The Jerry Cobb family will serve as grand marshals for the 2018 Delta County Fair. It's an honor that the elder Cobb's two surviving daughters wish their dad was alive to celebrate. Jerry Cobb died in the spring of 2016 at age 73.
In 1952, Jerry's family moved from Missouri and settled in Olathe where he attended Fairview School and Olathe High School. After graduation, he took over the family dairy operation and farmed and raised quarter horses and beef cattle for several years. When times got tough, in order to stay in the cattle business, he began operating propane businesses and he was often seen in local parades driving a team of horses pulling a JC Propane wagon.
Jerry was well known in fair and rodeo circles. He was a member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association and he was a competitive team roper. He also raised and trained border collies and took part in sheepdog and cattle dog competitions. In addition to being a rodeo and fair competitor, Jerry actively supported local 4-H and Future Farmers of America activities.
"He really loved to support kids," recalled his eldest daughter, Sherry Cobb.
As evidence of his support, the walls of his Delta-based propane company are lined with a vast collection of photos showing sponsored youngsters and their fair animals along with contestants from the many team roping competitions he backed. For decades he was active in promoting youth activities throughout the region, not only in Delta County but also in Mesa, Montrose and Gunnison counties.
Over the years, Jerry Cobb took on the status of a local legend. Among the honors he received was the title of Rancher of the Year bestowed on him by the Montrose County Fair. But to his daughters, he was more than a legend. He was just a great all-around dad. Having no sons, Jerry raised his two girls to be his ranch hands and he taught them as Sherry recalled, "To do everything a guy would do."
Growing up, both sisters worked alongside their father on the family ranch, at distant cow camps, and in rodeo arenas. Asked to recall their fondest memories, his surviving daughters shared their recollections.
"When I was younger," recalled Sherry, "he and I were up high keeping watch on our cows. He had to leave to deliver some propane and I ended up on my own working with the rest of the hands."
She was tired after riding all day. She and her horse along with her faithful border collie, Blue, were crossing Roubideau Canyon when she got bucked off. Sherry landed hard and lost her glasses. The horse galloped on and she wondered how she was going to get along on foot when she discovered that Blue had chased after the horse and made the fleeing animal stop further down the trail. She mounted up and made it back to camp where she confessed to her father that she'd lost her glasses.
She was upset but Jerry Cobb was unperturbed. "We'll go looking tomorrow," he told her. "And I'll bet we can find them."
Sherry had her doubts but next morning they rode together to the spot and after a few minutes of searching her father announced, "Found 'em!" The glasses were lying in churned up ground, undamaged and smack-dab in the middle of the open sole of a cow's hoof print.
Jerry's youngest daughter, Sharon Perry, recalled taking a similar spill while competing in a rodeo barrel race at age eleven. "I got thrown off my horse and ended up between two barrels sitting on the ground and bawling. Dad rode up and told me I was alright. He grinned then laughed and got me laughing so I got up and got back on."
The elder Cobb would be proud of his two daughters who have been bucked off now and then over the years but have consistently gotten back into the saddle. He apparently taught them well because nowadays they continue to run cattle and distribute propane and carry on their father's tradition of supporting youth farming and ranching activities.
"This grand marshal honor is more about him than us," said Sherry. And when they perform their county fair duties this weekend, she and Sharon and the rest of the family will do so to honor the memory of their late father. And they hope everyone will join with them in remembering the lasting impact that Jerry Cobb: a steadfast cattleman who inspired generations of young people to keep alive the western traditions of ranching, farming and family.