LIFE HISTORY OF IVON ELDER
After Mother’s (Rowene’s) death in March of 2015, I began going through her albums, journals, scrapbooks and genealogy. Lying on the bottom of the genealogy box was this life history. It appears to have been typed by Mother as Dad dictated it to her. Dad’s speech patterns are very evident and I could hear his voice as I read. There were 44 typed pages written on genealogy sheets in landscape view. Throughout, were changes made in Mother’s handwriting correcting typos, dates and names. Having no idea it existed, I was rather excited upon the discovery.
Retyping it into a computer program to make it more assessable was necessary. Many photos were found within the albums and added, which brought it to life. Mother’s typing errors have been corrected, but Dad’s unique way of talking has been preserved. This entire process has given me great joy, as I have laughed, cried and caught my breath in places.
This sheds light upon the severe struggle of Grandma Grace Elder; her life being much harder than any of us could imagine. Hopefully, this history helps you, the reader, to understand our common heritage.
Linda Elder Harris
Daughter of Ivon Arthur Elder
Life History of Ivon Arthur Elder
Written at San Carlos Bay, Mexico 1980 by Ivon Arthur Elder
(Retyped in Ivon’s words by Linda Elder Harris 2015)
Let me see, it is 62 years and almost 9 months from the day I was born to this earth, before I try to remember all of the events that happened to me; and that is a powerful long time. So, I will probably forget some things and get some ahead of others, but I will try my best with the help of my heavenly father and, in that case, I will surely succeed.
I was born to the goodly parents of Curtis Theodore Elder, and Grace Elva Mitchell, on March 28, 1917 at home in the county of Arapaho, Colorado, about 12 miles south of Bennett. I might say that a school teacher was to blame for Mother naming me the name that she gave me. At this time my father and mother were dry farming on a farm, the Tarbull Place, that we were share cropping – that is, we were running the place for a share of what we raised. Then, my Father bought the farm about this time, or maybe before my birth. I was the 9th child of 11 children, as follows: Clair, Viola, Sylvon, Bruce, Rolland, Robbie, Ruby, Chester, myself (Ivon), Alvon and Dorothy.
My father and my three older brothers farmed the place and they raised wheat, corn, cane and beans. Mother had two neighbors that came straight from Italy and she taught them how to speak English. One family was blonde and the other family was dark haired, although they were brothers. They both had large families and they both had a John and a Mary. We called one Big John and Big Mary, and one Little John and Little Mary. It was from one of these families that I picked up a domino that was laying in the yard and put it in my pocket and took it home with me which was about ½ mile up the hill. My mother saw me playing with it and made me return it and apologize to Mrs. Taparrow. That was my first lesson not to rip off with something that was not mine. That was a very hard thing to do, to say that I was sorry and that I wouldn’t do it again.
It was on this farm that I remember riding in the wheat barge, as we called it. It was a wagon with a bed that had one low side and the opposite side was high. They would cut the wheat with a header pulled with six or four horses (I can’t remember) and the wheat was elevated up chutes into the barge over the low side, and us kids would ride the barge and tromp the wheat down so that they could get more into it. Then, they would pitch it off onto a stack and thrash it with a thresher. Sometimes this threshing would be in the winter or even into next spring. When I grew in stature and strength I would drive the horses on the barge, or I would pitch the wheat onto the barge and I am here to tell you I believe that was the hottest job on this earth. A person would perspire at every pore and I believe that is where I got into the habit of drinking so much water. A person could drink a half gallon at one time. As you would be tromping the wheat the grasshoppers, as thick as flies, would be jumping and kicking you in the face. On top of that, one never knew when a rattlesnake would come up with the wheat. I can still feel those wheat beards all down my back scratching and burning my hot and sweating skin.
Some people can’t believe me when I tell them I can remember when I wore diapers, but, I can. My brother, Alvon, who is two years younger than I, was too little to play outside with me. I would ask Mother if he could come outside and play and she would say he is too young to play. At that time I couldn’t quite understand why he couldn’t come.
It was about this time that Ruby and Robbie would tell me that if I didn’t quit being a bad boy, the devil would get me. Let me tell you that would scare the daylights out of me. However, I don’t think it deterred my meanness too long.
On this farm my dad bought, it had a hayloft in the barn with a 2 X 2 foot hole through which one entered the loft by a ladder that was nailed up into the hole. Well, one fine winter day, I was up in the loft playing. When I went to come down, I missed the ladder and came down like a missile head first and smote the cement foundation tearing my lip about an inch down to the chin. My mother and Clair put me in the bobsleigh, which was a wagon without wheels, having runners instead so it would slide over the snow. They made me a bed in the bottom of the sleigh along with some hot hand irons to keep me warm and headed for the doc. We had to go 12 to 14 minutes to Bennett. I had to have it sewn up. I can remember getting into the sleigh and going into see the doc, but the rest is blank.
You know, that hayloft caused me a lot of pain. We had an old corn sheller up there that we kids would crank as fast as we could. It had a cast iron fly-wheel to keep the momentum up when you fed the ears of corn into it. Well, one day as I was cranking the heck out of it, the set screw that kept the handle from coming off, caught the sleeve of my shirt and up- ended me over the handle and then came around smacking me right in the teeth. It knocked several loose and two completely out. However, they were baby teeth so not too much was lost, only a lot of hurt and wasted blood. Dad had a straw stack out by the barn and one of the Taparrow boys put Chester’s sled on top of it and wouldn’t get it down for him. Chester thought the best way to get it down was to set the stack on fire. So he proceeded to do just that. He almost burned the barn down with the stack.
Mother and Dad bought a lot of dried fruit and would keep it up on the basement wall so we kids couldn’t get to it. The fruit came in boxes about the size you would buy cherries in now: prunes, raisins, apples, pears, peaches, and figs black and white. Here again is where I got the taste for dried fruit perhaps. Anyway, one day Chester got lost and after a frantic search all-round-about, we found him up on the ledge, fast asleep with his fill of dried goodies. Speaking of dried fruit, one time Mother left me over at Uncle Ed’s place and went somewhere. Of course, I wanted my mom so I cried like all get out, and to get me to shut up Uncle Ed put me up to the table and gave me some raisins. That incident seems almost like yesterday to me.
Speaking of Uncle Ed, I didn’t know until just a few years back while talking to him, that my father was a water witch. He found underground water for people with a forked stick and drilled wells. I find that I am also a water witch.
I can still remember of my folks talking of the atrocities of the First World War that was supposed to be committed by the Germans. Right after the war one of the returning soldiers (who they called Dough Boys) came to our place to stay. His name was Dave Daily, and while there he and the older boys got into a rotten egg fight. Boy, what a mess!
Mother would raise chickens every year to help out with the finances and she did a very good job of it too. Before I go any farther, I will mention that the barn that I have mentioned before was built of concrete blocks that my father cast himself and then laid them. Maybe that is where I get my handiwork from.
While on this place I cannot remember of going to church. I suppose it was because there was none at a reasonable distance.
One time I was riding in the buckboard and Rolland was driving the horses and he was hauling the water for the house and cows from the Taparrow farm down the road. We didn’t have a well on this place. When we got back in our own yard, I fell out of the wagon and the back wheel ran over my chest. The wagon was full of barrels of water. Why it didn’t do me in I will never know. Anyway, Father sure gave Rolland a Scotch blessing because I got run over.
One of the highlights of my life while on this farm was when my Uncle Edwin took us to the county fair. I don’t remember where it was held, but we went in his car and it had a big white top that folded back over the top of the back seat. When Rowene and I rode in Alvon’s restored Lincoln in Ventura last fall, it reminded me of the one we went to the fair in. I can still remember being dressed in Knickerbocker pants and being in the back seat waiting for the older people to get in. I climbed up on the folded down top and Uncle Ed reprimanded me for getting up on it. That evening they took us to a movie; the first I had ever seen. Of course it was a silent movie. All I can remember about it was that they were trying to get the leading man to kiss the girl and he was too bashful. He jumped on his steed and rode down the road with all the rest of the boys chasing. When they caught up with him, he jumped off his horse and tried to run up this embankment. They caught hold of his boots and pulled him down. And that ends my memory of the show. We sat in the balcony right up front where I could look down at the main floor. There were little individual boxes where you could sit and shut a gate to your box, so it must have been a pretty swanky place. But, what impressed me most about the whole thing is that in the back of the balcony were two doors; the door on the left had what looked like a grinder of some kind, and every little while someone would come out and turn the crank a few seconds and then go back through the door. I have wondered to this day what that was; maybe you could tell me.
Every so often, maybe two or three times a year, the folks would hitch-up the wagon and go to Denver to buy supplies: sugar, matches, coffee, wicks, dried fruit and coal oil for the lamps. They would go in one day, stay overnight at the boarding house, shop the next day and come back on the third day. They would always buy their groceries at the wholesale house as it was cheaper. They would buy by the case lots. I don’t think they ever took me along in the wagon, but I did go when they got a car. But, I remember when they would come home how much food they would have.
I started in the first grade at the Nestor School when I was six and can remember walking directly over the hill to school rather than by the road. It saved ½ a mile to go that way. I can remember the older boys picking on me.
It was about this time that Rolland left home to make his fortune. He was about 18 at the time and he said he would return when he was 21. The next morning Clair hitched-up the horses to the wagon and we followed his tracks over the hill to see which way he went. There was about six inches of snow on the ground. We learned later he walked clear to Colorado Springs. I will continue this story at a later time.
It must have been the next summer, when we were about to harvest our crops, that a tremendous hail storm hit our ranch and flattened everything: all our crops. Mother lost all her chickens save a few that she saved by drying and warming them up in the oven. The storm came up so sudden that the chickens didn’t have time to get to the chicken house and they were killed by the hail. Some of the hail was as big as baseballs. With everything lost, we couldn’t make the payment on the place and we were out in the cold. The hail storm must have come in 1923 because, that was the year my youngest sister was born, the last of the family. Mother named her Dorothy; we now call her Dot.
I can recall the event of her birth vividly. We all had to stay outside and Mrs. Toparrow was the midwife. I can recall when she came out and announced that it was a girl. My father was not present at the time I don’t believe, because he was committed to the mental hospital in Pueblo, Colorado. He remained there until he died of pneumonia in 1945. I only recall my father a few times. Once when he scolded Rolland for letting the wagon roll over me, and once when he and Mother were having a family fight and hollering at one another. Boy that scared the daylights out of me! Then, on two more occasions when he walked away from the hospital and came home. Each time he brought a big sack of candy for us kids. The last time he came home Sylvon brought him up to the school to see us before they took him back.
I feel very sorry for my father and the life he was forced to live. Not because he wanted to, but, because of circumstances beyond his control. Mother said he was very mean with the older children and they were very scared of him. I cannot recall any of this and I am glad I can’t. I am thankful I do not have these memories of my father. I love him because he was my father and I know that he loved us children in spite of his mental condition. Or, why would he on two occasions walk away and bring his children candy with the little means he could afford? On each occasion he would ask to see the baby and the rest of us. Mother would say that when he was normal he was a good man and had a brilliant mind. He could play any musical instrument he chose to pick up. My Uncle Ed (his brother) said the same things about him. He had what was diagnosed as Schizophrenia and at that time the doctors didn’t know what to do for it. Now-a-days they are curing it with the simple thing of giving mega doses of vitamin B’s. They say he could play the harp like an angel and did so at many gatherings. I wonder why I don’t have any of that talent. Speaking of my Uncle Ed, he is still alive and is 94 at this writing.
Here is another thing that happened to me on this first ranch. One time as I went to have a bowel movement, I discovered that my insides were hanging out about an inch and a half. I went running to the house all shook up. I can’t remember, but, Mother must have gotten ahold of the doctor because she had some black inserts. She pushed me back in shape and inserted these and to this day I have never been bothered with this again. I give thanks to my Heavenly Father for this.
To wind up this side story about Father and Mother, I know that my angel parents are together in the hereafter. Father is a whole man and they are together, happy and are doing the work of the Lord. This has been given to me by the Holy Ghost. This I know to be a fact. Amen.
Now, in the meantime, back at the ranch that we didn’t own anymore. We loaded our meager belongings up and moved north to Bennett, Adams County, Colorado. This was when I was six years old and I attended first grade there. We were there only about a year. Our closest neighbor took pity on us and singled me out to make a pair of pants for me. Well that was alright, but when she asked me to take the pants off that I had on so she could try the new pants on, I just about died! But, I lived through it.
In the front of this story I told you how my oldest sisters would tell me that the devil would get me if I didn’t be good. Well, one fine day Chester, Alvon and I came out of the house to play and coming down the road was the ugliest looking witch I have ever seen. She carried a long crooked staff and was slowly coming through the yard toward the house. I will bet that was the most scared three little boys in the whole world. I just stood there frozen stiff; a million thoughts ran through my mind as fast as bolts of lightning. I thought it was the devil for sure. Every bad thing that I had said or done passed before my eyes. By this time I had made up my mind that I would not give up without a good struggle, so with one huge leap off the cement step I was off running. About that time I heard my sister Ruby laughing. I glanced back to see how far I was ahead of Satan and discovered it was her all dressed up. After my heart quit pounding, I was sure glad it was her instead of the devil. That was probably the dirtiest trick in the book to scare three little boys.
I will come back to the time Rolland left home. He walked all the way to Colorado Springs and there found a job working for a farmer for a while. The farmer liked him very much, because he did not use bad language around the children. Then he got a job working on the Rock Island Railroad as a switchman. He went by the name of Jon Houston. He talked of his Uncle Chris who lived in Bennett. The farmer thought it strange that he spelled his name Jon instead of John, but, he didn’t say anything to him about the spelling of his name. Rolland hadn’t worked on the railroad very long when he was sweeping the snow off at the switches in a blizzard. A train came along and he apparently did not hear it and was killed. He was underage so the railroad was liable, but, to my knowledge, Mother never received anything but the funeral expenses. To throw a little more light on the subject, in 1969 Chester, Hazel, Rowene and myself went back to Colorado Springs to find Rolland’s grave and to put a marker on it on Memorial Day. We found it with the help of the sexton. He told us he had been buried on the county plot which, at that time, was free; so you see, the railroad pulled a dirty trick on Mother. But, to make ends meet, when he was killed the farmer came to Bennett to look for a person by the name of Chris. It didn’t take long to find him, so it was Uncle Ed who went down and found out it was Rolland who had been killed. He took care of things for Mother. This was in 1923.
We hadn’t been in Bennett very long when one day a lodge came out from Denver with a load of food, fruit and toys to give us because of our destitute circumstances after we lost all in the hail storm. I wish I could remember the name of the lodge. The first time I can remember being sick was at this place and I had a very bad cold. The last thing I can remember of this place is that one day when I was gone, Mother let a neighbor boy that I didn’t like play with my toys. This made be very unhappy.
I will tell you about Uncle Edwin and Chris’s farm before we went from Bennett to there. They homesteaded the place which was a half section. He had bought a Rumley oil pull-tractor: one big one and a smaller one to farm with. The wheels on the big one were about seven feet tall and the rims about 3 ½ feet wide. A monster of a thing and when they plowed the fields, the corners were big and round because they couldn’t turn the corners very sharp. The two brothers also ran the coal mine that was down the hill. We kids would ride a little red wagon down it when we lived there. People would come for miles in wagons to buy coal with 2, 4 or 6 head of horses depending on the size of the load. Some would stay overnight and play cards in the evening. They played a game they called pitch and then they would go home the following day. Uncle Ed had what he called a sleeping loft over the garage between the blacksmith shop and the granary where he had about a dozen beds for them to sleep in. They would play cards half the night up there by kerosene lamp.
I remember I was at the mine one time with Claire and Sylvon, who worked for their Uncle, and a fellow had a tame coyote on a chain. The coyote jumped up and put his paws on my shoulders and licked me in the face. This scared me to death.
Uncle Ed borrowed so much money to buy the tractors that he couldn’t make it and he went broke. So, by some miracle, my older brothers borrowed some money and went back to farming on Ed’s place. Ed went to Denver and secured work with the water department. I must say one more thing about my Uncle. He was a bachelor at the time and he would bake a pan of biscuits every morning. Boy, were they good!
I loved it on this place as it was situated on a hill and one could look back to the west hills and to the north hills and then one could see the black hills covered with pine. We had a grandstand view of the sunrise on the east and then we could watch it set behind the Rocky Mountains on the west.
In the spring, the pasture ground would be as green as a golf course. The grass there is what they call Buffalo Grass growing about three inches tall and then curling back down making a thick carpet. The only bad thing about it was we didn’t have any trees to make a wind break, so the wind blew quite hard and the blizzards in the winter were quite bad.
Uncle Ed had built a barn on this place out of old wooden cargo boxes, etc. My father drilled a well on the place and the water was so hard we couldn’t drink it and the soap wouldn’t make bubbles, but the animals liked it. I have often wondered if a modern water softener would have softened it for household use. We would haul drinking water from the neighbor’s a mile away. This is where I learned to drive a car. We had an old Dodge and an old Maxwell also.
When Ed was on the place he established a telephone system between him and the neighbors. There were between 14 and16 people on the system and they used the top wire of the barbed wire fence. It was put on glass insulators and when they came to a gate they would run it up on two tall poles. Then, at the end of the line it was converted to the main telephone line at Bennett. So, you could actually call anywhere in the world. The telephones were the kind that hung on the wall with the receiver on the left side and the crank would make it ring accordingly in their homes. In fact, all 14 phones would ring so it didn’t matter whose ring was whose, because everybody would pick up the phone and listen, and that’s a fact. My brothers tell a humorous story on my Uncle Ed. He had a horse that lay down in the corral one day and wouldn’t get up, so they decided to shock him by putting the telephone wire out the window and shock him by turning the crank. Well, they did this and Ed was by the horse and Chris was by the phone crank. He cranked a little and the horse jumped a bit. Ed said, “Give him more,” and they did. Chris stuck his head out the window and said “Is he up yet?” Ed said, “No, he is dead.” They had electrocuted their horse.
It was here that we attended Brick Center School. It was two miles from home and we rode horses or walked. It was here that I stuck my tongue out at the teacher and she saw me. She walked down to me, hit me along the side of the head, almost knocking me out of my seat, walked back to her desk and sat down without saying a word. I got the message loud and clear! One day when it was too cold to play outside, my teacher, Mr. Barker, let us stay inside. I drew a map of the United States freehand on the blackboard. I put all the states in it with colored chalk. He said it was too good to erase so it was left up the remainder of the year.
When we rode horses to school we always rode them through the barn and dismounted in the middle of the barn. One day as we went through the door, I decided to grab the door casing and let the horse go on out from under me. Well, I didn’t have ahold good enough and I slipped and fell with my back hitting the foundation, which was about ten inches high. Why it didn’t break my back I don’t know. Another lesson learned the hard way. This is the same barn the boys would hide behind during recess to try their luck at smoking. I even tried that once. All the way from alfalfa leaves, Indian tobacco, tree roots, to the real thing.
It was in the basement of this school, grades 1-8 all in the same room, that I saw my first drunken man passed out on the floor foaming at the mouth. That turned my stomach at the sight and I made a vow that I would never drink and put myself in such a position and I have kept that vow.
In the basement of this school they had toilets and, of course, they didn’t flush as they do now. They had lye in them and they had to be pumped out once a year and my brothers would do it to make a few bucks. We younger boys had to help. Boy, what a stinking job!
The reason I didn’t like to ride a horse in the winter was the teacher would have to come out and almost pry you off, it would be so cold. When your feet hit the ground, it would feel like someone had driven a rod up your legs.
It was in this same school house that they would hold their dance social. Box lunches were auctioned off to the highest bidder. The boxes would be a secret as to whose box was whose. But, when a boy liked a special girl, the secret would get out and they would bid him way up if he wanted to eat with her. This was their only finance to run the dance with.
We had three saddle horses on this place to ride and a lot of work horses. We had one work horse named Frank. We would always put him with a new horse because we knew he wouldn’t run away. If the new horse ran, old Frank would run him in a circle and that way we could head him off. We would have plenty of runaways every year because we worked many horses. I drove four head of horses on this place when I was only eight years old: cultivating, harrowing, cutting wheat and the like and hauling and cutting corn for silage. The saddle horses names were: Dick, Fancy, and Lula. Dick was Ruby’s horse and Fancy and Lula were the two we kids rode. Lula was a kid’s horse while Fancy was a high-stepping horse, but we rode her anyway.
One day, Chester and I were riding her double and going down through a draw full-speed, when we came to a bog. The horse landed in the middle of it and we went flying over her head about 20 feet. There was a watering hole down in the draw that the horses drank out of and one winter they fell through the ice. We had to pull them out with a team of horses to keep them from freezing to death. We called this ravine The Devil’s Backbone. In the summer we would tie a long rope to one of the big branches that hung over the deep channel and then swing to the other side. This was quite a thrill as it was around 30 feet.
Another thing we enjoyed doing was playing games outside at night such as pump, pump, pull-away. This is where we would have two sides of the field about 50 feet apart and one person would be it. He would stand in the middle and holler, “pump, pump, pull-away” and everybody would run to the opposite side. The one that was “it” would touch one of them if he could and then he or she would be “it”.
At another time, the neighbor boys down the road and us would go walking at night in the moonlight. Sometimes we wouldn’t get home until midnight. This was very enjoyable. Then we would go to bed in what we called the “dugout”. This was a building about five feet underground and about four feet above ground. It had a root cellar in one end with steps down to the sleeping quarters.
Another thing that Alvon and I did that we got a big kick out of was go into the corn field when the corn was tall and the tassels were on and the corn was almost matured. We would take our dog, Rover, with the long tail, (Fido wouldn’t do because he had a short tail), and go into the corn field. One of us would stay with the dog and the other one would go way down in the corn field. When he was ready he would holler, “Ready”, and off Rover would take down through the field as fast as he could run to find him. The other one would hang onto his tail so as not to get lost and left behind. The one who was hid would zig-zag around through the corn, but the old dog always wound-up wherever we were hiding. He really did enjoy playing that game with us kids. The funny thing about it was, we would say, “sssshhhh”, and he would stop dead still and actually stop breathing for a while so we could hear which direction he was running.
Another thing we did was to make stilts. We would walk long distances with them strapped to our legs.
When we moved onto Ed’s place, Clair and Sylvon still ran the coal mine, but by that time the automobiles and trucks were quite the thing and so the farmers would go up north to pick up coal that was harder to burn and burned better. So, the coal business wasn’t what it was at one time. When you mine coal you must have black powder and dynamite to blast the coal loose and that posed a problem a couple of times with us kids. Chester put a dynamite cap on the anvil and hit it with a big sledge hammer. It blew the sledge back over his head and slammed it up against the wall and a piece of copper casing hit my stomach making a hole. It is a wonder that it didn’t blind us both. When the folks were gone, we would do a lot of things. We would throw the dynamite sticks as hard as we could up against the wall. By some act of the Lord they didn’t explode or I wouldn’t be here to tell this story.
Another time the neighbor boy came up to our place to get some black powder to take home to his father. He wanted it to cure ringworm that he had on the back of his hand. Chester went up to the loft to get him a handful of the powder. Before he came down, he put some on top of the barrel of powder and struck a match to it to watch it fizz. It would fizz like when you break a fire cracker in two. Some of the sparks flew into the open drum. I tell you, it sounded like all hell had broken loose. Fire blew out all the windows and doors, and I looked up through the opening in the floor. I saw Chet all humped over with his arms over his head trying to protect himself from the blast. It was a good thing there were only a few pounds of powder left in the barrel or we would not have lived to tell this story. I believe that was the first time I decided there must be someone up above looking out for stupid kids like us. I hope you don’t get tired of these long short stories, but that is the way it was.
We had a local store named the Salem Store. We could buy two pounds of raisins for 36 cents. How does that compare with today’s prices?
The first radio that I remember was an Atwater Kent. I think it was 2/3 static and 1/3 music, but it was exciting.
Oh yes, we were boys, and we did play hooky from school. Sometimes if the folks weren’t home we would ride the horses down some grassy draw and let them graze while we built a fire out of cow chips and played around all day before coming home. Or, maybe we would ride the horses over the hill towards school and as soon as the folks were gone we would come back home and make fudge. We would do that about four times a year. I might say that Denver was about 40 miles away.
One summer while we were riding the horses across the range, Alvon and I found a fold-up purse with $14.00 in it. Not being able to find the owner, we gave it to Mother and she bought some new clothes for Ruby and Robbie. Fourteen dollars went a long way back then.
About once a week Jews from Denver would come out to buy calves or pigs or whatever they could to take back to Denver to made a quick buck on. We always called them the Jews. Every year there was one that would come in a wagon piled high with all kinds of clothing. In fact, you name it, he had it. The wagon was covered over with a big white canvas. He would pull into our place along about evening and pull the canvas off. We would buy quite a lot of things. Then he would stay all night. In the morning he would pay for his lodging and head out on his way.
On the weekends, there were rabbit hunters that would invade us. They hunted jackrabbits. Most of them would stop and ask if they could hunt. Then, every so often, a car would pull into the yard and out piled a whole family of kids. They would walk around looking at the horses, calves, chickens, pigs and even the old pet goat as if we were running a zoo. So, we would stand-by so they wouldn’t rip off with anything. They would even go in our machine shop and milk house just looking and having a ball. When I was little, Alvon and I always had milk white hair. When Mother would take us to Denver, she would shop with the Jews. They would always pat us on top of the head and say, “How are you cotton top.” I didn’t like that.
When we lived on Ed’s place was the first time we went to church. It was held at Brick Center School. It was just called Sunday school and then later on, they did have evening meetings. There was a Bible school in Denver and the young fellows would come out and practice on us hillbillies. They did a pretty good job of floor stomping at that.
Also, it was at Brick Center that they held county fairs. This was where I saw my first brand new white top buggy with the fringe all around the edge. It was quite a sight. It was strange that they would buy a white top buggy at that time, because, by now the Model T Ford was the thing to buy. It was at this fair that I first met James A. Peterson. He and I became pals and we are still friends to this day, some 55 years.
Clair decided that we needed a chicken house, so; he built a sod-cutter. It consisted of 2-10 inch planks bolted together like runners of a sled with a sharp front blade that extended down about four inches from the ten-inch runner and across to the other ten- inch runner, about twelve inches apart. Then, he put some weight on top of it and pulled it with a team of horses. This cut the sod out in long strips down in the bottom of a draw where the grass was thick. They cut it in about three feet lengths and built a sod chicken house. Then they stuccoed the outside with plaster making a good warm building.
I mentioned the bad blizzards we had out there on the prairie. One time Sylvon was out on old Dick rounding up some cows when a blizzard came up suddenly. It was only a few seconds that he couldn’t see only a few feet in front of him when he gave the horse the reins and said, “Let’s go home.” The horse knew the way home. You can’t get a good horse lost too easy.
I can remember, in the winter, when we would go to a party; we would wrap-up in quilts and have hot hand- irons to keep us warm. We would go in the sled. Sometimes we drove five or six miles and got home at one or two in the morning and thought we had had a good time. But, a lot of time in the winter evenings Mother would read Bible stories to us out of a book she had and I would always look forward to her reading to us.
Chester had two coyotes for pets while we lived there. One was wild, but one was quite tame. He would run loose like a dog and would come to meet us when we would come in from the fields. He would jump up on us like a dog and we could pet him. You couldn’t pick him us because this would frighten him and he would bite you. One day I picked him up, not knowing this, and he clamped down on my thumb. I jerked my hand away and his teeth ripped my skin from the middle to the end of my thumb down to the bone.
One winter I was skating on a little man-made lake and lost my footing. I came down and landed on the back of my head. I can still see the stars. I really think I broke my head open on this one.
One fall when we were harvesting wheat, Clair had me driving the old International Harvester tractor pulling the wheat combine behind it. I was so small that I had to slide all the way down out of the seat in order to push in the clutch so I could stop the tractor. Otherwise, the combine would get plugged-up with too much wheat going into the separator. I sure did have a ball driving the tractor that fall during the harvest.
One other time when Chester was driving the tractor plowing, I was running along in the furrow between the tractor wheel and the V-shaped plow sheet, when the plow wheel caught my pant leg and ran over my leg at the knee. If the ground had been hard instead of soft, it could have cut my leg off.
In the fall of the year, Mother would somehow scrape enough money together to buy us school clothes. The shoes, however, were not new. They were old Army shoes that had been resoled and polished up; “Li’l Abner” shoes, we called them. Well, by spring they would be worn out and so we would have to go barefoot all summer. We would run through cactus, jump off horses, have cows step on us while milking, and jump over rattlesnakes. I almost stepped right in the middle of a rattler one day. If he hadn’t warned me with his rattle, I’m sure I would have.
One other time I was reaching into old woodpecker holes to steal magpie eggs, when I grasped hold of a snake. I tell you, that was the last time I put my hand into an old hole in the tree!
Wild honey bees would have their hives in old hollow logs and I was always the one elected to go and rob the bees of their honey. For some unknown reason, bees wouldn’t sting me unless they were pinched between my clothes and my skin. I would go and reach in the old hollow log and pull out a honey comb. We would eat it like a bunch of bears. One time we robbed a hive that was in the walls of an old house. We smoked the bees out at night. We got a tub and a brass boiler full of honey from that hive, with me only getting stung once. That happened when I went to eat some honey comb and a half dead bee stung me on the lip. Bees swarm and fly away from the old hive to establish a new hive. Sometimes they settle on the top of a fence post. When that happened I was elected to cut the post off and put it in a box so they would start a new hive. I would never get stung while doing it.
There was a bachelor by the name of Henry Bates who lived a mile down the road and he farmed the ranch below us. This particular summer he hired Alvon to herd his cattle on the range and bring them into the corral at night for $15.00 a month. This was a blessing because it kept us alive that summer. It wasn’t much of a job. He would get a horse and drive them out and then drive them back at night.
His boss took us fishing that summer. We had a picnic first, and then we fished for carp. We caught them in our hands under the bank of the river. We brought back a gunny sack full of fish. We had all the fish we wanted for a couple of days.
We had a spring about a mile and a half from our place that we called, “The Nine Footer” where we swam a lot. One day we were swimming with a friend and he got tired in the water and couldn’t get out by himself. He kept going down and then up, and then down again. So, I swam out and pulled him to the bank. After he got his strength back he told me he would have drowned if I had not pulled him out.
My oldest sister, Viola, got married when I was quite young and when she had a couple of children Mother wanted to go see her. So, we all got in the old Dodge car and went to Kansas. Actually, it wasn’t that far if we were going today in the cars and on the roads we have now. But, then it was quite a project. Clair bolted some wooden boards on the running boards from fender to fender and we rode part way on the running board. We would go about 25 or 30 miles and then we would have a flat tire. This happened all the way down and back, but we did make it. It took us a couple of days down and the same back, but it was quite an experience at that.
One time when Mother was in the hospital, Sylvon would ride to Bennett to buy store-bought bread. Boy, we thought that was really neat to have store-bought bread. When Mother was home she always baked bread. Now, I love the homemade bread, don’t you? Of course, at that time the bread wasn’t cut and wrapped. It was kept in a big red bread tin at the store. You would raise up the lid and reach in to get the bread out yourself. I can’t remember my mother ever buying anything in the store that she didn’t make, except bananas and such as this. At this time the stores kept their bananas hanging on a big stalk that hung from the ceiling. If you wanted to buy some, the store owner would cut the amount off with a curved knife that looked like the linoleum knives we have today.
Let me tell you a fish story. This Andrew Harrower that I mentioned when I told you the story of the black powder, well his family always managed to find time and money to take a vacation every year. They always went to the Rocky Mountains that weren’t very far to the west. About 75 miles away they would go trout fishing. Well, that fall at school, Andrew, we called him Bob, brought a fried fish for his lunch. I just sat and drooled all while he ate it. I made up my mind that someday I would have all the trout I could eat. That day came many times afterwards, when I moved to good old Idaho.
Another thing that happened to me was when I was trying to catch some chickens for Mother to cook and I ran after one under the roost. I scratched a big gash in my back on a nail that was sticking out. Where that nail dug down into my flesh still itches a lot and is numb. I must have damaged the nerve endings.
You know we didn’t have to have sex education in those days, because living on a farm we got plenty of experience in delivering calves and piglets. To us that was common knowledge.
Uncle Ed’s place was out on what we called the prairie. We had plenty of coyotes and rattlesnakes of which I killed my share. We also had a herd of antelope that grazed in the pasture land around us.
Probably one of the most fun things that we looked forward to was the picnic that we went on the end of the school year. We would go to the park in Denver and the school board would furnish all the ice cream we could eat. Man O’ Man, did we eat! The rest was furnished pot luck by the kid’s parents. One year the teachers gave us each 50cents to spend on junk food. It seems like it took all afternoon to get it spent. Five cents at a whack; what fun!
It was about this time that the folks took us to town to have the doctor remove a growth on the left side of my head. It was about the size of a goose egg that had been growing for two to three years. I believe they called it a wind. He took it off right in his office and afterwards said he would never do that kind of operation again in his office. When he cut that lump off, he threw it across the room into the waste basket. I can still hear that thing hit the basket.
When we were kids we seemed to make quite a lot of handmade kites. I would say I was about six years old when we started this and we continued every year to make our kites. Then, we would whittle them round and smooth. These posts were cedar posts and they were in the shape of a piece of pie. This made them easy to whittle. We would use four pieces most of the time to make a six-sided kite. Then, we would tie them together with string and put a string all around the outer edge so we could paste paper to it. We would use a sheet of newspaper, the Denver Post, and for glue we would use flour and water mixed into a paste. They all did a pretty good job. The worst problem was the paper wasn’t very strong. We would use old rags and tie them to the tail so it wouldn’t come down to the ground and break. But, it still would do this sometimes. When it happened, then back to the drawing board we would go. Some of the kites were six feet tall and were quite a challenge to fly. I believe I was 20 years old before we quit making the kites.
I would daydream about owning a bicycle, but it was like wishing one had a million dollars. It was not possible and I knew it. What made it worse was the neighbor kid had one. His name was Kenneth Shattuck, and he had everything. When his bike would wear out, his dad would buy him another one. I guess I was pretty envious. Well, one day when I was scrounging around in an old scrap pile, I found a bike frame with the front handle bars and the front wheel forks. The pedals were missing. I found two wheels off from an old wagon about ten inches in diameter. So, I put them on the front and back with two bolts. Then I put a piece of wood through where the pedals went so I would have a place to put my feet. My brother, Alvon, and I would saddle-up old Lulu, the horse, and she would pull us on this scooter or whatever you might call it. In fact, we pulled each other all over the country with that darn thing, I think we wore out a half dozen wagon wheels that we found in different dump yards. Anyway, we had more fun pulling that thing around and about wore out our poor old pony doing it. I guess the moral to this story is: if you can’t have a bike then use your noodle and make something with other things that you can have fun with. They made a good road past our place that we called Air Line Road. That is where we pulled this contraption part of the time. I guess I learned early in life that the have- not’s can have more if they want to. The imagination, will power, self-determination and motivation can, and will, make one a better and much happier person, although he or she may never be rich. I would like to call such a person, one who has serendipity. This, I think I possibly possess.
Shortly after this I made a header barge that we have a picture of. Then I made a little silage cutter that ran off an old washing machine motor that we had. It had a conveyor belt that moved the corn along into the pit. I was about 14 at the time I made this.
Then, about this time, Alvon and I decided to make toys for Dorothy for Christmas. We also have a picture of this. We sawed them out of the ends of orange crates. I took an old crib and cut it down and made a doll bed with it which she played with for many years.
Around this age, I took an old treadle sewing machine and made a jig saw with it by attaching a coping saw blade to the pivot where the needle went. By fastening the other end to a spring underneath, and keeping it in line by means of a fixed slide arrangement, it worked very well. I made everything with it.
It was on this ranch that Robbie met and married Roy Elder (no relation). She met him at a barn dance. They were later divorced. After this, Clair hired Jack Lambert and he and Robbie were later married. It is also here that Milo Gifford, from Idaho Falls, came to work for us. He and Ruby were married and they moved to Idaho. Sylvon and Mother went to visit them that following summer. Then, came the crash of 1929 and we were forced to sell at public auction all of our equipment. We loaded the rest of our belongings in an old one-ton Dodge truck and started to move to Idaho. When we got as far as Laramie, Wyoming, Clair noticed the back wheel of the truck was wobbling. He got cold feet and they turned around and came back as far as Windsor, Colorado. We rented a house there and stayed the winter. This was the biggest mistake that we could have made. We had a lot of money left over after the sale. We could have bought a choice farm in Idaho for $500.00 down and we could have made it this time. If you ever go to Colorado and visit Buffalo Bill’s grave on top of Lookout Mountain, just behind Denver, look directly east out over the plains and you will see Prominent Hill that we called Indian Hill. Well, our old place was just beyond to the east a few miles. Here we were in the middle of the irrigated country where they raised a lot of sugar beets and hay. We had always been dry farmers before. But, of course, we weren’t farmers no more.
Here I went to school and was in the fourth grade. I enjoyed this school very much, because we moved from room to room. It is here that I really began to realize how much an education meant to me. For you see, I had gotten behind five years in school in the 1st and 2nd grade for two reasons. Because my father had been placed in a mental institution, the school board assumed all the Elder children would be unable to learn, so they advised the teachers to ignore us and spend all their time with the other children. So, of course, I sat at my desk day after day and did nothing. No one will ever know how terrible it was! Then we would have to work on the farm when school first started and when we got there we were way behind. I will have to give a lot of credit to an old school teacher way back in the days when we went to Brick Center by the name of Barker. He almost flipped his lid when he learned we kids didn’t even know the multiplication tables. So, he started us out at the bottom and by the end of the year I could read and do arithmetic like a pro. So, when I got in the 4th grade I was ready to go and I did go and loved every minute of school. I suppose that was why we played hooky so much, because we had come to the conclusion that we didn’t have a ghost of a chance in the art of learning. But, because of Barker, bless his heart, he taught us how to learn and like it. At Windsor School, I got “A’s” in almost all subjects and that was the way it was from then on.
I will go back and tell a story I have forgotten. After Ruby and Milo were married, they moved into a little house up by Alvie Summers. While they were there, I went to live with them one winter and went to Sunnyside School. It was a one-room school with grades one through eight. It was here that I had the only ear ache I ever had. Boy did that hurt! This school is where James Peterson also went and this is where I really came to know him. One night, while living here, a knock came to the door; it was Sylvon and he was on horseback. He said he was going to a dance over by Watkins. You know, that was a 30 mile round trip, at night. No lie. Soon after this, Ruby and Milo moved to Idaho. This was also the first time that I got to ride a school bus to school. How about that? In the spring of the year, the kids all played marbles. I was a very poor player, so I would lend marbles to the best players and then we would go halves on the winnings. So, by the time school let out I would have ten to fifteen pounds of marbles. In fact, I had marbles for years after that year.
I liked everyone as school with the exception of this one kid who kept jumping up on my back when I wasn’t looking. I told him a dozen dimes to quit, but he wouldn’t. So, one fine day, I went down the stairs to the restroom and this nut jumped on my back again. I just reached up and got hold of his head with my two hands, hunched my back up, and threw him forward over my head. He landed full force on his back on the concrete floor. He started screaming that I had tried to kill him. Well, that was the last of that.
We had what they called Library Class and we would go the library for an hour and read. I was reading Robinson Crusoe when school let out in the spring. The teacher took me to one side and said, “Ivon, I want you to keep this book to have as a present from me, because I know how much you enjoy reading it.” I don’t know what ever happened to it, but I don’t have it today. The woman principal called me into her office and gave me a roll of maps. She said she wanted me to have them because I was a good geography student. I thought this was real neat, as this was a large school and to think that she had time to know me and my thoughts was nice.
We lived close to the Cache La Pudre River (also known as the Powder River) so; the older boys caught a lot of carp fish for us to eat that winter. Also, they were able to shoot a lot of pheasant out-of-season as; they were thick as hair on your head. Chester trapped muskrats that winter and the hides were worth 75 cents apiece. Not too bad at that time.
That winter Dorothy found a ponderosa pine tree for Christmas and she decorated it with homemade decorations. It was very nice for dirt poor people. Speaking of Christmas, through the years as a little boy we didn’t get very much, but, whatever we got we appreciated it very much. That would be the only orange we would get all year, one at Christmas-time, apiece. We always had an apple, orange, nuts and one 10 cent toy, some hard tack candy and a few chocolates. That was about it. I remember there was a little steam engine advertised in the Sears Roebuck catalog in the toy section for $4.98. I would look at that a thousand times and read about what it said; hoping against all hope that Old Santa would bring it to me. But, he didn’t, and I am still waiting for that steam engine.
It was here that I had the pink eye. The light would hurt my eyes, so I would stay down in the cellar.
The people around Windsor were of Russian-German descent. They would go into town to shop and stand on the sidewalk to talk. They would eat sunflower seeds and spit the hulls out on the street. I thought this was quite a sight.
I mentioned that the first time I saw Jack Lambert was when he worked for us one summer. Well, this winter he came and stayed all winter and got free board and room. All that I can remember him doing was to slop and feed the pigs. In the spring he would take off to look for a job, but, as sure as fall came, here he would be. No matter where we had moved to, he came to stay all winter for free. He always had a good story as to why he was broke. Either someone had robbed him or the boss had taken out bankruptcy. The neighbors would say about Jack that he must have been 500 years old to have had time to do all that he would tell about himself. However, the last winter he stayed with us it wasn’t so easy for him. Clair and Sylvon made him help them cut down old cottonwood trees and split them up for firewood. They sold it for $4.00 a cord. In the spring, he and Robbie got married and they left for Missouri. There, he claimed you could live off the land picking wild berries and hunting coon and squirrels. I guess this is just what he did.
I have gotten this far with my story and I have forgotten an important part because, it was an important part of my life. We had a big old tom cat that we called Tom, of course. We had him when we were on Uncle Ed’s place. I never saw the day that a dog could whip old Tom. I don’t know how he did it but, every time a dog tackled him, in a few seconds Tom would be right on top of that dog with all four paws dug in and that would send the dog yelping for help. We also had on our place little striped squirrels about three to six inches long. They lived in the ground and every morning you could see Tom out sitting by one of these burrows crouched, ready to spring. The only thing moving would be the tip of his tail going from one side to the other just biding his time. In about half an hour, Tom would come walking in with a squirrel in his mouth and have his lunch for the day. This would go on all summer and everywhere we moved, old Tom would go with us. Well, spring was on us again and Sylvon and Clair decided not to go to Idaho, but to move back in the vicinity of Bennett. They had arranged for a deal to operate a Mr. Carlson’s ranch. Everything was furnished. We would furnish the labor and split 50-50. We loaded up the old Dodge and this time Mother said that Tom, the cat, could not go with us, because it was always bad luck to move a cat. We had always moved old Tom with us and we always had bad luck. So, this time she said Tom stays and we will always have good luck henceforth and forever. I didn’t feel very good about leaving Tom, but to please Mother we went without him. I can still see old Tom standing in the doorway of the old broken-down barn looking at us as we pulled out that early morning. Of course, I had a big lump in my throat and it took quite a while to get over it. It was like leaving my best buddy. You see, by this time Tom was getting quite old and I wouldn’t have left him behind come rain or shine, but, that was the way it was. I hope one day I can see him and Rover again on the other side.
The place we moved to this time was about six miles from Bennett and about one mile from James Peterson’s place, so in that respect, I had my old friends back again. It was about one mile from Sunnyside School. The place had a basement house on it. Mother and Dorothy slept down there and us men guys slept up in what we called the bunk house. We didn’t have any heat and so, it was quite cold in the winter. It did seem good to be back farming. Sylvon stayed around for a while in the spring and then went to work for another farmer and us younger boys carried on.
It was on this place that we started to put silage out of green corn to feed the cows in the winter. We were milking about 14-16 head of cows and the three younger boys did all the milking. We had to do the milking before we went to school, which was quite a task, but, we managed somehow.
I think I told you that Robbie moved away, but I was mistaken. She was still at home with her son, Victor, from her first husband.
One evening I was pitching silage out of the open pit into the manger to feed the cows; I felt a vertebrae slip out of place in my back. I have had trouble with this ever since. Just this winter, in Mexico, I had a bout with it. The next spring I got a job herding sheep. That is where I learned to hate sheep, and I still do.
When I started into the 5th grade here, the teacher had me skip it and go into the 6th. She said it was too easy for me. Even the 6th was a breeze for me. A girl named Mary Hawk was in my grade here. Everybody teased and said she was my girlfriend. Of course, I denied it.
We were having a Christmas play at school one winter and I had to be there a bit early, so I walked to the school house. I ran part of the way through the hog pasture and I went to jump over a big tumble weed. To my surprise, the fence was right there and I caught my toe on the top wire. Man, did I take a spill! One other time I played the part of a ghost in a play. I had a sheet over me with the eyes cut out. I was reciting this thing outside of the curtains while they were changing the scenery between acts. You see, the sheet hid me from the audience, so I really hammed it up. The audience shouted and clapped afterward to say what a good act I had put on. One thing about those little schools, everyone came out to see what the kids would put on. It was fun and I enjoyed doing it.
One time the well quit on us and we had quite a time getting it fixed. We had to fix it ourselves, so in the meantime, I hitched the old horse to a buggy that we boys saved from a junk pile and fixed up. We drove down about a mile from our house to what we called the Iron Find Place. I dug a shallow well about six feet deep and put in a pitcher pump. Every day I would go down there and pump the tank full of water and water the cows before I brought them home to milk. It was pretty neat I thought. I knew where to dig because there was always a damp spot there and when I got down six feet, I hit a stream of water between a layer of blue clay.
One night we were walking down the old dirt road in pitch darkness, when a low-flying meteor passed right over our heads and burned up. Man, was that thing bright! It lit up the whole countryside like fireworks.
Besides having Jack Lambert to feed every winter, we had another fellow, Clarence Miller, who came to stay for a month every summer. He called it his vacation. Some vacation! It might have been for him, but, Mother didn’t think so. He did try to work for his living though. He would always tell us kids that we should love our mother because she was the only mother we had. I thought it was sort of corny at the time, but, later on in years I began to appreciate where he was coming from. We did learn to love our mother more and more as we got older.
It was about this time that they began having revival meetings in the school house. We would go to them just for kicks. It was then that I began to wonder about religion and tried to decide which church I would like to join. This Clarence Miller would tell us about a trip he took to Salt Lake City and he told us about visiting the church visitor center. He said they were Mormons and they claimed to be the only true church on the earth. It came into my being with great force and I thought well, maybe they are. At least they had the courage to say they were. I knew the preachers that I was hearing were all wet from the word go. It was at this time in my life that I began praying to my Heavenly Father that he might show me the way and make it known unto me which way to go about religion. The answer would come to me, ‘be patient and I would be shown at a later date’. And, that is just what happened. I will explain about this a little later on. Another thing Clarence Miller said that impressed me was, “Boy, they sure do have pretty girls out in Mormon country!” I found that out later too.
One day we decided to go swimming at the old 9-footer hole, which was about ten miles from home. So, myself, Chester, Jim and Jim’s brother, and Alvon walked all the way. We took a swim and then decided to walk about three miles farther to an old apple orchard to get some apples. I thought I would die of exhaustion by the time we got home. We did a lot of walking. We would leave early Sunday morning and walk all day, not getting home until late at night. This would drive Mother up-the-wall with worry. I can see why now but, at the time I could see no reason for her to worry.
We lived on the dug-out place in about the years 1932-1933, and that was the era of the dust bowl days. The ground got so dry and the wind blew so hard, there wasn’t enough wheat stubble to hold the dirt on the ground. The tumble weeds would blow against the fence and then the dust would blow against them and on top of them until you could ride a horse right over the fences. After a big wind storm, the tables would have as much as an inch of dirt on them as well as on the beds. It was bad medicine for all concerned. Chester left a note in the mailbox that he was fed-up with the dust and everything in general and he took off. He rode the rails to Missouri and then ended up to Montana. He was thrown in jail for a week for vagrancy. Then, he ended up in Idaho at Ruby and Milo’s place. He worked for them that summer and Milo said he sure was a sorry looking sight to see when he came walking in. The wind would blow so hard that it would uncover Indian fires and artifacts. That is when we began to find arrow heads. Jim Peterson kept his and I sold a lot of mine. I have always regretted this, and now that I am finding a fine collection in Mexico this makes me very happy.
Mr. Carlson, our landlord, had two farms: the one we were on and one down on Box Elder Creek. He asked if we wanted to move down there so he could sell the one we were on. So, we did move lock, stock and barrel. So, now the Elder clan lived on Box Elder Creek. We now had two schools that we could choose from. However, there was one problem. The creek was between us and Box Elder School and in the spring, for about six weeks, the creek rose quite high. There was no bridge on which to cross. So, we stayed at Sunnyside. While we were there, we walked or rode on horses to school each day. It was still in the drought years, but it didn’t blow the dust here too badly because of the cottonwood trees.
While Jim and I were finding arrow heads, I picked-up about ½ gallon of lead bullets that were shot from guns over the years. I sometimes wonder if this wasn’t from Indian and white battles over the years. Speaking of Indians and homesteaders, when we lived on Uncle Ed’s place you could see an old pioneer trail where the sod had not been plowed up; you could see the old trail very well. I could count 12 separate tracks cut in the earth. I often wondered about the people that had traveled along there.
One time when we were putting-up corn silage, we would trade with the different farms on labor. We were helping a Mr. Green with his corn and I was driving a corn barge. I had on a big load of green corn and I was leaning over a 1×4 trying to make the horses pull harder out of the soft fields. All of a sudden, the 1×4 gave loose letting me fall forward between the horses onto the wagon tongue. I knocked myself unconscious; when I came to, I was draped over the tongue and the horses were at a full gallop down the road. I managed to get myself back up enough to get ahold of the reins and bring the horses to a halt. This was another time that something bigger than myself kept me from being killed. Why I didn’t fall off that tongue and have the wheels run over me is more than I can even imagine.
While harrowing, we would have three sections of harrow pulled by four head of horses. We would have a plank wired on top of the three sections and we would ride on top of the plank standing up. As we went along, the tumble weeds would gather-up under the harrow. Then, we would lean back until a big bunch gathered under the harrow. As soon as it got so big, we would throw our weight forward and the harrow would roll over them. Well, on one particular time, the pile got so big that I couldn’t get it to roll over as quickly as I wanted it to. So, when it did, the harrow flipped up and hit the horses on the rear end. I jumped off the back, still holding the lines. I had one spirited horse on the team and I had quite a time getting them to stop running. I dug my heels in the ground and pulled like crazy, finally getting them stopped. Then, I turned the harrow right-side-up and went on about my work. This was another escape from death.
One day on this place we had a team run away with a wagonload of feed. I managed to grasp the bit of the horse nearest me as he passed. I was able to bring them to a halt, saving things from being destroyed. Of course, to those who lived on a farm in the horse-powered days, things like this happened all the time.
We hadn’t been on this place very long when we discovered we had a stray cat with four white feet. By the time we left, we had 30 stray cats. We would pour skim milk in a big pan out in the yard and cats would come from all directions.
One day I was cultivating beans with a rig we called a go-dig; one of the levers caught my leg between it and the beam. The go-dig was turning around at the end of the field and cut a big gash in my right thigh. That place has been numb to the touch ever since.
Mr. Carlson had come to the end of his rope with ranching. So, he sold his place to pay his debts. Once again we were out in the cold. We packed-up and moved into an old beat-up house that hadn’t been lived in for quite some time. It was about four miles from Bennett. Sylvon got onto the D.W.A. work project; a government project to keep people from starving to death. Clair got a job with a farmer down by Deer Trail, by the name of Heidi. Robbie and Jack left for good this time and we continued to go to Sunnyside School that winter. I believe I was in the 7th grade. To pass the time away, I built a crystal set radio. I listened to the radio on headphones. It was cheap and I had a lot of fun with it.
In the spring, Clair got me a job with an Adolph Heidi, a brother to the man he was working for. Clair came up on Sunday and I packed my clothes in a paper bag. Off we went to this summer’s job for $15 a month and room and board. Laugh if you want to, but that was the going wages at the time. This was for a young man and he was expected to do a man’s job and not complain. We got there at about 3:00 in the afternoon. The first thing old Adolph said was, “Put your clothes in the bunk house and you will sleep there.” Then, he said, “Put on those knee boots and go out and shovel the manure out of the loafing shed so the cows will have a place to lie down tonight.” The manure was about 1 ½ feet deep and runny. Boy, what a job! I worked until I couldn’t see no more and then came in to supper. Then I flopped into bed and said to myself, “This is going to be one heck of a summer,” and it was. All the time I worked, I never got a Sunday off. He would say, “We want the horses to rest today, but we will clean out the chicken house or something else.” I would get up before the sun was up, feed the horses, milk the cows, and feed the pigs, chickens and calves. Then, I would grease all the machinery for Adolph and the other hired man. Then, I would put gas in both tractors and get them out in the field. I would harness four or six horses and go to the field myself. I must have eaten breakfast some time in there, but I don’t know when. Then, I would work all day and come in at night and do all the chores myself. I would get to bed about ten or later. Every day he would ask me how much I had gotten done in the field. When I would tell him, he would gripe like mad that I didn’t do enough, and that he could have done a lot more. I never in my life felt like strangling a man so much and would have felt good about it. Of course, I excused him from his actions, because he was a German. And that, he was! Amen.
I was planting corn and beans with a lister, a planter that planted the seeds in a deep furrow. Throughout the summer, you would pull the soil from the center ridge between the furrows down around the roots covering up the weeds as you cultivated. By mid-summer, the ground was again flat. Well, the only good comment he ever made to me was, “Say, boy, you sure do make a straight furrow.” That I did, even if I do say so myself. Well, the machinery always kept breaking down and there were never any parts to fix them with. When I would tell him about it, he would always get mad and bawl me out. So, after I had worked there for about a month, I was coming down the furrow with a go-dig and one of the discs pulled off. I threw it out of the ground and came home to the house. I unharnessed the horses, turned them out to pasture and ate my dinner. Mrs. Heidi asked me what was the matter. I told her and asked her if she could pay me my wages. She said that all she had to her name was $7.50, but I could have it. Well, $7.50 was better than nothing. So, I told her I was quitting and why. I liked her, but I despised her husband. You know, to this day that is all I ever got for that month’s work. He still owes me for the rest. I know I will never collect it in this life, but I may do in the next.
It was about 2:00 by then. I put my clothes in a bag and headed for Byers, which was about 17 miles. I stopped at a farm house and got a drink from their well. That revived me a little. The bridge across Kiowa Creek was washed out. That spring they had had the worst flood in history and a lot of farmers lost everything they had. They haven’t had a flood like that since. I was 16 at the time. So, I rolled-up my pant legs and waded the creek. I walked into town and to the other side of town. I tried my first attempt at hitching a ride. The first car that came along picked me up and I was on my way home after that long, dry walk. An elderly gentleman picked me up and asked me a lot of questions. When we got to the draw that ran past our house, I asked him to let me out and he did. By that time, it was pitch dark. I picked my way up through the draw, over fences and weeds about three miles to the house where the folks lived. To my heartache, when I got there, the house was vacant. Now, what was I to do, cold, hungry and thirsty? My family had moved and left me. The thought of old Tom crept into my memory. I had no idea where they had gone or why. Well, I couldn’t stay there that night, so on I trudged to a neighbor by the name of Guy Summers a mile on up the hill. They could tell me where Mother and the rest had moved to. Once there, they told me that they had moved to the Hawkes place. They insisted that I eat supper and stay all night with them and go to Sunday school the next day. I didn’t have very good clothes to go to church with, but I went anyway. Mother was there and very surprised to see me. That afternoon, I took the first bath in a warm tub that I had had since I left home. The only bath I had was washing-up as best I could in the horse trough when no one was looking.
The place the folks had moved into had black tarpaper on the outside and dirt floors, but it was home, and I was so glad to be back with the family. We men slept out in a sod bunk house which was warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
That winter I went to school at Bennett as a freshman. I would ride a bicycle up to Hawkes house and then ride the rest of the way with Johnny and Mary Hawkes to school in their Model T Ford. About half the time Johnny wouldn’t go so I would drive the Model T. Clair bought a bike for $4.00 and gave it to me and I completely wore it out. Then, the next year, he bought a 1927 Chevrolet and let me use it to drive to school. Sylvon made me go around by Fern Halstead’s and take her to school for $1.50 a month. I hated this because I couldn’t stay after school and play basketball. She would complain that she was paying for her ride and wanted to go home right after school.
I also was in a play this year called, Mail Order Bride. I had fun playing in this production. I played center on the basketball team. For the first two or three games we had to come back to the center of the court and jump after each basket was made. Boy that was a tiring job for a center to do each time. Then, they changed the rules and it was like it is now. I also ran track: the 100 yard dash, 220 relay and soft ball. I didn’t play football here, because the school was too small. We only had 29 students in the entire school. I won a few letters in track, softball and basketball. While I was going to High School, I worked at the school on Saturday on what they called Y.W.A. It was similar to the W.P.A that was sponsored by the government under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. That was the beginning of the big boon-doggle and big government giveaway deals. So, with my first $1.50 check, I spent it on my first airplane ride in a two-seater biplane that landed behind the school house. I got bawled-out from the principal for spending government money on pleasure. How about those prunes?
While driving the car to school this winter, I ran-up a gas bill at this station for $20.00. Sylvon promised he would pay it when we got to Idaho. Well, 30 years later, Sylvon went back for a visit. The same man was still running the station and Sylvon paid the bill.
That spring when I was a sophomore, Sylvon went to Idaho in the Rockne Studebaker car that we had. He got a job so he could move us to Idaho. We should have moved a long time before. However, that spring while he was gone, we didn’t have any money, so we lived off water gravy and bread. I was making a little money at the school job and the neighbor lady would give us skim milk on occasion, and that is what we existed on all summer. Mother sent me over to Halstead’s to collect the last $1.50 on hauling Fern to school. He wouldn’t pay it on the grounds that we still had a week of school yet and he didn’t owe it. We darned near starved to death that summer.
Jim Peterson would come over to our place on Sunday and I would go over to his the next. That was about all the fun we had.
Sylvon came back from Idaho. We packed up our belongings in a ¾ ton truck that we traded for the Dodge. So, once again, we were on our way to Idaho. This time we made it. It took us two days and we slept right out on the ground alongside a road sign somewhere in Wyoming. We arrived at Ruby and Milo’s house in Payne (near Osgood) and we moved into a house across the street from them. That was the first time we had electric light. Sylvon took out a government loan and once again we started to farm. This was the spring of 1937.
Alvon and I started to Ammon High School that fall of 1937-1938. We would watch out the window and when we saw the school bus coming over the top of the hill, we would take off on a run for about ½ mile straight up to the bus. We would meet it there at the precise time it arrived and that way we wouldn’t have to stand out in the cold weather. We would catch the bus before sunup and get home after the sun was down.
I played basketball, but wasn’t very good at it. I did pretty well in tack meet, but, my best effort was in football. We played six-man and I received letters in football. In the summer of 1979, we had a school reunion and I was given the statuette that was earned in 1939 because, I was considered the best football player of the year.
In the summer we would swim in the Great Western Canal that ran about ¼ mile past our place.
It was on the bus going to school that I first met my wife-to-be. I can’t remember the first time I noticed her, because all the kids were new to me.
I worked for a Robert Swanson on the Eagle Rock Ranch doing all sorts of farm work. I also worked for Ben Brown and done a lot of hoeing potatoes for him. Also, I worked for Milo for $45.00 a month doing work in the potatoes which was new for me. Bucking sacks of those things was very hard work. My friend, Jim Peterson, had come to Idaho to get a job by this time. He worked for a farmer near Ashton. Then, in the fall, he and I picked potatoes together.
After the harvest, we pooled our money and rode to Colorado with Clair. We bought a 1929 Model A for $75.00. We fixed it so we could make a bed in it, and off we went on a long trip to California, back through Arizona, Texas and then home. I got back in Idaho just before Christmas with $10.00 in my pocket. We had a grand time and we saw much of the country. When I travel now, I often think I wish it was as simple now. We slept behind billboards, under bridges, in parking lots, everywhere we could find that was quiet. We would always buy our breakfast in a café, and then eat fruit, cheese and snacks the rest of the day. I often think of the difference in size of cities then and what they are now. For instance, when we went through Las Vegas, we went one block after hitting the business district, turned left one block, turned left two blocks and we was out of town. If I had of had $500.00 and bought some of that desert ground then, I would now be a wealthy man.
On our way home, I dropped Jim off at his place in Bennett and I came on to Idaho by myself. It was cold, snowy, and scary, so when I got near Laramie, Wyoming, I picked up two hitchhikers to keep me company. I drove all night in a snow storm and the snow got deeper and deeper. It is a good thing the wind didn’t blow. The hitchhikers got off in Pocatello and I came on home alone.
The next summer, I worked for Milo in the potatoes and again Jim came to Idaho and worked. Together we signed-up to take a course in aircraft building in a school in California. Part of it was a correspondence course and the rest on-the-job- training. This was in Los Angeles proper. So, we worked very hard all summer and saved all our money. In the fall, Jim, Alvon, Chester and myself took off for the school. This was the fall of 1940. I had raised a bunch of pigs which I sold to help out. Before we left, however, we all signed-up for the draft for World War II. This was done at the Osgood School. I weighed 165 lbs. and was 5 feet 9 ½ inches tall. I weigh the same today, but I have shrunk about an inch.
I gave my old brood sow and my Model A to Sylvon and Chester gave his truck to him. We packed our clothes and piled into Chester’s V8 Ford and was off to seek our fortune. As I left, I said to myself, “I will never go back to live in a cold country again as long as I live.”
California, at that time, was a more beautiful and peaceful place to live. We took two days to get there and we rented a house. Then, we went down to the school to get signed-in. Chester and Alvon signed-up at another little aircraft school which cost a lot less and they got jobs as quick and easy as we did. Jim and myself got us a room at the Oak Hotel in the middle of downtown Los Angeles for $5.00 a week for two persons. How about that? It was a very nice and clean hotel that was filled mainly with young people. It was only a few blocks from our school. We would eat our meals at a café called Buck’s Café and we would buy a meal ticket which made it cheaper. We only had ½ an hour for lunch, so the waitress would chain off one booth and reserve it for us. The two waitresses would argue over who would sell us our tickets each week. They must have made a little commission for it.
I loved going to the school because it was something very much different than I had ever done before. I put all that I had into it, so that when I got a job I would be able to handle it with the utmost confidence. Jim and I would stay up late every night helping each other to learn the next day’s lessons. We went three months to get our graduation certificate and we both got straight “A”.
Meanwhile, Chester and Alvon’s school was only six weeks long and they both got good jobs. Chester worked at North American, Alvon with Douglas Aircraft at Santa Monica. When Jim and I got out of school, I was employed with Douglas at El Segundo across the street from North American. Jim was employed with Douglas at Santa Monica. When we both got out of school we were broke completely. I think I had two copper pennies in my pocket.
We had a friend by the name of Bill Boggs who had a house and invited us all to move in with him until we could get our first pay check. There were six of us in a small house. The house had three sets of bunk beds and we were all working different shifts, so we were coming and going. Fortunately, Jim, Alvon and I worked days. As soon as we got some money, we bought us a 1936 four-door V8 Ford. That was our transportation. Al and Jim insisted on putting the registration in my name as I was the oldest. When I got married, they gave me their shares for a wedding present. We did have a lot of fun in that old car.
When I got my job, I was making 50 cents an hour and thought I was a millionaire. All four of us rented a house from a Greek named, Bonzo, for $34.00 a month. It was a very nice neighborhood.
At this time, my plant only worked five days a week. Jim and Al’s worked six, so I did all the housework on Saturdays. The house was furnished even to the point of having a piano. A friend we had met, last name of Miller, played very well and he would come over and play for hours for us. I enjoyed this very much.
I have always been so grateful for Bill Boggs helping us out for three weeks. Otherwise, I don’t know how we would have survived. We had got to know Bill in Idaho as he was the son of Mrs. Brown. Her husband is the one I had worked for one summer.
The first day I reported for work at Douglas I was frightened beyond words, even after all the training I had received. I looked around and saw all those men drilling holes in wings of airplanes, putting rivets of all kinds in the holes, and the noise was something else. I thought to myself, “Boy, do they expect me to get up on that scaffolding and start to drill?” Well, it was frustrating to a beginner. I was taken to the supervisor, Ira Douglas, nephew of the President, Donald Douglas. He, in turn, introduces me to the foreman over me and said, “Do you know how to buck rivets?” I said, “Yes.” He handed me a bucking bar (square piece of hardened steel about 2X3X4 inches) and said, “Reach inside of this tank section and I will direct the rivets and you buck them down.” I never saw so many rivets pushed through so many holes in my life. This was nothing like school, I tell you. I managed to hold onto the bar with the sweat running down my face. My hands got so sweaty I could hardly hang onto the bar. Then, every so often, he would look inside to see how I was doing. Well, I finally got through the day and my work passed inspection by the Navy Inspector. Then, the foreman began to laugh at how rough he had made it for me that day saying that we had done about twice the work required. He said he wanted me to know how to work hard so that if we were required to do so sometime, I would know how. He told me I handled it well and then said, “I will see you in the morning.”
However, the next morning they put me in a different section where we built the trailing edge of the center section of the airplane. It was called the SBD, taken from the words Stall out Bomb Diver. It was dubbed the “Savior of the Pacific” during the Second World War. All the time I worked on it, we built 5,600 of them.
At one time we were rolling out the front door 66 ships a week. It was called the “Flying Coffin” because, it was very slow and had to be escorted by fighter planes, but it was very deadly. It was in large part the reason the Japanese were blown out-of-the-water.
I was made Jig Master in six weeks. Then, I moved to the leading edge of the center wing section and was made lead man of that section for 13 months. At the height of my stewardship over that section, I had 56 people working for me, 53 women and 3 men. Men were hard to come by so they hired women. I was the boss of the first women hired at the El Segundo plant. I worked with the first black woman and the first black man hired. I asked the supervisor how come I was the one to get these firsts and he said they had decided I was the best man to get the work out of these men and women. I always felt the black people were my best workers and gave me the least trouble. I felt that was quite a compliment given to a poor old “plow boy” gone “city”.
After the SBD ship had its day, we tooled-up for a new ship. It was called the SB2D, a gulled-wing ship that has the wings fold-up. But, after building 50 ships, the Navy cancelled the order saying the planes were 2000 lbs. overweight.
Then, for about three months, I worked in shipping while the engineers were designing a new ship. I went over to mock-up and helped build a mock-up of the A section. Then, we came back and built this ship according to specifications and it was a beauty to behold. I also worked as lead man on the tail section of a DC3, a much larger ship to carry troops to the battle in.
All the time I worked at Douglas was five years and I loved my work and was proud to be doing something for the war effort. I memorized all the sizes of rivets, parts, thickness of metal and everything I was in command of. So, I can say that I did help to produce a new product and worked hand- in-hand with those that produced the planes on paper. I was always proud when they would ask me to read a blue print.
I started working at Douglas in the spring of 1941. In July 1941, I married Rowene Hill, a cute little girl from Osgood. She came down on the bus and stayed with friends, Alma and Lola Gifford, for a spell. Then, we journeyed to Las Vegas and was married on the 12th. I then moved out of the house us four boys were sharing and rented an apartment with a big window overlooking the ocean. It was a pretty good place for a couple of newlyweds and we were very happy there. This place was in Manhattan Beach. It was here that we made our first purchase, a Maytag washer. I believe we paid $78.00 for it and we had to put that on time payments because we were only making $19.00 take home pay. I can remember being worried about making the payment, but I guess we did because we had it when we moved to Idaho.
We hadn’t been married very long when we found we were going to get a baby. Rowene got appendicitis when she was three months pregnant. Dr. Schmitt, whom she had been seeing for her pregnancy, sent us to the Los Angeles hospital. He said we could save a lot of money by going there. We had no insurance at that time. People just didn’t think insurance in those years. So, we go clear down to the L.A. Hospital. The doctors there said she would lose the baby. I was devastated by this news. So, I went outside and found a place I could hide in the bushes. I knelt down and for the first time in my life, I prayed to my Heavenly Father in behalf of someone else. I pleaded with the Lord to save our unborn child’s life. The Lord heard my prayers and the baby was born six months later in perfect condition. I thank my Heavenly Father for this blessing granted to me and my wife. Amen.
The bill for this operation and hospital was $65.00. It was here that the news of that dreadful day, December 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, was announced and we were in World War II.
On May 4th, the most beautiful little girl that was ever born to anybody was born to us in the Hermosa Hospital. Dr. Schmidtt, a very old and kind doctor, delivered her. This was a very small hospital with 12 patient rooms all built around a patio. Rowene’s mother came down to help her at this time. Bless Grandmother Hill for she was truly a wonderful angel that was willing to help out at all times.
We had been married about a week when we were traveling along Highway 101 one evening. We were in the 1936 Ford when we had a flat tire on the right front wheel. We pulled over to the curb to change the tire. I jacked it up and was standing there waiting for Alvon to get the flat off. While I was waiting, I was leaning over the front of the car, when along came a Model A. When he passed, he was so close that he pressed me against the fender, whirled me around in front of the car, tore my shirt sleeve and bruised me up. I thought I had had it. A fraction of an inch closer and I don’t think I would have lived through it.
Duane was born in 1943, on May 20th. We were living in North Redondo at this time and renting from some Lutheran people. When they learned we were Mormon, they turned against us and made it very difficult living there.
I bought a bicycle and rode it to work. I figure I rode it 3,000 miles back and forth to work. There was gas rationing, so we didn’t drive the car too much.
We hadn’t been married very long when I started to go to church. We would ride the bus and save our gas stamps to go buy groceries
It was while we were renting from the Lutherans that our one-year-old baby son, Duane, got meningitis. I had gotten acquainted with a returned missionary, Duane Jacobson, and that is who we named him after. I was coming home from work one afternoon and he saw me pass his place and hailed me down. We spent about half an hour practicing self-defense. Rowene was frantic when I got home as Duane had been sick all day and by this time was in a coma. He kept arching backwards and the doctor said his back was hurting him very much. Dr. Schmidtt sent us to the children’s hospital for a checkup. We got in the car and stopped into Duane Jacobson’s first. Duane and his father administered to him. The blessing that was given said that he would be healed in due time with the faith of his parents. Then, we proceeded onto the hospital. The young doctor checked him over and laughed at his small deformed ear, which made his mother very upset. He then sent us down to the Los Angeles county hospital to the contagious section. They were very helpful to us and went to work on the baby without hesitation. Duane cried, or I should say, screamed all while they worked on him, which to us seemed like hours. They finally came out and announced that he had meningitis and gave him a 50-50 chance to live. Then, they made us feel worse by saying he would either be a physical or mental case even if he did live. They had just discovered Sulphur drug and they had high hopes that this might help him.
Well, it was midnight by time we left the hospital, two very depressed parents. We were told not to come back for a week. We had to go by bus on Sunday and we had to take three different busses to get there and three back. It was an all-afternoon job after we would get out of Sunday school. By time we got there the first time, Duane didn’t know us anymore and didn’t want us to pick him up. This went on for a month and Duane kept getting better all the time. He had a Negro nurse that he liked very much. The last time we went in to see him, they said, “Didn’t you get our telegram saying you could take your baby home?” Well, we hadn’t received it, so we had to go all the way back home on the three busses and get in our car and go back to get him. He did not want to go with us. He was very upset all the way home. When we put him on the bed he jumped up like a scared animal and ran to the far side of the bed to get away from us. He was a very healthy little boy, however, and we gave thanks to Heavenly Father for this. I want to say at this time that I know it was through the Priesthood that his life was saved and that he was normal. Amen.
Back in my story, I told you of my desire to find the true and only church upon the Earth in this day and time. So, I will continue on this line of my story. The Lord knew the desire that I had in my heart long before I even knew that I had it. He provided a way for me and my family to come in more contact with the church. I sincerely believe this is the way it happened. Although it seemed a pretty hard thing for us to endure at the time, He drove us from one failure to another until we finally came to Idaho. This is where we came in direct contact with the church. First we were hailed-out and then foreclosed on. I also believe Milo Gifford was sent to us and he persuaded us to come to Idaho. We were stubborn and kept trying things in Colorado, but, we never did succeed in anything until we moved to Idaho. Of course, we didn’t know at any given time that the Lord was leading us to the true gospel. I know it now and have done for a long time. I doubt that any of the rest of my family knows this or would even believe it, but I believe it is so. However, when we settled in Idaho we felt at peace with ourselves, and was at ease for the first time in a long time. We went through grave poverty in Colorado living on bread and water gravy. It wasn’t until we moved to Idaho that things began to change for us. We all felt a peace of mind and I noticed a difference in the kids that were Latter-Day-Saints at school. So, when I married a Mormon girl, I made up my mind that the Lord had answered my prayers, and I would go to church and study about it.
This story reminds me of the children of Israel under Moses’ leadership and how they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years until they started living their gospel. I was in my twenties before I finally knew I had the truth and wanted to live a better life.
I went to church two years and many of the members thought I was a member. I guess I was what you call an unbaptized Mormon. We were meeting in a hall that we rented from a lodge that was above a garage. We would have to sweep out the cigarette butts every Sunday morning before church. But, the Spirit of the Lord was there regardless! To make a long story short, I was coming up the stairs one morning and Brother Bill Smith said to me, “When can I baptize you?” I said, “Most anytime.” So, we set it for the next stake baptismal. I came and waited and waited and Bill didn’t show up, so I had a young priest baptize me. I went out to get in the car and Bill showed up. I have always been regretful that Bill didn’t get to do the baptizing because he was a peach of a man.
I was ordained to the office of Teacher in the Aaronic Priesthood by Burton L. Husted on April 4, 1943. I was ordained to the office of Elder in the Melchizedek Priesthood by C. Christensen on July 14, 1943. I was ordained to the office of Seventy by S. Dilworth Young on March 15, 1956. I was ordained to the office of High Priest by President Sharp. I thought the world of Brother Smith and I still do. When we moved back to Idaho, I met a man that had been down in that area on a mission by the name of Gene Morris. Low and behold, he knew Bill Smith very well. Small world huh?
While we lived in the Redondo Ward, I was Scoutmaster for about three years; a job I didn’t really care for, mainly because I had never been a boy scout and knew very little about it.
When I was ordained an Elder, I taught the lesson in the priesthood meeting. Then, later I was in the presidency and a ward teacher. I held all three jobs at the same time. Because of gas rationing during the war years, I and Rowene would go ward teaching and Relief Society teaching together. I was her partner and she was mine. We always seemed to get 100% teaching done this way. I wish it was this way now.
Almost every year we would come back to Idaho on vacation and come by bus. That was a traumatic experience to say the least with two little kids. We would have to hold the children in our arms and hope and pray we didn’t get bumped out of our seats by a service man. They would have priority. We always seemed to make it without a hitch. And so it was, that one summer while on vacation, we were married in the Salt Lake Latter-Day Saint Temple. The Idaho Falls Temple was not yet in operation. We were married on August 9th, 1943. We had to wait over a day to get into the temple and this made me a day late getting back to work. The supervisor gave me a chastising, but I survived it.
I will write now concerning the whyfores that I didn’t serve in the Armed Services. I was classified on the draft card that I was in essential war effort, and as such, I was deferred until further notice. It remained that way all through the war until the Germans threw-in-the-towel. My records were transferred from the Idaho draft board to Hermosa Beach, California. When this happened, they called me up and summoned me to the induction center to take a physical. They said they would call me in the very next draft but, in the meantime, the war ended, so I didn’t have to go.
Mother contacted eczema and asthma very bad while we lived in California and we started thinking about moving back to Idaho.
We had moved into another place owned by a big Jew, a policeman on the Los Angeles police force. He was 6’ 4” tall so, we called him Big B. He was at our place repairing the plumbing when we heard the news that President Franklin D. Roosevelt died, and we cried like babies.
I purchased a motor scooter for $25.00 that I enjoyed taking Jaylene for rides on after work. We moved back to Redondo Beach after this and lived in a house that Chester and Hazel had been living in. They had left and gone back to Idaho already. Mother came on ahead back to Idaho on the bus to have her tonsils out. Before she came, we decided I would quit Douglas and come back and we would live in Idaho.
I went to the next door neighbor and bought a front axle from a 1927 Chev. Then, I went to a salvage yard and bought other things I needed and made a pull-trailer. I loaded-up all the possessions we had and covered them over with an old rug. By this time, I had checked-out of the Douglas plant; a task I didn’t like to do because I had worked there almost five years and I liked my job. Being all loaded-up, I said goodbye to my mother, who lived next door in the little house we had lived in when Jaylene was born. I might say, there have been many days that I wish I had kept my promise to myself not to ever leave sunny California again. While we lived there, we spent a lot of time on the beach with the kids. We would go see a lot of sights.
I drove all day and most of the night until two in the morning. I got so tired I pulled off the road somewhere in Utah and climbed in the back of the car and slept like a log. I pulled into the Hill’s ranch about sundown. This was the farm where Mother Hill lived in Milo at the time. It was here that she was living when Rowene’s father passed away and we came to the funeral on the bus. We left Jaylene and Duane farmed-out to two different neighbors while we were gone.
We lived with Rowene’s mother for two weeks and then we rented an old house from Mr. Avery, Delma’s brother, for $10.00 a month. The house wasn’t up to much, but we put in an old cook stove and made it quite livable. We had an outside toilet. Boy, what a contrast from a few weeks before. I got a job as a car mechanic at Swagger Motors in Rigby for the winter. I was paid $36.00 a week. What a letdown!
The next spring we bought ½ an acre of ground across the street, and with the $1,400 we had saved we contemplated building a grocery store. This was quite a task, seeing as how I had never built a building before. I decided to build a basement for us to live in and have the store on top. I borrowed a horse from Mother Hill and an old slip scraper and went to work. It was rough, but I managed to get the job done. I quit my job at Swaggers and Mother went to work in town to help us buy groceries while I built the store. I had to do things the cheap way as we were limited for money. I had a hard time getting cement and finally had to pay double for some out of Montana. I borrowed a cement mixer from the lumber yard and invited the relatives in one Sunday to help me pour the walls of the basement. I have since repented of working on Sundays many times and hope the Lord has forgiven me.
I built the store out of cinder block and laid them myself, teaching myself how to do it. I watched someone else for a few minutes then went home and started to work. I still have the trowel that I bought to do this job. It is quite beat-up and I am keeping it for a souvenir.
I had much trouble finding materials because things were scarce after the war. I also wired this building myself. It seemed funny to be operating a store, but, we gave it our best. We didn’t get rich, but it was about the same as working for wages and we were our own boss. In the winter-time I worked at the sugar factory.
Linda was born to us while we were here in the Milo Store, October 26, 1947. On the way to the hospital, we had a flat tire. We were right by a farm house, so I went in and asked the man to take us in. He charged $5.00 for his trouble.
I tried to sell some insurance for a while, but, gave that up as a bad job for me.
I worked as one of the activities counselors in church while we were in Milo and enjoyed it very much.
I tried my luck at selling cooking utensils for a while and I had big ideas of getting rich. Rowene didn’t like running the store and the kids at the same time. Mother Hill had sold her farm and wanted to buy the store from us, so we sold it to her. We bought a small trailer house. Mother Hill kept the store for about a year and then sold it to marry Wilford Harris. She moved to his home in Ririe, for which I was grateful; the store was too much work for her.
We moved our trailer into town on the corner of 21st and Rollandet. We purchased some ground and the first help-yourself-laundry in Idaho Falls. I built another grocery store on that corner. After we had given a certain, Mr. Hix $2,000 for the laundry, we discovered he hadn’t paid for anything: cinderblocks, washers, nothing. However, every one of his debtors said to forget it because it was their own fault that they had let him hoodwink them into giving him credit. Again, the Lord was looking after us. I built a grocery store on the corner in front of the laundry building.
After we got the store built, we were flat broke, so we borrowed $1,000 from Grandma Brudte to stock the store with. We moved into the back of the store and was going to live there while we built us some living quarters upstairs.
Two young men from Utah came along one day and wanted to rent our laundry building to start a cement burial vault business. We were tired of the laundry business by then, so we rented it to them. This was Lee Harmer and Cornell Binks. We charged them $37.50 a month. They lived in it as well. They had a very hard time of it as the undertakers were just not interested. Cornell had a car that they used to put the vaults in with a tripod. We would have them come and eat a lot with us.
Meanwhile, we opened the store in 1948 and were again back in the grocery business. I helped with the vault business when they needed me and I also worked for the Challenge Creamery.
I forgot to mention that while we lived in Milo, I laid cinder block for three different buildings. Lee Harmer, Cornell Binks, and I laid-up a large cinder block building for a Mr. Stanger one summer. While we were working on this one day, a wheat fire started near us. We left the job to put it out, which was quite a job to say the least.
While we still had the grocery store, I went up into the timber of Kilgore one summer to help get out lumber to build the 6th and 12th Ward church building. We cut 87,000 board feet of timber and it was sold to help get money for the building.
When we first came to Idaho Falls, I served as second assistant to Dr. Henninger in the Elder’s quorum in the 6th Ward. We sure did have a lot of fun at that time. We had projects to make money and we made enough money to buy the sound system for the building.
After we were in the grocery business for about one year or more, we sold out to the Nielsen’s from Utah.
We bought the vault business from Lee Harmer. We paid him $1,400 for it; then, we bought some ground just west of the grocery store. We bought a building and made a shop for the vault business and also living quarters for us to live in. By this time, the new church building was completed and they split the ward, which put us in the 12th Ward. We remained in this ward until we moved into our mobile home in Sunnyside Acres Park in 1977.
I was put in as 2nd counselor in the Elder’s Quorum and we would have a yearly fish fry to raise money. We had discovered a very good place to fish while getting out lumber in Kilgore. This place became a vacation spot for our family every summer. We enjoyed going there very much as a family and we would stay overnight. We didn’t even have a tent, but, we would put a canvas over the hoist on our truck.
While we were still struggling to get the vault business going, we had two daughters born to us: Kaye Debra on April 17, 1952 and Kim Deone on November 30, 1953.
While these two little girls were still very small, Rowene and myself were called to fulfill stake missions. I was working the midnight shift at a potato plant to help us make ends meet. I would work all day in the vault business, and then go out missionarying in the evening, instead of getting some very badly needed sleep. I would get maybe two hours sleep, and then get up and go to work from midnight to eight in the morning. I did this for four years. Rowene filled a two year mission. Many times all the sleep I would get would be in the truck while waiting for the funeral to leave. I think back on this and I really don’t know how I kept up this pace. After my mission call was over, I found myself working 16 to 18 hours a day in the business and this I kept up for some 28 years. What a hell of a life! No wonder I am an old man now.
There was day after day that I wished I had never been born into this world and would not have cared if I had been taken from it at any time. When I look back on this, I wonder how in the world I managed to keep soul and body together for such a long time. Thank the Lord that he preserved me through these long and torturous years. I can now say that I did it only for my wife and children whom I love very much. I hoped that they would appreciate it and live lives that I would also admire.
I won’t go into detail of the harshness of delivering vaults to all parts of the area in the dead of winter, but, I have been out in blizzards in temperatures of 20-30 below zero. This is why I like it in Mexico where it is warm and pleasant. I thought if I spent a winter in Mexico it would help me forget about a business that should have been for Satan himself. I am afraid we will never get back to Mexico again; there are too many obstacles in our way.
It was while still in the vault business that S. Dilworth Young ordained me a Seventy; a calling I enjoyed for 15 years. After this I was ordained a High Priest. While we were still in this business, we sent Duane on a Spanish speaking mission to Texas.
Later on in the business, we started buying 4-wheel drive trucks, which made the work of getting in and out of the cemeteries a lot easier. Soon, after starting the business, I built a 60×28 shop of cinder block to make vaults in. I also later built a 15×119 foot building to store them in. We also built on to the house and made it much more livable. Jaylene married Ross Fullmer in 1963 and they lived next door to us in some apartments. Ross worked for me to help me build the last shop.
Mitch was born to us on October 11, 1959. He was born with a deformed heart and was a slate gray color when first born. The doctors said he couldn’t live as his heart was much too large and was crowding out his lungs. Brother Dave Davis and myself administered to him through the incubator. I asked the Lord to spare his life so that he could serve him in his life. We also gave him a name. The day after this I took a vault to Spencer. While in the cemetery, I got down on my knees and again asked the Lord to spare his life. The answer came to me very clear that he would be alright. When I went to the hospital that night, I could see a change in his countenance and I knew that my prayers had been answered. However, the doctor thought we should take him to Salt Lake to a specialist. So, with the aid of Sister Cornelia Saxton, who was a registered nurse, we went in her new car with oxygen for him. He slept all the way down. After we got there and the doctor took x-rays, he called us on the phone. We had left him there, by the way, and he said his heart looked normal. So, after a week, we went down again and picked up our baby boy and brought him home. You see, the Lord did hear our prayers and did heal our son. The doctor in Salt Lake said he had no idea why his heart had shrunk down to normal size. I will say here that I do. Amen.
I did a lot of fishing and hunting deer and elk while in the vault business. The kids had a favorite tree in Kilgore we called “Big Tree”, and we would fish from this point. Also, there was a huge gray rock that they liked to climb on. One day while up there, I hooked onto this rock with the hoist and brought it home. I now have this rock up to the ranch in Swan Valley.
This reminds me of when the children were small and we enjoyed ourselves together. It makes the memories of the bad days a little bit better. I have bought and used six different snow machines. I believe I have ridden some 6,000 miles or more on these. At present, I have two Elans left. I went from West Yellowstone to Old Faithful three different times: once with Rowene, once with Kim, and once by myself and friends.
Now, to get back to my church work; I taught Sunday school, was Priest advisor when Bishop Harvard Bitter was in, Seventy secretary and spent 12 or more years in the Sunday School Presidency. Then, when they divided the ward and made 34th Ward, I was made 2nd counselor to Bishop Robert Hendricks with John Faerber. I was set apart for this position by Elder Marion D. Hanks, an apostle of the Lord. He had come to Ricks College to speak to the students and we all went up there to meet him. I really enjoyed working with Bishop Hendricks. I was scared stiff to take on this job as I don’t speak well, but, Elder Hanks blessed me with the ability to be able to speak to the public. This blessing came to pass and I have been told by many others that I did a very good job and I sure did enjoy this calling. I couldn’t believe that I, Ivon Elder, from the backwoods of Colorado, was actually in the Bishopric. I want to thank Bishop Hendricks, from the bottom of my heart, for choosing me to work with him; otherwise, I might have missed this opportunity. He was willing to overlook my weakness and my short comings. Thanks again, Bishop, for asking me to work with you in a great and rewarding position. I have grown very much from this experience; I was old and you still thought I was young. Thanks very much. I shall never forget those 2 ½ years spent in the 34th Ward.
I also have worked many hours on the stake farm. I have been a home teacher all these years with the exception of the past two years while we have been trying to enjoy ourselves a little. But, we have been called on a mission and we hope we can go this fall of 1980.
Duane married Sharon Stoddard when he came home from his mission. After a few years, he came to work for me. He worked for seven years and then we sold out to them. Duane and Sharon were married July 17, 1966. Linda and Wayne were married on July 18, 1969. Kim and Irl Durand Jones (Randy) on November 15, 1973.
In the year of 1971, Jim Peterson bought a piece of ground, 120 acres, up in Swan Valley and asked me if I wanted to buy some of it. I decided to invest in it and bought half of it. I cleared a lot of dead sagebrush from it a couple of years back and we have been renting it out for pasture for about four years. About six years ago, we started to build a house on it and it has been quite a project. I have had a lot of pleasure working on it. Most of the work I have done by myself with the help of my wife. All my life I have wanted to build something or do something that was different than everybody else does, and out of materials that no one else would think of using for anything.
So, I decided to make beams and use them for a big part of the construction. I built a jig and pressed and glued all our big beams out of old crooked 2 x 4’s that I bought for $10.00 a big pick-up load full. They are 4 x 12 by 24 feet long. I also bought a lot of pick-up loads of damaged lumber out at the railroad siding where they would unload the cars. I also bought what they call farm bunks from Anderson Lumber and I picked out the best and used the worst for firewood. The boards were warped and twisted, but, we pried it in shape and nailed it down for the roof and sheeting for the floor. It didn’t cost us much money, only a lot of nails and glue for the 56 beams. We made these beams in the shop where we made vaults. When I wasn’t using the jog, I had it rigged so I could pull it up to the ceiling out of the way. As we would get some beams done, I would haul them up to the ranch and store them by covering them over with plastic.
We first added the electric power to the place and then we drilled a well. We had to go 275 feet deep, but, the water is good. We started with an 8 inch casing, but, ran into some trouble and had to go to a 6 inch casing. Our house is 8-sided and faces out onto Baldy Mountain to the east with a 4 foot deck running all around it. I plan to write a separate book about the minute-by-minute details of the construction of it.
After we sold the business to Duane in 1978, I worked for him that year until I turned 62, at which time I started drawing Social Security. Also, that summer, we bought a fix-up house in Blackfoot and resold it. We made $6,000 on it which helped out quite a bit.
On the third day of January, 1979, we started to Mexico in our 30 foot 5th wheel camper we had purchased. We stayed down there in San Carlos Bay almost three months. We had a most wonderful winter fishing, hunting arrowheads, of which I found 40, and looking for shells on the beaches. Also, we just basked in the sun and ate good fruit and vegetables. We hadn’t had a regular vacation in 28 years, so this really did seem good. I have written a special journal about this trip and it would be good for you to read this. It will give you more insight about Mexico.
We left Mexico the last of March and came home. We parked our camper in Jaylene and Ross’s orchard where we had fixed-up a camper hook-up, thanks to Ross. We left to go to the ranch on the 14th of May. We pulled the camper up there and stayed all summer.
In all this, while we were gone from the mobile home, Mitch lived in it and kept it up for us. Maybe I didn’t mention it yet, but, when we sold out to Duane, we bought a 70 x 14 foot mobile home and moved into it on the 4th of July, 1977. We paid $8,500 for the mobile home. What we couldn’t fit into the mobile home, we took up to the basement house in Swan Valley and it is still there. Well, this summer we finished the decking all around the house and gave it two coats of redwood stain. We put studding all around the sides, the black wall board and the Anderson windows in.
Let me back-up about 23 years and mention that I bought a tile roofing machine, and with this came a brick machine. I really didn’t have much room to do much with it while I was in the vault business, but, I did build enough to put a tile roof on that house and brick the house up. I also sold four roofs in Idaho Falls and then I gave it up. Well, we had the machine up on the ranch and so every morning, I would get up early and make 200 pumice concrete brick. I would be through about 8:00 a.m. and then I would work on the house the rest of the day until it got too dark for me to see.
I made 6,500 brick and we laid 6,500 brick on the house. I used weeping mortar, making it look pretty snappy. We have a sliding glass door on the east that faces Mt. Baldy and a four foot front door on the south that I made myself. I made this door with old damaged 2 x 6 planks with big hinges that go all across the door. I also made these. I think it looks real neat. We also made the sleeping loft beams that summer and the sleeping loft finished. We divided the rooms. Brother Frisbee came and borrowed our crawler tractor that Jim and I bought a few years ago, so he came back and helped me wire the upstairs. This made me very happy, so I feel we got a lot done on the house.
I rocked-up the culvert so it wouldn’t wash in. This was a great undertaking for one man. I have made the road about twice as wide there as it was. I hauled five pick-up loads of rocks in to do this with. In so doing, I pulled a ligament in my left arm rendering it most useless. With Kaye’s help, we hooked onto the 5th wheel again and came down to park in the Fullmer’s orchard.
When one leaves his life history so long in the making and doesn’t keep a diary of his 63 years of life, one tends to forget a few things. So, if you don’t mind, I will relate about us buying a big red boat. This was a beautiful boat, but, it would not run and the man we bought it from wouldn’t make it good. We ended up selling it to make our $1,000 obligation to the stake farm assessment. We wished many times we still had it. Oh, well, they say there are two happy days in the life of a boat owner: the day he buys it and the day he sells it.
Now, to get back to the apple orchard; we looked after Jaylene’s household while she had her surgery. When I wasn’t busy with her, me and old Gary would go down to the dry beds and fish. We done pretty good, and sometimes Gary would get more than I would.
One highlight at this time for me was when Alvon came from California. Alvon, Chester and myself spent a whole day at the Ririe Dam fishing.
As soon as we felt we could leave Jaylene, we left once again to spend the winter in the south. We first spent a month at Tecopa Springs. I thought the hot water would help my sore arm, and it did. For that reason, I would have kind of liked to spend the winter there.
While still at Jaylene’s in the fall, I had a machine works make me a large gas tank to go on the back of the pick-up. I could fill-up here and in Mexico and not have to stop for gas so often; which is a real trial when you are pulling a 30 foot house in back. I cost me $250 and they did one heck of a sloppy job on it. I took it back twice to have them stop leaks in the lines. Well, the day we left Linda’s; we stopped at the Co-op to fill-up. We hadn’t put very much gas in it when it started to leak again. We didn’t want to stop to get it fixed, so we just went on. I wished a million times after, that I would have stayed and got it all fixed. We left about noon and stopped at Sandy, Utah the first night. The second night we stayed at Overton, Nevada and visited the Sandersons. From there, we went to Tecopa Springs, CA. Although my arm was getting better there, a few drawbacks kept us from staying there at Tecopa. There wasn’t much to do, but go on hikes and bathe in the hot water. We had to go 34 miles to church each Sunday and we had to go 73 miles into Las Vegas to shop. All this made it quite an expense in our truck. Also, the wind did blow pretty stiff at times on the desert. Jackie and Doug came out to the hot pools quite regularly and they would bring us some supplies. We were parked two miles from the pools and I would get up early, about 5:30 or 6:00 and ride a bicycle to the pool. When the wind was blowing, it was a pretty hard ride. Then, we would drive the truck down one or two more times the rest of the day.
I got acquainted with a man that lived there and he had a welder. I asked him if I could use it. By asking around at church, I found out that I could run the exhaust from the truck into that big gas tank and that way I could weld it. So, I pulled the tank out of the truck bed with a hoist, attached it to a tree trunk, and welded it myself. I have had to fight rust in the lines ever since, which has made it miserable.
Sherid and Fern came down and stayed with us for a while at Tecopa. We took a trip together in their car to Los Angeles. Then, we went to Mexico together. They stayed 11 days with us there. Jackie and Doug came to visit us in Mexico also. They stayed across the street in a hotel. Also, Alvon and a friend came to see us. This made the stay a lot nicer this winter. This past year was about the same, only it has been a lot warmer.
I found better than 110 arrowheads. We have found a lot of pretty nice shells. We plan to make our chandeliers for our house with them. One day, while fishing, I was flaying a scallion and stabbed my finger into his fin. I have never had anything hurt so bad. It made me ill, it really did. As soon as I got home and soaked it in real hot water, it let up.
Well, I hope I have given you enough detail in my life to let you know just what kind of a character I am.
I would like, at this time, to bear to you my testimony. This is to all who may read this over the years: to all my posterity and to all those other good people who may read it also. I proclaim my testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints. I am most proud to be a member and am not ashamed to proclaim that to the whole world, as I have done in the past many times.
As I have stated in this story, I, on my own, asked my Heavenly Father to lead me to the truth of His gospel. He did just that, although it was, at times, a rocky and rough road to travel. In due time, I was baptized into the true church, as were a few members of my mother’s and father’s family. I know the gospel is true, because it has been manifested unto me by the Holy Ghost. To deny it, I would destroy myself.
The eternities of happiness lie ahead for me if I, but endure to the end and pray daily; the Lord will sustain me in this struggle to serve Him to the best of my ability.
I also know the gospel is true for many other reasons. I have had too many prayers answered for myself and for my own family, as I have written in this story. However, the gospel isn’t true because I said it was, but, it is true because the Lord said it is, and so be it. And, if the day should come that I should be cast out because of my wrong doing, the gospel is still true regardless of my actions and other people’s action, in or out of the church.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints is the only permanent thing that stands up on this earth that we can hold onto, look to, and trust in to give us guidance in these rough days. They are getting tougher every day. I trust the Lord through his prophets, whoever they are. At this writing, the prophet is President Kimball. He is there to give us guidance, and I know he will. I hope I have the good sense to heed their teachings.
I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of the first magnitude. He was the one through whom the gospel was restored upon this earth in these latter-days. We have had a prophet, since that time, upon the Earth and it will continue until the Savior’s second coming. So, at this time, I seal this testimony up with all the possessions that I own, and with my life if necessary. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Fifteen Years Later
Bringing My Life History Up to Date – 1995
On the 28th of March, 1995, I turned 78 years old.
I will back up a bit and tell you some things about our trip to Old Mexico. We went down there two different winters. After we sold the vault business to Duane, we bought a mobile home at Sunnyside Park and moved into it. Mitchell moved in with us. He had just graduated from high school. I bought a 1964 ¾ ton truck so we could move our excess things up to the ranch. It could also be used to pull our 5th wheel camper that we bought.
I worked for the City of Idaho Falls a few summers so we would have the money to finish the house with. I also worked for Duane for three months after I sold it to him to help him learn the ropes a little better.
We had a good time in Old Mexico. I would go out fishing every morning, but Sunday, on the bay. We would leave just before sun-up and fish until around noon. My friend, Chris Jockumson, had a 14 foot aluminum boat the two of us would go out in. After we got home, I would either go out hunting arrowheads or walk the beach with my wife or go shopping. The ocean was so awesome and so different for me that I couldn’t get enough of it. The white caps would come up about 11:00 and we would get worried about our little boat and head for shore. The white caps were the result of the wind riling up the water. This is bad business for a small boat. The gray whales migrate from Alaska to San Carlos Bay where we fished. They would swim very close to us, and then duck under us and come up on the other side. Chris assured me they would never tip us over, and they didn’t. However, it was sure frightening at times, but, oh so awesome for a farm boy to witness.
The second winter we were there, it rained for three weeks straight. After it cleared-up, the most gorgeous wild flowers came up all over as far as we could see. I thought of the Garden of Eden when I would look at it all. One old-timer said that he had never seen anything like that in his life. I wish I had written of Old Mexico while I was there and I could have done a much better job of it.
We lived off the fish we caught and the fresh vegetable truck that came through the park every morning. The fish were especially good.
We had something bad happen to us the second year we were there. We were turning into the park, off the highway, with our signals on, signaling that we were turning. A very rich man, who had been drinking, was speeding along behind us. He didn’t wait for us to get turned and crashed into the side of our cab. We didn’t get hurt and it didn’t even hurt our truck too much. But, his beautiful new car got banged-up pretty bad. But, because we couldn’t speak Espanol, the constable gave the verdict to the rich man and our Mexican insurance had to pay for all his repairs. The constable said to us, “Have Mexican insurance, no trouble, not Mexican insurance, beeeg trouble.” If we hadn’t had Mexican insurance, we would still be there in jail. When we got back to Idaho I was telling my insurance man about the trouble. He said, “Well, no problem, we will fix your truck up.”
When we would get home, we would park our 5th wheel in Idaho Falls and I would work for the city cemetery in the summer. The first summer I worked there, the boss had me and Steve Morie trim all the trees and shrubs. I trimmed Fielding myself, alone, the next summer. When we were through, the Mayor, Tom Campbell, would inspect our work just before Memorial Day. He called me over and thanked me for doing such a good job.
One day we dug a grave for a burial in Rose Hill and I jumped in to level the bottom up. The young man who was on the backhoe yelled, “Look out!” The next minute I realized the headstone at the bottom of the grave had tipped over and came tumbling down on me. It landed on my foot and weighed at least a ton. It smashed all the bones in that foot behind my toes. The men asked if I could pull my feet out. I got one out, but, not the smashed one. They went scrambling up the hill to the office and got all the help they could find. They finally got me up out of the grace. Well, I always told myself when the day came that I couldn’t get myself out of the grave, I would quit the burying business. Well, this was the time.
I was in the hospital ten days. Dr. Setter operated on me and did the best he could with it. He came out and told Rowene that he wished he could say that he could save the foot, but, that he couldn’t. Well, I had the knowledge that it would be okay, because I had two former Bishops come up just before they took me into surgery and administer to me. I was promised at this time that my foot would heal and I wouldn’t have any trouble with it. This has come to pass.
We spend part of two winters in Tecopa, Nevada at the hot springs. Then, we spent two winters in Overton, Nevada and five winters in St George.
We were called on a six month mission to the Navajo Indians, or as we know them, the Lamanites. While we were there that short time we baptized 35 people, eight of whom were adults. We signed-up 32 children for the LDS Church placement program, of which 16 went and the other 16 backed out. We were not there when they got on the bus in the fall and we feel badly about this.
I could write a lot about this mission, but, you will have to go to our journal to learn more, which is true. One of our desires was to get a certain couple married, which we did. They are Tommy Yazzie and Martha. They now have two children and live in Provo.
Well, I will come back to my childhood with some thoughts. When I was a small boy about eight, I would go for walks on my Uncle Ed’s ranch and speculate on how long I would live. I would think: 1930, 1940, 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, etc. I didn’t think I would live to 2000, but, who knows. I have cancer under my left arm pit and it has left me with a withered hand and arm. It gets very cold and I hate for anything to touch it without a glove on. If the doctors would have listened to me from day one, I would still have use of my arm.
Ivon Arthur Elder
Born: 28 March, 1917 Bennett, Arapahoe County Colorado
Died: 29 November, 1997 Idaho Falls Bonneville County Idaho