Some stray details

Continuing with Gerald Nathan Hodgson’s Northwest family narrative, with thanks to Michael Howard Hodgson:

To get back to the town of Orient, it got its being from the fact that it provided the first practical approach from the east (Stevens county) north of Barstow, and also someone had discovered the First Thought gold mine on the Stevens county side and gave First Thought mountain its name. The First Thought gold deposit, I understand, is very unusual in character in that it is like a placer mine, sedimentary in character, sometimes gold in rich pockets, other times low grade ore or just rock. It seems to me, there was about sixty men employed there when it was going full blast. At any rate, between the swarming homesteaders, miners and railroad men, Orient for a time supported five saloons, at least two grocery (General Merchandise) stores, and one house of ill repute with colored employees.

I neglected to mention that at the time of Dad’s arrival, there was a long cable tram line which brought the ore down to railway cars for shipment. I can personally remember the old towers with rusty cable dangling from them. I am not sure what killed the mine — perhaps World War I high wages and the eight-hour day. Gold at that time was worth $21 an ounce. The mine was reopened in the ’30’s with $35 gold, but closed again in World War II due to lack of priorities. In view of present costs, it would probably take $100 gold to start it up once more.

Sometime during my early childhood, the Forest Service opened the Boulder Creek area for sheep grazing for large herds from outside the area. The sheep would be unloaded from railroad cars at Dulwich, and then the herds would drift up Boulder Creek Canyon on the far side from our house. It was regular rite of late spring to see the sheep go by to the accompaniment of the hoarse shouts of the herders and the yapping of the dogs.

The range had been used earlier to some degree by the Howard brothers, four bachelors who were well-known local characters. They built pole corrals in certain places where they gathered the sheep at night. The big herds were drifted through with only very temporary stops. A good many sheep were lost from the large herds and we gradually built up a flock from strays and their increase. We started the flock with a brown sheep that we called Billy — he had been chewed on by a coyote; the flies had blown the wound and he was a sick and maggoty mess when he was brought home, but he responded to treatment and remained part of the herd for a number of years afterward. Various members of the family — the boys, mostly — took care of the sheep for several years, but the last summer we had them, Elva and I were delegated the job of herding them and Dad promised us five cents a day each for doing the job. The sheep were corralled at night and during the noon hour.

That fall, Dad sold the sheep to someone, and he and I drove the sheep to Dulwich and loaded them on the train car. We, the whole family, were glad to see them go. They never were profitable though they did provide a lot of mutton. I myself did not care for the meat, and I especially hated the’ oversalted gravy made from the broth. I remember how good bacon used to smell when it was frying and then be too salty to eat when I got to the table — Mom always over-salted the butter, as well. The mutton broth was salty because it had not been thinned out enough, bacon had to be salty for it to keep without refrigeration, and I think Mom put excess salt in the butter to discourage its use — she let up on it in later years at my insistence. I expect the salt bothered me more than it did most of the others. I was always underweight until I got out of high school I don’t know what year it was that we sold the sheep — about 1922, I think, and I believe Dad had quit working on the railroad and started working at the sawmill on Boulder Creek — a waterpower mill founded by Otto Miller (Muller), whose favorite expression was “Py Cott”, Grant Stewart, who provided financial backing, and Gene Price, whose position was somewhat anomalous — he provided labor and some knowhow and was later dropped out. The mill produced some lumber, but most specialized in boards for apple boxes. Dad worked mostly as a lumber piler. My brother Howard got a job as a bundle-tier in the box factory. Cousin Aurel worked there for a time as a bundle piler.

Uncle Levy and family got here from Canada shortly after we sold the sheep or about that time. I remember their arrival because it was a complete surprise to me. Other members of the family doubtless knew but for some reason, I had never been told. I was at Grandpa’s for some reason, and was surprised to see a strange girl with long black curls and two strange boys come up over the edge of the hill into Grandpa’s yard. I hastily ducked out the back door. Mable carne out and called me and introduced us, but I don’t remember much of anything about it. Sylvan and I were sort of buddies for awhile, but in later life, we scarcely spoke the same language. The last time he visited here, I asked his wife what his work was. She didn’t know so he finally volunteered that he was a ‘grease monkey’. Under further quizzing, he did admit that he was a millwright. The years have taken their toll.


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