In the winter of 2016 our community lost a local treasure in the passing of Elaine Gay. She saw an amazing amount of change in her 98 years in the Yampa Valley and will be greatly missed. She was also the grandmother of two of my Extension colleagues, Todd Hagenbuch, county Extension director and agriculture agent for Routt County and Joy Akey, family and consumer science Extension agent for Yuma County. If you collect wild sarvisberries in the spring, you might enjoy Elaine's famous Sarvisberry Cobbler.
An interview with Elaine Gay
In 2015, Todd and I sat down with Elaine at Casey's Pond senior living facility and asked her about life in Yampa Valley. The video below is a portion of that conversation.
Elaine Gay lives across the river from the Pleasant Valley Ranch her husband's Swiss parents homesteaded in 1898. Bob Gay (1915-1994) died working the land that was his life, a folk hero continuing to feed with sled and team, opposing the development of Lake Catamount and radiating laughter and generosity. The sign on their porch door reflects that spirit: "Hurry back. May you always ride a good horse and eat good beef."
Elaine, who attended (local county) schools at Sidney and Mesa, shares her memories of 52-years of marriage and life on the Green Creek Ranch in "Cowpokes, Cowpies & Otherwise: Recipes of the Old West," a 1990 cookbook, and "How Pleasant is the Valley," a history of the area she published in 1996.
The cookbook is a smiling account of the foibles of hired men who have helped on the 2,000-acre spread. She says she never met one who wasn't hungry. Elaine is amused by romantic stories about cooking on coal stoves before electricity, and literary comparisons of stressed, modern mothers to their supposedly carefree, rocking-chair-bound grandmothers.
Excerpt about Elaine from Faster Horses, Younger Women, Older Whiskey by Sureva Towler and Jim Stanko0
An interesting lady. Thanks for the story.
I meet the most interesting people in this community. Thanks for your comment!
Karen: This is the best tribute to Elaine I've read yet. I'm Todd's sister-in-law and have known Elaine for 16 years. She was a great lady--always a gracious hostess and provider of tasty baked goods.
Thank you Kristen! She lived an amazing life in difficult times and I was blessed to spend some time with her.
Karen, Thanks for sharing these very special thoughts about Elaine. I loved listening to her talk about making snow cream and especially listening to her share her thoughts on how "life was different" in the Yampa Valley in the not too distant past. Lovely memories of such a special lady. Can't wait to try her cobbler recipe next summer.....and maybe some strawberry ice cream too!