Bessie White, 83 Pleasant View, CO
I was born in Canada. My folks had gone there during the Dust Bowl during the late ’20s from Western Kansas. Greeley County. My dad went up there and followed the wheat harvest. His whole family moved up there. And they stayed there for seven years. Then they came here. All of them. Right here in Pleasant View. My sister, Velma, still lives right where we moved to. This is the house my husband was born in. His father homesteaded around 1919 about three miles from here. He built this house. Then we built on to it five or six times. When we got married, we moved this house to across the street from where we are now. Then they moved it here. Same house. We had no electricity, no water, there was nothing hooked on. It was just moving a building.
My sister and I, we started the Cortez Farmers Market. Since the beginning, I can count on one hand how many I have missed. I missed a couple this year because I broke my arm. I had it up in a sling, you know. So I didn’t go the first couple of weeks. And I have probably missed a couple more through the years.
When you get older, you start giving up things. Pretty soon you are sitting in a chair, reading a magazine. That is if you can find your glasses, which I usually can’t. And so I have felt like if it is something I can do I am going to keep doing it.
My son farms my land now. We sell apricots. We sell peaches. I still sell my beans.
I have not got to the point where I can’t do it.
So I go.
The Matriarchs of Montezuma County
Velma Hollen, 86 Pleasant View, CO
We came here in 1934. Eighty years ago. We came from Canada. I was six.
We started the Cortez Farmers Market out of necessity. I had come back from living in California and my dad was bad so I needed to stay with him. He was a big man. My parents had this big garden and I thought, hey I’m broke, so I decided I would try to sell the garden. So that’s what I did.
I went down to the roundup [the corner of highways 491 and 184] and they said they didn’t care if I sold from there. Stuff sold pretty good. I just set up a table out in the parking lot and sold whatever I had ready. The next week I went to the Cahone community center and sold a bunch of stuff up there. Then my sister, Bessie, said, ‘I know the Montezuma county commissioner. I will call him and see if we can’t set up in Cortez.’ He said he didn’t care. So we started going to the parking lot of the courthouse in Cortez on Saturday mornings. It was just the two of us. Then we had some people from Dove Creek and they decided they would come. So we ended up with six or seven that first year.
That next year they kind of organized the market. I wasn’t in on it. I am not a really good organizer. They charged us a fee. Twenty-five dollars a season. Now it is at $75 but still not bad.
After about four years, I quit and went to Mancos to run an upholstery shop. I did that until I had to come back and take care of Mom. Then I started back to doing the market again.
Finally, at 80, I quit. I said ‘I have had enough of this.’ I just decided I wanted some time to myself because it was hard work. Then my grandson came to stay with us. I thought ‘he can’t just sit here’ … so that next year we did a garden. I didn’t stop again. Then my daughter decided that she would retire from the courthouse. This is the third year she has been doing the garden.
Every time I decided I had enough and didn’t want to do this anymore, something would come up and I’d have to do it again. Well, I didn’t have to, but it just seemed what was right.
I like to garden. I like to see things grow. I just don’t like to push all the time. Get the weeds out. Get it planted. Get it harvested. There is always a push.
I’d rather tend to flowers. But that isn’t what happens [laughing].
I am a firm believer that whatever I quit now I’m not ever going to do again.
Your body requires you to keep using it or it just goes away.