Autobiography of Rodney Waite: Recorded by Marie Waite
Me while in high school
I, Rodney Waite was born 7th of January 1919 in Bunkerville, Clark County, Nevada. I was the twelth child and 8th son of Herbert William Waite and Mable Lillian Leavitt Waite. My parents had four daughters and eight sons and I was their youngest. Their first child Hannah Keturah died as a baby but all the rest grew up to maturity. Their names were as follows, in the right age order, Hannah Keturah, Mable Vinda, Velma Leila, Herbert Marvin, Leland William, Dinah, Delbert, Evan, Moroni, Denzel, Dan Leavitt, and Rodney.
When I was born my mother was attended by a midwife. Now, to you children who don't know what a midwife is, she is a lady that sometimes had a little training and then would take the place of a doctor when a child is born. My mother was attended by aunt Lena Leavitt who, was also Mother's sister and she lived just next to us on the west. Mother never did go to a doctor or to a hospital to have any of her babies. My brother Dan was their first child to be born is this house and I was the second.
Bunkerville Nevada, my birthplace is located in the southeastern tip of Nevada along the southern banks of the Rio Virgin River. This small town was first settled by early Mormon pioneers who arrived there on 7th of January 1877. So the town was only 42 years old exactly when I was born. My grandparents Dudley and Mary Huntsman Leavitt lived there.
Bunkerville is around 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas, which was first settled several years later by early Mormon pioneers. This whole area is dry and arid desert country that is very hot in the summer and quite mild in the winter.
My father Herbert William Waite was born in England. It was there his parents first heard of the restored gospel and joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They immigrated to America when my father was only two years old and first settled in Hyde Park, Utah and then were sent to southern Utah to help settle that area and settled in Santa Clara.
My father had a hard time as he grew up for he lost his father when he was only eleven years of age. His father William Noble Waite (my grandfather) was building his family a house on their acreage on the west side of Santa Clara Creek. Grandfather was trying to put up the ridgepole when it slipped and fell on him hurting him so badly that he soon died. This was such a heartbreak and tragedy to his young family leaving them with no support or home or husband or father.
My parents Herbert Waite and Mable Leavitt
My father Herbert and his brother Jesse were sent to live with a family by the name of Stucki, there in Santa Clara. They were the same as servants to these people doing chores and working for them for quite a few years for their board and room and were never sent to school so neither learned to read or write.
My grandmother later married Lemuel Leavitt from Bunkerville, Nevada and moved there.
My father Herb always said he didn't enjoy working for Mr. Stucki. He was very strict and made them both work so hard without much pay. He and his brother had a hard and sad childhood and were deprived of a happy and loving family and home.
My mother Mable Lillian Leavitt was the daughter of Dudley and Mary Huntsman Leavitt. When Dudley was small his family lived in Canada. His parents heard the restored gospel and knew it was true. They sold their property and moved to Nauvoo, Illinois. In Nauvoo they got to know the prophet Joseph Smith and heard him speak.
Dudley's family was living there when the prophet and his brother Hyrum were killed at Carthage jail. They saw him lying in his casket. They also heard Brigham Young speak when he looked and sounded like the prophet Joseph Smith. They said that the mantel of the prophet Joseph had been passed onto Brigham. They were there when saints were forced to leave Nauvoo and head toward the west. Dudley's father Jeremiah II died while they were crossing the plains so Dudley's mother and her children had to bury her husband and go on alone. They first settled in northern Utah and later Brigham Young called them to move to southern Utah and Nevada to help colonize the area.
My maternal grandparents Dudley Leavitt and Mary Ann Huntsman
Dudley was called to work with Jacob Hamblin on his mission to the Indians. He first settled in Santa Clara, Utah then he settled and helped start the town of Gunlock, Utah. My mother was the first white child born in Gunlock on December 28, 1874. Dudley and some of his grown sons were some of those who helped settle Bunkerville, Nevada. Bunkerville was located on the south side of the Rio Virgin River. Mesquite, Nevada was settled on the north side of the river by other Mormon settlers.
Dudley and his family lived in Bunkerville when my father went down there to visit his mother, while there he met my mother and they fell in love.
When they decided to marry they were given a party in Bunkerville and also in Santa Clara. Men usually had a stag party in Santa Clara and the groom was supposed to furnish the wine but the Bishop advised Herb not to do it so his friends threw him in the river instead.
My parents were married in the St. George temple on the 7th of January 1892. I was born on their 27th anniversary. They were married 15 years after Bunkerville was first settled and lived there for the rest of their lives. When Dad moved there after they were married he was the first Waite to live there except for his mother and sister.
There was a short time when my parents lived in St. George, Utah after he started to drive mail but soon moved to Bunkerville.
Me in front of the home I was raised in
At the time I was born my parents lived in a two-story adobe house, that had two rooms on each floor which had been built by my folks. There was a front room and kitchen on the bottom floor and room for two large bedrooms upstairs, but they never had put in the center partition, so really it was like one large room. They just had boys up there when I was growing up so it didn't matter anyway. During the winter when the boys were small they sometimes slept three in a bed.
Later on my parents had two more rooms added on the back and also a large basement room where they stored their canned fruit, vegetables, meat and other foodstuff.
Dan and me on Bownie in front of the granary
Our house sat on a five acre lot on the east side of Bunkerville right near the cemetery. Our house faced south and our long narrow lot sloped very slightly down hill toward the north. The main road off the highway into Bunkerville ran right in front of our house going east and west. We had a small adobe granary just west of our house where we stored grain. The door faced west into a lane running from the street north down into our barnyard. There was room where the wagon could be unloaded or the hordes could be unhooked from the wagon and the harnesses could be hung in the granary, also where our saddle horses were saddled or unsaddled and the tack hung in the granary. The wagon was parked by the granary most of the time when it was not in use.
Our barnyard consisted of corrals and a hay yard where we unloaded our large loads of loose hay. They never knew about baling hay in those days. We raised the hay and cut, raked and loaded it onto a large hay rack wagon and hauled it to the hay yard.
We also had corrals for the cows, calves and horses. Also several pigpens and two chicken coops. There was a foot trail from the house down between the corrals and pigpens to our outhouse that sat down amongst some pomegranate bushes.
It was quite a walk down there several times a day or night. It was slightly downhill going down but harder coming back up to the house. How well I remember seeing Mom or Dad heading down that trail and then coming back up more slowly and slightly out of breath. I also remember making that trip many times myself and always hoping it wasn't busy at the time. We always had an old Sears and Roebuck catalog or a Monkey Ward catalog for toilet paper or just to look at.
All along the east side of our lot along the fence was a row of pomegranate bushes. There was also several rows down north of the corrals and toward the back of the lot.
Besides our home lot my folks owned a 30-acre field or farm and also a 5 to 10 acre vineyard across the Virgin River on the Mesquite side. The field was around one and a half miles northeast of the house up along the south side of the river.
Everyone lived in town and had their fields out around where they could get irrigation water to it. Seems like all those early little towns down through Utah and Nevada did this probably as a protection against the Indians.
The people in Bunkerville were real close with most of them related in one way or another because family members settled by each other. Everyone was called Aunt, Uncle, Grandma or Grandpa out of respect even if they weren't. Sometimes it was hard for us kids to know whom we were really related to.
Most of my mother's brothers and sisters lived in Bunkerville. One of our neighbors was uncle Jesse and Aunt Doe. Uncle Jesse was a brother to my dad and Aunt Doe was a half sister to my mother, so we kids were double cousins. We were real close to their kids. One of their daughters was just as close to me as my own sisters in fact more so because I was with her most of the time as we were growing up. It also usually happened that when there was a boy in their family there would be a girl in ours and when they had a girl we had a boy. They had 8 girls and 4 boys and we had 4 girls and 8 boys.
Another aunt that I can remember was my mother's youngest brother's wife Aunt Nello. Uncle Dan and Aunt Nello Leavitt were their names. Her real name was Penelope but I don't blame them for changing it to Nello. I can remember them because they were at our place a lot. They lived in Central near Pine Valley
Thirza Riding Leavitt
I faintly remember my grandmother Mary Leavitt who died when I was only 3 years old. She was Grandpa Dudley's first wife and my mother was her 10th child. But I remember Grandma Thirza the most and well remember Mother sending me on errands to Grandma Thirza's place, which was several blocks away to take her something or do something for her. Mother would also send me to her sister Aunt Lena's or other widows places to chop wood and do other chores for them. They always really appreciated it and it made me feel good too.
When I was born some of my older brothers and sisters were already married and living away from home with their own families. They were more like aunts and uncles to me rather than brothers and sisters. Some had kids older than I was or around my age, so I sometimes went to visit and play with their kids and not just to see them.
The main brothers I remember being at home while I was growing up was Evan, Moroni, Denzel, and Dan. Delbert was around a lot because he and his wife Ethlyn lived in town.
When my folks were first married they lived in a rock house down in the west end of town. My mother's brother Wier Leavitt had lived there before them. The house had one large room and they sometimes hung up a blanket or curtain to make a partition in the large room. They lived here for years and later lived in another small house.
They were living here in this place when their first baby, a little girl was born. They named her Hannah Ketura but she lived only for a little over two months. At the time their baby died they say Dad stood apart. Everyone sympathized with my mother but didn't pay much attention to my father. Makes me feel bad about that. I'm sure he felt real sad and hurt because he loved their baby too.
My mother had been nursing her baby and at the same time her baby died her brother Frank's wife died leaving a baby son. So Mother took the tiny baby son Samuel and nursed him until he was old enough to be weaned. She tended him and his older brother Earnest like her own through a lot of growing up years. Until their father remarried.
I was the baby of our large family, but I can't remember being babied very much. Oh, I can remember Mother holding me and taking care of me, but she didn't have a lot of time to give me much special attention. She was always so busy. In those days it took all day to do a job that we can do now in an hour or so.
I do remember my Aunt Nello (Penelope) Leavitt picking me up a lot and making over me. She was always my favorite aunt because she did pay so much more attention to me than anyone else.
Aunt Nello was the wife of Mother's youngest brother, Uncle Dan. He was just younger than her so they were really close. They spent a lot of time at our place, especially during the winter when it was really cold where their place central, Utah, near Pine Valley Mountain.
My sister Dinah said, "Rod was a mama's boy. Once when Ma went down to Aunt Doe's place and left Rodney home asleep, he was two or three years old. He woke up while she was gone and started down the road crying and calling, "Ma". Charles Leavitt a neighbor called him into his place. When Ma came home she couldn't find him so the whole neighborhood was out looking for him before they finally found him".
While I was growing up and before I was born my father drove or carried the US mail, so he was away from home a lot of the time. His run was from St. George, Utah down to St. Thomas in Nevada stopping at all the little towns between going and coming back. He usually stopped at home to stay the night a couple of nights a week. These nights were real special to me to have Dad home with us.
My Dad in his mail wagon
My dad was real special to me and I liked to be around him. When he was home I hung around him as much as I could. He was always cheerful and liked to tease us kids and all us kids had our turn going with him on his mail route. I remember when I was small and Dad was away driving mail. I slept with my mother. I would feel over on her side of the bed to make sure she was there and if she wasn't I would call or look for her. I really liked to sleep in her bed and be near Mother and feel so secure.
One of my earliest memories was being in the kitchen with Mother, watching her cooking and feeling the warmth from the stove. How I remember that warmth and comfort and the good secure feeling it gave me and also the good smell of bacon and eggs cooking, along with fried potatoes for breakfast.
Our home was kept warm in winter by a fireplace in the front room and our large black Monarch cooking stove in the kitchen. We used only wood for cooking and heat. We had no electricity until I was grown up when it was finally brought in from Boulder Dam.
Probably the first chore I ever had was to carry wood into the house. Later I had the job of cutting wood or chopping it. When you burn wood for fuel it takes a lot of work to supply that wood. Like finding it, hauling it, chopping it and carrying it in. I did my share of doing it all.
As the town had no electricity in those days all our water for laundry and everything had to be heated with wood fires. One of my first memories is of helping to drag or carry wood to put in the fire under a black galvanized tub outside that was full of water. This water when hot was used to do the laundry or washing as it was called in those days. How well I remember playing around as my mother worked hard all day doing washing for our large family.
My mother was a very special lady, so hard working and devoted to our family. With my Dad away from home so much driving mail, it was left to my mother to take care of things at home. She had to see about raising, teaching and taking care of the family. She had to also see about the farming with the help of the kids, as they got old enough to work.
Mother was the driving force and business head that made our family what it was. She was the one that went with her children to the field to teach them how things should be done. She showed by example until they were old enough and wise enough to do the work themselves.
I remember, all the time I was growing up I could depend on Mother and if she happened to be gone somewhere, things just didn't seem right until she returned. I know we were really blessed in those days to have a mother that was home, instead of working away from home, like so many mothers do now days. I am glad I was born back then.
I nearly always called my mother 'Mother.' Some of the family called her 'Ma,' some 'Mom,' but she was 'Mother' to me. Her given name was Mable, but the people in town and the relatives called her Maine or Aunt Maine. It was just a nickname, I guess. The only person I ever heard call her Mable was my dad now and then. When I would hear him say, 'Now Mable.' I knew Mable was upset over something and was 'spouting off,' a little too much and he was trying to calm her down.
I know my mother really went through a lot of hardships as she raised their large family alone so much of the time. She worked hard like a man in the fields doing a man's work and then she had her work in and around the house as well. All of us kids were taught to help and carry responsibility around the house as well as in the field. When something needed to be done, like plowing, planting, weeding, or harvesting, or working on a project at home, we went for the day, all of us together as a family. Mother would pack a good lunch and off we would go in the wagon.
At home Mother cooked, cleaned, canned, raised a garden, helped with the chores, washed our clothes on a washboard, made her own soap, used ashes in a barrel of water to make it soft. She helped slaughter and cure meat, made cheese and also headcheese from meat. She made butter to sell. She made quilts and bedding and some of the family clothing. Just cooking for our large family was a constant job.
When we had to go haul wood or plow and plant or any other thing Mother would make the decision and tell us it had to be done. When my brothers got old enough to know when and how these things should be done, they took over and made a lot of the decisions, or just went ahead and did it. Mother taught us all well, while Dad was gone driving mail, to accept responsibility and do what needed to be done.
Mother always believed in going with a boy and showing them how to do something rather than just tell them to go do it. Mother went with her family and worked right with us. I remember them telling about Mother and some of the boys going to the mountain after a load of wood. She was pregnant at the time and about due to have her baby. They all rode home a top the big load of wood and arrived home in the evening. She got down, went inside went to bed and had her baby. I don't know which one it was cause I wasn't there.
Once Mother was wishing she had another cow. She needed another one to help feed her family. One of her brothers, Uncle Wier Leavitt, said there was one of his cows up in the hills running loose that she could have if she could find her. Mother went up and looked until she found the cow. She brought it home. Uncle Wier seemed to be quite surprised to think she was able to find it and bring it back home.
If some of the family became sick, they were taken care of and nursed back to health there at home using home remedies, good sense and through prayer and the power of the priesthood. Many times the elders were called in to administer to someone. The help of the Lord through the priesthood and prayer is what those early people depended and relied on, along with their great faith, not doctors as so many do now. We had no doctors. We had midwives to deliver the babies. Mother's Aunt Maria was a midwife and delivered lots of babies.
In the fall Mother always helped cook for the threshers as they moved from place to place in our area. This was a wonderful exciting time for me, as I remember. I always enjoyed having a busy crowd around and sometimes there were other kids to play with. Mother always made her own bread, but sometimes had the boys mix it. Sometimes they used an old-fashioned bread mixer we had. After Dad retired I remember him helping and always remember the really big biscuits he made.
It seemed good to me when my dad retired from driving mail and could be home more. This was when I was a teenager. But he still kept busy around the place doing things that needed to be done, but he was now home with the family and that was good.
Let me tell you more about my dad. He was built real short and during the years as he sat driving mail he put on weight. His name was Herbert but everyone called him Herb or Uncle Herb. Dad had taken over the mail contract form Uncle Henry Leavitt who had driven mail for several years before Dad started. Uncle Henry was my mother's half brother.
When Dad first started driving or carrying the mail he rode horseback and would changes horses whenever he stopped overnight at home which was twice a week. Later he drove a one horse buggy and later yet he drove a two horse buggy. I imagine this had to be done because the mail load got bigger as the years went by and also more passengers wanted to go with the mail. This was common practice before busses began to haul passengers. There is a picture of him and one of his outfits in my Book of Remembrance.
Years later when Dad went in to sign up for a pension after he had retired from driving mail for the US government for so many years he found that he wasn't even a US citizen because he had been born in England and his parents had never taken out citizenship papers for him. No one had even thought about it because he was raised here in the United States. As I remember I think my brother Leland helped Dad apply for citizenship and get his citizenship.
Everyone who knew him liked my father. He was Herb to everyone except his family and we called him Dad including my mother. The grandkids called him Grandpa. I never saw my father angry or ever heard him say anything bad about anyone. He trusted everyone to do the right thing and he truly did believe in doing unto others as you would like to be done by. But one time it didn't work out so good. For example he and others had been shoeing some horses out in front of our place and they had the tools they had been using when they got through they had just left them lying on the ground for a bit. While Dad and the others were talking I saw one of the men pickup the tools and carry them off. We knew this man and he lived there in town. I went and told my dad and he said, "Well, I guess he was just borrowing them and will bring them back when he is through with them. But that man never did return the tools or even say anything about them. Dad never did ask him about them, but just let it go and said, "Well I guess he needs them worse than we do". That's the way Herb Waite was.
Dad loved his grandkids and would talk and laugh with them. He also liked to tease them or any little ones that happened to be visiting. How I remember him sitting in his rocking chair in the front room slowly rocking away, half asleep and some little child crawling around on the floor and when the child got near Dad and looked at him, he would pull a face at the baby. The child would pucker up and cry but Dad would keep rocking away with his eyes closed like he hadn't done a thing so innocent like. But Mom would know what happened and come to the door from the kitchen and say; "Darn it Dad, quit scarring that baby. Dad would look so surprised and if someone older was sitting in the front room too he would look at them and wink with a little grin on his face.
Dad was always cheerful and full of fun and usually had a good clean but funny joke to tell. No one could get the best of him. He always had something better to say back to them. While he was away driving mail I'm sure life was hard for him too. He was away from the comforts of home and from being with his wife family. He was at the mercy of the weather day in and day out as he traveled the same old, rough, dusty roads. The cold weather and the dry and intense heat of summer. I'm sure he must have been lonely a lot too, but he made good friends in all the towns along the way, where he stopped with the mail.
After Dad retired from the mail, he was put in as Water Master for the Bunkerville irrigation Co. and run the ditch for several years. He would have to open the sand gates, so the flood waters wouldn't fill the ditches too full. He had to wash the sand out on Saturday and Sunday's to keep the ditch from filling up. The banks and river were real sandy. He also checked the ditch banks to make sure they were in good condition. He also set traps for gophers where they were working and he always carried several traps on his saddle.
Dad on Old Brownie
It wasn't easy for Dad to get on a horse in his later years, because he was short legged and he had put on weight, so it was hard for him when he was older. After he retired from the Water ditch, he still liked to get on "Old Brownie" and ride down town to visit around and then ride home. To make it easier for him, we sawed off a tamarack tree out in front of our place and left a stump, just the right height for him, we to step up on. One of us boys would saddle his horse and lead him up close, so Dad could step upon the stump and then up in to the saddle. He would then make his rounds in town checking to see how everyone was, then ride back home, without getting off his horse.
Dad used to have this pretty little mare that he got from Delbert, that he thought was the best horse in the country. She had been born down on the river and then caught, brought home, and trained.
How well I remember Dad winding our big clock every night, just before going to bed. The clock sat on a small corner shelf in the north west corner of the front room, by the door to the stairway. Dad would stand on a chair, reach up and wind it. I can still see and hear him doing it, to this day.
Dad seemed to have a built in alarm. Many times one of us boys or some one needed to get up early at a certain time, so we would say, "Dad, will you wake me up at 4 O'clock (or whatever) in the morning" and he would always call us on time. I hope he didn't have to keep awake all night to do this.
One of my early memories is of riding a horse round and round to help make Adobes for my folks to add more rooms onto our house. An adobe is made from a mixture of clay like mud, mixed with straw and put in a brick sized mold.
They had made a frame that stood above the ground and they had dug a hole down in the ground for a person to stand in and mud to mix. Down in the center they had a pole that had teeth or tines on it, and a pole that went across the top for a horse to be hooked on, so the horse could go round and round and make the teeth stir the mud. As the horse went around it would push the mud out of the hole. There would be some one standing there to put the mud into the molds where it would be tamped in, smoothed off and then the 'dobies' would be set out in rows in the sun to dry, just like brick. They would get good and dry and hard in that hot sun. We wold let them set and cure real good before we wold use them in a building. I remember my brothers helped make the adobes. I have a picture of some of them helping. When the dobies were cured they were laid up in a building just like brick.
They built on tow more rooms and a large basement on the back of our house. They really needed this extra bedroom and large kitchen. Also the basement for storage and where things could be kept cool. Mother was always so proud of her food storage in the basement and she loved to take people down there to show them her year's supply of food.
I've mentioned that we had rows of pomegranates on our lot. It seems most everyone grew some, because they did so well down in that country. We really enjoyed them in the fall when they were ripe. The kind we had were nice and sweet with bright pink kernels. We ate them as fruit, also in salads and you could also make good jelly with them. We loved to eat the kernels in our bowls of bread and milk.
We boys liked to pick the cracked ones and throw them at the birds or each other. Some people called them, "Pummers", but us kids called them "Buddy Granits." They could be stored in a dry, cool place, so we could have a Thanksgiving and Christmas salad and maybe even later. It was a family tradition to have a "Pummer Salad," for the holidays. You make it with pummer kernels and whipped cream mixed together and also good with fruit added, like sliced bananas.
We kids also carried an extra Buddy Granite around in our pocket, so when we got hungry we would take it out and eat it. Pomegranates grew on large high bushes, not trees. The bushes are usually about the size of a Lilac Bush, more or less.
I know its hard for all of you to picture what that country down there in southern Nevada, was really like. It was a hard, hot, dry country to live in and it would have been impossible, if it hadn't been for the Rio Virgin River that wound down from Southern Utah, across a corner of Arizona and on into Nevada.
It was the only life giving stream in that hot, dry dessert. It was a small river compared to many others you see and at times seemed almost to dry up, but in the spring it could be a raging wide torrent of red muddy flood water, as the snows melted up in the Utah mountains and drain off thru the Virgin River.
But the water of the Virgin is what made it possible for all the small towns along its route, to spring up and survive. They take water out of it up in Southern Utah too, for irrigation, so a lot of communities depend on it. Bunkerville even named their High School after it. We were the kids from Virgin Valley High.
The dry hills around Bunkerville area were covered with Chaparral, Cactus of different kinds, Yucca and in some areas there were Joshua trees. In the spring, if it was wet enough, the dessert would really bloom with all kinds of wild flowers and Battle Stoppers, a tart little plant we kids liked to eat when it was tender. There was also Brigham tea, sage brush, and Cat claw, along with others, but lots with thorns or stickers.
The river water from the Virgin was strong with Alkali and minerals so didn't taste good and was real hard water, so most people in town built cement cisterns, so they could fill them each spring when the snow melt water came down the river and into the big ditch, then they filled the cisterns. This flood water was muddy, but it was much better to use, once it was settled and cleared in the cisterns. Then people would clean out the mud from their cisterns before they filled them again. Of course Bunkerville now has a large water tank and good water piped down form a mountain, so people have water piped into their houses. But we didn't when I grew up. Our large cistern was just east of the house in the yard. It had a built up top on it and a bucket and rope, so we could draw water from it. The water was then poured into another bucket and carried into the house. We usually had a dipper hanging there at the well, too.
As the climate in that area was hot in the summer and mild in the winter, it made and ideal climate for figs, pomegranates, seedless grapes, almonds melons and other warm climate things to grow and sweeten to perfection.
We could raise two gardens a season. Early spring garden and a fall garden. Some times the fall garden was the best, with it getting so hot in the mid-summers gardens didn't do too good.
Our irrigation water of course came from the Virgin River. The town people built a dam up the river, so water could be turned into our irrigation ditches or canal for the farms and town. It took a lot of hard work to keep the water in the ditch. It had to be cleaned and kept in good repair and the sand washed out regular. That's what my Dad did a lot of when he was Water Master and rode the ditch on horseback.
Many times when floods came down the river it would wash out the dam and then a new one would have to be built. Many times I helped on this kind of project and also went to help "clean ditch" which had to be done on a regular basis. Everyone that used the water was expected to put so much time in on ditch maintenance.
Sometimes we had to ride a horse pulling a sharp toothed harrow up and down the ditch to clean out the moss, many times when the water was out we cleaned the ditch with shovels.
All of this was hard work, but I enjoyed it, because I was with a crowd and some one was always telling a funny joke or story to keep things interesting.
Maybe I better tell you more about our house and how it was on the inside. In our front room which faced south, we had a fire place on the east wall, that kept us plenty warm during our mild winters, along with our big Monarch cook stove in the kitchen on the north east side of the house. The fire place was so enjoyable with its' warmth and cheery light.
Monarch was the brand name of this stove. It stood on legs that held it to 10 inches off the floor and including the back panel and warming oven, probably stood up about 5 feet tall. The front was 3 1/2 feet wide with & reservoir on the right hand side which held water and kept it warm so when you needed warm water you could dip it out to wash dishes or yourself with it. Now the warming oven was above it and to the back. That's a place you can put food after it's cooked to keep it warm. It had two little sliding doors in front so you could shut it up.
The oven was large and on the lower part the fire went all around the oven. This is the only way we cooked even in the hot summer. On the left side were four large iron lids that could be lifted off to make fire and also to clean out the soot. There was an ash box underneath the grate on the left of the oven. This was under the fire area. There was al a smooth panel toward the back where bread could be toasted. This stove was great service to our family. It provided a place to cook and prepare food for our family and it also helped keep our home cozy and warm in the winter. How I remember the crackling of the fire, especially in the early morning, and the good smells of breakfast cooking.
Mother cooked really good wholesome food on that stove. I remember her go crusty loaves of bread as she took them from the oven. They were hot and golden brown and smelled so good. How good was a big slice of it with some her homemade butter all melted on top. Sometimes, coming home from school so hungry, we could smell bread baking before we reached the house. Those were special days.
Mother also baked pies quite often and one of my favorites was her seedless grape pie, made from the grapes we had grown. She also cooked chicken with homemade noodles. This was a favorite of the family. We always raised chickens and had plenty of eggs. She used the older stewing hens for her chicken and noodles. They had a better flavor. Her banana cream pie was one of my favorites too.
We even took our baths in the winter by our Monarch stove, by opening the oven door a lot of warmth came out and we would set a number three galvanized tub that we kept for bathing in front of the oven. We would then arrange several chairs around turning the backs toward the tub. Then by hanging towels or a blanket over them we had a nice cozy warm place with some privacy. Of course we had no bathrooms in the home then because of no piped in water. All of our water had to be heated on the stove for baths and everything. We had the warm water of the reservoir but if real hot water was needed we used a teakettle or large container on the front of the stove. As we took our baths more hot water could be added to warm up the water.
We did all our canning on the Monarch stove. We had no freezer to preserve the food. Mother canned lots of fruit, vegetables, meats, jams, and jellies. When there was something to can, most of the family members that were around would help. We would sit around in a circle in the kitchen and peel peaches, pears, apples, pit apricots, snap green beans, or shell peas. As we did it we visited and laughed. We enjoyed it. We didn't know then that you could scald peaches and pears to remove the skins easier. One of our most favorite canned fruit was a white cling peach on the small side. It was called the Heath Cling. We peeled them and put them in the jar whole (usually a two-quart jar). They were so good.
It was fall when we canned fruit and it was so hot inside the house that we could hardly bear it. Some people would put a rack in the bottom of their black tub outside and hot water bath their jars outside over the fire. If a breeze came up and cooled the hot jars they would break. We really relied on and enjoyed the canned food during the winter. I especially remember Mother's good canned chicken and beef. We could open a jar and make the best meat gravy I ever tasted. She also canned good white Cling peaches.
But like I said, that old Monarch stove was real important to our family, because it helped us do so many things that needed to be done.
When I got old enough, I was often called first to get up early and make the fires. I can hear that call yet, "Rodney get up and make the fires or Rodney, it's time for you to make the fire."
Our kitchen was large. It had to be for our big family to work, sit or visit in the kitchen.
The other main thing in our kitchen was our large oval shaped table. Our lives really centered around it. When meal time came the table was set with the plates turned upside down and the chairs were turned with the backs to the table and before we ever sat down, we knelt down for family prayers. After prayers we turned our chairs around, sat down, turned our plates over and then said the blessing on the food, then we could eat. How well I remember Mother making sure this was done.
She always fixed us a good, hearty breakfast, for we always had a lot to do, like hard work in the field, a long day of doing laundry or a long day at school. When a good part of the family was to be home at noon, that is when Mother liked to cook the largest meal of the day, because by supper time everyone was tired and in the summer it was just too hot to cook in the evening. So we usually ate something we didn't have to cook.
I was raised on bread and milk and I really like it especially for supper. We always had a few things to go along with it like jam, honey or molasses, sliced or green onions or radishes. We loved to put seedless grapes or bright pink pomegranate kernels right in our bowls of bread and milk and get some in each spoonful. We would put a little salt out by our bowls and dip our radishes or onions in it. We would have a little saucer to put a little jam or honey on and would take a little on our spoon before dipping in after our bread and milk. We would laugh and talk as we ate, especially at suppertime.
I remember once when we were around the table eating supper Dinah would keep taking a little more bread, milk or jam. Finally she laughed and said "I'm sure having a hard time to get every thing to come out even, so I can stop eating." We all laughed because we knew just what she meant. Guess I always will like my bread and milk, but I want Homemade bread. I always remember my family eating it together.
After supper was cleared away, we sat around the table doing homework and Mother would often be mending or sewing or something. Sometimes after the lamp was lit and set in the center of the table, she would read aloud to us from the Scriptures or some story or letter. I especially remember her sitting there by the table, in the soft dim glow of the lamp, reading aloud when Dad was home. He always enjoyed having someone read to him because he never learned how to read himself, because he never was able to go to school but had to work instead. If the story Mother read was sad the tears came very easily for both Mother and Dad and would run down their cheeks as the story went on. Those were very special times for me.
Our table was always covered with an oilcloth tablecloth. You don't see Oilcloth much anymore but it was a course fabric, covered on one side with a slick, colored and patterned surface, that was water proof and could be wiped off with a damp cloth. It was a little like plastic I guess, but also different.
One memory I have as a small child, was going down town to the store with Mother to choose and buy a new piece of Oilcloth for the table. I was so thrilled to see all the different colors and designs to choose from. I also liked the good strong smell of it in the store and also after it was spread out to cover our table. I remember I would look at it, feel it and stop to smell it, until the new smell finally faded away. When people came into the house they could smell the oil cloth and say "Oh, Mame has a new table cover."
Our special occasions, when we were going to have special company, Mother would dress the table in a white table cloth and when that happened, I knew some one special was coming for dinner. She would put it on over the Oilcloth.
Lots of the work was done on the table, like Mother rolling out her home made pie crust there and also her home made noodles. She mixed and molded her bread there and did most everything you would do on a counter.
Some times we would just gather around the table to talk about things as a family and where we made important decisions. When relatives came to visit, we often sat around the table to talk, laugh and enjoy each others' company.
We usually had three Coal Oil lamps that we could light and carry to the room where it was needed. We sometimes used a candle to go into a dark room.
"Seems like my family have plenty of little stories they thought they should keep telling about me, that happened to me as I grew up. Following are some of them."
My family used to tell me I was spoiled when I was little. I as the youngest, so I guess they all helped spoil me. They used to tell about when I was a little guy, we had all gone down to the school house for a doings of some kind. I got sleepy so I went to sleep. When the activity was over my family all went home and didn't even miss me until they got home then they came back to find me. I was still asleep on a bench.
Moroni said, "When Rod was young Evan always cut his hair off every spring. I guess so he wouldn't have to cut his hair. But when the little black gnats got bad they about drove him crazy biting his shaved head.'
'Once Rod and his friend Lester Adams were downtown in front of Ken Earl's store. They were just in their early teens. Some tough kids came into town from Overton and said they were going to beat up Rod and Lester. Lester grabbed the rope and bucket from a well nearby and began to swing it around. He whirled it faster and faster and knocked all the bullies down. That ended their threats and they all left town."
Fern, Dan's wife said, "I once claimed Rodney as my boy friend when we were just little kids, but he didn't know it. One time when Rodney was 14 years of age we had a pageant about the Prophet Joseph Smith and Rod took the part of Joseph when he was kneeling in the sacred grove. I thought he looked real cute. he walked me home that night. That was the night Henry Leavitt's big two story home burned to the ground. The fire started during the pageant. As soon as Rodney got me to the front gate he said good night and ran to the fire."
Glenna, Marvin's wife said, "One summer Rodney 9 or 10. He came to visit us when we lived out at Indian Springs out the other side of Las Vegas. In those days that seemed like a long ways from home. We had Curt and Vern and they all liked to play together. One day Curt and Rodney got into a fight and Rodney said, 'I'm going home.' I said, 'How are you going'. He said, 'I don't know but by darn I'm leaving'. Of course he couldn't go then because there was no way for him to go. Both boys soon felt better toward each other and they were soon back to playing good together."
One of my very earliest memories was sitting in the kitchen watching Mother make a lunch and put it in one of our big shiny milk buckets and then put a whit dishtowel over the top. She then picked me up and carried me outside and set me on a quilt in the wagon bed that was filled with straw. The horses were hooked up to the wagon so I knew we were going somewhere. Mother and several of the boys got in and we drove over grape vineyard across the river on the Mesquite side.
The vineyard was several miles from home, up and over the river in the fields south of Mesquite. We owned between 5 and 10 acres of Thompson seedless grapes and my dad's brother Uncle Jesse Waite had a vineyard right next to ours. The grapes really did good in that hot dry weather. They had a long season to get ripe and sweet. We raised them for raisins.
When we arrived at the vineyard I remember Mother taking a shovel and clearing the sand burrs off a spot large enough to spread out an old quilt in the shade of a tree. She then put me on it and gave me some small pieces of driftwood we found on the river to play with. I would sometime take a nap and sometimes when other people went along to help there would be other kids to play with.
I remember at different times when we went over it would be so awful hot and as I lay on the quilt I would feel the sand burrs sticking through the quilt. They, sure were miserable nuisances. Sometimes as the grown up worked I would get tired miserable and cross and try to follow them. As soon as I got off the quilt and out into the thick sand burrs I was really in troubled and would cry. Whenever some one came near enough as they worked they would come over pick me up, put me back on the quilt and pick out the burrs. But I would soon try to follow them again and be right back in the stickers.
How glad I was when everyone came to the quilt for lunch. They would spread out the white cloth and set the lunch out on it. Mother usually packed egg sandwiches. We didn't have lunchmeat in the stores then. We sometimes had fried chicken and bottled fruit or some melons.
I really enjoyed eating out with the family like that. That was quite a deal for me eating with the older folks. Then after lunch I usually took a nap while the older folks went back to work.
How I remember being glad when Mother would finally come and pick me up and pick out the stickers and put me in the wagon to go home. How I liked to lay down and go to sleep on the soft quilt on the soft straw as the horses trotted home. I even liked the jolt of the wagon. Some times before we went on home we would stop for a swim in the river and that was always fun. Our dogs were always along so they would go swimming too and enjoyed it as much as we did.
When I got old enough I too helped pick grapes. We would put them on large flat trays and then set them in the center down between the rows. Four or five days and they would be dry enough on one side so we would put and empty tray over the top and flip them over and let the other side dry for several days. When they were dry enough we would go in and dump them into large wagon bins then we would take them into the mill and scoop them into the bins there.
Later we would go to the mill and run them through a process that took off the stems. The raisins were then put in a press and pressed into 25-pound wooden boxes. They were then shipped and sold. I learned to do everything that needed to be done with the grapes. Of course Mother always canned a lot of grapes and we ate a lot of them fresh. We used a lot of the raisins too. I loved grape pie.
Another one of my earliest recollections was going down to the corrals to watch my older brothers do the chores like milking the cows, feeding them and the horses, pigs and chickens. I really liked to watch them do the milking and feed all the animals and I liked to watch the animals and listen to the noises they made, but when I got older and big enough to help I didn't like it near as much.
We usually milked from 8 to 12 cows and separated the milk in a hand turned separator. Mother made lots of butter to sell from the cream. She had her personalized mold and parchment paper to wrap it in that had her name on it. She had regular customers in Las Vegas that bought her butter. Sometimes we just shipped the fresh cream to Las Vegas and sometimes we sold fresh milk in glass milk bottles to people in town.
After the cream was taken from the milk we fed the milk to the calves, pigs and chickens. We also fed the milk to our dogs and any cats we had. We usually did have some dogs and I mean good dogs. I as a kid enjoyed having them around as pets. Wherever the wagon went the dogs went. I can see them yet.
Now back to Mother's butter. We churned it in a regular butter churn or sometimes shook it in a two-quart jar until it separated and turned to butter and buttermilk. Mother then put it out in a wooden bowl and used a wooden paddle to work it and get the rest of the buttermilk out. Cold water was added and mixed until the butter was all clean. Later when we had ice to mix and make it color really helped. After it was all clean from the milk salt was added to season it. It was molded into wooden pound molds and the put out and wrapped in the parchment paper and it was ready to sell.
Speaking of our cows as a young boy I remember helping to herd the cows. In the early spring when there was fresh new green growth out in the hills we would herd the cows out there. Most everyone did this. It was usually the boys of the area that herded the family cows to graze in the hills. I did my share of this and enjoyed it, but then it would get tiresome too especially when the weather started to get hotter. The dogs would go along and that helped. Dan and I did a lot of this job together. We lots of time rode horses.
We would hunt for bottle stoppers to eat and saw lots of wild flowers and desert plants. We also saw desert creatures like lizards, snakes, horny toads, pack rats, road runners, turkeys, rabbits and sometimes coyotes. After herding the cows in the hills and them browsing on some of the plants there, the milk would taste strong and unpleasant. Sometimes it was too strong to drink.
While herding cows we liked to find the big pack rat nests where they gathered and piled all kinds of sticks and plant pieces. Most people called them trade rats. I guess because they would always leave a stick or something in the place of something they took. They especially seemed to like anything shiny to put in their nest.
When camping out people would sometimes miss something so they would look around for a trade rat's nest usually find what was missing.
We had to be especially careful while in the hills and keep a sharp lookout for deadly rattlesnakes.
We boys also herded cows in the hay field after the hay had been cut and hauled. There would always be bits and scraps of hay that was left in the field. They cows would also graze around the edges of the field. The cows had to be watched and kept out of the hay fields, cornfields and the melon patch.
When we hauled our cut hay we used a large hay rack on a wagon because all of the hay was hauled loose in those days not baled. They usually had one or two people on top of the load and as the hay was pitched up these people tromped on it to pack it down so it would stay on the wagon better and so they could haul more in a load. This had to be done when they unloaded it at the corrals too.
But when herding cows wherever it was Dan and I usually rode horses. I remember riding when we were to small to climb on a horse. We never used saddles and we were to small to jump on so getting on could be problem. How well I remember looking around for a clump of grass or feed that the horse would like so he would put his head down to eat then I would throw my leg over his neck when he raised his head I would slide down his neck and onto his back. We would be backward so would have to turn around. When I got old enough I could run and jump on a horse from behind.
We boys liked to make our horses jump ditches. That was a lot of fun bur once my horse jumped before I was ready. He sailed over the ditch and I sailed off from him, breaking my arm. Old Doc. Button set it and put on stick splints to hold it in place until it healed. Both my arms were broken when I was a kid and healed crooked. See how crooked they are. We didn't have doctors to set them straight then.
Sometimes our horses would deliberately run under trees to scrape us off, sometimes breaking an arm or scratching us up. Those horses grew real tricky and tried to outsmart us kids. Guess they got tired of us boys running them around so much. But I had both my arms broken. Once by a horse scraping me off under a tree and once when some of us boys were racing on horses. We came to a ditch and I wasn't quite ready when the horse jumped it. I fell off and broke my other arm. See how crooked they are. We usually had old Doc Button set the broken bones. He wasn't a doctor but we called him that because he would come and help. He would twist it around a little until he thought he had the bone back together then he would bind a lot of small twigs all around your arm and tie them in place so you couldn't bend it. Then you put it in a sling and carried it around that way for a month or so until it healed.
During the summer down there in the desert country and before electricity it was just too hot to sleep in the house. You just couldn't do it so people slept outside. I remember us boys having our beds over by the row of pomegranate bushes on the east side of the house. When it was really hot we would take a dip in the big ditch that run nearby. We would also take an old sheet and wet it in the ditch then spread that over us and hope we could get to sleep before it got dry and we would work up another sweat. My folks sometimes slept under a shed or on the west side of the house. But you know even a breeze blowing down there off that hot dry desert would be warm just like it was coming from a heater. There wasn't enough water and irrigation around there to cool things down even at night. We were half surrounded by hot dry hills.
I do remember a few times when a rainstorm would come in the night and we would get up roll up our bedding and go into the house. I always liked to unroll my bed back out by screen door where I could see and hear the lightning and thunder and smell the freshness of the rain and also feel the sprinkles that came through the screen door and onto my face. I loved it.
Now days of course people have the electricity there and coolers in the homes so they no longer have to sleep outside, so that's a big change too.
Until the electricity was brought into town after I was grown and married doing the family wash was a hard backbreaking all day job. Our washing was done by hand on the scrubbing board in tubs. It was nearly always done outside. It took all day usually and was called "Wash day" as it was usually done on the same day each week.
Our water was drawn from the cistern and our "black tub" was set over an outdoor fireplace and filled with the water. Then a fire was built under the tub to heat the water. That's why the tub was black from the fire and was called the "black tub". You didn't ever put the bright tub over the fire or you would have two black tubs and you sure didn't want that.
Mother would have a bright galvanized tub sitting on a box, to put her wash board in along with the dirty clothes and warm of hot water dipped from the black tub. She then rubbed the wet clothes with a bar of homemade soap and then scrubbed it up and down on the scrubbing board, repeating this until it was clean. Then she would ring out the soapy water and put the article of clothing in a rinse tub full of clean cold water where it was rinsed and wrung out again. Sometime it would be rinsed in two waters then hung on the line to dry. If she was rinsing white clothes she would add bluing to the last rinse. You bought bluing in a bottle and you needed only a few drops in a tub of rinse water. It was supposed to help whiten the white clothes. Sometimes you would use bluing balls tied in rag.
She would sometimes put the sheets and other white things right into the hot water in the black tub along with some soap and punch them as they boiled. This was done with a clothes puncher or poke which was a metal bowl or bell shaped thing with a long handle like a broom on it. You put the metal end down in the tub of clothes and pushed up and down by holding on to the wooden handle. There was inner metal on the inside of the poke that made a suction as you pushed up and down and forced the water through. Seems I spent hours punching the clothes but Mother many times scrubbed her knuckles raw and bleeding as she scrubbed on the board.
Later while I was still home they came out with a half moon washer that was a big circle wooden tub with the round half on the bottom and flat on top with a lid where you could put in water and dirty clothes. The half circle was in a frame that held it up about waist high and there was a handle on each side where you could turn it back and forth so the clothes and water would slosh back and forth and get the dirt out, sort of like and electric washer does, but this was run by man power and most times by kid power when we were around. I've stood many an hour punching or turning the half moon washer.
Mother always made her own laundry soap too. Before soap could be made you had to save or get a bit of fat or grease. This could be collected from meat drippings or fat from beef or pigs that had been butchered, but would save it until there was several gallons or the required amount that the recipe called for.
It was then was then put a black tub over an outdoor fire, so was water and lye was added and whatever else. Mother would stir it for hours over a slow fire that would keep it boiling, but wouldn't boil it over. I helped with the fire many times.
The lye action would change the fat into soap along with the cooking. When it was just right and done it was lifted off the fire and allowed to cool. The next day when it was solid it would be cut into bars and set out to dry. After the soap was lifted out there was always a dark jelly like substance in the bottom of the tub that was discarded or buried. I imagine it would be very strong with lye.
This homemade laundry soap was what Mother did our laundry with all the time she was raising her family. All the pioneers and people of long ago made their soap and it was good strong soap that got things clean.
Ironing the clothes was also a big chore that took a lot of time and effort. It was done with heavy cast iron irons that were set on the wood stove to heat and keep hot. You had to have several irons, so while you were using one iron the others would be getting hot. You would have to change irons often.
Materials in clothes in those days wrinkled very badly. Most were made from cotton or wool. There were no polyester blends in those days.
On our farm we usually raised hay, grain, corn, Indian corn, Mila maze, and nearly always a patch of watermelons, cantaloupes, mush melons and casabas. We stored winter casabas in straw stacks and they were good until Christmas. Sometimes we planted sugar cane.
There was always something to be done in the field so we as a family spent a lot of long days up there plowing, planting, weeding, irrigating, and harvesting all had to be done. At first we owned only a hand plow. That's all the farmers could get so it took a lot of hard work and time to plow a field.
I remember going to the field with my brother Evan as he plowed with the hand plow. We always went to the field early while it was the coolest. We would always spread out a quilt in the shade and put the water and lunch there. Little kids could play on the quilt and adults could rest there. We ate our lunch there. This picnic lunch was always special to me when I was younger.
Later we were able to buy a sulky plow with a three evener. This plow really seemed like a miracle. It had a seat you could ride on and two hand levers that would lift the plow blade up or down. Man that plow was really something in those days. A real modern invention.
Evan would let me ride on his lap as we would go round and round plowing and to me it seemed so exciting. But finally I would get so sleepy I couldn't hold my eyes open. Evan would stop and lay me down in the shade to sleep while he went on with the plowing.
When Dan and I got old enough we would take turns plowing on moonlight nights. Sometimes we would plow all night long while it was the coolest. This was a lot easier on the horses and us too than plowing in the heat of the day.
Of course we didn't have cars, tractors and all that fancy machinery in those days so transportation farming and everything had to be done with horses, wagons and manual labor. We also walked a lot. Like down to town, church, school and even to the fields. We used our shanks ponies a lot. That means your legs and feet.
We always tried to plant a melon patch as most people did. Farmers expected you to go in and get a melon if you were near their patch and wanted a melon. Their feelings would be hurt if you didn't.
Once there was a boy from St. George with me. We had been up in the field working. It was hot and we were hot and hungry. I said, "Let's go over to Milo Adams melon patch and pick a melon." He said, "Do you dare do that?" I said, "He won't care." So as we sat there eating this melon a horse and rider came up the lane. The kid got spooked up and said, "Who's that?" I said, "Oh that's Milo Adams, the guy who owns these melons. The kid was ready to run and hide. I said, "Oh no, we don't hide." Milo had already seen us anyway. Milo rode over and said, "How's the melon?" I said, "I've tasted better." So he took a bite and said, "That's not much good. If we can't find a better one than that we'll plow this patch up." He went out and found a real good one and sat and ate melon with us. That kid couldn't believe people could be so nice that way.
That's the way it was down there and everyone expected it. You were welcome to help yourself to a melon, but you ate what you picked and you didn't waste any. There were a lot of real good melons raised down there.
The big ditch ran right near our field and also our house so we would often pick a bunch of melons from our patch and put them in the ditch to float down. One of us boys would get in the ditch and go down with them. When we got to the house we would set them on the bank and carry them to the house. If we happened up to the field alone on a horse we would tie our shoes and pants on the horse and send him home by himself while we herded the melons home wearing only our under shorts. This way was easy on the melons.
We were in the big ditch nearly every day during the summer to cool off. We would take a bar of soap out and take a good bath in the ditch there by our house. Why drag in the tub and carry water in then out of the house when you could have a good bath in the ditch in all that running and almost warm water. We had plenty of privacy because the thick curtain of willows and brush growing all along the bank but we often did it after dark. The water was always just right, not to cold.
I remember going to silent movies down at the school house when I was a little kid even before I could read. They didn't have them very often so it was really fun to go. Of course we had no radio, TV, movies or anything like that so an old silent movie was better than nothing and even special.
Uncle Tom Leavitt couldn't read so his wife Aunt Ella would read the movies out loud to him. Us little kids liked to sit close to them so we could hear Aunt Ella read the movies. It was just like going to a movie with sound.
We had small stores in Bunkerville and one was owned by my older cousin Roy Waite. He also sold gas there and he sold the best homemade ice cream in the country.
There was no electricity but I think he had a small power plant himself for his store. To freeze his ice cream he had fixed up a water wheel in the ditch that created electricity. It worked really well. He had three, five and eight gallon freezers. He made vanilla in the eight gallon freezer and chocolate or strawberry in the others.
We did have an ice plant there in town where they had a real large water wheel to create electricity that froze large blocks of ice. This was a real luxury to our town so they could keep a few things cold and also homemade ice cream for special occasions.
We kids really enjoyed going down to Roy's store for an ice cream cone or a little candy. We found out that the ladies in the town would bring eggs into Roy's store and trade them for groceries. So we reasoned amongst ourselves that eggs must be as good as money. We started looking for places where the hens had hid their nests. Several of us got a regular route out back of the chicken coops. We would never go into anyone's coops because we knew that would be stealing.
Anyway we took two or three eggs into Roy's store quite regularly. Roy liked to tease us so he would take an egg, smell it and say, "Hmm that smells like Aunt Lena's egg." Or "This egg smells like grandma Hafen's egg." We would argue with him and say, "Oh no, that egg came from my place." We usually took our trade out in candy, sometimes we took ice cream.
Roy was always full of fun and stories and usually had a big smile on his face. People around town were always laughing and retelling some joke or funny story that Roy had told. He loved to tell stories and he could make you believe anything.
The men folks in town would sometime gather on the big wide cement steps in front of Roy's store in the cool of the evening. There were five or six steps and as you came up they got a little closer and smaller until you came to the door. Roy put in a small power plant that he used to light his store. They would set on the steps and laugh, joke and listen to Roy tell stories. When I was a teenager I liked to join them. It was fun.
We were sitting on Roy's steps one evening late in the fall and someone said that they would like to have a good melon to eat. Milo Adams was there. He was known for raising good melons and have them real late when all the others were gone. Milo said that he had some, that he was going to keep them and not let anyone else have them. He said that he slept next to his cellar to protect them. When he said that I and two of my friends decided that he wasn't going to keep them. We knew that they were in his cellar and that it had an entrance outside his house.
Walt and Elwood Hardy and I decided that we would wait until Milo had gone to sleep than we would steal his melons. We went to his cellar and sure enough there was Milo sleeping on a cot next to his cellar door with a shotgun laying across the foot of his cot. He had left the cellar door open so the melons would get cool at night. We sneaked by him along a mock orange tree and went into the cellar. We took some melons and sneaked out to the steps of the cellar. We sat there and ate the melons.
When we had finished the melons Elwood and I went around the fence. Walt stayed behind. He grabbed Milo's gun, pointed it in the air, pulled the trigger and ran to the corrals and out of sight. Milo never saw us and he never said anything to anyone about it.
Later when we were on Roy's steps Sheriff Alva Hardy said that he had heard a shot one night. My friends and I couldn't stand letting that go so we said that he should ask Milo Adams about it. The next time Milo showed up at Roy's Alva said, "Say Milo I heard a shotgun go off at your place about a week ago. Were you shooting a skunk"? Milo said, "You know don't you? You know who stole my melons". Milo never learn who stole his melons. I was about sixteen when that happened
We boys liked to get together and play games like Steal the Sticks, Tag, Hide and Seek, and a fun night time game called Run Sheep Run. My most favorite game, if we could find an old inner tube was Flippers. We would usually play this down around the old ice plant. We would run out through the brush and all around the plant. It sure was fun. That's where our game of Flippers originated.
Another thing we liked to do was gather bird eggs from their nests during the spring and summer. We had favorite sheds and places to look. These sheds had roves made from branches and straw. That made a lot of good places for birds to build their nests. We would climb up, reach our hands into the nest and get eggs then slide back down. Sometimes we would put them in our mouth so we wouldn't break them while we climbed down. We would usually do it. Everyday so the eggs would be fresh.
We liked to poke a hole carefully in each end and then blow out the inside. We then would string them on a string to make a string of egg shell beads. I would hang them on my wall. Some of them were white, some were yellow with brown spots some blue and green. We usually had to go down to the river in the cat tails to find the pretty blue eggs of the blackbirds. These eggs were a real treat. My string of bird eggs was real pretty. I used to feel proud of the ones I had and would show them off. Of course they were very fragile.
Another favorite pastime we boys had while growing up was throwing rocks. We would practice throwing at targets and got pretty good. I'm afraid we sometimes threw at things we shouldn't have.
Once I was walking along with Harold Leavitt, Aunt June's oldest brother, when we saw an old red rooster. Harold liked to throw rocks too and he said, "I bet you can't hit that rooster." So I picked up a rock about the size of a half dollar, the kind I always looked for, then I let the rock fly and it hit that old rooster right in the head. He began flopping all over then lay still. He was deader than a door nail. Don't know who he belonged to but I really didn't mean to kill him. I was just a good shot with that rock.
Once when I was around 15 and should have known better I threw a rock I was really sorry for. I had asked Dan to do my chores for me. He wouldn't so I got mad at him and started throwing rocks at him. He dodged behind the silo but once just as he stuck his head out, I let fly a rock and hit him right in the forehead. He dropped like he had been shot. I thought I had killed him. It really scared me and I ran and hid. He finally came to, got up and went to the house so I went up too. He had a big purple bruise and bump on his head. It sure was a relief he wasn't killed. I learned a lesson from that. Throwing rocks in a very dangerous business.
I remember swimming a lot in the big ditches. There was a real good swimming hole in the ditch by Grandma Hafen's place. She wasn't really my grandma but she was a real special lady and liked all us kids and we all called her Grandma. Anyway we boys would go there, have a high old time and then get real hungry. We would go by Grandma Hafen's place hoping she might have some cookies. She usually did. Nothing tasted better to us kids than those cookies. It got to be quite a habit for us. She was real good to us. Everyone in those days was either, Grandma, Aunt or Uncle to us.
We really didn't go out in the river to swim very often because it didn't have very many holes in it. It was nothing but sand, just blow sand. The only time it was big enough to swim in was there was a flood. The water all drained down from Zions area in Utah where the Virgin River started. When they got those big rain storms up there you could just bet we were going to have a flood and I mean we really had a flood. These walls of water would roar down through there and be real red and muddy from that red country up there. The waves would be real big and would roll down through the river.
My older brothers just loved to get out there and see if they could cross that river. A lot of young guys in the area liked that dangerous sport. The flood might be 50 or 60 yards across. It so swift that it roared as it went.
I can remember once when Evan put me on his shoulders and took me across. I was scared to death. I thought we were never going to get across that river. I was quite young but I'm not sure just what age. Evan had to swim and I held onto his neck for dear life. It's a wonder we made it. We finally worked our way out way down the river. It was a good thing Mother didn't know what we did or both of us would have gotten a licking. I never did this again even when I got much older. I knew better than risk my life out riding those great red muddy roaring rolling waves.
I got my first job when I was in my early teens threshing grain with Arthur Hughes during the summer months. I thought it was a great job. We would cut the grain with an old binder. The binder would cut it, put it in a bundle about two feet across, tie it and then drop it on the ground. I would come along with a fork and set the heads all up and put it in shocks. Maybe 15 bundles to a shock. This is before we had anything like a combine or anything like that.
When the grain bundled and shocked we would haul it to a stationary threshing machine. Then we fed the grain into the machine that was run from a belt connected to a tractor. We would move the tractor back and get the belt tight and start the tractor and the belt would run the threshing machine. We would run the grain through the threshing machine, my job was to help sack the grain up. I did that for several years while I was growing up. I liked my job because we were always around a crowd and busy. We would start and go through the town and do all of the threshing. We always ate our dinners at where we did our threshing. We really had some good dinners.
When you worked back then you usually didn't get money for your pay. You got paid with what you working in. When we were threshing grain I got a peck (1/2 bushel or 12 1/2 pounds) of grain for each one hundred bushel of grain we run.
In those days we usually got together and helped each other especially with harvesting, threshing, quilting, butchering and many other things. When we had people helping us we always fed them the noon meal. I especially remember the excitement and fun and the big dinners when the threshers came to do our grain.
While the men did the threshing the women would be busy cooking lots of good food for dinner. Other women would come to help my mother and in turn my mother would go help them. Other kids would come with their mothers so I would have a great time playing with them, until I was old enough to get a job helping the threshing crew.
There were a lot of things that weren't very good about threshing. The chaff would get down your neck and made you itch. As soon as we finished for the day we hit the ditched to cool off. We didn't care how warm that water was, it really looked good. We would pull our clothes off and away we would go. We usually had our suits on - the ones mother nature gave us.
My brother Dan and I were real close as brothers and friends and usually got along together. He was only two years older than me. Of course sometimes we had our difficulties like everyone else.
We had to walk three-fourths of a mile to school; everyday or I should say twice a day because we came home at noon to our chores. They had to be done three times a day to make sure everything had water in that warm country.
We both had our chores to do and sometimes we would do each others chores so we both wouldn't have to walk home at noon. One day I asked Dan to my noon chores, but he refused so I was mad at him. We both went home and did our chores.
Dan was up on the hay ladder throwing hay down to the cows when he saw one of the little neighbor kids over by our pig pens. We had a real big mean old father pig there in one of the pens, so Dan yelled at the boy and told him to get away from the pen. As he did so he stepped down the ladder, missed the rung and fell down to the ground on his back with his arm under him. He called out to me, "I think I have broken my arm". I was still mad at him for refusing to do my chores. I said I hoped he had.
I walked to the house. Mother had been looking out the window and when I came in she asked, "What's wrong with Dan"? I said, "He says he broke his arm. I hope he has. It is darn good for him". She made me go back down and help him. He couldn't even get up laying on his back like that and it was just about killing him. Sure enough it was broken so I had to get on old Brownie and go find Doc Buntin, an old miner who lived alone up along the river, to come and set Dan's arm. He would move it around a little until it seemed to be in place. He wouldn't put it in a cast but just tie a lot of little sticks around it good to hold it in place until it grew back together again. You had to leave the sticks on until you were sure it was healed.
We had no doctors so Doc Buntin set everyone's broken bones. They didn't always heal straight. Both of my arms were broken at different times and Doc Buntin set them. Both of them are crooked.
Dan was one of the very best basketball players to ever come out of Virgin Valley and when coach Reed Blake found out about Dan's broken arm he felt terrible. I remember the coach would come up everyday and rub and massage Dan's arm with olive oil trying to get it ready so Dan could play when basketball season started. Dan was able to play. He was the kind of player that if the coach said not to eat any candy Dan wouldn't even think of it. If the coach said for him to be in bed by 9 o'clock he was in bed by 9.
I too really liked to play basketball and played three of my high school years. I was on the main squad the last two years. I really liked the game. Mr. Reed Blake was our coach and all of the guys on the team were real special to me. Then Blake moved and Lee Brooks came to be our coach. I liked him real well also and he was a lot of fun.
We had five players on our main team and we traveled around quite a lot. It was awful hard because the other teams were a lot bigger and better. We took the Nevada state title one year. I wasn't too bad a player myself.
While Dan and I were in high school we were both active in the Future Farmers of America and each had FFA projects. Dan's was raising laying hen and usually he 500 to 600 at a time. They were white Leghorns, noted and bred for their ability to lay eggs. Every spring he would buy 200 to 300 new chicks to replace the old hens that had quit laying.
He would order his new chicks through the mail and they would come in big flat boxes with a lot of air holes along the sides and top. We would go to the Post Office to get them. We could hear their chirping as soon as we entered the Post Office. The downy chicks would be hungry and trying to get out of the boxes. We always had a warm, clean coup waiting for them, with fine gravel and sand on the floor and heat lamps to keep them warm. As soon as we turned them loose they would run around and start to eat and drink.
As soon as they grew large enough we could start to tell the pullets from the roosters. When the roosters got large enough we would kill them to eat. We would kill several at a time and jus skin them rather than pick off the feathers. If we had company we would sometime kill 8 to 10. They sure were good to eat. Usually more than half would be pullets and we would keep them for laying hens. It seems that it was always my job to catch, kill, clean and skin the roosters to eat.
We would cull the whole flock regularly to take out those hens who had stopped laying. We would kill the old hens, stew them or can them in jars or make chicken and noodles or roast them. We sure did enjoy eating them.
After I entered high school I too joined the Future Farmers of America and I went into raising hogs. I owned two registered Durock Jersey sows. They were solid red in color. I had the first purebred hogs in the Virgin Valley. I would raise the young pigs to a good size, fatten them and sell them. Sometimes I would sell them as registered breeding stock and make good money on them. Each year our FFA chapter raised ten acres of beet seed to sell to farmers in Idaho who raised sugar beets. We always had plenty of money in the bank for the projects we planned. We never had to depend on the school or parents for our trips. We took trips to Yellowstone Park, the Pacific coast in California, and to Reno. Many of our trips were for animal judging contests.
In those days you could buy a wiener pig for 50 cents to $2.00 for the very best. There was usually someone around who would take a truck load of pigs to Los Angeles so I would send mine along. Of course I got a lot more for a fattened half grown pig. A wiener pig is a baby pig just weaned from its mother and eating on its own. A fattened pig of about 200 to 250 pounds, ready to butcher would bring from 16 to 20 dollars. If they were over 250 pounds you would get docked because the pig would have to much fat. I could feed them out with about $8.00 worth of food. I had to pay about $.01 per pound of grain. My folks usually had 2 or 3 sows that would have litters. We sold some and butchered some for food.
When I was a junior I was president of the Virgin Valley FFA. I went into judging hogs and won several awards during those years. I went to several big judging meets. I went to one in northern Nevada and also to Kansas City Missouri.
I won the trip to Kansas City by taking first place in hog judging. I was one of only three boys from the state of Nevada who were able to go to the national convention for the Future Farmers of America as a judging team. We three Nevada boys went on a train that was special just for the FFA members from Nevada, California, Utah and Idaho. We were mostly Mormon boys. The Utah members had even brought along their own band. So we had music.
We stopped in Denver at the Idaho and Utah Power Light Company. We had a banquet there for everyone on the train. The Utah band played there. There were 12 cars on out train. It was a real thrilling experience to be on that train with all those clean talented boy. It was a great fun trip and one I'll always remember.
We were gone 10 days and it was a great experience I was proud to have had. This was a big time in my life. It was really something. The convention grounds themselves covered 63 acres. We stayed at the Baltimore Hotel which was reserved just for F. F. A members. There were F.F.A. members there from each state.
They had all kinds of livestock shows with stock from all over the world, including a very small deer. I never thought that they had such things. I was especially thrilled to see the big powerful draft horses. There were many matched teams that pulled big beer wagons.
They many different kinds of shows, draft horse shows, horse shows, dog shows and many other. It was also great to see the sheep men working their trained sheep dogs. Those dogs were real special and could do anything with those sheep. The dog would go out into a ring where there was a band of sheep. The shepherd stood in the middle of the ring and give commands to the dog who cut three sheep out of the band.
Our FFA chapter also took a fun trip to Yellowstone Park one summer. We went by school bus and several advisors and our driver went with us. The park wasn't very well developed in those days but there weren't nearly as many people visiting the park then either. We really had fun camping out all the time on that trip. We took along our bed rolls and food and camp gear.
As we traveled around looking at everything we saw a black bear so we stopped the bus to watch him. I got off of the bus to take a picture of him. After I took the picture I looked up and the bear was coming right for me. Boy I ran for the bus and climbed in through an open back window. I didn't have time to get to the door. All the guys were yelling and laughing and they reached sown to help me through the window. We still have the picture of that bear and others of that trip.
My family all belonged to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and we were active in it. My father's parents were converted to the truth when they heard it in England. They gave up everything to come to America to be with the saints. They came across the plains to Utah and later to Nevada to help settle can colonize the area.
My mother's family, the Leavitts, heard the gospel while living in Quebec, Canada and knew it was true. They moved to Nauvoo, Illinois to be with the saints. Later they crossed the plains to Utah where they were sent to southern Utah and Nevada to help settle that country. They all sacrificed much for the gospel. Grandpa Dudley Leavitt worked a lot with Jacob Hamblin to help the Indians of southern Utah, Arizona and Nevada.
The Church has always been the most important thing in our lives and we all tried to live it to best of our ability. We attended church and worked, taught and helped each other to live righteous lives.
I was named and blessed on March 2, 1919 and was baptized March 6, 1927. From what I can remember I was baptized in a wide place in the ditch that ran through town, below the ice mill. The Ward did most of their baptizing there. There was a place fixed in the ditch where they could put in a dam and back the water up to make it deeper. A man named James Abbott baptized me.
I remember when I graduated from Primary and went into MIA and scouts. I was really happy and thrilled when I became a Deacon and could pass the sacrament in church and also go around and collect Fast Offerings.
One of my older brothers, Leland, went on a mission. In fact he did one full time mission and later a six month mission to California. My brother Dan filled a mission in the Eastern States Mission.
My folks were so poor that it was a real sacrifice for them to keep someone on a mission. I know how hard it was for them and after sending Dan during the depression I knew they couldn't send me.
Our whole town supported any activities in the school and community like ball games, dances, and church activities. That was the only entertainment we had beside visiting, playing games around home or swimming in the ditch and river.
When we were in high school we did a lot of things with our friends. We had picnics in the foothills and cookouts or wiener roasts at nigh along the river. We went on hikes and rode around at night with someone who had a car or who could borrow their folks car. We also liked to get together at someone's house and fry chicken, make candy or pop popcorn. We really liked to have taffy pulls. It has been years since I had a good piece of taffy.
One of our big deals while I was in high school was that we had a V on the edge of the mountain that stood for Virgin Valley High School. We didn't really have mountains, we had those old dry hills. We had to paint the V white every year. It was high enough up the hill that we couldn't drive a car to it and had to take a team and wagon or ride horses. So every year during school we would ride in the wagon or ride a horse up to it. We would paint it with white wash. The painting usually took all day so it was a holiday for us. The V was probably 150 feet high and about four or five feet wide. It was built with rocks and the hillside was steep. It would get very hot while we were painting but we didn't have to go to school so we enjoyed it.
Our family and most of the families had a Victrola or phonograph. Ours was a stand up cabinet type that you had to wind up with a handle or crank. Sometimes it would wind down while we were playing a record so we would hurry and wind it up again to get it up to speed again. The cabinet was made of brown varnished wood. We had a big stack of records. They were smaller than the ones we have now and they didn't play very long. We about wore those records out.
I also liked to go to the weekly movies at the theater in Mesquite. Marie Iverson who came from St. George to attend Virgin Valley High School was an usher there. I would go to see the movie but that was really just an excuse to see her. I liked her from the first but she went out with several other boys before she got to me.
The town usually had a dance every Saturday night and most of everyone would go especially those who could dance and most everyone loved to dance. The older married couples still did some of the old pioneer dances like, "Do You See My New Shoe", "The Shoddish" and "Virginia Reel" along with others. We really liked to watch them do these dances.
We kids had our own way of dancing but we also loved to do the Waltz and Fox Trot along with others. All of my brothers and I loved to dance and we could really swing the girls around that dance hall. We liked the fast tunes best. We had special dances like Junior and Senior Proms and Gold and Green Balls when the hall was decorated and beautiful. There were also special dances at wedding receptions and missionary farewells. We had Valentine, Halloween, July 4th, July 24th, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years dances. We also had just common school, church and town dances. There was nothing we rather do. Marie and I went to many dances together.
For our music there was usually a lady that played a chord on the piano and then someone would play along with a fiddle or a saxophone. I had a lot of fun at dances. Anyone who couldn't or wouldn't dance was considered an oddball in those days.
All of my brothers and I really liked music and songs. We all loved to sing and dance, laugh and have fun. We were always at anything that was going on in our town and it was always good clean fun. We didn't have crime going on like there is now.
I guess one of the earliest dances I ever went to was when I was a little guy. When there was program or something going on they took the whole family. They took me down there one time. I got sleepy so I went into one of the school rooms and went to sleep and my folks went off and left me. They didn't even know it until they got home then everyone wondered where Rod was. I wasn't around so they had to go back and get the janitor to come and unlock the school so they could come in and find me. I don't know if I was still asleep or up bawling. I was probably bawling scared to death.
How well I remember coming home at night after a ball game or dance. As I would come to the front door Mother would nearly always call out, "Rodney is that you"? if it was Evan or Denzel call their names or who ever it happened to be. She seemed to know who it was by the sounds we made.
I would usually go to their bedroom door and tell them how the game or dance turned out then I would usually get something to eat. Most of the time I would get a quart of peaches and get some good thick cream off a pan of milk and boy was that good on peaches. They don't have good clotted cream now like they used to. You kids have missed a lot. Sometimes I just ate a big bowl of homemade bread and milk then went to bed.
We also had a lot of honey. Some people had their own bee hives. One of my older cousins, Grant Hardy had bees and when I was older I would help him get the honey. We would put on special nets over our heads that kept most of the upset bees away from our faces and heads. I quite enjoyed this experience and took honey home as pay. I never got cash for my work. We used smokers to drive the angry bees away from us while we took their honey.
I would turn the old extractor by hand. You would put the sections of full honey combs out of the hives into the extractor and turn. It whirled fast and spun the honey out onto the sides of the extractor. The honey would run down the sides into a five gallon can. The honey I got as pay went to help feed the family. This work usually took 3 or 4 days to do all of his hives. He had quite a lot of them.
The only time I ever got money was on the fourth of July. I would find someone who wanted to buy some grain and would sell them three or four dollars worth. If I had three dollars I felt I was rich. That was more money than I knew what to do with. I could hardly spend it all.
We always had good dogs, and I mean good dogs, that could help with the cattle and horses. Sometimes there would be an old cow get ornery and want to turn back. Maybe I had better tell you what I mean about going after the cows. We lived in town and the farms would all be around the town. We lived about a mile from our farm. All the cows had to be taken up there for pasture every day.
I had to take them to the pasture every morning and then go get them every night. We had 8 to 10 cows that we would milk by hand every night and morning. We separated the milk with an old hand separator and fed the skimmed milk to the pigs and chickens. Then my mother would make butter out of the cream.
Mother's wooden butter bowl and paddle
After churning the cream into butter use a wooden bowl and paddle to work the rest of the milk out of the butter. She used a little ice when she had it and water when she didn't to wash the butter. She would pout the water off the butter several times. She would then salt the butter and fit it into her one pound wooden butter mold.
Mother had a wooden one pound butter mold with her initials right in the mold so when she turned it up side down and pushed the butter out of the mold in would have "M. Waite" printed right in the butter. Then she wrapped it in her special parchment paper also with her name on it. She sold lots of homemade butter.
When we didn't have refrigerators or separators we would strain the milk into large shallow pans and set them into a cooler or ice box. Mother had a skimmer that she skimmed the cream off with.
That's the only way we knew there was to make butter, by hand milking the cows, separating or skimming off the cream and making it into good butter. The butter sure was good on homemade bread.
I remember walking home from school hungry and as I got close to home I could smell that good smell and know that Mother had been baking bread. It sure was good with her butter.
We also sold milk to folks in town. They used to have glass quart milk bottles that they put paper caps on. We used those and would sell about a dozen quarts a day.
When I was in high school and a teenager our country was in the depression. Jobs and money were real hard to come by. The government had set up CCC camps all over the country to employ a lot of young guys under the government programs. They set up a camp with large barracks near Bunkerville to help the community area jobs that needed to be done and to get great numbers of unemployed men off the city streets.
Mother did a lot of laundry for those CCC boys, which helped her earn a little money. She saved the money in a cup up in the kitchen cupboard. She really worked hard for that little bit of money.
There was a big dance one night so I asked Mother for some money. She got the cup down from the cupboard and gave me some. I said, "For goodness sakes Mother, is that what I have been spending to sport on"? It then dawned on me how hard she had been working for the money I had been spending and I felt pretty guilty.
Mac was always real good to help the family financially as he got to working out away from home. I've seen him come home after working all week and give his check to Mother and say, "There it is Mother". Probably some of the other boys did this too, but I remember seeing Mac do it. We had a good caring family.
For several years when I was in high school after school was out for the spring I and a group of my brothers and friends would go down into Moapa Valley to pull tomato plants. The mild winter down there made it possible for farmers to plant tomato seed very early in the year so they could grow to strong healthy plants by the time they were needed to plant in colder parts of the country. Most of what we pulled went to Colorado.
The farmers would plant the seed real thick in a row and when they were nice and big we would grab two big handfuls and tie them together with seaweed string from the ocean. There would be around 50 plants in a bunch and we were paid 50 cents for every 100 bunches. The bunches were then packed in damp peat moss and shipped to other places to be planted in large fields for canneries. While there we would stay about a month and camp in tents right in the field. We all took turns cooking. We made good money for that day.
One year Clark Gable came out where we were working and talked to us for quite some time. I really liked him. He was cheerful and friendly and asked a lot of questions. I'll never forget it,
Around the 4th of July about the same group of us guys would go back to the Moapa Valley to pick cantaloupes. At the end of the season our wages averaged out between 20 to 30 dollars a day which was very good wages for those days. Picking cantaloupes was the hardest job I think I ever did. We would pick from about the time the sun came up until it went down. We only rested for a little while at noon after we ate lunch. It sure got hot out there. Evan and his wife Dorothy went with us a year or two. Dorothy would cook for us and that really helped.
We used a picking bag we wore and used a hooked stick we could reach down and pick up the cantaloupes with. Our backs would really ache. The cantaloupes were shipped all over.
We stored what we called winter casabas in our straw stacks and we would have good melon to eat until Christmas time.
One of our big entertainment on Sunday was going horse back riding. I can remember when my Dad had some brood mares running loose down on the river. Delbert and Evan also had some down there. Everybody in town would turn there branded horses loose down along the river southwest of town. Then when someone needed a horse they would go down on the river and catch one from the brood mares. There were also wild mustangs down there with them. Some of the horses were from good work horses and some made better riding horses.
But anyway when we wanted some horses several of us would go down to the river on good saddle horses. We would wait and watch for a moonlit night and go then because we could see the herd come down to the river to drink. We would have fresh horses all saddled up and stationed along where we knew the herd would run.
After we saw that the horses had really tanked up on water we would take out after them and they would run back into the hills, they would give out really quick after filling up on water. We would run them for about two miles but not too hard because we would kill them if they ran too hard with all of that water in them. We would get some willows from some tamarack trees to drive the horses with when they got tired. We would ride along side them and hit them over the head to make them go on.
We would then run them into a box canyon that had a rock wall built in part of the opening. After they were in we would close the rest of the opening and we would have them corralled. We would then rope the ones we wanted and turn the rest of them loose again. Sometimes we would break them right there.
I remember I bought a mare from Delbert and had to go get her from the river. Ken Earl and Vaughan Leavitt went with me because they had to get some also. We were looking for three half sisters, one for me, one for Ken and one for Vaughan. They were all small, about 700 pounds, very nice looking bays and looked very much alike.
The horse Ken was riding was real good little sorrel mare that had once been wild on the river but was a real good saddle horse now. It was a hot day and Ken needed to go home in a hurry so he was going to run on ahead. Vaughn said to him, "When you get to the river don't let her drink very much water or you will kill her." That's exactly what Ken did. He let her tank up and then run her on and soon she dropped over dead in that heat. He left a note on her asking us to bring his saddle with us then he walked on home. When we came along there was his horse with the saddle still on her. We took the saddle off of her and took it home to him. Ken didn't know how to take care of or appreciate a good horse.
There was a mean old stallion that ruled the herd that we called "Old Hubbard". He was a big brown horse and mean as all get out. He was absolutely mean and was out to kill. He would come right for you with his ears back and his teeth bared whether you were horseback or on foot. He would rear up on his hind legs and paw with his front feet, ready to kill anything he could get close enough to.
Old Hubbard was owned by Vaughn Leavitt and had once been broken to ride. He was so mean Vaughn had turned him loose on the river. Now he ran the whole herd. Once when I was down on the river after horses Vaughn was with me. Old Hubbard kept coming for us and wouldn't let us catch the horses we needed. Vaughn said, "We had better kill him before he kills us." So he pulled up his 30-30 and shot him.
There were several young stallions in the herd anyway. We then went ahead and caught the horses we needed in peace and led them home.
Sometimes though Vaughn and some of the older young guys would ride the wild horses right there in the box canyon. They had a high hooting old time. We would then snub them to the saddle horses and lead them up the river to home.
When I think of moonlight I remember one summer the summer after I graduated from high school probably in June of 1938. Two other guys and I took a horse trip to the mountains southeast of Bunkerville. We were gone three weeks. How I remember the bright light of the moon on that trip. Lester Adams, Vaughn Leavitt and I took two pack horses with pack saddles with our bedrolls and everything we would need. We each rode a saddle horse and took two good dogs along. We put shoes on all of the horses before we left. Lester didn't have the horse he wanted so he went to his grandpa's corral at night and took the best horse there. Grandpa Adams was mad the Lester took his prize horse.
We went up to a cabin up on the mountain. We called the highest peak Noon Peak and there was a small stream there by an old cabin. The water from the stream was real good. We went on over the top of the mountain and toward the Colorado River. We would travel sometimes at night when it was nice and cool and the moonlight was almost as bright as broad daylight. We did some fishing in the Colorado River.
The mountains were covered with desert plants with just a few cedar trees around the cabin and pinion pine scattered about. But the biggest share of the country was covered with different kinds on cactus like Prickly Pear, Barrel Cactus and others. There was also lots of Chaparral, Mesquite and Cat claw bushes.
We saw some mule deer also some wild burros, lots of rattlesnakes, jack rabbits and other small animals. I think each of those jack rabbits carried a canvas water bag, ha, ha, the burros too and those lizards and roadrunners could really run. They had too the ground was hot.
Our beds were hard but we slept good. Vaughn did most of the cooking and I remember we ate hot cakes and eggs and fried potatoes a lot.
As we kept traveling over that rough country our dogs feet really got sore and bleeding. We went on around the south side of the mountain, turned west and went by the Key West Ranch which was at the head of Lake Mead now. We went to another ranch owned by Earl Nay and spent several days there and they treated us real good and gave us some good meals and baths. While we stayed there we helped them put up a crop of hay. We slept out on the hay stack in the moonlight.
I remember in the evenings after a good supper the Nay family and us would all get together and they would bring out their violin and guitar and we would sing along. It was really a lot of fun, they could really sing good. The Nay's had quite a large family there on their ranch raising cattle and feed. They had some good springs on their place so they had enough water to irrigate their crops. That was really something there on that hot desert. They fed us real good and treated us good and we kind of hated to leave.
I remember coming back and traveling along up the Virgin River toward home. For miles the mesquite bushes were so think we could hardly get through it. Finally we came to Albert Hafen's field along the river and he had a patch of the best big black mush melons I ever tasted. We stopped and really filled up. They were so sweet and good.
We went on a ways farther and came to a good place to swim in the river. So we tied up our horses and took off everything but our pants and went in. Man did that ever feel good. It was better to have a good swim this way and clean up than to go on home and have to bath in the ditch or in our galvanized tub.
We were glad to get home and I was really saddle sore. I had ridden so long it felt like my back side was pushed up between my shoulders.
My mother hadn't worried about me. She said she knew I would be home when I got tired and hungry enough and I was.
It was real good for my family and also my dad when he quit driving mail and could be home with his family. At last he could be more comfortable and out of the weather so much. He could eat better meals and sleep in his own bed.
During his retirement years he kept busy doing things around the place like fixing things. I remember watching him fix some kitchen chairs that had loose rungs. He always liked to have a project or to mend things.
He also helped gather eggs from Dan's chickens. He would also clean, candle them and put them in large crates that held 30 dozen. These were kept in our cool basement then taken over to a large walk in a cooler at Dave Abbot's then to Las Vegas to sell. Dan really appreciated Dad helping him with his FFA project and it really made it easier for Dan. Dan made good money selling eggs with Dad's help. We ate or gave away the cracked ones.
Dad almost always had a little stream of irrigation water running around the yard and lot. I can see him yet as he walked around to check on the water, carrying around his small shovel. He kept the lawn, pomegranate bushes and a rose garden Mac planted for Mother really taken care of. Mother had many beautiful roses of all colors. They later built a large rose arbor all along the front of the house and it reached over the front of the house between the first and second story. As the roses climbed on this arbor it made some welcome shade all along the front and looked and smelled real nice.
Dad even helped with the cooking and doing other house work. I especially remember his big biscuits. They were twice as big as Mother's.
Dad liked to sit and play solitaire by himself too. It gave him something to do. It was a real hardship to him not to be able to read to help pass the time and of course there wasn't anything else for him to do. We had no radio or television.
Dad's feet and legs bothered him a lot and he seemed to have poor circulation. Thinking back I bet it all started when he drove mail so many years and then rode ditch for many years so he was off of his feet for several years riding in a buggy or on a horse. He couldn't strengthen his legs or get much exercise.
He had several bad sick spells and he couldn't sleep a lot of the time. When his feet and legs were hurting him a lot at night he would keep saying, "Mame, Mame oh Mame." It about drove my mother crazy and would also keep her awake. She would do what she could to help him be more comfortable. It was a hard time for both of them.
My folks' place seemed to be a favorite stopping place for people going or coming from north or south. They would stop and stay the night some regular. Of course there was no motel or places to stop then like now. They were made welcome at our place and given a bed, free meals and hay for there horses. We made a lot of friends that way.
My folks place was also a favorite gathering place for the people in town too. It seems there was nearly always a crowd there on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. There were big crowds that would sit around talking and laughing.
People did a lot of visiting in those days. When you got bored at home or wanted something special to do you went visiting. People dropped in often and we went to visit others often. It was fun to be in a crowd and hear all of the stories from long ago.
Maybe the next Sunday afternoon the big crowd might meet at someone else's place. Sometime big crowds would sit outside on the lawn to visit. We also did a lot of walking around town. It was fun to take a walk as a family or a group of friends and stop to visit with relatives and friends you might see along the way. Some might join us and walk on to some one else's place. It made it seem like the town was one big family.
One thing I did when a teenager was to help set up with the dead. We no mortuaries so we just washed and dressed the dead ourselves. I believe they would use formaldehyde on the bodies and also put jars of ice around them and try to keep them as cold as possible until they could be buried. One of us guys would take our turn sitting up a night. It seems the cat always knew when someone was dead and would come around meowing and sometimes fighting. It sure did make it spooky especially us young folks.
When we older Dan and I helped a lot with the farming. One day Dan was mowing some hay with a horse drawn mower made by John Deere. This field was in the west side of town one we had at that time and where Delbert and Ethlyn later built a house and lived when they were married.
After Dan mowed the main field he did as he supposed to and went in the opposite direction so he could mow all along the fence line and the mower blade could reach out and under any bush growing along. In one place there was some pomegranate bushes growing and they were thick so you couldn't see under them. Because of this Dan couldn't see the little boy standing under them watching him work.
As he mowed under the pomegranate bushes the long mower blade reached under them and mowed the little boy's feet right off. What a terrible accident it was. They picked up his shoes with his feet still in them. Dan felt so terrible as our whole family and also the whole town did. This boy grew up in Bunkerville as a cripple and was a constant reminder of this awful accident. He finally got artificial feet but always had a hard time walking.
When Dan and I were growing up everyone called Mother Aunt Mame. There was a house between us and the cemetery. Beyond the cemetery were two more houses. A family by the name of Knight lived in the last house. All of the lot the houses were on were large so it was quite a ways to go from our house to the Knight's house.
ne of the Knight boys was named Alden. We always called him Pud. Pud was one of those kids that liked to go down town and play all day long. He never thought about getting home until it grew dark. When it was dark he was scared to go by the cemetery so he would knock on our door and ask to borrow a couple of her boys to walk him home.
It was either me or Dan who had to walk him by the cemetery. We walked him home for years. One time Dan and I decided that walking him past the cemetery was getting dammed old. We got him to the cemetery as said, "OK Pud it's all yours, you go ahead." We turned around and went back home.
Pud got so scared that he ran all the way home. He couldn't stop to open the door. he ran around and around the house. He was hollering to his mom, saying, "Open the door the next time I come around."
We would go out and pick pine nuts every fall after the frost hit the trees. We would pick them to eat. We would sit around in the evening and eat them. We also had parched corn. We used Indian corn, that was the only kind we had. We parched it by frying it in a pan. We would salt it and put raisins with it.
Once Austin Hunt, Evan and I went pine nut picking. I got up into a tree with a lot of nice big cones. I would reach out pick the cones and throw them to the ground to be picked up later. I kept reaching farther and farther out to get more. I moved farther out on the branch. The branch under me broke and I fell to the ground. I was knocked unconscious, a gash was torn into my head and I broke my arm. Austin took me to Peoche and had the old doctor look at it.
I told the doc that I he wasn't going to get any money from me until I could get home and send it to him. He said that it didn't make any difference that the arm was broken and needed taken care of. He set it and put a cast on it. He told me to come back in three weeks. I told him that I lived over 200 miles away and wouldn't return just to get the cast off. He told me to go to a doctor at home.
I asked him how much the bill was and he told me eight dollars. I just happened to have 10 dollars with me so I paid him. Ten dollars was a lot of money then and he was surprised I had that much. I felt a better when I was able to pay him and didn't have to worry about owing him.
We returned home with about a couple of hundred pounds of pine nuts each.
I worked at the Beaver Dam Lodge. Marie Iverson worked there also. She worked as a waitress and I worked out taking care of the water, mowing lawns and other things. I got a dollar a day and room and board. We were fortunate to have jobs because it was during the depression.
Marie and I dated for two years. We always enjoyed being together. We loved each other and decided to get married. My folks were so poor that it was a real sacrifice for them to keep someone on a mission. I know how hard it was for them and after sending Dan during the depression I knew they couldn't send me. So after I graduated we made plans to get married.
We were married 3 August 1938 in St. George