After a couple of years, Mom and Dad knew that the rented farm was not going to be profitable and began looking for something else. They found a little place near the little town of Trego that had little to offer in the way of improvements or conveniences but it had its own little lake and came at a price that they could handle. They had no electricity and no telephone or running water. It was like stepping back 25 years in time but they had plenty of experience in living with such conditions. It fulfilled Daddy’s long-time desire of carving a living from his own place. It was not a bountiful living but they were meeting the challenge in their typical heads-up style until health problems began to undermine Mama’s determination. She had to undergo surgery early in 1954 besides being dragged down by the mental depression that has been previously mentioned. With doctor and medical bills piling up, they came to the hard decision that this dream, too, would have to be abandoned. So, once again, they packed up and moved. This time to Libby. At Libby, they had ready access to medical facilities and Daddy got a job as watchman at a lumber mill where he had a steady and reliable income. Mama’s health and well-being continued on a general decline until her death just before Thanksgiving in 1957, on the 26th of November.
Daddy stayed on there alone until 1963 when he sold his Libby property to Ray Spady and bought a house and a few acres on Deep Creek, 11 miles east of Townsend. With income from Social Security, he lived there in reasonable comfort and relative contentment through his remaining years. He died there, at his home, of a heart attack on June 3, 1973 at the age of 72.
This writing is probably as near as Frank and Ida Fuller will come to having their names go down in history but, in their own way, they did their part. While raising a family, they pulled through some hard times without putting a burden on society or anyone else. They carried their own weight through the sunshine and the fog of life, left no debts unpaid and generally left things better than they found them. They set worthy principles for their children to live by and encouraged self-sufficiency.
As mentioned earlier, Bill lived in northwest Montna for a short time and then returned to Meagher County. It was here that he and Lois raised their two sons and two daughters. Bill carved out a living in the timber industry. In the late forties and early fifties, hundreds of railroad cars of pulpwood were shipped from here to Minnesota. There were some who got into the business on a fairly large scale, hiring fallers, skidders, loaders and truck drivers. While on the other end of the scale were the one-man operations. Bill sometimes hauled for one of the larger operations but, more often, was one of the one-man operators. This meant falling, limbing and bucking, all with hand saw and axe, and then loading the hundred-inch logs onto the truck by hand. But, then came the gasoline powered chain saw and logging was never the same again. At other times, he operated his own sawmill or cut and hauled logs to sell at larger mills. He usually supplemented his income by hunting and trapping during the winter. He sold furs from coyotes, muskrats, beaver and mink for extra income and had the meat from deer and elk to reduce the grocery bill.
I continued working at Compton Motors until January of 1953 when I was drafted into the Army. Nearly six years previously, I had tried to enlist in the Army, Navy and Air Force but none of them would even consider me because of my eyesight. Now, however, the United States was fighting in Korea and suddenly my poor vision was unimportant.
I rode the bus from White Sulphur Springs to Butte and, from there, I rode a passenger train of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad to Fort Lewis, Washington. There were about 200 of us recruits in the company and 20 of us were chosen for Ordnance and sent to Aberdeen proving Ground in Maryland for basic training. We rode the Empire Builder, one of Great Northern’s best passenger trains. We didn’t have sleeping berths either. We had compartments! These first class accommodations were far different from the box cars that our military men were transported in during World War II. I later learned that my mother and father were in Eureka when our train went through and they saw the train but, of course, they had no idea that I was on it.
Military basic training probably has changed very little and will not likely change much in the future so I will not dwell on that subject. It was fortunate for me that most of the cadre in my company were Korean veterans who had no fear of officers and who didn’t go along with the unnecessary harassment that is commonly part of basic training. Our field sergeant worried that he was not adequately preparing us to serve in combat. He really needn’t to have been so concerned since, being ordnance, none of us were likely to see combat. Besides, the fighting soon ended in Korea.
Near the end of basic training we were given a series of tests to help determine what our military occupations should be. Then, at the next session, we were given the opportunity to name our own preferences of available occupations. It was at this session that one fellow asked if there was any way to get into the guided missile program. I had never heard of guided missiles and had no idea what he was talking about. The reply he got was, “As far as you are concerned, there is no such thing,” and the subject was forgotten. Two weeks later, twenty-one of us were ordered to report to the testing center again. There, we were told that we had been chosen for training in the guided missile program. Ironically, the man who had inquired about it was not among us. Since only twenty were needed, one of us could decline and one man immediately did so.
One fine, sunny day, after we had completed basic training, a bus arrived to take the 20 of us to our new post. A band was there to play for us and someone made a speech about us being the cream of the crop. We were amazed at getting that kind of treatment from the Army but it illustrates the pride they had in the Guided Missile Program.
Excerpted from “Wool Trompers” by J, L, Fuller