Dude Ranch Life- a little history

  • history of a colorado dude ranch
  • early dude ranch photo

The other day I stumbled across some great historical photos that I had saved in a file. They were from Elvin Tufly, who sent them to me after he visited the ranch a few years ago. His stories from that visit took me on an amazing journey back into the early days of Vista Verde Ranch. Back then, it wasn’t a luxury dude ranch, but a school of hard knocks hay and cattle ranch. The Tufly family lived at Vista Verde in the summers, and once it got too cold they would move their cattle down to Clark and live there for the winter months. In the spring, they would drive the cattle back up to the ranch to graze for a bit before driving them up to Willow Creek for the summer. The amazing, lush grass that fills up the valley and gives the ranch its name would grow all summer until it was time to cut it for hay. Come fall, the Tuflys would gather up their cow-calf pairs, separate out the calves, and drive them all the way to Steamboat to be loaded on the train for their ride to Kansas City. In the winter, Elvin’s mom would rally her girlfriends to ski up to the ranch to check in on the buildings. The gals would spend a night, shovel the roofs, and then ski back to Clark. Ok ladies, this definitely is a different twist on a girls’ weekend!

It’s pretty humbling to think about how different life was at the ranch in those days. No fully-staffed, all-inclusive vacation with bubbling hot tubs, housekeepers tidying up after you, chefs preparing amazing meals, and the horses saddled when you show up at the barn. It was a tough life, and we love to look back and imagine what it must have been like for these folks who called Vista Verde home for so many years. Thanks to Elvin for sharing these memories!

Some notes from Elvin about the above photos for you history buffs:

  1. After I enlarged the picture I was able to see the smaller boys in the picture better and discovered they are the Fetcher boys; the smallest would be Ned, who I believe was or still is running the Fetcher ranch. John Fetcher was the one behind the camera; after seeing the picture larger, I recall Orval and Dad were working in the corral and John drove up for some reason, and they had stopped to get a drink, as there always was a tin cup hanging on the pipe filling the water trough. The water came directly from the spring. I am the one in the goofy, extra large hat. The adults are, as we had determined previously L-R Orval Bedell Sr, Art Tufly (Daddyart), and Hollis Tufly.
  2. Art and Salome Tufly on the way home (grandparents). It would appear this was taken just above the old Poppin bridge. That bridge is gone, and a new one is there; it is the first bridge crossing the river after you turn off onto the Seedhouse road. The only thing left of the old bridge is a mound of dirt with a bench sitting facing the river.
  3. Art Tufly with a four-up team in front of the old house. It would appear there is a start of my parent’s house or possibly there was something there prior to the small log house, but that is where it stood.