Do-it-yourself Surgery, Part 1

1941 Ten Mile Creek Homestead

We lived in the Boonies and loved it. Wild as the woodland creatures around us, none of us had much for social skills. We played in the woods and the swift running creek that in most places would be considered a small swift river. Then we decided the off-limits abandoned mill pond would be a better swimming hole.

We didn’t mind that when we waded in, it had 2 feet of water and 2 feet of soft mud. Some areas had only a foot of water and 3 feet of mud. The bottom had sharp rocks and some random bottles thrown in by the former mill workers. At least most were deep enough that we seldom found them.

As we found the bottles, we removed them from the pond. Then one of us got the bright idea to build a raft. We crafted our raft from green alder wood, which was easy to cut down with an ax and shape. We built it on the steep bank that dropped off into the pond. It’s a good thing the bank was so steep. That raft was heavy. We finally managed to get it into the pond and it floated nicely. Well, it floated nicely until someone got on it.

The two youngest boys ended up using the raft the most. With both of them on it, it floated, but was about 2 inches under the surface. Due to the high amount of mud under the water which kept the pond a rich mud color, it appeared that the two boys were standing in shallow water holding a long pole, each.

The first time they tried poling the raft, the poles stuck and stayed in the mud. The boys could hang onto the poles and let the raft float on away from them, or they could let go and leave the poles upright, stuck firmly in the soft gooey mud. They finally figured out just how to pole gently to travel around the small pond.

Before we upgraded the mill pond to swimming hole, we used to rescue stranded salmon fry in drying puddles along the creek and dump them into the pond. They grew quite well and soon the pond was stocked with landlocked salmon and good fishing. The fish would freak us out when they bumped into our legs in the water. We managed to scare each other with tales of monsters lurking under the mud.

Somehow, I managed to step on a broken whiskey bottle in the mud and sliced the bottom of my left foot badly, leaving a large flap of flesh hanging. It was bleeding freely and I sat on a rock beside the pond trying to convince one of the other kids to go up to the house and get Mom.

Since we were not supposed to be in that pond, no one would go up and let her know I was hurt. I ended up having to trudge up the dusty road and tell her myself. The flap of flesh was totally caked in dust and mud by the time I got to the house. I was trying not to step down on the wound, but there is not many ways to walk without touching the bottom of your foot to the ground.

Mom tried cleaning the dirt out of the wound and finally decided it was too dirty to replace the flesh flap into the hole. She sat me down on one of the steps outside so we didn’t mess up anything in the house. Then I had to hold my own foot still while she cut the large flap of flesh loose from my foot. She used her sewing scissors as that was the sharpest instrument she could find. My foot would start jerking as she started snipping away the flap of flesh. It took quite a while as live human flesh isn’t easy to cut through. I was having a very hard time holding my foot still. If I let it jerk, I got reprimanded or smacked. She finally tidied it up fairly well and poured merthiolate into the hole. That stuff burns and certainly took my mind off what we had just did.

Mom made a bandage of sorts to cover the entire bottom of my foot as most of it was involved in the damage. I wore a couple of pairs of socks over it to try to keep more dirt out of it. It took several months to heal and at various times it would get infected and it was back to the merthiolate. I had to clean it daily with peroxide and rubbing alcohol which was one way to make sure I never went back into that pond.

Life Alone

Best picture of me, ever

Best picture of me, ever

I never planned on living alone. I was never a very social person, but I also never planned on having a life alone. Well, I also never really had a plan.

If ever a life has been lived in the moment, mine is it. I didn’t plan on being a cowboy as a teenager in Oregon. That just happened. I did learn a lot, but it was not on my list of things I wanted to do.

For a very brief period of time, I considered going to college and becoming a teacher. Then all the Laws started changing to the point that a teacher could not spank or do much to correct one of the little monsters, so I figured why should I spend 4 more years going to school which I always hated, anyway? By that time I had my choice of scholarships and refused them all. I was done with school. Don’t get me wrong, I think school is important and I would hate to go to a doctor that had not bothered to attend one.

Then by some bit of insanity I found myself married and not to a rancher. I had some passing thoughts about marrying a rancher and eventually maybe having some children, but it wasn’t a firm decision. Yet here I was, married to the least likely to ever be a rancher or even steadily employed. Talk about someone that had no idea what to look for in a husband, that would be me.

Given enough time, we finally divorced and I would have been alone, except I needed to babysit to pay my rent and work to pay for the divorce. Once that was all taken care of, I was invited to mine for a summer and by the next year, I was married yet again.

For once, I got it right. I loved being married to Charlie and we enjoyed our life together. Then he died and I was back to being alone. This alone was painful and debilitating. I didn’t function well and was not in a good frame of mind, at all.

I had read the Bible as a child, in school as there was one in the library and every year I read all the books. It took me ages to get through all the begats. There were a few stories, fictionalizing some Bible stories and I enjoyed them very much. We did not have any religious instruction at home and had never been near a church.

I met someone and thought it was going to be good times again, but I was not thinking correctly on that one, at all. It dragged on too long, but I have always been stubborn and hate to admit when I make mistakes. This one was another doozy.

I bought some property, my Mom sold her house and sent up the money, so I, with some help, built her a house. She couldn’t be alone and I didn’t want to continue the failed relationship, so we moved into her new house.

My daughter’s house sold and she also came out and we built her a nice house also. It has been a learning experience all the way around and I guess most of life really is.

Mom and I were both baptized the same day by my sister’s husband, in our Church. It was great. Then we went up to Chena Hot Springs and had a lovely swim. What a wonderful day.

Things were going well, Mom was feeling better than she had in a long time, when suddenly she became ill and we rushed her to the hospital. She died after a 5 day stay and I came home to an empty house.

Yes, these last few years since Mom died have been by myself but I am alone, not lonely. There is a major difference.

Big Ben

House we were building

Big Ben was just what his name implied. He was a very big man. My Dad was 6’3” and at that time usually around 190 pounds of muscle. Big Ben towered over him. When we still lived in Mapleton during the war years, Big Ben lived with us as fuel was rationed and he had to be closer to his work which was tree falling as the spruce on the Oregon coast was needed to build airplane frames out of.

After the war, we moved up Ten Mile Creek, north of Florence and had an 1800’s type of growing up. No electricity, running water, phone, radio or mail delivery, just like I live now.

Big Ben lived out closer to the ocean about nine miles from where we now lived and would come visit quite often. He and Dad liked to walk up the dirt road, looking for game to shoot and bring back for dinner.

One time, as the crossed the bridge over the north fork of Ten Mile Creek, Big Ben spotted a nice sized buck deer drinking, just under the edge of the bridge. He decided against wasting a bullet by just jumping off the bridge onto the buck’s back and cutting its throat.

Almost everything went as planned. He climbed to the top of the railing without the buck even hearing him. He pulled out his large skinning knife and jumped. That’s where the plan fizzled.

The first thing the deer knew, some huge heavy thing landed on its back and grabbed it around the throat. The deer didn’t just meekly stand there. From that point on, it was a fight. Big Ben soon was trying to get away from the deer. By the time the deer allowed Big Ben to get away, Big Ben was completely stripped of his heavy clothing. The neck and collar of his work shirt was still around his neck, his socks were on his feet, the cuffs of his pants were around his ankles but all the clothing and a good portion of his skin was shredded and hanging in tatters between his collar and cuffs. The deer not only used his antlers to good effect, his hooves slashed and cut their way all over him. He said that was the first time he knew deer were so flexible and double jointed.

They walked the mile back down the road to our home. Big Ben stayed just out of sight of the house as he didn’t have anything to cover himself with. Dad walked on up to the house and got some clothes for Big Ben to wear. They cleaned up most of the hoof and antler slashes and none required medical attention and they were used to patching themselves up in the woods anyway. He decided not to stay and went home. He also decided to never save a bullet and use a knife to hunt with.

Using Daddy’s Falling Axes

Dad by the Jeep

While we still lived near the Oregon coast, we depended on ourselves and our imagination to entertain ourselves as kids. The 5 kids belonging to our Dad’s Catskinner and wife spent most of their time with us, so there were several wild imaginations to cover just about any possibility.

Our Dad started out as a logger before chainsaws were in use in the woods so was a master at felling trees using a double bit ax or a two-man whipsaw. His axes were kept in shaving sharp condition and no one ever touched them. They were works of art, with the heads shaped perfectly and balanced to the nth degree for ease of use during an 8 to 10 hour day.

We first used a couple of Dad’s axes when we devised a new thrill ride. We had been climbing as high as we thought we could safely slide down the outside of cedar trees, but that was starting to seem tame. We then decided to draw straws to see who the loser would be that had to stay on the ground while all the rest climbed the tree. The loser then chopped the tree down with the others riding it to the ground, screaming all the way, then grabbing more straws to do it all over again. It was fun the way riding an extreme roller coaster is fun but didn’t last as long.

We were trying to figure out some way to warm up the creek we swam in so we could actually enjoy the process. The huge trees bowing over the stream seemed to mock our puny kid strength. I don’t remember just who decided we should fall some of the trees along the stream to remove the shade. We quickly decided to just fall all the trees. Those axes were so sharp it usually didn’t take very long per tree to see them fall against the other bank and we soon had the entire area covered in downed trees crisscrossing across the stream we had planned to swim in.

Finally one of the two older boys said he would get those trees out of the way. He climbed up into the tangled mess of trees, taking one of the axes with him. He soon stood up on one tree and started cutting the tree directly in front of him and it made a satisfying splash as it hit the stream. This stream or creek was considered a creek but most of the time it had enough water rushing down it to qualify as a small river. It seldom saw the light of day except through the leaves of dense forest overshadowing it. Taking a drink out of it could give a person a headache it was so cold.

Jerry proceeded to step back onto the tree behind him and cut the one he had just stepped off of and was making great progress on clearing the new swimming hole. The current was fast enough that the cut trees were immediately out of sight on their way to the ocean about 8 miles away with a 500 foot drop in elevation. As Jerry swung the ax, the tree under him shifted and he realized he was on the one he was chopping, it was the last tree to cut.

The tree started down, Jerry flung the ax and was also falling toward the water quite a ways below him. As he rotated, the sun glinting off the razor sharp edge of the ax kept glinting in his eyes. He imagined he was about to not only split the tree but his own head as he hit the water.

My Dad had come back to the house early that day for some reason, heard the chopping and arrived on the scene just in time to see Jerry, the ax and the tree hit the water. The roar my Dad let out scared the rest of us into scattering like quail. Jerry surfaced, saw my Dad and promptly dove for the bottom of the pool. By the time he ran out of air and surfaced again, my Dad reached over the bank and grabbed him by the scruff of the neck, picked him up and said “the next time you surface, you better have that ax.”

Jerry did.

Idiots With Horns

Rosalyn On Sweetheart

Reaching the ripe old age of 17 without ever having to use a horse while working cattle, I was not a natural. After more horse related accidents than I care to remember, I finally learned to ride quite well. I sometimes even enjoyed it, but moving our herd of cattle along the main highway from one pasture to the next was never a favorite time. It wasn’t a hard part of moving cattle as they were hemmed in with fences along each side of the road. It was the cars on the highway.

Why drivers thought it would do any good to crowd the herd and the riders on horses or start honking their horns as they pushed their way through the cattle, I don’t know.

As Goldy and I worked the stragglers, keeping them caught up with the rest of the herd, one car kept creeping directly up behind us and almost touching the horse.

She was not used to working cattle, nor was she used to traffic. We had brought her over with us from the Coast and she didn’t particularly like the changes in her life.

The closer the car would edge, the jumpier she got and kept trying to see directly behind her. I was getting yelled at the keep the cattle bunched closer and pay attention to the cattle while the horse was trying to keep away from the car. The car edged right up behind me and the fellow must have just laid on the horn. That was the final straw for Goldy. She kicked back with both hind feet, right into the grill on the car and got the radiator, also. As soon as she stopped, I got off and was checking her hind legs for injuries. My Dad rode over to see why I was off the horse and not keeping stragglers caught up and must have taken in the problem at a glance. The prolonged horn honking had got his attention, too.

The car driver was looking at the damage to his car and started yelling about who was going to pay. My Dad rode close to him and said a few quiet words I didn’t hear and the fellow immediately got back in his car and was still sitting there as we rounded the bend in the road and down the side road that would take us to the lower pasture on the hill, away from the hay meadows the cattle had just wintered on.

I wasn’t sure, but thought I probably wasn’t going to be in trouble this time. Dad never said a word about it and as we stopped for the day, he did check Goldy over to make sure she really wasn’t injured. The car was not there, when we returned home that afternoon. I never heard any more about it.

Snipe Hunt

Eastern Oregon

We were all spending the evening at one of the neighbor’s houses which meant somewhere within 20 miles of our ranch. I had been invited, Linda invited herself and my brother came along just because he wasn’t doing anything else at the moment.

Earlier, we stopped at another neighbor’s house along the way and picked up LaV. as she was a friend of Linda’s.

Those two immediately started making pests of themselves, vying for one of the young men present at the party. He was not interested but was trying not to be just plain mean to either of them.

His older brother, my brother and I were talking near the door when he hid behind us and asked how to get them to stop it. We decided on a Snipe Hunt.

Since it was a lovely warm summer evening, we made it seem like a group effort and gathered some gunny sacks from an old shed, a few flashlights although the night was bright with moonlight and set off up the hill.

There was a nice little gully coming down the hill which the boys told the girls was a perfect place to set up their traps while the rest of us drove the snipes up the hill into their gunny sacks which they were to hold open across the little gully. We had disturbed some quail on our way up, and could hear the birds making little bird noises in the brush.

The girls were spaced just far enough apart that they wouldn’t be talking and figure this out too soon, but not so far apart to get scared and rush back down the hill right away. They could just see each other in the moonlight.

The rest of the evening went nicely, with everyone enjoying a quiet get-together. The boy’s Mom got home and she was so pleased to find us all behaving well with the lights all on, our dishes done and the place spotless as when she left.

While she was still in the kitchen, the two Snipe Hunters showed up at the door, not very happy with the rest of us. We managed to keep them fairly quiet, said a goodnight to the boys and their Mom and went home. It was a quiet ride.

The two girls weren’t quite so obvious in their pursuit of the young man after that. Nothing like a good Snipe Hunt to give someone time to think.

My Uncle Bill

Uncle Bill

The first time I saw him, he looked so sad and heartbroken, I knew it was my job to cheer him up. He was sitting in a section of the old porch that seldom was bothered by the sun. I was being dropped off for my Grandmother to babysit.
My Grandmother plunked me down on a step of the porch and saying something about having work to do, we could take care of each other, she left us there.
He eyed me warily. After all, what did he have in common with a lanky 4 year old girl? He had only recently been allowed to come home after recuperating many months in a military hospital after being liberated from a Japanese prisoner of war camp in Japan.
This tall young American soldier was a survivor of the Bataan Death March and many long years of atrocities and depravation. Whether it was his mouth that always had to say what he was thinking or that he towered over all his captors, they delighted in bringing him to his knees in one way or another. His skull had been cracked several times by rifle butts and he had numerous scars and healed bones from their careful handling. Being deemed incorrigible, he finally found himself imprisoned on the homeland of his captors, working in a gravel pit outside Hiroshima the day it was the target for the first atomic bomb dropped, ever.
Leading up to that day, he regarded the Japanese women as the only reason he didn’t die. The women were told to parade around outside the fence of the prison camp, taunting and teasing the prisoners which they did. But they also dropped small rice balls as close to the fence as they could get. These rice balls were taken from their own family rations and shared with the skeletal prisoners that were reduced to eating any bug or rat that they caught within the prison walls.
He held a lifelong hatred of the Japanese men and didn’t always differentiate between Japanese men and any other Oriental male.
However, on our first day of meeting, he was uneasy being left in charge of a 4 year old girl.
I don’t remember exactly what all we actually did that day, but when my Grandparents and my Mom returned late that afternoon, they found us the best of friends, sitting in the two rocking chairs in the kitchen, feet up on footstools, leaned back with our hands behind our heads in identical poses, smoking huge smelly cigars.

Family Fun

BrokenTop
Broken Top Mountain, near the Three Sisters Mountains where we camped

Mom probably had a right to be a little upset. She not only had her own 3 children but the neighbor’s 5 to look after up in a remote area of the Cascade mountain range in Oregon. She didn’t know how to drive so Dad dropped us all off up there and was supposed to be back in a couple of weeks to pick us up. We only had a small Jeep, so after stuffing all the camping gear, food and kids in it, there wasn’t much room for wiggling around. This was well before the lightweight tents and sleeping bags of today. Tents were heavy duty canvas, requiring heavy pipe poles to hold up. Anyone touching the side of the tent if it rained caused an instant leak. Now we were well into our third week on the mountain side with no grocery store in sight, now cash on hand to pay for it if there had been. After all, why would Mom need her purse out in the woods?
We had already done all the usual things we did out of sight of the tent and Mom.
Found the quicksand bog – check
Took turns jumping off the log into the quicksand – check
Saw who would chicken out and beg to be pulled out before the quicksand got completely up to their chin – check
Finally pulled the irritating one back out just before the quicksand covered the mouth – check
Found the old time log bear trap – check
Cleaned out the debris in it – check
Checked out the trigger device – check
Released the log door so the one that triggered it could escape – check
Tried to talk the irritating one into trying it – check
By this time, Mom was getting a little irritable, she had thrown in a 25 pound bag of split peas in the groceries and we were down to eating those, three times a day. We had picked every berry that we could find, tried to capture fish with our bare hands and chased a deer that wandered by but we couldn’t catch it. Still no sign of Dad.
I don’t know if the neighbors had noticed their children were missing yet or not or just were enjoying not having them around, but no one seemed to notice we were overdue.
Finally, Dad showed up. Things were very quiet and tense and he even took us to a café in Sisters, Oregon for a burger each which was unheard of. The several hundred mile long ride home was made in almost total silence. The atmosphere was so thick it could have been cut with a knife. My parents never argued or raised voices in front of us, but we all knew something wasn’t too kosher in the Jeep.
Nothing was ever said in my hearing, so I have no idea how that played out in private. The next year when we went for out annual camping trip, we smuggled a gun under the load.

My Autobiography

Book Cover

My book is now available at the link at the bottom of this post.
6″ x 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on White paper
302 pages
R.E. Stowell
ISBN-13: 978-0692260326 (Custom Universal)
ISBN-10: 0692260323
LCCN: 2014914191
BISAC: Biography & Autobiography / Personal Memoirs

I was born 9 months, 2 weeks after Pearl Harbor, so it doesn’t take much imagination to figure out what brought me about. My father wanted to leave behind a male heir when he went off to fight. I didn’t turn out to be male and he didn’t get to go fight. He never quite forgave Uncle Sam or me.
I didn’t know it, but my childhood would give me the skills I would need to survive and to thrive in Alaska, many years later.
If you want to read about the perfect Alaskan woman, you have the wrong book. This book is about me.
CreateSpace eStore: https://www.createspace.com/4910851

My Favorite Uncle

Successful Hunters 1948

Dad’s oldest brother went to Nome during the gold rush, then crossed the ice to Siberia because Nome was all staked already
He stayed in Siberia 2 years, dodging the Cossacks and mining
came home with enough that he never worked a regular job again the rest of his life.
He used to babysit us once in a while and would put fur seal pelts on his bed for us to be on and dump a jar of nuggets for us to play ‘marbles’ with. We occasionally dropped one on the floor and it would drop between the planks never to be seen again.
He lived a couple of houses away from his sister and we were supposed to be staying with her, but he was so much nicer. If the weather was good, he would have a small pack ready when we barreled through his door and we would just keep going right on out the back and up the huge sand dune behind his house. That area is now part of the Dunes National Park. We would ignore the voice screeching in the background for us to come back and all of us would dive over the top of the dune and out of sight. We would spend the day exploring the dunes and he would build a fire to roast some of the potatoes from his pack. Those potatoes would be charred black on the outside and raw on the inside and tasted wonderful. All of us, him included, would get bawled out when we dragged in at dark. Then we would do it all over again the next good day.
He never spent much, lived alone in what most would consider a shack, but he was happy he hunted, trapped a little bit, panned creeks along the Oregon coast and harvested wild plants to sell to nurseries and drug companies fern &, salal to florists, chitum bark, and fox glove to drug companies.
He didn’t have a clue about kids, but we loved him. He gave me eyeballs out of a cow we were butchering because I was curious. I kept them in my pocket, they were neat. Later that night while I was sleeping, his sister, my Aunt snooped in my pocket and about broke my eardrums screaming when she found them. That was a bonus.