Ahh! The Good Life
By Rowena McLaughlin
My sister, Jessie Lines Casto, seemed destined from the time she was born to have a future interacting with and caring about people. She toted babies around whenever she could and babysat for the neighbors. I remember when we were very young we played house using some of the sandstone rocks in the back pasture for our houses. We had imaginary families, and, unbeknownst to him, Beeman Casto was always Jessie’s play husband.
Jessie dated other guys a time or two during high school here in Gateway, but never seriously, because Beeman was on her mind for real. As seniors they dated each other, and three days after Jessie graduated from high school they were married.
Roots in Gateway
Beeman grew up on the ranch in Unaweep Canyon owned by his parents, Byrl and Vivienne Casto, about 12 miles up the highway from Gateway. When Beeman was a senior, Byrl bought another ranch in Gateway so their other three kids could finish school there. Beeman and Jessie were married in 1951, they lived on the Unaweep Canyon ranch and still live there today.
Beeman rode a burro to school at the Summit School in Unaweep Canyon when he started first grade. He later rode horses, sometimes the broncs he was breaking. Only one year did the kids graduate from the Summit School rather than go to Grand Junction or Gateway for their senior year. That was the year Beeman Casto, Martha Belle Craig and Bill McFadden graduated.
Beemen was a serious youngster but also had a good sense of humor. It seems he hasn’t changed too much. Beeman earned his spending money as a kid breaking horses and working for the neighboring ranchers. He was working full time for his dad when he married Jessie. Beeman’s dad was a topnotch horseman and Beeman learned the skill well. One piece of advice Byrl gave his sons was, “Do your best to get along with all of the other ranchers running their cattle on the Uncompahgre with you.” Beeman has always done his best to follow this advice.
I remember, when Beeman and Jessie got married, a neighbor gave a shower for Jessie. Jessie was on the mountain at the cow camp, and, for reasons unknown, none of us told her about the shower, so she didn’t come. After we got over the embarrassment of that snafu, we decided to try again. The night before the second shower, Beeman was rushed to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy. We finally took the gifts to them, wished them well and let it go at that.
When their kids, Janice and Lloyd, were in school at Gateway, Jessie was active in PTA and worked 13 1/2 years as school janitor. She liked the job mainly because it gave her interaction with the kids of the community. She was available to visit with, laugh or cry with them or help them any way she could. Brad Larsen aptly says, “She was there for me when my mother died.” Many of those kids, grown now, still greet her as Grandma and give her a hug when they see her. That is the other innate trait Jessie has—her grandmotherlyness. Of course it wasn’t called that when she was younger, but now that they have seven grandkids, two step-grandkids, 14 great-grandkids and two more on the way, plus all the others who call her Grandma, it has come to full bloom.
Beeman has spent his years ranching and farming. His theory for their outfit is to raise all the hay for their cows if possible. He has taught his kids and grandkids and whoever else happened to be around to do it too if they were willing to learn. “Grandad always puts forth his best efforts with kids and horses,” says granddaughter, Lisa Roehm. “When he says something, you better listen because there is a life lesson there somewhere.” Beeman has a good work ethic, and, if you want to stay helping him, it’s a good idea to concentrate on learning, because he doesn’t spend much time fooling around.
Life has dealt them some hard blows, such as Jessie’s bout with cancer, the death of their son, and Beeman being severely beaten by two hoodlums while he was alone on the mountain. Having weathered these incidents the best they could, they have carried on with their lives of concern and caring for others. Their grandkids and great grandkids are a great pleasure to them and nearly all of them live in the Unaweep Canyon or Whitewater.
Jessie doesn’t do as much horseback riding as she used to but when it’s branding time she helps with picnic dinners, tallying and, you guessed it, babysitting the great- grandkids too little to ride.
Recently, when they gathered a bunch of cows, they found a cow that definitely had to be milked to keep her udder from spoiling. After a couple of the cowboys got their ropes on the cow, the other young men were trying to figure out how to milk her. Finally, Jessie could stand it no longer, so she strode over to the cow. “This is the way it’s done fellers, ” she said and proceeded to get the job done. I guess she didn’t tell them she started milking cows when she was six years old.
Beeman was honored as Mesa County Stockman of the Year in 2006 by the Mesa County Cattlemen’s Association. We who know him think he certainly deserved it. Beeman felt honored, but as usual, he reminded us that all he did was the best he could, like a lot of other men just as deserving of recognition.
It may seem like Jessie and Beeman live parallel lives, but they are together most of the time, whether working cows, farming, or sharing and caring. They talk about slowing down but have found that about as complicated as starting up their outfit. They are working at it though; or at least claim to be. I guess we’ll see.
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