Book talks first-hand about Rock Ledge cattle-ranching in ‘40s-’50s
Since the late 1970s, Rock Ledge Ranch has been set up as a working ranch, in the basic model of the original established by the Chambers family in the late 1880s.
Between those eras, from about 1944 to 1953, another kind of ranch existed, in which the 200-acre site west of 30th Street was part of a massive cattle and farming operation that also took in the present areas of Pleasant Valley and Kissing Camels and extended north as far as modern-day Garden of the Gods Road.
A new 80-page book offers a first-person insight - at times humorous, poignant or both - into the last eight years of that operation, which was called the Westland Ranch. The book is titled “Rock Ledge Ranch (As I Knew It): The White House Years.” The author is Doris “Dorie Lou” Dillie.
She and her husband Donnie, the Westland foreman, made a home with their two children in the two-story Rock Ledge House. Cattle ranch owners Lewis and Louise Dent, who owned a a total of five ranches - in Colorado and two other states - lived in the nearby Orchard House (which was then painted white, leading the place to be known for many years as the White House Ranch).
The book includes several photos and illustrations by the author.
Following a mostly chronological format, each of the 23 chapters provides a separate anecdote, from two to six pages long, progressing from the Dillies' arrival in 1946 to their departure when the Westland property was sold in 1953.
Part of the land was de-veloped as the Pleasant Valley neighborhood. But the central ranching area, including the houses, barn and stables, went to the city in the 1960s through a grant from the El Pomar Foundation and eventually became an official historic site.
As part of that process, the Rock Ledge House was restored and is maintained in a manner befitting its pioneer legacy. But it was not like that in the Westland days. In the first chapter, Doris describes her first encounter with what was called the “rock house,” refusing at first to live there because of bed bugs. (The Dents had them cleared out.) There were also the times when Donnie brought three calves into the kitchen because it was so cold outside (leaving an unprepared Doris to deal with them), when she nearly burned the place down (by accident) and when Donnie and a friend (after “too much of their old friend Jim Beam”) ran a pony up the narrow stairs to the second floor.
Don Dillie passed away 12 years ago. He and Doris, who met in high school, had been married 60 years.
Now nearly 90, Dillie said she initially showed a draft of the book to ranch manager Andy Morris, who enjoyed learning details about the previously undocumented cattle ranch days.
The book was published this year in the city's print shop and is now for sale in the Rock Ledge gift shop. The sale price is $10, with proceeds going to the ranch, Dillie said.
(Note: An interview with the late Steve Kochis, who had worked at the ranch with Don Dillie, can be found at rockledgeranch.com in on-line copies of the Rock Ledge Living History Association's Annunciator newsletter for Spring 2009 and Spring 2010. A Westside Pioneer article about Doris Dillie's life on the ranch ran in the issue of Dec. 21, 2006. See the Pioneer archives at westsidepioneer.com.)
Westside Pioneer article