Tuesday, July 12, 2011


 Smith and Abplanalp Family
W. Rowe Smith

The February morning was crisp and cold as I stood for awhile at my mother’s grave.  The flowers from the day before had crystallized during the freezing night, colors were vibrant, beautiful, they looked like they were sculptured in wax.  I mused that the cold still body down in that vault was not really my mother.  It was only that vehicle that carried a beautiful soul through ninety-three years of toil, love and unselfish service to all who cherished her.  Next to her grave was the grave of my Father who preceded her by twenty-two years.  Mother and I were very close, I worshipped her.  My father and I never enjoyed this closeness, his passion was religion.  I was the first grandchild in the Abplanalp family, the first of six children in this family.
This is my story
Barbara Myrl
Abplanalp family; Mother was christened Barbara Myrl but throughout her life was addressed as Myrl.  She was born in Vernal, Utah, 22 September 1900, the first child of ten to bless the William and Barbara Elizabeth (Bess) Jenkens Abplanalp family.   The Abplanalp home in Vernal was a one room log cabin located in one corner of sixteen acres of sagebrush and cobble rocks.  Her father had worked on the Reeder family ranch for a number of years.   The going wage at that time was twenty-five cents an hour.  He also carried mail from Vernal to fort Duchesne for the soldiers stationed there to protect the settlers from the Indians.  Mother was six years old when the family moved to a farm on the Duchesne River that became known as Utahn. 

The Indian Reservation lands along the Duchesne and the Strawberry Rivers had been opened for homesteading in the early nineteen hundreds.  Good land with plenty of water was the most attractive to the Abplanalp family who had known nothing but struggle and hardship, surviving on their tiny farm in Vernal.  They had the good fortune to acquire one hundred sixty acres on the Duchesne River from a man in New  York City.   He had homesteaded it earlier but became discouraged with the requirements of proving the land.

It was in the spring of 1907 when the Abplanalp family loaded everything they owned onto two wagons and headed for their new acreage along the Duchesne.  The log cabin where they would spend the remainder of their lives had been partially completed by my grandpa during the winter.  There was a biting chill in the spring air when grandpa and grandma each climbed into their wagon and took one last look at their lonely little cabin.  The cabin they had known for years, the cabin where four of their children where born and where one had died.  

With a snap of the reins across the rumps of the horses, they were off to face another pioneer adventure of struggle.  The distance from Vernal to Duchesne is roughly fifty miles as the crow flies.  The rough, rutted, often muddy road between Vernal and Duchesne was close to double that as it wound back and forth following the contour of hills and washes.  That spring had been wet, the road at times was deeply rutted and on occasions the wagons would mire down in the mud to the point where both teams were required to drag them out to solid ground.  The first day they made it to Gusher where they set up camp for the night.  Gathering dry limbs form greasewood and sagebrush they built a fire and prepared a meal.  The night was clear and cold.  The calls of Coyotes punctuated the stark stillness of the early evening and sent shivers down the backs of the children.  Next day they made it to Roosevelt and spent the night at Grandma’s bother Archie Jenkens’ place.  Then the town of Roosevelt consisted of Ashton’s grocery store, the post office, a blacksmith shop and a few homes and out buildings scatted about.  Grandma said the main street in Roosevelt was so rutted and rock it would nearly shake their teeth out. 

For two more long grueling days they followed along the winding Duchesne River. At the end of the second day, they arrived at the edge of town and set up camp for the night.  It was difficult to tell who was the most weary and bone tired, the horses or crew.  When morning came, their hearts felt lighter with the knowledge that they were almost home.  Duchesne was the active hub and distribution point for freight wagons arriving from Salt Lake and Price.  Price was the nearest railroad, and it took sever days for the teams and wagons to haul in the freight to Duchesne. Al Murdock operated a small store, tents were set up along the street for business.  One housed a café where people could be served a scanty meal. 

Morning came on the fifth day since leaving Vernal.  It was the middle of May but still crisp and cold as Grandpa harnessed the teams for the final lap of their journey.  As darkness was settling in they reached the home of their brother, Henry Abplanalp on the West Bench and spent the night.  With the first light of morning, Grandpa Will, Grandma Bess, my mother, Myrl, uncles Peter and Charles walked to the edge of the hill and looked down into the valley that was to be their home.  Grandma said she did not know whether to start crying or stiffen her back, pick up the kids and revel in excitement.  A forest of cottonwoods followed the damp banks of the river for as far as the eye could see.  The floor of the valley was a solid carpet of sagebrush, greasewood, prickly pare, and prairie dog mounds like freckles every where.  The rains had cut deep gullies through the flat land as the runoffs roared to the river.  Wherever there was an open area of bare ground, it was a solid bed of cobble rock.  Indian tepees could be seen among the cottonwoods.  Grandma thought they had reached infinity, but her pioneer spirit soon took over and her excitement matching the children’s as they moved down into the valley and the cabin Grandpa had built.  They wee a determined band of pioneers and this was their home.  The log cabin consisted of two rather skimpy rooms.  The mud chucking between the logs had not been made weatherproof.  They removed the wagon covers and nailed them up to the cabin to keep the wind from whistling through the cracks. 

Homestead; When they moved into the cabin my grandmother was pregnant with their fifth child adding to their hardships.  A little girl they named Helen blessed their home; then sadly was taken away in nine months later suffering from whooping cough.  Helen was one of the first to be buried in the cemetery on West Bench.  The second little Abplanalp grave in the cemetery is that of Henry and Lill’s baby girl who also died of whooping cough.  Caskets for the little girls were crude homemade boxes, lined with whatever material was available.  The burials in warm weather had to be done without delay.  In the winter a body could be kept cold, until ready until burial, by packing it with fruit jars that were filled with water and frozen.

Summer was approaching and the crops had to be planted.  The family pitched in from dawn to darkness day after day clearing the land.  Mother, who was seven, Pete four and Chuck three, made up Grandpa’s crew.  Grandpa’s crew would drag the brush and limbs to the fires for burning.  Canals had to be dug, fences had to be constructed, prairie mounds were everywhere.  The prairie dogs had to be flushed out and destroyed, before the ground could be planted.  Mother and Pete became the chief prairie dog exterminators
Mother would run sticks down the boroughs or flood the holes and Pete would club the dogs as they came out.  When fall came, the meager crops from the first planting had to be gathered and stored for the winter.  The kids would tamp the hay on the wagons; then help pitch it off for Grandpa to stack.  Grandma would bottle every morsel of food gathered from the harvest and store it in the underground cellar that Grandpa had constructed. 

The furniture in their home consisted of boxes to sit on, a table made of rough boards; their springs were made of ropes tied across boards.  Feathers, cattails, or straw was used to fill the mattress.  Grandma made quilts from usable cloth salvaged from un-wearable clothing.  She gathered wool caught on fences from the sheep or from sheep that were sheared in the spring.  The wool was corded, spread out on the quilt, then quilted. 

The family moved back to Vernal for two winters, in order for my mother to attend school.  Grandpa would find work in order to earn enough for food and necessities and to get farm supplies for the coming year.  On each trip to Vernal they would bring back berry bushes, trees and anything that would make a living and a home for them. 

As the years passed, more and more families settled in the valley that had become known as Utahn.  Times were very hard for everyone; the winters were especially cold and severe. Snow would often be three to four feet deep on the level.  The wind would howl through the canyon drifting snow into great frozen mounds running along the fence lines.  Often the river would be frozen over solid; they would melt snow for their water.  During the spring runoff the river would look like flowing mud.  They would fill tubs and barrels  with water to let it settle so the clear water could be dipped off for household use.  By the spring the food supplies would become scarce and it was ten miles to the store in Duchesne.  Some men would set out on horseback to bring supplies.  They would have to swim their horses across the raging Duchesne River, then put the supplies in flour sacks and hold them above their heads to keep them dry as they swam back. 

A family named Spratt homesteaded the property adjoining the Abplanalp on the East.  The Spratt home became the first school in Utahn.  Della Spratt, who had completed the eight grade became the school’s first teacher.  Shortly there after Al Murdock, the merchant from Duchesne, donated the money to construct a one room school a quarter mile down from the cemetery.  Mother would ride to and from that school each day on one of the work horses with Pete and Chuck astride in the back clinging on to her.  The school later became the social center of the community.  Church activities, dances, parties and the Forth of July celebration were all held at the school.  A willow thatched bowery was built next to the school to provide summer shade.  Homemade ice cream, root beer, and lemonade were provided by the ladies.  Ball games and races provided the entertainment.  Easter was a special occasion when eggs were decorated by boiling sagebrush which stained them a rich brown.  Boiling the green tops from onions made a greenish color.  Most cloth dye would fade badly, the cloth would be boiled with eggs which would come out beautifully colored.  Progress was coming and once a week the mail would be delivered by horseback.  Receiving a letter from someone outside the valley was like a gift from Heaven. 

When mother was thirteen she went to work for the Odekirk family in Duchesne.  She tended their children, did a major share of the cooking, all the cleaning up, did the laundry on a washboard, did the ironing with heavy flat irons heated on the wood stove, and all the other chores around the home.  Her pay was one dollar sixty a week.  From these meager earnings would save up to buy a piece of clothing for her brothers, buy aa plug of chewing tobacco for her father and occasionally a piece of hardtack candy for herself. 

Mother was eighteen, she was squired by a young man from a farm in Midview, some twenty plus miles, as the crow flies, down river.  Joseph Alma Smith and Barbara Myrl Abplanalp were married 2 October 1918 in the Salt Lake City Mormon Temple.  My father Joseph Alma, was referred to as “Almee” by all who knew him, was the eldest son f John and Sarah Sariah Durfey Smith.  He was born in Thurber, Wayne County, Utah 12 December 1895, and left this earth 30 December 1970, after a heroic struggle with colon cancer. 

My Abplanalp grandparents were always extra special to me.  Grandpa was the kindest, most generous men I ever knew.  He could be stern at times but always consistent and fair.  He loved kids, had a mischievous twinkle in his eye and loved a good natured tease, but never tolerated unkindness.  We used to play card games and checkers for hours.  My determination to challenge and win imbued a competitive spirit that has stayed with me all my life.  Grandpa chewed tobacco.  I would often sneak a corner off a plug of his chewing tobacco.  I liked it and it never made me sick.  Once Tom and I both chewed up some of Grandpa’s plug, Tom got so sick they had to take him to the doctor in Duchesne and pump his stomach.  It didn’t bother me.  Grandpa made great home brew beer.  Once on Easter when we went to Utahn I got into Grandpa’s home brew and drank a whole bottle.  Mother had me dressed in a white shirt and knickers.  I got happy and crawled up a little muddy ditch on my belly.  I got a spanking and Grandpa got a real cussing from mother. 

I was not impressed at the time with mother swearing.  Later in life I was to learn that she had a very adequate vocabulary of cuss words.  I idolized my grandpa; I loved my grandma.  Grandma was a vintage pioneer, she smoked a pipe, she was a hard no-nonsense general in her house, but still a kind tender woman a heart.  Grandma seldom talked, but whenever she did, every stopped and listened.  I was at my grandma’s home when Tom and I came down with the measles.  We were the upstairs bedroom, actually it was more an attic space than a real room.  I got a high fever and kept telling Grandma the kerosene lamp was burning me and the roof was coming down on me.  She carried me down to her rocking chair, held me in her arms and rocked me for what seemed like hours.  I drew a picture for her once, she hung it on the wall and would tell everyone who came in what an artist her grandson was.  I would puff up like a big toad.  It was the beginning of my drawing on every scrap of paper or other material that I could come by.  Grandma made the best lemon pie and cookies I had ever tasted.  They had a large flour bin in the kitchen and whenever we arrived for a visit, Grandma would get me by the arm and whisper, “Go peek in the flour bin.”  Sure enough there would be a lemon pie and cookies. 

Abplanalp Great Grand Parents; Grandma was a great story teller.  Her father (William) in Vernal had a cattle ranch.  He knew Butch Cassidy and most of the men who rode with him, and was never adverse to his cattle herd expanding from time to time.  Grandma (Myrl)would chuckle, with a wink, telling us he never asked where the extra cattle came from either.  She would tell us how when she was a little girl, Butch Cassidy and some of his gang would spend time during the winter at their home.  She told us she would sit on Butch Cassidy’s lap, and he would tell her stories about his adventures.  Grandma said she thought he made most of them up, but then when she got older, she would hear the same stories about him.  One interesting story she told us kids many times involved his men practicing their shooting prowess.  They would tack a playing card to a tree then race past on their horses trying to shoot it with their pistols.  Grandma was a French Canadian.  She had dark skin, dark eyes, and long jet black hair that never turned grey even as she got old.  Both Abplanalp grandparents had hard lives and suffered slow painful deaths in their last days.  My mother tended them in her home, as she had done with my father, during their last painful days on this earth.  Grandpa and my father with cancer; Grandma with just a poor over worked worn out body and emphysema. 

When I started gathering historic data involving my grandparents, good stories involving the Abplanalp were easy to come by.  It was more difficult with my Smith grandparents.  My mother and I talked often about her youth, about Deon and my younger years, and about the times we spent in Mesa, Arizona.  My cousin, Mae Abplanalp England, did  a yeoman’s job gathering genealogy and data and interesting stories about the Abplanalps and provided outline for many of the family stories recorded here.  When I started searching the Smith family, I had no problem whatever getting loads of genealogy data but very limited human-interest stories involving the family.  The genealogy records I was able to review were rife with Mormon theology but little else.  The gist of data revolved around such things as their dedication to church work, their records as tithe payers, their temple work and their patriarchal blessings recorded in great detail. 
Frank Haws  Jack Smith

Merin Smith; I found a story in the genealogy transcript of my Uncle Merin Smith’s funeral.  It is an excellent example of the mind set of genealogical records.  The speaker at Uncle Merin’s funeral seemed to flounder around finding complimentary things to say about Merin Smith, then at the closing he remarked that Merin was not a tithe payer, he got drunk and smoked cigarettes, but he was a generous man.  The Uncle Merin I knew and remember sure enough got drunk occasionally.  He made great Peach Brandy, and I have shared it with him on occasion.   He smoked cigarettes for sure, and he would cuss like a muleskinner.  Every bit of this is true.  It is also true that he was the most unselfish, big hearted, completely honest, good-natured man in the valley.  Uncle Merin had a peach orchard in Fruita, Utah.  I would guess that his hordes of relatives and good friends in the area had countless bottles of peaches put up from the peaches that Merin gave them from his orchard.  He would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it.  That is the Uncle Merin I knew and remember. 

Jorgen (Jack) Smith; From the genealogy records, I read that my grandfather Smith was a dedicated church worker.  This may well have been true in his later life, but it doesn’t really fit the grandfather I knew.  I remember him as an honest-to-goodness cowboy complete with side arms.  A kind old gentleman with his finger constantly tamping his bent pipe while he held Deon and me transfixed with great stories from his cowboy and Indian days. 

During the winter he would often come down to our home and stay for hours visiting with the folks and entertaining us kids with those great stories.  Grandpa had a younger (older) sister who had been killed by the Indians in the Wayne County (Sevier County) area, this became the subject of many of his stories.  He would pull up a chair to the side of our potbelly stove, rub his hands together to get warm; then survey the room to make sure we were noticing him.  Deon and I would come over, sit on the warm floor in front of him and ask him questions which would usually lead into a story. 

We liked grandpa.  He was a man of German decent with a big mustache that curled up a bit on each end.  He had a soft, clear blue eyes and a mellow voice.  Grandpa smoked a pipe that he would cup in his right hand; then tamp the burning tobacco down with his finger after every few puffs.  The fingernail on his tamping finger had grown thick and had turned down over the end of his finger.  It was a yellow brown from the heat and the tobacco stain. 

Indian Warrior;  One of his favorite stories involved the time he was heading cows in the meadow.  He had just opened a sack with the lunch Grandma had fixed for him.  A young Indian warrior, all Grandpa’s Indians were warriors in his tales, rode up and demanded that Grandpa  give him his lunch.  When Grandpa refused, the Indian jumped off his horse and tried to take it away from him.  They started wrestling, soon the wrestling became more serious, and then become real sport and fun.  Finally they both sat down facing each other, completely exhausted.  Grandpa shared his lunch with him and they became fast friends.  Several times thereafter the two would meet, face off each other for a wrestle; then share a lunch if Grandpa had one, or just sit and communicate by gestures and the limited vocabulary his Indian friend had learned.  Grandpa asked him to come over for dinner someday and his friend nodded acceptance.  One day Grandma was frying a pan of potatoes when Grandpa’s Indian friend got off his horse and walked in the house right up behind her.  Grandma’s hand was still on the handle of the frying pan when she looked over her shoulder, screamed and swung the pan full of hot potatoes at him.  He back off, got on his horse and was ridding down the road when he ran into Grandpa coming home.  Grandpa stopped his friend and asked if he was not coming back to have dinner with them.  “No, your squaw too mean”,  he replied.  This story has gone around and around in our family.  I have no idea it is factual, I only know that Grandpa held Deon and me spellbound as he would relate the story over and over as he tamped his pipe with his eyes sparkling. 
Sarah Sariah    Jack Smith

Grandma Smith; My Grandma Smith was a feisty, little English woman and a nag at Grandpa, my Grandpa who never in his life seemed to get in a hurry.  Grandpa staked out mining claims all over the Henry Mountains and the areas around Moab where many years later the Uranium mines flourished.  Grandpa had a full compliment of mining gear and a mule for his companion.  When Grandma’s badgering and nagging got to the point of bother, he would load up his mule and take off prospecting for a month or more.  My Mother’s favorite story about Grandpa Smith was the time Grandma was giving him the holy devil for going off prospecting and not tending the crops.  She was especially upset over the scanty harvest from their wheat field.  “But, maw,” he said,   “We got the seed back.” 

I never had the opportunity of getting to know my grandmother Smith.  I hardly knew her.  Not really knowing her has been a source of regret on my part because Grandmother was the pillar of strength in this pioneer family.  My Grandmother, Sarah Sariah Durfey, was born in Salem, Utah 20 April 1872.  When Grandma was just a young girl her mother, Amanda Durfey, suffering from a rheumatic condition became very ill, Grandma took over the household duties of her mother.  The Durfey family, moved to Tombstone, Arizona seeking a dryer, warmer climate for Amanda.  They traveled by team and covered wagon.  The Durfey family spent several years in Tombstone; then as Amanda’s health improved, they returned, again by team and wagon to the little settlement of Thurber in Rabbit Valley, Utah.  The name Thurber was eventually changed to Bicknell, Rabbit Valley became Wayne County.  Back in Thurber Grandma was introduced to Jack Smith by her Uncle Frank Haws, Amanda’s brother. 

Jorgen Jack Smith and Sarah Sariah Durfey were married in Thurber, Utah 12 April 1887, Grandma was fifteen years old.   The newlyweds homesteaded a farm on the Fremont River, their first child, John Floyd was born 16 February 1888; he died a year later.  They had two more sons, Charles William, who lived only three days, and George who lived only a few hours.  My father had three older sisters, Amanda Melvina and Artie Jane, he was the sixth child born into this family.  Grandma was truly an original, she rode side-saddle on he horse named Blue, she was an athlete excelling in foot races where even the men could not outrun her.  They built their cabin next to the Fremont River so that water was readily available for culinary use.  Their cabin was built on logs enabling them to hook several teams of horses onto it and pull it to Thurber in the winter so the kids could attend school.  Come spring, they would drag it back to the river.  Grandma did the washings on a scrubbing board, heated irons on the wooden stove for ironing, milked cows, made their own butter, cheese, soap and made all their own clothing from her own patterns.  Finally with eight children of school age, they dragged their cabin back to Thurber never to return to the Fremont river farm.  By now there were eleven children.   Tending their farm on the Fremont became a time consuming chore and did not produce enough income for such a large family.  The older daughters were getting married; Grandma and grandpa decided to move the family to the Uintah Basin where they felt the growing season was longer and homestead land was still available.  With a team of six horses pulling a covered wagon loaded with all their worldly possessions and their eight children they traveled to Duchesne.  The trip took three weeks.  They leased a small farm down river from Midview that we were to know as the “lower farm” and set up housekeeping in a one room log cabin (sod roof and dirt floor), a tent (with wood floor) and their covered wagon.  Their fifteenth child, Jay Durfey, was born the following spring, 15 May 1917.  From this farm my grandparents purchased the “upper farm” consisting of 130 acres, a partially completed house, a cow and a calf.  My dad and mother moved into the lower farm. 

Sarah Sariah and sister, Amanda
Myton- Park City; My grandparents struggled to make a living on the upper farm.  In 1921 they gave up farming and moved to Myton where they ran a bakery.  The bakery was moderately successful but, once again, inadequate to support a family.  Once, when they lived on the lower farm, Grandma had taken a walk with Jay in her arms and had slipped on the ice, severely damaging he knee.  Possibly due to the lack of proper attention at the time, the damaged knee was the source of great pain for the rest of her life.  A short time before moving to Myton she contracted small pox; the high fever brought on an infection in her damaged knee resulting in tuberculosis of the bone.  I never knew my grandmother except when she was either in a wheelchair or with crutches.  After Myton they moved to Park City.  Grandma and her daughter, Norma, operated a boarding house for men working in the mines.  I remember my father taking me to visit them once at the boarding house, and I remember grandma hobbling around on crutches doing her work.  My most vivid memory  however was of the toilet.  On the farm we had a two holer outhouse out back, in Grandma’s boarding house, they had a one holer, but it was inside the house.  I could look down the pot hole and see a stream of water.  Grandpa told me it was called Poison Creek and it carried away the sewage from the toilet and kitchen.  To my young mind it was a marvelous invention.  Finally they gave up the boarding house and moved back to Bicknell.  I never saw my grandparents after this until our family attended their funerals many years later. 

My parents were luckier than most married couples in their earlier married days.  Grandpa Smith had a government contract to deliver the mail from Midview, Arcadia and Blue Bench then on to Duchesne where he delivered and picked up the next days deliveries.  At first he rode horseback on the mail route, then he bought a new Ford car to make his deliveries.  Grandpa had never driven a car so he had my dad do the driving.  One day Grandpa told Dad he wanted to learn to drive, so dad set him up at the wheel and started him down the road.  As he approached a bridge he became frightened and started yelling “whoa” as he tugged back on the wheel.   The car ended up in the ditch.  Grandpa never drove the car again.  He gave the car and the mail route to my dad and went back to tending the farm. 

My dad continued with the mail route.  At each of his stops along the road there was a large bucket or washtub supported on a rickety frame into which he could throw the canvas sack containing the mail.  On a post with an extending arm there was a length of wire and a clothespin.  Dangling from the clothespin would be the owner’s canvas bag which Dad would reach out and grab as he passed.  That was the country mail delivery and pickup service.  Dad’s pay for a six day week was a hundred twenty dollars a month.  At those times that was handsome pay, and the young couple got along much better financially than most couples in the struggling Uintah Basin. 

The United States Department of Indian Affairs had built homes for the Indian families in Arcadia, but the  Indians preferred living in their own teepees leaving many of the housing units vacant.  My parents’ first home was one of the that they rented from the government.  As Mother tells it, they had a table, four chairs, a buffet cabinet, a wood burning stove for warmth and cooking, and a bed in a separate room.  The house was located across a swampy field from my Grandpa and Grandma Smith’s place in Midview. 

At exactly nine months and fourteen days after the Temple marriage, I was born.  My birth certificate states that I was born alive at 6.30 PM, 16 July 1919, in Utahn, Utah to Joseph Alma Smith, father, and Barbara Myrl Abplanalp Smith, mother, Mrs. Wm. Sweatman midwife attending.  My father had driven Mother to Utahn to be with her mother for my arrival.  Dad said that every time they came to the edge of Blue Bench and looked down into the valley below, Mother would start crying.  She never got completely over being homesick.  When I arrived, Grandma Abplanalp said I had the best and loudest pair of lungs she had ever heard.  An interesting side note to my being born at my grandparent home was the fact that Grandma was with child at the time.   My Uncle Tom, their last, was born 27 November 1919 making him four months younger than me.  When we were growing up we argued constantly over who was the uncle.  I maintained that since I was the oldest, I was the uncle, no amount of explanation by Tom, Grandma, or Mother would ever convince me otherwise until I was old enough to understand the mysteries of nature. 

Grandpa and Grandma Smith had purchased the one hundred and thirty acre farm we called the upper farm, my parents moved onto the lower farm.  The house on the lower farm was a one room log cabin with a sod roof and a dirt floor.  Next to the cabin there was a tent with a wood floor and one inch boards about three fee t high making a wainscot like wall.  My first memory of the farm was after my sister Deon was born.  We were five and three at the time our bedroom was the tent structure.  One morning I awoke early and ran across the short distance to the cabin and went in.  Mother was asleep with her back facing me, her long, jet black hair run across the pillow, down the side of the bed and touched the floor.  I was startled and my heart started pounding, I had never seen her asleep and I thought she wads dead.  This burned into my mind and has never left to this day.
Jack  Jorgen   Mette  Jed Mott

There is another memory from my young years that comes back to me now when I think of Deon and my other brothers and sisters.  Usually it would start with a visit from my Abplanalp grandparents.   Grandpa had a Model T Ford and we could see a cloud of dust billowing up from the road clear over by Clayburn’s farm.  I was always puzzled.  After what was a usually short visit Gr5andpa would return home and Grandma would stay on.  I thought that my dad did not like Grandma, because he was seldom involved in the visiting and Grandma always went out side to smoke her pipe.  One day there would be scurrying around and the kids were shooed out of the house.  Dad would build a lively bonfire outside and heat a big tub of water.  Grandma would run out and dip up a bucket of hot water.  I was at least twelve before I figured out that this was not what caused my brothers and sisters to arrive. 

As recorded before, my father’s passion was religion, the Mormon religion to be exact.   Every morning he would have the family kneel down at their chairs for prayer and a blessing on the food.  I was irreverent even as a child.  Father would recount the Mormons pulling handcarts across the plains morning after morning, it seemed at times that he went on about as long as it took the Mormons to cross the plains and my mind would wander.  I would squirm, making faces and wiggle my nose at Deon trying to make her giggle whenever I could catch her peeking.  She would squint and turn her face so she couldn’t see me and I would giggle which brought on stern lectures and reprimands during breakfast. 

My first year of school was in the one room building up a half mile from our farm.  It served both as a schoolhouse and church.  Dell Lambert was the teacher that year for all grades from first to eighth.  I could walk home for lunch but usually mother would fix me a sandwich to take in a bag.   From the very first day I fell in love with school I thought Mrs. Lambert was the prettiest and smartest lady I had ever known and did everything possible to please her.  Several times she would be teaching the higher grades and I would stretch my arm into the air waving to answer questions.  She would scold me good naturedly and tell me to go back to my reader book. 

By the time my second school year started, my grandparents had moved to Myton then to Park City, we had moved to the upper farm.  The Midview kids were now bussed to the elementary school in Myton, some twelve miles down river from our farm.  The Myton Elementary were housed in a wood frame building with wood burning stoves in each room for heat.  The fifth through eighth grades were housed in another boxy wood frame building with clapboard siding, everything was painted with calcimine whitewash.  The upper grades building had a large hall separating the classrooms, in this hall was a large wood burning stove that provided the only heat.  Toilet facilities consisted of four outhouses built together in a row, two for girls, two for boys. 

My sister, Deon had whooping cough when she was a toddler, the illness had left her with severely damaged lungs.  I remember her as a beautiful little blond girl with a delicate face that always seemed to project a serious mood.  Her illness seemed to rob her of the joys of childhood.  She seldom smiled but never cried or complained even during her spasms of coughing that racked her little body.  Deon and I started catch the buss again the fall of 1928.  my brother, Carl was three, my brother, Howard was the baby.  Deon had had become desperately ill that fall, the folks had taken her to my father’s Aunt Reene Miles who was our family doctor in Roosevelt.  Aunt Reene advised my parents that unless we got Deon to a warmer and dryer climate she would not survive another of the Basin’s harsh winters.  I knew something very important was coming but id not know just what.  Dad and mother were talking together in serious tones much more than usual, Mother was crying a lot.  Finally Dad got the family together and told us they had decided to we would be moving to Arizona for Deon’s health.  Although I had concern for my sister’s condition, I was elated with the news of such an adventure.  Even at this young age I hated the farm.

A Mrs. Beorensen was my teacher when I started the third grade in Myton.  From day one she and I did not get along.  Old Lady Beorensen, as I would call her when she was out of hearing range, kept me after school to do another spelling test because I done so poorly on the regular test.  I deliberately misspelled every word, handed my paper and dashed out the door.  I had missed the school bus and ended up walking the twelve miles home.  A few days later she whacked me over the head with a yardstick, I do not recall what brought it on but would guess that I deserved it.  She never said a word to me about the spelling test but one day there was a letter addressed to my father with my test paper and a scorching letter about my scholastic attitude.  One of my chores was to ring the mail bag home with me when I got off the school bus.  The day the letter to my father arrived, I recognized it.  My father never got to see it.

With my problems in school and while everything was getting ready for the move to Arizona I stayed with my grandparents in Utahn and was enrolled in Duchesne Elementary.  I was glad to get away from Mrs. Beorensen but got little out of the school experience that year.  More problems were to come in my third grade Arizona experiences where I was transferred three more times before finally finishing that year of school. 

Arizona;  We were busily engaged I getting ready for the move to Arizona.  We loaded everything Mother claimed necessary to survive.  Our car was the Ford sedan from Dad’s mail route onto which he had built a box like rack behind and a flat board platform on top.  Our load of personal things and a few pieces of furniture was loaded and tied down with ropes that crossed and re-crossed until it looked like lace.  If you saw the movie of the Joad family moving to California in Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath,” you would have a picture of the Smith family starting for Arizona.  My father had lost an eye chopping wood when he was a teenager.  Here was our driver, blind in one eye, Mother holding the baby, Deon between her and Dad. Carl and I in the back seat with our heads barely sticking out of quilts, pillows, blankets, kitchen utensils and boxes of food for the trip. 

Sarah Sariah with Jack Smith
The first day we were late getting started, then drove down Highway 89 to some little town beyond Richfield, I do not recall the town or if we stayed in a motel.  The net day we continued on to the Marble Canyon crossing of the Colorado River and one of the most frightening experiences of the trip.  The bridge across the Colorado was under construction and a temporary bridge supported by cables to get vehicles from one side to the other.  I remember Mother’s comment with a scream, “Good Lord, do we have to go across that thing”.  We did.  The crew at the bridge told us we could not cross with the load we had.  I had forgotten how we got our belongings across, but mother told me later that it was ferried across the river by lee’s Ferry.  Back at the temporary bridge Mother refused to ride across in the car.  She held Howard in her arms, took Deon by the hand and started to walk across.  The men told her not to look down but after barely starting across she stopped, looked down, started sobbing and came back.  My father and one of the crew at the bridge helped her and the two children across.  Mother said it was the most frightening thing she had ever done in her life.  My dad came back to get the car, Carl and I were crouching down inside.  The man from the bridge crew walked across in front of the car assisting my father in keeping the wheels straight on the tracks that were two runners of heavy timbers.  After we got across, Dad told us he could feel the vibration each time the man guiding him took a step.  By the time we were able to get our belongings back on top from Lee’s Ferry, it was dark.  We spread bedding out on a sandy area and spent the night

After all this excitement the remainder of the trip was uneventful.  My father had decided that Mesa would be the best place to find work and a place to rent.  The fact that Mesa had a Mormon Temple influenced this decision.  Upon arriving my father located a Mormon Bishop who came to our aid in locating a house that we could afford to rent.

1 comment:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.