Posted by: Helen De Prima | August 13, 2014

You Can Go Home Again.

Thomas Wolfe warmed You Can’t Go Home Again, and friends cautioned me not to expect too much on returning to Focus Ranch after a 45 year absence. I knew they were right, but . . . They were wrong.

The old feeling of anticipation kicked in as soon as the mountains closed behind us west of Denver and stepped up when we left the eighteen-wheelers and big RV’s on I-70 to head north toward Steamboat Springs. By the time we stopped at the Quarter Circle Saloon in Kremmling, Colorado for lunch, we were deep in cattle country.

 

South of Kremmling CO.

South of Kremmling CO.

 

The true magic began where the pavement ended. Thirty-four miles of gravel road winding through Routt National Forest northwest of Steamboat Springs guard the ranch from 21st century encroachment. When Sheep Mountain loomed on the western horizon, I finally let myself believe that the ranch still existed, that it hadn’t disappeared like some Western Brigadoon.

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Yes, faces from the past were missing, but the present owners Terry and Maureen extend the same warm hospitality I remembered. The original log ranch house had finally deteriorated beyond rehabilitation, but a new one much like the old sits backed against the mesa for protection from the north winds. The big red barn still holds the aromas of horses and leather, and the Little Snake River sings its song under the old bridge.

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Some guests come to Focus Ranch for the excellent trout fishing, but for my husband and me it was all about horses and ranching. Once the wranglers decided we rode well enough not to be a nuisance, they gave us good horses and put us to work. We helped sort cattle, move cattle, and look for cattle that were nowhere to be found in dense thickets and aspen groves. At meal times we listened with rapt attention while Terry described the intricacies of running a top-notch grazing operation. And I discovered that Maureen had worked as a public health nurse on the western slope about the same time I was a Visiting Nurse in Larimer County on the eastern slope of the Rockies — tales swapped of weather hazards and cantankerous but loveable patients.

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The week went by way too fast. My husband loved playing cowboy, putting in a full day in the saddle. Although I couldn’t handle as much time on horseback as I had while in my teens and twenties, I was able to make the giant step back in time to some of the happiest days of my life. Sometimes, if you’re very lucky, you can go home again.

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