Candy Moulton: Reading the West 1-14-13
Sometimes a book needs to be read, not because of lyrical writing, or political insight. Rather because it takes you back to a time when life was hard and family was the most important thing to consider. “No Market For ’Em” by Wayne Payton as told to Ann Williams, is one of those books.
It is a memoir of a man who most likely surprised his parents, his siblings and his friends that he made it out of childhood. No doubt he would have surprised grammar school teachers if they heard he stepped inside not one, but two, colleges. He may not have gotten an agriculture degree from what became Colorado State University, but he certainly got a lesson in how to cope with the difficulties of adulthood.
By almost any measure Wayne Payton is a surprising individual. The way he tells his story is uplifting, when most of the time there was nothing at all uplifting about his life. Like his parents, he worked hard, seldom had any money, and it was — most of the time — a real struggle. The Great Depression is a time that many people who lived through it may rather forget.
To say he got into scrapes and escapades is a bit of an understatement. “Being a quiet straggler in an oversize litter, I had to work hard to get noticed. Even my siblings come up short when they try to think of something to tell about [me]. If I hadn’t had a habit of not quite getting myself killed, they might not remember the little guy at all.”
There were horse accidents and bicycle wrecks, near drownings in irrigation canals, and range fires that he started when he wanted to see how dry greasewood would burn. These are stories of a family that struggled in Kansas, losing everything there and then relocating to the Western Slope of Colorado where they lived and worked in places from Grand Junction to Parachute, occasionally finding shelter in abandoned buildings like others who were enduring the Great Depression. They bought land sometimes, but usually didn’t hold it long.
Wayne loved the area of Battlement Mesa and Grand Mesa. He went there on Scouting trips, and on his own. Once with the Boy Scouts on Grand Mesa the youngsters spent time fishing. “The flat top collects rainfall for three hundred sixty lakes and a zillion marshes,” he recalled. “Those wetlands make for a whole lot of hungry mosquitoes, but we scouts were tough. After two weeks of eating the fish that ate the mosquitoes that feasted on us, we were all blood brothers, and there was no mystery left in the circle of life.”
Work as a youngster involved picking peaches, building fences, and putting up hay using horse-drawn equipment. The family left Colorado during World War II, moving to Oakland for better opportunities, and ultimately Wayne and his brothers served in the wartime military.
Once back in Colorado after the War, the young man knew it was time for marriage and a family, and he finally worked up the courage to ask Alberta Gardner to marry him. “Twenty-five dollars and a waffle iron isn’t much to get started on, but we found a little apartment with a promising cockroach herd in the bathroom.”
Alberta found a job work for some lawyers, and he began working at C&I in Pueblo, a job that provide for his family over the years that grew to include son Rand and daughter Ann, who helped in the writing of this book.
Wayne and Alberta always wanted a ranch but the security of the C&I paycheck trumped wants until after retirement, when they did buy the Gardner Ranch in western Colorado.
This is a book of memories. It is not politically correct (so don’t expect that). It is just an honest account of one man’s life … Well and the lives of his family.
The punctuation point on the story is the epilogue. Remember that Parachute ranch his parents had sold? Well, they may have parted with the land, but they had the good sense to hang on to the mineral rights. So in recent years as energy production escalated on the Western Slope, funds started rolling in. As Wayne put it, he hopes “Dad knows what a top notch provider he turned out to be.” ❖