Thursday, January 18, 2018

Throw Back Thursday: One Hundred Years Ago

This is a photo of my grandmother, taken when she was seven years old and all dressed up for her big sister's wedding. Grandma was born in September, 1911, so this photo was probably taken in late 1918. As it turns out, I have an eyewitness account of what her life was like at that time. My grandmother wrote a ten-page autobiography in January, 1986, and made sure we all copies. I've been reading it recently, and see that it's possible some of my urge to write came from her!

The following is an excerpt from the section of Grandma's autobiography close to the time this photo was taken. It describes events that took place that year in Rexburg, Idaho.

November of 1918 brought the end of World War I and the Armistice celebration. The Kaiser was burned in effigy on the flagpole in the middle of Main Street. I got lost in the crowd. 

I must have been doing a bit of loud crying because the curfew lady, Mrs. Barnes, took me by the hand and asked me my name and where I lived. I can remember telling her, "My name is Mabelle and I live down past the Tabernacle." 

On the way home, we met Adeline and Hank [her sister and brother] coming back to town to find me. I remember that well because I was a frightened little girl. Who wouldn't have been at that tender age--bands playing, people yelling, the stuffed Kaiser hanging up there on a pole burning and Mrs. Barnes dressed in a long black skirt and black coat, carrying a billy club looped over her wrist and a gun in her purse. No, I won't forget that.
   ---- The Autobiography of Mabelle Irene Luthy Larter, written January, 1986

And, obviously, my grandmother never did forget that, since she described it vividly nearly seventy years later. What's more, she put it in writing, so all of us can now know what life was like a hundred years ago for one very special little girl.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Real Cowboys

My grandfather (Ferry Larter, left) and his brother-in-law (Dave Luthy, grandma's brother) look like real cowboys in this photo, and they were-- in a way. My grandparents owned a cattle ranch and grandpa always did lots of work involving cows.

I never knew my Great Uncle Dave since he died in 1943 when the troop ship he was on in the North Atlantic was torpedoed by the Germans. I do remember these chaps he's wearing, though, or some like them, since my grandfather wore them whenever they needed to drive cattle up onto the range or down into the field, or round up some calves for branding.

The building my grandfather and great uncle are next to is the bunk house, as we called it in later years. That is where the real cowboys stayed. These men were what we might now call "migrant workers," since they were hired for a short time by ranchers who needed help rounding up cattle, driving the herd to the range, or branding.

The bunk house was where these cowboys slept while doing a job for my grandfather. He'd given up the role of cowboy for rancher and had become the boss. He always told me that he "used to be" a cowboy, though, and would show me this photo and his chaps and spurs as proof. I wanted to be a cowboy, too, and my parents and grandparents appeased me with a tiny pair of cowboy boots that I wore everywhere. Here's a photo of me "helping" with my baby sister, Becky -- while wearing those boots, of course. The cabin we are in front of was my grandparent's house, built by hand a few hundred yards from the bunkhouse, but of the same log-cabin style.

I've pasted here a photo of the bunkhouse I took years later, when I was visiting the ranch, or what remained of it, with my own children. This photo is ten years old, and most of my family has moved away now, so I haven't seen it for awhile. I don't know if any of it is standing anymore. Buildings in that part of the world tend to collapse and crumble to dust after a few decades, leaving only our memories of them.



I hope you've enjoyed this week's Throw Back Thursday post. More photos coming soon!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Big Announcement!

I'm excited to announce that my first novel, "Belle o' the Waters," will be published by Mascot Books. This novel has been in the works for nine long years and I am so happy to finally be able to share it with readers. I just signed the contract with Mascot last week, so we don't have a publication date yet, but it is likely to be later in 2018.

The idea for this novel came to me from several different directions, but one of the most influential was a story my grandmother told to me. She's the one on the right in this picture, taken in 1946. The other women were cousins of her husband, my grandfather. When I asked what was behind this photo, she always said, "Oh, we was just actin' up," which, as you can see, is exactly what she wrote, in ink, on the front of the photo.

Grandma had been born into a Mormon family in a rural area of Idaho and, like all Mormon kids, was due to be baptized when she turned eight. She refused, however, kicking and screaming, and wouldn't let her older sisters dress her for the baptism. She told me she was convinced that if she allowed them to baptize her, she would have to marry Brigham Young.

This, mind you, was around about 1920, so Brigham Young, the great patriarch of the church, the man who had led a group of settlers west to settle in Salt Lake and establish what they believed and hoped would be there own country in the midst of another, had been dead for decades. His legacy, however, seems to have lived on in the stories that little girls whispered to each other, passed down from older friends to younger ones, for all that time. This second photo, by the way, is of my great Aunt Lute with her two little brothers. The one on the right is my grandfather, and they are all standing next to the cabin at Whiskey Springs, where our family homestead was located.

One thing I never understood was how the strong, competent, self-assured women I grew up around, women like my grandmother and aunts, had come out of what everybody believed was a patriarchal culture, where women were considered as not much more than a man's property. I couldn't figure it out, and I finally had to write a story about a girl, born into a polygamous family in this culture, and watch her grow up to understand where that strength came from. The story I wrote, "Belle o' the Waters," helped me understand what I probably already knew, at some level deep inside: her strength came from the land itself, and her toughness grew out of the necessity to live in that harsh land, protect your children, and make a life for yourself in what was truly the wild West at that time.

I will keep you posted about progress with the book, but in the meantime, I have a lot more old pictures to post and a lot more family stories to relate, so stay tuned for more!