Clara Mae Newcomb

 

Written by Clara Mae Newcomb. One in a collection by Allen Bachoroski, Local Historical Writer and author of “Tales Along the Highway of Legends”

 

David met Clara Mae McInturff at a high school dance in Branson while she was living in town and attending school. She and her parents, J.L. and May McIntruff had come to the area about 40 miles north of Branson from Oklahoma with hope of homesteading a farm on the rim of the Chaquaqua Canyon. The young couple dated off and on for about two years, and during this time Clara Mae moved back to her parent’s ranch. On each date Dave drove all of the thirty miles to her home, and then if they went anywhere they had to drive another thirty or forty miles and then return. So, they did a lot of travelling in both good and bad weather. The main diversion was the dances held in the school houses in Branson and Trinchera.

When Dave was almost twenty years old he and Clara Mae was sixteen, the two young people decided they wanted to be married. Dave’s father was so tired of Dave being on the road all the time during the courting process and also of all the gas he was using, he finally decided to give his consent to the marriage. The wedding was held in the First Baptist Church in Trinidad on May 7, 1929 with his sister Laura Ellen and her husband, Jimmy Fox, serving as Matron of Honor and Best Man. They spent a glorious week honeymoon in Denver and vicinity and then returned to the ranch. Dave moved his new bride into three rooms of a little house that was in the yard of the Butcher Block Ranch property. During the summer, Dave’s younger sister, Clara, shared the second room with her classmates, which didn’t make for much privacy. Cooking was done over at the main house, and it was a very poor arrangement in the cold winter months.

Near the end of the first year of married life, a bouncing baby boy named Kenneth Ray arrived. After the baby’s birth they fixed and extra bedroom into a kitchen and solved the problem of having to go to the main house to cook. Three years later a baby girl named Betty Gail came along. By this time the drought had set in and the $25 per month wages didn’t go very far. Dave had to cash in his insurance policy to pay for the expenses of the new baby.

In the same year, 1933, Dave’s dad decided that Dave’s herd of cattle was too much for the drought-stricken ranchland to handle. The pastures were drying up and water became scarce, so Dave applied for a government loan, and Lee Rose, a good friend and neighbor, loaned him gas, groceries, and expense money while he looked for a few acres of land to which he could move his cattle. He leased pastureland from the CF&I near Aguilar and trail-herded his cattle and a few head of horses to the new location. He decided if he had more cattle he could lease a ranch and move to it and surely things would be better. He leased the Beirne Ranch, owned by Frank Zele, located above Delagua, near Gulnare. Dave Karsh helped him buy fifty more head of mixed heifers at a sale in Denver which were shipped by rail to Aguilar and the driven to the ranch in the mountains. Clara Mae, Dave, and two small children lived on the Bierne Ranch for almost two years, with prices and the drought becoming worse all the time. This was during the now famous dust bowl days and many time the dust clouds rolled so bad, kerosene lamps had to be lit in the middle of the day. These were very depressing times, and it became worse when the government took over and got rid of portions of everyone’s herds, as they were considered surplus in the drought-stricken land and not enough food was being raised to feed them. It was heartbreaking thing to see something a man worked for all his life counted out, driven a few miles to a huge pit, and slaughtered and then be handed a check for anywhere from 80 cents to $4.00 per head.

With difficulties he went through in the mountains, David seemed to feel those were two of the outstanding years he ever had. He was his own boss, able to make his own decisions, and allowed to think for himself for the first time in his life. Living in the beautiful mountain country, surrounded by tall pines and things too beautiful to describe, does something to a man’s heart and soul.

Postscript: David father, C.P. Newcomb, died in 1961, eight months after Dave’s death; Veva Hawkins Newcomb, his mother, died in 1976; Clara Mae Newcomb Johnson, Dave’s wife, who wrote this memorial of his life, married Ben E. Johnson six years after Dave’s death and died in 1968; Ray is retired and resides in Warwick, Rhode Island; Betty resides in the mountain area near Monument Lake and teaches music part-time at Trinidad State Junior College;Martha, who was 14 years old when her father died, lives in Xenia, Ohio; and David, who was twelve when his father died, is an engineer with the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The main event when the family gets together at Betty and Dick’s home is to climb Fisher’s Peak which they, like all Trinidad natives, consider their very own mountain.

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