Ford I. Gano History – Tape 4 Side B
…Left me alone the other morning to try to tape a little by my recorder by myself, and I made a heyday of it by making a mistake from one end to the other. The first mistake I made was I went clear through one side of a tape set on play rather than on recording, so when I got to the end of it, I had nothing there for all my efforts. Well, so much for my dopey mistakes that I make every time I turn around, so it seems.
Well, this is the side that I missed out on, and I’m going back and trying to record some of the things I think I said, or follow up on some of the things was talking about.
I believe I was up at the Penley ranch at this particlar time, describing his family, and John, he was the old Swedish man that worked there for the Penleys. They also had an Uncle Ed lived there with them, and he was a carpenter, he did a lot of carpenter work for them, not so much on the house, but on the service station they built, and on the apple house that they had built. I guess he was the primary engineer and supervisor and the carpenter for all that. They had made the apple house one year while I was not present. They had started it before I went back to school, at the end of that summer, and when I got back the next year, they had completed it that winter. It was a very nice apple house that was made in a kind of an arroyo, or canyon, that came down just after it went into their property, between their house and the barn. They had excavated out from that, and made a cement floor, cement walls, and put a two story building that was very efficient as an apple house. The bottom story or walk in part of it, was a place to store the apples, or fruit or whatever, because it was nice and cool there in the summertime, or warm in the wintertime even. Then up on the second floor they had the work area, where all the fruit was separated and made available for the market.
Mr. Penley had purchased a commercial apple sorter, which previously had been done by individuals, which was very time consuming, dumping out a box of apples and separating them out into their sizes. This apple machine, apple sorter they’d purchased, was very efficient. You dump the apples in at one end, and by gravity they would flow down across the machine, on rollers, and be separated in such a manner that the larger apples were held back, and the smaller apples were dropped through to bins underneath, where they were taken care of by the workers that would sit alongside of it. A very efficient machine. In the fall of the year, or late summer, when we were doing the harvesting, Mr. Penley hired extra help to operate it and keep it running.
Mr. John was the official boxer. Packing the apples into the box, and nailing the lid on them and stacking them all in the corner of the building. He was a very capable worker although he was way up in years. Lots of these old-timers can outwork a youngster 2-to-1, I think.
Although I did help out on the apple sorter a time or two, most of my time my buddy Frank… by the way, there was one corner of the room that was made off into a bunkhouse, and in this corner we had our beds set up, and lights and tables and one thing or another. Where Frank and I, what I mean by Frank, Frank was a High School, well a schoolmate of mine, from junior high school on up. He was the one who actually got me the job with the Penleys, when the CCC’s closed down and quit operating. I worked with him quite a bit. We did a lot of apple picking, climbing into the trees with ladders of course, and picking the apples into sacks, which we carried on our shoulders, then carrying them down the ladders, whatever we were using, to dump them into the trays or boxes we had below on the ground. These then were picked up by a tractor/trailer behind us and hauled into the apple house where they were separated into their bins.
Well, so much for that.
As fall came about, and the apple picking was over, I got the job of hauling the apples into market. Mr. Penley let me drive his truck and haul the apples, either into local markets in Flagstaff or Winslow, or back the other direction into Cottonwood and Clarkdale. We didn’t take too many up through them, because it was quite uphill, to get up there on the old Mingus Mountain road. We did take a few up there though to the UVX store that handled all the trade up there, but our big market was down in Phoenix.
Mr. Penley went with me the first trip or two that I made, and we would load the truck up in the afternoon, stacking the boxes very securely on both sides, from the front straight back, pulling the tarp over and then tying the tarp down. About 10 o’clock at night we would set out for Phoenix, where the markets were. And that entailed a trip down through the Verde Valley, up through Clarkdale, up the mountainside to Jerome, the little winding streets where houses stood on stilts to keep them upright. You could look back and see the road you just came over, look up and see the road you’re going to be on, a lot of the time. Well, it was all good road as far as pavement was concerened, but very twisted and turning, and very much up grade. We had to usually go up one side of Mingus Mountain in low gear, very seldom able to put it into second gear, especially with a load on the truck.
After we got going down the other side of the mountain, we had to keep it in low gear, in order to keep control of the speed, until we got down on the flats below, and tapered off into Lonesome Valley. Across Lonesome Valley, which was about a 20 mile stretch over into Prescott, and from Prescott we would head off down Arnell Hill Road, which was about 20 miles from Prescott going south towards Phoenix. Arnell Hill was another good little sloping ride, twisty and turning off down into the valley below. From the valley of course, we’d converge on down, we had good straight roads all the way into Phoenix. We would get into Phoenix about 4 o’clock in the morning, still nice and fairly cool. Although lots of times in the summer time, even up into fall, we’d find many people as we’d go through the outskirts of the town, sleeping on the lawns in their bvd’s trying to keep cool.
We would go on into the central part of town where the market was located, this was an open market for wholesalers, who’d come into buy their produce for the day from the various producers who’d brought it in there to sell. Frank, Mr. Penley I should say, had already set up a more or less of a good contact, to sell his apples through. He was selling his own brand of apples. They were called the [tape switches off]…?nd Orchard. Fruit, highest quality (note 1), and he nice little labels that were pasted on the boxes or whatever fruit he was taking into town himself. He had a good reputation of being able to deliver good quality apples. So he sold to some of the bigger markets, I can’t remember some of the names of the big commercial stores there in Phoenix, and also some of the other towns all over the valley there.
We would back the truck up to the unloading platform, and then untarping the truck, we would open up a few of the boxes to show what our produce was like. We would come out and walk around the edge of the truck, along the side of the truck, they would select the type of apple they wanted which ranged in size from large, which was called a number 80, to the common size 125, we even had a smaller, for some people who preferred that. But the 125s were the average size apple that you bought on the market, then and today too.
We would usually get the truck unloaded by about 1 or 2 o’clock, and then head back for Oak Creek Canyon, back for home, and make the trip in reverse that we had made all the way down there.
Mr. Penley went with me a time or two, to kind of get me broke in, then he let me take out on my own. I found it to be quite a job, to drive the truck all the way down there by myself, and to be able to sell the apples after I got down there. But a little later on in the fall, a friend of mine who I knew in high school and who I’d had on many a cowboy trip was Leroy Wells. And Leroy was looking for a job, so I recommended Leroy to Mr. Penley. And Mr. Penley hired him, and this was in spite of a birth defect that he had on his left hand. He had only a good thumb, and several stubs of fingers for the rest of his hand. But it never seemed to bother him on anything, except where he had to grapple a rope or something like that smaller in size. He had learned to adapt himself to get along very well with his other hand and that stub of a hand on the left side. But he could drive a vehicle very well. And although Mr. Penley was a little bit shy of having him drive a truck, he would finally agree to let him drive it a part of the way. I would take the truck over the mountain and down the Arnell, but between Leroy could drive the truck.
So on one occasion, Leroy and I were driving the truck, starting the regular routine and made the trip up over the mountain, down the other side. And going down across Lonesome Valley, I was driving the truck. Leroy was asleep, up on top of the load in a nook that he had hollowed out among the boxes on top of the tarp. Curled up in his blanket he always got a good nap there. Whoever was sleeping up there always got a good nap, I would do that too, when I wasn’t driving.
But I was driving this particular trip. Going down across, easing off the mountain you might say, down onto Arnell Hill, you could look clear out on the bottom area, Lonesome Valley it was called, which was about 20, 25 miles there in length as it came into the suburbs of Prescott. While I was easing down that area, usually in a lower gear, you’d get right down at the bottom and you’d put your truck into a higher gear, and let it run by its own momentum down across the valley. And I could see off in the distance a kind of a car light coming from the other direction, and I was kind of aware of that. But after dropping off into a little draw and kind of a curve in the road, I came around that curve, and there was that car right in front of me on my side of the road!
Well, I was going too fast to make a quick stop, and evidently the driver wasn’t able to make a quick stop either. And I just, although I should say the right hand side of the road would have been the best to go off of, to miss the other car, it was a little rough, and draws down in there, and I didn’t think I could get down in there with a truck loaded with apples. I made a, a wrong decision I think now, I tried to pull toward the left side of the car, and go by him on the left, which would have been the wrong side to pass on. I never made it past him.
I hit his right front fender, and tore his vehicle almost right in two, with the truck, its momentum and its weight coming down that slope into Lonesome Valley. Well, it was a sad situation, the old truck went off down the left hand side of the road, and overturned, scattering apples, and Leroy, out across the flat land that was down there, where I hoped I could bring the truck under control. But it got into a side ditch of the road, and I couldn’t control it. Some of it, as I not only, I should add, explain at least, that the hauled out load of apples behind me came right up over the cab of the truck, and sheared the cab of the truck completely off. Had I not leaned over I guess, instinctively or whatever, I think what I was trying to do was to keep the truck from going too far out into the ditch that was over there, and I was pulling on the wheel on that side that I’d leaned over to try to pull it over just as hard as I could. But anyway, when that load of apples slid off over the front of the truck, I was down far enough in the cab so that it missed me completely. I was not hurt in any way. But it went five or six lengths of the truck, and finally turned over on its side, dumping the apples farther off down the road. I guess they went a good fifty, sixty, maybe a hundred yards down that road. It was sure one big old mess.
It was worse when I went back to the car that I’d torn the side off of, and found that it had killed the passenger who was on the other side of the truck. The driver had completely escaped. I opened up the door and looked in, and found them sitting slumped over on their seats. In trying to talk to them to find out what was going on, I could smell beer very strongly, very vividly. They had been into a kind of a night owl in Prescott, to a beer parlor, and I guess that was about all they had been drinking, because there was no sign of liquor there in the car. Anyway, the one man, passenger in the car, had been killed.
Well, boy, was I sick. The next thing that I thought of was Leroy. Where’s Leroy?! I went out hunting around in those boxes of apples out there, and he finally hollered back at me, and says, "I’m over here!" I don’t know whether or not he had been knocked out or not, but I don’t see how he could have helped but to have been knocked out, because he had apple boxes all around him. And all that had happened to him was that one box of apples had nipped one lobe of his ear completely off. He had a little blood on his ear, but outside of that, he wasn’t hurt.
Well, we sized up the situation, got our flares out on the road to stop any traffic that might come along. I took a flare up on the back end, which was on that slopy curve that I’d come around, and sure enough, I could see a truck coming down off of Mingus Mountain there. I got my lights out just as quick as I could, and jumped out in the middle of the road and managed to stop him up there, before he got down there. I explained to the driver what had happened, so he eased his truck off down there to where we were getting lights on the whole situation. To shorten it up, why Leroy, who just didn’t know quite exactly what had happened to his ear, he could feel the blood up there, he got into the truck with the driver of this truck that came down the hill, which by the way was empty so he had been able to stop his truck without any trouble. We put the man who turned out to be dead, I didn't know whether he was dead or not at the time, but when they got into town later in the morning, I called the hospital and asked if there’d been anybody let in there, and they said yes, one was DOA, and Leroy, which had just a lobe of an ear severed, and was patched up and waiting for me to come to find out what to do.
First thing I did was to get to a phone and call my mother. She was living in Prescott at that time, and I called my mother and explained the situation to her. So then, between the two of us, we called Mr. Penley, and told him what had happened. We had to make a long distance call from Prescott over to Oak Creek, which I guess took the better part of the rest of the night. But it wasn’t long until Mr. Penley came driving over in his car, and he had seen apples and the trucks back there on the road. He wanted to know if we were all right. He was very calm about it, just wanted to know for sure if Leroy and I had escaped unscathed.
We decided, or he decided, that we’d go back in his car and get wrecker to try to come out to pick up the truck, and pick up the rest of the apples that there was, but we couldn’t get anybody to pick them up. So there they are out there off the side of the road, just dumped off, big piles of apple boxes. People that came by, that found out about them sure had their fill of apples that particular day. Mr. Penley and I went back to the Jerome dealer where he had got his truck and well, I got ahead of myself there.
We went back to Prescott, and there he went into the Dodge truck dealer there, wait, it wasn’t a Dodge, it was an International truck dealer, and talking with him made arrangements to have a new truck sent over to his barn, to his ranch. We went on back to the ranch. Of course I was sick to my stomach, sick of life, and everything else, knowing what tragedy I had partially caused, perhaps by pulling over to one side of the road when I shouldn’t have done so. At least I took that to be my only escape at that time.
I had to go back to Prescott the next day for a hearing. A sheriff and a deputy sheriff and the police of the town of Prescott there all made arrangements there, and they had the survivor of the car come, along with his parents, along with parents of the boy, of the man, that was killed, for this hearing. They talked to me about it, to get an explanation of how it happened, and to the best of my ability I told them. They had also investigated the scene of the accident out there, and saw how the situation was, and saw how it could easily have happened. The truck that had picked Leroy and the other man up and took them into Prescott to the hospital…[tape ends]
1 In switching the microphone back on, Grandpa apparently began to speak before the tape resumed recording. What is recorded sounds somewhat different from the name he described on Tape 4 Side A, which was Falls Branch Orchard.