THE GRANGER FAMILY JOURNEY BY COVERED WAGON FROM HAYNES, NORTH DAKOTA, TO SILT, COLORADO, 1921
February 15, 2000.
An interview with Gladys Dean, by her son Stan, with her husband Lloyd.
I was eight years old when we went to North Dakota. My father (Claude Granger) was a blacksmith. I never knew him to be anything but a blacksmith. But his legs got bad with rheumatism. He and Mama went to Excelsior Springs, Missouri, and he took the mineral water and took mineral baths and things to try to get his legs straightened out so he could walk. He had to get out of the blacksmith shop and quit shoeing horses or the doctor said he would never walk again. He had another man shoe his horses and things in the blacksmith shop for a little while, until he really closed it.
When he quit blacksmithing, he went to North Dakota and lived on a ranch that a minister in town had. He raised small grain. The house was a sod house It had just two rooms, and the bedroom had two double beds in it with a kind of an aisle between them. At the further one was a dresser and at the foot of the other one was a chest of drawers. The kitchen had the regular coal or wood burning range that we cooked on. Mama was always a real good bread baker and things.
They milked eight cows and Mama would go out and help Dad milk. She would have Madeline and me sit down on the basement steps where it was cool and churn butter. We would put the cream in a gallon syrup pail and shake it until we got butter. But we had to open up the lid every once in a while to let the air out so it wouldn't explode. When we got through, we would have good butter. We would sell the cream in town but we wouldn't sell the butter.
The sod house had real thick walls. Madeline and I could sit in the windowsill and play games. Both of us sat in the windowsills. They were three or four feet wide. It had a regular wooden floor that Mama would scrub with a mop and things. It had a sod roof. It would grow grass up there on top. I don't think they would let it grow. I think they would cut it off or something. It wouldn't get long or anything.
We lived in this sod house for one year, and then we moved to another house ten miles from town. The sod house was just two miles from town. The other house was ten miles from town, but it was just a quarter mile down the road from a country school. There were probably eight or ten students, because I know there were two Pollask boys - probably about eight. It had a man teacher who taught all of us girls how to crochet. I made a yoke which a year later I made a nightgown on it, and had the yoke as the top.
The first day we were at this second house, not the sod house, the second house we lived in -- the neighbors came over. They had two boys, Sylvester and Paul, that were just Madeline's and my age, and then the Reddingtons and Hollises. Those are the only three, there were probably some more but those are the names I remember. We would dance all night, and then when it was daylight, we would hook up the horses, go home, milk the cows and go to bed.
We left North Dakota because we dried out. When we sold the whole year's threshing, $23 was all we got from a whole year of work.
Mama read an article in the paper that the editor of the paper in Silt wrote, and she knew it was John Carter, her cousin, because of the way he wrote it. He wrote, "The groom wore blue" instead of "The bride wore blue." He said, "The groom wore blue," and he was the groom. She knew the way he had written it who it was, and so she wrote to him, and that is how we got back together with that part of the family.
We started in the covered wagon to go to Colorado. Aunt Mysie, my mother's half sister, wrote and said to come to Colorado. "You will never dry out here because we irrigate here." So we started for Colorado.
The covered wagon had a bed across the back. It was a regular size mattress put across, and underneath the mattress there was a springs that used to be on a cot of some kind. It stuck out so there was room for one to sleep across the front. The other five of us slept like it would have been a regular bed. We would take turns sleeping across the end. It was supposed to be Madeline's place, but I don't think she slept there very much.
We kids used to have fun in the covered wagon, riding back on the bed, playing games and things. But I bet it was hard on Mama. she would ride up front with Dow. Dow was just a baby. When Dow would see water, he would say, "Daddy, see the gaw." "Daddy, see the gaw." He called water "gaw" when he was little.
We always rode on the bed -- we kids. We would sing and sleep as we rode. Mama and Dad and our little brother Dow rode in the seat and Dow would pretend that he was driving the horses. He was not very old. Claudine and Madeline and I would ride back on the bed. Madeline would give me a bit of her bread and butter and put honey on the bottom of it because she knew honey always made me sick. It didn't actually made me sick, it would just make me feel sick.
Mama had a two burner kerosene stove, and when she would get through, when we were going to move again, she would have to take the tank out and take a table spoon and dip out the excess kerosene so that it wouldn't splash out, and put it back in the tank. I think it was just a two burner stove. It may have been three, but I think it was only two. I don't really remember what she cooked.
I think Dad did the driving all the time. I don't remember Mama ever taking the reins. she wasn't much to do things like that. She was cook.
They would feed the horses from a feed bunk, just two little boxes, on the back of the wagon.
I don't remember ever being in a campground where there was a picnic table or anything. We could have some time, and I would not have remembered it. We just sat on the bed or stood outside to eat.
The only place I remember is when we got near Laramie, Wyoming, taking a short cut in a blizzard, and had to stop at a sheepherder's cabin. It had one of those little two burner laundry stoves and a lot of wood piled up. So we were warm there in the cabin. The only furniture was just a bench clear around the whole and we could lie on the bench and play on it. There wasn't any table or chairs.
We were three days there, I think. We had very little to eat. We were hungry. Mama had flour in a quart jar; it was about two thirds full of flour, so she would mix a little bit of flour with water and make little tiny quarter size pancakes. We would have to melt snow to get water to drink and make these little quarter size pancakes. That is all we had to eat for three days. Of course, my mother wasn't one to store much food ahead. If it was canned and things, she would.
Finally we had to turn and go back down the mountain. Couldn't get on. The blizzard was too bad. When we turned back and were going back down, the first ranch house we came to we stopped and Mama went in and asked if she could buy a loaf of bread. I supposed she told her we were almost starving. The ranch house lady said that she was from the South so she didn't ever bake bread, but she said Mama was welcome to come into her kitchen and make some biscuits. So that is what Mama did. She went in the kitchen and made biscuits. We had biscuits to eat.
We got to Colorado Springs and had to sell our horses because the bank back in North Dakota had gone broke and we didn't have any -- we ran out of money. So we had to sell our horses to get money to go on to Colorado.
Uncle Linc traveled with us. But he took his horses on to Colorado. He evidently had money in his covered wagon with him. But I don't remember much about him on the trip. Because I don't think he ate with us. I don't remember that he did. You would think he would, but I don't remember that he did.
In Colorado Springs we got on the train and went to Aunt Mysie's in Silt. Madeline and I both had shoes so worn out, so Mama had to buy Madeline and me each a new dress and a hat and shoes so we could go on the train. We evidently didn't have very many clothes along because I don't remember changing clothes a lot. I don't remember where we kept our clothes or anything. We had a washtub along but I don't remember Mama using it.
We arrived in Silt the day before Thanksgiving. Uncle Bob met us at the depot. We had to walk a quarter of a mile down the railroad track to the ranch house. Aunty Mysie was baking pumpkin pies. She had whipped cream on them, the best pumpkin pie I ever did eat.
The ranch house was quite big, and Mama and Dad would go down to the river and fish and bring home -- or Dad would go down to the river and fish -- and bring home so many fish that Mama would have to go help him carry them home. They would put them on a stick between them and carry them a quarter of a mile down the railroad track. It would take him a long time to dress them, and they were real bony, but they were real good. We had to really pick out the bones. They were suckers, but they tasted good.
In Silt my father worked on the railroad, on the section. He used to ride on that section car up and down the tracks to keep the tracks in repair, and he hurt his leg one time. They ran into something with the section car and so he was laid up for quite a while. He didn't have crutches. Evidently we couldn't get him any crutches so he put one knee on a kitchen chair when he had to go around the house. It seems like he was laid up like that for quite a while -- I would say several weeks.
In the wintertime he worked at the pool hall, when they didn't work on the section. He got paid a dollar a day for working in the pool hall. He would just clean up the tables and he would pass out the cards -- they played cards in the pool hall. And he would have to keep the pool tables clean. I remember he got a dollar a day. And we lived on it.
I rode the school bus for eight days in Silt. That is the only time I ever rode a school bus to school. There was one girl from the mines that had a foot warmer. We were all jealous of her because our feet were cold. I don't know what kept her warm. But we were all jealous of her.
We just really liked it in Colorado. I supposed because of Aunt Mysie. She was always making us new dresses and everything.
We also lived in De Beque, Colorado. It was a little bigger town. And I think they transferred Dad on the railroad from Silt to De Beque is the only reason I can think. He still worked on the railroad.
I went back to Silt to finish the eight grade because the school was so different in De Beque. They were having algebra, and I had never had algebra and something else. I can't remember what it was. And so I wrote to Mrs. Lewis, my teacher in Silt, and asked if I could come and stay with her and finish the eight grade, and she let me.
I would ride the school bus home and peel the potatoes and kind of start dinner. I didn't know how to do much, but I remember I would always peel the potatoes, have them ready to cook. When Mama came up for eight grade graduation, she brought me a new dress for graduation.
Mama cooked in a big hotel in De Beque. They said she was a good cook. And they always washed the whole kitchen down with a garden hose after every meal. The floors and cupboards and things were all wood, bare wood, and they just washed them down with a garden hose, after every meal.
She had a rooming house in Silt. She had just three rooms we rented. The only reason I remember about it is there was a blind man who came for a room one time, and she had Madeline and me take the blind man up and show him his room and how to get around. I don't know how he got down in the morning. I don't remember that part.
Mama wasn't much to keep food at the house. But she must have had to up there. Uncle Bob came by one day, and he said, "How come your are not picking your apricots? They are ripe." And we hadn't even seen the apricot tree there in the orchard. So we went out, Madeline and I, and climbed up in the tree and ate the apricots. It is a wonder it didn't make us sick, but it didn't. There was a big cherry, bing cherry tree, that was real good. And there were apple trees, too. Apricots and bing cherries are what I remember.
Dad would go down the river and fish, and he would catch so many Mama would have to put a stick between them, and she would help him carry them down the railroad track. They were really bony, but they tasted good. We would have to pick them apart to eat them, they were full of bones.
We stayed in Colorado four years, until Aunt Mona wrote that Grandma Otteson was real sick and if Mama wanted to see her mother alive again, she should come right away. But she lived seven or eight years after we got back to Walthill.
When we returned, I think my father started his own blacksmith shop -- he might have worked for Butz there in Walthill for just a short while, until we moved to Winnebago, and he started his own blacksmith shop. He was a good blacksmith, and he did a lot of it.
(Gladys Loretta (Granger) Dean is the daughter of Claude Erwin GRANGER, born January 10, 1871 in Schoolcraft, Kalamazoo Co., MI, and Lavera Manita OTTESON, born January 18, 1889 in IA.)
Thanks to Rüdiger Appel of 3Quarks for this background
Copyright 2000, 2001 Susan Kay Hudspeth
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