Oral Histories

Ruby Ray Tangreen Zufelt

b. 1908

Ruby Zufelt

Q. He must have had an awful struggle trying to raise and support all of you.

A. Wages for a man was three dollars a day, most of the time, when you could find a job. Mother was simply never able to do much of anything. She crocheted and sewed blocks and fussed around. She cooked meals most of the time, but sometimes she wasn’t able to even do that.

Q. Where did you go in Wyoming?

A. Wheatland. I had to quit my job at the boarding house. I had a boy friend that took me to the theater and places there. He went out to see me one day, and we were gone. He found us at the train station long enough to say goodbye.

Q. Do you remember his name?

A. Harry Hosmer. He was real nice. Mother got a job taking care of this lady who had hiccups so bad that she couldn’t do anything. Dad was working for the farmer, and he had a little two room shack that we lived in. I was chief cook and bottle washer, as well as baby sitter for the kids. I had to do laundry and everything, get the meals and take care of the baby. Then Dad wanted me to go pitch hay with ‘im, be a man. I told him I wouldn’t do it.

Q. Is that the first job you refused?

A. Yeah. I was only sixteen, but he thought I should go out and pitch hay, ‘cause I was strong and able to do most anything. But I wasn’t going to go out and pitch hay with a bunch of men. They got the hay up.

Excerpts from The Courting Years of Ruby Ray:

Dad had heard what a wonderful place Bellingham, Washington was and had written the Chamber of Commerce for information, which sounded wonderful. (About that time,) Clarence came to Wheatland to see me. He asked be to marry him and I excepted and we were engaged. He sent me a diamond ring and a wristwatch. We all left the gate at once, Clarence going back to town to catch a train back home, the rest going the other was (to Bellingham).

We had packed our bedding, dishes, etc., into a big box and shipped them to Bellingham. We were picked up by a flat bed truck and all got to Cheyenne, Wyoming together and stayed in a camp park that night. The next morning we started out together, down a nice street full of houses, Dad in the lead, the rest of us trailing along behind. We met a young lady and her boy friend. I heard the girl say: “What a way to travel.” I stuck my nose in the air, like I owned the town. I’d like to have gone through the pavement.

Dad divided the money he had, $16.50 to me, $16.50 to Mother, $16.50 to him and $7.50 to Vern. He took Ireta and Thelma and caught a freight train. They got there soon without incident. Vern got picked up by the cops as a runaway and had to give them my life-long friend, Jewell Fuller’s name, who lived in Mt. Vernon, Washington. She cleared him with the cops and they let him go.

Mother and I had Jenny. She was two or three, too big to carry and not big enough to walk. We had a suitcase and a couple of quilts in a bedroll. Mother and I walked and walked. I’d carry Jenny and she’d carry the bed roll and suitcase, then I’d carry the bedroll and suitcase and Jenny would walk a ways.

We got two or three short rides, then some people going through Yellow Stone Park gave us a ride. We camped with them at night and they took us to the Montana entrance. We went a couple of days, rolled our quilts out in a bar ditch and didn’t get very far. Then a man picked us up and was very kind. He bought us some snacks and had to make a side trip on this business. He said if we’d wait until he got back he’d take us to the next large town. He was very kind and told us “Hold your hand up, stick your thumb out, let people know you need a ride.” We did better after that.

. . . We went through a redwood tree with the road cut through it, and picked blackberries growing wild along a fence. We got to Mount Vernon, looked up the Fullers and had dinner with them. Went on to Bellingham on the inter-urban. Some of the track was built out in the ocean.

We lost our suitcase and bed roll off one of the rides we got. The people that found the suitcase found our address in a a letter that was in it and sent it to us.

Back to the DeLong interview:

We got to Spokane, Washington. A trucker picked us up and took us through town to a little town the other side of Spokane. We’d run out of money, so Mother stopped at a store and Post Office and inquired about work. There happened to be a man there that was looking for someone to cook for his harvest crew. It was in the wheat belt. All rolling hills and all wheat. The thrashing crew hadn’t got to his place yet.

He was a widower. He said, “Well, I’ll need a cook for the crew, when I get the combine. I don’t know how long it’s gonna be, but you’re welcome to come out and stay, then I’ll pay you when you begin cooking. It will be four or five days work.”

So he took us out to his ranch. He had a nice home and a piano. I poked on it a little bit to kill time. He said there was a neighbor up there who had a little pony in the garage and he was quite a pet. He said, “You can take this pony and ride anytime you want to.” The night we got out there, he went out to chop his wood and cut his finger off. Mother was petrified. She couldn’t begin to stand the sight of blood. I had to take care of his finger. I wrapped it up and put turpentine on it, and did the best I could. He had to go work everyday, but that finger was pretty bad. I would jump on that little pony and take some bandages to where they were threshing, and dress his finger at noon.

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