Kathy Heicher
Special to the Enterprise

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June 6, 2012
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Mort Doll: In his heart he was always a cowboy

Morton Doll grew up on a cattle ranch in the Gypsum Creek Valley that was homesteaded by his grandfather and great-uncle. Cattle ranching and horses were in the Doll family's blood. Mort loved both the country and the lifestyle. Given his druthers, he would have probably preferred to spend his entire life as a rancher.

Mort Doll died May 19 after a lengthy illness. He lived all of his 89 years in the Eagle Valley. A memorial service will be held 2 p.m. Saturday, June 9, at the Farnum Holt Funeral Home in Glenwood Springs, 405 W. Seventh St.

In his younger years, Mort was a skilled hunter and a competent fly fisherman. He knew the mountains and valleys of this country like the back of his hand. He never got lost while out in the hills.

"He had a very keen sense of the country around here," remembered his widow, Starr.

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Born April 3, 1923, to Hirum Frank Doll and Helen Doll, Mort was the younger of two boys in the family. He and his older brother, Frank Austin Jr., grew up in the cattle business on a Gypsum Creek ranch located below the Brightwater development, on the west side of Gypsum Creek Road.

Mort completed his elementary education at the Upper Gypsum Creek School and graduated from the Eagle County High School in Gypsum in 1941. It was there that he befriended a "town girl," Starr Conway. By that time, his dad had bought a ranch

After graduation, Mort headed out to Colorado Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Colorado State University) in Fort Collins. World War II ended his college career after a year. Labor was scarce, and Mort's father needed help on the ranch.

"Being a cowboy was his favorite thing," recalled Starr. Always slight in size, Mort probably never weighed more than 135 pounds and earned the nickname "Squirt" while in school. He attended local rodeos, sometimes competing in bull riding and bareback riding. His companions were often the boys he grew up with - Jack Oleson, Eugene (Junior) Slaughter, Edmund Bobson, Jack Clark and Bobby Stephens.

"Mort was a real good horseman, and a good shot with a rifle. He knew how to ranch." said Oleson, 87. He remembers in particular one non-typical deer that Doll killed. The deer had a series of little horns growing all over its skull, giving it a porcupine-like appearance. Oleson and Doll drove through a blizzard to take the head to be displayed at Denver's Buckhorn Exchange restaurant, which is famous for such unusual trophies.

Mort and Starr were married in Eagle on Jan. 6, 1946. The young couple moved to Dotsero and soon was raising their two sons, Kevin and Buddy, in a house below the present Stephen's Nursery.

Starr and Buddy recall that summers were spent at "cow camp" in the Onion Ridge and Short Creek country, located between Sweetwater and Deep Creek. The boys learned to ride horses, fish, hunt, tie flies and drive tractors.

"We enjoyed it," said Buddy, while admitting that at the time, the boys probably didn't appreciate the opportunities cow camp provided. Mort was also the kids' 4-H leader and did some county fair judging.

In 1963, Mort's widowed mother sold the ranch. He moved his family to Eagle and after a few years working for the L.P. Gas Company, hired on as a surveyor for the Colorado Highway Department. He worked there for 22 years, working his way up to a junior engineering position.

"He was a pretty good mathematician," says Buddy. Mort was part of the crew that engineered the construction of Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon. He retired in 1989.

For a number of years, Mort and Starr enjoyed traveling in their motor home, with trips throughout the West, including the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone. Mort's health began to fail about 10 years ago. Although his memory slipped, he always enjoyed drives up into his beloved mountains and was able to stay at home until suffering a heart attack last month. He died in Glenwood Springs.

The simple eulogy Buddy posted on Facebook probably best honors the man.

"You grew up in what was left of the Old West. You will be missed by all who crossed your trail."

Mort Doll is survived by his wife, Starr; son Buddy; four grandchildren (all boys) and two great-grandchildren. A son, Kevin; and Mort's older brother, Frank, preceded him in death.

Memorial donations may be directed to the Eagle County Historical Society, P.O. Box 192, Eagle, Colo. 81631; or to the Eagle Valley Library District.


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The VailDaily Updated Jun 6, 2012 01:05PM Published Jun 6, 2012 01:01PM Copyright 2012 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.