Friday, October 2, 2009

Hauling Potatoes - Walking Tall

During the winter of 1921, Dell, Andrew, and I made a number of wagon trips loaded with potatoes to Sunnyside from Wellington where we lived. We had Uncle Earl Stevensen and his wife, Aunt Chasty, and Uncle Johnny Richards and Aunt Evia all living in Sunnyside. Uncle Johnny was in the butcher business. He lived about a mile and a half out of town. He had a regular house built over a wagon and that was his meat wagon. The meat wagon would go to town six days a week loaded with a variety of meat.

Uncle Earl, Aunt Chasty, and Uncle Johnny would take potato orders for us - a sack of one hundred pounds. Then they would let Mama know how many orders they had. If there were enough orders, Mama would send two wagons. Each wagon would be loaded with thirty to forty sacks of potatoes. Bill Jones, our neighbor, a true friend and a good Mormon, would take his team and wagon along with our team and wagon following him. He went with us a couple of times and from him we learned about how many sacks of spuds to load on a wagon. First, we had to learn that the wagons had to be well greased each trip. Our horses, Ted and Jack, were bigger and stronger than old Bess and Nell. Therefore, we would put about ten more sacks of potatoes on the wagon that Ted and Jack would pull.

After a couple of trips, Mr. Jones didn’t go with us any more. He had a large family and his time was valuable to him. I have heard mama say she had trouble trying to get Mr. Jones to take any money. Mama, being a widow with six children. Mr. Jones felt it his God given duty to do all he could to help mama. In later life, I met Mr. Jones and his family a number of times and, always, God was first in his life. I have never forgotten how he helped our family.

It wasn’t easy hauling and selling our potatoes at Sunnyside. It was dead winter and extremely cold. We had to line the sides and the bottom of the wagon boxes with quilts and also cover the top of the spuds with quilts. It was so darn cold!

In those days people would iron their clothes with what they called drop flat irons which they heated on the stove. While they ironed, they had maybe three or four drop irons on the stove getting hot. When the one they were using began to get cold, they would set it on the stove and, with their fingers press a little latch, which would unlock off the iron, then they would hook the handle on a fresh hot iron the same way and go on ironing.

Well, Mama would heat two or three of these flat irons, wrap them in a sack or blanket to hold the heat, then she would place the irons at our feet. She always put a couple of heavy denim quilts across our laps and over our shoulders. At least a half dozen times, she would tell us to be careful, kiss us good-bye then we would call out to the teams. “Get up Ted and Jack, get up Bess and Nell” and we’d be on our way.

If we got to Sunnyside in time, we would try to deliver as many of the sacks of potatoes as we could, if we had the house numbers of the people who had ordered them. But, generally, we would have to take them to Uncle Johnny’s place where he had a cellar and we would unload all the spuds, then load them again the next morning and deliver them. This was difficult for me because I couldn’t quite lift a hundred pounds of spuds. However, I could work in the wagon and would grab a sack by the ears and drag the sack to the back of the wagon, then, Dell or Andy, and sometimes Uncle Johnny would carry the spuds into the cellar and out again the next day. I believe I finally got the strength to help carry the spuds.

We had to haul four or five bales of hay with us to feed the horses. Most of the time, we had a lot more potatoes than we had orders for, then we would go from door to door trying to sell our spuds.

I can’t remember for sure but it seems to me the price was $1.25 a hundred. I can also remember many disappointments. We had lived in Sunnyside and knew a lot of people. I would think surely Mr. And Mrs. Buckly will buy a sack of potatoes, but they wouldn’t. And a great many would try to jew us down. And maybe our hay for our horses would be all gone, and we had to drive twenty miles to Wellington. Dell and Andy would say, “We’ll let you have a sack for a dollar or maybe seventy five cents.” And again, we wouldn’t be able to sell.

We would take the left over potatoes down and put them in Uncle Johnny’s cellar. Then we would go home with our teams, and Uncle Johnny would take a couple of sacks of spuds each day in the meat wagon and try to sell them for us. All in all it was a tough roll, a hard go. We were between a rock and a hard place. This was all the money mama would have. In those days, there was no relief and mama had six children, the oldest being just twelve years old.

Dell, Andy, and I were all three short horns. We didn’t know sickum, but we were beginning to spread out and to walk tall in our society. We were finding that money to a great many people was their God. We were beginning to find out that to a great many people, a man’s success was judged by the size of the check he could write.

God said, “Love thy neighbor, do unto others as you wish to be done by, peace on earth good will towards all men.”

The cold business world has no place for these bible teachings. Money is too valued and it’s always “first hog to the trough.” But once in a while, we do meet a real good Christian whose convictions are leading him to a much higher victory. Such a person was our great and wonderful neighbor Bill Jones and his wife and children.

The Light in the Sun Went Out

It wasn’t long after that in the fall of 1921, that dad, John Alma Peterson, began to get sick. Dad wouldn’t go to a doctor. I don’t believe he had much faith in doctors and referred to them as “pill pushers.” And so he kept working on the farm. In October, the potatoes were ready to harvest and dad employed two men. He also hired about fifteen teenage boys and girls to pick up potatoes behind the potato digger which was pulled by four head of horses driven by one of the men.

Dell and Andy were kept busy, each driving a team of horses pulling a wagon loaded with sacks of spuds the two miles to town to the potato cellar where the other man, with Dell’s and Andy’s help, would unload and carry the sacks into the cellar and dump them into different bins. The spuds couldn’t be bruised or they would spoil.

We kids were kept busy, for we each carried a bucket which we filled with spuds, and then carried it over and dumped it into a gunny sack. Dad and the bigger boys would jiggle the sack up and down so it would be good and full. Then they would leave the sack sitting upright and in a straight row. When the team and wagon got back from town, dad and one or two of the bigger boys would hurry and load the wagon and send it back to town in just a few minutes.

I really wanted to be like Dell and Andy and drive one of the wagons hauling potatoes, and I begged dad to let me, but he said that I wasn’t strong or old enough to handle and carry the sacks of potatoes into the cellar. This short horn always wanted to do whatever my older brothers were doing.

Dad was sick, but he just kept on working, even when the thrashing machine came with its crew. Mama kept after him to go to Price to see a doctor but, again, he refused saying that whatever he had would soon pass over. Finally, he was too sick and had to go to bed.

Unknown to dad, mama went down to Grandpa Golding’s store and asked permission to use the phone. She called Dr. Fisk at Price and asked him to come and see dad. Dr. Fisk sent his assistant, a young Dr. Bosh, just out of school and to whom people were getting more faith in all the time. He was a very good doctor. He wore leather leggings and a cap with dark goggles. He drove a Paige car. In those days, all cars were open. They didn’t have windows like they do now. They carried curtains and if it looked like a storm was brewing, they would stop and button on the curtains.

After Dr. Bosh examined dad, asking mama and dad a lot of questions, he told mama that dad was a mighty sick man and should have had medical attention a long time ago! He told dad to stay in bed. He left some medicine and then left saying he would be back in a couple of days.

One evening we boys and some of our friends were having a watermelon bust. We had a fire out by our pond and were minding our own business when a couple of young men came along on bicycles. They stopped, uninvited, and began to eat our watermelon which was ok since we had plenty. But then they started using bad language and were just plain rough.

Dell asked them to go, which didn’t sit well with them, and they refused and slapped Dell. I had gone to the house more than once to tell dad and mama what was going on. Dad told me to go back out and tell the young men to leave or he would get out of bed and come out. Mama went out to the fire and politely asked the young men to leave. They jeered and said, “What kind of a man is Mr. Peterson to send his wife to do a man’s job?” Mama said, “My husband is a very sick man and I think you know it. Now you go about your business and leave these boys alone.”

She went back into the house but instead of leaving, the young men became more abusive and plain mean. One of them twisted my ear, with me telling them that my dad would come out and beat the socks off them. They just told me to go and get my dad, which I did. First he hollered out the window and told them to leave us alone, but they hollered back and told him to “come and make us.”

Mama tried to keep dad in bed, but no sir. He slipped on his Levies and shoes, not stopping to tie his shoes, and out to the fire he went. Now dad was real sick but sick as he was, he grabbed one fellow in one hand and the other young man in his other hand. He did not hit them with his fists. He did not kick them. He just shook them real hard, and then he bounced them against each other real hard. Dad said, “Are you ready to leave? I better make sure.” He then gave them another good shaking. By then they were ready to leave and kept saying so. Andy and Dell got the bikes, and dad picked up each young man and put them on their bicycles, rough like, and gave them a shove. They each fell, but got up as quick as they could and took off.

Dad didn’t say a word. He just walked back over to the house and got back into his sick bed. Dad was all man. I have had other men tell me about my father. How powerful and strong he was. How he was always willing to go the extra mile to help a person.

After the rumpus with the young men, dad got out of bed just one more time. It must have been around or after the first of November and mama needed some wood cut for the kitchen stove. She asked me to go and try to cut some wood, and I did the best I could, which wasn’t very good being just a nine year old trying to cut fire wood off a big pine or cedar log. Mama could see I was having trouble so she came out to the wood pile, took the axe from me and began to try to chop the wood. Dad could see all this, looking out the window and him lying in his sick bed. It went against dad’s nature, this was a man’s job to cut wood, not a woman. Above all, dad loved mama and he couldn’t stand it, so he got out of bed, slipped on his pants and shoes. Again, his shoes were open and not laced. He came out to the wood pile, as quick as mama saw she said, “Al, what in the world you doing out of bed? Go back into the house this very second and get back into bed.” But father kept coming toward mama. He reached over and took hold of the axe, which mama didn’t want to give up.

Dad was so bad he couldn’t talk. All he could say was ahhhhhhh. Poor mama was crying, but dad took the axe and cut a pile of wood. Then he looked at me and said, “Aahhhh,” pointing at the wood he had cut and motioning for me to carry it into the house and fill the wood box . I said, “I’ll do it daddy, I’ll do it.” Then my daddy, the greatest man that ever lived, drove the axe into a log. He turned, walked back into the house, got back into bed, never to get up again.

I don’t know where Dell and Andy were. They must have been working on the farm getting a load of hay or some other chore. Dell was only twelve and those logs would have been extremely hard even for Dell to cut. I have wondered since, where our neighbors were, etc. Someone certainly was asleep.

My Uncle Earl Stevensen, married to mama’s sister Aunt Chasty, spent as much time as he could at dad's bedside. However, he worked in the mine in Sunnyside and had to make a living. Dr. Bosh had brought Dr Frisk with him a couple times to see dad and they tried to find out what was the matter. I don’t believe they knew what dad’s trouble really was. Andy has often said to me, "If we boys had only had the presence of mind to tell the doctors about the eagle sinking its claws into dad’s arm, maybe it would have helped and maybe it wouldn’t." Who knows? Perhaps dad had told them before he lost his voice and couldn’t talk.

Dad’s condition worsened. His brothers: Uncle Marinues, Uncle Andrew, Uncle Dave came to be with dad. I remember going to dad’s bedside, getting on my knees, and praying to our Heavenly Father to please let our daddy live. I did this not just once but many times. I know Dell, Andy, mama, our small sisters did the same thing. I remember dad putting his hand on my head as I knelt in prayer for him. I said, “You’re going to be ok Daddy.” He nodded his head yes. While dad was so sick and our uncles were there, some of us kids were staying with our neighbors. I was staying with the Bill Jones family.

Bill Jones and his family had proven their friendship to us many times. They had a phone in their house and on the morning of November 21, 1921, I had just eaten breakfast and had left the house and was walking down to the corral to get my horse to go to school, when someone called me to come back to the house for a minute. I somehow had an idea what was the matter. I walked back and into the house. The Joneses had a large family, everything was quiet. Mr. Jones said, “We just received word, your father has passed away.”

The light in the sun went out! Mrs. Jones put her arms around me. She and Mr. Jones said,
"We're so sorry, Cotton." I thanked them all and walked out the door. I went to the corral and got my horse. I rode west toward Price. I had a cousin, Glen Olsen, driving a little bunch of cows. He had driven them clear from Mountain Home, Utah, and I knew Dell and Andy had gone to meet Glen, so I rode up the road to give the message to them. It was not until I was alone that I let the tears flow. This nine year old boy sobbed and shook convulsively. Dad had been sick a long time. We all knew he was deathly sick. And, yet, his death was such a shock! It was as though the light had gone out of the sun!

Our neighbor, John Rich, made dad’s coffin. Uncle Marinus Peterson took charge, I’m sure, at Castle Dale. He saw dad’s grave was dug. He had a big box made to put the coffin in. The funeral was held in Wellington. And then John Pinegar hauled dad, in his coffin, in the back of his truck, I suppose a Model T, to Castle Dale where dad had a plot of ground of his own and where he was laid to rest.

Mama and six children under twelve years of age, a lump in each of our throats, tears rolling down our cheeks, each of us, eyes red from crying, and each wondering what it was all about. Why did God permit our dad to die?

Dad died Nov 21 of this year, 1921. Andrew always believed and still believes at the time of this writing, that the eagle caused father’s death. Dad had a horrible fever at the time of his death. They didn’t have hospitals in those days. Dr. Bosh and Dr. Fisk came to the house a couple of times a week. Dad begged for ice, he would chew it up as if he were starving for something cold because of his high fever. Andy feels the mother and father eagle in feeding their young, mostly wild rabbits which they tore to pieces with their claws or talons, and by the same method, when the young eagle sank it’s claws into dad’s arm it possibly gave him rabbit fever or some other kind of disease not known to doctors in 1921. If it happened today, Dad would have never died.

Our hope is centered not in the ashes of what once was but in the majestic grandeur of what is to be, and, being sixty five years old at the time of this writing and having passed through the streams of time, I am as Job of old when he said, “I know that my redeemer lives.” My love for my dad has never diminished. Of all the men I have ever known, there never was another so wonderful, so great, as good as my dad.

My great ambition and the strength I pray for are to again to see him. And to present my children, his grandchildren to him, his great grandchildren, etc. and to have dad say, as he holds out his arms to all of us, “ Welcome home my children!”

Then the light in the sun will come over the horizon.

The following is dedicated to my dad, John Alma Peterson. If only my children could have known him. I found myself with tears rolling down my face as I wrote “The Light in the Sun Went out” as if it happened yesterday. I am sixty-five years old as I write this, and I still ask," Why did God take him home?”

I follow a famous father
His honor is mine to wear
He gave me a name
That was free from shame
A name he was proud to bear
He lived in the morning sunlight
He marched in the ranks of right
He was always true to the best that he knew
And the shield that he wore was bright

I follow a famous father
And never a day goes by
But I feel that he looks down on me
To carry his character high
He lived through the sorest trials
As only a brave man can
And though his form be gone
I must never wrong
The name of so good a man

I follow a famous father
Not known to the printed page
Nor written down In the world’s renown
As a prince of his little age
But never a stain attached to him
And never did he stoop to shame
He was bold and brave
And to me he gave
The pride of an honest name

I follow a famous father
It is him I must keep in mind
And though his form be gone
I must never wrong
The name that he left behind
It was mine on the day that he gave it
And it shows on a Monarch Crown
And as fair to see as it came to me
So it must be when I lay it down

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Wagon Train of Gypsies

On the old Price and Wellington road, at that time, just before you entered the town of Wellington was a group of trees and, among these trees, several Gypsies were camped. They were traveling east in covered wagons. They had teams of horses that pulled the wagons, four or five saddle horses, a lot of dogs, plus several goats. Milk goats which they staked along the ditch bank and milked each morning and evening. They had a lot of kids from babies on up.

In addition to the animals named, they had a big black bear, which they kept chained to a tree. There was at lease one man and sometimes two or three people watching and keeping people away from the bear. They told us kids and everyone else, I suppose, that if we irritated the bear and if he got mad, the bear would break the chain. The chain wouldn’t hold him and it was possible the bear might kill and even eat us up! Well, us kids weren’t about to bother that old bear other than to look at him.

The Gypsies had signs up and down the road above and below their camp, plus the tree the bear was chained to, was just a few feet off the highway and in plain sight of anyone passing up and down the road. The bear was always pacing back and forth, to and fro. There weren’t many cars in those days and the road was plain dirt, but what cars, wagons, buggies did come along, all stopped to see the bear. He was the big attraction, and I am sure the first live bear this young squirt had ever seen, up to that point.

When the people stopped to see the bear, a big man named Tony, would lecture to the people about the bear. How he had caught him, where he caught him, how old he was. The Gypsy man, Tony, would show scars on his body proving indeed that Tony had had some real narrow escapes and harrowing experiences with the black bear. Tony, also, told the people if they would come to Wellington on a certain night down to the Norton store where there was a hard wood floor and plenty of space, he would make the bear roller skate. In addition to this, Gypsy Tony offered a very handsome sum of money to any man who would wrestle and throw the bear. I don’t remember how much money but a large sum. This was quite a challenge to a lot of men. Earn Milner was a big two hundred and fifty pound strong young man. A lot of the fellows about town tried to get him to try the bear, but he wouldn’t. They also tried to get my dad to wrestle the bear. Dad also refused.

The Gypsy man, Tony, said he would wrestle the bear, but would prefer to wager a sum of money in favor of the bear, against any man, no matter how big or how professional the man was. Tony was wanting to bet his bear could throw any man. When people stopped to look at the bear, the Gypsy women, especially young ladies in their teens, would mingle among them and try to get the people to let them read their palms, tell their fortune. I sure would eye these Gypsy girls dressed in their bright clothing, etc. The men too wore pants tucked into boots, a wide sash about their waist, plus a turban about their head. They were a strange people to all us kids.

Every day as we passed the Gypsy camp, going to work up to the farm, was quite an experience to a young boy like me. Dad stopped only once that I can remember and walked over to look the bear over. And, of course, the Gypsy women wanted to tell his fortune, also to get him to wrestle the bear. I, Dell, and Andy, would beg father, after we got home from the farm, to let us go up and visit the Gypsy camp. For a long time, Dad said, “No, those people mean trouble. I want you boys to stay away from them.” But he saw other kids about their camp, so finally, dad let us go to the Gypsy camp a few times.

The Gypsies told us the big man Tony was their king! And I suppose his wife was their queen. Anyway, he was their king and whatever he said for them to do they would do it. Some of the Gypsy kids, big boys and girls, and men and women would go from door to door asking for eggs, butter, bread, flour, sugar, all kinds of food, and I know a Mormon town, our religion teaches us to give, if we knew the truth, the Gypsies did real well!

Then, too, the women folks, always two together, would knock on every door. They had a lingo they would tell the people. They were gifted by a great power and for a dollar or fifty cents, they would like to read the palm of their hands telling their fortune, even, I am sure, promising good luck. Andy says two of these women came to our house. I don’t think mama would let them tell her fortune. However, Andy says they did tell mama there was going to be a big change in our family.

I remember one day, we were working on the farm, I believe piling hay. Some of these Gypsy women drove their buggy team up to the gate, left the team and one man in the buggy outside the fence. The two women came through the gate, started walking over to where we were piling hay. Dad said, “Keep working boys.” He met and talked to the two Gypsy women. I can remember this, I was real curious and I, Dell, and Andy were wondering if dad was going to let them tell his fortune. Finally, the Gypsy women left and dad came back to where we were piling hay. We asked, “Dad, did you let them tell your fortune?” Dad kind of chuckled. He said, “I gave them fifty cents to get rid of them! But I don’t believe and I don’t want you boys to believe in fortune tellers.” “Ya, but dad, what did they tell you?” “Oh, a bunch of junk,” dad replied, and let it go at that.

However, I and my brothers, Dell and Andy, can remember hearing dad say, “I might kick the bucket this fall!” That is one of the ways dad expressed it. Another phrase was, “Maybe, I’m gonna croak this fall.” I, Andy, and Dell always did believe the two Gypsy women did tell dad he was going to die.
Well, Dad didn’t believe in Gypsy fortune tellers and neither do I. But the Gypsy in a lucky hocus pokus guess, I suppose, hit the nail on the head that time because dad did pass away in November of that year.

We couldn’t wait for Saturday night to come because that was the night Tony, the Gypsy king, was going to wrestle the bear. Dad had told us we would all go and see it. Us boys couldn’t believe a bear could skate, roller skate, and wrestle a man. For us three young buttons, well, we just couldn’t believe it. Everyone was talking about it, and it was really going to be something to see! Saturday finally came, and working on the farm with dad and my brothers, it was an exciting and a very long day for me, just a button, still wet behind the ears. It seemed as though the day would never pass. But it did, and we found ourselves on a wagon loaded with loose hay headed for home and so we passed the Gypsy camp.

Sure enough there was the old bear chained to the tree close to the road pacing to and fro. Dad said, “No man alive can throw that bear. I want you boys to know that. That bear will weigh at least four hundred pounds and his strength is equal to a small horse. That bear will tear hallow tree logs apart to get wild honey. He can kill a big buck deer with one hard stroke of the paw. Can’t you boys see why no man will wrestle with the bear? You boys stop and take time to think. Tony, the Gypsy king, knows no man can throw his bear. That is the reason he is willing to bet a lot of money, even two dollars to one that no man can throw his bear. You boys don’t want to believe anything these people tell you. If they tell you something, come to me or to your mother and we’ll tell you if it’s true or not. Do you boys understand this?” We all answered, “Yes, dad.”

When we got home, Dad, Dell, and Andy unloaded the wagon load of hay. Dad would pitch the hay off the wagon up onto the stack, and Dell and Andy would place it about on top of the stack. When working in the hay, each night Dad would bring home a big load and stack it so we wouldn’t have to haul it in the winter.

The main road passed our house and we were just finishing supper, when down the road came the Gypsies. They had the bear loaded in a big iron cage on a wagon pulled by a team of horses. The harnesses on the horses were a bright white and red. The Gypsies were all decorated real pretty. Their king, the man Tony, was driving the team. All the Gypsies were following the wagon and a couple men were playing accordions. They marched up and down two or three streets doing this to attract attention before they stopped at the Norton store. By this time, every kid in town, big and small, was a following the Gypsies and I was one of them.

In spite of everything I had heard about them and the many stories, boy howdy, to me they were ok! And I just wished I was one of them. They didn’t have to work and every night there was music, dancing, and laughter in their camp. To a young squirt like me, I thought they were ok. In fact, dad said he thought he would give me to them!

At the Norton store, there were a lot of people. Us kids had to pay ten cents. Adults, I think, paid fifty cents, which in those days, was considered real high. I sat behind a heavy glass door on top of the counter. I could look around the side or through the top of the door which was glass. I mention this because of what took place later. Finally, the time came that we had all been waiting for. The man Tony, the king of the Gypsies, entered with the bear. He paraded around the floor a couple of times, then, he commanded the bear to sit on a little stool. Then Gypsy Tony lifted one of the bear’s back feet and put a shoe with a roller skate attached on the bear’s foot. While Gypsy Tony was doing this, the old bear growled! All the time, Tony kept talking to the bear, then, he picked up the other foot, the bear still sitting on the stool, and put the other skate on. All us kids watching, personally, I know this bear can’t skate.

The Gypsy man Tony took a hold of the lead rope. They had some kind of a chain halter on the bear. Tony now commanded the bear to stand and after a couple attempts, the bear made it to his feet. The people applauded loudly then the man began to lead the bear and the bear began to skate. Slowly at first, then faster and faster, as fast as the Gypsy man Tony could run around the store room floor went the man and the bear. It was wonderful and the people loved it. They applauded him again and again.

The bear had laid down. Now Tony commanded the bear to get up. After a couple attempts, the bear made it. Tony started about the room again, but this time in a figure eight and real fast. It was amazing! The bear was an excellent skater. No matter where Tony went or how fast, Mr. Bear was always there. When Gypsy Tony stopped this time, he stopped right by the door where I was sitting. He said there would be a fifteen minute intermission for him and the bear to rest before they wrestled. During this period, the Gypsy women were circulating among the people telling people’s fortunes and trying to get people to let them read their palms.

Anyway, this short horn, who doesn’t have enough brain power to pour water out of a boot, is sitting on the counter, behind the door, looking through the top glass part of the door, and what does this youngun do to show off, I begin to growl and to growl through the glass at the bear. The man Tony is talking to a couple men and paying no attention. He doesn’t know what is going on. Finally, that bear gets plumb fed up having me pull faces and growling at him. The bear draws back one paw and “Wham” he lets go at me. He don’t hit me, but he does hit the wood part of the door, which comes back against my legs with a bang making a lot of noise. Immediately, Tony and the two Gypsy men he is talking to grab hold of the chain. They are shouting and pulling on the bear to get him away from me.

They made a big fuss, much more than I think was necessary, making a big show. They took the bear to the far part of the store, then Tony came back and asked us kids what we were doing. I wasn’t alone, some of my friends were with me. We told Gypsy Tony we weren’t doing anything. In broken English, Tony said, “I a know a you a boys a do a some a ting.” Then he said it was a good thing the bear still had the roller skates on or they wouldn’t have been able to handle him.

The Gypsy man Tony, a Gypsy king in his own right, a master of showmanship, began to walk up one side of the big store hall and then the other side of the hall, saying, “I, Tony, king of the Gypsies, will bet one hundred dollars against forty dollars. Come on.” But no bets. “I tell a you, I, Tony make a bet one hundred dollars against a twenty a dollars a. What a you a say?” Everybody wanted big Earn Milner to wrestle the bear, but Earn refused saying the same as dad had told us kids. No man could throw that bear, plus they had just seen the bear skate and it was an excellent skating performance, therefore, by this time, the people had a lot of respect for the bear.

They Gypsy man Tony took off his shirt. He also slipped off his long pants. He was bare down to the waist and from the knees down. Then Gypsy Tony, proudly strutted around each side and end of the hall telling the people and showing his scarred body. I was just a button, still wet behind the ears, however, I’ll never forget the man called Tony. His body was a solid mass of scars. His one breast had been completely torn off, arms had been chewed. The calves of his legs were knotted and scarred. His back, no matter where you looked, that bear had left his brand. Gypsy Tony told how each time his people had nursed him back to life and of his determination to conquer the bear to be a real king, the Gypsies could be proud of.

Tony led the bear out to the middle of the hall. He then took the long lead chain off the halter, replacing it with a short rope which was braided. He commanded and the bear stood up his full height, the bear looked taller than Tony. They began to circle each other, then they closed in, the wrestle was on. They had each other about the body in what we would call, and this was, a real bear hug. Tony was grunting. You could tell by his muscles he was doing the very best he could to throw his bear! Then the bear picked Tony up and throwed him to the floor, not too gentle and not too hard. The bear was on top and soon Tony began to call out enough, enough! The referee, a Gypsy man, grabbed hold of the short rope. He pulled and hollered loudly and the bear got off Tony. Fall one was over in favor of the bear. The people applauded again and again. They liked the bear. Tony, the Gypsy king, was becoming more and more respected and appreciated. His customs and his system of living much different and yet in his own right and among his own people, Tony, indeed, was a king.

Fall two, they rang a dong, each from opposite sides of the hall, walked to the center of the floor and again, they circled each other. Then they took hold of each other’s arms, as though they were sizing each other up, then Tony and the bear fell to the floor, then Tony got a scissor hold around and just above the hips of the bear. Tony’s toes and feet were locked. Everyone thought Tony had a good hold, however, the bear merely reached down, took hold of Tony’s feet and easily pulled them apart. Then the bear was on top of Tony and, soon, the man began to holler, and fall number two was over and, again, the people applauded. They liked that bear!

Fall three was a little different. They circled each other, then closed in, this time, I believe, the bear let the man Tony get him on the floor. Tony, his body was glistening with sweat. There was no question but what he was straining and working real hard. This time, Tony threw the bear to the floor, Tony on top of the bear. They struggled a few minutes or seconds. Then the bear turned Tony over on the floor and sat on top straddling Tony, pinning the Gypsy man, and, again, made him say enough! Fall number three and the wrestling match was over. Three falls, all in favor of the bear. The people applauded. They were well satisfied with what they had just seen.

Dad gathered his three boys together saying, “It’s all over, come let’s go home.” And as we walked, he asked each of us, “Did you like what you just seen?” We each replied, “Yes, dad, we thought it was great!” Dad said, “Now you can see why no man wanted to wrestle the bear, because the bear has the strength of a small horse and the king of the Gypsies done a good job of training that bear!”

It is 1977 and the years have passed by. Thousands of times, the man called Tony, the king of the Gypsies, and his bear have passed through my mind. I know nothing about these people or how to choose a king, but to me, just a short horn and beginning to spread out in the world, Tony, the Gypsy, was, in deed, a king.

I do not believe in fortune tellers, the reading of palms. However, the two Gypsy women, who came to the farm, they read dad’s palm. He said, “I just gave them fifty cents to get rid of them.” However, I and my bothers, Dell and Andy, heard dad say a couple of times “I might kick the bucket this fall, or maybe I’m gonna croak this fall.” I and Andy have talked about this. He also remembers.

This about covers the territory. The Gypsies hooked their teams to their wagons and headed east. I’ll never forget the team with the beautiful red and white harness. This was the team that hauled the bear in the iron cage and driven by, none other than, Tony, the king of the Gypsies.

The Water Snake

We didn’t live in the grainery at the farm very long, just long enough for dad to find and buy us a new home in town. It was almost a new house with a beautiful orchard of trees, fruit trees, corrals, stock yard, pond for water, etc. After father bought the home in town, we would travel back and forth to the farm with team and wagon.

At this time, I was in the third grade and Mrs. Charlotte Liddell was my teacher, The third and fourth grades were in the same classroom. At the back and in the right hand corner of the room was a table, and on top of this table, was a screened pen and in this pen, our teacher kept several snakes. A couple blow snakes, the rest water snakes. Mrs. Liddell would lecture to us kids about snakes, that they were harmless and that they did a lot of good catching and eating mice, rats, bugs, insects, etc.

Mrs. Liddell had told us kids if we saw snakes, not to kill or hurt them, but to bring them to school where they would be put in the pen with the other snakes. It was my job to help take care and to help find lizards, mice, bugs, etc. to feed the snakes. I liked this and felt like a big shot. I had a key and could open the door, and I would reach in and get a certain snake and hold it or give it to Mrs. Liddell when she was giving a lecture on snakes.

We had a nice big fat blow snake. Maybe four or four and a half feet long. He was extremely cranky. He would often throw his head up and back, open his mouth real wide, and blow and hiss for all he was worth! This big blow snake kept getting out of the pen, and we couldn’t find out where he was getting out. Everything looked tight. I had caught him and put him back in the pen several times. Each time, he didn’t like it, and he would blow and make hissing noises! Also, he would let out a very unpleasant odor that was real hard to take.

My teacher, Mrs. Liddell, suggested we move my seat down against the snake pen so I could keep an eye on old blow snake to see how in the world he was getting out of his pen! This we did and one day, I watched the blow snake crawl up the side of the screen wall till he came to a place where two screens met and had been tied together. He pushed his head into what you would believe to be an impossibly small opening. Old blow snake began to push and push. The opening never gave, but the snake’s head and body flattened and, before we knew it, he was out of his pen. I had called our teacher and the whole class watched this, and a half inch thick, four and a half foot long snake crawled through a half inch opening. Unbelievable!

One day, at the farm, I and Andy found a very nice big fat, maybe three and a half foot long water snake, and that is a good size for a water snake, at least in this part of Utah. Up at the farm, out in the yard, was an old stove and into the oven of this stove, we put Mr. water snake. We wanted to take the water snake to school as Mrs. Liddell had asked us to do, if we found any kind of a snake, except a rattler.

However, Andy and I had a problem, “How to get the water snake to town and to school without dad finding out we had the snake!” This was our problem. It was about two miles to town, and we were usually in a wagon or on top of a load of loose hay, or us kids would be riding double on one of the horses. At night after school and weekends, we always had to go to the farm to work as there was always plenty of work to do.

I and Andy had that snake in the stove oven for a couple of weeks, and we were getting desperate as to how we were going to get him to school. Dad was always with us in the wagon going home each night. That snake had about as much chance of riding to town in the wagon with us, if dad knew we had him, as a fox would have looking for a fair trial if caught stealing chickens in a hen house. Dad didn’t like snakes! I and Andy knew this. He was plumb spooky of snakes, and I don’t believe he liked anybody that did like snakes.

Well, we were getting desperate. Andy and I had been catching grasshoppers, bugs, etc. feeding the snake. This time out at the farm, we were going home in an empty wagon. This wagon had a spring seat, enough room for three people to set in and be comfortable. Dad always made us ride on the seat with him so he could talk to us about school. Dad had great plans for his boys to get an education and to make something of themselves.

Andy and I had found an old gallon, maybe bigger, honey bucket, with a lid that clamped on the top. Andy said, “I’ll tell you what, Cotton, we’ll put the snake in the bucket, and when we get in the wagon, you sit in the middle, that way I’ll be on the outside and I’ll hold the bucket with the snake in it. Ok?” I said, “OK.” “And when he asks us what’s in the bucket, we will tell him we got some grasshoppers and a couple frogs for the snakes that Mrs. Liddell has in school. What do you say,?” Andy asked. Now dad knew all about our teacher and her snakes, so I thought a little and said, “Ok, Andy, I believe it will work.” It almost did.

I can still hear dad saying, “Well, boys it’s Saturday and we’ve done a good days work. Let’s call it a day. You boys hitch the team to the wagon while I change this setting of water and we’ll go home a little early.” I and Andy already running to the corral getting the horses and hooking them to the wagon. Then, waiting a few minutes for dad, Andy had the snake in the honey bucket and sitting on the far side of the seat. I told Andy, “Be sure to leave the lid open just a little so the water snake can breath.” “Yea, I know, don’t worry, the snake will be ok. It’s dad I’m worried about. If he looks in the bucket, he will give us the dickens, not only for having a snake, but especially for telling him such a big whopper of a lie!” We both were worrying. I know Andy was as scared as I was. For one thing, Dad never never would stand for any of us to tell him a lie. No matter how trivial or simple the lie was about. Dad was extremely honest and straight forward and he wanted to instill this principle into his children.

Dad came and I handed him the lines. He said, “How come you are sitting in the middle and how come you want me to drive?” I said, “Oh, I don’t know. I just thought I would ride in the middle and let you drive for a change.” This was very unusual because I was always quarreling and arguing about me driving. If there was anything to do with the horses, that’s what I wanted to do, and the driver always sat on the right outside of the seat. Dad spoke to old Ted and Jack and we headed for town and home.

The horses traveled at a fast walk and sometimes a slow trot. Dad asked Andy what he had in the bucket. Andy said, “I and Cotton caught some grasshoppers and a couple small frogs for the snakes at school. Mrs. Liddell asked us to try and get something for them to eat. “Well, I don’t know,” dad replied, “I don’t think it’s a good idea to have snakes in school, and besides, to feed them poor grasshoppers and especially the frogs to them snakes. I don’t like it! Them frogs do a lot of good. They catch mosquitoes, bugs, insects, etc. They do a lot of good!” Dad never doubted for a second but what we were telling the truth!

Everything went fine. Just as we came into town, we were about to pass the Billy Tidwell home. Mr. and Mrs. Tidwell were sitting out on their porch and as we came along, they called, “Hello, Al!” Dad said, “Whoa!” and stopped the team. Mr. and Mrs. Tidwell both walked out to the wagon and began to talk to dad about the farm and about our milk cow that had got bloated real bad a few days before. Mr. Tidwell had stuck the cow in the left side to let the gas out and to keep the cow from dying.

All this time, Andy is holding the snake in the bucket and is leaving the lid open just a little so the snake could have air to breath. Well, glory be, holy smokes! Mr. water snake got tired of being in that bucket. He flattened himself and crawled out through the crack in the lid. Andy was busy listening to dad and Mr. and Mrs. Tidwell talking. I happened to look down and that water snake was almost all the way across my lap and well up and starting across my father’s lap. Boy howdy, I gulped and swallowed, missed a couple heart beats! I nudged Andy with my elbow. He looked down. We just sat and stared! Boy oh boy, I’ll never forget it. As I write this, I have to laugh and laugh. But at that time, it was no joke and, above all, no laughing matter!

Holy smokes! All at once, dad looked down. He saw that water snake! Dad let out a scream I’m sure they heard in the next county! Dad picked up the snake, quick as a flash, gave it a throw, the harness lines, everything! But the doggone snake lit either on Mrs. Tidwell or at her feet. She let out a scream and ran into her house! The team, it was a good thing, it was old Ted and Jack. If it had been Bess and Nelly, they would have runaway. Old Ted and Jack took a few steps, dad ran, picked up the lines, said “Whoa” and they stopped.

Dad said, “Boys, come with me.” He led us over to the Tidwell home. Mr. Tidwell was standing in the yard. Dad said, “Mr. Tidwell, will you ask Mrs. Tidwell to come out here. My boys have something to say to you people.” The door was open, Mrs. Tidwell could hear father, and she came out of the house into the yard where we were all standing. “Dad said, “Now, Mr. and Mrs. Tidwell, I didn’t know these boys had that water snake. I am terribly embarrassed. Now, Andy and Cotton, I want you boys to start at the beginning and tell the whole story about that snake. Don’t miss a single detail. Then when we get home, I’ll take care of you.” We both knew we were in for a licking, but we told the story.

We told how we had caught the snake two weeks before, how we had kept it in an old stove oven, how we caught grasshoppers and put them in the oven for the snake to feed on. We said we knew dad didn’t like snakes and we were afraid he would make us turn it loose or perhaps kill it. We told about how our teacher had told us boys if we seen any water snakes or blow snakes to bring them to school. We told we didn’t know any other way to get the snake to town so we decided to put it in the bucket and that Andy was supposed to keep the lid open a little so the snake could have air, and because the lid was open a little, the snake got out, crawled across my lap and onto the father’s lap.

Dad said, “Cloye, did you see the snake when it crossed your lap?” “Yes, I did,” I replied. “Then why didn’t you tell me instead of letting the thing scare the socks off me?” I and Andy replied, “We were afraid to say anything and we hoped it would turn back so we could catch it!” By this time, dad and Mr. and Mrs. Tidwell had gotten over their scare. They were all laughing and, what I mean, they really did laugh. Ha ha! Mr. Tidwell had laughed from the beginning. Mrs. Tidwell said, “I thought you were playing a joke on us!” Wiping the tears from her eyes because she had laughed so hard.

Well, this about covers the territory of the water snake. I think now, fifty six years later, if Andy and I had told dad, he would have helped us and everything would have been okay. But we were just buttons and beginning to spread out in the word and we did what we thought we had to do to get the snake to school.

During all this commotion, dad throwing the snake either on or at Mrs. Tidwell’s feet, also throwing the harness lines away and then jumping off the wagon and running, grabbing the lines and stopping the team, the water snake completely away, and I hope he raised a big family and had a long got and happy life.

The Eagle

We had a hay field that was alongside a marsh or swamp land. The grass was exceptionally high and provided coverage for a verity of birds. One day while working in that particular hay field, I suppose we were working close to the fence against the swamp, when we frightened three young eaglets. The birds would fly eight or ten feet at a time and then hit the ground. Well, being boys, Dell, Andy and I wanted to catch those young eaglets.

We climbed over the fence and took after the three beautiful eaglets. We tried, but we just couldn’t make the grade, especially me as I was too short legged. Dell and Andy would almost get their hands on one before it became air born then it would fly a short distance and then light. It seemed as though their bodies were too heavy for their wings. Again, Dell or Andy would almost get one of them in their clutches and then the bird would be off again.

Dad got into the chase and he did catch one. He had long legs, being around six feet tall, and he managed to get an eaglet into his hands. Boy Howdy! How it did fight! Flapping dad in the face with its long, spread out wings, and snapping at him with its beak. After dad caught it, I can remember dad telling us to keep away from it. He said it was dangerous. Every time we would put a stick or anything close to it, the eagle would make a loud noise each time it snapped its jaws together. Its jaw must have had a lot of power in it. It would break a small stick plumb in two.

During the fracas of catching the eagle, it sank its claws or talons into dad’s arm between the wrist and the elbow. Dell, Andy and dad, with me watching, had a hard time getting the eagle to turn loose. Dad didn’t want to hurt the bird and kept saying, “I don’t want to kill it in order to get it loose.” Finally, they got its claws out of dad’s arm. I can remember seeing the blood run down his arm and off his fingers.

We held the eaglet down with a greasewood bush, looking it over. It was a beautiful bird, a dark reddish brown color and, it seemed to me, it had a little white on its head. Dad thought it was unusual for eagles to hatch their young in swamp or marsh land. He thought usually they nested in high peaks, ledges, etc.

After looking it over and especially those talons and its beak with sort of a hook on it, dad said to let it go. We saw to it and got it back into the swamp where the others were.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Riding the Cultivator Horse

During the summer of 1921, we boys had many experiences working on the Powell farm. We had ten or twelve acres of potatoes. It seemed to me, we were always working in the potatoes. Dad was constantly cultivating the potatoes. It was my job to ride the cultivator horse. Dad held the walking cultivator. I had to be on the job all day long, wide awake, guiding Old Ted or Nig, the horses, whichever one we happened to be using, guiding him straight as I possibly could up and down each row of spuds. My rear end got so sore until it toughened. Sometimes, I could hardly set down. Once in a while, Andy and Dell would ride the cultivator horse, but dad said I was the lightest, and this would make it easier on the horse.

Then, after I and the horse were well broken into the job, and we both knew what we were doing, dad would let Dell and Andy spell him on the cultivator. Dad was very strict. If I got careless and let the horse get too close to either side of the rows of potatoes, then the cultivator would pull up the potato plants, and we would have to answer to dad. So I would try my best not to let it happen, but once in a great while, it did happen. Then, whoever was a holding the cultivator would holler out, “Hey you, wake up sleepy head,” and I would jerk myself back to reality.

That fall, Dad had about fifteen big boys and girls come each day to the farm to pick up spuds. He kept a couple or three wagon teams busy hauling the potatoes, sacked, to town where dad had a man dump the spuds in a bin in a long potato cellar for the winter. Dad was depending on cash from his potato crop to carry us through the next year, plus to make the payment on the new home in town he bought for his family.

One of dad’s main purposes in leaving the coal mine at Sunnyside and getting us on the farm was to teach his boys to work, and work we did! Especially Dell and Andy. They were eleven and twelve years old. Handling a cultivator was a man’s job but they did it.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Old Naked Spur

It seems to me when I was a short horn, I had to be in the middle of things. If you don’t, you feel like an old empty bottle. If there was any action, there is where I would be, and if there wasn’t any action, I would make some.

I was determined even when I was just a button, I suppose around three or four years old, I was going to be a cowboy and a few years later I did become a cowboy, a bronc rider, rodeoer, etc. But somewhere along the trail, there is a beginning.

One way or another I had come by an old spur. Just a plain, lone, single naked spur. No spur strap to hold the spur on my shoe. At this point, I had never owned such a thing as a cowboy boot. In them days, as I remember, they didn’t make cowboy boots for kids as they do now. I spent one whole fore noon finding a leather strap and fixing holes; and after many attempts, succeeded in getting the spur to stay on my shoe. I was about as happy as a frog in cool water over this achievement.

Next I needed a pair of cowboy chaps. To accomplish this venture, I found two round, empty Mother’s Oats cereal boxes. I cut holes in the bottom of each box just large enough to make each foot squeeze through and those were my chaps. And again, I’m plumb proud of myself. I now had a spur that would stay on my foot and a pair of imitation chaps. In my boyish mind, plumb good bull hide batwing chaps.

What I needed was a horse. Dad had a real fine brown, stocking legged, bald faced four or five year old mare. We called her Dolly. Old Dolly was about seven eighths thoroughbred and, boy howdy, what a horse! Lots of life, good action, a fine traveler. Dolly was way too much horse for a short horn like me, even if I had of had a world of experience with horses, which I didn’t have up to that point. I was young and green behind the ears for this type of horse. But I had seen Dell and Andy, my two older brothers, ride Dolly and I figured that if they could ride Dolly, I could too.

I had asked dad a number of times to let me ride Dolly. Dad always said, “Cotton (my nick name since my hair was so white), you’re just a button and still wet behind the ears and Dolly, well – she’s just too much horse for you to ride.” “But dad,” I’d say, “I ride old Ted, old Nig, or when Max Tidwell or Aaron Jones comes to see me, I ride their horses, and besides I have seen Dell and Andy ride Dolly and I’m as good a rider as they are.” Dad would say, “Dolly is a different kind of a horse than any of those other horses. They are cold blooded animals, gentle, can’t hardly get them off on a walk. And Max Tidwell’s and the Jones’ horses are kid ponies, but old Dolly is a hot blood, almost a full thoroughbred. She’ll run at the drop of a hat. That’s her nature. I worry about Dell and Andy riding her and I shouldn’t let them ride her. But Dell is three and a half years older than you and Andy is two and half years older than you, plus they have had more experience than you. Now, Cotton top, you’re just gonna have to set and scratch a while. This is final. Don’t ask me anymore about riding Dolly, because you can’t.”

But I wouldn’t take no for an answer. I had to learn for myself, the hard way. If you see a sign which states ‘wet paint, don’t touch!’ What do people do nine times out of ten, they have to put their finger against the paint to see for themselves if the paint is wet or not. They can’t help it. They do it. They won’t accept what the sign says.

In spite of what my father told me, ‘old Dolly was way too much horse for me,’ I had to find out for myself. One way or another, I was going to ride that mare if it was the last thing I ever done. Dad knew this. He had suspicion that the first time I got a chance I would be in the middle of that horse so dad told Dell and Andy to keep the riding bridle hid from me. This they did. I would beg them to tell me where the bridle was, but they wouldn’t.

After spending considerable time looking for the bridle, I gave it up and went and got a tie rope. I walked into the horse corral and singled Dolly out from the other horses. I walked up to her slowly, speaking low, “whoa Dolly, whoa, Dolly.” I got a rope around her neck and then I led her over to the side of a wagon and I put a loop over her nose. I got into the wagon and then onto old Dolly’s back. I was ready for my ride.
I eased her away from the wagon across the yard onto the road and started across the field along side the road towards the gate. Dolly began to trot and since I was riding bareback with nothing to hang onto I suppose I clinched my legs to old on and in doing so, touched her with that old naked spur. Holy Smokes! Old Dolly, when I touched her with that spur, she left the earth. When she hit the ground again, She was on a dead run. What I mean is that horse was packing the mail. Talk about the pony express. They weren’t even in it.

Part of the road was really muddy where irrigation water had puddled. I was scared. I thought for sure Dolly would fall when we hit the mud, but through it she went, mud flying in every direction. Across the field to the south fence then she turned east along the fence still on the road, running like the wind and the wind was whistling in my ears.
Then I began to worry. ”What will she do when she gets to the gate? Will she try to jump the gate?” My heart was in my throat! But when we got to the gate, Dolly kept going straight past the gate along the fence toward the south east corner. I thought she might hit the fence, but no, she turned north at the east corner and headed straight toward the big wash. The wash was man made to help drain a swamp and had grown to a considerable size.

Holy Smokes! Boy howdy! She can’t possibly jump that wash! No horse could jump that wash! To my eight or nine year old mind that seemed gigantic. Way too wide! Old Dolly is running like a bullet shot out of a rifle. I had buck fever and that cotton picken spur was still socked in clear up to the hilt. Dolly liked to run anyway and that old naked spur was added powder in the gun barrel.

We reached the wash and then we were sailing through the air like a bird. I looked down and saw the bottom of the wash a long ways down. Then I felt Dolly’s feet hit the ground. Holy Smokes! Dolly had jumped the wash! I had ridden her through all that mud and then she was a packing the mail, really running and then jumped the wash! I’m gonna be a real cowboy. Confidence came flooding back into my veins. Then my brain began to work. I finally realized that the spur was making things worse. I withdrew the spur but dolly kept running just like the wind. I kept pulling on the rope looped around her nose and saying, “Whoa Dolly, whoa Dolly,” but she just kept going like a streak. I was on a seven eights thoroughbred horse and she was a running away with nothing but a loop on her nose.

Dad had a patch of ground with lots of tumbleweeds and grain stubble. Andy had raked these weeds with a hay rake and team into a huge pile, thinking, I suppose, to have a big fire. As yet, he hadn’t started the fire but was standing there with a pitchfork in his hand watching me and old Dolly.

Dolly had turned at the northeast corner and was now running west and straight toward that big pile of weeds, which was also in the direction of the corral. I thought at first that she would go around the pile of weeds, then when we got closer, I thought, “Oh, oh, Dolly’s going to try and jump over the top of the weeds.” I also thought for sure “Ill fall off here.” But no, to my great surprise, Dolly went straight through that big high pile of weeds, weeds flying everywhere!

Boy, oh boy, then confidence again, I hollered to Andy, “Don’t you wish you could ride like me?” Andy told me afterwards that he never heard a sound just old Dolly running so fast that the wind whipped the words to nothing, no sound. Unconscious of what I was doing, I am sure that old naked spur was sunk clear to the shank of old Dolly. She was or had gone completely crazy with that spur in her ribs.

When one stands in the stream of time, older and experienced, he is much wiser or should be. I’ve done a lot of things in my life, but this one takes the whole biscuit. I must have been quite a sight with those round Mother’s Oats cereal boxes for chaps. Yes, sir, this young bucko must a been somethin to look at.

By this time, we had completely circled the east half of the farm. We were coming back up toward the corral where it all started from. Old Dolly kept going. She never slowed down or attempted to go into the horse corral where the other horses were. She passed the corral headed in the direction of the house. Holy smokes! Dad saw her coming and he ran between Dolly and the house waving his arms at the same time calling “Whoa, Dolly Whoa, trying to turn her into the corral.” But Dolly didn’t know what she was doing with that old naked spur in her ribs. Straight for the house she flew. She didn’t slow down one bit.

Just a split second before she hit the house, I tried to jump off. Dad said Dolly put on the brakes when she felt me slide off. Dolly braced her legs but too late – she hit the house with a jar and a thump that shook the entire building.

When I came too, I was lying on the bed with mama, dad and the family gazing down at me. Mama said, “How’s my baby boy?” (I didn’t like her to call me baby even if I was the youngest boy.) I said, “I’m ok. What happened?” They told me Dolly had hit the house about the same time as I hit the ground. I said, “Is Dolly hurt?” Dad said, “No, she is waiting outside for you to continue the ride.” I said, “Well, maybe we’d better wait till tomorrow.” Everyone laughed. I had a lump on my head about the size of an egg where my head had hit the ground.

By this time, I was sitting upon the side of the bed. Dad said “That’s some spur you got there.” I said, “Ya.” Dad asked, “Do you know what it’s for?” I said, “Ya, it’s to make horses go faster.” Again, dad and everyone laughed. Dad said, “To a certain extent yes, but a cowboy knows how to use his spurs. Sometimes cowboys ride good horses and lots of times they never use spurs at all. He’s got his spurs on his boots all the time, but he doesn’t have to use them. A plumb good horse responds to leg pressure, the way the cowboy speaks, or handles his body, etc. Old Dolly is one of these kinds of horses.

She’s a thoroughbred with lots of life, high spirited. It’s her nature to move quick and to want to run. You never need a spur or a whip on a wonderful horse like Dolly. Therefore when you socked that spur into her ribs, old Dolly went crazy! Plumb loco! She was running wild, plus you didn’t even have a bridle on her. I knew you wanted to ride that horse so that’s why I told both Dell and Andrew to hide the bridle from you. It was very foolish for you to think you could ride her with just a loop over her nose even if you didn’t have a spur on.

Now, Cotton, my son, you’re just a button and your beginning to spread out a little and you want to learn. I appreciate your ambitions, but remember you’re still wet behind the ears - young. I will never let you ride old Dolly until you are ready and can ride her. I don’t want you hurt. Is it a deal? You ride Dolly when I say so. How about it.” I said, “Ok, Dad, I won’t try again until you tell me. I promise.” However, at the very moment I said I wouldn’t ride Dolly again, I was planning my next ride. However I had graduated on one point. The next time Dolly and I got together, I would have a bridle on her and I would leave the old naked spur a hanging on a nail that had been driven into the side of the house.