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