Gerald Arnold, who endured harsh winters working and playing in an iconic Steamboat barn, dies at 89
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — When he was growing up on a dairy farm at the base of Storm Mountain in Steamboat Springs, Gerald Arnold had a long list of chores that many children living here today wouldn’t envy.
The Arnold boys’ chores included such tasks as milking cows at 5 a.m., constantly breaking ice from a frozen creek the livestock drank from in the winter and lighting flares at night to scare the coyotes away from the family’s sheep herd.
It also couldn’t have been easy collecting eggs from the family’s 500 hens.
Arnold, the oldest of the three boys who grew up on the farm that stood at what is now the Meadows Parking Lot, died Sept. 5 of heart problems. He was 89.
During his final days in Grand Junction, Arnold was excited to see that Steamboat residents were working to preserve the last remaining structure of his family’s old dairy farm.
Construction crews in August finished stabilizing the Arnold Barn, which has stood since 1928, so that the old structure will survive another winter.
Community members have rallied to save the sagging structure so that it can continue to serve as a relic of the city’s deep western heritage.
And the Steamboat Springs City Council could decide Tuesday whether to invest $286,000 of the city’s lodging tax dollars into the barn’s future preservation.
“Gerald was so into it,” his sister-in-law Helen Arnold said Monday of the community’s efforts to preserve the barn. “He was so excited about it. He talked about it a lot.”
Helen Arnold said Gerald found it hard to believe the old barn had grabbed so many headlines and was being preserved after sitting neglected for decades.
The Arnold family sold the farm and the barn about 55 years ago to what would eventually become Steamboat Ski Area.
Gerald Arnold recently unearthed the old wooden placards his family put in the barn to mark the names of each dairy cow.
Before his death, he had split his time between his homes in Grand Junction and Casa Grande, Arizona, but still kept up with the news from his hometown.
Steamboat Today sat down in April with Gerald Arnold and his younger brother Glenn at Glenn’s home in Grand Junction.
The two men recalled the grit that it took to survive in the Yampa Valley back in the 1930s and ’40s.
“When you have a bunch of dairy cows, they are seven days a week, twice a day, no holidays. You had to stick with it,” Gerald said during the interview.
“Farming today is quite different than it was then, of course,” he continued. “Everything had to be done by hand. You haul the hay with a pitchfork on a wagon and sled. You use your team in the wintertime. Everything had to be done every day. There was no excuse to put something off until tomorrow, because you had to get it done today.”
Arnold said he had dreams throughout his life of his days working and playing in the old barn.
Arnold was born to Walter and Mary Arnold in 1928, around the same time the barn was constructed.
After graduating from the University of Colorado, Gerald Arnold joined the U.S. Coast Guard.
He eventually owned the Chevron Bulk Plant on South Fifth Street in Grand Junction and “prided himself on delivering fuel through rain, snow, sleet and hail all over Western Colorado,” according to his obituary.
“A father, grandfather, brother and uncle, he was an example of hard work and dedication,” his family wrote in his obituary. “He inspired his sons and grandchildren to remain determined and ambitious in all things.”
Gerald was preceded in death by his brother Harold.
Gerald Arnold’s memorial service is planned for 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23 at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Chapel in Grand Junction. A celebration of life will follow at Horizon Towers.
“I think he had a full life, and he enjoyed life, and we were so surprised when he started having his heart problem all of a sudden,” Helen Arnold said of her brother-in law. “Glenn and I think about all the vacations we took with him. He was like a second dad to our kids.”
Arnold boys’ daily chores, as told by Gerald Arnold
• Corral sheep in evenings. Light flares to ward off coyotes
• Clean barn
• Put straw in cow stalls for bedding during the winter
• Gather milk cows and put in barn
• Feed each cow a ration of rolled oats
• Do the milking, 5 a.m. and 5 p.m.
• Put 10 gallon cans of milk from barn to stone milk house
• Wash pails, strainer and cans
• Start fire in stone milk house to keep milk from freezing
• Bring hay down from hay loft, feed to cows in the winter
• Feed all baby calves of various ages milk in pails
• Feed bum (orphaned) lambs by bottle
• Put team of horses in barn for overnight in winter
• Haul one load of hay from haystack in the field and disperse to all livestock by noon all winter
• Gather eggs from 500 hens
• Provide water and feed to hens
• Take 6- to 10-gallon cans of milk to town
• Break ice in creek (four or five different places) so animals could drink
• Go pick up kids after school (no buses)
• Carry pails of water to house
• Bring coal and wood to house
• Take out the ashes from cook stove and “HEATROL” stove in living room
– List of chores provided to Steamboat Today by Arianthe Stettner
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