Birdie Eleanor Lorraine Ashcroft passed away on Oct. 18, 2012, following a lengthy illness. Birdie was born on Jan. 6, 1928, to Wales and Minnie Smith. As a young girl, Birdie attended the day school near Ganado, Ariz., the Durango, Colo., school system, and graduated from Gallup High School in Gallup, N.M. Birdie spent her youth on her family’s cattle ranch that bordered Chaco Canyon on the Checkerboard area of the Navajo Reservation. The vast ranch covered 39 sections of land.
Birdie worked alone in remote outposts as a messenger girl for the Santa Fe Railroad. She was responsible for hoisting pouches of mail on long sticks to the engineer as the train roared by her station.
Birdie’s sweetheart, Jay Earl Ashcroft, asked her to go to the movies. Earlier that same day he reported to the Navy Induction Center in Santa Fe, N.M. Surprisingly, he was activated that very day and was charged with moving other inductees to San Diego, Calif. Two years later, Earl reappeared on Birdie’s doorstep asking if she still wanted to go to the movies. She accepted and they were married two months later on Nov. 9, 1946 in Gallup, N.M.
Mr. and Mrs. Ashcroft lived a life that seems to be taken from a wild-west movie. Their first home was in Fort Defiance, Ariz., where they managed Dunn Mercantile Company. Both fluent in the Navajo language, the couple then moved to manage the trading post at Coppermine, Ariz., near the future site of the Glen Canyon Dam. The trading post was 150 miles from the nearest town of any size. They recalled they had “no car, no phone, no running water, no electricity, no roads, and no money,” but they had each other and wonderful Navajo friends. Birdie and Earl would hitch rides in the back of a wagon and travel with their Dineh friends to squaw dances, ye be chii dances, and fire dances. From Coppermine they moved several times to manage the Tohatchi, N.M., Trading Post, the Divide Trading Post, where they were living when their daughter, Sharon, was born, the trading post at Wildcat, N.M., and finally back to Fort Defiance, Ariz., Trading Post. They managed the trading post in Fort Defiance for over 30 years. While living in Fort Defiance, Birdie assisted UNM linguist Robert Young complete the first Navajo language dictionary. Birdie and Earl’s son, Mike, was born at the Public Health Service Hospital in Fort Defiance where Birdie was employed at the time. The total cost of his delivery was $2.
The couple purchased retirement property at Summit Lake, Colo. After moving to Summit Lake, Birdie worked at Don Woodard’s Trading Post in Cortez, Colo. She also owned and operated the Ponderosa Cabins for several decades.
Birdie was a 4-H leader in Fort Defiance, Ariz., and organized the first Girl Scout Troop on the Navajo Reservation. She was a lifetime member of the Fort Defiance/Window Rock Bonita Canyon Sportsmen’s Club. Birdie was a member of the VFW Ladies’ Auxiliary in Mancos, Colo. Mrs. Ashcroft was instrumental in getting Highway 184 paved from Mancos to Dolores, Colo. She was also a lifetime member of the Southwest Colorado Cowbelles, and was voted Cowbelle of the Year in 1998.
Birdie loved to hunt, snowmobile, fish, read, play cards and tell stories of her exciting and colorful life on the Navajo Reservation.
Birdie and Earl are members of the LDS Church and were married and sealed together for all time and eternity in the Salt Lake Temple. Birdie was lovingly cared for during her lengthy illness by her husband, Earl, the love of her life, and companion for 66 years. One of Birdie’s favorite songs was “I want to be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart,” and she was.
Mrs. Ashcroft is survived by her husband, Earl; daughter Sharon (Harold) Walter of Pagosa Springs, Colo.; son Mike Ashcroft (Jane E. Duncan) of Dolores, Colo.; Jason Walter (Clancy) of Pagosa Springs, Colo.; Mindy Impagliazzo (Fabio) of La Maddalena, Italy; Jamie Walter of Lakewood, Colo.; Amy Melvin (James) of Cortez; Heather Varney (Robert) of Dolores; great-grandchildren, Dakota Walter, Morgan Walter, Burke Walter, Hailey Melvin, Logan Varney and Keegan Varney; and other family members, Trevor Ince, Emily Duncan, and Ameé Mann. She is also survived by her beloved cat, Oscar.
In honor of Birdie’s wishes, no services will be held.