Remembrances part 2

[This is a continuation of Remembrances by Myra Jackson Cram, one in a series of first person histories.]

When Matlan was about eight or ten years old, he went out with Dad and a group from Fredonia to catch fawns on the Mountain. Matlan got lost. He was out all night before they found him. Mother was very upset. It made quite an impression on me.

Matlan was very kind, gentle, and patient. He loved animals. He was always taking care of some animal. Once he got a new puppy. He and the puppy went to the woodpile to chop wood. He accidentally hit the puppy in the head with the ax and killed it. It really upset him. It took him awhile to get over it.

Big poplar trees lined the street in front of Cecil’s and my house. One got blown over and it just missed our house. All the men were gone but Matlan, and he had a broken arm. We were afraid one would fall on our house, or Mom’s and Dad’s. Matlan said he would drive the truck to pull them down, but I would have to climb up to hook the chain around them. He sat in that truck, yelled up at me to higher, much higher, and laughed and laughed. But we got the trees pulled down.

Matlan died 25 Dec 1947. He was working near Evanston, Wyoming as a sheepherder. He and another herder were staying out together with the sheep. Matlan was shot in the head with a handgun. (The other herder said Matlan shot himself.) The coroner ruled it was a suicide. A Doctor at the hospital said there were no powder burns. When it happened, everyone went to Evanston. Mom and Dad stayed up there after everyone went home. When she got home Mom said she just wanted to let it drop. No matter what happened, Matlan was gone.

At Easter, the entire town would go out to Big Springs for an Easter picnic. It was a lot of fun. I don’t remember how we got there. Only that everyone went and we had a lot of fun.

Duard and I decided to go horseback riding. We started out early. We weren’t very old because we had go have something to stand on to get on the horses. We took a saddle from a horse named Felt and workhorse named Diamond. Diamond was one of a team. I can’t remember the name of the other half of the team. Billy Judd had a team named Dewey and Dolly at that time, but I can’t remember the name of the other half of our team. Duard and I decided we would like to go to the sheep herd and see Dad. I didn’t know the way but Duard said he did. We had gone quite a ways when I fell off my horse. Since there was nothing to stand on Duard decided to take my arm and pull me up on his horse. But when he tried, I was too heavy and pulled him off. Since we were both on foot, we headed back to town. It was after dark when we got home. Mom had the whole town looking for us.

I was baptized in the Old Reservoir south of town. All the kids who turned eight that year were baptized on the same day. I was the first one baptized. Everyone was nervous and no one wanted to be the first.

Gwen and I did all the ironing. We had two ironing boards. We would set them up in the kitchen and heat the irons on the kitchen stove. We ironed every Tuesday. If we didn’t finish on Tuesday, we ironed on Wednesday also. We would get the clothes off the line on Monday, bring them in, sprinkle them with water, roll them up and put them in a basket. They were just right to iron on Tuesday. When the boys were in school we had 26 shirts a week.

Mom always washed on Monday. She built a fire in the yard to heat the water, then used a scrub board. While we had a cistern for drinking water, we used ditch water for washing clothes and cleaning. Gwen and I would take a 5 gallon bucket up to head of the gate to get mop  water. It took two of us because it was so heavy.

Mom’s first washing machine had an engine sitting to one side, and not attached to the tub itself. I don’t remember how it worked. I just remember she put it in the old wash house and the engine was off to one side. Her second machine was a Speed Queen. Cleon and Matlan bought it for her. We had a bad winter and a lot of sheep died. Cleon and Matlan collected the wool from all the dead sheep they could find and used part of the money to buy Mom a new washing machine.

I have never told this story before. When I was in High School I had a Home Ec teacher named Miss Wagner. She had us make divinity candy in class then wouldn’t let us eat it. We didn’t think that was right. That night some boys came down from Kanab. When we told them about it they agreed with us. They broke a window in the school so they could get in, steal the candy and eat it. I don’t remember who they boys were, but Reva Brooksby, Elsie Judd, Wanda Pratt (Uncle Ern’s daughter) and I were there. Nobody knew who did it. They suspected some other kids, though. Wanda and I always walked home from school together. We decided that if they actually accused the other kids we would confess. They never found out who did it.

Mom always had a lot of projects going. She had bees for a long time. One day, a large swarm went over. She had all us kids beat on pots and pans to make a noise so the swarm wouldn’t come near the queen and would land. I don’t know if she bought or made the hives and frames. First, she kept them on the edge of our property by Dickie Lewis’ fence. Later, when we planted the apple orchard, she moved them into the orchard under the trees. She had an old smoker that she used. You put rags in it and lit them on fire. Then you would squeeze it to blow the smoke out. One time, she had me running the smoker and I forgot to tie my pant legs shut. The bees crawled up my pants and stung me on my legs. I had to run to the outhouse to take my pants off to get rid of those bees.

Mom would sell and trade tomato plants. She put the seeds in cheesecloth in a bottle of water to sprout. She made tubes out of lightweight cardboard. We would save the covers off our notebooks for her. She would have us sew the cardboard into a tube. She then stood the tube up in a pan, put soil in it, then sprouted seed. She had an old tub that leaked. It was what she used most to put the tubes in.

Mom tried gooseberry bushes. She didn’t have them too long before she gave up. We raised Pottawattamie plums. We had fresh plums, dried plums, and plum jam. We would take a bag of plums to school with us. Dad and Mom grew their own wheat. It was used mostly for feed. It was kept in the granary and we would go out and grind it for cracked wheat mush.

Mom had a big garden. We canned all our vegetables and shared with everyone in town. Mom and Dad were always taking food to someone. There was an old Paiute woman named Maggie that they helped a lot. When Mom died, Maggie was in the same hospital room with her. Once, when Gwen and I were sitting with Mom, Maggie came over, patted Mom on the cheek and said, “You my friend.”

Dad was at the sheep herd and got sick. He was so sick he came to town. I guess he rode a horse the whole way in. All the kids rushed home to see what was the matter. He had smallpox and we were all exposed. We were lucky and no one else got them. The callouses on the bottoms of his feet were so thick the pox couldn’t break through. He used his knife to help them break out. He had a herder that had had smallpox and he got it from either the herder’s bedding or his clothes.

All the kids but me had the mumps. Fredonia went to a Music contest in Flag, Cleon drove Dad’s car with some of the kids in it. Francis Pratt and Elaine Pratt were in our car. They broke out with the mumps while in Flag. When we got home, the sheriff came and put a notice on our gate: Quarantined. No one could come or go from our house until everyone was over the mumps and the house was fumigated. We were quarantined for a month, but I never got the mumps, then. I was exposed when we lived in Bowie, then broke out when we were in Eager. Nadine and Norma got them from me. Earl had them later. Earl got the measles and chickenpox while we were in Phoenix. He came home from school one day and asked me to check his belly. There, under his belt, was a chickenpox.

It seemed like we had more snow in Fredonia when we were growing up. It would be quite deep as we walked to school. We didn’t all have galoshes. Cleon and Matlan would go first and make a trail for us to walk in.

There have been several earthquakes in Fredonia. The last one I remember happened when I was sitting at Mother’s kitchen table, visiting. When the earthquake hit, I jumped up and ran outside. Mom laughed and asked why I did that. I told her I ran outside because I didn’t want to go to the basement. Earl and Steve were playing down in the alfalfa field. I don’t know if they felt it or not.

Duard died 3 Jul 1948, not quite six months after Matlan. He had a drinking problem and was living in a sheep wagon being Grandpa Judd’s old house. Slim Lathan was the deputy sheriff at that time. Slim picked up Duard for being drunk, took him to the sheep wagon and put him on the bed. Slim said he took all of Duard’s matches away from him. Sometime during the night the sheep wagon caught on fire. The cause was never determined. The sheep wagon was fully engulfed in flames when the fire was discovered. It was ruled accidental. I always blamed his ex-wife Joyce and her brother.

Laree was a sweet child. She was fifteen when she died, 2 Sep 1943. She had rheumatic fever and it affected her heart. She spent one summer with Cecil and I when we  were in Winnemucca, Nevada.

Everyone celebrated the Fourth of July. We always got a new dress, and there was a parade and program. The boys always set off dynamite about three or four in the morning.

We had a nanny goat once. We had just one goat. No one liked goat milk. She was a nice goat and we all liked her and played around with her. One time she ate my dress. It was my new Fourth of July dress. It was white with little green and red figures. It had a peplum on it. When I petted her she chewed a hole in the peplum and I didn’t even know it.

We always had a lot of animals to care for. We always had two milk cows, a team of horses, and one saddle horse. We kept pigs and chickens. One time, Mom even had ducks. We had various dogs and cats.

The school was there in the center of town. I liked school. My first grade teacher was Mrs. Smith. I skipped second grade. My third grade teacher was Candis Lundquist. The fourth grade was Mrs. Martin. The fifth grade was Ken Judd. I can’t remember my sixth grade teacher. When I was in fourth grade the school burned down. We got ready, started off and there was all this smoke. The school was on fire. It burned clear down. Until a new school was built we (the fourth and fifth grade) went in Uncle Dan Judd’s house. Gwen (the seventh and eighth grade) went in uncle Eli Judd’s house. The high school (Cleon and Matlan) went in the church. I don’t remember where the other grades went. I never heard what started the fire. It was probably one of the wood stoves. Each classroom had a big, round wood burning stove for heat.

Starting about a month before Easter, we could all save back some of the eggs we gathered to color. We made our own dye from onion skin, beets and some kind of paper. I can’t remember the kind of paper. One year, I hid my cache of eggs in the hay in the barn. When I went to get them, an old sitting hen had found them and was sitting on them.

Everyone in town had large garden and shared with everyone. Once Noreen’s mother (Liza Judd) asked Noreen and I if we would take some new potatoes up to Grandma Brooksby. I don’t remember her first name. (I don’t think she was any relation to me.) Grandma Brooksby was kind of strange. She thanked us by saying she would have them for supper that night if they were still alive.

My sewing machine was at the Cram ranch in Houserock. Alex Cram (my father-in-law) took me to get it. We were on our way back when we got stuck in the sand. We carried brush, and carried brush to put under the tires, and he would gun the pickup and jump forward just enough to get stuck again. We would have to get more brush. I asked him if I could drive, but he wouldn’t let me. He always kept the emergency brake on two or three notches for safety sake, or because he could get it on faster in an emergency. So he had the emergency brake on all the time.

Once, Edith and Abe Bonham were coming across the mountain when they came upon a hat in the road. Edith said, that’s Dad’s hat: go back and get it. A little further on, they came across Alex Cram. He had stopped to take a leak and the pickup started rolling. He had lost his hat when he grabbed the back of the pickup to stop it. He also cut his hand quite badly. So they brought him on into town. Cecil gave him a drink to settle his nerves (Alex had already had quite a few), then took him up to the doctor. He had to have about four stitches. He cursed the doctor and everyone else. He said, “I could have gone down to the ranch, put a little iodeen on it, wrapped it up, and it would have been just fine.” Someone had to go and get his pickup.

Once I decided o fix the plug (electrical outlet) by the fireplace. I turned the power off. I rewired that plug good as new. Then I went outside and turned the power back on. I think it is a coincidence that the transformer on the corner blew up. There was this big bang, and smoke came out of the transformer just as I flipped the switch. Our end of town was without power until the next day when the electric company got it replaced. We never heard if they found out what caused the problem.

Mother had a mean rooster that pecked us every time we went to the outhouse. One time, Gwen took a stick of cedar wood with her. When the rooster took after her, she hit it and killed it. But she didn’t tell Mother. Mother said that if she had told her they could have cooked it for dinner. By the time Mother found the rooster it was too late to cook it. Mother hated the waste.

The outhouse was down by the north end of the barn. The chicken coop was there also. For a long time, the chicken coop was a long building with a flat roof. We kids would take our bedrolls and sleep on top of the chicken coop on the Fourth of July. I don’t imagine it smelled very good.

[September 27, 2001. Myra Jackson Cram became ill and could not finish. She is currently in the LDS hospital in Salt Lake.]

[She did recover and passed away 19 Oct 2008 in Clarkdale, Arizona -gjw]

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