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Ellwin Rogers: The Second Five

The Second Five

Dec 19, 11:30 AM

The Second Five

My fifth year was an eventful one for a five year old boy. The war had ended and my uncles all came home from the places they had been. Such far away places as Germany, France, and the South Pacific. This all started and actually happened just before I turned five. In the summer my Uncle Russel sent his wife home from England. He had met her in London and married her. War brides were sent back to the United States just prior to their spouses being sent home. Uncle Russel and his wife Margaret had a baby named Beverly. Aunt Margaret and Beverly stayed with us for about six weeks before Uncle Russel got home. At this time dad and mom had three kids. Me (1941), Virgil (1943) and a baby, Terry (1945). Terry had severe Eczema and required constant care. We had a wash house in the corner of the yard and because it was summer my parents moved the washing machine outside and fixed up the wash house for Aunt Margaret and Beverly to stay in. Aunt Margaret had lived her whole life in London and the farm, without indoor plumbing or running water, in the middle of rural Idaho was a real culture shock for her. She was extremely afraid of the farm animals. At the time we had about fifteen milk cows and probably that many younger livestock. In addition we always raised about a dozen bum lambs. The lambs were kept in pens in the corner of the yard to make it easier to feed and tend them. If they got out of the pens they would make a mad dash to the nearest person, wanting to be fed their bottle. I used to think it was really funny to wait until Aunt Margaret was out in the yard and then sneak over and let the lambs loose. They would run up and crowd around her wanting to be fed and she was terrified of them and all she would do is stand and scream at them. My mom would hear her and come running and save her by putting the lambs back in their pen and then I was in trouble. In September 1947 I started to school in Carey. I rode the bus to school from home. I was the youngest one in my first grade class. The cutoff for starting was the fifteenth of October and my birthday was the eleventh. There was nobody else whose birthday was between mine and the fifteenth. Carey school consisted of a two story concrete building with class rooms and a lunch room, furnace/janitors room, boy’s rest rooms and locker rooms and storage on the first floor. The second floor consisted of class rooms, a library, principal’s office, girl’s restroom and locker room and a gymnasium over the lunchroom, furnace room and storage areas. The grade school was made up of about six one room school buildings that had been country school houses and had been moved in from the surrounding areas. The only thing that stands out about the first grade is that I fell deeply in live with Barbra Barton. In September 1948 I started the second grade. My teacher was Mrs. Sparks. The only thing I remember about the second grade was that I fell in love with Judy Pratt and Kent Patterson moved back to Carey with his family. Kent like me had had polio. The only difference is that Kent had been left with crippled legs and could not walk without the aid of leg braces and crutches. Kent and I became friends. The thing that I remember about this year is the winter. That winter we had about four feet of snow. I remember that the fences were covered and even most of the fence posts were covered over. The snow crusted so that my brother Virgil and I could run across the top and not even worry about the fences. We lived one quarter of a mile off the main highway but it was about a mile by the road. Straight through the field from our house on the main highway was the Dilworth’s house. After being snowed in for a week my dad took his team of horses and a bob sled and began to break a trail through the field to Dilworth’s. I remember watching from the window and wanting to go help but mom told me it would probably be better if I just watched from the window. After a half a day he had only gotten about one hundred yards. In the afternoon dad took his team and riding one and leading the other and changing off he rode them through the snow to Dilworth’s and back. I remember how worn out he was and he still had to milk his cows. The next day he made another trip to the main road and back then hooked them back up to the bob sled and finally in the late afternoon he got through to the highway and back. The next morning he took me across the field on the sled to Dilworth’s where I caught the school bus and then he picked me up in the afternoon. This went on until in the middle of March the county road crew managed to plow out our road. I remember hearing the snow plow working its way up our road for two or three days. Finally after having been snowed in for about two to two and one half months we were able to again go to town in our car. While we were snowed in dad would get his milk to the cheese factory by loading it on the bob sled and taking it to Dilworth’s when he took me to school. On Saturday dad would hook the team to the bob sled and we would go through the field to Dilworth’s and them go the two miles up the highway to town. I remember that the snow banks along the highway were almost as high as the electric power lines that ran alongside the highway. Virgil and I had a blast. We would take the scoop shovel that dad carried on the sled, in case he got stuck, and tie it to the back of the sled and ride in it . It was a time when as a child I could enjoy the snow and have fun in the winter. In later life I would learn not to enjoy winter so much because it meant taking care of the animals and getting places under difficult conditions. I always enjoyed hooking the team of horses to a sled and feeding livestock on the sunny winter days but when it was cold and snowing and the wind blowing and I had to bed and feed the cattle, it was not fun and I didn’t enjoy it. As I advance in age I have less and less tolerance for winter. In September 1949 I started third grade. School must not have been too significant in my experiences because I have no vivid memories connected to school.
Other memories connected with this time period are of summertime activities. I remember taking ropes and hooking up the calves to our little red wagon. The problem was that it was very difficult to get the calves to pull. They would just mostly stand there. I can remember climbing the tall cottonwood trees. One such episode was indelibly imprinted on my memory. I can remember it like it was yesterday. My brother and I were playing in one of our most favorite spots, across the canal in the cottonwood grove. I was seven and he was just about six. I don’t really know how tall those trees were, probably about twenty five feet to thirty five feet tall, but to a small boy they seemed to reach at least a mile into the sky. It was in the middle of June when the birds eggs have hatched and the baby birds are still in the nest, too small to fly. I don’t remember if it was me or my brother who first noticed the robins busily coming and going to the nest, trying to keep her hungry brood fed. Once we had noticed the nest up there, about three fourths of the way to the top of that big old cottonwood tree, one of us just had to have a look at it. The hardest part was getting the first ten feet to the lower branches. With the help of a rusty old oil drum and my brother I managed to get to that first branch. When I looked down at the ground it seemed like a long way down. That’s when the first doubts flooded over me. I can remember thinking about how far it was to the ground but then the exhilaration of being higher off the ground than I had ever been before poured over me and I felt like a great explorer. I was like Admiral Byrd; I could do any thing I wanted to. It took me a long time climbing up to that nest. Every time I climbed one branch higher I would look down and then I would have to build my courage to go to the next branch. My brother was shouting encouragement to keep me going. About half way up, I remember that I was going to come back down but he called me chicken and said “Okay come down and help me up and I’ll go up there.” I couldn’t let my little brother be braver than I was so I kept going. The higher I went, the harder it got for me to make myself climb higher. Finally I was right beneath the nest. I looked down at my brother; it seemed like a mile down. I could see over the tops of the rest of the trees in the grove. I could see the farms laid out below me. Across the fields I could see the neighbor’s barns, corrals, and house a half mile away. It was great I could see all over the world. I shouted down to my brother “I can see everything in the world.” “What about the birds?” He shouted back. I took a deep breath and found a branch that was sturdy enough to hold me and climbed up. My face was just barely above the edge of the nest. There were four baby birds in the nest. They only had about half their feathers. This was the first time I had seen baby birds and I thought “boy they sure are ugly.” They were standing up with their beaks open and making a terrible racket. About that time mama robin decided that it was time to protect her young. She came flying through the branches, across the top of the nest, and straight into my face. I lost my balance and fell. I was grabbing every branch I could on the way down. Each time I grabbed a branch it would break and I would fall on to another and it would break. I would grab the next one and it would break. After what seemed like forever I hit the ground. My shirt was torn, I had scratches on my face and all over my back and stomach and I had horrible time breathing until I could catch my breath. I remember it well because from that day to this I have trouble climbing to any great heights. We had a dog named Blue we loved to play with. There was a song that was popular on the radio called “Some Dirty Dog Put Glue in My Saddle”. While dad was milking cows Virgil and I would put our heads in the barn door and say “some dirty dog put Blue in my saddle” and old Blue would chase us and we would run around the barn and climb up the corral fence. Blue would then bark at as a few times then go back around the barn and lay down. We would the do the same thing and he would chase us. This would keep us occupied for a couple of hours at a time. It was sometime early in this period that I learned that it was not a good idea to lead a spirited saddle horse under a clothes line with the saddle on. As I remember dad had tied his saddle horse in the corner of the yard and I went over and untied it and was leading it around the yard and went underneath the clothes line. The saddle horn caught on the clothes line and the horse spooked. I remember the horse going over the top of me dragging the clothes line and poles over the top of me. The horse then took the whole thing right through the yard fence at a dead run. I don’t know how far it ran or how many fences my dad had to fix. When the horse went over the top of me I must have let out a scream because dad and mom came running out of the house and I must have been tangle for a short period of time in the clothes line and poles because they were extremely worried that I might have been dragged to death. This was one of the lessons that stayed with me my whole life. Always be careful where you are leading your horse. Sometimes I have had trouble extrapolating it into other experiences. We had a canal that ran right by our yard fence. There was a foot bridge across the canal about eighteen inches wide which did not have any handrails. It seemed like my brother Virgil was always falling off the bridge into the canal. Either the dog or the lambs would knock him off. In thinking back it was a miracle that he didn’t drown. There was an irrigation ditch branched off the canal at the corner of our yard. The water ran under the road and dropped about 6 feet. Where it dropped there was a pool about ten feet across. There were fish in the pool and one was a pretty good size trout. My mother would tray to catch that big trout but the fish would not be enticed to bite on any kind of bait. My mother eventually got so frustrated that she tried to shoot that fish. She first tried with the .22 caliber rifle and when that didn’t work she tried the .410 shotgun. I don’t know if she ever got that fish but I think she probable caught it when they turned the water out of the canal that fall. It wasn’t all fun and games. One of the things that I remember growing up is that we always had a garden. A garden was essential. We basically lived out of our garden in the summer and canned out of it for winter food. We were taught early to work in the garden. I can remember being assigned a row to weed. At the time it seemed like drudgery to have to weed the garden but as I look back the job was not nearly as hard as I made it. If I had applied myself I probably could have had my row weeded with a half hours work a couple times a week but I managed to drag it out to four or five hours a couple of times a week. I am sure my father and mother must have had infinite patience in order to put up with me. I would spend all afternoon looking at ants, breaking clods, throwing clods and just generally messing around wishing I could go play. All I had to do was spend a solid half an hour of weeding and it would have been done. It was during this period that I also started working in the fields. Dad would put me on the tractor that was hooked to a hay slip and let me drive it through the field while he loaded the slip. This I didn’t mind, in fact I enjoyed driving the tractor and could do it all day. Dad was farming eighty acres and the haying only lasted about a week two times a year so it wasn’t like onerous child labor but something I enjoyed. I am sure if it had been steady all summer long it wouldn’t have been so much fun. Another summertime activity was to pick wild berries that grew around us. Mother used to take us to the dry riverbed that ran by our farm and pick the current berries that grew there. That was one of those tasks that were fun until I got my fill of berries and then I found it easy to get side tracked into more fun things. I don’t think I was much help but mother always picked a couple of three gallon milk buckets full each time we went out. I loved the current jam. I wish I could find some currents now. We also had a chokecherry tree on the farm. To this day I love chokecherry syrup on my pancakes. I liked to pick chokecherries because I got to climb the tree. However, I could manage to stretch that job out to about twice as long as it should have taken. It as during this time period that we moved from the farm South of Carey, Idaho to the one northeast on the Fish Creek tract. The new farm was not an operating farm but had to be cleared of sage brush and ditches run to make it productive. I can remember picking sage brush from the plowed ground and piling it and burning it. I can remember seeing small fires all over a field as dad prepared it for planting. Dad had built a basement house on the back eighty acres with the intent of later building a house on top of it. He also built a log barn and corrals for the livestock. The farm had a ¾ mile frontage on the lava beds. At the south east corner was a small shallow lake that, in the summer, was the home of a large flock of ducks. Virgil and I spent many enjoyable summer days exploring the lava flow and catching baby ducks. As we grew older we spent many hours and days target shooting at rock chucks which made the edges of the lava flow their home. In looking back at the years spent on this farm as home it seems an idyllic time in my life despite the fact that there was never enough money, a problem, which with a few exceptions, has plagued me for most of my life. September 1950 saw me starting fourth grade. My teacher was Mrs. Patterson. Some of us boys thought it was funny to put thumb tacks on the seats and watch others jump as they sat on the tacks. We put some on Mrs. Patterson’s chair and it didn’t seem to faze her. She just sat there and when she got up the tacks would fall on the floor. We finally figured out she wore a corset and the thumb tacks didn’t get through. We memorized some poetry, classic poems from Longfellow and others. I was always poor at memorization and I do not remember ever completely memorizing anything except Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. However to this day I can still remember two or three short satirical short poems we made up as a take off of Longfellow’s poem, The Smithy. Beneath the spreading chestnut tree the village smithy lies He’s not busy shoeing horses cause he’s busy shooing flies
And another Beneath the spreading chestnut tree the village smithy snoozes Cause since 1922 no horses have come to him for shoeses
Mrs. Patterson thought that if we had spent as much time memorizing the poem as we did satirizing it we could have had it memorized. In September 1951 I started fifth grade. I don’t remember who my teacher was that year. The only thing I remember clearly was that after the first two weeks it was decided there were about eight kids too many in the fifth grade class and the fourth grade class was short about eight kids. Therefore they took eight kids from the fifth grade class and the fourth grade teacher would teach both fourth and fifth grade curriculum. In looking back I am sure the fourth grade teacher had a very hard year trying to teach two different grades at the same time. They chose eight students that were the top of the class so they could work on their own somewhat. Fortunately I was ranked ninth in the class and was not supposed to go but Jeanie Jansen cried and made such a fuss they kept her in the fifth grade class room and sent me back to the fourth grade class room. Boy was I ticked at Jeanie Jansen. I think it must have been this winter that my dad got a job working on what was then known as the Arco Atomic Plant, which was later to become INEEL, on the desert between Arco and Idaho Falls. He rented a small apartment in Carey and Mother and us kids lived in that apartment all winter and dad would come home on weekends. There was a bar and café on the front of the apartment complex. My sister, Kay, was about two or three then. When dad was home for a weekend he would sometimes take us to eat in the restaurant and Kay being as cute as she was some of the sheepherders and cowboys drinking at the bar would give her money to buy candy. One morning we woke up to the door being closed and we couldn’t find Kay. Then we heard her pounding on the front door of the bar and café. I had to run out the door in my bare feet and long handle underwear and run up front and get her. She had her money and wanted to get in to buy some candy. September 1952 found me starting the sixth grade. Mrs. Billingsley was my teacher. She was a good teacher but a very strict disciplinarian. If you got caught breaking any of the rules you would either get your hands slapped with a ruler or you would have to stand on your tiptoes with your nose in a ring drawn on the chalkboard. If you were caught chewing gum you would have to put the gum on your nose and then stand on tiptoe with your nose in the ring. One time I got both punishments for the same infraction. There was a new kid in class and at lunch time he started to laugh at me and call me names. We were in the coatroom and I punched him in the nose and gave him a nosebleed. Mrs. Billingsley didn’t tolerate fighting for any reason so I got two or three whacks with the ruler and ten minutes on tiptoe with my nose in the ring. During this period in my life recesses and noon breaks activity at school were filled with cowboy and Indian games in the fall. The school had some neat bushes grown up around it that allowed for some neat hiding and ambush places. We could bring our cap pistols to school as long as we didn’t bring any caps. In the winter we would throw snowballs and play king of the hill on the snow piles plowed up by the snow plows. In the spring we played marbles. After the war ended my uncles and aunts and families started coming to our house on memorial weekend. This practice grew into a family reunion that has lasted for over sixty years. In the summertime we would get together, on Sundays, with uncles, aunts and cousins and go up to the creek, usually Little Fish Creek, and in a meadow have a picnic and go fishing. This period of my life was a time when we were very much aware of war and conflict but were convinced that the great world war that had been fought had put war behind us. For a few years it was a calm peaceful time.

Ray Rogers