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Short Stories by Bruce Lane McBride: Give Perspective and Background
of Thatcher and the
Gila Valley
to Better Understand the Day Pertaining to these Histories 


Bruce is Darvil’s youngest brother. They coauthored two books together. Many of these stories are found throughout the Darvil and Jo History. I typed all of them up in the computer for the first time; sent him hard copy, and he returned them with corrections, sometimes as many as three times. We talked on the phone many times, and I got to know my noble uncle--and friend--very well as I typed his preliminary history and many other articles. He also corrected much of the history for me on this site.
Darvil David (Mac) McBride


There are stories a plenty of how dogs have saved the lives of their masters.  Now hear the story of how I saved the life of my dog:

The occasion was Cub’s last big wilderness experience. I was 15, and Cub was getting along in “dog years.”  We, and a friend, Gene Mangum, went with my older brother, Darvil, on a camping trip.  We hiked into our mountain campsite, leading a pack horse which carried our grub and equipment -- a two-day journey. 

In attempting to extend our stay a day or two, we ran alarmingly low on food.  Now my buddy, Gene, was what you might call a non-stop eater.  If he went as long as thirty minutes without food he would get delirious; eight hours would put him in the advanced stages of starvation.  Darvil carried a 22-caliber six-shooter, with which we planned to bag small game to supplement scanty rations.  Either of us might hit the side of a barn at ten paces with a hand gun; but neither of us could as much as wound a rabbit or a chipmunk, much less bring down one of the wild pigeons which sat on the high branches of the pine trees.  I am sure, had we succeeded in bringing down one of those plump, feathery trophies, Gene would have pounced upon it like a turkey on a June bug, and devoured it, guts, feathers and all.  A box of shells ruffled nary a hair or a feather. 

The morning we broke camp, we divided part of a loaf of stale bread between the four of us, the last of our food.  Gene complained bitterly that the dog received equal share.  That evening, as we prepared to camp on the trail, I noticed Gene, gaunt and hungry, as he looked wistfully at the dog.  Later, as we sat by the fire, Gene seemed in kind of a daze, as he reached over and patted Cub on the ribs and said, “you know, I have read how the explorers in the far north sometimes resorted to eating their sled dogs when no other food was available.”  

“You had a hunk of bread this morning; that should do it,” I said. 

Gene countered with, “The Scripture says, ‘man shall not live by bread alone.’  I’m hungry” 

“You misapplied the scripture,” I challenged.  “But if it’s meat you want I’ll catch a lizard for you.  Better yet, eat the horse.” 

“Don’t say that; he might just do it,” Darvil quipped.  Then we roared with laughter. 

With this, I whistled for cub and made sure from then on he remained under my protection.  After years of faithful companionship, I was not about to allow a hunger-maddened teen-ager to eat my dog. 

By the afternoon of the following day we were back to the land of food stores and well stocked pantry shelves, where each could assuage his hunger at his own pace; though Gene stoutly maintained that his health had been damaged, and that he might yet die of malnutrition. 

I tried to explain to Cub how I had saved his life.  He licked my hand and laid his head in my lap in an affectionate gesture.  I think he understood.

His Name Was “Dobbs” 

Among the members of our family and acquaintances, almost everyone had a nickname.  I was “Guzzie”, Floyd was “Mac,” Leonard was “Chinie,” Orlando was “Lando,” and for a number of years, they called Darvil “Dobbs”.  I never knew the genesis of the name, and I think it only stayed with him into his early teen years.  Beyond that time I don’t know that he was called anything but Darvil; unless you count the time he and his friends decided to spell their names backwards; then it was “Livrad.”  Two of his friends, Gordon and Fenton, were “Nodrog” and “Notnef.”  And there were others.

I point this out just as a hint as to the type of person Darvil was, and is.  Surely, anyone with names like Dobbs and Livrad is bound to be a peculiar person. 

Now I don’t want anyone to get bent out of shape because I used the word, “peculiar”.  While originally the word was restricted to mean quaint, odd, strange, (not that he isn’t a little of that too) in more recent times it has taken on a different meaning, as many words do in a changing world.  We can all recall when ”Keep off the grass,“ meant simply, “Don’t walk on the lawn,” and “Pot” was something your cooked your dinner in.  Need I explain what comes to mind when these words are spoken today? 

My use of the word “peculiar” is meant to convey some of the following:  Having a character exclusively its own, select, special, uncommon, unusual excellent or distinguished.  While all these have related meanings, I like the middle one.  Surely Darvil is the uncommon man.  Let me mention a few of the things which put Darvil in this unique category. 

When he was a youngster I recall that he was continually pursuing innovative ways of having fun in the neighborhood;  Playing destruction derby with rolling hoops; a game of golf with home made clubs, with the entire neighborhood, including the school yard, as the playing course; a trolley ride by cable from the top of our tall mulberry tree across the corn patch to our neighbor’s fence; a cycle-dome for a tricky bicycle ride; writing and producing plays with the neighbor hood kids to take the parts. 

Darvil participated in sports excelling in basketball and track.  In high school -- the trophy winner for best player and first place in the conference polevault -- third in the State; and in junior college -- a member of the basketball team that excelled in the state.  

Without enumerating the details, Darvil distinguished himself as Student Body President of the high school and the junior college, as an educator, a public servant, (eight years in the Arizona State Senate) A story teller (At the drop of a hat he had a story to tell.)  Author, Poet (At the slightest provocation he would write a poem on the spot.)  A builder (He made the adobes and built his own home.)  

A kind and gentle person, Darvil’s life has been full of charity and good works.  The closest he came to being unkind to me was one time when he and a friend went for a hunt along the river bottom. Unwanted this time, I “tagged along”, barefoot, a respectable distance behind.  Consequently they led me through thickets of willows, across rocky terrain and through patches of sand burrs.  Though slowed at times I was not defeated.  

Above all, Darvil was kind and thoughtful to our mother.  Living close by, he and Jo were attentive to many of her needs, for which she was truly grateful. 

In many fields Darvil was a leader.  In church callings -- a youth leader, a scouter, a Branch President, and excellent speaker.  In all these endeavors Darvil was not satisfied to perform at an ordinary level.  He always strove for, and indeed attained the more excellent dimension.

Greatly loved by a delicate and devoted wife, emulated by three talented children and a myriad of grand and great-grandchildren, Darvil with Josephine at his side, stands as “Patriarch” to a truly great posterity.

Besides all this in our later years, hiking buddies, an endeavor in which I was the more experienced.  I led him over some steep and rugged trails; but he did more than just “tag along.” 

True it is that many have had the responsibilities and done the things that Darvil has done; But few there are who have done them so faithfully and well.  Is not this the legacy of my beloved brother, an uncommon Man?  

Not bad for a guy with a moniker like “Dobbs”. 

            (Floyd, named me Dobbs -- he claimed when asked my name I would say, “Daubel.”  Just for fun he     started calling me “Doorbell.”  Just how the thing degenerated into Dobbs, I’ve never figured out. But, it stayed with me through junior college -- really until I left Thatcher.  Darvil)

The Cables and the Rope 

August 1926 -- I had just turned 13, and I sat patiently legs folded -- waiting.  I pulled down the brim of my cap to shade my eyes.  The sun was bright and hot; but I wasn’t worried about that.  I was a bit hungry; but I wasn’t worried much about that either. 

The platform on which I perched swayed gently.  I looked down.  “Must be five hundred feet to the bottom of the canyon,” I mused.  I worried a little about that.  I looked to either side; a thick growth of fir and juniper covered the steep mountain slope.  I looked behind me; Mel was still standing on the platform about two hundred yards away.  He waved to me and shouted something I couldn’t quite make out. 

I wondered about the steel cables -- seven down-hill miles of them straight ahead; and I wasn’t moving!  I was beginning to become real concerned about that!  I thought about the rope -- a half inch diameter, manila line, twenty feet of it -- one end tied securely around my waist....  

And thereby hangs a tale: 

Melvin and Lan Allen, local brothers, owned a service station and garage in Thatcher, Arizona.  A friendly pair; they didn’t mind some of us youngsters hanging around to watch them work on automobiles.  I did odd jobs for them from time to time and they would give me privileges around the station, like the use of their tools to work on my bicycle.  

Now Mel didn’t spend much time at the service station and garage.  He had a job on the tramway which transported lumber from a sawmill up on Mount Graham. 

The tramway was a system of steel cables and carriers supported by wooden towers, the whole about fourteen miles in length, extending from the top of the mountain to the desert floor.  Midway it made a bend, changing direction by about 15 degrees.  This necessitated the transferring of the loads of lumber arriving from the upper section, around the bend, and re-connecting them to the lower section -- the final seven miles to the terminus in the valley. 

Mel and his wife occupied a cabin at the transfer station, he being a one man crew to do the work at that location.  One day Mel invited me to go along and spend a couple of days with them.  During those two days I had a great time just following  him around asking a thousand questions, and in other ways making a pest of myself.  Mel was tolerant and told me everything I wanted to know about the tram, the most fascinating operation I had ever seen. 

The tram operated on the same principle as the chair lift on a ski slope, except that the loads traveled downward instead of upward.  The carriers were suspended from, and traveled on, a “track” cable, the same attached to the end of a cross arm at the top of each tower.  Each carrier was secured by a special clamping devise to a second (rotating) cable which pulled the loaded carriers down the mountain.  Two carriers were required to support a load of lumber, one on either end of the load.  The rotating cable traveled in the groove of a wheel mounted on a cross arm about eight feet below the top arm.  (See accompanying diagrams.) 

This arrangement was duplicated on the opposite side of the towers, where the empty carriers were transported back to the sawmill at the top of the mountain.  Mel explained to me some of the problems that developed with the operation of the tram.  On occasions the system would be shut down for hours while repairs were being made.  There were times when something would go awry with the carriers and whole loads of lumber would be lost into remote canyons.  Unplanned shutdowns were common occurrences. 

He told me about the sad day a few months back when a fellow employee was killed at the transfer station.  He and Leo Bond were working together when Leo accidentally got his hand hung up under the cable as it move around a huge horizontal wheel.  In a matter of seconds he was pulled into the structural timbers.  Mel ran to his aid and made a heroic attempt to extricate the arm of his friend from the vice grip of the cable.  But to no avail.  All he could do was frantically ring the phone to order the operator at the mill to shut down the tram.  When they backed off the cable, Leo’s neck was found to be broken.  Mel showed me the very spot where the large wheel rotated between two timbers, and Leo’s body became wedged. 

When it came time for me to go home, we discussed the options.  Mel could drive me home at the end of his shift, or I could walk to the terminus and chance hitching rides from there.  The only alternative would be for me to ride the tram on a load of lumber.  I was all in favor of the latter; so just before noon, and probably against his better judgement, Mel seated me on one of the loads as he prepared to send me on my way.  In a last minute decision, he turned and picked up a piece of rope that happened to be laying near by.  He tied it around my waist and secured the rope to a leg of one of the carriers and said, “There, that’s your safty belt.  I wouldn’t want to gather you up from the bottom of one of these canyons.”  He secured the clamps to the moving cable and I was on my way for the most exciting seven mile journey I would ever take. 

The first tower was at the top of a ridge, on the other side of a very deep canyon, a distance of about four hundred yards.  In a matter of minutes I was about midway along that long span when the tram stopped.  And that is how I came to be suspended from the cables, looking all around, wondering what would happen next. 

At first I was content to wait, felling quite sure my vehicle would start moving again.  Then I began to worry.  What if this was one of those shutdowns that might last for hours, or even days?  I hadn’t planned to spend the night perched like a bird on a high wire.  Mel had waved and call out to me; but since I couldn’t understand what he said, I contented myself with the thought that it didn’t make much difference anyway.  A feeling of utter helplessness settled into my consciousness.  For a full hour I waited in the hot sun, looking down into that deep canyon, when at long last the carrier started to move again. 

The carrier moved at about the speed that a person walks.  Tower after Tower went by as I crossed canyons and ridges.  The transfer station, with Mel standing on the platform had long since disappeared from view.  In the vastness and silence of the mountain I experienced a terrible loneliness, as I realized I was now isolated and on my own. 

Some of the spans were extremely long, others much shorter, depending upon the terrain.  At times the tram would stop, which was always a cause of great concern to me, wondering if and when It would start again.  I figured I could get off at one of the towers if I wanted to do so; but there would be little chance of doing any thing but wait if I became stalled mid-span.  The cables did a considerable amount of bouncing and swaying in the longer spans; but I felt secure with the rope that Mel had tied around my waist -- Aladin on his magic carpet. 

After about four miles of travel I had reached the lower part of the mountain, where the decent was not so steep nor the canyons so deep.  Just for the experience I decided to get off my perch at one of the towers and walk across a wide arroyo to the next tower.  I took my rope along just in case, and hurriedly made the trip across and up the next tower in plenty of time to mount the same load of lumber.  It wasn’t a difficult task, although I must admit, it involved considerable risk. 

A slight miscalculation or a mis-step could have meant disaster. 

Now back on my magic carpet, I rode along as the route became less and less mountainous, the distance above the ground sometimes fifty feet or less.  Soon I could make out the terminus less than a mile ahead.  Victory seemed assured when suddenly the tram stopped again!  I estimated the time to be about four O’clock.  Surely it would  start again, so I waited. 

After about thirty minutes, waiting restlessly in the hot sun, I began to consider an alternative.  My position was about 150 feet from the next tower, and 40 to 50 feet above the ground.  Maybe I could inch my way along he cable to the tower.  Surely I could do that, providing the distance was not so great; but 150 feet!  I decided against it.  I might yet be obliged to spend the night hovering there above the silent desert hills.  Lonesome, yes, and more than a little frightened; but I took some consolation in the thought that I would be safe from the coyotes and the rattlesnakes. 

Then I thought about the rope.  I made a quick check to determine its length -- perhaps a little over 20 feet.  If the carriers were no more than 40 feet off the ground, I could use the rope to lower myself to within 20 feet off the ground.  Perhaps I could chance a drop of that distance without too much difficulty; a little risky for sure, as the desert terrain was rocky and uneven with some cactus and creosote bushes. 

I waited another ten minutes; but the tram didn’t budge.  I thought about Mel and how anxious he must be to know if I had made the trip OK.  He would be in trouble if anything happened to me -- I would do my best to keep Mel out of trouble. 

Decision made, I tied one end of the rope to a carrier leg, then carefully maneuvered over the edge and lowered myself to its end.  Now how far were my feet off the ground?  I couldn’t be sure; hopefully no more than 15 feet.  Chances were I could survive that.  For a brief moment I dangled there -- literally at the end of my rope 

The moment of truth had arrived! 

I said a little prayer and turned loose ....  I made a crash landing in a creosote bush, sustaining nothing more serious than a few scratches, a torn shirt, and a slightly strained leg muscle.  With a slight limp I walked the last few hundred yards to the end of the line, thinking all the while how fortunate that my friend, Mel, had inadvertently provided the one item that saved the day -- that short piece of rope.  I tremble to think of what might have been the outcome without it. 

Evidently it was the end of the shift and the tram had shut down for the day.  My private conveyance, now abandoned, three quarters of a mile back, would not arrive until the next morning.  At the terminus I negotiated for a ride the six miles into Pima, breathing not a word about my hair-raising adventure.  I would call Mel and put his mind at ease as soon as I could get to a phone. 

I have often wondered what the workmen thought the next day when my load of lumber came  with the manila line dangling from the carrier.  They could only guess at the events that I would never forget -- The Saga of The Cables and the Rope.


I suspect everyone has a place he likes to call his “home town.”  Maybe it’s where you were born, or maybe just the place you spent your youth.  Could be a big city or a little country place.  At any rate, it’s a place you have lived part of your life, and to which for one reason or another you have a special attachment. 

On the map of Arizona, Thatcher is a little black dot in the Gila Valley, about 180 miles east of Phoenix and 140 miles north of Tucson, right on the Gila River as it winds its way west to Coolidge Dam and the reservoir.  I claim Thatcher as my home town. 

During the twenty years I lived there, Thatcher maintained a pretty steady population of around two thousand.  The town may have grown a little since -- not much -- maybe a thousand or so, since developing some new housing out south of town at the old Robinson Ranch.  That’s just beyond the graveyard, out toward Mount Graham.  And also since the little Junior College there has been expanded; and now attracts students from a sizable part of the state.  Schools have been a big plus for my home town. 

But I wasn’t born in Thatcher.  Fact is I was born about seven miles down-river in a place folks once referred to as “Lizard Bump.”  It had a better name -- Fairview -- but since it was little more than a bump in the road and there were a lot of lizards running around among the mesquite trees, the cactus and greasewood bushes, the nickname seemed appropriate.  It could just as well have been called “Rattlesnake -- something or other”, because there were plenty of them too.  But then it was a gentle spot and lizards are harmless little creatures, so “Lizard Bump” seemed about right. 

When I was three we moved to Safford, about ten miles up-river, then a couple of years later, back down three miles to Thatcher -- my home for the next twenty years.  And it’s fun to think back about those years; that would be 1918 through 1938. 

There is no way of knowing anything sensible about Thatcher without first realizing that it was first and foremost a “Mormon town.”  Several communities in the Gila Valley were first settled by the Mormon people.  It is important to know that. 

The preeminent building in Thatcher was the church house; and you could tell from it that the Latter-day Saints thought in terms of permanent.  Not just some small frame structure that you might expect on the isolated western frontier; they built it out of sandstone blocks, quarried out of the hills; quarried and chiseled by hand tools and hauled many miles by wagon teams.  There was nothing puny about the Thatcher church.  Wide concrete steps led up to the main chapel and more steps led from ground level down to a full basement recreation hall.  An imposing structure, it was with steeply pitched, gabled roof, topped in the fore by a tower and steeple.  The tower housed a large bell. 

No self respecting church or school in those days would be without a bell to announce the scheduled activities  The bell rang thirty minutes ahead of time for church to start; and it was a cardinal sin to stay in bed on Sunday.  Almost as bad to be late for Sunday School -- 10 A.M., and that was only the half of it.  There were other Sunday meetings, as well as week-day auxiliary activities; and the ringing of the bell was important to everybody. 

Throughout my youth the sound of a bell for church or school was a fact of life, like getting dressed or eating breakfast.  And it must have had a deeper mystical meaning, else why would I miss it so much after moving away and discovering that most people didn’t ring bells like they did in my home town.  The tolling of the bell served to remind you that you were expected to be someplace, even needed, and that you had better get going -- others were depending on you.  That familiar sound seemed to generate a safe, comfortable feeling, that all was right with the world and that good ordinary things were about to happen, with nothing to hurt or make afraid. 

An interesting fellow by the name of Edmund Richardson was my teacher in the fifth grade.  An inveterate story teller, he had a story about the bell at the grade school.  He said at one time,       School Principal, Jackson, decided to do away with the school bell.  He thought it was an antiquated custom and that students would be better off regulating activities by the clock rather than by a bell.  “Well”, said Richie (He was known affectionately by that name) “everything in the community got out of kilter.  Chickens forgot to lay eggs, cows got all nervous and gave :blinky” milk.  (In case you didn’t know, that’s milk right on the verge of turning sour).  Dogs snarled at their masters -- things like that.  Solid citizens began to complain that their lives were being affected in ways they didn’t understand.  Ol’ Sam Perkins drove his fliver into the ditch and blamed it on to the fact that he was upset because he didn’t hear the bell ring that day.  Doc Platte claimed that in general people’s blood pressure was going up.  And old Brother Evans claimed his marriage was about to break up because his wife suddenly got all cantankerous and hard to live with -- blamed it all on the bell situation.”   Richie said that things got so bad in Thatcher that the town council sent Cop Allen over and had Principal Jackson arrested for disturbing the peace.  Judge Layton heard the case, and the school and the town got its bell back. 

Richie told stories for entertainment; and when this one was related to a bunch of eleven year oldboys around the camp fire on an overnight camp-out, we weren’t about to question it, whether fact or fiction.  I suspect he was making a point.  There must be a moral there someplace.  Richie was like that. 

So Thatcher had a sandstone church and a red brick schoolhouse (each with a bell) and a Junior College, a small one to be sure.  It also had a post office, a dry goods and clothing store, two grocery stores, a meat market, a barber shop, a service station, a drug store, and a silent movie theater.  And, it had a pool hall.  In the eyes of the faithful, the latter was appropriately dubbed, “The Dirty Shame.” 

Most of the above were already in place, and how it came into being was ancient history when I showed up in 1918, nearly five years old. 

Some of the things Thatcher didn’t have at that early date were a dependable source of electricity, indoor plumbing, a jail, and a lot of automobiles. 

Ernest Larson and I were a little over eight years old when we did the thing at the church which was our biggest experience up to that time.  One Thursday afternoon we were alone just killing time, like throwing rocks at the big cotton woods in the grove behind the church.  Then we sauntered around to the front and began running up and down the concrete steps, when we discovered the front door of the chapel unlocked.  Cautiously we swung one of the tall oak doors open just enough to slip inside -- not a soul in sight!  Two steps up brought us to the level of the chapel floor, which sloped gently away toward the rostrum.  The pulpit, sacrament tables, piano and choir seats filled the raised portion at the far end.  The ceiling was high -- probably eighteen feet, and the assembly room with pews could seat a thousand or more.  The size of the building seemed out of proportion to the population of Thatcher, but actually it was not nearly large enough for periodic conferences attended by members from all parts of the Gila Valley. 

Our being in the chapel was not a new experience, but this was different.  Now it was empty and quiet and yes, not a little spooky!  The lowering sun cast streams of light through the high, arched, stained glass windows on the west side, creating an eerie lighting effect.  Hanging in the spaces between the windows were the familiar paintings we had seen a thousand times before, figures of some of the church leaders we knew about.  But now in the emptiness of the big hall, they seemed more life-like -- watching -- as though they were about to step out of their frames and confront us as intruders. 

My buddy looked at me and grimaced a little.  “What do you think?  Shall we try it?”  I knew what he meant.  For a long time we had both wanted to get up to that big bell in the tower.  We weren’t set on any mischief, just curious to attain the highest place in town and see for ourselves the bell that had been an important part of our young lives. 

In either corner of our end of the chapel was a small room, walled in all the way to the high ceiling.  Each had a door which would ordinarily be locked.  The room to the west contained storage shelves, and in the middle of it hung the bell rope.  The room to the east contained a circular stairway leading into the attic.  Intimidated by the eeriness of our surroundings, and being careful not to shatter the quietude of the chapel, we moved cautiously to the door of the east room.  I twisted the knob.  “Unlocked!” I whispered, and opened the door to see the bottom of the stairs.  Ern nodded approval and we stepped inside.  Emboldened now by our good fortune in finding the door unlocked, we moved resolutely up the winding staircase -- steps creaking.  

Now, going up ordinary stairs is one thing; but winding stairs in the half-light is something else.  Who knows what might be lurking around the curve ahead?  Warily now, once around and nearly twice, we achieved the attic.  Hearts pounding -- we took a long appraising look.  Only the tinniest shafts of light entered the expansive attic through one or two narrow cracks in the shingled roof.  In the half-light we could see the underside of the gabled roof sloping high above us.  A narrow catwalk of boards, barely visible, led toward the center to the bottom of some open stairs.  A dozen steps led up to a platform from which a ladder extended straight up to a trap door that would open into the floor of the belfry.  Everything was dusty, unfinished, rough appearing and foreboding, and maybe even dangerous.  To an eight-year-old boy this looked plumb scary.  If someone would have said “boo” we would have tumbled over each other in a hasty retreat.  Looking out across the ceiling joists toward the far end of the attic I thought about the Porter girl who had been up here one time and ventured out there, stepping from timber to timber.  One misstep, and she went crashing through the ceiling boards.  Got banged up pretty bad on a bench below -- broke her arm. 

Then suddenly I got the feeling that we shouldn’t be here at all.  Not only dangerous but maybe even sinful, playing around in a church and all.  After all, we had been baptized and were not supposed to be sinning anymore.  Mormon kids are baptized into the church at age eight, and are told that anything they have done wrong in the past is forgiven and you’d better be careful from then on, ‘cause you’d be held accountable for your misdeeds.  Maybe what we were up to wouldn’t look so good on a clean slate.  And I thought about being in a church, a holy place, and what if an angel was to show up and tell us to scoot out of here?  After all, what better place for angels to hang out than around and in a church.  This attic seemed a likely spot.  I wondered.  I knew a little bit about angels, like Moroni who appeared to Joseph Smith in a pillar of light, and told him where the golden Plates of Mormon were hidden.  I recalled asking my mother one time what I should do if an angel were to show up beside my bed in a pillar of light.  She said it wasn’t likely, but in any case not to be afraid.  “Angels don’t do bad things” she said.  “They deliver messages and show people how to do what’s right.”  Right now that seemed mighty comforting. 

By now our eyes were a little more accustomed to the dim light and Ern seemed ready to go ahead.  “Watch your step,” he whispered, and moved along the catwalk to the stairs.  I followed.  Now we could see the bell rope extending up out of the west room, passing through a pulley, angling over to near the ladder, around another pulley and going straight up to the belfry.  Now we mounted the steps to a small landing, then up the ladder.  Slowly Ern pushed open the trap door.  In a jiffy we were in the belfry.  “Wow, what a blast!” Ern Exclaimed. 

There was the bell, bigger than either had imagined.  It must have been three feet across at the open end, and the metal almost two inches thick.  Much grander than the one at the school house.  We touched the bell (almost a caress) and marveled that workmen ever got such a heavy thing up there.  A heavy clapper hung ready to sound when the bell would be tipped.  A kind of fear gripped me as I thought of what would happen if at that moment someone might pull the rope and the bell would sound off, not with just a little “ding-dong” that people usually think about, but with a big “bang-bong” that might burst your ear drums. 

Almost with a feeling of relief Ern and I stepped through a small door to the outside of the tower, onto a narrow walkway that went all the way around with a hand rail going along the outer edge.  It was a long way to the ground, and we shied away from the rail and tried not to look down.  But what a view!  We could see the whole town and a good part of the valley -- Safford to the east, and off toward Lizard Bump to the west.  And there was old Mount Graham due south.  First the low hills out past Allred’s Ranch  then the high mesa and on up to the openings of the big canyons.  there was a beckoning there, and I knew that I must someday get up there and explore around in that mountain.  Then to the north only a mile away we could see the definite course of the Gila River, identified by the thick growth of willows and cottonwoods and mesquite trees along it’s banks.  (There was a lot about the river I would learn to enjoy and write about.)  Close by, out past the big cottonwood grove on the back church lot and a couple of blocks away was our house and back yard.  I envisioned my mother inside, perhaps about to get supper ready.  And I should be home, carrying in wood and kindling to get the fire going for tomorrow morning.  We looked and looked until we’d had our fill. 

Finally I told Ern we’d better get down out of there, before some passer-by saw us and reported us.  I envisioned being nabbed by Cop Allen, the town constable and hauled off to Safford and put in the county jail.  I would be a disgrace to the family -- handcuffs; my name on the police blotter; the talk of the town.  And then the hardest part, when it got around to Bishop Mickelson, and he’d have us in for a talking to.  Probably say the baptizing hadn’t worked out after all.  I sure didn’t want to go through that repentance thing again.

Back inside the belfry we touched the bell one more time, then hastily made the descent, careful to leave no tell tale clue to our visit.  Once out of the building we sauntered nonchalantly to the back, to throw a few more rocks at the trees and into the canal before calling it a day. 

That night I fell asleep with visions of winding stairs, dark attics and lofty bell towers dancing in my head.  Two men in white raiment came in a blaze of light and spirited away the church bell.  In my young mind I found it difficult to separate fact from fantasy.  It seemed a reality that the bell was gone, and that our little escapade in the tower was some how responsible for its removal..  Sadly I contemplated the possibility that I might never again hear that familiar and comforting sound, the tolling of the bell.  I would wait and see. 

That’s how it was in Thatcher, my home town in Southern Arizona, a place you can depend on.  Where the sun is bright, skies are blue, mountains are high, and folks are true. 

Incidentally, you will be happy to know that the bell rang on Sunday, that familiar, almost mystical sound.  I heaved a sigh of relief and had the comforting feeling that all was right with the world.

Gladys -- Her Legacy 

My sister, Gladys, was the oldest in our family; and I, the youngest boy.  Three separate periods of her life stand out in my memory.  The first is when I was six years old.   A few months after her marriage to Martin Stewart, she came back to stay at our house in Thatcher, Arizona; and I didn’t know why.  For some reason she appeared different; but I didn’t know why.  Then one day the doctor came and there was a serious business going on at our house; but I still didn’t know why.  Then suddenly there appeared a little baby in our home; and I had no idea how it got there.  Freeman was born Jan 28, 1920, and Gladys and the baby soon returned to their own home. 

Very soon we were making frequent trips to Solomonville to visit the new arrival.  I was aware now that I was an uncle, which seemed about the best thing that could happen in my young life. 

The second period in Gladys’s life that stands out in my memory revolves around those traumatic times after Mart lost both legs.  Through many years of great difficulty, they weathered the storms together.  In Mesa they finally achieved a measure of happiness as Mart heroically mastered the techniques of performing useful labor, and to a significant degree became independent and able to care for most of his personal needs.  True to her sacred vows, “in sickness and in health; for better or for worse,” Gladys remained the anchor to her family and “strong right arm” to her beloved husband until his demise, March 13, 1966.  

During all those years Gladys had exhibited the indomitable spirit of her pioneer ancestry.  “Against great odds” that would have proven devastating to an ordinary person, Gladys remained true to every commitment, determined to make the best of a life that had been interrupted to an unfair degree by tragic events beyond her control.  She took steps to further her education.  Through study and experience she honed her skills to become an accomplished secretary and bookkeeper, her services always in demand by employers who expected accuracy and dependability. 

The final period of Gladys’s life became memorable to me because of personal involvement, as you shall see. 

Those familiar with Latter-day Saint theology know of Malachi’s prophecy concerning the mission of the ancient prophet Elijah in the Latter-days.  (D & C 2:2 and Malachi 4:5-6)  The spirit of Elijah became a dominant influence in Gladys’s life.  “the promises made to the fathers” were planted in her heart; and as one of the children, her heart was “turned to the fathers,” as she took over the leadership of the family genealogical effort.  Thus she became the main spring in promoting research, and the compiling of pedigree charts and historical data, typifying the fulfillment of Malachi’s prophetic words. 

For many years Gladys lived alone in the neat little home on Olive Street in Mesa.  My brother, Darvil, and I, with our families lived in California.  Often either or both of us would drop by to visit our sister.  About the year 1984 Gladys began suggesting that Darvil and I compile and publish a formal volume of family history and genealogy.  It would be a culmination not only of her own efforts, but that of many others who had gone before.  Because of her insistence that we were the ones to do the job, we finally got started.  The project became much greater than we had anticipated; but we had a lion by the tail and couldn’t let go.  

For a period of four years Gladys remained not only our mentor in many phases of the effort but of reatersignificance the inspiration and driving force behind the entire project. 

Sadly though, her health began to steadily fail and she passed away at age 88 on November 21, 1988, just one month before our book “AGAINST GREAT ODDS -- The Story of The McBride Family” was finally published. Gratefully, the book is dedicated to Gladys McBride Stewart with the unequivocal declaration: “Except for her (Gladys’s) diligence in genealogical research, and without her insistence that the project get under way, this book would never have been written.” 

Let that remain one more great legacy of our beloved sister.

My Brother -- My Friend 

Going Wild:  It is well known among family and friends that some of my greatest interests revolve around being in the mountains.  For many years the super activities of backpacking and trailcamping have been foremost in my out-door pursuits.  I have asked myself, whence all this love for the mountains and all they represent?  Looking back for beginnings, I “blame” the whole thing on my older brother, Leonard. 

I was all of nine years old when I went “wild”; that is to say, when I received my introduction into the mountains; and Leonard is the one responsible. 

That was the summer I trailed (walking) behind a wagon loaded with supplies, up the steep grades into the Graham Mountain of Southeastern Arizona.  Leonard worked at a small saw mill at about 9,000 feet elevation, and I was to spend a couple of weeks there with him: As we made our way over the primitive roadway Leonard introduced me to many things, all new and wonderful to me.  First of all to “Hy” Clarson who drove the wagon and owned the saw mill, one of the most interesting and unforgettable person I have ever met.  There were the pot holes where the stream cascaded through a box canyon of near solid granite, the dugways and the different kinds of magnificent pine trees.  One dugway bore the name of “Penifold” -- named, I supposed, after the man who built it.  George Penifold died in an accident there, and is buried a few yards off the roadway.  Leonard showed me his grave enclosed in a picket fence.  I was impressed, and have since thought, what an interesting person he must have been.  He had probably requested such an unusual resting place. 

My stay at the saw mill was a one-in-a-lifetime experience.  I literally went “wild”, hiking every trail I could find, exploring canyon after canyon.  Leonard supplied me with a single shot, 22-caliber rifle and a box of shells, with the injunction, ”Don’t point it toward the cabin or the mill.”  Right then I decided I wanted to be a “Mountain Man,” to “live off the fat of the land.”  I shot at squirrels, chipmunks and wild pigeons.  I don’t think I ruffled fur or feather.  I don’t remember hitting anything except trees and rocks. 

During this period I ate my weight in eggs, bacon and hotcakes.  Old “Hy” (short for Hyrum Clarson) the mill owner, accused me of having hollow legs.  Where else could I stow all that grub? 

Besides being intrigued by the mill operation, I had some memorable experiences.  Leonard and I bunked in an area of the cabin that was not entirely enclosed.  At night some of the smaller animals of the forest would visit us.  One night I was awakened when some animal ran across my face.  We surmised it was a raccoon since many of the pesky bandits were in the area.  

At night I could sit out on the pile of logs and take in a wondrous view.  With the canopy of stars above and the valley lights below, I felt an integral part of the universe -- a king on my mountain throne, attended by a retinue of Lords and Ladies -- the stately fir and yellow pine -- with the Gila Valley for a footstool. 

One day my teen-age cousin, Albert Phillips, and his friend, hiked up to the mill.  They were asking directions to a cabin to the west of Clarson’s Canyon.  I knew the way, so I got permission to accompany them.  The trail junction was about a mile back down the roadway.  We took the trail to the cabin, took a look around and started back in the afternoon.  We had encountered tracks and other signs which according to my cousin, indicated there had been a bear on the trail.  Warily now, I kept one eye on the trail, the other on the forest, wondering all the while about the bear. 

By late afternoon we reached the junction.  Albert asked, “Are you afraid to go on to  the sawmill alone?”  with all the courage I could muster I responded, “Naw, what’s there to be afraid of?”  (In truth I was almost petrified at the thought of it; but what mountain man would ever admit being afraid?)

My friends went to the left toward their camp; I turned right.  Now I was alone with a mile of steep roadway to negotiate, in the bottom of a narrow, forested canyon.  It was yet early when the sun dropped behind the high ridge.  I didn’t know I could get so lonesome and scared. 

Sounds came from the forest on either side.  I imagined a bear or a lion stalking me along the way.  Quickly my hand went inside my pocket to be reassured that my pocket knife was there, an item no self respecting mountain man would ever be without.  I fondled it resolutely, not sure how it would fare against fang or claw. 

A strange sound caught my attention.  I stopped to listen .... “Who-o, who-oo-oo.”  It trailed off in a weird, haunting fashion.  My blood ran cold as I remembered Leonard showing me the grave of the old mountaineer, George Penifold, just off the road way, not far from this spot.  Could it be his ghost still haunted these canyons?  I was thinking of ghosts and hungry lions, when suddenly there was a flapping of wings as a big owl passed close overhead.  Then I realized who the “who-oo” had been.  That blasted owl had scared the daylights out of me. 

Now a bit unnerved I quickened my pace, determined to get back to the mill before it got completely dark.  At long last I heard voices and soon spotted the source; Leonard and Hy’s daughter, Larue, had come out to meet me. 

“Weren’t you afraid to hike alone?”  Larue queried.  Doing my utmost to suppress the quaver in my voice, I managed, “Naw, what’s there to be afraid of?”  I wasn’t very convincing. 

Since that time mountains and their trails have been an important part of my life.  I have probably hiked two thousand miles of mountain trails, but never a mile to match the one I traveled alone that evening, the first year I went “wild.” 

Beyond the Hills:  Leonard went on to eventually make the forest service his career, devoting his special skills and energy to preserving the mountain wilderness for all to enjoy.  For many years Mount Graham was his principal bailiwick, where he put to use many innovative ideas for preserving the environment and animal life.  At one time he almost lost his life fighting the forest fires that threatened to destroy his mountain.  I doubt that any one ever did a better job, he having gained the praise and admiration of all those who presided over him, and as well, those who worked under his supervision. 

Many times Leonard has asked me along on some part of his work or recreation, for which I am truly grateful.  He has taught me many things, not the  least of which is an appreciation of the  wilderness environment he loves. 

And Leonard is a fun guy, always pleasant to be around; full of experience and interesting stories.  With a winsome disposition and eyes that smile, he is quick to turn a phrase and make a joke.  

At some future time we will meet beyond the veil.  If there are mountains in Paradise; you can be sure Leonard will be visiting them; and I’ll wager my harp (though slightly out of tune) against your slightly bent halo that he will ask me, “Would you like to go along?” 

And I will go along with my brother and friend.  Other than our family, there are two persons we would hope to meet -- Hy Clarson and George Penifold.

The Boat Ride 

[Bruce’s experience in the setting of the mighty Gila River, aptly portrays the dimension of one of the wonderful playgrounds of the McBride brother’s youth.] 

Recently -- at age 80 -- I sat in front of the fireplace with my grandson.  The hearty aroma of mesquite wood smoke and leaping flames were powerful stimuli to send my thoughts tumbling back to a sequence as vivid as any movie.  In 1923, as a ten-year-old kid, I and my dog were so excited over the plans to go with my two older brothers to the far side of the river to chop and haul wood.  Early morning, I helped Floyd and Leonard load the wagon with axes, lunches, canteens, ropes -- and my dog, Cub. 

I don’t know when Cub learned to talk, but he started saying things in “his“ way, a combination of sounds and movements -- “Dog Speak” is the best way I can describe it -- and I understood most of what he said. 

Well, we loaded up.  Floyd drove the team, and Leonard rode a little black burro.  The borrowed neighbor’s wagon was the forerunner of the dump truck, specially designed for hauling and dumping sand.  It was essentially an elongated box about two feet deep with sides and end-gates that could be removed .  The bottom consisted of 2 x 6 planks which could be individually shifted and tipped, allowing the sand to drop through.  Pulled clear of the dumped sand, the wagon box floor would then be reassembled and held together on the chassis by a chain tightened around the midsection.  

Surprise!  When we got to the river, it was in real flood-stage due to heavy rains on the upper watershed.  Normally, a clear, babbling brook that you could jump, the stream had become a raging torrent, possibly ten feet deep and 100 yards across -- formerly a sleeping pussy cat, now a herd of wild buffalo.  About the color and consistency of a thick chocolate drink, it carried unnumbered acres of up-river farmland together with trees, outhouses and countless what-have-yous in its rushing, roiley mix.  In the middle of the torrent, huge waves crested at two or more feet.  After brief consultation, the older boys decided to chance it.  

Floyd said to me and the dog, “How would you guys like to go for a boat ride?”  At just 10, I had never been in a boat, much less one powered by horses.  I said, “yep,” then looked at my dog.  He licked my hand and said, “yup,” meaning we were both in favor. 

We were about to engage in an adventure seldomly equaled in the annals of river boating.  “Captain” Floyd launched the craft into the stream.  The horses soon had to swim, and we heaved a sigh of relief, for the “boat” began to float.  Nearing mid-stream, the swift current whipped us around making the horses swim up-stream.  The craft now trailing and awash, suddenly began to disassemble.  The bottom dump boards floated out -- along with the end gates.  This let the sides collapse inward and they too were carried away in the flood.  Within seconds, the two of us were clinging to the undercarriage which was now completely submerged.  Then we hit Niagara Falls at the highest waves.  Torrents of chocolate stuff came pouring over us, putting a film over our eye balls such that we could barely see light.  Somehow I hung onto a canteen of water and one axe.  Like the lady caught with her hands full an her dress up, there was nothing further I could do to cope with the situation.  Every thing else, lunches, axes and every last piece of the wagon box either floated away or went to the bottom.  

All the while, Captain Floyd yelled things that I couldn’t quite make out above the roar of the river.  It could have been something like , “Stow all gear fore and aft, and batten down the hatches!  Man the bilge pumps!  Deploy the life raft!  Gitty-up, gitty-up full steam ahead!  Now hear this, all hands prepare to abandon ship...!”  In retrospect, if he didn’t say all that, he should have.  The only thing  I heard for sure was, “Hang on tight Bruce and save the lunches!”  I did the former and blew the latter.

But the Captain and I stayed with the chassis like rats on a sinking ship.  The horses swam like dolphins another fifty yards, and we finally touched bottom about a quarter-mile down stream from launching. 

During this time, I looked to see Leonard still astride the burro -- with only his head and shoulders and the burro’s head appearing above the water.  I believe the dog thought the whole affair a big blast.  No sooner had the wagon been swamped, than Cub yelped in hasty retreat, “I’m out of here,” and bailed out over the starboard side.  Then in the tradition of a true marine, he was the first to hit the beach.  Running along the shore, he barked timely “suggestions” as we struggled with the current.  I’ll swear he was laughing at what must have appeared a hilarious, ridiculous sight.  When we rode the incoming tide on our horse drawn skeleton, Cub made the snide remark, “What kept you, and where is the rest of your boat?”  Darn that smart-alecky dog anyway. 

Leonard and his aquatic buddy arose as the heroes.  Down stream, every piece of the wagon box lodged in the drifts, where Leonard, astride his mighty steed, managed to rope every last plank.  We happily reassembled it in total. 

With one canteen of water, no food and the remaining axe, my big brothers cut and loaded the mesquite, piling it high above the gunnels and tied it down well.  Confident that the rig would not come apart a second time -- and trusting to divine providence more than good judgment -- the Captain, the dog and I climbed atop the loaded barge and launched it forthwith.  The barge floated, the horses swam, and we didn’t touch bottom until well past the swift, dangerous part of the current.  Compared to the first crossing, it was a pleasure cruise aboard a luxury liner.  We went our way rejoicing with a well deserved load of wood.  

That night, tucked safely in bed with cub snuggling at my feet, I said to him, “What did you think of the boat ride?”  In a most affectionate manner, Cub licked my cheek and replied, “Bow, Wow!”  “You said it,“  I responded.  “It was a Wow” 

By this time my grandson was yawning; and I sat for a time contemplating the dying embers in the          fireplace.  My wife, who had been reading an add for a Caribbean cruise, disturbed my reverie -- “How would you like to go for a boat ride?  “Not another one,” I quipped.  “Not without my dog.”


My activities in scouting afforded me many interesting experiences.  One time, Darvil was put in charge of the scout troop’s concession at a Pioneer Day celebration in Thatcher.  We were to sell ice cream and soda pop.  Darvil decided to provide an extra attraction in the way of some homemade root beer.  About two weeks ahead of time, we made 20 gallons, sealing it into grape juice bottles.  By the 24th of July, it had built up terrific pressure due to the yeast carbonation.  At first it sold for 15 cents a quart-size bottle; but when the crowd discovered that it went wild after removing the cap, the demand shot up and so did the price -- to 20 cents a bottle.  Although the treat was quite tasty, very little was consumed.  The people, both young and old, made a rush to purchase the stuff.  The sport of the day was to remove the cap, shake the bottle a little and squirt it at each other.  This went on until the crowd exhausted the supply, and Darvil had realized a handsome profit for the scouts with his venture.  


Darvil was usually the “main spring” in some unusual activity and I was very likely assisting him.  On the same day as the root beer episode, we had rigged up a trolley ride.  It consisted of a steel cable running from high up in a cottonwood tree sloping to the ground level about two hundred feet distant.  Billed as “The Angel’s Flight,” the customer climbed a ladder to a platform in the tree, seated himself in the suspended seat hanging from a pulley on the cable and shoved off for a sizzling flight down.  At the bottom, a special braking device effected a safe landing.  Turned over to the scouts to operate, Darvil and I, by charging five cents a ride added another tidy sum to the treasury.


Darvil had employed me to help him and his new bride, after their wedding and reception, to escape any shenanigan harassment by misdirected, fun-loving friends.  Having made a quick change into their grubbies, the newlyweds slipped out the back door.  There we met and I helped them make their way to the back fence, helped them slip through it and then on through the back neighbor’s pasture to an automobile with waiting friends.  They promptly disappeared into the night toward their planned mountain haven.  I have always enjoyed a degree of warm satisfaction in being a part of a well devised scheme which assured them of a clean getaway.  As far as anyone was aware, they were simply “lost” in the wilds, as well as “lost” in the arms of cupid.”


At one time my brother, Orlando, was the  scoutmaster.  He took the troop on a three-night outing up to Oak Flat, at 8,000 feet in the west end of Mount Graham.  

This section of the mountain was traversed by an old flume, a steep water way, which many years earlier had been used to float lumber from the lumber mill at the top of the mountain.  This structure, made entirely of wood, originally passed over ridges and steep canyons for four or five miles.  In places the flat bottomed trough was on trestles only two or three feet high, while in other places, it was 20 or more feet above the ground.  The flume had long since been abandoned and over the years had weakened.  In fact, in many places it had fallen down.  Nevertheless, in the upper canyons, where we were hiking, rather extensive sections of it remained in tact.  

The second day in camp a group of scouts including, Grant Farley, Jimmy Jamison, Voris Foster and I, hiked two or three miles alongside the flume toward the top of the mountain to a point where it made an extremely steep decent into a canyon.  Grant decided to try and slide a short distance down the flume.  Before he knew it, he was picking up speed, headed toward a part of it that dropped almost straight down -- a half-mile ahead.  Frightened, he began grabbing at the sides to slow himself, and in desperation he finally threw himself out.  His hands and legs were lacerated and filled with splinters, and much of his clothing was torn off.  The ground where he landed was jaggedly rocky and covered with brush.  When we got to him, he was bleeding in several places and pretty well bruised.  We decided the other scouts would stay with him, while I went down the mountain to our camp for help.  It seemed doubtful that Grant would be able to walk by himself.

So, down that steep slope I went, then up the other side of the canyon and down the next.  The going was rough, but my only thought was to get to camp as soon as possible.  So, up and down I continued on, crashing through brush, bounding over huge boulders, tumbling at times, but seldomly slowing down. My trip was truly an experience to remember. 

When I began to approach the bottom of the canyon, the slope was not quite so steep and I decided the going would be smoother inside the flat-bottomed flume.  I climbed in and began running.  All went well for a short distance, until the flume leveled off across the creek..  At this point, I was about twelve feet above the ground, and suddenly the flume gave way and I plunged headlong into the creek bed.  Lumber splintered and fell all around me, and when I looked back up the incline I had just traversed  -- about two hundred yards of the flume came crashing down toward me.  Luckily, I was at a safe distance as it tumbled to the ground.  

I ran down the creek a little distance and then got into the flume again, but soon, another section collapsed and this time, I fell into the water.  I picked my dripping self up and clambered to the top of the ridge, then, down its slope under about the same conditions as before.  I finally stumbled into camp in complete exhaustion.  So tired and breathless that I couldn’t talk, I passed out -- crumpling to the ground. 

Orlando and the boys after a few minutes brought me around and I was able to tell them what had happened.  Orlando immediately grabbed up a first aid kit and started up the mountain accompanied by Carl Jones, Grover Pease and some other scouts. 

After a short time I was surprised to see the whole gang, including the injured Grant, trudging back into camp.  Grant was walking.  Though at the time of the accident, it seemed a matter of life and death, he had not been injured nearly as much as we had at first supposed.  My flight down the mountain, though courageous and filled with jeopardy, had been quite unnecessary.  Later, everyone had a good laugh over the entire affair.  

My brother Darvil was also on this outing, and I well remember him and some of the older scouts his age improvising shelter in a downpour of rain and trying to cook and serve meals from under it.  

One day, on this same outing, while we were playing some games in one of the meadows, one of the boys hiding behind a fallen log suddenly discovered he was laying almost on top of a rattlesnake.  When he let out a yell it broke up the game, and his narrow escape together with all the other dramas hastened the decision to start for safer pastures -- like home.  

When we broke camp and started back toward the automobiles, the whole group decided to chance a section of the flume for an easier decent.  But, the old flume wasn’t through with us yet, for the structure collapsed and dumped a dozen boys ingloriously into the creek below.  The timbers splintered and came raining down like jack straws.  Severely shaken, the disheveled troop felt fortunate indeed that no one was seriously injured.  

At this juncture, Gene Mangum, suggested to our leader that we should have a prayer before going any further.  Orlando offered it.  Needles to say, after the last episode, we took the hint and abandoned the treacherous, old flume.  We were positively happy to arrive home without further mishap.


As Bruce mentioned, I was along on the trip too.  I was one of the senior scouts assisting our brother Orlando.  Oak flat was the place where grandpa Peter McBride took his family on the annual summer trip to grow his potatoes and pumpkins. The parents of the boys had driven us up to “the blackberry patch” from where we started the hike -- from the very place that Grandpa hauled the wagon to leave it those many years ago.  From there he and his family, with packed horses, started on foot up the five-mile trail.  Regarding the final mishap on the flume, I remember it well. 

The old flume that came from the saw mill at Columbine had stretches still pretty much intact, though showing definite signs of deterioration.  In some places it was very steep and in others it leveled out to run along ridges.  It crossed from ridge to ridge on high trestles over canyons and arroyos, some running with water and others dry.  The trail from the flat criss-crossed the flume, and it was obvious that it would just be easier, at times, to get into the flume to head down straight-away instead of taking the circuitous trail route.  That we did, and were somewhat separated walking along, but, perhaps in too much cadence, for the structure under our weight, and no doubt heavier from being soaked with considerable rain, began to collapse forward to the ground from about four feet high.  Because of the degree of incline, when the span with a couple of us on it met the ground, the forward motion propelled it like a sled, and it slid on down another 15 feet.  Startled, we crouched grabbing the sides and road it out.  (As I recall, it had already happened once before.)  But, just behind me, was a stretch spanning an arroyo about 25 or 30 feet in depth.  After the sled ride, we looked back up the flume to see the long span with a dozen boys on it begin to sway.  It collapsed completely into the creek below.  I saw the splintering trusses of the trestle flying around in every direction, finally coming to rest in the bottom.  A few boys were up above the collapsing part.  They quickly backed away from the immediate danger and were all right.  They would make their way down off the flume and over to us later.  

We ran back up to look down at the wreckage to check on  the other boys.  Soon we had accounted for every one except Douglas Jamison.  I remembered he had been wearing a red cap.  With sinking heart I spotted the cap half hidden in the dirt under a huge timber.  Other lumber debris lay in a pile over it.  In horror, I thought to my self, “Oh no, he’s under all that lumber and his head is crushed beneath that huge timber.”  I scrambled down to look closer.  Too my great relief, I found only his cap under it -- and not his head.  Soon, someone yelled that he was up somewhere, and safe.  Doug had taken quite a beating in his bout with the collapsing wreckage, the worst injury being a cracked rib.  We continued on down, now avoiding the, previously, enticing flume, to the blackberry patch to meet the waiting parents.


In August of 1922, I turned nine years old, and that was the summer Ernest Larson and I went into the furrier business.  Come September, I was slated to enter the fourth grade.  What spare time I had was spent trying to figure out how to avoid going back to school.  My buddy Ern and I had decided we wanted to be mountain men and trappers.  Going to school just didn’t fit into our plans. 

I started in early trying to convince my mother that it might be best if I didn’t go to school that year.  I could read and write and do some things with figures.  I’ll admit that higher mathematics had me stumped: things like long division and where to put the decimal point when multiplying with dollars and cents.  But that didn’t have anything to do with where to set our traps or how to skin a coyote. 

However, all my efforts came to naught.  When the time came, Mother, I discovered was smarter than I thought.  She put her foot down and said, “Get your new shoes and ‘chili britches’ on and get to school!” pointing resolutely at the door. 

Bad rumors about Parsons, the fourth grade teacher, were right on the money.  She was probably no older than her mid-thirties; but, we called her “Ol’lady” out of disrespect for the cruel and unusual punishment she dished out to her students.  (Sitting in class instead of roaming the river bottom was “cruel and unusual punishment”).  She couldn’t exactly sneak up on us because the floor boards would creak under her 280 pounds and alert you to her presence.  But if you had your foot in the aisle, she would step on it -- “cr-r-unch!”  Boy did that hurt!  For a rebel like me there was a good chance of leaving the fourth grade a life-long cripple. 

But, Ern and I had a good start in our furrier business, even before school started.   Our equipment consisted of three # 2 steel traps, a single-shot 22-caliber rifle, a nicked-up hunting knife and Ern’s gray mare named “Pansy.”  Later on we got a bottle of the foulest smelling stuff this side of the Morris hog farm, that we used to sprinkle around the traps, when we set them out.  How the stuff could act as a lure instead of a repellent is one of the mysteries of the trapping profession. 

Though finally reconciled to school, we didn’t let that interfere too much with our main objective.   Out each morning a 4 O’clock, we rode Pansy up into the hills or down to the river to retrieve our catch and reset the traps.  Sometimes we had to spur our mount to a dead run in order to make it in time for school.  All this, above the objections of parents, who thought we ought to be reading books and learning about long division and decimal points. 

It was a cold wintry morning in December.  Ern and I were on our routine trap run riding Pansy, bareback.  Only a partial moon and a few stars lit the way.  On his belt, Ern carried the nicked-up hunting knife in its scabbard; it had been whetted to a razor’s edge on the treadle grindstone in Larson’s barn.  I carried the trusty 22-rifle across my lap, sitting behind Ern as we rode on.     

Our catch that morning turned up a rabbit in the first trap.  But, as we approached the last one, a pungent odor alerted our flaring nostrils; we realized that somewhere ahead a skunk had left its “calling card.”  Sure enough, it was a skunk, snared by one front foot.  No longer of mere “calling card” proportions, the odor was now more on the order of a ten volume autobiography.  I knew my duty.  Slipping off Pansy’s rump, I positioned myself up close to shoot the animal.  The skunk turned his posterior toward me; and before I could pull the trigger, he pulled his, and blasted me fully in the mid-section.   Now my buddy was off the horse and he received the same treatment.  Both of us were gasping, coughing, rubbing our eyes and stumbling around trying to gain our composure to know what to do next.  Pansy  started pawing the earth, throwing her head up and down, snorting all the while, as if to say, “Holy horse feathers, what the blazes is that awful odor?  You guys mount up and let’s get the b’jimminy out of here!” 

I shot the varmint, putting it out of its misery, who, upon parting this world must have had some satisfaction in leaving us in our own brand of misery.  

Within ten minutes Ern had the skunk skinned and we headed back with the pelt in the bag.  But, we now realized we would be late for school and wouldn’t have time to go home and clean up.  Ern dropped me off at the school yard and loped off to put Pansy in the corral.  The late bell was sounding just as I entered the east wing.  All classes were in session.  I went first into the restroom at the north end of the hall where I made a dismal attempt to wash up, then walked the length of the hall to the fourth grade room.  The air was stifling with the malicious aroma.  There must have been an aura forty feet in diameter accompanying me in my march, which penetrated doors, walls and all else in the vicinity.  Skunk odor, you know, will penetrate concrete or steel plates as readily as it will ones clothing.  

As I entered the room, Ol’lady Parsons raised her full 280 pounds from behind her desk and let out a wail, “ah-ah-AH-AH-GRUGH!  What is that odor?” 

“Skunk!” yelled one of the more knowledgeable members of the class, which set off an uproar of laughter and complaints.  Above the tumult, Parsons screamed at me, pointing to the door, “Out!  Get out!”  Gasping, she then ordered everyone out of the room, first into the hall, then outside into the courtyard. 

Minutes later, the odor had penetrated the other class rooms -- the fifth and sixth grades.  Out poured the students, coughing and rubbing their eyes.  Nothing known to man can rival “skunk.”  Usual olfactory offenders, such as ancient eggs or old fish heads can’t hold a candle to pure, unadulterated skunk.  Nor could fire alarms and a practice fire drill have emptied the east wing with such dispatch. 

Standing frightened and abashed at the far side of the courtyard, I had visions of Parsons rolling over me like an army tank.  Then I realized I had one good thing going for me -- the aura.  Parsons was not about to come near me.  A team of mules could not have dragged her across the courtyard to confront me.  She could only yell, “Home!  Out of here!  Go home!” 

Which I did, with a touch of pride.  I may not have looked the part of a mountain man, but none could deny I smelled like one.  The thought crossed my mind that I might have hit upon an effective method of avoiding school.  With a little luck they might not let me come back.

Stanley Gage, The favored One 

My brother Stanley was eighteen months old when he died on March 26, 1917.  I was a little more than two years and a month older than he.  Yes, I do remember him to the extent that that I knew he was there.  I was well aware that he was my little brother and have recollection especially of the day he was buried.  Someone (it must have been my mother) explained to me that he was placed in a deep hole in the earth, and that he would not be with us anymore. 

In an absolute sense however, Stanley has been a part of our family’s life.  Our mother often spoke of him, as she did of our Dad and the others who had gone before.  She often expressed her belief in a life here-after. 

As touching the baby she had lost, I am sure she was aquatinted with the doctrine taught by the Latter-day Prophet, Joseph Smith.  He said, “...all children who die before they arrive at the age of accountability, are saved in the Celestial Kingdom of Heaven.  He also taught: “The Lord takes many away, even in infancy, that they may escape the envy of man, and the sorrows and evils of this present world; they were too pure, too lovely, to live on earth.  ...The only difference between the old and the young dying is, the one lives longer in heaven and eternal light and glory than the other, and is freed a little sooner from the miserable, wicked world.”  (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Deseret Book Co., 1965, pp 107, 196, 197) 

These are gospel truths, not just noble thoughts or wishful thinking.  As strange as it may seem to most of us, those who die young may be, after all, the “favored” ones.

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