My Cowboy background
When I was very young I lived on a small farm near Carey, Idaho. The farm is just a mile east of Carey right next to the cemetery. We drove by it on our way back from Wisconsin in the fall 1986, it had not changed much and I was amazed by how small the house was. We moved there when I was 4. The house had a largish kitchen, a small living room and a master bedroom on the first floor. A bathroom had been added to the house after it had been built and was added to the side of the kitchen. The upstairs would have to be called an attic but it had 3 sections 2 of which were paneled and were used as bedrooms. In the winter it was so cold up there because the stairway had a door on it at the bottom so that heat would not go up. Cotton sheets were so cold we could not bear to put our feet down into the cold bed. We would tuck our feet up until we got the bed warmed up and then gradually extend our feet down between the icy sheets. It was a wonderful event when Mom bought us some flannel sheets because they didn’t feel so cold. Another trick we used was to heat the flat iron on the stove, then wrap it in newspaper and put it in the bottom of the bed.
We did have an electric range but we didn’t have 220 electrical service so the range was just a place to set pans. We had a big black cast-iron wood range with 4 openings in the top for adjusting the fire inside. Sometimes mom would take the lid off one of the holes and cover the hole with a pot or skillet that way she could get more heat directly to the pan. The range had a big oven where she made bread, cakes, pies and roasts. with the door open she would dry socks and shoes on the door in the winter. This stove also had a coil of pipes in it which were connected to a large tank behind the stove which held the hot water. If we wanted a hot bath we had to have a fire in the kitchen range.
Beside the range nearest the door was a large wooden box which held the wood used in the stove. It was my job to keep that box full of wood. If it got low I was reminded to fill it to the top. To help me with this chore I had a little wagon. Dad had built tall sides on it so that it could hold a lot of wood. I would fill it with wood from the wood pile out in the barn yard and pull it to the house and then transfer it to the box in the kitchen. In the winter I used a sled.
Store bought bread came in waxed paper bags which were very useful. Mom would wad them up and rub them on the top of the hot stove. The wax would melt on to the stove and give the top of the stove a nice even black shiny surface. Then it was put into the wood box because it was great for starting fires.
One summer when I was 5 or 6 my cousin Nadine Hebert, Aunt Hazel’s oldest daughter, came to our farm with her husband and about 50 horses. They had taken a job driving these horses for a rancher from one farm to another along the road. It was a multi-day event and they had made arrangements with Dad to pasture the heard in one of our pastures for a day or 2.
Dad did have a John-Deer tractor but we also had a team of horses which he used for farm work. There names were Pet and Bell. Bell was a work horse much bigger and heavier than Pet who was a saddle pony, but they were harnessed and used as a team. We had a saddle but it didn’t have a cinch so we had to ride bareback if we rode her. So you can imagine how excited I was when my cousin came with an extra saddle and lots of horses. She saddled one up for me and I rode all day long up and down the road helping move the horses. As I rode, cars that came along would have to wait patiently while we moved the horses out of the roadway so they could get through. I remember waving to the people in the cars and figuring out little tricks I could do to show-off to them, which generated many smiles.
In a few days they were gone and I was back to playing cowboy and Indians with my sisters with stick horses. Our stick horses were just willows with a piece of bailing twine tied to the large end which worked as reigns. I never had a real cowboy hat but mom let me borrow her straw gardening hat which didn’t quite look like a cowboy hat but I had a good imagination, so off I galloped on my stick horse feeling like a cowboy chasing Indians. In those days the movies were about cowboys and Indians or cops and robbers so we played one or the other usually the former. My cousin Aubry Jones, eldest son of My aunt Creta always wanted to play army because he said that he was going to be a solder so he needed to practice. I tried but I had not seen any war movies so I had a hard time getting into it.
Looking back I am struck with how much freedom I had at the tender age of 5. I was completely on my own on that horse riding up and down the paved highway.