Monday, March 15, 2010

MEMOIRS--Chapter six--A new sister and Salt Gulch horses


Chapter six

When Mother thought she was close to having her baby, Daddy drove her to Boulder and dropped Margie and me off to Grandma King's. Mother's brother Crae was visiting, and he was going to drive her to Escalante to stay with Grandma and Grandpa Wilson. Grandpa Wilson wasn't actually going to deliver her baby, but he was going to be standing by when the CCC doctor was called. Mother had Grandpa deliver Margie in the old ranch house because she said she trusted him to know what to do more than she did the Salt Lake doctors when she could not go into labor. I thought it very strange for a daughter to ask her father to deliver her baby, but it saved money, too, so I suppose it was okay. They did a lot of things in the 'old days' we would not think proper now.
Grandpa Wilson was also very strong and could do more than a mid wife might be able to do with a problem birth.
But when Mother needed to go to Escalante a heavy snow storm dropped four feet of snow on the roads. They finally ended up taking a buckboard to Escalante. They trusted horses more than a Model T in four feet of snow! Mother said even that was plenty scarey crossing the Hogsback which at the time was only wide enough for a car with canyons dropping off on either side. Grandma King's brother Dave was visiting from Montana and she said he told her how brave she was to cross the Hogsback under such conditions. He kept looking off each side into the canyons and saying they did not have roads like that even in Montana!
Don't get me started on the old lower road into Boulder. I hated that road any time. Daddy scared me so many times on that road it is a wonder I lived to be a grown woman. No don't let me get started on the bad roads! We have a baby to be born here!
Mother got along fine birthing this baby, but when Daddy called to see if he had a son she had to tell him no, but this baby had the most hair on her head anybody had ever seen on a little girl. Daddy was disappointed, but Mother said she and Daddy did not deserve a son. He would have ruined one. I was not sure by then but what he wouldn't. Daddy took us to town to pick up Mother when she was ready to come home, although I doubt if she was ever really ready to come home to Salt Gulch and the primitive conditions we had to live under. Especially with a new baby.
Mother never nursed her children. She was a big believer in formula but I think she just did not like babies that close to her. But she was very conscientious about making the formula just so and boiling diapers. Margie and I sort of left her alone as much as we could and played outside, as she was always short tempered when she had more to do.
Besides I was busy getting acquainted with all the animals of Salt Gulch. I knew we wouldn't be able to pet a baby until she was a lot bigger. I was absolutely fascinated with Old Pet the old swaybacked work mare who had been part of the main team for years in Salt Gulch. Her back swayed so deep I didn't see how she could work with such a handicap. Her back must have hurt her something terrible after a hard day's pulling in the fields. Daddy said no, she didn't seem to mind, she was the most patient old mare alive, smart and willing to work without protest. I knew Daddy hated old Fred, Grandpa King's prize work horse in Boulder.
Fred could pull huge heavy loads all day, he was so big and strong, but if anybody the least bit inexperienced tried to handle the team, he would take the bit in his teeth and run away! I heard a terrible pounding down the road one day at the cheese factory house and Fred and his teammate went thundering past dragging a wagon all broke to pieces. Daddy was so angry at Fred because of course they had to spend a lot of time fixing the wagon. He said he would not own a workhorse like Fred!
But what got me so excited in Salt Gulch was Daddy saying that maybe this summer or next he would let me drive old Pet and her mate hooked to the hay wagon. I could drive them out in the hay field so one of the men would not have to stop and climb on the wagon and stomp the hay down some and drive the team forward. I could not wait! I stopped thinking about horses to ride since Daddy said none of them were gentle enough and started thinking about driving the team come summer. I was sure I could do it the summer I turned six.
I was so lucky I thought getting in on the last great days of the horse age. Daddy had two teams, although Bess and Betsy, the second team, a pair of black mares, both had gimpy legs, they could still be used to rake hay. Teams were used to mow, rake, plow, and pull the hay wagons. Nobody had bought tractors yet, although Mother was already talking about one for Daddy. I thanked God the summer and winter ranges were so rough, nobody would ever be driving cattle with a pickup truck in southern Utah.
Daddy was always looking for his horse of dreams. Every cowman usually had at least one great cow horse in his time. Grandpa King's was old Breech, a gray gelding people still talked about, his faithful mount for years when he was an active cowboy.

Now Grandpa's favorite mount was the old Bay Mare. What was so beautiful about her was that you could go up to her anywhere in the fields and slip a bridle on her. Grandpa just dropped her reins wherever he tended the water and she would not stray. You could not teach a horse to do that without a lot of work. The old bay mare and her colts just did it. Horses were like people, they all had their winning ways, and were kept for years because they had some trait that was very handy in a working cow horse.
Now we had dear old Pet with her swayback. She had given birth to a big colt with just a little bit of a swayback. Daddy said that Pat would make a fine work horse, because he was Pet's son.
There was even a genuine wild horse some King cowboy had caught wild on the range in the Salt Gulch ramada. I asked to ride him, but Daddy said, “No!” Old Darkie was a great horse to ride on the trail he said, but he was treacherous. He would sometimes buck, especially when he hadn't been ridden for a while.
There was so much to learn on the Salt Gulch ranch. I was busy all day long. Daddy decided to plant a patch of field corn to feed the pigs come winter down around the hill, so he did that, and then of course he had to plant a patch of oats to feed the horses. He put Bill to working so hard cleaning ditch he was probably sorry he ever said he would work for Daddy. The Kings were known for getting their moneys worth out of their hired men. They did it by working right along side them and shaming them into about killing themselves to prove they were just as good as their boss.
I wished Mother had been trained to boss by her father-in-law and husband, but whatever they said to do she was apt to do just the opposite. When she set even little kids to work she would go off and read a book. She said now she had three daughters in a few years she would never have to do housework again! I was afraid she meant it. She already had Margie and me mopping that great big kitchen floor. Once we put it off and she got so mad when she saw we hadn't done it, she threw a whole bucket of potatoes all over the room barely missing us! I will tell you, we started mopping that floor as fast as we could before we got knocked out by a flying potato.

Salt Gulch ranch house today in top photo. Team pulling a load on old lower road. The old Hell's Backbone bridge on the upper road out of Salt Gulch. Mom and Dad spruced up cattle rancher and his enterprising wife. Grandpa King on Old Breech, the legendary cow horse who saved his life


Paula said...

Well I'm glad to read that someone else besides us boiled diapers. My Mama believed in that so much I think when we had our babies we were terrified not to boil the diapers. lol I sometime think from what i've heard John's mother just had a bunch of kids to be little unpaid servants. said...

According to Aunt Nethella's book in the story about Grandpa King falling off Death Hollow, the horse was Old Pat. Great Chapter about Salt Gulch and the work that needed doing!

Connie said...

I am like your momma in that if ya tell me to do something,I'll break my neck doin the opposite..but ask me and I'll do my best to do it for ya...


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