Jack Frost knocked and Mother Nature said “come in.” I try to make it to October before I turn the heat on, I usually do, sometimes even get a week or 10 days into October if we’re having a warm fall. Not this year. I was up early Saturday and had to get moving and didn’t have time to fiddle with a fire in the wood stove. When I first got up the outside thermometer read 34, then just a few minutes later 33, when I went out to do the chores it was still dark and the thermometer had dropped to 32. A puddle an eighth of an inch deep from rain the previous evening that had accumulated on the tarp over the tiller was frozen solid. Goodbye garden I thought. I’d turned the heat on before I went out.
I lost a good friend a couple of weeks ago. I learned of her passing the morning the floods hit us.
I got to know Doyle and Luvesta Jones a little over the years we lived in this house, their house, and I’ve made mention of them from time to time. Doyle was born in my house in 1905, not long after his parents and older brother Lale had moved from Nebraska and bought the house.
Many early marriages were drawn from a limited area and Doyle and Luvesta’s was one of those, Luvesta was born and raised on a farm just a mile or two to the southwest, her maiden name was Ereckson and the Ereckson farm was just west of the Diagonal Highway on Monarch Road, for you locals.
Luvesta was a year older than Doyle, they were married when he was 20 and she was 21 and for the first 20 years or so their base of operations was the Shady Nook Ranch, 78 acres that had originally been the south half of the Caywood homestead. They tried a number of things to make a go of it; for a time they had a small dairy, a little later an egg business. One of their main customers was the sorority and fraternity community at the University of Colorado. In the 40s they began farming dry land wheat west of Berthoud on a farm that belonged to Luvesta’s uncle and which they ultimately took over. During that period their summers were spent farming in Berthoud and they came back to the Niwot house for the winter. In 1964 they sold the Niwot farm and it became Meadowdale Subdivision, platted in one acre lots. Barbara and Tracy and I came on the scene in 1971. We got the farmhouse.
We met with Doyle and Luvesta occasionally because both Barbara and I were interested in the history of Niwot as well as of our house, and as Doyle and Luvesta approached their 90s they often mentioned that while they both enjoyed good health they missed the many friends that had been a part of their lives who had passed on.
While I’m only 70 and still chugging along, with each passing year I have a better appreciation for what Doyle and Luvesta were saying and the loss two weeks ago was a reminder.
Myrtle Beresh was the mother of one of my oldest childhood friends, her youngest son Donnie. Donnie and I met when we were 5, the first summer we were on the lake, and Donnie taught me how to ride a two wheeler. The Beresh house was about a half mile down the lake from ours and Donnie and I spent a lot of time together at each other’s houses. In more recent years Donnie’s mother was Myrt to me, but I imagine in the “Leave It to Beaver” days of the 1950s she was probably Mrs. Beresh.
Over the past few years I would call Myrt on Sunday every two or three weeks and we would just chat, reminisce about old times or talk about what was happening currently. She had come to call herself my “second mother” and in many ways she certainly was, she’d seen me grow up, marry and go off into the world and she watched me from a distance as any mother would. Just two weeks before she died she said I was her third son, a role I was honored to occupy.
Myrt lived an independent life to the end. She lived in her own home, took care of herself, continued to drive and would drive down to Woodstock, Ill., nearly every weekend to visit her sisters. I spoke with her the Sunday before she passed away and she was bright and chipper, two days later she went to sleep and didn’t wake up, at the age of 96, as sad as it will make those of us who will miss her, a perfect end to a full life well lived. I guess all of us would hope for such an ending for ourselves, vital and engaged right up to a peaceful passing. I would anyway. Myrt’s daughter Betty Ann told me that her mother had told her minister frequently that she wanted to leave the home she had lived in for nearly 70 years feet first and she got her wish.
I identified with many of the old timers when I came to Niwot because they tied me to the history of the land, the place and the people, and now all of them are gone and I’m beginning to feel like the last buffalo.
I’ve been fortunate though in that I have a circle of good friends who continue to keep me grounded and support my efforts and it softens the loss of the others. We started the first meeting of the eight week beekeeping class last night, year number 14. Some of the earlier students have become not only good beekeepers, but close friends as well and you never know what’s just around the corner.
I’ll miss those Sunday conversations with Myrt, but she’s at peace and life goes on. ❖
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Steve Poet is an agricultural education teacher at the High Plains High School in Seibert, Colo. Although he has been working with kids for 20 years, this will be his fifth year at High Plains…