In March 2012, Peg Gilbert published her memoirs in a book titled "The Good Lord Rides Drag." Now her husband Harry has followed suit with "Sing Me to Sleep." Both books were written with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in mind, but old friends report the lives of both Peg and Harry make great reading. Harry credits his colorful and influential ancestors, the Gilberts and the Coffeys, and includes a chapter on both.
Music, farming, education, faith, work, marriage, family, retirement and RV travels form the basis for the book's other chapters.
It's noteworthy music that comes first in the book, as Harry describes winning the "Stars of Tomorrow" talent search at the Egyptian Theatre in 1949. As the top winner among both juveniles and adults, he was awarded an all-expenses-paid trip to Denver for the next round of competition. He didn't win, but he got to ride in the nearly new California Zephyr from Grand Junction to Denver, stay in a hotel for the first time in his life, and perform in front of his appreciative Denver area relatives.
With his beautiful tenor voice, Harry was sought after for weddings and funerals. As a high school sophomore, he learned "Sing Me to Sleep" for his first solo contest. Prior to the competition, he sang the song at a school assembly where his future wife Peg was in the audience. After hearing him sing, she invited him to a Rainbow dance and their courtship was sparked.
"Sing Me to Sleep" was the catalyst for another courtship, Harry explains in his book. His father sang the same song for his mother, starting a courtship that endured "happily ever after."
Harry kept singing throughout high school and during his college years in Fort Collins and Grand Junction. He first majored in vocational agriculture but later switched to engineering. Between switching majors and schools, it took him nearly six years to graduate.
When he and Peg moved back to Austin, Harry took on the job of directing the choir at Delta Presbyterian Church. He was also involved in local theatre productions while farming land near Austin that had been in his family for years. Farming was apparently in his blood; as a 14-year-old Fairview student he began farming 55 acres that had previously been leased out. After Harry and Peggy were married, they maintained an agricultural lifestyle that allowed Peg to share her love of horses with their two daughters.
During his junior and senior years of college, Harry had taken a correspondence course in plumbing, heating and air conditioning. As he neared the end of his education and found himself short of funds, Peg's dad, the owner of Delta Plumbing & Heating, offered a "scholarship" of about $65 a month, on the condition that Harry would return to Delta and work at Delta Plumbing & Heating after graduation. If he worked there at least five years, the scholarship would not have to be repaid. Harry eventually purchased the business and built a new concrete facility on Highway 92. The business alternately prospered and struggled as it was involved in construction projects throughout the Western Slope. When daughter Beth moved back to Delta, she became involved in the business. When Harry was ready to retire, he sold the business to Beth. Trouble with a business partner went from bad to worse and Delta Plumbing & Heating was shut down in 2000.
"In my 30-plus years involvement in the business, it was sad for both Beth and me to see the devastating end result of our earnest, and many times difficult, struggles in the business," Harry notes.
After retiring, Harry and Peg moved to Grand Junction where Harry became a tutor and later a substitute teacher in Mesa County schools. They greatly enjoyed traveling in their motor home, taking short trips when they were still working and later living exclusively in their RV. They decided mountain property was the perfect solution to their homelessness and built a cabin in Unaweep Canyon.
Margaret "Peggy" Porter was born five miles south of Delta on a farm along the Uncompahgre River. She reports she was "smitten" by a friend's horse, and since the age of 8 she's considered them great friends. The cover of her memoirs shows her on horseback.
She got a taste of city life every other summer, when her mother took Peggy and her two sisters to Pennsylvania to visit her family. For six weeks they lived like "town kids, with sidewalks, Como's store on the corner, and neighbor kids close by."
But growing up on the farm in Delta was never boring, Peggy reports, and she relates many of her adventures and the hard work associated with farming. She also shares fond memories of her school days, and credits her mother for insisting they were in Sunday school and church every Sunday.
She tells of many close, often humorous, scrapes which inspired the title of her book, "The Good Lord Rides Drag [With Kids and Fools]."
In high school she began dating Harry, impressed by his common sense, amazing work ethic and the fact he'd been farming since the eighth grade. She admits her grades could have been better, but she was working at the Egyptian Theatre most nights of the week. She also worked at J.C. Penney.
The summer after high school graduation, Harry and Peggy became engaged. Together they went off to college in Fort Collins, where Peggy started a two-year secretarial training course. After they were married on Christmas Eve, they moved out of their separate dormitories and into a small house trailer Harry's mother purchased for $2,800. That trailer could be pulled behind a car, so Harry and Peggy hauled it back to Delta when they left Fort Collins and later moved it to Grand Junction where Harry studied engineering.
By the time he graduated from Colorado State University they had had a daughter they named Beth. Susan was born in 1961 and Peggy devoted much of her time to her growing daughters. Since they were living in the country she encouraged the girls to take advantage of the activities available close to home — music, horsemanship and swimming. As a family, they took pack trips through the mountains of Colorado.
Horsemanship was Peggy's passion, one that soon extended to paint horses. She became involved in paint horse events locally and nationally. With the construction of an indoor arena on their property overlooking the Gunnison River, she began teaching horsemanship and boarding horses of all kinds.
In 1988, a group of Delta residents decided to draw attention to the importance of the horse industry in western Colorado. Peggy had pulled off "The Wonderful World of Horses" for the grand opening of her arena, and it was decided to expand the concept for Deltarado Days. With the help of local horse lovers, the show was a hit. Momentum was built for the Horse Country Arena near Confluence Park, which was dedicated in 1991. Later she was involved in the construction of the equestrian trail at Confluence Park.
Her activities led to her selection as Colorado Horseman of the Year in 1992 and her inclusion in the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas.
It took many years to find just the right buyer for their home and arena, but in 2001 a deal was completed and Harry and Peggy took off in their motor home. During their travels the idea of purchasing mountain property gained attraction, and in May 2002 they bought a 40.9-acre lot overlooking Unaweep Canyon and began planning the cabin they would build there. They purchased a townhome in Grand Junction to call home during the winter months. Both had treasured memories of friends and activities at Delta Presbyterian Church, so it was a bittersweet moment when they decided to transfer membership to First Presbyterian Church in Grand Junction. Peggy became active in the Stephen Ministry.
While Peggy laments our "socialist society" that's turned its back on God, the book is primarily full of cherished memories and gratefulness and love for her husband, two daughters and three "grands."
For others interested in sharing their life stories, both Peggy and Harry's books were made possible by DiggyPOD, an online printing company. They ordered only a limited number of copies to share with friends and family members, but they have donated autographed copies to the Delta County Museum and the Presbyterian Church of Delta.blog comments powered by Disqus