Saturday, October 11, 2008


In the course of researching my family tree, occasionally I come upon old photographs that I find perfectly charming. They don't necessarily tell me anything I didn't generally know, but they may give me little details that help me understand a little better about what life was like "then" and "there." This photo above is one of those.

This picture is taken close to 1906 on the ranch outside of Las Animas, Colorado, owned by my grandparents, Scott Walter and Maud Susan McConnell Dobbins. My Aunt Dorothy, pictured with her mother, was born in 1904 and my father in 1908. Shortly before he was born, the family sold the ranch and moved into town, where the family lived until 1920 when they moved to Colorado Springs.

This ranch was a little southeast of Las Animas; Scott's father Jim had homesteaded it in 1884 and had first tried to raise cattle on it but later opted for raising horses. Except for growing a few things for their own use, it was never used in farming. A family story tells that Scott once was raising cantaloupes for the county fair -- apparently he had a knack for doing that, as he was considered to have "prize wining" melons -- but after the goats got in the melon patch and made short work of the hand-coddled melons, it pushed Scott over the edge and he gave up ranching for city life. There were a few stories left to the family about the ranch but none about raising turkeys.

Every time I look at this photo I laugh to see my grandma holding a turkey. If she had been holding her daughter, or even the dog, it wouldn't have been funny. But she appears so nonchalant about it that I wonder why she has it in her arms. Little Dorothy is dressed warmly, so perhaps the picture was taken around Thanksgiving time and the "selected" turkey had been culled out for you know what.

The dog was named Beppo, and he lived long enough for both my Aunt and my Dad to remember him from their childhood. My grandmother Maud had always lived in a city, first in Kentucky and then in Colorado Springs, and adapting to ranch life was a real challenge to her. One family story is that she tried her best not to complain, but when a large snake got in the house and curled up on a shelf in her kitchen, she marched the kids out of the house, put them in the buggy and drove to a neighboring house until Scott came home and dispatched the snake. She was brave, but not that brave.

Scott's dad and mother, Jim and Nannie Corel Dobbins, came to Las Animas from Kansas with their two sons, Robert Gaston and Scott Walter, in 1875. Jim first worked at Ft. Lyons, carrying the mail. He was friends with Luke Cahill, who was once Kit Carson's orderly. In Luke's later years, he gave Jim a rifle that had belonged to Carson. Jim passed it on down to his oldest son, "Gaston," and it eventually was donated to the Museum of the Fur Trade in Chadron, Nebraska and there authenticated as having belonged to Kit Carson. Scott and Maude were friends with the Thompson family, whose son Llewellyn had a long career as U. S. diplomat. President Eisenhower, named Thompson Ambassador to Moscow in June 1957. But before Llewellyn became a diplomat, he was my Aunt Dorothy's first boyfriend.

Las Animas is a tiny little town but it is rich in history. It is especially rich in my Dobbins family history, that's for sure!

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