Ruby Ray Tangreen Zufelt
When we left I was fourteen. We went to school in Ucola. They finally got a schoolhouse within a couple of miles from our place. The people that had lived in it moved away and went to Washington. The girl that had lived there was my lifelong friend. She died of cancer a few years ago, but I wrote to her all the years in between. They had a two room log house. The guys cut the partition out and that was our schoolhouse, when we finally got a teacher and a school. I was in the seventh grade, Vern was in the fourth, and Ireta was just in the first grade. We had to walk about two miles to school and it snowed real hard. We ended up with about two and a half feet of snow. Ireta didn’t try to go to school that day. Vern and I went and we took our lunch in a gallon syrup bucket. When we got there, there was nobody there. Nobody else had gone to school. The door was locked. So we said there’s no sense carrying this lunch bucket back and have to bring it back tomorrow. We just set it there inside the door. Later in the day, the teacher got over there in a buggy, a horse and wagon outfit, and swept off the porch; made a little trail around, built a fire, and ate our lunch. So we went to school the next day. Dad borrowed a horse from Herm and hooked it on a little pine tree and drug a trail to school so we could walk without having to wade in the snow. So the next day the man teacher was kind enough to give Ireta half of one of his sandwiches. She was the little one.
Q. And you and Vern went hungry?
A. Yes. Then in the eighth grade a family moved in not too far. . .oh, about halfway between us and the school. They had three children, a girl my age and one younger and Roy, who was in the seventh grade and I was in the eighth. Viona was in about the fifth. That first year, the man teacher didn’t teach us anything. He said if you read good books, like Evangeline, you won’t need English. He didn’t give us geography or history. All we got was arithmetic.
The next year we had a real good teacher. The best teacher I ever had and she was a doll. If you didn’t get your lessons, you had to stay in at recess and get them. You didn’t get away with any foolishness. We had to do all of our history and geography and all of our arithmetic just a little bit, a few pages that we got the year before, and English. So we had to do two grades in one. She was a marvelous teacher.
Q. Do you remember her name?
A. Ethel B. Finch. I wrote to her for quite a while, after I was out of school and we moved to Idaho or to Wyoming, but I lost her address. I don’t know what ever became of her after that. But she was a wonderful teacher. Every month she’d put a quotation on the board and make us learn it, and it was good things, good quotations that you had to learn every month. I don’t remember many of them:
“Do not look for wrong and evil. You’ll find them if you do.
As you measure to your neighbor he will measure back to you.
Look for goodness. Look for gladness. You’ll find them all awhile.
If you bring a smiling visage to the glass, you’ll meet a smile.”
Excerpt from The Courting Years of Ruby Ray: (Notes written by Ruby in 1993.)
Out at Ucola, in the long summer days we got up early and worked all day. We retired early, partly because we were out of coal oil for the lamp, but Dad tried hard to make it pleasant for us. He’d read aloud to us when we had light and he could borrow a book. But that summer he made up a story to tell us after supper. It was about four children, “near teenage I guess,” who built a play house out of scrap lumber they could gather up, and some tin. They got it all built and were playing in it and a big whirlwind came and blew it up onto another planet. The rest of the summer it was about their experiences there, finding water, edible plants, bulbs, fruit and nuts they could live on.
Later he told me he’d spend the day thinking about what he could tell us that evening. Mother would do the dishes, then come out and sit with us in the twilight and listen to the adventures. It was the perfect end of a hard day and we looked forward to it. The story was always continued ‘till tomorrow and we went to bed happy.
Excerpt from The Early Years of Ruby Ray:
When we moved on out east of Monticello, near Ucola: (When I was eight) Cap Hanson had a cabin out there and there was a well down the draw a little bit so we could pack water. It was quite a ways to pack it, but there was water we could get. We stayed there all winter. Of course you couldn’t go to school.
One day, when Vern was 6 and I was 8, our cow got away. Dad sent Vern and I to go find her and told us not to come home until we found her. We didn’t find her so we spent the night in an old shack, sleeping on the floor. We were real scared. We started to walk to Butt’s to see if the cow was there. Herm came by and told us the cow was home and gave us a ride. The cow always came home at night.