Sunday, May 20, 2012

One Man's Journey - Part IV


The Fire (circa 1906)

I think I told you somewhere above that we lived about three miles east of Caldwell, so even with a team of horses and a heavy wagon, it probably didn’t take us too long to make the trip to Caldwell.

One day, Papa had to go to town to get some work done at a blacksmith shop. He took me with him. A small stream runs through Caldwell. The blacksmith shop stood on the northeast side of the stream, which was called Indian Creek, and a large livery stable stood on the southwest side of Indian Creek. I really can’t imagine how many horses were lodged in this building, but I would think there may have been 20 or 30.

While we were at the shop, a fire broke out in the livery. To me, it was quite a sight. We were probably about 200 feet from the fire. Of course, there was no fire department as we now have. I was more interested in the action. There were horses running in all directions. Men were going into the stable and loosing the horses or leading them out. Anyway, as soon as they would get a horse out, he would break away and run back into the fire. From later references, I would guess that nearly all horses stabled in the barn died.

Some time later, perhaps a couple of days, we went back to town and they had stacked all of the horse carcasses in a huge pile and were burning them. You can only imagine the stench. I suppose they could have buried them.

alfalfa (photo courtesy wikimedia commons)
It was about this time that near tragedy struck. Since no one had too many dollars to spend for hired help, the local people would trade hours. Example: if a neighbor had haying to do or grain to thresh, Papa would put in a day or two or maybe several days, helping to get the work done; and then the group would move on to another farm. During this time, Papa would be building up credit hours for when the time came when he would require help on our place. Since most places (farms) were approximately the same size, I imagine they all came about even. The men were always fed at noon, so Mama would sometimes go to help prepare the food, because there could be from 10 to 20 men to feed. Not all women could do this, probably because of a large family or a large number of livestock to care for.

This incident occurred when we were all at a neighbor’s place putting up alfalfa hay. I think I mentioned above the large ditch, or high line as we called it, running through the area feeding branch canals. From an educated guess, I could say the high line was 14 to 16 feet wide and, of course, very deep – five to eight feet. The farmer had built a waterwheel, what for I do not know, downstream; and close to the wheel the farmer had made a bridge (foot) by placing a couple of 12” planks across the ditch.

example of a waterwheel (photo courtesy wikimedia commons)
Bill was about two and I was about five. We were both curious about the waterwheel, so we both walked out onto the plank (bridge) to get a closer look. Bill put his small hand on one of the buckets and didn’t let go. The wheel dragged him under the water and over the top, and when he came up, still hanging onto the bucket, he was able to grab the edge of the foot bridge and hang on, choking and sputtering. All I did was stand there, scared to death. I can still see Bill hanging over that plank coughing up water. One of the men was close by, so he came running and pulled Bill up out of the water. I understand that he told Mama later that he had witnessed the whole thing and was ready to give us a hand if we had gotten into real trouble. I don’t remember anything more about that incident.

Bill’s 1st haircut (Fall of 1907)

I’m sure I didn’t mention this incident anywhere in this report, but I witnessed the dastardly act and the affect it had on our mother.

Scissor-for-paper As you know, you Uncle Bill had very curly red hair, and for some reason, Mama wanted to keep him looking like a little girl? During threshing season, she had to go to town for supplies. One of the threshing crew sat Bill down on the wash basin stand and cut all the long curls off as well as the braid which was always tied with a ribbon. I don’t know where Papa was; maybe they both went to town. Anyway, when Mama got home and saw Bill, she just about flipped. I’m sure she could have killed the guy right there. It was a bum joke and maybe she should have killed him. She did save the braid and some curls for years.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned several times that economics was kind of tough. We seemed to always have plenty to eat, but very little money (I guess here that the barter system was pretty much in effect).

Of course, I can’t remember what my parents did for recreation or entertainment. I remember one year we went to Boise. The Scottish people were putting on a big wing ding and some girls doing the sword dance and Highland fling. Also on that trip, Bill and I were outfitted with boots (black) with a red top and a tassel at the top of each boot. I can imagine that we outgrew them rather rapidly.

The water springs

There is a lot of natural hot water coming out of the earth around Boise and extending east and north into the Sun Valley country and the Salmon River. Mama had a number of relatives living in that area, having cattle ranches and dairies. I remember only one visit to the area, but I’m sure there were several. We would go by train to Gooding and from there to Ketchum by stage, and we were picked up in Ketchum by some member of the family to go to their place.

A to B: Caldwell to Sun Valley

The one thing I distinctly remember was the hot water springs. They had a log cabin – or house – which had two springs (large) bubbling out of the earth (guessing, I would say they were about 10 feet apart). One was boiling hot and the other was ice cold. I could stand on the edge of these pools and watch the men wash their milk cans in the hot water while you could get a nice cold dipper of cold water form the other pool. In Boise, they had what was called a natatorium or large covered swimming pool filled by hot water springs.

Caldwell train depot - 1907
An aunt

I’m sure we visited other relatives in Boise, but there was only one person that I remember, a woman, or girl, who had a deformed back, the result of falling out of a swing located on the front porch of their house. Mama could not let me near that swing for fear that I could be injured.

Western History/Genealogy Department, Denver Public Library
I don’t remember Papa going on any of these excursions except the time we went to Boise and got the red-topped boots, but I guess someone had to stay home and look after things.

Whenever a circus came to town (Caldwell), we would always go. I saw Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show a couple of times. He looked like the pictures of him, and he always rode a white horse.

Of course, there was the County Fair each year, but I believe I should go into that faze in the next era of this narrative since I was involved to some degree.

to be continued...

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