Wendell Pemberton, born 24 July 1906 in Eldora, Iowa, and died 12 January 1987 in Sunnyside, Washington, was the second son of Addison Pemberton, born 27 July 1871 and died 6 January 1945, and his wife Emma Adelle Frey born 25 June 1872 and died 5 January 1961. Wendell was my uncle and I remember him as a witty and fun loving guy who would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. His profession was farmer and he raised field crops in Sunnyside, Washington for many years. He came west during the Great Depression and found work in the logging camps of northern California. His camp was Camp 10 not too many miles from Klamath Falls and Susanville, California. He was a wonderful story teller and had many fascinating stories to tell. My childhood favorite was the one about how he caught a runaway train engine (no one on board) in the night, crawled all the way around the front of the engine because there was no door into the cab on the side he caught, and brought it back to camp.
Luckily, he was wise enough to recognize the contribution his true stories could make and he made audio cassette tape recordings of them, which when transcribed filled 260 double spaced typewritten pages. In the following transcription taken from those pages, the page numbers are indicated in brackets. During the transcription from audio to print, pages were numbered from 1 through 59 and then from 47 on thus repeating numbers 47 through 59. The numbering rendered in the present edition of his memoirs continues this error so as to make comparisons between the two editions simple. His stories begin thus:
M E M O I R S
WENDELL J. PEMBERTON
This is the start of my history after all these years, after all the confusion, and now that I have waited until my memory is bad. If I don’t do it now, it will never get done, so I will start out with Addison J. Pemberton, my father, who was born July 27, 1871, in Hartland, Marshall County, Iowa.
He was the second child of Henry Coate Pemberton and Beulah Roberts Jackson. Addison was raised with three brothers; Harmon Elmer, then my father, then George Fox, Francis T. and three sisters — three lovely little girls later — Ruth Elizabeth, Wynema, and Josephine. When you look at the family photo, these four great, big, strapping sons and then these cute little girls that came along later, it is no wonder my father really loved these little girls.
In my early childhood, the only visits we ever made anywhere was to visit Wynema or Ruth, who married the Reverend Brown, and their children. Wynema’s husband was Jarvis Johnson, a great, big, tall, Abe Lincoln of a man–pure gold. He had sons; Max Henry Johnson, the older boy was Byron Johnson, and the younger son, later, was Richard. He had a Thoroughbred stock farm. The farm was at Lynnville, Iowa. During the depression when things were real bad, my father had 720 acres, and he almost gave this to Jarvis, as it was mortgaged. Jarvis Johnson came down and worked that farm for several years when I was a teenager, and we really became acquainted with them and their goodness.
My father’s father, Henry Coate Pemberton, was a designated Quaker minister. There were a great number of Quakers situated in that area. Father’s people were all Quakers from ‘way back, I guess even to the dungeons of King James in England. They told the king that they would serve him with rigor in every detail except in the matter of religious worship and conscience; that that was a free gift from God, and no man had the right to take that from them. 80, they went to prison.
Henry Coate went on a mission to the Osage Indians who lived around the state of Iowa, I think, for eight months. He took a wagon box of seed grain and some white-faced cattle and I think he spent eight months with the Indians to show them that they could [page 2] replace the buffalo and feed their families. There was no paid ministry in those days so Henry Coate supported his family by farming. They always ran cattle. Inasmuch as there was no paid ministry, I don’t know how they were even designated as a minister, but I do know he was a Quaker minister all his life. When I was a teenager, and I remember distinctly, when the Quaker, or Friends, Church decided to have a paid ministry. My father bowed his head and said, to the effect, “In all probability, this may be the end of the good spirit that Quakers have enjoyed for all their existence.” There was never any money. The only letters of Addison’s that I have in my files are when he wrote to his mother and to his father. He was always concerned about how he could rent the place, get the stock, and pay the bills. Addison’s letters, like all boys’ to his mother and dad were priceless because of the great love of these people and their families. They had to share everything. Henry Coate was known as “Henry Do-good” allover that area. He helped many; took them into his home in addition to his own family.
My father, Addison, was a very quiet, tight-mouthed man. He didn’t talk much. He would work all day and only say two or three words. It makes it difficult to write his history when he didn’t talk much. Some, if not most, of the priceless stories I accidentally heard when I overheard him talking to a friend or to relatives at some gathering, for Father never, ever, tooted his own horn — ever, ever, ever. Unless you overheard someone telling these stories, you’d never know. Like the big, life-size, tin negroes off the fence corner — I suppose it was an Aunt Jemima ad. Dad was always fooling with horses and broncs, and rather than ride these broncs, he would tie these big, life-size advertisements in the saddle, and turn those broncs loose. They would go absolutely crazy with fright. They opened their mouths and squalled like all get-out. My mother thought that was terribly, terribly cruel, but it sure saved a lot of broken bones. Those broncs were really sacked out when that tin got to rattling and banging and cracking. They really, really got sacked out. Lots cheaper too.
Now for an example of the kind of people there were in those days: following account I heard accidentally. As Dad was visiting old friends, someone in the group told this story.
Henry Coate, “Henry Do-Good”, and his boys sold a bunch of cattle to be delivered at a place, at a price. When they delivered the cattle at the scales, the old storekeeper and buyer said,
“We’re going to shrink these cattle three percent.
Henry Coate said, “No. The agreement was that the cattle would be at this price at these scales.”
The storekeeper repeated, “We’re going to shrink these cattle three percent.”
Henry said, “No. The agreement was that these cattle would bring this price over these scales here. These cows are really [page 3] shrunk. They have been driven all day in the heat.”
Someone in the store reached over the got the old buyer by the throat, bent him over the counter backwards, and said, “You old so-and-so, you’ve been stealing from this man for years. You know he won’t fight over a dollar but this is once in your life that you are going to keep your agreement exactly as you agreed to,” and with every word he was banging the old buyer’s head on the counter. This was just one instance as to the kind of men there were in those days – men who would go to the defense of the innocent, instantly, with no questions asked.
I never knew my father to violate his code of ethics, not even once in his life. I’ve seen him ground into the dirt more times than I’ve got fingers, by foals, stallions, mules, and I never heard the man curse or take the name of the Lord in vain. You would think he was hard, tough, and maybe even cruel. No. He was quiet, very reserved, extremely honest – an Abe Lincoln. Remember how Abe Lincoln returned the pennies on the long walk? Well, when my dad was a little barefoot tyke, he walked through the hot sun to the neighbors and returned a walnut. They didn’t have walnuts and when Mother Pemberton [Buelah Roberts Jackson] checked under the bed, she found this walnut. She asked Addison about it.
“Did they give it to you?”
He said, “No.” So he walked back, returned it, and told them he was sorry.
My dad was sworn at and swindled more times than I’ve got fingers and toes. On the ranch, his hogs, his cattle, and sheep were stolen. We always had someone on his places. Every time he got a chance, he would set up some young man in business. The ones who had anything on the ball all made good, and those who were the unfortunate type, of course, they never did and he couldn’t help them. I remember one family he had on the place for years and years. Every fall when they went to settle up, the woman would claim she had lost the cream receipts, and my father would sit there. “Well, what do you think? What do you think is right?” They would haggle around and around, and he would accept whatever the woman said. I thought, “What on earth! How can my father sit there and take that, year after year?” But he did. His philosophy was that the Lord had a way of taking care of those kinds of things.
Addison was educated in a little rural school and graduated from the little Quaker Academy at Hartland, Iowa, that’s the Friends Quaker Academy. Most of his friends lived northeast of Des Moines a little ways, around Iowa Falls, Eldora, and Marshalltown. Hartland is close there some place.
As you will note in his letters to Emma before they were married, Addison was always buying and selling cattle. My father was a cattleman from the ground up. He just couldn’t pass up a calf in a pasture without wondering if it might just possibly be for sale. His total philosophy of economics was to keep a little bunch of stuff growing into money at all times. You could be sure [page 4] of course, this meant livestock; corn, hogs, sheep and cattle, you name it, and you can be sure this was his father’s philosophy also. The first year that Dad farmed was in partnership with his beloved Uncle Jim Jackson, known as J. C. Jackson, (they always called him Uncle Jim). Jim was father’s mother’s brother. Dad loved this good man. My younger brother, JC, was never given a name; he was given the initials out of love and respect to this great man that Dad had in partnership, and in their first year farming and feeding out cattle, they netted $10,000. In those days, that was really something.
When Dad went on his own, his first place. was called the Ball Farm. We have a photograph of the emblem, or coat of arms, up on the end of that big barn. I think he bought this in 1902 where his first son, Stanley, was born. Then he moved to what is known as the Cross Place where I was born, Wendell J. I was not named Wendell J. I was named Wendell but I, like my father when he was about twenty years old, added the initial J. Unbeknown to me of this, I did the same thing at about the same age. Four years later, about 1907 or ’08, he went down into southern Iowa, 65 miles southeast of Des Moines, and a hundred mile straight east of Omaha, and bought a place on what is known as Mid River. There is the Des Moines River, the Mid River, and west of that is the Nodway, and I do not know the number of acres. My mind says it was always called the 92 acres, but I don’t think there is any way it could have been that small. It could have been 292. Anyway, that was my childhood. About 1907 when I was one year old, they built a big, new, two-story, white house on top of a hill. Overlooking all the river and timber country below us, the land laid to the south of us and to the west of us and to the east of the house and started up again. It was pretty good pasture but the sprouts had grownup to four or five inches in diameter by that time. It was 12 miles south of Stewart, maybe more; anyway, it was 12 miles to Greenfield; about three miles north and nine miles east of Greenfield to get into this place. The schools were all two miles apart in those days, originally laid out and surveyed. Our school was called the Prior Schoolhouse where we turned in toward our place, one-half mile, opened the gate, drove around the ridge a full wide circle and came into this big, white house.
I never knew why my father left all his people and all his community and came to this country and bought this place unless it was because he was raised on the Iowa River and his mother was the fisherman of all fishermen. Anyway, that is what he did. My mother was quite the lady. She taught school for years before she was married, and she was always–I don’t know how to say it–she was a lovely woman, she loved people, but she wanted to be educated and wanted to always be in with people in society. This may have bothered my dad, I don’t know. Anyway, he bought this place, and this was our home during all of our growing-up years. This is where we were raised. This is where we learned the great [page 5] lessons of life in our early childhood.
I will now go back to 1907 and put in what I can first remember. There is no way I can make this history chronologically correct, and I will try to mark my notes off as I put them on the tape. Anyway, on the first place Dad bought on the river, over on the west side of the place there was a deep ravine that ran clear through it, and back over there was an old original house–really old–down in the bottom. It had timber around it. The only thing that I can remember–now this was before we built the house and I couldn’t have been over a year-and-a-half old, all I can remember is where the back door was where you came in,. the old, black, cast-iron cook stove, and the chimney in that corner where I sat and played with Old Tom, the tomcat, my pet. Try as I might, I cannot remember anything about the house. I can see the stove and the kitchen table. I don’t remember where my bed was, but I can remember that corner where I spent so much time. My mother always let me have this big old beautiful tomcat to play with.
The next memory was after we built the new house–I don’t remember a thing about building that house, or any of the construction at all; not one single thing, but after it was built, they extended a wagon out, took four head of horses and loaded a red grainery that was by the old house. They took it down, forded the creek, and the creek was up. I was up on the front seat with Dad and another man. To see those four horses go down into that water, lunging and plunging, scared me the worst I have ever been in my life. I can still feel the fear. I was just sure we were going to get thrown in that water.
The other things that really stick in my mind are the terrible fears that I had. There were timber wolves there in the early days, and lots of them. They were always killing our sheep. They were always killing the pigs. My father never owned a gun after us boys were born. He’d had a gun all his life. He was always telling us what a fabulous shot he was with his old 10-gauge, but he wouldn’t have a gun in the house after us boys were born. Guess why! We sat in our big front room window and watched two wolves come up one day, across on the other hill. The old sow had piglets over there. These two wolves came by and one wolf would go and get the old sow to chase him and then the other one would get a piglet. The two of them would eat the pig. Then they came back and repeated that about three times and this big, 01′, lean, red sow finally caught that wolf going downhill and broke his hind leg. The last we saw he was going ‘cross country with his hind leg swinging completely loose. Dad went out to harness a horse and went over there with a pitchfork but of course when he got there, it was allover.
I always went to bed at night to the music of the bawling hounds–or training hounds. They would chase wolves across that country all night long. Somewhere, up the river five or six miles; down the river five or six miles, or right past our house, here would come these hounds, and it never ended in all those [page 6] years. I remember Christmas. You could bet my mother always had some kind of a Christmas. There were no evergreens, of course, so we’d borrow from the neighbor a limb or two off their trees so we could have a Christmas tree, or a sample of a Christmas tree, in our home.
One thing I remember very distinctly. I was fooling around with matches and Mother had her bread, always, in the frontroom–I guess the kitchen stove must have been out–and she had newspapers up over this great big rising pan of bread. I was fooling around with this match, just kinda seeing what I could do, and I lit the corner of it and put it out; I lit it again but I must have been too slow. It flared up and really was going! I ran out into the other room and asked if they smelled smoke. My Dad caught on right quick and Man, did I catch it!
Oh yes, there was another. Dad’s younger brother, Frank, was a football player–a real young boy at that time–great big guy. This old red shop they pulled up from the old house and forded the creek with, stood out by the house, and up in there opposite the workbench was a great big shelf. I could step from the workbench and somehow crawl up on this old shelf. There was an old horse blanket up there and Old Torn was up there. I was lying up there petting Old Torn, and Dad’s brother carne in to work at the bench. He had the biggest straw hat I had ever seen in all my life. I had to have something to do so I reached Old Torn out into the air, held him over this big straw hat, and let go. Of course the cat went crazy, scratching to get his balance, pulled off the straw hat, and scratched Frank’s head like you can’t believe. I got the hardest spanking I ever got in all my life!
The horse barn was in back of the big white house, about 50 yards, I guess. It had a buggy shed on the side of it where we kept the buggies. For years, there was a five-gallon can of linseed oil there left from building the house. Guess what! My curious mind always got me into trouble. I took a hatchet and cut holes in that can to see what was in it. Of course the linseed oil ran out onto the ground. When I got cornered, I told my dad, “Well, I just got anxiouser and anxiouser and anxiouser to know what was in that five-gallon can.
Another thing that sticks in my mind as plain as if it were yesterday: my brother slept on a cot and I actually slept in a crib until I was a pretty big kid–maybe three or four years old–I don’t know. Anyway, those hounds one night brought a big old timber wolf in from the west, I think right down through the buildings and backed him up against the side of this big, new, white house, if you can believe it. We both got out and looked out the window, right down on this wolf, and I was so petrified with fear that I never got to see the wolf. The old wolf sat there until he got his breath and then he’d make a lunge at the hounds, and they’d melt like water. When he got his breath again, he dove into them and they opened up like a wave of water and away they went again! And I never saw the wolf!
[page 7] Another highlight of my childhood was what was called the Old Settler’s Reunion. On the river, a mile west of us and then a mile down river — if we went out the back way, was what was called Arbor Hill or Fort Union. They freighted supplies into there in the early days and that store stayed there for years, 14 miles from Stewart on the north and 12 miles from Greenfield on the south and west. I can still remember the white peppermint candy in the store. If I had a penny, I could buy about ten of those white peppermints — if I ever got the occasion. This Arbor Hill had a curve in the river and a great big flat green pasture where the Old Settlers” Reunion was held every year for years and years. They had the complete carnival and the whole ball of wax — from cotton candy to you-name-it. This was the highlight of my childhood. See the picture of us four kids, Stanley and I and two neighbor boys, Dale and Lloyd Wambo, who joined our farm from the south, on this white burro that Dad bought. He bought two burros when they were just cute little ones and they grew up — one to be an ugly, ugly brown burro but the white one was real cute. She was white and tipped in black, and she became the “pet of pets”. She’d stay at the dining room window and we’d feed her bread crusts and prunes, and she would stand there and eat prunes and spit the seeds out, if you can believe it. Through all those years, we enjoyed that pet burro. We called her “Peggy” and we rode her everywhere. We took her to school, and the kids would sit under her and eat lunch. I never knew her to step on anybody.
In all this history, you must remember that my brother Stanley was four years older than I, and we were always together except those terrible times when he went with Dad to do this or do that, and oh! how I hated these words, “You’re too little. You can’t go.”
Stanley went to Chicago, with Dad with a trainload of cattle more than once, and he went to the State Fair with him several times. I never got to go to a State Fair!
We did have an accident one time with this wonderful burro, Peggy. Dad was walking behind her and had spent all day on foot and was tired so he grabbed her tail to have her help him along. Hey! She didn’t like that and she pitched both us boys on our heads on that old hard dirt road, and I can still remember how that hurt. I think that was the only time she ever threw us off.
Now, about my mother. She was one of those 95-pound wonders of the world. She taught school for years before she was married, and had fabulous-ability. In those days, there was always a bully around the country–I suppose there still is. She was aware of this bully at this school, who had run several teachers off. This 95-po.und wonder went in the first day, sat up there, folded her arms, and laid down the rules that “will be followed”. She called this big boy by name, and she says, “You know, I have a splendid horse that I ride to school, and I want him taken care of and [page 8] taken care of right. Now, I know that you have the ability and the know-how, and I would be very pleased if you would care for my horse like you know how to care for it.”
That boy never gave her one bit of trouble. I’ll tell you, when my mother stretched her 95 pounds up to full height and looked you in the eye … well, I never knew anybody that she couldn’t melt down. Do you know what she did when she first went down to that country? She was on a horse–an excellent, excellent horsewoman. Dad had two Morgan horses. One was a dapple grey, high-strung and flighty, always in trouble, and the other was old polly. Polly was the gentlest Morgan horse–beautiful and trustworthy–that ever lived. We were raised on that horse. I can remember the horrible fear when I was about a year-and-a-half old on up, of being in the saddle with my mother when she’d coax that horse down a steep, rocky bank, across the river, and up a steep bank on the other side, plunging and lunging. I was just petrified with fright, but she never showed fear. She loved the woods.
Always in the spring, she’d take me on that horse and go through the timber, always singing and pointing out every kind of flower that grew native to that Iowa timbered country. I can’t even name them now–the Bloodroot, Honeysuckle, and a whole bunch of others. She knew them all. This was her life. And, oh! how she loved people. Anyway, she made acquaintance with that whole area and gathered up all of the young kids in that area and started a Sunday School. Those kids grew up and paired off and the names always went together like Ray and Letha, Rex and Gurtie, and so forth and so on, and they married and had their families and I never knew of a divorce in all of their descendants. I am sure there were, but I don’t know of it.
From our house, we couldn’t actually see the river because north of it, there was a high hill, but the road north of us, the culverts washed out and were never replaced. There was a high, steel, plank river bridge with metal structures that were real high above the water. When we went to Stewart, we could go through our place and cross this bridge and come back that way, but for years, to go out north and west of our place, the road was out, and when Dad was out in the country, to the north or east and was late, mother would always hang a light in the window. If he was to come from the south or the west, she put the light in the south window, but Mother always put that light in the window.
I don’t know how old I was when we got our first sheep and, here again, to go get the sheep would have been quite a thrill. I knew what sheep were but we didn’t have any. Well, I couldn’t go. I was too little. Anyway, they didn’t come home, and it got dark. Hours passed. That light had been in the window for hours. Mother would shine that light up to the reflector, and I could see the anxiety on her face. She knew something was wrong. At almost midnight, we heard the men coming with the sheep. They had had to make the sheep cross the high river bridge, and they almost went [page 9] crazy trying to get them across, because of their fear. They would tie one and lead it and try to get the others to follow. Dad had a big tough buggy whip that he had worn down and just had a stub in his hand, about three feet long. When he came into the house, in the light, he had this whip in his hand, this stub. It had a tuft of white wool stuck in it. I remember I reached out — I was small enough — and I took that tuft of wool and felt of it and smelled of it. I had never had ahold of wool before, and it was quite a thrill.
It was the beginning of a fabulous, fabulous experience in our lives because for the next few years, we always had sheep, and the thrill of raising those crops of lambs, year after year, and seeing them romp and run and play, was really something. By the side of the big white house was an old cave, a dirt-covered old cellar that was sort of poorly built and partly caved in. The lambs would play “king of the castle” on that thing by the hour, day after day.
I remember we had a pair of lambs that we had broke to the harness and put on our little farm wagon. Their names were Buck and Barry. I have the pictures, and the thrill we had all those years was really something.
The wolves were horrible. They were always into the sheep, and this fabulous little mother of mine–I don’t know how old I was–maybe three or four, and the wolves had hit the lambs when they went down to the river to drink. They had run them over the bank, in a bayou, where there was a deposit of about three or four feet of slimy, oozy, mud. There must have been 6 or 8 young ewes, just ready to lamb, and my mother went out in that mud, waist deep, and helped work those lambs out. It was a terrible, heavy job and several of those young mothers bore-twins under that water and in that mud. We laid them out on the bank and wiped them off the best we could and I think they all lived. I can still remember the agony of trying to get them to the house, about a half-mile away, in the worst down pouring cloudburst you ever saw, trying to coax these mothers along. We’d put the lambs down in front of them, then we’d pick them up and go another few feet, but the mothers kept racing back to where the lambs had been born. Then we had to go back and start allover again. I thought it would never, never end. In the years before I went to school, I can definitely remember three crops of lambs.
It was quite an ordeal when my brother, four years older, left me and went to school, and I was left alone. I got into all kinds of trouble. I just couldn’t find enough things to do by myself and, you might know, I did a lot of things that got me into trouble. I sat under the lawn mower, which was up against the side of the house, and one of those blades came down on the middle of my forehead and split it wide open. My mother just about went crazy. Another thing we always had to fight was the wolves and dogs. Dogs love to kill sheep. We had a big, beautiful, black-faced buck we called “Old Joe”. We had him about three [page 10] years. I don’t know whether you know it or not, but when the rams are turned in with the ewes in the fall, the rams fight like the wild goats and Bighorn Sheep fight. They jump 15 or 20 feet and hit in midair and when their heads hit, you can hear it for two miles. This is what we witnessed every year, and many times during the season. Anyway, this Old Joe could take on any dog I have ever seen, or two dogs. I’ve seen him hit a dog and bowl him for 50 feet, end over end. We had Old Joe down to Grant Bunche’s place–that was about 1 mile south and a mile east. Grant Bunche worked with my father for many, many years. They always had him on the place somewhere, somehow, doing something, to try to help them out. So, anyway, Old Joe got killed. We went out to find him on the hillside. There were little skiffs of snow on the ground, and there were three wolves; one with huge tracks, one with medium-sized tracks, and then the female. They had covered that whole hillside and- had split him to ribbons before they finally got him–because there were three of them! You could see the marks where he had hit those wolves and rolled them in the snow for 50 feet, where he had slid 15 or 20 feet, and where the other wolves had come in from the side. He had to turn around, so while he was getting that one, another wolf would attack. They finally killed Old Joe.
It was a really sad occasion. We’d had that old man for years, and we loved him. He had never hurt one of us, however he did hit a stranger a time or two. He never did tackle us boys because we were with him all the time and I guess he just naturally respected us. Probably the reason I remember this period of my life so vividly is because Stanley was in school and I was alone.
Dad would never take care of his own livestock doctoring. He always had Steve Jackson, the neighbor, help him. It was always like a circus. Dad never got his stock taken care of when he should have — somehow he never got around to it and they got to be huge animals when they had to be docked, castrated, and so forth. We had a horse barn with some slats out of the back stall. One day when I was up in the haymow, a great, big, hog came through this open place in the manger, went down along the manger and picked-up the shelled corn under the horses’ boxes. Now, I had seen the men take a piece of hay wire and make a snare to snare the snouts and mouths of a hog so they could put rings in–so they couldn’t root out the pasture.
I’ll be darned, wouldn’t you know it, I made me a snare out of hay wire, fastened it to the rafter, dropped the loop down and caught this big ol’ red hog by the nose and jerked up on it. Holy Mackerel! That hog started to squeal and wham his head back and forth against the planks of the manger, and shook the dust out of the rafters of the barn. I was so petrified! To this day, I have no idea how I got that hog loose before Dad got home. I must have, somehow, because I don’t remember Dad learning anything about it.
[page 11] Another time when I was up in that same haymow–I don’t know if I had seen a circus–but I stuck a plank out there and was playing bear or monkey or something on this board. I went out there 15 times and turned around just before it tipped over but this time, for some strange reason, I was out a few inches too far, and that board flipped up and shot me down on that old, hard ground in front of that horse barn, on my forehead. I think my mother saw it from the window. I think she was just coming out the door to warn me when it happened. I still remember I thinking I would never ever get air back into my lungs again. My mother sat there in the dirt and rocked back and forth with me — it seemed like forever. You can bet she was really doing some praying but, of course, eventually I got my breath.
I know you can’t believe, that a boy that young could take those sheep out on the big ridge by the side of the house and hold them there by the hour and by the day and keep them out of the corn. Now, that place was fenced with hog fence clear around the entire place, but it was not cross-fenced inside, and for years, it seems, I took those sheep out on that hill and kept them out of the corn. Mother called me Little David. She’d read me the story of David out of the Bible and, you know, that really pleased me. So I was known as “Little David”. How many years that was before I went to school, I don’t remember.
One time when I was herding the sheep, I got so lonesome I just couldn’t stand it, so I went down to the school. They were having school; the door was shut; they were in class, of course. I went up to the side of the door and took a short board and went down the siding. Brrrrrrr. Then I’d run and hide. The teacher came out, looked around, didn’t see anything, so she went back in. Then I’d go up and run this board down the siding, Brrrrrrr. She’d come out again and look all around. I thought that was pretty cute. The third time, I was just ready to raise the board when she reached out and got me by the arm. She invited me to come in. She sat me down and started to talk to me about how I was disturbing the whole school — that she couldn’t hold class and that it wasn’t real good — that she was so sorry to think I would do that. Then I had to tell her something. I said, “I don’t know what it is, but there are certain times when my eyes water, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. They just water and I can’t help it.”
I neglected to mention my birth on the Cross place. I that on this Cross place was a great big old stone house. know, my birthday is the 24th of July, and Dad had several men around the ranch. My little 95 pound mother had a horrible delivery. I don’t know how many hours it was, but it was a long, long, long siege. When the sun came out in the afternoon, the heat was unbearable (over a hundred degrees, I think) and she used to tell how the men ripped the plank off the corral fence, and stood the planks up on end against the west side of the house so the house and its windows were shaded. She told many, many times [page 12] how grateful she was for what those good men did.
Mother was a fabulous cook. She loved people and people loved her. We never had a hired man in our lives that didn’t love and respect my mother because of her goodness and her fabulous cooking.
Another thing that happened when I was just a little tyke — we had the workhorses in the yard, old Polly and Dolly and a bunch of bigger, rougher horses. My brother was shelling ear corn out into little piles on the ground for his special horses, Old Polly and Dolly, and of course, Peggy, the burro. Of course the other horses were trying to get up there to get their noses in there for a bite, and Stanley says to me, “Get them outta here!” So, I took a little stick, about two feet long, put it back over my head, and rushed at this horse which had just been shod with iron shoes — it may have been Old Polly, I don’t know — but it laid back its ears and kicked me in the chest with both feet with those shod feet. I remember it as plain as if it were yesterday. The telephone pole was in the yard, and it came down past me and then went right back up again. The insulators on that telephone pole came down past me and then went right back up again; I was kicked that high into the air. I don’t remember any pain at the time of impact, at all. Don’t remember a thing. When I opened my eyes I saw my Dad — he had been shaving and had jumped into the air off that high front porch — in the air with one side of his face shaved and one side not shaved. That’s the last I remembered. When I “came to” I was lying on the old couch in the front room, and then, Man! the pain began to cut loose!
My parents had been on the phone. Mother’s sister, Mary, who lived in Greenfield, had married a doctor, and he was a good doctor. He had a set of running horses. He had the harness hung up over them, like fire horses, so he could go out there, pull a rope, and the harness would drop onto them where he could just buckle the harness. The buggy tongue was right there, dropped down between the horses, and he could get out of there fast. I don’t know how many miles a running horse makes–maybe 20 miles an hour, but he didn’t come and he didn’t come and Dad called back. Old Doc says, “Well, I haven’t had my supper yet.”
I heard my father say, “Well now, we don’t know if this boy is going to make it or not,” and he hung up the receiver. I think the doctor was out there in something like eighteen minutes.
Incidently, before I forget, Father’s little beautiful sister, Josalee, married a man by the name of Ledas Williams and died at her first childbirth. This was one of the saddest things for my Dad. He could never bear to talk about this terrible, terrible tragedy.
Here is another thing I want to mention: The only good horse Dad ever owned, he brought to that country, a fabulously high-spirited riding horse by the name of Old Robbie. A hired man came in one day with a four-horse team and tied them to a hog tree. They panicked, pulled back, and roared down through the [page 13] orchard where they piled up, broke Robbie’s neck and killed him.
Down at the river there was a layer of limestone about nine or ten inches thick, and where it broke off and the water came over that, it would always dig out a hole, causing a whirlpool that went about 3/4 of a turn and then went out at about a right-angle to where the water came downriver. Because of this whirlpool, a six to eight or nine-foot hole was gouged out there. You could touch toes on the bottom and not make your hands stand out the top — it was that deep. Anyway, that was the joy of our lives while we lived on that place. Even years later, after we had worked around the country, that 0l’ Swimmin’ Hole at Teakettle Falls was our pride and joy. Our friends from town would come out there time and time again to go swimming at Teakettle. We could climb up into the willow tree, that hung out over it and bale out of the tree. One time, I pulled a horse and buggy up there, dove off the wheel and hit in six inches of water. Darned broke my neck. Did break my left arm, or cracked it. Anyway, I carried it in a sling for six weeks — never went to a doctor with it. It was definitely cracked though. A kid’s bones will crack like a green twig and, like I said, it was six full weeks before I could use that arm like I should.
My father was not a mechanic. He hardly even had any tools around the place. His tools were literally a hammer and a stone. He wasn’t a good fence builder. He built fence when he had to, but he always had hired men. Would you believe it? There was nearly always stock in my mother’s yard? We had a great big lawnmower but I guess Dad figured the sheep could do a much better and cheaper job. The sheep were always in the yard. They kept it down nice. Know what? When Dad moved off-that place and had a renter on there, the first thing they did was fence the area. We had a garden fenced south of the yard where Mother always had a fabulous garden, but Dad just didn’t build fences like other men did.
One thing I forgot to mention about these sheep that I used to take over on the hill. There was a creek that ran back of the garden, south of the house. A ravine ran down through there, quite a steep one. The sheep would come off the hill, go down the slope through the timber to the creek, then come up east of the house and go into the pen where we always penned them up at night. One day, I started the sheep home and then I took a shortcut across the back of the barn past the old pump down the top end of this draw, and then into the house. My brother and I were sitting on the porch watching the sheep come up. Some big lambs came straggling along, long after the others had come up. They’d go always and then lie down; go a few feet and lie down. We thought, “Hey, what in the . . . and here another one carne o~t of the brush, in worse shape than the first one. We ran down there. There wasn’t a drop of blood on them anywhere.
“Hey, what in the . . . and here another one came out of the brush, in worse shape than the first one. We ran down there. [page 14] There wasn’t a drop of blood on them anywhere. They kept lifting their heads, like they couldn’t get their breath. We went down there, and there were two or three dead ones. Three or four or five of them had had their throats cut by the wolves. They had cut the jugular vein and sucked the blood out of that wool so clean that you couldn’t see blood on the wool, if you can believe it. Wolves are artists at killing stock and cutting the jugular veins.
Another time when we came home — here again, the folks had to go clear around the ridge, about a half-mile and make the big loop and back down to the barn — but us kids, we’d get out, shut the gate, and run down through the timber, past the garden, and into the house. We’d been gone for a few days days. When we came back, we went past the horse barn, and just happened to look into the manure door window, and there, sprawled out in about half of the horse barn was about 40 big old hounds. My brother gave me the high sign and I peeked in there. He said, “You go shut one door, and I’ll shut the other.”
We ran around the barn two different ways and shut the doors, got those hounds locked up in there, but then what? We hated the things because of their noise and ruckus and the sleep we had lost, but we didn’t know what to do with them. Finally, we just had to let them go. They got pretty ugly. They’d bellow and bark and raise Cain in there.
Another time when we had been away for several days, to a fair or something, we came home and us boys unlocked the house and went in. My brother was ‘way ahead of me because he could run faster, and he came back as white as a sheet. He still says there was someone in that house. Because the house was on a high hill in the corner of four sections where there was no road used, it was a really isolated, back-in-the-woods affair.
Another time when I was very young, a man came walking, a great big man with a long overcoat. He knocked on the door and said he was hungry and had to have something to eat. Dad brought him in, set him down, and Mother fixed him a nice meal. He didn’t take his coat off, and he watched Dad all the time. When he sat back in the chair, his coat opened up. He was wearing two guns. We never had any idea who he was or what the deal was, but he really made Dad wonder what in the world was going on.
I don’t think I have mentioned this Fort Union that we always talked about–where we went to get groceries when we didn’t want to go the 14 miles to town. There was a mill just below the store on the river, with a millrace and a great big overshot waterwheel. Mother always raised chickens and it was quite a thrill to go with Mother in the buggy to take the corn down to this mill and grind the corn for the mother hens and the chickens–she always had these little chickens coming on in the spring. I have never forgotten the thrill of watching the mechanics of that mill and the turn of that big old stone with its big old wooden homemade cogs like you see in pictures of antiques. It was really [page 15] something. Above the mill, north of our west place which we bought later, originally there had been quite a dam in there — quite a dam. They had bored holes in the rocks. It had a limestone rock bottom. They had bored holes in these rocks and had pinned 8′ x 8′ timbers across there, and made the aisle for these timbers and filled the center with big chunks of rock to make adam to raise the water to this race that turned the mill. In my later years, of course the mill was all gone and defunct. The dam had been ripped out by high water, but it always intrigued me to go over there and when the water was real low, you could see where these irons had gone down into the limestone to anchor the dam. I used to think how wonderful it could be if we could get folks together to rebuild that dam and have a place to swim above it.
Another horrible experience I had when I was a very small boy — Dad had built a big stallion barn across the road, east of the house. It was fenced on both sides but it was never used because the culverts had washed out and were never replaced. Anyway, Dad was in this stallion barn, nailing up some feed bunks or something. The half-door was closed. An old sow lay outside the door, about 3 feet, with about twelve of the cutest little, speckled black and white and red pigs you ever saw in all your life. They were just darling–just out of this world! I opened that door and slipped out there and got one of those little pigs up in my arms. Of course it squealed, and when I turned to go back into the barn, the old sow looked at me like a roaring lion. She bumped the door shut–with me on the outside! Here was that old sow about twelve inches from my throat with her mouth wide open, roaring like lion. Hey! I could not move; I was so totally paralyzed. Dad came down from the rafters ·with a hammer and stuck a hammer in that old sow’s head and she was out cold for about three minutes. I remember that one as well as if it were yesterday.
I don’t know when Dad got into the land business in a big way. I assume it must have been after we bought the 160 acres in 1913, on the northwest edge of Greenfield, known as the Duncan place. This was where J. C., the third son, was born. This was a well-improved farm, big corn crib, large barn, grainery, and would you believe, running water and electricity for the first time in our lives? That was really something!
In 1913, he bought the Willys Knight, the Overland, with the old sleeve valves and that old cone clutch. Every time he let the clutch out with the motor revved up, he’d break another axle and have go to have it fixed again. That car would not stop even if Dad yelled so you could hear it in the next county — if you don’t believe it, ask Emma. After he’d had the car for about a year, they came out to the big gates of the house and Dad said, “Now, Emma, there’s no reason why you can’t drive this car through the gate.” So she said OK and slid over. He showed her the gears to put it in, how to put the clutch down and let it out REAL slow. [page 16] And so, she went through the gate, yelling, “Addison! Addison! How do I stop it?”
Of course, Dad was already yelling WHOA, but that car chugged, chugged, and she ran into a plum thicket, ten feet high, and mowed down a 50-foot swath through that plum thicket before that old car chugged itself down and drew its last breath.
As you might know, my mother said, “Now, listen, Addison, these boys are getting to the age where I am not going to see them grow up out here in the sticks. They must have better schools and church.” So, in 1916, he bought the house in town.
Dad was gone by the day, the week, and the month–over and over. He had land in Wisconsin, Nebraska, the Dakotas, Colorado, you name it. Some of it I never saw — didn’t even know it existed. Do you know what my mother did when her boys were so much without Dad? She gave us the entire upstairs bedroom, and stanley shelved the whole side to store stuff on. Then he took out the upstairs window, and we put planks and lumber up to that window by a rope and pulley, and built a big workbench. She gave us a full set of wood tools so we could make anything you could imagine. We had shavings on that floor, 8″ deep, for years to come. How blessed we were for that experience. That was mother! We would build birdhouses, stools, chairs, bicycle carrier boxes that would haul pigeons thirteen miles — and they lived too! If they got out they were probably so shook up they couldn’t fly anyway!
Anyway, somewhere about this time, my dad bought 240 acres west of the home east place. The east home place was on the road in front of it and two miles west. It was three or three and a-half miles if you went around the road; If you walked across from place to place, it was only about a mile. He always had a renter on the place. There was a man by the name of Walt Davis who was there for years and years and years.
After the crash of 1918/19, this 240 became the family home. The house in town we lived in for probably four or five years, and always ran from that property, every summer, out to work on these farms during harvest. Dad also bought forty acres about six miles south of the original home place, and a mile south of that, he bought a 160 with no bUildings on it. The forty had an old house and a barn where we could get in out of the cold and sleep at night. We worked on this 160. We had cattle on there every year, and grain. It was quite an experience, traveling that distance from the home place — we didn’t go from the 240 down there, but we traveled from the home place with this old man, Grant Bunche, who was on the original home place after we moved to town.
Trip after trip, by team and wagon. We’d take our lunch and go to work on this 160. We did that for several years–a horrible waste of time, but that’s what we did. It had rattlesnakes on it like you couldn’t believe! We had to watch out for them all the time.
During these years when Dad had land allover the country, he [page 17] was gone, gone, gone. Mother waited and waited, and one night she was sitting on the porch when suddenly she ran down the walk and threw her arms around this great big man. Guess what! It wasn’t Dad! He was a real fine person — just a really swell man — and he laughed and laughed, which completely put Mother at ease, and she didn’t have a bad time over that at all.
[page 18] CHAPTER (Tape) II
I need to backtrack a little now, back to the winter of 1911/12, one of the most savage of winters and what probably set the cold record in the state of Iowa up to that time. I have in my hand a letter that cousin Howard Frey’s mother wrote to my mother’s sister in Greenfield, Iowa, Mrs. Mary Babcock. She says:
“The weather situation .is becoming very alarming here. Last Sunday it was 36 degrees below zero. Fuel is very low. Freight trains are stalled, and sixteen of the mines have shut down. The railroads refuse to handle stock shipments. A car of cattle came through Clarion and were partly frozen. We got part of our hogs off before Christmas but they won’t take the rest, and we haven’t a kernel of corn but what we can buy at fifty cents per bushel, and can buy only a limited amount at that. We have coal to last for about ten days. I don’t know whether we will get any more, and when this is gone, we’re out.
“Apples froze in transit from the depot to the grocery store–two or three blocks. The merchants can’t get groceries; sugar, buckwheat, or beans.
“I made a bed down on the floor by the stove for two nights; the bedroom is so cold. It was so hard on the floor that my flesh is sore, but by sleeping in our heavy, flannel underwear, we managed to not suffer too much.
“When I hear people talk about ‘the good old pioneer days’, I think they should look around. There’s plenty of it here. People have to take their children to school. Howard gets a ride part of the way. He hasn’t missed a day. He froze his face one morning. “This is the worst winter recorded since 1864. I know it beats anything I have ever heard of.
“There is a funeral party stranded in Wyoming, trying to get here.”
Howard adds: “This is the winter that Mother Frey, my mother’s mother died in Greenfield. It seems that from childhood memories, I remember it was a hard one. I think that is the winter of record cold for Iowa. It did get down to 47 below, west of us, here.”
Then I wrote on the bottom of this letter, “I am Wendell J. Pemberton, your cousin. Yes, how well I remember the winter [page 19] of 1911/12!”
It was 40 below, and a three to four day blizzard with high winds came up. Huge snow drifts everywhere. The sun broke out on a crystal bright, clear morning after the storm. The sun on those frost crystals at 40 below, looked like millions of diamonds. It was ust out of this world. Our animals, the hogs and sheep, were all in the barns and the big shed in back of the horse barn. The wind was from the northwest.
“We sat in our parlor and saw three big timber wolves come up out of the timber, jump over the high fence into the front lawn, about 30 feet away. They were so thin they looked to be about eight inches wide. They were continually raising their heads and sniffing, catching the scent of our stock in the barn. They were so gaunt and thin that they were totally fearless. I can picture them as clear as if it were yesterday. My father would never own a gun since we boys were born even though he told us many stories about his old 10-gauge.
He took a pitchfork and tracked the wolves around the buildings, south and then back northwest of the buildings, about a quarter of a mile from the house. They had gotten down into a ditch where there had been a little waterfall, and dug out a deep hole. They had crawled in there and were covered with two to three feet of snow. When the storm broke, they crawled out, circled around to the south, started down to the river, but when they smelled our animals, they immediately turned and came straight towards the house.
I forgot to mention the thunder of the ice on the river, at 40 below. You could hear it for five or ten miles when it let go, as many as two to three times an hour. It is like a chain reaction when it lets loose in one spot, and then travels for miles up or down the river. Then it is quiet, freezes, builds up a terrible pressure again, and then Boom-Boom-Boomtety-BooMl Isn’t is something to have a belief and leaders who have counseled us for years and years, since 1936, to keep at least a year’s supply of (staples at least) everything you need to use and preferably two year’s — fuel, clothing, everything.
We were snowed in here one year when nothing went down the roads — not even a snowplow. What a thrill it was!· We sat here without one thing to worry about.
Now I need to go back to 1913. We had moved from the place out on the river, the Duncan Farm on the edge of Greenfield. Now I don’t know when we moved. usually, the terms of lease-purchase were always in March, but I have my report card in hand, from 1913, and I had started in the [page 20] middle of the year. How well I remember that one! Here is what happened.
I had gone to the country school a year or maybe a year-and-a-half. Anyway, a great, big man I had never seen before, wearing a blue serge suit, walked into the classroom, and had the teacher call me up in front of that group. He handed me a book and told me to read. Well! I was so scared I couldn’t even see the book — I just gulped and swallowed. He said to the teacher, “Put this boy back a grade,” and he turned and walked out of the room.
Can you believe the ignorance of that? I have my report card in hand. I remember my teacher very well; she was a good teacher. I got “G’s” in everything except in Drawing and Deportment. I got “F’s” in those. I never got a high grade in deportment. Guess I had too much fun!
I have my report card from Grade II, and it is all “G’s” and “E’s” straight across the page. Even my Deportment is good except for one which is “Fair”. So, maybe it was a good thing I did get set back. I’ll never know, but I’ll always remember the disappointment and horrible feeling of that cruel experience. However, I guess it was a good experience, at that.
The three years that we lived on this Duncan Place, so many things happened that were so important in my life at that time. I was seven years old in ’13, and had to totally change friends in a new school. I explained someplace (or did I?) that that place had running water and electricity, for the first time in our lives. It was on the edge of town, but between town and our place, there was a fenced-in park of about four acres with every kind of beautiful tree that grew in that area — even evergreens. Adjoining this a place was a little apple orchard, a big grazing area, a big barn, and a big beautiful doublewide corn crib. The house was small but quite comfortable. Father had apparently started wheeling and dealing in land by this time because he was gone quite a bit of the time.
One of the first agonizing things I remember was the big hogs we kept next to the corn. They had raised up the fence, the big old sows, and gone under and into the corn. Hey! My brother and I drove stakes into that fence by the hundreds. I mean, stakes 2-3 inches through and three feet long. About 40 of those old sows would get their noses on that fence and they could lift tons and tons. They kept ripping it out and ripping it out! Here we were, two kids. I was seven and stanley eleven or twelve; Dad was gone. So we finally braided a barbed wire and made a braided cable, and put on the ground. We stapled and nailed it into those huge stakes. We drove the stakes ‘way down with a 16 pound sledge and, finally, we got them [page 21] stopped. But that was an ordeal I will carry to my grave! We were taught to do things right, and there were no exceptions or excuses for failure, so that’s what we did.
Sometime during this time, I got my first bicycle. Stanley already had a bike but it was so big that there was no way I could stand up and ride it. So, I’d stick my foot through the frame and coast around for awhile. Then I got so I could stick my leg through that big frame and actually peddle that bike! What a thrill it was when I finally got my own small bike that I could straddle. We took that bike apart, took out the bearings and washed them up I think 50 times, put it all back together, set the bearing up so we could see how many times that wheel would turn (while we pushed it) before it would stop. You know, I have used that principle for setting bearings all my life ever since that day.
Now there was another thing on that place that was really something. In that beautiful park next to the house, which was fenced with a high fence, we had a big old buck sheep. He had a name but I can’t think what it was. He was really a big one. Well, in there, no~ far from the gate, was a huge log. Hey! He’d butt anything or anybody, but he was slow and big, and he would always bleat before he’d hit. We’d jump over the log, he’d run around the log, and just before he’d hit us, we’d jump back. As he went by, we could crawl on his back and hang onto that huge bunch of wool he had, and he’d go crazy trying to get us off so he could butt us to pieces.
Anyway, because Mother was sa small and we usually had men at the table, we had a hired girl. She would take in girls who needed a home and some care, so most of the year, she had these hired girls helping her. Well, it was the funniest thing! The clothesline was right next to the back door. In the corner of this park there was a big wooden gate. Every time this Swedish girl, Minnie, would go out to hang up clothes, somehow, the gate would come unlatched and here’d come this big, old buck sheep. He’d always bleat quite always before he’d hit. Anyway, when he’d bleat, she’d scream and run for the house. She never did get hit but, you know, pretty soon Mother caught on to that. Hey! Did she ever work us over when she found out we were leaving that gate latch just ajar so that when the old buck would hit the gate, it would fly open. We really caught it!
On this place, out by that beautiful double corn crib, there was a feed grinder that had a team of horses hitched to a long pole. As these horses went around and around, they would grind feed for feeding cattle. Would you believe Dad brought the feed out of the corn crib in a big basket on his shoulder, poured it into the grinder, then shoveled it out [page 22] again? Then he walked out with it to feed cattle. Imagine that, compared to the feed wagons we have nowadays! Isn’t that something? Anyway, I was so enthralled with this huge gear machine that I would stand there watching it — I knew not to put my fingers in there. I suppose I had put a stick or two in there and watched it chew them. Well, I spotted a leather tug on the ground, and I got to wondering what it would do if I put this big old leather tug in there. So, I did. The first time it made wrinkles in it, so I stuck it in again. Bang! That great big, five-foot cast gear broke and separated — flying in two different directions. Can you imagine how I felt when my Dad carne out there with the next basket of feed on this shoulder and looked down and saw that gear lying there, busted wide open? I didn’t get punished. He just looked at me and asked, “Did you put that tug in those gears?” He never did a thing, just turned around and walked back but he didn’t feed any more cattle by grinding by hand.
Just below our place, about a quarter mile, there was what was called the City Dump, but people didn’t throw dead animals or rotten garbage in there — it was things like old washing machines. Oh, the thrill of finding an old bicycle frame in there that we could put some kind of a wheel on–an iron wheel off a cultivator, or something — to run around with. That was really wonderful! We sorted through that place time and time again and we’d find some little wagon or something we could fix up and use. What an experience for little kids!
On this place, Dad had a big bunch of beautiful hogs. I mean they were dandies, but Hog Cholera hit them. Oh, what a mess. One day a huge boar came out of the barn, walking real slow, weaving around coughing. About 100 feet from the barn, he fell over. I ran out there and put my hand on his side. His heart had stopped; he was stone dead! We lost … oh, maybe all of them. It was horrible! We were supposed to burn them, but can you imagine the agony of burning 100 head of hogs?
There was a well back on the ridge, back in the field, that we didn’t use, away from anyone else or any other wells. We took the hogs back there and dropped them into the well.
We pretty near got a well full of hogs! Then we finally covered the whole thing over with dirt. An experience that a young boy will never, ever forget.
On this place, I don’t know exactly how long I was there — I was seven when I went there — but, anyway, within about a year or two, I and a little neighbor boy about the same age (I think we were in the 3rd grade) ran a trap line for several years. I ran four or five or six miles a night every night after school to check my traps. All I ever caught were [page 23] skunks and civet cats and all I ever got was 75 cents a hide. Then there was one time … we had heard about mink. Now, there really was money, a dollar or two, maybe two or three! Anyway, I caught a mink, and man, was I thrilled! But when I sent the hide in, the report came back with twenty-five cents. It was what they called a cotton mink. It had a beautiful color until you blew on the fur, and when you blew it open, instead of having a good, rich color, it was snow white.
I think I was in the 2nd grade when I came in one evening from school. I thought the fire in the big, old heater that burned hard coal, with the cylinder down the middle (it was self-fed), was out. I poked in there. There was no sign of coals, so I put some sticks and paper and stuff around the bottom and threw a can of kerosene on it. Of course, there were glowing coals down in the middle. That thing exploded, throwing the doors off the stove, blew the chimney off and out across the room, singed my eyebrows and hair. I was really a mess. It didn’t hurt me bad, but the house was horrible. To try to clean that up and put the stovepipe back on before the folks came home was really an ordeal.
Then, at the same place, I really got burned. The big, old kitchen stove had a heavy oven door, I mean it was really heavy, and adorned with bright iron. I was cold and wanted to get my feet in the oven to get warm, so I pulled a chair up by the oven. The oven door was very very hot, and I dropped it. It pinned my left hand between the edge of the chair that I was sitting on and the stove. I couldn’t get loose. I have an inch-long scar to this day. The ball of my thumb and the inside of my hand all along my thumb and all my fingers on the other hand–the tips were burned when I tried to get my left hand loose.
One evening just after dark, we were sitting out on the porch, and out of this park south of the house, we heard the old buck bleat just like he does before he hits someone. Then we heard a man yell. The old buck bleat again. The man yelled again, and then he really yelled. We heard something hit the fence away off in the far corner. You could hear that wire squeak for a mile. Pretty quick, up the driveway came Grant Bunche, the old man Dad had always had on his places. He was a heavyset man with arthritis. I guess it wasn’t the least bit funny to him, but to sit there in the dark and hear those noises and hear him yell, you knew exactly what was going on. We really got a kick out of that. He wasn’t baldly hurt but he sure was shook up.
I learned another lesson while on that place. Dad sold a bunch of hogs. The freight depot was clear through town; one block from the square in the center of the town and about five or six blocks to the depot which was on the edge of town. My [page 24] father took his boys and, instead of hauling the hogs in a wagon like everybody else in the world, he turned them out, and we drove them. We sauntered along real slow because they were fat. We drove that herd of hogs, probably about 200, right down the street. Everybody from allover the country came out to watch the procession. I remember that it was really embarrassing to me but it didn’t seem to bother my dad a bit. We drove them down there, walking real slow, and they weren’t all beat up from loading and pounding around — just let them take their time and grunt along. They arrived at the stockyard in perfect shape.
There were two huge livery barns in town. On was exactly one block west of the square, right in town. It was a gigantic affair. I don’t know whether the fires were set for insurance, or not but this big thing caught afire, and we could hear the noise, sirens or bells, in the middle of the night. There was a ruckus; people hollering. We could see the flames, and I guess they were several hundred feet high. We were about four blocks from that fire, and the heat was so intense that there were whole shingles in the air that actually fell in our yard, and we had to watch to see they didn’t set things afire around our barns. Eventually, the other livery barn burned, although I don’t remember that fire. It was only a half-block from the corner of the center of the square in town.
It was here in 1913, our first year on this place, that we got to go to the County Fair, and I saw my first airplane. It was freighted from the old depot a mile out of town, clear through town, and to the fairgrounds, with a horse dray, in wooden crates. It was opened up and assembled there, and it flew! In fact, it flew all over the country, around and around, and it did a good job. That was a real event, seeing that plane flying and doing a good job.
The other big event on this place — I don’t know if I was 13 or 15, but someone in our family had died up in the northern part of Iowa. My mother and dad got on the train. Of course, we boys were big enough to do the chores and take care of the livestock. This huge barn had a runway clear around three sides of it with 16-18 foot gates. You could put the gates against the walls and then it was all open, or you could swing the gates around to the center and you had 15 or 20 pens. Wouldn’t you know — I don’t know if I had ever seen or heard of a rodeo but of course, everybody rode calves; we all knew that. Anyway, we put the gates all back against the side of the barn and ran a bunch of stock cattle in there. They were mostly yearlings and two-year-olds. In the bunch was a great, big high-horned heifer. She stood about two feet above the rest of them. We hung a lantern up at each end of the [page 25] barn, and discovered if we could run those cattle off to one end and hold them there all bunched up tight, we could jump up and run right across the whole bunch and pick out the one we wanted to ride. Then, when they untangled and ran back, we got a free ride clear across to that barn, wide open!
Man, we were having a ball! We were really the cowboys. Now of course, all couldn’t go smooth. I got up there running across their backs and here was this great big, high-horned heifer, right smack in front of me. Like a darned fool I straddled her. When they untangled, she exploded! I rode her down to the other end of the barn where she whammed me up into the rafters. I came down on my back across toe edge of a cement gutter with a sharp edge, about a 16″ trough. I couldn’t walk. Would you believe, my brother knelt down beside me in the dirt and the first thing he did was to put me under oath! “No matter what happens — I don’t care WHAT happens — you are NOT going to tell the folks what we were doing!
Well, I rolled around there for awhile. Talk about back injuries! A few years later, after we had moved into town, I was walking to town; in fact, I was a little late and was running to school. We had a brand, new asphalt pavement with sidewalks, curbs, and cement gutters. It was a cold morning. I had to cross the street. I crossed it at an angle, and there was a Model-T Ford several blocks away. There wasn’t another car within miles of us. I crossed over the pavement and was running down on this new, white, sidewalk-like curb, next to the curb. This car came down the road from several blocks away, not slacking up one bit. It didn’t go by me, it went along the edge of the curb, slammed into me, hit me in the back, and threw me on my face, and ran over me!
Now, I can’t account for how I did this or how I had brains enough for it, but those Model-T Fords had a V-wishbone in front, and my feet flew up, got caught in that V-wishbone–I was on my stomach — and somehow, I twirled around sideways rather than have that pull my feet up over my back and break my back. When the car stopped over me, my feet were caught in this wishbone. I missed the front wheel. My face was right under the left door. An old white-haired woman fumbled around for her gloves and peeked out through the side curtain and she said, “Oh! I just tried and tried and tried to find that horn, but I just couldn’t find the horn.”
This was an old woman who drove her daughter out into the country to teach school, and I guess she drove her every day. Well, about a month after this had happened, we were driving cattle out of town and we saw this old woman come down a long hill. There was a hay rack on the road but she didn’t go by the hayrack, she ran up behind it and slammed into it. She [page 26] smashed her radiator and all the water ran out onto the ground. How could any person on earth do that? But, that is what the old, white-haired lady did.
Somewhere about this time–1913, 1914, or ’15–we had a bad drought. The pastures turned brown in June. We drove the cattle from this Duncan Place about two miles north and five miles west to the Nodaway River where I used to trap. We did that for weeks and weeks. We let them graze down the road, slowly going and slowly coming back. Most of the wells around the country dried up. Our well was really dry. That river finally dried up~ and I can remember the last big hole on that river had only about eighteen inches of water in it There were lots of catfish in there. I was always putting catfish in the bottom of the buggy–didn’t have a bucket. I brought them home and put them in the stock tank where some of them revived, at least for a few days, and swam around the stock tank.
I’ll always remember the Sunday our dog got hit. I thought he was killed. He layout in the weeds alongside of the road, but when we came back about two days later, and here was this big, gangling, half-Collie and half-Fox Terrier pup, alive and running around waiting for us. I don’t know how he lived, but he did.
JC was born in 1914 in a town called Crescent, Iowa, twenty miles south of us. We went down by railroad many times, sometimes by railroad and sometimes by car. Anyway, Mother went down to this hospital quite a bit before her time. There was a good doctor there and the hospital. She had had some horrible times delivering before. I remember before she went to the hospital, she was rushing around one Sunday morning, trying to get us off to Sunday School and she fainted–sprawled out on the floor. Dad came in, picked her up, and carried her to the bed. I had never seen Mother faint before, and I couldn’t understand this. I don’t remember what they told us about having babies. I can’t remember whether we looked forward to the event or if we were kept in total ignorance.
Anyways, JC was born. Away back in the original history, I have a file, and in it is a copy of that hospital bill. You can’t believe how cheap the costs were:
Cottage Grove Hospital, A.J. Pemberton, ten days at $2.50 per day. Total bill: $25.00. Two weeks at $20.00 = $40.00. Nurse’s board and room, $5.00 per week. Telephone calls: Mr. Pemberton’s bed, 75 cents. Mrs. Cora’s bed, 75 cents. Total bill: $84.25.
There were two doctors who worked on the case. Each visit was [page 27] one dollar, and the one time, of course, it was $15.00. I guess his companion charged $10.00. The total bill was $28.00. It’s hard to account for that in 1982!
In 1914, I was eight years oldi maybe I came nine that summer. Anyway, Dad had some land out at Council Bluffs, a hundred miles west on the Missouri River bottom. We took horses, wagons, supplies, and that old Willys Knight. Incidently, Stanley drove that Willys Knight. In fact, he drove that car allover the state of Iowa, for Dad, when he was fifteen or sixteen years old. Never heard of a drivers license. I remember he had to hold on to the ~teering wheel and stiffen his body clear out to push his leg down on the brake and the clutch to operate it. I don’t know why he didn’t make a block to put behind his back. Well anyway, Dad had a swell hired man by the name of John Reese, and they drove those horses and wagons a hundred miles, to Council Bluffs. Of course, I got to ride with Mother and Stanley in the old Willys Knight with all our supplies and our cooking utensils. Mother was an artist at camping and “make-do”.
We’d set up a tent ‘way back from anybody’s house. Snakes! There were bull snakes in there, eight feet long. Would you know, Mother took some old hens with her–even had an old hen with little chickens to keep her busy! I drove buckrake. I was eight years old, and I drove the team to the buckrake all that summer. I think the team I drove was Steve Jackson’s beautiful bay Morgan horses. I can’t remember whether Steve was with us or not. All I remember was this John Reese who fished the hay up to Dad. Dad was always on the stack. Everything was hand work. This buck rake was a wide rake with great, long teeth that slid under the hay in windrows, a horse out on each side. I would bring that hay in, up to the stack, and back away, tipping the rake out from under it, and go back for another load. Snakes! You can’t believe the bull snakes. There was what they call the Red Adder there. It wasn’t poisonous. It looked like a Garter Snake except it was real thick with a blunt tail and a white mouth. They could sit up and hiss and raise holy Cain. Here I was, an eight year old kid, probably barefoot, and in every load I brought, I would see snakes drop out of it.
I remember one time there was a great, big bull snake. I had seen him in that load two or three times. He would stick his nose out and then go back in. Man! I was standing up in the seat. I jerked the horses back and I says, “That thing is full of snakes–there’s a dozen snakes in there!” The man that fished out on the stack was a great, big muscled guy. He pitched that hay up there and on the last forkful of hay, as Dad reached down to take the hay from him, here came a giant bull snake, down around the pitchfork [page 28] handle, down around the back of the guy’s neck. Old John just turned around, whopped him with the pitchfork, and threw him up in the pile with the other snakes, and there I was just a’screaming bloody murder.
I have a picture of myself and three of the neighbor kids, one I started trapping with when I was seven or eight years old. When I look at that picture, there is no way I can make myself believe that I went clear across country, up and down that river, and trapped for a year or two. We had to run. If we didn’t, it would be pitch black and we’d have a horrible time getting out. Of course, many times it WAS pitch dark. The thing that really got to us were the doggoned dogs along the road.
One night we had finished trapping and had just come up over the hill. We’d skirted this farmhouse, a half or quarter mile, and were just ready to cut across an open field. There were two dogs. One was Collie and one was part Bulldog or something. They were so ugly and they really raised Cain. Of course, we went across to the opposite side of the road, climbed the fence, and started to cross the field. We got about halfway across the field when those two dogs came at us, their mouths wide open, ready for blood. We had our hands full of traps and probably a stake or something–no gun, no nothing to hit them with. We stopped and stood still, back to back, with the traps in front of us and eased our way an inch at a time. I’ll be darned. I was petrified with fear. I didn’t figure we’d ever get away from those dogs, but finally–it must have been a full hour–they gave up.
Another time I was coming up from the junkpile in back of our house, the same road we used to go to the trapline in pitch dark. They had a dog that I guess had been kept in the house all the time and that dog roared out there. I was petrified again. Pitch dark. Couldn’t see the darned thing. Here again, I stopped and eased slowly away, and didn’t get bitten.
Stanley, being four years older than I, became acquainted with a boy in town, by the name of Lyle Ray. They really hit it off together. Now, Stanley was always willing to let me go everywhere with them, but this other kid never, ever, wanted a little brother along. So, they’d ride their bicycles six miles around in a circle, trying to ditch “little brother”, but I could always cut through somewhere on my little bike and head them off. That kid would get so mad that he couldn’t talk! That went on for years! Day after day this kid would try to take my brother off without me. I don’t know what kind of mischief he was figuring on getting into but you can bet they were always into something.
[page 29] Nineteen sixteen, on the 3rd of March, Dad bought the in-town house and, I suppose, disposed of the Duncan Place about that time. A nice family took over that ranch. This left Dad free to be on the road continuously–buying, selling, and swapping land–dividing grain, sorting cattle, or something, somewhere, sometime, in some state. As I said before, this was the time he was gone almost perpetually.
I want you to remember that all these years that we were on the town property, he hauled wood from the original home place, about 12 or 13 miles downriver, by team and mules. The doctor’s barn in town, at my aunt’s, was always there and we could always put a team in there. I used to take a cow to town when I was in high school because I could milk the cow and sell the milk. I would keep this big, 0l’ white Holstein cow in there and milk her. I peddled the milk for ten cents a quart and, hey, she gave a bucketful. In those days that was really something!
When we bought this town property, I have a note that says for the next seven years, every summer when school was out, we would go and camp or stay at that forty acres Dad bought about ten or eleven miles east of town and a little bit south, and the 160 a mile south of it. Here again, Stanley and I were there alone, time and time again. Grant Bunche’s son ran the binder and we cut the grain on this big old place. Stanley and I shocked every bit of that grain. We used to make a game of it to see if we could shock it as fast as the binder could cut it in hay. We really poured on the coal, the two of us could do it, and even get a little time to rest about every 3rd or 4th round. That was a real challenge–seeing if we could keep up with that binder. There were rattlesnakes there too.
On this 160, here again, there were at least four sections that were there in one chunk, with no roads between them. The roads may have been surveyed for in the early days, but the bridges and culverts were out, and that land was run by a man by the name of Bush who ran white-face cattle in there. They were wild and they were mean. They had those big white-face bulls too, but there was timber allover there, and when we crossed it, we didn’t worry too much because you could always run for an oak tree and climb up before the bull could get you, but you had to be on the watch constantly every day you were in there.
There was a little bit of a spring-like place with a little scrub timber in it in the center of a huge grain field. One night before we started home, one of us made the suggestion to go find some rattlesnakes. We stepped into that weedy little wet place, and hadn’t gone ten feet before we killed a little rattlesnake with three-and-a-half rattles on [page 30] it, and we went on about another fifteen feet and Jiminy Christmas, here was one of the biggest rattlers I ever saw in my life! He coiled and really set up a sting. I think he had eighteen rattles–maybe it was ten, but it was a big one. We were pretty dusty by that time and we didn’t want any more snakes, so we left.
On this same place, the 40 acres, there was a barn and a house where we could get out of a storm. Dad was gone again. We had sold the cattle and had to deliver them from the 160 into town, over eleven miles. We had a herd of horses on this 40, and in this herd was a blaze-faced mare. She was a beautiful animal; could run like a streak of lightening. The day before, or at least less than two days, Stanley got that young mare up, worked with her,- fooled with her, put a saddle on her, got on and rode her around the section. He tried to make her mind–doing what you do to haze horses around–and then took that cockeyed green horse out down to this 160 to round up those cattle. We went in there before daylight and, right in there on the knoll, we ran into a rattlesnake that buzzed like heck–it was too dark to see–so we threw dust on him to keep him coiled and keep him buzzing. We fumbled around and finally found a rock, got up as close as we thought we dared, ahd heaved this rock at him. Then we’d wait a few minutes until he’d crawl off, throw dirt on him to make him coil and buzz again so we could find him, and we killed that snake and cut his rattles off before the sun came up–before you could see.
And so we started out with this stupid, green horse. Remember it was eleven miles to town–and we hadn’t gone a mile down the road until this horse walked up behind me and stepped on the back of my leg, slid down over the tendon to my heel, and split my shoe off my foot. I still remember the horrible, horrible pain. I couldn’t walk but, still, I had to. I may have gotten on that horse after awhile, but I remember the agony of having to walk.
We had made arrangements with some German people to eat at their place. The men worked in the hay, would come in at dark and wash up on a bench outside. Then they would go in to eat. This woman cooked a good meal for them. She fed quite a few people. Anyway, I came in on the back porch, and while these men were ganged up to wash at the bench just outside the door, I saw a rug at the back end of the porch, and I was so tired and so beat, that I lay down on that rug and, you know, the funniest thing happened. It wasn’t a rug. It was an open cellar door! I dove down that cellar head first and hit my head and the corner of my right hip on the sharpest stone steps you even saw in your life. It split my head open clear [page 31] to the skull and made a gash about three inches long on the point of my right hip. I don’t remember the impact. I remember rolling over and bumping into a door that flew open.
I knew I was in a cellar from the smell, and I could see cracks in the old dirt floor. I thought I was in another world! I didn’t have any idea of where I was or what had happened. I don’t remember who helped me out, or if they had heard it, or what, but pretty soon the pain set in. Here again, I don’t think they had a thing in the world to use. That was one of the ugliest nights of my entire life. My mother sat there with me the whole night through and put cold packs on my head and on my hip, and tried to comfort me. There was no way I could go to sleep with that much pain. I still have the scars–quite vivid.
The people who were down on the 160 next to us, who had the big spread of cattle, were named Bush. They had two sons in Russia with the International Harvester Company. When they had the revolution there (what was it? 1917?) both of these boys almost got caught there. They just barely got out before the slaughter took place. That, to me, was quite an experience. I didn’t know them personally; in fact, I almost never talked with them. They had a huge stone house at their headquarters and, in all those years and the miles it took to go around (I didn’t care to walk through that herd of wild cattle to go in the back way), I never even got to see that stone house. I have wondered all my life how it was built and what it looked like, because all my life I dreamed about living in a stone house. They are cool in the summer and warm in the winter if they have thick, rock walls. Needless to say, I never got my house.
The other thing of extreme interest was the family that lived between the 40 and the 160, about a half-mile from our house. We had to go by every day as we went between the two places for two or three summers. They had the loveliest family that could be. There was an older girl who stayed inside all the time and did the work. Then there was a girl the same age as my brother–just one of the cutest, dandiest girls that ever lived–and then there was John, my age, and a younger boy and girl who were twins. They were Latter Day Saints. Not once did I connect the name with Mormon.
That good man would take his family on the 4th of July, and ten-gallon cans of lemonade, and ice cream, and take us boys (I don’t know where Dad was) down to the river, and we’d spend the whole day. That’s the kind of people they were. Never once in all those years did I see a Book of Mormon in their home or any mention of Mormon. I never knew until I grew up and joined the church that Latter Day Saint meant Mormon. They were probably Reorganized; I don’t know.
[page 32] Anyway, a year ago, I called back to Iowa on the phone (1981) and got ahold of this lovely girl the same age as my brother, about 15 at that time, and asked her about it. She immediately said, “Oh! No! My mother was, but I wasn’t…” end of conversation. I have thought of that so many, many times. They probably were Reorganized–I have no idea–but they were one swell family.
I got poisoned on green apples. I mean I was sick! I went down to the thicket north of their house, about 300 yards, a plum thicket off the side of the road. I threw up and had diarrhea and I tell you I was so weak and so sick! I could hear the kids playing in the yard a few hundred yards away and hear their conversation, but I couldn’t make a sound loud enough for them to hear me. I was that far gone. I lay in that plum thicket and, just before dark, my brother came by in the old 1917 Model-T. I crawled out into the road and waved him down. I got into the car and we went into this man’s house–the folks weren’t home down at the 40; we were batching [living as bachelors]–and the man took me in and gave me water and clean clothing and put me to bed just as if I were one of his family. They were that splendid a people. As I say, to this day, I have thought of that a thousand times. I wish I could talk to them. She said her brother, John, my age, was already–I can’t remember for sure if he was already dead or not, but some of the kids had already died. Anyway, I never got to talk the gospel to them.
A couple of other things on that 40. We slept in a tent, we two boys; a little tent outside of the house. Mother slept in the house. Here again, I don’t know where Dad was–buying grain in Dakota or branding cattle in Colorado–I don’t know. Anyway, it was a moonlit night out of this world. We couldn’t stay in bed so we got up and went down to the neighbor’s place. I don’t know what we did, but we played with those kids in their yard and just had a ball there in the moonlight. Well, we had snuck out of bed (didn’t tell Mother you know) and when we came back over the hill in that brilliant moonlight, we saw a white shiny object in the middle of our yard. Hey! We really got scared. What in the Sam Hill was that? We came down that long hill and when we got closer, we could see this white object was moving. It was Mother, sitting out in her rocking chair, wearing her white robe. She was totally confused and scared because her boys had vanished. I guess you know we never forgot that stunt and we never tried it again–taking off in the middle of the night, not telling anybody. But that moonlight was so bright, there was no way we could resist going for a romp!
[page 33] The creek that ran down through there and just missed this house about two or three hundred feet, where there was a curve where it came in and curled around against a big bank. It would dig out a hole there when the high water hit, eight to ten feet deep, with an 8-foot bank above it. You can’t imagine how much fun we had there, year after year. We’d put shelled corn on this big, high bank, head a cow or a horse or a hog there, give each other the high sign, and push them over the bank, making them land in this ten feet of water and watching them go under and then swim out. [Editor’s note: At this point the transcription begins to repeat from page 28 thereof. The repeat ends on page 37 and we pick up the story there.] The fun never ended because they never seemed to catch on, but it was great sport for us as long as nobody got hurt. It didn’t hurt the animals any.
On that creek I saw my first turtles hatch out. I found a turtle-egg nest in the sand on the edge of that creek and had the thrill of watching those little turtles hatch out. They are the cutest little things–about as big as a half a dollar, and man, can they swim! They stick their noses out for air, blow a few bubbles, and then, down they go again. Cute as a bug. I think there were eighteen of them.
When I was in the 3rd and 4th grade, I moved across the hall of the school house, just inside the front door. I still remember wondering and wondering why–we had two kids in that class who could run down a column of figures like a rat through a hole and turn around and be goofing off, and I’d never be more than half-way down. It never changed. I really [page 38] wondered, “Is there something wrong with my mind?” I just could not do it. These little snots both could, and hey, those kids got into more trouble in that town than any kids that ever lived there. And it never stopped. They broke into the theater and stole candy and had candy wrappers all over town, and stuff like that, all the time. It never ended.
We lined up outside, marched up the winding stairs to the 7th grade, and this little snot came up and kicked me between the legs from behind. I didn’t want to pass out in front of all those people but I almost croaked with pain. Anyway, going up the stairs, he tried to run past me. I just whirled around. He was afraid of me, whirled and fell down those stairs–just really fell–and told the teacher that I had pushed him. Well! I was really hostile. That night the teacher excused all but Wendell Pemberton and this boy. Like an ignorant, stupid fool–I was so mad that no way would I take any punishment like somebody else and get it all straightened out–I left. The next day, the principal came in and motioned me out. Now, he had this big drawer full of whips the first time I went down to the Manual Training Room, and that’s when I really froze up.
About that time, the teacher was holding up flip-cards in front of the class and we were naming the birds. She flipped a card, and here was this magpie with a big tail right straight up in the air and white feathers, and I yelled, “Skunk”. She thought I was being “smart” and sent me out into the hall. I felt pretty peculiar, but I went out into the hall and stayed there quite awhile. I was whistling real soft to myself, positive I wasn’t bothering anybody. I didn’t think anyone could hear me. But I’ll be darned! She was just inside the door and heard that. She reported that to the principal, and between the two things, I was informed that he wanted to see me. So, I went down to the Manual Training Room where he had told me to come, and just as I stepped inside the door, he whirled and slammed the door, locking the bolt lock. Right in front of us, in the first workbench, here the drawer was pulled out. There were about eight hickory whips about as big as your thumb and about three feet long. I saw those whips and froze. I ground my teeth and thought, “Why, you dirty, rotten, son-of-a-gun! I’ll tell you nothing! No way am I going to take punishment for someone else’s mistake–because the kid had told the teacher I had pushed him downstairs.”
I swore that she didn’t tell me to stay, and he couldn’t prove it, and so he let me go. The next day, he called me down again. Here was the drawer with the whips in it. There were two kids in there trying to clean up their work. Of course, they wouldn’t miss the show for anything. They [page 39] stalled and stalled, so he told me to go up to his room. So I went up two flights of stairs, and as I went into his room, he said, “I have decided you are going to have to have a thrashing before you can get along with your teacher.”
Then he grabbed me by the back of the neck from behind and whammed me over the first desk. He just went insane. He beat me across the back with that big, old, heavy hickory whip, I suppose at least twenty lashes. It hurt insanely. I was so mad I was out of my mind. I couldn’t get my breath.
I loved my teacher. She was an excellent person and I never, ever had any trouble with her. I loved her. But this ignorant man… that is what he did.
I remember going home, grinding my teeth. At first I thought about committing suicide, but there was one thing I knew for sure, and that was that I would never, never step in that school again as long as I lived. What happened after that… I’m blacked out …
I can’t believe that my mother, with those scars on my back that I carried for six years–there is no way I can believe that my mother didn’t know. Maybe she had personal contact with the man–I don’t know. I don’t remember going back to school. I don’t remember sitting there. I do remember the sore back; really something. I just can’t remember.
There was a boy who sat in the back by the name of Inge Hoover who had tuberculosis of the bone. He was two or three years behind in school. He had a hideous ordeal with osteomyelitis. He was a sharp cookie, and he had crutches. When this same teacher asked him a question he couldn’t answer, the teacher got real ugly with him–real sassy–and made a remark like, “Where did you expect to find the answer? In your spelling book?” He said something back to him; it was an ugly situation, and that teacher started right down the aisle to go back to him, and he stepped out and grabbed that crutch, and if that teacher had touched him, he’d have busted him wide open. He was that kind of a boy. This was after this teacher had given me that savage beating. Whether or not I told people about that, I have no idea. I can’t remember. I suppose the word got around–I don’t know. What an ordeal! It was twenty-five years, even after I had joined the church, before I could ever bring myself to forgive that man.
Guess what–in raising my family, I never whipped my kids, ever, but I did things that sometimes were similar, not being wise enough to hear them completely out, I am sure. I remember thinking about it, “Here I am with my lovely, lovely family, and look what I almost did because I didn’t take the time and the pains to get all the facts before the scolding.”
page 40] This Steve Jackson was my father’s mother’s brother’s boy, which would make him a nephew. There were about fourteen children in the family. Their father was Reuben Jackson. Steve was one of the oldest boys. The father was killed under a triple-box load of coal, freighting coal for the school district. Steve and his brother, little guys (ten and eleven years old) — the father went down to put on the brakes as they crossed the wash with their four-horse team and big load. The pin was out of the brake lever so he went under the wagon on his head. The wagon ran over him and killed him, and those two little boys had to pick their dead father up, in the night, and take him on in and tell their mother that their father was dead.
The youngest girl, Helen, was a baby. She was given to this lovely uncle, Jim Jackson, that my father loved so much — a brother of my father’s mother. This wonderful Uncle Jim adopted this little girl, Helen Jackson. I think her name was Helen Hunt after the great writer, Helen Hunt Jackson. I remember her, when we would visit Iowa Falls or Eldora, what a cute, sweet, little girl she was.·
Uncle Jim was always the brain. He was always a bank manager or president or president of this or that, the organizer. Those Jacksons really had something. As you know, the two boys I worked for in the logging camp, Tom and Jim, were really something — I’ll come to that later when I get into my logging years.·
After we bought the town property in 1916, somewhere close there, before 1919, my mother was threatened with T.B. In those days, the word “tuberculosis” was the no-no of the age. If a person had it, it was always hushed up because it was thought to be so terrible. How badly Mother was threatened, I don’t know. Anyway, we sent for a tent-house where she could sleep out in the open air. It was a 9′ x 12′ with a wood frame and canvas. It was all screened in around the top half. You could drop the sides down in grooves, having the whole tent open, half-way around, so the air could come through during the night. The screen was for mosquitoes. We slept out in that tent-house every summer for possibly, six or seven years.·
Now, this house in town was shut up (and I think the shades were pulled) all those years when we were gone, which was days and weeks at a time — and house was never molested, if you can believe it. Somewhat different from nowadays.·
I have a financial statement of my father’s which I want put in my history. One in 1907, and the other, I think, just before the Armistice was signed in 1918. The comparison is really revealing, the status of his financial statements at that time. Here it is:
October 30, 1907 Assets · · · · · · · · · ··Liabilities
·· · · · · · · · · · ·$ 20,901.29 · · · · · · · · · · · · ·24.08
November 9, 1918 Assets · · · · · · · · ··Liabilities
·· · · · · · · · · · ·$230,357.00 · · · · · · · ·138,300.00
Notice the difference between the monies and the amount he owed. All Dad’s land was mortgaged and sold. When the crunch came in 1929, nine years later, Dad lost everything, and turned back every acre, possibly a minimum of 5,000 acres. He wouldn’t take bankruptcy. That is another story all by itself.
When the Armistice was signed [ending World War II], the town went absolutely crazy. They bought all the shotgun shells in the town, cases and cases of them. They got ihto open trucks and drove around this square, and shot those shotguns off. I don’t know how many, I guess all day until midnight.·Anyway, we were sleeping in this tent-house, and in the middle of the night, those shots that were shot up into the air from the town square, which was a half-block, plus a full block, plus a quarter, making it two or three blocks away, the shot rained down on our tent practically all night long. I never forgot that.·
This Steve Jackson that I mentioned, got married on the 20th of March in 1918. He moved to some town in Iowa. Dad may have had some land close to this town because Steve was always, always on his place. For years before Steve was married, he ran a 120 south of our original home place, about five or six miles. He batched there. He was an immaculate housekeeper, a fabulous bread baker, and could do anything.·
He was Dad’s right-hand man, always — always. He did all the horse doctoring and taking care of the animals . . . he could do anything. Dad would buy big bulls because they were cheap, and would castrate them, put them out on grass and then sell them. They sold for hamburger, and he really made money, but it was a horrible ordeal because there was always the danger of losing them, especially if you were working them in hot weather. Steve would do that work for my father. I remember that time and time again, they’d get those big, old bulls in the barn and think they had them snubbed down, and hey, they could just about shake a barn off its foundation. Of course I was just a little guy and always afraid they would break loose. They’d make the timbers crack, I’ll tell you.·
Also, Dad had a big herd of hogs, maybe 200, and here again, he just never got around to getting those kinds of jobs done. So, when it came time to take care of the pigs, they’d have quite a crew around — GrantBunche and his boy, who was a [page 42] big, strapping man, and Steve Jackson, and so on. Maybe they’d have a hundred hogs penned up. The pens were made of big gates, usually temporary pens out on the hillside. Of course the pigs were big by that time, too big, and they would squall. The old sows, 40 or 50 of them would just about tear the earth apart, and roar like 20 lions. It was deafening; you couldn’t hear a sound, and it never ended.·
I remember one time, one of the men was down on his knees holding a pig down. The sows were just a few feet behind him, rattling those gates and rattling that timber. Somebody reached over and grabbed this guy by the leg. ·He jumped over two or three sets of gates like a shot out of a cannon. The boys really got a charge out of that, but the man who thought the sow had him for sure didn’t think it was funny.
When I started this history, I mentioned how I had seem my dad ground into the dirt time and time again, but he would never curse. Well, when I was just a little guy, he had a bronc, a mare that had a mule colt. He had broken this bronc to ride, and she was a good rider. This little mule colt followed him out behind the mare, like colts always follow their mothers, and he went out the gate and turned down the lane to the right. The mule colt didn’t quite get through the gate. He turned inside of the fence, and it was a barbed wire fence. They got down there about 200 yards and the colt tried to get to his mother, and he hit that wire fence and cut himself badly. He really squalled, and his mother pitched my Dad off clear out to the end of the reins — I mean, he really went out! He had the reins wrapped around his wrist, and this bronc jumped into the air — and I can still see those feet over my dad. She was just going to stomp him right into the ground, but because he had the reins wrapped around his wrist, he whipped those reins back and forth, sideways, and jerked her mouth so hard that when she came down, she missed him. This was an everyday example of the way my dad lived.·Although I was just a little tyke when I saw that, I remember the fears I had that my dad was really going to get hurt.·
Another time when I was a little guy and was playing out in back of the barn, he got the old mare saddled up and went to the barn and got the big, old, black stallion out. He pulled the stallion’s head up, over the top of the mare’s, by the saddle, so he couldn’t fool around and kick him but do you know, that stallion doubled his body up like a Brahma bull at a rodeo just the minute Dad’s feet hit the stirrup, and twisted around somehow and kicked my Dad’s right leg. It popped like a shotgun. I wondered what in the world was wrong with my dad. He got off that old mare like a streak of lightening. I never saw him tie anything up so fast in my life. Then he lay on the ground and began to roll. He threw·[page 43] up. For hours he was in pain. The stallion had kicked him by the knee and the thigh. Well, after he got up, he limped off to get a drink of water, got on that mare again, and I can still see him going over the hill with that stallion. I don’t know what he did to that stallion, but I’ll bet it wasn’t funny.·
1919. This was qUite a year. It was the year of the big swindle. (I was twelve years old; thirteen that summer.) Dad had bought some land in the Sacramento Valley, the finest vineyard land north of Sacramento, California. About twenty of Iowa’s bankers, businessmen, farmers, and you name it, got together and went in on this huge deal to buy this expensive, beautiful grapeland. There was an excursion train they went out on to inspect this land and to check the descriptions, deeds, and all that type of thing, to see that everything was O.K. But before they went, they all gave their notes and a down payment, I suppose 20% to 29% down, to be held in escrow until they surveyed everything and checked it out. Instead of putting the money and the notes in a bank vault like they do nowadays, (this man’s name was Stoner) they put it in a safe in Stoner’s office which was in one of the large buildings in Des Moines, Iowa.·
Then they went out to check the land. Incidently, there was a train wreck on a washout, due to a flash flood, and it had dumped a trainload of peaches. My dad told about having to wait there and all the passengers got out and loaded up on peaches. Anyway, they went on in to Sacramento, and Stanley, somehow or other, got Typhoid Fever and nearly died. It was pitiful. They were in an old hotel in Sacramento with a trained nurse, Dad worrying, on the telephone with Mom, they talked back and forth. Dad told her, “Well, we’ve got the finest doctor and a trained nurse here twenty-four hours a day. I don’t know what good it would do for you to come down.” So Mother didn’t go out. It don’t know how long it was, but it was a seige, and when they came back, my brother was so thin it was absolutely pitiful. His legs were like broomsticks. I can still remember the awful feeling I had to see my brother in that shape. He pulled out of it, over the years, but it didn’t happen all at once.·
When they came back, the funniest thing happened. They found that safe in Des Moines blown open and all those men’s notes, because they were 100%, were taken all around to the banks, discounted and cashed. These men, Stoner and his partner, were never seen again and were never apprehended. It couldn’t happen, but it did!·
We had a neighbor who lived south of our house on the Duncan Place. Her husband had died and she was alone, had a little money, and she traveled a lot. She carried a .38[page 44] somewhere down in her bosom for years and years and years.·She figured that somewhere, sometime, she might just accidently, in some resort or somewhere, bump into Mr. Stoner. Of course, it’s a good thing she didn’t, but that is what she did.·
There are a lot of other stories. When my father finally did go under during the Crash, two people in that town committed suicide. One of them had a son, and this boy became a professional, international bum. He lived off rich women, like in Reno and the glamorous spots of Europe. He did nothing for the rest of his life but be a professional bum. After his father had killed himself, he was playing ball in the yard one day. I didn’t like to catch — it was in the lot just across from our house in town — and this kid says, “Do you want me to catch for you?”·
I said, “Sure.”·
He came running towards me, and I raised up this pad to put it over my head to give it to him, the catcher’s protection pad, and that kid doubled up his fist and hung one on me with all his might — right in the pit of the stomach. I couldn’t breathe. I knew I was going to faint, and I couldn’t get my breath. I whirled and started to run to my house. I made it around the house before I went down, and I remember still that horrible, ugly kid pulling that stunt. There was no way I could retaliate. He was way bigger than I was. He had an expensive cap — his people had money — and all I could do was rip the lining out of his new cap. That was the best I could do at that time.·
Anyway, in 1919 when Dad and Stanley were out there, Mother went to Colorado Springs. Also in Colorado Springs, my brother’s wife, Velva, was a DonCarlos, and her brothers were the DonCarlos’s of Springfield. There were about three or four of them, big men, sharp and smart, bankers, lawyers, bookkeepers, you name it. One of the older boys had a boy by the name Edred. This young man had T.B. [tuberculosis] He was out there in a special sanitorium, in a cottage out in the open for the summer, and we were there for weeks and weeks while Dad went to California with Stanley. During that time Stanley was sick, we spent practically the whole summer there.·
There was a resort and park south of Colorado Springs, out a ways, called Estes Park, as I remember. I was twelve. I had a ball there that summer, seeing the sights and going out in this park. I would lie on the bridge in the park and through the cracks I could see those great, big, beautiful trout. Oh! How I would have loved to have gotten a hook into one of them! I’d go swimming every day. The water was so clear you could see through fifteen feet of it — lots of seaweed in it — and so I dove in it one day and hit that·[page 45] seaweed with my hands and a big water snake came out between my fingers. Gave me quite a thrill! I don’t think I dove in there anymore. I never had any fear at all. I would take the bus out there by myself and be out there all day long. Never, ever would you have to think of being molested. Girls could walk through that park at any time of the day or night, and you never heard of anyone molesting people in those days. If they did, they might never have another chance!·
There was a woman there in a cabin by us, who must have had six or seven small children. Nice woman. I overheard a conversation one day. My mother, lovely woman, always made friends and visited. This woman was questioning my mother as to if she trusted my father as he was gone all the time. Of course Mother said one hundred percent; no questions, hands down. But, this woman kept saying, “But, how do you know? How do you really know?”·
You see, she had been deserted and left with those little children, a pitiable position, and you know, she kept that up until it really got to my mother. I was very young, of course, and couldn’t realize all the things but I remember the conversation. I was standing not too many feet away, in the bushes. I could see the expression on my mother’s face, and I have never forgotten that. “How do you know? HOW do you really know?” … another great lesson.·
Now I come to another terrifying experience. Guess I had lots of them, didn’t I? Out at Estes Park, up at the end of creek — somewhere up in there — quite a walk, was the Seven Falls. There was actually a set of waterfalls that had seven drops, and they were high. The creek came in way above, came down a canyon, and cut a little gully in the side of the canyon, with the seven sets of falls. There was a stairway so you could walk from the bottom up. It may have been a couple of thousand feet — it was a long way. Up on top, you’d turn to the left and come out above this huge precipice, straight-down canyon, and over the bluff, was Helen Hunt Jackson’s grave, the writer. She had sat on that bluff, looking out over that mountain country, and had gotten most of her inspiration for her writings.·
Well, we went up there. I don’t remember who I was with — Mother, Aunt Mary, and. Wilma. When you got on top, there were trails all over there. Just how I got separated, why I was alone, or if I went ahead or stayed behind longer, I don’t know, but coming back, I took one of the many, many, many trails, and thought I was going right. I got back there on a ridge and all at once I realized that I had no idea where I was. I knew at that time that I had taken the wrong path.·I tried to backtrack and got confused. It seemed the world would just whirl. I’d look and think it one way, and·[page 46] right while I was turning around, the world would whirl around and west would be north and east would be south. I can remember that to this day. I’m so very direction-oriented that when I don’t know my directions, I am in deep trouble.·
Well, I was lost! I had never been in the mountains before in my life, just a little guy and a stranger to mountains. The horrible, horrible, agonizing feeling of it! You know what? I sat myself down and sat there quite a little bit without moving. I figured out that the country where I stood and the country that surrounded me sloped one way. Even though there were a lot of little gullys that ran to a dozen points I could see below me, I thought, “Hey!· Those all have to drain into the one creek, the Seven Falls.”·I started straight downhi~l through brush and rocks, and when I got out, I hadn’t missed the head of those falls by more than six hundred feet!·
I still had a problem. I didn’t know where the folks were. Quite a lot of time had gone by, by this time. I didn’t know if they were worried about me or were looking for me, so I went clear down those falls, couldn’t find anyone. I saw messages people left saying they would stay there. I went clear back up those stairs again! Well, I’m sure if I hadn’t spent my life chasing stock and running all the time, I would have had a heart attack. I can’t remember where I did find the folks, but we finally connected. I remember that experience and that hideous feeling of being lost in the mountains as well as if it were yesterday!
[page 47]·CHAPTER (Tape) III
All the years I logged were in the mountains. I crossed the mountains at night time and time again, and came out solely on my own knowledge and maps that I had previously looked at. I was never really lost, except once when I hunted deer up towards the Canadian line. I never carried a compass; I should have, and for a time I was lost up in there but that was the only time I had ever been really lost in my life. I even went up to Hilt, up that crooked, winding railroad, over those eighteen trestles, and when I got into Camp 22, on the other side of the summit, I knew my directions.
I think I mentioned that Aunt Mary and Wilma were with Mother and I there all that summer. We had an enjoyable time. Mother and Aunt Mary were so companionable and so congenial. We took many, many trips sightseeing, and to different places and different camps over the country. We were afoot as we didn’t have a car but the buses ran all over the country and for a few pennies you could ride to town and back out to Estes Park and all over.·
I wish to put in here that we did buy a car called a Saxon, about 1919. That was really something! It had a short in in somewhere, and no mechanic, no electrician, ever found that short. It would quit anytime and anywhere — rain, snow, mud, storm, you name it. We’d fiddle around, trying everything, and then pretty quick, away it would go! Totally undependable. We never knew when it was going to cut out and go dead on us, and what’s more, we never knew what we had done to get it started! We used it for years and years, though, and put up with that thing. Stanley and I took it to Dakota in 1928, and yes, it cut out on us quite a few times.
I got along quite well all through my grades. I had good relationships with my teachers — a lot of good people. I remember when we first moved to town, there were kids in the 8th grade that had missed many years of school — anyway, they had black, stubby whiskers! They really gave my brother a bad time. He’d come out of that door at school, and what they did to him I don’t know, but they scared him half to death, and he would run for miles around the outskirts of town to get away from them, to get home. It never ended. Actually, it went on until those kids graduated. They caught me a time or two but I was so much smaller that they didn’t do much of anything. [page 48]
One time when they caught me, they put a magnifying glass to my head and scorched my hair a little. I didn’t raise a fuss, so they didn’t get much enjoyment out of it, and they left me alone. But Stanley had a terrible time trying to get away from those kids. There was a blackberry patch behind the old schoolhouse. As soon as they were out of sight of the teacher, they’d take kids in there — anyone they didn’t like — and get him by the feet and the hands, count, heave him up in the air, and then throw him up into the blackberry patch where he’d get all scratched up. Great Sport, they called it!
I had an ugly experience in the 7th and 8th grades. There was a boy by the name of Don Foster, a tall, wiry kid whose parents were divorced. He didn’t have a mother, and his dad gave him professional boxing lessons. That kid was so tough and so good at it, that when he was in high school, in the lower grades, when the side-shows would come to town, that man would get people to make bets that they could stay in the ring with him for so many minutes. It was really something how the guys around town would put up a lot of money and, as far as I know, that kid could always stay in the ring for the time limit. I think the guy in the side-show lost money every time! Well …·
·When he was in the 8th grade and I was in the 7th, we would play football scrimmage — no headgear, no suits, just old-fashioned. He could put his head down, go through the whole bunch and drag all the kids with him. Well, when he would do that (I played “end”) I would tackle him by the feet and stop him. He turned around and whopped me a good one, open-handed, across the face. He said I was off-sides, but it hurt and my feelings were hurt. We lined up again. I made darned sure I wasn’t off-side, and I tackled him again. That time he hit me harder. He did that five or six times, and the last time, he just whopped the devil out of me. I was not off-side. I don’t know where the teachers were. They were supposed to be looking out the windows and taking care of things. I remember going over and sitting down against the side of the schoolhouse, and I had myself a good bawl. I was really hurt to think anyone would be that much of a bully and get by with it — not get caught, but he did. I don’t think I ever went back in to play after he whomped me on the head six or seven times — oh, yes I did. I went back for more. Same thing. Every time.·
My first year in high school I played scrimmage, and somehow I could tackle. In all the years I had dogged sheep and cattle, horses and mules, and hogs–when you go onto tne football field, that really pays off! I remember one time when this kid came through–I was using a helmet and shoulder pads at that time; a good outfit–and I only got one leg but I [page 49] nailed him. Well, it made him mad, and he kicked me in the head with his other foot as hard as he could possibly kick, and it was no accident. The earth just turned over and over. I lay perfectly still, but the earth was going up in the air and coming down on me from seven different directions. I was knocked silly. I think that was the last time for the next two years that I missed picking up both those feet!
We had another bully also. Big, ugly kid, dirty mouth, always making filthy remarks around the girls. We were playing hockey, and he was bullying, wading right through everybody, pushing the puck back and then whopping them across the shins. He did that to a little guy there, and the little guy hit him back. I saw those two boys stand toe to toe and hit each other with those hockey sticks as hard as they could swing them. How that little guy stood that I have no idea because the bully was big, and he was hitting him with the hockey stick as hard as he could across the hips and the side, but the little guy hit him back, blow for blow. Finally, they just quit! I had never seen anything like that. It made me boil to see a bully pull a stunt like that.
In grade school, here again, Stanley being four years older than I, was in high school when I was in the 5th grade, and went in the opposite direction from what I went. So we didn’t have much in common at that time except that we always had to work together. As I mentioned before, Dad was always moving cattle. Year after year, we would be caught moving cattle at night. Sometimes it was pitch black. Still, I don’t remember a cattle drive where we came up short, not one! What a blessing was the experience of taking responsibility. We just simply had to do it. It was our way of life. Why at midnight? Because you don’t push cattle in stifling heat. It’s best to just ease them along and let them graze until it gets cool in the evening. You know, there are no stopover motels for cattle. We were the “All-time Model-T Cowboys”. That Ford met us with food and drink, over and over again. Have you ever tried to eat a sandwich at 20 below zero? You have to be pretty hungry to get that job done. With wire £ences on every 40 acres, you don’t use horses. That Ford would go ahead. They shut all the gates and tell everybody they saw that the herd was coming. People always cooperated. Who wants 200 head of steers trampling their crops and gardens and flowers and lawns?
That was how I learned to drive — no problem at all. I was eight years old, two miles an hour, and no cars on the road. No problem! Big green pastures, no trees, no fences, no ditches. I think my first ride was when I uncramped the Model-T, jumped in, rode around a great, big, green hill in a great, big, green pasture. You learn the throttle and the [page 50] clutch before you go on the highway. My brother drove that and the old Willys Knight all over the state of Iowa. We bought the car in 1913, and stanley was eleven years, so by the time he was fifteen or sixteen, he was a good driver. There was one time in question, which was in quite a city. It had a wide street down to the depot. We were parked on the depot side and wanted to go into a restaurant on the other side, so Stanley thought he’d cross the street. He had parked the wrong way and he headed into a big, black, sports car. He was going pretty slow, but he must have gotten his foot and brake mixed up; I don’t know. Anyway, that old Willys Knight chugged along, bumped into the sports car and bent the fender. Didn’t make a mark on the old Willys. Stanley was just sick! The finest man I ever saw came out of that restaurant. He said, “Don’t worry,” and he reached down, grabbed the fender, bent it back up, and said, “You see, didn’t hardly hurt a thing.” Oh, what a splendid man! I didn’t know there were such people.
The house in Greenfield was the “in and out house” for the next seven years. I think I mentioned that every summer we’d take the tent and provisions and go to the old home place. I think the tent sat down there in the timber all summer; in fact, I’m sure it did. We had planks under the trees for a table, and I’ll always remember the men coming in from the field to eat at that plank table, with Mother standing there with two oak limbs to keep the flies off the food while the men ate. Mother always set a splendid table and she was a good cook. This was our life.
For years, Mother did the washing in Aunt Mary’s basement because Aunt Mary had said, “Now, Emma, you bring all your wash to my basement. I’ve got these big tubs and this electric-powered washer, and two big rinse tubs. There’s just no reason for you to try to do that washing by hand out there”.
I fired the furnace in Aunt Mary’s rooming house in town. That was my job. I went there every night and early morning, before daylight, and fired up that old coal furnace so the rooming house would be warm when people wanted to get up. I was sorry Dad was no mechanic. His tools were a hammer and a stone! And because he was no mechanic, I guess he just didn’t want to fool with gas systems and water systems, but anyway, every drop of water that came into that house on the 240 (and we did wash there many times, using an old hand washer out on the porch), I packed every drop of water up a steep hill from a creek. Oh, how I hated those wash days! Well, it didn’t hurt me any, and it sure made a lot of muscle. I was always underweight and a year, or so, behind the other kids my age, but other people had their water piped in. Other people had·[page 51] windmills that pumped their water up to water tanks, but not Dad.
So, guess what? Every logging camp we ever moved into, I always piped water into each cabin! By hose or pipe or someway–Ruth always had water. I don’t think I mentioned that the well on the original place was 100 feet deep and pumped so hard that I couldn’t even get a drink by hanging on the pump handle! Dad pumped that hard thing for years to water horses and the other stock, by putting all his weight on it. I don’t think it was until we moved away and the next man balked at that and built a windmill.·That windmill was quite an experience for me. They took the bottom of the ladder off so I couldn’t get up there. Did that stop me? Criminy no! Do you know how far you could see from the top of that windmill? You could see the watertank in Greenfield twelve miles away!
Stanley got married in 1924, the 20th [sic: 25th is correct] of June which was Mother’s wedding anniversary or her birthday [her birthday was the 25th], one of the two, and pretty soon Dad had Stanley back on the home place. They were feeding out a big bunch of hogs. I don’t know just where Stanley was, he was probably working for the county because he was working for the county when he got married. Anyway, he was gone quite a bit and I had to go over there and feed that big herd of hogs. We’d go to the river with barrels on a skid and fill the barrels with water out of the river and haul it a half-mile, up the hill. Then we’d dip it out by hand into big, old barrels. Well, guess what we did! We fixed up those barrels with plugs in the bottoms, and put them over the ends of the troughs. Then we’d put the grain in the barrel, pour in the water, and mix it up real good to make this mash, or swill as we called it, and all we had to do was to pull the plug and let it run on down into those great, big troughs. Forty head of hogs at each trough, drinking as fast as they could! Slickest feeding outfit I had seen in my lifetime!
Velva, bless her heart, did some of that work, but she was threatened with a miscarriage and that’s why they got me to go over there and do those chores, for quite awhile, that summer.
It’s difficult to put this history together without sounding as if I were the biggest blowhard that ever lived. Everything is I, I, I, and I don’t know how to change it. I don’t have one, single thing to brag about. I am so humble–humbly grateful, for the masses of experience I had throughout my childhood and my entire life, that I can hardly contain myself. I am so grateful that my father lost every penny and turned everything back, which gave us the great privilege to work, to sweat, to learn, and especially, to innovate. We always had to innovate. You should have seen that harness, wired up with wire from off the fence corner.
It was a sight to behold, but we made it work, and I am grateful. Please, as you read this, remember that I paid for all of this with years and years of blood, sweat, and tears.·I earned every thing I ever got, and again, I am thankful! As I sit here now, close to my 76th birthday, and that’s too close to 80, I realize and I know for sure that the only real satisfaction in this life is to do the best you can every minute of every day with what you have in your hands. All those years of drudgery and monotonous work, I always had to invent some kind of challenge–some kind of goal–to see if I could achieve it, to keep me going.·Like when I worked in the grain harvest, out there in those potholes in Nebraska, where it was stifling hot, the humidity was horrible, and you just didn’t think you could live unless you could get to ~ater every two minutes. I only had one heat stroke in my whole life and, hey, that was another experience I’ll never forget.
(At this time I want to backtrack a little and talk about some of my formative years.)
This old Grant Bunche and his wife were good as pure gold, not educated, kind of backwoodsy. I don’t think he could read. His wife read the Bible to him a lot. They were always talking about the end of the world, the common philosophy of all ministers who talked about hellfire and damnation in those days. This good man was always watching the sky for cyclones. When the storms came up, even though he had gout and heavy old overshoes, he’d strike out across the pasture calling old Dirk. He had two horses; Dirk was a big, beautiful, high-strung bay, a wild, powerful animal, and his companion was a little Morgan-type grey, dappled and stone blind. He was blind all the years I knew him. That old man would run across the pasture, calling Dirk, and Dirk would come to him. Nobody else could touch him. He’d put the halter on him and I’d say, “What’s the big deal?”
He answered, “Oh, if he’s out here in the storm when the lightening hits, he’ll go crazy and run through the fence.”
I watched him take that team down a steep, rocky bank with a loaded wagon, and talk to that blind horse so he could feel his way and get to the other side. He’d say, “Easy now, boy. Watch out now.” and the horse would raise those feet and come [up] that steep bank on the other side, just as though he could see. To me, that was a great lesson.
You see, when I was in high school, after Dad really went broke and didn’t have any money, he called me from school and said, “Son, I bought a horse out at so-and-so’s place. I want you to go out and get him Friday night and ride him home.”
I went out there and here was a big, blaze-faced, beautiful horse, but with three legs. One had the biggest·[page 53] scar and wire cut and was stiff. That was kind of embarrassing. The neighbors had pretty good horses and harnesses; we didn’t. It never ended. Next week, same thing. “I bought a mare out of town a couple of miles. I want you to walk out there and bring her out to the ranch Friday night.”
I did. She was a Thoroughbred but she was so old and sway-backed, and her hips were so flat you could have set a teakettle on ’em. Another time he bought a great, big, black mare–a beautiful animal–with one eye. Stone blind in the other. And then there was Old Bill. Bill was a Morgan horse, real thin. Guess what–only one eye! That one eye caused him more trouble! He never seemed to catch on that he should turn his head to get the whole sweep. He’d just blunder into things on his blind side. Then, there was this big, beautiful, Thoroughbred mare with the finest coat you ever saw! He had a fabulous stallion colt. We broke him, and we worked him for years. He was a huge, horribly powerful animal. The things that happened with that stallion would fill a book!
He’d tear down fences and go across the country, taking everything with him. When he was working, he would mind, and he was a working fool, but when we worked him with a blaze-faced gelding he was mean and ugly, and would kick him under the tongue a thousand times. You couldn’t make him quit. You could beat him to death, but he’d still kick and bite that gelding. Working with a mare, he would never bother, but put that gelding with him and he wanted to fight all the time. Anyway, these blind horses, and the ability we had to work with them and talk to them–talk them down rough places and up the other side–I learned some of the greatest lessons of my life in patience in helping to deal with animals.
Then there were the mules. There’s no end to what we can talk about concerning mules. The mule is always looked down upon, but mules are smart. Oft-times, they are much smarter than the drivers. You can’t force a mule into a hole or a creek or a wire fence, or some such thing. They just won’t go–they’re too smart.
I meant to tell you about Stanley. As I said, we were always together, did everything together, broke horses together, trained colts, built carts, ironed wheel-wagons on buggy axles when the buggy axles went out. We had a ball. We hitched up two burros one day at the east place–I wasn’t very enthused about that idea. We got this big, brown, ugly burro that I mentioned before, with old Peggy. The wagon was an old buggy with iron wheels off the cultivator on it. We started out across the ridge and across the west pasture which was·[page 54] large. That darned brown burro–you couldn’t stop her. She got scared and started off. I was sitting down in the back of that wagon, hanging on with both hands and, hey, I’d have given my life to gotten out of there. They were going so fast that I didn’t dare try to get out. I wasn’t too big at that time. The noise those iron wheels made on that hard dirt and the rocks, the burros with their ears laid back, running wide open! I didn’t enjoy that ride in the least. Stanley, of course, got a big kick out of it.·
Stanley was always in a big hurry. He could never quite wait to tie everything down, secure. The first big span of mules we had were out of Thoroughbred mares that Dad had. They were tall, beautiful animals, a jack and a jenny. This jenny mule, Stanley had let her break loose when he was breaking her, two or three times, and they have a mind like an elephant. They just never forget. In all the years we lived in that town house, we hauled wood fourteen miles from down the river and into town. Why we didn’t get killed, I don’t know because, once in awhile a car would come down the road. I don’t think we had any reflectors. I don’t know how we could have those long, sharp poles sticking out the back end without somebody getting killed, but somehow, no one did. All those years, we were on the road every weekend, hauling wood to town. In fact, I had a pair of mules alone, after Stanley was gone. It was a little pair that I broke later–another story!
Anyway, I had an old iron-wheeled, iron-tongued wagon, and I came down over the top of a big, steep hill. I was walking alongside, on the left side, and all at once the load went ahead and jabbed those mules in the rump. Sharp poles. Pitch dark. We kept going, picking up speed, and I couldn’t get them back because the poles were goosing them in the rear end and we went faster and faster! The wagon turned off to the left, and I kept the team ahead of the wagon. I had no idea what was going on–absolutely none. The wagon went off the grade on the left side down in the bar-pit. The bank was seven feet high, and I was just sure the wagonload of poles had jammed into those mules, but the jenny mule had jumped up onto that seven-foot bank–didn’t have a mark on her. The other one had stayed out of the way ahead of the wagon down in the ditch. There I was! Wagon crossways in the road. Sharp poles sticking out right smack in the middle of the road, and here came an old Model-T cranking down the road with headlights you could see about eight feet with.·I ran out there and got him flagged down before he hit.
He agreed to stay there with me until I managed to get the mess straightened out. This iron tongue had rusted out about two feet ahead of the tongue that went through it, and had·[page 55] folded back. It didn’t hold a pound back. That load just ran its course into the rear end of the mules. I learned a great lesson. If those had been horses, there is no way in the world they’d have gotten out of there, but the mules never had a scratch on them.·
Now, I want to make a little comparison between my temperament and that of my brother. This team of mules that my brother broke–he did a pretty good job of it, but as I said, the jenny got away several times. We hauled wood to town with them for years. When they’d take the team out of the barn at Aunt Mary’s, where the doctor used to keep his running horses, and hooked them up to start home, that jenny mule would pull back and go crazy. She’d get him out at the end of the rope, sling him around, going crazy, spinning in a circle. If you are out in the open, like in a pasture, you can hang on, but when you’re in town, she could cut you in two on a telephone post or something. So, she’d get loose.·Again, we’d go to the telephone–there was a guy out at the edge of town by the name of Shorty Hansen, who had a big place, and he was a mule breaker. We’d call and say, “Shorty, that darned mule is coming again.”
So he’d go out there with a big whip or club in his hand and when she’d roar out there, he’d haze her into his yard, we’d go get her and bring her back. You could walk her back again, if you were real careful. We’d usually take the other mule out there or take the Ford and tie her to that to lead her back. This happened over and over and over! She never quit.
Now… The other team that Stanley broke (the folks were gone, of course) were just coming three-year-olds, just right. We got them harnessed, and that hurry-up brother of mine put them on the hayrack. We turned them out into 60 acres of freshly plowed ground with that hayrack. Man! Going downhill, they really split the breeze, but if he pulled on the lines hard enough, he could turn them in circles. They ran around in circle after circle. They got up a good sweat, then they calmed down, and he talked to them and talked to them and found he could turn them a little bit this way and a little that way. The road back to the barn went down through a steep little wash, through a high pole gate. At the bottom of the wash, we had laid long poles, lengthwise, in place of a bridge. The water would go through the poles. We had them tied so they wouldn’t wash out. Then it went across a flat, about a hundred yards, went by a great, big, fence corner, and there was just room between that corner and a real sharp bank in the creek, with about a fifteen-foot drop into the creek. Then, you’d run on aways, turn to the right, and down a rocky ford, up the other side, and up into the barn.
[page 56] Well, I was out there watching my brother and he came around the hill and told me to open the gate. I said, “You’re crazy.”
He yelled again, “Open the gate!”
I refused, and he really blew a fuse. So, I thought, “Well, what the heck. If he wants to kill himself, fine.” I opened the gate, and the mules saw the opening, saw the road, knew the road, but, when that iron-wheeled, old rattley-bang hayrack hit those poles, bootely-bootely-boot, they broke into a dead run. They laid their ears down and really flattened out to the ground! [flat out gallop] They came to a big wash, shied to the left, and straddled a five-wire barbed wire fence with that hayrack. They left the hayrack sitting there, broke the singletree or somehow stripped themselves loose, and went off across country. I mean they really took off. It took us a half-day to corral them and get them back to the barn. All they had on was the steel hame harness, their collars, and the tugs. The lines had dragged, they had stepped on and broken them to pieces. The underneath harness, they had gotten their feet through and had broken every strap on it. What a sight to behold!
This was in the spring, right at the beginning of the work season, so we just turned them out into the pasture, and they were out there a full year!
Then Stanley was gone and I was alone. The folks were gone so there was nobody to stop me, so I got those same two mules in. One was a light-colored, beautiful, beautiful animal, a jenny; in fact, I broke her to ride and rode her all over the country. But guess what! She discovered that if I got off and then she got ugly enough, and spun me around at the end of a rope, I couldn’t get back on her. I have heard of animals biting but not people biting animals. I tried for hours to get on that mule. No way. She would not let me on. I’d get up to her and she’d step out of the way. I’d got so mad I bit her on the nose as hard as I could bite without losing my teeth. So then she swung me on the rope, and she swung me so hard and so fast that I couldn’t hold the rope around my wrist. She stripped me out and slid me down the hill and went out across country.
Of these two mules, the little jack mule was the sassiest, proudest, shiniest-coated little guy that ever raced across the terrain. I can still see him running. When a mule runs, he turns his nose up in the air, first one way and then the other, as if they were thumbing their nose at you. Anyway, I got them in and I snubbed them down to the old mares and I worked those two mules all spring. I cultivated with them, I plowed, I harrowed hundreds of acres with them, with the big, old harrow.
Now, the neighbors had carts but my dad thought·[page 57] boys should walk, so we walked. We never had a riding cart, ever. Here again, that built muscles in my skinny legs.·
I never let this team of mules get away, not even once. They were so perfectly trained they would obey every command. One spring day, we had had a lot of rain and I had gotten caught up [on the farm work], I hooked them to the buckboard and started out across country. I, like all kids, hadn’t been away for quite aWhile, and I just wanted to see that, nice, green spring grass and the flowers in the country. I went about six miles, down to the old 120 where Steve had worked on Dad’s place. I remember the road was muddy and ugly. I was up on a steep sod bank [off the road, out of the mud]. It was wide enough for a buggy (the roads were narrow in those days) between the fence and the sharp grade, a drop-off. I was standing up in the buckboard, and as I came up over the top of the hill, guess what I saw. It looked to me like a green prehistoric monster! It was on an old Altman Taylor-type tractor. It was bright green and yellow, and I thought, “My gosh, if those mules see that dragon, they’ll never stop!”
Up on that bank, I turned those mules around in a completely sharp turn, stood on the corner of the buggy so it wouldn’t tip over, and the left wheel came right back under the buggy, and flipped the hind end completely around, and they never even saw the dragon! I got out of that one pretty slick.
I had a memorable experience with a cute, little, saucy, black mule. I mean in no way would he fool around you. He kept his distance, always. In the spring, in the plowed ground, when you are turning, a horse will sometimes step on another’s feet and jerk their feet out from under him. When they do, they flip dirt up into the air, and it gets under their collars. Well, he had gotten a rock under his collar which made a horrible bruise on his shoulder–one of the ugliest I ever saw. I had to get him up, and I doctored that shoulder for maybe a month. He was out in the pasture all alone, the rest of the stock was somewhere else. It was a Sunday, and if you can believe it, I was wearing a white shirt (which would have spooked 99% of them). I came out and sat on the corral fence, just sitting there looking out across country, and that guy saw that white shirt. He came clear across that pasture and up the hill. I don’t think I said a word. He looked at me, and walked up to me, and laid his head on my shoulder. I had never seen anything like that in my life. I have heard since of perfectly trained horses that would do that to their masters, but to me, that was one of my great thrills to that time. You think a mule is dumb? I don’t think so.
While I’m on the subject–but this is not a mule. I had·[page 58] four horses on the harrow, and I had a big, green, bay colt–I mean he was green, touchy, and flighty. When you turn a harrow real short, like if you are going left, that harrow will pull to the left and the end of the long pole that sections are tied to, will run into the ground. Now, if you turn a little too short, the harrow will raise up to its full 30 feet in height and crash down, upside down.·
Well, I was next to this creek bank, and this green colt shied away from it. He cut way back in, made a real short turn, and wouldn’t you know that harrow beam ran into that soft, plowed ground and here carne the harrow, up in the air–straight up–30 feet, and was going to crash down on the big bay’s rear end. I slapped him with a line and made him jump about four feet ahead. When the harrow came down, it missed him by about eight inches. If it had hit him, I would still be a huntin’ that horse!·
All our harnesses in those days had what we called “blinds”. They were to keep the horse from seeing what was going on behind him and getting scared, like if we were loading something flashy or something they had never seen before. When the harrow came down, of course it made a noise, but he couldn’t see it, so he didn’t go anywhere. So, I just stopped, cleaned up the mess, and turned the harrow over, a section at a time, and hooked it up again. And so, nobody got hurt.
I’m going to jump ahead now about two years and tell you of the tragedy I had in 1923. I was in a grocery store, working as a clerk. It was the 23rd of March, green grass was up two or three inches, and everything was corning along fine. Then, we had a blizzard. A dilly! It snowed and blew for several days, not too terribly cold, but the snow drifted perhaps the worst I’ve seen in my lifetime. I remember there was a funeral at the edge of town, a neighboring friend had died, just out of town a mile and a half. There was no way in the world they could get out to get that man buried.
I saw rabbits that had smothered in those drifts and thawed out, five feet above the ground. The county Caterpillars that usually plowed snow didn’t get anywhere for the first few days. Guess who had to go to the ranch and hunt up our work stock?
Eight head of those old, faithful horses, that I had worked all those years–I didn’t mention the Clyde, the blind mare that we had. She was a beautiful animal; blaze-faced, Morgan type, stone blind, but as faithful as any animal I ever drew a line over. Here again, I could talk to her and coax her through any kind of situation. Sometimes we did have accidents with teams, like crossing a river. A horse would get down, they’d get tangled up, and they’d flounder and·[page 59] lunge. I mean it is”a rip-roaring mess to clean up–broken harnesses… Sometimes it’d kill a horse. Anyway! I walked out to that ranch at the end of the thaw, and all eight were stone dead. I’m wrong about the cold. It was cold, about 20 below, and those animals couldn’t get at the feed. When that happens, an animal doesn’t last too long. They have to have continuous food.·
This blaze-faced Old Bill and the faithful bay mare that we had worked for years, were out in open stock field that had been cut with a binder and there was no food except for a few stalks. Here they were lying on the hillside, stone dead and frozen solid. The big, beautiful, black mare with one eye, had gotten down into a ditch about three feet wide. The snow by that time had made the ditch about seven feet deep, and she had just backed up and gone ahead in that ditch for about 300 yards. She couldn’t get out of it, and she froze to death, standing up. The faithful blind mare had drifted in the storm and fallen down in a steep wash where the creek had washed out. She was down about fifteen feet, straight down. The heat from her body had melted the snow like a tunnel. She was dead. One of the most pitiful sights I can ever remember.
I had to locate all of them–all stone dead. I can still remember the bad feelings I had at having to witness that–not one alive.
I need to mention Old Coaly, the balker. I wanted to kill her and feed her to the hogs, but my dad blew a fuse and said, “Now, Son, we don’t operate that way,” and he made me work this balky horse for years and years. Why somebody didn’t get killed with her, I don’t know. For no reason at all, when the going got tough, she’d stop and back into the wagon. Sometimes she would kick like a maniac. She’d kick the head right off your body if you weren’t prepared for it and didn’t dodge. It never stopped, so we had to learn to outsmart her. We had to watch her whenever they were on a hard pull. The instant she would start to fly backwards, we would yell, “WHOA”, and pull back on the lines, making her think we’d stopped it. Then we’d get out and fool around, tinker with the harness, lift her collar up and adjust something or another, and tap on the wagon to make her think we were repairing something, and then maybe she’d go ahead and work all day! But, the next day–lo and behold–the same thing would happen. Over and over and over and over and Dad would not let me kill that horse. But, guess what! Maybe that was one of the best lessons in patience I ever had in all my life. Again, it made me innovate. It made me alert because I had to yell, “WHOA!” before she figured out she had done it on her own.
[Starting with page “47” next, the pages are numbered wrong with the numbering dropping back to 47. This next page is actually the 60th, but to keep this edition in synchronization with the transcription from which it is taken the numbering will reflect that of the transcription rather than the actual page count.]
Just one more. This balky Coaly was a beautiful animal,·[page 47] all black, shiny coat and blaze face. I broke her to ride and I rode her all over the country. At that time I hadn’t been to Dakota, and Dad had an old flat-bottomed saddle with a low, pointed horn. I had never seen a real saddle,- a bronc saddle or a roping saddle, in my life. I didn’t know there was such a thing. Well, I had sent to “Monkey Wards” [Montgomery Wards, a famous mail order house] and got me a regulation lariat. I roped cats and hogs and fence posts and anything that would move. I thought I was pretty good. I don’t know that I had ever even heard of a rodeo, but I got old Coaly and my rope and we went out across the pasture.·Down in the bottom, here was a big three-year-old steer, a dilly! I thought, “Now I’ll try the real thing.”·
I stuck my heel in her and we went out across the flat, wide-open, and I made a pass, a perfect toss–absolutely perfect! I flipped the rope around his hind end, kicked her in the ribs (to flip him, you know) and guess what. When that slack came up against that old flat-bottomed saddle, that saddle spun off that horse, around on her side, quicker than you could blink an eye! So where did I go? I went down that rope, halfway between the steer and horse, running wide-open. You know, I have thought for years, but I blacked out and I can’t remember one, single thing as to how I got the rope off that steer, how I got the horse and saddle back together–there is no way I can bring to mind what happened.·I wasn’t knocked out, but it was an ordeal we went through that I can’t remember.
You know, there’s more! Old Whitey. She was a beautiful, Holstein cow, almost snow-white, with cute, black markings, around her face and a little bit on her neck; otherwise, she was snow-white with a black tail. She was a huge cow, and she really rolled a bucketful of milk, but hey, she could jump any door or any fence that ever existed so she could get into the corn crib. If they eat too much corn, you know, they bind up inside, and if you don’t get a bunch of mineral oil down them, that will slide on through, they bind up so bad it kills ‘ern. It’s what we call “founder”, and they die pretty quick. We must have doped her a dozen times. She is the cow I took to town and kept in Aunt Mary’s barn for years. I hauled her hay and I got to keep the milk money.·Ten cents a quart!
The barn doors were all half-doors, sawed across at an angle so the edge was real sharp. One morning when we carne out, the top door was open and this darned, crazy cow could see that corn crib. She wanted corn so bad that she jumped her front end over the door and was hanging on the door with that sharp edge up across her flanks and across the big milk veins that came from her stomach into her bag. I don’t remember how we got her down; she must have weighed about a [page 48][page count 61]·ton. But somehow I got her off their. It damaged her bag, and it was many weeks before she stopped giving bloody milk.·
This famous blind horse that Grant Bunche had, old Dirk, that was so faithful–I had him over at my place and was taking care of him. I didn’t have my own horse, I had one of the wild ones and Dirk on a big load of hay. Up from our house on the 240 was a real steep hill. There wasn’t any snow but the ground was frozen so hard that it was slick, and I mean they had to really dig in their toes, and their footing kept slipping. This Dirk, I was standing on the load, easing him and coaxing him, getting over to the side where the ground was a little rougher. All at once, he started going down on his knees, and I thought “Oh my gosh, his collar’s too tight and he’s choking.” I jumped off the load, rammed my hand under his collar, and there was all kinds of room there. He rolled over and I put my ear on his side. He was dead! He’d been running out for a long time without being worked, and he had broken a blood vessel. He died right there on the road.·I sure didn’t feel very good about that! That was quite a tragedy, and to have to tell his owner what happened was something I didn’t want to have to do.
While we’re on the subject of these experiences on that 240 and the things that happened to me during my formative years: Dad had bought a beautiful, beautiful black boar. Dad wasn’t much on thoroughbred stock and in his philosophy, you turned them out into the wide open spaces and they can go to the river if they want to drink. That’s the way he believed all his life. So, he had this young thoroughbred boar–he was always trying to upgrade his herd by keeping the finest sires–and then he had bought another boar that was a huge and vicious animal. That hog would watch him out of the corner of his eyes, and you couldn’t trust him anywhere at anytime or under any conditions. He never cornered me, but then I never gave him a chance.
We came home from town one day and when we came over the hill, we heard a horrible squealing. The young thoroughbred boar was inside the barn, with the door locked, and a plank gate besides. The big boar knew he was in there and he wanted to fight so bad that he broke the door off the hinges, ripped the inside planking all loose, and tied into the thoroughbred boar who was about half his size, and had sunk those tusks into him I’ll bet a hundred times. Here was the young boar Sitting back on his haunches with his head away up in the air, completely surrendered. The big boar was frothing at the mouth and spinning around and around and about every third circle he’d stick the little boar with one of those tusks.·The poor little guy was squealing so you could hear him for four miles. That was something I never forgot.
[page 49] It wasn’t long after that until I came home and the big boar was missing. I couldn’t find him anywhere. I hunted for tracks outside of the pasture and, sure enough, there were his tracks between us and the neighbor. This big boar had smelled their hogs, made a hole in the fence, went through and headed for the neighbor’s hogs. I started up there but before I got there, down in a wash I found him. He had rooted out a nice big hole, made himself a nest, and was taking a nap! Now, I was scared to death of him and there were no trees close, so I picked up a rock about half as big as my head. I took a run with a shotput and would you believe that rock went up into the air and carne down and hit him dead center” on the snout, just between his nose and the eyes. He jumped up, stuck his nose in the air, backed up, and then went ahead, backed up, went ahead, and kept that up. It had really hurt him. I started yelling at him. He stuck his nose in the air and marched down the hill and out that hole like a little soldier. He knew what hole it was. That was the end of that ordeal!
Oh my! I almost forgot this one. Well, we had an old red cow–a skinny old affair. She learned how to squeeze between any fence ever made to get to the corn. Now, I’d had about enough of that. This was when I was playing football and was in good shape, so I got me a whip one day and decided I was going to run her to death. So, she was in the corn and I snuck upon her and came down across her rear end with that old whip. Tried to cut out a steak but didn’t qUite make it. I ran that cow at least a full half-day, and the whole country behind her was green, including me. I couldn’t run her down. The surprise of my life! She was so thin and so tough that she wouldn’t die! She stood out there on the hillside and I don’t think she moved for a day and a half, but would you believe that cow never went back in that cornfield?
Here’s an easy one to remember. Back in that country when it rains, and it really rains, and there is either short grass or open field with nothing to hold the water back. When you get a cloudburst you may get eight inches of water in two or three hours. That eight inches of water simply slides off the -hills, piles up in the valleys, moves out towards the river, taking out everything–bridges, fences, you name it–everything goes. If you are back in that country, notice that the bridges are always high, way up in the air, so that the river can flood over the road for maybe a mile on each side of the bridge, and there sits the bridge, out in the middle, up in the air so trees and garbage can’t pile up under it and wash it out.
One warm summer day, probably in July, we had a dilly. You can hear the roar of the river for a mile when it was in flood stage. I’ve gone down there and watched two-foot maple·[page 59] trees coming down that river, rolling over and over. We didn’t wear clothes because we were two or three miles from anybody, and clothes could get caught in barbed wire and kill you. Us dumb kids, would ride that flood water down a mile or more to where it came into the big river. All we had was an old cedar pole, or anything, just to hang onto for a little extra security. We did that more than once. Now, of course, it was a little problem as we didn’t have any clothes with us, to get back without being seen–down the creekbank, in the bush, around the curves–took a little doing. We probably got caught, but we never knew it. We were kids in the raw and we did it several times! This was on the 240, two miles west of the original east place.·
This one, I MUST tell! Again, it really shows the true character of my little mother. The old original team we had were called Polly and Dolly, one a beautiful Morgan horse and the other a lovely dappled grey, high spirited, flighty troublemaker on the other side. We went to town with about 6-8 inches of snow on the ground. It was in the spring, quite late, I’m sure. It got hot that day and really caused a thaw. We came home in the buggy just before dark–Mother and Stanley and myself. Well, there was a creek at the head of Grand River. That is quite a river on the map before it flows into the Mississippi, or where it goes into the Missouri before it goes to the Mississippi, I can’t remember which.
Here again, there was this big flat and way out in the middle was this high bridge. We came home and hit that just before dark, and that snow water had melted so the river was at flood stage. The water was over the road for probably a quarter of a mile. Mother stopped and looked and looked. You could see the tops of the fence posts part of the way, on one side, and it didn’t look too bad. So, Mother put us down in the bottom of the box, took a good lineup on the sight so she knew she could stay in the middle of the road, and she went ahead with that team.
Would you believe we got out in there and she had to put us up in the seat? It was that deep, and there were cakes of ice twelve inches through floating in that water, that kept knocking the feet out from under the horse on the left side. When we got close to the bridge, she saw there was a huge washout where the water was running across the top of the bridge and then dropping off a foot or two. Every time she’d try to swing the horses to the left to miss that waterfall, another cake of ice would hit them, and those horses were lunging and plunging. I was maybe four, but I remember that water, I remember those horses being hit with those big chunks of ice, as plain as if it were yesterday.
There was my mother, the excellent horsewoman, talking to [page 51] them and coaxing them. Finally, she made it to the bridge and got them up on the bridge. I could not understand why, when it was all over, my mother broke down. She sobbed and sobbed;. she just couldn’t stop. I couldn’t understand that!