Oral Histories

Harold Provonsha

b.1924

Harold Provonsha

Q: This sawmill is the one described in the attached article by Billie Provonsha?

Yes. (Billie: the ledger has interesting details, could be copied, also)

Q: Did you sell cattle from the ranch?

A: At LaSal we didn’t have many cattle. We had more sheep. We had more cattle when we got the Pack Creek Ranches. While I was in the Navy, the folks sold the ranch at LaSal and got the Pack Creek Ranches with a different range. The ranch where we had the sheep was near New LaSal.

Q: Did you ever go to the location they called Coyote?

A: They didn’t call it Coyote at that time I was there, they had changed it to New LaSal. Old LaSal was always called Old LaSal. New LaSal is where the post office is now.

Q: Was there a post office at Old LaSal?

A: I don’t think so, (Billie: I think so, but I’m not for sure on that)

Q: Let’s go back to you herding sheep on the LaSal Ranch?

A: When I went into the Navy, the folks had to sell the ranch. They couldn’t find herders because of the war effort. I went into the Navy January 21, 1944.

Q: Did you enlist?

A: Well, in a way. I enlisted through the draft board. My Dad got me deferred once, so I sent word to the draft board “For Heaven’s sake, draft me!” But I wanted the Navy. It might be easier than herding sheep. Anything to get out of that!

Q: What did you do in the Navy?

A: First thing I did was to get Rheumatic Fever and I was in the Naval Hospital for 8 ½ months. That was in Farragut, Idaho. After I got over that, they sent me back to duty. Having Rheumatic Fever knocked me out of all the schooling. They put me on a submarine rescue ship. I went to Pearl Harbor and worked with the submarine. The submarine would come into the port for overhaul. They would fire the torpedoes to see if they were going to work. We’d pick up the torpedoes and bring them back in; they had dummy heads on them. They had a diving bell on it (the rescue ship) in case the submarine got down and couldn’t get up; they would send the diving bell down to the submarine. That’s about all my service amounted to was in the hospital and on that submarine rescue ship. I was discharged in the spring of 1946. When I came back, the folks had sold the ranch at LaSal and had both ranches at Pack Creek. They had a better cattle grazing permit and had sold all the sheep and had cattle. They could run about 300 head of cattle on the allotment. The summer range was in the mountains and winter range bordered Arches Park. Dad got Fred Prewer’s old brand that Prewer no longer used. Fred Prewer’s band was registered in Dad’s name in order to keep it in the family, F (Cross F).

Q: Did you live at the Pack Creek Ranch then?

A: Yes, it was a lot better herding cattle instead of sheep.

Q: Do you remember noticing any changes in downtown Moab while you were away in the service – the war years?

A: If you mean just in that length of time, it wasn’t that many years. Moab didn’t change much.

Q: But it was shortly after that that the boom hit.

A: After I came back, I met Billie and we were married in 1947, on my birthday.

Q: Were you married here in Moab?

A: Yes, we were married in Dale and Ruth Parriott’s house. We have three children, 5 grandchildren, 5 great grandchildren. We lived on the ranch until we sold it in 1949. I ran the ranch while Dad had a business in town. Dad and I didn’t agree on how to run the ranch. I tried to buy his interest out, but he wouldn’t sell to me, so we decided to just sell it. Then I did a lot of things; worked on the first movie.

Q: What was the name of the first movie?

A:“Wagon Master.” I wrangled horses. Just regular old day to day stuff.

Q: Did you meet the stars?

A: Yes, I think Ben Johnson was on that.

Q: Did any of the rest of your family work on this movie?

A: No, just me.

Q: Any other movies?

A: I worked on “Rio Bravo “and “Battle at Apache Pass” three or four of them.

Q: Were you wrangling horses on these, too?

A: Yes. The last one I worked on was “Blue” and I drove the director on that one, chauffeured him.

(Billie: Ann worked on “Blue”. She was stand-in for JoAnn Pettit, the star. All the scenes of her riding away in the buckboard, just looking at her back – that was Ann.)

Then I got to prospecting. We had some claims staked on the mountain. In 1950, another guy, Newton Duram, and I bought a bulldozer and built us a road from the Pack Creek Ranch up Hell Canyon to the Red Devil claims.

Q: What were you prospecting for?

A: Uranium. My brother and I had staked the claims before; then we got Newton to do the assessment work for us for a year or two and cut him in on it. We decided to mine the claims, and after we got the road up there, we hauled two pickup loads of high-grade uranium out to Thompson. I can’t remember who we sold it to.

Q: Did it go on the railroad then?

A: I guess it must have. Whoever bought it would stockpile it there at Thompson. They took it to someplace in Colorado. Then I bought the bull dozer and an ore truck and started hauling ore for other people. I hauled ore from Temple Mountain to Monticello. (Temple Mountain is down close to Hanksville) I did some bull dozer work around. Then I decided to go prospecting so I hired a guy to drive the truck and haul ore and another one to run the bull dozer and I took off prospecting.

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