The Personal Histories
Darvil Burns McBride & Josephine Phillips McBride
CHORES AND JOBS DURING MY YOUTH
From the time I was a tag-along kid in the little community of Glenbar, one chore I never minded was to take the big, blue dishpan that had sprung a few leaky holes out to the wood pile, where Dad and my older brothers chopped wood to supply the kitchen stove and fireplace. There I gathered up the chips making sure the dishpan always stayed full and sat handily by the stove. We used the chips for ready fuel to quickly increase the heat of the fire in the stove.
Soon, big enough to work the handle up and down on the water pump outside -- a short distance from the house -- I became a little more useful. Lacking running water inside, Mother kept two buckets of water at the sink-like counter where she accomplished most of her kitchen work. Not only I, but others were responsible for the task too, we all were supposed to watch and help keep the buckets sufficiently full. I’m ashamed to say though, Mother was sometimes neglected, and she had to fetch the heavy water.
Our old hook-horned cow even learned to work the pump. When the watering trough went dry, she simply visited the pump, hooked her horn over the pump handle and pulled it down. The handle would raise back up primed with its own power, and then she'd hook it again and pulled it down a couple or three times more until the water ran freely from the spout. She'd slurp and lap at the cool stream, continuing the procedure until she slaked her thirst.
At five and six years of age, Grandfather Peter McBride and I became great pals. He took advantage of this and my hang-around ways to put me to work. He kept several hundred laying hens, and took me along to help gather eggs. He always paid me in kind, usually an egg a day. Granddad was real Scotch -- without the soda. Headed home, I would put the egg in my pocket and the fragile shell usually broke to become just another job for poor Mother, but oh how I loved to help Grandpa! My fascination really peaked when an order of a couple of hundred chicks arrived. Until big enough to tolerate the outdoor weather, he kept them in a large room in the house. What a pleasure for a little guy to believe his grandfather needed him to help care for that fuzzy, peeping flock. I'm proud to say that when he let me fill the water jars and feed vats, I never stepped on -- well, not too many -- of those little, fuzzy, yellow balls.
Chickens and eggs were a business for Grandpa. Probably the first in the area to pack eggs in cardboard cartons for shipping to their several destinations in the State, he took great pride in his product. Each egg, with a red ink stamp on it, proudly disclosed its origin, "Peter McBride, Pima, Arizona," as though he personally had laid each egg himself. His largest markets were in the neighboring mining towns of Globe, Miami, Clifton and Morenci.
My first moneymaking experience occurred while still a lad after moving to Thatcher. I regularly patrolled the ditch-banks picking the young asparagus sprouts that would sprout again in three or four days after each picking. When the ditches were running and the banks moist, especially during late spring and summer, I walked the ditch banks all through town, reaping a bounteous harvest. I bundled the sprouts, tied each with a string, and went door to door selling them for a dime to the women, or for just a nickel if the bundle seemed a bit scrawny. The good women of the town, happy for the bargain, always bought, and they acknowledged that the price was good. And Nettie Phillips, the mother of the girl I had announced that I was going to marry, always bought one or several bundles from her future son-in-law -- little knowing. It often became a major dish for my own family too, at which time I exulted in silent pride.
In those days, a penny bought
considerably more than ten cents today. A dime in those days carried a
lot of respect. (A penny then was equal to 17 cents today. A dime,
$1.70.) Ten cents got me into a movie, bought a loaf of bread,
two candy bars (much bigger than today's) two five-stick packs of gum
or two eight-ounce soda pops in cute little bottles. (1981)
Occasionally, I picked up a few coins by keeping the neighbors chickens and livestock in feed and water, while they were away from home a few days.
Later, big enough to make my weight count, I earned money working in the hayfields as a loader. The loader, up on the rack (a low, flat, horse-drawn wagon without sideboards, that had a two-and-a-half-foot wide ladder six feet high at its front, which kept the hay from falling foreword against the horses, thus allowing a higher stack) I tromped the hay down by foot, as the pitcher with his pitchfork tossed the hay from the hay rows up onto the rack. Tromping compacted the hay, and that exercise packed the load to the maximum before it was haul to the barn, to the haystack or to the baler. A full load was piled six feet high, about as high as a person on the ground with a long-handled pitchfork could boost up a fork-full of hay. The farmers paid me at least one, and up to two dollars per day, and a day usually lasted eight to ten hours -- more often, ten.
It was a hot, sticky and itchy job, and often a snake would come on board with a fork-full of hay. That quickly helped to brighten the drudgery of the day with high comedy. I guess a rattlesnake had at times been forked up too—for the roundabouts of our valley being desert -- we were always on guard against the danger. And though the bordering flats and hills were infamous as rattlesnake country, I personally never experienced a rattler coming on board. It was always a gopher snake, a king snake or other harmless kind. After our own version of a snake dance (before we discovered it to be harmless) we would pick it up with the pitchfork and throw it back at the pitchers. I worked as a loader until 17.
At 17, stronger and tall enough to pitch a fork of hay, I graduated from the rack to the ground, a more demanding but more satisfying work. Now it became my turn to pitch the snakes up under foot of the loader and watch him do his own customized snake dance. Some farmers paid a pitcher, three dollars a day.
The next levels up in hayfield seniority were the jobs of “wire poker” and “wire tier (binder)” on the baling machine. The person tying put the wire through the header block from the right side of the baler. The poker received it on the opposite side and returned it through the block at the other end of the bale, where the tier grabbed it and tied the two ends. It demanded real expertise to manipulate three wires through and back, then tie the ends while the baler machine tried its darndest to shove the bail out the end and down the chute before we wanted it to escape. Dirty as it was dusty, it paid three-fifty to four dollars a day -- and that wasn't hay in them days.
I detested picking cotton and always opted for the hayfield work when available. In picking, the payment was calculated by the pound, so a good professional picker could earn much more by picking than working in the hayfields. A father, especially one with a large family (for wife and kids worked with him) profited well during the picking season. Though I hated it, if the horizon was void of other options, appreciatively, I jumped to the task, for it meant ready, needed cash that Mother couldn’t supply.
Before starting my sophomore year of high school, Orlando decided to go to the East in pursuit of a master's degree at Columbia University. We agreed that I should forego that year of school to help finance his education. He agreed to repay me later, which he did.
That year, Henry Tanner, a co-owner of the Big Six store, employed me to tear down an old two-story, brick building. Though I received help from a few others tearing it down, the biggest and most tedious part involved the cleaning and stacking of the bricks. From the first brick to the very last, I alone, cleaned and stacked them all. The work from start to finish lasted six months, and during four of the months I worked by myself, lonesomely along. Seated on an old box, with trowel or hatchet in hand, I chipped away at the mortar on brick after brick. Finally, and without ceremony, I stood on a low stool, and, after kissing it, placed the last brick on top of its multitudinous brothers. (The old building owned by the Tanners had originally been the first L.D.S. Church Academy in Thatcher. Before that, the small town of Central, nearby, briefly accommodated the Academy.)
Blessed with good fortune, I became the janitor of the Thatcher Elementary School the rest of the year. The regular janitor had fallen from the roof, seriously injuring his back. When the school principal approached me and asked if I thought I could handle the job, ecstatic with the prospect I answered, "I sure can!" So from just before Christmas until the end of the school year, I worked as the school's sole janitor.
Again ready to attend high school after a full year of hard labor, someone, on my behalf (I always believed it was the school principal) put in a good word. The local Church leaders hired me as janitor of the St. Joseph Stake Center in Thatcher where our own ward met. Thereafter, that job paid my way through the rest of high school and through two years of junior college.
WORK IN CALIFORNIA—MY FIRST TRIP THERE: In my growing-up years the things I heard and read about California fascinated me. Increasing in population so fast, the job opportunities there beckoned young opportunists like I thought of myself as being. I vowed that if ever the opportunity came, like the Prodigal Son, I would try my luck among the flesh pots of the fabulous state to determine if I could come out with more than corn husks as a main diet.
Dates slip my mind, but when halfway through my junior year of high school, Uncle George Sims (my mother’s older brother), and Aunt Dora, moved their family to Los Angeles for the same reason that had been bugging me. Uncle George, a builder and finish carpenter should be able to find plenty of work in the purported building boom. I immediately looked upon my Uncle’s move as the opportunity I had been thinking about. On good terms with him and my Aunt and their kids, especially Dorothy and Opal, who were still at home, I felt sure they wouldn’t mind me coming out for the summer. Mother wrote Aunt Dora a note, and I was off-and-running.
My big problem now in making my dream come true was getting there. In that day, California was a long way away. I didn’t let that worry me too much for I had already made up my mind, that as a last resort, I would hitchhike. I immediately began plans to do just that when good fortune smiled on me again. Richard and ?????? Chandler, both older than myself and close friends of Leonard, were planning a trip to Los Angles in an attempt to find a market for an ironing board he had invented. I think it was one of the first that would fold into the wall. I had seen it demonstrated and thought it a slick item, something that would lighten the work of the American housewife. For three dollars -- a sum near the total of my present fortune -- to help pay for the gas, I could ride with them. School was out for the summer on Friday. The following Monday I was off for adventures unknown.
Upon reaching L.A. my first adventure became a frustrating one. The Chandlers dumped me off on Washington Blvd. and Los Angeles Street where I could easily catch a streetcar out to Grand Avenue near where Uncle George lived at that time, well out in the country. Richard said, “Tell the conductor you want to get off at Grand, he’ll call it out for you.”
Things wouldn’t have been so bad if I had known which way Grand Avenue was from Washington Blvd. The oddball at the cigar stand said to just watch for the car that said “Grand Avenue.” and “End of Route.” I got it in my head I had to catch a northbound car. As a result I let two south-bounds go by before the cigar man put me straight, which cost me an hour’s time. But I finally managed to board the next Grand Avenue car. I more than enjoyed the long ride through the outskirts of the city and out into the country. I say “long,” for the conductor forgot to call out Grand Avenue for me and I ended up two miles past it and at the end of his line.
Well, that was no great disaster for the pilot announced that the car would return to downtown L.A. immediately. When I remained on the car he asked me if I was returning to downtown. I told him that he was supposed to let me off at Grand. He said, “Oh, sorry. I’ll do it on the way back. From here we start a new run, so you’ll have to drop another dime.”
Like I said, missing Grand was no disaster, but digging down for another dime was. I told the conductor that it was his fault that I was here and I didn’t think I should have to pay for the ride back to my intended destination. He smiled at me and said, “Sorry kid. You’ll pay or get off.” I recognized the finality in his voice so reluctantly forked over the two nickels I had treasured all the way from Thatcher. The racket they made as they rattled into the metal counter was like a thunderclap in my head. Even so, I thanked my maker for the one quarter and two one dollar bills I still had that I hoped would assist my needs until I could find a job. Uncle George and Aunt Dora welcomed me with open arms. They treated me like a son that summer. Opal and Dorothy became my friends again and LeRoy and Leona showed up often enough that I had several good visits with them. Donald had gone to another city on some student project, so I didn’t see him.
It didn’t take me long to discover that the streets of Los Angeles were not paved with gold. My goddess of liberty held no torch or wore no crown. For two solid weeks I beat the streets and walks, back alleys and tin shops of every industrial sector of that sprawling metropolis, but no one wanted to hire a green kid from Arizona that had no idea how to go about applying for a job. Finally one day, sore feet, sunburn and abject discouragement kept me home. Aunt Dora tried to encourage me to keep at it, but I just said, “I’ll just take a day off.” Then good fortune came to my rescue the third time. This time it sounded much larger than a grin. Uncle George came home from work that evening with news that a position was open where he worked, and if I would ride to Hollywood with him in the morning he might be able to help me get the job.
The thing sounded glorious to me, for Uncle George worked for Universal Studios in Hollywood as a finish carpenter in the construction of movie props where fine finish work was needed. He told me that at first I wouldn’t be working with him, but in the rough construction of buildings for movie scenes and sets; mostly the kind of false fronts that were hurriedly thrown up and torn down so the movie business would move on along. He would eventually try to get me moved to easier work if I proved myself a dependable hand.
Well, I got the job; they started me that morning at 50 cents an hour, a surprising figure; I had expected no more than 35 or 40. Hard work it proved to be, but I enjoyed it immeasurably for I had had some experience in construction and knew how to handle hammer and saw. Besides I was smarter than the seeming riffraff I worked with.
One day after four or five weeks of rough construction Uncle George said to me, “If someone comes around to see you about transferring, don’t let him know you are a relative of mine.”
That was the beginning of my job as carpenter helper to Uncle George and a couple of other men he worked with. Though they kept me too busy keeping them supplied with materials, tools and pulling nails from used lumber to find opportunity to do much sawing or hammering, the job was a joy. Besides that, I now received a whopping 60 cents per hour. But when I remember the number of hours I put in on sanding the finished work, things like stair banisters, window frames and every do-dad it took to decorate a Hollywood movie set, I’m sure I earned the extra dime.
Since we had been issued passes that admitted us to the Universal lot, I found that the magic card also gave me access to many parts of the movie complex. Anxious to spot at least one movie star while there, I spent most of my noon hour exploring the scenery and small working studios where such might be seen. My diligence finally paid off, though low key. I did see one genuine movie star, Laura La Plante, who was popular at that time. Someone told me she was filming in studio 8, so I haunted the grounds and side walks around the place until rewarded with my thirty-second glance at celebrity and glamour.
All too soon the summer passed and school beckoned in Thatcher. I cheated a little by missing the first week for I knew President Taylor wouldn’t turn away a blossoming senior like me, especially when it meant another $24 in his shallow pocket. Also that’s when my ride would be leaving Los Angeles, for again good fortune had smiled pleasantly upon me. While attending Relief Society, Mother had heard Tillie Mortensen McClellen say that her brother, Jess, would be driving home from California on a certain date. When Mother approached her about me looking for a ride home, she graciously volunteered to contact Jess who was teaching athletics at Riverside Junior. [College. Mortensen was captain of the 1930 NCAA championship track team at the University of Southern California where he was the three-year track letterman in 1928, 1929, and 1930. In addition, he was a letterman in football in 1928 and 1929 and a basketball letterman in 1928, 1929 and 1930. He won the 1929 NCAA javelin title and set a world record in the decathlon in 1931, earned All-American honors in basketball in 1930 (MVP), and was a member of the 1928 national championship USC football team and played in the 1930 Rose Bowl.] It would work out fine if I’d be there at noon on the day he was leaving. That, of course, became a problem, but with some doing and bus fare I hated to part with -- I had been salting away every penny I could -- I arrived on time. Jess and his other passenger, Helen Payne, delivered me to my door the evening of the following day.
I was proud that I had been to California where I had managed to accomplish my purpose—money for another school year. By being extra stingy I had managed to get home with a whopping 250 dollars, a small fortune for a high school senior in the thirties during the Great Depression. I immediately took it, all cash (for that’s how we’d all been paid) to Safford, where I opened a checking account. I wasn’t about to keep that much cash kicking around the house, and having a bank account did fascinate me. I only had to write a check or two while other students were looking on to become known as a moneyed man with a bank account. I remember old Paul Alder, son of a well-to-do farmer, after he had questioned me at some length, saying: “Gee! Wouldn’t that be great to have a bank account you could write a check on whenever you needed something. I’m gonna ask my Dad to help me get one.”
I think the $250 brought me more respect from my student friends than something really worthwhile, or for anything else I had ever done. I’m sure it became the one good reason that I was elected senior class president that year -- and it carried through to play a big part in my election to president of the college student body the next year -- proving that although the money didn’t last anywhere near that long, the memory of the check-writing moneyed man lingered.
I enjoyed that kind of attention, but to my dismay, and oftentimes grief, I found myself the target of those friends who never seemed able to come up with a whole dollar during the week that would admit them to the old Armory Saturday night dances. Some of them after enjoying the loan could never understand why I wanted my money back -- since I had plenty in the bank. I remember Banty Lines telling me I was crazy for loaning Ray Ferrin a whole dollar. He warned that Ray would never be able to get that much together at one time -- even should he want to square up with me.
Besides popularity my adventures in the great metropolis of Los Angeles managed to also bring me some ridicule. I tried very hard to not boast about my accomplishment and adventure, but I could hardly mention in conversation anything about my exciting experience without someone piping up with a sarcastic, “Oh, have you been to California?” which generally brought some kind of disconcerting guffaw from whoever was around. Well, it’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow somebody good, so I guess it’s a good wind that doesn’t blow somebody bad. Any way, that’s the only time in my life that I was ever considered a moneyed man -- a mere $250. Today it would take $250,000 or more.
Though in the California experience, the trip there and back had been long and hard; I hadn’t minded the dirt road with its many miles of washboard ripples that often jolted you out of your seat; or the dips and curves that took you in and out of every draw and canyon (they built few bridges in those days). Service stations were few and far between, and some cars had to carry extra cans of gasoline. We didn’t mind the time it took for the station attendant to hand pump the gallons into our car, or fix a flat that had to be pried off the rim with hand tools then beat back on with a rubber mallet and often inflated with a hand-pump; it was all an expected part of the game. Nor did we particularly mind the absence of something no one had ever heard of yet -- air conditioning.
The Cattle Drive Experience: Martin Stewart, the husband of my oldest sister, Gladys, eight and one-half years my senior, visited in our home in Thatcher one day, and as he prepared to leave he asked me if I knew how to ride a horse. When I said yes, he told me his family needed an extra hand to help drive a small bunch of cattle south from their Heber ranches to the railroad for shipping.
Excited at the prospect of the adventure and needing the work, I grabbed my hat, clothes and gear I would need, and we were off on our way to a very small community called Calva. Located about 30 miles distant just west of Geronimo, Calva was close to the Apache Indian town and Agency of San Carlos on the San Carlos Indian Reservation. The stock corrals were there at the side of the railroad. The ranchers of the greater area used them for holding-pens for their cattle while waiting to load them for shipment to market.
At the Calva corrals, we turned north onto the dirt road. As we followed it, up into the higher desert, it changed into a two-track trail that dwindled into not much more than a path, and that was the end for the car; we left it and continued a steady hike northward. We trudged along without water or food, for Mart figured we would soon meet the drive that had started a few days before from their ranches. We moved right along at a good pace for more than an hour and finally reached the spot where he expected the herd to be by then.
Brigham Stewart was somewhere up ahead in wild country riding with the driver-cook in the chuck wagon. Lee, one of his six sons, a friend of mine just a few years older than me, rode herd with only one hired hand. They had been hoping to see Mart and whatever help he would bring. The journey southward had not been a simple one for only three riders herding the animals.
The sun settled ever closer to the horizon, I began to sense some anxiety in Mart. Then, up ahead in the distance we barely heard the bawl of a Bull. We stopped while Mart waited to hear more sounds. The bull bawled a couple of times more, and Mart, with relief, knew that that was them. He named the very bull we could hear, saying, “That’s old Bucksnort,” for he indeed knew his bellar.
When we reached the herd, we found they had all ready made camp, and Brig was helping the cook prepare the supper while the other two watched the cattle. They had two extra bedrolls for us, and after we ate and visited a while, we bedded down for the night. In the morning, we ate breakfast, saddled our horses and were on our way.
As we rode along flanking the herd, we had to watch carefully while in the taller, thick brush, guarding against breakaway would-be escapees. We crossed a couple of stretches of terrain that were talcum-powder-fine dust and just as dry. The dust raised by those 600 hoofs became a blinding cloud, and for us downwind we would have suffocated had we not pulled our kerchiefs up over our noses. The job wasn’t hard for the five of us; we kept them properly bunched and headed off an occasional stray and took watch-turns through the night. I spent two more nights on the trail and most of three days driving the herd to Calva.
In the evenings after supper we enjoyed our visits, and among other captivating stories, Brig told me how well he had known my Dad. He had campaigned against him for the office of County Sheriff and had come off the looser. He knew others of my family too, and said nice things about them all, and all-in-all, he made me feel quite comfortable and appreciated. After the killings of my Father and his deputies under the hands of the Power family, the County Supervisors had appointed Brig to fill out the term as acting sheriff until the next election. He told me that he and a deputy had been the ones to drive to Fort Hachita, New Mexico, where the captured fugitives had been brought out of Mexico by a detachment of U.S. Army Cavalry. They drove them back in chains to the Graham County jail to face charges.
When the train arrived, we herded each head of cattle one by one up the loading ramp into the waiting cars. The rule of the railroad company stated that after loading, if the cow was still standing, the responsibility for them became theirs until delivered. If a cow went down in the rail car before the train pulled out, it was the ranch’s loss, unless the cowboys could get it up immediately and it appeared satisfactorily sound. The arduous desert drive left a few of them in pretty poor shape, and a few of them were down in the corral as we loaded the rest. Those Stewart boys knew their cowboy business -- the tricks of getting a reluctant, weak animal up. A couple of them would get on each side and heft, while a man at the rear twisted the tail. Once on its feet, in full sight of the judge, we all together, as needed, drug, pushed, pulled and lifted the animal up the ramp into the car. They called it “Tailing’em-up.” Only one cow failed the okay of the railroad official.
The son, Lee, with whom I’d developed a friendship in times past was young, lithe and sinewy; one of the finest horsemen and cowpunchers I’d ever seen in action. He along with Mart, were a pleasure to work with and to watch perform in their art. I knew all of the Stewart boys, and maybe it was a mellowing with age, but it seemed to me that the younger the brother in the family, the tougher, quicker and harder he was. As I recall, Cliff and Dave had been out of the cow business for several years.
Summers at the Power mine: In 1918 shortly after my ninth birthday, my father and two of his deputies were killed in the line of duty deep in the wilds of the Galiuro Mountains. Consequently, negotiating with the County and the State, their mining claims were awarded to the three families of the murdered men. For several years thereafter we were required to do assessment work on the claims to keep them current.
In the summer of 1926, at the age of seventeen, much against my mothers wishes, I persuaded her to let me go with my brother Leonard, four years older; Albert Phillips, a cousin two years older; Gene Kempton, and a younger fellow with Gene, about my age, whose name I’ve forgotten. The latter two represented the Kempton family. Also, there was an old fellow named Tom -- an expert in dynamite and black powder blasting. It would take two weeks to renew our claim for another year.
At this point, the kid my age merits brief mention. My memory triggers the belief that he probably was a transient farm worker the Kemptons had hired to help satisfy their fair share of the assessment work. He was a bit hard to take, because he seemed to be without initiative, useless in most situations, undependable and lacking in sociability -- besides, he was a slop around camp and downright dirty. In all fairness, though, and probably no fault of his, he lacked the cultural upbringing and integrity that the rest of us had as beneficiaries of fine forefathers and family environment -- free gifts to us, but absent from his background. Basically a good person, he did serve the group sufficiently in certain responsibilities, and we treated him with kind inclusion during our stay.
We had arranged a ride with a friend for the first 45 miles to Klondike where the road toward the Galiuros branches off. From there we bumped along for another 25 miles in a hired truck with our supplies until we reached the top of the Power dug-way. We had arranged for a pack mule to use when we arrived. After packing the mule with our supplies we dropped down the steep dug-way into Rattlesnake Canyon with the laden mule while carrying our own packs. We hiked seven miles up the canyon contending with fallen trees along the creek all the way, then another hard mile up and over the hill and down into Keilberg Canyon to the mine. (Unable to carry in all the supplies the first trip, Leonard returned the next day with the mule and brought in the rest.) It was quite an experience for me. Of an age hungry for adventure, I enjoyed every bit of it. The remote, rough, dry, mountain terrain with many remnants of bygone days of mining and ranching proved a wild, giant-step into the past. Some of it would forever conceal answers to questions of my roots.
There, I had my first look at the scene of the historic shoot-out. The old cabin from which the infamous gunfire cut down my Father was there and still in good shape. With morbid and emotional interest, I looked over the rest of the place where four men were killed and two were wounded. I examined the old mine tunnel entrance, with its shoring, that disappeared back into the darkness of the hole. The shoring was in good shape and required no repairs. At 6,000 feet elevation, though not real cool, the weather was not baking hot like the lower altitudes. The creek had ceased to run, but the spring ran sufficient water, and then some, to supply our needs.
Before long I had walked down the trail to the Murdock camp where I met the man who first viewed the sickening death scene at the Power cabin. Jay Murdock lived a mile from the Power mine down the canyon and a few hundred yards, up what was called Trail Canyon. He played an important part in the documented history I have written about the terrible killings. (Refer to THE EVADERS or Wilderness Shoot-out, 1984, by Darvil B. McBride.) He had been first at the scene after hearing the shots and had talked to the three living murderers he met along the way as they began their flight from their fouled domain. When he discovered we were at the mine, he expressed a willingness to show and explain all the sordid details of the ugly scene he’d discovered and share his personal opinions.
He showed us the exact places where he found the bodies of my Dad and his deputies, Martin Kempton and Kane Wooton, plus the place the Power brother’s father had been shot, including where he’d been carried to, inside the mine and left to die. He pointed out the bullet damage and holes on the outside logs, door and window frames of the cabin, and inside where the bullets had lodged in permanent rest. He pointed to the spaces of missing chinking between the logs at the back of the cabin. There, through that space, their friend, Tom Sisson, had leveled his rifle and shot Dad through both knees. Then, after Dad fell, he shot him in the stomach. Later, after the shooting, with all three officers down, on closer examination of Dad’s plight, they thought him still possibly alive. So, they shot him in the temple with John’s 45-automatic pistol. All very interesting, but it resurrected my old nightmares of the announcement of the tragedy, bringing the bodies in, the funeral and mourning, the man-hunt and capture, the hearings and trials and consequent suffering for three young, spouseless wives and 19 fatherless children.
We brought an 8 by 10-foot, gable-end, canvas tent with us. They put me and my sloppy friend in the tent, while the others slept on the floor of the cabin. An old stove and fireplace were still usable in the cabin with which we cooked our meals and used when needed for warmth. Also we cooked with a Dutch oven outside over an open fire. Our eating fare was limited to the normal stuff such a remote camp allowed. We ate canned goods and bread, but when we ran out of bread, Tom, a fine Dutch oven, biscuit maker, kept us supplied and happy. We soon ran out of butter, but we resorted to pan cakes -- we had plenty of syrup. We wished for some meat when our bacon ran out, and though we saw plenty of out-of-season deer, the forest rangers, though seldom seen, were too much of a threat. Our camp became quite comfortable as we, in time, fashioned the little extras. Not only did we endure, we enjoyed the freedom of our rough existence, and most of the time, each others company. The weather stayed clear, rain from a leaky roof never had a chance to discomfort us.
With the assessment work in full swing, and blasting nearly every day, we had plenty of pick and shovel work and ore hauling-out to do. Early in the labor I had an experience that put the fear of death into me. But thank heavens, with the help of old Tom, I kept my head, or who knows, we might have lost our explosives expert, old Tom himself -- and me -- myself.
Working down in a 30-foot-deep shaft, in a blasted-out room of about 25 feet square, we had some twelve holes already drilled, ready to tamp the dynamite sticks into. Anyone could drill the holes, but for the safety of all, Tom tamped the sticks into place and set the fused caps to ready everything before lighting the fuses. Tom, the other young kid and I, were to light the fuses as simultaneously as possible. Then, we two were to quickly climb the long ladder up the shaft ahead of Tom because we were younger, more agile and faster; and remember, Tom had a gimpy leg and didn’t want to delay our escape.
To light multiple fuse ends quickly, one uses a length of fuse referred to as a spit: a red-hot, fire-spiting, length of fuse so hot that it lights fuse ends easily and immediately. Using matches would take up too much time. Well, Tom lit the three spits, handed one to each of us, and we three began to light our designated fuses. With six or so of them lit, the combined hisses grew louder as the smoke and smell hit our nostrils, and might be imagined some were burning much too fast. The kid lost control and suddenly panicked, he threw down his sizzling spit and yelled out a filthy oath, for he had but one thing on in mind -- abandon the hole of the doomed ship. He hit the ladder a-running, his first step hit the fifth wrung; he scampered up its length like a tail-a-fire monkey. Tom hollered to me firmly, “Don’t panic Mac,” and we both stayed and lit the rest of the fuses. At the ladder, he gave me a boosting start, and he, with that gimpy leg, climbed out after me. Because of the deserter we were delayed significantly, causing me some second thoughts too. Despite being abandoned, we reached safety with plenty of time to spare, and needless to say, the kid wasn’t used in that phase of the operation -- ever again.
(The summer of 1927, I worked for the Indian Service, but to keep continuity in the Power mine experiences, my next visit to the mine is described now.)
During the summer of 1928, the nation was falling off the edge into the Great Depression. My oldest brother, Floyd, five and one-half years my senior, and Leonard, nearly four years my senior, were both married and out of work pondering what to do. Floyd had worked as an electrician in the mines of Globe and Miami and Leonard had been employed in several different jobs. Both had worked at the mine in the Galiuro Mountains, where Dad had been killed. The mining company, operating there at the time, held the lease, and was owned by a fine man, Mr. Page, who knew us. While at the mine, Floyd and Leonard had tried their hand at panning gold and believed they could make good wages at it now. At nineteen years of age, in between school years, I decided to throw in with them, since I too needed work for the summer.
We made arrangements with Page to allow us to pan the tailings (waste discarded by the regular mining operation) from the dump. Furthermore, we made arrangements to get there via the next truck headed to the mine. Mart Stewart, Gladys' husband, took us to the turnoff road at Klondike where we loaded our gear on the mine truck which carried us to the ridge over which we would cross to reach the mine in Kielberg canyon in the Galiuro Mountains.
To get there required traveling over a rough, 25-mile dirt road. At the road's end, we came to the steep dug-way road, dozed out and repaired since our last visit. It dropped down the dug-way slope into Rattle Snake Canyon. Because of excessive steepness, a bulldozer with a tow cable waited to let the trucks down and then tow them up when they returned loaded with ore. In this way, we were lowered down into the canyon, avoiding the steep hike down its mile-long length. (The original dug-way was built by the Powers. They began mining after its construction.)
This summer, with the old cabin unavailable to us, we camped in Rattle Snake Canyon in what was called “the old saloon.” From there, just over the ridge into Keilberg Canyon, lay the Power Mine. The saloon had been part of a little town called Gold Mountain that had flourished until the ore played out. The town had been named after a mountain with a huge overhanging cliff under which a great tunnel had been carved deep into it. Work there had come to a halt in 1910, eighteen years before.
Because of the rough ridge between Rattlesnake and Keilberg, the truck could not make it over to the mine. Burros packed the ore from the Power Mine over the ridge, and there the sacks were unloaded at the old saloon. There, the truck loaded the sacks to haul the ore to Globe for processing. However, some of the ore was processed at the mine, where the gold was extracted from the excess, and the molten gold was cast into ingots.
The mine allowed us to take some of the loose stuff from the bags and pan it for gold as well as pan from the dump at the mine site. Lucky for us too, the year had been a wet one and the creeks in Keilberg Canyon and Rattlesnake Canyon ran strong. We had plenty of water for panning and for campsite needs, for Rattlesnake Creek nearly licked at our doorstep.
We were camped at an elevation of 6,000 feet. Though not cool by any means during the daytime, we again were grateful to be avoiding the baking heat of the valley. Nights generally required an extra blanket.
After the camping quarters were put in order, which included beds hanging from the rafters of the ramshackle building to avoid chance meetings with rattlesnakes in the dark of night, I decided a mud oven for baking would be handy and add to the comfort of our rough existence—I would build one. Because of weight limitations imposed upon us by the mining company, we couldn’t bring Dutch ovens, which would have been easier than building a mud oven. As it was, the truck we had begged a ride on, loaded to the gills and pulling at its limit, barely made it.
I’d never built a mud oven before, but I had seen them and understood the basic design requirements and I built it to accommodate the pan we’d brought. It stood about two feet high and 18” wide with a lower compartment for the fire and the upper oven chamber with the pan as its floor. The primary heat under the oven circulated up the back and over the top of the baking area and out a flu or chimney exiting from the top front. I used pieces of scrap tin and boilerplate I found laying around for the interior and the door, and clay laden mud from the bank of the creek. It worked smooth as a top. With appreciation of all, we really enhanced our meals. Before our adventure ended, I had even ventured into baking pies.
We usually had meat. Not long
after arriving I poached a deer out of season. We hung it up some
distance from camp to avoid detection by the occasional ranger and
enjoyed fresh meat for many days. From what we couldn’t finish fresh,
we made jerky, and the jerky lasted us the entire stay. We powdered the
jerky with a hammer on a slab of boilerplate and mixed it with some
grease and flower to make delicious gravy to go on our bread and
biscuits, steaming fresh from the mud oven. Leonard got a shot at
another buck later, but more fresh venison escaped us. Rabbits
abounded and we killed a few of those, but the cost of a 30/30 rifle
cartridge didn’t merit the amount of meat we harvested; the cash for a
cartridge was hard to come by then.
About 150 yards up the canyon from
our camp at the old saloon stood a log cabin referred to as the “Ola
cabin.” Ola Power had lived there while the men of her family lived in
the saloon, before the family bought the mine over the ridge and moved
to the cabin there. Killed under mysterious circumstance at the age of
19, her death became one of the enigmas of the Power affair. (See the
account in THE EVADERS -- A Wilderness Shoot-out.) Those few who
knew her agreed that she was an attractive shy young woman and popular
with the young swains of Klondike. She would sometimes accompany her
brother, Tom, to the dances.
At the time, Ola’s cabin was occupied by a fellow whose name I have forgotten. It doesn’t matter because Leonard nicknamed him Saber-Tooth. He had lost his four, upper front teeth leaving the two canines (eye-teeth) on each side. They had over-erupted and appeared somewhat like those of a saber tooth tiger. Hence, we never called the cabin after Ola, but instead, we called it the saber-tooth cabin -- unless Saber-Tooth was within earshot.
This man, about 45 years old, knew considerable about mining. He spent most of his time scouting the neighboring canyons and hills prospecting for gold. We accompanied him on some hikes as he pointed out the “hanging walls,” the strata within which one might find gold ore deposits that could have collected through the millennia. Generally, tunnels probed through the skree to the hanging wall in search of the gold-bearing ore. A very interesting man indeed, as he shared much of his knowledge about mining and prospecting.
<><>Two weeks slipped by and Leonard received word from his wife, Olive, that work was available for him. He left Floyd and I there, and we spent most of our time panning the dumped tailings. I don’t know if we panned enough gold to make it financially worth while, but at the end of a couple of months, I was satisfied with just the adventure and good time I had had with my two older brothers. Floyd, with a wife and young son to support was strapped financially, so in the end Leonard and I decided to just let Floyd have all that we’d panned. I never knew the value of it, but Floyd took it to globe for amalgamation to be cast into the proper size ingots to be bought by the government. I believe the amount we all contributed was well worth the time Floyd had spent.>><>>
During those days, we had been seeing some large, green, colorful, black-beaked parrots with yellow and red about the neck and head, and wings with a few red feathers. They mostly congregated around the saber-tooth cabin; a couple of big trees grew there that for some reason they liked. There, only off and on, we usually saw them in bunches of six or eight up to a couple of dozen at a time. I believed that they were away foraging in the forest for food during most of the day. We took great interest in watching them, hearing their raucous squawking and wished we could trap one for a pet.
Later I found that they were called the “Thick Billed Parrot” and that they migrated up through Mexico following the maturation of pine cones which occurred gradually later in the season the further north the conifer forests grew. The Galiuros range was probably their furthest northern reach, and when logging destroyed the continuos path of their former migration route, they ceased to migrate as far north as Arizona. However, they still flourished in Mexico, and recently, within the last few years, the State Department of Game and Fish has thwarted smuggling of birds across the Arizona border. With the confiscated birds, the State Department has re-established self-propagating flocks that reside year-round in the Chiracauhua Mountains of Southeastern Arizona.
Working for the Indian Service: Joe Reidhead, his pretty sister and their pretty cousin (brothers had married sisters, so she was a double cousin) came to Thatcher from Show Low for school. Joe attended the high school as a sophomore. I was a high school senior, and the third and fourth high school classes went to school in the same building with the junior college students. So, I went to school in the same building with Joe’s sister, a freshman in college, and with their cousin, also a college freshman. The three had made arrangements to rent living quarters in our home for the school year. With school and house in common, we soon became good friends. (My wife insists that we were too friendly. She thought the cousin would have been all too happy to steal me away from her.)
Joe had been raised on a large cattle ranch and he loved horses with a passion. After he had settled in to stay, he showed us photographs of his family and his horses. Mother and I sat visiting with him for some time while he explained each photo. Later, Mother said to me, "You know Darvil, while we visited with Joe, I learned every horse's name, but I didn't hear a single name of any of his family."
I soon discovered that for the upcoming summer (of 1927) Joe had employment with the Department of the Interior -- Bureau of Indian Affairs. So I too applied for a job and requested that we be assigned as partners in the work. I received notice of acceptance to work at the remote Maverick Lake lookout tower as a fireguard (more commonly referred to as a smoke-chaser) located in the middle of the Fort Apache Indian Reservation in the White Mountains of Northern Arizona. It boasted the highest fire lookout tower in the White Mountains. The request to be partners had been honored, and at the semester’s end, Joe and I headed north to begin one of the great adventures of our lives.
On June 14, we were dispatched on horseback up the trail to our destination, by way of the old trail off the dirt road about 50 miles northeast of the White River Indian Agency at White River. (The closest town of any size was McNary, a well known lumber community. Though on the reservation, the lumber mills were managed by non-Indian private concerns.) Smack-dab in the middle of a great remote wilderness, we set up housekeeping in a small, one-room cabin at the foot of the steel tower that became our home for most of the summer. From the tower’s tiny glass enclosure, 94 feet higher than the crest of the peak, we reveled in the perfect panoramic view of the pine-clad, forested canyons, valleys and ridges stretching uninterrupted for miles and miles in all directions.
During the summer employment, we dressed in Levi pants, flannel lined Levi denim jackets, western style cowboy boots and felt hats.
Since only one of us had to be on lookout on the tower, we took turns. The one on the ground could do the work at hand to make living more comfortable: maintaining the equipment, tending the horses, and hunting. Moreover, we could scout around and be doing fun things of personal interest until a smoke was sighted. Once the man in the tower spotted a fire, one of us stayed in the tower while the other caught up the horses, saddled one and loaded the pack animal (which generally belonged to the Indian Bureau) with equipment and supplies. He then headed out for the smoke whisp to try to control it alone; while the spotter remained to keep track of the progress and call for additional help as necessary.
My good friend Joe, one of the finest horsemen and cowboys I'd ever known, willingly shared indispensable knowledge with me that helped me accomplish the tasks of our job. Though I had knowledge in the arts of camping, hunting, fishing, and survival, Joe began to impart to me important knowledge he’d grown up with on a ranch. He broadened horizons of essentials that would stand me in good stead throughout life. Born and raised on a ranch, he really knew his business. Hardly a drugstore cowboy, Joe had expertise in everything pertaining to horses and mules and all aspects of ranch life. He could ride, break a horse, shoe and manage them, and he understood the handling of cattle just as well. My experience with riding horses had been only with the farm’s barnyard pony. Joe taught me skills regarding a cowpony that I had no idea were necessary to survive the kind of job we had embarked upon.
Our cabin sat right next to the drift fence that separated two ranches: the Double-Circle and the 4-V-Bar. We continually saw cattle from both ranches on each side of us. So along with learning the many ins-and-outs of wildfire control, I learned to ride well, and rope calves, which naturally led into roping an occasional wild cow with calf -- only to borrow a little milk for the table -- of course. As soon as we had neck-roped one, the partner would catch one leg with his loop. We would stretch her out slowly until she lost balance and went down. Then we milked her. We couldn’t keep her in the little corral next to the cabin for too long, for the feed was too sparse, and the calf would suffer short rations if we purloined an excess portion of its livelihood. No big problem though, we just let her go and went out and roped another one to use for a week. We usually had plenty of fresh milk and cream, and the cold night air cooled the milk and kept it nicely. It would last up to three days. If it clabbered, I made it into cottage cheese like I had watched Mother do for years, nothing went to waste.
With the cow in the corral, we didn’t have to throw her to milk her. With head or horns roped, we snubbed her tight up against a sturdy post; then noosed the outside, hind leg and stretched her along the fence by tying it to another post. In that position, snubbed tightly against the fence, standing on one hind leg, the poor animal could neither kick nor gore; we milked her without risking our lives.
Since we were in the middle of the Indian Nation, the Indian Authorities allowed us to hunt to keep ourselves in fresh meat. We ate a fair amount of venison, for Joe and I each killed a deer while we were there; and an Indian sent up to help us for two weeks of cleanup around the grounds of the cabin, also killed one. On another hunt, I killed a big, old, gobbler turkey. Scuffling around we finally found something big enough to roast him in. But, I guess I wasn’t steeped quite well enough in wild turkey culinary art. That was the toughest stuff I’d ever tried to sink teeth into. However, since it was real meat, smelled right and tasted good, we ate it down to its last chewy chunk. After eating that bird, had I been an Indian, I might have appropriately been named Chief Strong Jaw. On another hunt, I shot two young turkey friars out of the top of a tall pine tree. I’ll never forget the force with which they fell through the branches and thudded the ground. From the sound, I actually feared the awful impact had ruined much good meat, but it didn’t. It probably had a tenderizing effect; they were delicious, and unlike the old gobbler, they were juicy and tender.
The place literally abounded with wildlife: not only with deer and turkey, but with such as porcupine, badgers, a few quail, bandtail pigeons, sage hens and fool hens. I bagged one of the fool hens. They and sage hens are species of grouse. Grouse is a meat that is hard to top! About the size of a small chicken, I remember it being a better flavor than the turkeys: a more quail-flavored, lighter meat. They are called fool hens because they fool you. They look much like a barnyard hen.
One day I killed a large rattler, the blackest snake I had ever seen. Sunning itself on a high boulder it rattled at me as I rode by. As I dispatched it with the 30-30. I humorously thought, “that should be a lesson to all noisy creatures that startle me out of my skin.” We saw plenty of bear and mountain lion tracks and sign, but they proved wary and too elusive -- unlikely to be glimpsed by the human eye. However, one day I came face to face with a huge bobcat that put shivers down my spine -- and a heaving scare into the stubborn mule I was riding. Making my way down a narrow, brushy draw to check on a wisp of distant smoke Joe had spied from the tower, the cat aggressively jumped to his feet and spit a hiss at the mule, whose head had just come within 10 feet of where it was sleeping on a protruding ledge. If an animal ever turned wrong side out to reverse forward progress -- that mule did it. How I managed to stay with him, I don’t know, but in seconds he had me a hundred yards back up that thorny draw, giving no heed to the brush and limbs tearing at my legs and arms. Pull on the reins as I might, that mule refused stop until he darn well wanted to. I had lost my hat, so the top of my head, my face and other parts were a bloody mess. And do you think that stubborn hybrid would go back down that draw -- not on your life -- I had to search out another route to get to the lightning-strike smoke.
Keeping meat fresh in camp is always a problem, but our peak was cool and dry. The meat cooled quickly when placed in the shade, and given a night, fresh venison or meat of any kind keeps for a surprising length of time. Wrap wet burlap around it in the shade, cool it quicker, and it lasts even longer. It had its limits though, but under no circumstances did we ever waste an ounce. We knew how much we would be able to put away before spoiling set in. We cut what remained into small strips, salted and peppered it and hung it out to dry to make jerky. Jerky came in extra handy when one had to be away on a fire. Light to carry, it tasted good and was handy and gave us protein to round out our rations. We also used it to good advantage in meals at the cabin. We often pounded the hard, lean strips into a course powder and mixed it with grease, flour and milk, or water, to make a savory gravy.
Along with insects, especially grasshoppers, beetles, ants and a few lizards, we saw gray squirrels and numerous chipmunks. Chipmunks are the smallest of the rodents classified as ground squirrels. They are the cutest and the prettiest of them all. With their black and orange back-stripes; bushy tails that seem to float as they wave back and forth in a figure “S”; their delicate, long-whiskered, miniature, fox-like faces seem to be asking questions. They were so tame, approaching so close I could easily kill them with my flipper, which now and then I did for fun -- for a bloodthirsty kid to keep in practice. If I tossed bits of food out and stayed real still, they would move in even closer.
I began to make a habit of sitting on the cabin doorstep where I would toss out a few crumbs. Here they would come a-running; ignoring the danger I might pose, in their eagerness for the tidbits. I then would hold a piece of food between fingertips enticing them to take it from me. Soon, certain ones would jump on my lower legs and travel up over my knee and sit on my lap to feed from my hand. One became so tame that I decided to catch him. I sat with my gloved hand strategically positioned, and when he reached the key spot on my knee, with a short, quick swipe -- I had him.
Since he only bit my glove a couple of times and soon calmed down, I decided I’d keep him for a pet. I built a nice cage complete with a small scamper-wheel that he learned to use right away. I’ll tell you, he could put that wheel through a real performance as he exercised. We kept him up in the tower for company and entertainment. We enjoyed watching him and feeding him up there for several weeks. But one day, he escaped from the cage. A tower window was open, and of a sudden, he took full advantage of it, scampering through it onto a narrow metal ledge. I knew that I must catch him, for a fall from that height, it seemed, would surely kill him. Ever so slowly, I reached out the opening carefully closing the gap between him and my hand. An instant before the grab he jumped out into mid-air.
My heart in my throat, I leaned out the window and watched him fall. He spread his four legs wide like a leaping frog. The loose skin between the front and back legs along his sides spread wide catching air like a two slender parachutes. Down he floated at a good clip. With a thud he hit flat in a dusty spot; dust flew, momentarily veiling him from sight. When it cleared, the poor, stunned, little guy ran around in circles, but to my relief he promptly came to his senses and raced for cover into a pile of loose limbs. Around and around the pile I searched for him. Already I was in mourning for the loss of company. A pet that could fall 94 feet and survive was certainly worth keeping. Though I saw chipmunks in and around the debris where he had taken refuge, for the next several days, they all looked so much alike, that I never knew for sure which one was him. For certain though, I knew he was all right and probably didn’t miss our company a fraction as much as we missed his.
We had been on the job a couple of weeks before I began to wonder about the possibility of some kind of fishing hole or stream near enough to warrant saddling up and riding for my supper. I had brought with me, to the peak, the barest essentials of tackle (if you could call it that): a braided fishing line wrapped around a short pencil that I kept in my jacket pocket, and a couple of trout hooks that I had secured to the crown of my old felt hat. Really, nothing else was needed, except, a flexible length of willow cut from the ready supply that always flourished along a mountain stream or spring. The day we had first packed into our Maverick Peak home we had crossed a healthy looking creek some four or five miles before we topped out at the peak. The map at the tower showed it to be Paddy Creek. I decided to give it a try at the first opportunity. In the same canyon, but a couple of miles on down the trail from the spring where we were forced to go for our water supply, Paddy Creek ran deep and clear where it tumbled down the steep decent from pool to pool.
Delight. I began to lick my lips as I rode expectantly along the creek. I found trout in all the pools, and to my further delight they were Arizona’s native speckled trout, found only in some Arizona waters. I was soon off Old Coon looking for bait, but search as I might I could not find bugs or worms with which to bait the hook, not even a spotted grasshopper. However, I did have my flipper (sling shot) and without much trouble I managed to kill a small bird. I used its entrails for bait, and I’m sure the fish thought they were nightcrawlers, for with gusto they swallowed them whole. Soon, and without even getting my feet wet, I had pulled out several nice fish for our evening meal.
I soon learned, to my satisfaction, that in this isolated Indian reservation land, the roaming angler seldom showed his face in such inaccessible places as the distant and nearly roadless vastness of the great White Mountain wilderness. Every place we cast our line, fishing always proved the greatest.
A cow pony not ridden for some time instinctively reverts to the wild. The longer he's left unridden in open terrain or even in closed pasture, the more unmanageable he becomes. Most imagine horses to be naturally tame. Not so, for deep within all domesticated animals, when left to themselves, stirs innate genetics. These genetics exert constant powerful influence to change stock back to the wild beast that always lingers within them. Horses are controlled only through sufficient discipline, conditioning and taming.
Rotating mounts, as each in turn began to show signs of loosing flesh because of poor pasture and hard, high altitude work, we learned to be wary each time we threw a leg over the saddle of a fresh mount. Invariably, their first reaction is to try to dislodge the interloper. The minute you're in the saddle, the trick is, never let the horse lower his head. Once lowered, the back arches up giving him an advantageous position to launch into a violent, twisting sidestep, a quick charge, a turning halt or his first buck. On alert, we kept a tight rein to always keep their head up. After a few minutes of dominating a horse with light spurring and positive reining, keeping his head up, he soon begins to recognize you as his master and settles down.
One morning I swung astraddle old Paddy -- fresh from the pasture. He immediately fought the reins trying his best to lower his head. I kept them tight. Unable to pull any of his regular tricks except maybe rear up, up he went as straight as an animal on two hind legs could. Over he came falling straight back. I knew that if I failed to escape the saddle instantly; the saddle horn would follow me down and nail me through the chest to the ground. I shoved with all my might against the saddle swells propelling myself back through the air. I hit the ground hard. I barely succeeded in avoiding his head as it too thudded hard against the ground at my feet.
I had landed square on my coopers (tail) bone. A terrible bolt of pain shot through my every fiber. As I rose to an elbow in agony, Joe, the consummate cowboy, leaped to the grounded horse putting his boot and weight solidly down on the saddle horn. The horse now on its side unable to rise, flailed his legs helplessly. Horse-wise Joe leaned over, unlooped the leather thong holding my lariat to the saddle, and with the coils he whipped the horse lightly, but frighteningly, across the withers, flanks and once on the head. Because of the bruising landing excruciating pain racked my every normal move as I mounted and rode the horses; I endured dismal pain for more than two weeks after. I gradually healed and after paying my dues, rode again without the awful discomfort. But old Paddy, lesson learned, would not act up again until the memory of his scary discipline faded -- or his beastly nature returned during his next period of freedom.
The overall experience with the Indian Service oftentimes became a lonesome job. Joe, off on one smoke-chase, stayed with the large fire for a full week. A big crew of Indians had been sent to help, and it fell his task to direct them in the work. There alone on the tower by day and in the cabin by night, I fretted for human company. Though lonesome at times, I truly loved the work. Except for the Indian that stayed for the two weeks of labor cleaning up around the place, we never had extended company. An occasional cowhand riding the range would drop by and visit a while, but their real wish was the experience of climbing the tower and enjoying the awesome vista.
We did have, or I should say, I had quite a surprise with visitors one day. Joe had gone out on a fire that took a change for the worse and quickly became an escalating inferno. The Agency had to send help to him to bring it under control. He’d been gone two days, and as evening closed in I looked up in surprise to see eight young Indians on horseback headed toward the cabin. Most were older teenagers, but some would have been 21 or 22 years old. They were on their way to help Joe fight the fire, but they and their mounts needed to be fed. Fortunately, the Agency had foreseen such an emergency. Stored in the corner of the cabin were some edibles especially for the emergency. With our little stove and all the pots and pans I could round up, I managed to feed them. I thought they actually liked it, too.
Each Indian carried a compact bedroll lashed behind the cantle. They unrolled them on the ground and slept the night. Early next morning, I prepared a decent breakfast for them. We then saddled up and I led them to the fire, I knew by sight and map from the tower the location of the burn and was familiar with the trails. Also, I knew if the Indian crew got lost the fire could just as well become doubly severe. It took a few days, but we finally brought the blaze under control.
You know, most Indians don’t shave. In the first place they have little facial hair compared to the white man. And what whiskers do begin to show up, they pluck them out at first sight. I had always wondered about the phenomenon, and until this bunch of young bucks came under my supervision, I’d never known the real tricks they used those days to keep smooth-faced. These boys used rifle cartridges split down the open end, then narrowed with a file to the right size points and flattened, thus coming up with a fairly efficient pair of tweezers. I got a big kick out of watching three of them siting on a log performing their teenage tonsorial operation. One by one, they plucked at each resisting whisker. If the whisker was stubborn they yelped and winced from the excruciating failure or success. When they saw my increasing amusement over their antics, their demonstration of self-torture increased proportionately with desire to please their audience. They all laughed at my laughter.
Rains came from time to time, and if sufficient fell to wet down the tinder dryness lessening the danger of fire, we could leave the tower. Other work to tend to always awaited us during the short respite after the rain had soaked the forest and the threat of lightning fires temporarily ceased.
Riding the telephone lines occupied our time also. We checked for fallen trees or even broken branches that often crushed the lines to the ground and sometimes severed them. The lines, not attached to individual poles, were strung from tree trunk to tree trunk, and an occasional anchor tree would fall victim to a storm taking the line down with it, so we carried essentials necessary to cut and remove timber and splice and re-string line.
Another lookout tower manned by two smoke-chasers stood on a peak ten miles distant from ours. Some difficult repairs required more than just two men. After one good wetting-down of the forest, we met up with Port and Dutch who would help us tackle some heavier tasks. As we rode the line, we entered a high-grass cienaga (boggy) meadow where the grass reached high enough to tickle the bellies of the horses. Port always rode with a long-handled quirt in his right hand. As we leisurely plodded through the meadow, without warning, a small flock of wild turkeys burst from their grassy hiding place like an exploding covey of giant quail. One big, old tom drummed up right close to the side of the quirt-armed rider. With an instinctive flick-of-the-wrist, Port dispatched the bird with the quirt. It thrashed in the grass with a broken neck. Since I'd shot a deer a few days before and had a supply of fresh venison back at the cabin, we were happy for Port and the Dutchman to have a good thirteen pounds of fresh meat for themselves -- I sure hated plucking turkeys.
Our peak-top place lacked a close source of water, but we did have a rain-catch system of drain gutters around the cabin’s slanted roof. It channeled rain and even condensed dew down into a large container next to the door. If it rained, we were ready to jump to filling up all other containers we could find. However, extended periods without rain always forced us to go down hill to the nearest water.
A nice spring of good sweet water lay three miles straight down the steep mountain trail. To get the water back up the mountain required a long arduous trip and the help of a pack-saddled government mule. The packsaddle was so fitted that two fifteen-gallon, wooden barrels were slung on each side. Dipping up the water from the spring, we filled the barrels for the return trip. Since we disliked the drudgery of making the trip, we were mighty careful how we used our water.
Though no one was around to smell us, except ourselves, we did a pretty good job of keeping clean. To bathe, we used a dinky number-2 galvanized tub. A number-2 tub is two feet in diameter. We couldn't sit down in it, as in a number-3 (the kind I used to bathe in as a kid), so with some ingenuity we edged it against a rock or the step by the door, sitting with our feet in the tub while we lathered and scrubbed. To rinse, we stood in a half crouch, dousing the wash rag in the water then ringing it over our heads and torsos. Stingy with the water, we rationed our bath portions to only a couple of inches in the tub.
I remember all to well the first "good bath" we eagerly awaited; for we could see it coming. After meagering along with our precious water during the first weeks at the tower, off in the distance, dark billowing thunderheads merged into what we began to predict as a good storm. Getting ourselves ready, we waited with wash cloths and soap for the pure ecstasy of a real drenching shower bath. The sudden deluge pummeled the pine needled ground with fury. Stripped to the raw, with glee like jubilant frogs we leaped out into the downpour.
Yeee-wow-eee! Despite all our outdoor savvy, we had no idea how icy cold a mountain, summer rain could be. With teeth clenched and stomachs sucked in we gasped for breath, but we stuck it out managing a quick lathering and a freezing rinse. Then, back into the cabin we dashed, thrice as fast as we'd exited. Never again! It wouldn't take two lessons like that one for me to learn. My next bath would be straight from the stove whether it meant an extra trip for water or not. (An old Jewish maxim: Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me.)
We gained the safety of the cabin just in time, for a maelstrom of marble-size hail pelted the ground to whiteness, thickly hedging up in piles against tree trunks and the side of the cabin. Once the storm quit, we went out and scooped up the ice. We packed it in cans, buckets, sacks and every thing we could find, for it would keep our food -- especially meat -- fresh longer. We used the water from the melting ice too; we weren't about to let any go to waste. It postponed, a little longer, the ever dreaded trip to the spring -- way down there at the bottom of the hill.
We stayed in excellent health during the entire experience. Despite the exposure to the elements of wind, rain, hail, wet and cold nights under rugged conditions, at times out under the stars where sleep came hard with not too much to eat or drink, we survived free of constitutional ailments or infections. With the exception of the hurt tailbone from being thrown from the horse we were injury free. Naturally, we had our share of a few cuts, scratches and bruises that one expects with wilderness living and labor.
<>Once in the middle of the night we awakened to sloshing and splashing sounds coming from the big ><>rain-collecting container outside next to the door step. Neither of us were quite willing to open the door to face whatever beast was fouling our water. We crouched in silence wondering -- what on earth can it be? After a while the sounds petered out till all was silent, gathering courage we inched open the door. Nothing. We opened it more. Still nothing. Joe brought the lantern, held it high and there in the container floated the dead body of a huge pack rat. A much smaller animal than the lion-sized racket we'd conjured up in our imaginations.>
During another night the sounds of rustling and scratching outside the double-hinged windows awakened us. The day before over in the horse pasture we had spotted fresh tracks of a big bear. Now, without a doubt, we knew darned well what was out there in the dark -- hunting us. In a single silent motion, we simultaneously slithered from our improvised bed located directly under the window. As I moved back, I grabbed the 30-30 lever-action leaning in the corner. Soundlessly we hunched in chairs against the opposite wall. The table between us afforded a good rest for elbows; I aimed the rifle at the window that had been left open for ventilation. Silence. More scratching, sniffing and milling around, the huge animal was obviously directly under the window. Both of us waited in heart-pounding suspense knowing full well that in a single bound the bear could be through the window into the room upon us.
Then it happened as we feared. The huge black outline of a head rose up to peer in at us. No time to waste. I squeezed the trigger. The rifle's deafening roar shattered the awful stillness of the night, and the head seemed to be flung back and out of sight. We waited, listening. The beast thrashed around for a time -- then silence. We crouched there inside the cabin hardly daring to breath for fear it was only wounded. More agonizing silence. We could wait no longer. With real suspicion that the animal was not dead, we got up and carefully opened the door. With grave caution, each hoping the other would take the lead, we slipped outside with the lantern holding it high above our heads to avoid glare in our eyes, we cautiously peeked around the corner of the building. There in the dim light lay a big, old, grizzly porcupine -- dead as the rat in the rain barrel. When the porky had mounted the windowsill, we had seen his whole body which clearly could not be mistaken for anything but the ominous head of the prowling bear.
Our improvised bed: We’d made it of four one-foot diameter logs laid on the floor, two long ones for the sides
<> and two shorter ones for the ends. Inside the log enclosure we laid ><>out a thickness of fresh, young, pine bows, and over the top of them we spread a cushioning layer of soft, fern >fronds. Over this mattress, we spread our bedrolls. It proved to be a creation of divine comfort.
I guess now is the time to tell you about the only horse I ever owned. Mr. Cole, a friend of my companion Joe and his dad owned a ranch twenty miles from our tower over on the Blue River. At times the two ranches worked together cooperatively. Cole had borrowed a horse from the Reidhead Ranch some time before, and Joe's dad asked that if the opportunity came -- would we ride over and get "old Dardenella" for him. We'd had a good rain and we could leave the tower, so with permission from the head ranger, we were off on another adventure.
Ten miles into the ride we passed Beaver Creek. There we saw eight head of nice looking saddle horses pastured in a field. Young Joe looked them over with fine-tuned eyes for horse flesh and said, "Boy, there's a horse over there I'd sure like to ride while we're still with the Indian Service" He suggested that if we came back this way, after dark, we might pick us out a couple. I asked him, "Do you mean steal them?" He said, "Well, no. We'll just sort of borrow them for a while, and when we're through with them we'll turn them loose; they'll find their way home." I questioned the distance they'd have to return, but he assured me that they would indeed return.
We stayed the night at the Cole Ranch and during the next day we purposely waited to start back so as to reach the horses after dark. Sure enough, when we arrived at Beaver Creek they were still there. We opened the gate, went in, and Joe picked out that "very one" he'd wanted. He lassoed him and then helped me decide on the "next-best." Along with Dardenella we trailed both back to our place at the lookout tower.
We worried some about being caught because if the owner found them gone and the fence not down, he would reason out the truth -- they'd been stolen. To add to the worries of our criminal minds, the route back to our place passed over easy-to-read ground that even a city-slicker dude could track. But our fears were ungrounded, for it soon rained and washed away the tracks. So, with time, our feelings of being desperados faded away, leaving us just short of feeling criminally unconscionable. Of course we would have had to fabricate a story, should we ever get caught. We decided we would matter-of-factly say, "We noticed a couple of horses outside our pasture fence; they looked hungry, so we just let'um in." I named mine "China" meaning China or Chinese because he was a yellowish buckskin. We kept those two horses through the next several weeks until our jobs ended, then turned them loose. And though I'd ridden a lot of horses through the years and learned the solid basics of handling and working them, and even became a fair hand with the lasso, that was the only horse I -- well, sort of, ever owned.
Our job in the mountain required that we furnish ourselves with every thing, including our horses. Along with a bare-essentials cabin, the Service only furnished our tools, a mule with pack saddle and our badges. The grazing that year was scarce, so we had to have at least six head of horses between us. Because of the lack of good grass, they wore out fast, so we changed mounts often. Fortunately for me, Joe furnished them all from his dad's ranch stock in Show Low. It turned out that Joe's six head weren't enough; they didn't get time to rest and feed up enough to recuperate before their next turn. So the two purloined steeds and old Dardenella definitely came in handy.
<>While we're on the subject of horse experiences, this is a good time to tell of one that occurred the year after >
<>working for the Indian Service. Bragging some, but nevertheless a seasoned horseman, of sorts, after excellent >
schooling under my old friend Joe,
a real ranch-raised cowboy. With many painful and harrowing experiences
<><>under my belt. >>
<>I went riding with my cousins, Ray and Marion Ferrin. One of their horses kept giving them fits. He had taken >
<>the upper hand and wouldn't mind his manners. Among several other bad habits, he'd get the bit in his teeth, >
turn, and race for home. Ray and Marion both were afraid of him, and the horse, of course, sensed it and took
advantage with various capers. I became disgusted with their horse and its rider, and said, "Why don't you
whip that old horse and make him behave like he should?" Ray said that he was afraid to because the horse
was naturally ornery and mean. So I asked him if I could ride him awhile. I didn't have a quirt, but the reins
were good and long and I wore spurs. So I got on Old Dandy, and the first time he acted up contrary to what I
wanted, I spurred him hard on the undersides, and whipped him four snapping times across the withers with
<>the reins. Then, I spurred him another good one reining him ><>in the direction “I” wanted to go, and boy, did he take off exactly where I determined -- right on up the road. >For the next fifteen minutes that I rode him, he deferred angelically to everything I wanted him to do. I had never experienced a horse more instantly willing to obey his master.
While I rode the cooperative beast, Ray still felt wary of him and said to me that if he got on him, the horse
would revert to his old obnoxious self. I said, "Well you just try him." Reluctantly, Ray mounted up, but from
the start the animal behaved as perfectly with him as he had "promptly" learned to behave with me. Later, the
oldest brother, Melvin, who had done some real cowboying himself and understood the handling of horses,
met me in town. He told me he'd been riding the horse, and that his brothers told him what I'd done to Old
Dandy had really made a good horse out of him.
The awaited rainy season finally set in, and the need for us at the tower ended. We were directed to move down to the Rock Creek Station where Rock Creek enters the White River. There we occupied a much more comfortable cabin, it even had beds. Unlike work requirements at the tower, Saturday and Sunday were our days off, and, if we wanted, our superiors provided us with extra jobs to earn extra money acting as game wardens. Our badges, sufficient to be recognized as authority by the fishermen caused them to submit to a check of license and numbers of fish in possession. For men still youths, this authority over others and their willingness to cooperate served as an interesting experience. In the capacity of game wardens, we visited with many people, but the occasion never arose to issue a single citation.
Our workday ended every evening at five o'clock. The summer evenings, long and comfortable afforded plenty of time for us to take advantage of the beautiful stream flowing by our cabin door. I hardly missed an evening at the river’s edge casting the baited hook into every likely swirl hoping to catch the wily trout. The fish averaged about a foot in length. We caught many more than we could eat, but since three other cabins there were occupied by employees like ourselves, who weren't fishermen, they were real happy to share the bounty.
Much of our workday now occupied us in riding the telephone lines to repair and otherwise keep them trouble-free. Once, as we rode along we came upon an Indian camp consisting of separate, large, family-size wickiups (dome shaped structures of bent limbs covered with a loose thatching of brush and tree bows with canvas and skins tied over them. Here were three separate families living in their summer encampment. It was midday, and we stopped briefly to watch two women sitting by the campfire shaping the “maza” (damp corn flour) into flat, thin tortillas to be placed on a makeshift grill for toasting. They sat with their skirts pulled up exposing one bare thigh upon which they slapped, patted and shaped the tortilla to dimension before placing it on the grill. They seemed totally unconcerned as two white men on horseback tarried a while to watch. As we watched, they visited with us and invited us to dismount and sample a tortilla. We could see men a little distance from us, but they seemed unconcerned. Their grill, I noticed, seemed to be an old fender from a Model T Ford.
We left the cabin one morning to get on with riding the telephone lines. Joe, on horseback, leading the packed mule, left fifteen minutes earlier. When I rode out I led the four spare horses consecutively tied tails-to-lead-ropes in tandem. I held the lead rope of the front horse. Heavy, black clouds that had dropped their load lingered as peels of thunder echoed roundabout us. We meandered along up the damp trail. After three miles, we reached a very steep slope. Along its side, a slender dug-way trail with a dangerous slope, edged steeply downward. I continued carefully on down the narrow trail.
Without warning, the big pine on the trail just ahead exploded with a blinding flash and a mind-stunning blast. Though dazed, I was aware of bark and small limbs falling all about me. Shocked into a few instants of timelessness I finally came to my senses. I found that I was still on my horse with the lead rope in hand and the four other horses still trailing behind, seemingly unbothered by the phenomenon. But, we were now going uphill away from the lightning strike; we were headed back in the direction we'd come. How we got turned around on that narrow, steep trail -- I don't know. Why the horses never spooked -- I can't explain. Somehow, some way, a fragment of drama in my life had been erased from memory.
Up the trail a ways, I turned us around and road back down to the great, stricken tree. The acrid smell of smoke from burned, green, pine pitch hung in the air, and blocking the trail lay a large section of the felled giant. The horses waited unable to continue over or around it while I worked cutting it to clear the way.
Trailing horses: Joe taught
me the trick: The tapered end of the tail hair is folded back forming a
"bunch" at its
The many bizarre stories about the disgusting government mule I assure you are mostly true. A mule is a touchy, sensitive animal. He especially hates his ears touched, and if you are successful at putting the bridle or hackamore on him without touching them, he'll love you. If you bungle the job -- watch out -- he's liable to bang you with his head or go for a bite out of you.
The shoeing of a touchy mule back in the mountain under primitive circumstances is a trying task: With two men on horses, one throws a noose over the head, and the other tosses a noose down catching one of the hind legs. Then the horses move in opposite directions to slowly stretch him out, and at the same time maneuvering, as they continue to stretch him, so he'll fall with the roped hoof up. After he's down the horses have to hold their place, ropes taut, while both riders dismount for the next trick. The front hoof is tied to the hind, forming a cross, leaving the leg with the hoof you want to shoe sticking out far enough to work on. After the two hoofs on one side are shoed, he is rolled over so the second pair of legs can be tied and shoed.
It sounds fairly simple, but before he can be shoed the two cross-tied legs must be raised up into a position to allow the shoeing. For this, a long stout sapling is cut and trimmed. One end of the pole is passed over the middle of the body from the back, and slipped under the top, two, tied legs. One man sits his weight on the opposite end, teeter-totter-like, leveraging up that pair of legs, while his partner does the shoeing. With the mule shoes, curved shoeing nails, hammer and pinchers (to trim the hoof) he finishes the job on one side. Then they both roll the animal over again to finish up on the other side. That's the only way we could do it without getting our lights kicked out.
So ended a beautiful summer filled with many new experiences indelibly catalogued in our memories. Although it occupied only a few fleeting weeks of my life, it became a significant "whole era" for me to reflect back upon with fondness through these many years. I've kept track of Joe over the years, and to close out this part of the history let me tell you one last story about this great character.
Much later in life (1983) while
Josephine and I traveled through Utah with my second son, Jon, and his
<> An evening later as we watched television in our motel room, the newscaster announced there had been an>
<> accident outside of Vernal. We learned that Joe and his wife survived, but it broke his wife's wrist, hospitalizing>
<> her. We made the trip to the hospital. As we walked down the hall searching for the room, there up the hall>
<> ahead of us stood Joe and another man visiting. I felt relieved to at least see him on his feet. l gave him a hardy>
<> handshake, but worried about his wife, I expressed my concern. I said, "Joe, how is she?" In response, he shook>
<> his head indicating something extraordinary to explain, "Darvil, it's unbelievable, our pickup is a mess, and the>
<> horse trailer is demolished, but it didn't hurt my horse a bit." That’s my cowboy friend, Joe Reidhead.>