Thursday, February 8, 2001
Steamboat Springs Patsy Wilhelm of rural Steamboat Springs is back in the saddle and riding her sorrel gelding Jackson during the Winter Carnival street events this weekend. It's a longstanding tradition for Wilhelm, but two things make this a special Winter Carnival.
This weekend marks the 52nd year Wilhelm has pulled young skiers down Lincoln Avenue behind her galloping horse. As the youngsters fly down Steamboat's main street, they attempt to drop rings in a galvanized tub and launch off a small ski jump. But this Winter Carnival is Wilhelm's first since a kick from another horse broke her leg during last year's street events. And it's the first time Gov. Bill Owens has taken notice of Wilhelm's contributions to the Western traditions of ranching and skiing.
The governor issued a formal proclamation making the week of Feb. 5-11 "Winter Carnival Street Events Week Honoring Patsy Wilhelm." He noted the street events have been a part of Winter Carnival since 1915.
Wilhelm also received the 88th annual Winter Carnival Western Heritage Award during ceremonies Monday.
Wilhelm said she wasn't about to give up her tradition after being kicked last year. After all, the painful incident was her own fault. She rode up behind a horse where she and Jackson should not have been, Wilhelm said.
"Every year I tell myself that I might be getting too old for this," Wilhelm, 61, said Thursday. "But I like to go out there and ride horses fast. And I think I'll do it one more year."
Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said he's known Wilhelm most of his life and thinks she's very deserving of the honor.
"She's a great, great lady," Monger said. "She's always been committed to the community and the kids."
Monger said Wilhelm has played a significant role in preserving agriculture and that way of life in the Yampa Valley. As a guide and outfitter, Monger said she's also a great example of an outdoorswoman.
Wilhelm's family first came to the area when her father, "Shorty" Truax, helped move her maternal grandparents, Art and Dora Snook, to Steamboat from Sedgwick County in northeastern Colorado in 1938. Shorty was enthralled with the Yampa Valley and sold his family farm so he could move to Routt County in 1939. He leased several ranches prior to purchasing the Win Ballard Ranch at the base of Copper Ridge in 1942.
Patsy ranches a portion of that ranch today. And all but 56 acres of the original ranch remain under the ownership of Shorty's direct descendants. Her children and grandchildren continue to be active in the day-to-day operations of the ranch.