Early days on the homestead


When I was a little boy you must remember there was no automobiles no motorcycles and no airplanes. We had either to travel by horse drawn wagon, cart or surrey where there were roads, or horseback or on foot where there were no roads. It was home and so were some of my brothers and sisters back in the mountains where roads were few and very poor. Most of our travel was horseback if we had to go very far. If it was only a four or five mile trip, we walked. 

I cannot remember much of what happened before the age of six. I do remember when our grandfather moved us to the old homestead that mother and us kids later named Paradise Hill. The place was a couple of miles by trail off the road where we had to leave the wagon. Father had gone there months ahead to build the house and get things ready for us. There was Mother and six of us children. May, the oldest, Bob the next, myself the third, Ann, a little girl about five, Tom three years old and Sue the baby. We all walked in—us three oldest carried something. Mother carried the baby.

In the canyon where we left the wagon road there were some wildflowers. Ann was so excited that she ran from one to the other gathering them until she could hold no more in her hands. The farther up the mountain, the more flowers there was, so she gathered more and more until she had arms full and would lay them down and run ahead and pick some more. When we were part way up the long trail mother told us that on top of the first hill there was a tree with a big bump growing all around it near the ground and that was where we would all sit and rest awhile. She said for none of us to go beyond that tree and wait for her there. Ann was so busy picking flowers that she ran on ahead and was the first to reach the tree. When we came to the top of the knoll we could see the tree but could not see Ann. We hurried then to find what had happened to her and found her sound asleep with her hands full of wildflowers on the ground beside the big oak tree with the humps and bumps on its side near the ground. we named the tree Humpty Dumpty and it is still Humpty Dumpty to all of us whenever we talked of going up that trail.

We walked on and on and the farther we went the more tired we became. Up up and up until we reached the top, then the trail ran along the ridge, sometimes uphill and sometimes down for a long way. At last mother said, “See that barbed wire fence? That’s our place.” So at last we were walking on our own land, and in a short time we were at our own little house.

The little house stood on a steep hillside below a beautiful spring of cold water. Father had put the house there so that there would never be any need for carrying water. We all took a drink from a tin cup that hung over the spring and felt rested. Mother fixed a fire in the woodstove and got us a meal—from what I do not remember. We did not explore much around the place that first day for it was late and we were all worn out.

The next morning we were up early and interested in the tracks of the wild animals that had come during the night to drink at our spring. All day long the wild birds were coming to drink and they did not like us to be there. We saw birds and animals we had never seen before. We roamed around close by the house but did not get very far from home. We were a little afraid, and besides could see enough without going far. At night the noises of the owls and other night birds frightened us and in the daytime there was stranger noises that we did not know if they were made by a bird or a mountain lion. We learned later that a small bird sometimes made a noise like a kitten and one coyote could sound like a pack of wolves.

I remember our first day to school. The school house was 2 1/2 or 3 miles away in the opposite direction from the road where we left the wagon. We had to go down to the canyon below our house and up and over another hill. Our father took us the first day and we started early in the morning. Dad took burlap sacks along to wrap around the lower wire of a barbed wire fence that we had to get under so we would not tear our clothes. He also had an ax and blazed a tree here and there by marking it on both sides in the direction that the trail ran and especially where it turned. The blaze still shows on some of the trees. That was done so we would not get lost. 
I do not remember much about the school at first except that I was so tired when I arrived there I could not study, and coming home I thought I would never get up that last hill. We were warned to keep away from cattle that roamed over the hills and often that spring we detoured miles around in the brush expecting a bull to come charging after us. We were afraid for miles and miles when we heard those big range bulls roaring at each other from one mountain to another. (Stories continue, but not now…)