Oral Histories

John William (Jack) West


Jack West

Q: Sounds like you enjoyed going to the farm.

I loved it. Well, you talk about the city kid who went to the farm during the summer. Remember that used to be, and still is, the big deal. That reminds me of the cousins, the Latimers (Mary, Chloe? and Dave). They didn’t call it the farm, to them it was the ranch. They were going to the ranch.

Funny. No, I enjoyed working down there, I really did. I was driving the team and cutting hay and doing everything by the time I was 10 or 11 years old. I was getting tall enough, I could even harness those horses. Boy, they were good size too.

Q: So, taking care of the farm was supporting your grandmother and Gene and your parents?

Well, no, of course, they furnished all my food during the sum­mer. Of course, while I was there the folks would bring a little something when they would come to visit. It would be sardines and cheese.

Q: But mostly you were assisting them?

Yeah, I was just taking the place of a helper; that’s what it boiled down to because Gene just couldn’t do it all alone. Boy, we used to raise a lot of beets, potatoes.

Q: You did that for how many years, from what age to what age?

Well, from at least ten until I was seventeen. I did that every summer. And about the time I started going with (my eventual wife) Helen, why, the farm had just deteriorated to where there was just no supporting it. At that point, Grandma got sick and had to go live in Salt Lake. About then, I quit and I think Gene run it a year after that, tried to with some help to hire. Then he got a ruptured appendix and peritonitis and died. That brought that to an end. Then the farm was just leased out to some people. Uncle Jess, Dad’s older brother, was living in Bluffdale and he controlled that. He did the leasing and the running. But by then it had deteriorated so bad that we never got anything out of it and eventually they sold it–got a little bit out of that.

It’s a strange thing when I stop and think why I went down every summer. But, it was the fact that I loved the farm, and I enjoyed the work there, and I loved Gene. He was a real good egg. Grandma too, oh, they were wonderful. And, of course, I got no pay at all for the summer’s work, got food. Then in the fall the folks would probably get some potatoes. We usually had at least enough spuds to furnish us two or three sacks and them. But I just liked to be there. When they would leave me there right after school was out, they would leave me a dollar. That was my summer allotment.

Q: To begin with?

Yeah, that was it. And there was no money coming. Well, the only money coming on the farm was through the milk. We milked a few cows until the fall harvest came.

Q: So, what did you use the dollar for?

Oh, yeah, the dollar. About twice during the summer Gene and I would walk down to Riverton. That was three miles and spend 25 cents to see a silent movie and then probably another 25 cents for a hamburger and then walk home after dark. Six miles to see a two-bit movie, but it was fun. We would go home and it was dark. Boy, I remember cutting down instead of following the canal bank, we would cut through a patch of brush down on what was Grandpa Miller’s farm, cut off a little distance. And, boy, one night it was black. We could make out the trail where we were going and all of a sudden there was a noise behind Gene, and we heard a big lunge and a damn dog had come down and met us. It was a really friendly old pooch and jumped on Gene’s back and, oh, talk about two scared guys! Man, oh, man, instantly we recognized the crazy old bugger. But that was our recreation.

I never saw any kids all summer. There were no other young guys or anybody down there. Maybe once or twice during the summer the Latimers would come out and visit, but that was it.

Q: So, when you weren’t working, what did you do?

Hell, you worked all the time. In the evening we would sit in the house. We had, of course, the kerosene lamp. But, we would sit out and just talk. That was all, just visit. I really don’t remember, but we were very, very compatible, never an argument.

Q: Did you have a radio?

No radio. Had an old phonograph with the cylinder disk records and that finally give up, but no, we would just sit and talk. Well, they took the Desert News which we would have to walk clear across the Jordan River to get, a couple of blocks, to pick up in the evenings. I think that was a dollar a month, and that’s stretching it. But I got to where I was working the crossword puzzle on that every night. I really enjoyed that. That was about it, I tell you. From the time we got up in the morning until it was almost dark, there was plenty of work to do. Of course, the hay crop was a big part of it because we had to put up a lot of hay to feed our own cows and horses. And I drove the two-horse team. I would cut the hay and then we had a big fancy rake, for those days, that one horse pulled. We would cut and rake and had to pile. And then usually, during the summer, (well, not just usually) my Dad would work it out so that he could be down there and help put up the stacks. And we had a big hay rack, a big flat hay rack, and Dad (oh, he was a super stacker) and we would end up four or five great big stacks of hay in the stack yard just by the barn. But Gene and Dad would throw the piles up on the flat hay rack, and I would arrange it on the rack. I was the stomper and every once in a while they’d deliberately (there were a lot of snakes on the farm, water snakes and blow snakes); every once in a while they would see one in a pile of hay and they would throw it up and there would be some scrambling and hollering.

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