The Personal Histories
Darvil Burns McBride & Josephine Phillips McBride
My life began in the rural community of Glenbar, Arizona (earlier called Fairview), where I lived until eight years of age. I started my first year of school as a first-grader, in a small one-room schoolhouse. The single room served for Sunday School and other evening church functions during the week; whether built originally as a school or a church or something else, I never knew. Seth Larson taught all of us, about 25 scruffy farm and ranch kids, all in the same room, grades one through six.
As mentioned elsewhere, some people outside our community of Glenbar called it by another name: Hogtown. I’ve never known for sure why they poked fun at it. However, there were quite a few hogs in town compared to the number of people. And I guess we kids were pretty much hogs ourselves.
I don’t recall the names of all my classmates. However, there were two, the Lockhart twins, girls my age, whose manners had favorably impressed me. They lived just up the lane from us about a quarter-mile. We were real good friends and I played with them often. [Bruce, his brother adds: “Not at all surprising that Dobbs (an early nickname) was popular with the girls, even at this early age.]
Built just across the fence north of the railroad tracks, the school building sat alone with nary-a-tree to add beauty or shade. Unexpectedly one day, the school received a gift of trees, the number of them at least equal to the number of its pupils. The teacher gave one to each of us to plant and to give a name. I remember the day we all busied ourselves out around the school digging holes to plant them. As the months became a year, and then more, I visited the school often to check on "Darvil", the name I had given my tree, checking on how it was doing. (We had decided to name the trees after ourselves.) Many of the small trees lived and thrived, but after about two years, to my dismay, I discovered that Darvil had died.
I got in big trouble once that first year. Between the schoolyard and the train tracks stretched a wire fence -- forbidden to us to ever cross. Adults seemed to know that the temptation for boys to play on the tracks would be too overwhelming to resist: if ever we went over the fence. However, a couple of friends and I took it upon ourselves to breach the never-ever-never barrier during one recess. Sure enough, the fascination, too overpowering for six-year-olds, beckoned us to that stretch of twin ribbons of steel to examine it and play.
Soon we found a railroad spike: a giant square nail in appearance to us. They are used to nail the rails to the redwood ties. While I examined the hefty thing, my imagination went into overdrive and curiosity overcame me. I no sooner laid the spike on the track, when we heard the train’s whistle. It sounded so close that we knew it would soon be upon us. We scurried back and slipped through the fence into the schoolyard where we waited with baited breath for the train to pass. Boy, when the train hit that spike—it sounded like a rocket blasting off. To our fright, the train braked to a rapid stop. Then I knew -- troubles were really on my tail.
The locomotive engineer and the fireman left the train and crossed the fence, and while we stood in terror, they gave the whole bunch of us a lecture. They explained the dangers of laying things on the tracks and the many reasons it should never be done. Then it came -- they asked for the culprit to “fess up,” -- and in trembling fear I raised my hand and confessed. After the two men left, my good teacher, in all kindliness, gave me a lecture too. After that experience I never put another thing on the tracks again. Anyway -- on "those" tracks.
My older brothers together with our oldest sister, Gladys, attended school in the neighboring town of Pima, three miles from Glenbar. I believe Gladys had completed school there, making room for me to ride with my three brothers in the buggy: for this reason I began school in Pima as a second-grader, instead of continuing in the Glenbar school. We had a little hack-of-a-buggy with a small extension of its body -- the “boot” we called it, extending rearward, much like a miniature pickup bed. We carried a part of a bail of hay with us each day for the horse. We left the horse and buggy behind the school in an area especially designated for hitching horses. I remember seeing Floyd, Leonard or Orlando going over in the middle of the school day to toss the horse a flake of hay.
Making the daily trips to school, Orlando and I, the two youngest, stood up in the back behind the seat in the little bed while our big brothers sat in the bench seat. To steady ourselves, we gripped the hack's rods on each side in front of us. (Though a hack is a kind of buggy, the buggy canopy itself was called the hack too.)
The trips in the buggy to and from school I remember well, especially during the cold winter months. Orlando and I had to dress extra warm with heavy coats and snuggle down up against the back seat. I wore a wool-knit cap pulled down over my ears and half of my face, and I wrapped the heavy muffler (scarf) around my neck.
In clement weather, the trips were fun for a little boy of seven. Since my schoolday ended two hours earlier than the older boys, my parents gave me permission to walk home by myself, when I wanted to; which, I opted to do on many occasions. I knew the way along the road, but I also learned the shortcut. I simply followed the railroad tracks which went straight towards home unlike the winding road. Of course, I'd always ask permission of mother that morning, and if the weather seemed acceptable she always said yes. Walking would get me home an hour earlier than the others.
During these walks is when I began to really practice with my bean flipper (flipper or sling-shot). I always took it to school, and as I walked the tracks, I would shoot at birds and other critters, as well as imaginary prey. My aim lacked real accuracy at first, but any sparrow I happened to drop with a lucky shot I stuffed in my pocket to feed the cat at home. Gradually I developed accuracy, and though doves rarely frequent the railroad right-of-way -- they were "real big game”—and I continually looked for opportunities to nail one. Envious of my brother Orlando, who had killed his first dove a year earlier, I promised myself that I would kill me a dove -- pretty darn soon.
With steadfast determination, I hunted and hunted and shot and shot, but without success. The ruffling of a few feathers from time to time served to sustain the excitement of the hunt for that big game. One day, down the middle of Granddad’s barnyard, I spotted some doves feeding where the horses and the cows had been stabled. I sneaked along the fence and around its corner to a good spot where I could suddenly lean around the gate and get off a good shot. The plan proved perfect, and the missile sailed through the air true to its mark -- I got'im. As I had seen Leonard and Floyd do, I pulled off its head to end suffering and let it bleed. In so doing, considerable blood spilled over my hands.
The sun had already set, and darkness would soon close in. I ran happily for home with the kill stuffed safely in my pocket. I was so proud I could hardly contain myself. As I burst into the house, the first thing I did was show everyone the blood on my hands, as I blurted out the details of the kill, displaying the first trophy of the mighty dove hunter. That kill didn't go for cat's fare; I plucked and cleaned it for Mother to cook. In my entire life I had never tasted anything so delicious.
I don't remember much about the second year in school or even the name of my teacher. I do recall the name of the principal because of her peculiar name -- Mrs. Ledwitch. My brothers forewarned me of how mean she could be, and I should take special care to avoid crossing her path. So, playing it carefully the whole year, I never once suffered under her infamous disposition.
I'll mention one noteworthy incident of the year: A boy found a can of lye, and he took it into the outside, boy’s restroom where he and some others began to horse around with it. One of them ended up pouring some down the back of the neck of the other. After a while the lye began to take effect, and the boy could feel the flesh of his back begin to burn.
I suppose that's when I heard the beginning of a lot of hollering. As I turned my attention to the sounds coming from the restroom, out bounded the boy. He ran past me like a scared deer; I stood dumbfounded as I watched him tear on by. The true extent of his desperation soon manifest itself, for he raced straight for the canal, where he threw himself in, clothes and all. Once in the soothing water, he washed the flesh-eating stuff off as best and as fast as he possibly could. That episode caused quite a stir around the school and throughout town. A terrible experience for sure, for the poor victim. At least one other boy in that incident found himself in another kind of deep trouble.
Dad had been elected county sheriff. The courthouse had been in Solomonville, but a new one was recently built in Safford, and it accommodated the sheriff's office. Had we stayed in Glenbar, the going and coming on that long, potholed, curving road would have been so slow and arduous that we would have been separated from Dad for long periods of time. No one wanted that, so Dad rented a house for the family in Safford where we could be together. Therefore, I attended the third grade in Safford.
The school was on Main Street just across from the courthouse. I have few memories of that year, but during the first part of it I didn't do well in my studies. Uprooted from the only home and town I’d ever known, the change of schools, plus all the other new beginnings in my life caused me to fall behind in the class; I had a heck-of-a-time trying to catch up. They finally discovered the problem to be a deficiency in reading. Once discovered, steps to correct it were taken, and with newfound help, my situation soon improved. I finished the school year in fair shape.
Though I've forgotten her name, one pleasant memory of the third grade involves a kind and exceptional teacher. Her features hinted of Latin extraction: dark complexioned and dark, long hair with eyes and lashes to match, I thought her the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen. I loved her so much that whatever she told me --I took as gospel.
All that she asked me to do, I did. In addition to helping me correct my reading deficiency; she also perceived the deeper problems of being a newcomer among strangers. She discretely arranged situations to help me adjust and make new friends. I finally found the circle of comfort much needed by a sensitive eight-year-old boy abruptly tossed into too many new and seemingly threatening situations.
As best I remember, we lost Dad while I attended the fourth grade in Safford. One moment, all was smooth as silk; the next moment everything in our lives turned topsy-turvy. The disaster obliged us to give up the expensive Safford rental. In Thatcher three miles to the west, Mother's brother, my Uncle Oscar, had built a rental home. His renters had recently vacated, and he immediately made it available to our family for as long as we needed.
We lived there straightening out our affairs while adjusting to Dad's death, trying to get back on our feet. After about six months, Mother purchased the big house on Main Street (Christopher Layton's old home, Jo's great-grandfather). Mother had given birth to my little sister Frankie just before the move, and there in Thatcher I finished the fourth grade, and two of my sisters and three brothers finished their school year too. We continued living in that comfortable rural town through the rest of our growing-up years. I went through all the school years, including high school and two years of junior college there. During the fourth, fifth, and sixth grades of grammar school, is when I made the real life-long, lasting friendships of my life. Though born in Glenbar and for a short time lived in Safford, Thatcher became the place that I would always look back to—as, my home town.
As I grew up in Thatcher, I had many friends from neighboring communities that counted me their good friend too. However, I considered the following Thatcher boys as my best friends: Gordon Stowell, Fenton Taylor, Ivan Huntsinger, Brose Hanschett, Heber James, Clark Owens, Ralph Smith, Lyman Foster and Winston and Ernest Larson. About everything I ever did, I did with one, several, or all of them.
The teachers I remember were all fine people. With few exceptions they were L.D.S. I especially remember Jess and Ruby Brimhall: Ruby, taught me in one of the elementary school grades. Many years later, she would teach under me after I assumed the Thatcher Elementary School Principalship. A marvelous teacher, she exerted grand and lasting influence upon hundreds of youth. She cared about all her pupils and spent the extra hours necessary to help any in need.
Jess Brimhall taught me in the sixth grade. Though a just man, he was pretty tough, especially with the boys if we didn't tow the line. Different with the girls though, he treated them with special gentleness. Jess also taught us in our mechanics and wood shop classes, and later in junior high he became my basketball coach.