Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Chapter 6

After the snow came, then the whole effort turned into feeding. The hay racks would be changed to the sleigh and the hay knife sharpened and the teams and sleigh would take off for the desired haystack making new tracks in a sea of white. The world was beautiful at this time of year, but cold. One end of the haystack would be sawed off an with a pitchfork, the feeder loaded the hay onto the rack. When loaded, the driver would haul the hay to where the cattle or sheep were and unload the hay on the snow as the team walked through the field without guidance. Load after load, day after day, seven days a week until the snow melted in the spring.

As a small boy grew on any western ranch, it was not long before he was expected to start pulling some of the load. And since most boys want to show how grown-up they are, the soon work there way into doing useful tasks. The first one I can remember is carrying wood and water. Like all farms, there was a wood pile and one of the older boys was expected to cut the wood. Soon I was carrying one stick at a time, and then an armful. But nothing ever exciting happened while carrying wood. Not so with the water. At first it was just an exploration going to the pump house with my sisters, then soon I had to help, so I inherited a lard pail about five quarts in size that I had to carry home each time the girls went out.

There was a lane down to the pump house to keep the range cattle out but the horses and milk cows used the same lane as the people to go to the water. None of our stock was tame enough that I dared be in the same lane with them. So the first hazard was the stock and ducking under fences or waiting in the pump house until them drank their fill and left. That I soon learned to live with as a normal routine.

Then one day, as I went to the pump house, I saw a coyote coming toward the house from the opposite direction. I had seen coyotes before, but never so open and coming straight to the point occupied by Homo sapiens. So I ran into the pump house and pulled the door closed and fastened the wire around the nail.  But the bottom was loose and so I wasn’t too sure of my safety. The old dog kept coming finally until it found the door and started scratching the door to open it. Through the crack in the door, I could see the white foam around its mouth—rabies. A mad coyote. A scared boy. I shouted and yelled to try to scare him but no success. He just kept circling the old house trying to get in. Finally, after what seemed like hours, he wandered off in the field far enough so I thought I could beat him to the house if he chased me. Forgetting the water and the pump house door and all else, I took off for the main house. I never knew if he was following me or not. I didn’t dare look back but when I reached the house and told Mother, she looked out and could see him in the North field. At noon when Dad returned home, he heard the story, quickly saddled a horse, took the rifle, and took off in the general direction. About two miles from the house, he found the coyote, which promptly started toward the horseman and instantly was shot. Sure enough, he was rabid—and promptly buried.

My older brothers and sisters had gone to school as far as they went in Woodruff, seven miles away. Most of the boys grew up fast and quit school very early. Seven miles on horse back was a long ride on a 40ยบ below zero morning or in a snow storm, or just any time. When the girls began school, the folks arranged to have the girls stay with Aunt Ell, one of Father’s sisters in town and by this time the family had acquired two cars. A 1923 Dodge touring car for the folks and an old Model T for the boys. So each Friday night and each Monday morning the girls were driven to town. When the weather got too cold for the cars, they stayed in town all weekend. And we sometimes went by sleigh and team to visit them.
About the time I was ready to start school—interesting circumstances came about at the ranch that had an extreme effect upon my life.

For many years, Father had enjoyed special privileges on the ranch because of his friendship with Bishop “Bill” Moss, the ranch manager, and his son, Ralph. When young Ralph had been a teenager, he had managed to get into trouble at school and with the local law, as so many rough and ready boys do. He really wanted to be on the ranch, but they lived in Woodcross, near Salt Lake. It ended up that Ralph came to the ranch and went to work for my Dad who was the foreman. This could have developed into a strained relationship, but it developed into a lifetime of undying brotherhood closer than any brothers ever were. There were other sons of the other owners, the Hatches and the Moyles that didn’t work out this way. But Bill Moss was Ranch Manager and the only one Dad reported to. One of the privileges Dad had enjoyed was to run as many horses on the company range as he needed on the Bluegrass and what cows he kept as beef and milk, perhaps a dozen.

In the fall or spring, these stock would be separated at round-up time and returned to the Bluegrass. At one of the round-ups, one of the other owner’s sons observed the rather large number of stock cutout with the four bars (our brand) on them. He told his father of this and a Board of Governors’ incident arose concerning the Bryson stock on Deseret Livestock range. As a result, Bishop Moss was directed by the Board to do something about the situation. He approached Father with the problem and after some discussion, made the statement, “Dammit Dave, what you need is a place of your own.” And Father replied that he had been looking at the “Call” place, but didn’t yet have enough money. So Bishop Moss instructed him to go to Woodscross and have Mr. J.D. Moyle, partner and legal counsel for the Deseret Livestock Company, look at the deed and the range and water rights to the “Call” place and when they were found to be in good order, Bishop Moss wrote a personal check to Dad for the financing of the purchase of the “Call” ranch. The check covered the difference between what money Dad had for a down payment and the total purchase price of the ranch. There never was any mortgage or papers signed or talk of interest. His trust in Dave Bryson was complete and proved justified when four years later the loan was repaid in full.

The Call place was a new kind of life for the Bryson Family. The house was a large white adobe with more rooms than even our family of eight could fill. There was a huge area surrounded by a tall growth of poplar trees that was the lawn. Machine shops, granaries, barns, and sheds for the stock. The ranch was located just one and half miles from school. Easy walking distance in three feet of snow. This purchase took place within weeks before I was to start school. The proximity of the school and new teachers and teaching techniques started me on a course of a lifetime of educational pursuits.

Moving into the new house brought other changes to the family. The following March, my younger brother was born and in the winter of 1927, my brother Lorrell (Doc) died of the flu. But life went on, summers putting up feed and winters hauling out feed. Father continued his lease on Bluegrass and worked his own ranch (the Call place) around the other.

I can’t remember much of my first year or so of school. I can remember the school house from later years. It was a large four room brick, two story building. The first and second grades shared the south downstairs room and the third and fourth grades shared the north downstairs room. I don’t know what was upstairs since I never progressed that far in that school. Each room had a coal heating stove and coal and kindling had to be carried from the back yard. There was a front porch where we entered and where the stairs led upstairs. There was a back porch, but since there was no stairway from the back porch to the ground, it was only for cleaning erasers.

My first grade teacher was a cute little blond gal named Nora Tingey. She was a local girl who had just finished college and returned to teach. I was much in love with that teacher as was about every boy in the school. She must have been a good teacher but what six year can know. We all worked hard and behaved just because she asked us to. The first grade had two rows of seats on the west side of the room facing north and the second grade was in a similar arrangement on the east side of the room. The teacher would teach one class while the other studied and then change on half hour intervals. After leaving the school at age ten, I didn’t see Miss Tingey until 1944. And, you know, she was still just as beautiful as I remembered and still taught first and second grades in the same school, and still had not married.

In the spring, Father would move back to the Bluegrass as soon as the snow lifted, but Mother would stay in town until school was out. Then she, my sisters, and I would move to the big ranch also.

The spring after I started school, I became a real cowboy. A number of milk cows were required to provide dairy products for the hands and they decided I was old enough to herd the milk cows. Dad provided an old saddle without stirrups and assigned Old Dubby to me to herd cows on. I would drive the cows out of the corral and across the meadows to the east desert. And herd them there until sundown. I had a lunch and water and was a real cowboy. I never got off my horse. I couldn’t. The old horse was so ornery, if I got off, I couldn’t get back on, and no self-respecting cowboy wanted to walk home. Besides, we had a mean bull.

Vern riding on Dubby
My older brother, Otis, felt sorry for me, so he fixed some small stirrups and attached them to the saddle so I could get on and off. But they lasted just until Dad saw them that evening and off they came. Something about a boy getting his foot caught in the stirrup and dragged. But there really was no danger with Old Dubby. As soon as I dropped the reigns, he would start eating and would have been right there when they came looking for me. If I couldn’t get loose by myself. But no deal, the stirrups stayed off.

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