Ford I. Gano History – Tape 5 Side A

I’m going to try once more. This is the second time that I’m going to record the time I spent, the three years I spent up at the Penley Ranch. After I’d left the CCC’s when they closed up, a high school friend of mine, Frank Andrews, had suggested that I come up and work for Frank Penley at his ranch up there, his apple orchard up at Oak Creek. I went up there tentatively with him, like the looks of the situation, and Frank offered me a job, $30 a month, and board and room. Well that’s what I’d been getting the past two years with the CCC’s, so why not? It was a job, anyway, and much better than I could probably expect anywhere else. So I took it, moved up with my friend Frank into to bunk house that they had built there at the side of the alfalfa field, Frank and I and Uncle John. No, Uncle John lived in the house.

Now Uncle John was that native that I’ve spoken about before, he was a native of Sweden, and he’d come hitchhiking down the road one time, looking for a bite to eat and a place to sleep. They put him to work, and he was such a good old worker that they kept him on. They had him there with them several years, he was just a choice old worker. He could hew rocks with the best of them, and he could also lift them around though he was getting on up in years.

I went to work for Frank Penley that year, Mr. Penley I’ll call him from now on, and he and Jane Penley, his wife, had four children, and I don’t think I can remember their names; the oldest boy was named Tom, and the oldest girl was Jessie Lou. And there was Isabel, and the third was Patsy I think, and the next one was Donald. Well, they had those four [sic] and we all got along very well together. Frank was a kind of an easy going man, I’d known him in highschool, in fact junior high school. He’d been a champion basketball player in junior High School, because he was a tall boy, and among those juniorites, he was a head way taller than we. So our basketball team had a high percentage of wins that year on account of Frank. I also was on the basketball squad, I don’t think I made the team exactly, but I got to go to all the games and cheer them on. [Break]

The phone rang, and I don’t like to answer it. But when Lucille’s not around, and she’s not around on Monday morning, I thought I’d better answer it. Nothing I could do to answer the questions that they wanted to know.

Well back to my friend Frank Andrews, who was a tall basketball player, and as a result of his height and his abilities the Clemenceau Junior High team won almost all of its basketball games that year. Anyway, he’s the one that invited me up to Penley’s when he knew that I was looking for work.

Getting acquainted with that ranch and the family; they had a bunkhouse in which the hired hands lived. Mr. John the old native from Sweden lived in the house and had become part of the family; a very reliable old man, who milked the cows and everything that they needed. Except drive the car; he couldn’t drive the car. Well, ok so much for that.

I enjoyed working there. They had of course the big apple orchard, and the younger orchard there coming along, and the alfalfa field in which the younger trees had been planted. I succeeded that first year when I was trying to mow the alfalfa with a scythe, I was mowing it around the trees where you couldn’t get in there with a team mower, and I happened to clip off a tree. Well, Frank Penley, Mr. Penley had told me when I first got in there, he says "Oh my goodness, you be careful now, because those trees are worth at least $10 apiece. They’ve been in there two years now, and I sure don’t want them harmed." Well the first thing I did swinging that old scythe there in that alfalfa field was to hook a blade over one end of a tree and snap it right off.

Well I felt bad, but to show you what kind of a man Mr. Penley was, I had to go and confess to him, and offered to have him take $10 out of my $30 a month pay, to pay for the tree. He wouldn’t accept it, he said "Well, you’ve learned a lesson. Be careful, and don’t hook anymore." I was really careful after that. But that was Mr. Penley’s characteristic.

He was really a kind of an ingenious man; independent as all get out, married a wife that was younger than he, native there of Oak Creek, by the name of Jane. The story was that she used to run around wild in the Oak Creek area, barefoot and so forth and so on. But Jane was really a nice person too, she cooked the meals for all of us, and we boarded and ate right in the house. Mr. Penley had built a nice big house a couple of years ahead of that time, in order to move his wife in, to start a family there. Mr. John did the brick work, and it was made out of fancy brick from the area up there. The house had hard oak floors, but practically no furniture in it; one couch on one side of the dining room. The dining room sidled up to the kitchen with a big long table in it, and all of us hired hands got to eat right there at the big table. No tablecloth on it or anything, and Jane Penley would just set the food on there in big bowls and all of helped ourselves as it went around the table, hoping that there would be something left there for the last guy helping. It was kind of like the dining hall at school.

Well, we picked apples in the summertime and then sorted them out into boxes, and they were lugged off to the markets. The first year, at the end of the three months, I quit Penley’s and they paid me off. I hadn’t used any money, he gave me my $90, and I went back to school.

How I went to school. My mother had insisted, well, she hadn’t insisted necessarily, but she wished that I would try to enroll in school down at the Tempe university down in Tempe Arizona. Tempe State Teacher’s College, it was called. ASTC, Arizona State Teachers College it later became known by.

The first year I did go down to Tempe, and enrolled in school and had a wonderful time down there at the state teacher college down there at Tempe. I had to work for my board, I did earn half of my living there in a job that they gave me in the dining hall. I enjoyed that job, I got acquainted with all the students that came to eat in the dining hall because I stood behind the counter and served them different platters of food that they wanted to eat. Met plenty of the girls too, and liked it very well. I went out for football that year at Tempe, and made the freshman team. But the football schedule was so heavy, about 3 hours of practice each day after going to school, after class time, and then back to the old grind of getting lessons prepared as well as working part time at the dining hall. So at the end of that year, although I had enjoyed myself very much that first year as a freshman, at the end of the year I didn’t have enough money. I had used up all that I had earned of course, eating and sleeping, so I had to go work that summer.

I’d made some good friends there in East Hall, where’d stayed that year. Though at the start of the year I had to take a room off campus, where I’d made a friend of mine called Norris Gilbert. He was a big old boy from back east, who got along swell with everybody, so he got along with me. He too went out for football, and made the team, but he got discouraged and quit also at the end of the year.

I decided not to go back for football the next year because it was taking too much of my time, and I wanted to get a better than the C average that I got the first year that I was going to school down in Tempe.

So I had gone back up to Penley’s, and they had given me a job again at the Penley ranch. I had to help more that summer selling the fruit, though I’d work a great deal of the time in the apple orchard. They’d built a great big applehouse now, and had put the bunkhouse in one corner of the apple house. Frank and I and Uncle Ed, who was a half-brother to Jane, stayed there, and we got along swell, and everybody enjoyed each other. I just learned how to sell apples and sort them out a little, by going along with Mr. Penley as he took his truck to go to the towns to sell them various places.

In the fall of the year, he would take a truckload off down to Phoenix, Arizona, and John Thompson [sic], my roommate Frank’s brother had the job of driving the truck to sell the apples in Phoenix that year.

Now I’ll get to the next year very fast here, because that’s when I got that job, of driving the truck. After crating up the apples in the summertime, and doing the other things around the farm, I got the job of taking the apple truck down to Phoenix. Mr. Penley went along with me the first time, the first few trips, to get me acquainted and show me where to go and how to do it. But what I’m getting to is I had a heck of an accident that year with Mr. Penley’s truck.

Leroy Wells, another high school friend of mine, had come out to work with Mr. Penley, and Leroy also wanted to help drive that truck. He’d been born with a hand that had only been half formed, so Mr. Penley was afraid to let him go completely with the truck or drive the truck entirely by his own. So he put him in the truck to go with me. We took turns, of course, driving most of the time, but Mr. Penley was afraid that Leroy’s hand might bother him just a little going over the Mingus Mountain. So I always had to drive over Mingus Mountain. I didn’t mind it.

You haven’t ever seen Mingus Mountain, you don’t know what it is. Jerome’s sitting up there on the side of that mountain, and you went around one curve on that mountain going upward, and you saw houses sitting on stilts up above you. Pretty quick you’d come up to the front of them and you’d see more houses up above them built the same way, winding around through the town until you got up past the town itself and started up Mingus Mountain. Well, it was really a winding old road, really steep. Though it was considered a good highway, at the time anyway, and I never had any trouble driving it. I always had to drive up Mingus Mountain. We always had to make that trip in low gear, because with that truckload of apples, and with the steepness of those roads, we just couldn’t make it in any other gear. When we got up to the top, you could coast for a little ways, where it was kind of flat – we could shift up to a higher gear, second, which was as high as we could usually go, and we could look back over the Verde Valley, clear out to Penley Ranch, even, although it was clear up on upper Oak Creek, and couldn’t be seen from where we were there on Mingus Mountain. But going down the other side, we had to shift back into low gear, and take it very easy off down there the side of the mountain, down into Lonesome Valley, which was a connecting link with Prescott Arizona, which was the next town we were passing through.

Well, I just want to mention in passing that sad accident that happened one time driving down through the Lonesome Valley area. I’d just come down Mingus Mountain, and got down almost to the flat of the valley, and had shifted into a higher gear and was rolling along at a pretty good speed. A normal speed, anyway. I’d seen a car, the headlights of a car, far off in Lonesome Valley, there about 2 o’clock in the morning, as I drove down off Mingus into the valley below. When I got down there, I lost sight of it for a minute or two, and then there it was again, coming at me around a little curve around a little wash in the road, that had required a twist in the road to get around. There it was right in front of me.

I tried to dodge it, slammed on the brakes a little, but it wouldn’t do any good to hold that big truck with that load of apples on, and thinking the best thing to do would be to miss it back over on the other side, on the wrong side of the passing car, because it was over on my side of the road. It was the wrong side of the road for him to be on, and I tried pulling over on the other side of the car. All this had taken just a few seconds for me to do, and in the process, I couldn’t make it back. I’d slammed the brakes on at the top of the little hill, making some black marks on the road, which fortunately came in handy later on when they had me up in the arraignment which they had after the accident.

I hit that approaching car, which was just a light vehicle, on the right front fender, and it stopped the truck, along with my brakes, and it threw the apples up over the truck there and sheared the truck cab right off. I was trying to hold the truck on the road and keep it from going out into the gully, and I’d slid off to one side, and fortunately was down in the front seat below the cab where when the apples slid off they would have just sliced me in two. It went ahead and sliced the cab off, and sliced the windshield off, and threw the apples headlong out into the valley below.

Well, so much for that, except that the sad thing that happened was when I walked back to the car that I’d run into. I opened the door, and the driver was sitting there with his head on the front wheel, and I asked him if he was all right. He mumbled that he was alright, but his buddy there, his passenger, had been hurt, he didn’t know how bad. Well, I couldn’t find any signs of life in him. In the meantime I went back to look at what had happened in our truck. Leroy had been sleeping up on top of the truck while we made that first part of the trip. He usually took over later on in the valley when we got into Wickenburg, and he would drive on in to Phoenix. He had made a little spot in the boxes, with his tarp and his sleeping bag, and he had been sleeping very soundly all the way from the ranch when we left down there in the valley. And it had thrown him and the apples off the truck.

I hollered "Leroy, where are you? Are you all right?" And I hear a faint voice holler "Yeah, I’m over here." I went over to see him, and he was OK, except for where a box of apples had slid by him and hurt the side of his face, or cut an ear lobe and it was bleeding on the side of his face. Well, I looked at it with the flashlight, and found out - he had his hand over it too, though, so it wasn’t bleeding very much, and he began helping me to see what we could find out. And of course, the truck had spilled every apple we had, and turned itself over down in the gutter at the side of the road. Apples scattered all over.

About that time I looked back up Mingus Mountain and saw the lights of an approaching vehicle. So I hurried back up there with flares to stop him before he got down there, because we had the car still sitting there on the wrong side of the road. I flagged down the vehicle, it happened to be a big empty truck, and the truck driver eased back down to throw his lights over the wreckage to see what had happened. He eased his way around the wreckage, and decided he would go on in to town, and send somebody back to help. Leroy got into the truck with him, and I thought he ought to go to the doctor or hospital, I figured he just needed to see the doctor. When he got into town, which was about 20 miles away, almost the whole length of Lonesome Valley, and found that the only place he could get help at 2 o’clock in the morning was at the hospital. Of course the other man, they had to take him in too, he was unconscious.

When I got in later that night, 5 o’clock in the morning in fact, I called Mr. Penley. Well, first I called my mother – oh how good mothers can be sometimes, when a scared and frightened boy is…

Well we called the hospital to find out what the score was there. And one passenger had only a clipped ear, and they pinned it back together; that was Leroy. And the other passenger was DOA, dead on arrival. Oh my goodness, how sad I felt at that time. I didn’t know what to do. Then I called Mr. Penley, and told him what the circumstances was at that time and he was there in less than two hours in his car.

So we went through the normal policemen and then went back out to take care of the truck. We found out that there wasn’t anything that we could do with it. We just had to leave it there and go back up to Prescott, where Mr. Penley went to a dealer and asked him to send a wrecker out there to pull in the truck, and after they decided it was unfixable, they just traded it in on a new International truck. I went back over to Oak Creek, I swore I would never drive the truck.

Mrs. Penley said, "Ford, you’re going to get in that truck and you’re going to drive it. It wasn’t your fault." In fact, the committee that met the following morning with Frank there, Mr. Penley was there, they had an arraignment with the parents of the driver of that car that I had met with him on the wrong side, to find out what had to be done.

The arraignment was the day after the accident, I hadn’t gone back to Oak Creek with Mr. Penley, and stayed there one night.

The new truck was a same model ton and a half, with sideboards and all, and I said "Well, I’m not ever going to drive it again." And Mrs. Penley said "Ford you’re going to get in that truck and drive it!" She couldn’t drive herself, so she couldn’t say I’ll show you how to do it. So I moaned and groaned around there enough for so long and finally they persuaded me to get back in, it would be better for me and everybody concerned if I would just get back in the truck and drive it again. I really didn't want to, but I did, and I guess it was the best thing.

Anyway, I continued on the rest of that summer, hauling apples down to Phoenix Arizona, getting down to the markets about 4 o’clock in the morning. There we’d get rid of the load, and get back to the Penley ranch about two o’clock in the afternoon. Well, of course there was always two of us on the truck, Leroy continued working there over the summer, though he had a couple of inches taken off of his head – a couple of stitches taken in his ear where it had cut the lobe off of it, not entirely, but enough so that they could put a couple of stitches in it and make it whole.

So he always went with me on those trips down into the valley. Well, that was a sad, sad experience. At the arraignment, they decided that I was not at fault. They had gone out the day before and looked at the tracks out there that were incurred, and they found out that the guy, his partner and he had just been into town for a good time. They evidently had had just a few too many beers, and there were beer cans over the bottom of the car there, which were confiscated at that time. And anyway, the committee, which included the Sheriff and deputy Sheriff, and the county attorney; I was acquitted of any wrongdoing. At the arraignment, I should say, from any wrongdoing. Didn’t have my driver’s license or anything taken from me, or anything of that sort.

And that was the year I had stayed out of school, and had not gone back at the end of the summer to get a second year of school. But at the end of that year, Mr. Penley had [end of tape]