MY INDEBTEDNESS IS GREAT to the friends, neighbors, and relatives whose aid and comfort assured the survival of the GF Bar Ranch. Foremost come my three "pardners," octogenarians all before death ended our association. Soon after I moved from Pepper Sauce Canyon in the Santa Catalina Mountains to the foothill roughs of the Galiuros on the rim of the San Pedro River valley, someone in Mammoth summed up the news:
"I hear a schoolteacher and three old men have moved up to the Hendrickson Place."
These were the three: James W. Martin (the Uncle) spent his last eighteen years and would have spent his last dollar for the benefit of this little ranch. Juan Espinosa, "Juanon" (called in this book the Old Vaquero), helped to keep us in business with both courage and cowmanship. Calvert Coates, the Star Boarder, a retired mining engineer, London-born, does not figure often only because it is the story of a working hard-scrabble ranch, and no matter how the rest of us strained and sweated, he remained the English gentleman. At his retirement, he came to the ranch because he liked my cooking and wanted to be outdoors. He stayed seventeen years; but he did not dress like a rancher, or speak like a rancher, or act like a rancher. He knew nothing about working cattle and did not try to learn. His contributions were keeping the roads passable and carrying off the garbage. He made his own schedules and worked alone. If one of the others went out to help him cut brush or lift rocks, he quit. In his relations with the Uncle and the Old Vaquero he was a segregationist. It was years before he understood why I kept them around. One night as we sat by the fire (in winter time he waited up for me and kept the cabin warm) he said, with an air of discovery: "Old Jim is an outdoor man. He mends the fences and takes care of the corrals." He knew that Juan rode horseback everyday, but he had only a vague idea why. He knew no Spanish and the little English the Old Vaquero understood did not include a British accent.
The three were all loners, and there was no brotherly love among them. The magnetic hoop that held them together in the lonely little far-off shack on Pepper Sauce was the woman who drove home from schoolteaching on Friday nights. That was the day they shaved and cleaned up. They said even the dogs knew when it was Friday and sat out on the edge of the canyon wall waiting. When I got out to open the gate nearly a mile below the house I could hear them barking and I knew they could hear my car.
Juanon had been a family man in his youth. After his wife died he maintained a home for their three little girls. He said he had been tempted to marry again two or three times, but he could not bear to inflict a stepmother on his little ones. They were grownups when he came to the GF Bar. He remained devoted to them, spent his holidays with them, and gave them what money he had. But he would not live with them, he said, because they had married scoundrels who abused them and he would not see his daughters suffer.
Since he was twelve years old (when his father died) Uncle Jim had taken care of his mother and older sisters. He still had his two elderly, almost helpless sisters in his house in the village of of Oracle when he came to live at the ranch. To the last, he had a brave man's weakness for dogs and women, and his devotion was completely unselfish.
Never having had a dependent, Cal's worry had been for Number One only. The two others preceded him a few years on the ranch, but for a time he considered it his duty to observe them closely during the week and report their shortcomings to me. "Old Jim," he said, "is a wasteful cook. He uses too much shortening in his biscuits. Expensive vegetable shortening. You should get cheap lard for the men."
"I think the vegetable shortening is better for their health." (Cal did not eat the biscuits. He ate bakery bread.)
"But he feeds them to the dogs!"
"Well, if he runs out of dogfeed he has to feed them something!"
Cal forgave my folly, and in his way never ceased trying to help me. The others could not see why they had to put up with him, but they, too, overlooked my folly. These three, with my dogs and cats, made up my menage. They were more than family. They were friends.
Four "daughters" who helped during their university weekends and vacations, and whose interest has continued since they married and started families, should not go unnamed. They were Caroline, Mrs. John McMakin, Casa Grande, Arizona; Doris, Mrs. Tom McCord, Lafayette, California; Shirley, Mrs. Charles Tribolet, and Lois, Mrs. Harold Hamer, both of Tucson, Arizona. We had nicknames for them and loved them for their precious friendship. They seldom came all at the same time. When that happened they brought young men with them and there was general bedlam getting enough saddlehorses and tack and sufficient groceries and cold drinks and bedrolls. Usually Doris (we called her "Buck") had to ride bareback and she was the gal who could do it, eight or ten miles without a break. Once I scolded her for spooking a sore-eyed calf I was trying to corral. She jumped on her little pacing mare bareback, she herself barelegged and barefooted, and dashed off through rocks and cactus after him. In about an hour, to my astonishment-no real cowboy could have done it-she brought him back. The West lost a great horsewoman when our Buck married an indoor man (C.P.A.) and became a library assistant.
Caroline, whom the Uncle named "Sweetheart," was a frail midwesterner Buck brought out for a week one summer. I was afraid the ranch would be too rough for her. But she liked it so much she never ceased coming back. She was a wonderful morale-builder, attentive to the old men, kind to me when I blew up from fatigue and frustration.
Shirley and Lois (we called them "Buzz" and "Cinco" and they are still so called), attractive, ambitious young women, cared little for the outdoor life. Their interest was in Buck, Sweetheart, and me. They took an apartment in Tucson and Caroline went to live with them at the end of the term. All got jobs except Cinco who became a city teacher. They had money to spend and entertained me lavishly on Friday evenings when school started.
Among the boys from my school who at times volunteered to go home with me holidays and weekends and do ranch chores for the fun of it were Frank and Dave McGee, Joe and Denny Nolan, Paul and Richard McGee, and Lynn Harris, all from Sierrita School; and, in earlier years from another school, Frank, Pancho, Arturo, and Victor Aros; and Trini Padilla.
It has been my privilege to be chosen "grandmother" by two boys who have helped me very much over the years. Dave McGee has stayed with me more than anybody after the three old ones died. He was my pupil through all the elementary grades and never gave me an unpleasant moment. He liked to help, and he was good help. He built roads, fixed fences, laid pipelines, burned chollas, and helped with the cows. In this last he was exceptional because he would take my directions. When I said, "Wait here at the forks of the canyon while I ride the south ridges; and hold anything that I flush out," he stayed right there no-matter how long I was gone or whether any cattle showed up or not. He is now a family man in business for himself, but when I face a crisis, he is my boy!
Preston Boan, now a professional horse trainer, fell in love with my old saddlehorses as a nine-year-old. When he lived two miles up the creek one year he came down almost every day to see the horses, feed them, touch them, and eventually to ride them. When he stayed with me during school vacations, together we got a surprising amount of work done. He is still the one to take over when I break a leg.
A role I have been happy to accept is that of "aunt" to some young men who have helped me in their spare time. The first was Wilbur Minderman. When I was alone, before Uncle Jim and Big Juan came, I was losing cattle alarmingly. Wilbur, then working in a store six days a week, ten hours a day, had ranch in his blood and pity in his heart. He came out and rode for me every Sunday, all day. I insisted on paying him. Two dollars a day!
Years later, after Uncle Jim died and Old Juan was crippled with arthritis, I couldn't brand my big spring calves. One November day I came upon a little bunch of cows with four long-ears with them at the spring in Prospect Canyon. Billy, the little bay horse, and I got them home and corraled. Then I went for help. I thought Camille Pierson, an outdoor woman who had been my neighbor on Pepper Sauce, could help me throw and tie down the big calves. But she had gone hunting. All the local cowboys, real and facsimile, were on roundups. I went into Roy's Place and asked if old Berry was available. He was not a cowboy; he was a fellow who had done some plumbing for me. But he was manpower.
"He was here last night," said Roy.
"Was he sober?"
I glanced down the long bar where three young men and two young women sat looking at me.
"Anyone here want to go to the ranch and help me brand four big calves?" I asked, laughing at myself.
"Yes!" they said. They were getting ready to go on a picnic. Why not the ranch? They picked up their grocery box and six-packs and followed. Their leader was Donn Haines who appears in this chronicle as The Nephew. He had lived on a ranch as a small boy, and readily took to this place as home, driving back and forth each day to his job at the mine fifteen miles away. He stayed three years, leaving a big gap when he sold his cattle and went back to college.
One summer he brought out "Hoppy" (William W. Hopkins, now a journalist in Anchorage, Alaska), a university student who worked in the mine during vacations. Hoppy was the one to encourage me about my manuscripts I am indebted to him for my nice flagpole, too.
Not long after they left, their place was taken by Bill (William F.) Brown, the best-liked man in all this countryside. He also had spent his boyhood on a ranch. When he heard I was alone he came to offer his help. It was good help. He had an exacting job, a big family, and, unknown to us at the time, a fatal illness; but he gathered this needy outfit under his wing. He shod the horses, gathered the yearlings, and helped with the pump and the hauling and all the hard jobs. I never felt whipped by adversities when Bill was on call ten miles away. He is gone now. This place will never be the same.
Nor could anyone take the place of Pete Carey, my present helper. For a long time now he has been the mainstay of the outfit. Pete is a security guard at the nonworking mine two miles up the canyon. A man of action who cannot bear to be idle, when there is nothing for him to do at the mine, he comes down here, grabs a shovel, pick or axe and makes the work fly. He is here each morning and evening, since Cal and Bill died, to check on me and to help with the chores. A proud man, he will not accept cash from a "pore ole widderwoman," but only an occasional gift of shirt or sweater and a cooked meal. Pete says he would go crazy up at the mine, but "there's always something to do at the ranch," and that's an understatement for sure.
My own relatives long ago moved out of Arizona, beyond my reach. The two sisters who liked the ranch and loved animals and came so many times to help me, Bessie Primrose and Ruby Drorbaugh, are no longer living. I now express deep gratitude to my loyal, long-suffering younger sisters who live in California, Sabrey (Mrs. Claude) Botkin and Bernice (Mrs. Carl) Richard; to my nieces Bernice (Martha) Goodwin, Liz Hackelman, and Virginia Rice; and to my nephews Louis Collins, Collins Hath, and Clarence and Roll Drorbaugh, for their patience and affection.
Very special thanks are extended to Abbie Keith, secretary to the Arizona Cattle Growers Association for half a lifetime; to Joyce Mercer, my benevolent neighbor; and to Faye McGee, my sympathetic "fairy goddaughter," for their encouragement in writing this book.
And to the memory of two great University of Arizona English professors who taught me-Frances Perry and Allegra Frazier-I am profoundly grateful.