Mason County News
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Mostly Memories
Wednesday, December 2, 2009 • Posted December 2, 2009


We spent the night in Austin, Nevada............

The following day we traveled on to Ely were we were told that there was no work there. So, here we are sitting in our roadside camp playing cards in Ely, Nevada, where there was no work and we had only one dollar left in our treasure chest. I was beating Shorty so badly in cards he decided that I should take that last dollar and go play it in a slot machine. After losing 40 cents I got scared and quit.

Having only 60 cents left and no work in sight Shorty hocked his $150 saddle (which he had brought along in case in case he found a cowboy job) for $50 and we headed out for Salt Lake City. I thought we would never get to SLC and before we did I saw more worthless land than I had ever seen in my life. I decided that I wouldn’t have taken a thousand acres in exchange for one acre in Texas. This was the country where you would be lucky to have a neighbor within 50 to 75 miles. Gasoline was high in Nevada and by the time we got to SLC we were nearly out of money again. Just outside of SLC we ate the last of our grub. We had some rice, some cornmeal, and some syrup left in our box. Shorty boiled the rice, made hoe cakes out of the corn meal, poured syrup over the rice and hoe cakes—and when you are hungry that is damned good eating.

Just out of Evanston, Wyoming, our old faithful Dodge gave up the ghost. Shorty sold it to a Junk Dealer for $40, boxed all of our gear except for a few clothes and shipped it to Brady. Shorty then talked me out of hitch hiking and into riding the freights. I was getting homesick and wanting to get home to Snookie (Snookie was to become my my first wife and mother of my two children)so I agreed to ride the freights (I am sure that some you heard Shorty or me tell about our freight train adventure so I am going to skip that story). But wait a minute, Alma thinks I should include that story so I will tell it and will call it:Crossing the Great Divide.

After selling the car and shipping our effects to Brady we hopped a freight train leaving Evanston about one o’clock in the afternoon. After climbing on top of a freight car and stretching out in the sunshine and watching the beautiful scenery go by for a couple of hours I told Shorty,"Brother, you can go on back to Brady if you want to, but I am going to see these United States from the top of a freight car. (Little did I know what lay ahead and that before the night was over I would change my mind about riding freights.) We rode that freight into Green Rivers, Wyoming, arriving there an hour or so after dark. We had enjoyed the trip thus far, even to riding on top of those cars while going through tunnels.

Upon arriving in Green Rivers we got off the train and noticed that all of the other bums were leaving the freight yards and heading into town.

But not me and Shorty. We were heading for Denver, Colorado, so we waited for the next train out, heading for Laramie, Wyoming. Well, when it came by we climbed aboard and settled down for a long trip. First we looked for a car with an open door so that we could get inside. We couldn’t fine one. Then we looked for a car with an open reefer ( a reefer is a place they put ice into to make a refrigerated car). We couldn’t find one. Then we began to understand why all of the other bums did not climb aboard this train. There was no place to "get in" out of the weather. We were at the mercy of the elements. We either had to ride on top of the freight car or get in between two cars and hold on to the rail, trying to stay out of the wind.

Well, it got too cold to hang on to the rail in between the cars, we had to ride on top. As the night went on it got colder and colder. I had on an overcoat but my shoes were summer shoes with holes in them and my feet were freezing. As a matter of fact my entire body was freezing. My hands were so cold I could not use them to hold on to the wooden "walk way" on top of the freight car. All I could do was to put one arm under one side of the "walk way" and the other arm under the other side and insert my hands up into my sleeves, thereby keeping my hands from freezing and giving me a secure hold onto the "walk way".

It was at this point that I began using the training I had received in Sunday School and Church and I began to pray. Well, I prayed, and I prayed for that train to stop, and along about 2 o’clock in the morning the Lord either heard my prayers or got tired of listening to them so he caused a water tower to be built away up there on top of the Great Divide and he caused the train to stop for water.

I said "Thank you Lord" and we started climbing down from the top of that freight car. I was so near frozen that I did not realize that my feet had reached the ground, I just stopped going down so I knew I must be on the ground. I am sure that Shorty was as cold as I, however he was wearing cowboy boots so his feet couldn’t have been as cold as mine.

After reaching the ground we began feeling(with frozen hands) for something that would burn. We finally found enough to start a fire and we nearly burned ourselves trying to get close enough to the fire to get warm. We watched that train fill up with water and head out for Laramie and I said "Thank you Lord for making that thing use water."

When morning finally came we were still not warm, but, we were thankful we were on the ground. Along about 10 o’clock another train stopped for water and we climbed aboard and headed out again. It was nearly dark when we reached Laramie, and then I realized that if the Lord hadn’t heard me and stopped that train for water, we would have frozen before reaching Laramie.

In trying to be conservative and save our money we "dined" that evening in a Chinese joint that also had a "flop shop" for railroad bums. It cost us fifty cents a bed to flop there that night.

The next morning we caught a freight heading for Cheyenne. Some 50 to 75 miles out of Cheyenne the train stopped to do some switching. While they were switching we noticed that the Hiway to Cheyenne was not far from the tracks. We could see a small roadside grocery store alongside the Hiway and I talked Shorty into quitting the freight train and try hitch-hiking into Cheyenne and Denver. We got off the train and went into the little grocery store where we bought some cheese, crackers, and sardines. Then after dining in style for the second time in two days we went to the Hiway to try our luck.

To be concluded in next week’s column.

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