Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Dad and writing

Dad was a laconic writer, so the postcard was an excellent medium for him.

This postcard was mailed from Riverton, Wyoming, on May 30, 1949. Dad had gotten a job running a dragline on a job way out in the middle of nowhere, at a place called Muddy Creek. We lived the summer of 1949 in a M*A*S*H type tent way away from any form of civilization. We kids loved it.

The postcard reads, "Arrived Monday morning 11 AM, sure tired think Ill get a room and let Otto come find me. Seems like a right nice little place haven't seen much of it yet though will write tomorrow Love Jimmie"

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Dad was a skinny dude all his life. Photos that I have of him show a wiry individual. Yet he was an outdoorsman who frequently had to move large loads around. I remember going salmon fishing with him one fall when I was about 14. We went to Cook Inlet and set out some gill nets to catch the spawning salmon. They would swim into the nets, get caught, and we'd sit in a rowboat and haul them out. Dad would haul and haul, the net cutting into his hands, while everybody else took breaks, including me.
After we got the (many) fish home, Dad built a smokehouse for them, consisting of an oil drum stove and a wooden close with shelves in it for the fish. I burnt it down (by mistake).
Every fall, Dad and I would go moose hunting. A fully-grown moose weighs nearly a ton, so there was a lot of meat there, and that's how we got our year's supply of meat. Between that and smoked salmon, we ate gourmet food and I never knew it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I remember spending a lot of my young life in the back seat of various automobiles, going to and from various places in the west. No freeways. In fact, most of our travel was on two-lane roads that followed the contour of the landscape. Mostly I remember our old 49 Hudson Commodore, black with gray fabric upholstery.
The landscapes tended to be bleak, desert or mountains, brown, tan, red, ocher -- any color but green. Occasionally, though, we'd pass fields of corn or alfalfa, and I'd watch the long rows march in long strides alongside our car. Sometimes, I'd put my hand out the window and observe what happened as I turned it in the airstream. Early lessons in aerodynamics.
Mom was our tour guide and entertainment center, as I don't recall ever listening to the radio. If we were passing a cemetery, she'd say, "A silent city," and make us be quiet until we'd passed it. If we were passing rugged terrain, say, in Arizona, she'd point to it and say, "Cochise's stronghold." Cochise, of course, was the legendary Apache chief. I remember thinking that Cochise sure had a lot of strongholds.
Two staples of travel back then were the billboards. There weren't many. The best of them were the Burmashave boards. They were small, maybe three feet by two feet, and came in a sequence. There would be five. The first four would give a little verse, and the last would say Burmashave. I liked those. You had to wait for each line of the verse to appear, but you always knew what the last one said.
There was another kind of billboard too. It would say something like, "Maguire Caverns 200 miles" in large letters. Underneath would be a list of the delights that could be found at the caverns, usually including a zoo. In another 50 miles, there'd be a "Maguire Caverns 150 miles" sign. By the time we finally reached Maguire Caverns, Tootie and I were frantic to stop, and had pestered Mom and Dad into stopping. Maguire Caverns, or whatever it was, was always somewhat of a disappointment. The "zoo" consisted usually of a mangy coyote and a lizard or two, and the "Caverns" would be a small cave with a store that hawked really really cheap souvenirs. I could usually wheedle Mom and Dad into buying a rubber knife or something else to torment Tootie with.
Oh, and we usually travelled about 55 mph the whole time.
Did I mention that the car was black, no air conditioning, and that it was invariably hot?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Since we are desert people, basically, so we haven't had all that much experience with boats. When we lived in Alaska, though, Mom and Dad got a homestead on the far end of a big lake, called, with some lack of creativity, Big Lake. The only way we could get there was by boat, so dad bought a home-made thing about 15 feet long and three feet wide, with an absolutely flat bottom. No keel, no skeg, no nothing. Whenever we took the boat across the lake, it had to be on a perfectly windless day. We'd start out and have a great old time skimming across the smooth water. Came time to turn, though, and things got exciting. Dad would turn the engine, and the boat would turn all right, but keep going in the same direction. So, we'd be motoring north with the body of the boat pointed northwest and making the same speed. In order to turn, we'd have to slow way down, carefully get the boat pointed in the right direction, and take off again. Dad knew what was wrong, but I don't know if he ever fixed the problem or just left it to the next owner.
Dad liked to build things strong. So, one day -- I was in college by this time and we lived near Lake Powell -- he found a build-your-own-boat ad in Popular Mechanics, I think it was and sent off for a set of plans. The boat was kind of wedge-shaped, not pointed at the prow, and was designed to run on two skis, or sponsons, at the front. It was to be built of light-weight plywood. Dad built the boat to specs, then decided that it wasn't strong enough, and covered the whole thing with fiberglass, making it about three times its original weight. He finished it off with a plastic windshield and two seats made of red Naugahyde bar stools with short backs and no legs on them. The whole thing was maybe two feet tall, and looked racy as all get out.
Unfortunately, it was also too heavy to be much of a boat. It was supposed to get up on the front skis and skim along the water. However, we never did, to my recollection, get it up out of the water. Finally, I think Dad just junked the whole thing and bought a nifty little Lone Star aluminum 16 footer that was one of my favorite boats.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Pictures from 1964

While going through a stack of letters that my grandmother Carrie Della Sanders Smith had saved, I came upon a Christmas card to her from her sister Alice LePage. The postmark on the card was obscured, but there was one date on the pictures that were stuffed inside. It was August, 1964.

The picture below shows our grandparents sitting in the back dooyard of their home with some other people standing by. I haven't a clue who they might be, except he pictures were stuffed in the envelope from Aunt Alice, so maybe they are some of her children.

I'll have to check, but I think that was the year before Grandpa died.

Keep scrolling. There are three pictures, but for some reason there's a great distance between 'em when I publish the post.

The picture below is one of the ones stuffed in the same envelope. On the back of this picture it says "Joe and Boyd (Hualipai Indian)" Joe is on the right and is our cousin Emory Joseph Smith, Jr. He goes by Joe, while his dad of the same name (bottom picture) went by Emory or Buck.

On the back of the picture below, it says, "Buck Smith on Shoshone in bottom of Long Canyon." That's Emory Joseph Smith, son of Nathan and Della Smith, our grandparents, pictured in the top picture.

Monday, January 26, 2009


If you look at the book cover, you will see the pictures of two people. The woman is Louise, the man is Curtis Hext Smith. They were married, and their story is a large part of our family history. the book, Counting the Cost, is a novel based on the story of Curtis and Louise. The author of the novel is Liz Adair, but that isn't her real name (Well, it is, but not her birth name). Liz Adair is Tootie Shook, the other half of the Ronnie and Tootie duo creating this blog.
The novel/history is a fascinating look into life in southern New Mexico in the 1930's, full of information about cowboying, small town life, and the intricacies of family interactions. My mom and dad are there too, along with my brother Wally, who died as a very young child.
I recommend the novel for two reasons. First, it's a very good read. Second, it brings to life what it was like to be living and loving on the edge of the desert during the depression. Parts are hilarious, and parts are simply heartbreaking.