Ivan's Story 1915 - 1937

I was born two miles from Ramah, McKinley County, New Mexico in a rock house about three miles down in the fields; it was a small house about 18x20 or so. My father was Benjamin Tarlton Lewis, my mother was Lula Eugenia Hassell. I was born the 24th of April, 1915.

I am told that Tom O'Fallon was the post- haste messenger sent for Sister Elva Bond to be present at my "Homecoming." My mother had a problem caring for me because of her illness so I was taken to my grandparents. When the problem still persisted I was taken care of by my grandmother.

Thanks to the efforts of my grandmother, I could read fairly well by the time I was 4 years old. (My grandmother was born the 6th of November 1860. She was 55 years old by the time I was born.)

My father had moved to Bluewater, New Mexico by the time my sister was born June 1, 1916. Sometime after they had moved back to Ramah. They were living in a little log house just north of us. (On the same lot.)

When I was 3 years old, on my birthday, a cousin about my same age was visiting us with his father. We somehow had a difference of opinion out by the north gate. I ended up with a bloody nose and ran to my mother who was quite sympathetic and fixed me up.

The next event I remember was the death of my mother the following September. My mother was born September 3, 1895, by the 14th of September 1918, she had passed on. I remember the funeral quite distinctly and stopping in front of Grandfather's house for additional chairs to put in the wagon for the trip to the cemetery, south of town. Then I remember climbing up into the wagon where the coffin was, and riding out to the cemetery. So you can see how it was that I lived all my life with my grandparents. I lived in Ramah until I was 19 years old. Only the highlights can I remember until I started to school.

I don't remember my father at all until I was six or so. The earliest I remember him was when he was tinkering with his car so it would run better. I remember the hood was off and he was tinkering with something, I reached over with my hand and asked him what it was and it bit me. I think it was the coil, it bit me good. I started to cry and my Dad laughed and told me I shouldn't get too excited about a LITTLE thing like that. (While I was dying, couldn't he see.) Anyway, I went back to the house and told Grandma, I don't think he likes me.

Anyway, he came back some time later and took my sister and I on a little vacation up on the mountain where he worked. He worked at the logging camp, running the loader and filling in as a fireman on the engine when the train was loaded and headed for the mill. My sister and I got to ride back to the sawmill sitting up on the side of the fuel box up above the train. We could see and smell the train smoke coming out of the stack. My dad was stripped to the waist and was putting the scrap lumber into the fire box. We were gone about a week.

This was in 1922. We were staying with the Bloomfields, in a little shack out on the flat. This is where they brought the logs and laid them out in the flat. There were big wheels about 8 feet tall that they hauled them in with. They fastened them onto the axle and hauled several in at once. There were several teams hauling them in. The loader was free out in the loading yard. Two guy's were fastening the two ends of the cables on to the logs. Then my Dad would swing them around and load them onto the railroad car. There were 20 or more cars to load before they would haul them off. When we got home we had a story to tell all the other kids about our adventures. The first day of school, I also remember our teacher was a red-headed Irish woman named Mrs.Munger. She was equal to her "red hair" and her Irish. I think she gave all of us a "licken" the first day just to let us know she was the boss. Anyway I got a licken and cried loudly and later ducked out and went home.

My grade teachers were: 1st grade, Miss Munger; 2nd and 3rd grade, Miss Earline; 4th grade, Miss Moore; 5th grade, Miss Mauffey; 6th grade, Mr.William (Bill) Jarvis; 7th and 8th., Mr. Leland Hill.

Miss Moore was small, lean, dark and a well-liked teacher. She was very young. Her right hand was deformed and she never took it out of her pocket. No one ever saw it. She was very handy with her left hand. She always, or nearly so, brought a long willow to school. We all developed a healthy respect for it. It seemed that it covered the entire schoolroom. She would be on the far side of the room and one would be pretending to study and pull someone else's hair and zing would go the willow past one's ear and study was considered immediately. We were in the top north room of the red sandstone schoolhouse.

The 5th grade was ruled by Miss Mauffey. She was of medium height and quite plump. It was her who undertook to whip several boys for some mischief with a 1x3 inch hardwood slat from one of the benches. Burl Merrill refused to cry, as all the others did quickly, and she nearly wore herself and the board out in her attempt. He never did oblige her by crying but became very angry and cussed a bit.

Bill Jarvis was unusual and peculiar. He instituted some very original practices. If the line we formed morning, noon and after recess was not strictly straight or someone's head stuck out too far he would descend the steps and try to knock it off.

Many Friday afternoons he would stop school and ring the fire bell. When we would get outside, he would have a race around the racetrack north of the school house and the winner would get to go home. Then he would match races and the winner would go home. Then we would chase him and the one to catch him first would go home. Sometimes he would suddenly call it off, and the rest of us not already gone would go back to our studies.

Mr. Jarvis had us thinking we were a little tough. When Mr. Asel Burke came from Nutrioso, Arizona, I think to teach us the 7th grade, he tried to be tough with us and got himself ran off. He would pull our ears when we would make a mistake in our lessons. He went so far as to sit on a leg or two, and bump our heads on the floor by our ears. Burl Merrill didn't take kindly to that and after school proceeded to beat up the old man. (The next day he left.)

About a week before he left he surprised me by suddenly reaching for my ear while I was reading. (He made us stand by his side of the desk while we read.) I was not aware of any mistake and I became instantly angry. I fed him the book, left the room, and started for home. Mr.Burke followed me outdoors and called me to come back. I offered to 'rock' him off the steps if he followed me, and went home. When Grandma found out what had happened she did not make me return as I had expected.

We had six more teachers in quick succession, within a month, I believe. We were soured on school teachers and dealt them all the misery we could, so we were quite sure by now that they were going to make it tough for us. The last of the teachers was a stranger, one Mr. Hill. He was a little hill at that. Most of the 8th grade boys were as tall as he. We thought he would be as easy to run off as the rest, as he was a quite pleasant little man. We had it made up among us that if he picked on one of us, the rest would take it up. So far, so good.

George James was the first picked on. He flipped a "Spit-wad" at someone and Mr. Hill saw it. He had smilingly told us what he expected of us upon his arrival, so we knew the test was about to be applied. He quietly arose and without saying a word walked down and knocked George out of his seat with the flat of his hand. George's seat was near the back of the room and Mr. Hill turned around with his back to the to the wall and looked around. Most of us boys had risen in our seats to assist the spit-wad flipper and some were nearly up on the teacher when he turned. He asked where we thought we were going, no one replied but continued to slowly advance on him. He then said if we wanted to play he knew how to play our way and the first one to get near enough would get the same type of play as George. Well, we had a little time to think about it and lost our nerve. So we had a teacher and he was a good one.

Later in the year Burl and I tricked him into letting us out on April Fool's Day. We told him that the kids were all going to ditch school at the morning recess. So we got him to tell them that we were going to have a holiday and line us all up at the door and then say it's April Fool, but to have it locked so we won't run off and we can all stay in at recess. Well he did, but I had a skeleton key and lined up next to the door. When he said 'April Fool ' I had the door unlocked and we all shouted 'April Fool to you' and ran out and went up into the hills east of town where we stayed 'till late afternoon. Aftermath: we got an extra recess or two inside at that.

Oh yes, when Bill Jarvis was teaching, I had a little scare. We were at the blackboard doing addition. We were in the south room, upper story of the old school house. Wayne Clauson was next to the door (west) and I next. We got to blowing chalk and patting erasers and Mr.Jarvis looked up and caught me in the act. He was quick to anger and he strode over to me and doubled up his fists and asked me what I was doing. I told him. I knew he was going to make a pass at me and I kept watch of his fists. I saw him move in time to duck, which was successful. He hit the blackboard. I was more scared than ever. He wound up with a hook which I managed to duck and he connected with Wayne and knocked him into the door which rattled and Wayne clouded up and rained. He again took aim but did not hit. He told me I had better mind my business and then went back to his desk and gave me more addition. I could not add the marks I managed to make on the blackboard. Aftermath: Wayne's mother chased him around the room the next day with a stick.

Gene Autry was my first high school principal, believe it or not. He was from Enid, Oklahoma. Not the movie star. He could sing and play the guitar, though.

Mr. Everett A. Snyder was from the same town and also taught. He was preparing to be a minister, but later joined the L.D.S. Church.

While growing up at Ramah I attended all Church Auxiliaries, was quite active in Scouting, having become a Life Scout.

The Old House

This is a description of the house on the property. The house was at the most, 50 feet wide by 70 feet deep, plus about 8 feet add-on to the south, all the way across. Up top there was an upstairs. At first this was accessed by a set of stairs that were inside up on the south wall of the kitchen up into the room at the top. Later it came up from the outside between the south wall and the porch that had been put on coming south from the house. Then you crossed the ceiling to a point midway of the upstairs, then in.

The kitchen was directly west of the living room, which occupied the northwest corner of the house. There was a pantry just north of the house which was just north by the well which gave a lot of coolness to the Pantry. We would let down milk and things that we wanted to keep cool.

Just west of this was a room that was Grandpa's bedroom in the end. This room extended out 4 or 5 feet to the west. Grandma and Carrie slept in the southwest bedroom. Uncle Rudger slept in the room just south of the living room. And I slept just south of that. (It was just a screen porch with canvassed part that I could let down in the summer time when it was warm.) It would get 45 below in the winter time. The house was out of rough-sawn boards with 1x4 boards over the cracks, no insulation.

There was a log cabin northwest of the main building about 12x18 feet. It had a "punching" bag in it. The kind that fastens top and bottom. There was other stuff there too. It was a catch-all room.

Further down the lot was a granary. Next the "wood pile" where the wood was hauled long and cut to fit the stoves. There were two or three huge arm loads cut daily.

Along the lot line was another log building, it was about 12x20 feet, this was our "blacksmith" shop. It stood empty now, with some dry corn and other things.

Oh yes, there was a cellar dug in the south end and covered up. Just south of that was the chicken coop with a fenced runway. There was another building, the "privy."

Oh yes, there was another "root cellar" just west of the log cabin. By it there was a plum tree with juiciest of fruit. There was another tree between the plum tree and the Granary. It was an apple tree that had sweet apples on it.

There was also a lawn around the house with trees on it. To the north of the house there was a locust tree. There was another big tree, what kind I don't know. There was another just off the corner of the house. I don't remember what it was, either. There was the walk, a catalpa tree, another bush, then there was a row of three apple trees in a row south of the house. There were some gooseberry bushes and some currant bushes south of that. Outside the lot was a row of huge popular trees, growing along a ditch bank, they must be a hundred years old by now.

Now for the other lot, the lot where the "stables" are. There is a big tree or two that you can see. Also there is a big thicket of plums up by the north fence, running down the fence line. There is also a line of apple trees down the north fence line, hard apples, good for the wintertime. Another apple tree directly behind the stable, winter crab, a small apple, but very sweet.

Grandpa used to have quite a bit of land, but sold it off so he wouldn't have to take care of it. I used to own 15 acres out by the hill south of town. I traded it off when I left town. I used to own a 100 acres south of town, about four miles southeast.

I am going to insert a description of the corrals and the barn, before I describe the "Ranch." The corral was built out of an assortment of "poles" or trees about five inches or so in diameter, and 7 or 8 feet long, placed one on top of the other between two logs (which were placed upright and were "dug in" 3 feet or so into the ground and "tamped in" to the ground with the shovel handle). The main gate was 8 feet long by about 5 feet above the top of the gate on to an extension above the gate. This end of the gate extended above the gate about 6 inches or so. The wire could be fastened to the top of the gate thus holding the end of the gate up so it didn't sag when it got older.

We had a calf corral in the northeast corner where we kept the calves from interfering while we were milking the cows. There was a water trough on the north side of the corral where the "stock" could be "watered." There was another gate on the northwest corner.

There were three sections in the barn, where we kept the horses. We would unload the hay, loose, into the overhead parts of the barn, then pitch it down from there. There were three mangers in the barn. We didn't have doors in the barn, only a rope to keep the horses in. One day I decided to jump the rope, it wasn't very high. Before I thought it out, I jumped over it. As I jumped I hit my head on the top of the door, and the next thing I was "Coming To" laying out in the corral. There was a large "goose egg" on the top of my head, and a large pain to go with it.

Another day, a calf got out of the corral. Immediately I thought of a horse that had belonged to my father. His name was "Watermelon." I could call him out if I needed him. I wouldn't need a bridle or anything. He could catch a calf and turn him around and head him back. So I hollered "come here" a couple of times and here he was. I took him by the mane and we went outside the gate where I got on.

We quickly got ahead of the calf and back we came. The calf went through the small opening and didn't touch the gate. I could see my legs getting smashed between the gate and the outside, so just as we came to the gate, I threw my legs into the air, and fell off into the corral. Well, I was inside, the calf was inside, the horse was inside, with a badly bruised shoulder. Well, my triumph was turned into ashes. What do I tell my uncle, who now owned the horse. (The horse got the name "Watermelon" because he could run the quarter of mile and beat most other horses, thus winning the prize for the quarter mile.)

I bought my first car after I came back from my mission in Samoa in 1937. I went to Gallup, New Mexico and bought a Model A Ford Coupe. [$135.00, $100 down and $35 over the next 6 months.] I took it to St.Johns twice before I got married.

The second time I went it was stake conference. Sunday evening, Daisy and I were sitting on the couch, hand in hand, we had just eaten. Her mother had just gotten up from the table and said, "Are you two getting married?" It had not been so long since I had asked her (in high school but we broke up). Then I said, "Will you marry me?" She said, "Oh, yes." I said, "When?" She said, "How about tomorrow." I said, "Okay." We went from there to the porch to plan it. We got to bed about two A.M. We went up to Jay's and Mable's and got them to come. Then we went to the courthouse and got the license and back home.

11 August 1937. There were invited: Hugh Richey, who was the Bishop, who performed the ceremony. Vivian Rencher, Tamer Jones, Elizabeth Stradling, Leigh Richey, Luella Richey, Jay Richey, Mabel Richey, Mary Ann Richey, Katie James and more. Tamer Jones and Elizabeth Stradling signed as witnesses. We had ice cream and chocolate cake. We had our picture taken afterwards. Daisy had a bunch of gladiolas flowers.

We went back to Ramah, where I found a house south of Bond's store. We stayed at Grandma's house until we found one. It was a two-room house, big enough, and that's all. It had a smoky cook stove and that's all. Golden Farr brought a piano that Daisy had bought. Also some other things. We didn't have a potty outdoors for a little while. Had to dig one.

The sawmill job at Box S was only part time. And paid $3 per day. I was stacking lumber in the yard. Daisy and I lived for a time in a little lumber shack at the mill. Then came into Ramah where I rented a two-room house from E.A. Bond where we lived the summer of 1937 and into the fall.

We didn't get to the temple until the fall, 26 October, 1937. When we came back, Hugh Richey, Daisy's brother, offered me a job driving a John Deere tractor pulling a "tumble bug" to build stock tanks east of St. Johns for Jake Barth and others.