Changing times


Things have changed for Jack Redmond. Fifty years ago, Redmond knew almost everyone in Yampa. He frequented the Antlers Cafe & Bar, where many people would come in simply to chat. He could drive to Steamboat Springs and see friends there, as well.

No matter where he was, people -- even total strangers -- could be seen talking to each other. But these days, he said, things have changed.

Redmond thinks the world has become more impersonal. When he leaves his ranch on the outskirts of the county, he enjoys talking with other people in the grocery store or on the street, but he often gets puzzled looks.

"People just don't talk anymore," Redmond said. "I don't know a fourth of the people in Yampa now."

But Redmond's best friends are at home -- his wife, Wanda, his dogs, Routt and Frosty, and his herd of about 50 white-faced, Hereford cattle.

He actually has one black calf among the brown and white herd. It came from a neighbor's bull that got mixed up in his herd. "They say every family has a black sheep," Redmond said.

At 81 years old, Redmond still tends to his herd and hayfields every day, despite having had three hip surgeries because of a birth defect. He raised sheep and chickens and grew grain. Wanda would tend to the housework, while he tended to the outside chores.

Wanda Redmond can remember the all-day task of slaughtering a chicken, plucking, gutting, boiling and then preparing it for dinner.

"No one plucks chickens anymore," Wanda said. "It's too easy to go to the store and buy one."

One thing that has not changed with modernization is the Redmonds' home -- a rare two-story log cabin built sometime near the turn of the 20th century. Jack Redmond was born in the house, which sits at the foot of the Flat Tops Wilderness Area. At night, the Redmonds can't see a single light from a street, a house or a car.

To get to the century-old home of Jack and Wanda Redmond, one must drive to the end of a dirt road among a maze of other winding, forking dirt roads. But the Routt County Board of Commissioners found it was worth the drive, because it placed the house on the Routt County Register of Historic Places.

While Jack's father worked the ranch, Jack went to school and eventually enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where he worked as a navigation electrician on battleships during World War II. He remembers working on the ships in the Southwestern Pacific, being hit by enemy fire.

"I guess you call them battles, because I was scared," Redmond said. "When there is water below you and fire above you, you get scared."

After serving his time, he came back to Colorado to attend Denver University to study botany. He knew all along he wanted to return to the family ranch in Routt County.

"I traveled all over this country in my day," Redmond said. "But I've never seen a place more beautiful in the summertime than right here."

About the time Redmond graduated from college, his father died. Redmond said that fueled his desire to move back to carry on the family business.

Redmond worked and worked to make his land prosper. To help irrigate, he and some ranching buddies got the idea to build Allen Basin Reservoir at the foot of the Flat Tops in 1956. The 100-acre reservoir doubled Redmond's hay production, and it still helps irrigate several fields in the area today.

For years, Redmond had teams of hired men to help plow the fields and work other duties on the ranch with horses until modern machines changed the way the work was done.

He soon found he could do all the work a team of men and horses could dowith one tractor .

Technology continues to change the way he works.

Now, instead of riding a horse around the ranch to mend fences, clean ditches, harrow fields and check the cattle, Redmond rides an all-terrain vehicle.

Not only is it faster and more convenient for him, but it is also easier on his bad hip.

Redmond will not compromise his horse though.

"The usefulness of a horse has not changed," he said. "It is still more reliable and versatile."

As Redmond has seen many things change in his life, his work is no different.

"I've slowed down," Redmond said. "I can't get at it like I used to."

The new computer in the kitchen is one more testament to the changes.

But one thing remains the same.

The ranch has to be kept. And like it has for the past 100 years, the same name continues to do so -- Redmond.


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