Thursday, June 26, 2008

Fourteen generations of American Survivors

In case you thought this was going to be about something else, let me say up front I want to speak about 14 generations of people since 1720 in America who used guns as a tool to survive, to hunt and as local pest control.

Since my Ancestors sailed up the river to Philadelphia in something probably resembling the Mayflower in 1720, guns have been a necessary survival tool for 14 generations. Since I didn't have anyone to talk to that remembered back as far even as the Civil War even though my grandfather's father fought in the civil war as a captain for the north and my Grandmother's uncle I believe was General Bullard for the South.

So outside of my Great Grandfather establishing a Drug store with remedies he got from a local indian tribe in Kansas around 1875 or so. I do know my Great Grandfather's drugstore was still around in 1925 or thereabouts when he sold it and retired to his ranch.

So, beginning with my Grandpa Mel I can speak about what I know about their sort of cowboy culture. My Grandfather was an electrical Contractor, so he wasn't a cowboy in that sense. However, in regard to guns, boots, hunting dogs and hunting Bear, elk, Deer and anything else one ate then he was the most like a cowboy than anything else I can compare him to today. My Grandpa after growing up on a ranch in Kansas had a nickname when he played baseball. They called him "Pinkie" because he had red hair. They say he was an excellent pitcher. However, since there really wasn't any money in baseball back in 1900 to 1905 or thereabouts when he played so he became an electrical contractor instead. Since red hair tends to go gray before any other color of hair I never saw my grand Dad's red hair as it was gray long before I was born in 1948. I lived my first four years on my grand ad's 2 1/2 acres of apples, Black cherries, raspberries and boysenberries. Raspberries and Black cherries were then and are now my favorites.

The stories I heard from my Dad and other relatives in regard to guns seem completely out of time now. But remember both my grand Dad and my Dad are now from a completely different era now. My Grand Dad was born during the 1880s and my Dad was born in 1916.

The stories I want to tell say a lot about how things were done during the 1800s and early 1900s in the western United States. I'm telling them to show what law abiding people were like in regard to their guns in those times.

The first useful story would be during World War II in regard to my Grand Dad. People were encouraged to grow Victory Gardens because most farmers(men) were off fighting the war. So the older, infirm and retired and left behind grew private gardens to sell to other people so people had enough food to eat during the war in America. I think Grand Dad was growing strawberries and Tomatoes on some rented land in Eastern Washington. So he went to get his gas coupons so he could bring his crop to the market to sell. They told him that the tomato and strawberry season was over. So Grand Dad went to his truck and got his double barreled shotgun. He walked back into the office and set his gun on the counter and said, "I want my gas coupons." They gave them to him no questions asked. This was how things were done in the west. You would go to jail now for this behavior but then people completely understood this behavior from Grand Dad's generation of "Cowboys". It was just how the west was in the old days. You often had to stand up for your own rights during the 1800s and early 1900s because the law might be 25 to 50 miles away. You might be dead before you got any help. This was just the way things were done.

The next story tells you two things: first Grand Dad like most of his generation felt that "the only reason to go to a hospital outside of a broken arm or leg was to die" and second, dying with his boots on was a necessity not an option to his generation.

Grand Dad had a D-9 Caterpillar tractor on his 2000 acre mining claim near Elk City, Idaho. One day he decided that he was going to pull a stump out with a drag line off his D-9 tractor. So he connected a large wire mesh line to a boulder and the drag line to the stump. He did not want to blow up the stump because he was getting older and his neighbors might complain. My father and his brother blew up stumps with dynamite when they were teenagers to make extra money. Grandpa taught them how.

Anyway, Grandpa pulled and pulled the line so taut that the bulldozer lifted up off the ground from the line tension and turned over on top of Grandpa. Since he was alone on his 2000 acres when this all happened hot radiator water, hot engine oil and diesel came down onto him and around him while he was pinned alone like the for several days.

Finally, a neighbor found him and dug him out. He had one collapsed lung so they took him to the hospital. However, remember grandpa hated hospitals so he somehow smuggled in a gun and with the gun he forced the nurses to get him cigarettes. He re-inflated his collapsed lung with Camels and Marlborough cigarettes, put his boots on and if anyone tried to stop him he simply showed them his gun as he walked out of the hospital. He was a force to be reckoned with. People usually left people like this alone who were both larger than life but also law abiding citizens. I don't think Grandpa ever went to a hospital again except to die.

The next story is also true and likely happened around the time of the previous incident. The first story took place during World War II regarding the Victory garden. The last story took place sometime between 1956 when I visited Grandma in Seattle and Grandpa in Idaho. He spent late fall to spring with Grandma and the late spring to early fall in Idaho alone on his 2000 acre mining claim. They stayed married this way.
Grandpa liked this arrangement but I don't think Grandma liked it at all. But she wouldn't leave her home in Seattle to go to the boonies in Idaho to live with Grandpa in his cabin there during the summers so that was the way it was from world War II until Grandpa passed away in the Fall of 1970 when I was 22. I saw him last in September 1970. I wasn't very happy then. I had just broken up with someone I wanted to marry so I was at loose ends. A month or two later Grandpa a wheel bearing froze in one of Grandpa's panel trucks(now they are called vans) and he went down a 100 foot embankment into a river. He passed away about 5 days later in a hospital in I think Grangeville, Idaho, the nearest hospital then to Elk City, Idaho. So, since Grandpa was born in the middle to late 1880s, then he would have been in his 80s when this happened in 1970.

The laws changed in the late 1950s to early 1960 that one could no longer have these large mining claims unless a certain amount of money per acre was being made from the claim. Since Grandpa after having this claim for probably 40 years at this point, he likely saw the land as his and wasn't going to let some young whippersnapper take it from him. So when the ranger came to notify Grandpa Mel he was going to have to leave his claim, Grandpa just took out his World War I 30 odd 6 army rifle and shot off the rangers hat. I am surprised he got away with this but they decided to leave him alone since he was so old and let him die on his claim which was within 10 years of this incident.

My father's experiences were a lot different that Grandad's since my Dad wasn't born until 1916. His experiences make a lot more sense to todays people born since World War II. My father was given his 22 rifle when he was 6, his 4 year old brother was given a 22 pistol when he was 4 and the older brother who was then 9 years old was given a low gauge shotgun for shooting doves and quail for dinner. They went hunting alone in Coos Bay, Oregon probably in 1922. Since they were all so young they brought back robins instead of doves or quail because they didn't really know the difference. My Dad who was the 6 year old said they had to pull the pellets out of the robins and there wasn't much meat on them. This was his first hunting experience in 1922.

Later, Grandpa ran up a tree when Dad was about 10 or 12 because he wanted the pelts off a family of raccoons. He took one baseball bat and gave my Dad another and told Dad to knock them in the head when they fell one by one. I heard this story recently from my Aunt before she died and it reminded me the kind of scary kinds of things my father had to do as a matter of course growing up. If you have ever seen what a raccoon can do to a person or a dog you would rather face most dogs than a raccoon because of their lightning fasts claws and razor sharp teeth. We lost our Jack Russel terrier-Corgi mix to a raccoon about 5 years ago near our trash can area in our back yard. She gave as good as she got but it wasn't enough. We were gone and someone else forgot to let her in after dark so one month later she passed on from her injuries.

I have also hand fed raccoons through a sliding glass door at my ex mother in laws house and they can be very cute when they bring their own families. But in my fathers and grandfathers generation they were not anything but food and pelts to those generations.

My father spoke of his father purchasing a German Luger. I have seen it and even fired it when I was 8. Unfortunately, the kick bloodied my forehead as I was young and inexperienced at the time with high caliber weapons. I stuck with .22 rifles and pistols after that in my childhood. I believe a German Luger is an automatic clip loaded pistol that is a 9mm which might be comparable to a .40 to .45 Colt automatic pistol in the U.S. at that time. I'm not certain on the caliber comparisons between milimeters and a U.S. caliber comparison so this is just an approximation on my part.

Anyway, since my Dad was a teenager, he and his brother snuck out the German Luger to try it out since they lived in an area where people hunted. They fired the gun many times into the dense forest thinking it would likely hit a tree. However, one bullet made it through the trees and through 3 or four walls and embedded on the front inside door of a house where a lady was playing the piano. It was so close that if she had stood up she would have been hit by the bullet. But by then they had returned the gun to its hiding place and their father nor anyone else but them realized what had happened.

When Dad was 18, he was hired by his Aunt Beulah in Prescott, Arizona to help operate her gold mine along with an older cowboy in his later 40s. This would have been 1934 in the Gila Bend area of Arizona. The problem was that the Native American that sold
the gold mine to Aunt Beulah tried to sell it again to another client. However, when he brought the new clients to see the mine, Dad had to shoot over the Native Americans head and he got upset. The new clients understood the problem immediately and restrained the Native American realizing that he didn't fully understand property ownership and that one could not sell the same thing twice.

The last story I want to tell about my father and guns was in the 1980s after Dad had retired out to his 2 1/2 acres and the house he and I and Mom had built there for them to retire to. It was about midnight to 2 am one Saturday night and two drunk guys drove up to their property and demanded their girlfriend come out. They obviously, were very drunk and when my Dad told them to leave and that their girlfriend didn't live there they didn't leave. First, he said if they didn't leave he was going to call the Sheriff. When the still didn't leave he got a .22 revolver and shot over there heads about 5 times. This time they left and got part of Dad's fencing caught under their car on the way backing out fast. The Sheriff later called Dad from Yucca Valley and said he caught them trying to get the wire fencing out from under their car there.

There are other stories about Dad shooting a cougar at his desert house because he didn't want it to eat his German Shepard or him shooting green mojave rattlesnakes because they are 9 times more deadly than a diamondback and cannot be tolerated around where people are living in their house. This was a problem then because most people treated for green mojave rattlesnake bites died back at that time because the anti-venom hospitals gave wasn't powerful enough. It would cure Diamondback rattlesnake bites but most green mojave bites killed people as a result. So Dad religiously shot any green mojave sidewinder rattlesnakes that came onto his property to keep himself, his german shepard, King, and his wife and anyone visiting alive.

Though I didn't cover much before 1875 and my ancestors first coming here to Philadelphia Harbor around 1720, I was mostly trying to give you a feel for what people who lived multi-generationally in the countryside of the western United States were like when I grew up. Though at times it could be very severe the way things were when I grew up. Still, I always knew exactly where I stood with them. They were all straightforward and honest to a fault. They were very cowboylike in an idealized sort of way. They all had the integrity of people who would survive anything and they raised people who would survive anything. This is the true legacy of frontier America.


Brenda said...

Very interesting stories you've woven together here! This is how I should have been taught history: I might have learned something! When I read about the past through the lives of everyday people, it's more "real" to me. I'll have to return to read more posts as I'm curious ... I've never met an intuitive before!

intuitivefred888 said...

We are all intuitive.It's just some of us pursue this line of thought more than others either because of ability, interest or just having to survive different things in our lives worldwide (or all three).