My Father’s Time

Discussion in 'Other Reminiscences' started by Ted Richards, Oct 7, 2017.

  1. Ted Richards

    Ted Richards Well-Known Member
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    My father was born in on a west Texas ranch in 1885. Life then was pretty good compared to the early days when the Comanche and Kiowa raiders were a constant threat. Railroads had extended their lines down into Texas so the long cattle drives to Kansas railheads were a hardship of the past. The family could afford to send most of their kids to school so my father had a twelfth-grade education. My great-uncle had run away from home and enlisted (underage) in the Civil war but my Grandfather was too young to have shared that adventure. My father and his brothers continued working in the family enterprises of ranching and farming.

    Later, my father’s step-mother grew quite ill and the Doctor advised the family to move to a cooler climate that might allow her a better chance of survival. So, in 1915, the family loaded all they owned into covered wagons and rode west into New Mexico eventually settling in river valleys of the Rocky Mountains in a higher, cooler climate. My Grandfather acquired land and started a ranching occupation while my father and his brother operated a freight wagon business hauling supplies to Mogollon, a mining town in the mountains.

    Later, my father homesteaded 160 acres on the boundary of the Gila Wilderness Area, built a log cabin for himself, and found work operating a fish hatchery back in the mountains during spring and summer. He also contracted to build a trail system throughout the Gila Wilderness Area. In the fall, he took out Texas hunting parties for deer but he kept most of the meat (venison) for his own use while his clients kept their trophy deer heads. In winter, he ran trap lines in the mountains and collected occasional bounties for mountain lion and coyote.

    His idyllic bachelor life changed in 1925 when a lifelong friend and hunting buddy introduced him by mail to a Missouri schoolteacher. They corresponded for months and in 1926, she can west to visit. Apparently they liked each other well enough and he proposed marriage while she was sitting atop a corral rail at his father’s ranch. They moved into his little bachelor’s cabin and quickly decided it was a bit too cramped so he built a larger, better log cabin next to it.

    My brother was born in the fall of 1927 and the following spring, they loaded him into a pannier on a gentle pack mule and hauled him and many 10-gallon milk cans full of fish fry to Jenk’s Cabin, a remote trout fish hatchery back in the mountains. There he fed and cared for the fish fry in cold, high mountain ponds. In late summer, he distributed them, again by pack mule, to a dozen or so mountain streams that headed up in those peaks.

    It was a pretty remote existence, the nearest and only neighbour was thee miles away, the nearest village was thirty. So, in 1932, in the depths of the Great Depression, my father managed to sell his homestead to an adjoining ranch and buy a farm in the upper Gila River valley with 40 acres of bottomland under irrigation. It was only four miles on the school bus route from the nearest school in the little farm village of Gila.

    My parent’s home was a fairly spacious four room adobe with cement floors, a tin roof, and a large screened-in porch with cement floor. For those not familiar with adobe, they are large sun-baked mud bricks, an inheritance of the early pueblo Indian builders. Ours sported 18” thick walls, cool in summer and warm in winter. Interior walls were plastered white; the outside walls were left bare. Few rural homes had bathrooms or running water and ours was no exception. Water was hand pumped from a dug well and the outhouse was down by the barn. Heating was entirely from a huge wood-burning cook stove salvaged from a restaurant.

    Dad farmed the 40 acres with a team and hand implements while grazing a few head on the other forty acres of scrub and pasture. Nearly all the money earned on the farm went to pay down the mortgage but there was plenty of good home-grown food and a nearby school for my brother to attend. Many others were not so fortunate during the Great Depression years.

    I came along in the spring of 1938. My father was 52 at the time and my mother was 40. My earliest memory was of my attempted elopement with a little red-headed girl on her tricycle in downtown Los Angeles. My mother had taken me along when she visited her two sisters living there during the war years. Later, I remember being rescued by my brother from and irrigation ditch in mid-winter. Apparently I was adept at finding trouble.

    My folks prospered a bit more during the war years because my father had obtained a few milk cows and they were able to sell butter for premium prices because it was in such short supply during the war. Most of the skimmed milk was used to feed the hogs providing pork and bacon that also sold for premium prices during the war. My father also took a job as nightwatchman at a local mining mill, and then farmed during the day raising hay for the cattle and grain for the hogs and chickens. The farm mortgage was paid off in 1947 and there was enough to buy our first tractor which meant that farming was so much easier and more efficient.

    They sold the farm in 1949 and bought a smaller place which my father immediately started a large garden then expanded to a small farm when he bought a small tractor. He also went to work for the State Highway Department but was forced into retirement at 65. Later, my mother passed a civil service exam and became the new post mistress bringing in a much-needed income.
     
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  2. Shirley Martin

    Shirley Martin Veteran Member
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    Fascinating story. Isn't it amazing how far we have come since then?
     
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  3. Bill Boggs

    Bill Boggs Very Well-Known Member
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    Good Story, Ted. I enjoyed the read
     
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  4. Holly Saunders

    Holly Saunders Veteran Member
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    What ?...you mean there's no cowboys shooting Indians and indians firing arrows at wagon trains ?...OMG......who knew??


    Of course I'm just jesting...I loved your story, absolutely fascinating, a living history.

    the first thing I thought when I read it was WOW..your dad was born in 1885... ...and I'm over 60...yet my grandfather wasn't born until late 1890's... of course it made much more sense as I read further.

    What a hard life your parents had back in the day... I don't suppose it was anything like little house on the prairie... ;)

    Thanks for sharing..it was a joy to read...
     
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  5. Frank Sanoica

    Frank Sanoica Very Well-Known Member
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    @Ted Richards
    Great enlightening tale! I was under the impression that the only Gila River had headwaters in Arizona; we lived quite near it as it snaked around the northern bases of the Sierra Estrella Mountains, southwest of Phoenix.

    I developed a friendship with a co-worker while we were employed by Sears, 1990s, who was born in Farmington, NM. I was based I PHX, but travelled throughout AZ, NM, part of TX, sometimes CA, doing heavy facilities maintenance. Greg Sanchez is his name; one of the guys early on made the mistake of calling him "Mexican". Greg responded by raising up his shirt sleeve and pulling down the flesh below his triceps, revealing it to be whiter than any others' in the group! He has great disdain for Authoritarian Control. His grandparents emigrated from Spain, his parents had a small, self-sustaining farm, where, during the Depression, that hatred for government was bred. Agents from Albuquerque showed up one day, inventoried their stock, and returned with trucks to confiscate some portion of their cows and stock, for the poor deserving folks in the big city. Just like that! They were appalled, and disgusted, but remained able to sustain and survive, never asking anyone, least of all the taxpayers, for help.

    From Greg, I learned facts about Mexican Hispanics and their culture which I had not gleaned from living amongst many for 20 years in PHX. The Spanish language usage bugged him in particular: the stores advertise "Puerco", for example, as Pork (meat), whereas Puerco in correct Spanish means "dirty".

    I haven't seen Greg since retiring from Sears, but we are in occasional communication with each other.
    Frank
     
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  6. Ted Richards

    Ted Richards Well-Known Member
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    Yes, it is. My father saw a lot of change in his time. Railroads and the telegraph were the new things when he was a boy but he likely din't see automobiles until well after the turn of the century. In those days horses were the transportation and work animals. He didn't have a tractor on the farm until 1947, all cultivation was done with horses. Airplanes weren't generally seen until after WW 1 in the twenties. Automobiles weren't in common use until the twenties. He witnessed the introduction of telephones and radio broadcasting. We never had a telephone until after I left home in 1955. I don't think they ever had a TV.

    I remember that we always had a subscription to the Saturday Evening Post and Colliers magazines. In the early fifties Colliers ran an article about the U.S. plans for spaceflight and predicted that we would someday land a man on the moon. That angered my father, he threw the magazine down and cancelled his subscription to it. He lived long enough to witness the first few spaceflights.
     
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  7. Shirley Martin

    Shirley Martin Veteran Member
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    I wonder what he would think about the world today?
     
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