50 years with the Routt County Fair was just a part of Linda Long’s journey
Linda Long insists she is not retiring.
After a decorated 50 years working as the crop superintendent for the Routt County Fair, 39 years as the fair’s building superintendent and 31 years on the Routt County Fair Board, she said she won’t feel comfortable stepping away until she has passed her wealth of knowledge to her successors. She says a two year transition period should be enough, but even after stepping away, Long doesn’t intend to stop working.
“There really is no retirement for a rancher or housewife or mother or grandmother,” Long said. “So, I don’t plan to retire anywhere.”
Long’s accolades are numerous. In 2003, she was named the Fair Person of the Year in the State of Colorado, one of many awards she’s earned while serving on the South Routt School Board, the South Routt Medical Center Board, or when she was a 4-H leader, Boy Scout leader and Soroco High School volunteer.
Long’s commitment to helping others started when she was very young. She grew up during a time and in a place where people had to work hard to survive.
On the plat Casey’s Pond currently occupies, Linda Long spent much of her childhood living on a 1,500-acre ranch that was — at the time — east of Steamboat Springs. During the 1950’s, the neighborhood known as “condo land” was an unincorporated area of the Yampa Valley, and Walton Creek Road and the adjoining sprawl of condominiums were wide open hay meadows, and on many summer days, Long and her brother would pursue the family’s cattle that had wandered across those meadows and all the way to the top of Storm Mountain.
Her family owned a ranch near Finger Rock in Yampa but her parents leased the property near Steamboat, where her father worked as a custodian and her mother worked in the school kitchen. Many trips were taken back and forth between the two properties along “Yellow Jacket Road,” as she called it, referring to Routt County Road 14, the road through Stagecoach and beyond.
Canning food was a big part of her childhood, she said, as the brutal winters and lack of deep freezers forced her family to be resourceful. At a young age, Long learned how to hunt, sew her own clothes, and do leatherwork.
She met David “Dusty” Long during a country school dance when they were both 15 and in 1964, three years later, they were married — a year before Storm Mountain was renamed Mount Werner.
A year later, while pregnant with her first child, she learned she was sick with an aggressive cancer. Doctors told she had around three months to live.
She gave birth to her first son David shortly after. Long didn’t want her kid’s only memories of her to be defined by her sickness.
“When they give you three months to live, you kind of start making every moment count,” she said.
Chemotherapy didn’t exist in those days. Long’s only option was radiation therapy. Over the course of the next 18 years of her life, she experienced lung, ovarian, kidney, spine, breast and stomach cancers.
At the Routt County Fair in September 1972, Long was in charge of several kids while serving as a 4-H leader.
“It was raining cats and dogs,” Long said.
She stepped into the exhibit hall to get some cover from the rain, and saw Shirley Portow, the fair’s county extension agent, rushing to cover the exhibits with plastic.
“The building leaked like a sieve,” Long said. “I said, ‘Shirley do you need some help?’ And she told me to grab the other end of that plastic and we started working together. And that was 50 years ago.”
Long has been cancer-free since 1986, and lives on a ranch near Trout Creek, where her husband was born. In 2011, Long’s youngest son Donald died from a heart attack during a fishing trip. In 2016, her husband died.
Long’s oldest son, David Long works his late father’s ranch near Trout Creek. Long has four grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren who all live in the vicinity.
“I’m with the young people a lot,” Long said.
To reach Spencer Powell, call 970-871-4229 or email him at spowell@SteamboatPilot.com
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