Where Your Story Meets Ours – Flying John’s Ranch
John and Marguerite grew up during the Depression–money was tight and life was bleak on the Illinois farms on which they were raised. As John put up hay in the fields, he often watched barnstormers flying over the farm. He knew there was something bigger out there in the world for him, and a better way to earn a living.
John’s real passion was aviation – he wanted to learn how to fly. So he saved money from his $1 per hour print job and took flying lessons. Marguerite, determined to help him achieve his dream, encouraged him to get his pilot’s license. After her family turned down a request for a loan, saying there was no future in flying, they secured a loan from Household Finance and John earned his instrument rating. After a few years he ultimately got his pilots’ license and embarked on what would be a very successful and long career with United Airlines.
John’s aviation profession took them to Denver in the 1940’s, but both he and Marguerite felt the pull of the mountains. They found a ranch in Conifer and purchased it in 1948 where they settled to raise their three daughters Jeanne, Carol and Linda. John aptly named his ranch “Flying J” – and so began an ongoing 73-year family love affair with this iconic and highly recognizable landmark in Jefferson County.
Carol and Linda described their life on the Flying J as idyllic. One of their favorite memories is of the three sisters loading up their saddle bags and spending hours on their horses, wandering the mountains and meadows and pretending to be Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and Billy the Kid. Linda says “It was a freedom that kids today will never experience. Marguerite’s only rule was that we were to return by dark.”
John and Marguerite raised a variety of cattle and horses on their ranch over the years and wanted to instill a love for this lifestyle in their daughters. Marguerite founded the Conifer 4-H Club, and John encouraged the girls to compete in horse shows and to show livestock at the National Western Stock Show.
Carol’s fondest childhood memory was sleeping in the bunk house with older sister Jeanne during the summer months. The walls were covered with old United and Pan Am travel posters and the girls spent hours listening to their record player and relishing the privacy from the main house and their little sister.
All three sisters went to college in Colorado and had careers as flight attendants – clearly “Flying John” had an impact on their decisions to stay in the aviation field.
After living on the Flying J for nearly 50 years, in 1995 the family sold large sections of the original ranch to Jefferson County Open Space in several transactions, creating the popular Flying J Ranch Open Space Park. The decision to place the remaining privately owned “Flying J” homestead in a Conservation Easement was important to Carol and Linda – to honor their parents and the passion they had for their ranch. Says Linda, “This feels satisfying. It would tickle my mother to no end. It’s such a legacy, a beacon on the hill, to know that this place looks exactly the same as it did 73 years ago!”
Together, we’re saving the land…and leaving a legacy.