Johnson home, take three

His childhood home was at Shadycroft Farm, a 365-acre parcel of land south of Ridge Road in Littleton, homesteaded in 1877 by Charles R. Bell. The next owner was Henry Curtis, who sold it in the 1800s to Herbert E. Johnson, grandfather of R. Reed Johnson, who built his ranch home next to his father's house on a five acre lot facing a duck pond his father Julius E. Johnson built.

By By:Sonya Ellingboe
Posted 12/1/05

His childhood home was at Shadycroft Farm, a 365-acre parcel of land south of Ridge Road in Littleton, homesteaded in 1877 by Charles R. Bell. The …

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Johnson home, take three

His childhood home was at Shadycroft Farm, a 365-acre parcel of land south of Ridge Road in Littleton, homesteaded in 1877 by Charles R. Bell. The next owner was Henry Curtis, who sold it in the 1800s to Herbert E. Johnson, grandfather of R. Reed Johnson, who built his ranch home next to his father's house on a five acre lot facing a duck pond his father Julius E. Johnson built.

Posted

His childhood home was at Shadycroft Farm, a 365-acre parcel of land south of Ridge Road in Littleton, homesteaded in 1877 by Charles R. Bell. The next owner was Henry Curtis, who sold it in the 1800s to Herbert E. Johnson, grandfather of R. Reed Johnson, who built his ranch home next to his father's house on a five acre lot facing a duck pond his father Julius E. Johnson built. (Grandfather Johnson was an early suburban commuter, who drove his horse and wagon to a livery stable near the depot and rode the Uncle Sam train from Littleton to Denver's Union Station, from which he walked to his office at Hungarian Flour Mill.)

Reed Johnson's tie to this land is woven into his newly published historical novel, "Threads of Gold," which will be introduced with a book signing 3 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8, at the Littleton Historical Museum, 6028 S. Gallup St., Littleton. Children's author Carolyn Stutson will also display and sign her books and possibly another author will participate, according to museum deputy director Lorena Donohue, who says the event is for authors represented in the museum shop or for former speakers. 303-795-3950.

Johnson, who has obviously been reading Colorado history for years, has penned a tale about a mythical lode of gold in the Bayou Salado area of central Colorado, at Lost Park and the efforts by three pairs of brothers, over three centuries, to mine its riches. In each case, catastrophe overtook the venture.

Related historic events include Don Juan Batista de Anza's military campaign against the Comanche Indians in the 1700s (army scouts Juan and Pedro Vasquez first searched for gold in 1779); Colorado Volunteers in the Civil War in the 1800s (John and Jim Reynolds, who were prospecting for gold 1859-1915); and the Great Depression and extreme drought of the 1930s as it affected the family farm. (The Johnson brothers search, aided by material from the Reynolds brothers.)

This sort of novel is sometimes called "faction," because it blends actual individuals, incidents and locations with an imagined story - in this case, the search for gold over three centuries and the characters real and imagined, who were involved. History buffs will recognize names and incidents - they just have to embark on this entertaining read with the realization that the once imaginative child is now an imaginative writer! Purists will have a problem.

Crazy Sam, for example, resembles a character who lived in Littleton in the 1930s and 1940s and did drive a buggy and spit tobacco juice when offended, but is fictional.

On the other hand, Johnson's childhood buddy Ivy Hunt was a real person, who still lives in Littleton and is part of a group of old timers Johnson meets for lunch weekly. The group includes brother J.J., who lives in Roxborough Park after a career elsewhere. The author mentions Independent editor Houstoun Waring, Dr. Harry Sims, Sheriff John Haynes and others.

A bibliography and glossary are at the back of the book and maps, historic photographs and illustrations by friend Dr. Seymour Wheelock add interest.

Interspersed are stories about Johnson's childhood - his active imagination, which sometimes caused problems, as he rode the farm property, accompanied by his faithful dog Rab, looking out for outlaws (Zane Grey's novels were an inspiration); an ongoing struggle with his horse, Mollie, who really preferred not to be ridden and tricked him; his extreme reluctance to clean the chicken houses, where a banty rooster was a particular foe; adventures and disagreements with older brother Julius (J.J.).

A dark cloud was the growing awarness of financial difficulties that eventually led to sale of all but 15 acres of the family farm. Johnson and his brother attended Rapp School, on land that now houses Arapahoe Community College, then after sixth grade, went to live with a Denver grandmother, graduating from South High, University of Colorado and CU Medical School.

After several years as a Navy doctor, he had a residency at Children's Hospital in Denver and began a 40 year practice in pediatrics in South Denver. He and his wife of 62 years, Tee, moved back to Littleton and built their home in the 1950s, to be near his father after the mother, Grace Reed Johnson, died. The Johnsons' son, Randy, and his family now live in the father's house, remodeled. And daughter Pamela Hay and family are also nearby. (Son Brad lives in Broomfield.)

An avid gardener, he has landscaped the acreage with conifers, shrubs and flowers. In his wooded area is an old wooden wagon that was used to haul flour in Denver. He feeds corn to what he calls his "welfare state," a flock of ducks, a few geese and a lone swan named Abigail, one of a pair given him some years ago. A maverick, brightly colored Mandarin duck swims with the similarly-shaped wood ducks and they all swarm the pond's edge when Johnson appears with his bucket.

He had designed a garden for the front of the historical museum previously and says he is working with a Hudson Gardens horticulturist on a restful garden spot for the new building.

"A Thread of Gold" will be available from the Littleton Historical Museum Shop ($19.95) and from the publisher, Western Reflections, in Montrose, Colo., 1-800-993-4490, www.westernreflections.com (shipping free). Information about the book and author is at www.athreadofgold.com.

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