Gramps, mustangs and me
From the time she was 5 until 12, Katie lived on the Lazy J Ranch in Hot Creek Valley. The Lazy J Ranch is so far east of Tonopah, they used to say “you have to drive 80 miles get a loaf of bread.”
“Gramps raised Mustangs. He had breeder mares and broke horses until he was 70,” she reminisced. “Gramps loved to watch the stars, and it’s what we did together. Mom called Gramps an ornery old goat, but in my eyes, he was darn near perfect.
“Mom made scratch bread,” she continued.
“Hold on, what’s ‘scratch bread?’” I interrupted.
“Mom would put scratch, the food you throw to chickens, in the blender, and make flour, and boy, was the bread good. Some days she’d say, ‘Go get a rattlesnake,’ because the meat is delicious, and Jason (her older brother) would grab the shotgun. I’d get the shovel and off we’d go. Jason was the boy and got to carry the shotgun and drive the tractor, and I was the girl. Jason and I were the only two kids in Hot Creek Valley.”
“Did you have electricity?” I asked.
“Nope, no electricity, no indoor toilet, and no shower. We had a bathhouse, where the washer was, and a bathtub.”
“How often did you take a bath?” I teased.
“Well, it depended on what we were doing,” Katie said.
“Did you have animals?” I asked.
Quick as a flash, Katie answered, “We had eight milker goats and 10-16 babies. I milked twice a day, and hand-cranked the cream to make cheese and butter. We’d spend the whole day butchering chickens, and then put ‘em in the freezer. We also had rabbits, pheasants, and peacocks.”
Katie also found plenty of time to play and get into mischief. “When Gramps would take a nap, Jason and I’d go ride the colts. One time, I got up on Hot Shot, a very prissy, orphan colt, which we raised on goat’s milk. Well, I got up on Hot Shot, grabbed her mane, and Jason slapped her on the butt, and just like that, I was over the side, upside down, looking at hooves kick dirt in my face.”
Memories kept flooding out.
“We were home-schooled and mom manipulated the homework so Jason and I could study together. Reading the Bible was part of homework. We had so much time. At night we talked together, read the Bible, and once in a while, we’d start the generator and watch a movie,” she said.
“How about holidays?” I asked.
“We celebrated Easter and Christmas. Most of the time I wore Jason’s hand-me-down jeans and T-shirts, but one Christmas, mom started sewing something and I didn’t know what it was. It turned out to be a beautiful dress for me. I was so happy. We made all our own Christmas presents, and each Christmas we sang happy birthday to Jesus.”
Later in life, Katie became a public relations employee and created the slogan “Come see the stars in Tonopah.” You can bet Gramps is up there, looking down, and is real proud.
Ron Walker lives in Smith Valley. He can be reached at email@example.com.