Home on the range

Writer Queeda Mantle Walker to share historical perspective

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— Queeda Mantle Walker grew up in what is now Dinosaur National Monument before there were roads, running water and electricity in the area.

She recorded family stories from that era in "The Mantle Ranch," a book she will discuss during a Brown Bag Lunch Lecture on Tuesday at the Tread of Pioneers Museum.

Walker's book was written about a time when sheep and cattle wars were prevalent and Butch Cassidy was still riding the range.

"It's happy and funny, but it's a serious story of how our country was won by our forefathers," Walker said. "And Moffat County was probably 50 years behind the rest of the world."

Much of the book is based on the letters Walker's mother sent to her cousin about life out West after she married a cowboy, Walker said.

"They sounded like a cowboy-and-Indian story."

Walker's journey began when her parents took off on horseback to make the long trip to the hospital in anticipation of her birth.

"My mother was on her way -- about 10 miles into the 20-mile trip -- when the horse stumbled, and she went into labor instantly," Walker said. "My dad got her back on the horse and went to the neighbors' house, where I was born."

Only two of the five children in Walker's family made it to the hospital for their births. They grew up on a secluded ranch, where they had to use salt and soda water to brush their teeth instead of toothpaste, and her mother made all of their clothing.

"We didn't have anything that we didn't grow or shoot or raise except the little bit that came in on horses like baking powder, flour and sugar," Walker said.

Despite the conditions, her parents understood the importance of a good education. At the time, Moffat County would provide a teacher if the family could provide a schoolhouse.

"So my parents built a schoolhouse and gathered materials from schools that were closing," Walker said. "My teachers had to ride in on horseback and stay till Christmas, then ride home and come back after Christmas."

Growing up in primitive conditions taught Walker and her family to become self-sufficient, and that message comes across in her book.

"It doesn't matter where you come from or what route you have to take, you'll survive," Walker said.

-- To reach Allison Plean, call 871-4204

or e-mail aplean@steamboatpilot.com

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