Wind and weather dominated daily life when Harold Rutherford was attending school in Eckley, Colo., during the Depression.
“Time and again, the wind would blow the lines down and it would be dark in the school,” Rutherford said. “The teacher would take a rope and hold the ends and have all of her eight or 10 kids get inside the circle and we’d go on the leeward side of the schoolhouse in the dust storm and the wind, and then one by one she’d take us home.”
When the dust and the clouds came, all of the birds seemed to disappear.
“It seemed to be nothing but sand and dust and wind,” Rutherford said. “It seemed like we had continuous wind most of the time, so it was pretty lousy.”
Stories of early Frisco
Rutherford tells stories of those early days on the Eastern Plains and his family’s eventual move to a ranch in Frisco in his book “Dustbowl to Paradise,” available through the Summit Historical Society.
The Rutherford family moved to Frisco in the springtime, and come summer, Rutherford’s father made a deal, contracted a place of their own and had it paid off within five years, mostly working as a carpenter in Dillon.
“It seems liked heaven with the creek going through it and the pond by the house,” Rutherford said. “Growing up in Frisco, our house was close to where the A&W is in Silverthorne now — that’s where our ranch house was. We had to walk to Frisco to school, through the timber and down to the school.”
In Eckley, there were 10 to 12 students in each grade of the school; in Frisco, Rutherford and his three siblings made up half of the school’s student population.
“It was a completely different picture as far as the amount of kids there, but we enjoyed the snow, and life was just completely different than eastern Colorado,” he said. “In eastern Colorado, there was all that wind, but if you tried to fly kites, you’d get them up in the wind and it’d be so strong it would break the string on you.”
Chores and diversions
After moving to Frisco, Rutherford and his brother and sisters swapped their kites and marbles for fishing poles.
“When we got to Frisco, I was immediately fishing and then we had that big beaver pond,” he said. “After we’d moved there about a month, Dad made us a raft out of some old logs, and with a couple of poles, we’d push that raft all over that lake all the time.”
Harold Rutherford went into the Navy when his younger brother, Dean, was 14.
“He helped Dad with the chores just the same as I did, and we had a sister two years older than me and a sister two years younger,” Harold Rutherford said. “My kid brother, when I come home from the Navy, he said, ‘I want to be a doctor, and if I go there, I can get everything ready to go to college.’ ”
Dean Rutherford was nearing the end of his four-year commitment to the Navy when a plane he was flying in went down over the ocean.
“He was quite a basketball player at Breckenridge,” Harold said of his brother. “He graduated from high school there. He liked to play there and he liked to ride horses; he was always on a horse if he didn’t have anything else to do.”
When the Rutherford kids were younger, they delivered milk into town, to Frisco and Dillon and even to Climax three times a week.
“So even at an earlier age, we were pretty busy,” Harold said. “We had chickens and a huge garden, so when the garden produce got up and ready to sell, we’d go every day into town and see if anyone wanted any fresh vegetables, so we sold a lot of vegetables in Frisco.
“It was always 5 o’clock in the morning to get the cows in and get the milk. We didn’t have electricity, so we had to turn a crank to get our cream separated. We had a different type of life, but I really enjoyed every minute of it.”
“In eastern Colorado, there was all that wind, but if you tried to fly kites, you’d get them up in the wind and it’d be so strong it would break the string on you.”