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 …
This item is available in full to subscribers.
If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.
Click here to see your options for becoming a subscriber.
If you made a voluntary contribution in 2021-2022, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one at no additional charge. VIP Digital Access includes access to all websites and online content.
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.
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
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
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
"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.
Other items that may interest you
We have noticed you are using an ad blocking plugin in your browser.
The revenue we receive from our advertisers helps make this site possible. We request you whitelist our site.