Western Memories: Parachute Valley filled with fond ranch life memories for Wambolt
Citizen Telegram Contributor
Bobbi Wambolt was four years old the first time she remembers riding a horse up into the Book Cliffs to move cattle with her dad.
Wambolt, 82, grew up on a ranch in the Parachute Valley and was never a stranger to ranch work. Wambolt grew up as a Benson on an expansive ranch, nine miles down a dirt road from what was then called Grand Valley. The town changed its name to Parachute to avoid constant confusion with Grand Junction.
Her parents sold the ranch to Union Oil in the 1960s. It now belongs to Exxon, but the managers have always let the family, which has grown to more than 75 children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, gather by the creek every summer.
“We get together on the old ranch every June and have a picnic,” Wambolt said. “We usually stay out there until midnight. We sit around a campfire and all the kids are home.”
Wambolt is the oldest of seven kids and now lives at Mesa View Retirement Living in Grand Junction so she can be close to her younger sisters.
As children, Wambolt and her sisters rode a couple shaggy ponies bareback to get to the country school a mile from their homestead.
The girls played with their dolls together under a tree on the side of the hill and climbed an old ranch trail to some limestone ledges on the hunt for leaf fossils.
“We did a lot of exploring,” she said. “We didn’t go to town very often because it made us car sick.”
When she was in the seventh grade, Wambolt’s grandmother was sick with breast cancer. Wambolt took care of her until she passed and then ended up living with family friends in town so she could graduate from Grand Valley High School.
Wambolt went to college at Colorado A&M, now Colorado State University, in Fort Collins. When she moved back to the valley, she worked for the phone company to help her sisters through college.
“I would drive out to the ranch in the morning, work all day and then go work at the phone company at night,” Wambolt said. “I could sleep at the phone company because we didn’t get that many calls.”
She remembers when the valley switched to dial phones almost as well as she remembers the year the ranch got electricity and running water.
“It was exciting,” she said.
The ranch didn’t have power or water until Wambolt was 18 years old.
“They kept talking about bringing power out there,” she said.
It took years before it happened. Once there was electricity on the land, the family could install a pump in the spring and have running water. Growing up, Wambolt and her siblings all carried pails into the house.
Wambolt’s husband, Marvin, came out west with a road-building crew and stayed for her. He worked with five different oil shale companies, moving his wife and their three children to Nevada for work each time the companies shut down, until he started building houses. He died of a heart attack when he was just 54.
“I’ve been a widow ever since,” Wambolt said.
But she’s never been lonely. She’s close with her siblings and children.
“We were always a happy family,” she said.
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