BRING SOME SUNSHINE WITH YOU


Welcome to my humble blog.  Come on in and bring some sunshine with you.  Please don’t go away without saying hello.  It gets lonely here when nobody comes to visit so please stay for just a few minutes.  Even if you don’t find anything that interests you, go to leave a comment at the bottom of this message and tell me that you were here.  It won’t cost you a dime but it will warm an old man’s heart.  Thank you for being so kind.  If you would like me to return your visit, leave the link to your site.

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A STORY OF PILGRIMS 28


There were no longer enough children in the district to meet the requirements for operating a school and no prospects of any increase so the district was consolidated with the town district, #8. The Newlan Creek School was abandoned. The school property, including buildings, was all sold. Daddy bought the woodshed and the teacherage. Since he was going to move them on skids, the moving had to be postponed until winter when there was some snow on the ground so they would slide over the ground more easily. Conditions turned quite favorable in December with enough snow to make sliding good but not enough to be a hindrance. He moved the woodshed easily enough with his own tractor but he had to enlist the aid of Turner Hanson to skid the teacherage the mile from where it sat to our house. The two of them raised the log building with jacks and got a couple of logs under it for skids. I happened to be there one day when they were discussing whether or not their  two tractors would be enough power to pull the building. I had learned some basic physics in school by this time and was inclined to do a lot of thinking about such things. After thinking this situation over I concluded that there would be a certain amount that they could pull and, if the building weighed even a pound more than that, they wouldn’t be able to move it. When I mentioned this bit of wisdom, they were both amused and, Turner especially, had a good laugh over it. The next day, while I was in school, Turner brought his big Case tractor with cross-mounted engine and, by the time I arrived home, the two tractors were there with the teacherage in tow. Turner told me that they hadn’t been able to move it at first so they knocked off a piece of mortar that covered the cracks between the logs. He said that, after doing that, they drove right off with it. I knew, of course, that he was making fun of my theory but I wasn’t ready to admit to having any doubts about it, even though I was actually beginning to see that such things were probably not so clear-cut and exact as I had perceived them to be.

Daddy soon had it ready to use and the Spring Creek Schoolhouse had now become a bunkhouse for Bill and me. We moved into it early in 1944 and our bedroom in the house became Esther’s.

Teacherage being moved

Moving teacherage to Frank Fuller home 1943

Bill didn’t get much use of our bunkhouse because he was approaching his 20th birthday by that time and not spending much time at home. He was drafted into the army in 1944. He had been deferred from military service up to that time because he had been doing ranch work which was considered essential, especially by some of the ranchers on the draft board. In 1944, he turned from ranching to logging which drew the disapproval of a ranch-owning member of the draft board.
For me, the high point of 1944 was getting my first automobile. Uncle John Short had gotten a new truck and it was decided that I could buy his old 1923 Star. Star was made by Durant Motor Company which also produced Durant and Rugby cars as well as several others. Like everything John owned, this car had been well cared for and was in very good condition in spite of its age. Daddy and I went up to Uncle John’s to get it in February which was quite remarkable because, usually, one couldn’t be sure of getting in and out of his ranch in February with a team of horses. Before we left with the Star, I promised Aunt Ida that I would come back some day and give her a ride in the old car. I am sure she was not serious about it but, even so, I fully intended to do so and always felt a little guilty for not having done it before she died the following year. I have called it a car although it was actually in the style of a pickup with a wooden box and cloth top similar to early Model T Fords. It was quite fast for its time, being capable of 50 miles and hour on gravel roads and 55 on pavement. And those were the speeds at which I usually drove it!

Fuller, Jim  with first car 1944

Jim Fuller as proud owner of 1923 Star

Billy and a fellow by the name of Casper Harstad were logging for Forest Chapman on upper Newlan Creek and, shortly after school was out, I went up there to work for them a few weeks. Their logging operation was on a small scale, simple and tiring. Each of us took a double bit axe  into the woods with us. Casper  and Bill did the falling and bucking so they also took a two-man crosscut saw and a couple of wedges, a hammer, a file and bottle of kerosene. The bottle was a whiskey bottle with pine needles stuffed into the neck. This kept the kerosene from splashing out but also provided very nicely for sprinkling kerosene on the saw from time to time to lubricate it and clean the pitch from it. The reason a whiskey bottle was used was because, at that time, nearly all whiskey bottles were in a flattened shape for carrying in a pocket or saddle bag. While they were falling and bucking, my job was to cut the limbs off the trees they had fallen. When we had a supply of logs ready, Casper  would bring the team of horses and skid the logs down to the skidway by the road where Bill would load them onto the truck and haul them down to the mill. During the skidding operation my job was to move brush and sticks out of the way to provide a clear, safe path for the horses. The truck was the only motorized equipment involved in this logging operation.
One Saturday evening we were going to town and I was ready to go a few minutes before Bill but he said he would catch me before I got down to the sawmill. The road from our camp down to the mill was mostly only one vehicle wide and all dirt. Definitely, it was not a high speed road but we were both too young to recognize that. So, I took off in my Star at the fastest pace I could handle and Bill was soon trying to catch me in his 1934 Chevrolet. I got to the mill without him catching me all right and had opened the gate there when the Spady family came from the other direction in their big old Dodge sedan. After we had each gone through the gate, they proceeded on up the road and had just reached the top of the hill beyond the mill when Bill came charging at them at full throttle. When they appeared at the top of the hill, there was no chance for Bill to get stopped and no room on the road to get by them. So, he plunged the car off the lower side of the road and, with a death grip on the steering wheel and his right foot clamped onto the brake pedal, went bounding down the slope toward the creek. He managed to keep everything right side up and the only damage was a bent tie rod and a broken spring. And some shattered nerves!

Excerpted from “WOOL TROMPERS” by J. L. Fuller

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A STORY OF PILGRIMS 27


In the spring of 1943 I was introduced to the sheep raising business. I took a job with a sheepman by the name of Sam Stoyanoff, a Bohemian who had a ranch down the valley near the mouth of Benton Gulch. I first went on a weekend before school was out to help with “tagging”. Tagging was done before lambing started and was quite simply a matter of clipping the long wool around the sheep’s eyes and from the area below the tail. The task was performed by two-man teams. One, man with a pair of power clippers, did the clipping while another man caught the sheep, one by one, and set them up in front of the man doing the clipping. In front of each team was a curtain made of large burlap bags that would otherwise be used to hold wool. Behind the curtain was a small pen about eight feet square. Beyond that was large pen full of sheep and some other men worked there, moving sheep from the large pen into the small pens so as to keep the small ones pretty well full at all times. I was the set-up man on one of the clipping teams and my work consisted of stepping through the curtain, catching a sheep by the nose, and pulling its head back and to the side while, at the same time, bearing down on its rear so as to make it sit. Then I would take it by the front legs and back out through the curtain with it. When the clipper finished “tagging” the sheep he was working on I would set the new one in front of him and step through the curtain for another. The pace was about two sheep a minute which didn’t seem to be too strenuous but, by the end of the day, I found that I was quite weary. It was an exercise that seemed to bring nearly every muscle into use. I had so many tired muscles that night that I didn’t rest comfortably. The next morning every move was painful. The first half hour of the second day was sheer agony but then the sore muscles began to recover and I finished the day in pretty good shape.
Sam asked me to come back and help during lambing and offered quite attractive wages, so I took the job. But, I soon found it to be discouraging. Sam’s operation was very sloppy and he had a disorder in his sheep that spring that caused approximately half of the lambs to die. We threw dead lambs over the corral fence every day and the pile grew steadily larger and more odorous. There maybe wasn’t time to dig a pit and bury them but they could at least have been hauled away from the corral and sheds. I wanted to leave the job but felt that I should at least stay until the lambing was done and perhaps conditions would improve. Lambing was nearly done when I drew the pay I had coming and discovered that I was getting paid exactly half of what I had been promised. That ended any reluctance I had about quitting the job.
For part of the summer I worked for Walter Buckingham, where my father was also working and for Walter’s brother, Fred. Walter and Fred combined their crews for haying that summer and, when we moved onto Fred’s fields, I was transferred to his payroll and remained with him the rest of the summer. Near the end of the summer, Fred sent me to help George Culler finish haying his fields along the foot of Tucker Mountain. George’s sister, Arta, was there helping him and the three of us were the entire crew. The war had taken Arta’s husband off to military service so she had come home to help George. It was on this job that I had my first experience in bullraking. The team of horses George had for the job were so well trained and experienced that they made my part of the job easy and enjoyable. In later years I bucked hay with a motor-powered bullrake and took pleasure in the work. But I can’t say that it ever equaled the satisfaction of pushing big loads of hay with a capable and eager team of horses.
The motor powered  bullrake was a machine that was unique to the northern Rocky Mountains area and was never produced by farm machinery manufacturers. They were all made either by individuals or in low production welding or fabricating shops. Most of them were made from old cars or pickups but a few larger, high production ranches had them built on brand new truck chassis. In any case, they were built on the chassis of a vehicle with the body completely removed. The rear axle was turned upside down to make it run backward and the operating and steering controls were modified for operation in the reverse direction. On the drive wheel end, a hay sweep was constructed and, with the steering now in the rear, it was a highly maneuverable machine, especially adapted to efficiently gathering hay from the fields and bringing it in to the  stacker.
Daddy got his first tractor in 1943 and the Newlan Creek School was permanently discontinued. Strangely enough, the two events were to converge into a single project. The tractor was a McCormick  Deering 15-30 that he bought from Walter Buckingham and later sold to Bill Mordan. In the meantime, he adjusted bearings in the engine and otherwise put it in top condition.

Fuller, Frank  1944

Frank Fuller with his 15-30 tractor in typical pose of filling his pipe with tobacco

Excerpted from WOOL TROMPERS by J. L. Fuller

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A STORY IF PILGRIMS 26


It was probably in 1942 that we got our first radio. Bill and I were both making money and decided to go together on a radio for Mama’s birthday, the seventh of July. We secretly sent an order to Montgomery Ward for a battery powered table model. Nearly all of our shopping at that time was done with mail order houses, primarily Montgomery Ward and Sears and Roebuck. It was very common to hear these two referred to as “Monkey Ward” and “Snort and Rareback.” Mail order shopping was popular because traveling by automobile was still slow and often difficult. Besides, mail service was excellent. We had mail delivery only three times a week in the summer and twice a week in the winter but we could put an order to Sears Roebuck in Minneapolis in the mail on Monday and nearly always receive the goods on Friday of the same week.
Passenger trains sped over an interconnecting network of rails that lay across the nation and included in most of these trains was a rolling post office. Inside each of these mail cars there were people sorting and date-stamping mail. At each station along the railroad, mail was dropped off for the local post office, as well as for nearby towns, and outgoing mail was picked up. Even at stations where the train didn’t stop, pickups and drops were made on the fly. Our rural mail carrier would pick up our mail and deliver it to the post office by early afternoon. There, it would be sorted and the outgoing mail put in a bag and taken to the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad depot in Ringling. The east-bound train would pick it up and deliver it to Minneapolis the next day. That efficiency can’t be matched today even with the mail going part of the way by airplane.
Anyway, the radio arrived before Mama’s birthday all right, but it wasn’t a secret any longer because the box the mailman set off had “Airline Radio” printed on all sides of it in letters big enough to be easily read from the house. From then on, we could listen to Fibber McGee and Molly, Amos ‘n Andy and The Grand Ole Opry but the radio was used very conservatively because the batteries were not rechargeable and were quite expensive.
That year and the next three, I spent most of the summer working in the hay fields. There had always been a demand for help during haying season but now many young men were going into military service so the demand was even greater. The summer of 1942 I worked for Fred Buckingham, a lifetime friend of the Fuller family. By this time, most people had an automobile of some sort but some were finding it hard to keep them running due to wartime shortage of gasoline and tires. Such was the case for Laurance Walter who was also working for Fred that summer. Laurance had a Hupmobile but he didn’t drive it very often. One tire had several repair boots in it and another had a long slit in the side that was laced up with wire. Inside of it was a smaller tire. Needless to say, it didn’t provide fast or reliable transportation but he would drive it to town once in awhile.
In 1943 I began driving to school. Previously, Bill had driven or, during the harder winter months, we had stayed in town during the week. It was necessary to do one or the other because our school district did not operate any buses. For the few who had to commute to school, a transportation allowance was provided that paid most of the cost of driving. Bill was out of school now so we applied for a special driver’s license for me to drive on until I became sixteen and could get a regular license. The car we drove to school was a 1927 Chevrolet sedan. Daddy had removed the four-cylinder engine, had it rebuilt and replaced it into the car so that the car was in top condition. It was a pretty good car for that time but most people today would probably find it impossible to deal with. For one thing, it did not have an electric starter which meant it had to be cranked by hand to start the engine. In warm weather this was not really very difficult but, as with so many other things, in cold winter weather, it became a challenge. Antifreeze was not yet in general use and was still too expensive for our family to use. So, during freezing weather, the radiator and engine had to be drained whenever the car was shut off for more than a short time. This called for some educated estimations on the part of the driver to determine how long it could stand without running or the water drained at various temperatures. Using water rather than antifreeze was an advantage, however, in starting the engine in extremely cold weather. The procedure was to take a bucket of hot water out to the garage and pour it into the radiator. This warmed the engine and made it start somewhat easier. Then you moved a lever near the steering wheel to retard the ignition so the engine didn’t kick back when you turned the crank. Another lever set the engine speed to keep it running until you could get from the front of the car to the controls inside. Then you pulled the choke knob (no automatic chokes then) out to the limit. Next, the crank had to be inserted in the front of the engine and the cranking began. When the engine fired and began to run, you had to make a mad dash for the controls to get the choke pushed in some before the engine choked too much and died. Sometimes you were lucky and everything worked the first time but usually you miscalculated the amount of choking needed or were too slow getting to the controls and had to crank several times before you got it running. One morning the end of my little finger caught the sheet metal that curved out in front to cover the end of the front spring. When I had the controls all adjusted and the engine running, I pulled my glove off to see if the finger was hurt. I found it turned straight up at the middle joint. I took hold of it and straightened it and it seemed to work okay. It was sore for awhile and the knuckle was large thereafter but, otherwise, it was fine. If the weather was freezing, the radiator had to be drained during the day while we were in school. After school I would crank it up and drive it down to the hot springs, about a block from school, and fill it up with warm water from the springs.

Image result for 1927 chevrolet

This is not the 1927 Chevrolet that I drove to school but is exactly like it. 

It was sometime during this winter of 1942/1943 that I installed a heater in the car. Daddy had gotten a couple of heaters somewhere and they were on a shelf in the garage where I would often see them. One day it occurred to me that I could probably install one of them in the 1927 Chevrolet so I bought some hose and fittings and went to work on it. I felt that I really should get permission from Daddy first but he was working away from home. Once I had the idea in my head, I couldn’t wait for him to come home so I could ask him. So, I got the heater installed and it worked fine. It certainly made driving to school in cold weather a lot more pleasant. In fact, it was so much nicer that, after Daddy used the car a time or two, he installed the other heater in the 1929 Chevrolet that we had.
The 1929 car was the “good” car or family car and I was not normally allowed to drive it. However, I do recall one occasion when, for some reason now forgotten, I drove it to town and back. I remember how impressed I was with the smooth, quiet power of the six cylinder engine.

 

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A STORY OF PILGRIMS 25


It was also somewhere in this period of time that Daddy got a “buzz” saw and we no longer had to saw firewood by hand. This was a circular saw with about a thirty inch blade. To power it he used a Model T Ford with the body stripped from it. The drive shaft was also removed and a belt pulley attachment that had been made for the purpose was bolted to the rear of the transmission. A belt from that pulley to the one on the saw carried Ford power to the saw. It usually took several attempts, however, to get the belt properly aligned and tightened so that it would stay on when the sawing got tough. Another problem was that there was no governor on the engine and, if the throttle was set open enough to saw through a big log, the engine would be screaming by the time the log could be moved up for the next cut. That was when I became governor. Since the body was gone, I had to sit on the gas tank and operate the throttle lever under the steering wheel. Big logs would pull the engine down until it would shake and shudder under the strain. Sometimes the combination of the shuddering Ford and wind in my eyes would make it so I could hardly see. I know we must have sometimes sawed wood on nice days but I, somehow, can’t bring one to mind.
Daddy kept this equipment and any other working and also the cars. Considering that he only had seven years of school, he was a well educated individual. He said that there was no reason for anyone who knew how to read to be ignorant and he lived as an example of that philosophy. He read anything he could find time for and was quite knowledgeable about things from scientific to political. His favorite authors were Jack London, Pearl Buck and John Steinbeck.
In 1939 I got my first full-time job. One evening in June, Bill Mordan stopped at our house to ask if I would come work for him through the summer. Bill had a little ranch on Smith River just above the mouth of Whitetail Creek. His wife, Bessie, had come to teach at the Whitetail School and then changed careers. Bill and Bessie lived in a little two-room house among a few Quaking Aspen trees near the river. He said he would pay me $20.00 a month plus room and board. A man’s pay for ranch work at that time was about $75.00 besides room and board. It sounded pretty good to me so my mother packed some clothes for me and I went with him.
Bill had two horses that you could say were general purpose horses. One was a mare that was a work horse that could also be ridden and the other, called Tanglefoot, was a gelding saddle horse that could also be used in harness. Since he only had the two, only one haying operation could be done at a time. I did the raking but Bill did the mowing, buckraking and stacking. When he was stacking he would put a load of hay on the stacker with the buckrake and then hook the stacker cable to the buckrake to throw the load up on the stack.
One day, when he was mowing near the house, he had some trouble with the mower and called to me to bring him some tools. When I took the tools to him, the two bum lambs followed me. He got upset about the lambs being there and proceeded to chase them away with the whip. This made the horses nervous and they started to go just as one of the lambs ran in front of the mower. The mower cut a hind foot off of the lamb. He was the one who left the mower in gear and the one who excited the horses but I was the one who got blamed because I let the lambs follow me. In fairness, I would have to say that most of the time he was easy going and reasonable. Late in the summer he had some grain ready to cut so we got the grain binder out and got it ready to go. The binder required three horses so Bill went and borrowed one. As soon as the field was started and everything working properly, he turned the team and binder over to me. Well, I can tell you, I was a pretty proud boy to be driving a three-horse team on a grain binder all by myself. As matter of fact, that was the only time in my life that I drove more than two horses.
It soon became obvious that Bill and Bessie didn’t always get along together and that Bessie resented having to cook for an extra person. One evening, while she was getting supper, and Bill and I were sitting around waiting, she began complaining about having to cook while we just sat around. She and Bill got into an argument over it that went from that subject to everything else they could think of. Bill had filled his pipe and was about to light it when the argument got going strong. He would strike a match and sit there holding it while he argued. The match would burn down to his fingers and he would drop it. He would strike another but, before he got a chance to puff on his pipe to light it, he would be arguing again. I found this rather amusing and began keeping a count of the matches he used. He finally got his pipe going with the fourteenth match. Another evening Bessie went out to the outhouse just as darkness was setting in. Next thing, she was yelling and screaming for Bill to come out. Without any appearance of hurrying, he got up and went out. He kept a fishing pole laying up in two of the Quaking Aspen trees and the end of the line had been hanging down so that the hook had caught her by the ear. I got blamed for that too even though Bill had been the last one to use the pole. But, I guess he got enough tongue lashing as it was without taking the blame for that too.
When the summer was over, I had nearly fifty dollars of my own money. I spent about twenty on new clothes for school and had all the money left to buy bicycle parts and 22 shells or go to the movies. Probably few people could understand the satisfaction and pride I felt from buying my own clothes with money I had earned.
I didn’t get a job the next summer, when I was twelve, but after that I worked every summer and many weekends. In the spring and summer there were nearly always jobs available on the ranches so, from then on, I usually had money to buy my clothing and for spending.
On the morning of December 8, 1941, there was special assembly called for the opening of the school day and superintendent, Paul Wylie, announced to us that the Japanese had bombed our fleet at Pearl Harbor the day before. Such an announcement would be unnecessary today but, at that time, many families, like ours, had no radio and no telephone. Many of us came to school that morning not knowing about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Few of us took the news with any great amount of concern because we were hearing adults declaring that the United States would subdue the Japanese, and the Germans too, in a matter of months. Well, in a matter of months we were realizing the seriousness of the situation. Young men in the valley were enlisting in the armed services and others were being drafted. And then came rationing. The government issued stamps to each person that entitled them to buy a certain quantity of each rationed item such as sugar, meat, gasoline and tires. We had to be a little conservative with sugar in order to get by on our allotment but we had no problem with gasoline or tires. We received a generous allotment of these because Daddy was in ranch work and we kids were driving to school.
Uncle John Short’s ranch was in a remote location and was often inaccessible during the winter so he always laid in nearly a year’s supply of staple groceries in the fall. The rationing rules did not allow for this type of situation when they instructed people to weigh the sugar in their pantry and, if they had more than 15 pounds, turn in the excess. Of course, 15 pounds would not have begun to carry John and his family through the winter but he insisted that he obeyed the instructions because they didn’t say anything about weighing the sugar in the storehouse.

 

Excerpted from ‘WOOL TROMPERS’ by J. L. Fuller

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A STORY OF PILGRIMS 24


In 1936 Daddy contracted with Art Buckingham to fence a section of land for him on the headwaters of Butte Creek and Copper Creek. He needed to get started on this job as early in the spring as possible which meant getting up there before school was out. I had missed quite a bit of school that previous fall when my leg was broken but had caught up by spring. Consequently, the teacher agreed to let me out early and provided my mother with a lesson plan to follow for home instruction. I believe Bill stayed with Grandma Fuller and Ned for the balance of the school term. Esther, of course, was not in school yet. Daddy borrowed a sheep herder’s wagon and towed it up there with the Gardner car. I guess the sheep wagon was probably the second form or mobile home, following the prairie schooner. It was also similar to the prairie schooner, but smaller. Wooden bows and a canvas cover were put on a wagon box and a bed, table and storage cupboards were built inside. With a camp stove set up in the front, next to the door, it became a home for a sheep herder out on the summer range. When the sheep had to be moved to a new pasture a team was hitched to the wagon and driven to the new location. This one was a real up-to-date model with rubber tires.
The Gardner was a deluxe touring sedan that was, by this time, old enough that my parents could afford to own it. It was as powerful as a truck with a four-cylinder engine that had pistons about the size of a two-pound coffee can. It readily towed that sheep wagon through the hills, where there was no road, to Copper Creek. We set up camp for the summer there, probably about a mile south of John and Ida short’s home. The Gardner had a steering wheel that folded and a front seat that the back could be laid flat to make the car into a bed. Esther and I slept there the rest of the summer. We usually ate at the table outdoors but inside a tent if the weather was bad, it was like camping out all summer. What more could a boy ask?
As soon as our camp was set up and the job planned out, Daddy went to town to hire an assistant. In those times, a town’s main street was the employment office. Men seeking work would idle away their time along the street with their handbag and/or bedroll close by, ready to pick up and go in a moment, if offered a job. Daddy found a young man of 19 from Iowa who was willing and able to work. Dale King was his name and he spent the summer with us, pretty much like a member of the family. He and Daddy cut down trees, cut them into fence post lengths, and peeled off the bark. Then they dug holes along the fence line, set the posts in the holes and then strung and stretched the barbed wire. I spent a considerable amount of time with them and developed a sincere friendship with Dale. Many times since then I have thought of him and wondered what his life has been like.
The following summer Uncle Ned and Art Buckingham did their haying together. With Art’s boys, they made up a good haying crew. One day while Ned was mowing, his team ran away. This was something that happened from time to time when working with horses but it was especially dangerous during haying or threshing because of all the other teams and machinery in the field. This time no other teams got involved but, during the runaway, Ned got bounced off the seat of the mower and his leg went down through the machine. His foot caught the ground and his leg was broken. He first was taken to the hospital for the bone to be set and a cast put on his leg. From there he was moved to our house where a bed was set up for him in the living room. Art and Mamie Buckingham loaned some bedding for the bed which was an act of neighborliness that several people would regret. Someone at the Buckingham ranch had used the same bedding when they had Scarlet Fever and the bedding had not been disinfected. The result was that Ned soon had a broken leg and Scarlet Fever. It wasn’t long after school started that all three of us kids came down with the disease. Ned didn’t seem to have any lingering effects from it but we kids all wore glasses the rest of our lives because of it.
As it turned out, this was only the beginning of Ned’s troubles because the bone did not heal. He spent the next two years on crutches or hobbling on a cane. It seemed, at the time, that nothing could be done for it and we had no idea how long he would be crippled. During this time others pitched in to keep the work done on Uncle Ned’s ranch. One winter, Daddy wasn’t working, so he fed the cattle and took care of the place. For a time, while Grandma Phoebe was sick, we all stayed there. One day when Daddy was crossing a ditch with a large load of hay, the double tree on the sled broke and, before he could stop the horses, he was slammed against the front of the hayrack, breaking two ribs.
Ned eventually heard of a bone specialist and went to him. This doctor did what he could but the break still didn’t heal so he consulted another specialist by the name of Vasco. Dr. Vasco took a sliver of bone from another part of Ned’s leg and grafted it across the break, fastening it in place with tiny screws. This procedure was successful and, in 1940, Ned began walking again.
That runaway in 1937 was one of four times that Uncle Ned felt he came close to an early death but, oddly enough, this was the only one of his close calls in which he was actually injured. The first incident was when he was about nine years old. He had gone with his parents to a dance at the Anthony’s. Anthonys, at that time, had the Riverside Ranch that was later owned by Lon and Bertha Hanson and is presently owned by their son, Elmer Hanson. At the dance, Ned and three other boys were playing in a bedroom upstairs and got into a pillow fight. Ned was sitting in the open window when he was solidly hit by a flying pillow that tumbled him right out the window. It was a long way to the ground and he was sure he wouldn’t survive the impact at the bottom. To everybody’s surprise, he got nothing more than a few bruises. Another time, he and Frank went with their father to get a load of sand from a sandpit up on the mountain near the Clint Walter ranch. On their way home with the wagon load of sand they would be passing a spring where watercress grew. When they came to the spring, Ned and Frank jumped off the wagon to get some watercress. The heavily loaded wagon was moving slowly so they had no trouble catching up again but, when Ned was climbing back onto the wagon, he slipped and fell in front of the rear wheel. The wheel of that loaded wagon ran right over his middle. His amazing luck stayed with him and he didn’t have so much as a broken bone. Then, a number of years after the runaway, he was crossing through a part of the Holmstrom ranch while on his way home with a wagon load of firewood. His route took him near a sheepherder’s camp and, as he approached the camp, the herder was standing by his wagon with a rifle in his hand. Ned stopped to talk to him and the herder said, “I almost shot you when you came over the hill there. I thought you were one of them and you were coming after me.” The herder had, just that day, returned to his job after being on a long drunk and was suffering from hallucinations which are commonly call “the snakes.” It was later learned that the herder went to the bunkhouse over at the ranch after Ned left and shot himself.
I don’t remember, anymore, the exact year but somewhere in those years, I had my first look at a city. In the summer my mother suffered terribly with hay fever and each year it got a little worse. It got to the point that she had difficulty breathing and her eyes would get so swollen and blurred that she could barely see. The local doctor couldn’t help her so she went to Butte to an allergy specialist. He administered a series of tests to find out what was causing her allergy and prescribed a serum to desensitize her system. She took me with her to Butte.
During the few days we were there I saw some things I had never seen before. One thing that impressed me at the time and is not seen anymore, was the system of handling money in a department store. There were no cash registers and the clerks did not make change. The cashier sat in a glass-enclosed office on a balcony overlooking the sales floor. From that office, there was line of fine cable stretched to each clerk’s station. A small canister hung from each line on a set of little wheels that let it glide back and forth on the line without slipping off. Paper bags were not used then, and of course, there were no plastic bags. Each purchase was wrapped in paper and tied with string. While the clerk was wrapping the items she would send the money up to the cashier. She would put the sales slip and the money into the canister and then, by pulling on a handle, send the canister scooting up the wire to the cashier. At the same time, she would call out her number and the denomination of the bill to be changed, if correct change had not been given. Even after all these years, I can hear, in my mind, the clerk calling out, “Number sixteen – ten.” The cashier then put the change and the sales slip that had been stamped “paid” into the canister and released it to glide back down to station sixteen.
Some other stores, at that time, had a similar system except that they had a network of tubes and the canisters fit inside the tubes something like a bullet in a rifle barrel. The clerk would insert the canister at her station and close a trap door over it. Air pressure in the tube would then whisk the canister away to some mysterious office hidden away somewhere in the building. Just when it seemed that you were never going to see any of your money again, there would be a whoosh and a plop. The canister would drop into a receptacle at the clerk’s station.

Excerpted from “Wool Trompers” by J. L. Fuller

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THE GOLD BOX


I do not know where this story originated.  I saw it in Western Ag Reporter, a weekly newspaper out of Billings, Montana.

Over the phone, Jack’s mother told him, “Mr. Belser died last night. the funeral is Wednesday.”

Memories flashed through his mind like an old newsreel as he sat quietly remembering his childhood days. “Jack, did you hear me?” his mother asked.

“Yes, I heard you, Mom. It’s been so long since I thought of him. I’m sorry but I honestly thought he died years ago,” Jack said.

“Well, he didn’t forget you. Every time I saw him, he’d ask how you were doing. He’d reminisce about the many days you spent over “his side of the fence’ as he put it,” his Mom told him.

“I loved that old house he lived in,” Jack said.

“You know, Jack, after your father died, Mr. Belser stepped in to make sure you had a man’s influence in your life,” she said.

“He’s the one who taught me carpentry,” Jack said, “I wouldn’t be in this business if it weren’t for him. He spent a lot of time teaching me things he thought were important. Mom, I’ll be there for the funeral,” he said. As busy as he was, he kept his word. Jack caught the next flight to his hometown. Mr. Belser’s funeral was small and uneventful. He had no children of his own and most of his relatives had passed away. The night before he had to return home, Jack and his mom stopped by to see the old house next door one more time. standing in the doorway, Jack paused for a moment. It was like crossing over into another dimension, a leap through space and time. The house was exactly as he remembered. Every step held memories. Every picture, every piece of furniture. Jack stopped suddenly. “What’s wrong, Jack?” his mom asked.

“The box is gone,” he said.

“What box?” his mom asked.

“There was a small gold box that he kept locked on top of his desk. I must have asked him 1,000 times what was inside. All he’d ever tell me was ‘the thing I value most,” Jack said. It was gone. Everything about the house was exactly how Jack had remembered it, except for the the box. He figured someone from the Belser family had taken it. “Now I will never know what was so valuable to him,” Jack said.

It had been about two weeks since Mr. Belser died. Returning home from work one day, Jack discovered a note in his mailbox: “Signature required on a package. No one at home. Please stop by the main Post Office,” the note read. Early the next day, Jack retrieved the package. The small box was old and looked like it had been mailed years ago. The handwriting was difficult to read but the return address caught his attention. “Mr. Harold Belser,” it read. Jack took the box out to his car and ripped open the package. There, inside was the gold box and an envelope. Jack’s hands shook as he read the note inside: “Upon my death please forward this box and its contents to Jack Bennett. It’s the thing I valued most in my life.” A small key was taped to the letter. His heart racing, and tears filling his eyes, Jack carefully unlocked the box. There inside he found a beautiful gold pocket watch. Running his fingers slowly over the finely etched casing, he unlatched the cover. Inside he found these words engraved, “Jack, thanks for your time! Harold Belser.”

“The thing he valued most was my time,” thought Jack as he held the watch for a few minutes. Then he called his office and cleared his appointments for the next two days.

“Why?” Janet, his assistant, asked.

“I need some time to spend with a friend,” he said, “Oh, by the way, Janet, thanks for your time!”

Image result for gold pocket watches for men

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A STORY OF PILGRIMS 23


While there may never have been a better time to be a child, it was not so easy for a mother and housekeeper. I can recall my mother scrubbing clothes on a washboard in a tub. But even before she could do that, the kitchen range had to be fired up and water carried in. Since the well water was quite hard and the soaps of that time worked poorly in hard water, she usually kept tubs under the eaves of the house to catch rainwater for laundry. In winter we would often bring in snow to melt in the wash boiler on the stove in order to have soft water. Then would come the hours of scrubbing in the hot water and strong soap. The water was wrung out of the clothes by taking them in both hands and twisting. After they were washed, they were carried out and hung on the clothesline to dry. Laundry was an all day job. When I was still quite young, Daddy bought a washing machine that was powered by a gasoline engine. It was an unusual type of machine and I have never seen another like it. It was called ABC which stood for Altofer Brothers Company. The machine had an oblong shaped tub with a rounded bottom. Suspended horizontally inside the tub was a perforated cylinder with a trap door on one side. The tub was filled with soapy water and the clothes put into the cylinder. The engine then rotated the cylinder back and forth in the water. I think that was about the same time that Mama got a hand-cranked wringer that clamped onto the side of a laundry tub. Some years later this machine was replaced with another engine powered one of conventional design with a rotating agitator in the center of the tub and a power wringer right on the machine. At approximately the same time, laundry detergents came along and made it possible to get clothes clean in hard water. So, little by little, things got better for her but her children were grown up and married before she ever had running water.
Permanent press and wash-and-wear clothing was not even heard of at that time so most of it had to be ironed, without electricity. Earlier, I mentioned hot sad irons wrapped in cloth and placed at our feet in the cold bed. That was the secondary purpose of these old irons. Ironing clothes is what they were made for. They were something like a flat bottom boat about six inches long and made of cast iron. There was a handle that could be detached from one iron and attached to another, usually by just lifting up on a knob. On ironing day it was once again a time for a hot fire in the kitchen range. Four or five sad irons sat on the stove getting hot while Mama ironed clothes with another. When the one she was using got too cool to do the job, she would set it on the stove and transfer the handle to a hot one to continue ironing. Her first break in that chore came a few years later when she got a gasoline iron. This was quite similar in appearance to a modern electric iron except for a small fuel tank mounted at the back of the handle. The tank held about a half pint of white gasoline. The iron was designed so that the gasoline fueled a fire across the sole of the iron, providing a constant, controllable heat. Now, it was no longer necessary to have a roaring fire in the range on ironing day.
Another job that seemed never-ending and is not done anymore was darning socks. In those days before polyester or nylon, socks were made of cotton or wool only and perpetually had holes worn in the heels and toes. The holes had to be repaired by re-weaving the area with needle and thread. Mama spent many evenings working on this chore. But, other than darning, she had to do very little hand sewing. She had a sewing machine that was powered by rocking a treadle back and forth with one’s foot. This machine served her well for as long as she had need for one.
We lived beside a country road but there was not much traffic on it. In the earlier years there, what traffic we saw was just as likely to be horses as automobiles. Whenever a car did go by, we all stopped what we were doing to watch it go by. Often, if one of us heard a car coming, we would announce, “car coming.” So, perhaps you can imagine the excitement around our house when airplanes began appearing in the valley. Whenever someone heard a plane, he would shout, “airplane”, at the top of his lungs, and everyone would rush out to look. It was always an undeclared contest to be the first one to see the plane and then, we would all stand and watch it until it was out of sight.
As long as we lived there, the road was unpaved. In the early thirties, it was rebuilt and graveled under a W.P.A. project. This construction was all done with horse-drawn equipment. In those times, there was very little attempt made at snow removal on the county roads and I remember winters when the cars drove out through the adjoining fields as much as on the road, because the road got so badly drifted in some places. Then, in the summer when it was dry, if there was a breeze from a southerly direction, we would be engulfed in a suffocating cloud of dust every time a car went by. This got worse with the passing years as cars got bigger, faster, and more numerous.
I think that gives a fair representation of the conditions and our style of living during those times so I will now return to 1936 and continue the chronological progression of the family.

 

Excerpted from “Wool Trompers” by J. L. Fuller

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A STORY OF PILGRIMS 22


If winter was enjoyable, then summer was pure paradise. With those long, warm days and a whole countryside to roam over with bicycling, swimming, fishing or just lying on the barn roof watching the clouds drift by. To tell all the childhood games in which we engaged would make a boring story but I will mention a few that may be entertaining.
One of the highlights of my childhood career was my first bicycle. Bill had earned some money of his own and used some of it to buy a brand new bike with a two-speed rear hub and a spring suspension front fork, having this new deluxe beauty, he no longer had any use for his old one, and so, he gave it to me. His old bike had seen better days, sure enough. He had gotten it from Dave Weller and I have no idea how many had owned it before Dave. The covering was all gone off the steel seat, it had no fenders, no chain guard and no brakes. But I was thrilled to have it for my own. The front tire had a bulge in the side that had to be wrapped with leather lace, twine, wire or anything that could be found to keep it from rubbing on the fork. After a few miles of riding, the wrapping would wear through, letting the bulged tire rub on the fork again so there would have to be a time-out to re-wrap the tire. Each time this would happen the tire would get worn a little thinner at the bulge. One day, about a mile from home, the wrapping wore through again and the tire went rub, rub, rub, bang! So the first expense on my bike was a new tire and tube. Bicycle parts could be ordered from Sears Roebuck or Montgomery Ward catalogs so, as soon as I had saved a little money, I ordered a tire and tube as well as parts to repair the brake so I no longer had to put my feet up against the front tire to slow down. Next, I covered the seat with a piece of sheepskin. Then, one at a time, I bought new fenders. After painting the whole thing bright blue, I had a bike that I rode with great pride.
All of the boys in the neighborhood of my age had bicycles now. Marshall Hanson a half mile to the east and Duane McDaniel about a mile north. We would ride our bikes to each other’s homes and, very often, some or all of us would ride down to the canyon on the Smith River. There we would climb amongst the rocks or fish or swim in the river. For awhile, Virginia and Wallace Buckingham lived just over the hill from the canyon at the original Buckingham place, and they would sometimes join us to play in the canyon. There was a huge, water-rounded boulder in the middle of the river that we called Steamboat Rock. One day we were out on Steamboat Rock experimenting with smoking Bull Durham that one of us had gotten somewhere. I was sitting on the edge of the rock with the sack of tobacco in my shirt pocket when Virginia pushed me off. When I got out of the water and back onto the rock, the tobacco and papers were soaked so we spread them out on the rock to dry. The papers soon curled and shriveled into uselessness. As soon as the tobacco had dried a little, a puff of wind scattered it. So we smoked no more cigarettes that day.
Marshall’s older sister, Carol, did quite a bit of typing and had saved a number of old ribbons that she gave to Marshall one day. The next time he and I rode down to the canyon, he had some of the ribbons with him. All afternoon we looked for some use for those ribbons. We wanted to stretch them from rim to rim across the canyon but couldn’t come up with any way to do it. On the way home we hit upon the idea of stretching typewriter ribbon across the bridge at Newlan Creek. After doing that, we hid ourselves and our bikes under the bridge to wait for a car to come. Well, of course, the drivers had no way of knowing what that was across their path and couldn’t see it until they were close, so they would slam on their brakes to stop and then get out to look at it. We would sit under the bridge and snicker until they drove on and then put another ribbon across the bridge. Our fun ended, however, when Shorty Thune, the barber, came along. When he saw what it was he suspected there were some kids nearby. The first place he looked was under the bridge. He gave us a lecture on the danger in what we were doing. We got on our bikes then, and started on up the road. When he had passed us and disappeared over the hill, we turned and went back to the bridge. We stretched our last ribbon across it, and then, pedaled furiously toward home before anyone else could catch us in the act.
One hot, dry summer Newlan Creek was down to little more than a trickle. I had ridden my bicycle over to McDaniel’s one afternoon. Duane and I and Duane’s younger brother, Donald, went down to the creek seeking relief from the heat. There wasn’t even enough water in the creek for good wading. After sitting on the bank for awhile, wishing for a swimming hole, we hit on the idea of building a dam across the creek. The heat was soon forgotten in the excitement of dam building. Even though we worked like beavers, evening came before we had anything that resembled a swimming hole. Well, naturally, I was back over there the next morning and we attacked the project again with vigor. By noon we had repaired what had washed out overnight and had a fairly decent dam going. Duane’s older brother, Dale, came down a time or two and offered advice. But Duane, Donald and I did all the work. After a quick lunch, we were back to work. We didn’t know it, and wouldn’t have given it a second thought anyhow, but not more than a half mile down the creek Uncle Ned was trying to irrigate his meadow with the little bit of water that we were so busily impounding for a swimming hole. Along in the afternoon he came up the creek looking for the beaver dam that he presumed he would find shutting off his water supply. He was a little surprised at the type of beaver he found. Being a mild-mannered and patient man, he made no objection to the dam. He was satisfied that by the next day our dam would be full and the normal flow would be going down the creek again. We had a swimming hole of sorts there the rest of the summer but, of course, the high water the next spring wiped it all clean again.

 

Excerpted from “Wool Trompers”  by  J. L. Fuller

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A STORY OF PILGRIMS 21


While we were struggling against the winter at home, Daddy was at the Harris ranch facing the worst of it every day to get hay to the cattle. Every morning he and Cliff Walter would hitch the team to the bobsled and drive several miles in whatever kind of weather nature threw at them, then hand pitch the hayrack full of hay. Next, they would drive out among the cattle and pitch the hay off to them. This would be repeated several times before the short winter day faded into cold gloom.
Like I said before, winter was not always this way, and besides, there was always fun to be had if you happened to be a boy living in the country. When the snow drifted deep, you could dig caves in the drifts. And when it crusted hard, you could cut blocks of it and build igloos. Or, maybe you could take your sled to a hill and slide or go down to the river and skate. If you were old enough to use a 22 rifle, you could hunt jackrabbits. Oh, yes, there was always lots to do and the exercise out in the cold air was good for appetites. One cold winter evening I was returning to the house after doing chores. It was getting dark and I had used up a lot of calories since lunch. So I was already anticipating the supper Mama was preparing. She had taken an onion to add to the dish she was preparing and had dropped the skin into the fire in the kitchen range. The memory of the aroma drifting down to me on the cold, frosty, moonlit air is just as clear and real to me today as it was that night.
I have another memory from those times that has not dimmed with time but it is not nearly as pleasant. This memory is of Santa Claus. Santa Claus showed up outside our barn one day late in December. We were sure that he had been left behind when a band of sheep had passed by on the road. You see, he was a buck sheep, quite old, with horns that made a full curl. We named him Santa Claus because of the long, white wool on his face and because he showed up at Christmas time. The poor old fellow was feeble and either couldn’t or wouldn’t eat. We tried to feed him hay but he wouldn’t touch it; just stood there wheezing day after day. Finally, in January, he got so weak he couldn’t get to his feet anymore. With considerable effort, I got him on his feet but he just stood there with his head hanging down and his breath rattling in his chest. I decided then that the right thing to do was to put an end to his suffering so I went to the house for my 22 rifle. I returned to the barn and, after renewing my determination, put a bullet in his forehead. He didn’t even flinch. I shot again. And then again. By now I was feeling a sort of panic. I had, with good intentions, started something that I now regretted. Still, I knew I had to finish it somehow because the blood running from his nose told me that he was injured too badly for me to change my mind. In my frustration, I emptied the rifle before I realized that the reason for my dilemma was the fact the front of a buck sheep’s skull is just too thick and hard for the power of a 22 long cartridge. A quick dash to the house for more ammunition and one shot to the back of his head ended poor old Santa Claus and my heartbreaking dilemma. My memories of this event are every bit as vivid as they are of the burning onion skins but they are haunting memories.

Image result for ram sheepI didn’t take a picture of Santa Claus but he looked very much like this.

We all had a few chores to do. At the time, it sometimes seemed like an unfair burden but, actually, they took very little time out of our day. There was water and wood to bring in and chickens to feed and water. Sometimes there was a cow to milk and sometimes a few livestock to pump water for. Usually, I rather enjoyed most of the chores but there were times when they interfered with playing.

Excerpted from “Wool Trompers” by J. L. Fuller

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A STORY OF PILGRIMS 20


Newlan Creek School after it was abandoned

Newlan  Creek School after it had been abandoned for several years. The woodshed  is behind and the barn is beyond the woodshed.  The woodshed was for keeping wood and coal to feed the furnace and the barn was shelter for horses that had been ridden or driven to school.

Until 1934 the teachers either stayed in town and drove to and from the school or boarded with a family in the vicinity of the school. By 1934 the school on Spring Creek had been abandoned so the Newlan Creek School District obtained the little log school house and moved it to our school for a teacher’s dwelling. My father and Turner Hanson, and probably others, disassembled the building , numbering each piece, and hauled it with team and wagon. It was reassembled near our school house and put to use. Irene Karjala, my first grade teacher, was the first teacher to live in it. She lived there one term. Dorothy Lucas lived there two terms and that was the extent of its use as a teacherage.
After the half-term of school in 1938, the school was closed permanently and the buildings were sold. Daddy bought the teacherage and it became sleeping quarters for Bill and I. Virgil Holliday took the school house to town and had it remodeled into a house. My wife and I lived in it for a short time and it was the first home in the lives of both of our children.

As I said earlier, my childhood home was a small house. I have very few memories of our life in the original three rooms. Except for an incident here and there, my early memories pretty much seem to begin with the year that Daddy added the fourth room to the house. I am quite sure that this was 1933. He got the material for this room from the log cabin on the homestead of Pelick (Peal) Walter. Peal’s homestead had become the property of Alonzo Hanson and Daddy acquired the cabin from him. Daddy tore the cabin down and hauled the material home with team and wagon. This was quite a long haul since Peal’s homestead was probably about eight miles north, near what was known as Christ’s corner. Christ’s corner was a place where four sections of land cornered together and got its name because a man named, George Jacobson, lived there for a time, herding sheep, and often worked in the nude during warmer weather. This earned him the nickname of Christ. With these logs and materials, Daddy added a room onto the east side of the house that became our kitchen and dining room.
Our life there was quite typical of those times but far from typical of life today, a mere 54 years later. We did not have electricity, telephone , running water, gas, television or even a radio. We were deep into the famous depression of the thirties but we were getting by. We didn’t have politicians, bureaucrats, television news people and other do-gooders inflicting us with a daily dose of doom and gloom, so we just went innocently along our way, making do with what we had. A welfare program had been started but, then, it was called relief. It was not a blank check type of assistance that we see today either. About all it amounted to was an allotment of food, and sometimes, a little clothing that was given to families who were judged to be needy. Our father, being a proud man, would have nothing to do with it but our mother , concerned about a proper diet for her children, went to the relief office a few times and picked up some food items. Mostly what they had to give were raisins, prunes and other dried fruits. I really liked the raisins. We raised our own vegetables and kept chickens for eggs and, now and then, some meat. We also usually raised a pig or two. And, often in the fall, Daddy would get a deer or maybe an elk to supplement our meat supply. Most of the time we either had a milk cow or got milk from Uncle Ned. So we usually had enough to eat even if it lacked in variety. There were a few times when we were scraping the bottom of the barrel, so to speak, but, thanks to John Coad, the grocer, for allowing us long-term credit, we got through those times.
Life was good there for a young boy but sometimes the winter storms made it uncomfortable for us. The part of the house that had been granaries was just light frame construction without any insulation whatsoever and no storm windows. The log addition was somewhat better but it had just a roof with no ceiling so there was no overhead insulation there either. During extremely cold weather the wood range in the kitchen and the heater in the living room would be burning full force and it would still be chilly back in the corners. With cooking and heating water on the range, there was always lots of moisture that would form frost and ice on the windows a fourth of an inch or more in thickness. Nail heads around the door casing would collect frost a fourth of an inch thick. At night, the fires would die down and, in the morning, there would be a layer of ice on the water in the bucket on the wash stand. The bedroom doors would be closed all day but, before bedtime, Mama would open them and fire up the heater to warm the rooms a little before we went to bed. She would heat sad irons on the stove and wrap them in cloth to put at our feet in bed. We would get into bed under a heap of blankets and quilts. I would get down under the covers with my head covered up and form a breathing tunnel from my face to the edge of the of the bed because the door was soon going to be closed and the cold would take over again. In the morning, there would be frost all around the opening of my little tunnel. It wasn’t always like this, of course, but such times leave vivid memories. It is just such memories as these that make me appreciate an indoor bathroom today. It was anything but a pleasure to bundle up and plod out to the outhouse in the middle of a frigid blizzard.
Another winter incident that I remember well took place in early 1936. It had been a nice day with the temperature around 40 degrees F. and Mama and we kids had gone to town. Daddy was working at the Harris ranch and so was not home. While we were in town, the temperature began to fall and we soon started for home. When we got home, it was already down to zero. I don’t recall how cold it was that night but, a couple of days later, the morning was so cold that Mama decided it was too cold for me to go to school. She and Bill decided it would be okay for him to go, and so, he got warmly dressed and went out. He looked at the thermometer before he left and called through the window that it was 60 degrees below zero. He was the only pupil to show up for school that day and the teacher took him into the teacherage, fed him hot chocolate, warmed him up and sent him back home. It was 60 degrees below for several nights and we had temperatures ranging from -20 degrees to -40 degrees for weeks.
I believe that was also the winter that we ran out of firewood. With Daddy away from home, that put us in a rather serious situation but Mama took the matter in hand. The chicken house was a small log structure so Mama and Bill began tearing it down and sawing it up. Since the sawing all had to be done by hand, this was no small task. But it kept us all warm. The chickens were moved to the little pig sty.

Excerpted from WOOL TROMPERS  by J.L. Fuller

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