C. A. Black
July 29, 1959
I thought I would add a little history to my letter as you suggested. This will most likely be a sort of a mixed up deal, but I will do my best. Although I was born in Cascade, So. Dakota on October 21st 1892, I have no memory of anything until about three years later, By that time my folks had moved to Colorado. The first place I can remember, was about four miles south of Fort Collins, It was a 160 acre hay ranch owned by a man by the name of Evans who also owned a grocery store in town. My father got a job working for him as manager of this ranch. He had a house and garden furnished and he got $25.00 a month. Of course he could buy groceries at the store on charge account so by the end of the month there wasn't much money coming in.
Well we were a pretty happy family without too much worry about so had lots of fun. It was a mile and a half to school and of course every kid had to walk to school then. There was no such thing as school busses then. In fact it was a one room school and I think there was only 25 or 30 kids in the one room building and they came from every direction.
I don't think I learned very much there, I remember I was real interested when I first started but the boy that was my best friend got smallpox and nearly died, three of his sisters did die. The school was closed for a long time and I seemed to lose interest in school after that.
THE EVANS PLACE:
I thought I had better just make sort of a running story of this, I will try to put in some of it in the other letters I write. What do you think of that?
I remember one time there I had an old glass marble about half the size of a baseball, it was one of those that had a sheep inside but it had several chips broken out, well Perry had a sling shot so I told him to put the marble in it and throw it away. He said "Get behind me so I don't hit you." So I did and Orval got behind me. As Perry was swinging the thing around his head to get up speed the marble decided to come out behind and it hit me between the eyes and just a little bit up so I went down for the count. I still have the scar and always will have. Of course I have plenty of scars anyway so one or two more don't matter. Like the time I was playing on a new mowing machine that was not like the others. One lever didn't have a catch release on it, Well of course I had to examine it, I pushed the thing up as far as it would go then let loose but there was a strong spring attached and that lever hit me on top of the head and cut another gash. It also left a scar. There was another time in the back window of the root cellar, which was sort of rotten and it caved in with me. The corner of my eye caught on a nail as I went down. It tore the hide but didn't damage the eye. The time I fell on a rock and cut a gash above my eye I was too small to remember so that won't count.
Maybe I had better sort of describe the place a little bit. It may make things easier later, The large house sat in quite a large yard with a good fence but as I remember there was no lawn but lots of shade from the big trees along the road etc. Then there was the barnyard and it was about half a city block or larger in size. Then on beyond that was the sheep pens and they nearly a block in size. Then at one end of the barnyard they would park the machinery that they couldn't get into the machine shed and of course the horses had to have a place to run when not in use.
That barnyard with the horses running loose makes me think of the time some of the folks was going to go some place one day in the cart. Well the men folks hitched a horse to the cart and tied it to the hitching post by the house gate. Orval and I thought we would take a little ride around the barnyard, so we untied the horse but didn't notice that the bridle wasn't on the horse. Well we couldn't guide the horses but we did get a fair ride until the old horse started following the other horses around the barn lot. That wasn't so bad until they got down among the machinery, and run straddle of a rake wheel which upset the cart. Needless to say that ended the ride for that day. And I might say many days to come.
It might be well to tell you that all the machinery in those days was pulled by horses as there was no such thing as gas tractors then nor did we have electricity for lights or anything else. The water for the sheep was pumped by a windmill and I remember one time we had such a hard wind that it broke the windmill. It just twisted the fan blades on the wheel even when it was out of gear and wasn't supposed to be running at all. After that the water for the sheep had to be pumped by hand until the mill was fixed which was several days as I remember it.
This place was a 160 acre hay ranch and the owner, Mr. Evans, would buy a lot of sheep in the fall and feed the hay to them in the winter and he also shipped in corn to fatten them on. My father's job was to grow and harvest the bay and feed the sheep in the winter. Sometimes it was a pretty rugged job especially if there was a blizzard, which there was sometimes. Dad would have to be out with the sheep all night and day too if necessary to keep them from crowding up in the shelter of the fence and getting buried in the snow. The fences were boards eight feet high and nearly always after one of those blizzards the sheep or anything else could walk right over the top of the fences.
The corn had to be hauled from the railroad which was about two miles away, That was also part of the duties my Dad had to perform.
My Dad was the only musician in the family because the only musical instrument we had was a Jewsharp and he was the only one that could play it at that time. In fact I only remember of a very few times that he played it. The one time that stands out in my mind is the time he caught his tongue in it and he threw the things across the room and I am quite sure that was the last time he played it,
I guess I might mention the fact that Alta and Hazel were born there, Hazel was born on my birthday so I had the honor of picking out her name, so I felt pretty important about that time.
Another important thing that happened there was for Aunt Winnie (mother's sister) got married there at our house. I remember Perry, Orval and I went down the road to meet Uncle Jim and he gave mach of us a nickel with a V on it. None of us ever saw much money those days but that was about the time those nickels were first minted. I don't seem to remember much about the wedding except seeing the two of them marching down the stairs together. I suppose there must have been a preacher but I don't remember any. And I don't remember what became of them for a long time.
Another thing I remember about the sheep was that when they were shipped in the fall of the year I got a chance to go with the men to drive them home, a distance of about two miles I think it was, but of course to me it seemed like a very long way.
It didn't seem to matter if I went to school or not. I think the main reason for my going to school in those days was to be taken care of as mother had her hand pretty full because by the time Hazel came along that made seven kids. I think the nearest neighbor we had was about three fourths of a mile away. That is where my friend lived that had the small pox. By the way that was a real epidemic of small pox. Although not so many people got them but almost every one that did get them died.
The only lights we had in those days were kerosene or coal oil as we called it or in some cases we had candles.
One summer the hens were doing a good job and turning out lots of eggs and it was my turn to get some new shoes. The folks decided to let Cora and Nora take me to town with the eggs and get them. Some one hitched up the gentle old horse to the two wheeled cart and with Cora and Nora in the seat, and the eggs and me down in front we started for town with Nora doing the driving. The roads here were any place between the two fences so most of the time the beaten path wandered from one fence to the other. At one place there was a brace for a gatepost stuck out in the road and for some reason the beaten path chose to come near it. Nora was driving or I guess I should say she was holding the lines, Well the horse got too close so one wheel ran over that brace and upset the cart and all its contents, You know eggs just won't take that kind of treatment so I didn't get any shoes that day.
There was another incident that comes to my mind now. It was one 4th of July when we were going to celebrate in our own little way without much to do. We all piled into the wagon with some hay in it to make it a little softer to ride in., and started for a creek. There was two families as I remember it and I think the other one was Uncle John's family. That means there would be between ten and fifteen of us in the wagon. Well some where along the road Alta fell out and the wheel ran over her arm but fortunately her arm was not broken., just bruised so we were able to go on and have a good time.
The only other thing I remember about that trip was that Dad and Uncle John or whoever the other man was, had a huge firecracker and they fastened it to a board, put it in the creek and lit it. Well it sure did throw water in the air so I guess the celebration was a big success. I know as far as I was concerned it was.
That seems to be about all I can remember about the Evans place just now so we will move on to the Birdsell Place which was the next place we lived. Before going to the Birdsell Place there is a few more things I had better clear up I think.
In the first place my folks lived at Ft. Collins before they went to Dakota as Cora was born at Ft. Collins or near there. They went to So. Dakota to homestead on some land for a home. In these days a person could file on a piece of land, do a certain amount of improvements of the land, usually meant building some kind of a- house and other improvements on it then do what they called prove up on it which meant filing other papers at the courthouse then the place was theirs.
It was on this trip that Nora, Perry, and I were born. While we were up there my Dad worked in the mines and whatever kind of work he could get to do. They went up there in a covered wagon as that was the only way a person could travel in those days. It was after I was a couple of years old that they gave up the old homestead and went back to Colorado. I think the first place they lived was La Porte, that is Orval's birthplace. That is only a few miles from Ft, Collins, and I think it is west but I am not too sure as to the direction. From there to the Evans place which was about 4 miles south of Ft. Collins. Later on we lived at other places around the valley that you will hear of from time to time. We only lived in Ft. Collins for a very short time which you will hear about later.
The smallpox epidemic we had there was what was called the Black Smallpox and it seemed to come from Mexico when they brought sheep up from there. I can't seem to remember how long the school was closed but I am sure it was several weeks. We were all too small to do any work like pumping water or anything like that. Guess we did help with the dishes sometimes but not very often at that time. I can't even seem to remember what we played. One thing I am sure of I didn't get to ride a horse unless it was one of the workhorses coming in from the field and then only if one of the men was on it too. I think the only money I ever saw there at the Evans Place was the nickel that Uncle Jim gave me the day he came to get married to my Aunt Winnie I can't seem to remember. At the time of the smallpox we were all vaccinated good and if it didn't take we were vaccinated over again. I think the only place we got mail was in town so lots of times I suppose it was several days between mails. We never had a Dr, for anything that I can remember except to be vaccinated and he came to the house the first time but any that didn't take had to be taken to town for the second one.
As I have said the Evans' Place was about 4 miles south of Ft, Collins and my Grandparents lived about 2 miles or so north of Ft. Collins so on special occasions like Christmas etc, we could all get in the wagon and go to Grandpa's place. That was always quite an event.
Oh, another thing I want to mention. At school one of the bigger boys had a bicycle that had one real high wheel and the back wheel was real small. There was no chain but the pedals were on the big wheel like they are on a tricycle. I never was big enough to ride it. In fact I never did learn to ride a bike for a long, long time. If there is other things come to my mind I will mention them later on.
The Birdsell Place
We will leave the Evans Place for a while at least and go to the Birdsell Place which was our next move, As I remember it wasn't much of a place but a place to live between jobs,
After my Dad worked for Mr. Evans four or five years for $25-00 per month and boarded himself and family he decided he needed more money. Of course he also got house, feed for chickens and cow etc, which made it possible to work and exist for those wages even at that time,
The Birdsell Place was up north of Ft. Collins, I don't know just how far but it was in school district No 42, which was a brick school house and I don't think there was more than 15 or 20 kids went to school there and I can't remember any houses in sight of the school house. The one thing that stands out in my memory about that school is the fact that the teacher was going to give me a whipping if I didn't learn the multiplication tables. I can't remember of ever getting the whipping so I guess I must have learned them at least enough to get by.
At the moment there is one other thing that comes to mind, There was a big ditch that run thru the place. Some little distance from the house and when we moved there it must of been in the fall of the year after the water had been shut off because we kids used to play down in the bottom of the ditch. Well in the spring one day we went down to play and there was a fair sized stream of water just coming around the bend with a lot of trash in the first part of it. I often think that our guardian angel must have teen looking after us because if we had been two minutes earlier we would have been down in the bottom of the ditch and I doubt if we could have gotten out because it was a big ditch and the sides were quite steep. It just wasn't our time is the only way I can figure it.
The Robertson Place
This was a place very much like the Evans Place in that it was a hay ranch and I think it was much larger but the hay was fed to cattle instead of sheep, which I am sure must have been a lot easier. Our mode of transportation was very much the same as before except we did have a sort of a hack or spring wagon or something of that type so we didn't have to use the wagon if more than three people went.
It was about 1 1/4 miles to school and of course, we had to walk as before, but that wasn't bad at all. Speaking of school reminds me of an incident that happened there at school. Some of the big boys found a nest of baby mice so they took some of them and put them in Nora's pencil box. Well it just about caused a riot or worse.
One time we were all getting ready to go to a Xmas program at the school house, and there were a few that weren't ready yet but someone left the hair clippers out in plain sight so I decided I would help out by giving Orval a haircut. Well I got the first strip cut right out thru the middle when some one stopped me and as there was not time to finish the job we had to go on. As it happened he was on the program and had to get up in front of everybody and speak his peace. But he didn't seem to mind in the least. I guess that was good as far as I was concerned.
Another time we were getting ready to go some place, but the girls and mother had been curling their hair with a curling iron (seldom seen now) and they laid it down to cool off when Hazel came along and picked it up by the hot end. Well you can imagine what that would do. A man there told mother to put some fruit butter on it, which she did and as I remember it there was very little bad effects from it.
It was while we were living here that Grandpa and Grandma Soar came to visit us, That seems to be the only time I can remember of ever seeing them. I can't seem to remember very much about them, I think Grandpa was rather tall and thin, and Grandma was quite heavy. They must not of stayed very long.
This Grandfather was born in England, and came to this country when he was a young man. He raised a large family on a farm. I don't know just what he raised but I suppose it was just about every thing that would grow in that climate. It is said that he had a great memory, he would go to Denver (a distance of 75 miles) only once a year for supplies. Mother said that each of the children got one pair of shoes once a year and he never had to make out a list of what was needed or the sizes of anything.
This place was a large place, one section in size but our father only run half of it, It was more of a cattle feeding place in that all the hay raised on the place was fed to cattle there on the place. Even with all the cattle there we had to buy our butter, and that reminds me of the time Perry and I went to the neighbors for it. The neighbor lived a mile or so up the road and it was summertime because we were barefooted and on our way home with the butter when I heard a rattle by the side of the road. I had never seen a rattlesnake but I had heard how they could jump.
Well about that time my imagination got the best of me and I just thought that snake could maybe jump from one telephone pole to another so I decided it was time for me to leave and I did. I was sure that snake was right on my heels every jump and I was crying and running just as fast as any little boy ever traveled on foot or otherwise. We didn't get caught but I don't remember what did happen to the butter. I think Perry was carrying it so I suppose it got home safe.
One time there was a sickle got broken in one of the mowers in such a way that there was just three sections left on it, Well the man parked the mower there in the yard until it was fixed. Well Orval and I discovered that when the machine was out of gear we could take hold of the Pitman and run the little stub of a sickle by hand. Orval got a hand full of grass and while I run the machine he was feeding the grass in and somehow he got his finger in there and of course, got the end of it cut off, There was no damage to the bone so the thing doesn't look bad now.
Grandpa Black's Place
This place was about four miles north of Ft. Collins, Colo. and we moved there in 1901 from the Robertson Place. Grandpa was a cabinet maker and carpenter but had retired. He still had his tools and there was lots of them, such as they were. All hand tools as there was no electric power in those days, I would liked to have had a chance and been old enough for Grandpa to have taught me a part of what he knew about cabinet work.
His place must have been quite a large place before the lake took up part of it. The hill on the east side of the place was quite rocky and we used to find rabbits around the rocks. My father had an old muzzle loading 32 caliber rifle that he used to hunt them with and he was a pretty good shot I might say, The bullets were round and we used to mold them ourselves. I remember one time Orval and I was molding bullets in the kitchen. We was getting along fine until the molds got hot so we dipped them in water to cool them off, Well there must have been a drop or so of water in the molds and when we poured the hot lead into the molds they just seemed to explode. Some of the lead stuck in Orval's hair on its way to the ceiling. I am sure no one got hurt but I am sure the bullet making came to a stop,
Quite a lot of the place had been taken up by the lake that was made to store water for irrigation purposes farther down the valley. There was still some pasture hay small orchards and a garden plot besides the building site. About half way up the hill East of the house there was a large ditch and just below it Grandpa had made a cistern to store water for house use and that was piped down to the sink in the kitchen. For hot water they had fixed up a small barrel connected it to the hot water front in the stove, then the water was carried in pail from the sink to the barrel, a distance of maybe 8 or 10 feet, The house was a large house with two stairs in it, and all the rooms seemed to be so large to me as I think back.
One extra feature that few houses have today was the stone milk room just off the kitchen. It always seemed so nice and cool in there. That is where Grandma kept the cookie jar which I don't remember of ever finding it empty. Another thing I would like to mention at this time is the fact that when ever Grandma knew we were coming she would save all the left over pancakes from breakfast for me and I think she made sure there was some left over.
The lake previously mentioned was called Terry Lake, and just North of Grandpa's he had a small lake he used to store water to irrigate his place with. One time a bunch of us kids were skating on this lake when I saw some good smooth looking ice and decided to try it out, when it broke thru and in I went. As it happened the water wasn't so deep but whatn7 head and shoulders were out of water so some of the others were able to get me out some how.
My grandma was a very good-natured person. It seems like she was nearly as wide as she was tall, and I don't think anyone ever knew how much she weighed. Grandpa was just about an average sized man with a beard, the paint brush type, He always seemed to take life serious. That may have been because he had been Justice of the peace for a long time.
Grandpa's shop was a large building that stood just across the wide driveway that came in from the road. Behind the shop was another big building that we called the granary. I am not sure if that is what it was built for or not, I suppose it was because at that time there was a very few machines to thrash grain with, most of it had to be flailed out by hand and then run thru a fanning mill to get the grain from the chaff.
The barn was what seemed to me to be a long way from the other buildings and on the way down there was a row of large Locus Trees, the kind that has the long pods and long thorns. There was I guess about ten acres of pasture there by the barn and we had several cows which no doubt contributed a fair amount to our living.
Speaking of cows makes me think of the Dog Grandpa had. She was a shepherd and had been well trained as a stock dog. We later inherited her and kept her the rest of her life.
On to the west and south of the barn was the Terry Lake. There was fish in the lake but I don't think they were any very good ones. I remember we caught one once. We took a board about a foot square and used it for a float, then fastened a line and a baited hook to that and set it out in the lake. Well after a while we say it bobbing up and down so we went out in the boat and got it. There was a big Catfish on the line, it was about the first fish I ever saw I think. We didn't seem to do so much fishing so I don't suppose it was very good there.
For some reason we never did seem to do much of any boating there. There was a rowboat there, a small one. I suppose no one had time to do a lot of hard work that didn't help to provide income for the family. There used to be family gatherings occasionally, and that was always quite a time. The other uncles, aunts, cousins etc, would come if they didn't live too far away and there always was a big meal served out in the edge of the orchard which was, I think, maybe 200 yards from the house, with plenty of shade and grass.
The school we went to was call the Armstrong School, which was about a mile and half away as I remember. One of the big boys that went there was named Armstrong. I can't remember his first name but he seemed to take a liking to me, I remember he used to sharpen my pencil for me and he could put such a nice long smooth point on a pencil, just like a mechanical sharpener. As this boy got older he became a Rodeo rider. He took several prizes at the Cheyenne Round Up.
One time Orval and I got an idea we could trap some rabbits. So we went up on the rocky hill side above the house and built some shelters of rocks which we were sure the rabbits would like, but when we went back a few days later there was no rabbits but in one there was what I am sure now was a skunk. Well we left in a hurry and with no damage, but we didn't try to trap any more either. Grandpa had a large thermometer that hung on the north side of the house. He seemed to be quite proud of it. One day I discovered if I put my thumb on the bulb the mercury would go up. I thought if I pressed harder it would go higher but I pressed too hard and the bulb broke and cut my thumb. The worst part about it was that I had to tell Grandpa that I did it and apologize him. He wasn't one bit sympathetic. I guess with seven grandchildren around there it must have been quite a worry to him.
The next thing that comes to my mind is the time scarlet fever came to our house. I was the first one to get it. It seems to me that it was much more severe than it has been in later years. I remember I was quite sick for two weeks and then felt alright but had to stay in quarantine for four more weeks until I pealed off. By the time that was over I had a nice new skin all over. The folks moved me into the parlor, and mother stayed in there to take care of me. That was only a short time before brother Frank was born. (He was born on Nov,6 1901). Just a few days after mother went out and Aunt Mary came in, Grandpa died so Aunt Mary had to go out and the folks got a Mrs. Bush to come in for the rest of the time. I had just gotten over it and before they got things fumigated Orval, Alta, and Hazel decided they wasn't going to miss out on anything, so they got sick too, not all at once. So we was in quarantine for 15 weeks in all.
Mrs. Bush taught me several kinds of solitaire but I don't seem to remember any of them anymore.
I remember we had some nice weather because Perry and Orval came around to the front of the house and I got out and chased them around in the garden.
I want to mention Grandpa's clock. It was not as large as-some grandfather clocks but it was quite large, It sat on a shelf by the door going into the parlor. It had two weights instead of springs that made it run. I remember Grandpa used to wind it every Sunday morning, There was a little crank that he used to wind up the weights with.
Preserving the history of Fort Collins, Colorado & the Cache la Poudre region