Saturday, February 12, 2011

Memoir: Chapter 6: Mother throws potatoes when Margie and I put off mopping a great big floor in the old Salt Gulch ranch house

When Mother thought she was close to having her third baby, Daddy drove her to Boulder and dropped Margie and me off to Grandma King's. Mother's brother Crae was visiting, and he was going to drive her to Escalante to stay with Grandma and Grandpa Wilson. Grandpa Wilson wasn't actually going to deliver her baby, but he was going to be standing by when the CCC doctor was called. 
Mother had Grandpa deliver Margie in the old ranch house because she said she trusted him to know what to do more than she did the Salt Lake doctors when she could not go into labor. I thought it very strange for a daughter to ask her father to deliver her baby, but it saved money, so I supposed it was okay. They did a lot of things in the old days we would not think proper now. Grandpa Wilson was also very strong and could do more than a mid wife might be able to do with a problem in the birthing.
But just when Mother needed to get to Escalante the worst way a heavy snow storm dropped four feet of snow on the roads. Crae finally ended up harnessing a team and taking the buckboard to Escalante. They trusted horses more than a Model T in deep snow! 
Mother said even that was plenty scary when crossing the Hogsback which at the time was only wide enough for a car with canyons dropping off on either side. 
Grandma King's brother Dave was visiting from Montana, traveling with them to see if he could be any help, and she said he told her how brave she was to cross the Hogsback in such terrible weather. He kept looking off each side into the canyon and saying they did not have roads like that in Montana!
Don't get me started on the lower road into Boulder. I hated that awful road. Daddy scared me so many times on that road it is a wonder I lived to be a grown woman. No don't let me rant about the bad roads! We have a baby sister to get born here!
Mother got along fine giving birth to this baby, but when Daddy called to see if he had a son she had to tell him no but this baby had the most hair on her head anybody had ever seen on a little girl. Daddy was disappointed anyway, but Mother said she and Daddy did not deserve a son. He would have ruined one. I was not sure by then but what he wouldn't.

Daddy took us to town to pick up Mother when she was ready to come home, although I doubt if she was ever really ready to come home to Salt Gulch and the primitive conditions we had to put up with over there. Especially with a new baby.
Mother never nursed her children. She was a big believer in formula but I think she just did not like babies that close to her. But she was very conscientious about making the formula just so and boiling diapers. Margie and I sort of left her alone as much as we could and played outside as she was always short tempered when she had more to do.

Besides I was busy getting acquainted with all the animals of Salt Gulch. I knew we wouldn't be able to pet a baby until she was a lot bigger. I was absolutely fascinated with Old Pet the  swaybacked work mare who had been part of the main team for years in Salt Gulch. Her back swayed so deep I didn't see how she could work with such a handicap. Her back must have hurt her something terrible after a hard day's pulling in the fields. Daddy said no, she didn't seem to suffer from her swayback, as she was the most patient old mare alive, smart and willing to work long hours without protest. 
I knew Daddy hated old Fred, Grandpa King's prize work horse in Boulder. Fred could pull huge heavy loads all day, he was so big and strong, but if anybody the least bit inexperienced tried to handle the team, he would take the bit in his teeth and run away! I heard a terrible pounding down the road one day at the cheese factory house and looked up and saw Fred and his teammate thundering past dragging a wagon that was breaking all to pieces. Daddy was very angry at Fred because they had to spend a lot of time fixing the wagon. He said he would not own a workhorse like Fred! All Fred thought about was running away and trying to get out of work.
But what got me so excited in Salt Gulch was Daddy saying that maybe this summer or next he would let me drive old Pet and her teammate hooked to the hay wagon. I could drive them out in the hay field so the hired man would not have to stop and climb on the wagon and stomp the hay down and drive the team forward. I could not wait! I stopped thinking about horses to ride since Daddy said none of them were gentle enough and started thinking about driving the team come summer. I was sure I could do it the summer I turned six.
I thinking I was so lucky getting in on the last great days of the horse age. Daddy had two teams, although Bess and Betsy, the second team, a pair of black mares, both had gimpy legs, they could still be used to rake hay. Teams were used to mow, rake, plow, and pull the hay wagons. Nobody had bought tractors yet, although Mother was already talking about Daddy buying one. I thanked God the summer and winter ranges were both so rough, nobody would ever be driving cattle with anything but a horse in southern Utah canyon lands. Cowboys would always need to train horses to work with cattle.  
Daddy was always looking for his horse of dreams. Every cowman usually had at least one great cow horse in his life time. Grandpa King's was old Breech, a gray gelding people still talked about he was such a great horse, his faithful mount for years when he was an active cowboy. People talked like old Breech could think just like a man. 
Now Grandpa's favorite mount was the Old Bay Mare. What was so wonderful about her was that you could go up to her anywhere in the fields and slip a bridle on her. Grandpa just dropped her reins wherever he tended the water and she would not stray. You could not teach a horse to do that without a lot of work. Old Bay Mare and her colts just did it. Horses were like people, they all had their winning ways, and were kept for years because they had some trait that came in very handy when punching cattle.
Now we had dear old Pet with her swayback in Salt Gulch who I thought was positively a noble old mare. She had given birth to a big sorrel colt with just a little bit of a swayback. Daddy said that Pat would make a fine work horse because he was Pet's son.
There was even a genuine wild horse some King cowboy had caught chasing horses out on the open range among the riding horses acquired with the Salt Gulch ranch. I asked to ride Darky, but Daddy said, “No!” Old Darky was a great horse to ride on the trail he said, but he was treacherous. He would sometimes buck, especially when he hadn't been ridden for a while. He was a wild horse that never quite took to working that willingly for his captors. 
There was so much to learn on the Salt Gulch ranch, I was busy all day long. Daddy decided to plant a big patch of field corn down around the hill to feed the pigs come winter, so after he did that, of course he had to plant a patch of oats to feed the horses. 
He put Bill, the neighbor who had become our hired man now living on our ranch, to working so hard cleaning ditch he was probably sorry he ever said he would work for Daddy. The Kings were known for getting their moneys worth out of their hired men. They did it by working right along side them and shaming them into about killing themselves to prove they were just as good a worker as their boss.

I also remember Mother throwing potatoes at us that winter when Margie and I failed to mop the kitchen floor after she told us to.  It was such a big floor for a four and five year old to mop, we kept putting it off until Mother finally lost her temper and started throwing a bucket full of potatoes all over the room just as hard as she could.  We kept dodging them as they flew past us.  I thought she would never run out of potatoes to throw at us.  We got a bucket of water and warmed it with the teakettle of hot water on the stove and mopped the floor as fast as we could.   


  1. Glad to see your are back writing you book. Some of these memories I don't even know and I am our sister. You are going to have to do it in Volumes like Sharon D. I am going tomorrow to hear her read from her II volumne. My kids are trying to get me to write about my childhood. All of the Cattle ranching of Boulder is very interesting to them. Who know...someday maybe your archives will sell for big $$$$...if anyone can gather that many words.

  2. my Mom was
    6 years old
    when her mother