaxing retirement, not a grinding ranch life.
But ranching and Parachute Creek are braided together with Lindauer. He’s writing a book about the 52 families that lived along Parachute Creek back in the days before the natural gas companies scooped up all the land.
“I’m a botanist,” he said. “I’m not a writer.”
He was inspired to document the story of Parachute Creek after he came upon a 15-page transcript of a recorded conversation his wife had with an old neighbor at his dad’s ranch in 1972.
“Harry Hansen used to come by and have coffee with my dad and talk about old times and the way things used to be,” Lindauer said.
When he read the transcript, he felt like someone needed to get the story of the area on paper.
“There are so many good stories,” Lindauer said.
And he doesn’t have to think about it or reach far into his memory to find a few gems worth sharing.
“Everyone knew the Glover family,” Lindauer said. “The Glovers were one of the largest cattle operations in the valley. They ran several hundred head of cattle, maybe even a thousand.”
The Glover cabin, built in the early 1900s, was in good shape when one of the energy companies needed to move it a few years ago. Now, it’s set up as a one-room teacher’s cottage and historical site next to the Battlement Mesa School.
“Well, Mrs. Glover was washing clothes outside and her 1 1/2-year-old daughter was behind her on a blanket,” Lindauer said. “She turned around and a lion was carrying Queenie through the sagebrush.”
Mrs. Glover ran after the lion and her daughter with an ax, yelling and screaming.
“I guess the lion got scared and dropped her,” Lindauer said.
Interactions with wild predators were common along Parachute Creek in those days. C.W. “Doc” Wilson stayed awake all night keeping a fire burning to ward off a pack of wolves, Lindauer recalled. The next day, Wilson surveyed off some land along Parachute Creek for himself, where he would return to start his own cattle operation after serving as the foreman of the famed JQS Ranch in Rifle. He waited until cattle prices plummeted before he bought a couple hundred head and started his own ranch.
“I always wanted to be a cattleman,” Lindauer said. “But I never could afford it.”
It was Lindauer’s love for the ranch life and everything he learned in the wide-open spaces along Parachute Creek that inspired his career in botany and science. His dad used to point out all the vegetation and explain what it was as they rode along the ridges.
“It’s good to be home,” Lindauer said.
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Garfield County is seeking to qualify its four west-end communities for Colorado’s Rural Jump Start program, providing tax breaks for new businesses.