Friday, May 23, 2014

Robbing Hermits, Watching Lava Dirt Sunsets, Shooting Antelope, and Other Labor Day Misadventures

Alice Houston Rasmussen (1913-2001)

My grandmother

me-->Ruth Rasmussen Buchanan-->Alice Houston Rasmussen

I found this story written by my grandmother in a box of papers.  My mother read it to me and we laughed so hard that I knew I couldn't change a single word*.

"To the majority of people in our community Labor Day means congregating in Price or Helper and watching a band and assorted sizes of members of United Mine Workers of America parade down Main Street.

To the eccentric group of people known as rockhounds this two-day holiday gives them an excuse to beg and bribe their wives and kids out on one more overnight rock trip before school starts.

The Castle Valley club had made detailed plans to go to the Henry Mts. to get some more of "that wonderful wood" that they have so much of already that they have to pile it on rose bushes in the back yard.  I begged out of it four years ago and haven't heard the last of it.  Maybe it might be fun to camp down on Hansen Creek (goodness knows there had never been a creek before on a rock hunt) and it might be fun to see Bullfrog and Eggnog so I resolved that "come hell or high water" I would be a dutiful wife and go.

I'm not sure about the hell but the high water we got.  The summer drought came to an abrupt halt and it began to rain.  Friday night Wayne, the field trip chairman, decided it wasn't going to stop and the trip was cancelled.  Funny thing about that, too.  When he got us all talked out of it, he and Edith went down there anyway.

Oh, happy day!  Now we could stay home and watch Local 248 run three-legged races in the city park and take it easy before the busy days ahead canning and school routine.  My optimistic thoughts were shortlived and I should have known better than to think that Art Rasmussen, the village playboy, would ever stay home even if he had to go out in a storm and get stranded and get his wife, friends and any able-bodied citizen out of their warm beds to rescue him.  But that is another story.

It seems that this simple minded husband of mine had bought an antelope license while on a jade hunt in Wyoming.  If he couldn't impress me with the second jade hunt in September, he could always pull the punch that he had spent $25 on a license and couldn't let it go to waste. 

Now a nice piece of apple green jade I can see but anytime an antelope is worth two days of my life, the price of two motels and a $25 right to shoot him, we need our heads examined.  I'd rather stay home and eat one of Wayne's billy goats.  Art touched my gullible spot, however when he said he would take me up to South Pass City and see if the two old hermits with all the purple glass had died and maybe had left all those pretty lamps, vases, chandeliers etc. lying around just waiting for me to make off with them.

When I want to arise early to take me to Salt Lake, he is just too sleepy but the morning we left he got me up at 1:30 a.m.  It rained all the way to Vernal and I didn't utter a word until we got to the Flaming Gorge Dam turnoff.   The sign said 2 miles to Dutch John and the damn [I'm not sure if this is a typo or not. Ha! Ha!]  As Art gave no indication of turning, I observed that if he could go 500 miles for an antelope, he could take me 2 miles to see the dam.  He had to admit that it was worth the five minutes it took.

We met our friends Howard and Dora Hanks at Rock Springs and after drinking five cups of coffee apiece and arguing whether to look for Eden Valley wood, turritella agate or jade on the way to antelope area, we proceeded on our way.  We tried to follow some directions scratched on a scrap of paper by a fellow in Helper who knew "just where the prettiest wood you ever saw" was.  About noon we gave up when we came to the conclusion that the guy was mixed up 100% in his directions. 

It began to snow so hard we couldn't see to drive so Art said we would go over to South Pass and visit the burial grounds of our stingy hermits.  Smoke was poring out of the chimney of their little house and it was not ghosts but two very healthy hermits who greeted us and invited us in out of the weather.   When we inquired about the glass they pointed to an old shed outside and said, "There it is under the snow."  Our mutual thoughts of sneaking a piece or two were quickly spoiled when we observed barbed wire around the roof where the glass was.  They very cheerfully took us out to an old dugout and there we saw the most beautiful specimens of wood that we'd ever seen but like the glass, they refused to sell any.  The dumps of the old ghost town had been gleaned by many before us so we found not one piece of junk to take with us.  That ended our adventures that day.

The next day the mighty hunters were out bright and early.  The road we followed was the boundary line and all the does were on our side and the bucks on the other side.  At first it was sorta fun spotting a group of antelope and then driving the jeep like crazy only to have them disappear just as we were ready to shoot.  We were having the sport of hunting but at this rate we wouldn't have any of the distasteful stuff to take home.  I finally realized that it wasn't going to be that easy for Arthur had no intention of going home without his prize and we wouldn't settle for a doe.  By six that evening I was secretly praying that a big buck would stand still long enough for us to shoot him.  My prayers were answered finally and we dressed the critter about sundown.

As we travelled toward the main highway we saw dozens of antelope within shooting distance of the road.  I didn't help matters any by suggesting that we should have hunted jade all day and picked us off a four point buck that evening.

We were now homeward bound and I felt lighthearted so I looked for something congenial to say and commented on the beautiful Wyoming sunset.  Art had suffered all day from a head cold, but he replied that it looked pretty lava dirt to him.  I indignantly asked him what made him think that it was lava dirt.  Wasn't I the one who got the last A in geology?  Since when did a brilliant sunset indicate lava dirt?  Had Don Burge told us this and I was too stupid to remember it?  I demanded an answer and poor Art looked beside himself with bewilderment.

Then he answered, "No one had to tell me.  I have always called a purplish color like that lavender."

Well, we laughed until we were weak and decided that the day hadn't been so bad after all.

The next day was Labor Day and we took our time coming home.  When we got back to Rock Springs we had just missed their parade but we saw plenty of United Mine Workers and felt right
 at home.  Howard drove up to a gas station that didn't use credit cards and we followed suit and when we paid for the gas we had exactly $1 to get home on. It brought back memories of the depression days when we did things on the skin of our teeth.

We rationed ourselves to a plain hamburger and water in Roosevelt and clung tightly to the 50 cents we had left.

The kids were waiting up for their wayward parents and wondered at our sanity when we came in smelling of antelope and told them that we had had a great time.

* Although my grandmother was an amazing writer, she didn't have word processors like we enjoy today so I have fixed her typos and other minor grammatical and spelling errors. 

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