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Photo by Tamie Meck Christy Hawk, left, and Marlyse Cunningham show their recently-published Black Mesa CattleWomen Vintage Cookbook 2018. The book is much more than a collection of recipes. The page shown is a photo and brief history of Hazel (Childress)


(a thick stew made and served outdoors)

Jean Zeldenthuis

charter member

216 ox tails

216 hens

120 soup bones

Cover with water and cook until done.


86 lbs. navy beans

43 gals. carrots

130 gals. potatoes

43 gals. corn

130 gals. tomatoes

43 gals. onions

86 gals. cabbage

Add spaghetti, egg noodles and spices to taste.

Before every home had electricity or a telephone line, before social media, there was the Black Mesa CattleWomen. It was chartered in 1951 by 26 ranching women as the Black Mesa Cowbelles. A chapter of the Colorado Cowbelles, when the state organization traded the "Cowbelles" for Cattlewomen, the Black Mesa chapter did, too.

A few years back, BMCW president Christy Hawk and secretary-treasurer Marlyse Cunningham decided to honor those hard-working, dedicated charter members by featuring their recipes in a cookbook.

"These women weren't just housewives," said Hawk. "They were the true rancher's wives." They raised families, grew gardens, and often work alongside the men mending fences, branding and riding in harsh weather. They were also teachers and nurses and businesswomen. "Some of these women were pretty highly educated," said Cunningham.

And, of course, they cooked lots and lots of beef. That cookbook soon became a labor of love for Cunningham and Hawk, and began capturing more than just recipes. In December, after some 500-600 hours of research and hard work, the first edition of the Black Mesa CattleWomen Vintage Cookbook was released.

Among the recipes contained in its 223 pages: Jean Clark's Cowboy Quiche, Mary Childress's Meatballs, Marjia Volk's Potica-Slovenian Holiday Bread, and Joetta Burn's Prime Rib Roast, which calls for a pan filled with strong, fresh-brewed coffee to be placed on the bottom rack of the oven.

"As far as we know, this is the first cookbook" for the Black Mesa Cattlewomen, said Hawk.

And while the book is a treasure trove of recipes, it's also rich in history. Each charter member, listed in alphabetical order by last name, is honored in the opening pages.

Both authors know through running cow-calf operations in the Crawford area -- Hawk with husband Darold and Cunningham with husband John -- that being the wife of a rancher is hard work. They both admit they have it easy compared to the women they honor, who lacked modern conveniences of today, and relied heavily on one another for conversation, advice and support. Much of that support was found in the cattlewomen's organization.

Ruth Collins Meek was born in 1920 on Clear Fork southeast of Crawford and raised five children on the family's 2,570-acre ranch on Crystal Creek. She cooked three meals a day for a haying crew of 15, and canned between 700-800 quarts of fruits and vegetables every year.

"These women led the way for this organization to stay vibrant and continue to be an intricate part of the Crawford and North Fork Valley ranching community," writes Hawk in the opening dedication. "Without these members' stories we would not realize what a true ranch wife endeavored and endured during a time with no favorable modern ways."

Gathering histories on all 26 charter members was the goal from the get-go. Some information came from family members still living in the area, some from vintage scrapbooks now housed at the Hotchkiss-Crawford Museum, and some from surviving members Hazel McLeod and Dorothy Dunfelder. Local authors Laura Clock, Mamie Ferrier, Helen Morgan, Eda Musser and Bud VanDenBerg are acknowledged for their contributions.

To fill in the blanks, Cunningham combed the internet and researched on Ancestry.com for any useful information. Some of what she found, the families didn't even know about. Barbara Blake is one example. At first they didn't find much on her, in part because she and her husband were buried in Michigan and there was no obituary in the Delta County Museum's extensive archives.

Once they found a lead, they learned she was born in 1898, attended universities in the United States and Europe, and taught high school. She met husband Chester "Chet" Blake, the western representative for the Kansas City Stockyards, in 1930, and they married in 1937. They donated the land known today as Blake Field Airport.

To honor current members, they interspersed throughout the recipes stories of how and from where their ancestors arrived in the area, where they worked, their ranch histories, and of course, their family recipes.

The title pages of each chapter, from "Main Dishes" to "This and That," include historic photos. It was important to put as much information in the book as possible," said Hawk. "I just want to preserve the history."

Throughout the process Cunningham and Hawk shared a selection of the women's histories on the Black Mesa CattleWomen Facebook page. They write in the acknowledgment that histories can vary from source to source. "Just as no two siblings remember events from their childhood the same, no two individuals remember events from their lives the same. Please accept these histories as they are intended -- a collaboration of memories of days gone by."

The project began in 2002, but they couldn't get enough recipes to fill a book. Determined to see the project through, last January, they aggressively began seeking recipes and compiling histories. Changes in technology helped a great deal, they said. Sixteen years ago, resources like Facebook and Ancestry.com weren't available.

"We got a good response," said Cunningham. Members submitted more than 200 recipes. Not all recipes call for beef. As charter member Bertha Cotten's husband, Clyde, impressed upon her while teaching her how to cook, because cattle is a money source, chicken, deer and fresh and canned vegetables were also on the menu.

Chapters also touch on beverages and appetizers and canning. The "This and That" chapter includes recipes for making cheese, dried corn and granola, and even liniment and mustard plaster and horehound cough drops.

Their goal, they said, was to have the book printed in time for the 2018 Crawford Pioneer Days celebration. When that came and went, they set their sites on Dec. 1 and the annual Delta County Livestock Association banquet. On Nov. 12, publishers Morris Press Cookbooks shipped 339 cookbooks. All but a few copies they'd set aside quickly sold out. They ordered another 200 books.

This type of cookbook, made by women's and church groups, used to be very common, they said. "Everyone used to do one." But with the internet, not everyone uses cookbooks anymore and the tradition has dwindled.

Proceeds of book sales go to the organization's tireless mission of promoting beef. "We do more than bake brownies and pies," they said.

The CattleWomen also sponsor a beef cook-off at Hotchkiss K-8 School that teaches students about basic nutrition, food safety and meal presentation. In March the CattleWomen and Delta County Livestock Association will host the second agriculture expo at Heritage Hall at the Delta County Fairgrounds in Hotchkiss. It features information on public lands, four-wheeler safety, branding, shoeing horses, and even beekeeping. "Ag is not all about cows," said Hawk.

The BMCW and Delta County Livestock Association are partnering to erect beef promotion signs at every entrance to Delta County. They also recently published a modern version of an old pamphlet, "Welcome to Colorful Colorado!" It gives information on dogs worrying stock, fence etiquette, livestock guardian dogs, encountering livestock while biking and hiking, and how to navigate a vehicle through a livestock drive. Pamphlets are distributed to local real estate offices and the U.S. Forest Service.

The authors are now turning to another project: a pocket book with all of the brands from Delta, Montrose, Gunnison and Mesa counties. Brands, they say, are a part of each ranch's history that could fill an entire book.

The cookbook's second printing was recently delivered. Copies are on sale for $20 and can be mailed for an additional $5. To get a copy, visit the Hotchkiss-Crawford museum, call Hawk at 921-6591, Cunningham at 921-3266, or send a message on the Black Mesa Cattlewomen Facebook page.

Dora Deutsch, flanked by husband Everett and son Lester, was born in Crawford in 1905. Everett and Dora ran Hereford cattle on the Smith Fork until 1962. Like many early ranchers in the Crawford area, they are buried at the Garden of Memories Cemetery in Crawford.
Charter member Bertha (Dodge) Cotten (1909-1980) was taught how to cook by husband Clyde. Her recipes include ‘Deep Liver Pie,’ ‘Deer Steak Supreme,’ and ‘Chicken and Noodles.’
In an undated photo, Mick Cotten ropes a calf.
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