Friday, December 22, 2017

Gramp's Story - 1922

 Most of a 5 page, single-spaced typewritten letter, these excerpts safe to share.

Dear Robert: -                                                                                                         Sun. evening 9/9/51

This must be about the first Sunday that one or the other of us has not been with you.  Suppose it was a long day unless you had other callers.  We have missed seeing you this day.  We had another drippy day here, still raining this evening......

Ed was a mechanic/machinist friend of Allen's, owned a plane and often took Gramp up flying...we have lots of aerial photos of Barron County.

Ed was going to do some flying in the "140" today, if the weather was good.  Was going up with him, but needless to say, no flying was done.

Before departing for Montana, will say that the 3 years intervening between my discharge from the Army (4/23/19) and leaving for Mont. (4/27/22) were rather disappointing years for all concerned.  My folks had, while I was in the Army, branched out and went in debt several thousand dollars for a better, tho not larger, place.  Prices were unsteady and expenses high.  Crops were good but we always played things ass-backward, so it seemed. F'rinstance: we would sell our spuds in the fall and by spring they would have doubled in price, then we would see we should have stored.  Next year we would store and in spring the price would be lower and we would have shrinkage and insurance to pay.  One year they were over $4 a cwt in spring and we planted instead of selling.  The way it turned out we might better have sold the seed and used the land for other crops.  Support prices were unknown at that time.

As for me, asthma plagued me during the summer and idleness during winter except for working in our own woods.  Dad could not pay me much and a young man always has to have money for something or other.  So when spring came in 1922 I decided to shove off and see Montana or some of it as Frank had gone out there 5 years earlier and seemed enthusiastic over the place.  He went there in 1917 and in 1918 married Tinnie and took over her grandmother's place, to keep out of the Army.  All this came out later on.  But by 1922 he was working for Pete Barthel in Vanada again, but living out on the ranch and putting in the wheat.  Chapman had a mill on the corner a mile north from home and I had worked there in 1921 for him and he asked me to scale and edge his run again.  We started about the first of April and by the 25th were done and I had earned about $50.  The machine (Gramp's HD) was in pretty good shape so I threw in my gear, including cornet and a kit of tools and shoved off about 5 am on the morning of April 27th.

On account of your interest in this form of travel, will cover the trip out more in detail than the summer's stay in that state.  At this early date in the season, roads had dried but they were very rough as little or not patrolling had as yet been done.  Many of the roads were just dirt and only a few were poorly graveled.  The worst handicap tho, was that even the main trails were scarcely marked at all.  My sense of direction has always been pretty good if the sun is shining but if it is cloudy things can get plenty off beam and quick.  Most of the way to Montana, it was cloudy and cool.  Had lunch at Hopkins and got to Redwood Falls about 5pm.  Saw Uncle John and Aunt Ida but stayed all night with Rob and Ruth.  Stayed around there until noon just gabbing and left right after dinner.  Went on thru Vesta and Marshall, Minn to Canby, crossing into So. Dakota at Clear Lake and then turning North towards Watertown.  Where the road bends to the West again, made a mistake and went straight on to a place called LaBolt, about 10 miles, which had to be made back again.  Got into Watertown about dark and found a room for the night.  Due to sidecar and rough roads, found my forks had broken springs in them.  They might have been that way before leaving but it was there it was first noticed.  Next morning I found a shop where they dinged motorcycles a little and for a wonder they had some extra springs.  They were busier than 1-armed paperhangers so I had to put the parts in myself, using a 2 x 4 to pry the assembly back together with so to get the caps on.  Got away about 10 and as it was overcast, followed out the wrong road and wound up at Florence, 10 miles NW of Watertown, instead of straight West.  Attempted to save retracing by cutting south back to the Yellowstone Trail.  In doing so, ran on mere trails, which were rougher.  One of coiled springs under the seat broke and kept making a scratching sound, besides letting left side of seat settle too low.  At a town named Hendry, took the spring off and had it welded by a welder at a blacksmith shop.  He soaked me 50 cents and I told him it was plenty.  He replied it was a privilege to ask how much a job was before it was done instead of after.  Which is good advice.

Was out to Doland early that evening, monkeying along.  Stayed two or three days there.  On a Monday morning, left, taking Harold to school on the way.  He would then be going on 10 years old   When he got out and told me goodbye he remarked that when he grew up he was going to buy a motorcycle and race me and beat me..  That day we (Me and HD) beat it Westward against a head wind, beneath cloudy skies.  The scenery was monotonous and I was alone and beginning at times to wonder if this trip was not a foolish move.  No job in sight, no real destination except in a place nearly a thousand miles farther on.  Cannot recall anything of interest in that day but recall tying up at a village named Glenham, the first stop East of Mobridge.  Got a room and being tired, went to bed early,  after getting a supper at a restaurant.  In the morning it was sunny and my pep was good and the blues more or less faded away.  So I kicked her off and in a few minutes was over to the Missouri River.  At that time there was no highway bridge, just a ferry.  There was the Milwaukee railway bridge tho.  The ferry was on the far side and somebody told me it started to run at 8.  As it was not more than 7:30, and I was impatient as a cat smelling fish, I recall considering driving back a little ways and getting her up on the railroad grade and going across on the trestle as the Enthusiast had carried a story about a rider doing just that, at some other place.  In half an hour the ferry came and three-four cars drove on, my machine, and a horse and rider.  I recall thinking 50 cents was plenty when they only charged 75 cents for an auto.  Somewhere I'd read that the West began at the Missouri river and to this day this seems to me to be so.  The character of the land does undergo a change there.  you don't drive five miles until you see sage and I fail to recall seeing any East of the river.  The road climbed up sharply to gain the hills stretching away to the West, I saw for the first time a "sheepherder's monument" and wondered what it was.  It is just a pile of rocks laid up high as a man can reach, a means of killing time for a sheepherder with time on his hands.

It was in the long stretch towards McLaughlin that 4 men were stalled in a Chev 6 from Penna.  Miners going to Mont. to work in a mine there.  Chev. made a 6 one year, a few of them, long before the ones you and I knew, which started in 1929.  A wire had vibrated loose from battery and they had no ignition circuit.  They wanted me to send back help.  Was able to find the trouble in a minute and they wanted to pay me.  When this would not work, they gave some of the lunch they were eating.  That night stayed with a farmer near Hettinger.  They were Poles or something, the mother had died and the father was farming and keeping house too.  A very messy place.  Went on next morning to Baker, Mont.  Nothing much happened except it was so cool that my mackinaw coat felt very good all forenoon.  Recall eating lunch at Bucyrus, N. Dak.

Going on to Terry, a filling station man directed me towards Miles City by a new route, a scenic route that would save a few miles.  This turned out to correct too.  Had dinner at a ranch house on Powder River.  The present hi-way into Miles City follows this new route and years later, I was to help lay pipe over 20 miles along this same route.  I stayed a day at Miles City, sort of looking around for work.  The prospect was not encouraging.  One man had just hired a guy to drive a truck.  At M C met Earl Vance, a man I was later to get my first air plane ride with.  It seems I did not leave this city until the after noon was well under way because it is only about 76 miles out to Vananda and it was about 5 on arrival there.  At Forsyth someone directed me out of town, across the Yellowstone river bridge and said to follow the main traveled road and it would get me to Vananda.  Half way up there, met a man riding a horse.  The horse had his ears sticking straight up and acted suspicious so I cut it and waited for him to come alongside.  Asked him if this was the road to V. and he said yes.  I asked him how far to that town.  He said it was not a town but a wide place in the road and it was still 12 miles to go.  After he went on, I shoved off again and made a mental note of the speedometer reading.  After about 10 miles had fell behind, began to scan the horizon for sight of a town but nothing showed so it appeared we had taken the wrong road.  But the road was on the flats here, the mesas.  Abruptly the road swung down again and there not two miles away stood two grain elevators a large 2 story brick school, the railway's coal dock and stores and hotels.  The wide place in the road was a reality. 

Found Barthel's place and he went out onto the porch and pointed out on the horizon, the place to turn off the road to get out to Frank's place.  Shoving off again, someone's hens dashed cackling across in front of me, a black one nearly getting run down.  I did not know until later that it was Beard's place and that Bee was looking out of the window.  She remarked to Carrie that "Some guy with a bathtub on a motorcycle almost ran over one of our hens!"  The first ranch the road came to down over the rim, seemed so poor that it seemed to me that it would not be Frank's place.  A quarter of a mile beyond, there was a quite nice bungalow and so steered for that.  Mrs. Wright answered my knock and directed me back to the decrepit looking ranch.  Frank was away up in the field plowing or something, and he saw me and came down.  Tinnie was in Billings with her Aunt Marie, Francis Jr., being born the next month.  This was Friday the 5th of May.  The country looked like the Devil to me, to say the very least.  I wanted to get right out again.  Carrie had become 18 the 18th of March and would not listen to her folks another day.  No sir!  So she married this Wally Hanson and her father gave them $70, just enuf for fare and expenses to Montana and suggested they take a wedding trip to see Frank.  After a few days Frank had sicked him onto a job to get rid of him, but he shortly backfired.  That is how Carrie came to be out there with him.  But on this afternoon, she was down in town, visiting the Beard's.  At Beard's house it was always more or less open house.  Everyone they knew made it a point to stop there.  The girls played piano and raised quite a little dust at dances.

One of those Beard girls, Beatrice, became my grandmother.

Next day being Saturday, I told Frank my motor sounded like it had carbon or something in it so unbolted the cylinders and took them off.  Not much carbon showed and things looked very good.  It was not much bother to open the motors at that time.  An hour or two.  I told Frank the country did not appeal much to me, that I had the impression it was a more prosperous section than it was.  That I had made up my mind to stay over Sunday to catch up on visiting and then leave Monday and maybe go out to Spokane or even the coast.  Sunday we went down in his Ford to get Carrie.  He said as how he wanted me to meet Bee.  Asked who she was, he said, "Why Bee Beard, of course, you'll see."  When we got down there a lot of people were there, like old home week, or something.  Harry and Pearl Barnes, the Clyde Aglers and the La Flame girls, all 3 of them.  We stayed for dinner.  The Beard girls played piano, single and in a duet.  Some sang, others merely listened.  Some listened and looked.  (Including me)  Frank spilled the beans after a while that I had brought my cornet with me and it was down to his place.  Nothing to do we had to go out and get it.  Quite a few of the popular pieces of that time could be handled along with piano easily.  Till We Meet Again, Love Ship,  Long Long Trail and others.  When we went home that night Frank asked me how I liked the girls that were there that day.  I told him something to the effect there was only one there I'd noticed much, the one who kept putting her agate locket in her mouth.  That was your mother.  But it was to be over 3 years from this day before we were married.

We saw each other quite a little for a while but I went over to Terry and found two weeks work.  Then came back again on a Sunday, July 11, it was, and took a job in the haying at Forsyth.  That was about 25 miles from Vananda.  Saw her a few times in June and finished the haying July 1 and stayed a couple days with Frank.  Tinnie had not yet returned from Billings but Carrie was still out there, at Franks.  Then Iver wanted a man and I went to work for him.  Things got so they did not run quite so smooth with Bee and I.  Then on July 29th Bert Cole, who had been out for a visit, went back to Iowa and Bee crawled into the car and went back to Iowa with them.  She stayed almost a year.  I stuck it out in Montana, returning in November but only stayed at Iver's until the harvesting was done.  Went to Ingomar and worked a week for a Polish so and so.  Then went to Judith Basin, and got work at a place 27 miles N W of Lewiston, on a ranch owned by a Theo. Hoagland.  But at Lewston on Aug. 31, sold my machine to a guy named Bergene.  That was a mistake, it was at Grass Range.  It was getting to knock, the weather was soon going to be cold.  And I was a little blue, maybe.  At any rate this guy had about $120 in cash and he got the machine and I have never owned any since.  Next spring, while working on the street cars, got a letter from forwarded up to me by my folks.  Bergene had driven it to Lincoln and could not license it without a bill of sale.  The present system of titles had not at that time been perfected.

The rest of that year 1922 could be bunched into one letter telling of my adventures after leaving Hoagland's and going to the coast.  If your mom and I could have gone ahead and married in 1922 things might have gone different, who can tell, but it was not to be. 

What followed here was some of Gramp's advice and wisdom regarding that matrimony, both regarding his wife of almost 70 years and also to dad's potential wife (my mom) as well, advice that  better remain Webless.

I have to assume that there were more letters that followed these but I haven't conveniently located them.  Gramp's next motorcycle didn't arrive until 1967 (he 70 years of age) and was the one my brother and I witnessed.  I'll have to guess that a couple of grandsons were HIS excuse for the return to riding and Gramp was OUR excuse for access to the sport, something I still marvel at after what the family had been through with dad's accident.

Some related info here and later, 3rd generation content.

After Gramp's 45 year break in riding (double mine!!)  he owned 4 more.

Both of these, the orange 125 AS2C Scrambler after we got his '64 C105 55cc trailbike.

Never really very happy with the peaky 2 stroke of the 125 twin, Gramp bought this 100cc smaller wheeled Enduro.  Shown here after I bought it, using it to commute to my job.  It also was the first motorcycle the future Mrs. Coop rode while we were a'courtin'.

Gramp's last bike, another Yamaha.  This a 250cc Exciter and eventually when Bea found out that he'd tipped over a couple of times while out and about, it got parked right here and stayed there with the key hidden.....I should have bought this one too but that all happened during my hiatus.

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