My Great Adventures…..A Journal

This site follows my happy trails.

Month: March, 2013

Bacon Bait

If you’re not used to western terminology the term “park” might confuse you. The Rocky Mountains have natural open areas surrounded by forests. These areas are found in all sizes and are separated by evergreen forests. When looking from a distance they appear to be irregular fields of grass land. These areas are called “parks”. It is very common to see elk, bear, and deer feeding in these secluded parks from a long distance.

When we fished at Browns Lake during the summer there were several of these natural parks on the side of the mountain above the lake. We would frequently see bear feeding in these parks. They were a long ways away and didn’t present any problems for activities at the lake. It was pretty unique watching them feed on the vegetation in the parks and occasionally dig out an animal burrow.

When the fall bear hunting season opened Dad took me camping and bear hunting with him on the mountain. This was my first experience bear hunting with Dad. We camped overnight at the lake. Dad fixed a big breakfast with home fries, bacon, and eggs using the campfire and coleman lantern for light. He always said, “I cooked your eggs until they bounced”. My eggs had to have hard yolks when cooked and he often joked about it. We cleaned up camp and headed for the mountain parks just as daylight was breaking. It was cool, but not cold. Dad had on a wool hunting shirt and my favorite jacket with zippered pockets was keeping me warm.

We walked slow, checked wind direction, and stopped often to look and listen. It was a real adventure to be on my first bear hunt. Late in the morning we stopped in a nice sunny area to look for bear. Dad asked me, “What is that spot on your jacket?”  During breakfast I had slipped several pieces of bacon into my jacket pocket. As the temperatures warmed up during the day the bacon created a six inch diameter grease spot around the pocket. Dad just shook his head when he found out it was bacon grease. When he found out the bacon was for bear bait he cracked up. He laughed until he couldn’t laugh any more. My bacon was left dangling on a small evergreen tree.

The grease never came out of my favorite jacket……..and some bear probably enjoyed my bacon.


Rainbow Twice

Several times a year our family would camp and fish at Browns Lake northeast of Spokane. We would cross the Pend Oreille River (pronounced Pond Er Ray) on an old, steel framed, wooden planked bridge at the small town of Usk, Washington. Browns Lake was about 80 acres in size, fly fishing only, no motors, and great fishing for rainbow and cut throat trout. A couple large beaver houses were accessible from shore. They had plenty of room to back cast your fly without getting snagged on anything.

Mom didn’t get much time to fish while camping with five young children. She did, however, have an interesting adventure at Browns Lake. Mom was fishing on one of the beaver houses when a nice 16 inch rainbow hit her fly. She was really excited as she worked the fish towards the beaver house. Every time the fish would make a turn the sun would reflect off the brilliant colors of it’s sides. About the time the fish got close enough to net it, the leader of the fly line got wrapped around a stick under the edge of the water. The big trout flopped a couple times and disappeared into the side of the beaver house. Mom was heart broken to lose the big trout right at her feet.

Later in the day Mom decided to try her luck again. As she walked out on the beaver house a movement caught her eye. Laying in a small pool among the sticks and twigs of the beaver house was her 16 inch rainbow. Apparently when the fish got off her line earlier it got trapped within the sticks. It was alive and in good shape, it just couldn’t escape back into the lake. Mom grabbed it with both hands and stuffed it in her creel. She was all smiles. Dad couldn’t believe her luck.

Mom didn’t get to be the best fisherman too often……….and even the best fisherman doesn’t get a second chance to catch the same big fish twice.

Elk: 37 Ford Pick-up

Keville and Gladys moved to a different farm several miles from the original one. It was on a dirt road and higher in elevation, but the land was all pretty flat. There were a couple acres of fenced pasture, another five acres in hay, and the rest was wood lot of mostly lodge pole pine. Logging trucks loaded with pulp wood and logs from the nearby forests made several daily trips down the dirt road.

Keville decided to fence the hay fields to provide more pasture for his stock. He bought a used 1937 Ford pick-up to do odd jobs around the farm. They had replaced the old 1948 Buick with a 1955 Pontiac sedan. Their only other vehicle was a Dodge five ton truck with a flatbed which Keville used to haul his Cletrac bulldozer or loads of pulp wood to the mill.  We would go to the back of the property, cut and trim fence posts, and haul them to the barnyard with the old pick-up. Keville would hand hew the bark off the posts. My size and strength didn’t allow me to get very proficient at hand hewing the posts.

When Keville was working at the Kaiser plant in Spokane he would allow me to deliver the peeled fence posts to the new fence line with the 37 Ford pick-up. There was more to this than met the eye. Before the posts could be delivered it was my job to dig the post holes. When you’re eleven or twelve years old it’s amazing how hard you’ll work for the privilege of driving a pick-up without supervision. There were always two or three of their children in the cab with me when the posts were hauled. It was a great adventure for them too. Hauling off the bark from peeling the posts was another legitimate reason to drive the old pick-up.

The shift forks on the transmission of the old pick-up were pretty worn. Every now and then the gear shift would lock up and you couldn’t shift gears. Keville taught me how to remove the gear shift handle with the top cover of the transmission, re-align the shift forks and gears, and put it back together again. Gas, oil, and water were checked daily.

Digging those fence post holes was a lot of hard work………but the reward of driving that old 1937 Ford pick-up was well worth it

ELK: Buicks and Bucks

Experiences involving deer were very common on Keville and Gladys’ farm in Elk. One of my outstanding experiences happened while riding my bicycle on the paved road half a mile from the house. It was mid afternoon on a mostly overcast day. Gladys sent me to the country store about a mile from the house. Both sides of the road were lined by fenced alfalfa fields. The fences were well maintained barbed wire fences. The fields were each a quarter of a mile wide.  My speed was slow and leisurely while enjoying the open spaces and calm day.

My eyes caught a movement in my peripheral vision. A buck deer with a nice rack of horns was running towards the road in the field on my right. The deer wasn’t huge, but it wasn’t any Bambi neither. Under normal conditions the deer would see me on the bike and run away. These weren’t normal conditions and this deer was converging on me and the fence pretty fast. The deer never slowed at all. When he reached the fence he laid his head back, tucked his legs under and behind him, dove right between the strands of barbed wire, and never broke stride. One moment it looked like the deer didn’t even see the fence. The next moment he was through it. The deer went between the strands of the fence on the other side of the road the same way. One thing for sure, that deer was on a mission. It probably never saw me as it concentrated on the fence. It’s hard to believe the deer went between the strands of the fences………….but the barbed wire still hums when recalling this adventure.

Keville and Gladys had a black 1948 Buick. It was huge and heavy. Gladys and her sister were returning home one night when they hit a buck deer with the Buick. They backed up and loaded the deer into the trunk. Were they ever excited. Just wait until they get home and show Keville what they had in the trunk. They parked the car in the driveway and rushed in to get Keville. ” You’ll never guess what we have for you in the trunk. Get your flashlight and come and see”, they chuckled as they headed to the car with him. Keville had no idea what was in the trunk.

Keville turned the key and lifted the trunk while holding the flashlight in the other hand. He caught just a glimpse of the buck deer as it knocked him to the ground, jumped over him, and headed for parts unknown. Gladys and her sister couldn’t believe what happened. Their prize was gone….. but the memory will stay forever.

ELK: Home away from Home

My second home was at Keville and Gladys’ farm near Elk. Whenever transportation could be arranged my bags would be packed and off to the farm. Their oldest son was about four years younger than I was and their youngest children were toddlers. Life on the farm was a great adventure every day whether keeping the kids occupied for Gladys, helping with the chores, or assisting Keville on some of his projects. There was plenty of time to explore and wander also.

Gladys always did the milking. She would have me run the milk through the separator, churn butter, help make cottage cheese, and hang it out to dry. We collected eggs from the nesting boxes in the barn. Some of the yard hens would build nests in quiet areas away from the house and barn. Locating their nests and collecting the eggs was also one of my chores. The nests we missed would be hatched into chicks.

Keville had several acres of good pasture enclosed with an electric fence. Often after a good rain the fence would be grounded out from wet weeds or branches making contact with it. He would send me out to walk the fence and clear everything away. Getting shocked was a pretty frequent part of learning this chore. You’re standing in wet grass trying to pull weeds or branches which have the fence grounded. Doesn’t take long to figure it out. Regardless of the weather, you always returned to the barn with a sense of accomplishment and the fence working.

The farm house was heated with wood. Filling the wood box, chopping kindling, and shaving some pine pitch for starting the fire was a chore done to help Keville. On cold mornings I would have the fire started and the stove hot before anyone else got out of bed. It wasn’t long and Gladys taught me how to make a pot of coffee. A wood fire and coffee perking on a cold morning are as good as it gets.

The chores on the farm weren’t considered to be work. They were just part of your daily life. In my case, they were a way to help Keville and Gladys while showing my appreciation for their allowing me to be a part of their life on the farm.

The farm was about a lot more than chores……..there were very few places on the forty acres that hadn’t seen my footprints.

Elk: By A Pigs Ear

Our family was very close  to the family of Keville and Gladys Williams. We had five children and they had four. We lived in Spokane and they lived on a 40 acre farm near the town of Elk, WA.  Keville and Gladys had a milk cow, a couple beef steers, a pig or two for pork, chickens, and a big white german shepherd named Prince.

Prince had the run of the property and was always in close proximity to any children playing outside. He loved everybody and had a wonderful personality and disposition. Prince had one bad habit. He liked to chase any deer that trespassed on his property. Keville often worried Prince might get shot by a passerby if they saw him chasing deer. He would run the deer for a half hour and return home. To our knowledge Prince never caught or harmed a deer.

Keville had a pole log enclosure with a small shed in it for a pig pen. All of us kids would take the pigs fresh things to eat. We would give them grass, weeds, discarded vegetables, or what ever we could find. We would stand outside the pen to feed the pigs because we weren’t allowed in the pen. We were never allowed to give the pigs grain.

One nice summer day several of us kids were playing in the area behind the house. Prince wasn’t far away. One of the pigs got out of the pig pen. We hollered for Gladys as soon as we saw the pig. The pig associated us kids with getting food and headed our way. Gladys and myself made an attempt to chase the pig away from the smaller kids. We weren’t concerned about the pig intentionally hurting anyone, but it could easily knock the smaller children down.

Prince came running and got between us and the pig. He methodically tried to herd the pig away from us and back to the pig pen. The pig had food on it’s mind and these were the people who normally had food. Prince and the pig were having a pretty good contest. Finally Prince had enough playing and decided it was time for the pig to go back to the pen. He charged the pig with a ferocious growl, jumped right on top of it, and bit down on the pigs ear. Prince never gave up his bite while dragging the squealing pig back to the pig pen. We ran and opened the gate into the pen and Prince dragged the pig right inside. The pig was exhausted, but not hurt. He couldn’t squeal anymore.

Prince really impressed me that day……..but not near as much as he impressed that pig.

Hank and Ike

We were lucky enough not to have television until 1955 or 1956. Before the television all of our news was obtained by radio (AM only) or newspapers. For many years our family radio played on the kitchen counter wherever we lived. The radio was big, heavy, and a light green color. The knobs and all the trim were real chrome. The radio had great reception and sound for the early 1950’s. The radio was usually on from early morning until supper time.

My memory distinctly recalls two profound events shared with my Mom while listening to the radio. The first event was the sudden death of Hank Williams. The radio station dedicated the day to his songs, news updates on his death, and interviews with people who knew Hank. My whole day was spent with Mom listening to the radio coverage. Everybody knew Hank’s music prior to his death. Many of the songs were viewed in a different perspective after his death. The day spent listening to the radio with my Mom seems like yesterday, but it was Jan 1 1953.

My second profound radio memory was the inauguration of Dwight Eisenhower as president on Jan 20 1953. Mom explained what the inauguration was all about as we sat listening to the old green radio. The inauguration was one of those events which instill a sense of pride and patriotism in a young boys mind. Politics wasn’t even part of my vocabulary, but the president and the celebration were something special. The parade descriptions, speeches, and band music made it a very memorable occasion.

The days of radio as the primary source of news and events were a different place and a different time. They were a memorable part of my childhood…….and you’ll find me listening to NPR today hoping to find a trace of the 1950’s.

TWO 45’S

My Mom’s brother Clifford lived with us for a while in Spokane. He had just separated from his wife and decided to come out west. When you’re eleven years old it is great to have a single uncle living at your house. Dad worked rotating shifts with rotating days off. Uncle Clifford found a regular day job with some Saturday work.

As the oldest boy in the family, Uncle Clifford often took me with him for company. If he only had a few deliveries at work on Saturday he would take me in his dump bed truck to deliver building supplies and sometimes coal for furnaces. Riding in the big truck at work was a great experience.

Many times in the evening we would go to the current movies at the downtown theaters. We saw movies like Ben Hur, Friendly Persuasion, Garden of Eden, and many others. The Fox theater in downtown Spokane was huge and beautiful. We always got drinks and popcorn during the movies. To be out of the house on school nights was a real unusual experience, especially to attend a movie. Uncle Clifford didn’t talk a lot, but he enjoyed the company of one or two of us kids.

Uncle Clifford bought us kids a used record player and two 45 rpm records. The record player had a small hinged door on the front. You would lift the door and slide the record into a slot. When the door closed the record would play. When the record reached the end it would give a couple clicking noises and start over again. With five young children in the family an open turntable with an arm wouldn’t have survived a few days. Our little one record box design was double tough. Many a time the adults wished it would crash and burn. We kept it in the basement, but there was a record in it almost all the time. It wouldn’t have been so bad if we had owned more than two 45 records. When all you hear day after day is “You Ain’t Nothin’ But A Hound Dog” and “Ain’t That A Shame” it gets very old.

Uncle Clifford will always have a special place in my memories, whether fishing for perch at Liberty Lake, just going for a ride, or stealing one of Mom’s cakes. It was always a good experience keeping him company. He liked his time in Spokane……..but eventually returned to New York and reunited with his family.

Socrates Red

Socrates Red is a real name. He was our neighbor in Spokane, WA. Sock and his wife were in their early to mid twenties when they moved into the house next to ours. They were great with all the kids in our family. They had twin baby girls who were adorable. Sock had a wonderful disposition with kids and we all liked being around him. He always took time to say hello or give us a big wave. He often played with us outdoors.

Sock was a hero to us and he had two of the best jobs in the world. His primary job was playing baseball for the Spokane Indians in the B Northwest league. His other job was working as the Wonder Bread clown all summer long. He loved pitching baseball and he was the perfect person to be a clown for little children. Every day he would drive his Wonder Bread clown truck towing a merry-go-round to a different super market where he would spend the day entertaining and providing rides for the children. He sang, joked, told stories, ran the merry-go-round, and gave away little gifts all day long. We would always go see him when he was working near home.

Sock’s baseball job was much more serious. Most of his ball games were night games. The Spokane Indians were a Cleveland farm team and actually played very respectable baseball despite their B League designation. They had a good fan base and were well followed by the local press. Myself and a friend often accompanied Sock to his ball games. We would be assigned specific areas of the stadium to recover baseballs out of the field of play. We were paid some change for each ball we recovered. We got to see the games for free, mingle with the players, and earn some money which usually was spent on hot dogs or drinks.

It was a great adventure having a professional ball player and a real Wonder Bread clown for a neighbor. If you Google “Socrates Red” the results will lead you to his lifetime baseball statistics. The last year shown is 1955 for the Spokane Indians.

Sock wasn’t the greatest baseball player in the world……….but he’d be at the top of the list if Google listed best neighbor for children statistics.

Frustration Squeeze

We had a favorite trout lake named McCoy Lake. It wasn’t a very big lake, didn’t have much for scenery around it, and the twenty some miles of dirt road was rough driving.  The lake was pretty remote with no facilities nearby. We would take large coolers with block ice to keep our trout and food cool. We often pitched a tent and stayed overnite. One of the best trips to McCoy Lake was a weekend trip with my dad and his friend Bryce. It was a great experience for an eleven year old.

The first morning in camp Dad and Bryce took a walk to gather additional firewood for the weekend. My chores were to clean up after breakfast and make sure everything was in it’s place to go fishing. When Dad and Bryce were crossing a downed dead tree they encountered a rattlesnake. This was not uncommon at McCoy Lake. Normally the snake would be left alone, but they were concerned about the snakes close proximity to the only camp site on the lake. They killed the snake and cut off the rattles. When they returned to camp Dad gave me the rattles.

The rattles remained in my pants pocket all weekend. One of my activities when things were quiet was to play with them and try to make them rattle like a snake. It’s not as easy as you would think. We loaded everything up on Sunday afternoon and headed for home. Dad and Bryce were in the front seat and my seat was in the back among all the camping gear. The rattles were in my hand and try as I might they wouldn’t rattle like a snake. Out of frustration and maybe a little temper tantrum, the rattles were squeezed as hard as I could squeeze them between my index finger and thumb. BZZZZ, BZZZZ, BZZZZ.

Dad hit the brakes and the car slid to a stop. The sudden stop wadded me up against the back of the front seat with my rattles. “Get out of the car”, Dad yelled as he bailed out, “There’s a snake under the seat. Kenny get your feet off the floor and jump out of there!!”

To make a long story short, that was the end of my rattles. Dad and Bryce got a good laugh out of what happened when it was all over. This adventure is probably one of my favorites and has been retold many times.  There are still a set of rattles in my what not cupboard……..but my experience at McCoy Lake taught me not to play with them when anyone is around. The true rattle noise has never been duplicated again after all these years.