Friday, February 01, 2008

Life History of William Ricketts Smith, Part 6: College, Barley, and "Valuable Lessons"

(Part 5 is here.)

In the finals of my senior year, I purposely flunked some of the tests because I didn't want to be the valedictorian and have to make a speech, but I ended up being salutatorian and had to make a speech anyway. I know this was a disappointment to my parents (I never told them the truth). I earned a scholarship from the Montana University System and decided to use it at Montana School of Mines because they did not require ROTC training, however I really preferred to attend Montana State College. These decisions were made because I was unable or unwilling to face the responsibilities that were inherent to the talents that I was blessed with. Fortunately God gives us time to learn some of these valuable lessons.

During my High School years I had the opportunity to be a relief operator at the city light plant and became familiar with the operation of the machinery there. In 1940 a Rural Electrification project was organized in our county.

Meantime my dad and I had moved to the ranch that was owned by my mother's father. We spent the first summer trying to get the place into production and were living in a sheepwagon. It was a hard summer as we worked about 15 hours a day. That fall we bought an old log house, which we tore down and moved to the ranch, and by the latter part of November 1939, I had assembled a one-room cabin from the usable parts of the old log house.

We moved some of our furniture from the house in town and my mother and brother, Raymond, joined us in our "new" home on the ranch. We celebrated Thanksgiving together. It was in the fall of that year that my dad was able to go with Uncle Jack and Aunt Dorothy to Kentucky to visit his mother, whom he hadn't seen since he and my mother were there in 1913 on their honeymoon.

He was reluctant to leave, as the barley was ready to harvest, but we all insisted that he go and assured him that we could get the crop harvested. Our neighbor, Jack Williams, had an old binder that had not been used for years. He consented to let us borrow it and we pulled it home behind the pickup. I worked on it for several days and finally got it in running condition. My brother was 18 years old and in High School, and had experience with horses, so it became his job to drive the team while I shocked the bundles and made emergency repairs on the binder. We had the grain all in the shock by the time Dad got home.

Later that fall, I took the truck, a 1934 Ford 1 1/2 ton, and went to Shaws mine in the Wolf Mountains, about 25 miles away, for a load of coal. We used the coal for both cooking and heating. By the time I got home the temperature was 20 degrees below zero.

(Part 7)

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