Oxandaburu Lewis honored with first Legacy Award at SCLA’s 150th anniversary banquet
Margaret Oxandaburu (pronounced ox and a burro) Lewis was raised on a ranch on the eastern end of Las Animas County in Colorado. Her parents, Raymond Oxandaburu and Mary Gaillour, were raised in the Pyranees Mountains of southern France and made their way to southeastern Colorado where they met and married. She said her father arrived at Ellis Island after serving in the French Army and knowing only a few words of English. He was, however, good with numbers and had a keen mind for business.
He hired on a ranch working as a sheepherder and saved his money.
“I was amazed with my dad and mother because they had nothing when they came to the United States, and they worked up to where they built up enough of a sheep herd, he was able to purchase the ranch,” she said.
Lewis was the youngest of six girls raised on the Oxandaburu Ranch, nearly all of whom became teachers. Raymonda, Annie, Agnes, Elizabeth, Mary, and Margaret were the all-girl crew and they herded sheep, moved camps, and cared for the bands of sheep that numbered in the thousands. At its largest, the ranch, which was nestled at the north foothills of Mesa de Maya, ran approximately 14,000 sheep and 200 head of Hereford cattle.
She graduated from Holy Trinity Catholic School in Trinidad, and later earned her teaching degree. Lewis said her first job teaching was in Fallow Spring School, about two miles north of the ranch and Mesa de Maya. She rode her favorite horse, Socks, to school each day. She said Socks would often save her the time and trouble of mounting and dismounting by jumping over gates.
Don Lewis, who was raised in Branson, returned from the service in 1946. The two attended community dances and married in 1948. The couple raised two children, Dave and Lori. The family moved to the Branson area in 1957 when they purchased a trucking company from Harry Warner. The trucking company is still in operation with the third generation of the Lewis family and is currently owned and operated by the Keith Lewis family of Fowler.
Lewis taught math, history, and English at Branson School, raised her children, helped with the cattle, and helped run the trucking company. After a decades-long teaching career, she retired and remained at the top of the list of preferred substitute teachers. She said she still hears from former students.
Lewis, accompanied by her daughter, Lori, granddaughters Kerry, Kristine, and Korry, Kerry’s husband Jacob, and Margaret’s niece Cadette, traveled to France in 2012. She saw the ocean for the first time on that trip from the opposite side of the Atlantic and she was able to meet her mother’s and father’s sides of the family. She said she was able to speak Basque to her father’s side of the family, much to their surprise and delight.
“Our parents taught us to speak Basque, and we would talk Basque to one another,” she said.
She said the ranch utilized two-way radios and they would speak Basque to one another on the air and she laughed, thinking back about what the people listening must have thought. Lewis also speaks Latin, Spanish, French and English.
While visiting her parents’ hometowns, she had a chance encounter with a first cousin she did not know about, who then took the day to show her the small farm where her father was raised.
Don Lewis passed away in 1987 though, even at 98-years-old, Margaret Lewis remains living independently in the home she’s lived in for over 40 years with some help from her daughter Lori, and her son-in-law Craig Green. Lewis’ son, Dave, passed away in 2000 and his wife, former Rep. Kimmi Lewis, passed away in 2019.
Lewis will be honored with the first Legacy Award by the Southern Colorado Livestock Association. On Oct. 29, the SCLA will celebrate their 150-year history with a banquet in Trinidad. All funds raised will benefit the Kimmi Lewis Scholarship Fund, the SCLA Crisis Fund and RCALF-USA.