Friday, March 11, 2011

Memoir: Chapter 13: Traveling the new upper road over Hell's Backbone to Escalante where we went to school 2 months

The highlight of my second grade year was a two month visit to the second grade class in Escalante. Mother told Daddy that never again would she stay all winter in Salt Gulch, so after the new year she must have gathered up her brood of four and went to Escalante to stay to Grandma King's house. I don't know if Grandma King was there or not, but Daddy was allowed to visit occasionally. Grandpa Wilson might have rustled up a job teaching high school in Escalante, and I know they lived in the King house one winter in Escalante so we may have lived with them. LaRae would have been walking all over since she was two years old.  I seem to remember her getting a lot of attention with her big eyes and thick hair.  I was seven so Ann would have been born that December in Salt Gulch before Mother took us to live in Escalante.  
We regularly traveled to Escalante on what was called the upper road over Hell's Backbone. Crossing Hell's Backbone bridge was always the worst of the trip for me. I would always ask to walk across the bridge rather than be driven in a car, but was never allowed to indulge my cowardly fears. I just did not trust that bridge! Down in Sand Creek you could look up and see this bridge way up in the air spanning two deep canyons on either side. It just looked very dangerous. When anyone talked about going to the Grand Canyon I always said I did not want to go as I thought I had seen enough deep canyons in my life, I didn't need to see any more.  

I guess I had heard too many stories about how the Escalante cat skinner, “Sixty McInelly” had crossed a dangerous temporary bridge made of planks with his 'cat' to connect the road over two deep canyons. He did not even tell his pregnant wife what he was going to do for fear she would go into labor out of fright. Everybody clapped when Sixty rolled up on the other side without plunging with his heavy cat to the bottom of the gorge. 
The CCC boys had been contracted to build the road so the mail could be brought to Boulder by truck instead of mules. After all, it was 1938. The CCC boys built a lot of roads so why not this one?

Now these same CCC boys were building a road over what they called the lower road into Boulder which was nothing more than a rough wagon trail over sand rock and deep sand. I always asked to be allowed to walk up Thompson's Turnover but was hardly ever allowed to do that either. So Margie and I would lay down in the back of the car and pray while Daddy would sometimes have to make three runs on that hill before he made it to the top in his gutless car. I prayed we would not be like Thompson and turn over into the canyon. There was always a deep canyon to fall into on those old roads.
It did take Daddy a long time to go over the old or the upper road to Escalante to buy a drink. The new faster lower road would probably cause him to become a worse drunk.
I think Mother was half way trying to leave him when she went as far away from him as Escalante to spend a couple of months. I loved my teacher there who taught the second grade.  Her name was Mrs. Helen Schow and she was young and enthusiastic like Golda Petersen had been. Margie got an older teacher named Mrs. Lee in the first grade but she knew her business.
Margie and I made friends with two sisters in Escalante who were the same age as we were named Jean and Joan. I envied them so because their mother combed their hair into ringlets every single day, and she dressed them in the latest fashion. Mother made our dresses but she always hemmed them too long on the grounds that we would grow out of them. They would be in tatters by the second year, but in the meantime we would have to go around in new dresses below the knees like two little old ladies. 
 I think Mother was suspicious of little girls dressed in short dresses with long hair. She never got used to how long straight hair looked since she and her sister had curly hair. Every picture she took of us when our hair was long, we had hairdos that made us look like we were forty years old. Mother's idea of a decent hairdo was not chic. I did not get to wear my long blond hair hanging down my back until I left home.

Well, we had to go home to the ranch some time, so finally Daddy talked Mother into moving back to Salt Gulch just as the spring work was starting. I knew my work load would start up again, too, as now there were two little kids under three to watch when Mother gardened and bottled. But a wonderful thing happened. Bill decided not to work for Daddy anymore so I told Daddy when haying time came I would drive the team hooked to the hay wagon and stomp the hay all day, too.
All I can say is that it was a good thing I waited until I was nearly eight to start doing a man's job. I would be exhausted by the time I stomped hay all day. But I loved driving swaybacked old Pet and her mate. She was the best old dear. She never acted up at all. I told Daddy she was the most patient hardworking old work mare I could imagine. I could hardly wait for Pat, her son, to get old enough to break to the harness.He surely would not be like old Fred, the King's prize work horse in Boulder, who would surely have run away with me, being such a young inexperienced driver. 
But by the time Daddy broke Pat, Old Pet was gone, and the work horse age was coming to an end in that country! Mother eventually tried to persuade everyone to buy Case tractors after she became the dealer
There was still some more upset to come due to the violence of men, but I don't have the strength to write about that today. I will end this chapter with my salute to good old Pet and all the workhorses who worked for mankind for centuries. I could just cry when I think of their faithful service. I think that was also the year that I was looking everywhere for stories about horses. We did still ride the cow ponies and always would on the rough cattle trails. 
Daddy told me when I was a year or two older he would take me to punch cows in Sand Creek where his winter cattle range was in Salt Gulch. I could hardly wait. Riding horses provided me with the purest joy in life I was ever to know in childhood.

1 comment:

  1. Did you move to Escalante at the first of the school year (fall) for those two months or after I was born in Salt Gulch (which seems a better time when mother could recover before the work in the spring began?) I can't imagine Mother going back to Salt Gulch to have a baby if she was actually in Esclante. It makes sense to move in the winter and back in the spring...what happened? I enjoyed your chapter very much. Or was it the next year after I was born when you moved? Why would it be just for two months?