The Jackrabbit Drive
That winter, they had a rabbit drive in every settlement of the country where the rabbits were a menace, and shipped a carload of frozen rabbits to the poor in St. Louis, Missouri. At Oakley they killed 1700.
The method was to make a small pen out of rabbit wire, and stretch out two wings leading to the opening. The whole population surrounded the countryside and forced the rabbits to the center and into the pens. All carried only clubs. When the gate was closed, all who thought it fun went in and cracked heads. The boys thought it great fun. My conscience rebelled at the whole idea, and I didnīt go.
Many cities in the middle west had a multitude of poor people, but they were better informed here in Southern Idaho about conditions in St. Louis than elsewhere, because anyone who took a paper at all had The St. Louis Republic. I had subscribed for it here, as I had in the Indian Territory. That is why the rabbits were shipped to St. Louis. The county got a big headline "Thank You" in The St. Louis Republic. The railroad company also got thanks for furnishing transit.
I cut some 10 foot logs and hauled them on my wagon to a sawmill at Oakley, run by water power, and they were cut into 1x6 lumber for one third of the lumber. Two loads got enough lumber to put a floor in one half the cabin, and to put a partition wall in it. It was the largest log house I had ever seen for a one-room house. We got one room fixed up quite comfortable. Put cheese cloth for ceiling overhead.
In a few days I noticed a sag in the ceiling and decided to investigate it. I pulled the tacks on the lap, and put my hand in on a nest of little naked mice. Allie was sitting almost under me, with some kind of needle work, not paying any attention to me. I gathered up the little mice, every one, and looked down at her.
She hadnīt seen them. I had an idea pop into my head. Should I or should I not? "I would." was my almost instant decision, and they went right in the center of her lap.
Her hands went up, and she screamed. Then she went up, and mice and sewing went in all directions. Then I thought, "I shouldnīt have done it." I began to explain how harmless little naked mice are, just babies and helpless. She gave me very convincing orders to "get them out of the house!", and orders just as convincing to "Never do that again!". I havenīt, and wonīt, I hope.
It caused a greater explosion than I had expected, and while I treated it as a funny joke, it wasnīt. I regretted it. It is much more funny now than it was then.
After this excitement for us both, I got busy on the place. Got a neighbor with a team and scraper to build a reservoir below one spring, and I plowed about two acres for fall wheat, and a garden. The reservoir was for the garden. The wheat, I was told, needed no irrigation. After the wheat was up, and before the ground froze, the snow would cover it, and it would be okay. The ground would probably not freeze all winter, unless there was a thaw afterwards.
There was no thaw, and the snow was several feet deep before spring. I made a good crop of wheat, thrashed it by hand on my wagon cover, took it to the mill at Oakley and had it milled. Got 550 pounds of flour, and some bran and shorts. We had a good garden, too, with about the same variety that we have on the west coast.
But I am ahead of my story, and will go back to the time of the snow in the fall covering the wheat. After the wheat was up, Iīd bought a cow for $45, and had alfalfa hauled up and stacked for $2.50 per ton. Now I saw a barn was needed for the cow and horses, but that was a big undertaking. So I decided to build a good one-room cabin above the big one, where we could live, and add on later, and to use the big one for a barn.
I began to get out pine logs, cut to the right length and piled them up on the ground. I took only dead dry standing timber, the lightest pine I have ever seen, and as soft as cedar.
I built the house alone, and it was cold and snowing before I had it finished. So I decided to put the cow and horses in the other end of the big cabin at nights and we all slept together until the new cabin was finished. I took the floor and partition out of the big one for the new one, and we thought we had a better place, and I knew the animals had.
The snow kept getting deeper on the place, and I saw that I would have to keep the new snow packed well down in order to get out to the main road. This was about a quarter of a mile. The main road was used every day by the neighbors below, to get their winter wood, and they all waited until winter. Some used bob sleds, some used wagons, and others just took horses and pulled long logs.
A Mr. McBride took up two large mares, and when he got the first log cut, he hooked one to it and started her home. She was always there when he got home with the other one. We had a good view of a long slope that had already been stripped of wood, and would watch the mare making her way to the main road. How she could avoid stumps and rocks was almost human.
When she hit one that stopped her, she would go straight to one side or the other, and lunge into the collar, but she would not try the same pull again if it didnīt come loose. She would turn back over the end of the log, pull again from the other side. McBride said she never stayed hung.
Once I remember when we went to town, it snowed heavy all day, and the road looked like the rest of the field, when we left the main road. We made it inside the gate, but got too far out onto one side, and both wheels on that side went down. We got out to lighten the load. I told Allie not to step out too far, and about that time, one of her feet broke through, and she went down full-leg length with the other leg stretched out straight in front of her on the snow. She was floundering something awful. I told her, "Wait. Iīll help you out.", and she said, "I donīt care if I never get out!".
It was late and cold, so I took the team to the barn, and left the wagon as it sat. Next day I shoveled snow and packed snow solid, and pulled it out.
I also allowed the neighbors to go through my garden to get wood back of my place, so that road was used most every day. I had made a road around the garden, but it was not so good, and all I had to do to keep the snow packed was leave the garden gate open until garden time.
I planned to plow and fence another twenty acres on a flat above the house for wheat the next year, but late in the summer, after my wheat harvest, we had three families in their covered wagons drive in on us from Indian Territory.
One I will call W and the other D. The third one didnīt stop but a few days and doesnīt matter. W was the only one who had paid his note when I wrote him, and that is how he came to find me at Basin. He had gotten the three outfits in the notion to come.
They both rented a place to winter, about two miles below me in the Basin, and said they were going to take me with them to the coast in the spring.
As spring approached, I began to have a longing to hit the road, but didnīt let on. Allie was anxious to get out, too, but didnīt say much. Mr. Vineyard had already left in the fall of 1898, and had rented a farm on Williams Creek in Oregon.
I had bought my seed for the 1899 planting, and still said "no" to W and D. They planned to start in about one week. I got more anxious by the hour.
I went down to see Mr. Fairchild to find out if he would buy my improvements. We made a deal, and I got a much better team, and I canīt remember what else. So the three families moved out from Idaho about April 15, 1899, headed for the coast.
In Eastern Oregon, we were held up for two weeks at a Southern Oregon Livestock Company ranch, on account of deep snow on Nigger Head Flat. We all went to work cleaning ditches for the company, and when we got to the flat, there was only a trace of snow in the road. Here we left Mr. W. He was out of money and decided to stay and follow later. We never saw him or heard from him after that.
One forenoon, about June the first, we drove into Ashland, all covered with snow and our stove pipes smoking through holes in the canvas covering. It was a novel sight to these people, and a few gathered around to ask questions. Every one had a good look at us.
We camped close to the power plant up at Ashland Creek that night, and the next day we got through Medford just a few miles. The next day we day we got through Jackonsville, also a few miles.
And the third day we arrived at Mr. Vineyardīs farm. Mr. D then went on to Grants Pass to find a house, because we aimed to stay put until our first "happy event" took place. Mr. Vineyard wanted me to go to work for him, which I did, while waiting on this event, which occurred on June 27, 1899. Elsie was born.
Then I got a job at a saw mill, half way to Grantīs Pass, where they hauled in their logs on two large wheels with oxen. The pay was 1.50 per day, with no pay day. They could pay only when they sold lumber, and lumber was not selling so hot. If I had to have groceries, I could get an order in Jackonsville.
I took an order of lumber and a whole day to drive to Jackonsville. Then I worked four days more, and had six dollars coming.
Then I hooked up to my wagon and drove down to the mill, bought 1x6 sugar pine lumber, drove to Grants Pass, and sold it to Sugar Pine Door and Lumber Co. I made a little on the deal, and they told me I could haul lumber for them from any of their mills, if I wanted to.
I asked the price and distances to haul, and took the one below Wilderville. I camped at Wilderville in the middle of the next trip. It was one day to the mill and back to camp, and the next day to town and back to camp. I hauled one month, bought groceries and horse feed from the company store, and had twenty-nine dollars and thirty cents coming.
I wrote D that Iīd been told if I waited probably another day, I would never get through to Coos Bay for rain and mud, and that I planned to leave right away. Asked him to start at once. We would doubtless connect in some mud hole. I took my pay, and hit the road to Coos Bay.
When I arrived at Coos Bay, I had just $19. With a team to feed and nothing they could do, I went to work at a mill at top wages --$1.50 per day. We got a two-roomhouse, if it could be called that, on piling out over the bay, for $5.00 per month.
The next day after moving into the house on stilts, I asked Mr. Everson, the man I rented from, how I could get my groceries here. The mill worked until dark, and it was a long way up town. He said they will deliver, and that he would take in my order if I would make it out. So I gave him my order, and told him my wife would pay for it on delivery.
When I got home, there was our groceries, but Allie said she couldnīt pay for them. The man said he never collected. There was no bill, and we could not tell where they came from.
I went over to see Mr. Everson, and he said he gave it to Mr. Hurst. The first chance I got, I went in to ask Mr. Hurst if I owed him anything. He didnīt think so. He didnīt remember me, he said. I told him I gave Mr. Everson an order and told him to place it somewhere, and the order was delivered.
Yes, Mr. Everson had given him an order, could not tell him the name, but said the fellow moved into one of his houses. I could see right then that dead-beat rogues had just not arrived in Coos Bay.
Many weeks after I got to Coos Bay, I got a letter from D stating he was selling his mules and wagon, and taking the train for Texas. Said he had enough money yet to buy 320 acres of Texas land. That was the last I heard from him.
Allie and I got a larger house on float logs for seven dollars, where there was some green feed for the horses, and I had to feed only barley. That was a financial improvement.
Walter Croffard Weaver, Allie Berry Vineyard Weaver, Little Walter, Elsie June
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