09 February 2012

MY DAD

This week I am going to do something a little different. This might mean very little to a lot of you but a few of you might appreciate it.

This is going to be about my father who just died on the first of February of this year. Although he was ninety-two years old and according to him, he should have died twenty years ago. So for the last five years he was grouchy as hell and tough to get along with, at least for me, there was a stab in my heart when I got the call that he had passed away.

I suppose most of us think that our fathers are extraordinary and a lot of them probably are. But this is about my Dad, not yours.

My Dad started working at the age of fourteen on the YU ranch near Meeteetse, Wyoming. That would have been about 1933 and I think that it was called the YU even back then.

They were threshing grain and of course it was hauled to the grainaries with teams of horses and wagons. His job was to unload those wagon loads of grain into the grainary with a number #10 scoop shovel. For about twelve hours a day with a little break for dinner at noon.

When the grain was all threshed, he got a job hauling the straw across the river to "Bronco Nell's" place with the help of her son. He was only on this job a day or two when he managed to catch a ride to town so he could visit his folks who lived in Meeteetse at that time.

In fact, the house is still there. I don't know the original owners but to me it was always known as the Bramhall house. It still stands on the corner of Warren Street and Water Avenue.

Since no one was expecting him to come home, he got into the house before anyone could stop him. Well, it sucked to be him because two younger sisters, a younger brother and his Dad all had scarlet fever and the house was under quarantine so once he was there, he couldn't leave and of course, he too ended up getting scarlet fever.

The house is a two story house and at that time it had an outhouse in the back yard. You need to know this because his younger brother, Wallace, died of scarlet fever so my Dad, who hadn't come down with the disease yet, and his dad, who was getting over it, took the door off of the shithouse, as my dad told it, and laid Wallace on it between two kitchen chairs in the upstairs hallway. He had to lay there a couple of days while Lawrence Todd, who was my dad's uncle and Hector Todd, Lawrence's son, built a box to bury him in.

They brought the wooden box down and set it in the yard and then the family took it into the house and wrapped Wallace in a blanket and put him in the box and nailed it shut and put it back out into the yard where Lawrence and Hector picked it up with a team and wagon and hauled him to the cemetery and buried him without much ado. He was only twelve years old.

The rest of the family eventually recovered and then my Dad went to work for the Pitchfork Ranch where he mostly worked the rest of his life.

He spent the 1940s on the Pitchfork pioneering roads throughout the area so the ranch which at that time was huge, could move sheep wagons and haul and move supplies around the mountains.

So if you are driving on an old trail on Carter Mountain, or Phelps Mountain, up Dick Creek or Rose Creek or Meeteetse Creek, chances are, you are driving on a road that was first laid out by him. The chances are almost a hundred percent. And when you see an old washed out dam in a little gully that was probably used for a stock pond, that to was probably almost certainly built by him.

He said that if he could back the dozer up a hill in high reverse he knew that a Jeep could make it up the hill. That was his rule of thumb so to speak.

Him and one of my uncles were the ones that started building the Foster Dam. We were camped up there in sheep wagons. It is where I learned to walk so that was probably about 1949. He also helped build the Rawhide Dam when it was first constructed.

He did all of the mechanic work on the dozer and the can (scraper) that he pulled behind it. It was never taken into the shop, wherever it broke down was where it was repaired.

He told stories of himself and a guy called Ingle Von Krosick (That is probably not spelled right) sawing cabins into pieces and hauling them with a team and wagon out of Fifteen Mile to different locations on the ranch. He also told of him and this guy planting grass down there and there are places down there in Fifteen Mile where you can see that the grass was planted with a drill to this day. These jobs were their winter work.

He married my Mom in March of 1946. He met her on the Whit Ranch where she was a cook and he was there haying. The details of it were never revealed to me. But they spent the next forty plus years with him working and her cooking. Sometimes during the haying season for over forty young men three meals a day with only my sister for help. Of course when myself and later my little brother were old enough, we got to do a lot of dishes.

In the late 1950s, when his cousin, Calvin Todd, married Margo Beldon, he was the foreman for the farming part of the ranch for a few years.

At this time, Meeteetse on Saturday night had more people celebrating than it has even on Labor Day today. And that was every Saturday night. There was a theater where the kids could go to the show while the women bought groceries since the Mecantile stayed open until 9PM on Saturday night. Also, ranch hands could get advances on their wages there so they had money to drink with.

The men would go to the bars and drink and tell stories, maybe snag up a dirty sheepherder and clean him up and give him a shave. Whether he wanted it or not. It was a really easy place to catch a beating of even get shot if you happened to think that you were a tough guy.

You had ranch hands and roughnecks packing the three or four bars and mostly things went pretty smoothly, but they could get out of hand very quickly. The town marshal and the deputy sheriff who lived there just kept out of the way and let everyone have their fun. If you got hurt, it was probably your fault anyway.

He worked on a lot of different ranches that were all under the Pitchfork brand over the years. When the ranch split apart in the early 1950s he stayed on with the Phelps part of it until he became the foreman of the Pitchfork. But when he was still with the Phelps part of it we lived on the -TL except for a little bit when they bought a small place down by Burlington and then we lived there about a year. That is where I started to school. I had to ride a school bus to Greybull. That is also where we were when my little brother was born.

Every time we moved and every place we lived back then, the very first things that he had to do when we moved in was to dig a new toilet hole and put up clothes lines for Mom while she totally repainted the inside of the house. It was almost a given at every new place we ever lived.

When my Mom got sick with emphysema, my Dad kind of retired to take care of her. He would still go out and hay for the Pitchfork or Larsens or Fernandez or other places around the area. But mostly he stayed home and puttered around fixing lawn mowers and chain saws and cutting and hauling wood for people who were either too old and rickity or too lazy to do it for themselves.

He actually was still helping people hay and doing mechanic work for some of the ranchers until he was almost eighty-five. By then my Mom had died and also my brother and my Dad took it upon himself and moved to the Canyon Village in Thermopolis. After a few years of living there, he thought it would be nice to have someone else clean and cook for him so he moved to the Pioneer Home.

That was the beginning of the end for him. It didn't take long before he just quit doing anything or even wanting to do anything. So I hope that he is now in a better place where he will once again be the happy go lucky person that he always was.

This blog was a little wordy but I could have made it a lot longer than it is. But now you have an idea of the man that my father was. I hope that you enjoyed learning about my Dad.

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