Oral Histories

Ruby Ray Tangreen Zufelt

b. 1908

Ruby Zufelt

It was the same temperature all the time. We didn’t need the stove much for heat, but our neighbor would come over to see us and she would just freeze to death. She was living in Herm Butt’s house then, and it was just through the fence and about a half or quarter mile each way to their place.

Q. How many children were there that lived in this little dugout house?

A. Three, Vern and I and Ireta. But we had two beds in there and it was comfortable. Didn’t complain. We had very little to read that we could understand. Mother had the church books, but that was a little heavy for we kids. We played checkers and dominoes and Mother would tell us a story once in a while. We thought we got along just fine.

Then Dad built the house when he had time. He built a pretty good house. It was the best log house in the country. It was sixteen by thirty two, a big house. It could be divided off into a living room, two bedrooms, a kitchen, and hopefully a bathroom someday. He cut the space out of the logs when he laid them up, so he could get the window in there. After he got the logs up, he had to go to the Lone Cone sawmill to get lumber for the roof. He and Vern went and were gone two nights and he come home with enough lumber to put a roof on the house, so we could move out of the cellar. Before he built the house, he went up on the hill, on the other side. We were in kind of a deep draw. On the top of hill was some good rock about six to eight inches thick. He cut it out of the rock on top of the hill to make a hearthstone to build a fireplace. Before he started building the house, he borrowed Herm’s team and drug it over where he was going to build the house. So it was in the middle of the floor when we got the house built. He was ready to build a fire and he had the hearthstone down.

Q. He was pretty sharp, wasn’t he?

A. And he was a good, hard worker, and planned well. He got other rocks and built the fireplace. I don’t know what happened to that little cook stove, but we didn’t have it any more. We cooked on the fireplace for a couple of years in Dutch ovens. Mother had a cupboard board that she used for an ironing board. Maybe she could have kept it on the table, but anyway her flatiron handle broke. She didn’t have a flatiron handle, so we had to use a stick to push the iron around with.

Q. Was that the time you had three of those irons and you’d put one of those irons on the Dutch oven, while you would use the other one?

A. Yes. I think we only had two, but we had to heat it in the Dutch oven because we didn’t have the stove. But our clothes were ironed. Mother wasn’t hardly able to wash on the board, so I tried to do quite a bit of it. I was Dad’s right-hand man, because I was ten and strong and healthy and able to do things to help. Vern was awful small for his age and not very handy. He just couldn’t do much of anything. He was too little, and he liked to play.

Q. Now Vern was your only brother?

A. Yeah. I had three more sisters later, but the last one was born a year after Dixie, my first daughter, was born. So I didn’t have much chance to get acquainted with her. We were happy. I worked with Dad doing everything he needed help with, like building fences and planting gardens. Anything he needed help with, I was the one that did it. After we got the house built and moved in, a man come along on horseback and he said, “Lew, how in the hell did you ever get that ridge-pole up there?” Dad said, “Oh, me and that girl did it.”

Q. That girl was you. . .was Ruby?

A. Yes. It was built back against the hill and Dad cut a long leaf pine to get that long of a log. We dragged it up along the hill with a team, on top of where the house was. Then he got a couple of long poles and put down to the house with oak brush and stuff in between. They reached. Then after he got the poles in, he and I got up there and rolled that log down those poles to the back of the house, then across the house to the front. We got it situated and put up in good shape. He was pretty proud of “that girl”. Mom was a little jealous. She wasn’t able to do the things that had to be done. She wasn’t able to follow him around to build fences and help like, you know, a healthy woman would. She was quite frail so she couldn’t do any of that stuff to help. She kind of resented me because I was so handy and could do everything. Dad showed me how to do things and if he showed me once I could do it. He could show Vern three times and he didn’t remember. Years later, Mother came to live with us a while and she got quite sick. I told the neighbor something about Mother always favored Vern and the neighbor mentioned it to Mother. She said, “Well, I had to favor Vern. Dad favored Ruby and I had to favor the rest of the kids.”

Anytime Vern and I had a quarrel, or anything went wrong, I was always with Mother, and Vern would always get the benefit. He got to have a 22 rifle and go all over the county shooting, getting acquainted, and I had to stay home and work. We lived there for a few years and never did have a toilet. We did the laundry and hung it on the bushes, and we used the bushes for our backhouse.

Read the other Oral Histories