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Memories of Christopher Creek life

Christopher Creek has a rich heritage from the pioneer families in our first 100 years.

Beginning in 1880, our first resident, a French trapper, Isador Christopher, settled on what would become the CI Ranch.

The Bowmans bought the ranch in the early 1900s and years later were forced to sell the ranch and lived out their remaining years with their son, Lewis and his family, at the 13 Ranch.

Another family with a tremendous influence was the Ashby family, which owned the CI Ranch property from well before the middle of the last century.

Much later on, Paul and Polly divided the property among the children and eventually subdividing it into individual lots brings us to where we live today.

Sometime back in the 1950s, a young man from Mesa came to the area to build cabins. He built his first home in See Canyon and moved his family here in the early 1960s. His name was Heber White.

Heber and Blanche raised a family here in the Creek.

A son, Larry, and two daughters, Deanna and Karen (Cookie) all cherish their childhood growing up here in the 1960s and 70s.

Over the years, Heber built an excavating company and was instrumental in the building the gas station, Clipper’s Mobile Home Park, and the lot preparation at Creekside. Along the way, he installed untold numbers of septic systems and cabin foundations around the Creek.

He purchased the Christopher Creek Bar in the mid-60s, which is now the Landmark.

Blanche played guitar and Heber sang Hank Williams’ tunes to entertain the weekend customers. Heber was the “mayor” of Christopher Creek.

A week ago a message from Cookie said she was coming to the Creek and she had something for me.

We met up with Cookie, Deanna, and Linda, Larry’s wife, last Saturday afternoon on the deck at the Landmark. What ensued was a long, wide-ranging conversation about growing up in the Creek that stretched from one hour, to two, to three-and-a-half hours.

The stories brought laughter and tears and, for me, a better insight into their long connection to the Creek.

Deanna talked of what it was like with working parents and her younger years hanging out around the bar and restaurant.

She spoke of being in the shadow of her big sister. She was Payson Rodeo Queen after Cookie had been queen five or six years prior.

Deanna is currently working in the Creek as the capable administration assistant for Chief Lockhart at the fire station.

Deanna shared her past and Linda chimed in when she could with names and details, but the afternoon belonged to Cookie. We learned that at the tender age of 12, she was bushing out and gathering cattle from the 13 Ranch all the way to Young. For a half-dozen years, she helped Bill Bowman with his cattle drives, camping along the trail and doing the cropping, branding and, yes, castrations.

She talked about her friends growing up and the old-timers she knew.

She learned the guitar on the cherished gift from old Bill Bowman.

There were a lot of stories about their mom and dad.

This weekend is the 48th Anniversary of the Labor Day Flood.

The reason Cookie had made a trip all the way from Tucson was to bring me a copy of her story. She had written and self-published her account of her experiences on that fateful day and the powerful unburdening she found at the memorial dedication. It was a burden she didn’t realize she had carried all those years.

Following the memorial dedication two years ago, she told of wanting to run to the family of the young mother who perished in the raging waters of Christopher Creek.

“Hanging on to a tree for dear life at the age of 19, is something I never thought I would be doing. But there I was.” That is how she began.

It’s a vignette of terror, clinging to a spindly pine tree as larger trees and debris in the rampage went around.

She was with a friend, Kim, who she pulled from the waters by the hair, a fact she had blocked from her memory for 46 years.

It is a compelling, well written, real-life experience.

Cookie did a great job.

And thank you, Deanna and Linda for a great afternoon.

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