Memories of a San Juan icon

by Buckley Jensen

I think about the pioneers who settled San Juan County more as I get older. I am humbled by the enormous contributions they made refining this harsh land we call home.

One of the titans of San Juan was Charles (Charlie) Redd. I have heard and read about him all my life. Having had the privilege of knowing his three sons (Hardy, Robert and Paul) personally has increased my admiration.

Through hard work and that famous San Juan “stick-it-i-tuity,” Charlie amassed an impressive fortune. When Redd Ranches purchased the Scorup and Sommerville Cattle Company in the late 1950’s (as I recall), they had the largest cattle ranch in the state and one of the largest in the nation.

Charlie not only ran a huge operation raising cattle for market, but he worked ceaselessly to improve his herds and make them better adapted to the harsh range conditions of the West. His work with genetics and improving the Hereford breed got him knighted by the Queen of England.

Imagine the residual effects that Charlie’s work has had on the world’s cattle herds carried on to this day by his son Paul in Paradox, Colorado. I know of no other “Knights” of the British Commonwealth anywhere in the Intermountain West.

I met Charlie Redd on two occasions in my life… both vivid memories.

The first time was on Broadway in New York City in l957. I was a 13 year old Boy Scout from Troop 313 in Monticello on my way to the National Boy Scout Jamboree in Valley Forge, PA.

One afternoon, I was with Lloyd Barton, David Adams, Stanley Barton, and others from Monticello on our way to see the world famous Rockettes at the Radio City Musical Hall. I had gotten separated from them because I had a wad of bubble gum stuck on my hands. The harder I tried to get it unstuck, the worse it got.

Suddenly a well-dressed, white-haired gentleman grabbed me by both shoulders and turned me around so his companion could see the “Troop 313 – Monticello, Utah” sown on my sleeve.

In a booming voice, he declared to his friend, “see, I told you I saw one from Monticello!” Mr. Redd then introduced himself and extended his hand. I was mortified to not be able to shake hands. I just held my hand up. He got a hearty laugh out of my predicament.

The only other time I saw Charlie Redd was in the spring of l970. I was trying to get clear title to two building lots in Monticello which were encumbered by a prior deal involving Charlie. I called his son Robert in Provo and arranged a time to meet so his father could sign two quit-claim deeds.

Charlie had suffered a stroke and was confined to a wheel chair. He could not speak and he was almost completely paralyzed except for his eyes and one of his hands. Robert explained my predicament, and asked him to sign the two deeds.

Robert placed the first deed on the table and then carefully lifted his dad’s working hand up to the paper and put a pen in his fingers.

And then the agony began. Without a sound, Mr. Redd went to work on that signature. It took minutes, which seemed like an eternity to me.

By the time he finished deed #1, there were beads of sweat on his forehead. The same excruciating process was repeated with the second signature. When finished, rivulets of sweat creased his brow. Charlie had not uttered a sound. His eyes darted back and forth from me to Robert. They reminded me of a frightened animal.

I have thought of those experiences with Mr. Redd many times in the intervening 37 years. Here was a man who had been as active and successful as any man who ever lived in this part of the world. He was a human dynamo.

How excruciating it must have been to spend the last years of his life a prisoner in his own body.

I have often wondered why some of us are required to face the challenges he faced before leaving this frail existence. Why is it that some get a free pass, going peacefully in an instant, while others like Mr. Redd and my own Father were required to struggle for months or years to earn a ticket out of mortality.

Is it possible Charles Redd left this world even greater for those excruciating final struggles? Is it possible that from the eternal perspective he will look at those last months and years as perhaps the greatest learning experience of his life? Grist for thought for sure.

When one considers the family, the life and the legacy of Charles Redd, I have no doubt he will be counted as one of San Juan’s giants when the final tally is taken.

San Juan Record

49 South Main St
PO Box 879
Monticello, UT 84535

Phone: 435.587.2277
Fax: 435.587.3377
Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday

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