Kanode ranch — A Colorado centennial farm
There’s no place like home and farmer Jacob O. Lekander yearned to return to his in Sweden. He’d just acquired his Ault, Colo., property on July 14, 1913. But only about four years later, he’d had enough of the American “wild west.”
So, on August 17, 1917, George and Myrtle Spicer purchased the primitive homestead. Lekander used the real estate profits for passage back to his homeland; the Spicers stayed, unknowingly grooming their acreage for a special award that would come more than 100 years later.
The work was very hard, ultimately brutal during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl eras. But cattle and field corn kept the family going.
There is very little hardship about the Great Depression and Dust Bowl years that is exaggerated. In fact, those times were likely far worse than even the worst accounts can describe.
Mary Kanode’s mother, Edith Lamm (daughter of the Spicers), told her daughter some very troubling details about what it took to survive those years. For example…
Lamm recalled the harvests; not of hay or wheat, because there wasn’t enough rainfall to grow those golden crops. Rather, they cut cactus and burned off the spines before feeding it to cattle. Also, Lamm got pretty good at figuring where each day’s dust came from. The really red stuff came all the way from Oklahoma, she’d told Kanode.
In order to keep that awful dust, regardless of color, outside the house, Lamm and her family wetted down sheets, which they hung over doorways.
Grasshoppers: “Terrible!” was Kanode’s one word description. Her mother shuddered to recall that they were so prolific and ravenous that if you hung your jacket on the fence for a few minutes, it was nearly devoured. Similarly, the insects gobbled up wooden pitchfork handles.
It was all way too much to take for many farmers and ranchers. They sold out or simply abandoned their property. The federal government now owns much of that land (including the Pawnee National Grasslands, Kanode said).
SPICER TO LAMM TO KANODE
Spicer daughter Edith married Keithley Lamm. The couple moved back to her childhood home, buying it in 1941. Their young family raised three daughters on the approximate 200-acre parcel. Beef and dairy cattle plus chickens and pigs provided a living wage for that generation.
One of the Lamm girls, Mary, is now 82-years-old and proud to say that she’s lived her entire life on the property; except at the beginning of her marriage. Those first nine months were spent in Greeley, Colo., after which time she and her then-husband returned and purchased her grandparents’ land in 1974.
Mary Kanode explained that she’s been around cattle her entire life. If fact, she began raising some herself when she was only 8-years-old, before she age-qualified for 4-H. When she did join the club, little Mary showed her cattle at the Weld County Fair for 10 years.
Kanode’s family made good use of that knowledge in their cow/calf operation for many decades and into the present time. Approximately 70 Angus cows and calves currently inhabit the ranch.
As did the Kanode family, likewise their ranch grew. Even though small by some standards, it now totals 1,400 acres.
CENTENNIAL FARM DESIGNATION
In 2017, the Kanode Ranch officially qualified for the State of Colorado’s “Centennial Farm” designation. To earn this unique and special honor, an agricultural property must remain in the hands of the same family for at least 100 years.
Annually, at a ceremony during the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo, farms and ranches that made the cut that year receive a large metal plaque and accompanying paperwork documentation. The metal signage is large enough for prominent display on a barn or outbuilding.
Kanode reflected on the many changes she’s experienced in her lifetime on the ranch. Although it’s 25-miles northeast of Ault, and halfway between Nunn and Grover, modernization has managed to find the place.
“In the past couple of years, we’ve been getting a lot of development (in the area),” Kanode said.
•Her place had no electricity until 1952.
•The phone line wasn’t added until 1943.
•A stunning count of 18 residences had to share that party line.
•Water was carried in buckets from the well for cooking, dish washing and bathing in a round granite tub (with the same water shared among three children).
•When she was a child, the house was heated with coal and wood.
•Her mother did most of the cooking — over cow chips.
•No indoor bathroom until Mary Kanode was age 8.
•Selling eggs was a big deal. Mary gathered 350 of them every day. They were weighed, cleaned, and placed in egg cases for sale at a Greeley market. Her mom’s fertile chicken eggs were sold to Meyer Brothers Hatchery. Those eggs were candled to check for fertility. And, Mary still has the old egg scale the family used for many decades.
•The Lamm family sold cream directly from cream cans to a Greeley creamery. Kanode still has the old separator.
•School was conducted in one-room buildings.
Formal learning in far flung rural areas was quite a proposition in and of itself. Kanode recalled the first one-room schoolhouse she attended, called Grout School. It consisted of only three families.
When she was in third grade, the other two families moved away at Thanksgiving, thus leaving her as the only student. Kanode did have two sisters, but they were six and 10 years older than her, and kids attended only through eighth grade.
So, she was consolidated into Prairie View School, five miles from the ranch. There were a grand total of eight students there. Kanode barely had time to sharpen her pencil before, a year later, another consolidation landed her in Purcell School, this time for three years. Finally, one more consolidation took her to Nunn School, at which she completed eighth grade and high school.
THE FUTURE OF THE KANODE RANCH
Kanode raised two sons and a daughter on her family farm. One of the boys also raised his son on the acreage and that genetic group continues to live there, helping take care of the cattle.
“All of my kids and grandkids would carry on the family tradition here,” Kanode declared, “if they get the chance.”
Mary Kanode further advised that her great-grandchildren are the sixth generation of the family to reside on and work the ranch. Most of them live 45 miles away but delight in the short journey when it’s time to help with the cows.
It’s impossible to tell what became of Swedish farmer Jacob O. Lekander after he returned to his homeland far across the sea. But if his descendants fared as well and prolifically as did those of George and Myrtle Spicer, perhaps both groups would sing out together as in a choir, “There’s No Place Like Home!”
And Mary Kanode has every reason to hope her Kanode Ranch carries on at least another 100 years as a Colorado Centennial Farm proudly run by her descendants.
Flo Mikkelson of the Colorado Historical Society is seeking information on Colorado farms and ranches that have been in the same family for 100 or more years. Weld County properties have received over 70 such awards. CHS would like to locate more addresses that might qualify. If you know of any, please contact Flo Mikkelson at (970) 324-5612 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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