Autobiography of W. E. Smith.

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Autobiography of William Edward Smith

Chapter 3, part 5, Ranch, Before 1917

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For three and one-half years we had been looking forward to the day when we would again move. Finally that great day came. The move back was with more deliberation than the one from The Ranch. A good friend we had made in Long Beach owned a horse and wagon, another one of the park variety, a two seater, which he had no use for. He was looking for people, just like us, to make a home for the wagon and old Kate. Now this mare was really a member of the family. Punch and Judy had "passed away" with forage poisoning, and our return to The Ranch left Kate as queen of the livestock. Time and space do not permit giving her due recognition in these memoirs. We understood that at one time in her younger years she had been a race horse, and in her later years she at times forgot how old she was. For further information concerning her place in the family please ask any of the children down the line to Ralph. We all loved her. Queen Kate had a kidney ailment and one morning we found her in the corral never to arise again. This tribute to her memory: "A faithful animal."

The butcher who had The Ranch in our absence had denuded it of all vegetable life he could find. No sign of a cornstalk, about 50 young Satsuma plum trees and all our peach and apple trees were gone. The water tank and even the door to our solitary retreat were shot full of holes. What a licking that poor Ranch had taken, with so little to offer us on our homecoming day. Once again those undaunted pilgrims adopted the rural life, and we all had a mind to work. This was the summer of 1913.

One of the remarkable things about this family is how that "old bird" never forsook our path. Regardless of circumstances under our control he was bound to make regular appearances. The flutter of his wings wakened us one morning, May 14, 1914, to be exact. There lay another boy and -- what do you think -- when he opened his big brown eyes he just seemed to say, "Good morning." No kibitzers being present excepting Dr. Violet, we named him "Charles Wilbur." We felt there must have been a great man by that name of fame and that this boy had a good chance to become so too. He's on the road there now.

By this time Grandma had proven herself a successful nurse and if she had been paid by the diaper a substantial legacy might have been left for her protégés. A "protégé," as per Noah Webster, is one especially cared for by another older and more powerful. Also by this time we had become pretty good respectable farmers, especially in raising strawberries. That was Mother's particular hobby. We learned it is one thing to PRODUCE "produce" and another thing to get the money for it. Here's where Queen Kate and the boys came in. They peddled strawberries all around the country and the old mare came to be known as Strawberry Kate.

Of course I never could be a farmer; salesmanship was my stock in trade. Also ten acres was diminutive for a man of my expanding aspirations, to say nothing of the exchequer of the family. So my next venture was a Cadillac, the tonneau of which was removed to make room for a home-made delivery body with a top on it. The body had a tail gate on hinges so that the back seat could slip in and the tail gate be raised so that the seat could not slip out. It had side curtains to shed the rain. We had a comfortable plank which we could fasten across the body to afford additional seating capacity for 10 people. This equipment was for Sundays and picnics; on other days we used it for my poultry and egg business, which was my new enterprise. I was buying and selling.

On one occasion I had two dozen barred rock fryers, elegant birds just ready for the pan. I had them under a coop, intending to take them to market the next morning. When I went out to load them, not a chick was in sight. I saw the robber had made a small hole under the coop, and I was able to trace his trail to our neighbor Everett's barn, under which the robber had made a den. It so happened there was an irrigating ditch close by, so we started the pump and soon had that ditch full of water and directed the water over his hole. In a short time we heard him "blub, blub, blub, blub," and presently he stuck his nose out of the water. Our neighbor was ready with his shovel, and a battle royal took place. A badger weighing about 16 pounds -- for such he was -- has quite long hair covering vital spots, and lots of fat, and he put up a great fight. Grandpa Smith used some of his bristles for his lettering pencils and graining tools. Badgers' bristles were valuable.

The residents of that portion of Orange County were very familiar by this time with the Smiths and their Cadillac. Those were wonderful days, full of hardships, adventures, hard work and struggle for existence, but a joyful struggle. The children were being educated and growing strong on pure air and wholesome food -- never more than one variety of breakfast cereal, that or none. Consequently we do not find scotch oats on their breakfast tables today.

A housewife must have a routine and a systematic order of affairs, and with Grandma's aid, certain rules and regulations were carried out. Monday was washday, and nothing interfered with that. Tuesday was ironing day, when the leftovers of the leftovers were cleaned up. Wednesday was mending day and starting a new batch of bread and other food. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday more time was given to farm labor, and Sunday was church day.

Sister and Dudley graduated from Garden Grove Grammar School, then from Anaheim High, and were enrolled in Pomona College. Scobee graduated from Alamitos Grammar School and was enrolled in Anaheim High. Norman, Ralph, Doris and Charles were still in Alamitos Grammar School when we left The Ranch on January 1, 1922.

The period between 1914 and 1922 found Sister, Dudley, and Scobee in their adolescence, and since they were natural children they showed symptoms of having "adolescent-itis" leading to romance.

Sure, Sister had her boy friends, many of them -- so many it made confusion leading from strife, to scandal, to force, to prayer. The battle ground was The Ranch with the climax when Sister slapped one of her admirers in the face. At the time that seemed a very disgraceful act, and after a brief reprimand her Papa led her into the house where we got down on our knees and asked the Good Lord to help Sister to be a good girl. Ain't it strange how youth's impressions mold one's life -- a preacher prayed for me, and I, Papa, prayed for my little girl. Results similar.

Dudley too felt the sting of romance. Here's where old Cadillac came into disgrace. Dudley was in a hurry one day to make one of his "dates." Old Cadillac was in the barn waiting for Dudley to twist her tail. He did. She backfired. Dudley yelled and came running into the house holding his wrist and crying, "I did it now, I did it now!" Papa went out, spoke gently to Cad, got all set, gave her tail a twist, and off she went, and we went to Garden Grove. Dr. Violet wanted another doctor for the anesthetic, but I said, "Get a hold of it, Doc, and pull it into place." Dudley took hold of me, I held him down, Doc pulled, and the wrist snapped back where it belonged. We tied it up in some home-made splints, and soon he was without spot or blemish. But that date was not kept.

Later, one was. He had taken his girl to Long Beach and they became so interested in the merry-go-round, the switch-back, the fun-house, peanuts, pop-corn and candy, that the hands of time were completely overlooked. However, one of Papa's rules -- in by ten o'clock -- had been broken, and Papa's anxiety over road hazards, which was of lesser consequence, was also aroused. The next morning the admonishing took place. Dudley back-fired, having felt that manly surge in his chest, and Papa felt like a licked pup. It wound up with a mutual understanding. Scobee, as aforementioned, had a will which he couldn't help having inherited. It had been a rainy day and afternoon recess was taking place. A pool of water was standing on the ground, and Scobee was exercising his rights by swinging a stick in the water, splashing it all over those coming within range. The trouble was, he broke two rules. First, one's liberty extends only so far as not to interfere with the rights of others. Second, the teacher was the chief arbiter. He questioned her decision. She did the flogging. He held out. It made her madder and madder. But he would not promise her not to do it again. His theory was he might want to do that very thing again someday. Papa happened to be on the school board. The other two members of the board wanted to dismiss the teacher but Papa backed her up, holding that her sovereignty was supreme and she should have been obeyed. The teacher stayed.

Norman liked the horses and was always very cautious, and I cannot remember any more serious accidents to him than Queen Kate's taking him for a fast ride on several occasions.

Ralph was the boy who seemed to be getting hurt mostly. Once he fell off the hay stack onto a barbed wire fence, cutting his arm from nearly his elbow to the wrist. We taped it up after sterilization, and his pure blood did the rest. Another time he and Norman were playing with the lawn mower when he got his thumb in the mower and cut a piece off of it -- the thumb. Grandma, with her medical science experience, gave first aid and fastened the piece back on the end of his thumb. When I got home I did not like her surgery and performed my own, and to this day that thumb is as good as anyone's, with only a slight knob on the end of it. I used to love to watch him run. Those little short legs would just fly over the ground, and I used to say that someday that boy would be a runner. And he was and is. Gold medals, badges, and ribbons covered his manly chest up through his college career.

Doris was such a fine baby we decided that we would keep her and take her back to The Ranch with us. That climate and soil agreed with her, and she grew up to be a fine little girl. On her return home from school one day she was followed by a dog. This was a very unusual dog. He was a big black and white fellow with an instinct and common sense superior to some humans I have known. Prince, as we named him and which name he seemed to like, attached himself to Doris and became her personal body guard. He was not a young dog, and I have always been rather curious as to his former days and the tragedies he may have gone through. He liked children and hated tramps. He would fight and lick anything, and still was very domestic. We afterward gave him to a friend who took him to Hemet, where he attached himself to their little three-year-old girl as her body guard and was chief of police on their ranch. Somebody put out poison and poor Prince got a dose of it, which ended his life. A good dog, he had a respectable burial and grave, which was due him. Doris was about three years old when we took her back to the ranch. Her early recollections -- of the family gatherings, the Christmas parties at home, our social and church connections, of how mad Dudley got one day when Ralph threw something against the barn while he was milking, causing Ginger to step into the bucket -- were memories never to be erased. The water tank, pump, pump-house and belt, the fig, orange, persimmon, walnut, peach, quince trees, the little square house with the holes shot in the door, the big barn full of hay, those large pepper trees surrounding the house, those irrigating ditches, the pimentos, strawberries, and lettuce and some corn and lima beans, the cows and chickens, Queen Kate and the surrey, and the cemetery -- all must be indelibly impressed on her mind, in all of which she had her part.

That "old Bird" came buzzing around again on exactly the 18th day of September 1916, just one week before Mother's birthday, only she was 43 on September 25, 1916. I must have said an unkind word or gave that "old bird" a sour look that day, for the doctor said we need not look for any more babies, as the bird was through with us. We named him, I mean the baby, Wilfred Donald. We did not want two Wills in the family. Since our "Junior" had passed on to his reward, we reasoned that the nearest we could come to William was Wilfred. There was a little boy in Hollywood who delivered papers to us whom we liked very much, and we decided to call our little fellow Donald, after him. Today Don is highly respected in his profession.

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