If you live or have lived in Beulah anytime in the past 71 years, the chances are you know or have met easy-going Robert ‘Bob or Bobby’ Thompson. Just as quick with a greeting as he is with a joke, Bob goes out of his way to help people, it’s just who he is. You may have encountered Bob responding to a fire or emergency, he may have given you a ride to town, or checked up on your cabin. Bob may have helped you out by moving some dirt, hauling wood or just listened to you in conversation. He never strayed far from Beulah, saying “If I can’t see the mountains, it feels like I lost a friend.”
Bob’s mother Catherine Lewis was born in 1908 and lived in Carter, Colorado which was a half a mile away from Swallows and now located below the Pueblo Reservoir. In 1913 the Lewis family leased the Krenzke Ranch (now owned by the Himes family) on North Creek. They were engaged in cattle ranching with her uncle Stanley Lewis (‘a rancher, printer and poet’ also know as the ‘bard of North Creek). Catherine attended the nearby one-room North Creek School, the same school where starting on her 18th birthday, she took her first teaching job. Her teaching career would span a remarkable 37 years, all within Pueblo County. She met Robert Thompson, Sr. at a dance and they married in 1936 when Catherine’s oldest son Bill was six years old.
Born in 1947, Bob was just four years old when his parents purchased the ranch on the Beulah Highway. The log home with long porch was originally built as a dance hall and restaurant in 1921, the barn was built in 1902. The barn still stands, although the home is no longer there. Bob recalls the over-sized living room and dining room were ideal for accommodating company, and Catherine enjoyed hosting. (See page 4 for her recipe for Ranger Cookies.)
Bob was the third generation of cowboys on both sides of the family. Notes in his baby book include the date of his first ‘long ride,’ which was at age five when he “helped move cattle to the upper ranch, traveling a distance of 10 miles on a bay horse worth a million.” His second horse ‘Joey’ was given to him by his brother Bill, who had personally trained the colt. In his lifetime, Bob would spend quite a bit of time on a horse working cattle in country that most people nowadays will never see. It’s part of the reason he knows Beulah so well.
In 1956, Catherine received her bachelor’s degree in teaching from Western State in Gunnison. Not long after, when Bob was nine years old, Robert suddenly passed away. Brother Bill, who lived nearby, became instrumental in teaching Bob life lessons along with life skills. The immensely capable Bill was employed by the City of Pueblo as head caretaker of Pueblo Mountain Park. Until his retirement, Bill with his wife Virginia and children Cathene and Bill Lewis (who Bob affectionately calls “little Bill”) lived in the caretaker’s house in the park.
Like many area kids, Bob did chores (feeding, watering, breaking ice) before school. He recalled commuting to school with his mother and spending quite a bit of time waiting for her to finish up, so he retreated to Middle Creek to fish or play in the water. When he packed his lunch, he had a signature sandwich made of a piece of bread, a layer of jelly, another piece of bread, a layer of dried chipped beef and finally a third piece of bread. The ‘Bob Thompson’ is an eponymous hit sandwich at the local Stompin’ Grounds, but nothing like his original.
As he got older, Bob and his friends loved basketball, and the tall and lanky Bob was good at it. When they played basketball at the Gayway (now the Songbird), he said ‘no one could beat us on our home court, because we knew how to shoot between the rafters.”
Local legends Dutch and Emmet Klipfel also took Bob under their wings and taught about building, repairing and machinery. Both of their shops were gathering places filled with conversation, stories and jokes. Dutch Klipfel worked at the Forest Service and employed Bob in the summers to help buck hay, remodel and do handyman work. With Emmet, a brilliant machinist who “could do anything mechanical, make a part from what they had in the shop” Bob learned more about ranch work.
He also enjoyed a close kinship with the Draper, Everhart and Goss families, who also lived the cowboy way of life, participating in activities like Southern Colorado Horseman’s Association, rodeo and ropings. They knew about horses, tack, ropes, chaps, trucks, trailers, fences, cattle, and they helped each other with daywork and branding.
Some of Bob’s first earnings were spent on a deer rifle, and eventually a scope, that he purchased at Pine Drive Store from Mr. Reynolds.
In winter, Bob joined his friends making a sledding track on “prairie dog hill”, a slope on the west side of Pennsylvania Avenue. At night, they went back with as many as 30 friends and had a blast sliding down the slick trail on all manner of sleds including scoop shovels.
After being engaged in Boy Scouts, 4-H, and Junior Red Cross, Bob naturally got involved in the local volunteer fire department early on. “You didn’t join [the fire department], you just showed up to help out. Everybody I knew was involved with helping to fight fires.” In 2022, Bob retired from the fire department after a remarkable 60 years of service.
Bob attended South High School in Pueblo, and when school let out each day at 3:00pm, instead of waiting for the bus he would just start walking down the highway towards home. With many locals employed at CF&I, he always got picked up, satisfied to beat the slow-moving bus.
Between the ages of 18-24, Bob worked for the Forest Service in the summers. Most operations centralized in San Isabel, so he would commute over “12-Mile”, the gravel portion of Colorado Highway 78 over the Wet Mountains to get there. He helped to build 21 bridges on the Rainbow Trail. He remembers that he ate a lot of pie made by Grandma Moses at the Baver-Li Lodge on highway 165.
The thought of Bob’s first car brings an easy chuckle. He bought a gray 1954 Chrysler New Yorker with suicide doors from Ila Mae Allee after working several summers raking and baling hay for Herb Donley. Next he bought a 1965 Ford Mustang from Harold Weaber. The car was painted ‘competition orange’, so you couldn’t really miss Bob if you tried.
After receiving an associate’s degree in agriculture and a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis on marketing from SCSC (now CSU-Pueblo) in May of 1971, Bob went to work for McCulloch Properties, Inc. in Pueblo West, helping with cost accounting for the infrastructure of the company’s community developments in the southwest region.
Wintertime was slow in the business, so he decided to join his friends and try skiing. His first lesson from George Draper was at Silver Cliff on January 1st and the next day he traveled to Breckenridge. He remembers the shock of seeing the massive mountain in comparison to the hill he had just learned on. By the end of the month he had tallied 23 days of skiing. Like so many Coloradoans, he had been bitten hard by the ski bug.
Bob married Barbara Mazza Kastelic in 1977 when Barb’s son Wayne was seven years old. They built a home across the highway from Catherine’s place, and son Kurt was born in 1979. Although the couple divorced in 2000, they delight in their family and five grandchildren, including Wayne and Darla’s children, Kayleigh and Brenden; Kurt and Amy’s children Mackenzie, Presley and Sawyer.
Bob worked for a variety of supply companies, before he started work for Pine Drive Telephone Company in 2000. He moved into the valley in 2006, becoming neighbors with lifelong friend Laura Amman. When a beautiful farmhouse on Middle Creek became available the two friends merged their households. Their property now includes a barn for Laura’s animals, a shop for Bob’s machinery, and a garden that gets plenty of sunshine. Content with the simple pleasures of life, nowadays he particularly enjoys laying a fire each night or taking in the night skies on the deck. Yep, Bob Thompson is a keeper. v
SCHA. Dancing. Played cards because no TV.
I was lucky to be able to be around the people that I was around. George Buddy Draper, Everharts, Dale Allee. All had similar ranch experiences. Day work. Graduated from HS and worked for Everharts. Started working for Herb Donley in 7th grade, helped hay by raking and baling. Worked with Bill Purvis.
“It can’t rain till the ground gets wet. Easier to wait for it to dry than wait for it to get wet.
Don’t squat with your spurs on.
Mom was calm, cool collected able to handle emergencies.
Both the Junkins fire was coming hard, and they knew it wasn’t far away.
Beulah fire was pretty sobering.
When he first got there, they were building the damn and he said he knew two things. ‘there wasn’t enough water in the country to fill the dam, and he knew there wasn’t enough people in the world to fill Pueblo West.
Stove puts out heat, fireplaces just rob heat.