|Carl Henry, Ralph Moody and Dutch Gunther,1955. Henry and Gunther are characters in Moody's books.|
If the book Little Britches means anything to you, then you know something of the life of Ralph Moody and also something of the history of Littleton. His recollections of his childhood during the early years of the 20th century in this vicinity capture the flavor of the farming community of Littleton between 1906 and 1912.
Ralph Owen Moody was born on December 16, 1898, in East Rochester, NH, the second of six children of Charles and Mary Moody. The family moved to Colorado in 1906, hoping that the state's dry climate would be a cure for the father's tuberculosis. They had purchased, sight unseen, a ranch west of the cavalry post at Fort Logan, at the southwest corner of Harlan Street and Hampden Avenue. The farmhouse was in such bad condition that Charles and Ralph spent many days scavenging for materials and fixing it up while the family lived in a Denver hotel. On the day the family took the "Uncle Sam" train to their new home, their two horses had been frightened away by coyotes and become entangled on a railway trestle. Thus began the adventures and life lessons that Ralph would recall more than forty years later.
Though the family gave it their most earnest effort, insufficient water rights made farming nearly impossible and they eventually moved into Littleton at 1836 W. Lake Ave. Shortly thereafter, In March, 1910, father was killed in a horse-automobile accident. Being the eldest boy at age eleven, Ralph became the "man of the family". To help support the family, his first job was pulling dandelions for ten cents an hour. Next, he was put in charge of other boys herding cattle to the local railroad stockyards, paying him 25 cents per hour, a handsome wage at that time for a man, let alone a boy. The family moved to less expensive quarters along Santa Fe Drive, just northeast of present-day Hudson Gardens. His most lucrative boyhood career began then right at home -- selling his mother's cooking door-to-door: baked beans, injun pudding, donuts and apple pies.
In 1912, Mrs. Moody was witness to a horse-theft and duly reported it. But once she was subpoenaed to testify at the trial of what was still a "hangin'" offense, she could not bear to be party to a man's death and opted to move the family, under cover of darkness, back to New England. Along the route they took the famous Cherrelyn horse car from Littleton to Englewood.
Ralph continued at any odd job from carpentry to board boy in a broker's office to support his mother and siblings. He also managed to finish eighth grade and continued to attend night school after that. When the call for volunteers for the Great War in Europe went out, Ralph promptly answered. But he was rejected for enlistment due to a "leaky heart" that was later diagnosed as diabetes. "The Boston doctors gave me less than a year to live, put me on a stiff diet, and sent me to the country to cash in my chips," Moody recalled.
He intended to return to his boyhood home in Littleton, but only got as far as Kansas. When he hadn't yet died after four years, he decided the doctors were wrong and got on with his life. He married Edna Hudgins of Boston in 1922. Moving to Kansas City, MO, they had three children, Charles, Edna and Andrew, and Ralph began a career with the Proctor & Gamble Company. Soon afterward, he left Proctor & Gamble to become partners with a former client, B/G Foods, Inc., and moved his family to California.
Ever interested in furthering his education, Ralph enrolled in a beginner's short story writing class in 1950. Before long he had written his first book, Little Britches, which described those early days on the ranch outside Littleton. In 1951, he followed with Man of the Family and another book set in Colorado, The Home Ranch. In all, Ralph Moody wrote 19 books, all based on actual, composite, and sometimes fictional characters in his life. As Moody put it: "My goal in writing is to leave a record of the rural way of life in this country during the early part of the 20th century, and to point up the values of the era which I feel that we, as a people, are letting slip away from us."
At the age of 83, he returned to his native New England and there, in the home of his sister Elizabeth, he passed away on June 28, 1982.
Littleton Independent. Littleton Independent Publishers, 1888- .
Littleton Museum. Photographic Archives.
____. "Ralph Moody" Brochure.
____. Vertical File: Ralph Moody.
Moody, Ralph. Little Britches. New York: Norton, 1950.
Moody, Ralph. Man of the Family. New York: Norton, 1951.
Photographs courtesy of the Littleton Museum unless otherwise noted. To order copies, contact the museum at 303-795-3950.
Compiled by Pat Massengill
Updated April 2021 by Phyllis Larison