he talked us into that and, uh, we’d kinda left that farming bit...
I was getting tired of it after doing that all my life, and all
thru that summer I’d been working on the farm. So away we went.
He had us go out and start hoeing weeds in his garden, and that
didn’t suit me very good. My cousin, he was raised on one of them
kinda irrigated farms that grows lotsa weeds and he knew how to
attack those, but I didn’t. And Chaffin, he could see that we weren’t
doing very good on his weed patch. He says, “Say, I got an old Dodge
car over across the river that we had over there to run a rocker
system with for getting gold. But,” he says, “I’d like to bring
it over here and get it cleaned up so’s I can drive it from here
up to Hanksville and back to get my mail.” And I said, “Yeah. That
sounds like we could do that, maybe.” Anyway, he had three rowboats
there and he had the outboard motor. He took the three rowboats
and two big 3 x 12 planks and put them on one of the boats and we
went across there to the other side and puffed up the tires with
a hand pump and pushed on the old car and finally got it over there
to the edge of the river and lined up the wheels with them two planks
that went across the three boats. He had the outboard motor in the
center one then and we put it out in the river and it floated, allright.
So he ferried it right on to the other side of the river and we
got over there, why, he had a team of horses tied up to a tree and
he hooked that on with a chain and pulled the old car up over the
bank. And I was steering the car and he was walking along beside
driving the horse. So he pulled it up by his shop. Then we took
down that old Dodge car and had all the pieces laying around...
he had to wash the sand out of the old wheel bearings and the engine
and things like that, ‘cause the river had been up above it. And
we had it all torn down and laying out there on pieces of lumber
all over his yard and he was going to use a steam hose. He had a
steam boiler with a little steam engine to run some of his power
tools in his shop.
But anyway our time was about up. I was getting
nervous about it and I kept hounding him about making that boat
for us. “Oh,” he said. “Won’t take very long to do that.” [group
Finally in the afternoon of the last day we was
supposed to work, why, he says, “Well, let’s get busy and put that
boat together.” He laid these two 1 x 12 ponderosa pine boards down
there along the ground and he says, “Well, we want them 2 x 4’s
about this long...” So I was sawing 2 x 4s off, measuring them.
He laid it all out there and started hammering nails in the 2x4s
to make some ribs for the boat and then he started on one end of
them 1 x 12 planks and bent them right on around it and nailed them
in place and there, the sides were on it already. Then we nailed
other boards across the bottom and filled the cracks with rags and
along about two or three hours, why, we had the boat built. And
he says “Well, I got a couple of oars here that we used to use on
the river...” They were chiseled out of some big cottonwood trees
and they didn’t have very wide blades, but they had quite a big
handle. And that was our oars for the boat.
Anyways, next morning we were ready to leave.
And he says “Well here, take these dozen Guinea hen eggs with you
and you’ll have something to eat down there.” And he says “You got
plenty of supplies?” I says, “Oh we probably have enough to make
it with.” But we did have... left over from hiking in... we had
raided a miner’s shack across the river that had about a pound or
two of cracked wheat cereal in it and half a can of that cocoa mix
that didn’t have any sugar in it. So we took that along with us
and the dozen Guinea hen eggs and half a dozen watermelons and away
we went down the river.
Just before we left he says, “Hey, does your
folks know where you boys are at?” Well I says, “I don’t know. I
doubt it.” He says, “Well you sit right here and write a postcard.
I’m going to Hanksville tomorrow and I’ll mail it for you.” I says
“Allright.” And so, I thought, “well at least they’ll know where
we been when they get that postcard.” [group laughter]
We started down the river and we got way down
toward Red Canyon and here was a guy hiking up beside the river.
So we pulled ashore and it was a character named Bud Vinegar that
lived at Dove Creek, Colorado. He and his brother and another guy
were placer mining gold down at Hanson Creek. He says when you get
down there to Hanson Creek, why, pull in and talk to the guys. So
he ate some watermelon with us and then went hiking on up to Hite.
He had to go and see Chaffin about something. And so we got on just
fine and got down there to Hanson Creek and pulled in in the evening
and these guys were getting ready to cook dinner pretty soon and
they invited us to stay. They had some dried jerky they’d gotten—they
called it beef jerky we’ve got here—and I think they probably borrowed
one of Ekker’s cows to make their jerky out of. Anyway it tasted
real good with that jerky gravy and hot biscuits. That was a good
meal for us. We liked that. And so we went on down a ways and camped.
We went by that old famous barge that was setting
out there in the Colorado River, that dredge system. And the river
was extremely low so all it was was kind of a little island around
that, and this big machinery and those buckets that they used to
scoop up the sand with were out there on the surface... we thought
that was interesting. Anyways we camped there. Then after another
two or three days we were getting low on food. And in fact we didn’t
So we was floating along the river and the water
was almost clear and extremely low and here was a beaver swimming
along out there a little ways and I thought, “oh, I’ll get that
beaver and we’ll eat that one.” And I took a shot at it with the
pistol and missed it. You know, they only have the ear above the
water when they’re swimming. So I thought, well, that’s our last
chance. Then he come up a little ways out again. About, oh, twenty
five yards away or something like that. And I shot again. And I
got him right in the ear. And so I rowed over there real fast with
the boat and there was a lot of blood around in the river and I
jumped in. I could feel that beaver. I caught it in my feet. Then
I reached down and got it. Put it in the boat. We were skinning
that then as we were floating down the river. And as soon as we
got it skinned, why, it was along in the afternoon, so we thought
we’d pull in and have something to eat for a change.
We put some of it in a can to boil and put some
more on the hot coals to roast ‘em and as soon as we thought it
was done we started eating beaver, but we couldn’t eat the stuff.
Something was wrong with it. You’d chew on it and chew on it and
then it wouldn’t go down your throat. And it tasted awful. [laughter]
Then after awhile we didn’t know what to do. So we gave up on that
We got our fish hooks out and started putting
beaver meat on the fish hooks. And the catfish liked the beaver
meat. We weren’t able to catch any catfish before that because they
didn’t like the kind of bait we were trying to use I guess. But
we pulled them out one right after the other. And as soon as we’d
get em, why, we’d cut em open and take the insides out and then
lay em on the coals to cook. And so we spent the rest of the afternoon
there eating catfish. We slept real good that night.
We were sleeping by campfire. We didn’t have
anything else to sleep by, or with. Only our clothes and the campfire.
So we’d cuddle up to the fire when it started getting cold in the
We kept going on down and eating catfish. Sleeping
by the fire. When we came to Navajo Canyon, there was a huge flood
coming down that. Great big old flood of red water. That was unusual
because the Colorado River was almost clear, it was so low. Anyway,
right below that here were these big sand waves coming right along.
And that was interesting. Then we were getting thirsty about that
time, but we didn’t want to drink red water and here we seen a spring,
with spring water pouring down over the side. So we stopped and
filled up on water then. We got down to Lee’s Ferry the next day
and went up to the house where the folks lived who were gauging
the flow of the Colorado River. Asked them if we could have a drink
of water. We had pulled our boat as far up along the shore as we
could. We had got tired of that and left it there. Took this one
little pack bag and my cousin carried it. Then we walked up to the
Marble Canyon store and we went in that and bought a loaf of bread
and a bottle of jam and set out behind the store and ate that. Still
a lot of daylight left so we walked from there up to the Badger
Creek Trading Post. It was after sundown when we got there and the
trader came to the door and we asked if we could sleep in the hogan
that the Indian slept in there and he says, “Yeah, that’s all right
if you sleep there.” He says, “Here take you a couple of quilts
and you can sleep in them. Help keep you warm in there.” So we thanked
him for that. Had a good night’s sleep that way.
Next day we got up to Kanab, Utah, hitch hiking
along. And I had some relation there. So I went up to Aunt Annie’s
door and knocked on the door and told her that we’s some of her
good relations from over in San Juan County. [group laughter] She
looked at us a little bit. “Well, come on in you boys.” Well we
came in and we was just getting ready to set down on the chairs
and she says, “You go right on in the bathroom and take a bath in
the bathtub there. By the time you get through with that, why, I’ll
have some dinner ready.” So we went in there and had a bath in her
bathtub and wiped our skin off with a nice clean towel and everything
and we come out of there looking pretty good. Except for our clothes.
We had a good dinner and slept in her bed that night, with nice
sheets on it.
Then the next day we got up to Richfield. It
was getting dark when we got in and raining and cold up there in
that higher altitude, getting along the first of September. And
so we went to the County Sheriff’s headquarters and asked him if
we could sleep in the jail. And he hesitated and hesitated. He didn’t
want us to go there. Then he looked at my cousin. He says, “Hey,
how old is that there boy anyway?” And this kid, he spoke up real
quick he says, “Oh, I’m seventeen.” Sheriff says “Oh, that’s too
bad. I can’t let anybody in that jail unless they’re eighteen years
old. I can’t do that. I’m sorry.” [more laughter] So we went on
through town and up the highway a little ways, and there was just
enough light left that I could see a straw stack out there in a
field a little ways. We went over to the straw stack and it was
still raining a little bit. Then we dug down under the straw real
deep. It had been freshly threshed out and we burrowed down in that
and slept real good in the straw stack that night.
Then the next night we got up to Price, Utah.
We’s getting closer to home then. It was dark when we got there
and so I thought well, down there on the edge of town there should
be the hobo jungle, down along somewhere in there. So we walked
that way past the railroad tracks and I couldn’t find anything except
a small motel, with houses all around in the trees out there, big
cottonwood trees. And we went in the office and told the lady there
that we sure needed a place to stay and we’d send her the money
when we got back to Monticello. And she said, “Oh, I can’t let anybody
stay there unless they have some money.” So anyway, it was raining
outside. And we didn’t want to go out there in the rain. So we just
kind of set down in her office. Started reading her comic books
and things like that. Kept setting there. And every once in a while
somebody’d come in and rent a room out there. And then somebody
else come in and rent a room. So after a while, it was getting pretty
late. She says, “Well, I’ll tell you... you boys got any money with
you at all?” Dug down in our pockets, we come up with about a dollar’s
worth, or that kind of change. She says, “Well, I got a cabin out
here I didn’t get made up today. And if you wanted to give me that
money, you could sleep in that cabin that I didn’t get made up.
So we said we’d like to do that. We gave her all of our money and
went out there, so we had a nice hot bed to sleep in. Somebody I
guess had just used it. But we had a hot bed to sleep in. We slept
in that and slept pretty good that night. Then the next day we were
lucky, and just out of Price a ways, why we caught a ride that took
us right to Monticello.
And so anyway... that trip lasted a month on
that one; and our folks were real glad to see us when we got back.
Told over the campfire on last fall’s old timer’s
Transcribed by Lew Steiger