Vail Daily column: A Colorado family success story | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: A Colorado family success story

Vince Emmer
Valley Voices

Those summers in the 1940s spent camping the Flattops were glorious for any young boy. The whole family would go, living in a tent for months. Although wolves were supposed to have been eradicated in the mid-1930s, Bob Mayne's mom fired at one up there in 1945. Six-year-old Bob pleaded to take the shot. She took it. She missed.

Bob Mayne's parents wintered 1,800 sheep in Rifle, sheared them in March, and then drove them to spring pasture in Sweetwater. They moved the outfit up to the Flattops for the summer. Late in the fall, they drove the flock back to Rifle.

When Bob was 10 the family moved from New Castle to Gypsum. Bob and his buddy, Junior Price, would fish every afternoon. They mastered catching fish with their bare hands as well as hook and line. They roasted the fish right there with chicken wire on an open fire.

Joy's parents bounced all over the Western Slope as Joy's dad worked construction. She was born in the clifftop mining town of Gilman in 1938.

A few years later, Joy's family was one of the few civilian families to live at Camp Hale. As a first-grader, she came home from class one afternoon and surprised a German POW sleeping on the sofa. Both screamed. Joy ran out the front door, the prisoner ran out the back.

The family would have POWs over for dinner from time to time. Escape attempts were not a serious problem until the end of war when some objected to being sent home.

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After Camp Hale, Joy's family moved to Phippsburg, then Artesia, which is now the hamlet of Dinosaur. She and the other kids hunted rattlesnakes with ski poles.

Traffic would roar past on the highway. To entice travelers to stop, a local gas station exhibited a bear in a cage.

When a semi-truck pulled into the gas station a bit too fast, 13-year-old Joy and her playmates backed up to get out of the way. The bear grabbed Joy through the cage and began to feed on her.

A truck driver managed to slide some sheet metal between the bear and Joy to protect her head. Pain ripped through her body as the bear tore the flesh of her arm with its teeth and sucked the blood out.

The truck stop owner got in the cage with the bear and twisted its ears until it released the girl. Then the bear turned on him. He lost an arm in that cage that day.

A passerby drove the two victims to the little hospital in Rangely. Blood painted the seats, the carpet and even the headliner of that new car. When they finally arrived, the lone doctor was in Grand Junction until the next day.

Nurses scrubbed her open wounds with a brush and antiseptic without pain meds. Meanwhile the man who had been mauled could be heard in agony down the hall. After a horrible night, the doc returned. Joy lived. What remained of the man's shredded arm was amputated. The bear was killed.

Joy spent four years going to high school in Gypsum with Bob. He hit on the beautiful girl regularly. She turned him down just as regularly.

After breaking up with her boyfriend, a gal pal bet Joy that she couldn't get a date with Bob. Joy said she could get one in 15 minutes. She drove down to the service station where Bob and his buddies hung out. Bob sauntered over, cool as a mountain stream, and said, "I heard you broke up." Joy said "Yes, that's right." "Well how about a date?" Bob said. They were married six months later, in November of 1956.

They both attended university at BYU until the money ran out. Bob went to work as a welder in the Gilman mine. When construction started in Vail, he hired on there.

By 1974, Bob was a seasoned manager in charge of the lifts. Vail employees were proud to be part of something very special.

Firmly established, Bob and Joy started building a house in Gypsum for their growing family. While the house was going up, they lived in two campers and a tent.

Then Vail hit some financial turbulence. Management changed. Lots of locals were let go. Bob was fired, too. It hurt badly, he said. He had poured his heart into Vail and felt he owned a piece of it.

A new house going up, four little kids, mid-career — and no income. Then Bob caught wind that a milk business in Vail was for sale. He and Joy bought it.

That Thanksgiving weekend, Bob and Joy put the roof on their new house in a snowstorm. Joy swept the snow off. Bob nailed shingles behind her.

Bob left for work before the kids were up and returned home after the children were in bed. He did that for 15 years.

In 1986, Bob and Joy sold the milk business. "It hurt badly at the time, but Vail did me the biggest favor when it fired me," Bob recalls. They were retired at 48 years of age.

Neither was ready for the rocking chair. So they went into the affordable housing business. They built a riverside trailer park in Gypsum.

Then, at the urging of one of his sons, he says, "we bought a bankrupt block plant that I didn't know anything about. We put everything we had into it, though Joy would not let me mortgage the house."

With her bright sparkling eyes, Joy says, "I thought we were done with that kind of stuff. I was ready to travel."

They qualified for a government backed loan available to women-owned businesses. Bob says, "If it had not been for that, we'd have been bankrupt and gone."

"I got tired of working all day at the block plant, and working all night on the trailer park, so I sold the trailer park," Bob said. Then they sold the block plant during the last boom.

Bob and Joy then retired for real. Last November, they celebrated 60 years of marriage. After the Christmas holidays, they will spend the winter at their place in Hawaii. They have earned it.

Vince Emmer is a Gypsum financial analyst who runs Citizens Due Diligence in his off hours. Share your story or give feedback to him at vince.emmer@cdudilcom.