As I Remember, Chapter 4

This entry is part 4 of 39 in the series Ted Bio


      And now, back to the ranch.

      Dad’s seventy five dollars a month was barely enough to keep us going. He and Feldman come up with a solution to this problem. They bought about ten head of milk cows. Cecil and I turned out to be the milk maids..

      The days were always long. Even in the winter time. We would get up long before daybreak. Mother would cook breakfast while us kids milked the cows and separated the milk from the cream. The skimmed milk, we would feed to the pigs.

      It was over a mile to the school house. We would bundle up with sweaters and overcoats, woolen socks and overshoes and take off. Those were the happy days, those school days and I was sorry to see them come to an end.

      When I was twelve years old, I graduated from the eighth grade. Which was as far as I went in school. Cecil and Afton were both going to High school in Emmett. I would be the next one, or should have been. But it didn’t turn out that way. The folks couldn’t afford to send another kid to high school… So they said, I was needed at home.

      I was always a great lover of music. I didn’t have a good singing voice, but there was nothing wrong with my ears. So one day, I come up with what I thought would be a solution to this problem. I told my folks, “If you can’t afford to send me to school, I could get myself a violin and take music lessons. That way I could stay here all the time.” Both Dad and Mother said that this sounded like a great idea. So, I forgot all about going to high school. But I didn’t have a violin and they cost money. Dad refused to put up any. But I was determined.

      All that winter, in my spare time, I trapped musk rats and mink. Also some badgers and a weasel or two. Along about Christmas time, I sold my pelts and bought me a good violin. I inquired around and found a guy that would give me lessons. One lesson a week, and the cost would be five dollars a month. Once again Dad balked. “Five bucks was a lot of money.” he said. Then he added, “If you have any talent, you will learn to play the darn thing yourself. After all the first guy that learned to play one didn’t have any lessons.”

      I tried. I guess the racket I made was hard on everyone. One day Dad told me, “If you are going to practice on that damn thing, get the hell out of here. Go at least a half mile up the road.” Then as an afterthought he added, “And make it a mile if the wind is blowing toward the house!” Shortly after that, as you kids know, I really learned to play. Anyhow, I never got to go to high school.    

      I was determined that I was going to make something of myself. As the years passed, I tried a lot of things. I even studied to be a magician. Took a full correspondence course. Although I never made a career of this, I have no regrets. I have entertained many people with my magic. Making coins disappear in front of their eyes. Many different card tricks and last but not

least, how to operate the old shell game. I still have a trio that I bring out once in a while.    

      I was always sort of a scrawny kid. Not very husky. A lot of kids my age could take me down and sit on me. Then, I took up boxing. I bought a book on How To Box. Written by Terry McGovern, former middle weight champion. This guy was a terrific boxer. Also he knew how to put it into words.     

      We always had a couple of punching bags hung up in the trees around the house. Also a set of boxing gloves. Kids for miles around would come up to our big, shady lawn and put on the gloves. Cecil and his pals did a lot of training. One time, at a dance in Letha, Cecil boxed Floyd Hunter and knocked him cold. Brother Cecil was considered one of the best in the neighborhood. And he sure could and did , knock me around. But I was a determined young man. I kept reading the book and learning all the right moves.

      Also, I learned something else. I become a box maker. I learned this trade from a fellow by the name of Frank Noise. For years, he had been making all our boxes. It was fascinating to watch the guy. Everything in those days were put in boxes or crates and all of them had to be nailed together by hand.

      Each year the trees on the ranch were getting bigger, bearing more fruit. Also new ones were coming into bearing each year. Whenever I got a chance, like at lunch while Frank was eating, I would go to his bench and practice. Also in the evenings after he had gone home. It was a tricky business and hard to learn. I could write pages on the subject but I won’t. But I kept at it. When I was fifteen years old, I could make a prune suitcase, we called them, in forty seconds flat. I would drive those twenty five penny cement coated nails with my eyes closed.

      When I was fifteen, I made part of the boxes for the ranch. From then on until I left there, I made them all. I think my biggest year was in 1928. That year we shipped over fifty car loads of prunes and twenty car loads of peaches. And each car, (box car) railroad cars, each holding over twelve hundred crates. Now that was one hell of a lot boxes. And I was paid one cent each for making them. Of course it took me all summer long, but when fall finally come, I had them all made and ready to go. For my summers work, I think that I was the highest paid worker in the valley year.

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