I had no idea Charlie was so down to earth until I met him at the annual Parker County Sheriff's Posse street dance. Over a few cool ones, we found we had a lot of things in common. Aviation, ranching and wildlife were our favorite topics for discussion. Lots of things I could say about Charlie and his family but this blog is about a trip to Colorado the summer of 1973.
Charlie called one day to ask for my driver's license number, weight, DOB, all the information on the document. I didn't ask why, I just gave it to him. A few days later, he called to ask if I liked trout fishing. I told him I didn't have much experience but yes, I thought I would like it very much. He said, "Good, because Grandad has let me borrow the company plane to fly us to Gunnison, Colorado for a week of fishing. There would be five couples including Charlie and his wife Lenore.
In the picture, you can see the group standing in front of "The Lucky Liz," a Convair 540 that had been converted to turboprop. Words fail me when I try to describe the interior of the plane. All leather sofas and recliners, a full galley and wet bar, telephones, full bath, so much had been done that seating was limited to fourteen people and a crew of two.
The flight to Gunnison went off without a hitch thanks to Walter Word, Chief Pilot for Moncrief Oil. A word here about Walter. He had worked for the Coca Cola company in Fort Worth, flying their DC-3. The Moncriefs were often guests on the plane, flying to golf tournaments on the West Coast. When Coca Cola sold the plane, Walter was about to be out of a job. Charlie's Grandfather asked if it would be all right if he hired Walter to fly the new plane they had just purchased. Permission was granted and Walter went to work. When he received his first pay check, it was for much more than he had received at Coca Cola. Ever the honest man, Walter asked Mr. Moncrief if there had been some mistake. He replied, "No Walter, there isn't a mistake. I don't want some $5000 a year pilot flying my $375,000 airplane!"
We were met at the airport in Gunnison by a man Charlie introduced as the ranch foreman. We piled into a couple of Jeep Station Wagons I had sold Charlie earlier that year and headed for the "cabin." Walter, the Copilot and the foreman followed in another vehicle with our luggage. You cannot believe this "cabin" but more about that later. When we arrived, Charlie asked the men to follow him to the foreman's house just down the road. When we got there, the foreman called out our names and handed us temporary Colorado fishing license. That was the reason for the driver's license information and, the "foreman" was also a game warden!
Back at the cabin, we met the housekeeper/chef and her two teenage assistants. Charlie and his wife slept in the main cabin while the other couples were assigned to one bedroom with full bath and sitting area cabins located on the grounds. We freshened up, had lunch and Charlie announced it was time to do some fishing. We trooped in to the tackle room and I couldn't believe it. It looked like Leonard Bros. sporting goods store or Cabelo's. We each picked a fly rod and reel, life jacket and waders. I started to balk at the life jacket but Charlie insisted and I am glad he did. The river was so close, I could have cast from the porch. Charlie and I chose a spot and started casting. Well, Charlie started casting. My first time with a fly rod and it wasn't easy. I finally put the fly down in a likely spot and was rewarded with a strike. I moved forward to take up the slack and stepped in a hole that was almost over my head. The waders filled with water but thanks to the life preserver and Charlie, I made it back to shallow waters and with Charlie's help, netted my fish, a nice two pound brown trout that I hope you can see in the photo.
The next few days were spent fishing and sightseeing around Gunnison. The picture with the wooden Indian was taken in Crested Butte. That trip is a tale in itself. There was only one little hitch I wasn't used to. Coffee was served on the patio at six in the morning with a full sit down breakfast at eight. Lunch was served promptly at twelve unless we were out fishing some of the beaver lakes around Gunnison in which case, we dined on a basket lunch prepared by the ladies at the cabin. Speaking of those ladies. They did the laundry every day along with other housekeeping chores. Meals were served, not ladled out like a fishing camp. Dinner was served at seven, coat and tie required. That took a little getting used to but thinking back, we would finish by five, dress, cocktails at six and dinner at seven. After that, poker or Charlie would entertain with magic tricks or we would see home movies of the Moncrief family.
Charlie had announced a prize for the largest fish caught on the trip and lucky me, my first trout turned out to be the winner. My prize was a Remington fly rod and automatic reel which hangs on my wall to this day. Next time, a trip to Houston with Charlie and his wife to celebrate their anniversary.