Saving Western settlers
ROARING FORK – Anita Witt reluctantly accepts the fact that ranching is disappearing in the Roaring Fork Valley. But she’s determined to preserve the legacy of the ranchers and cowboys.Witt, a longtime Missouri Heights resident and historian, wrote a book recently that tells the story of the last of the cowboys. Now she’s part of a team that’s trying to preserve interviews with those old cowpokes on film.Witt is working with the Mt. Sopris Historical Society, American Spirit Productions, and producers Chip Comins and Jolie Ramo to condense 20 hours of interviews into a 30-minute or so documentary called “Last of the Cowboys.”It’s important, she said, for future generations to understand what the valley was like before it was developed. The interviews were with 26 ranchers living in the Roaring Fork or lower Colorado River valleys. All subjects are elderly men who are second- or third-generation ranchers.
“They are the people whose ancestors settled this valley,” Witt said. “They worked from morning until night to eke out a living.”The urgency of the project is emphasized by the attrition rate of the old-timers. Witt said eight of the 26 people she interviewed have died. “It breaks my heart,” she said, “because they’re good friends.”Witt’s book, “I Remember One Horse … :Last of the Cowboys in the Roaring Fork Valley and Beyond,” with photographer Lois Abel Harlamert came out in 2002. The documentary will piece together snippets of the interviews. Witt wants the resulting film to be used in local schools, libraries, by civic groups and even Rocky Mountain PBS out of Denver. She’s particularly ecstatic that descendants of these rough-tough cowboys will get a chance to see them interviewed on film.”Their great-grandchildren will be able to see what he looked like, what he spoke like, see his weathered face,” she said.
To help the film project along, Witt is relying on cowboys and cowgirls of a different sort. She has organized an old-fashioned Wild West Show on Saturday that’s open to the public. Tickets are $50 and available at Sounds Easy Video in Carbondale and at the door. Proceeds benefit the project.The Wild West Show will be at the Leo Light Ranch, now the home of Kate McBride and Casey Puckett, at 5459 E. Sopris Creek Road in Old Snowmass. The party, with food and drink, will be held from 4-8 p.m. The Wild West Show will be at 6 p.m.The show will feature 11-year-old Cowgirl Kate, 2005 National Youth Champion Trick Rider, as well as 71-year-old Larry Lewis, who still performs in 15 rodeos each year, Roman-style, standing on two moving horses while he does rope tricks.Witt will perform with her horses Jose and Whiskey. Champion roper Craig Ingram will display the artistry of trick roping.
For more information about the event, call Anita Witt at 963-2180.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado
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