Paul Alger

 

I suppose the best place to start a journal of this kind is at the beginning.

They tell me I was born in Enterprise, Washington County, Utah on the 25th of February, 1924. I have no recollection of this, being quite young at the time. The house where this blessed event occurred is located on the South East corner of the block just one block north of the old high school building. It is owned at present by my sister Madge and her husband Clair Hunt.

 

My earliest memories are of a ranch we lived on above the Enterprise reservoir. We were only there one summer but we killed enough rattlesnakes that summer to last us a lifetime. I don't think a day ever passed that we didn't kill at least one. Several times we had to pull up the floor boards to get them from under our house.

 

Another time I was toddling behind my dad and we saw a rattlesnake disappear under a big rock. Dad went back to the house (it wasn't far away) and get his old long, hexagon barrel 30-30 rifle.  Even as young as I was, this kinda surprised me because we usually killed snakes with clubs or rocks and ammunition was never wasted  especially ”big• rifle ammunition.

 

Dad got down on his belly with the 30-30 and poked it up under the rock and after getting it lined up the way he wanted (I assume he could see the snake) he pulled the trigger. The resulting "boom" was loud but I always liked guns and wasn't afraid of the noise. He then reached in with the barrel of the rifle and drug out the dead snake  it was still writhing of course but it's head was gone! Then dad said, "Paul, sometimes there are two of them in a place like this." Then he did a little more probing, the old gun went "boom" again and he drug out another snake almost as big as the first one.

 

I suppose living among the snakes a little kid like I was completely lost all fear of them. Luckily my parents were able to implant a healthy respect for them in my mind or I may not have survived that summer.

 

Once a week my mother would carry her tubs and washboard down to the creek to do the washing (laundry). The creek consisted of a quite wide dry wash with nice white sand and a small trickle of water. Dad had dug a hole so the water would collect in it and we could dip it out with a bucket.

 

Mom and I would get her two tubs set up on three big rocks so that they were 8 or 9 inches off the ground and were set so the tubs were level. Then she and I would go gather wood until we had enough to heat the water in the "big" tub. I forgot to mention that we filled the tubs with water first  actually, we only filled the big tub  we only put a few inches of water in the other tub because it was the rinse water. After the "big tub" got hot we dipped a bucket or two out and put in the rinse water until the temperature was to mom's liking, then she would get her "bluing". This consisted of little blue balls about the size of marbles. Mom would tie about 4 of them in a rag and put the bundle in the rinse water and the blue color would just pour out of it. It would turn the tub of rinse water a beautiful pale blue. This made the washing just ”shine•!! It made the whites whiter  the blues bluer and I'll swear it even made the reds redder. I don't suppose anyone reading this has ever seen "bluing" it was the forerunner of bleach.

 

After all this preparation mom would roll her sleeves up, put the old wash board into the suds water (she made the soap herself that caused these suds) and attack these dirty clothes like they were a plague upon our household. When she started this it was a sign that I was free to go play and that big sandy wash was beautiful to a little kid. I wandered down it and around a bend out of mom's sight and what do I discover but a big old rattlesnake in the middle of the sandy wash, all coiled up and rattling his warning to me. With all the "experience" I'd had with snakes, I figured I could handle this one by myself  after all, I'd watched Dad and Mom beat them to death with clubs and rocks! I went over to the bank of the wash and got a stick with which to end the day of that snake. I marched right up to him and in a very loud voice said, "Hello, Mr. Rattlesnake!"

 

My mother heard these words, didn't know whether I was pretending or not, but she was there in an instant and between the two of us, we got that snake killed! I've often wondered what would have happened if I'd been left alone to kill it!! I felt quite capable but at the age of 3 or 4, may not have been able to get the job done (I'll always wonder though).

 

Another experience I remember about this same time:

My Dad was taking a sack of grain down to the field to plant it and decided to take me with him. He loaded the sack of grain on our old tame gray horse, then Dad got on and had me stand on a rock and he reached down and took my hand and swung me up behind him on the horse  I remember thinking, "Dad sure was strong" and I felt quite safe on that horse as long as Dad was there. On the way to the field we had to cross that same old wash and guess what? Another rattler was there and cut loose with its music  our "old tame gray horse" panicked, reared up, the sack of grain went sailing and Dad just let it go and reached around behind him and grabbed me. Luckily the sack of grain hit some brush and didn't burst  I know we loaded it on the horse again (after killing the snake) but so help me, the rest of that day is a blank.

 

I don't remember too much about that summer. I remember there was an old chicken hawk that Dad couldn't seem to hit with the old 30-30. My brother Bud (Orlas) was working in the mine at Pioche at the time and was actually making ”cash•-type money  which was scarce at that time. He bought a single shot .22 rifle (if I remember right it cost him $3.00) and brought that to Dad one weekend. The next time the hawk came around Dad got him with the first shot with the .22. Dad gave me this gun about a year later  as soon as I was strong enough to cock it, it was mine. It was a bolt action gun and you had to manually pull the bolt back to cock it. I used to practice every chance I got  I'd lay the end of the barrel on a rock so I wouldn't get dirt in it, put the butt in my belly and grab that bolt with both hands and try to pull it back. I was somewhere in my 5th year when I finally managed it and true to his word, my Dad turned the gun over to me with no strings attached. You will probably hear more about that gun later.

 

My memories of the "Ranch above the Reservoir," that's the only name I know it by, are about at an end except we had a huge swing up there. It seemed that Dad loved swings and would always manage to find some discarded cable from the logging operations and build as big a swing as he could find cable and tree for. There were a lot of what we called saw-log pines in that country and Dad put the swing in the best and highest he could find. I was a pretty small boy but even allowing for my age, I'm sure that swing must have been close to 30 feet high! I doubt very much if many children today have ever swung in a swing 30 feet high that was built on a side hill  as you swung toward the downhill side, the ground sloped away about as fast as the swing went up! It was quite a thrill to swing out and look down at the ground 30 or 40 feet away. The "swinging board" was always wide enough for at least two adults to sit in (Dad and Mom liked to swing together  it was cute) so at my age I sat between Dad and Mom while Aud and Faye ”tried• to swing us or between Mom and one of the girls while Dad ”really• swung us.

 

I guess most of my ”early• memories are from ranches we lived on or had access to because I don't remember much for a year or so. I know we only stayed on this ranch one summer and then moved back into Enterprise and the house I was born in, that I helped my Dad build.

 

The next two or three years must have been pretty monstrous because I don't remember anything very exciting. This would have been about the time of the depression of 1929 although it didn't affect people in our income (?) bracket for another year. Dad was gone most of the time herding sheep for the Seevee brothers. I remember when he came home occasionally he usually brought a loaf of his sourdough bread with him. I don't remember what it tasted like but Dad made it and I fought my older sisters for my share of it.

 

When Dad wasn't herding sheep, he ran a trap line. Coyotes had gotten so bad that the county had put a $2.50 bounty on them and the hide was worth a dollar or so also.

 

Dad's trapping was quite interesting to me because he would usually take me with him. It was also quite frightening to a little six-year-old kid because I couldn't keep up with him and he'd often leave me far behind while walking the trap line. I was never in any danger, of course, because the trapline followed a dry wash where I couldn't get lost. I'm sure my father did this on purpose to teach me self reliance  but after I'd been out of sight of Dad for half an hour and having no idea which way or how far home was, I quickly gave up self reliance and let loose with a lonesome crying that should have been heard clear to Enterprise. I would try to run in that sandy wash but my little tired legs didn't do too good, which didn't do my sense of well-being any good so I would bawl and my nose would run and I'd get mad at myself for being scared and usually about that time I'd go around a curve in the wash and find Dad laying in the shade of the wash bank, waiting for me  in fact, once he spoke to me or coughed or something before I saw him and I was sure he was a cougar and stampeded back the way I'd come. The trap line was a little bit terrifying for a little guy  Dad would never shoot an animal he had caught because that would downgrade the pelt. His methods probably wouldn't be approved of in today's limp wrist society but when the death of destructive animals means that your wife and family doesn't starve  I'm afraid the animal will die every time. He carried a ball-peen hammer with him and would whack the coyote, bobcat or whatever on the head with it.  This killed the animal as effectively as a bullet in the brain. My father was not cruel to animals  he hated to see animals suffer but he had guts enough to shoot crippled or useless animals. Now days they turn them over to the animal shelter and they put them to sleep "humanely" for about $35. Don't make sense to me.

 

About this time Dad managed to get the job of janitor of the school house in Enterprise. He was lucky to get a job at that time. It was at the peak of the depression. He was getting $45.00 a month during the school year and $5.00 per month retainer during the summer. As I grew older he gradually had me doing more and more of the janitor work until by the time I was 9 or 10 years old I could handle it about as good as he could. The worst thing about it was keeping it warm in the winter. It had steam heat and the water was heated by a big boiler in the basement. The furnace was fired with cord wood (four foot lengths of wood). The high school boys were allowed to pay their tuition by cutting and hauling the cord wood and it was stacked in a long row about 100 feet from the school house. My job every night, rain or shine, was to haul enough cord wood in an old iron wheeled wheelbarrow to keep the wood storage room next to the boiler full of wood. I don't know how much wood that monster burned every day but I know it was almost dark every night when I got done. I also had to help my sisters (Faye and Audrey) sweep the hallways of the school building first  with three of us, this only took about a half hour if we didn't goof off too much. Filling the wood room consisted of loading the old barrow and pushing it the hundred feet or so to a hole in the back of the school building that opened into the basement, throwing the wood down this hole then going down to the wood room and stacking it straight and neat there. This was bad enough but along about this time they built a gymnasium on the back of the school and covered up my "wood hole." They were nice to me though  they left a tunnel under the gym and made another wood hole at the side nearest the wood pile. Then I had to haul the wood to that hole, throw it down into the tunnel, get down in the tunnel and pack it a stick at a time 30 feet or so to the original hole, then throw it down there and of course stack it neatly afterward. As small as I was, I could only carry one piece at a time or maybe drag two of them. Of course the old barrow usually had to be pushed through mud or snow in the winter and that old iron wheel really dug in. Dad could sometimes find boards to lay over the worst of the mud but it was still quite a fight for a little guy. Needless to say, hauling that wood never did get to be an obsession with me.

 

The year I turned twelve years old Dad got so sick he just couldn't handle the job any more. It was very demanding in the winter time. They usually had night time activities in the gym two or three nights a week and he would have to stay and take care of the building afterward and usually didn't get home until 10 to 12 o'clock then up at 3 a.m. to fire up the furnace. Dad got so every time he stopped moving, he fell asleep. This soon became my job most of the time and I don't think I ever did anything in my life I hated as much as that. I was still young enough to be afraid of the dark and there was never a spookier place in the world than that old school house at 3 or 4 a.m. There were two huge metal ventilators on the roof that were always banging and sounded just like doors opening and closing upstairs. The expansion and contraction of the big wooden floors upstairs made them creak and groan like someone was walking around up there. I had to feel my way along about 100 feet of hallway and down a flight of stairs to the "broom closet," which housed the electric panel that controlled all the lights in the building. There I had to strike my first match to tell where switches to turn on. They only gave me about four matches to take with me and flashlights were unknown, to us at least. After I got the hall lights turned on I felt a little better. I only had one more bad place to get through  the boys rest room. It had its own light switch and no outside windows and a darker place you can't imagine. I would creep in and turn on the light then the first thing you would see would be your own reflection in a large mirror on the opposite wall. This just about stampeded me until I got used to it. Strangely enough, once I got down in the basement where the furnace was I felt quite safe and went about the business of carrying cord wood to the furnace and getting it to burn.

 

Another real goodies was cleaning the ashes out of that monster about two or three times a week, but that was just boring, dirty work so I won't dwell on it.

 

Well, I think we not only exhausted the subject of the "janitor job" as we called it but have left quite a deficit in it. About this same time (I think I was 10 or 11 years old) Dad leased a couple of 160 acre ranches just below the Enterprise Reservoir known as the Coleman place and the Don Emmet place. We lived up on the ranch in the summer as soon as school was out and moved to town in the winter. I don't remember how many years we did this but it must have been about 3 or 4 years. The first year or two we lived on the Coleman place in a little one room shack and a big tent. Dad built a wood floor for the tent and that was the kid's bedroom (Audrey, Faye and I). I remember we had an old leghorn hen that would come in the tent and lay an egg on my bed every day. She would even let you pet her while she was in the process. That is when I found out that eggshells are soft until they hit the air then they solidify immediately. Even when we went to town (about every two weeks) and closed the tent door and tied the flaps down, we would always find that egg on the bed when we got home. We never did figure out how she got into the tent on those days. She must have been a determined old biddy.

 

The big catch for me about this place was that Dad had agreed to put a three wire barbed wire fence around this place and, of course, young as I was I was to be a full partner in this project. I don't think I have ever worked that hard since. The spools of wire weighed either 100 pounds or 1,000 pounds, I forget which and we would tie one end of the wire to a post or tree then Dad would put his big steel crowbar through the wire spool then I would take one side and he the other and we would start up the hill with that spool of wire letting it unwind as we went. It was always uphill  I can't remember once of ever going downhill with that load. The crowbar itself must have weighed 50 pounds.

 

This fencing took place during our first year on the Coleman place. The second year he leased the Don Emmett place too and for the rest of the time we were there he would take about 50 big old buck sheep to pasture for the summer, so naturally I became a sheep herder along with my other accomplishments.

 

 

JOURNAL ENTRIES:

November 22, 1984: Thanksgiving day. LuJane, Lynette, Dennis, Mrs. Smith, Mary and girls all here  between 25 and 30. Jeanne in Salt Lake City with Kelli.

 

November 29, 1984: Went to Walla Walla today to Vets Hospital to have check up on left hand. I lost the use of my fingers Nov. 23. Doctors just guessing as to the cause. I think my guess is better than theirs.

 

December 20, 1984: This was my last day of work for the school bus garage. They gave me a farewell party with cake, outstanding performance certificate, letter of commendation and all the trimmings  ”no cash”.  Was made Sunday School President of the Clarkston Ward about two months ago.