16 Dec Ranch History Podcast: Episode Three
Episode 3: Jim Wood’s Childhood Part Two
From teachers to chasing milk cows, solo horseback adventures to town and everyday living in between, this installment of Western Pleasure Guest Ranch’s Ranch History Podcast continues with stories from Grandpa Jim Wood’s Childhood.
Danielle: The last time we talked, you had just arrived from Colorado, and the first order of business, kind of setting up your home, or your parents’ home, was gathering firewood. And then you said the next thing that you guys started doing was going to school.
Danielle: So about how far was the schoolhouse from your house?
Grandpa: About a mile and a half.
Danielle: And how did you get to school every day?
Grandpa: [00:00:30] We would walk. Fight in snow. Fight in the mud. Back in those days, the road was just a trail. Wasn’t even a good trail, a lot of times. The county hardly ever plowed the snow. So I don’t remember any bad thoughts about getting to school. It was quite a walk, but I didn’t have any trouble.
Danielle: What [00:01:00] was a day in school like for you?
Grandpa: Well, I never had any trouble. I think I was a pretty good student. I didn’t hate school or anything like that. At recess and at noon, us kids would go out in the yard. Play some kind of tag games or kick the ball, or something. [00:01:30] I don’t remember ever playing anything more, but maybe we did. Yeah, I didn’t begrudge school any.
Danielle: So do you recall a time where you did get in trouble at school?
Grandpa: Well, yeah. When you mentioned that, it always comes to mind what happened. The way the school seats [00:02:00] were built, you sat down on a regular seat, and then there was a table in front of you that you could do your work on and put your work on it. And it worked fine, but to hold that seat up, them chairs had an angle iron frame, and one of the angle irons came [00:02:30] from the back of the seat, came up past your hip pocket, and then forward to help hold this work table up. So when I got my handkerchief out of my pocket, I’d just reach around that angle iron to get my handkerchief, instead of keeping my hand inside that angle iron. Well, for some reason it just [00:03:00] really irritated my school teacher.
Grandpa: Her name was Mrs. Tibbs. She was a good teacher. I don’t recall ever having any problem with her, except this one incident. But I got my handkerchief out, and blowed my nose. She come back there and told me to get out in the hall. So I did. And to get in the hall, which was the entryway [00:03:30] to the school, you had to go by the heating stove. Well, as we went by the heating stove, she reached over and grabbed the stove poker, which was half a broken off broom handle. And out in the hall she marched me, and she says, you know what you’re out here for? And I said, I guess because I blowed my nose. And I was aware. I was aware [00:04:00] that reaching around that irritated her. And that’s probably why I was doing it as much as anything.
Grandpa: But anyway, she didn’t say anything about reaching around that iron, and she give me some dirty looks. And I don’t recall if she ever said anything much. Then she said, get back in your seat. So back in the school [00:04:30] room I went and sat down. She followed me, put the stove poker back behind the stove. And that was kind of the end of that incident.
Danielle: What was a day in school like for you?
Grandpa: Well, I think I was a pretty good kid, and I was a pretty good student. I think I learned a lot. I didn’t begrudge [00:05:00] going to school. I had Virginia’s cousin, Chuck Hoffine, and I kind of buddied up at school. I think we were in the same grade. School was not a big ordeal.
Danielle: So you said that was Mrs Tibbs. Was that a Mrs Tibbs related to the Tibbs that still live in the area?
Grandpa: Yes, that was the Tibbs that now live [00:05:30] down the road from our place.
Danielle: I would describe you as an avid reader. Is that something that was cultivated in you at school, or is that just something that kind of came naturally for you?
Grandpa: Well, back in those days, to start with, there wasn’t no telephone. There wasn’t no television. To kill time with at home, I suppose I did read a lot. I [00:06:00] don’t recall any of the books, but I always liked to read. I still do.
Danielle: As a child living on the ranch, what sort of things were you responsible for doing? What sort of work were you responsible for?
Grandpa: Well, after of course, we come in February to Idaho and when the snow melted, [00:06:30] dad got an FHA loan and bought some milk cows. And we ended up with about oh, 15 or 20 head of the milk cows that had to be milked twice a day. And it was my job right from day one to go get those cows off of 31. And at that time there wasn’t any fences around 31, and he didn’t know where [00:07:00] the heck they would be. And I had a horse to ride. It was my job to bring them cows in. That that was my mainest job. Dad had got hold of a sawmill, and had bought another piece of ground over here across the meadow, and another 160 acres that had quite a lot of timber on it. And he had a road built across the meadow and up on [00:07:30] Bart’s Hill there. What you call Huckleberry Ridge now, and that sawmill was up there in that timber.
Grandpa: Another one of my jobs, the way the sawmill was built, it was a circle saw. The sawmill was powered by this old tactor setting out here that you have in the yard. It was a belt powered sawmill, [00:08:00] and as the saw cut the log, the sawdust fell down into kind of a trough. And this trough then had a chain on it that scraped the sawdust away from the saw and dumped it in a pile out here on the sawdust pile. And one of my jobs was to take a scoop shovel, go out there and keep that sawdust [00:08:30] pile scooped down and scattered so that this chain had a place to dump the sawdust when it got away from the saw. Yeah, and I did that a lot.
Danielle: What was your dad milling on that saw? What was he using that sawmill to make?
Grandpa: Mostly railroad ties. He had a contract with the railroad, and he sawed them ties. They were seven by nine by eight and a half feet long, and he had to deliver them [00:09:00] down at Kootenai. There was a railroad siting down there that they had to be unloaded and piled. My brother Bob done that piling with that old truck that dad moved out here with.
Danielle: You told me a story once about the tires are in the sawdust pile?
Grandpa: Well, during the war, they were rationing everything. Rationing gas, [00:09:30] and you couldn’t buy tires because of the rubber shortage. And dad had two or three old truck tires that was still serviceable, but he wanted to hide him from the government so they couldn’t come out and claim them, grab them. They’d recycle them into airplane tires. So he buried them tires on this sawdust pile that I’ve been talking about. [00:10:00] And as far as I know, they’re still out there.
Danielle: So you talked about one of your other jobs that you were to do was to gather the milk cows. Was that in the morning before school?
Grandpa: No, that was at night after school.
Danielle: Oh, okay.
Grandpa: Yeah, I was to bring them in from pasture. Like I say, they were pasturing on 31 and wherever else they could get. There was about seven head of that bunch of cows, though, that [00:10:30] kind of hung together. And quite often, they would end up over Clawson’s, and Clawson lived over the top of the Big Hill and down on that big flat hill down there, and I’d have to go eventually end up down there, bringing them cows back over the Big Hill, and back home. That was always a pain [00:11:00] to do that, get that six or seven cows home. And if I couldn’t find them and they’d be down to Clawson’s, he would milk them. Which I didn’t blame him any for that. Nobody blamed him for it. Good for the cows being milked out, but we didn’t get the cream.
Danielle: Right. You told me another story about getting lost looking for the milk cows.
Grandpa: Yep. Yep. At that time [00:11:30] the Big Hill was covered with tag alders and brush about ten feet high, and so thick that you couldn’t ride a horse through it. And there was three horse trails that went up on the Big Hill. And one from each end of the Big Hill, and one went up where the water tank out there is now. Yep. Straight up [00:12:00] the Big Hill, and I’d have to scour that country. Like I say, you couldn’t get out off of those trails very much. But one time looking for them cows, and I suppose it was that six or seven that Clawson’s had.
Grandpa: I went north over the end of the Big Hill out on section 30, and I got [00:12:30] over in that country that I’d never been before, and I didn’t know where the hell I was. I was lost. But I had sense enough, the old mare I rode, I had sense enough to give her her head, which is let the reins loose, and let her go where she wanted to. She knew exactly where we were, and she took us both right up out of there, up back on top of the Big Hill. [00:13:00] Well, it didn’t scare me much, but it was a different situation. And I was lost. I didn’t know where the heck I was.
Danielle: But you had a dog with you on that trip too, didn’t you?
Grandpa: Yeah, I did. And you want to remember, I was only maybe 11 or 12 years old at the most at that time. As dumb as it sounds, I [00:13:30] had made up my mind. I didn’t know where I was. I didn’t know how long I’d be gone, but I’d made up my mind I wasn’t going to eat that dog.
Danielle: I’m sure the dog appreciated that.
Danielle: During your childhood, was most of the family’s food grown, hunted, gathered here on the Hill, or did they buy a lot or most of their supplies in town?
Grandpa: Well, [00:14:00] as I mentioned before, Saturday was the town going day. We went to town to deliver the cream every Saturday. Well, nobody butchered their own cattle, because they represented a few dollars, which was damn hard to come by anyway. So we lived on poached deer. And poaching is killing a deer out of season.
Danielle: [00:14:30] Did you have a garden that you grew as well, or was that not so common?
Grandpa: Did I have a what?
Danielle: A garden? Did your family grow a garden, or was that not-
Grandpa: Well, in Colorado, mom and dad had a really, really big nice garden. That’s where a lot of that 500-quart of fruit came from when we moved out here. When we got here, it really wasn’t much of a garden spot, but [00:15:00] we had a garden per se of some kind, but nothing elaborate at all. And then after Virginia and I got married a few years, I built the shop down here and cleared this field just above it which is that field there. And we had a pretty nice garden there for a number of years.
Danielle: With most people nowadays, horses are treated like a pet, [00:15:30] or they’re used pretty much exclusively for recreation.
Danielle: When you were growing up, what role did horses play on the ranch?
Grandpa: Well, they were to start with, dad had a team of horses, and as a kid I can remember driving them horses, pulling a harrow, working the ground down. But the use of the horses mostly was for checking cattle. [00:16:00] Rounding up the milk cows and riding the countryside.
Danielle: Did you have a horse that was your own horse, or was it-
Grandpa: Well, I had a old palomino mare. I can’t remember her name. That was the horse that I rode mostly. Then a few years later, I suppose it was after we got married, [00:16:30] we got to accumulating horses, and we probably ended up with six or eight, or maybe ten head. I can remember one horse that was a saddle horse that I rode, but you couldn’t catch him. So I took a log chain and a hand strap and tied that log chain to one front leg so that he couldn’t run. [00:17:00] He could move. He could drag that chain, but he couldn’t run. But I could catch him then. I don’t know how long that lasted, but that was dumb.
Danielle: Well. And they kind of had their hundreds of acres to run on, too, to get away from you, right?
Grandpa: Yes, they did.
Danielle: So we have different names for locations throughout the ranch. You know, there’s the Big Hill and the Birch Patch and Deep Canyon, [00:17:30] and-
Grandpa: Riley’s Rock.
Danielle: Yep. So how did some of these places come to get their names? And the first that I think of is Riley’s Rock and Clawson’s Canyon.
Grandpa: Well, Clawson’s Canyon had nothing to do with Clawson’s landholdings or anything, but that Canyon had a trail going up it over the south end of the Big Hill and dropped down into the Grouse Creek at Clawson’s ranch. And [00:18:00] I don’t know, it’s just a description of where you went, and where you was going. You end up in Clawson’s Canyon.
Danielle: And that was, that was kind of on the way to his house?
Grandpa: Yes. Yes, yes, yes.
Danielle: What about Riley’s Rock?
Grandpa: Well, during the early days, deer poaching days, there’s a big rock down here on section seven on the [00:18:30] North end edge of section seven, and it’s a rock half as big as this room, and about eight or 10 feet high that you could crawl up on. And dad used to go down there with his rifle, and that was a deer stand. If we were hunting deer, a bunch of us kids would be out in the surrounding area, milling around, spooking up the deer. My dad [00:19:00] was up there on that rock waiting for them to come by. And it just got to be called Riley’s Rock.
Danielle: I think most of the other locations that I can think of are the Big Hill; it’s big, and kind of obvious like that. Yeah.
Grandpa: Horse Shoe Canyon is obvious.
Grandpa: The Horseshoe Canyon is at the west end of Clawson’s Canyon, and it is the end of that canyon, [00:19:30] and it is just a big horseshoe. And there was Buck Rock, north of Big Hill. During our deer drives, when we were hunting, somebody would get on that rock. It wasn’t a very big rock. It wasn’t any bigger than this couch is, but it pinpointed a geographical location, and somebody would get there by that rock. Bam. [00:20:00] Wait for somebody else to run a deer by them. And that’s one way that those places got named.
Danielle: We’re kind of going to jump subjects a little bit. A lot, actually. So the Hoffine family, which is grandma’s dad’s family. They came to Idaho in 1926. Can you tell [00:20:30] me about grandma’s Uncle Andy, and his trip here from South Dakota?
Grandpa: Well, at that time we were too dumb to really, really quiz him, and get a really good story about his trip. But it took him three months to come from South Dakota, where Hoffines originated from. Took him three months to come from there [00:21:00] to Idaho, here at Sandpoint. And it was with a team and wagon, a covered wagon, just like in the covered wagon days. I don’t know how many hundred miles it was, but it was quite a ways, part across Montana and part of South Dakota, and then a little way into this panhandle of Idaho. But it was a three months trip. It was in the summertime. He [00:21:30] wasn’t having to fight the weather, other than storms and stuff. But they didn’t never get a really good story out of him about any highlights of that journey.
Danielle: It would be quite the-
Grandpa: Quite an undertaking. Very reminiscent of the old covered wagon days of the early West, when the pioneers were coming across. There was another incident that happened [00:22:00] on our trip out here from Colorado to Sandpoint during that month of February. Like I said, we had that truck, dad’s flatbed truck loaded down, everything you could pile in there, and was pulling a two-wheel trailer with a two-seated automobile. Over here at [00:22:30] Thompson Falls, there was a mud hole. The County maintainer had to pull us through this mud hole, and there was a cop there. And he looked in that trailer, this two-wheel trailer pulled by this car, and said it’s overloaded. You’re going to have to leave half of that stuff there.
Grandpa: [00:23:00] Well, what do you do? You don’t argue with a cop. So the folks unloaded a set of harness and some other odds and ends that didn’t amount to much. Probably the whole thing didn’t weigh two hundred pounds. But anyway, they had to leave them there, and there was a building that they could put them in for storage. And after we got back to Idaho, [00:23:30] got kind of settled down here in the house, Bob and my dad went back to Thompson Falls with just the car. Nope, not the trailer. Just the car, and picked that stuff up. And they put all that stuff in the back seat that that cop made them unload.
Grandpa: Above where the Hoffine’s were living up the road [00:24:00] here, another neighbor by the name of Art Spar. And he had a son named Bob, and Bob Spar and I one time took our horses and rode to Sandpoint. And we stayed overnight at the Sandpoint sale yard.
Danielle: So this ride to town was just for the heck of it?
Grandpa: Just for something to do. Yeah. [00:24:30] Bob Spar and I needed something to do. I can’t tell you how old we were, but 13 or 14 maybe.
Danielle: And what kind of route to town did you take? Where’d you go?
Grandpa: Well, from here we went down the Hill of course, and hit the Farm to Market Road, and went to Colburn on the Farm to Market Road, and then from Colburn down the highway [00:25:00] to Sandpoint. And the sale yard was on the northwest end of Sandpoint. And that’s where we fed the horses, and I think he and I probably spent the night in a haystack.
Danielle: So on that ride from here to town, how many homes or farms would you pass?
Grandpa: Well, the Selle Valley was pretty well [00:25:30] settled, and those farms were 80 to 160 acres. So there would be houses oh, half a mile to a mile apart, kind of depending on where it was on that route. At that time, there wasn’t any car traffic that amounted to anything. Even on the highway, we never felt [00:26:00] endangered at any point. It was just a fun ride.
Danielle: Just good fun. Well, I think we’ll wrap it up here for now, and the next time we talk we’ll go over your kind of teenage to young adult years. It’s kind of where we’ll focus then.
Grandpa: Okay. Well, we’ll get into hunting then?