Ira Thomas Warburton

How I remember Brother Ira, A Biographical Sketch

The day was one of those soul-satisfying times when one enjoyed being vital and alive. The scene, one of active, family routine–respective family members hither-and-yon’ bent to their sundry tasks…And so it was at midmorning on the woodpile at the Thomas D. Warburton home in Etna.

Ira was wielding the axe with gusto as the chips from a dry, compact cedar tree from the stacked woodpile was melded into lengths conducive to the cook and/or heating stove. Ira at this time could not have been more than sixteen years old, as I was just a button running around getting into mischief, of which I knew not. My recollection as to the specifics, who was chasing whom, (Calvin, I believe, was after me for some prank that I had done on him), is dubious, at any rate, I came dashing pell-mell behind him as he was into his back swing of the sharp bitted axe. The timing was as nearly perfect as it need be to have the broad butt of the axe head meet with my left forehead. (Now, I don’t know if you have had the occasion to witness how a critter was slaughtered for beef, in those times and places, caught up by the neck, by a rider on horseback, and the axe-wielder sliding down the rope to the dogie’s head. About the time that the beef was choked down (standing spraddle-legged, semi-comatose), a swish could be heard as the butt of the axe, with deftness and lightening speed, arced around and ended with the dull, fleshy thump as it centered the forehead. Believe me, that’s-all-she-wrote; the critter would drop like a rock, the colloquial term, I believe, was, at that time, “pole-axed.” …(”dropped like it had been pole-axed.”) And so it was with me, pole-axed out like a light in the blink of an eye. How long, later, I came back to reality, I know not. All I know is that Mom was maudling over me and others were standing about. I could have had the moon that day, had I just asked for it. Damage assessment resulted in only a goose-egg on the noggin. . . and an early life appellation of hardheaded.

This one of my earliest recollections of brother, Ira, Ira Thomas Warburton, born at Grouse Creek, Utah on November 7, 1915, ten years-plus older than I. Other vivid reminiscences flood my memory:

How he looked seated in the saddle with his spur adorned, boot-shoed, leg hooked up and around the horn of the saddle as he sat totally at ease on his little bay Billy Boy.

How he would take a towel, bar of soap, and his clean BVDs and amble, whistling, always whistling, wherever, up through the pasture beyond the corrals, hidden from view, for his needed bath in the stream that constantly ran down through the corral and pasture. (Interestingly, the BVDs were unique in themselves, one piece, shoulder-to-thigh length with one shoulder strap that unbuttoned to allow entry; the garment of a crisp, net-like material, the design and cloth of which I have not seen the likes since; nor do I recall any other person sporting such a tog..rather the preferred shorts ’n (tanktop-type) shirt.

How he could walk out into the pasture (or meadow, in the Fall-time) and emit a shrill whistle. His saddle horses, wherever, would stop browsing and throw their heads up and try to determine from whence came the summons. Another piercing whistle brought them, on the run, right up to his outstretched hand. (Don’t ask me how he did it. I haven’t the foggiest notion; have tried to emulate him with animals of my own to no avail.)  Likewise, when out riding the range, or even around the ranches, when he lighted (stepped off) and dropped one of his bridle reins, that’s, for sure, where his saddle horse would be when he came back. (When Ira left the valley, and as I came into manhood, his horses became my string. What wonderful animals to ride about on and learn the art of working cattle!)

How he could sleep later of a morning than any of the rest of us. Don’t ask me why. All I know is that Dad’s beck-’n-call brought most of the rest of us to task with alacrity.

How he could take the company car at the occasional Grouse Creek dances to sport a local gal for an hour-or-so to  home at the end. Those of us who awaited a way to get home, five miles, plus-or-minus, have many times sat on the church-house steps, in the cool (cold?) early morning, waiting for him to show up. Naturally, when he got back, Dad would bluster and extract promises (that may as well have been born of the wind). Rest assured, had I ever been able to emulate his “way with women,” I’d have been in seventh heaven.

How he spent his young adult life working in the fields, pitching hay or shuttling a buckrake across the meadows with the finesse that comes only to he who enjoys what he is at…On one occasion, at the Jorgensen place, he decided to work without a shirt on, the day somewhat overcast. By evening, his back was one huge blister!  (Ira was redheaded (tight waves), freckle-faced, and fair-skinned, stood, probably, five-foot-ten at about 165 pounds–no flab.)  To my recollection, Mom spent most of the night at his bedside gently anointing his back with sweet, cows’ cream. (Surely did the trick. How much was due to the cream, I wouldn’t venture a guess… Rest assured, Mom’s hands could work miracles!)

Such a miracle occurred when Ira, subsequent to his graduation from High School, had been given the task of wintering at the Horseshoe Ranch on Goose Creek (Idaho), all by his lonesome. (What a hell-of-a-thing to ask of any young person!) They (The Whiterock Livestock Co.) had around 800 head of whitefaces for him to feed each day; along with trying to keep the water holes chopped open in the -50 below, snow enshrouded, weather. The nearest neighbor, Frank Bedke, was three or four miles upstream. Ira came down with acute bronchitis which developed into pneumonia. Just how the word got back to Etna, I’m not sure, but Uncle Dell piled Mom into the car and fought the snowdrifts, over the mountain, to the Horseshoe. Mom was well armed, plenty of Musterole and flannel cloth…It goes without saying, she “saved his bacon.”  (I would venture to say that that was the last winter that Ira spent in Northwestern Utah–Etna. The subsequent year found him moved from home to Salt Lake City.)

How, probably in the spring time of that same winter, on April-Fool’s Day, Irene, a sister, Clyde Morris (then teaching at Grouse Creek), and Goldie Penrose, a friend of Irene’s, went over to the Horseshoe to have an outing (customary at that given day-of-the year:  April Fools Day) with Ira. They hiked out into the countryside to one of the flat-topped ledges. (Another pleasure to be had:  rolling rocks down the mountainside.)  Ira was climbing, ahead, to the top of a ledge. A handhold grasped a rock that had thawed-out enough to break loose when he applied pressure on it. Ass-over-tin-kettle he fell. As he came down, he hit his chest on an outcropping of rock in the ledge. Naturally, when he wound up (twenty-to-thirty feet) he was pretty well done-in. Clyde ran like an antelope all the way to the ‘Shoe to summon help. Dad came out on horseback to get him; they got him to the car; drove to Lucin to catch the train–hailed-down the first to come towardOgden; then into Salt Lake City. At the LDS Hospital, they opened-him-up (laparotomy) and removed a quart-sized blood-clot. …Recovery was uneventful and speedy.

On occasion, as I visited with Ira at Salt Lake, we would tool-around together in the bread truck that he used to deliver Safeway Bakery bread to the stores. There was always time for a soda-pop and a hotdog whenever the urge hit me. Wonderful, wonderful days!  (Ira had gone to work at Safeway, probably, through the instrumentality of a cousin, Ross Richins–who was in a high echelon of that company.)  I presume that it was during this sojourn that he met–and married on November 7, 1941 (Grace) Roberta Malmgren (born November 11, 1913, and raised in Centerfield, Utah, at this writing, residing in Bloomington, Utah as Roberta Hammond), who was, at the time, a telephone operator at Bell Telephone Co. in SLC.

Ira was always athletically inclined–particularly for one with a medium stature:  5’9 or 10″ and 160-75 lbs. He “lettered” in football and basketball while attending Box Elder High School for his 11th and 12th years. When he moved to Salt Lake(living with Grandmother Frost for a time) he attended Henager’s Business College at nights. Likewise, he was super-active in the company’s and community’s intermural sports:  played a lot of softball. Man, could he ever make the pill zing when he threw it. On the few occasions that he played with his contemporaries at Grouse Creek, their envy was apparent.

So, we thusly have a number of the many remembrances of brother, Ira. Without exception he was my favoritest hero!  Of recent years, the term,“..into harm’s way.”, has been utilized on occasions of endeavors involving risk. It pretty-well epitomized Ira’s life–if there was a “cutting-edge” he walked pretty nearly along it.

In the early phase of the Second World War, Ira enlisted into cadet pilot training; basic, at San Antonio. Subsequent to graduation/commissioning, he was sent to Columbus, Ohio for multi-engine (B-17 bomber) training. Upon completion of this phase, he and his crew flew the plane (via Brazil and East Africa) to Italy–15th Air Force.

His first mission was over the Ploesti Oil Fields. The plane was so severely shot-up that the next day an old Liberator (B-24) was rolled out for him. Ploesti again: weather and mechanical failure caused many of the flights to return to base. These factors caused Ira’s ship to be in the tail-slot when they made their bomb-run. Again, the ship was shot full of holes; sufficiently to necessitate his command to “bail out.”  One crewman’s parachute was defective, so five others bailed-out and five stayed with the ship. (A fighter-pilot, who picked them up, circled as the plane went down [Albania], and he watched as the five remaining crewmen walk away from it.)  Interesting!

The five who bailed-out, initially, all returned to base; and they, later, all made contact with Roberta (and/or Mom and Dad). The five who went down with the ship were never seen nor heard from again. (Many copies of the letters incident to this occurrence have, residually, come to me. As I have read, and reread them, am I amazed at the discrepancies and contradictions contained therein. The ways of war, I presume. All the same, it is virtually impossible to establish the exact facts that resulted in this instance.)  For record, he was declared Missing In Action effective on April 16, 1944.

Subsequent to Ira’s deployment, a redheaded, baby daughter, Vickie, was born to Roberta at (either Salina or Gunnison, Utah; exact verification not made) on the December 19, 1943. At this time, she resides with her husband in Monterey, California as Vicki Lambert. They have one fine son:  Michael. …Previously, she married, and had children by Douglas Marden Chapman–terminating in divorce. She received her endowments, and was sealed to him at the Salt Lake Temple on June 5, 1961.

Ira was baptized into the Church (LDS) on October 4, 1924. Otherwise, little can be said concerning his Church affiliation that would be justifiable in the eyes of most. Those of us who lived with, and loved from day-to-day, knew beyond doubt that his instincts for right-and-wrong were epitomized by his conduct. This may sound as if I am offering excuses for him. Not so!  He needs no vindication!

Compiled:  R. Neal Warburton