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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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The 2015 Red Ants Pants Music Festival will feature 


White Sulphur Springs, the quiet little town with a truly western atmosphere will again be the site of the fifth annual festival by the Red Ants Pants Foundation. For complete information go to the website below.

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It was entirely possible for a teacher to have students in each of the eight grades in this one room, although there were usually some grades empty. Even so, the teacher had to somehow divide her time between several different grades and instruct one grade while, at the same time, keep the other grades occupied and studying. It was an opportunity for a fast-learning child to advance because you could always listen in on the classroom instruction the upper classes were receiving.

FULLER FAMILY Ida, Frank, Bill, Jim & Esther

Ida, Frank, Bill, Jim & Esther

During recess we would play games such as Steal Sticks, Pump Pump Pull-away and Crack The Whip.
My second week of my second year of school, the weather was beautiful, the way September often is in Montana, clear, calm, balmy days that called out to a boy to come out and play. Those were the kind of days when it was tough to have to spend most of the day in the school house and every minute outdoors was used to the fullest. When the teacher would call us in from recess we would delay as long as possible. On these Indian Summer days, we were often joined at lunch time by Clinton. Clinton was the older brother of Florence and Joe Walter. In these days of verbal hat dancing around and issue, he would be described as having a learning disability or a social disadvantage. After several years in school, he had gotten as far as second grade although he still couldn’t actually do first grade work. He had since been withdrawn from school but was taking Florence and Joe to and from school in the buggy. In bad weather, he would return home in the morning to spend the day there, going back to school in the afternoon to pick up his brother and sister. But, on nice days, he would often just wait around outside the school all day. On this particular day of the second week of school, we were eating our lunches outside se we could get in running and playing at the same time. Clinton had joined us as he often did and was in on the horse-play too. In the course of this, I grabbed Clinton’s hat and ran with it. He, of course, ran after me. When he was close on my heels, I fell. Being so close behind me, he also fell and landed on top of me. I felt a snap and a stab of pain in my leg and, somehow, knew that it was broken.
During the next half hour, there was considerable excitement and confusion because nobody there had any idea of how to deal with a broken leg. Miss Lucas  couldn’t  believe that it was broken and tried twice to get me to stand on it. Then it was decided that Clinton should take me home in the buggy. It would have been much better for him to have gone and got my mother to come with the car. But, as I said, everyone was excited and confused. So, he took me the mile and a half in the buggy, very slowly and very carefully and, I might add, with a great deal of concern about my comfort. You can imagine the shock to my mother when we arrived at home. On the way to town in our Gardner car, I knew that Mama was quite upset when I saw the speedometer at 45 m.p.h. I had never ridden in a car at that speed before.
Dr. O’Neal examined the leg and decided that he would have to get an X-Ray of the break in order to know how to set it. The only X-Ray machine in town, or in the county for that matter, was upstairs over the bank in the office of the dentist, Dr. A. P. Johnson. He was often called Drap Johnson, a name derived from removing the periods from Dr. A. P. My cousin, Roger Hanson, and his friend, Sig Quam, carried me on a stretcher across the street and up the steep stairs. After the X-Rays, I was taken to Aunt Mary Jefferson’s house where a bed had been set up for me in the living room. There the doctor set the bone in place and put a cast on my leg. After a few weeks on that bed and a few more on crutches, I was as good as ever.
There were some who wanted to blame Clinton for the accident but I never felt there was justification for that. Clinton was not very agile but a person who was could have fallen on me just as well, under the circumstances. Besides, it was just as much my fault for taking his hat and running with it. It was just one of those things that happened without warning or specific cause.

Excerpted from WOOL TROMPERS  by J.L. Fuller

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We were back home now but there was still furniture and other personal property over there to be moved home. In December Daddy borrowed two horses to put with Lightfoot and Ruthie to make up a four-horse team. Uncle Ned joined in with his team and sled and they set out for Duck Creek on the other side of the mountains. They got there without encountering anything unusual in the way of trouble and got the things loaded on the two sleds. They started home with the four-horse team taking the lead to break trail in the snow. The snow was quite deep over the mountains and the temperature was running well below zero. They got as far as Iron Springs in Confederate Gulch the first day and camped there for the night. It was so cold that they crawled into their bed rolls with their clothes on. Uncle Ned laughed at Daddy for putting his cap on with the ear flaps down to go to bed. They started again early the next day and it proved to be a long and trying day. It was bitterly cold and the snow was deep and drifted. It was hard going for the horses and, due to the uneven density of the snow, the sleds would rock and lurch. The sled pulled by the four-horse team carried most of the furniture which made the load quite high. This sled tipped over twice before they reached the top of the divide and had to be righted and reloaded each time. They finally got over the top and were nearly out of the mountains on their way down Benton Gulch when the sled overturned again. This was approximately where Jack and Helen Coleman now live and they were still nearly twenty miles from home. It was already late in the day. They left the overturned sled there and, with four horses hitched to Ned’s sled and leading the other two behind, they proceeded on home, arriving about midnight. The next day they went back with four horses and brought the other sled home.
The following year our sister joined the family. She was born at the home of Grandma Short in White Sulphur Springs. Bill and I stayed there with Grandma until Mama was ready to go home.
Two years later, in 1934, it came time for me to start school. I was starting first grade and Bill was starting fifth at the same school that our father had attended. But, we lived closer to it. For us it was a mile and a half by the county road but only slightly more than a mile across the field. We nearly always walked across the field but sometimes in the spring, when the snow was melting, the water would be running so deeply and swift in the coulees that we couldn’t get across. We would have to go by the road. One time when we had this situation the culvert under the county road at one coulee was plugged with ice and a lake had formed on the upper side of the road. On our way home from school, we stopped to throw rocks into the water and, on one throw, my mitten flew off and landed out in the water. We tried to reach it with sticks and tried throwing rocks into the water near it to make the waves carry it toward shore but it just kept drifting farther and farther away. It finally sank and was gone.
Our uncle, Lon Hanson, leased the field we crossed going to and from school and sometimes he pastured his bulls there. One spring morning two of the bulls had been fighting and the loser was coming down one of the coulees just as we were crossing through it. As soon as he saw us he started toward us. Bill had the good sense to decide that we shouldn’t  run so we continued walking at a good pace. The bull stayed at a walk too. We were up out of the coulee before the bull got real close. As soon as we were out of his sight over the rim of the coulee, we lit out running as fast as we could go and reached the fence by the time the bull came out of the coulee.
My first grade teacher was Irene Karjala. She married Neal Teague and was a ranch wife until Neal died. She later became librarian in town and is in that position yet at the time of this writing. My teacher for the second and third grades was Dorothy Lucas who is now Dorothy Mackay. My fourth year, the Newlan Creek School was closed and we went to school in town. The next year the school reopened for the first half. By this time Bill was in high school and was going to school in town. But Esther was in first grade so she and I both attended that half year. The other students that last half year at Newlan Creek School were, Marshall Hanson and Maurice Crabtree. The teacher, Mrs. Rankin, was from Jefferson Island over near Whitehall.
The school house was one room with a little cloak room on each side of the door. The main school room was probably about twenty feet square with a coal/wood furnace in one corner. On some of the colder winter days, the furnace would not keep the opposite corner of the room comfortable. If we left our lunches in the cloak room on the cold days our sandwiches would have ice crystals in them at noontime. Insulation and storm windows were almost unheard of at that time. The windows had shutters but, if they were closed, there would be no light in the room. (No electricity in rural areas at that time.) It was the responsibility of the teacher to keep the fire going in the furnace whenever it was needed, as well as supervising and teaching the children.

Excerpted from WOOL TROMPERS  by J.L. Fuller

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