Saturday, March 19, 2016

Memories of Childhood On The Old Cunliff & Tupper Ranches

Back in the early 1970's, in my teens, I lived for a time on a wheat, cattle, and alfalfa ranch, a mile or so west on the Cunliff Road, near the small rural community of Blockhouse, Washington. This was a close knit one horse town that if you blinked you would miss it, but we did have our own volunteer fire station with a couple of antique fire trucks, and an old country store run by the Bellamy's.

A conversation with a friend a few days ago, brought back memories of that place in my childhood days where I rode my horse and roamed freely over the countryside, when not hard at work doing farm chores. Unfortunately I have but few pictures from those days. We couldn't afford much in the way of camera's and farm life was mostly of such common everyday occurrence that no one thought about taking pictures of it.

I have only one picture of a Combine and it is not one belonging to the farmer my step-dad worked for but belonged to the father of a friend of mine. It is nearly identical however to the type of machine I used to drive so I will post it here.

Here I am on my Paint horse Papoose, in the alfalfa field just north of the house. Looks like our dogs are out in force as well. I used to ride my horse all over the ranch every chance I got. I remember riding her swiftly over that very field towards the west, forgetting the large irrigation ditch. We were running at full gallop when suddenly it loomed right up in front of us. Before I could yank hard on the reins to stop her, she gathered herself and leaped over, with me sailing right along with her. I think it gave us both quite a thrill. Before that I never knew she could jump at all and I was truly grateful we didn't wind up spraddled in the middle of that deep wet ditch.

Here is the old John Deere Combine I mentioned above. This is how the grain was unloaded from the hopper into the waiting grain truck. I remember that day was hotter than a fire cracker, about 120 degree's in the shade. The yellow jackets and grass hoppers were thick as flies and we had to park the machine in the sun to keep the bee's off of us, as they liked to hunt the grasshoppers that the combine had chopped up. The seat and controls were so hot when we got back on the machine after lunch that it burned our hands through our gloves and our rear ends right through our jeans. Add to that the dust and chaff that got everywhere in our clothes and would have got down our throats, if we hadn't tied a bandanna over our faces and you can just about get the picture of what miserable work it could be. This was before the days of air-conditioned, air-ride cabs, or at least the farmer my step-dad worked for wasn't going to purchase anything so expensive as that, when the old machine would do, and neither was my friends dad.

One thing I always wish I had taken a picture of was the long row of old used up Combines that were lined up near a fence on the old Tupper place. It was like looking at the history of Combines. Some of them were so old they had lots of wooden parts and wheels with spokes.

I don't have any pictures that are of the Swather my step-dad and I used to drive but was lucky enough to find some on the web, so include them here.

This old Case Swather is pretty identical to the one we drove. I used to follow behind this machine sometimes carrying a short piece of two-by-four, to swat the mice with. Our dogs also liked to hunt mice behind the swather. Dad would swath and the mice would run for the uncut portion of the field. Sometimes when he got to the end of the field, there would be no place left for the mice to hide and there would be gillions of the buggers and I would be running around like mad swatting left and right. The dogs always made sure that none got away. They would just bit a mouse and drop it and run to the next one.

You might take notice of that single wheel on the back of the machine. It pivoted as the machine turned so as to allow it a tighter turning radius. One day without thinking I ran up and jumped up onto the back of the machine, because I had got tired of walking. I was fine until Dad got to the top of the field and turned the machine to start back down. I was sitting too close and that wheel spun around hooked both of my legs, threw me on my face to the ground, and ran me over. Fortunately I was unhurt. The whole thing had happened in a flash and Dad couldn't see me back there, so he never knew what had happened. I didn't bother to tell him either because I felt really stupid for making such a silly mistake. After that if I needed to hitch a ride I made sure I was clear of the wheel.


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