Saturday, September 1, 2012

One Man's Journey - Part XI



via Wikimedia Commons
By this time, I was taking a more active part in the operations while Colonel still played and soaked in the river. Along about his time an epidemic of smallpox hit the valley. Unbeknown to us, Edgar and Clarence had contracted the disease someplace, somehow. He (Colonel) stayed all night with them. Of course, he came down with it in a short time, but was not very sick; but, with Papa and me it was a different story. We were very sick and nearly died. We were extremely sick. A number of the people did die. We were also fortunate that we were left with very few pox marks. I think Mama had already had the disease so I guess she was immune. How Arthur got by, I don’t know.

Corn Club

I first belonged to a corn club. I suppose it was a forerunner of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) or the 4-H organizations. The next two to three years it was potato club and then the pig club. I did well in all these efforts and won prizes at the various fairs.

via Wikipedia
About this time, we got our first guns that we could call our own. Mack Stocker had an old ten-gauge double-barrel with two hammers. He had showed us how to use it and loaned it to us on occasion. We didn’t use it much: #1 – it kicked like a mule, and #2 – ammunition was almost out of reach of our pocket books at 75 a box (25 shells).

Mack had planted 40 acres of potatoes in a field across the road from our place. He had plowed up an alfalfa field to plant the potatoes. After the potatoes came up, the alfalfa did, too. So, Mack hired Colonel and me at 25 per day to pull out the alfalfa that was threatening to crowd out his spuds. We worked nearly all summer. I believe it was about the first paying job that either one of us had. We earned enough on that job to buy ourselves a couple of shotguns and a box of shells for each. We paid $10.00 each for the guns. Colonel chose a 16-gauge Bay State 32” barrel and full choke. It is nearly as bad as Mack’s 10-gauge for kicking and if I was off balance when shooting, it would knock me flat; but, as I grew older and heavier, it was easier to handle. Colonel didn’t have much trouble with his gun.

From this time on, we trapped muskrat in the winter and sold the skins for 75 to $1.50 each. This enabled us to buy more shells. The guns opened up a whole new world for us. From that time on, we dined on duck, pheasant and rabbit more often. We also shot a lot of holes in a lot of things we shouldn’t have shot at, but we were out in the wide open spaces where we didn’t bother anyone, and no one was in danger except ourselves and Mack had done a good job in teaching us about guns.

Papa helped us out on the duck shooting. Each spring, or when he planted wheat, he would run the drill along the top of the bank above the river, planting a strip about six to eight feet wide of wheat about one quarter mile long. About the time the wheat matured in the fall, the ducks started coming in, literally by the thousands. Colonel and I would leave the house, sneak down the draw to the river, then upstream to where the ducks were in our wheat field, then up the bank twenty to thirty feet, and whango! The only problem I had was with the gun on the slope up from the river. We were off balance when shooting, and many a time I got knocked over. Colonel did alright and could get in maybe two or three shots (these were single-barrel guns).

Our parents

I think it was along about this time that we approached Mama and asked her if Papa would care if we called him Daddy. I don’t know why we were concerned about such a thing, but apparently we had talked it over between ourselves and decided to do something about it. Undoubtedly, we had heard something at school that prompted such action. I know other boys called their parents “Old man” or “Old lady,” but we could not do that, always referring to our parents as Mama and Papa or Mother and Father. Mama told us to go ahead and call him Daddy, which we did, but finally shortened it to Dad.

We continued to call our mother “Mama” for a number of years, which we finally shortened to “Ma.” Looking back, I don’t think she cared too much about being addressed as “Ma.” I now think she would have liked “Mom” or “Mother” better, but she didn’t say anything.

World War I

World War I started in July of 1914. Being so far from any communication, it was some time before we heard about it. It didn’t bother us for some time since it was a long way from us and the old folks were still talking about the Civil War and the more recent Spanish-American War. I don’t remember our teacher ever saying anything about the war. I’m sure, however, it must have had some effect on our farming operations in prices and quantity.


School was going ok. The number of students was increasing to a point where the one room was getting over-populated. We had a number of teachers, but none of them could stand the rigors of isolation, having to move every couple of weeks and trying to teach students that in some cases were older than the teacher; but, by this time the older students were getting thinned out to a point where both the teacher and younger children had some relief.

It was about this year that an addition was built on to the school. The addition was about the same size as the original, being connected on the south side so large doors could be installed allowing both rooms to be opened up to community gatherings. Both rooms were lighted by kerosene lamps bracketed on the wall about six feet above the floor. There were a number of these lamps around the rooms with a reflector at the back of the lamp. This arrangement gave us pretty good light, but not for studying. There were a lot of windows that gave us good light in the day time – school hours were nine-to-four.

When the new addition was built, it allowed four grades in each room, so it was necessary to hire two teachers. They were sisters by the name of McCormick. {The household of Maidie McCormick was enumerated in Homestead Precinct in 1910. Included in the household were three daughters of age to teach: Ora Pearl, Elsie Fern and H*** Rene} By this time, I was in the fifth grade and moved into the new part while Colonel had to stay in the old building another year. The grades were lined up from the teacher’s left to right, so I was on the west side of the room facing the teacher (south). When it was time for each class to recite, the teacher called u up front and were seated on a bench. She usually started calling on the student at her right.

The lower-grade student certainly had the advantage because he could listen in on upperclassmen’s recitations and learn a great deal at least a year before he got to it. I’m sure from this point I did a lot better in school. Not only were the teachers better equipped, but we didn’t have the pressure from older students. Colonel always did pretty well.

Prior to the advent of the teachers McCormick, I don’t remember that any of the previous teachers had any extracurricular activities, but the McCormicks changed all that and had plays and other social activities designed to create some learning abilities in their students. I one play, I planed the lead. My partner, Fern Johnson, was a couple of grades ahead of me and also about two inches taller. I was Uncle Sam and she was Miss Liberty. The teacher gave me a hat that improved my height, but not my feelings. I’ll never be able to understand why I was given the part.

Eska O'Neal

Black boxing glovesI should have written this down on the first day of school since Eska made my life miserable for three to four years. Although this guy was in my class, he was big and I suspect he may have been two to three years older than others in the class. His father was a railroad employee and evidently made pretty fair wages for the time. As a result, Eska, being the only child, was given most anything he wanted. Among the things Eska had were boxing gloves, and probably had some coaching in boxing. In any event, this guy liked to practice on other people with his bare fists. This sort of thing continued and all the time I was growing larger and stronger and I believe I was in the fifth grade when the usual daily ruckus started and I was invited to the sand dunes. It was always the sand dunes or at the back of the woodshed. I got at a slightly higher elevation than he was and managed to lay one across the side of his face. He fell over backwards and I was on top of him. Of course, we had a large audience, all who wanted to see Eska get his just desserts. After that, he left me alone, but continued his activities with younger and smaller people. I learned many years later that Eska moved to California where he did become a professional fighter.{The 1910 census shows Esca O'Neal, born about 1902, as the son of Edward and Lida. They were living in the Homestead Precinct, Canyon County, Idaho; the same area as the Aitchison family.}  Eska had a cousin, Harry Rogers, who also liked to torment other persons. Harry pretty well ended his activities when a three-foot piece of sage brush was bounced of the back of his head one day on our way home from school. This particular time, he was picking on Colonel. (Harry later became one of the largest sheep men in southern Idaho.) {Harry Rogers was born about 1902 and was the son of Fred and Annis, who also lived in the Homestead Precinct near the Aitchison family. Harry left Idaho by 1935 when he was a representative of 'sheep users' on the advisory board for the Dolores Grazing District in Colorado, under the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934. The Dolores Grazing District was located in southwest Colorado.}

(Colonel and I fought quite a bit, but being older and somewhat larger, I think I got the best of him most of the time except when he got me at a disadvantage; but let anyone pick on either of us and the other would come to his aid.)

Mrs. O'Neal’s riding outfit

image found here
I must add here a short one on Eska O'Neal’s mother. All of the women I knew, when riding a horse, used a side saddle because they didn’t dare wear pants, only long dresses, not suitable to sit astride a horse. Mrs. O'Neal showed up at school one day wearing a split skirt outfit to about the knee and boots, gauntlet gloves and the whole ball of wax. That outfit certainly stirred up a lot of comment, and set up a lot of waging up and down the valley. All the woman was trying to do was to be comfortable. That sort of thing didn’t take hold very easily. I remember one time when Mama was helping Dad prepare the garden on the north side of the house. She was wearing a pair of Dad’s bib overalls, which certainly covered her completely. Someone came down the road and Dad shooed her into the house to get decent before anyone could see her. (I wonder what they would think of the dress of 1986.)
to be continued...

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