Ford I. Gano Ė Autobiography Tape 3
I have another tape in now, and I hope it is recording in a better fashion than the previous one was. I was very disappointed in my articulation, as I listened to what I had to say. I donít know, I guess Iím just getting old, and canít enunciate my words very good. At one time I had to dictate letters over recording machine, and let my secretary take care of them for me, type out the letters and so forth.
Well I guess Iím ready to start again, and I think in the tape I just did away with here, I got us down to the China Place, and made a few remarks about digging out a dugout in the side of the bank, and living a tent house which my sister Paula called our summer campground. She was ashamed to call it our home, or didnít want anybody to ever think that it was our home. I donít know whether she was ashamed or not, but we all lived there, very happily I think, at that particular time. A little later on we moved back up to the Woodruff place. So, before I get into that move, Iím going to go back and say just a few more, list just a few more items about the old Verde Valley Ranch. As I look back over it and think back at it, we really had a happy time there, us kids did. Now I donít know about my parents so much, I mean I canít speak for them so much, they never complained. They never had too much, they never had any money, except butter and egg money that mother sold, and a few dollars that my dad could earn hiring out his team and working for somebody else or over on the company ditch on the other side of the river. He did do that every now and then, every time he had a chance.
Well, getting back to my thought here, that old Verde Valley, to me as I think back over it, and look back at the picture that I have in my mind, is just a beautiful old place. We were located just on the east side of the Verde River, and the Wallace Willard Place was just a few hundred, maybe a hundred yards or so, down southward away from the highway. The Farm-to-Market Road, they call it nowadays, connecting Oak Creek to the big cities of Clemenceau, and Clarkdale, and Cottonwood, Jerome. From that location we could look across the road, and see Sugarloaf. Sugarloaf to me was always kind of a mysterious place. The neighbors, my mother would let us kids play with very much, because they never kept their yard clean, and they never looked too prosperous, and their language was not too good, so she wouldnít let us play there very much. But now and then, weíd get inklings of what was going on, as we would talk to a boy in that family who used to go up on Sugarloaf and work with his dad as he dug up Indian relics. And he did quite a few just shovel excavations, to find pottery, or arrowheads. Later on, after we left the Verde Valley, we found out that they had done some excavation there and found out that it was a kind of an Indian lookout point at least, houses were built there, and the tribal unit did live there for a while. It had a good outlook over the, it was a good lookout over the countryside, and they kinda were able to protect themselves from any invasion by neighboring tribes that might be in the area.
We knew of one area up by Clarkdale, where Indians had lived. There were quite a few remnants down there, of the houses that were built, and the burial yards, also as well down at Montezuma Castles, where the one tribe of Indians had built their houses up on the side of the mountain there. And that became a state monument later on, and people were allowed to go see it, but they had to be very careful when they climbed up the ladders. The rangers that supervised the area always warned them that those ladders might break at any time, and give somebody a fall. So they were a little leery about letting people climb up there. Kids were not allowed to play on them at all, so we didnít actually get to see much of the Montezuma castles, because us kids werenít allowed to climb up on them. Later on, after we had moved to another location, we came back over there, and did climb up on the ladders, and did ply our way through the various caves, dugouts that were on the side of that mountain.
This tribe of Indians had put their huts and their belongings up on the side of that big bluff where nobody could get at them except come down over the top or climb up from the bottom. To climb up from the bottom of course was pretty dangerous when they stood up there, evidently would boost them back off and let them fall to the bottom, to protect themselves. Well, enough of that.
Getting back up to Sugarloaf, to me it was just a little old landmark; it wasnít a very high mountain. It was a very desirous mountain to just climb up, and every now and then we did climb up on that little old Sugarloaf Mountain. I guess it maybe wasnít over 300 feet high, and looked just exactly like a lump of sugar might look if it had just been dumped out on a flat table. Up at the top of it, there were some hollowed out spaces that might have had some kind of Indian relics in them, if they dug into it, I think they did find some later on. So much for that.
In order to get across the river, the Farm-to-Market Road that came in from Oak Creek had to double up northwards up alongside of the river for about a quarter of a mile. And there they had found a rock bottom that they could cross on. So they built their crossing there, and then they came back down on the other side, on the west side of the river, back down to the Highway area there again, the road area. Later on, we had a bridge built across the Verde River. It was built, it was supervised by a man named Midgely, and they named it in his honor, the Midgely bridge. While it was being built, my brother Frank got himself a job there carrying water. Now it was the same source of water for them as we had for drinking water, because unless you boiled water out of the Verde, why we couldnít drink the Verde River water. But we went to a neighborís farm there, the Burroughs (?) which was just across the river from our farm, the Wallace farm there. They had a well which had very good tasting water in it, which you had to pull up with a bucket by reeling a rope in and dumping the water out into your container. We used to go there for drinking water, and carry over perhaps 5 gallons in several trips, and keep it around the farm, around our household for us to drink, or eat with probably, cook our food with. So this construction company that built this bridge had to have water for their crew, and Frank got the job of carrying out water to the workers by the bucket full. They always seemed to want to drink lots, so he really got a workout. But he earned, I think he got 50 cents and hour then, and he was really proud of the money he brought in hauling that water out there. He took a wagon out there finally, and he put his buckets in that wagon, to take them out to the well, fill them up and take them back to the end of the bridge, then walk out on the planks that they had out there where they were working so the workers could have a drink of water, using one dipper for the whole crew of course.
The Burroughs(?) family were our nearest neighbors. Of course, the river separated us, so we didnít have intimate relationships with them at all, but they were a very nice family from Germany, and had 4 daughters. The daughters of course, living off down there by themselves, although they did have a car of some sort, they did go to town now and then. But one of the girls, I guess two of them, two of the younger girls, took it upon themselves to have dancing lessons in their house for anybody who wanted to learn how to dance. Girls of course always know how to dance without being taught, but believe you me, this was one boy that had to be taught how to dance. Well, we did learn quite a bit, quite a few steps from them, and I guess thatís the only thing that saved my neck when I went up with an opportunity to go to college after I graduated from High School. I could go to her dances, a little, an take a girlfriend along, which we had to invite of course, and make up our programs, and take turns with partners to dance the whole evening through. Well, so much for dancing.
I never did like to dance, though, and after we got married, I kind of forewent it as often as I could, or as much as I could. Nellie liked to dance a little, and she would want to go now and then, and later in my second marriage, I think Lucille thought that life without a dancing partner was a [bonelou?], she wanted to go to dances all the time. I never did take her to many, but thatís beside the point.
Anyway, we had a good time with the Burroughs family girls, learning to dance, I think, during the summertime when school was out and nothing else to do. Well, after they got the bridge built, why, the cars of course, wagons and teams and everything else used that method to cross the river. They no longer had to go up to the crossing to find a way to get across the river.
I had an interesting experience there watching the river while it was up one time. I think Lynn and I both watched it, and enjoyed watching the river when it was flooding. It would flood every time that there was a rain up to the north of us, in the Red Rock area, that would bring water down the side canyons into the river. And it would usually come down with quite a wave in front of it, then finally settle down to whatever height it was going to be. It would flood over the bottomland in pretty good shape if they had a good rain up there, or when snow melted in the spring of the year. This one thing though, one time when Lynn and I were watching the flooding water in the Verde, we were very amazed to see a team of horses and a wagon turning over down that stream. What had happened was, this was before the bridge was built, and a teamster, a farmer, a rancher, had come into town and bought his supplies, then on the way back home he tried to cross the river when it was up. It was too big, the stream was too swift, and it washed the horseís feet out from under the horses, tipped the wagon over. He had to, the driver had to swim to shore (which luckily, he did), but he couldnít save his horses. It was a sad sight, to see those two grey horses on the front of the wagon just come tumbling down the river, theyíd go over and over and over, as they rolled long in the flooding water. Later on, a couple of days later after the water had receded, we walked down the river about a mile, down to the Smith place, which is our nearest neighbor down on the south of us. There laying on the bank, on the sand, where sand had washed up on the bank and made a kind of a little mesa there, we found a hundred pound sack of flour. Well, we didnít know what to do about it, but we told our parents, in fact I think we went into the residence there on the Smith place, and they came down and we opened it up. And of course, on the outside of that flour sack, it was just solid, just solid like it had been frozen. But less than an inch down it was just as good a flour as it was when it came out of the store, So everybody helped themselves to the good old flour, which was a very needed commodity for ranchers and farmers in that area, very much needed commodity. I never did know the name of that rancher that lost that team, but the team was laying there on the bank, and the wagon had broke loose and had been carried on downstream. Of course, the horses had to be disposed of then, so they were pulled off down the river to another location, and Woodruff plowed around them, and they were burned to kind of take away the deterioration smell that comes from such big animals like that.
Well, those are interesting little things that happened. One other little thing Iíll mention here at this time was that one time after the river had flooded, Lynn and I came home from school, and I guess all of us came home of course, but Lynn and I being an adventure sort, thought weíd stroll along down the river and see what we could find along the bank. So we took off there without permission from our parents, and went strolling off down the river. We went way down a mile and a half or so, and then deciding that it was late in the evening and weíd better get back home. Well, we started back home, and we looked up and there we saw our dad coming. He had a stick in his hand. Now my dad never did paddle any of us as far as I know at all, but boy I tell you, seeing that stick in his hand sure scared us two boys, and we decided weíd take a different route home. So we ran off to the side and he came trailing in behind us. We went back home, and when he came in, he says, "All right, Iím not going to give you a whipping. But you are going to take some punishment for doing that, because you should have known better." And I guess we did, but it sure looked like a good place to have some fun, to go off down that river after a flood. So, he sent Lynn off to bed, and sent me into bed too, and told us we had to do without our supper. I guess that was about the worst punishment he could give a couple of hungry boys. Well, I tried to cheat a little. I was always an avid reader of books that weíd bring home from our library, and my favorite books was Tom Swift, and I had one under my pillow in my bed which Iíd read every time Iíd get an opportunity. I sneaked it in there under my blankets, and read until it got so dark I couldnít see to read anymore, and then I found a flashlight and I tried to read a little by flashlight. After the folks had had their supper, and Dad was busy doing something else, my mother brought us in a plate of food, and stuck it in under the blankets and said "Here, youíd better have something to eat." Well, thatís the way mothers are made, I guess. They donít agree sometime with the punishment dad metes out. So Lynn and I both had a plate of food leftover from the supper table that had been cooked for the family. Well, so much for the Verde Valley.
Iím going to go back down to the China Place now, and I donít know where I left off, but I think I was explaining that we had dug a dugout with our shovels and pickaxe and hoe and one thing or another, and Charlie Mahan helped dig it, my dad and I and Lynn and Frank, and we would dig on that and throw the dirt up on the bank or carry it out. We had a wheelbarrow, and carried it out in the wheelbarrow, and kind of made an apron there out in front of the dugout. Then after we got it down, I think it was about 7 feet down deep, we put a roof on it. We made the roof by stringing some poles across the top of the dugout, and then putting boards over them which weíd got from somewhere, I donít know where. Then we put dirt all over that, I guess we thatched it a little with the burr moodies [burmuda grass?] and other weeds that would hold dirt up, which kept the sunshine out of it, and made it a nice cool place to live in the winter time. We had walled the sides up with a kind of a cement mix, which we put on which was like a plaster, and we put a cement floor in it, and it wasnít such a bad place to live to keep out of the storms and etc. We had a big old barrel churn in there, and it was a pretty good place to keep our milk products, from our one cow that we were milking. The cream we would save, and when it got a large enough quantity we would put it into that big old barrel churn. Now I say barrel, because it was actually shaped like a barrel; more like a keg, it had a handle on one end, and standing between two side stands, you could take the crank and crank that barrel over. The barrel had some paddles on the inside of it that kinda stirred the cream up, and would help make it churn. And we would churn on that until the butter came. You could always tell when the butter come, because it would flop against, bang against the paddles on the inside, and make a thump thump thump thump. Then first weíd skim the butter out, then weíd drain the buttermilk off, and save it because we all liked buttermilk very much. Made good biscuits, too! My dad was a good biscuit maker, and so was my mother.
Well, my mother used the cream lots of times; of course we had it for our own table, but she also managed to make up a pound or two of butter patties. We had a little old box sort of a deal that held just a pound of butter, when it was squeezed down into it tight, flattened out on top with a little flat paddle that came with the box that you made the pats of butter with. Then my mother would wrap that up with a kind of a waxed paper, and she would take a pound or so of that, whenever we could accumulate that much, and take it into town, to trade for groceries. We didnít try to sell milk down there, but later on after we moved up to the Woodruff Place we did get a couple of more cows, and milk them and bottle the milk up and take it into town and sell it. It was also a source of a little cash.
Well, Iím getting ahead of my story here. The China Place was irrigated from the Cottonwood Ditch. We were the last patrons on that ditch, and sometimes we had water, and sometimes we didn't. The ditch all along the upper side of our farmland, had to be kept clean from grass, mostly johnson grass, and it grew quite fast and rapidly, whenever it had water to its supply. That was a hard job always getting the ditch cleaned out so we could get water to our crops. Well, we had a good little patch of alfalfa, maybe three or four acres, I donít remember the actual size of it, but we had a good little patch of alfalfa there which was put in on the border system, in other words, you made a ridge of dirt from the ditch down to the bottom (tape ends)