MEMORIES OF MY EARLY DAYS Elliott Pearson 1973
I can first remember this world at a place called the Drop about four miles north of Yuma on the Yuma Indian Reservation.
Laguna Dam was recently finished, the siphon under the Colorado was working, but there was no automobile or wagon bridge across the Colorado River, just the ferry in daytime.
Dad was hired by the Reclamation Service to care for the Big Canal, as we called it, and turn water to the Yuma Indians when they needed it.
We lived in a 2 tent houses --- with a shade built over them, on top of a sand hill just east of the concrete siphon structure called the Drop. For water, we had 2 oak barrels on the canal bank and dipped water out of the canal. It was very muddy, so one barrel was used while the other barrel was settling.
Dad did most of his work on horse back, so it was just the place to break horses on the side, so we generally had several horses in the corral.
It may sound like a dreary place to live, but I don't remember of ever being bored. The Indian squaws and papooses came by every once in a while, and I would follow them out of curiosity. Sometimes they would have sacks, and be gathering mesquite beans. We didn't get much talking don, but they would look at my freckles and red hair and laugh.
I had been raised this far with a pup that we called Puppy. He looked after me pretty well. If I started into the arrowweeds, or the canal, or too close to the heels of a horse, or got close to a rattlesnake, he would jerk me down and start barking. No one outside of the family could touch me, and Dad and Mother both passed on with scars from attempting to paddle me, where he could get to them. He looked out for my brother, Dad and Mother if I didn't need help.
We wasn't far from the Mexican border, so a loaded gun or two was always in reach of Dad and Mother. So at a very early age it was impressed on my brother and I, guns were dangerous and to be used on vermin's, either 2 legged or f4 legged. The Mexicans were having pretty frequent revolutions, so sometimes the Reclamation service had a guard at the Drop, also at the siphon and other structures. We also had men riding by and sometimes staying all night, that we didn't know if they were riding in front or behind some other men on the trail. I remember one who rode in about sundown on a real good horse, between a bay and a brown, pretty dirty. The man was dusty and had sort of blue black whiskers about 3/4 inches long. He had a gun on each hip, 2 cartridge belts full of cartridges, also a wide belt under these with the largest cartridges I had ever seen. He asked Dad if he could stay all night. Dad told him there was the extra tent to sleep in, the grain was in the saddle shed at the corral, to make himself at home. He didn't say where he came from, and you didn't ask strangers their names. I wanted another look at this man the next morning, but he was gone before daylight, even tho I made it up before daylight. He left a big silver dollar each for my brother and I.
Then my brother and I got in the horse business a little later. Three men came in at sundown one evening. They also were gone at daylight, but we had a little mare in the corral. Later we learned her breed came from Baja, California.
Every Saturday evening we hitched a team to the buggy and drove up to Mr. Allen's just below the siphon. He had feed and a corral. We left the buggy and horses there and walked across the railroad bridge to Yuma. When we got in Yuma, Mother would shop and visit with acquaintances. Dad would buy what he needed and try always to get to the bar that Angelo was bar tender at and visit with Angelo. My brother and I were very busy watching Indians, Mexicans, Chinamen and the few colored people in Yuma at that time. The only one I can remember of for sure was a Mr. Harding with a wooden leg, who we will meet again later. Angelo was also a very good friend to my brother and I, but it was sort of awkward for me. Dad would set my brother on the bar and I would have to stand back quite a ways to see Angelo over the bar.
We were visiting Angelo one Saturday night and a tipsy customer got a bit tough, so Angelo told him to straighten up or get the hell out of there, then came back and poked his finger at my brother, so my brother tells Angelo to straighten up or get the hell out of there. Angelo laughed till he had tears in his eyes at this speech.
The Indians kept us pretty busy keeping up with them. This was the days of high button shoes, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs was trying to get the Indians to be uncomfortable in white man's clothes, so some of the squaws were trying to add shoes to their costumes. So pretty regular a squaw would come out of Sanguinetti's store with a pair of high button shoes on. They didn't generally make it far till they started limping. They would sit down on the curb and start feeling around in those voluminous skirts still they found a pocket knife. Then they got the foot out from under the skirt and starting letting the little toe out of the shoe. Then they would start down the street, till another toe got sore. The shoe was cut on the big toe side. This went on generally till the little toe was out on one side the big toe on the other.
Yuma was a very friendly town in those days. The prison was gone, but the structure was visited by the curious. The river was a handicap, but was a source of adventure. occasionally, some one had a runaway with horses on the Ferry, or one of the few automobiles ran off in the river.
The Indians at home were another source of adventure. They seemed to learn to swim by the time they learned to walk. We would see even the little ones catching fish with their hands in the river or canal. One in a while a little kid would catch a big fish and for a while it would look like the fish would drown the little Indian.
When an Indian passed away, they would put his horse in his house and kill the horse, so he would me mounted in the next world. The government stopped this practice about his time, so some of the dead Indians' relatives would come to Dad to sell the horse, then take the money and throw it in the mud and pole house with the corpse and torch the works on fire.
Back of the Drop there was something going on most of the time. Some of the horses Dad would break put on some pretty good rodeos. One I remember was a pretty little roan. He didn't give Dad much trouble to start, so Dad decided he was pretty well broke, till one day a fellow came by and wanted to buy him for his eleven year old daughter. The man asked Dad to lope him out so he could see how he traveled. That was when he really broke in two. He really put on an exhibition for the fellow. When Dad got back, the fellow said, "I don't believe my little girl can ride that horse, Guy." Dad said, "I don't think so either." he didn't buck any more for several days. Was real nice till my brother and I went to meed Das as he came in from work at noon one day. Dad climbed off, sat my brother up in the saddle and me behind the saddle and started to lead him to the corral. Then he started to buck. Dad reached to get us off, but my brother had grabbed saddle horn and me the saddle strings back of the candle. He managed to get my brother by the arm and me by the leg, and the horse was going around him bucking. The dog got there and got the hrose by the tail. About that time Dad jerked us loose and managed to hang on to my brother, but I lit under the horse int he sand. The horse and the dog went over mye, but Dad tossed muy brother out of the way, and he set grinning and cussin. "I get gun and kill that so and so," said he. I couldn't leave. I was too tickled.
Another rodeo I was in was breaking the milk cow's calf. Dad was always breaking something, so I decided to make a buggy horse out of that calf. I wend to the corral will prepared. I had all of Montgomery Ward and Sears Roebuck twine I could find and my brother's go-cart. It was a little 2 wheeled deal that Mother loaded on the back of our buggy and took to Mr. Allen's to push my brother accross the railroad bridge and down the side walks of Yuma. I made tugs and backbands, lines and brilde out of twine, then hooked the go-cart to the calf, picked up my lines and whp and hollared "Yes," that calf just stood there. Then I used my whip. He kicked with both hind feet. One went by one ear, the other by the other ear and somehow he got both hind feet back inside those tugs. But I had a plenty of that, so decided to tie an old dish pan behind the go-cart and ride in that till that calf was beter broke. So I get in the dish pan standing up and start using my whip. That calf jumped about 10 feet and left me sitting where that dish pan had been. The last time I saw that calf was wen he went over a stack of baled hay 12 or 15 feet high. One think I knew for sure, that was no place for me, so i took off in high gear for the other side of the tent houses. About 15 minutes later Dad showed up. He says, "Sonny, what happened to that calf?" I say, I don't know, Did somethin happen to that calf?" He says "how come all that strings on him?" I say, "I don't know anything about the string." I know I'm going to get paddled, so there isn't much use to be very smart. Dad went to laughing about at this point, and he laughted till he cried. Finally, he said he had to rope that calf and drag back.
But I still have troubles, I am wondering about the Go-cart. A couple of days later I peek around that stack of baled hay and there hangs that Go-cart where that calf hung it on the funce as he went over from the top of the hay stack.
But all was well till Saturday evening when we got ready to go to Yuma and Mother says, "where is the Go-cart?" Dad doesn't say anything and I sure don't. She finally fount it. The tongue is very broken. That was the part that made it over the fence.
My first saddle animal was a very lazy burro. We parted company soon, as Dad and Mother decided he would make me mean to animaals, for I had to hit him with something each step. My next saddle animal was a beautiful white horse. His trouble was also laziness. After Mother rode him once, she said he had to go. So the next was the little mare the strangers left in the corral.
Best I can remember along about the time I'm four years old, my dog and me got me kicked in the jaw by a shod horse. I started behind hima nd dog charged in to get me out or move the horse, and I wound up back many feet. I knew what was going on, but couldn't move. The dog was really letting the world know something was wrong. Then Dad heard him and came and picked me up. About this time I was able to talk again, so I informed Dad that so and so horse kicked me, but he was busy trying to see if I had any face left. When he gook me into the tent and Mother saw me, it was her opinion I would never look the same again. Dad was already getting the buggie team ready for a trip to the doctor.
We got to the doctor about 9 or 10 a.m., and he decided to do some tailor work. He got his needle, thread and a big red apple and beautiful orage. He held them and told me I could have my choice if I didn't cry while he was working on my face. I chose the apple and he went to work. When he got through, he wrapped about a hundred feed of gauze around my head. I took my apple and went home.
But a straw was all I could get in my mouth through that gauze, and my apple slowly wrinkled up and withered away. I got some of the bandage loose one day, and was about to reach the apple when Mother showed up about the same time. I had other troubles that worried Dad and Mother -- a run away or two -- but no injury.
Perhaps I should mention that one of the watchmen hired by the Reclamation Service was Daddy Wilcox. He was old, but a very pleasant man. His hair was almost forgot him. Thin in the last of the 40's or early 50's, I picked up the Prescott paper and saw where he had departed on his trail at 112 years of age. Had I known he was in the Pioneers' Home, would sure have paid him a visit.
Along about this time, Dad and Mother decided to leave the Drop and look for greener pasture. Dad went to town and came back with lumber, over jet iros and straps for wagon bows and started building a chuck box that fit in back of wagon box with a hinged door that acted as a table wehn we camped. When all was complete, Dad loaded the wagon box on the running gear of the wagon.
Then a man I remember as Mr. Goodard, came and Dad showed him around over the things he had been doing. When the man was familiar with Dad's duties, Dad drove the covered wagon up to the tents and loaded our posessions. And one bright morning in the spring of 1915 we left Mr. Goddard with the Drop.
We had no trouble at the bridge over the Colorado, but when we got to the Gila up by Dome, we had to ferry across it. Dad loaded the wagon and 2 horses for the first trip and all went well. Then he came back for Mother, us, the buggy and the other horses. Had no trouble getting on, but the river raised part way across, and down the river we went. It was almost dark when they finally got the ferry to the back 6 or 8 miles below. They jumped the horses off the ferry, and the Indians who were poling the ferry lifted the buggy off. Then we started driving back through the arrowweeds, catclaw and mesquite. We got back to the covered wagon somehow in the dark, and it was dark. Some scratched up and tired, but the covered wagon was home and sure looked good.
Dad and Mother had their bed crossways to the wagon box on the jets at back of the wagon. My brother Clair and I had our bed under the spring seat. Mother cooked in Dutch ovens and skillets over the camp fire.
That first camp on the Gila was a short night. Dad had a fire going before daylight, and Mother had breakfast ready by the time Dad got the horses harnessed and fed. So it isn't long after breakfast till we are on our way again.
The road we followed was just two ruts along the north side of the Gila after the Dome crossing. I remember somewhere after the Dome crossing we pulled off the road for the noon meal. It was pretty sand at this place, and while we were eating along comes a fellow on a motorcycle. My dog hadn't seen many, if any, varmints like this and he wanted it out of camp, so he was running slong side just barking, and the man kicked at him. When the fellow kicked, the dog caught his heel and poor fellow lit under the motorcycle. Dad ran out and lifed up the cycle and helped the man up. Before he was on his feet, he was talking rough and siad he was going to kill that so and so dog. When Dad decided he wasn't hurt, Dad told him he'd better get on his way while he wasn't hurt, because if he bothered that dog, he might not be able to go.
Most generally, we traveled 18 to 30 miles depending
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