But now I begin a new way of life. And I want to go back to the beginning and write my story. I can’t wait to tell about the exciting, wonderful experiences, sad ones, triumphant ones, just plain ordinary ones, but in general I feel good about my many years and know that many of my experiences are those that the ordinary person never knows. For all of them I am grateful. So here goes.

I was born on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1909, in the little four room house in Redmesa, Colorado, the second child of John Evans and Mary Pearl Willden Evans. About two years before, my parents welcomed a baby boy, Paul, but he lived a short time, so I was the first to live on.

After my Dad and Mother got married and lived in Redmesa, my Mother tried to make a farmer out of my Dad, but he was just never cut out for it. So he went to Durango in the winter to work and made good money in the mines, although working terribly hard. Then my parents put all the money he made into the farm in the summer. The cows often got bloated and died, the horses ran into barbed wire fences and got hurt and had to be shot and along with everything else, there was never enough water for the farm.

I tell my mother’s history briefly because it is so much a part of my young life, for all though my earliest years, I remember going to bed listening to my Mother practice the piano. This was after she had spent the day milking cows, weeding the garden, washing outside on a board with the water heated on the wood stove, taking care of we children, canning fruit, cleaning house, cooking meals, ironing with ‘flat irons’ heated on the stove, mending and sewing. She became quite proficient on piano and even taught piano for many years.

When I was about two, and before Vera was born, it was my parents turn to manage the Co-op store. I believe that different couples in the valley took turns managing it. Since it was just across the road from the Meetinghouse, my folks often put me to bed in our living quarters in the back of the store and walked across the road to the Meetinghouse when there was a dance or social. They returned every half hour or so to check on me and for months I was always sound asleep. However, one night, probably thinking that I would sleep the night away soundly, they didn’t return to check on me for a longer time than usual. Of course, that would be the night I awoke and found myself alone. I made my way through the dark store seeing lions and tigers lurking under all the counters until I reached the big front window where I stood and screamed and screamed until my parents finally came home and found me amidst the terror lurking in the dark. That was the last time they ever left me alone.

From then I can remember going to the dances and being put to sleep on blankets on a table, along with all the other small children on the stage, while my parents and all the other grown-ups dance their heads off in the main part of the hall.

When I was about two years old, another baby girl joined our family and was named Vera. I couldn’t wait for her to get big enough to play dolls with me, and build play-houses under the trees. In fact, Dad built us a playhouse at one time and both of us loved it.

I was the oldest grandchild, and was showered with attention and love. Vera was next and then Wanda, Donna and when I was in high school Harold John. When I was growing up, I didn’t think about whether I was having a good childhood or not, but as I look back on it now, I realize that it was the best possible. I had love from my parents and siblings, as well as having my loving grandparents and uncles and aunts next door, to who I was very close. So many children now marry and move far away from their families and seldom see their grandparents or relatives and I feel that children who grow up among many relatives are lucky.

Dora Burnham and her children lived just northwest of us, on the road to the schoolhouse. Her daughter, Jean, my second cousin, and I were best friends. We were inseparable. I can remember that their family often got trunks of beautiful cast-off clothes from some Aunt in Salt Lake or somewhere. She was always a shadowy, but beautiful figure to me in childhood. I can remember watching as they unpacked the velvets, satins and other beautiful dresses. Bessie didn’t seem to be particularly interested in them, but Verna, just older than Jean, was and Jean always complained that Verna got the best of everything. She was a good seamstress and it may have been true. The trunks were magic to me in those days.

We sometimes bought material at the Co-op store across from the Meetinghouse. I remember asking Mother for an egg or two and taking them to the store and trading for a piece of material. Picking out material for doll dresses was a great adventure.

On the North of our complex and across a barren field was the home of the postman for the valley, Mr. Hilton, who drove his horse and small wagon each day to Hesperus, at the foot of the LaPlata Mountains, to get the mail, which he delivered around Redmesa. Sometimes, when Vera, my sister next to me, and I were young we were invited to go to Hesperus with him for the mail and this was often the highlight of our week.

Nothing much can be remembered of my first few years, of course, and my earliest memories are of standing by our home looking over to the Meetinghouse and the store, and wandering around the our gardens and orchard. We were at the high elevation at Redmesa and not much fruit could grow there. We had several kinds of apples, which thrived, and some berries, mostly gooseberries. Grandma Willden had a nice raspberry patch and we had a few, but mostly our gooseberries thrived tremendously, to my dislike. In fact, I hated them. Not only were the fronds covered with sharp ‘stickers’ which bit into our hands in spite of wearing gloves when we grasped the fronds and pulled leaves and all into our bucket, but then the leaves had to be separated from the berries. When that was accomplished, there still remained the brown ends of the berries which had to be rolled off by putting the berries in small cloth bags and rolling them.

Since they grew so prolifically, Mother canned about a hundred quarts each summer, and this meant sitting hours upon hours on the back lawn getting the gooseberries ready for her to can. Gooseberry pie was my Dad’s favorite, and he never had to go long without.

The ‘ten acres’ we also owned was west of our home site and it was covered with pinion and cedars, and a ditch fed by a spring further north ran through it. This was the path we took to get to the Meetinghouse on the ‘town site.’ Some of my earliest memories are of trudging behind my Mother, carrying kindling and wood to build a fire in the huge pot-bellied stoves on each side of the big room in the ‘meetinghouse.’ These were the only source of heat during the cold winter months in Colorado. The Snow was always about three feet deep during the winter and during March when the cold winds blew down the valley, the snow sometimes was swept bare of the earth and lodged against the fences so that we could walk right up and over the fences. Our summers were very short and there was a short growing season–another reason why the crops didn’t do well and everyone was so terribly poor. Actually, because my Dad went to Durango and worked in the mines during the winter, and for a time made good money, we always had plenty and money in the bank, but others were poor.

I remember other times when we went to meetings in the evening and on the way home, Mother would look across the ten acres to our home-site and see the lights in the windows for our house and scream that the house was on fire. We raced down the incline, across the wooden narrow bridge over the creek and up the other side to our home, only to find that it was just the reflection of the coal oil lamps through the windows. This happened over and over again with the same feelings of fright and terror. Each time we arrived at our little home panting and gasping for breath, but relieved to find no fire.

My childhood days were taken up with playing with my friends, going to school, visiting next door at my grandparents, and sometimes taking little trips to visit other relatives. During our hard Colorado winters we had great fun during recess and lunch hour at school by dashing over to the Steel hill and riding our sled down the hill. Then trudging back up and going down again. (No wonder I was slender) Also, we had many games we played in the snow. Sometimes lying down, putting out our arm and making angels in the snow. I believe that children still do this, much to my delight.

My Uncle Vernon was always a big tease. His nickname for me was ‘Dutch’ for some unknown reason. But, he was my big brother as well as uncle since we were fairly near in age. One of the big sports of the day was to build a ‘schooner.’ This was made by using two homemade sleds and nailing a plank to one sled at the front and then nailing the end of the plank to the sled at the back. This way the ‘schooner’ held about ten or fifteen kids sitting on it with our feet and arms around the person in front. Then my Uncle Vernon would hitch up his pony ’Ginger’ to the front of this contraption and off we went.