Tales from the Tread: Semotan legacy lives
Steamboat Springs — Can you imagine. . .you’re a new widow, suddenly alone with three young children in 1933. It’s the Depression, and you’ve got some money from selling eggs and that’s about it.
You’re on a ranch with cows, horses and land to manage. The banker has told you, “A woman just isn’t up to that kind of job…better to move to town and find some work more appropriate for you. More appropriate for a woman (insert snide and condescending tone of voice).”
What would you do?
What my grandmother, Evelyn Ellis Peavy Semotan, did was put on her hat and boots and go to work. She wanted to ranch and had wanted to since she bottle-fed her first bum lamb as a young girl.
I doubt she could have predicted the sweat, sore muscles or constant worry in the years ahead. Or that she would have to leave her children alone with a hired housekeeper more than she would have liked.
Nor could she have known what it would be like to put her body through the rigors of being on a horse, chasing and checking cows all day, or behind a hammer fixing fence.
But I don’t think she would have changed it had she known. I’m pretty sure anyone who knew her well would have predicted the outcome. She did what was needed, and she did well. She managed to pull in wonderful people all around her to help, and to partake in any crazy community-building scheme she could conjure up. Plus, thumbing her nose at said banker was really fun.
Eventually, Evelyn would marry her soul mate, Quentin Semotan, and they would have a child together who equaled the two of them in talent (my mother Jo). They would build an even bigger ranch in their 54 years together, along with a heritage that went beyond ranching.
Take a look at any well-bred quarter horse you might see in this country; his roots go back to the dreams they put on hoof together. Imagine if she had quit when that banker told her to?
Aside from the ranch and her children, she found time to give back to the valley she loved. She helped build a hospital and bring electricity to rural Routt County as the first woman on the Yampa Valley Electric Association board. She gathered and protected the history of the American quarter horse and helped start the Routt County Cowbells (Cattlewomen’s Association). When she wasn’t busy, she gave time to the Red Cross.
She worked hard, but she got to live her dream.
I remind myself daily of that life she lived, how she jumped every obstacle and gave back happily, sharing the joy of living with everyone who knew her. That is part of her legacy to us. I have always felt very lucky to have heard her stories, to have known her.
Come and see what it was like to be Evelyn in those days. Come see the Wild West as it was lived right here in Routt County.
Come to the Tread of Pioneers Museum and walk in Evelyn’s boots. Learn about her life on the ranch with her husband, her daughters and her grandchildren and learn that her legacy is still alive.
“Foundations of Steamboat: The Semotan Family” exhibit opens to the public on Friday, Feb. 20.
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Explore a mix of in-person and virtual events happening this weekend in Routt County.