Lewis Weldon Tanner

I was born the second son and fourth child of Allen Raymond and Sarah Grace Wakefield Tanner. I was born in the tie house that stands almost directly across the road from the big brick home of my grandparents. In 1948 the family moved to the Barlow house where my parents still lived at the time of my father’s death in 1963. After Dad died, Mother sold the house and moved into town to live with my sister, Flora.

I attended school at the Grouse Creek School through tenth grade when I moved to Ogden and attended Ogden High School, graduating in 1945. During my high school years, I lived with my sisters, Alta and Flora, and worked as well as attended school. I worked for a time at DDO (Second Street) and at the Washington Market.

I enjoyed life on the ranch, even though it was not always an easy life. We had certain things that were done at the same time each year. In the spring we could hardly wait for branding time. It would take about a week and we could get out of school, just to watch when we were young, and later to help. Dad did the branding and we would chop wood to keep the fire going and carry the hot irons to him. As we got older, we would take turns roping. We would also have to spend days cleaning manure out of the corrals and hauling it away. Then there was spring plowing, harrowing, and planting.

In the summer, they loaded up whatever it would take to keep two families and all the hired men for three or four weeks up at the ranch to put up hay. Mother, Vera, and Ella would take turns, (two of them each year) staying up there and cooking. Each year we had to cut wheat grass as tall as a man to make trails around the house and sheds and to the creek. We packed water from the creek to do some heavy cleaning since the house had not been used since the year before. It was not unusual to have our evening meal interrupted by someone shooting a rat with a .22. When we slept, we put our clothes under the covers with us to keep pack rats from carrying them off. All night long we could hear them racing in the hall. When it rained we would stand on the porch and watch the lightning which sometimes hit very close to the house and frequently would start a fire close by.

As we grew old enough, we would drive the derrick cart then the scatter rake and rake, using the slowest and largest horses. We looked forward to being old enough to drive the horse-drawn mowing machine when it was our turn. Later we added a tractor, baler, and swather.

We would look forward to getting the hay up before school started so we could spend some time riding. It would take three or four days to ride for the saddle horses, then two or three days shoeing them and snapping them out. We usually got to see some pretty good rides. As a kid, I always rode old Net who would try to scrub me off at every tree she came to. After her I grew into old Middy, and then Dad gave me old Spug. I also had the black mare who was the sister to Slippers and the mother of Goebbels, two horses I later owned. Sunday was another of my horses. I later sold the black mare, Slippers, Sunday and Goebbels, but old Spug fell over dead from a heart attack under me while I was chasing horses in Merlin’s field.

When it came time to sell the beef, we would weigh our steers at Kid Blanthorn’s and then trail them to Billy Kimber’s ranch and on to Lucin and load them into the cattle cars, and then Dad would ride on the caboose to Ogden with them. One time Dad took them to Los Angeles, and when I was about ten or twelve years old we drove them to Oakley, Idaho. After the steers were sold, the cows and calves had to be gathered and vaccinated for black leg. After the calves were weaned, those with horns were taken over to Newell Richins’s corral to be dehorned, which was not all that much fun.

In the winter, when we were kids, we would go with the men to feed on Saturdays. We would tie our little sleds behind the big sleighs. They would tip over and by the time we got to the ranch we would be cold and wet and bawling. They would make us run around the haystack to get warm.

Nature often made life exciting. I was about four years old, and standing on the shelf of the cupboard while Mother was cooking breakfast. Alta came running in, all excited because “something was coming.” In a minute the house started to shake and threw me off the cupboard. It was the earthquake that put the crack in Grandpa’s brick house. Grandpa had not walked for two or three years, but he was out of bed and had walked across the room when Ted ran in to check on him. One of the few things I remember about Grandpa Tanner is him telling us stories, especially “Little Red Riding Hood.” He’d go through the acts of the wolf to scare us all.

Uncle Rone (Moroni), Grandpa’s brother lived in a little house up the hill from the tie house. Wayne and I used to go up there and eat rye out of his bin. He would make sourdough bread for us and cook it in the frying pan. When he wanted to turn it over, he would throw it up in the air and catch it. He used to take us digging sego lilies to eat, and he often stayed with us when Mom and Dad went to a dance or some other church or community activity.

I remember many Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners at Grandma Wakefield’s. Everyone would be there for a real feast and good time.

Sometimes we would have close calls living in Grouse Creek. When I was about four years old, we went up to the schoolhouse and unloaded a wagon load of coal that Dad had gone to Lucin and got the day before. Afterwards, he unharnessed his team and was feeding the horses. As he came into the corral with a forkful of loose hay, Old Boots was following him eating on the hay and Old Net bit her on the rump and made her jump and hit Dad. He went down on his stomach and she stopped over him and was stomping his back with her hind feet and bashing his head back and forth between her front feet. He called to me, “Go get your mother!” I ran and brought Mother and she drove Old Boots off Dad. As it happened, it was Dad’s birthday and they had planned a surprise birthday party that night. They had the party, but Dad celebrated lying on the couch.

When I was about eight years old, our family and Herb’s family went up on Pine Creek in the small wagon choke-cherrying. In the middle of the afternoon it clouded up and started to thunder and lightning. Flora and I were playing in the wagon, Dad was holding the team, and the rest were on the grass at the side of the wagon. A bolt of lightning hit near the team and they jumped and jerked one of the lines out of Dad’s hand and started to run. With him holding one line, they started to circle around to the family. Dad had seen Flora jump out of the wagon, and thought that I had gone with her, so he turned the line loose to keep the team from running over the rest of them. Then he and Wayne saw that I was still in the wagon and both broke and ran toward the gate to try to stop the team before they got out of the field. The team beat them to the gate and got out and quit the road, heading for Benny Cook’s camp. I was kneeling in the wagon, hanging onto the side of the wagon box with the wheels hitting dead quaking aspen trees and knocking them over. I would see that they were going to hit and shut my eyes for fear it would tip the wagon over. By then it was pouring rain and the thunder and lightning was hitting close and keeping the horses spooked up. After about three miles, they ran into a sarvest berry bush and stopped, and I got out. I was trying to get the lines untangled from around the tugs so I could drive the team back to the folks, but another lightning bolt hit and they took off again. They ran into another tree and stopped, and that is where they were when Dad and Herb caught up to them. The others followed behind, picking up stuff that had been thrown out of the wagon and looking on both sides of the tracks to see if I had been thrown out and killed. They decided that Mom and Dad would stay to look for me and sent Herb on with the wagon to take the others home and get up a search party to help. When the team had started to run again, I had climbed up the hill and could see the sand rock hill on our feed ground, so I started walking and running west, staying up on the hill and side hill because the big wash in Cook’s Canyon was full and flooding all over the canyon floor and the roaring scared me. I could see the wagon coming down Pine Creek and hollered, but they didn’t see me. They went over to George Blanthorn’s to get him out to go searching, and while they were talking, Kid said, “What’s that coming through the lane?” Herb said, “it’s just a cow,” but Wayne said, “No, it’s not! It’s Lewis!” Kid went back to get Mother and Dad, driving his car as far as he could and then walking.

Some of my memories of Grouse Creek are good for a laugh. One time when Merlin and I were about eight or nine years old, we were playing in the June grass while they were haying down at the Blanthorn field. We had sticks and were teasing a porcupine. Merlin’s ankles started hurting and he started bawling. I ran and got Del and told him Merlin had got hit by a porcupine. He unhitched his team and went running, only to find that it was the June grass heads in Merlin’s stockings, and not porcupine quills that was bothering him.

I will always remember my years on the ranch and my life there.

In 1947 Dad bought old Betterstill at Burley as a five-year-old. He was Dad’s horse and was very gentle with him when Dad would have an asthma attack. After Dad died in 1963 we brought Betterstill to Kaysville and Evelyn and all the kids learned to ride on him. We never could get rid of him and kept him until 1973. He was thirty-one years old and written up in the local newspaper as “the oldest horse in Davis County” not long before he died in 1973.

I went into the Army in 1945 and served as Staff Sgt. and Personnel Sgt. Major in Japan following basic training at Fort Lewis, Washington. After my discharge from the Army I worked on the ranch and then went to work at Palisade, Nevada. I went back to the ranch until 1956. I moved to Ogden and worked for the State Road Commission for a short time and then at Hill Field where I worked until I reached retirement age in 1986.

I married my wife, Evelyn, in 1962 and settled in Kaysville with her and her three children, Colleen, Kathleen, and David, whom I adopted. Two boys were born to us — Stephen Mark in 1963 and Paul Alan in 1964. It was a challenge for an “old bachelor” to suddenly be surrounded by family, but we reared some fine kids and have nine living grandchildren. Sadly, we lost one grandson, Dustin, born prematurely, and our daughter, Kathleen, who died of cancer at age thirty-five.

After being ill for several years, Lewis passed away on April 9, 2006.