Monday, November 13, 2017

The Ancestors, Part 3

from our family archives

Sunday the sun came up bright and clear and very chilly with a cold north wind.  There were four wagons going our way and we got started bright and early.  Clyde had our big mules on our loaded wagon and I had our little team on our light spring wagon with the children and our trunks and food.  There was a fairly goo dirt road for the first few miles, but when we hit the hills and sand, Clyde found that he ha loaded too heavily for the mules, so he stopped and came back to tell me that he needed by little horses and tied my buggy on behind the wagon.  It was really better for the children and me, for the wind was shut off by the wagon and we were more comfortable.
Mrs. Scully had fixed a lunch for us that first noon so we didn’t have to stop for long at noon but we found ourselves only about halfway when we realized that we would have to camp for the night.  We had been traveling on a very rough road, between many small hills, but came to a nice little valley with a windmill and small corral in it where, evidently, cattlemen put up for the night.  We had hired a boy in Keystone to drive our cattle and those that belonged to the three other men.  The grass was long and very damp from the two weeks of rain, but we spread canvas down and Mr. Eilers and I got our supper while the other three men worked at putting up our new stiff canvas tent.  Clyde had cut carefully shaped tent pins, but he hadn’t reckoned on the looseness of the sand.  When the had one side tightly pined down and started to pin the other side down up came the first side.  They finally put weights on the pins and made it stay up.  Mr. Eilers and I had been putting together a new kerosene cook stove and filling it, soaking up the wicks so that we could cook bacon when the sun went down – it got dark very quickly.  Fortunately mattresses had been packed on top of the loads.  The canvas was put in the tent, mattresses were put on the canvas and we all tried to get nights sleep.
One of the men who was with Mr. Eilers had been drinking all week while waiting in Keystone and had bad dreams and woke everyone up including the children, and I had to take Dick outside and walk around to quiet him.  The moon had come up and I never seen such bright moon and stars.  The altitude (4,000 ft) and clear clean air made both moon and starts seem close enough to reach.
We were all ready to get up and get started by daylight.  We got a good hot breakfast and packed up as fast as we could, anxious to reach our destinations as early as possible.  Mr. Eilers had been out earlier and built a cabin on his land and reached it a little after noon, hungry and tired.  We stopped long enough to eat a good lunch, and then Clyde and I started our alone.  We left our cows with the other stock that the boy had been driving and sent him back to Keystone where he lived.  The other wagons took another road to get to their places.
All of the bumping along the trail I had seen very few valleys but many hills and began wondering if there could really be a big valley like Clyde had remembered.  There wasn’t a tree nor a bush taller than a little wild rose bush about a foot high, and once in a while a yucca plant 15 to 18 inches high.  They were called soap weed out there.  But there was grass everywhere, and that was what made Clyde happy, for he intended to raise cattle, and this was cattle country.
About four o’clock we did enter a nice big valley and Clyde said this is the McNamara place and we could see the buildings ahead of us.  But as we got closer we could see smoke coming out of the chimney.  When we drove into the yard, a young fellow came out of the house to greet us.  He said, “You must be the folks that were going to live here.  We took one room, you can have the other.” Just like that.  Clyde was unhitching his four-horse team and said, “Well, that’s fine, you can help me unload my wagon.”  And young Mr. Frost really did help unload our big heavy kitchen range, table and chairs, beds and the first and most important things to get started on.  This young couple and their nine months old baby had driven a covered wagon from Iowa to try to get a start of the section that he had drawn, with nothing but a small stove, a bed, table and a couple of chairs.  No farming equipment, no money.  The house consisted of two huge rooms, built in an L shape with a small connection room.  When the Frosts go out that far, they asked a neighbor if he could move into the empty house and the neighbor, not knowing that we gotten permission from the owner that it would be all right.  We felt sorry for them and really had plenty of space in that big room, when we got it arranged.  As it turned out it was rather a good arrangement, for Clyde had many more trips to make to Keystone and I was not alone so many nights.  Also Clyde took a job in Keystone using his big team of mules to haul sand for a new cement bank they were building and I would have been alone for two weeks.  We needed the money for winter that he earned and he could spare the time.
Family archives: I love to think this is Ruth seeing her new home.
The morning after we got there and had nights sleep and some breakfast, Clyde said, “Well let’s go see our new home.”  I was almost afraid to go, for fear he would be disappointed.  We drove up a hill on a fireguard (a wide plowed strip that the government required the cattlemen to keep bare on the perimeters of the land that they had rented for grazing.  It was a beautiful morning, clear and bright, and we I saw our valley; it seemed even better than Clyde’s description.  It had a windmill and big cattle tank on it that the cattlemen hadn’t removed.  That made it look like a real ranch.  There were hills on the corners, but about 350 acres in the valley.  I had to shed a few tears of real joy.  We hadn’t had a home of our own and had given up building the new house in Kansas.  This just seemed an answer to my prayers – to be alone.
I have used first person in writing this so you might see us as two very confident ambitious farm-raised young people starting a new life.  Clyde was 29 and I was 24.  We had already seen some of the hard times of life, but felt this was a new opportunity, and a real challenge.  We stayed on top of that hill for quite a while, then went back to our borrowed house, grateful that we had a good roof over our heads.

1 comment:

  1. How different the world is since the days of our ancestors. So many more people, for one thing. And yet, as then, young people face hard times and still have hopes and dreams and set out to fulfill them. Thank you for this today. All that wide open space. And the horses that were such a big part of life then.


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