Sunday, August 12, 2012

One Man's Journey - Part IX

Elizabeth (Ewing) Aitchison with twins Andrew and William

Uncle Andy

I think it must have been along about this time that Uncle Andrew showed up. He was Papa’s twin brother. I know the two of them spent considerable time in going over our place digging shallow holes. It turned out that Uncle Andy wanted to move to the area from Prosser, Washington. He purchased the north part of our place. I believe 40 to 60 acres. (I shall return to this later.)

The Ditch Break

On the east side of our place there was a deep gulley that ran pretty much north and south from the river to the high line that cut across it about a mile north of our place. The ground squirrels, they are a small version of a prairie dog, dug burrows in the banks of the big ditch. Of course, it was only a matter of time the waters found their way into the burrows causing the ditch to break, sending tons of water down the gulley into the river, carrying with it a lot of our property. Some places were large enough to put our house in it. The soil that carried into the river formed a huge bar which later became a haven for duck, geese and muskrats, and later a wonderful swimming hole for us kids.

Halley’s Comet

Halley's Comet, 1910
By The Yerkes Observatory [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Along about this time, Halley’s Comet showed up. Some of the stories told what would happen to the earth even if just the tail struck the earth were horror stories and I’m sure left a lasting impression on those of us who can remember this period.

I believe along about this time, Uncle Andy, wife, Ellen, and our two cousins, Edgar and Clarence, moved into their new house. It is real strange, but I don’t remember them building the house and they also stayed a time with us. During this period, us kids slept outside.

Edgar and Clarence had had some schooling, so they were about a year ahead of Bill and me; but, also strange I don’t remember either of those boys going to our school. However, we became good friends and played, swam, fished, hunted and fought together over the next few years.

I believe about this time, Sam Wickham sold his place and moved his family to parts unknown. My parents may have known where they went, but I never saw any of them again.

Mack and Pearl Stocker

These were the people who purchased the Wickham place. They were just married and Pearl was pregnant with their first child. Pearl was a daughter of the Connell family who had moved into the Central Cove Area from Pendleton, Oregon, where they had operated a cattle and wheat ranch.

Mack was a cowboy who had worked the ranches around Pendleton and was now going to try farming. Bill and I really loved the man. He showed us how to hunt, trap and do all sorts of things kids dream about. He was our hero.

I think perhaps along about this time, Bill and I were sneaking off to take a swim in the river. We were allowed to fish just below the house, but we could go upriver about a quarter mile and swim in the backwater of the Big Bar I told you about.

As you know, Bill was quite fair and his face would shine after a swim, so in order to prevent detection, we would rub dirt on our faces. One day, Bill didn’t get the back of his neck properly covered and Mama noticed it right away. Of course, we denied it, but the skunk was out of the bag and couldn’t be trusted anymore. I don’t recall that we got whipped, but came awful close.

I think we probably did about everything we weren’t supposed to during this period, like smoking hay leaves, corn silk, and we even got into Papa’s booze on occasion. In those days we did not have prohibition as known today. First, the towns would go dry and then the county, etc. When Canyon County dried up, Papa bought two to three bottles, mostly to cure snake bite or for a cold. They were kept on the top shelf of the kitchen cabinet. Bill and I were able to get at them once in a while. We liked the Rock and Rye the best. {Rock and Rye is an American liqueur based on rye whiskey flavored with different fruits, with a citrus overtone. Each bottle of Rock and Rye has a chunk of rock candy in it. It was considered a useful medicine.}

Pearl Stocker had her baby spring of 1912, a girl. Pearl died during the birth and Mama took the baby since Mack didn’t want anything to do with it, apparently blaming the baby for Pearl’s death. The mortality rate for both mother and child was pretty high in those days. Pearl was a wonderful person. She was sure nice to Colonel and me.


I would like to go back a couple of years. As I told you above, entertainment was hard to come by. Besides our one or two trips to town each year to get supplies, we also attended the Fair and circus if it came our way. The fair was always a big attraction, since there were always a lot of things going on. 1909 was the year of the glass cup. Some guy had a booth from which he sold these cups. He used a small foot-powered grinding wheel to write your name and date on the cup. I still have mine and I believe brother Gene has Colonel’s and hopefully he has Arthur’s also with a year of 1912. This was soon after Arthur was born.

There were several other incidents that I’m sure did not all happen in 1909, but did happen over the next two to three years.

#1 – When we went to town, we usually ate at a Chinese restaurant. Bill and I really enjoyed this since we liked the bread, which was bakery baked. One day while we were eating, there was a big commotion and a lot of loud voices and down through the restaurant came a white man closely followed by the Chinese cook who was swinging a cleaver. The cook chased the guy out through the front door and down the street.

#2 – At the fair – Papa took us to a booth to get some hamburgers. We had no more than started to eat when all hell broke loose. The cook grabbed a piece of 2x4 and came over the counter like a wildman. They really had a big fight and for two little kids from down on a farm, this was real excitement. Papa got us out of there fast for the receiver of the 2x4 was pretty bloody.

#3 – I’m not sure what year this occurred, but it was prior to 1912.

There were lots of Indians still around and at a particular time a sham battle between Indians and Cowboys was scheduled using blank ammunition. There was a lot of noise, horses running all over the place and bodies lying in the field, cowboys playing dead; but the Indians didn’t do it that way. They were too excited. Before the battle got started, all the ammunition used by the Indians was checked and they found that some of them had live ammunition. You can imagine what could have happened if they had not checked the Indians’ guns.

#4 – 1912. This year I’m sure of. The first plane I’d ever seen. They had it parked in the field in the center of the race track. It was a triplane, i.e. three wings. It took off and flew over the fairgrounds, a lot of noise and dust. The pilot didn’t go too high, maybe a couple hundred feet. Horses had been tied to wagons all over the place. Of course, the noise frightened the horses, which broke loose and made a mess out of things. Of course, the people were running in all directions, too. Papa got Colonel and me up on the race track fence to keep us out of harm’s way.
via Wikimedia Commons *
When the plane landed, it just about fell apart; not too stable. Well, they had to start someplace.
to be continued ...

One of the earliest triplanes, a British Roe III Triplane, photographed in the United Statesin September 1910 with its designer, Alliot Verdon Roe, in its cockpit.

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