Showing posts with label San Luis Valley. Show all posts
Showing posts with label San Luis Valley. Show all posts

Monday, February 2, 2015

A Tractor, Grandpa and Me


A few years ago while visiting our daughter's family in Washington state, I stood out in their back yard one beautiful spring morning and watched the field behind their house being plowed. Seeing the tractor make its way back and forth across the field took me back to my childhood summers spent with my cousins in Colorado. I have fond memories of driving the tractor as my cousins baled hay. As I stood out in the back yard that day, watching and remembering "the good ole days," our daughter's neighbor noticed my interest and invited me to ride along for a bit.


Heber Monroe Ganus, San Luis Valley Colorado


As I climbed up into the enclosed cab, I was amazed at how things have changed. With air conditioning, cushioned seats and a GPS system which ensures perfectly aligned rows, that tractor was a far cry from the open air John Deere I bounced and bumped around on so many years ago.

The funny thing is, the Deere that I drove was a vast improvement over earlier farm equipment, a fact verified by a few pictures I have of my Grandpa Ganus with plows.

I love the photo of Grandpa and his two children taken in the fields of the San Luis Valley of Colorado and I also love the photo below of him with a team and the plow behind.

I am not sure what type of fields they were plowing in either picture, but alfalfa fields are common there. 

Grandpa did not attend college and only had a seventh grade education, so he did what he could to provide for his family. He farmed, worked on a reservoir and in his later years worked as a mechanic.

Born in Oklahoma in 1900, he lived most of his life in Colorado, but due to health problems he returned to the lower elevation of Oklahoma in the final years of his life.  Grandpa passed from this life in 1964.  My how things have changed since Grandpa was alive.

Although riding in the modern tractor made me feel a little more removed from the soil, there were elements of plowing the field that felt the same as when I was a kid on that John Deere. I was out doors, the sun was shining and I felt joy from being out in nature. And while I know that plowing was a lot more work back in Grandpa's day, I can't help but wonder if he too loved the feeling of being outdoors behind the plow.

Heber Monroe Ganus, San Luis Valley Colorado



Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Little Bit of Heaven

My brothers and I 
I loved summers as a child.  Growing up in the country, my brothers and I often set out on foot or on mini bikes to explore the hills where we lived. We climbed trees, shot BB guns, played in the sprinklers and swam at the local pool.  Life was sweet and innocent and our biggest worry was getting back in time for dinner.

Somehow summer has changed.  As I frantically run around, planning, picking up and dropping off this and that,  I try to finish my never ending "to do" list and I can't help but reflect on how summers used to be. They used to be a time to catch my breath before school started up again in the fall.  Summers used to be a time to relax and recharge.  What happened?

As a child, our vacation every year included a trip to the San Luis Valley in Colorado to visit our relatives.  While there, our time was spent with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins galore and it seemed as if we were related to everyone who lived there because, for the most part, we were.  In the valley there was a sense of belonging and of being loved and I always felt that we experienced a little bit of heaven there.

A particularly fun memory is of riding around with Uncle Clyde as he checked on his hay fields. Riding beside him as we bounced along the dirt roads and across the hay fields was a treat I never passed up.  His fun sense of humor, his gentle way of teasing, the treats in his glove box and stops for an ice cold bottle of pop always seemed to be a standard part of his day.  He loved me and I knew it and he spoiled me rotten.

On our visits there,  I helped gather eggs, learned to outrun ornery sheep, watched cousins milk cows (I never quite mastered that one), drove a tractor and enjoyed farm fresh eggs and "fresh side" for breakfast. Oh how my Grandmas and Aunties could cook!  It not only felt like heaven there, but the food tasted like heaven as well.

Evenings and weekends were filled with family gatherings. The adults chatted about everything imaginable while the cousins ran and played night games in the fields and outbuildings. It never occurred to me that those wonderful carefree days would eventually come to an end and that some day I would look back and ache to relive those cherished childhood memories.

Heber and Orson Ganus in Sanford, Colorado
Heber and Orson
While on a trip to the valley a few years ago, we visited the Sanford Museum located in Sanford, Colorado.  They have a great collection of photos and memorabilia and were very helpful. There in an album full of old photos, I found a picture of my Grandpa Heber Ganus and his twin, Orson.  Thankfully,  although the picture was dark and a poor quality, it was clearly marked and my father assured me that it was indeed a picture of my grandfather and his brother.

From the stories I've heard, I know that childhood was rough for my orphaned grandfather, but this simple picture gives me hope that just maybe he too had some fun carefree days.  Seeing the twins, sticks in hand, dressed in their bib overalls and hats while carefully balanced on a small wooden raft in the middle of a pond, I am reminded of the stories and antics of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Where did Heber and Orson's imagination take them that day?

I wonder if that day was like the days I spent in the valley as a child?  In that high mountain valley the warmth of the sun seems to permeate your whole being, the sky seems a little bluer and although I know I am biased, even the white cotton-candy clouds seem more fluffy.

I envision the two brothers talking and laughing and if I know anything at all about boys, I suspect there was a healthy amount of mischievous splashing.  Did horseplay send either one or both of the boys into the pond?

I hope that in their fun, they were able to forget their troubles and their loneliness for the family life they no longer had.  I hope that in the companionship of his brother, Grandpa Ganus felt that contented sense of belonging and of being loved.  Summers can be good that way and I would like to think that just maybe... on that day... Grandpa too felt a little bit of heaven.


San Luis Valley, Colorado


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014,  All rights reserved



Sunday, December 22, 2013

I'll Be Home For Christmas


“I’ll be home for Christmas.” As the song played softly on the radio, stirring up memories of my childhood and of days when our own children were home,  I felt the familiar lump rise in my throat. That song has been responsible for many tears over the years.  It made me cry when I was away at college and longing for home.  It made me cry the first year after I was married when we lived too far from my parents and siblings to visit, and now I cry because I miss both my childhood Christmases as well as the days when my own sweet children were at home.

The words ring true for me, I will always be home for Christmas, even if it is in my dreams and I know I am not alone in feeling that way.  While I now create new memories with family,  life is perpetually changing and I will always cherish the memories of past Christmas. 

While Christmas traditions have varied greatly over the years, one theme seems to always be consistent and that is that Christmas has always been a time to gather with family and friends.  For that reason, the Christmas of 1886 must have been particularly difficult for my great great grandparents, John and Olivia (Rainwater) Ganus.  Having left their native Georgia on the 16th of November,  John and Olivia, along with their sons and their families, spent December 1886 on the cold wind swept plains of southern Colorado.  Nearly 1500 miles from “home,”  they were far from their extended family and lifelong friends.


Trena Ganus, Sanford, Colorado
View looking across San Luis Valley, Colorado,
 Taken August 2013
By Trena Ganus

They were totally new to the wide open spaces of the west and, while I personally love the valley where they settled,  not much about Southern Colorado would have reminded them of “home.”  The seemingly unending fields of grassland stand in stark contrast to the Haralson County area of Georgia with its hills and pine forests.  While Georgia’s low temperatures can dip as low as the mid 30’s during December,
temperatures in the 30’s are frequently the high for Southern Colorado with temperature sometimes dropping as low as 40 below zero. Were John and Olivia prepared for the harsh winters of their new home?  Did they have adequate clothing and bedding? 

Many of the foods of Southern Colorado reflect the heritage of the Mexican people who originally settled the area, in addition to foods typical of the Scandinavian and English people who settled the area prior to the arrival of the Southerners. These foods were vastly different from the foods most often enjoyed by the southern people.  I can only assume that the Christmas traditions also reflected the cultural heritage of the earlier settlers and were also somewhat foreign to John and Olivia.

Having left all extended family behind,  there would have been no family near by that December to drop by John and Olivia’s home for a visit or to drop off even a simple gift or homemade goodie, nor would there have been invitations to extended family gatherings. On Christmas day, long before the days when home phones were common place,  there would not have been calls made to brothers and sisters back home to help ease the homesickness. I wonder, how did the Ganus family feel that Christmas season?  Did they reflect on past Christmases?  Did they long for family and friends left behind?   

Over the years, the Christmas Season has become exponentially bigger, louder and brighter.  Despite the aggressive sales campaigns, Christmas music blasting in the stores way before I want to hear it and the traditional colors of red and green now sharing the stage with hot pink, purple and lime, one thing seems to remain the same and that is the desire to be with family.  I suspect that at Christmas time I will always reflect over the memories of past years with parents, siblings and our children and that just as the song says, " I'll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams."  

May your Christmas be filled with the love of family and of our Savior, Jesus Christ, whose birthday we celebrate.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013


 Top left:  "Farmyard in Winter" by George Henry Durrie, 1858 PD Art, courtesy of Wikimedia; in public domain.   http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Farmyard_in_Winter_by_George_Henry_Durrie,_1858.jpg

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

On Their Way!

 From the “Journals of John Joseph Pledger Murphy” Georgia

 Friday November 12, 1886 “We arose early & at my sujestion Franklin Ganus packed up all of his things preparatory to going to Colorado. Also we made a start on his Fathers packing. …. John Ganus & John Ganus [son John Thackason]returned from Cedar Town. I went home with Johny Ganus and stoped all night. Slept well.

 Monday November 15, 1886 …. I went to John Ganuses  & had a good talk with him and family. G.W. Driver [George W. Driver] loaned him $10.00 so that he could take his son Baby Ganus with him to Colorado. Their hearts were made glad and they rejoiced in having the priviledge of all going.

 Tuesday, November 16, 1886 We et early breakfeast went to Bro. G.W.D. with Johny Ganus & did the hardest days work I almost ever did in my life packing up his household & kitchen furniture & got it to the depot by 5 p.m

Wednesday November 17, 1886 ……I stayed with them until I seen the last of them at 8:30 am. [after having taken them to the train depot]

They were on their way! On Wednesday, November 17, 1886, John and Olivia Rainwater, along with their son William Franklin and his daughter “Ollie”, John and Olivia's son John Thackason, and his wife Mary Chisenhall along with their children, John W., and Minnie Delania , plus John and Olivia’s sons Roderick, Robert and Newton, all boarded the train headed for the San Luis Valley in Colorado. It’s hard to imagine the emotion that they must have felt as they contemplated the new life that lay ahead as well as the life that they were leaving behind. John Monroe was 60 years old. Would they be able to make a living? They were all farmers, but would they be able to adjust to the very short growing season there in Colorado? Did they know that winter temperatures often plunged to below zero? There were many things that would change with this move. On top of it all, John and Olivia had left siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins and would never again return to Georgia to see them. While we have no idea exactly what they knew or felt, we do know that they were willing to take that courageous step to begin a new life.

Photo of train is from the L.D. McClure collection 1890-1935, album III, 137, from Denver Public Library Digital Collections.