We have had a good year and are grateful for all the blessings which we have received from God. And we ask the Lord’s choicest blessing for you and your families as we enter this Holiday Season.
After we moved to the Kittitas Valley, Jean was enrolled in Kittitas High School and Bob and Dick and I were enrolled at Denmark Grade School. My best friend there was Richard Boyer. He had a sister and a younger brother Dave Boyer, who Bob and Dick may remember. We were there one or two years then we went into Kittitas where we attended Kittitas Grade School (eighth grade, where I was co-validictorian, with Fritzi Davidson) and then onto High School in the old school house and a barn-like gym, with music and home-ec, etc. in some out-buildings. Our football and base ball fields were an old pasture. Well, Richard Boyer moved (I thought to California) and I never heard from him again, until a few months ago, when I got to thinking about him and decided to look him up. It didn’t take me very long when I discovered he was a graduate of Ellensburg High School and was living in Renton, WA. I telephoned a Richard Boyer in Renton and, sure enough, he was the same Richard Boyer and we were both elated to have found each other after 60 years! We started corresponding, bringing ourselves up to date. One time I told him that I knew that one of the Dodge boys lived not far from where Richard lived in the South East section of the Kittitas Valley and we talked about them for a while. Which brings me to this letter, which I decided to share with you all.
Speaking of the Dodge family reminds me that I worked during some fall seasons with the Dodge Brothers in their warehouse, “shed”, in Kittitas where we sorted and sacked potatoes. I must have started there in the fall, after school. My job was the dirtiest and hardest job of all, cleaning up during the day and after the crew had gone home, cleaning out the sump which collected all the dirt and debris. I had to shovel out the dirt and then wash down the premises and haul the dirt outside in a wheel barrow. For that I was paid $1.00 per hour. There I met a family of people from “down South”, possibly Arkansas, and I could hardly understand them because of their accents. The women worked on the sorting crew and the men worked on the “front end”, sacking, sewing and carting the 100 pound sacks to the railroad cars.
As I got to know them better, they called me “Evergreen”, because of my naivety and little contact with the “outside” world. One man in particular, I believe the father of the group, taught me how to sew the sacks of potatoes and I became quite proficient and fast at that. When one of the younger men of the group got drunk and then ended up in jail, the Dodge brothers let me work on the “front end” where I became part of the crew. We would take turns at filling the sacks, sewing, and then using a hand truck to haul four or five sacks at a time to the railroad cars where one member of the crew was waiting and the two of us would grab a sack and swing it into place in rows as tall as the cars. I find that I can still sew sacks from memory. I would take a bundle of twine cut to the right length, wrap it around my waist where I would insert the needle onto one piece of twine, pull it out and lay it across a sack which had been set there with the ends up, and then throw a double half-hitch around one ear and then either sew with half-hitches or a running stitch until the other end of the sack was reached and throw another double half hitch around the ear and then position the needle and cut off the twine.
If the potatoes were very good and didn’t take much “sorting”, the sorting machine would be cranked up faster and sometimes we would be “drowning” in potatoes. We would just yell “more Taters”, and work faster. Those who worked on the “front end” would be paid by the “piece”, I forget now, maybe $.20 a sack, which would be split between the “sacker”, the “sewer”, the “hand trucker” and the “thrower” (the man in the rail road car). When the potatoes were good and we were kept busy all day, we could make between $3.00-$5.00 per hour, so that was a very good job for me, although I still stayed after work and cleaned out the sump and the shed. (for $1.00 per hours)
Again, Speaking of the Dodges reminds me that I worked for Jerry Dodge who had a very good farm on the south end of the valley, and the soil was deep, no rocks, but on very steep ground. He had John Deere tractors and we plowed and other jobs and I did a lot of irrigating for him. He had rented a farm down the road from his place, on the road that runs east and west and runs into the Yakima highway just before the Yakima canyon. He raised potatoes on that farm and I remember there was quite a problem with gophers and I spent a summer trampling gopher holes. I was glad when that job was finished, and then I went to work at their potatoe shed in Kittitas. One day Jerry started a fire to clean out the irrigation ditch at the head of this farm and he told me to watch the fire, so I was working away and didn’t watch the fire as closely as I should, and I heard the cows making a commotion in a barn that was close to the head ditch and I looked up and the barn was on fire! I ran to the barn, released the cows and then climbed on the roof and tried to put out the fire. I was making no headway when Jerry Dodge appeared, with the Denmark Volunteer Fire Department and they saved most of the barn. He never said anything to me.
So I joined the Denmark District Volunteer Fire Department and then one very cold winter, probably about 1952 or 1953, the weather was about -20 degrees, about 1 or 2:00 o’clock in the early morning, we heard the fire siren and I drove over to the fire house (I don’t remember where that was) and we took off to fight a fire at one of the Dodges who owned a great dairy, almost due west from Denmark Grade school. When we got there, we found the dairy barn ablaze. Hoses were laid out, I was handed an ax and told to go to the pond and hack a hole in the ice, which I did, it seems like the ice was 18” or 24” deep and it was quite a job just making a hole in the ice. We were at the end of our hose and at the shallow end of the pond, so we couldn’t pump much water. The barn burned down completely, killing some of his prize dairy cows. It was a sad occasion.
I also joined the Kittitas Volunteer Fire Department (so I could get out of school, if necessary). One winter that large “L”-shaped shed of the Johnsons (where the road from Kittitas to Denmark Grade School turned east, and a road continued south past the Gibbs’ farm, this is where large stacks of baled hay were stored. Well, that winter a portion of the hay must have been baled while green or wet and a fire burst out and a large portion was on fire. We got there and began moving bales away from the burning portion and worked hard to put down the fire. We would get the fire out and then a little while longer it would break out again. That went on for what seemed like several weeks. That was part of the Johnsons farm. I understand Jack Johnson inherited that place and he is now a millionaire! Who would have thought!?
Speaking of the Kittitas Volunteer Fire Department reminds me of one more story, and then I’ll bring this rambling reminiscence to a close. The Fire Truck was stored by Bob and Sy Kroscopp’s Garage on the main street in Kittitas. After a fire, we would lay out the hose along main street, which was very wide and then wash it down before rolling it back up. One beautiful early summer day (probably a Saturday), after putting out some brush fires, we had laid out the hose along the street and I was manning the controls and Sy Croscopp was on the “2” inch hose, washing down the long “4” inch hose. It was a great day and everyone was in a festive mood. I was singing away and Sy was washing away and down the street came a rickety, dirty old pick-up truck, driven by “Tiny” (I don’t remember his last name.)
Tiny was anything but . . . He stood about 6’ 2” tall and about 350 pounds, with arms like fence posts and legs like tree stumps . . . He was one big man! . . . Sy was no slouch, either, quite tall, but not nearly as heavy. As Tiny drove by the end of the hose, where Sy was washing away, Sy playfully flicked up the end of the “2” inch and sent a spray of water into the open window of the pick-up, hitting Tiny, who had been making fun of Sy and his “fire-fighter” outfit. Well, that was done in fun, but that enraged Tiny. He brought his pick-up to a screeching halt and he jumped out and started toward Sy, with rage in his eyes and shouting imprecations and saying what he was going to do to Sy! Sy looked at Tiny bearing down on him, and called out, “Willy, crank ‘er up a bit!” I spun the wheel a few times, the pressure increased, Sy aimed the nozzle at Tiny’s chest, hitting him squarely but that only increased Tiny’s rage and he forged ahead, determined to rip Sy’s head off. Sy called out again, “Willy, better crank ‘er up a bit more!” So I spun the wheel a few more times, the pressure dramatically increased and it would have knocked any ordinary man to the ground, but Tiny continued on, parting the water into two great spouts on each side of him.
[A word about the “2” inch hose. A large man could handle it most of the time, but if the pressure was increased to maximum, it would take two medium sized men to be able to handle it correctly. I remember it got loose one time at full pressure and it danced around like a snake, weaving and bouncing and quite dangerous until we got the pressure down.]
Well, Sy braced himself, and shouted to me, “Willy, give ‘er all she’s got!” whereupon I spun the wheel to full throttle, the truck’s engine roared into maximum power and the “2” incher was at full pressure. I turned around just in time to see the full force hit Tiny square in the chest. I can still see this big man being hit with the water at great pressure. Tiny was literally lifted off the ground, his feet straight in front of him, the water still hitting his chest, being driven up and back for several yards, until he crashed to the earth with a great thud! Tiny lay there for a minute, while I cranked the wheel back, the pressure subsided, and Sy was hurrying to see if there were any injuries to Tiny. Tiny shook his massive head a few time, crawled to his knees and then stood up. I guess the wind had been taken from his sails, because he shook off Sy’s helping hand and Tiny walked back to his truck and sped off. Sy and I looked at each other and then he said, “Well done, Willy!” and we both laughed and finished cleaning and rolling the hoses. I don’t really know what happened between Sy and Tiny, but a few days later, I saw them laughing and visiting with one another, so I guess they made up and had a few laughs over the incident.
Best wishes to you all and to all your family this Holiday Season. Wilford W. Whitaker
I was about 9 or 10 years old when Tony first came into my life. It was in 1948 or’49 and we were living in the Badger Pocket (or Denmark District) area of the Kittitas Valley. Dad had just purchased a large flock of old ewes, about 500 or 600 of them as I recall (1948-49). Tony was a black and white Border collie with a touch of gold on his nose. I don’t know how old he was when we got him or from whence he came. But I do remember growing up with him. My brother Bob and I would play with him, and as he got older and grew into a beautiful, large dog with a great disposition, we would wrestle and romp with him, his cold, wet nose nuzzling us and big wet tongue licking us as we rolled around on the ground, as boys are wont to do.
I remember Dad telling us that Tony was a natural born sheep dog and that he was going to train him to work with the sheep. I watched Dad as he showed him what to do around sheep and spent time teaching him the whistles and hand movements that corresponded with his verbal instructions in corralling the sheep or bringing them in from the field When Dad wanted the sheep moved from one pasture to another, instead of him walking clear up to the pasture where they were (usually about a quarter to a half mile away), Dad would just whistle and use hand signals and send Tony to do the rounding up. It was a beautiful sight to see Tony work.
For a couple of years Dad had leased the ranch to my brother Tom, and during that time we moved into Ellensburg (1952-1954). Bob and I attended the ninth grade at Ellensburg Junior High and for the tenth grade we went to Nephi, Utah to live with our sister Marne Tuttle. She and her husband Ted were managing a motel in Nephi while Ted was attending BYU, working on a doctorate. We moved back to Ellensburg for the first half of our junior year, then moved back out to the farm and attended Kittitas High School for the remaining 1-1/2 years of high school. Meanwhile, Tony had stayed on the ranch and was the main sheep dog for Tom. During that time Tony helped train other sheep dogs. But there was no dog that could compete with Tony when it came to working with the sheep. Needless to say I had grown very close to Tony, especially now that we were together again.
During our absence I had missed him like crazy. When we came back to the ranch I think he was as glad to see us as we were to see him. We resumed our good times together which included going out to hunt pheasants. Tony was not only an excellent sheep dog, but was also quite a good hunting dog as well. He was a natural; using his nose, he would work back and forth in front of me, always staying about 10-20 yards away. When he caught the scent of a pheasant he would get excited and start running, but not getting too far out in front. The birds were smart; so that after the first day of hunting season they learned not to fly up as soon as they were detected by Tony’s nose, but they would hunker down and start running ahead of him, zig-zagging back and forth. When Tony would suddenly stop, it usually meant the bird had stopped running and Tony would stop also. Then, when I had finally caught up to him, and Tony held the bird there waiting for me to get there, upon my command “take him” Tony would pounce and the bird would then fly up giving me a chance to shoot it. It was a great sport and I usually came back with my limit; thanks to a good dog with great instincts.
One summer day in 1954 I was assigned a hayfield to mow. Back then our mower consisted of a rear-mounted power-take-off machine with a side mounted mowing sickle which could be raised up for traveling on the road, then lowered while mowing. Tony liked to go with us whenever we went out to work in the hayfields; he loved to follow along behind us as we mowed or raked the hay and when we ran the hay baler. He would catch and eat the field mice which were always in great abundance. As a consequence Tony was getting fat and Dad told us he was too slow to stay out of the way of the mower and that we had better stop taking him with us when we went out to mow. On this particular day I wasn’t thinking about Tony as I started up the tractor and went out to the hayfield to start mowing. When I got to the field I noticed that Tony had followed me and was anxiously waiting for the feast to begin. I thought it wouldn’t hurt this one time to let him stay, so not wanting to disappoint him I let down the mower and started to mow. I soon began to think of other things and forgot about Tony. As I circled the field making right-hand turns at each corner of the field by stepping on the left-hand brake and making the tractor make a sharp L-shaped turn, the mower blade would suddenly make a quick reverse and then start forward again without my diminishing speed.
I was blithely mowing away and had just completed a corner turn, when suddenly I heard a yelp and looked back to see Tony lying on the ground behind the mower. I quickly stopped and dismounted. I went over to where Tony lay writhing and tried to get him to stand up and walk. But all he could do was lay there and moan. I concluded that Tony was badly injured by the mower blades and was unable to get up. So I picked him up and cradling him, I went back and sat in the tractor seat with him in my arms. I raised the mower bar and went as fast as possible back to the house. My mother was the only other person who was home (Dad and Bob were gone somewhere). I took Tony and laid him on our lawn and went inside to tell Mother what had happened. I asked here, “Mom, what shall I do?” She said she didn’t know and was just as confused as I was. I then remembered Dad teaching us to not let injured animals suffer. Tony was badly injured; his injuries were pretty bad and he was plainly suffering. I thought of calling a vet, but we could not afford a veterinarian, and Tony was probably too damaged to make it worth-while. In the meantime he was still suffering.
It was about this time that I made up my mind and decided to do what was best for Tony. As much as it pained me to do so, I went into the house and got our 20-gauge shotgun and some shells. I loaded a shell into the chamber and went back outside to where Tony was laying. I never will forget looking down into those big black eyes which were pleading with me, “I know you’ll take care of me and make things better!” With tears streaming down my face and a prayer in my heart I pulled the trigger. I put the gun away and then took a shovel and began to dig a grave to bury my dog in. As I shoveled the dirt over his lifeless body, I asked Tony to please forgive me and prayed that Heavenly Father would make it possible for us to be together again. Then I went into the house, told Mother what I had done, then went in and lay on my bed and cried for the rest of the morning. I look forward to the day when we will be together again; to see Tony bounding over the horizon, greeting me enthusiastically and me giving him a big hug.
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