My Personal History, Part 8: Verona and Pete Get Married…by Verona Stocks

After Pete and his brother Jack were through shearing our sheep they went on other sheep shearing jobs. I did not see Pete again until June 1st. I was home to make preparations to move the sheep to Dry Valley when he came. He thought we should be married first so he could go with me. I liked that idea too.

Pete had sheared a lot of sheep to earn enough money to buy a nice suite to be married in, but he came home before his brother Jack was finished with a job he was doing. When Jack collected his wages, the man gave him Pete’s wages for Pete but Jack spent Pete’s money. All Pete had was enough to buy a pair of Levi’s and a white shirt. It was depression at its worst at that time so it was alright.

Pete and I were married at La Sal, June 7, 1933 by Bishop Leland Redd. Pete’s Father and Mother and two of his brothers and his sister and my Dad and his five younger children and my two children were there at the wedding. It was a nice day and the sheep were feeding in a big field close by so Felix could be with us too.

As soon as the wedding was over Pete and I took the sheep back to Coyote Wash and spent our first few days of married life at the sheep camp. What a way to spend a honeymoon. But then people did a lot of things they would not have done if we had not had that depression.

Roakie, Redd’s sheep foreman, sent us word that some of our stray sheep were in their herd. Pete and Felix went after them. They were gone three days. As soon as they came back, Pete and I moved the sheep to Dry Valley. It was there I got really scared on a gentle horse. Now, Navajo sheep are not quiet like other sheep; besides not having as much wool, they don’t act the same. Other sheep start grazing slowly toward some place they want to go, but no, not the Navajo sheep. When the lead or boss ewe lets out a blat, the herd is on their feet in a second, and you had better be ready because they are all on the run to get where she has decided to go, which is not always where you think they should go.


Pete and I had our horses close by but he did not know much about those sheep so he did not hurry to saddle the horses. When we did get started the sheep were about two miles away and scattering the better sheep all along the way. We took off at a good place. Pete was riding the brown mare and I was riding Nick’s little roan. She always felt like she was going to fall down; her feet were so crippled. We came to some sand rock covered with blown sand. It all looked like sand to us. When the little roan hit the rock she started to fall. I pulled as hard as I could to keep her from doing a somersault. She was on her knees, my foot was in the stirrup and behind the saddle. I was hanging head down. The darned brown mare was bucking, and she could buck. By the time Pete got her calmed down, the roan was on her feet and I was still hanging head down, my foot trapped behind the saddle. I never liked those narrow stirrup straps after that.

Early in August Felix and Nick came to herd the sheep. Pete’s Dad needed him to cut timber for the sawmill. I stayed with Dad and the kids to do some canning, also do some sewing for the school kids. Anyway, I was homesick for my two young children. Pete’s Mother told me she did not want me to bring my children to her place when Pete & I came to visit. Not knowing me very well she did not know I would never have done that anyway. I felt a responsibility and love toward my young brothers and sisters and included them with my young ones.

Pete and I spent a week at Dark Canyon Lake with Pete’s sister Elsie and her three children, Glen, Ken and Rosie, Jack’s wife and their son Don, Pete’s mother, his sister Flora and Brother Dick. I learned how to catch trout and we celebrated Dick’s 16th birthday there by the lake.

Pete’s Mother was lacking a month from being 53 years old and she climbed Mt. Peale easily. I thought when I am that old I am coming back to climb Mt. Peale, but when I was 53 I looked at that peak and said to myself, “Why? I have been there before.”

We moved the sheep back to the ranch that fall. Pete got a job working on the road. In those days the grading was done with a team and scraper. Pete could handle the mules. Dad had spoiled them but Pete was good with animals. At that time only the head of the house could get a job. Pete sure had that, a big family. I had two children, Dad had 5 and Dad could not do the road job. He tried it for a week.

The men had to camp out. I stayed on the ranch, finished my canning and did a lot of sewing. Felix herded the sheep. I felt discouraged about the sheep situation. It seemed we were going backwards. So many had died that spring and our lamb crop was so small. The young ewes we kept barely replaced the ewes that had died at lambing time. We shipped our lambs with Redd’s that fall. Dad went along. He did not have to drive the lambs, he just rode along in the camp wagon. While he was gone Felix got a job, his first one not in the family. Pete was working so Nick had to herd the sheep for the first time, and alone too.

When Dad got home he was very cross with me for letting Felix take that job, then too I was sick and not supposed to be. Things were just not going to suit Dad at all.

When the section of road Pete was working on was finished he came home and made me stay down for a few days, which lasted two weeks. Pete took over the cooking and after watching Felicia trying to do a washing he put her to doing something else and he took over the washing. Nick came in and saw Pete scrubbing clothes so he got another washboard and tub and went to scrubbing clothes too. When they finished with the washing they scrubbed the floors, down on their knees with brushes, no less. When Pete did a floor it had to be spotless. Nick was willing to help him at anything; housework, hauling wood and chopping wood, it made no difference. They still had to look after the sheep which were feeding in some big fields close to the home ranch.


When Felix came home he had earned some money and he took a pig for part pay. He bought himself some new clothes, which he needed. He took over the sheep herding and the sheep were moved away from the ranch. He was once again watching it by himself. Nick took him groceries.

Pete had another 3 weeks of work on another section of the road. I stayed with him in camp for two weeks and felt like I could do something when I came home. Pete finished the road job and almost rebuilt the sheep camp wagon. It needed a new steering structure, new canvas for the top and the floor made stronger.

March 1934 Pete and Nick went to Gateway Colorado for some horses. They brought back 4 head. We kept a black mare, a good saddle horse. Pete broke her to work also. At last we had a team for the sheep camp again as I still had one horse, Old Ben. We named the mare Noble and Vee and Bob could ride the horses too because they were gentle.

The spring of ’34 we sheared the sheep at the ranch. Jack and Puge Stocks, my brother Felix and Pete did the shearing. I would herd the sheep that were sheared, Nick the ones that needed shearing.

Josephine stayed home from school to cook and do the housework. I had little time for that but Felicia was there to help her. Dad could do very little that spring. I watched him have little spells and I did not realize they were small strokes. Pete’s being there to make sure the wool sacks were all filled and tied right, the unsheared sheep were in the pens so the men shearing did not have to wait. It took the pressure off Dad and made it possible for Felix to shear steadily and he was fast. Pete could shear fast also when he got the time to shear at all.


The shearing did not take long. Roy and Lee Larson pulled their sheep from our herd April 11, 1934. Lee had 109 ewes and 1 buck, Roy Larson had 79 head. When Lee pulled his sheep out of our herd he gave us enough sheep to pay for the mule, which was ours, he had sold after Bob died.

When the sheep were sheared we moved them to the head of Spanish Valley for the lambing. It was a nice spring and we had a good lamb crop. Felix helped but I did have to tell Pete what to do and that made Felix mad; really, what right did I have to boss Pete? That was funny to both Pete and me. Oh well, he learned fast.

Flora and Felicia came to the sheep camp to do the cooking. That was the girls’ idea. They were neither one good cooks and they could neither one of them make good sour dough biscuits. I could not make good sour dough biscuits either so I always came to the camp last. Pete and Felix were both good camp cooks. I had to be the last because I had to follow the lambing herd to pick up the ewes that had lambed that day. I really had a good excuse not to cook.

The girls stayed a week. Flora thought it would be fun but as Felix, Pete and I were always too tired to do anything but eat and sleep when we brought the sheep in at night. The girls wanted to go home. When Nick brought the groceries to camp they went back with him. Felix left as soon as we were through lambing. Dad and Nick brought Vee and Bob to the sheep camp as soon as school was out. We started our move toward Dry Valley, Pete driving the team hitched to the wagon and trailing the sheep wagon behind it. No more driving a team for me.

When we stopped for a few days, Pete would herd the sheep, often both kids would tag along with him. We camped the other side of the Hole in the Rock. There was plenty of water for the sheep and the kids waded in the streams and climbed the slick rocks. They made pets out of the lizards, horny toads and chipmunks. One day they brought in a good brass boiler. Attached to it were some little brass tubes; someone’s still to make homemade whiskey. Pete sent them to put it back where they had found it. He assured them that if the sheriff caught them with it he would put them in jail for making bootleg whiskey. They put the parts of the still back and explored some more. This time they brought some blasting caps. Pete did not trust them with those, he got rid of them himself. We thought we better move from there as we had no idea what they would bring in next.

We started getting the camp ready to move. Vee and Bob went after the horses. Bob wanted to ride the black mare. She shied from something and he fell off and got a black eye. As if that was not enough he was not looking where he was going and ran into the wagon wheel and blacked the other eye. Pete put him in the camp wagon and put cold packs on his eyes. I had started out earlier with the sheep. Pete and the kids were coming to catch up with me. Vee got into the camper to sympathize with Bob but she did not stay there. She got out onto the tongue of the camper, fell, and was dragged a little before Pete heard her. He got her into the camper, and put a sling around her arm because she had a broken collar bone. Now they really had something to feel sorry for each other. He said they would laugh a while then cry, but not much. Pete really enjoyed those kids and their antics, not knowing just what they were going to do next, but it would be different than most kids.


Pete & Verona

It was a good summer and the sheep did well. We camped near Brown’s Hole where Neva and Earl lived. The sheep watered in the creek just below their place. Vee and Bob spent most of their time visiting Neva and swimming with her kids. Vee liked to cook and she helped Neva a lot with the little kids and the garden.

Pete’s brother Bill Stocks and my sister Felicia were married June 9, 1934 and as though that was not enough close relations all in our families, Felix and Flora were married July 14, 1934.

Dad did not work with the boys as I did and he did not expect as much from them as I did. I treated them as Dad had treated Mary and me but now Dad was older and not well, so the ranch work was neglected. No one fixed fences or tended the stock, the cows got in the hay fields, bloated and died. The boys were of an age, it did not seem important to them. Dad was so discouraged he came to the sheep camp to talk to Pete. Pete took him to La Sal Creek and showed him some outcroppings uranium. They staked two claims. The Two Mile and the Little Peter. After climbing down the hill, they saw Pete’s brother Jack waiting for them. He wanted in on the claims, so Pete added his name. Dad and Nick were going to Monticello to file on the claims but Jack said he would do that.

Pete kept the assessment work done on both claims for several years before he found out Jack had filed the Two Mile claim for himself, and he also had a third interest in the Little Peter claim.

The big stockmen were telling the small farmers who had 50 or 75 head of cattle, and the sheep men with one to two thousand sheep, what a wonderful thing the Taylor Grazing Act was and how it would help everyone. Pete, Dad and I knew better. We told the farmers we knew that if they voted for that bill it would put most of them out of business. They voted for it. Sure enough, the small farmers and stockmen were soon selling out, and at a very low price. There was no more free grazing land.

In 1946 congress established the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The bureaucrats took over and now we are the interior colony, with no voice in how our tax dollars are spent to manage the land; the land our ancestors fought for. We the people are bunched into small areas like the Indians were and must get permission to go across what was supposed to be the free public land.

As soon as the Taylor Grazing Act was passed, we knew we had to sell our sheep, so began looking for a buyer. Dad traded his sheep for Lee Larson’s ranch on La Sal Creek. When Lee pulled Dad’s sheep out of our herd, Dad did not have quite enough sheep to make the trade so we made up the difference. We still had to get rid of our sheep because we had no range for them and time was running out.

We moved back to Spanish Valley that fall and kept Vee and Bob in the sheep camp all winter. I got books from Mrs. Otho Patterson to teach Vee. She learned fast but I had a hard time learning to teach. Pete was better and I did learn patience from him. He had taught his brothers and sisters one year at La Sal.

Pete’s Mother and Dad came to live with us early in January. Dick was with them and they brought no bedding. I had a hard time rounding up enough for them. The sheep wagon and an 8 x 10 tent was all we had to live in. It was very crowded. It was really worse when John arrived. We all survived somehow, but I did feel sorry for John when he had to sleep on the quilt I had loaned Annie and her kids had wet on it and it really smelled bad.

Pete and his Dad started mining on the Blue Goose. Dick would herd the sheep when he felt like it. He preferred to go to the mine. Sheep herding was very boring to a 17 year old boy. Jan. 30, 1935 we got the first check for the ore Pete and his Dad had mined. That gave Pete’s Mother and Dad some much needed cash and a little for us to buy camp groceries.

Pete’s mother was a midwife and on February 7, 1935, she delivered our 5 lb. baby boy, which Pete and Dick named after them, Phillip Richard Stocks. He was born in the sheep camp at the head of Spanish Valley, where at one time Pete’s grandfather had a farm.

Next Month: Pete and Verona get out of the sheep business and into mining. 

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