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Elbert and Hazel Walker
Elbert Walker and his wife, Hazel Carr Walker, both cowboyed for the Green River Cattle Association, Miller Land and Livestock and Jorgensen Ranch on the Green River Drift for nearly 30 years. They grew up in ranching families cowboying and then when they were married they helped Elbert’s brother Boyd run the family ranch cowboying the whole time until they started riding the Green River Drift.
Elbert was born November 22, 1914, to Dio and Laura Walker in Sunbeam, Colorado. He was raised on the family ranch at the foot of Douglas Mountain near Browns Park, Colorado, with his sister, Laura “Floy” Buffhm and brother, Boyd Walker. Here Elbert started learning the ropes of being a great hand with a horse. Elbert and Boyd started cowboying when Elbert was about six years old helping on his parents’ ranch and helping the neighboring ranchers when they needed help in Browns Park along the Wyoming border.
Elbert went to the Cottonwood and Oak Creek schools along with other country schools. World War II saw Elbert in the service for his country. He spent most of his time in Italy. On November 21, 1946, Elbert married Hazel Carr, the youngest of William J. and Ella Carr’s thirteen children. Hazel spent many hours in the saddle helping Elbert cowboy.
Elbert and Boyd ran the family ranch together, and then Elbert left the ranch, which is when he and Hazel went to work for the Upper Green River Cattle Association in 1957 where they worked through 1973. Rex Wardell had Elbert and Hazel take care of the lead end cattle. They would stay at The Bend to distribute the cattle on Gyp, Moose, Tepee Creeks, and Pinon Ridge.
Elbert and Hazel would go to Peoria, Arizona, in the winter and work at a feedlot. As the birds migrated north in the springs so did Elbert and Hazel, just in time for all the brandings. Elbert was a welcome sight at any branding. He could place a brand on a calf, so it would be read well the rest of the calf’s life, or he could rope a calf with just one flick of his hand.
Not only did Elbert help people in the Green River Valley at brandings, but he worked for Miller’s, Wardell’s, and Jorgensen’s. He helped Robin Murdock calve at Miller’s Todd Place starting in 1974. When Elbert and Hazel retired from the Association, they went to work for Miller’s at The Circle from 1973 to 1976. They worked for Carl Jorgensen in 1976. From 1977 to 1984, Elbert and Hazel helped Bob Beard trail Miller’s cattle to the mountains on the Green River Drift.
To watch Elbert ride a horse was a pleasure. He always sat straight and proud. He could handle a horse with ease and have the horse watching a cow in a very natural manner. He was a great hand with a horse because of his kindness, gentleness, but firmness. Elbert was given horses by ranchers to ride because it was known he “would not ruin a good horse and they always came back a better horse than when he took them.”
Rawhide braiding was another talent Elbert made look easy. He made beautiful rawhide headstalls, quirts and reins. Topping off this talented, old cowboy was his wonderful personality. He had a great sense of humor. You never knew what joke was coming next. How many times have you been washing dishes at the old wood stove in the cow camp cabin, when someone would walk in, pick up a piece of wood, scratch his back, and comment, “The cooties are staging an attack? I had to roll them over.” With a twinkle in his eye, Elbert walked out to go do some more work.
With the passing of time, another great old cowboy has passed into cowboy heaven. Elbert Walker passed away Sunday, November 20, 1994, in Maybelle, Colorado. Many things change over the years. With the passing of Elbert, we lose another grand, old-time cowboy who has left a lasting legacy in the Green River Valley.
Hazel Carr Walker was born on March 25, 1919 at Myton, Utah to William Joseph Carr and Ella Potter Carr. She was the youngest of 15 children. The Carr family came West the first time in 1853 when Hazel’s grandfather, James A. Carr, went to Eureka, California to mine for gold. James and his wife, Emity J. Rhoades Carr, came to Colorado in 1859. The Carr family moved to South Pass, Wyoming in 1885. There Hazel’s father owned a saloon and married her mother. In 1914, the Carr family moved to the Pinedale area where they lived in a log cabin on the Mocroft ranch. From Wyoming, the Carrs moved to Myton, Utah in 1918. The Carr family moved to Brown’s Park, Colorado in 1921. They settled in Chokecherry Draw at the old Gordon Wilson cabin. Hazel grew up in Brown’s Park where she met and married Elbert Walker on November 21, 1946.
Hazel spent many hours in the saddle helping Elbert cowboy. She was very good help. She always knew where to be, and she was always there. She was not afraid of the tail end. If she had to stay behind, she was at the cow camp cabin cooking a very good meal for the cowboys. She was also good at sowing things. Doris Platts, in January 1982 wrote a great description of Hazel which was titled, “Hazel Walker Has Done It All!” as follows:
Lady cowhands are often seen around Sublette County, Wyoming. In fact, a few years back Foreman Rex Wardell hired on an all-girl crew for the Upper Green River Cattle Association. There were 8000 cows with calves to be pushed into the mountains and kept scattered on good grass. There were four women. Two of them even did the shoeing. A normal day was about ten hours in the saddle without a stop for lunch. Whoever needed lunch after grass-fed steak, sourdough pancakes, and eggs at dawn? However special these girls were, Hazel Walker had done it all, years and years before.
Hazel Walker must be in her sixties. She has made her life at the side of her cowboy husband, Elbert. Wherever cowboying had to be done, the two of them went as a team and rode together. Their home was wherever their pickup was parked. Life did not bring them children so Hazel has found her happiness for over thirty years in sharing her husband’s life much more closely than most wives could do. However, at the same time, Hazel has managed to preserve her distinctive femininity. As an example, Hazel has been stitching original scenes of cattle and the Wyoming outdoors. One must look closely to be sure that the pictures are not done in oil. Except for winning some County Fair prizes, only her friends have known of her talent. She has just quietly given away most of her creations.
Throughout the years Hazel has saved ranchers thousands of dollars by keeping vigil during Spring calving. She has been midwife to, literally, countless cows, and nursemaid to as many weak and mama-rejected calves. Moreover, for nineteen seasons she rode on the big cattle roundup for the upper Green River Cattle Association. Hazel Walker is full of tales about days not yet gone by. She chuckles when she recalls how many crippled bulls she’s trailed long miles out of the hills. Because of her persistence, that job always fell to Hazel. Rex would come in and say there was a crippled bull and tell her to go get it. Hazel tells that she went way up Tepee Creek, where you go up over the divide and around the point of timber. “Right at the opening of that steep open end we found a bull with a foot that big around. I got there early in the morning. He fought me. He was mad and took to me. I worked him down to right above Moose Lake along the Mosquito Lake fence. It got dark and I had to leave him. When I found him next morning he was back on that meadow on Tepee again!” Anyone who has shared that experience (and you are shaking your head, yes) can appreciate Hazel’s dismay and exasperation. The only bull she couldn’t get was up near Mud Lake. She rode into camp and asked Rex and Elbert to help her…”He’s got that broken leg but, boy, he can wring that old tail and really come for you.”
Old Harry says, “Aw, he just likes you and is wagging his tail.” Old Harry thought he could get him but couldn’t. Finally, Harry and Rex went back, and Rex roped him and tied him to a tree all night. “Next day,” Hazel continues, “we go up there and that bull just misses Rex’s horse. I had a white horse and that’s the only way we got him off that hill, we let him charge that white horse. Boy! We mowed Quakers off that hill! That thing could get you. He was the fastest thing I ever saw.”
One certainly doesn’t have to tell a Wyoming cowboy that getting cattle out of willow thickets, like those extensive ones along the Green River, is certainly no picnic. One bad spot was known to the cowboys as Treasure Island. Hazel relates that when you drew Treasure Island and had to go into those willows which were higher than horse and rider you just wouldn’t know who’s in there with you. Pretty soon you go around and round and round. And then, you’re in the bog! For sure, cowboying is seldom ever easy. What makes it worthwhile is the comradeship, the shared experiences, and finding humor in it all.
It was late Fall up at the Bend of the Green River when Rex and Elbert, Hazel’s husband, had ridden out to the Gros Ventre to see about strays. Rex told Hazel not to go too far and to tell the others — Zelma, Rex’s wife, and Harry, another hand — where she was going. It was slick in the Fall and Rex, roundup foreman, didn’t like anyone riding by himself. So, Hazel rode to nearby Moose Lake and got a bunch of yearlings behind a frozen beaver pond. When she got back it was storming. Zelma and Hazel decided that they’d been losing money down the cracks in the cabin floor they’d move that floor, so they took it all up and got the cracks out of that floor. Harry had to cut them a board and when Rex and Elbert got back they were talking about how much slack there was. Rex muttered in this quiet humor, “What d’ya expect? That lumber was so green the pine squirrels were still jumping out of it when we laid the floor!”
Those were good days at cow camp on The Bend. Hazel tells how there was always a supply of canned milk. In those days the Sego cans always had a coupon on them. Hazel remembers when Rex called out to her, “My God, don’t throw that can out! Zelma can take fifteen dollars and a thousand of them and get an awful good table knife!”
There was a time that there was an outfit from Salt Lake that made survival kits and took a bunch of kids and turned them loose above the Green River Lakes. One day when it was almost time to make the morning ride, Rex broke a candy bar in two and took half and a cracker, wrapped it in newspaper, and handed it to Hazel. “What’s that for? Straight-faced Rex replied, “Survival Kit!”
One Spring at the desert camp the wind was whooping it up and it was rainy. Hazel thought she’d make bread, but she’d best check with Rex. She asked Rex what they were going to do that day. “I don’t believe we’ll do anything. Too wet to plough and too windy to haul rocks!” Hazel kept reeling off the tales. “First time they sent the capsule up, dangest thing they’d ever heard of. Rex and Elbert started over The Rim to see what was going on. “Boy, they hadn’t gone ten minutes. I don’t think they got the gate undone and they were back. ‘I thought you were going over The Rim.’
‘Rex answered, ‘I’ll have you know we got complete control over our capsule. WE can splash down anytime we want to!'”
The cow camps on the desert, at The Bend, at Rock Creek, etc., are still there. The organization is a little different, but cowboys still go to cow camp, ride daily, trail bulls, and have the roundup. It’s not all a thing of the past. Cowboying, for man or woman, isn’t easy, but, with a sense of humor, it can be all worthwhile.
Hazel Carr Walker passed away on Sunday, March 30, 2003 at the Memorial Hospital in Craig, Colorado. With the passing of Hazel, we have lost another great friend and old-time cowboy.