Saturday, August 20, 2016

Leonhardt Broomfield Farm Layout ~1958

From memory, here is Steve's recollection of the layout of the Leonhardt farm in Broomfield Colorado in about 1958.

The farm is now a housing development.

One photograph of the farm is from this photo taken looking south south east with Joyce on Rowdy. There are several structures shown in the photo. The 'boxcars' would have been just to the left at the end of the pasture.

A second photo is a shot of the barn and barnyard. The farmhouse is on the left. 

And finally, here is a shot of Joyce in 1949 on the south side of the farmhouse near the screen porch.

Steve's description of the drive from Lakewood to the farm:

The Approach.

The route to the farm was north, from the newly created suburbs of Lakewood and
Arvada via Wadsworth Blvd. As you drove north you began to notice that the car dealerships, the housing subdivisions created after WWII, and the mom and pop hardware stores, were replaced by feed stores and car repair garages and tractor dealers. The side of the road became dirt or mud instead of sidewalks, gutters, and grass, and in several places the road took a turn, as if the it had been extended at some point around some landmark, or likely, clusters of homes and businesses.  At one of these points, the road split, offering the chance to take 'Old' Wadsworth. We took the newer Wadsworth. But I think that either route led to the farm. I don't recall taking Old Wadsworth. Nowdays it is a slow route through old Arvada.

After that split, at some point the scenery opened up, leaving those small businesses behind. Slowly grass and rolling hills revealed their browns and greens on both sides of the road. The smell of alfalfa and wet dirt, and the sounds of grasshoppers drifted through the rolled down
car windows, which were open because there was no air conditioning in the car.
We arrived in the country. It was another world. There were farmhouses sporadically placed, probably for every quarter or half section of land.
There was a steady but slight climb as Wadsworth headed towards the small town of Broomfield. Further up the road it intersected with the Denver-Boulder toll road, but we didn't go that far. In fact, I don't recall ever driving into the town of Broomfield.

Occasionally a side road broke off, mostly to the west towards the mountains, which seemed minutes away, but were actually 5-10 miles in the blue distance. In the afternoons, in summer, the mountains would hide, then reveal, the clouds that would become thunderstorms. But in the morning the sky was usually clear and the air was fresh. In those
days Denver was becoming more and more polluted, a victim of unconstrained growth, pre-catalytic conversion auto exhaust, and unrestrained back yard trash burning. But in the outskirts, near Broomfield, the air was cleaned by the earth and the weather. 

To the east were the flat, brown plains north of Denver. Nearby there were trees and the signs of creeks and ponds. Beyond that landscape the toll road cut diagonally along what was likely an old trail to Boulder, and somewhere on the other side was Rocky Flats, a mysterious and forbidden government site that had a reputation for radioactive waste and government secrecy.

As we got closer to the road that intersected with Wadsworth that took us to the Leonhardt farm there were signs that we were near. On the right, a large pond that had wild birds and seemed to be a local feeding hole, named Lower Church Lake, and a brick silo structure, and
some kind of storage building. It was, and remains today, the landmark that let us know that we are about to leave Wadsworth for the dirt road west.

The grass and hay fields were all that you could see, spotted with a few lone trees and green belts that identified creeks or small ponds. There were farmhouses and barns, and wooden or sheetmetal buildings for tractors, and fences. There was a smell of cattle or hogs, but overwhelmingly it was the smell of the land. In summer, the humid air that carried the smell of the vegetation was overwhelming. In winter, the smell of wet dirt that comes from melted snow.

At the foot of the hill, before the climb which eventually peaks at the outskirts of Broomfield, and hides the airstrip of the Broomfield airport, we slowed down. One of the roadsigns that looks like a sideways capital T alerted my Father that the intersection was near, and, since
this was before left turn lanes were added, we prepared for the off road bumpiness that announced we were out in the country. Perhaps Dad rolled down his window and stuck his crooked left arm, which had been poorly reset by a doctor when he was a young man, out in a straight line, indicating that he was about to turn left. I don't recall whether turn signals were part of the car equipment in the late 50s, or if so, whether we could afford that feature.

Now this road is paved, and is known as W 108th Ave. But I don't recall that the road was named back then. I suspect it was. Like when you drive east from Phoenix, and out in the middle of nowhere you see a street sign marked '230th Street'. 108th was not paved.

We turned left onto a well maintained county dirt road; probably gravel. The fences were closer to the road, and there were small groups of cattle hovering near. The smell of cattle joined the smell of the crops. To the right I saw 'Docs' house. He was a veterinarian that
grandpa Roy occasionally called on to help him in calving season. I never visited Doc's house, but I recall meeting him. Vaguely. I'm not sure he was a 'real' veterinarian; but I don't think it mattered. Grandpa Roy wasn't a vet, but he knew a whole lot about his animals. Once he invited Diane to guess the age of a cow on his place in Afton OK by sticking her hand in its mouth and feeling the size of its teeth. What a sport she was.

Not too far down this road we intersected another road. I think this is now Wadsworth Pkwy. Back then it was a two lane road, and I don't recall any traffic. It may have been one of those detours from Old Wadsworth. It's one of those intersections in the middle of nowhere, but one that must be approached cautiously, especially at night. There were no street lights out there.

Directly ahead were the foothills of the Rockies. The land gradually sloped up to the brown hills, sometimes showing rock outcrops that are most magnificently displayed further north at Boulder as the Flatirons. There were farms on the left and right, again spread out in sections or quarter sections of land. Continuing on this road led to the highway that connected Golden with Boulder. I would drive that road many times when I attended the University of Colorado, and more than once I would turn off and head east, just to drive by the old farm, which had by that time been abandoned and blended into adjoining farms. It was soon destined to be swallowed up by the investors who would divide it up and build residential communities.

Once, when I visited Roy in Oklahoma, he had confessed that he had made a mistake by declining an option to buy this land. "I would be a rich man" he lamented. I suppose I should have heard this as a simple confession of a mistake made by a middle aged man who was facing choices, including doctor's recommendations that he move to a lower altitude. But in my idealism I had replied that I thought he had led a good and noble life, living off of the land, caring for animals, and learning how to be in touch with nature. I still think this. But I now understand that he would have been more comfortable in his later years if he had had more than social security to live on in Afton OK.

After crossing 'Old Wadsworth' the first landmarks of the Broomfield farm came into view.
The farm was probably a half section, 80 acres. Boarded on the east by 'Old Wadsworth', and on the north by the road we were on. I never recall visiting the western border or the southern border. I suppose that those borders were either service roads, or adjoining farms.
On the east side of the farm were the farm's most identifiable landmarks: two old railroad cars that sat near the bottom of the sloping pasture. They were used for storage, but I don't recall ever visiting them. One was yellow. I don't recall the other color. They had markings on them. Maybe the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad?

The layout of the land on the farm was rolling. On the north side there was a creek that had, over time, gouged a gentle valley through the landscape, just off of the road. There was, at this point, a feeling of excitement. I still feel it today. A glimpse of a time before suburbs and apartment houses. A world of animals and vegetation that we didn't have in the vacant lots and creeks of Lakewood. There was the farmhouse, which I'll describe later. But there was also a barn, with a hay loft, and a hay mow. And a chicken coop. And bunkhouses. And a cellar. And tractors and pig pens. It was another country to me, and full of opportunity for adventure and imagination. I don't know what my parents or sister felt as we came near the
turnoff. I was always ready for the farm, and time with Grandpa Roy.

Shortly after we crossed Old Wadsworth, just to the west of the boxcars about a half mile across the brown-green pasture, was the farmhouse. Once that was in view we slowed, and looked for the mailbox and the entrance road that quickly broke to the left. In my mind this becomes a scene that I've idealized. In winter the landscape is washed out with browns of dirt and dormant grasses. In spring the fecundity of new growth and the smell of turned soil and
wildflowers. In summer, the humidity sits heavy on the breath. So a description will be factual, a composite of all seasons, with some influence from my visits to the Crouch farm near Blue Mound KS and the fertile farms of Ireland and Scotland.


The road, or driveway, was dirt. After a short way it broke left and descended about 50 yards, then a gentle right turn to the south led to a small bridge that crossed the creek. Usually the creek was dry, or a small trickle. But after rain, or in winter melt, there was a rush of
water and the smell of wet soil and vegetation. The way down was not particularly interesting as the ground on either side was just field grass and weeds. Maybe sunflowers or wildflowers.

But the whole way down to the bridge you could see most of the buildings on the farm. The farmhouse was on the left, just near the top of the short rise that ascends after you crossed the bridge. The barn and the barnyard were on the right, a little beyond the farmhouse. And just beyond that were the bunk houses. At this point the freight cars to the east were not visible because the small hill that the farm compound rests upon hid it with it's long, gradual slope.

I vaguely recall that the pigpen was on the left as you climbed up the hill; but I also have recollections of a pig pen on the west side of the barn. I may be mixing up reality with Spin and Marty, or even Wizard of Oz.

After we crossed the bridge the road climbed up and continued through the compound. It veered right between the bunk houses and barn structures, and continued to become the entry to the alfalfa fields.
The car stopped at or near the top of the small hill, in a large open area between the farmhouse and the barn/barnyard. The outside dogs, usually two of them, came running. These were working dogs, used to herd animals. They were friendly, but filthy. The were not allowed inside the farmhouse.
We parked anywhere, as long as it didn't block the tractors or other pickups that had to work on the farm. The road continued on and intersected the bunkhouse and the barn as it made it's way out to the pasture.

To the left, the farmhouse presented its back side. The structure was wooden. There were windows and screens. In the summer the windows were open. To the left were some trees, but this side of the house, the north side, was not very interesting. To the right, the south side of the house, there was some kind of yard, between the house and the bunk houses. It probably contained the vegetable garden. There was a sleeping porch there, with screens to keep the bugs and mosquitoes out.

At the back side of the house, near the left side was a back door, and a small porch, or stoop. Inside was a mud room, which, I think, also contained a cream separator. It was a grand structure. To a little boy, it looked like a transformer robot. It was steel or iron and looked like
it weighed several tons. It probably was in fact just 5 feet tall. There were parts that were polished steel and others that were some shade of light green. The room smelled of cream, sweet and appetizing. Or of ice cream.

The room was not large, so the separator seemed to take up most of the room. It was in the center, so a walk around either side took you into the kitchen. There were no other doorways except to the kitchen. This room was on the far northwest corner of the house. On the northeast corner of the house was the kitchen. It was large and full of the smell of bread. Above the sink there is a window that looked to the east, toward fields that end at Old Wadsworth, and if you looked to the southeast, you could see the boxcars in the distance. And
directly in front of the window was the main yard. There are photos of me as a baby with Mom in that yard, in front, I think, of the kitchen.

If you went around to the front of the house, there was a storm door in front of the kitchen that led to the cellar. The cellar was always cool and damp, with dirt floors. There were wooden shelves that, depending on the time of year, were stocked with mason jars of fruit
and vegetables. I don't recall much about the kitchen. I probably was not really allowed to be in there. But it must have smelled good, and must have had the smell of bread all the time. Grandma Jo baked bread every day.

I recall, I think, that there was a table in the kitchen where we ate breakfast. I say this because I have vivid memories of Roy feeding his house dog, probably named 'Tippy', bacon and other foods using a fork. I think it was at that table.

The only door out of the kitchen was to the right and led to the living room, or main sitting area. Here was where all of the farmhouse hospitality began. Chairs were comfortable. There were hand knit comforters and pillows around. There were ashtrays, and the smell of cigarettes and cigars lingers. Windows looked out to that same eastern view. There was a door that opened into the yard. There are several photos taken of this room. 

Off of the living room, to the west, was a bedroom where guests slept. I think I probably slept there during my summer stays. A second bedroom, the master, was to the left of the spare bedroom, on the south west corner of the house. That room was full of my grandmas stuff- hair brushes and mirrors; blankets; photos of relatives. There probably was a shotgun in there too.

Between the spare bedroom and the master bedroom there was a bathroom. Between the spare bedroom and the creamer room there was a dining room.

From the living room a doorway led to the outside and into the 'front yard', which had some grass and some trees, and looked out on the eastern pasture. I think that pasture hosted the horses. There are a few shots of me as a new born baby on the front lawn with Joyce. It is
one of the few photos of the house.

As the yard ended to the east, there was either a vegetable garden and perhaps a few fruit trees, or the grazing fields began. I don't recall there being any crops grown in that part of the farm.

And finally there was a screened-in porch to the south side of the house, just off the living room. I probably spent nights on that porch during the hot summers. It would have looked south at the old outhouse and chicken coop.I imagine sunrise was full of light and the sounds of chickens waking.

On the south side of the house there was a garden and I think the clothes lines for drying the wash. And then, slightly to the southwest were the structures that we knew as the bunk houses, but I don't recall ever seeing any farm hands living in them. Perhaps at harvest? I think they were mainly used for storage, and I think the outside dogs slept there. I don't recall going into these structures because they were either unsafe or just junky. My recollection of the storage use is based on just a few instances of peeking into the front door.


I spent most of my time, either during my short visits with my parents, or in the longer visits in the summer when I spent time at the farm in relief to my parents, in the barn area.
The barn compound consisted of a large barn, a large fenced barnyard, and I think several other structures, including a stable for the horses or farm equipment and tractor.

The barn was a large structure, I'd say 3 stories tall. It was wood. I recall the color red, but it could have also just been unpainted wood. It was large enough to contain room for tractors and other farm equipment. The floor was dirt, but there was plenty of hay dropped on the floor. It smelled of grease, because naturally that is where the tractors and combines and other equipment were greased up. But it also smelled of hay, or alfalfa, and wet dirt, and manure. There was a hay loft and a hay mow. I often climbed up there to play. It was a pirates cabin or a fort. There was hay up there as well, stored to keep it dry or handy in the winter.
The last time I visited the barn was while I was in college, probably 1970, and the farm, while still standing, was no longer occupied. I regret not having carved my name in the side of the barn. It would have been gone in a few years, but still, I wish I had done it. I never got a
photo of the barn. There is a photo of Mom standing near the farm yard, with the barn in the background.

It was my pretend world. There were imaginary friends. Maybe some Tom Sawyer-like pirates or Robin Hood bands of thieves. Probably even some Cowboys and Indians. There is a whole picture to be painted of the smells. First of all there was an overwhelming smell of grease. All of the farm equipment had to be greased, and the smell and grease spots were everywhere in the barn and in the structures around the barn. There was also the smell, which today I love, of farm animal excrement. Specifically, cow dung, which when mixed with hay or alphalfa, has it's own nostalgic sensory memory for me. There was also the not so great smell of pig and chicken poop, which was not magical, just gross. But still, part of that olfactory sense memory.
It's hard to describe this patchwork of smells. There were horses, and weeds. Wet hay and grass.

Inside the barn it was dark. I don't recall lights, other than a light outside the front entrance, but I'm sure there were lights. Of course I doubt that I had any reason to be there at night unless I was with grandpa. But the sunlight which leaked through the windows, or the hay
mow, or the cracks in the wood structure was enough to give the barn it's sense of welcome. It was a friendly place. I could climb up to the hay loft and look out over the barnyard, or down into the corrals inside.
There was always some hay in the hayloft, so it made for fort building.

The barnyard was pretty large. It was fenced in, with the same fencing as the pig pen. There were gates of course to let horses and cows in. And tractors. There was probably a salt lick. I don't recall cattle in there, but I'd bet in winter they stayed in the barn and fed in the barnyard. I don't recall how many cattle he had. He would have just enough to provide some
income and butcher for his own meat. The yard was large enough to run some horses, and probably to allow for breaking of horses. Roy seemed to always have a horse named Rowdy.
I think he kept at least two horses, To the west of the barnyard was a stable for the horses.

On the southwest side of the barn there may have been the pig pen, or I am just misremembering. There were no pigs; they were 'hogs'. It was a typical pig pen, full of mud and smelling of wet dirt and spoiled vegetables and garden waste. There might have been a structure for shade. The fence was wooden slats, open enough to climb on but sufficient to keep the hogs in check. When I watched tv shows about ranches, like Spin and Marty, the pig pen was exactly as it was at Broomfield. I liked to hang around and watch the hogs. I don't recall however, joining them in the pig pen.

Further west from the barn the road that split the gap between the bunk house and the barn would head west toward the crop fields. Just on the right a few hundred yards after the barn, a large haystack, or as I liked to call it, slide, presented itself. I used this slide many times to entertain myself, although one time the hay was full of stickers, and Jo had to remove them from my butt. She was not happy, and I was embarrassed. Many times I felt like a nuisance to her, and that time it stung (no pun intended). Once grandpa let me drive the tractor on the road that led to the crops. I recall that it was difficult, and that I either put the thing in the ditch that ran alongside the road, or nearly did so anyway.