Friday, June 13, 2014

Tad's Tales...Whoa, Nelly!

Horse Tales For Father's Day

Tag I made to illustrate one of my dad's stories.
I hope to make a card or tag for each story as I edit it.

From time to time the leaders of my church admonish us to keep a journal and write our personal histories so our descendants will know who we were and what we believed in. When I was a little girl I liked to sit on the porch with my Grandpa Devey and ask him to tell me stories.  I learned a lot about him. Grandpa owned a small fruit farm up Fort Canyon in Alpine, Utah. One of his hobbies was to do a bit of mining in the mountains of American Fork Canyon.  And he was first to discover the wreckage of a plane that crashed on Lone Peak.  I loved to hear his tales...and because I listened, I know a bit more about his life than some of my family members.  My granddaughter Alena has taken an interest in family stories and I have been able to share a few of her great-great-grandfather's stories with her.  This had me thinking...what will our grandchildren know about us if we don't share our stories?

The house in Alpine.
Grandpa and I sat on that front porch.
He would whittle while we talked.

I write a lot of stories about my life and family history in my blog, "Zetta's Aprons."  This has been a fun way to write my life story because it's not in chronological order, but memories prompted by holidays, vacations and other special events.  I would be bored to tears if I had to start my story from the "I was born..." and write it all in order.  I think this is what keeps many of us from even getting started.

Since Father's Day is fast approaching, I want to share a story about my dad, Thomas A.(Tad) Devey. I feel so fortunate that my father sat himself down and wrote stories about his life.  He wrote about cars he drove, mischief he made, deer hunts and his school years...all sorts of topics.  He has an amazing memory for detail and I hope when I am 80 years old I will be as sharp as he is!  I shared this story last week on my other blog Dear Sisters.

Tad's Tales..." Whoa, Nelly!"
Tad at 5...just a little boy.

Grandpa Melvin Devey worked on a WPA project called the Draper Tunnel during the winter of 1938-39.  He worked with another man from Alpine who had to move when the project ended.  The man owned a small mare named Nelly.  She was almost as small as a pony and had been fitted with a child-size saddle and bridle.  Grandpa bought the mare and gave her to my father in the summer of 1939 when he was five years old.

Dad wrote, "Now when a child turns five years old, he starts Kindergarten in the fall.  This was true, then as well as now; but it had only been true for a couple of years.  Kindergarten started in Alpine about 1937.   Not only was it a new program, but it only operated during a six week period each spring and fall."

The house in Fort Canyon
Dad and his family lived on a fruit farm at the top of Fort Canyon in Alpine. During the winter, Tad's family would often move into town because bad weather and snow on bad roads made travel down the canyon difficult.  He wrote, "The next winter, Dad was not employed off the farm so we did not plan to move from the canyon.  Nelly would be an ideal mode of transportation when I started school. I was not too excited about going to Kindergarten, let alone riding a cantankerous horse."

"Nelly, because of her size, had always been a kid’s horse and she had learned how to have her way with kids.   To get her to go where you wanted to go required a forceful hand on the reins and a small switch to be applied to her behind when she balked.   My five year old hand on the reins was none too forceful; however, I could wield a switch with the best of them." 

Dad spent the summer learning Nelly's quirks.  She wouldn't let him near her if he was carrying a he learned to stash a switch on top of the fence where she couldn't see it.  Nelly had also learned that she could get rid of unwanted passengers by simply sideswiping a tree or a pole.  Once free, she would head on home...except her idea of home was not "Fort Canyon," but the horse pasture in Alpine where she used to live.

School Starts...
The old Alpine Elementary School.

The rest of the summer Tad worked with Nelly and with the help of an "older and wiser" cousin (he was 7), was able to train her well enough so he would be able to ride her to school.


Tad wrote, "A few days before classes started, Dad and Mother took me to the school to meet my teacher and become familiar with the building.  While Mother and I were in the school, Dad was talking to Mrs. Booth, an older widowed lady who lived in the house on the corner across the street from the school.  In her back yard, directly south of the school, was an orchard with high grass.  A ditch of water also flowed by.  Dad arranged with Mrs. Booth to let me stake Nelly in her orchard while I was in school.  Not only was the school year limited to six weeks each, in the Spring and Fall, but it was also limited to about three hours each afternoon.  Nelly would be able to put up with three hours."

"Surprisingly, the six weeks were uneventful as far as my mode of transportation was concerned. Dad would saddle up Nelly and I would leave the house about 11 am.  It took about 45 minutes for Nelly to walk to the school.  I was still a little nervous about letting her go any faster. I would tie her up in the orchard with a rope attached to her halter."

"When I came out after school, I would check the cinch, untie the rope and start for home.  Sometimes she became a little difficult when we started the turn up toward the canyon.  She wanted to go "home” by going straight west.   After we got around the corner, she would usually behave and after a few trips she seemed to look forward to getting back to the barn.  I began to let her go at her own pace which seemed to be faster each time.   Dad finally told me to slow her down.  She was coming home in a lather every night."

The barn...not Nelly's idea of "home."

"The six weeks in the fall went by in a flash.  I decided that school wasn’t so bad.  The kids were fun and Miss King was very nice.   Miss King was a brand new teacher from Escalante in Southern Utah. To her, my riding a horse to school each day did not seem to be all that odd."

Family stories can be fun!
Until my dad gave me the disk of stories, I did not know about Dad's horse Nelly or his first days of school.  When I see one of my little granddaughters climb onto the school bus heading off to kindergarten for the first time, it is hard to believe my grandma sent her little boy off to school each day riding a horse.  These days we don't let our children out of our sight! 

I had a lot of fun putting this story together for the blog.  Father's Day is June still have time to write or share a story about your fathers with your families.  Every child should know their grandparents...I still remember mine and I want my grandchildren to know more about them.  We spend a lot of time with family during the holidays...the perfect time to share stories and family holiday traditions.  How did your family spend the summer...parades, picnics, Fourth of July fireworks? Your kids want to know!

Happy Father's Day, Tad!


Musings from Kim K. said...

What a treasure to have so many wonderful memories and stories from your father, grandfather and childhood. The pictures are equally fantastic. Thank you for inspiring all of us to record our family history. I need to do a better job of listening to my father's long-winded and beautifully rich family stories. Someday, he won't be here and my girls will ask questions I can't answer. Hugs!!

Erica of Golden Egg Vintage said...

What a sweet story Shirley! And thank you for the reminder that we need to ask our parents and grandparents to share their past with us!
Great post!
Erica :)

Sandy McClay said...

Oh Shirley, you have done it again! I so enjoy these posts! Thank you for sharing another one of your family stories!

Jane said...

How wonderful to have the stories and the photos to go with them! Isn't that amazing to think of sending a little 5 year old off to school on a horse! But it sounds like his parents helped him make a success of it and a really educational experience.

vintage grey said...

A sweet story and love the photos! So wonderful to have these stories of your family!! They are true treasures! xo Heather

Pollyanna said...

What a treasure you have in your Dad's recorded stories of his life. Its sounds like the apple didn't fall far from the tree though. My love of writing histories came from my mother. Loved this post!