My Personal History: Life & Times in Southeast Utah…by Verona Stocks


Life & Times in Southeast Utah


by Verona Stocks


The Farm in Blanding

When school was out a family friend took Aunt Pearl, Mary and me to Blanding.  The night before we left, a well dressed elderly man stopped at Grandma’s house, he ate supper with us, they asked him to stay the night.  He said no, he was passing through Blanding and would be on his way.  When we arrived in Blanding Dad and Mother were expecting us.  They said a man had come to their house and had breakfast with them.  He told them what time we would arrive.  They described the man who ate supper with my Grand parents one evening and breakfast with Dad and Mother the next morning.  It took us three days to drive there in a buggy, the man was walking when he came to the Murphy Ranch in Moab, and he arrived at Dad’s farm five miles below Blanding the next morning for breakfast and he was walking.  That was very puzzling to us all, still is to me.
I do remember my first look at our farm.  We went down a long ridge to the bottom of what was called a “Swale.”  A wide place between two ridges.  There was a big tent, surrounded by tall beautiful sage brush with patches of grass and flowers here and there.  It was like the parks on the mountains, except there was not a tree in sight.  The sage had a purple tint and was as tall as a man, and so much grass.  There were lots of big white Sego Lilies.
Dad cleared and fenced ten acres, he planted corn, beans, and potatoes.  It was over the ridge east of the house.  One of Mary’s and my chores was to keep the weeds out of the garden Mother had planted before we got there.  We spent a lot of time digging Sego Lilies so we could eat the bulbs.  Another chore was to go about a mile to get the mail.  We had a little sorrel mare called Bird to ride, she was built something like a donkey and she thought a lot like them too.  Full of all kinds of tricks.  Mary could ride her but when she tried taking me with her, Bird would go so far then she would rear up.  I would scream and Mary would have to bring me back.  She either had to ride alone or make me walk with her.  That didn’t work out too good either.
One time we went after the mail and just before we reached the road some Indians showed up and as far as we could see down the road there was more Indians, most of them on horse back, they were headed toward Blanding.  Mary said we should hide in a wash close by.  But not me.  I had to get up on the bank behind a little bush and watch those Indians go by and did not come our way.  They saw me alright, pointed my way and laughed.  Mary was furious and scared too.
April 4, 1914, Mother, Mary and I were baptized.  It was not supposed to be a cold day, it was, the water was very cold.  The pond we were baptized in is now called Jackson Pond.
Joe Huff was visiting his folks in Moab and he baptized all three of us.  I was afraid of water, after watching Mary and Mother get dunked all over. I thought if they could do it so could I.  I was very proud to be baptized when my Mother was.
I can remember one friend who was baptized that day.  It was Bessie (Shafer) Youvon.
Aunt Tim was anxious to see her daughter so we left for Blanding, her grandson Howard wanted to help Mary drive the milk cows.  She did not need help but he had nerve and stayed right with her.
Arthur Christenson, who lived at the foot of Peters Hill was on his way to Monticello, he helped drive the cows and showed off for Mary and Howard, She had her first crush.  Howard felt hopeless about ever being a cowboy.  He knew he never would be able to stand on a horse, let alone stand on his head, do somersaults, twerle a rope, rope a cow, or whistle like Arthur even though Arthur was riding a burro.
We stopped at the Carlisle ranch.  The next morning we drove straight through Monticello.  It was raining, the mud was deep the horses pull-hard.
I was very sick and Great Aunt Tim was a cute elderly little lady but not used to what she was going through on this trip.
Then it started raining harder, we were near Verdure and had to stop.  I was sitting on the seat of the wagon Mother was driving.  Aunt Tim and the younger kids were back in the covered wagon, warm and dry.
Dad drove in among some trees and set up the little tent.  Mother told me to hurry and get into it.  I tried but could not walk.  Dad carried me to the tent and fixed a place for me to lie down.  Aunt Tim came in and they got her as comfortable as possible.  Dad, Mother and the other kids had to sleep in the covered wagons, except Mary, she slept with me.  Dad stretched a canvas between two trees and built a camp fire so Mother could cook out of the rain.  Then Mary and Howard came and she was mad, Dad asked what took them so long and she told him there was a bull back there and one of the cows had jumped the fence and they had a hard time getting her back on the road and the she kept trying to go back.
Aunt Tim really gave Mary a lecture, she could not be a lady unless she watched her language, Mary said,”Well it was a bull.”  Aunt Tim said, “no it was a gentleman cow.”
We stayed in that camp ten days before we could move on.  The rain stopped but I was too sick.  It was my appendix.  Aunt Tim and Howard were glad to be united with their folks and to be in a house again, when we finally reached Blanding.

Bucking Burros and Chewing Tobacco

Dad cleared land for other farmers close by and he cut posts and built fences.  There was a lot of cattle and wild horses on the White Mesa, where we lived.  Dad located our burro and brought her home, she had a cute little burro colt.  Mary was going to ride our burro, she had the summer before but that donkey had run wild for so long she had other ideas.  Mary said I had to lead her, Mary got on, no way to hold the donkey’s head up so she bucked, Mary flew high and came down head first in a pile of posts, nothing showing but her feet.  Dad got her out, she was scratched up and mad.  Dad told her to put a bridle on the burro and hold her head up so she couldn’t buck, that worked.

Dad chewed tobacco and we had some goats.  When Dad and Mother went after water and left Mary and me alone, Mary would get out a plug of tobacco and give each goat a chew, they liked it.  She finally figured if the goats could chew tobacco and not spit she could too.  She tried it, soon she turned green, maybe she was just a little pale, well whatever, she was just one sick kid.  I sure was glad to see Mother and Dad show up.  Dad stopped chewing tobacco and he got rid of the goats.  He never figured out for a long time just how those goats could find his tobacco, no matter where he hid it.
Grandma Murphy and Otho come to Blanding for a visit.  He was five years older than Mary but he always seemed younger.  There was  no water on our place.  We hauled our culnary water from a spring of good water about a mile and a half from our place.  Our cows and horses watered there, unless the Indians were on the move.  Otho was with us one day when we went to the spring after our cows.  That time of year we did not expect Indians but they were there and getting ready to eat.  It was Chief Posey and some of his people.  One of his women brought food to us.  Otho and Mary kept poking me and saying “You eat and don’t say a word.”  I ate.  Otho kept saying, “It might be dog meat or rattle snake.”  He did not know but I did, it was goat meat and fresh, I saw the hide hanging there.  He was a town boy.
One day Mother went with us to get some vegetables from the garden which was over a little ridge from the house.  We got to the top of the ridge and could see the garden below us.  Rover our dog kept trying to turn us back.  He was growling and the hair on his neck and back was standing straight up.  An animal howled down by the garden, Otho just turned and ran.  Mary said come on, Gee, I was going as fast as I could.  She came back, gave my arm a jerk, I beat her to the house.
Mother looked at Rover, his hair still standing on end, he was still watching that ridge.  We were told to stay by the house and close the door.  At times Dad carried the mail to Bluff for the regular mail man.  When he returned he told us a crippled wolf had killed two Indian women in Bluff two nights before.  We were not allowed to leave the yard until the men tracking the wolf let us know it was out of the area.  It was killed in Colorado.
We moved back to Moab that fall.  Mary, Annie and me walked the two and a half miles to school all winter.

A Loss to the Family

Mother was eight months pregnant when her second baby boy was still born.  Mother was alone when the baby came and she was heart broken, they wanted a boy so bad.  Us kids came from school, we knew Mother was not feeling good when we left that morning.  Mary chased us out into the tent where I fed the kids while Mary was trying to do something for Mother.  Uncle Heber stopped in and saw the situation, got Aunt Nellie to help Mary. He built a little casket, Aunt Nellie fixed it up with silk cloth and lace, then they had a little service for the baby and Uncle Heber buried it.
Dad was out rounding up cows at the time.  Mary stayed home from school until the folks realized just how sick Mother was.  Uncle Heber and Uncle Felix kept a close watch on Mother.  Uncle Heber saw that some of the women took food to her, Uncle Felix saw that there was plenty of wood and fresh water.
Us kids were chased off to school before Mother was up and around Mary and I always brought flowers home to her from Essie Shaffer’s flower garden.  After Mrs. Shaffer found out Mother was so sick she always had flowers ready, when school was out, for us to take home.
We had plenty to do when we got home.  Mary would let me help her cook then she fed Mother, milked the cows, fed the chickens and pigs, I fed the little kids, did the dishes, put the little girls to bed, etc.
Before Mother was really able to travel we moved back to Blanding and down on the dry farm.  We went the same old way Dad driving one team and Mother driving the other one.  Mary drove the cows, I had the usual attack of appendicitis.
When we got settled in at the dry farm Dad plowed up the ten acre field that was fenced. Mary and I came along behind him and dropped the potatoes and then the corn in the rows he made.  He harrowed over that.  We planted the garden while Dad finished clearing the twenty acres he was going to plant on Grandma’s land.  Mother did walk up with the three little girls to see that we planted the garden right.  She was still too weak to do much.
There was a long rocky, tree covered high ridge bordering Grandma’s land on the east.  At the North end there was a spring, hard to get to but the Indians did not come to it so that is where we got our water part of the time.  On the day we were going to plant Grandma’s field Dad told Mother to fix a picnic and we would plant corn, get water and picnic at the spring.

Mary and I was busy planting the corn, Dad was making rows and barely staying ahead of us when Rover started growling.  We looked up and there on that ridge was a herd of cattle, their leader was a big roan steer with the biggest horns I have ever seen, he wanted to use them too.  Dad told us to get to the wagon as fast as we could, get in and lay down and be very still.  Mother saw the cattle and had the little kids in the wagon laying down.  The sideboards on that wagon was not near high enough.  Dad unhooked the horses and got to the wagon just before the steer did, about a hundred head of cattle was right behind him.  Dad put the horses on the opposite side of the wagon from the cattle, then he got a single tree off the wagon to hit that steer if he attacked the horses or tried to get the people in the wagon, he did not need it.  Rover was a large dog, he grabbed that steer by the nose and hung on, it was a wicked fight.  The steer finally got loose and took away from there as fast as he had come, his followers went with him.  When he attacked a cowboy on a horse another cowboy who had a gun killed him.
We finished planting that week, it was hard because Dad got sick.  He had typhoid fever.  Grandma showed up.  I do not know if Mother sent for her or who brought her.  I do know she was needed, Dad had to have someone with him day and night.  When he was able to get around all our mares were gone.  The big red stallion had rounded them up.  When he was able to work Dad had to have Queen, her and Baldy was the best work team.
I do not remember just when Dad built the cabin on the farm, but we liked it better than the tent; we did still use the tent however.  Now I remember who came with Grandma and why.  It was Aunt Pearl’s father-in-law.  Mr. Knight came to witch a water well for us.  He would walk around with a peach limb and if it turned down, that’s where you dug for water.  We never got a well.
When Dad built that cabin he left some long poles sticking out on the corners, they were just right to catch Mary in the head when she made a dash in that direction.  She did several times a day.  He wondered when she would learn, because always she was knocked down and had knots on her head.  I think he finally sawed them off.  The poles I mean.

Getting the Better of Cousin Eph

Before Dad built the cabin the other man, Joe Huff’s cousin Eph lived with us a lot.  He never worked or helped out in any way.  He was bossy with us kids and he always sat in Mother’s rocking chair.  Mary and I mocked his way of eating, that helped us because we learned to eat with our mouths closed and did not smack our lips.  Mother never stayed in that room when he was eating and she never caught us making fun of him.
He went too far when he ordered Mother to cook his dinner one day when she had very little to cook and he was a big eater.  Mary had a scheme, he always went to sleep in the rocking chair after he ate.  We got soot out of the stove, Mary put a little water in it and painted his bald head.  Got some on his face too.  Then we put a looking glass right in front of him.  We got tin pans and beat on them with sticks.  That woke him up, and when he saw himself in that looking glass he was really mad.  He went after Mary and she grabbed a pan of soapy water and threw it in his face and eyes.  We got out of there fast and found Mother.
Eph packed his things and went to Joe’s place but he was not welcome there either so he soon went back to Moab.  Dad never did say a word to us kids for giving Eph a bad time.
I did not like to go to Blanding.  The mountains were all wrong and not in the right place, the sun did not come over them.  There were no beautiful tall cliffs and no red rock hills close by.  The town was not right either, even though there were some beautiful homes there were no rows of tall green populars, no spreading cottonwood trees and no orchards.  Even after all the things that were wrong, I was not unhappy after we reached the dry farm, I was just too busy, Mother was happy and Dad worked six days a week most of the time, when he was home on Sunday, he read the Bible to us and asked us questions.  When we finished the lessons, if we listened closely it took about an hour then we played game or went on a picnic to the spring.  We had to haul our water and Dad made it fun.
After Dad had typhoid fever he stopped drinking.  He liked to sing and read, he read to Mother, because she did not like to read.  They did not intend to go back to Moab that fall so Dad bought a lot on the outskirts of Blanding, west of Redd’s store.  There were Cedar and Pinyon trees all around the lot.
Dad needed those work mares the stallion had stolen, especially Queen.  Nickle was alright working with Bally for light loads, but for hauling logs or doing road work he was too small.
Dad went looking for tracks to see if those wild horses were near.
He took Mary and me along.  Mary was riding on Mother’s side saddle, but I was riding Nickle bare back with just a rope around his neck when we came onto that herd of horses suddenly.  The ones near us were mostly domestic animals so they did not panic like the wild ones would.  Dad jerked the rope off Nickle, told me to hand on or those horses coming behind me would run over me.  He hit Nickle on the rump with that rope and told him to go home qwick he did , about 30 head of horses behind him, Dad coming behind them yelling and using the rope on any horse that tried to slow down, Mary coming behind him screaming and scared I would fall off.  Well I had no choice but to hang on and ride.  Nickle was running all out, the horses behind him were running and some of them were right beside us.  He went into that corral fast, those horses right with him.  I got back to the gate where Dad was and said “Well let’s go get the rest of those horses.”  Dad laughed and said we don’t need any more.
We got our mares, Queen, Sal and Bird who had a beautiful red colt with her, he was big and built like the red Stallion.  Dad kept a few more of the horses for their owners and turned the rest loose.

The Bishop Says the Kids are Wild

Soon after that Dad hitched Bally and Queen to the buggy and sent Mary and me to the store.  We sure made a fast trip, Mary scared me much worse than riding after wild horses.  She decided we should have a horse race.  Bally and Queen hooked to the buggy and to each other she got them on the run alright, only they stayed close together so she got down on the buggy tongue between them, that’s the way we came in to town.  The horses were glad to stop at the store.  It was not so bad going home, she told me about this good drink she had and told me she would make me one.  She did too, she made it with vanilla sugar and water.  The vanilla was the real thing, mostly alcohol.

Mother and Dad did not pay much attention to us then, later when we went to bed they did.  It was a hot night so we all thought it would be great to sleep by the haystack.  Mary and I thought it would be fun to climb on the haystack and slide off.  Dad told us to stop it and go to bed so we climbed up it and slid right down  on his bed, giggling and talking loud.  He caught us and discovered we were drunk.  He told us to slide off the other side of the haystack for awhile.  It was years before I could even eat vanilla ice cream.
The Bishop got after Dad because he was bringing up his girls to be so wild.  We thought we would be a little wilder so when we rode into Blanding on our way to school we would stand up in the saddles, get the horses to go on a high lope then change horses, I would step across to Mary’s saddle and she would step over to mine.
Then one morning on our way to school the double tree bolt broke and the buggy tipped over–it was going to her side, if I went toward my side I had to go up so when she jumped out. I followed her and landed halfway in the ditch.  She unhooked the horses, tied them to the fence nearby, then she made me go to school wet to the waist.  I sure was embarrassed because there was a girl in my class that always wet her pants and I thought the kid would think I did.
The reason we had the buggy was because Arthur Kimball saw us riding into town on a lope and changing horses.  They thought it was safer in the buggy.  Some guy saw the buggy and horses and rode all the way to the ranch to tell Mother we had tipped over on the bridge, the water was deep and running swift, and he couldn’t find us anywhere.  He hitched a couple of horses to the wagon and come as fast as those horses could travel.  The first thing she saw was those horses tied to a fence, so she came to school and found us safe.  She had a good visit with Claudia Kimball.
I think this happened in 1915 but it could have been 1914.  We were sleeping in the cabin when we were awakened by this awful commotion.  Mother was yelling at us to light the lamp quick and help her, and there was a cat squalling.  Mary got the lamp lit and saw Mother fighting with a great big cat.  It would get away from Mother jump back on the bed where Mother’s youngest child was sleeping and put his mouth and nose over hers.  It took all three of us to get that big tom cat out of the house.  Mother’s arms face and neck were all bleeding where the cat had scratched her.  She awakened her little Margaret, she seemed so drowsy and hardly able to wake up.  Mother did not sleep the rest of that night.  She had come awake just in time to save her child’s life.
The next morning Mary and I hunted all around for that cat, it was close to the house, we had long sticks to beat it with.  We could chase it but it would not go far.  Finally we set the dog on it.  He killed it.  That cat seemed evil to us all.  He did not belong to us and we did not know where he came from.
Dad finally got our cabin built up near Blanding.  We did not mind the short walk to school.  After school Mary and I usually had to bring the cows home.  One of them had a bell on so we could easily find them.  They usually grazed along Cottonwood Wash.  One evening when we found them some Indian women and kids were trying to drive them toward their camp.  Mary picked up a stick and yelled at the boss cow, Baldy, she started for home and the calves, the rest following her.  The Indians did not give up trying to turn them at first.  But the cows were going home.  One young squaw kept running along side me and pulling my hair.  I had fairly long braids.  Mary kept yelling at me to keep running.  Of course I had no intention of stopping.  I could dodge the Indian by going under trees, she could not because she was fat.  Most of the Indians were laughing at her so she gave up the chase and let us go home.
We were very crowded in the little log cabin there in Blanding, but Mother and Dad were both happier than they could ever be in Moab.  Mother was going to get another baby, Mary and I kept watching her as the weeks went by, still no baby so we decided it was surely two babies and one at least had to be a boy.  Mary said she was going to love and take care of that boy the most.  I said I would take of the baby girl because boys grew up to be mean and destructive.
I was ten and Mary was twelve but we did the washing that winter, Mother could not bend over a scrub board.  Dad still had to haul water just a short distance, When the snow came we melted that to wash the clothes.  I know Annie was going to school so she must have walked with us in the morning, she did not come with us from  school, so she probably got out earlier.

Read the previous installment of Verona’s journals here.   Next month: The twins are born. The family moves back to Moab.

To read the PDF version of this article, click HERE and HERE.

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