Wednesday, August 6, 2008
In the fall of 1935 I started the 7th grade at Park Hill Junior High School and began an interesting two years of unexpected association with one of my teachers. Her name was Miss Norton and she grew up on a farm in Fowler, Colorado just a few miles from where my Uncle Frank and Aunt Birdie (Harriman) lived. Somehow we made the connection that I liked to spend time visiting down there wherever I could, and she invited me to ride down to Fowler with her and another teacher, Miss Esther Hilton. She said that they went to Fowler almost every other weekend right after school on Friday, and they returned to Pueblo on Sunday evening about 5 or 6 p.m. Now this really appealed to me, and though I couldn’t go every time, I did go often. I would take my suitcase to school on Friday afternoon and then they would drop me off at our home on Sunday evenings.
I had great fun on these weekend trips to Fowler. Usually it was nothing real exciting, but just being with Clark and Alice Bell was a great pleasure for me. Many times it was just being with Clark doing one of the many chores around the ranch. One week it may have been fixing fence all day Saturday way out on the prairie many miles from the ranch house. That may not sound like fun to many people, but I always had a good time. Whatever we did, we made it fun and we enjoyed the fact that we were accomplishing something all of the time. This is where I really learned to work and to enjoy it. Uncle Frank made me feel like I was really something, and sometimes I would be paid for the work.
Sometimes it did get exciting. I remember one time when we were fixing an extension to a fence to go right up to the edge of a creek bed with a drop of about 15 feet. There was a large sage brush there, and as we attempted to hold down the brush with our feet and get a post hole near the edge, we heard a loud rattle and there was a large rattlesnake in the base of the brush. We both fell backwards getting out of there in a hurry!
Another time we were hunting rabbits up near the spillway from the Highline Ditch to the Apishapa Creek, and we observed that where the water had been released to the creek in order to clear the tumbleweeds out of the ditch, they had accumulated in a huge pile on the way to the creek. I don’t know if many people know what a great fire a large pile of tumbleweeds makes or not, but we thought it would be fun to burn this large pile of tumbleweeds.
There was no one at home; they had all gone to town except for Clark and me. Fowler is about five miles from the ranch house and the land is pretty flat. When we lit the tumbleweeds it made an awfully hot fire, and we had to back off a long way. The fire got bigger and bigger until the flames were going up into the air about 75 feet or more.
Just as the folks were leaving town they saw this huge fire ball and the smoke (from 5 miles away) and they thought it was the ranch house on fire. Needless to say, they were really excited until they close enough to know that it was not the house. It is also needless to say that we were in big trouble!
Bringing up the Rear
Another weekend found us irrigating the big garden which was just west of the house. We rode a big paint horse, bareback, up to the head gate and started the water running down to the garden and then proceeded to open small ditches into the rows of the garden. Then we went back to get down to the east end of the garden.
When those rows were watered we jumped on the paint horse again and went back up to the west end of the garden to reset the water. Clark was riding behind me, and as we got to the end of the garden, the horse started to step on the first tomato plant. Clark reached around me, grabbed the reins to pull him back from the plant. But when he did, the horse raised his head and reared up, causing us to start to slide back off the horse. As we slid, we held to the reins and pulled him back and up more until we slid off the rear end and into the ditch full of water and mud.
Clark lit in the ditch, I lit in his lap, and as we looked up, there was the huge rear end of the horse directly above us and about ready to drop into my lap. We were both scrambling to get out of the mud and water as the horse pivoted around and stepped on the side of my lower leg and buried it in the mud.
The horse scampered off a few feet and stopped. I jumped up and started hopping around on one foot thinking my leg was broken for sure; Clark was trying to get up out of the mud. We were so glad we weren’t sat on by that horse that we started laughing as Clark saw me hopping around on one foot, and we were both covered with mud. We must have been quite a sight.
Then we heard Aunt Birdie yelling from the other end of the garden to see if we were all right as she had seen the whole thing and didn’t know if we were badly hurt or not. She said all she knew was that I was hopping around like a chicken with its head cut off and Clark was still down in the mud! However, my leg was just bruised, but I was scared to death!
One day I went with Clark and Uncle Frank (Harriman) to the feed lots near Manzanola, Colorado. We were in a Chevy Coupe, pulling a horse trailer with a horse all saddled and ready to do something at the feed lots.
We drove down and took care of business, and put the horse back in the trailer to go home. This time we went up Highway 50 instead of taking the short cut on the back roads as Uncle Frank needed to go to the bank in Fowler on our way home. We met a couple of big trucks on the highway, and the horse began to jump around in the trailer. His bridle/halter was tied down pretty good, but he was jumping around a lot. Uncle Frank slowed down and when we were almost stopped the horse lunged and did a somersault over the front of the trailer and the saddle horn crashed in the trunk of the car. The bridle reins broke and as we were almost stopped, the horse rolled off to the ditch side of the road and was not hurt. We covered his eyes and got him back in the trailer and made it home.
Another day when I came out of an incident a little worse for wear (and would be for the rest of my life) was the day we were playing croquet in the front yard of the ranch house. Alice Bell was waiting for her turn by spinning on her toe with her croquet mallet at arm’s length in both hands, and I was sitting on the grass waiting for my turn. When my turn came, I jumped up just in time for her mallet to meet the end of my nose with enough force to send me flat on my back, my nose bleeding like mad! To this day I have trouble with my nose, even though I had surgery on it in 1993 in Greeley. I have never cared much for croquet since that time.
There were many more fun weekends, but that is enough for now.