Monday, March 29, 2010

MEMOIRS--Chapter thirteen--Going to school in Escalante and starting my job driving the team


Chapter Thirteen

The highlight of my second grade year was a two month visit to the second grade in Escalante. Mother told Daddy that never again would she stay the whole winter in Salt Gulch, so after the new year she must have gathered up her brood of four and moved to Escalante to stay to Grandma's house. She might have stayed there by herself with Daddy allowed to visit occasionally, since I think Grandpa and Grandma Wilson had moved back to Boulder. Grandpa might have rustled himself up a job teaching high school by then. Grandma King might have been staying in Boulder another winter or Mother might even have gone to live with her for two months since she had often lived with Grandma King both before and after she married Daddy.
I know we traveled to Escalante over what was called the upper road into Boulder over Hell's Backbone above Salt Gulch. Crossing Hell's Backbone bridge was always the worst of the trip. I would always ask to walk across the bridge rather than drive but wasn't allowed to very often. I just did not trust that bridge! Down in Sand Creek you could look up and see this bridge way up in the air spanning two deep canyons on either side. It just looked dangerous. When anyone talked about going to the Grand Canyon I always said I did not want to go, as I thought I had enough deep canyons in my life.
I guess I had heard too many stories about how the Escalante cat skinner, “Sixty Mac” had crossed a dangerous temporary bridge made of planks with his cat to connect the road over two deep canyons. He did not even tell his pregnant wife what he was going to do for fear she would go into labor out of fright. Everybody clapped when Sixty landed on the other side without plunging with his cat to the bottom of the gorge.
The CCC boys had been contracted to build the road so the mail could be brought to Boulder by truck instead of mules. After all, it was 1938. The CCC boys built a lot of roads all over the country so why not that one?
Now these same CCC boys were building a road over what was called the lower road into Boulder which was nothing more than a rough wagon trail over sandrock and deep sand down to the Escalante river, up through Calf Creek and over New Home Bench into Boulder. I always asked to be allowed to walk up Thompson's Turnover on that road but was hardly ever allowed to do that either. So Margie and I would lay down in the back of the car and pray. Daddy would sometimes have to make three runs on that road before he made it to the top in his car. I prayed we would not be like Thompson and turnover into the canyon. There was always a canyon to fall into on those old roads.

It did take Daddy a long time to go over the old or the upper road to Escalante to buy a drink. The new road would probably cause him to become a worse drunk than ever he would get to the liquor store so fast.
I think Mother was half way trying to leave him when she moved as far as Escalante to spend a couple of months. I loved my teacher in the second grade. Her name was Mrs. Schow and she was young and enthusiastic like Golda Petersen. Margie got an older teacher in the first grade by the name of Mrs. Lee but she knew her business. Margie and I made friends with two sisters who were the same age named Jean and Joan. I envied them so because their mother combed their hair in ringlets every single day, and she dressed them in the latest fashion. Mother made our dresses but she always made them too long on the grounds that we would grow out of them. They would be in tatters by the second year, but we would have to go around in dresses below the knees like two little old ladies. I think Mother was suspicious of little girls in short dresses and long hair. She never got used to how long hair looked since she and her sister had curly hair. Every picture she took of us when our hair was long, we looked like we were forty years old. Mother's idea of a decent hairdo was not chic. I did not get to wear long blond hair hanging down my back until I left home.

Well, we had to go home some time, since Mother had such a big family, so finally Daddy talked us into moving back to Salt Gulch just as the spring work was starting. I knew my work load would start up again, too, as now there were two little kids under two to watch when Mother gardened and bottled. But a wonderful thing happened. Bill decided not to work for Daddy anymore so I told Daddy when haying time came I would drive the team hooked to the hay wagon and stomp the hay all day, too.
All I can say is that it was a good thing I waited until I was eight to start a man's job. I would be exhausted by the time I stomped hay all day. But I loved driving swaybacked old Pet and her mate. She was the best old dear. She never acted up at all. I told Daddy she was the most patient hardworking old work mare I could imagine. I could not understand why I had never heard of her before. I could hardly wait for Pat to get old enough to break to the harness.
But by the time Daddy broke him, Old Pet was gone, and the horse age was coming to an end in Boulder! Mother was the one who got everyone buying Case tractors, but that story comes later. There was still some more upset to come due to the violence of men, but I don't have the strength to write about that today. I will end this chapter with my salute to good old Pet and all the workhorses who worked for mankind for centuries. I could just cry when I think of their faithful service. I think that was also the year that I was looking everywhere for stories about horses. We did still ride the cow ponies and always would on the rough cattle trails. Daddy told me when I was a year or two older he would take me to punch cows in Sand Creek where his winter cattle range was. I could hardly wait. Now I had that to look forward to. Horses provided me with the purest joy in life I was ever to know in childhood.

Top photo is the old Hell's Backbone bridge built by the CCC boys. The second photo is the terrain off one side of the bridge. Third photo is 2 teams pulling a wagon up the hill on the primitive old wagon trail called the 'the lower road', in a place resembling Thompson's Turnover.
Last graphic by Connie describes my love and feeling for horses.


Connie said...

Gosh, I am loving your memoirs. Your memory recollection amazes me.
I was such a backward,ackward child.I don't know what my world or thoughts evolved around other than horses and ponys and the desire to be left alone. said...

What a great tribute to the work horses. Knowing ourselves what work we had to do was knowing how those horses worked all day long pulling heavy loads. I enjoyed entry and pictures.

LaRena said...

this is an interesting chapter, as most of them are. I think you will have a very enjoyable book when it is done. I'm amazed that you are coming forth with the energy to do it at 78. I think your children and grand children will be very happy to have such a detailed and well written story of your childhood said...

I never really drove a team of horses...just held the reins. When I was old enough to help, we drove tractors.

Cheryl said...

These memoirs are great with so many stories and details of this place. The things you remember expand the stories I've heard or read about here.


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