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Apperson - Andrus - Swain Family

Page history last edited by Clint Gilchrist 8 years, 10 months ago

Apperson - Andrus - Swain Family in Sublette County

By Judi Myers

 

Twelve-year-old Nora Belle Apperson, oldest of the ten children of William and Elizabeth Apperson, arrived with her family on East Fork Flats in what is now Sublette County in 1886. Mr. Apperson killed and sold elk meat at nine cents per pound to miners in Rock Springs while the children caught fish to sell at 25 cents each. A year after establishing residency Nora's infant brother died and was buried east of the Silver Creek's - East Fork River confluence.

 

In 1889-90 the Apperson family spent Sublette County's worst winter in the Big Sandy Basin. The snow was so deep that Mr. Apperson snowshoed on top of willows that were normally higher than a horse and rider. The family shoveled snow so the cows could get down to the frozen grass, but in the spring their livestock had dwindled from 46 to 7.

 

That spring the family moved to Little Sandy where they lived until they moved up the Green River Valley in 1894 and homesteaded on Horse Creek in 1895.

 

Meanwhile, Truman Ernest Andrus, an expert broadax woodsman, had made his way to Big Piney where he earned the nickname "Grandma" because of his premature white hair, a result of typhoid fever. The fever had also left him with such bad shaking that he could not shave, so he grew a beard and used scissors to trim it. He also filed for a homestead on Horse Creek.

 

Nora and Truman were married April 25, 1895. They lived in a hand-hewn log cabin with a bay window which still stands on the Webb-Koch Ranch. The Andrus's had four children - Martha, who died at the age of three, Musetta, Ernest, and Beatrice. The Andrus children attended Snyder School where they searched for artifacts during their lunch hour, and a school on Dr. Montrose's ranch. When she was 13, Etta attended Riverglade School near Pinedale on what is the Harry Steele ranch today.

 

Entertainment on the ranch was often a surprise dance. Mr. Andrus would play the accordion, Buck Elmore the violin and Alec Price would call the square dances. Neighborhood picnics were held in the summer with a late-melting drift of snow used to freeze ice cream.

 

In 1904, a feud began between Andrus and a neighbor. While Mr. Andrus was gone to the road for winter supplies, their favorite neighbor rode over, roped the Andrus milk cow's unbranded calf and took it home. When Mr. Andrus returned, he went to his neighbor's to clear up the matter. A confrontation ensued and the matter was definitely not settled.

 

Awhile later when Andrus was cutting strays from his cattle herd, a rifle was aimed at him, a click was heard, but the bullet did not fire. Andrus filed charges. At the trial in Evanston, the neighbor was sentenced to five years at the state penitentiary, but was pardoned after one. Soon afterwards water troubles began. Andrus's share of the irrigation water was being turned off at the headgate.

 

Andrus's daughter described him as quiet but friendly honest and peaceable. After a confrontation at the headgate, he came home and said, "I'm selling this place. I'm not going to fight with my neighbors." In 1908, he sold the ranch to Clarence Webb and moved his family to Rock Springs. Nine months later, he left for work one morning and never returned. (He was found living in California in 1918.) Nora moved back to her parent's ranch on Horse Creek with her three children. However, the Appersons also sold out, and in 1910, young Etta moved to Pinedale and stayed with the Clementsen's. By 1912, she was the "Hello Girl" on the telephone switchboard.

 

Nick Swain was born in England to a wealthy family. After serving in the King's Guard in India, he went to Canada before he met and married Etta Andrus in 1914. In March 1916, Nick, Etta and their young daughter, Florence, were homesteading on the Gros Ventre and Nick was trapping furs with a partner. When an argument over the furs erupted, both men went for their guns and the partner was wounded. With Etta pregnant, the Swains snowshoed to Pinedale. Swain, figuring that he'd killed someone, so just kept going on down the road. The partner recovered. A Kangaroo Court was held and Swain was cleared of any wrongdoing. After Swain deserted his family, his whereabouts were unknown for 18 years until he was found living under a new name and with a new family. Etta remained in Pinedale, working for the telephone exchange and remarrying in 1922.

 

Her son Horace spent most of his preschool years with his Grandmother Andrus. By the time he was 12, Horace was on his own spending a few years in Jackson, South Pass, Lander, and even the Civilian Conservation Corps, but claiming Pinedale as home. He worked on dude and cattle ranches for Lou Hennick and Elton Cooley. In 1938, he married Edna Howey, and they leased the Bill Woods ranch for 19 years, until 1963. The Swain children are Vernon, Ronald, Pam, Julie and Garlie. In the late 1950's, Horace had passed the test for postal clerk and eventually served as Pinedale's postmaster. He retired when his wife Marilyn became ill, after nearly 25 years of service. In his spare time, Horace became a pilot. He is also an avid photographer with his pictures on many phone book covers and ROUNDUP Vacation Guides.

 

Bill Woods turned his place, the Grubbing Hoe Ranch, over to Edna Swain and her family in 1965. Bill Woods was born March 11, 1884 near Kemmerer to Harry and Sarah Sutton Woods. Bill's father was killed in 1896 when a boiler exploded on the railroad where he was working. Bill and his sister, Mary, came to live with their grandparents, the William Sutton's. Bill met Christine Christensen, who was working on the Spur Ranch, while he was working at the Churndash Ranch on Fontenelle Creek. On December 9, 1907, Bill and sister, Mary, had a double wedding at their grandfather's Bootjack Ranch. Bill married Christine, and Mary married Alex Price. In 1915, Bill purchased the Simon Slate ranch which was homesteaded in 1899. Bill's ranch, which was just north of the Bootjack, became known as the Grubbing Hoe Ranch for his brand. Bill and Christine did not have any children. Horace and Edna Swain went to work for Bill, and Edna took wonderful care of Bill until he died.

 

Rhonda Swain wrote the following article about Edna's family who is still on the Grubbing Shoe Ranch:

 

Still a Way of Life

By Rhonda Swain

Previsously printed in Pinedale Roundup, 1996 Summer Roundup, Pinedale, Wyoming

 

For decades, there has been a well-known statement that ranchers feel their operations are a way of life. Then bankers began to tell ranching families they needed to treat their ranches like businesses, but I would be willing to bet that most ranchers in Sublette County still look at ranching as a way of life.

 

In the Sublette County area, most ranches are family-owned and have been for generations, so giving up the family business could be likened to giving up part of the family itself, family being the key word in regard to our way of life.

 

I happen to be part of one of those ranching families; there are three generations taking part in the operation: my mother-in-law, Edna; my husband, Garlie, and I; our oldest son, Jamie and 12-year-old twins, Ty and Tiffany. We have another son, Bill, who didn't choose agriculture

as his way of life; he works for Alliant Food Service and has a home in Clinton, Utah. But, before he left home, he was expected to earn his way just like everyone else. I don't think he's missed our May branding since he moved away from home. You can take the kid out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the kid, I guess.

 

Garlie's two brothers, Vern and Ron, and two sisters, Pam and Julie, also come back to the nest regularly. Julie helps us a lot with fall cattle work like preg testing, vaccinating and working cattle. The last couple of summers, Vern has come home in June to help us move cattle to summer range. Pam is great kitchen help for Edna when we brand.

 

Edna, or "Nan" as the grandkids call her, is the matriarch and still involved in our way of life. She keeps track of the financial end of the operation, is Garlie's sounding board for purchases or ideas, and helps out in any way possible, be it manning a gate to cut cows, driving a tractor, or whatever. And, bless her soul, she feeds any crew while I hold down a job in town and when I'm outside being a ranch wife.

 

One thing about ranching you probably don't see in most occupations is that kids are involved in most aspects from a fairly early age. The boys started driving tractors with close supervision when they were four or five years old. Ty's first word was "tractor!" Tiffany wasn't into tractors until she started in the hayfield. Horses are her favorites.

 

All the kids helped push cows to summer pasture on the Bridger-Teton National Forest from the time they were five. Cows move better early in the day before it gets hot, which means rising at 3:30 a.m. to eat and get to the cattle around daylight. I sometimes wondered what people thought of Ty and Tiffs story that they "got up in the middle of the night."

 

As with most people who work closely day after day, Garlie and Jamie have a rapport, but theirs is enhanced by being father and son. They are practical jokers, and there are plenty of opportunities for them to get the last laugh.

 

We have our own version of mad cow disease, but it has nothing to do with any type of disease. It has to do with an angry cow with a newborn baby.

 

I hear stories about one or the other of them forgetting a certain cow has been ornery. The one who remembers tells the other it's his turn to check the calf to see if it's a bull or a heifer. The victim heads for the calf, only to come back on the double, with the cow blowing snot in his hind pocket. The one in the pickup is rolling in the seat laughing.

 

This spring we had one case of mad cow that really upset Garlie because he missed the fun. He had gone to a spring bull sale, leaving Jamie in charge of calving. Jamie checked one cow all afternoon, and an hour or so before dark, he went to check her, using the four-wheeler. If she wasn't doing anything, he reasoned that he could get to the corral quickly, get his horse and go after the cow to have her in before dark.

 

When he got to her she had calved, but she had dropped the calf in a depression full of water, and he went to pull the calf to dry ground. Well, this angry cow put him back on the four-wheeler in a heartbeat, but he still had to deal with getting the calf out of the water. He finally did, but then had to run 100 yards to the four-wheeler with a mad cow on his heels.

 

Like humans, newborn calves get hypothermia and die, and Jamie knew he needed to get this calf to the hotbox because he was wet, and there was a strong, cold wind. When he tried to pull the four-wheeler alongside the calf, the cow took the four-wheeler, hooking the wheels with her head. Thank goodness. We don't have horned cows. He finally got the pickup, with Ty and Tiff for drivers, so he could pull the calf into the front of the pickup.

 

When they got the calf into the pickup, the cow came right in, too! Tiffany was screaming her head off because she was scared, Jamie was trying to get the calf shoved back outside so the cow would get out of the pickup, and all three of the humans were crowded underneath the steering wheel. Jamie kept hollering at Ty to open the door and get out, but Ty said, "No! I'm not getting out! The cow's out there!"

 

Well, they finally got the calf out and assessed the damage of one badly cracked pickup windshield, two boys with ringing ears (from Tiffs screams), and one frightened little girl, so they headed for the house for reinforcements. We got the calf gathered up after Jamie took his horse to chase the cow off while Vern and I got the calf in the pickup. (I don't think we could have talked fast enough to get Ty and Tiff back out there).

 

Ranching carries with it many joys and sorrows. Like most families, we have pets, and it just so happens that many of ours are larger than the average family pet. We've seen the exuberance and joy of our kids as they play with baby calves and newborn foals, as well as puppies and kittens.

 

We've also witnessed sorrow over the loss of a beloved pet. Jamie was about 13 when he came to the house crying (and trying not to because it wasn't the manly thing to do) because his horse had broken its leg. We had to have the veterinarian put the horse down.

 

But there are good times as well. We watch Bill as he hauls "goodies" to a pet of his. Although he has been away from home for four years, Lady, a cow he received in the 4-H catch­-a-calf program 10 years ago, responds to the sound of Bill's voice better than to those of us who remain on the ranch. Bill can catch her and hitch a ride any time he pleases.

 

While many things are done as they have been for generations, making hay and feeding our herds are areas that have progressed in leaps. We still prefer the old-fashioned way just prior to the time they get the team in to pull the sled, Garlie and Jamie argue each day about who has to drive the tractor because there's nothing colder than a tractor; at least on a sled you can move around. Then there's the tranquility of hearing everything for miles around on a clear, still winter morning, and listening to the snow crunch under the runners as the pitch forks and ice bars clang against the front of the sled.

 

To be a rancher is to live and breath, and eat and sleep ranching. I've watched all of this firsthand, and it's often taken quite literally.

 

Sometimes, calves are born in the water sack and will drown if not found quickly enough. Garlie and I have come across cases like this, and it's always time for quick action (panic may be a better term). If a few massages to the heart don't do the trick, Garlic resorts to mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on the slick and slimy little thing. His description goes something like this: "Breathe - and gag. Breathe - and gag. Breathe - and gag." Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. It's heartbreaking and frustrating when it doesn't and exhilarating when it does. But when it does work, my short legs can go very fast when Garlie comes at me with his shiny face, wanting a kiss for his efforts.

 

When calving comes around, if there is a critter calving or starting to calve, she must be watched closely in case she needs help. This is especially important with heifers because they are prone to have trouble. The calving process makes for short nights (heifers are checked every two or three hours, day and night) and early mornings, and when you add the wind the area has experienced the last couple of years, it's like putting a match to a powder keg. Tempers get very short and sometimes you wonder why the divorce rate isn't higher in ranching families.

 

In the past, Sublette County ranchers had no problem getting help with their haying operations. As jobs in town became more numerous, it became harder and harder to get haying help. Garlie's solution to this problem, as he jokingly tells people of our four-child brood, is to raise his own hay crew - twice. However, when they started coming in litters, I decided it was the next generation's turn to provide the crew.

 

Neighboring is a vital part of every ranching operation, especially during the spring and fall when ranchers spend a lot of time helping out their neighbors with branding, vaccinating, preg testing and sorting their herds. This is always a time of great camaraderie and joking as well as hard work. There's also a delicious meal thrown in for good measure.

 

While this is the story of my ranching family, I could change the names and incidents and it could be the story of almost any ranching family in the Green River Valley. It’s a story about joys and sorrows, and about helping out your neighbors. It is a story about close working relationships and of good times and bad. Last, but not least, it's a story about dedication to, and love for, the way of life that we have chosen.

 

1996

 

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