Remembering the cowboys
Vail, CO, Colorado
EAGLE ” There’s no doubt that Anita Witt, 68, has an affinity for the cowboy culture.
In her youth, Witt trained horses and performed as a trick rider on the rodeo circuit.
Although she’s no longer a trick rider, she has taught her horses, Whiskey and Jose Cuervo; and her cow-dog, Spanky, to do some entertaining tricks. They go on the road for special shows at children’s hospitals, schools, nursing homes, and private parties. Raised on the music of Hank Williams and Ernest Tubbs, she also sings old-time western songs, including some cowboy yodeling.
“I still love the old music, and the traditional cowboy songs, like ‘Home on the Range,” Witt notes.
She’s got a sly sense of humor, too. She’s threatening to name her next horse “Johnny Walker.”
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“Some of my favorite people are dogs,” she notes.
Witt also a historian, with a fascination for this country’s cowboy past.
A part-time resident of the Roaring Fork Valley, Witt recognized a need to document the history of the local ranching community. She spent six years interviewing real-life cowboys from the Roaring Fork Valley and northern Eagle County, including the late Burns ranchers Orris and Joe Albertson.
In 2002, she authored the book “I Remember One Horse … Last of the Cowboys in the Roaring Fork Valley and Beyond.” Local ranchers were generous in sharing their history; and often those stories focused on a favorite horse or dog.
She also wrote “They came from Missouri,” a history of the people who settled the Missouri Heights country of Eagle County, adjacent to Basalt. Those homesick settlers named their new home after the state they came from.
Witt will be the featured speaker on Thursday, Oct. 25 at the annual meeting of the Eagle County Historical Society.
“I’ve always loved the life and times of the Old West ” the songs, the stories, the clothes, and the smells of horses, dogs, and leather,” she says.
Since publishing her last book, Witt has continued her effort to preserve the local cowboy legacy by capturing the rancher’s stories on film. The end result is a documentary DVD, “The Last of the Cowboys in the Roaring Fork Valley.” The film will be shown on Rocky Mountain PBS later this fall.
Witt says her intent is to preserve the last of a culture that is being lost to development, subdivisions and shopping centers.
“I knew that it had to be preserved. There are stories and memories to be written down,” she says, noting that a dozen of the 24 cowboys she interviewed for her book have since died.
At Thursday, Witt will talk about the county’s cowboy history, and present a slide show based on “They came from Missouri.” She’ll talk about some of the ranchers that she met during her research, and share their stories. Expect to hear a cowboy song or two, and maybe see a rope trick.
Everyone is welcome. For more information contact Kathy Heicher at 328-7104.