GRAND COUNTY HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION: Beyond Cow Punching (part 2)
November 24, 2008
In 1880, a certain Tom Ennis bought the Tracy Tyler property three miles east of Kremmling. At first Tom wasn’t interested in raising cattle. Through W.P. Farris of Georgetown, he became excited in trotting horses, though he never made any money off them. He, Farris, and Ad Kinney organized the Middle Park Trotting Association. Later he bought the Barney Day property near the mouth of the Troublesome in the 1920s. All this eventually went to his son Ed, who in 1956 sold to a Freddie Grimes.
Others also considered horses as useful for purposes other than plowing, gathering cattle, and pulling wagons. Henry McElroy in 1903 established a livery stable, at one time keeping or boarding over 100 horses. In 1912 he, Johnny Atmore, Ed Case, and Harris Wade built a fine racetrack on his ranch near the present fairgrounds. Once completed, McElroy raised $2,700 for the first Grand County Fair (later became the Middle Park Fair).
Freddie Grimes, now owner of the Ennis property, came from Loveland and was a bachelor when he established his first ranch on the Troublesome. Freddie worked hard at his ranching and owned a great deal of land here. He had filed on his own homestead in 1937-38. Between 1940 and 1956, Grimes bought other homesteads, stretching from the remotest homestead of the Henricks family down almost to the Colorado River, to the west, dropping into the Muddy drainage and to the east, including the only two homesteads in Big Horn Park. At one point, Freddie sold his fine mountain hay to Bing Crosby for his racehorses.
Grimes was crazy about horses and horse racing. In fact, he owned Charmer, son of
Man-of-War. A small man, Freddie was a jockey himself and he hired others of the area to work for him sometimes. He wanted his neighbor, Alan Wheatley, son of Ken, to become a jockey because Alan was quite small. Though interested, Alan finally chose ranching.
Through Grimes, Lyle, son of Ernest Shearer on the Troublesome, got so excited over horse racing that he rode for some years for a Roy Barnes in Denver. Lyle’s sister, Lenore, also worked at being a jockey for a while.
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Tillie Heeney Gingery was another local young person who rode some of Freddie’s horses. She had been raised on the Blue River, she was small and she loved to ride. When Fred needed a rider to race in the Middle Park Fair, Tillie got the job; it was a lot of fun. She believes she may have been the only girl jockey in Colorado at that time.
The first year she raced, her horse won against five or six other entries; but the second year a boy racing against her hit her mount across the nose with his quirt. She came in second. Afterward, she thinks Fred Grimes and her dad gave that boy a little “instruction” on track manners.
For a while in the 1950s, Grand County had para-mutual betting, both during Fair time and at separate times. There was quite a bit of money involved, so George Mitchell and Ted McMahon of Parshall were hired to guard it, guns on their hips. However, the “high-rollers” decided there wasn’t enough money, so that kind of racing disappeared.
Freddie’s drinking occasionally landed him in trouble. Once he had bought a new van for hauling horses. He stopped by the La Casa Cafe in Kremmling for a drink and later decided to “go to Grand Junction.” He proceeded to drive the vehicle down the railroad tracks, got stuck, bailed out, and never looked back as the train wiped out his new truck.
By 1959 Grimes was selling property and by 1965, Gene and Lucille Wall bought most of his acreage. The remainder went to Ted and Florence Ritschard. Fred eventually went to Arkansas where he raced quarter horses and this period of raising racehorses in Grand County came to an end.
See “The Folks on the Troublesome” at the Grand County Museums for more history of the Troublesome Valley.