"Your story is the greatest legacy that you will leave to your friends. It’s the longest-lasting legacy you will leave to your heirs". —Steve Saint
In this installment of the ranch history podcast, grandma talks about both the happy and the sad days of her high school years, her marriage to grandpa (Jim Wood) and their life growing a family and a cattle ranch.
I am here with my grandma again, Virginia Wood. And the last time that we were together we talked about her childhood growing up on Gold Creek and some stories about that. And now we're going to move into her experiences in high school and moving on into her adult life. So grandma, the only high school in the area was in Sandpoint, which is 16 or so miles from your place that you lived with your grandparents on upper Gold Creek. So that's not a drive that you'd make every day back and forth to school. So did you live in town during the week?
Yeah. When I started high school, my Grandma Bonnie was actually living in Sandpoint, so I was able to stay with her. I might mention though that back then, not many of the kids that were ahead of me or behind me at that Gold Creek school went on to high school. So I felt kind of like a lost whatever when I started high school. But anyhow, I did well. So, I didn't know many other students, but I made friends though. Liked the teachers. And did well. My Grandma Hoffine passed away my sophomore year and then my Grandma Bonnie the start of my junior year. So I worked for my board and room for a while and at the same time Jim's brother Bob was in the service and his wife got a job. His wife Bernice got a job in Sandpoint and rented a little house. So myself and Jim's younger sister Virginia, who was also in high school at that time, was able to stay with Bernice. And that was great. We had a good time.
I was going to say that sounds like you guys could have had some fun times, the three of you together. Grandma, did you work during your high school years or was it more where you were just really focusing on school?
Well, I was pretty much focusing on school because I wanted to do well, which I did. But occasionally I babysit different people and at 25 cents an hour. But what really helped me out... Sad, but my Grandma Bonnie had a house and it was sold and being as my mother was deceased also. I had had a little...
... inheritance. So that helped me through high school and into later years, also. Some.
After you graduated from high school, what did you do from there?
Well, the summer after I graduated from high school, I stayed home to keep house for my grandfather Hoffine and my uncle Andy. Because, I said before, my grandmother passed away, and I knew I was going to go to work in the fall. So I thought, well I just better stay home and take care of them this summer. So that's what I did. And then...
Then that fall, where did you go to work?
That fall, then, I was offered a job as the secretary for the County Extension Agent. So then I rented an apartment in Sandpoint. My wages were $125 a month. My apartment was $25. I tried to save $25 a month and lived on the rest. I didn't have a car and walked a few blocks to work.
Was that a job that you enjoyed?
I did. I did. I enjoyed it thoroughly and I got a lot of experience that I could use later with my high school, what I learned in high school, and with that job that helped out on the ranch.
So how long after you started this job at the extension office, then, did you and grandpa get married?
Well, we were engaged on my birthday in April of the next spring after I'd graduated from high school.
I think somebody wanted to know, well, why did we get married on January the first? And I had to think about that for a while. And so I remember now. I wanted to finish the year up out at my job. So I said, okay, January the first.
After you and grandpa got married, where were you living?
Well, Jim was in the process of building us a house, but it wasn't ready to live in yet. And Jim's mom was teaching school at Kootenai and the two younger brothers were were living with her. And Jim's dad would also go down and stay with her at least during the week. And so Jim had kind of had everything on the ranch to do by himself. So we moved into the main ranch house and lived there with the folks until our house was ready to move into.
Got it. Okay. So that house that he built, we talked a little bit, grandpa and I talked a little bit about it, but that's the house that we call grandma's house now-
... because you and grandpa's parents, you guys kind of did some house trading back and forth throughout the years. Right?
When you and grandpa were married and living on the hill, was the cattle operation your sole source of income?
Well, we had a milk cow and some chickens and so we sold a little cream that would buy the groceries and money from the eggs, which wasn't a whole lot. But I, this may sound crazy, but I remember going to town to buy groceries. $5 for a week for a week's groceries.
Wow, that's amazing.
So grandpa talked about, he did some custom work, what he called custom work, with his Cat for a little extra income. What was something that you did?
What I did?
Yeah. I know that you had some other jobs outside of the ranch that you did.
Well, let's go on here a little bit and not maybe grandpa mentioned this, but, well we were married and of course on the January, 1948. But about 1945 grandpa Wood bought a TDA Cat and the County had hired Jim to keep the roads on up or Gold Creek and even down into Grouse Creek. So, that was some income in the wintertime. And of course we were building up a cow herd and I don't remember exactly what we had then, but we'd sell few cattle every fall. So, that was just the beginning of the cattle business.
Yeah. So, I know one thing that you did was you drove the school bus. How did that come about?
Well. Jim's brother Bob and his wife Bernice us who just lived up the road from us, had the school bus driving job. But they also worked one day a week in town at the local livestock auction, so they had me drive this bus on the day that they were working. And Janice wasn't in school yet, so she rode with me. Later when Bob and Bernice sold their place on Gold Creek and moved to the Odin area, I started driving full time probably about 10 years.
So, 10 years you drove that upper Gold Creek school bus route.
I bet that could have been quite an exciting driving experience at times on that road.
Yes. Yes. I remember... Well, to start out with, we had just a small bus that held, Oh, I don't know, 10 to 12 kids and it was four wheel drive. Just a small little bus. That was great. I didn't have any trouble with the roads. But then the time went by and the hippies started moving in and there was more kids. We had to go to a bigger bus. A 60 passenger bus. And I remember one time I got halfway up the Gold Creek hill and I spun out. Couldn't make it. So I had to get out and put chains on. That was not fun.
I bet. Oh, I bet you have a lot of school bus stories.
Well not a whole lot, but Jenny went with me a lot, which wouldn't be allowed now.
I recall that once she got older you would leave in the mornings to go start your school bus route and she was supposed to get up and get herself ready and be ready for you to pick her up on your school bus route. Did she sometimes not get up?
Well, yeah. One day in particular I stopped at the mailbox to pick her up and her bedroom was on the road side of the house, the window, and here she would just crawl out of bed. But that was the only time that happened.
There was this story, a highly controversial story in our family. I guess not controversial. Debated. Highly debated story in our family about a couple pairs of chaps that were supposedly made by you and grandpa for I think it was Leonard and Bri. The story is that you made of some number of pairs of chaps out of old school bus seats.
Well, the boys still have those. But grandpa and I, neither one, can remember making them and the boys can't remember who they were made for either. So it's a dilemma.
But Leonard did find two pairs of little old chaps that are very likely the chaps in question that were made out of the school bus seats.
Right. So this wasn't a school bus that you drove?
So, how did you get these leather school bus seats?
Well, you'd have to ask grandpa a little bit more about it. But they bought this-
An old school bus.
Yeah. Bought this old school bus for parts for a log jammer that they were using in logging.
And it happened to have nice leather seats.
I guess, yes.
You wouldn't want those to go to waste, so there were chaps made from them. I've been instructed to ask the story about you going into labor with Steve.
Well, at about that time grandma and grandpa had decided to build a new house and of course Jim was all interested in it and he was over and they were digging out, this was long towards seven o'clock in the evening, and they were digging out for the basement. And all at once I went into labor. So I had to walk over to the house to pry Jim away from his job, whatever he was doing, which he wasn't pretty reluctant to do. But I finally convinced him that we needed to get on the road. So we did and we barely made it, but everything went well.
How grandma, tell me how the transition came about or happened between grandpa's parents owning and operating the cattle ranch or the ranch up there on Gold Creek and then how that transitioned to you and grandpa.
Well, Grandpa Wood, was getting kind of tired with all the snow that we were having. And in the meantime, grandma had been teaching school, which I mentioned before. And so they decided one winter that she would take up six weeks leave of absence and go to Arizona. Which they did. And so then they came home all excited about that. And so she applied, checked in to a teaching job down in the warmer country. She couldn't teach in Arizona. She didn't have quite the right credentials, but she did have for Nevada.
So she found a teaching job in Beatty, Nevada. So that fall, then they moved to Beatty and she taught school there and about the next spring, then when they came home, they decided... Well, backing up a little bit, grandpa was helping out at a motel there where they were living in Beatty. That next summer they had made the decision to sell the place to Jim and I and they were going to move full time to Beatty. So that was what they did. So we moved into the big house, that's what I would call it. And then in the summertime they'd come back up and they lived in our little house.
That makes sense?
Yeah. So then about the seventies the property there on the upper ranch got to be kind of too small for your cattle operation and grandpa had been leasing some pasture down here closer to Sandpoint and you guys were able to purchase a ranch here, a larger ranch, closer to Sandpoint. How did that kind of come about?
Well, like you were saying, on Gold Creek we just ran out of enough land both for hay and for pasture for the cattle. And so we were moving down into the Sally Center Valley area, especially putting up hay in the summertime. So this property where we are now had quite a lot of acreage. And so Jim rented the place for the hay. And the first time I saw that I thought, Oh my criminy I don't think we can ever get this much hay put up. Anyhow, and then that winter or for a couple of years, I think, we even brought cattle down and fed him down here. Bri and Leonard were still in high school and they'd stop here on their way coming and going and take care of the feeding of the calves. That's what it was.
So that just went on like that for about a year, I think. And then that place came up for sale. And at the same time Steve and Louise who had been married very or so, we're just getting out of college and they needed a place to live, and there happened to be two houses on this place. And so we managed to get loans and was able to make a deal.
My wrapping up question, kind of my final question for this conversation, I also asked to grandpa towards the end of my conversations with him, but I want to ask you the same question cause I want your perspective on it. Every one of your five children and several of your grandchildren are entrepreneurs. So they own and operate their own businesses, either here on the ranch or in the Sandpoint area. What do you attribute that entrepreneur spirit in all of your kids and a lot of your grandkids, what do you attribute that to?
A good job of raising kids.
I will applaud that.
Well, I don't know. Sometimes when I think back about it, I think we worked our kids pretty hard. That they've turned out well. They worked hard growing up on the ranch, but they had their motorcycles and they had their, especially horses, and they all did exceptionally well with in different shows and whatnot with their horses. They had their automobiles and...
But those are all things that they had to work for. It wasn't like they were just handed to them.
That's true. That's true. When the kids got old enough to be in 4H, they each were given a given a calf and they showed them in 4H and of course that calf grew up and had a calf and they were on their way to building up a herd. They had fat stairs that they sold every year at the fair, which when you think back about it, I remember one year that Dan had the champion 4H there, and he got 65 cents a pound for it. This year at the fair, the champion steer brought $6,000. So...
A little bit different. Change of times.
So you kind of attribute that to the hard work that they put in. So they learned how to do the hard work as kids. So then as adults, they were just able to step into that kind of naturally.
I believe so. Yes.
Grandma, thank you so much for sitting down with me and telling your stories and having these conversations. I'm going to say the same thing at the conclusion of this that I said when I concluded with grandpa that if anybody listening or reading has questions that they would like to ask grandma or grandpa, that I would be happy to receive those and then come back and do some followup interviews with grandma or grandpa to answer some more questions because this is a lot of fun.