By Joe Gschwendtner; courtesy photos
Can it be possible to catch one’s second wind as a nonagenarian? Meet Velva Bains, turned 98 last month. But you’d never know it. Spry and almost effervescent, age has not dimmed her many beautiful memories. Then there is that twinkle in her eye; it’s compelling. When she talks, one wants to listen.
Velva’s attorney and teacher grandfather, Mike Wyatt, was notable, found in Wilbur Fiske Stone’s History of Colorado. In 1913, her 16-year-old father, Vernon, rode into Sedalia from Pueblo with his family on a covered wagon.
The family settled on the southern portion of the Overstreet Place on Jarre Creek. Nine years later, Vern courted and married Sedalian, Minnie Hier. Their first child, Velva was born 18 months later. Two brothers, Tom and Alton, followed.
Ranch life was a mixture of fun and work. Velva played with stick horses, romped in Jarre Creek and barefooted in the wheat bin, chewing it as well. Later, she had her own horse, riding it everywhere.
There were also chores. Water had to be hauled from the well. Someone had to take the wagon to the cider mill to pick up the whey for the pigs. The cows needed milking. Jelly from plums on Jarre Creek had to be put up.
Velva’s mom sewed all her clothes. Her schooling came at the one-room Jarre Creek School, located where today’s volunteer fire station now sits on State Highway 67. Among her schoolmates were Gus Nelson’s grandsons. She also confirmed that Gus Nelson could be a bit wild in his later years, because driving his Ford Model T brought back his “inner child.”
A top-notch student, Velva went on to Colorado A & M (later Colorado State University) in Fort Collins for two years. World War II came along, and she taught fourth grade under a temporary certificate. Later, Velva finished her education with a bachelor’s degree in home economics in 1946. When asked “Why home economics?,” she responded, “because Dad paid the bill.”
The war years held sorrows for many. Brother Alton lost his life in its final days. Tom, with constant heart issues including a pacemaker, lived only into his 40s.
Velva and Texas-born Curtis Bains married when the war ended, the event held in the same ranch building in which she had entered the world. They honeymooned in Yellowstone.
Curtis worked early in oilfield exploration in Texas and Louisiana and later, with Hier Drilling locally. After living briefly on the family ranch, they moved to the Kreutzer Ranch deeper into Jarre Canyon, renting there for many years. Curtis eventually gained employment at Dupont’s dynamite plant in Louviers.
In 1951, Velva and Curtis adopted Patricia Lynne, and then in 1955, they adopted Alton. Moving yet one more time to the “Hill Place,” their family was nearer to brother Tom’s ranch, so the cousins grew quite close. After raising her family, Velva served Douglas County as assistant clerk and recorder for 18 years.
When asked for the historical perspective of a Sedalian, Velva replied “It’s an awfully nice place to starve to death.” For those not crystal clear on the challenges of dryland farming and ranching, Velva has lived them. It’s a tough go, but also a character builder.