Saturday, April 10, 2010

MEMOIRS--Chapter 17--Mother plans a house in Boulder, my sinkhole, and saying goodbye to Salt Gulch

Header by Connie with photos of the young rancher couple, Mother and Dad, and the old rancher couple, John and Sallie May King, the original owners of Salt Gulch, homestead ranch of dreams, painted by O'Neta King Shurtz, a daughter who lived there.


Chapter seventeen

Mother announced to Father that she had secured the 'catchall' as it was called from Grandpa King where she was going to move her homestead house. She was never going to live in Salt Gulch again! Father reminded her of her promise to live with him in Salt Gulch if he bought the ranch, and she reminded him that he had also made a promise to her to quit drinking, even to taking the Kiely cure, and he had not stopped. She was not going to be made unhappy anymore by him saying he had to go to Boulder for something and slipping off to Escalante to get a bottle
Daddy seem quite surprised she had persuaded Grandpa to give her land in Boulder, but he told Mother he would have to have part of the upper pasture that belonged to Grandpa where he could pasture his horses, milk cows, and the steers he would be fattening for market in the summer. Grandpa reluctantly agreed that he would need pasture all right. The catchall property east of the big government corral, which land Grandpa had also once owned, was enough for a smaller 'catchall', a garden spot and a place for an orchard, a barn, and corrals as well as for the house and yard. But Grandpa said Daddy could fence part of his pasture heading south from the government corral.
Mother hired Albert Coleman to tear down the homestead house and haul it to the building site and then Art McInelly, a carpenter from Escalante, and his sons would do the reconstructing. In the meantime we spent a few months of our last winters down to the old King ranch house and even a couple of months over to Grandpa and Grandma Wilson's ranch house. All I remember about sleeping in one of the back bedrooms down to the old King ranch house was a reoccurring dream I had of an old model T grinding away in deep sand, unable to move forward. Talk about a dream of futility. I can still hear the dreary sound the engine made. I got so I dreaded that sound and that dream. I know it was about my father's drinking even after the Kiely cure, that looked as though it was going to go on forever with our family making no progress toward real stability.
While we were living to the Wilson ranch home, I had a really alarming nightmare. I dreamed a man was chasing me and caught up with me in a pasture and took a very long plank, set one end on the top of my head, and with a big hammer, pounded a nail into the top of my head. I screamed so loud I must have awakened the whole household, but nobody said anything. For years I pondered the meaning of this dream. Just now I realized what it meant which I will explain later. It had to do with the new house and the pasture there and a man doing me harm.
I can't say that I was too unhappy about leaving sinkhole ranch for by then I had acquired me very own sinkhole, yes a sinkhole I felt responsible for causing. This is how that happened. Barbara Coleman, Marilyn Steffensen, and I who had all gotten to be better and better friends, decided we wanted to go swimming, but I thought we should try going in our ditch where we might find some water a little deeper rather than in Sweet Water which did not have as much water in it as our ditch. My father's ranch had the best water rights in Salt Gulch. I don't think I said anything about this plan to my parents. I saw no reason.
The day we were to meet my mother insisted I had to go to Boulder with her for something, so I called Marilyn and Barbara who said they might try our ditch anyway. When we got home, we received terrible news. They had no more than began traipsing up and down our ditch, when suddenly the water started whirling around in a most frightening manner right at their feet. They were barely able to leap out before a giant hole opened up in the ditch and all the water that went to our ranch gurgled down and out of sight!
Disaster for our ranch. It was not long before my father realized no water at all was coming over the hill and he and the hired man rushed up the road to see what had happened. The water went an amazingly long ways before it surfaced in a gully down below the ditch and flowed through the neighbors' land.
Well, I can't tell you how many times that summer the men would fix the ditch with a wooden waterway of some sort and then the ground around it would inevitably give way and the water would rush down into an even bigger sinkhole.
I couldn't help but have nightmares about that sinkhole, imagining if I had been there, unable to jump out in time for some reason, and going down beneath the ground with the water! Well, thank goodness, I went to Boulder or I believed I would not be here today, and I told Barbara and Marilyn not to blame themselves as I was the one who insisted on swimming there, it was our ditch after all. I don't even know if Daddy would have forbidden me to swim in the ditch even if he had known what we were going to do.
Finally in desperation Daddy asked the CCC engineer who was working on our roads to come and look at the sinkhole and see what he could suggest. He looked and told him to buy two of the longest culverts he could that would hold the water, haul them home, and weld them together, so they would cross the unstable ground entirely. The culverts were quite expensive, but that's what Daddy did, and they finally worked.
I was relieved to have the water running steadily again without the sinkhole gobbling up more and more of the ditch, but still another crisis in our lives had been exhausting. I was reminded again of the poor Ogden boy who had a nightmarish mishap while trying to swim in a water tank over in Sand Creek. The Ogdens had run the Salt Gulch ranch before my Uncle Glen moved there. The boys found a water tank that was quite deep when it was full from a storm, when they were riding over into Sand Creek. They took to diving into it off the top. The Odgen boy came up in an underground passage way they didn't know was there and never surfaced. The other boys dived in again and again looking for him but his body was never found! Needless to say that water tank was off limits to swimming forever after and so was our ditch!
Knowing we were moving, I started saying goodbye to 'our hill' which we children claimed in the middle of the ranch. I would never climb that hill again and listen to the birds singing in the trees. I wouldn't be hearing the coyotes howling at night just barely out there where you couldn't see them, or watch the deer come in every night to feed in my father's alfalfa fields. Well, my dad would see them, because he'd still be farming over there, but I would never again live on this ranch. Mother had even taken Barbara and me to Sand Creek to camp out. Margie and Gay, her sister, probably came with us, but Barbara promised me she knew where the nine room cave was over past the school house ledge and we would still go exploring over to Boulder as we had done in Salt Gulch. I could still come and stay with her in Salt Gulch as she could come to to stay with me in Boulder in the new house. Yes, I thought it would be nice to have our own home in Boulder where I could have friends over night.
Daddy said we would take old Don to Boulder, but he was so burned out, he didn't know how long he was going to last. I knew I could always go down to Grandpa King's ranch for a horse to ride if I lived there. No problem.
In Salt Gulch, I never liked the fear that one of the cows just coming off the mountain would bloat on the alfalfa in the fields if we didn't find them in time, and put them in a pasture. Daddy had to stick a couple of them and they still died. Still alfalfa was the richest hay for cattle in the winter. And Daddy loved his precious water so much in Salt Gulch he would hardly let a hired man tend the water. The only time he ever let the water run too long on his fields was when he was drunk. The rest of the time he was the most conscientious farmer you could have asked for. Mother made me mad because she acted like Daddy didn't do anything. It was hard work out there shoveling ditch. To my mind, Daddy actually worked harder than Mother did.
Mother was the kind who would tear into some big job like bottling five bushels of peaches and about kill herself and all her helpers, but Daddy wanted order to his work routine. He wanted a nice dinner ready on time, and hot new bread for supper, and he was satisfied. You never knew what Mother might do. Work hard one day and not do a thing for days after. The house would be chaos. I got used to growing up with the house in a mess.
Mother wanted a homestead house. She got it, she didn't like it, then the cheese factory house, and then Salt Gulch, and now another Boulder house! Would she ever be satisfied? Daddy was afraid not. I heard him tell Mother he knew she would not come to Salt Gulch to cook his dinner in haying time. Mother said I would be big enough. I could do it! It looked to me like Mother was raising me to take her place in Daddy's life.
She was already refusing to ride with him. Why not? I wanted to go with him! Well, now she had the babies, but I knew and he knew she would not leave them with one of the Coleman girls to tend if he wanted her to go somewhere with him. Mother did not want to go anywhere with Daddy.
I was worried about what was going to happen over to Boulder. Mother told us she intended to build a store. Neither Grandpa or Daddy knew that yet, because Daddy would probably get mad and holler when he heard it, so she didn't tell him, she just told us. Why else would she want to move back to Boulder? She needed a place to escape Daddy that's why!
I could see the meaning of Mother's plan. She was going to live a separate life from Daddy. She could not wait. Well, what was he doing? I did not forget my suspicions aroused when I was five. But I did think Daddy hoped that they could be a couple. I thought Mother was done with all that. He had his chance but he had failed her.
She could make some money in a store and together they would raise their children. She would not be happy, but she would have done her job. I could see that she had made up her mind that she was never going to be happy with Daddy. She talked about him so bad that everybody knew it. He never talked bad about her. Why did she never have one good word to say about him? Mother wasn't the praising kind. She didn't have a good word to say about me either! That was just her.
She talked to us girls a lot, or at least she did to me. Women did not trust her not to flirt with their husbands so they did not like her. She had to have somebody to talk to, and she knew I was intelligent. I read books. I was about as good a confidant as she was going to get.
I didn't like her very well either but she was my mom. I knew what she was up against. I knew it even better than she did. I knew I could not stand infidelity. I would have been telling Daddy what I suspected even if he tried to murder me. And I would have been out there riding with him, taking him away from the hired men. That's what I was doing. I was doing her job. I was teaching Daddy to value me more. I wanted him to depend on me and know that no matter what his faults were I would still love him.
Damn it, why couldn't she do that? She was always saying he didn't love her, but did she love him? No, no, no! She would talk about how much she loved Max, Daddy's younger brother who got killed. They were more the same age. Finally one day, Max hurt her feelings by telling her to stay out of his business. He probably felt uneasy about how much she liked him and he wanted her to stay back.
I knew how she loved Reed, that handsome young lady killer who worked for her that summer helping her make cheese. Even I suspected that she would have been in his arms in five seconds if he had been willing to romance a married woman. She would have run away with him. I bet you anything she would have left Margie and me with Grandma King.
But I still loved her. Yes, I did love Mother. She was tried by one of the toughest problems any wife could ever ever have. She had married a homosexual. Oh, I knew what that was now. I was reading enough about it that I had finally got a good idea what happened. He'd probably been molested I figured, enough that he acquired those tastes. He could have been born with the tendencies, too. It looked to me like Grandpa King might even have the problem. He was perfectly happy to be living alone with his hired men while Grandma had her church activities in town. Were they equal addictions?
Probably. You become addicted to whatever you do. Neither Aunt Hazel or Grandma wanted to leave town to go live on a lonely ranch. They jumped at the chance to live in town probably even when their boys would not mind them and they suspected they were coming home drunk. Aunt Hazel's two oldest boys, Stewart and Park, were now very bad to drink. The same thing was happening to them that had happened to their father, Uncle Glen, when he lived in town. Started drinking too much. Started drinking something terrible. All the King brothers became holy terrors to drink when they lived in town. Grandpa King would come home and crack the bull whip and then take them in the summer to the ranch and work them as hard as he could. But it was too late, they were already some of the worst drunks around.
I observed all the families around me. The Coleman boys did not drink! Neither did the Petersen boys. The Wilson brothers did not drink. Their dad, my granddad, kept them very close to him, always doing big projects so they would not have time to get into trouble.
What was the use of school in town if the boys were lost to alcohol? Grandpa King was a smart guy but I thought he was too willing to be parted from his wife. He had the problem, too, I was almost sure. Oh strike me dead if you will because of a suspicious mind, but these were the hard cruel facts of life. Alcoholics like my dad and his brothers were the worst thing that could happen to a family. Every week the same god damn dreary scene, Daddy drunk and Mother yelling, hollering, cursing. Mother never cried. She was too hot tempered. She would have beat Daddy, too, if she had been strong enough. She was a very fiery woman, more tiger than woman, more wild cat if you ask me. Hardly any tears in her. Just rage.
She could not think when she was mad. Nobody can. Even Daddy did not like to get her too mad. He was too tough to be really afraid of her. He knew he could whip her in a pitched fight. But she could not win with rage. He was too bad of an alcoholic. I wasn't sure but what he was not going to kill himself, somehow, just as Max had. Reed was gone from his family now, probably for good. They couldn't keep him away from alcohol. Poison whiskey could have started all his trouble.
Would Daddy be next to die?

Grandma King when she was young, a dream Grandma King, an auburn haired, browned eyed beauty.

Grandpa King when he was younger, a very powerful man, smart enough not to get addicted to alcohol.


LaRena said...

I really enjoyed your discourse about Salt Gulch. I never lived there long enough for it to get deep into my soul like it did yours. Still, even though I felt it weaas very beautiful in a different way than Boulder, it seemed somewhat eerie to me, with it's under ground connections and it's lonely atmosphere. LeNora didn't love it either if the teruth be known. She frequently talked about what she would do if something happened to Mac. I didn't think that would be happening, but felt there was a bit of fantasy of her escape. She tried to be nice to me but we were so different at that stage of life. About the only thing we had in common was our love for those delicious apples which grew in the orchard which actually belonged to LeFair's ranch. She hated that I was too lazy to bottle every single one. (She did her best to do so.) I cou8ln't believe how hard she worked with rock work and many chores. I found it quite maddening that Mac was so willing to go off cow punching and leave her all the chores to do. Still I related to him better for some reason.

Oh the water and the washes. One year when LeFair was working inPage I volunteeered to tend the water. He was very dubious but I knew I could do it. My Dad was there and even though he was to old to hardly pack a shovel he could direct me. I was warned many times to not let the water run down a gopher hole or it would cave off into the wash. I had a regular nightmare one night that it wes indeed going down a gopher hole. When I got to Salt Gulch sure enough it was exactly like my dream. I scurried to dig sod to shut the gopher hole before too much damage could be done. I proved I was no natural farmer.

One thing I admired about your Mother was her determination to go after what ever she wanted. I could hardly believe her ability to put together the case machinery and also learn to wire the motel for electrical. She could read and follow thos directions. I couldn't much and still can't to this day. If I can't figure something by myself I"m up the creek. It makes Robert crazy as he is an exacting direction follower. said...

That sinkhole story was so well told. I used to wonder, especially when tending water, if the ground would just drop out from under me. Mac said the one on his place dropped 20 feet/60 ft. across overnight! One walked softly down those rows. I didn't swim in Salt Gulch. Salt Gulch was a lonely place..I didn't blame Mother for escaping.

Gerry said...

I saw a sinkhole like the one Mac described right in the middle of the field where we used to cross, walking home the short way through the fields from school. It dropped over night, was at least 12 to 15 feet deep and more than that across. They must have had to haul a lot of dirt to fill it up, but they did so something would not fall into it. This dropped after I was married I think. I saw it! Fortunately it did not drop with me walking on it! Ha.

vooman's voice said...

I used to be very afraid of those big yellow blow snakes in Salt Gulch. I was sure one of those snakes was going to get me and squeeze me to death. I remember playing in Salt Gulch and there was on great, great big one looking right at me. One of them used to hang from banches of those big cottonwood trees too. I screamed and ran...that is probably my start of being so afraid of snakes.
I looked in a snake book and they don't list a blow snake. What kind of snake is that.I haven't seen the beauty of one in a cage. All yellow and black. Sharon Woolsey found one on E-day and carried it around all day it hung clear to her neck. She lay it down on the grass and it disappeared. It had been faking dead for hours. Mother used to says they were good as they ate the gophers and other vermits.
I am really enjoying your book. I think your are getting in some great detail.

Cheryl said...

Another very interesting part of your memoirs. You are getting at some important events with great detail.

Gerry said...

I didn't write a lot about the yellow blow snakes but they were the most common ones around. They upset me by going after the baby birds in their nests, but it was the rattlesnakes I feared. I nearly stepped on a big snake curled on the steps of the cellar. I shuddered at the thought it might have been a rattlesnake, but it was a blow snake thank goodness. A rattlesnake could do you serious damage by the time you got to the doctor. I was always scared of them in Salt Gulch, because they were so dangerous.


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