Old time Cowboy Ted Cordova never runs out of stories to tell

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— Many readers of Steamboat Today were good enough to write this week and express their admiration for Ted Cordova, the old-time cowboy who recently turned 90 and is the namesake of Ted’s Ridge ski trail at Steamboat Ski Area.

“My uncle, Ted Cordova, is quite a man,” Jane Cushman wrote. “I can remember many times sitting for hours being mesmerized by the stories he told.”

Tom Ross

Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Tom here.

Since I first wrote a little in the newspaper about Cordova’s life and times Feb. 17, a new story about one of his escapades has emerged. It has to do with the fact that a cowpoke who has no choice but to bed down on the ground in rattlesnake country is better off when he can snuggle up to a protective pig. But more about that in a moment.

First, let me reintroduce Ted to those who missed last week’s newspaper column.

After growing up on a ranch outside Walsenberg, not far from Rattlesnake Butte in the 1930s, Cordova spent decades cowboying on ranches from New Mexico to Canada. One can safely say that Cordova was a member of a pioneer Colorado family.

After winding up his cowboy days working on ranches in the Yampa Valley, Cordova landed at the fledgling Steamboat Ski Area. It was here that he spent 24 years, building roads and ski trails in the summer and grooming them in the winter.

One of my correspondents this week was Tony Cascio, who worked with Cordova on Mother Mountain in the 1970s. He shared a story Ted used to tell about sleeping with pigs who protected him from snakes.

When I got Cordova on the phone this week, I asked him to confirm that the story was true.

“That happened all right,” he said. “I fell off my horse and woke up with my arm around a sow.”

Cascio recalled a few more details about the story and told it this way:

“One of the best stories I ever heard was Ted talking about being a young cowboy, riding into town for a night out with the veterans, then riding back to camp, drunk,” he wrote in an email.

“Ted passed out, fell off his horse and landed in the pig sty. He slept there until morning, when it was time to go back to work.

“I asked him, ‘Weren't you scared out there all night, with snakes and everything else?’ Ted said (with that twinkle in his eye), ‘Sonny, you don’t have to worry none 'bout snakes when you are sleeping with pigs. The pigs will eat any snake, and I knew that.’”

As if he meant to fall off his horse into a pig sty.

It never occurred to me take a pig along on a desert hike instead of a trusty dog, so I poked around the old Interweb until I found some references to feral hogs snacking on rattlers. Not only do pigs eat snakes of all varieties, there are rural legends circulating from West Texas to the Carolinas that feral pig predation is serving as a form of natural selection resulting in more and more rattlesnakes that don’t bother rattling before they strike.

Nothing I came across was as hair-raising as a YouTube video showing a feral hog casually rooting among some leaves piled up against a log while a rattlesnake repeatedly strikes him on the snout (careful, this will make you shudder).

Cordova told me he fully intends to return to Steamboat this Fourth of July for the first time since he left in 1993.

I bet we could convince him to share some more stories of the Old West while he’s here.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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