The Energizer Cowboys who kept things humming at the reunion

The Energizer Cowboys who kept things humming at the reunion
These kids know how to have fun!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sunday Drive to Keeler's Antelope Bench Farm

The Keeler Kin who made it to the Antelope Farm -- taken in front of the house
 our father built with his brother-in-law Jay Jamison.

There were some who weren't able to visit the farm on Sunday, but we actually had quite a good group with three generations represented -- 33 all together.  Neil Brown hadn't told the overseer at the house that we were coming, so it was quite a surprise to Mr. Eckhart when this many people showed up unannounced at the farm.  Mr. Brown came shortly afterwards and cleared up the surprise.  He also shared with us the history of the farm after Dad sold it in 1961 to Jim Hayes.

The hill gives a good view of the little valley where our home and property was.
We invited the grandkids and others who wanted to get out of cars at the top of the  granary hill and walk down the hill with us, so we could share some stories with them.  When we sold the farm to Jim Hayes, there were six granaries on this hill, all of which were torn down when Mr. Brown was hired by the Hayes brothers.  The two large wooden ones were there when our father initially bought the farm; the other four round metal ones he built.  I can remember handing him screws and washers as he assembled the metal pieces.

Sharing stories at the top of the hill

Nancy told of a time when she ran away, which meant walking up this big hill.  "But where do you run away to, when you're far away from everything, she wondered."

We used to ride our bikes down this hill, and also sleigh ride down it in the winter.  The trees grow where we had our pasture.  We always had a milk cow or two, and sometimes a few beef cattle.  One favorite bush in the pasture was the service berry, which mom taught us about, and they were delicious to eat when they were ripe.  We also picked chokecherries on the farm.  I remember going to one area where they grew tall like trees, so we climbed in the back of the big army truck and my dad drove as close to the chokecherries as he could.  That was easy picking!  Chokecherries were our main fruit for jams and jelly's and were also one pitiful effort my dad made at making chokecherry wine. I remember when grandma and Dad's step brothers would come to visit, eventually they would all troupe downstairs to taste the brew in the cock pot to see if it was ready.  I'm not sure it ever "got ready!'

The barn, corrals  chicken coop, hired man's house, shed, feed house, and shop were all torn down when the conservancy group took over.  They put this big quonset hut up. The house and the pump house are the only structures still remaining from our days on the farm.

Mr. Eckhart, Mr. Brown, Janet and Laurie determine what would be best for the group to do. We were able to do a walk about around the pasture, but it was too dry for roasting marshmallows.
Mr. Brown explained that Jim Hayes also bought out Durrant, Smiths, and Woodards farms which bordered ours.  Eventually Hayes decided to sell some river frontage at Fisher's Bottom to a developer.  It was then that the Snake River Conservancy group got involved and filed a law suit to prevent the sales.  It was in the courts for 10 years and eventually the property was sold to a rich benefactor who would protect the Snake River Corridor which bordered those farms.  That was 20 year old Mark Rockefeller, who still owns the property, and has Mr. Brown manage the planting and harvesting of the  crops.

He also told the sad stories of how Mrs. Hayes and later Mr. Hayes died.  At that time I shared the following story which I had used in a talk recently.  I hope our children and grandchildren will remember the importance of safety rods, and protection poles.
"We grew up on a dry farm 17 miles from Ririe, Idaho.  The last two miles home were up a dirt road, and 1 mile of that road was up a big hill.  It was quite a climb to get to the top, and sometimes we had to walk it if Mom weren't there to pick us up from the bus after school.  After several years of requests, and prodings by my Dad, Bonneville County finally graded and graveled that 2 mile stretch of road, so that the school bus could actually come pick us up at our home.  After that happened we no longer had to move into Ririe during the winter, but we did have to content with bad storms during the winter, and we had  to prepare for those storms.
    Each fall my dad would have us help burn off tumble weeds along the road, so they wouldn't hold the snow, causing it to fill the barrow pit. Then we would insert study willow poles along one side of the road about every 20 feet.  The poles were put there in case a blizzard or heavy snowfall came and we couldn't see the road to drive safely home.  We would know where the edge of the road was by these "guide" poles.  I remember driving home many times as a family, hoping Daddy could see the next pole.  It was scary because the snow and fog were so thick and we couldn't see very far ahead..  Were it not for those guidelines, and poles of protection, we would have been in serious trouble, blinded by storms, or hidden dangers when we couldn't see where the road was.    
Driving blind through a blizzard
        After I graduated from high school, we sold our farm on Antelope Bench to Jim Hayes.  He was a good farmer, and knew how to dry farm, but he didn't anticipate the dangers of winter storms.  He didn't mark the road back to the house with safety willows, and the second winter they lived there his wife drove off the road one night coming back from town, and she ended up freezing to death, while trying to walk home, all because she had no guide to help her return safely.
       When Daddy told me that story, he emphasized how you needed to prepare well before the storm came.  The reality of the poles' importance really struck home to me at that time and I've never forgotten what happened to Mrs. Hayes.

      When I gave that talk I emphasized the importance of staying on the path that leads back to Heavenly Father.  We need to watch for the markers, or protection poles God has established to help families return home.  These include things as simple as willow poles: praying daily, reading scriptures daily, holding Family Home Evening, church attendance, reading your patriarchal blessing, being honest, providing service, charity, and love.  They are markers to help us return, and when used in a family setting can help us and our children stay on the road to eternal life."  Once we finished with the stories, we went on a walk about around the pasture.

The trees in the background were part of a wind break our dad planted about 50 years ago.  We helped water them by hauling buckets from the barn; it was good to know they are still alive.  The wooden fence was put in after we left.  My dad had a barbed wire fence around the pasture.           

This is the area where our chicken coop and barn were located.  Dad built both of them.  We had a milk cow, a couple of horses, and sometimes we raised cattle for meat.   However, our main meat was venison, hunted right on our farm.  My dad figured since they were grain fed from his fields, he ought to be able to recoop some of the damage.

 Where the quonset is now located is where we had a big wooden shed where we kept the combine, and army truck used for hauling grain.  That is where they also butchered deer and skinned it.  We also had a big pigpen west of the barn and raised pigs quite a few years.  We liked to chase the little weiner pigs around the pen.
Looking west across Antelope.  Lots of wonderful dry farms across the way owned by the Summers and Freemans..
Last Family Walkabout around the Keeler Farm Pasture.

 At the top of the pasture is the building that protected the cistern and pump and the well that our dad put in.  It took a couple of tries to find water on the farm.  We lived on the farm for at least six years before we had running water on the property.  Prior to that we had to either haul water from Ririe, or from Antelope creek further up the highway.  They had to drill about 1000 feet to find water, but that made a huge difference in our life style on the farm.  No more sharing bath water, recycling water while washing clothes, and we could even have a lawn and flowers with water hoses to water the lawn, and my mom could finally use her built in dishwasher!

 This was the big pump used to pull the water up out of the 1000 ft. well.  They now use an electric pump, and a sensor which turns the well on when the water goes down to a certain level -- and no kids have to run up the hill to turn on the pump!

The Hill family walks across the upper pasture which dad used to raise hay for the animals.

Prior to driving up to the farm we stopped at the Snake River outlook between Poplar and Antelope.
Matthew, Isaac, Logan, Anthony and Sam look at the Snake River
Definitely one of our favorite rivers.  This ran past our farm, but we had to
travel about 4 miles to get to it.  We fished there a lot and had
weiner roasts along the river bottom. I remember walking down once,
but usually we rode in the back of the Dodge Power Wagon. 

This view of the Snake River reminded me of a poem I wrote a few years ago

Dugout Sundays on the Snake
by Janet Wilcox -- Dec. 2003

I remember Sunday afternoons riding past crops of swaying barley.
Dusty sage and rocky outcroppings outlined our dryland fields.
The Power Wagon jolts over rutted curves while
Kids piled in the back, bounce against hastily filled boxes of grub.
Dad cautiously approaches the dreaded dugout road.
We open, then close the barbed wire fence and begin our downward descent.
Dodging wayward rocks and hugging the inside curve around switchbacks,
We plow through overhanging Chokecherry and Service berry branches,
Dust swirls behind the lumbering truck, and smothers us on the sharp turns,
A grey mist settles on our bronzed arms.

Finally we reach the bottom and pull into a shaded grove,
Kids spill out over the sides of the truck.
Quickly willows are targeted for fishing poles
and Dad ties our hooks with fisherman’s knots.
Worms are skewered onto the arching poles and
We foolishly charge the rolling river,
thinking our 12 foot lines can snag trout from the giant river.
Riffs and ripples quickly bounce our lines back to the shore
We fantasize about mountain men and canoes,
running the glistening rapids, and imagine
wild animals lurking in the woods.
Like midgets below the towering canyon walls,
we continue tossing our lines back into the glistening Snake.
Our best catches are twisted driftwood and each others ears and coats.
Lack of success pulls us into other adventures;
The graveled shoreline, provides troves of flat rocks perfect for skipping.
Boisterous challenges echo across the canyon
forcing Dad to hike to quieter glens for serious fishing.
Finally the camp fire is built –the tour de force of the trip.
With arm loads of cottonwood and pine,
we create a pyramid of potential.
A one match start is the goal;
Quickly the fire roars into fiery silhouettes against the darkened Idaho sky.
Blacked hot dogs and smoldering marshmallows, our wilderness feast.
The final event, playing No Bears Out Tonight,
The game is too real to enjoy with true abandon,
As we’re sure such creatures may be watching from the shadows.
Singing our way home, wrapped in old pieced quilts and a family’s love,
Life seemed complete and so good.

Nothing quite like Lucerne to
 decorate a hat!

Part of the good-looking Keeler Kin on their way to the Antelope Farm

Before we headed to the farm the Arnolds and Hills fed us a delicious "heritage" lunch of Tacos, fruit, and Grandma Keeler's oatmeal cookies.  These were recipes our mother often fixed for us and Nancy and Lexie had made copies for us.  We also attended church at the new LDS chapel in Ririe.  It happened to be testimony meeting, so I had a chance one last time to share my testimony and appreciation about growing up in Ririe.  

Afterwards several people came up to visit briefly:  Norlan Durrant, who farmed with his dad, Jim Durrant, next to us and also taught Doug and I how to ski; Onda Summers Smith whom I picked potatoes with one fall; June Park, Dalene's older sister, and Brother McMurtrey who had just retuned from Tuba City serving in the Farmington NM mission.  It was wonderful to visit briefly with each of them.  I also shared Boyd Silversmith's story and how Bishop Hunter had helped him go on a mission, and all the good he had done since then.  Andrew and Amy headed home at that time as Mattea seemed sick, and Chris and Pam left for home on Saturday, so they didn't get to go up to the farm.  
 Sunday night we watched the family slides which Nancy showed, played games and visited.  (I brought the slides home and hope to get them scanned soon, and will share when I do.) ((I was able to get these copied by the end of 2012.))  The reunion faithful ones who endured to the end were Nancy and Bruce, Nathan and Tammy's family, Anthony and his kids, and Jessica and Paul's family who stayed late and visited with us.  Overall we were very happy with how everything went, though we wished our whole family could have been there.  We so appreciate all who made the effort to attend and hope you learned some new things about your roots and family history.  It was great getting to share some family nostalgia with so many of the family.

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