Celebrating the centennial of the Lazy S over S Ranch
On March 18, 1914, a young couple was married in the bride’s home near Groveland, Kan.
The bride kissed her husband goodbye a few days later as he boarded a boxcar filled with livestock and provisions for their new life in Colorado. They reunited on April 6, and established their home on 160 homesteaded acres west of Briggsdale, Colo.
One hundred years later, their descendants and friends celebrate the Centennial of the Lazy S over S Ranch and honor Elmer P. and Henrietta (Etta) Wendt Ball.
Elmer and Etta left the story of their developing love in albums of beautiful postcards, mailed with one-cent stamps.
Oct. 20, 1909. Elmer wrote, “Dear Friend — Received your card on Monday. Many thanks for it. …Was glad to hear you had a good time at S. S. … I have a compliment for you.” (Apparently the compliment was savored until their next meeting.)
Nov. 9, 1910. Elmer transparently wrote, “Kind Friend, How are you? I had a safe journey out here last night. Reached here 11:30 … I certainly enjoyed myself last night. It was fine. … I washed the wheels of my buggy today. It reminded me of last night.”
In October, 1912, Elmer wrote, “Since I have given up the exam it will suit me ok to go to the dinner Sunday if you can go. Louise told me about seeing us and you can guess the rest.”
Others noticed the couple’s affection by Oct. 13, 1913, when Elmer wrote, “Hello. How are you? … Am getting teased some and was asked to explain how it was that you came along. I said it was because you were related to Leana. Ha. Wishing you a bright and happy week. I remain As Ever, EPB.”
In addition to exchanging cards, Elmer and Etta captured moments alone when Elmer escorted Etta to and from activities with his horse and buggy. He preferred the “sweetest way home,” which was also the longest way home.
Elmer must have known that Etta was the right woman to share his dream of homesteading on a new frontier in Colorado. She could sew, bake bread, launder clothes, churn butter, make soap and butcher. She knew how to garden and care for livestock.
Etta and Elmer prepared to make their dream come true.
Etta stitched pieces of fabric into beautiful quilts. She sewed delicate table cloths and other linens. She collected utensils and dishes. Elmer taught school to save money, honed his farming skills, and acquired horses and mules.
After Elmer’s fourth year of teaching concluded, friends helped load a team of mules, two work horses, a saddle horse, two range cows, a milk cow, and three dozen laying hens in a railroad box car. He also traveled with a walking hand plow, harrow, grain-bed wagon, and 100 fence posts in addition to furniture and Etta’s organ.
After their wedding on March 18, 1914, and Elmer traveled to Colorado in the boxcar with the livestock, Etta left Kansas one week later on a passenger train, carrying her suitcase and a basket filled with plant slips and homemade butter.
Their story was romantic.
Yet hard work awaited them.
They butchered livestock without power equipment. Etta did laundry with a washboard and galvanized tub. She gardened, preserved food in canning jars, and buried produce in straw beds. She tended the livestock and homestead for an entire month while Elmer completed requirements at Colorado A&M College so he could supplement their income by teaching in Colorado.
Yet, Etta did not complain. She enjoyed simple pleasures like making butter with her crockery churn and wooden dasher on the west side of the house. She churned with full view of the mountains while sitting in a rocking chair given to her by neighbors, Mike and Louie Gilney. One hundred years later, Leonard and Tammie Ball are proud of their antique cream can inscribed with “Louie Gilney, Briggsdale, Colo.”
After months of hard work, Elmer and Etta sometimes watched hail storms destroy their harvest.
They persisted when grasshoppers devoured crops, army worms invaded their land, and wind eroded their drought-parched soil.
Their faith, tenacity, and commitment carried them through volatile markets, the Dust Bowl, and the Great Depression.
As Etta later wrote, “We had planned, prayed, and were determined to make this our little grey home in the West.”
Elmer and Etta’s commitment extended beyond their family and ranch. Elmer was an active member in many community and county organizations such as the Crow Valley Cooperative Livestock Association, Production Credit Association, Roosevelt National Forest Advisory Council, Briggsdale Telephone Company, Briggsdale Public Schools Board of Education, and Briggsdale Baptist Church.
Although Etta was responsible primarily for household chores, she also cared for the chickens, milked the cows, and worked alongside Elmer. She was devoted to her children and her neighborhood friends. As a member of the Cancer Sewing Club for 19 years, Etta sewed and donated over 25,000 items.
When Elmer passed away in 1959, he and Etta had developed the ranch and a sizable herd of cattle. Their two room house had grown to two stories. Etta continued to live on the ranch until she joined Elmer in 1971.
Elmer and Etta were parents of eight sons and daughters — Erma (1915), Elaine (1918), Ralph (1920), Wilbur (1923), Wayne (1925), Merietta (1928), Roland (1930), and Harriett (1932). Erma Rich lives in California. Wayne and Juanita are in Greeley, Colo. Merietta and Andy West live near Briggsdale. Roland and Verda raised cattle and crops on the Lazy S over S Ranch for decades. Their son and daughter-in-law, Leonard and Tammy, continue to operate the ranch.
Etta and Elmer’s legacy is one of inspiration and example.
Their devotion to one another and the Lazy S over S Ranch was beyond question.
They consistently demonstrated commitment to their faith, sons and daughters, neighbors, church and community.
Join the Ball family in honoring the centennial of Etta and Elmer Ball’s wedding and the Lazy S over S Ranch. ❖
Wilbur Ball wrote many articles and books about the Ball family and Weld County history. “Buggy Trails” is available through the High Plains Library District.