The Fence Post obituary: Franklin Oliver Stetson
Franklin Oliver Stetson
Oct. 18, 1932 – Jan. 23, 2019
Steamboat Springs, Colo.
Franklin Oliver Stetson was born on Oct. 18, 1932, to James Frank and Lucienne Stetson in Oak Creek, Colo. Frank’s two brothers, Glen and Jim, joined the family in 1934 and 1937. The family lived in and around Oak Creek until after Pearl Harbor Day in 1941, and then shortly thereafter they purchased the Stetson Ranch on County Road 14.
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They milked cows for money, delivering said milk with a goat and a wagon. Frank’s job every morning was to bring the cows up from the meadow to the milking barn, and he loved to tell people that he’d jump on the last cow in the line and ride her back to the barn.
Frank and his brothers were influenced in their love for the western lifestyle by their parents and their uncles on the Stetson side. They were riding and roping fools, who didn’t hesitate to throw a rope on a cow or a horse, on an elk or even a bear! They were members of the Yellow Jacket Roping Club, and have belt buckles to prove they were good.
Eventually the ranch moved from sheep and milk cows to beef cattle, and Frank and his brothers worked alongside their parents on the ranch. They attended school in Oak Creek, and did some of their hell-raising in Oak Creek, too. Frank loved to say that they could sit at a certain spot in town, and from that vantage point, they could see more than 10 bars, so they’d watch for a fight to start at one of the bars, and they’d hurry down and get involved in the fray!
Frank’s mom owned and operated the general store in Oak Creek. She fed the miners and their families, even when the miners couldn’t afford to pay. In 1955, she started her herd of horses by buying Poco Bimbo at the stock show in Denver, and became one of the finest horse breeders in the western U.S. Frank shared her love for horses, and as kids we often saw him act as a horse whisperer.
In October of 1953, Frank was drafted into the army, and spent his time primarily at Ft. Carson training dogs for the military. In truth, Frank was an animal whisperer.
In June of 1956, he married Eileen McWhorter, whose mother said Frank was a “handsome devil.” They lived up on Morrison Creek, and their first child was born in 1957. Sadly, that baby only lived two days, and Frank and Eileen buried their first child.
Frank tragically lost both of his brothers in the late 50s in two separate accidents, and all of these losses at such an early age made Frank resilient and strong. Later in life he suffered through the loss of his second son and his wife with the dogged determination that life has to go on. We’ve often credited at least some of his toughness to the losses he knew.
Frank’s other children came along in 1960, 1961, 1963 and 1964. He and Eileen raised them in Steamboat because Frank was working at the El Rancho and Eileen at Yampa Valley Electric. Frank taught his children about ranching life, about horses and cows, and the kids were told that the animals had to be fed every morning before the kids could eat! The work ethic Frank demonstrated for his family is carried forward still in his kids, his grandkids and even his great-grandkids who are old enough to work.
Frank became a real estate agent, working first for Strout Realty, and eventually formed and operated Stetson Realty here in Steamboat for several decades. He specialized in ranches, but would sell any piece of land or any home someone wanted to list. He told the story often of listing a home without an indoor bathroom, and when he listed it as having a PATH, the Multiple Listing Service asked if he’d made a mistake, didn’t he mean a bath. Frank said, No, it’s only got a path to the outhouse!
Frank eventually built a home on Elk River where he still lived at the time of his death. He raised his kids there, many of his grandkids spent parts of their summers there, and still today it’s the home where we frequently gather.
After Frank’s dad passed away in 1983, Frank took over the cattle ranching operations, as his mom still ran the horse business. Frank’s sons primarily, and his daughters to some extent, worked alongside him in putting up the hay, feeding, fixing fence, irrigating, calving, and all of the other activities that go along with ranching.
He hunted up on Sarvis Creek on horseback his whole life. He even had helicoptered in a picnic table and a cook stove, and some of those larger items were left at camp, hoisted up in the trees to keep them from being destroyed by bears. He led many hunts for his friends and his family, and eventually passed that torch down to his sons.
Frank also took his family on camping trips up onto Sarvis Creek or into the Mount Zirkel Wilderness area. Eileen’s brothers David and Tom and their families would join us on the camping trips, so 11 saddle horses, and the pack horses necessary to carry our gear would head out for a wonderful adventure. All of us have such fond memories of those trips, despite the times the pack horses would get spooked and scatter the supplies out of the panyards, or the time Eileen got bucked off in the creek.
Frank also became a Superior Livestock representative, videotaping and selling other ranchers’ cattle, as well as his own. Ranching and agriculture was so deeply ingrained in Frank’s heart and mind that it truly influenced everything he did.
At the time of his death, Frank was still running nearly 200 cows, and he had just sold his weaned calves from last summer. He spent time last summer running the swather, and getting the swather stuck. But if you knew anything about Frank, you would know that he really lived for getting stuck. Whether it was in his two-wheel drive truck, the family station wagon, a tractor or the swather, the bale wagon or some other piece of equipment, he enjoyed getting stuck and then having everyone help and/or watch him get unstuck!
Frank is survived by his daughter-in-law Jean, and her kids Frank and Libby; by his daughter Laura Woods and her husband Bill, their two sons Jason and Michael, and five great-grandkids, Addi, Jace, Jackson, Camden and Cohen; by his daughter Jolene Linke and her husband Trey, and their three children, Sierre, Juliette and Rider and by his son Jay Stetson and his wife Tina, their two kids, Jese and Krista, and four great-grandkids, Payton, Parker, Nya and Brette.
Frank was preceded in death by his two brothers, his parents, his son Mitchell and his son Frank, who we all knew as Pud, and his beloved wife of 58 years at the time of her death.
Yampa Valley has lost another of the great legendary ranchers who formed and shaped this valley into being what it is today.
Frank loved his friends and his family, and he enjoyed spending time with them. He especially loved having his grandchildren and great-grandchildren work on the ranch with him. Several of his grandkids are still involved in agriculture today, raising their own cattle and putting up their own hay.
In addition to working with his grandchildren, Frank gave ranching jobs to boys and men who grew up here, boys and men who came to live here and some who were traveling through. If you could hold a shovel or a pair of fence stretchers, Frank could put you to work. If you could run tractor or hay equipment, he just might pay you more! Frank wasn’t an easy man to work for … he wanted things to be done his way, even if at times it was the hard way, and he micro managed the hired men and his kids, but often when a piece of equipment broke, he’d come up with a way to fix it, and even when the welder said, “That isn’t going to work,” Dad would say, “You won’t know until you try!” He was convinced that with some baling wire and duct tape, he could fix anything! And often he was right.
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