Saturday, March 30, 2013

Radios and Rifles--More of my Father's Memoir

When we first moved out to the timber claim, rural electrification had not come that far, so we had no electricity. Kerosene lamps in the evenings, cooking on a wood burning stove, and no refrigeration. The milk was kept on the North side of the house in the shade, and covered with damp cloths, since evaporation contributes to cooling. But only contributes--not really keeps it fresh. I had to drink so much questionable milk that to this day I won't eat cottage cheese, yogurt, or buttermilk. I got completely turned off on anything milk-wise that wasn't fresh. Hate it!!!
After a while we did get a wind charger and hooked it up to batteries, so we had a certainly amount of electricity. Could run a radio, and burn a couple of 25-watt bulbs in the evening. That was about all. The wind charger was on a tower beside the house. One clear night it got stuck by some sheet lightning when I was standing about fifteen feet away. I saw a flash of light overhead, a huge boom, and I was inside that house before that boom was over. Really scared me.
A couple of years later we did get a kerosene refrigerator, so I once again could peacefully drink the milk. It amazed me that a little kerosene flame under the refrigerator would keep everything cold. But it did.
We would do a lot of hunting. I got my father's old rifle (a 1903 Winchester) when I was about 9, and my father sent a lot of ammunition that he got when the DuPont company bought some ammo company. Sent them through the mail - don't try that today! We would wander around looking for rabbits or snakes. Even got a couple of pheasants with my 22 caliber rifle - lucky shots, for they were on the wing. But they made good eating.
One time I had just rounded a turn in the road, when all of a sudden a rattlesnake breaks the silence with its very loud rattling. After my nerves calmed down, I shot it, waited for it to quit wiggling, and then cut off the rattles as a souvenir. When that rattling breaks the absolute silence out there in the wilds, you are so startled you shake for a few minutes.
In this deserted land with no paved roads or state police, everyone learned to drive at an early age. When Bob and I were big enough to see over the hood of the car, and our feet could reach the pedals, we learned to drive. I drove everywhere, even into Vona on occasion. I was probably about ten or eleven when I learned to drive.
Sometimes we would go out in the car with Ira Fisher. One of us would drive, with the other two sitting on the front fenders looking for rabbits. Once, during a sharp turn, I fell off and landed on my side, with the rifle on top of me. Picked myself up, dusted myself off, and on we went. One time Ira was using our single shot rifle, and he fired at a distant rabbit just as Bob stepped in front of him. This rifle had a habit of misfiring - which it did this time. Thank heavens, for the shot would have gone right into Bob's neck. Another time I was carrying my gun, and it went off. The bullet hit close to my foot. Glad it missed me. I would hate to have had the embarrassment of shooting myself in the foot.
When Bob and I were old enough we would gather firewood for the winter, by cutting down the dead trees and sawing them up to stove size. We had a big bucksaw, a 2-man affair that we used, with the logs on a hand-made saw horse. Once, after a short rest, we started up again, but Bob started before I had a hold of the saw. Well, it went right across my leg, leaving a gash, which slowed us down for that day a bit. I still have a scar. And we would end up with a winter's worth of firewood for my grandmother and aunt to use, along with some coal.
We acquired a radio and set up our private radio network with a few of the neighbors. We ran a wire from our radio to the fence line, erected poles over gates and roads to carry the line up and over any passing vehicles, hooked the wire to our neighbor’s fence, and then ran a line to their house. They had to buy a cheap trumpet-like speaker, but they could listen to the radio, but only to what we had tuned in. Talk about a captive audience. They probably weren't too interested in listening to Bob's and my serials - "Little Orphan Annie," "Tom Mix," or "Jack Armstrong, All American Boy.” But they had a switch and could always turn it off.
     Then when we got a phone that was hooked up to the national lines, the same neighbors got some cheap phones, and we had our own little network, again using the fences. If they needed to call someone, they would call us and we would relay it on. Of course everything was a party line. You cranked one long one for the operator, who then rang the number you wanted - numbers like, "2 long, and 1 short" - like that. My aunt made a career out of "listening in" constantly. About the only really interesting thing I remember she heard were some girls calling a boy to "meet them down at the graveyard." Gee, wonder what they had in mind?
   One last thing. Out there in the middle of no where, my mother and her sister Ruth made Bob and I practice violin. Hated it. Rather be out hunting.

1 comment:

  1. When I was young we lived outside of Fairbanks Alaska, beyond the range of what had been electrified. We had a propane operated refrigerator, so the idea of a kerosene powered one is not foreign to me.