Mabel (Steele) Wright was born in 1898, the eldest surviving child of pioneer ranchers on the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River, a few miles north of the mining town of Lake City, Colorado. Growing up in a large family, among ranchers, miners and a ‘genuine mountain man or two’ gave her a great interest in people that lasted her 90+ years, as well as a confidence that was common to most rural folks of her day – the belief they could do most anything required. And like most of them, Mabel did whatever it took.
Just shy of 18, she took a teaching job at an isolated community in the Upper Rio Grande Valley. It never occurred to her to question her fitness and she continued to teach at another ‘one-room schoolhouse’ for several years.
After marrying a local rancher, she settled into ranch life: taking care of the ‘dudes’ who rented cabins for the season, mostly people escaping the summer heat of Texas, Oklahoma or Georgia and enjoying the world-class fishing of the Rio Grande and Clear Creek country.
While her ‘official’ duties mostly centered on the ‘dudes’, she was a traditional ranch wife: cooking for the hired hands, gardening, helping her husband and his brothers as needed. Her kitchen was the heart of the home, filled with friends and relatives, strangers granted the rare privilege of a mid-day meal or overflowing with the hay crew.
Very much a ‘people person’, Mabel relished the friendships of most everyone she came in contact with – from the early pioneers to the summer trade, from the ranch hands to the tourists. Her memoir captures not only the lives of those people, but also Mabel’s life and her readers will understand why all her friends held her in such high esteem and affection.