The Story of Blue Mountain

   Long ago, when the grass was green and the spaces were wide and open, when the antelope often just felt like playin', and Colorado Springs was only knee high to a grasshopper, the Van Schooneveld family emigrated the Netherlands to Colorado.   

   Now, they weren't fancy folk. And if you think their last name was a mouthful, well, then you haven't met Wilhelminus or his wife Wilhelmina, or old Johannes. -Whew!- Just filling out the forms at customs and immigration near finished them.

    They was a lookin' for a new home, and figgered on finding one in America. And when they did arrive, not speaking much English, they mostly wandered about a bit with other folk from their homeland. They had heard tell of a marvelous new country out west, where the skies were wide and anyone could find their fortune. Colorado.

     How they found the Blue Mountain isn't certain. Some say they were lost and just stumbled on that valley, with its green hills and the tall pines on the slopes lookin' down from the three peaks. They say the sun was always shining there, and the rain had always just finished falling, and the birds were always just beginning to sing.

      Yes, looking at that spot, they knew they had found home. So they dug a hole, and into it they placed a small tin with their greatest family treasure, handed down for generations. And they covered it up and rolled a great big rock on top, and carved the family name into it. Which took a powerful long time. They had to do it in turns.      Then, being dreadfully poor immigrants, they turned their backs and left Blue Mountain, settling instead on some fine, barren land sold to them by a very nice man who later skipped town, in a place they later called Crook, Colorado. Life was hard out there. Their sod house collapsed. They only made a few dollars a year, growing barely more n' enough to feed themselves. Poor health and bad luck took about all that was left. The farm folded up, and instead of growing, that family and their friends got fewer and fewer. And that might have been the end of that story.

     But one day, one of the Van Schoonevelds went to Denver to seek his fortune. Little Herbie. No parents; only an 8th grade education and a willingness to bring the plucky can-do spirit of a Dickensian chimney sweep to 1900s America. He worked the salt mines, sold folks wigs, fixed up old junk he pulled out of the garbage; just about anything to get by. All he had left from his family were his name (a continuing inconvenience of mispronunciation) and an old map with the name “Blue Mountain” on it.

    But fortune was kind to little Herbie. He found himself a good strong Dutch girl named Virginia. Quiet and kind, she was a farm girl like him, who had lost her daddy when she was young and had to grow up early. And they did all right. Together, they left Denver and went looking for the place on Herbie's map. And after weeks and months of false starts and dead ends and endless criticism of Herbie's ancestors' penmanship, one morning they found themselves standing on that same little rise, looking down into that same valley, and they saw them three peaks looking out over the green hills. And they knew that was the place for them.

     Herbie and Virginia found the rock with the family name written on it (in alternating letters of various penmanship that sort of got a bit more rough and lazy toward the end). And after they bought the land they built their first house on that spot, right around the rock. And they called it Herb's Hideout, because Herb never did have a lot of learnin', and he thought it was funny.

      Now, you might assume that they found the tin that was hidden under the rock, but I'm afraid you would be wrong. Herbie had lost his mommy and daddy and didn't have anyone to hand down the story of what had been buried in that spot, just the old map. And he was pretty content just to walk the paths in the wide woods and fish the streams and enjoy the living in the valley, and the rock was mighty heavy and hard to move anyway; in fact he had used it as the base for his cribbage table.

     Little Herbie ended up having himself a pile a children, and lucky for him his girl Virginia knew more about raising little 'uns than he did, never having had someone around to knock sense into him enough to explain that when you take your kids fishing the boat is supposed to stay completely above the water. He just figured sinking was what boats do, and that's how kids learn to swim. Virginia was much more sensible, and knew how to make a house a home. And there wasn't a day that went by that the kids didn't come home to find something special just for them. Home baked pie, crispy cookies, canned peaches, or some freshly reheated chicken giblets (depending on taste).

    One of those fine children of theirs was ol' Herbert Craig, who had enough sense to realize when he was grown that his last name was already enough trouble to be getting on with, and changed his name to Craig Herbert. Craig was more of a reader than a farmer or rancher or handyman or mechanic or whatever it exactly was his dad was supposed to be doing at this point in the story. He had a powerful itch for learnin'. So he decided to become a doctor. He didn't have much money for the school, so he agreed to let the army do the paying if he would go set up practice in a small town somewhere where they needed doctors. He met and married a powerful smart girl named Nancy, who also came armed with a family history of the best jams and custards and homemade fancy treats you could imagine.

      And maybe it was fate, but they sent Craig and Nancy back out to the barrens to set up that practice, in a village just a stone's throw from that old town of Crook where the Van Schoonevelds had first made their home in America. The plains weren't so hard to the Vans this time around, and Sterling, CO, proved to be a good place for their kids to grow up. Whenever they could, they would take the grandkids to visit little Herbie and Virginia back at Blue Mountain, and they grew to love it just as much their ancestors wished they could have.

       Finally, a day came along when this story started catching up to itself and got to the point. Michael, the smallest Van Schooneveld (by all measures, for he was powerful runty), when he was young man, went back one day to visit the old site of the sod house that had collapsed so long ago and nearly taken his family's future with it. And while he was a pokin' about here and there in the grass, he found the end of an old, brass plaque stickin' out of the ground. And on it was a crude etching hammered into the dull, weathered surface. And it looked like this.


                                                                    Van S...

                                                                    [ROCK]

                                                                          |

                                                                          |

                                                                          V

                                                                   treasure


       Well, Michael went back to Blue Mountain, and he followed the directions on that plaque. And he found the tin. And inside he found the Van Schooneveld family treasure. And it was...a simple recipe for homemade ice cream.

        Now, I don't know what Michael was expecting, being that his ancestors were penniless immigrants.  After all, if they had had any real treasure, they wouldn't have been peasant farmers, would they? But after a long time ruminatin' and airin' his lungs about the shortcomings and misplaced priorities of his forebears, he started to see what they had left him. And that's how Blue Mountain Creamery was born.

     Michael had his mother to show him how to follow the recipe and learn to make the best ice cream in the West. He had his grandmother's baking recipes and his mother's jams and sweets. He had an old ice cream mixer his grandfather helped him fix up into the fastest freezing, most powerfully smooth ice cream making machine in the business. He learned to bake and how to cook candy and how to mix them into the extravagant frozen treats that came out of his kitchen. He learned to blend the fresh fruits that grew in the valley into the most delicious of cold seasonal confections. He married a girl named Amber, and together they built the creamery on the land his family had left for him. Blue Mountain Creamery. Over a 100 years, and more than a few tears, in the making. Bringing the best of old fashioned, home-made dessert making from generations of cooks, bakers, and confectioners to a single scoop.