Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Memoir: Chapter 35: Goodbye to Grandma's place and hello to Giant Slew ranch, a property Daddy bought where the work helped him cut back on his drinking at last

I met so many Wilson relatives dropping in to see Grandma that I had never known before I thought my year of staying with her was well worth it. Her sister Janette from Tropic brought her beautiful granddaughter who was trying out for Miss Utah and stayed several days.  Aunt Janette was very unlike Aunt Sue, Grandma's card playing partner, who lived just down the street. She was very religious as were some of Grandmother's younger brothers. Aunt Sue and Grandma as the oldest and the youngest sisters did what they pleased.  Aunt Sue still pretended to sell real estate. Mother said she remembered Grandma and her sister Julia used to come to the family reunions and squaw wrestle very year.  Which means they got down on the ground and tried to throw each other using one leg. 
Anyway Aunt Anne told me when I got ready to leave that the family had decided it was time to start taking turns having Grandma live for a few months with them.  She said she hoped I would be able to find another place to live all right but every time I went somewhere Grandma would call up and fret about my being gone. 
I said I understood and that I was sure I could find some other place to stay so not to worry.  I thanked her for making room for me in their lives. 
Cheryl, my beautiful cousin, was to move into the nurses' dorm very soon.  Poor Uncle Hyrum was not expected to live but a few more weeks. Once he was gone and Grandma was alone, the big old fashioned house on Gordon Place would be sold.  With two entrances in front, it had probably been built in the days of polygamy.  There would have been living quarters for at least three wives. 

So everybody's lives on Gordon Place were about to change.  I went home to a change there too with my dad buying another ranch property in upper Boulder. The rancher owner was getting old and peckish and suddenly decided he had to sell before he up and died. My dad got Grandpa to sign with him and jumped in to buy the ranch. Mother said he thought he could pay off the ranch fast if he bought it when cattle prices were high. 
None of the old rancher's nephews even got the chance to buy the ranch. They had been coming there for years learning to cowboy, but none of them had money at the ready, so their loss it appeared was my dad's gain.  Most of the nephews had had to go in the service to defend the country.  There were some hard feelings at first over my dad's opportunity because he had been just the right age to escape the draft. 
His older brother was drafted to fight in World War I, but my dad had just gotten too old to fight in World War II.
It seemed like every opportunity my dad got to buy a ranch property caused some hard feelings in somebody. As for me, when Daddy told me he wanted me to go up to the ranch so he could show me around, all I could wonder when I saw it was why a man who already owned Sinkhole ranch would buy Giant Slew ranch, too.
Straight out from the ranch house the property contained this giant slew running down the middle of it, starting with a spring that fed it. I walked out a little ways on it, and it shook like a big bowl of jelly.  Scared the hell out of me.  It was a very strange feeling to have the ground jiggle under you. 
Daddy said to be sure to stay on the narrow road someone had built across it to the hayfields.  Creating a solid base for a road in that slew must have required a great deal of work.  I never did find out how they did it, but if you drove off the road, whatever vehicle you were in would start sinking. 
I know because the first time Margie drove our jeep across it, she decided it was safe to go off the road when we got close to the house. The jeep sunk so deep in the slew we had to go ask the neighboring rancher if he could please bring his tractor over and pull us out. 
We knew Daddy would have a spell if we waited to ask him because he had warned us not to do what we just did.  The neighboring rancher, knowing Daddy, took pity on us and pulled us out.
I was to encounter that slew in an even more dangerous way that same spring after I came home when Daddy told me he wanted me to go up  to the ranch with him to help do something with some cattle.  First he gave me a skittish little bay mare that had belonged to the former owners to ride.  He said Wissy was now my horse, but to be very careful when I was driving cattle on her as she had been badly gored in the side by a cow with long horns. So if a cow with horns got anywhere near her she would jump sideways so high, a  rider taken by surprise could be pitched off. 
I thought Wissy acted pretty skittish without even a cow with horns in sight.  I wondered how long it had been since she had been ridden.  Daddy started toward the big slew to take care of his cattle.  The pasture did not have a road leading to it.  It looked like he intended for us to cross the slew! I pulled Wissy up.  "We aren't going to cross this slew on these horses are we?" I asked in frank disbelief. 
If a jeep could sink to the hub caps that close to the house, what about horses I was thinking.
Daddy said airily, "Oh don't worry.  These horses were born and raised here on this ranch. They have been crossing this slew to the pasture all their lives!"
"But I haven't been!" I said sharply.  I frankly started begging, "Daddy, let me ride down there outside the ranch. I will meet you to the pasture gate."
"We haven't got time for that!" snapped Daddy. "Come on." He always hated cowgirls related to him acting like craven cowards on horseback.
Well, we soon came to a place in the upper part of the slew where the water from the spring could be seen openly pooling. The horses plunged into that part, lunging as though their very lives depended on it. As for me, I had not been that scared in a long time.
In fact, I could not even enjoy the work with the cattle which I usually did, I was so worried about coming back through that slew.
Well, we made it back alive, and I resolved that the next time Daddy had some work to do with cattle up to Giant Slew ranch I would have something else very important I had to do instead.  I was never going to ride a horse across the Giant Slew again, and I never did!

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