Winter came early and stayed late on the Long Tom, as it sometimes does, with the rains rolling up from the south and the west, driven by winds that lashed the great firs who fought back waving their mighty arms and roaring defiance at the drenching storms. The great fireplace in my Grandfather Miller's house, with its massive back log of oak and the glowing embers beneath the iron kettle hanging from its metal frame, the dutch oven in its accustomed place before the fire, heaped over with hot, ashes and glowing coals, sending forth its tantalizing reminder of biscuits browned and fit for a king, and the red juicy apples in a row upon the hearth before the winter fire, are some of the earliest recollections of my childhood. |
Here in this great house at the close of day the family gathered to enjoy the cheerful warmth flooding the big living room, while the driving storms roared across the forest covered hills. One of the special privileges granted to me as a child was to light my Grandmother's clay pipe with a live coal from the fireplace. Sometimes on these occasions I could persuade her to tell me stories of the old days. How they had crossed the plains by ox cart from the state of Missouri and were married while on the way west in the year-that my Grandfather was seventeen and my grandmother was fifteen years of age. How they first came to Oregon over the old Applegate trail and took up government land on the Applegate River some fifteen miles south and west of Jacksonville, near the present town of Provolt. There they built a log house, with the house being part of a strong enclosure ten feet high made of fir logs in which the farm animals were impounded each night to protect them from attack by cougars and bears that roamed the woods.
Grandfather had begun preaching as a Baptist minister in the year they were first married and continued in the ministry throughout his long life. At times, when he was away on a preaching tour and Grandmother was-alone with the children at night, the stock pen would be raided by cougars and the foot falls of the vicious raiders could be heard upon the roof of the house. There were other stories - how cooking was done over fires in the fireplace and if the fire was allowed to die out, live coals had to be borrowed from the nearest neighbor. How gold had been discovered at Gold Hill on the Rogue River and at Jacksonville, where a pint of nuggets was considered a fair return for a day's work. How the Rogue River Indians were of a surly mood and the settlers were in constant fear of attack.
There, at the homestead on the Applegate, my Mother was-born. It was then that the family decided to move north to the Willamette Valley where better protection was available to settlers. In time, my Mother grew up, she and my Father were married, and I was born. That is how we all came to be living in the big house on the Long Tom.
[Photo Left: The family of William Monroe Cheshire seated L-R: William Monroe, Nettie Grace, Maud Ethel, Mabel Clare, Virette Elmira Miller standing L-R: Samuel Frederick, Jesse Franklin c1894]
The house was a two story structure of rough boards with a shake, I covered roof, and stood at the foot of a rugged mountain on the west of it, where grew thick patches of huckleberries and hazel brush, an ideal spot for our hens to hide away their nests, which they did when the warm spring days finally came. The long winter days of inaction added to our appreciation of the spring and summer days that followed. The first sign of the passing of winter came to us from the honk of the wild geese over head as they travelled in formation across the sky back to their nesting grounds in the north country.
The springtime passed into summer, and the wild blackberry vines that entangled the fallen logs in the big burns were heavy with ripening berries. The time for our annual camping trip to the big woods to gather berries was at hand. The old farm wagon was loaded Keith our camping out fit, together with all the available vessels and containers of every kind from our scanty kitchen supply. The weather being favorable, we were on our way to the wild berry thickets. A suitable campsite was readily found in a grove of firs near a running stream where there was ample grass for our horses and wood for our campfires. During the first night in camp a shower of rain blew in from the coast, making it disagreeable to move about in the underbrush. This dampened our spirits somewhat, and after my Father reluctantly reported that a visitor had wandered into our camp during the night and left an imprint of a muddy moccasin upon the canvas at the entrance to our tent, my Mother insisted that we return home without delay.
The road that led from our house past that of our nearest neighbor, some five miles away, followed a creek bottom overgrown with scrub pine on the higher ground and alders along the water courses. Pine needles carpeted the ground where the road ran through the pine thickets, and after a rain the wheel tracks were filled with clear rainwater that, like a mirror, reflected the blue sky and the fleecy clouds above.
Having passed my fourth birthday, I was sometimes allowed to accompany my Father on his trips to the settlement down the valley. On one of these trips, due to a tree having fallen across the road, it became necessary to let down the rails of a worm fence to permit our team and wagon to pass by. In my childish endeavor to help, my hand was crushed between two rails. Upon our return home, Grandmother bound up my injured hand and tried to assure me that the injury was not fatal. However, I was not easily convinced and when one of my fingernails became black and one day was missing entirely, I knew we were faced with a serious problem. After a diligent search the missing member was found and securely tied in place with a piece of string, but soon again became lost and in spite of all my searching and yells of protest, was never seen again. To this day I believe Grandmother had something to do with the final disposition of the whole troublesome matter.
The following fall my Father filed on forty acres of government land lying down the valley toward the settlement, and there he built a one room house of peeled fir logs with a fireplace at one end made of mud reinforced with split wooden strips. The log walls were chinked with three-cornered blocks of wood and plastered with mud. The floor was of rough boards. The rafters were of peeled fir poles and the roof was of split cedar shakes, made with a rive and froe. While this structure was rather crude, it with stood the winter winds and rains remarkably well. The household furnishings were quite simple, as practically all were hand made. There was one large bed of sufficient height from the floor to permit a trundle bed to be placed beneath it during the daytime when not in use. At night this trundle bed was pulled out from its hiding place and became my resting place for the night.
Water from a spring located upon the hillside above the house was carried down to the doorway by means of long fir poles peeled and grooved and placed end to end. Here we lived simply but as well as the majority of families that had settled in that community. Our wants were few and our desires were easily satisfied. Wild game animals and game birds inhabited the forest areas, and trout streams were plentiful. Fruits and vegetables grew abundantly with little care. We lived close to nature and our sustenance was mostly gained from the earth by our own efforts.
Now that I was-four years old, it was decided that I should attend the public school beginning at the fall session. How well I remember those first school days. The old log structure that had at one time been to home of some early settler, with its shake covered roof, its floor of hard packed earth and the loft where the wood rats ran races overhead. The desks and seats were made of logs cut to the proper length and split down the middle, with longer pegs supporting the desks-and shorter pegs for the seats. For lack of a school bell, the teacher beat a tattoo on the doorframe when recess was over. From the wooded hill back of the schoolhouse a branch of clear, cold water ran down to the valley below. In the cool running stream were deposited the lunch pails and bottles of milk to await the noontime luncheon hour.
Our home was located two miles or more from the schoolhouse, which was too far for me to go alone through the woods. Each morning my Father would carry me on his back until the schoolhouse came into view, then I could make the rest of the way alone. Later we moved from our log house to a larger farmhouse nearer the school, which made it possible for me to go to and from school alone without the danger of encountering any vicious wild animals that might attack a small child.
One day while we were living at our new farmhouse home, a band of Indians paid us a visit. Some were on horseback and some of the squaws and children were on foot. My Mother, who was alone excepting for my brother then an infant and myself, saw the Indians while they were yet at some distance away. Not knowing what mischief they might do, she took the baby in her arms, called me to follow, and ran to the barn and climbed up into the hay mow. I shall never forget the look of terror and anxiety on my mother's face as she tried to keep us children quiet. After going through the house and helping themselves to all the food that could be found, as well as all the little trinkets that appealed to them, the Indians proceeded on their way without disturbing us in our hideout. Just before the Indians appeared upon the scene my mother had made a large pan full of cookies, which had entirely disappeared, and thus 'another childhood tragedy had come to pass.
Two spotted fawns, only a few days old, were adopted into our household, and became my constant companions. While I was forbidden to go beyond calling distance of our house, these two playmates enticed me to break the rule and one day there was no answer to my mother's call. A search was made and continued throughout the day without success. Fortunately, just as darkness was coming on, someone passing along the road observed a small child sitting among the mullein stocks upon the hillside, intent upon the playful antics of two spotted fawns. I was carried safely home, but as we ad wandered too far, no doubt, for the fawns to find their way back home, never saw my playmates again.
In the following spring my family moved from our home near Hale Post Office in Lane County, now called Noti, to Civil Bend in Douglas County, ten miles south of Roseburg. This journey of one hundred miles was over roads that, especially in the mountain districts, was little more than a widened trail. The trip was made without serious mishap, with one exception. Following one of the wagons was a young colt that became frightened at a passing freight train and, during the noise and confusion, ran upon the track following the train until it passed over a trestle. The colt fell through between the ties, breaking a leg, and had to be killed to relieve its suffering.
While living at Civil Bend, a near tragedy occurred at the old Winston ferry crossing of the South Umpqua River. My father, together with some helpers, was attempting to ferry a band of cattle across the river while the stream was in flood. Overloading of the ferry caused a cable to break while in midstream, overturning the boat and dumping the cattle into the raging stream. Some of the cattle were able to swim to safety, but several were drowned and the bodies were carried downstream. The breaking of one of the cables and the overturning of the boat placed an extra strain upon the other cable, causing it to swing high into the air over the river, with my father hanging onto it. Some anxious moments passed before the watchers on shore felt certain that my father could keep his hold to the swinging cable until help could arrive. Fortunately, a rowboat was procured in time to make the rescue without further mishap.
In the following fall, on account of the serious illness of my mother, we moved from Civil Bend to San Felipe, Santa Clara County, California, still by the covered wagon route as there were no railroads in operation between Roseburg' Oregon, and Redding, California. Bedsprings had been built into the wagon box to which my mother was confined for the entire trip of six weeks hard travelling every day from sunrise to sunset. The major portion of the road through Southern Oregon and Northern California was through mountain country and the passing of vehicles was sometimes a serious problem. The monotony of the days travel was broken by the stagecoaches that passed and repassed. These stages carried the mail and were given the right of way. We always tried to avoid meeting them upon-a narrow or rough piece of road.
In the Grave Creek mountains we stopped beside the road to examine an old log house in which some whites had been besieged by Indians during the Rogue River Indian war. Bullet mark could be plainly seen upon the walls. The next day we were overtaken by a company of United States Cavalry the way to Fort Klamath. We travelled with or near the soldiers most of the day and went into camp that night near enough to hear the bugle calls and see the flickering lights of camp fires among the trees.
At the end of one of our days travel we camped for the night under an oak tree near the old Tuffs place located upon a hillside on the east of what, in after years, became the site of the city of Grants Pass. There were at that time only two houses upon the stage road in this vicinity, one at the Dimick place and the other at the Tuffs place near the foot of the mountain on the east. From our camping place we could look westward across the valley, covered with its forest of Douglas firs and sugar pines, to where we could see the silver shimmer of Rogue River as it pursued its way into the evening sunset and disappeared into the shadows of the western hills.
On the next day we took up our journey, following the road that continued along the north bank of Rogue River to the crossing at Gold Hill. There we left the river, passing Table Mountain and Sams Valley on the north, and the old mining town of Jacksonville to the south of us. Leaving Ashland, the road wound its way into the Siskiyou Mountains, following the lines of least resistance and passing into California at Coles Station.
There, upon the State boundary line, a wooden archway had been constructed over the road through which travelers passed going north or south. Mount Shasta, with its crown of white, towered within sight to the east and north of us for several days as we travelled down the Sacramento Canyon to Redding, then the end of railway transportation. From Red Bluff, then the head of river navigation, the road followed along the west bank of the Sacramento River a considerable part of the way to Benecia, where travel was ferried across the river to Martinez. Railway trains were also ferried across the river at this point.
We arrived at San Felipe after six weeks of continuous travel from our Oregon home. We lived five years at San Felipe, where my father was foreman on a cattle ranch, and two years on the San Benito River, six miles east of Hollister, where-we operated a farm growing wheat and barley.
San Felipe is a small settlement located ten miles east of Gilroy, eight miles west of Hollister, and lies at the westerly end of Pacheco Pass. Small farms of ten to twenty acres each, fronting on a county road around four sides of a square mile, compose what was commonly called "the block". Shortly after our arrival at San Felipe, we moved into a house that stood a half-mile back from the main road. This place had at some time been a well kept home, but had not been occupied for several years. What had been beautiful gardens had fallen into decay. Climbing roses almost hid the house from view, and rare plants and shrubs grew unattended about the yard. The place was located near the edge of a wide swampy area where tules, and other plants that grow in wet, boggy places, had grown up each season, and in due time had decayed and turned to earth again. All the out buildings on the place had been taken over by pigeons that had been allowed to increase from year to year without hindrance. At night, when the pigeons were at roost, my father, taking me along to carry the lantern, would knock the birds off their roost with a long pole. We had pigeon pies until we lost all interest in them.
We often wondered why the place, having such visible possibilities, had been allowed to fall-into such a ruined condition. One day the answer came. During the forenoon of the day, several earthquakes shocks came with sufficient violence to almost wreck the entire premises. At the time of the first shock I was holding the halter ropes of two workhorses while they fed on the grass that grew in the yard. Suddenly I felt dizzy and was unable to stand upon my feet. My first thought was that I must be ill. Then I noticed that both horses were staggering in an attempt to stand upright. Water in the duck pond was being thrown about like water in a pan being tipped from side to side. Our cook stove was skidded across the room and all the dishes and pictures on the walls were thrown upon the floor. My younger brother, then three years old, was playing in the yard and was uninjured. My mother was inside the house, and while she tried desperately to reach the outside, she was for some time unable to get through the doorway. My father, who was at Hollister on business, returned home as quickly as possible to learn whether or not any of the family had suffered injury. After recovering from our fright and taking stock of the situation, we were relieved to find that no serious damage had been done other than the breakage of furnishings within the house.
The intensity of the earthquake, at the particular spot in which we were, was due to the fact that an underground lake of mud and water lay beneath the surface of the swamp. After a severe earth shock, the surface of the swampland could be seen rising and falling like waves on the ocean. Our experience led us to believe that we had discovered the reason the premises had been vacant so long. Shortly thereafter we secured another place near the foothills, where we could again feel the solid earth beneath our feet.
The next place in which we lived was located upon what is now the highway over Pacheco Pass, as it follows along the foothills and along the westerly limits of San Felipe. Our house stands across the highway from where the Niggles store and hotel stood, which buildings have long since disappeared. Our old house still stands and looks much the same as it did more than half a century ago.
The old school house that was hidden away in a hollow of the hills is now only a memory as the building was only recently demolished. When I last visited the school grounds, only a few years ago, there had then been little change since the last day I had attended school there as a child. As I stood in the open doorway of the building that day, I could see the same old desks and the same old organ, which still stood in its accustomed place. My own desk, where I sat through so many tedious hours, was still in its place. There was nothing missing from the scene except the smiling faces of my childhood friends. I distinctly remembered the day my school chum and I went to school early in the morning and turned the school clock ahead an hour. When the teacher failed to appear at nine o'clock, we convinced the early scholars that, for some reason- there would be no school that day. Accordingly, we took our lunch pails and as many of the pupils as were willing to follow our lead, and went to the hills for the day. The accounting that had to be made to the teacher next day was most unpleasant!
The old swimming hole in the back waters of Pacheco Creed was, during the hot summer days, the favorite meeting place of all the small boys of the neighborhood. The hours were from sunrise to sunset. The watermelon patches along the creek bottoms at times suffered greatly from attacks by mysterious raiders. When more solid food became necessary, potatoes and other vegetables were procured from nearby fields and roasted at the community campfire. While at one of these festive occasions, the thought occurred to two of the older boys that it would be a good idea for them to get possession of all the hot potatoes. When the other boys became aware of the situation, a general rush was made toward the water, but it was then too late. During the bombardment that followed, several hot potatoes had made contact with several bare backs, and the force with which they were thrown caused the potatoes to make quite a spread at the point of contact. The entire scene shifted to a happy conclusion when the supply of hot potatoes ran out.
Another incident occurred at the old swimming hole. This happened on a Sunday when several Mexican families had gathered nearby for a picnic. The swimming hole had been occupied before the picnic crowd had arrived, but the Mexicans were not interested in the question of who had the prior right of possession. A half dozen Mexican girls, for the purpose of teasing the boys, placed themselves between the swimming hole and the place where the boys had deposited their clothing. As the picnic crowd appeared to be making themselves comfortable for the day, the question arose among the boys as to how to regain their clothes. Finally one of the boys announced he had a solution to the problem -- the discovery of an old, rusty tin pan lying at the bottom of the pond which he could hold in place before him as he came up out of the water. But when the boy and his tin pan came ashore, it was discovered that there was no bottom in the pan! The laughter of the picnic party was loud and long.
What is now the highway over Pacheco Pass was then the old cattle trail over which cattle, produced upon the immense land holdings of Miller and Lux in the San Joaquin Valley, were driven to the feeding grounds near Soap Lake and there prepared for shipment by rail to San Francisco and other world ports. At times, when the drives were unusually heavy, the fenced roadway would be literally taken over for miles by thousands of wild longhorn steers. While pedestrians were sometimes in danger of being attacked, there was usually a sufficient number of mounted cowboys with the herd to furnish protection where it was needed. It has been claimed that more cattle have been driven over Pachico Pass than over any other cattle trail in the northwest. Henry Miller was the active member of the firm of Miller and Lux. In making his periodical rounds of inspection, he usually drove a team of lightweight horses and a four wheeled, one seated buggy. I have seen Mr. Miller pass our place on his way over Pacheco Pass with his team at full gallop, which was not considered an unusual occurrence, notwithstanding the steep and crooked road over the mountain pass.
I was ten years old at the time we moved from San Felipe to the Rucker Farm on the San Benito River. The house in which vie lived during the two years we were there was of the old Spanish type, with, rooms built all in a row and with a porch on either side running the entire length of the building. Entry to the rooms was made from, the porch on the outside or by doorways on the inside walls of each room. The large living room at the west end of the building was used as a public school. The school was attended by twelve or fifteen children, mostly Mexican or Portuguese decent. Joe Kelly, one of the older boys, rode a buckskin pony to and from school. Joe always kept a rawhide riata tied to his saddle and was quite proficient in its use. At the noon recess hour the older boys would often accompany him to the brush covered hills at the back of our farm and chase jack rabbits from their hiding places to where Joe could rope them from the back of his pony. This was exciting sport and was enjoyed by the boys as well as by the pony.
The willow thickets extending for miles along either bank of the San Benito River were literally alive with birds of many kinds. Great flocks of these birds invaded our orchard during the season of ripening fruit, and it was necessary to do everything possible to keep them out of the orchard trees in order to save sufficient fruit for our family use.
During the summer vacation time, after the morning chores were done I was free to roam where I pleased. I conceived the idea of making a collection of birds eggs. In a short time I had succeeded in collecting two eggs each of the many kinds of birds to be found in the community. After removing the contents of the egg shells and sealing the pin holes in either end with wax, the shells were labeled as to kind and packed in wooden trays. This made a very interesting display, of which I was very proud. The most difficult to collect of all that were required, were the eggs of the eagle. In our hill pasture stood a large oak tree, in the topmost branches of which two eagles had for many years rebuilt their nest each season. While plowing the field one day, my father noticed two eagles circling in the air around the tree. After waiting several days, we climbed the tree-with the aid of ropes and found only one egg in the nest. We waited several days longer before again inspecting the nest, but the eagles deserted the nest and never came back again that year.
Across the river from our farm, Sallys Mountain overlooked the valley. The river flowed around the end of the mountain, and during ages past the mountain had slid into the river and had been washed away by winter floods. The slide area was almost perpendicular, and was more than a thousand feet high. From our house each evening at sunset we could see the wild goats that lived on the mountain making their way over a narrow trail that ran from the top down to a small level place almost halfway down the face of the slide. Here they spent the night, secure from attack by coyotes that constantly threatened their young.
At the close of day, as the night shadows spread across the valley, the coyotes began their regular evening serenade on Sallys Mountain. Their weird cries floated across the valley, giving notice that day was done and it was time for the plowman to cease his labors for the night. For a time it would seem that all the coyotes in the country had gathered together for the chorus, but after a few minutes the din would cease and silence would take over again. On the farm our daily work began at sunrise and ended when the coyotes' song could be heard, or when two stars could be seen in the evening sky.
My father was never content to stay long in one place. The urge of the pioneer, inherited from the generation before him, was in his blood the gleam of the campfire was forever calling. After seven years in California we decided to return to Oregon, again by way of the covered wagon. During our stay in California my mother had fully regained her health, and we were all looking forward to a happy trip back to old Oregon and the folks we had left behind us there seven years before.
We had a new Studebaker wagon painted gray with red wheels, which had a specially built body made to insure comfort in travel. Wagon bows were fitted to the wagon box and a water Proof canvas made a shelter against the hot sun and the rain. We had three big horses which we drove in relays of two. My father was fond of horses and always kept a good team. Travelling with us was an ex-cowboy from Arizona -- a tall angular individual by the name of John Bowers, another one of those persons who couldn't stay long in one place. John was to pay for his transportation by driving and taking care of the horses which, at the end of each day's travel, were to be rubbed down, watered and fed.
On our first night out we camped beside the road a few miles south of San Jose. When it became dark we could see a brilliant light shining in the northern sky ahead of us, and we wondered what it could be. The next day, when we passed through San Jose, we discovered that the mystery was due to the electric tower built for the purpose of lighting the city at night -- a wonderful feat of electrical engineering in that day.
Except for the ferry crossing at Martinez, nothing of special interest occurred until the road led us back to the west bank of the Sacramento River. At times the fog laid low along the river, and from a distance the mast of a boat upon the river could be seen sticking up through the fog and moving across the landscape, while the boat itself was invisible.
Through Colusa and Glenn Counties we travelled for days through what appeared to be one immense field of grain. Harvesters drawn by twenty-four mules were being operated in heading and threshing the grain. Four and six horse-drawn wagons with trailers were hauling the sacked grain and then it was stacked upon the wharves at the river bank where the steamers loaded for the down river haul to San Francisco and the world markets.
At night we camped under the oak trees that grew along the river. While the rest of the family slept in the covered wagon, John and I spread our blankets upon the ground under a tree or under the wagon if it rained. Before retiring for the night, a horse hair rope was carefully placed around our bed to keep the rattlesnakes from getting into our blankets. We were awakened at intervals throughout the night by steamers passing up and down the river. Often we would sit up, with a blanket wrapped around us, watching a lighted steamer as it passed our camp beside the river.
In the Sacramento Canyon, Southern Pacific trains were operating as far north as Dunsmuir on the California side of the Siskiyou Mountains. Beyond Dunsmuir to the north, work trains were in operation twenty-four hours of the day hauling material and equipment for use in construction of the roadbed and tunnels through the mountains. One of our night camps was made in the foothills of the Siskiyous where all through the night the continuous blasting could 'be heard, which, together with the passing of work trains and the flashing of lights, gave us an interesting night even though we got little sleep.
At the point where the work trains ceased to operate, all materials were transferred to freight wagons drawn by six and sometimes eight horses. These wagons were specially constructed of heavy material, with wheels six feet high and breadth of tires in keeping. The horses were beautiful animals, mostly of a dappled gray draft breed, well trained for the gruelling work. It was interesting to watch these horses in their team work -- every animal pulling its portion of the load and moving forward slowly by short steps, just fast enough to keep the load moving. At the summit of the Siskiyous we were directed by guards to pull off the main road to permit the north-bound stages to pass. There were six coaches in the group, each drawn by four horses. As the coaches lurched forward upon the down grade, each driver set his brakes, sliding the rear wheels, cracked his-whip and sent his team ahead at a full gallop. Here was the driver's opportunity to gain back time lost on the upgrade, as well as to furnish an exciting diversion to his passengers, giving them an experience well worth relating to succeeding generations.
The city of Ashland, then a small town located in the foothills on the Oregon side of the Siskiyous, was the southern terminal of railroad transportation for the State of Oregon. Other towns in the Rogue River Valley located along the railroad, especially the town of Medford, were showing promise of becoming the modern cities and towns they afterwards proved to be. Grants Pass was laying its foundation for the building of a thriving city.
Still our covered wagon carried us northward toward the Willamette Valley, the place of our destination. Finally, in October of 1887, we arrived at Eugene, where my father made arrangements to operate the Judge Risdon farm lying along the banks of the Long Tom River in sight of the trading center of Elmira. Here we lived for two years of the most interesting and care free time of my life.
These were the days before the saw mill and the donkey engine began tearing the forests apart. Wild game was everywhere in the forests and along the streams. Deer could be seen from our doorway at almost any time of the day. We were compelled to build a high fence around our garden in order to keep the deer from destroying it entirely. On nights when a full moon was in the sky we were almost sure to receive a visit from these night raiders. One time I noticed a big old buck in our orchard standing upon his hind legs and knocking apples off the trees with his horns, while the smaller deer were feeding on those nice juicy apples as they fell to the ground.
One of our neighbors planted his garden on a hillside and enclosed it with a high rail fence too high for the deer to jump over except on the uphill side. Once a deer had jumped the fence from the upper side, it was unable to jump out again. One can well imagine what would happen in a case of that kind, as there were no game laws in those days.
It was then a common practice to hunt deer with trained dogs. The method was to place hunters in stands along the runways used by deer when pursued. Dogs would then be sent into the deep canyons and dense undergrowth where the deer usually laid in the daytime. As the deer passed along the runways, the hunters in the stands would knock them over with high powered rifles.
The hunting clubs from the towns in the valley would make their final big hunt of the season in the late fall. During one of these drives made in the mountains back of our place, we counted more than a hundred deer that passed our house within an hour, all making for the river, while the continual firing of guns could be heard far back into the hills. An old doe being trailed by the dogs, in a desperate attempt to escape her pursuers, jumped over our yard fence, ran through our open kitchen door and laid down behind the kitchen stove.
The Long Tom was a- slow running stream all the way from our place to where it joined the Willamette River down in the valley, but in the mountains back of our place and toward the coast, its flow was more rapid. The banks were steep and overgrown with brush entangled with fallen trees, and difficult to reach except where there were cattle or game trails leading to the water. Here I would find a place where over hanging brush touched the water, or where a sheet of foam lay banked up against a partly submerged log, drop my grasshopper in just the right spot and hold my breath while I waited. What difference does it make if I have only a piece of linen line tied to a hazel pole? The thrill of the strike-of a twelve inch trout is just as keen as if I were an expert fisherman.
I spent a goodly portion of my time, especially during the summer, along the river with a hook and line. One day I discovered the sign of beavers at work and finally located a dam and beaver house under construction at a point where the growth of underbrush was unusually heavy and difficult to get through. The beaver is a shy animal and is gifted with a surprising amount of intelligence. In my endeavor to make friends with these little animals, I cautiously cut a trail through the underbrush to a point overlooking the dam from where I planned to watch the beavers at work. This plan did not succeed as fully as I had expected, as after crawling on my stomach through the dense thicket and lieing along the river bank for hours at a time, somehow my presence always became known. I knew the beavers were there because I had heard them slapping the water with their flat tails, yet at only a few times was I able to actually see any of them. In the early part of the following winter I discovered near the dam the carcass of a beaver from which the fur had been taken. Later, other signs of trappers on the river were observed. By the time spring came again, all the beavers had disappeared. Whether trappers had killed the entire lot or whether the remainder of the colony had migrated to a safer location, I was not able to determine.
The rains that came in the late fall and early winter were warm and pleasant. The low lands along the river would then be under shallow water land became excellent feeding grounds for wild ducks. Occasionally a band of geese stopped over for a rest on its way south. Across the river from our house a shallow lake of fifty acres or more was formed each winter by the rains. Here would come thousands of water fowl of many kinds. I have seen the surface of this lake literally covered with birds, mostly mallard, teal and canvasback ducks. As the water receded in the spring, feathers would be washed upon the shores of the lake in windrows.
Wild geese passing over were attracted chiefly by stubble fields where grain had been grown and harvested, and where depressions were filled with rain water. Such places were located in the farming districts farther down the valley toward the Willamette River. Here hunters constructed movable blinds-that could be transferred from place to place as the geese changed their feeding grounds. One farmer often used one of his farm horses by putting a driving bridle on the horse with guiding lines attached on each side by which he guided the horse slowly toward a band of feeding geese, while he walked directly behind the horse where he could not be observed until he was within shooting range. Evidently the geese paid little or no attention to a moving horse, or other animal familiar to them.
Along the river where wild crab apples grow, and in the alders along the smaller water courses and in the dark woods where moss covered tree trunks lay damp and cool in summer, can be heard the mating call of the male native pheasant or ruffed grouse. On days when the air is heavy with the dampness of threatening rain, the calls come-clearer and more frequent. At times it is difficult to determine the direction from which the calls come, or whether they are from near or from far away. While many times I have been able to trace these calls to the source, I cannot recall a single instance in which I actually saw one of these birds in the act of broadcasting.
In the spring that I became twelve years of age, my grandfather gave me an old single barrel, muzzle loading shotgun with all the necessary accessories, including a powder horn scraped and polished so that the amount of powder in the horn could be determined by holding it up against the light. I was very proud of this outfit and compared it with pictures of the hunting equipment carried by Daniel Boone in the early days of Kentucky. I imagined myself another Daniel Boone as a stalked through the woods, ever on the lookout for Indians -- whether they had wings or whether they ran on four legs.
My father had made arrangements to operate the Jenkins Ranch located in what was then known as Noti Valley, lying over the mountain about six miles to the east of our home on the Risdon ranch, and five miles south of Crow Post office. In the fall of that year, John Bowers and I took over the Jenkins ranch and set up living quarters there for the winter ahead of us. We were to do some fall plowing and look after the cattle through the winter, or until the rest of the family could take over the following spring. I was to do the cooking and Bowers was-to do the outside work. I had no experience as a cook, but I was large for my age of twelve years and willing to learn. We got along fairly well through the fall and until the snows came and the thermometer fell to ten degrees above zero.
The house in which we lived that winter was a rambling one and a half story, rough board' structure. The ceilings were not installed and each room extended up to the shingled roof, leaving the cornices open to the cold winds that blew across the valley. That winter was unusually severe, with a heavy fall of snow that froze and laid on the ground a foot deep for more than a month. Our only heat was from a huge fireplace in which the fire was kept burning all day and part of the night. Trying to keep warm in front of a fireplace with most of the heat being drawn up the chimney, and the cold air rushing into the house through the cracks and openings, was quite a problem. Our shins would blister while our backs would freeze. We built a framework around the front of the fireplace and hung blankets upon the frame to help hold the heat until we needed the blankets at bedtime.
During the night, as soon as lights were out and quietness began to settle down throughout the house, noises of our night visitors would begin. Little black and white striped skunks could be heard as they came into the house through the openings under the eaves. Their presence would usually become known to us by a patting of little feet on the floor under our bed. When the fire would blaze up or the lantern was lighted, there would be a scramble to get to the outside and away from the light. Then, as soon as the house was again quiet, the performance would be repeated. We finally became disgusted and refused to be disturbed by the little pests. This nuisance continued throughout the extreme cold spell after which the nightly visits ceased. Whether the hams and bacon hanging in the kitchen out of their reach or the warmth within the house was the attraction, we did not know -- perhaps it was a little of both.
On the hillside near our kitchen door-a spring of water flowed out from under a big rock. This spring produced a considerable flow throughout the entire year and the overflow was carried by a ditch down the hillside to our garden spot below the house. During the winter cold spell, this water ran a couple of hundred yards in the ditch before freezing. Bands of wild ducks, mostly mallards, came to this "warm" water during the freeze up. If there was a disturbance of any kind, the entire flock would fly up and circle around overhead until the coast became clear, then returned with a rush, as if to see which bird could be first to the running water.
Each morning we spread a load of hay upon the feed ground for our cattle. One of us drove the hay wagon while the other pitched the hay off where, by former feedings, the ground had been trampled free of snow. Occasionally deer came down from the mountain to join the cattle at the feed ground. We had from fifty to sixty head to care for through the winter, which proved to be quite a task during the extremely cold weather. In addition to feeding the stock, we would have to round up the entire herd to determine whether or not any of the cattle, especially the old cows or the young animals, were down and unable to get up. Any animal not able to get upon its feet would soon die if allowed to lay upon the frozen ground.
One of our diversions during that Printer was hunting raccoons in the alder swamps at night, when there was sufficient moonlight to avoid the bogs. If there had been a light fall of new clean snow, all the better; then the activities of all the wild creatures inhabiting the swamp could be read like an open page of a fairy tale. The old coon dog was kept on leash lest he be off on the trail of the rabbit that so plainly lay across our pathway. Now we pass the footprints of a marten out for his nightly stroll, and the trail of his little brother, the weasel, showing the drag marks of his long tail as if he was trying to destroy the evidence of his cruel wanderings. Here at the water's edge are the signs we are-seeking. Tiny little imprints in the wet sand like the impression of a baby's hand. This must be a fresh sign, as water is still seeping into some of the tracks. The old dog is released and given the scent. The chase is a short one and we soon hear the dog's peculiar high pitched bark which tells us that Mr. Coon is up a tree. Some-times we capture two or three coons in one night's hunt. Most of our folks were fond of racoon meat, especially when it had been hung up outside and allowed to freeze overnight -- as for me, I could never help thinking of the baby hand prints in the wet sand.
In the deep canyons and high ridges lying between our place on the Long Tom and our other place in the Noti Valley, a band of wild hogs had been allowed to increase from year to year until they became a nuisance to the settlers in the district. One of our neighbors, an old hunter and trapper, proposed that after the first snowfall we make a raid upon the herd. In preparation for the hunt, we built a sled with deep runners for use in soft snow. To this sled we planned to hitch one of our farm horses and bring our game down off the mountain. Our plans being completed, we awaited the snow, which came about Christmas time.
Taking two trained dogs with us, our hunter friend, my father and I made our raid upon the herd, which we found yarded up at the roots of a .big fallen fir tree near the head of a deep canyon. There were ten or more animals in the band, mostly medium in size. The long chase that we had anticipated did not materialize, as the snow was rather deep and the hogs evidently decided to fight it out with the dogs within the confines of their more comfortable quarters. There was one old fellow with immense tusks who appeared to be the leader and the one who showed the most serious objection to the disturbance. We decided to take the big fellow home with us, which we did. Fortunately we were on the home side of the mountain and had no trouble bringing our sled into play. The animal we dragged home through the snow that day weighed almost three hundred pounds, but was of little use as food due to the advanced age of the old fellow. He must have been the grandfather of all the wild hogs in that part of the country.
Across the narrow valley from our house, where the tall timber on the, mountain gave way to the alders that grew along the creek bottom, was an old clearing long since overgrown with hazel brush and young firs. Near the center of this clearing stood a one room log cabin which, judging from its general appearance, had been standing there for many years. While there was no sign of-recent occupancy, the roof had been repaired and a chain lock was on the door. One day in the late fall, smoke was seen arising from the chimney of the old cabin. A few days later an elderly gentleman called at our place to advise us that he had taken possession of the cabin and would make it his headquarters fir the coming winter while trapping in the hills. He gave his name as "John James". He spoke with a Southern drawl but his grammar was correctly spoken and his ability to discuss leading issues intelligently was quite apparent.
"Uncle John", as we soon learned to call him, became a frequent visitor at our place and would sometimes, when winter days became cold, sit beside our fireplace through most of the day. Evidently he reasoned that it was a waste of time and labor to cut wood for two fires when one would do as well, but only on special occasions would fie accept an invitation to partake of a meal at our place. He always had sufficient funds with which to purchase the necessities, as well as many articles that, to us, were luxuries. At intervals he would be absent from the valley for two or three days, returning in due time with perhaps a new wool shirt or other clothing which, once put on, would not be removed until time and continuous usage compelled a change. Despite his happy disposition, Uncle John never discussed his trips outside to the settlements, nor would he ever mention anything relating to his past life. To the very last we were not certain that we knew him by his correct name. Among the few things we did know about him, however, were that he was an expert hunter and a crack rifle shot.
One day Uncle John came to our house with the news that a cougar had killed one of our yearling steers near his cabin. The dead animal had been dragged through the underbrush for some distance. After eating his fill, the cougar had covered the carcass with leaves and sticks and departed to lay up in his hideout until time for the next feed. Another neighber, who was the owner of two well trained hunting dogs, came to our assistance. The dogs picked up the trail near the carcass but the chase was short, as the cougar had recently taken another feed and refused to make a long run. The dogs drove him into the branches of a big cedar tree about twelve feet from the ground. It took three well placed shots to bring the animal to the ground, where it lay as if dead. The owner of the dogs kept trying to keep them out of reach of the cougar as, like all of the cat tribe, it might not be as dead as it appeared to be -- which was proven when I took up a large chunk of wood and struck the cougar with it. The "dead" cougar turned like a flash and struck the piece of wood from my hands. The cougar was an unusually large one, measuring almost ten feet from tip of nose to tip of tail, and the skin covered almost the entire outside end wall of Uncle John's cabin, where it was nailed up to dry.
Half a mile directly across the narrow valley from our house we could see the entire length of a deep canyon that extended to the top of the mountain. The bottom of the canyon was covered by a dense growth of underbrush were deer bedded down during the day when the moonlight permitted nighttime feeding. One morning the baying of hounds in the big canyon could be heard. I knew that the baying of the dogs would start every deer on the move, and that those in the lower canyon might cross to our side of the valley. Taking our guns, Uncle John, my father and I placed ourselves at stations where deer crossings were usually made. Some time later we could hear that the dogs had gone in the opposite direction and, nothing of interest having occurred, we decided to return home.
A new rail fence, with stakes and riders, had recently been erected running from our house down to the mouth of the canyon. When we reached this fence we noticed a big buck, with an immense set of horns, making his way in and out of the fence corners looking for a place to jump over. Uncle John took one side of the fence and my father and I took the other and we followed the buck at a distance as he proceeded along the fence row. We let him take his own time as we did not wish to frighten him and perhaps lose him. When the buck reached a turn in the fence lie jumped over-to my side. Uncle John, knowing that the buck would now see me and make a run for the timber, knocked him down with a quick off-hand shot with his rifle. Thinking that the buck had received his death wound, I foolishly ran forward quite close to him just as he was getting to his feet. I could see the glare of his eyes as he charged me, not over fifty feet away. We were in the open without a tree to climb or even a bush to hide behind. I had the old muzzle loading shotgun loaded with buckshot, but I might as well have had a broomstick as the old gun failed to respond to the pull of the trigger. I knew it was useless to run, so I took off my coat was waved it and shouted at the top of my voice but the buck kept coming with no signs of being frightened away by anything I did. My father had a double barrel shotgun, but he was too far away to give me any immediate assistance. Uncle John seeing the perilous position I was in, with a hurried shot gave the buck his death blow and bowled him over almost at my feet.
Along the borders of the valley, the barren hillsides rose gradually to where dense thickets of young firs stood tall and slender in the thick gloom of their own perpetual shadows. Along the valley's edge and below the fir thickets-, the spring and summer grasses grew green and fresh until late summer days turned the green to brown. In early spring, blue violets bloomed in the draws where water trickled down from springs above the grass land, and here the yellow buttercups and snow white forget-me-nots turned their cheerful faces to the sun. Wild strawberry blossoms covered the green hillsides with patches of white where stands-of bracken cast cool shadows upon the ground. Later, when strawberries ripened, thousands of wild pigeons came suddenly and in such great numbers that branches of trees upon which they alighted were broken down by their weight. Whether these birds were feeding upon the ground or resting in the fir thickets, any attempt to approach near to them met with failure. A careful search of the landscape would disclose, somewhere in the line of Vision, a lone pigeon perched at the top of a dead snag or half hidden in the branches of a tall tree, from which high lookout a warning of danger would be sent out by some mysterious sign or sound recognized and understood by the entire band. A few days stay in the valley and the pigeons disappeared as suddenly as they came. Where they came from or where they went remained another of nature's mysteries.
Through the spring and summer the grasslands along the base of the mountain to the north and west of the valley was used for grazing our cattle. We usually had thirty or more milk cows running with the herd. For this work I had trained a black Shepherd dog from puppyhood to obey my voice as well as a kind of sign language. This dog always knew when it was time to drive the cattle home for the evening milking. Promptly at four o'clock in the afternoon she would begin whining at my heels, excited and ready to go. From the top of a rise where I could see the range, I would point or wave a hand toward scattered portions of the herd, and the shepherd would be off at top speed to round up the tardy strays and start them homeward to the milking corral.
In a hollow log near the timbered edge of the pasture land there lived a polecat -- one of the largest of his kind I ever saw. Sometimes when I passed near his home he would come out to meet me and would follow almost at my heels until he was satisfied that I meant him no harm; then he would turn back and slowly make his way to his hollow log. I was always careful to not let him get too familiar or to molest him in any way when the dog was near.
In my daily rounds through the pasture lands I also often met an old porcupine as he rambled along near the edge of the timber, shaking his tail viciously and grumbling to himself. He was never very friendly and always claimed the right of way, refusing to turn aside when met in the trail. He never showed any ill feeling toward anyone, or anything in particular -- just rambling around and complaining to himself about things in general.
Of all the little animals that live in the woods, I was more fond of the squirrel family. Along the river and the smaller streams, where vine maples grow and in the dark canyons where moss covered logs lay in the constant shadows, the chirping voice of the "boomer" breaks the monotonous silence. This graceful little squirrel is a tree climber, but spends most of his daylight hours digging under fallen tree trunks or in the damp earth where moss and ferns grow. His fur is a dark brown color on the back and sides, with a light yellow in the under part of his body. He voice is heard more often just before a rain.
The grey squirrel is another interesting inhabitant of the wooded areas. In the late summer and fall when maple burrs mature, he may be seen in great numbers in the trees feeding upon the burrs. When alarmed he will run for protection to the tall firs or sugar pines, or other tall timber, from which he seldom strays far. Once he gains the timber where the stand is heavy, or, where the undergrowth is dense, he is safe from pursuit as he can travel, almost as fast in the tree tops as he can upon the ground. He has a peculiar bark and delights in barking by the hour from his hideout in the upper branches of some tall tree. The color of his fur is a pleasing combination of light grey and white, and he can cover his entire body with his long grey bushy tail. Some years ago this interesting little animal became almost extinct from the effects of a disease that spread among them, but they are now seen again in their old haunts.
In the late summer when the grain fields were brown with stubble, blue grouse came out of the fir thickets and the forest covered hills to feed. As the sun dropped down behind the mountain and the afternoon shadows spread across the valley, great numbers of these wonderful game birds would begin feeding in the stubble, or would perch in a row upon the top rail of the worm fence that encircled the field. When disturbed, they arose in flocks with a great roar as they flew for cover in the nearby timber.
In the spring and early summer the half grown young birds, when flushed from cover along the fence rows, would all fly to the nearest tree offering them shelter and there, while only partially hidden, would refuse to stir from their chosen perch while the entire lot were being bombarded with sticks or stones. Because of this peculiar trait, these birds were commonly called "fool hens". Throughout the spring and summer the voice of the male grouse, sounding much like the hoot of an owl, may be heard in the tall tree tops. These hooters are natural ventriloquists, and any attempt to locate the particular tree from which the call actually comes is rarely successful, as each separate call appears to come from a different direction.
At the south end of the valley, where it narrows down to less than a quarter of a mile, our nearest neighbor, a Mr. Fisk, built a home in the midst of a dense forest of fir and cedar. The big trees were cut down and the trunks were 'cut into convenient lengths, rolled together, and burned. Where the stumps were too big and tough to dig out by hand, they were blasted out with giant powder. By the application of hard labor and perseverance, a patch of ground of perhaps five acres surrounding the house was made available for the planting of fruit trees and a garden.
The Fisk family consisted of the parents and four children. Tom, the oldest boy, was near my own age. He and I spent many happy hours together, hunting in the woods and fishing in the stream that ran past his house. Tom had an old muzzle loading shot gun much the same as my own, except that the barrel of his gun was almost twice as long as mine. We never could figure out why any gun barrel should be made so long. Tom was small for his age and he had difficulty holding the gun in position to shoot without a rest, which was not always available. When he wanted to reload, in order to hold the gun in a perpendicular position he had to get on top of a stump or a fence or some other place off the level ground. In our boyish discussions of the merits and demerits of the two guns we decided that, with all its faults, Tom's was the better gun in that it had sufficient weight to prevent a shoulder kick when fired, and that under favorable conditions it never "snapped", which was our special term for misfire.
My gun had failed me on two separate occasions – one when I was charged by a wounded buck and another time when it caused me to fall off a log into deep water. However, the latter incident was largely due to my own miscalculation based upon the probability that, according to usual performances, I could expect a kick back when the gun was fired. At the time referred to, I was hunting ducks along the edge of overflowed swamp land when I became aware of the presence of ducks in the water beyond a large clump of willows. In order to obtain a better view of the birds, I walked along a log that was partially submerged at the edge of the water. The ducks suddenly swam from behind the willows and into plain view. I took a quick pot shot and, forgetting for the moment that I was balanced on top of the log, threw my weight against the gun to offset the expected kick, which did not materialize. The gun snapped. This threw me off balance and I pitched forward off the log and into the water.
Near the Fisk home an old, one room log house stood in a grove of Douglas firs, where the tall trees standing close together shut out the sunlight from the ground below. The old log structure was repaired and made usable as a school. There were five scholars that attended the school during the first fall term. The oldest daughter of the Fisk family, then about seventeen years old, was installed as teacher. The students were the other three Fisk children, my brother Jess and 1.
One afternoon after school hours, my brother and I were following a narrow trail along the hillside on our way home when we were met by a big buck deer that was being chased by dogs. This deer was so exhausted by his efforts to escape the dogs that he hade no effort to avoid us, but kept right on in the middle of the trail. I shouted a warning to Jess, and we were able to leave the trail in time to avoid being run over. The buck continued on in the trail for a hundred yards or so, then turned down the hillside toward a pond formed by a beaver dam in the creek bed. We watched while the buck thrashed about in the water until he finally reached the opposite bank and disappeared up the brush-covered mountain. The dogs came down the hillside following the tracks of the buck but lost, the trail at the water's edge. While the dogs ran up and-down along the creek bank looking for the lost trail, we could still hear the buck making his way up the mountain. The noise he made indicated that he was having about all he could do to make the grade. We were thrilled to see the old buck win out in what, for a while, looked like a losing fight.
In a recent visit to the spot where the log schoolhouse once stood, I found that during the sixty years since my school days there, great, changes had taken place. The forest of beautiful firs had been logged off, land there were only the tree stumps and the debris that usually follows such logging operations still lying over the valley floor and the hillsides on either hand. The disappearance of timber upon the mountain slopes and the replacement of old roadways over which we travelled in earlier days by oiled highways that lead over different routes, made it difficult to locate the old house in which we lived. I had to make a second trip to the valley in order to find the old place.
After locating some of the old landmarks, the pictures that I had held in my memory through all the years began to take proper form, like the face and manners of an old friend I hadn't met since childhood. The mountain on the east of the present highway, although now shorn of its beauty of former days, called to memory the times when I used to follow a deer trail to the top of its tallest peak and there, where a fallen tree trunk lay across the sharp backbone of the ridge, I sat through the silence of a summer afternoon looking toward the south where range after range of forest covered mountains lay quiet and peaceful under the blue summer sky. This place I called my "wondering place". Here I spent hours wondering whether or not there were people living in those woods; and wondering whether or not there were wild animals, or wild Indians there.
Suddenly, I would become aware of the deep silence that lay all around me. The soft purring of the breeze in the tree tops was the only break in the stillness that rang in my ears like a thousand bells. A feeling akin to fear would creep over me, a dread to move lest the sacred silence be disturbed. Finally, my courage permitted me to move slowly and carefully down the trail toward home, looking to right and left, half expecting to discover the presence of some supernatural creature urging me to hurry on my way. This feeling of suspense remained with me until I was well out of the woods and over the rail fence that enclosed our hay field.
What was once a narrow wagon road leading from Noti Valley along Noti Creek to its junction with Long Tom River had, by lack of usage, been reduced to a mere trail that wound its crooked way through the woods bordering the mountain stream. In many places the trail led through groves of firs and cedars so dense that the sun seldom shone upon the damp earth below. Salals grew thick upon the ground and the underbrush overhung the trail on either side. In places large tree trunks lay across the old road bed. In order to pass around these barriers, the trail led up the steep sides of the canyon past the uprooted tree stumps and back down again to the canyon floor. Heavy rains of winter had made the trail difficult to follow and, in some places, almost impassable.
My parents had given me permission to make a weekend visit to my aunt, who lived over the mountains some eight miles from our place. The busy days of summer had passed and I decided to make the trip on foot over the shortcut trail before the winter rains began. In those days we seldom travelled far from home and eight miles on foot over a mountain trail was considered quite some journey. In the late afternoon of a beautiful late fall day I departed on my way. When I left the open valley and entered the canyon, the sun was still well up above the mountain tops. While I had a feeling that I should have started earlier in the day, I had settled down to a swinging Indian trot and was making good time, which increased confidence in my ability to make my way through the heavy timbered section before darkness set in.
By the time I reached the first grove of timber the mountain shadows were creeping out across the canyon and I soon began to have trouble in following the trail. It was then too late to turn back, so I hurried on into the deeper canyon and the increasing darkness. This was my first experience in attempting to follow a trail through timber at night without a sufficient light. However, I did have a rather limited supply of matches in a tin box carried in my pocket. I don't know to this day how I happened to have the matches with me, as I seldom, if ever before, took such a precaution. I had been over the trail before in the daytime and remembered that it followed very closely the meanderings of a stream. It wasn't difficult to follow the stream as the canyon was narrow, and when it became too dark to see well I could still hear the sound of running water. Several times, when I thought I had lost the trail entirely, I struck matches and crawled about on my hands and knees until I found it again. At last I reached an opening in the timber where I could see the stars shining overhead. The canyon widened and the old road bed was easier to follow. What a relief it was to again walk on level ground and-in the light of the moon that was rising above the mountain peaks behind me. When I finally arrived at my aunt's house the family had retired for the night and my arrival at such a late hour caused some excitement, but after a few hours rest the world looked bright again.
My aunt had two boys in her family who were near my own age. On the day after my arrival, when it became time to prepare the midday meal, my aunt called the boys from play and asked them to go down to the creek that flowed nearby and catch enough trout for the meal. An argument arose between them as to whose duty is was to do the job - each one contending it was the other's turn. I considered that fishing for trout was a privilege rather than an unpleasant duty, which opinion I still hold, so I suggested we all three go. Using grasshoppers for bait, in a very short time we had secured a sufficient supply of beautiful speckled mountain trout, after which the two boys refused to waste any more time fishing. In recent years I visited this place but was unable, with any degree of certainty, to locate the spot where my aunt lived. The timber had been logged-off and even the trout stream had disappeared.
Their old family dog, who answered to the name of "Caesar", was a big, long legged, red colored deerhound, with ears that flopped down over his face. He had only three good legs, which was due to the fact that in a careless moment of his early life he had been caught in the steel jaws of a bear trap. He grew to mature doghood with a keen sense of smell and an ever-present hungry feeling. While any of the boys could beat him in a foot race, he could pick up the trail of a deer and follow it day and night, without food or rest, until he was completely down and out from fatigue. Regardless of the distance he might be from home, he would sooner or later find his way back again. After a few good meals and a little rest, he would he off again upon another trail.
The return of old Caesar from one of his long runs fell on a day I was visiting there. My-aunt had boiled an iron kettle of beans and left them to simmer upon the kitchen stove. Before any of the family knew that old Caesar was on the premises, he had lifted the kettle of beans off the stove, carried it to the back yard and had eaten all the beans - no doubt he would have eaten the kettle too if it had been possible to do so.
When the winter storms came and the dry-fluffy snow lay deep on the ridges and on the mountain peaks, a ramble over the hills and through the fir thickets and the areas where the snow was not too deep, furnished never ending thrills. Every animal and every bird that moved about left its foot prints upon the show. The plain trail of a bobcat could be seen where, on the night before, he had made his way across an open ridge toward a group of young firs standing in the bottom of the canyon. Here each fir, with its long thick branches-bent low by-the weight of the snow upon them, made a snug, dry house of refuge-for the wandering bobcat, or for other animal in need of shelter from the cutting winds that blew across the hills.
Each of these snow covered shelters should be approached with caution, as any sudden and unexpected trespass upon the privacy of a real live bobcat is a serious matter and might be met with attack. At the least there would be an exciting race on the part of both the hunter and the hunted to deter- mine which could be the first to vacate the premises.
Quite often the snowfalls of late winter or early spring would be followed by Chinook winds that brought warm rains and caused the snow packs to disappear almost overnight. In case of a delay in the arrival of the tempered winds, the snow would slowly melt during the daytime and freeze hard at night. Sometimes the frozen snow would lay upon the ground for three or four weeks at a time. During these periods of continued snow upon the ridges and in the canyons, where drifts lay deep, herds of deer were compelled to seek the lower levels in search of food. Cougars, bobcats and coyotes became bold in their hunting forays and extended the area of their operations to the borders of the settlements. At the foot of some rocky cliff, or under the brandes of some tree overhanging the trail, evidence of where a hungry predator had laid in wait for his unsuspecting victim was plainly written in the snow.
As my brother became older, we often went together in our wanderings into the backwoods in search of wild game, or to have a look into the dark depths of the next canyon, or just to see what was on the other side of the mountain. The forests never seemed quite so mysterious nor so spooky when there was someone along for company.
Before I had been allowed to wander far into the woods, I had been taught how to find my way out again. It is surprising how easy it is to become lost if one is not familiar with certain of nature's signs and guide posts. It is quite important to know what signs to look for and where to look for them. When the sun is shining and the skies are clear, the position of the sun and the tree shadows will point the correct way. Make a careful mental note of the location of an outstanding dead tree, or a point of rocks, or a tall mountain peak that can be kept in view. Stop once in awhile and relocate your bearings.
If there are heavy clouds, or fog, remember that moss grows up on the north side of the older trees, and that water always runs downhill. If otherwise uncertain as to the direction you should take, follow the down-hill trend of a watercourse until you are out of the timber, or in contact with some settlement. The main thing to keep in mind is not to become frightened and lose your power to reason.
I well remember one time when my brother and I-were returning home from one of our tramps. We came out of the heavy timber and into plain view of our house, when my brother suddenly stopped with a surprised look upon his face. I realized at once that he did not recognize the place, and when I assured him that it was indeed our home, he still contended that it could not possibly be. He had completely lost his sense of direction, and remained confused until we were actually inside the house and the sight of familiar objects finally convinced him.
The school that had been conducted in the little log structure at the south end of the valley had been closed permanently. The nearest school then available was the Holland School located at Crow Post Office, five miles from our place. My brother was not strong physically, and the ten miles round trip each day was a task beyond his strength. While part of the time we rode one of the farm horses, it was sometimes impossible to secure any kind of transportation. Many times I found it necessary to walk the entire distance to school and return, which became all but impossible during stormy weather.
The school problem was one of the principle reasons for our decision to leave the Noti Valley ranch and more to my Grandfather Cheshire's old home place at Fern Ridge. The Fern Ridge house was a rambling one story structure spread over a tract of ground covered by large oak trees. While large families were the rule rather than the exception in the early days of Oregon, my grandfather's family of fourteen children was considered large even for those days and accounted for more than one addition to the original house. One of my father's brothers and his family were still living on the farm, but there was ample room in the old house for both families with room to spare.
Soil on Fern Ridge generally was poor in quality. During the winter a large part of the entire countryside was under water, which condition has during recent years been overcome by the construction of flood control dams to carry the overflow waters into Fern Ridge Reservoir. How my grandfather ever succeeded in raising such a large family with the proceeds of his farm I could never determine. However, he did succeed very well and was also able to purchase another farm six miles west of Junction City upon the recently constructed highway to the coast. Upon this farm there is today located the village and post office of Cheshire. He also purchased a tract of land located at the foot of Skinners Butte in what is now the city of Eugene. This tract was platted and sold as residencial lots, and is known today as Cheshire's Addition to Eugene.
Shortly after we moved to the Fern Ridge farm, my parents decided to send me to school in Roseburg, where I was to live with my other grandfather during the school months. Grandfather Miller was then pastor of the Baptist Church at Roseburg, and it followed as a matter of course that I was assigned the duties of church janitor.
B. C. Agee, whose home farm was located at Civil Bend, had been elected sheriff of Douglas County. He and Grandfather Miller were very close friends. Sheriff Agee was gifted with a splendid baritone voice and for many years he went about the country with my grandfather, leading the singing at camp meetings and other church services. During the years he was sheriff, he occupied a sleeping room at my grandfather's, which room he shared with me.
I was then fourteen years old and had practically attained my full growth. Whenever it became necessary to do so, I assisted the sheriff in running errands, carrying food to prisoners, or accompanying him to the railway depot where night trains were used in transferring prisoners to the state prison in Salem. Although at times there were rough characters confined in the county jail, Sheriff Agee never carried a gun. He often stated that he would rather be shot himself than that he shoot someone else. He always made an effort to gain the friendship and confidence of his prisoners and, as a rule, was quite successful.
Professor John B. Horner was then the principal of the Roseburg public schools. He lived near my grandfather's home and we became quite good friends. In after years Horner became Professor of History at Oregon State College at Corvallis and the author of several books dealing with the early history of Oregon.
During one of our vacation trips to Oregon some years ago, my wife and I were in Corvallis and I recalled that Professor Horner lived there. I hadn't seen him for more than forty years and had serious doubt that-he would remember me. Mrs. Horner met me at the door and advised me that her husband had for some time been confined to his room with a serious illness and that his physician had advised against the admittance of visitors. However, when it became known to the professor that I was one of his pupils from Roseburg, he insisted that I come to his room. Much to my surprise and pleasure, he remembered me very well. He also had a clear memory of incidents that I had almost forgotten. Upon my departure he presented me with a photograph of himself and some of his poems in beautifully printed form.
Two days later, newspapers throughout the state announced his death. I shall always be glad that I took advantage of the opportunity to meet this old friend of my school days, and to renew our friendship of long standing. Professor Horner was one of Oregon's great men.
The Singleton family lived in the next block up the hill from my grandfather's home. Jeff Singleton, head of the family, was a deacon in my grandfather's church. Walter, the youngest son who was a few years older than I, was a natural born hunter and fisherman. The Bucks Peak country, lying some fifteen or twenty miles easterly of town, was one of Walt's favorite hunting grounds, and he never missed an opportunity to steal away and spend a few days on the timbered slopes of Bucks Peak. One Saturday morning Walt decided it was about time for us to make a trip to his old hunting grounds. Accordingly, our camping outfit was hurriedly rounded up and his father's old buggy horse was hitched to the two wheeled cart. Just as we drove out of the barnyard Walt's father discovered what was going on and came running and shouting his objections to our taking the horse and cart. We pretended that we did not hear the old gentleman, as we knew his principal objection was to our Hunting on Sunday, laid the whip across the back of the old horse and went galloping over the hill and out of town.
We stopped at a farm on Oak Creek operated by Welt's two older brothers. Leaving our horse and cart there, we borrowed two saddle horses and two hunting dogs and took the trail to Bucks Peak. When we reached the timbered area it became too dark to follow the trail, so we laid by until the moon rose, casting its pale light over the range spread out mile after mile below us. We were headed for an old cabin located just under the peak of the mountain. When we came to the end of our trail about midnight, we found that the cabin had been torn down and partly burned, but soon gathered together sufficient boards to construct a platform upon which we could spread our blankets off the cold ground. Walt was soon asleep, but I laid awake listening to the wind in the tree tops and the sounds that came to me out of the moon flooded night.
Suddenly I became aware of a different sound, faintly at first and hardly discernible, then louder and clearer at each succeeding call. I had been lead to believe that a cougar will never disclose his presence by warning cries while on the prowl, but I felt certain that these wierd cries were being made by a full crown cougar on his usual night ramble. I called Walt out of his peaceful slumber and together we listened while the repeated cries came nearer to our camp, and finally died away as the night prowler crossed over the ridge on his way to the canyon beyond.
Walt suggested that we take the dogs into the canyon and endeavor to chase the cougar-into a cave or perhaps drive him into a tree, but the moon was getting low in the west and darkness would soon envelope the mountain, so we decided to wait until daylight. Next morning we tried to pick up the cougar's trail but the dogs, not having been trained in hunting cougars, showed a lack of interest in trying to follow a cold trail.
Not long after the cougar incident, we made another trip to Bucks Peak. On this trip we camped at an old abandoned sawmill located on the bank of a stream near the foot of the mountain. We were glad to have the shelter the delapidated structure afforded, as heavy clouds were rolling across the sky and it appeared likely that rain would be falling before morning. Having made our camp as comfortable as Possible, and having finished our evening meal, we retired early in hopes of a successful day's hunt on the morrow.
Next morning, just as daylight was creeping into our canyon camp, I was suddenly aroused from a deep sleep by what I at first thought was an explosion of dynamite tearing the remainder of the roof off our sleeping quarters. There was Walt sitting up in bed with a smoking rifle in his hands and yelling for me to get up and help him bring in the venison steaks for breakfast. We dressed hurriedly, crossed the creek and ran up the steep brush covered mountainside to a point of rocks where Walt said he had seen two deer standing broadside and in plain view. Sure enough, there they were two deer at two shots.
The late summer days were with us again, with a frosty chill in the early morning air and the midday sun shining warm upon the red and golden leaves that had already begun to fall when the lazy Indian summer breeze played along the, river. School was again in session for the long winter term, and I was back at my studies where I had left off for a three months vacation in the early summer. The winter that followed was a time of deep snows and heavy rains that flooded the country, the like of which was beyond anything of its kind within the memory of the earliest settlers then living in the Umpqua Valley.
My Uncle Sam Miller, then Deputy Sheriff and who afterwards became Sheriff of Douglas County, was married during that winter season. The wedding took place at the home of the bride, Sarah Jane Dillard, in the town of Dillard about ten miles from Roseburg. A number of relatives and friends attended, taking the early morning train from Roseburg in time to be present at the noon ceremony. During the wedding, the storm that had been threatening throughout the day broke loose in all its fury. The train that was to take the guests back to Roseburg was due at Dillard at four in the afternoon and the passengers all gathered at the only store in town to await its coming. Might came on, the storm gradually became a deluge, and the train never came.
The next morning the station agent announced that the railway roadbed in Cow Creek Canyon was underwater and there was no way of telling when the train would be able to pass through. My grandfather and the Reverend J. R. N. Bell, who had performed the marriage ceremony, and I decided to walk the ten miles to Roseburg. Both my grandfather and Reverend Bell were large men, heavy on their feet, and unused to-much in the way of exercise. We followed the railroad for the entire distance, with the rain falling on us in wind blown sheets. On account of the necessity of proceeding slowly and taking frequent rest periods, night was falling as we finally pulled into Roseburg, with the Reverend Bell, who was one of Oregon's famous humorists, lifting his voice in an Imitation of the whistle of a railway engine at every crossing or bend in the road.
In-the summer of 1891, when I was sixteen years of age, my parents, together with my brother and my three sisters, moved from Fern Ridge in Lane County, Oregon, to Roseburg where I had been living with my grandparents and attending school. This was only temporary, and in the fall of the same year the whole family moved, again by covered wagon, to Grants Pass in Southern Oregon, arriving there in September. The wagon roads were still narrow and steep - dusty in summer and muddy in winter. We were three days hard travelling from Roseburg to Grants Pass. On the south side of “C” Street and west of Gilbert Creek in the present city of Grants Pass there then stood a grove of magnificent Oak tree. There we made our camp for the night and here, within the city limits of our new home, we gathered around the campfire for the first night of many years to come to us, bringing their joys and the ties of sincere friendships.
We established our first place of residence in Grants Pass by renting a newly constructed house on South 8th Street belonging to Clark Dickerson. Here we lived while my father hauled lumber for the Sugar Pine Door and Lumber Company, making one round trip each day from, the saw mills located outside of town to the sash and door factory located within the town limits. The hauling of lumber continued through the summer and fall, or until the winter rains began and the roads became too muddy for hauling heavy loads.
Sixth Street, running north and south through the city, was then and still is the main thoroughfare. During the rainy season, mud and water was hub deep over the entire length of the street. The old Southern Pacific passenger and freight depot stood in the center of the street, and the road split to right and left in order for traffic to get past the obstruction. In later years a new passenger depot was built two blocks east on the railroad right of way, and the old depot was moved west a sufficient distance to clear Sixth Street. The old depot has since been used exclusively for handling freight.
far left-- William Monroe CHESHIRE  County Sheriff
second left-- Samuel Frederick CHESHIRE  County Clerk c1909
The Cheshire Family History Project - © 2001