Ford I. Gano – Autobiography Tape 2

Liz, you asked me when I first rode a horse, or the first horse I rode. My dad got us a little old pony, he only got it from somebody who didn’t want it any more, and I think they gave that little pony to us. It wasn’t very big, it was a mare, small horse. And that’s what we had for our first horse. We didn’t even have a saddle for it, but Lynn and I both rode it bareback, whenever we could catch the other not wanting to ride it. But it did come in very handy later on after we had moved down to the China place, because I used it then to ride from the China place back to the old homestead there, in order to have a way to get across the river, and get closer to the school bus. And we had at the old barn that we had there, which I think I mentioned earlier, had a place inside the barn where we usually kept hay and things, where I could tie the pony up and leave her there all day. Now I don’t know, I think when I crossed the river, I let her drink, and when I went back home at night, I let her drink again. I don’t think she had any water during the daytime while she was standing there in the barn. Whether that was cruelty or not, I don’t think so. Horses a lot of times go without water that long, even out when you’re riding. But that was the first horse we had. There was no danger of us ever getting hurt on her, because she was the hardest horse to get to move and do anything that I ever saw around. You had to take a little paddle and paddle her back end pretty good in order to make her move forward when you wanted to go somewhere. She didn’t rein very good at all, so we had a hard time trying to rein her around and get her to go in the directions that we wanted to, but if we got her straightened out, she would carry us to where wanted to go. Well, so much for old pony.

I did have some horses later on, and I’ll tell about them at a later stage, when I get back over to a later phase in my life. Right now I want to come back to the old Rudy Valley ranch there and describe the barn a little better. I described it somewhat when I told about the roof blowing off of it. Along with the barn, we had a place to keep hay, store hay in the middle of it, and we had a place on both ends where we could park something, some piece of equipment. My dad used it to park his little old Model A Ford that we drove, and we had quite an interesting incident, because back in those days, they weren’t very much of an auto. We had to crank ‘em by hand; they didn’t have a starter on them or anything. You had to get around in front of ‘em, and get the spark set just right; if you didn’t it would kick the daylights out of you when you tried to crank it. But after we got the spark and the gas set just right, we’d go around to the front of the car, and turn it slightly with the crank there (you had to get that in the right position to make it hold) and pull it up to compression – it was kind of like starting a Fairbanks-Morse engine, only you did it with our hands instead of our foot. And we would give it a quick pull then, and sometimes it wouldn’t crank over, and the spark would come and it would zip itself backwards, and if you didn’t get the crank out of it, the crank would whirl around and hit you on the hand and give you one deuce of a blow, sometimes it would even break a finger if you didn’t get it out of the way.

Anyway, my dad had it parked there in the east end of our barn, and was up against a kind of a chicken-wire separation between that part of the barn and where you’d get the hay (we also kept other things in there, incidentals that we wanted to get out of the way, get out of the weather). While he was cranking it one day, why, the clutch went into gear, and started forward, and caught him between the front end of the car and that chicken wire fence. There was enough give to that chicken wire that he didn’t really get hurt real bad, but he couldn’t free himself from that situation and he started hollering to beat the band. "Somebody come and help me!"

I think my mother got out there in time to rescue him from being squashed, as he thought he was going to be by that motor vehicle pushing him up against that screen. Well that was a typical part of a model A animal. It run by a couple of pedals down around your feet, and sometimes the clutch system would not come completely out when you released it, and then in that case, why, you had to slam on the brake there in order to keep it from going to forward. Well, I’m not going to try to tell you how we used to manage to drive a model A vehicle, but that was a basic principle in that situation.

Now, a little distance from the barn, there was a driveway between our barn and our corral. In the corral, we had a place to keep the horses, stack the harness, and any other possessions that we had there, that we would use in working on the team; collars, harnesses, and bridles, would all go on one side of that part of the barn, and then the two horses had stalls that we fed them, they had a box to eat out of, as well as a manger to feed hay in. And then of course there was an open yard in the corral, where we usually kept our cows, and it was in this open yard that we milked our cows, we’d bring them in there where they were a little more accessible to being calmed down and milked.

Well, that gives us a pretty good idea of our farmstead. On the other end of the corral there’s a hog pen area. There we had a shed and a place to keep the hogs that we raised. We also had a chicken house, which was just a little farther away from the barn, with ample room in between to turn a wagon or one thing or another or equipment. We always kept a few chickens in there, which could run outside most of the time, which they did most of the time, most of the time they were on our porch or in our front yard I think, but we could lock them up in that pen area, or in the chicken house itself. We had nests and roosts in the chicken house part, where the hens put up for the night. They would usually all go in by themselves by the trap door arrangement we there into the chickenhouse, and would find themselves contented, and in the morningtime, they could either start laying eggs – we had nests put up along one side of the building way up high (back in those days for some reason or another, we believed that hens liked to get up into the air to lay their eggs if they weren’t going to set on them; if they were going to set on them and try to hatch them, they liked to lay them down closer to the ground. Now don’t try to make me explain why a hen wanted to do it that way, but that’s the way we always had it arranged anyway. The setting hens were down towards the ground, and the layers would get up in there in those nests and lay those eggs) they had a platform that they could walk on to get into their nests and to jump off of when they got through.

I had an interesting episode trying to gather eggs one time. I used to follow my mother out there when she went to gather eggs, and watch her, and even help carry the eggs in. But this particular situation, I was going to be the big boy and gather the eggs myself and take them in just to show her I could do that. Well, along side, just underneath the nests, there was a kind of a platform, or a place you could step to get a little higher to look into the nests. And I had to get up onto that little step platform there to get into the nests with my hand. Well, I did that, and I got several eggs out, and I had to put part of them in my front pockets of the britches that I was wearing. Then when I went to get down, instead of coming down the way I’d should of, I decided I’d take a short cut and just slide off of that box, and get down on the ground a lot quicker. Well, the only problem with that is, when I slid down off of the box, I slid right over the eggs in my pocket, and boy did I have a gooey mess there! My mother didn’t let me go gather eggs by myself after that, and I didn’t want to anyway, because she had to really wash those britches several times to get them cleaned up.

I don’t know whether I ever did explain our laundry system. We had an old tub, and a wash board, and we carried water up out of the river. Now the river was maybe 75, 100 yards from the house, and it was down an embankment you had to climb up and climb down in order to get to the water. Lynn and I usually got the job of carrying the water up for the washing process. My mother always washed the clothes, and as you’ve probably heard a dozen times from your grandparents, how people used to rub their clothes on their old rubbing board, with the soap they had on hand. Now, soap we had on hand was a big old yellow bar of homemade soap that we made, from the tallow that we got from hogs, and the lye that we got from ashes off the stove that we took when we cleaned the ashes out. We’d use those ashes and lye together and pour water on them and drain them out and when that was hardened up it made a bar of soap. We’d cut that into smaller bars of course, to make it more useable and handier to get ahold of.

Well, that’s what my mother had to use to do our laundry with. And she would very faithfully clean our britches at least once a week, and any of the rest of the clothes that needed washing, and the household goods that needed washing. And it was an all day job, believe you me, it was quite a chore for her to do. Nobody else ever volunteered to do it, I’ll tell you. Lynn and I had the job of carrying the water up from the river. We did that in 2 steps. We’d take the tub down and set it up on the embankment, before it went down into the river. And then go down a trail that had been built there, get to a deeper place in the river where we could dip our buckets in, and carry them back up the embankment, and dump them in the tub. We always thought it was quite a job, and protested quite loudly usually when we had to do it. But we did it, and then we’d get a hold of the handles on the tub and carry it back up to the side of the house where mother did the washing. She had to hang the clothes out on a wire clothesline that had been built there for that purpose.

Now that same tub was used for our bathing purposes. Whenever Saturday night came along, we all had to take baths in that tub. Of course, we usually did it in the kitchen area of the room, and we’d warm the water up a little with hot water from the tea kettle we kept up on the old wood range there. That old wood range was a very big apparatus; it had a big oven on it, a keeper oven up on top for when you got your food ready to eat, and you weren’t quite ready to eat it, you’d set it up there in the toaster oven and shut the lid down and leave it nice and warm to keep it nice and warm until you were ready to eat it. Well, the trouble is, that old range needed firewood, and that was my brother’s and my job, to keep the firewood.

I told you how we went out to get a Christmas tree now and then, well at least twice, sometimes 3 times or 4 times a year, depending on what was needed, my dad would harness up the team to the wagon, and take us boys, and usually the girls went along just for the fun of it, and sit up on top of the wagon. We’d go out to the cedar area of the flats that were around us, and find dead cedar trees. Some of them, we had to chop down or saw up, we’d get it down to a long limb like piece and stick it on the wagon to haul it back down to the farmhouse. We had a woodpile that wasn’t very far from where we had the heating arrangement for killing our hogs and one thing or another, but we had our woodpile there and a place to saw wood. A stile we called it, crossbars we put the wood in and then a little old hand saw, buck saw we called them, we’d saw that wood up. We got plenty of exercise doing that. The bigger limbs I think my dad always tried to cut through, but the smaller limbs, Lynn and I got our turns quite often. Now, Lynn was a little smaller than I, and it seemed to me like he got off a lot easier than I did. But of course when brother Frank was there, he got a large part of that. Maybe that was one of the reasons he liked to go back to Los Angeles to live with his brother, which he did quite often.

Well, that’s all the little instances that were going on there on our old Verde Valley Ranch. All in all, we enjoyed our time out there, us kids had a great time playing all together. We never had any neighbors anywhere near that come to play with us, but the two girls and Lynn and I, after the girls got big enough to do these things, we drove our hoops around in the yard. Sometimes we got tires out there, old tires that had been thrown away, no good for use on cars any more, and use them for our torpedoes or whatever you wanted to call them, and start rolling them at each other just as hard as we could roll. Of course, the other person had a tire of his own that he had to pick up speed with roll it back at us. Kind of like the knights used to fight with their old gladiator horses and armor if you can imagine that. Anyway, the tires would hit each other and bounce up and it’s the one that got the other tire down of course that was the winner. That was one of the games that we played in the yard during those times in our lives.

Well, right now, I’m kind of running out of ideas about that part of our life, so I’m going to move down to the China Place,

That move came because we could not, we had suffered quite a few losses, with the hogs that my dad had tried to raise there, and it was getting to be a matter of necessity of trying to get somewhere we could make a living. That old Woodruff place, without getting running water down to the fields and irrigating, we couldn’t do too much there. So we decided to move down to what we called the China Place.

Now, the China Place was first occupied by a Chinese family. It belonged to the Willard family, in fact it belonged to my mother and my Aunt Edna, it had been given to them by their father. Uncle (elick?) horned in on it, and thought he ought to have at least part of it, so he did have 10 acres off one end of that China Place, which he fenced in and dared any of us to try to take it away from him. Well, anyway, we had to get to the China Place, either by going out on the flat with the cars or the horses or whatever means of transportation we were using, and go down across the sand flats, next to the river, and then cross at a special crossing that was solid enough, had a solid enough bottom, so that cars or wagons could go through. The main part was getting across the sand flats.

Whenever the Verde River overflowed with rain, it always washed sand up on the side banks and left it settle there, sometimes quite deep, sometimes shallow flats, of about 6 or 8 inches deep. Well this was one place we had chosen to go across the river to the China Place. We had another route so we could get into the China Place, by going up and going down the road that led to the old Willard Schoolhouse, then down by the Willard ranch, and then on down the river by the other people that lived along there. Then finally crossing over a pretty deep canyon, well we didn’t call them canyons, we called them washes. A pretty big sized wash, and kind of rough after rains there, boulders would roll into the roads. We could go that route, then we had to go into the Willard Ranch, a place that we later rented and lived on quite a part of our later lives. But in the meantime, most of the time, we would try to go down across the flat, that seemed to be the best route. We’d usually get stuck in the sand if we were in a car, and the only way we could get out of it would be to pull what we called "water moodies"[bermuda grass?]. Those were kind of a reed like weed that grew alongside of the river, kind of hard in nature, kind of resembled bamboo just a little but they weren’t hollow. We’d pull them out from their bunches, and carry them in armloads to the car, and then we’d stuff them down under the wheels to get a little traction for the tires so we could get across the sand flats. That was quite a job. We didn’t go to town very often, you can guess that, but when we did sometimes we had to do that in order to make our way in or out.

Well, at the China Place, we didn’t have a house on. We lived in a tent. My sister Paula called it our summer campground. She didn’t want anybody to think that we lived in a tent house. But my dad and our neighbor there had built a good frame large size tent and put sides on it and board on the bottom for floors, and then with a ridge pole carrying a tent, we had a pretty nice sized room there. It was big enough to put a bed in there, and put tables and chairs in there, and a stove for cooking. So that’s where we practically lived, though we hadn’t been there very long til one of our neighbors, and I’ll have to tell you more about him sometime, called Charlie Mahan, whom we known very well up on the old Willard Ranch. We knew Charlie because he was neighbor. He had moved to town, and he used to camp out down there on the China Place, and do a lot of trapping in the wintertime. He helped my dad and us boys dig a kind of a cave. It wasn’t a cave, it was an opening into the side of a good sized bank there that was made in earlier days when the river had been at a higher level and left a good sized embankment there. And that embankment provided us a place to dig out a dugout as we called it, and put a cement floor in it, try to cement the walls up a little, so they didn’t keep falling down in on the floor. And put a roof over it, mostly which was dirt, over boards put together close enough to keep the dirt from falling through. And a big timber rafter in the center of it, that we called a dugout. It also became a cellar, because it was quite cool there. With the dirt embankments and sod roof over the top, it was quite cool in there, and we lived in there quite a lot. In fact, us boys had a bed in there where we stayed quite a bit of the time in the wintertime. And also we did all of our churning chores in there, it was cool enough so the milk would stay cool a little while. After we’d skim the cream off, we’d gather up enough cream to put in an old barrel churn. I don’t know, if you haven’t seen an old barrel churn, you don’t know what they look like. It was simply a barrel that had an opening at one side, pivots on each end, with a crank on the end of it. Shutting the door down after we’d put the materials on the inside; it had kind of paddles on the inside of it that kept the cream stirred up, and we’d start turning that old barrel churn. We’d turn that until we’d finally hear "clump, clump, clump" as the chunks of butter would hit the paddles on the inside. And we knew we had finished that batch. Well, we used to make butter, my mother did, pat it out into little, well, I shouldn’t say my mother, my dad helped a lot on these things. They made pound sized lumps of butter, and wrapped it up in nice smooth oil paper, and we had a press that we had that would just make it in a nice size, we’d put the butter in it… (end of tape)