A Snapshot of Gratitude

By Hal Walter

I don’t get a lot of photo assignments, but I wish I got more like the one this past Thanksgiving week. Publisher Mike Rosso emailed, overwhelmed with a production deadline and a move. He asked if I happened to know the Rusk family and if I could perhaps take pictures of them to accompany an article about land trusts in the upcoming issue of Colorado Central.

I quickly shot back that I had actually known Randy and Claricy for a long time and would be glad to take pictures of them, though I knew it was a busy week. Subsequently it was decided that I would visit the ranch on the Monday before Thanksgiving, as the Rusks would be working cattle there most of the day.

With school out for Thanksgiving break, I loaded up my son Harrison and we headed to the Rusks that morning. The drive over there was a nostalgic journey as I thought back on just how long I had known this family, and I was startled by the fact that I could remember names of their long-dead dogs, “Sis” and “Copper.”

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The Revival of the Hayden Ranch

By Michael Conlin

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Colorado Preservationist magazine and is reprinted by permission.

A Brief History of Leadville

In April of 1860, a small band of wizened prospectors, veterans of the 1849 California Gold Rush, stooped patiently over the bone chilling cold waters of a small tributary stream not far from the current day Hayden Ranch. Patiently they searched the swirling waters of their gold pans for the “color” that would surely bring them fortune.

The tedium was broken when one of the prospectors, Abe Lee, rose stiffly from the bed of the creek and exclaimed, “Boys, I just found all of California in this here pan!” With those words, the rush was on, and the legacy of one of Colorado’s richest and bawdiest mining camps was born.

Word of the rich strike spread like wildfire, and soon the sounds of picks and shovels striking the hard Rocky Mountain earth rang from every tributary in the basin. By July of 1860, over 8,000 miners and prospectors fanned out over the length and breadth of the Upper Arkansas River Valley, spilling over the mountain passes into the valleys of the Eagle, Gunnison, and Roaring Fork Rivers in search of precious metals.

Beginning as a crude assortment of mud-roofed cabins and tents, a community aptly named Oro City, Spanish for gold, sprang up seemingly overnight. Millions of dollars in placer gold were extracted from the glacial alluvium of gulches with names like California, Nugget and Stray Horse, but the color soon panned out, and many miners moved on to the next strike.

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