Sunday, July 29, 2012

One Man's Journey - Part VIII

School – what school?

New-England Primer Enlarged printed and sold by Benjamin Franklin
via Wikimedia Commons
I’m now approaching my seventh birthday (Dec. 16) and have not attended a formal school because there were not enough people in the district to build a school house; but, Mama read to us and taught us our ABCs, as well as some arithmetic, like multiplication 2x2. So, we weren’t totally devoid of learning. Incidentally, Papa, who had only about three years of schooling, was a whiz at mathematics. He was very clever and could recite poetry all day. I used to like to hear him do this because much of it was in Scottish brogue. I don’t think there was too much that went on during this period. We were not allowed to go near the river unless there was someone with us.  I don’t remember Papa swimming, but Mama did. There were no bathing suits, but she wore a Mother Hubbard sort of thing. She was a strong swimmer.

1909  The farm was gradually taking shape. Shade and fruit trees were planted, but had to be watered by water hauled from the spring or river. I’m not sure when the irrigation system was completed, but I would suggest it was probably completed in early 1910. A lot of people were now entering the valley taking up homesteads. {The Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909 increased the number of acres to 320 per homesteader in several western states, but not including Idaho. The act targeted land that was suitable for dry-land farming, and was  amended in 1910 to include Idaho.}

There were lots of memories during this period. I think one of the best was walking from the barn at night with Papa who carried a kerosene lantern and I would hand onto his fingers. We would stand out in the yard and listen to the coyotes howl.

Along about this time, there was a family of cougars moved into a cave under the cap of the butte a mile or so east of our place. They made quite a racket at night, and needless to say, it scared us little kids since the animals did roam for food; but, none of our livestock was affected.


I must tell this story since it upset our parents very much and I suppose could have ended in disaster. As I mentioned above, we were not allowed to go near the river, but there was a small stream about ¼ mile east of the house that ran down a gulley into the river and it had fish in it. Somehow, we knew about the fish, so one day, we took a gunnysack and went fishing. We traveled quite a way north up the gulley all the while catching fish and putting them in the sack. Of course, we could not be seen from the house, so our parents started to look in the river.

PlateXXXI-Coho Salmon Adult Male
By A. Hoen and Co. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I guess it must have driven them wild. I have no idea how long we were gone, but when the sack started to get heavy, we started home, taking the long way. I just don’t remember what happened when we got home. I don’t think we were spanked they were so happy that we were safe. I’ll never forget how pleased I was about catching all those fish. I think it was after that, that we were allowed to fish in the river, but someone was always with us. Of course, there was a time as we grew older that we managed somehow to get into that river, but maybe more on that later. {The Snake River was once one of the most important rivers for the spawning of anadromous fish—which are born in the headwaters of rivers, live in the ocean for most of their lives, and return to the river to spawn—in the United States. The river supported species including chinook salmon, coho salmon, and sockeye salmon, as well as steelhead trout, white sturgeon, and Pacific lamprey.(courtesy Wikipedia)}

I guess things progressed along the same lines for the next year, or so. Sam Wickham and Ernie Bedford still feuded. Sam beat his wife on a regular basis. The farm grew, more land cleared and cultivated. There were horses to work, cows to milk, pigs to take care of. Bill and I had our chores, mostly me since I was older; like riding the horse when Papa cultivated. The winters were very cold and the summers very hot.

via Wikimedia Commons
We are approaching 1910. I still haven’t gone to school. I believe the school house may have been built during this year, since it was ready in the fall of 1910. The first day for me was bad. Papa took me. I don’t remember if we rode a horse or walked. The school was 1 ¼ miles from our place by road.

My teacher’s name was Miss Slonicker. {Bertha Sloneker, born about 1890 in Colorado, was the daughter of George and Nellie. Their family lived in Canyon County, Idaho, in 1910. It was recorded on the census that Bertha was a public school teacher.} She was a local girl, probably with not much more than an eighth-grade education. Some of the children were about as old, if not older, as the teacher.

Bill and I had just each other for so long that it was hard for me to get used to all those older and bigger people, and some of those guys were pretty rough on the smaller children. Among the older boys, there was always a fight going on, and it was pretty hard for a young teacher to control such activity.

The school was one room with two outhouses. Water was obtained from a well in the yard. Water was kept in a bucket by the door with a dipper in it, so anyone wanting a drink used the dipper. You can imagine the results.

To heat the place, a large pot-bellied stove was located about in the center of the room. Those close to the stove roasted, those at the outer edges, froze.

I probably should mention here that due to the lack of money, the school operated three months in 1910; three months in 1911; seven months in 1912; thereafter, nine months; so for the first three years of schooling, we got 13 months. Long vacations, huh?!


Circuit rider illustration Eggleston
via Wikimedia Commons
Since we did not have a church, the one-room school served this purpose. We did not have a resident minister, so we were served by a circuit rider. He would leave Caldwell early Sunday morning and preach at a couple of places across the Deer Flat. I don’t remember when he got to our area, but believe it was early afternoon, and then he went on to Central Cove. I don’t think he could have served more than three or four churches because of distance. If he had come directly from Caldwell to our area and returned to Caldwell, it would have been at least a 30-mile ride. ¿Maybe he put in some long hours?

Sometimes, the services were held in homes. This occurred especially before the one-room school house was built. These men surely must have been dedicated. I don’t remember that we ever did have a resident minister. I believe most of the circuit riders were Presbyterian. I do know Bill and I were baptized by a Presbyterian minister.

I don’t think it made much difference to most people as long as they had a church. I remember only one man. His name was Hooper, and he was young. We like him because he would take us swimming and acted like the rest of the kids.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
[I must pause here and reflect. As I continue with this narrative, more and more incidents keep flooding in so it is hard to keep them is some sort of order, because things were happening pretty fast and to get years and facts in the right place in history, but I will try.]
to be continued ...

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