Friday, February 18, 2011

THE PEOPLE AND THEIR WAY OF LIFE

In spite of the war and its impositions life went on relatively normally in the area surrounding Noxon. After all, nature, the predominant master of daily living, wasn't affected. "A foot of snow fell here Monday in 10 hours."*1.

Shovels and sweat, wet mittens and trousers, snowballs and laughter, were immediate concerns.
"There used to be a good coasting hill just out in front of where Mary Miller lives now," Carmen Moore tells. "That was quite a steep hill. We zoomed all the way down to Larson's store and Mrs. Baxter's Hotel. We coasted, also, on what they called the 'Graveyard Hill' with big bobsleds. Charlie and John Knutson had a big sled. We packed water up there to ice the track down so you could really go".*2.
Still, never far from mind, and certainly in many conversations wherever they gathered, they solemnly recounted the scanty war news given by their weekly newspaper. Only in February did the editor publish any details of the war.

 
SANDERS COUNTY INDEPENDENT LEDGER
February 14, 1918
"The massing of German troops and supplies on the western front continues unabated and the present indications are that their much advertised offensive is to start next month. If the drive materializes as per advance notices the coming months will witness the hardest fighting of the war, and that is saying a good deal with the memory of the Verdun campaign fresh in mind. But will it materialize?"
###
Warily, the homesteaders read and discussed the minute shreds of war news the weeekly newspapers provided.

Prayers of thanks rippled through the valley when news came that eight Sanders county boys were among the United States troops saved from the troopship Tuscania, that carried 2,179 men when it was sunk.*3. (The Great War Society, http://tinyurl.com/6789cvf.)

Isolation, weather, the inter-dependency required by the remoteness and ruggedness, all contributed to the compulsive need to know the latest news of neighbors. Each bit was read avidly and passed on, most often with embellishment. The February newspapers produced a wealth of topics.
"Prospects are good for several new settlers in the vicinity of Noxon.
"J. Fisher has sold his homestead and will move to Red Lodge, Mont.
"The new county tractor was set off here from the local (train) Saturday night. "Wm. Hayes and Louis Loveland are loading a car of poles for James Saint.
"Messrs. Legault and Atterberry are busy cutting ties with their saw mill on Rock creek.
"Joe Hammons went to Plains Friday to represent the Community Club at the Farm Bureau meeting.
"The post and tie haulers are making good use of the sleighing and hope it will last for several weeks.
"Mr. Thomson of Bull river is doing the second trick at the depot in the absence of Mr. Fields.
"Andy Doyle of Bull river, is bringing hay to Peek's store. Hay is very scarce and is bringing $32 per ton.
"Mr. and Mrs. Brown have arrived from Twin Falls, Idaho, with a carload of stock, farm tools and household goods, to occupy the S. S. Brown ranch two miles west of town, which they recently purchased. They are very favorably impressed with this locality and have come to stay."*4.
By the first of March, winter was relaxing its grip. The ice cutters finished just in time. The ice was only 6 inches thick but the quality good. Snow and ice gave way to spring and mud settled into rough tracks. Automobiles were taken from blocks, winter woolens were packed away and Easter bonnets colored the scene. Everyone got up an hour earlier. But were days really longer? At every gathering in April neighbors debated congress' action in passing Daylight Savings Time.

 
The Salvation Army extended its hand, asking that Sanders County give $1,000 as its share of a nation-wide campaign to raise two million dollars to carry on its war work. Marion Larson was selected to organize the work at Noxon.*5.
"The Salvation army has 48 ambulances manned by Salvationists in France, have presented 12 more to the U.S. government, have placed 190 recreation, comfort and refreshment huts at the front, and all told have spent more than $2,000,000 in war work."*6.
 No doubt it was another of the war-supporting functions that claimed Mr. Bunn's car, in April. Everybody heard about it even before the newspaper published the story,
"Solon Ellis, B. B. Bunn, Mary Hampton, Goldie (sic) Fulks and Elmer McFee attended the dance in Heron Saturday night and all report a good time. When they were almost home Mr. Bunn ran into a ditch and broke the machine. He didn't know at the time that it was broken but in a few minutes it burst into flames and burned up."*7.

Everyone agreed summer was coming. The Community Club served ice cream at its meeting and donated the funds to the benefit of the ferry. And the business of making a living occupied nearly everyone, in one way or another. Lumberjacks swelled attendance at fundraisers, bringing other topics to discuss.

Logs were hauled in winter to riverbanks and piled on skidways (huge log decks.) As soon as ice broke up on river, along about April, the skidways were broken and log drives began.

The arrival of spring heralded the annual log drive. The flotilla of several million feet of logs rushed downstream to Pend Oreille Lake.

From the Eldridge and Ross camp on Swamp Creek, R. R. Hoyt's camp at Eddy and on Cherry Creek and other small camps between Thompson Falls and Plains, the drive headed for the Dover and Hope Lumber Company's mills.

Loggers in the west end of county were "having a great deal of difficulty" getting their logs into the river and "it is probable that a great many will remain in the woods during the summer," the newspaper said*8. One logging company at Noxon had two teams of oxen and mules skidding for the Humbird Logging Company.
Charlie Knutson said, "They hauled the logs down and dumped them on the river bank then, in high water they rolled them in and the driver's would take them down. There were logs all along the Clark's Fork River because those drivers used to start in way up the river in the spring of the year and drive them all the way to the lake (Pend Oreille Lake).
"When logs stuck on the bank, river pigs rolled them off. If they'd center (a center is where they jam in the center of the river) drivers got right out on the moving logs in the river."*9.
Don Maynard explained their arrangement,
"Everyone had to pay by the thousand to take logs through the Sorting Gap, where logs would be put into each lumberman's boom according to the stamps on the end of the logs. When the boom filled up, the tug came to take it down to Dover, or Kootenai, or Humbird, the mills along the Pend Oreille Lake.
"Mills had slips down into the lake and it was like an endless cable going all the time, with hooks in it. We'd shove our logs into this chute and they'd go right up into the sawmill from the lake."*10.
Frank King came to the valley and worked as a blacksmith, horseshoer, and smithy. (The Free Dictionary by Farlex, http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Horseshoer.) His brother, Jesse, arrived and attended a box social at Peeks store.

Jesse had a box under the bench, purchased with eagerness to eat with the pretty gal who fixed it. Fun loving Frank Berray, son of homesteader Cap Berray, swiped it for a joke. Maybe you could say the sparring, outside behind the Peek's and Beal's, was good natured. Frank thought it was hilarious. Jesse was hampered by the moonshine under his belt.

John Beal, another 'smith', had his blacksmith shop in the building that later became Larsons Feed Store, next door to Peek's on Main Street.

 
There were lots of hobos to add interest to summertime. Ruth Knutson described them,
"Just an awful lot of hobos, I don't know how many hobos a day would come to the house for something to eat. They always used to chop wood for us.
"Sometimes you were always just a little bit leery [and] afraid of them. When I was a little girl a pegged leg guy came every year. He traveled around the country and he came back every year. He'd take his peg leg and throw it to the side, you know, and then when he was ready, he'd put it back on again. I was a little girl and it scared me to death.
"They [hobos] made marks, signs, out there. Mother was good to them and always fed them. A lot of them told us there were signs so they knew where to go to get something to eat.
"There was a big NP Railroad water tank in Noxon. The hobos went there. Lots of them congregated there. Mother always fed every one who came to her. She never turned one of them away. "Yes. There was a regular hobo jungle at the water tank. A lot of them camped there."*11.
"You know, the reason for a lot of the hobos was many of these fellows shipped out from the east. They came out to this country to settle. A lot of them went on through to Washington and California, down that way," Charlie Knutson said.
"But some of them stayed hobos ... [and] many hobos came back year after year," Rhoda said.
Charlie agreed, "Yes, but the biggest shares of them were people. They were working people. The only way they could come out, they rode the freight train. They'd stop at Noxon at the water tank and wash up their clothes. They'd be there a couple of days and then they'd catch a train and be off again. Because every train that went through Noxon stopped at the water tank."*12.
The railroad had water stanchions there on the track for their water. It had big parts they pulled down to get the water for the train. 'Iron Mike', a metal standpipe was at the base of the water tank east of the depot, right next to the section house. Charlie Knutson told,
"Ruth Raynor climbed to the top of that water tank. She was the only girl down there when we was going to school who had nerve enough to go up to the top of that water tank. She was about thirteen or fourteen. A whole bunch of us kids was down there. And I wouldn't climb up there, I know that. But she was game. She climbed clear to the top up there! Hahaha."*13.
Spring brought the usual agricultural problems, including gophers that affected crop production, and thus should be poisoned. America was at war and every morsel of food was crucial.

The county agent began organizing ranchers to poison gophers, en-masse. J. R. Parker from the extension department displayed a formula for
"a poison mixture which has proven the most efficient in disposing of the Columbian ground squirrels"... showed that in quantities the dope could be purchased at 38 cents a quart; 16 quarts are sufficient to provide for 160 acres. The cost of covering a ranch, and enough for the surrounding territory to hold the animals in check, is very reasonable."*14.
Parker estimated 2000 quarts necessary to carry on the spring campaign. Alkaloid strychnine, used in a very concentrated form, required careful handling to prevent other animals from becoming affected. (Antidote - strong green tea.)*15.
"It is most effective if placed out as soon as the gophers appear before there is sufficient green feed to answer their needs," the editor of the paper wrote.
County commissioners agreed to finance the purchasing of the ingredients for the mixture, appropriating $400 for it, and the extension department will send out a man to attend to the mixing and drying of the poison before it is sold to the ranchers. It would be ready for delivery about April 1, the time when it could be used most effectively.

 Sixteen hundred quarts of poisoned oats were shipped and distributed between Plains to the Idaho state line. At Noxon, Rollo Older took charge of 200 quarts, and Henry Larson, another 200 quarts. By the end of April, good results were being reported. Many rodents died on the ground, and many underground as well. The Northern Pacific railroad also poisoned their land from Paradise to Idaho-Montana border.
###

 
The latest news, May 6, 1918 was provided by the newspaper to its readers,
"Rev. F. E. Dodds conducted church services at the school house Sunday evening. Services were announced for Sunday evening, May 19th. Come out and help sing - it is good for your system.
"The river has been rising pretty fast during the past week and the Noxon ferry is on the shelf for want of floating approaches. However, they hope to have it going again as ususal very soon.
 "The Community Club dance at Peek's hall Saturday evening was well attended by the local people in spite of the fact that trouble with the ferry approaches prevented some of the people from the north side from coming across. There were also a number of visitors present from Heron, Trout Creek and Plains. Music was furnished by the Plains orchestra consisting of Misses Larse, Benedick and Garber. During the evening ice cream was served by J. W. Hammons and Mrs. Frank Lyons. A fine time was reported by all." Everyone was reminded when they left it was time to turn their clocks back yet another hour; to coordinate with NP railroad time.
###
Some things remained fairly constant even though war and politics were creating animosities. Peeks hall was considered to be a good place to have dances. According to Bob Larson when fights started, a guy could knock his foe off the platform at the top of the outside stairway.

One of Marion Larson's favorite stories was about the time he and a fellow named Bryan were fighting up there over a girl. Men judged each other as much on brute strength as they did on wit or wisdom. Black eyes, broken bones, bruises, were inclined to be viewed as badges of honor and to be expected, if a guy had "any sand in his craw". Marion licked Bryan.*15.

The Pilik schoolhouse was another favorite for dances and socials. A dance at Bull River schoolhouse was the send-off for three Bull River lads, Frank and William Connelley and Matt Watson. They left for Camp Lewis the next day.*17. Miss Alice Tuttle found it an exhilarating evening as she was whirled around the floor to the music of Bob Jenkins (fiddler) and Stanley Dingley of Heron. Proceeds from the dance went to the Red Cross.

Recently arrived to teach at the Pilik School (at $85 a month), Miss Tuttle lived in the schoolhouse until she made arrangements to board at the Bull River Ranger station with Mr. and Mrs. Walter Lake, who were living in the forest headquarters again.*18.

Living at the Bull River Guard station held unexpected surprises. Bed bugs infested the night inspite of Lula Lake's efforts to get rid of the pests. Alice had many disturbed nights in her upstairs room. Long sleeved blouses hid the small red welts on her arms from her students.

The $40 a month Mrs. Lake received for boarding the teacher increased their meager income from Walter's seasonal work with the forest service to a livable level. Milk, cream and butter from two cows, chickens and eggs and a good garden were supplemented with wild blackcap berries picked up Copper Gulch and on the trail to Squaw Peak by Lula, their son, Stanley and Jimmie Pilik. An old one horse buggy carted them to Copper Gulch.*19.

 
BIBLIOGRAPHY
  1. Sanders County Independent Ledger, Dec. 18, 1918.
  2. Carmen Moore, tape-recorded oral history, February 1988.
  3. Sanders County Independent Ledger, February 14, 1918.
  4. Sanders County Independent Ledger February 1, 1918.
  5. Sanders County Independent Ledger, April 18, 1918.
  6. Sanders County Independent Ledger, April 18, 1918.
  7. Sanders County Independent Ledger, April 18, 1918.
  8. Sanders County Independent Ledger, March 7, 1918.
  9. Charles Knutson, tape-recorded oral history, Nov. 18, 1983.
  10. Don Maynard, tape-recorded oral history, Feb. 1973.
  11. Rhoda Knutson, tape-recorded oral history, Nov. 18, 1983.
  12. Charles Knutson, tape-recorded oral history, Nov. 18, 1983.
  13. Charles Knutson, tape-recorded oral history, Nov. 18, 1983.
  14. Sanders County Independent Ledger, March 7, 1918.
  15. Bob and Ann Larson interview 1968.
  16. Sanders County Independent Ledger, March 7, 1918.
  17. Sanders County Independent Ledger, August 29, 1918.
  18. Mrs. Walter Lake, letter, 1978.
  19. Mrs. Walter Lake, letter, 1978. 

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