Senior keeps local history alive


Wednesday was a busy day for Elaine Gay's Green Creek Ranch in Pleasant Valley.

The roaring Green Creek, which runs through the middle of the Gay's 2,000-acre cattle ranch, reached its peak and washed away the bridge connecting the ranch to the rest of the world. County workers repaired the bridge while Gay was busy setting out two trays full of homemade sweet rolls that she fed to her son, Bill, and two other men working cattle.

Gay joked that living out in the country isn't as peaceful and quiet as most would imagine.

"It looks like New Orleans out here. The elk have broke everything up. They broke my fences, they tore the vines off my house," she said. "We don't have a bridge."

Regardless, Gay manages to keep things in perspective -- a broken fence and a washed out bridge could be fixed.

Gay has lived most of her life in Pleasant Valley, which is 20 minutes south of Steamboat Springs.

During her 88 years, Gay has moved from the small Kansas town where she was born to the Yampa Valley. She went to high school here, attended what is now the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley to study to be a rural teacher, moved back to the Yampa Valley and married Robert Gay. They had three children.

These days, Elaine Gay continues to bake the pies, cakes, breads and rolls that are synonymous with a visit to her home. Twice a week, she makes the drive from Pleasant Valley to Oak Creek or Phippsburg to play bridge with some of South Routt's finest.

In the past 15 years, Gay has written two books.

Gay's cookbook, "Cowpokes, Cowpies and Otherwise," sold nearly 1,400 copies in the 1990s. Recently, Gay received a phone call from the Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver, which asked if she would be interested in publishing a second edition.

"At 88, it's quite a venture," she said. "I don't know if I have enough ambition."

In 1995, Gay published her second book, "How Pleasant is the Valley." Gay said former Routt County Commissioner Ben Beall asked her to pen the historical perspective because Gay has lived in Pleasant Valley nearly 79 years.

The project was easier said than done, Gay said.

"I really had to scratch around to find stuff about this area. I had to remember what (Gay's late husband) Bob told me. There were no records of this area in the paper, no one had ever written about it," she said. "It was hard for me to find enough stuff."

Gay put together a lengthy and detailed account of the area that began with Swiss families settling Pleasant Valley in the late 1800s. The book contains information about ranching lifestyles, what life was like in the past and geographic information about the area.

One of Gay's personal conquests during the process was getting the U.S. Board on Geographic Names to change the name of Grand and Routt counties' Service Creek to Sarvis Creek, which is the creek's proper name, she said.

"Some Englishman had come here and started calling Sarvis Creek, Service Creek and sarvis berries, service berries. Everyone else called it Sarvis Creek. So I declared once and for all I was going to settle it. I wrote the man (at the U.S. Board on Geographic Names) and asked if it could be Sarvis Creek," she said.

After proving that the creek's name had been Sarvis Creek since 1881, the executive secretary of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names wrote to inform Gay that the name had been changed to Sarvis Creek.

"It is forever Sarvis Creek," she said. "I thought that was kind of interesting."

Although Gay is unsure whether she will ever publish her cookbook again, there are copies of "How Pleasant is the Valley" available at Off The Beaten Path Bookstore and the Tread of Pioneers Museum in Steamboat Springs.

"I don't think they were the greatest books ever written," she said. "I do think my cookbook was the better of the two. That was personal. It was about my family and our ranch."

-- To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234,

or e-mail


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.