First, let's get those details to you:
What: The 17th Annual Nimon-Walker Award honoring Verne Albertson
Where: Avon Public Library, 200 Benchmark Road in Avon
When: Sunday, April 29th 2-4 PM
Special presentation by Michael Crouser, 2018 Colorado Book Award Finalist; Photographer.
"Beanies, Stick Horses, Marbles, & Mean Chickens: Growing up in Burns, Colorado in the 1940s"
In late 2016, Verne called me at the library and said he had been writing down his memories and stories from his childhood. He was wondering what to do with them-- do we publish them? Would I want them at the library? He shared a few anecdotes with me and I suggested he stop by with what he had. Well, our schedules never worked out. I remember being so very disappointed that my schedule was going to keep me from working on this project with Verne, but it was too great to let it go by! I called Kathy Heicher, Eagle County Historical Society President, and the rest is history.
Writing a book is no small task. Kathy and Verne worked for the better part of a year putting together Verne's stories, his family history, and photographs to feature. Verne drew a map of the Burns area from when he was growing up and included this in the book, giving readers a view of the places and landmarks he's talking about. Verne not only shared his stories, but a manuscript his father, Joe, wrote called "The Making of Cattleman", and Verne included his grandmother's Ella's stories at the end of his book as well. Orris Albertson, Verne's uncle, would also write down a history of Burns homesteads in the 1990s.
"Beanies, Stick Horses, Marbles & Mean Chickens: Growing up in Burns, Colorado int he 1940s" is the final product and I'm biased, as usual, but it's worth a read.
"Do you have running water?"
"Yes, you take the bucket and run down to the creek."
The Albertson family is as old as the Burns area itself. From simpler beginnings as homesteaders settling a vast, rural part of our county, this is where many generations of Albertsons grew up. Charles Albertson, Verne's paternal grandfather, arrived in Eagle County in 1893 from Golden, Colorado. Ella McMillan, soon-to-be Mrs. Charles Albertson, came with her parents from Iowa in 1888. Verne's maternal grandparents were Albert "Bert" and Nona Gates, married in 1897. Bert and Nona took up a homestead in Burns as well. Verne received his first horse from his grandfather Charles. Verne was born to Joe and Ruth (Gates) Albertson in 1935, the last of three boys. In his book, Verne says that his brothers were the most important people in his life: it was Chuck, Frank, and "Vernie"/"Little Brother Hugo"/Verne.
Verne's childhood is one that belongs to a bygone era. His book is broken into chapters, some smaller than others, of different memories and stories-- and many of them include his brothers. The boys rode horses to the Bailey School, one of the four options in the area, and Verne remembers learning the techniques of spit wads-- the trick was to spit when the teachers wasn't looking, but Verne could never get his timing right-- and his first aspirations of a career with his beanie (think: slingshot). Notice there is little mention of school-related things like spelling or math. Verne and his brothers would saddle up to fish at Emerald Lake or stay at home to help tend chickens, cattle, and care for their horses. Verne tells how he used marbles as 'cattle' so he could buy, trade, and sell cattle just like his father. They would sort marbles together into 'herds' by size and color.
Today, Burns remains a small ranching community in the northern corner of the county on the way to Oak Creek and Steamboat Springs. It still has a post office—mostly just requires a name and zip code for the mail to arrive—and history abound. There are many small family cemeteries, a historic waterwheel (restored by 2016 Nimon-Walker Award winner John Comer), and was once a bustling stockyard. Thankfully, we'll never forget the ranching families that made this area what it was and continues to be.
As for Verne, he served in the Air Force until 1960. He would come home right before his first child, Shayne, was born. He would later have a daughter, Gail. Verne was an active member of the Cattleman's Assocation in the 1990s and served as president in 2002 & 2003. Verne now lives on Derby Mesa at the same ranch his grandparents, Bert & Nona, homesteaded. Burns has changed very much, but it's forever home.
Verne's book is available for purchase at the Eagle Pharmacy, through the Eagle County Historical Society, and at the Bookworm of Edwards. As always, you can check out Verne, Orris, or Joe's books at the Eagle Library-- but they're rarely on the shelf.
With a Special Presentation by Michael Crouser
Crouser's third monograph, Mountain Ranch, was released to 2017 to critical--and local-- acclaim. Crouser spent the better part of a decade capturing the 165 black and white images in his book, all of Eagle and Roaring Fork Valley ranchers and cattlemen. The book is a beautiful ode for those of us who are lucky enough to call this place home to the homesteaders, cowboys, and ranchers that made this valley possible.
For those of us in Eagle County, you may see some familiar faces. Actually, if you turn to page 194, you may recognize a familiar face: Verne Albertson. Truth be told, Crouser typed the first draft of Verne's book! The two formed a friendship through their time spent together and the appreciation is palpable. Come visit with us for a photographic presentation of Mountain Ranch and the connection between photographer and cowboy.
Come join in on an award-winning celebration.
Did you know that the Nimon-Walker Award has also received awards? Yeah, it's really that great. We were honored with the award for "Best Event in a Small Community" at the Downtown Colorado Governor's Awards in 2016. Come be a part of history as it's unfolding in our town.
Interested in learning more?
Perfect! Join us at the event and you'll have a chance to stop and chat with Verne & Michael. And as always, I'm ready for your questions, so give me a phone call, an email, or stop by the office in Eagle!