Tales of "The last of the cowboys’ | VailDaily.com

Tales of "The last of the cowboys’

Kathy Heicher
Local history writer Anita Witt will share stories of the Missouri Heights area of Eagle County, along with cowboy songs and poetry at a special presentation Thursday at the Brush Creek Pavilion in Eagle.

The free program is co-sponsored by the Eagle Valley Library District and the Eagle County Historical Society. The evening will begin with a dessert potluck at 6:30 p.m. and a brief annual meeting of the Eagle County Historical Society. Witt’s presentation starts at 7 p.m. and all interested residents are invited to attend.

Witt is the author of two books, “They Came from Missouri,” which chronicles the settlers of the Missouri Heights area, just outside of Basalt. Her second book, “I Remember One Horse,” is a series of interviews with people Witt terms “the last of the cowboys” in the Roaring Fork Valley and beyond.

Among the ranchers featured in the book are the late Joe Albertson and Orris Albertson, both of whom were Burns Hole cattle ranchers; and sheep rancher Elmer Bair, whose family ran sheep in the Gypsum area.

Witt, 65, was born in Wichita, Kan., and started signing and playing guitar with a country band as a child, and doing some trick riding at local rodeos. After graduating from Oklahoma State University, she was a teacher before returning to the entertainment world. She sang and played guitar in various clubs and restaurants across the country.

She and her husband, Donald, moved to Missouri Heights in 1965. They built Center Drug in Glenwood Springs, which they operated until 1991. Upon the death of her husband in 1993, Witt returned to entertaining and playing her music in local restaurants in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Witt says her love of the Missouri Heights country prompted her to write her first book.

“I saw that all the ranches were being sold to developers. I knew the history was there, and no one else was doing it. I said, “let’s just go for it,'” she said.

Her book chronicles a time when potatoes were a major crop in the Missouri Heights area. She spent about three years writing each book.

She said that when she started interviewing cowboys for her second book, word spread, and soon she had more story leads than she could follow.

“I wish I could have interviewed and taken pictures of 50 more cowboys,” she said. “There’s still so many out there. I would love to have those stories.”

Witt will bring copies of her book for purchase to the Oct. 16 program.

For further information, contact the Eagle Library at 328-8800; or Kathy Heicher at 328-7104.

This story first appeared in the Eagle Valley Enterprise.

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