Growing Up Cresent High Graduating Class

Wally Hoffman

(c) Copyright 1998 by Wally Hoffman


In the far distance I could hear the wind howling and the rain beating down and something shaking my shoulder. Then I heard: Wake Up- Wake Up. Forcing my eyes open I see my Dad standing next to the bed with a lantern. He tells me I have to help him in the barn with Molly one of our cows that was having difficulty having her calf. I can hear the wind and rain mercilessly beating against the window. Getting my clothes on I ask what time is it, and he says about three. I think about Molly the stubborn little calf that I had rescued from becoming veal. She looked like a Guernsey, but was the product of a distant neighbor's Holstein bull getting loose and spending two days romancing all the cows in the area. When I first tried to feed her by sticking my fingers in her mouth to suck she immediately bunted the pail of colostrom milk all over me while those big eyes looked at me as if saying -your turn next. She looked like a Guernsey, but had the confirmation of a Holstein including a large udder producing abundant low fat milk. My Dad had never liked that ##$@% cow who continued to be independent. Milking her was always an episode. She would move away from you when you sat down to milk her. Then hold her milk up. She would then lean on you as you milked, but never kicked. This was her second calf

I ask what about Gus who lives on the next farm and my dad tells me there isn't time to go clear over there. Knowing my Dad, he is going to tell me what do but he isn't going to do it. He just won't reach into a cow and pull a calf. The barn is across Whisky Creek and as we walk across the bridge in the pouring rain with the wind almost blowing us off, I can see it isn't the usual docile little creek but a huge raging torrent. A cow only seems to have trouble calving when it's the middle of the night with a storm raging. When we get to the barn there is the secure feeling of the smell of the animals and the hay. Molly was in her stanchion, but down. We release her from the stanchion and finally get her on her feet after slipping around in you know what. We are going to have to pull the calf, so we tie her to the stanchion and then get a block and tackle. I then reach in and get both hind feet of the calf and pull them out. I then tie the feet to the block and tackle. All the time my Dad is telling me I am doing it wrong. For the first time I stand up to me Dad and tell him if you want to do it different do it yourself and start to walk out of the barn into the howling storm, -to hell with Molly and her calf.

I was 12 at the time and the first time I had told him off. I didn't know whether he was going to hit me or what? I was mad and didn't give a dam. Instead he took me by the arm and pulled me back to the cow. He had a startled look on his face and said to me let's do this together. After a lot of straining on the part of Molly, and slipping around with the usual swearing the calf started to move it seemed one inch at a time. Almost immediately there was a beautiful heifer calf being licked clean by Molly.

This was one of my many episodes of growing up during the 1930s. The specific area where I grew up was a place called "Joyce" on a road map about twenty miles west of Port Angeles, Washington. In actual fact there was one general store and a sign on the Coast Road that read -Joyce with the entering and departing sign located on one post The locale for the area is on the edge of the Olympic National Park next to the rain forest between Lake Crescent and the Straits of Juan De Fuca, which separates the United States and Canada. We hardly ever experienced adverse weather, but did contend with an annual rainfall of up to about 150 inches per year.

The surrounding community had the appearance of serenity as one looked at the small farms. These in reality were -"Stump Ranches" where small tracks of land had been partially cleared of the huge stumps left after the area had been logged in the 1920s. These stumps were huge fir and cedar four to eight feet in diameter and about six to eight feet high, and very difficult to remove. The center of activity was a school built in the heyday of logging a result of the high income and land values. The school is still called Crescent Consolidated School and houses about 120 students for grades' one through twelve. The school to this day earns more scholarships per capita than any other school in the State plus sending basketball and football teams to the State for the -B finals.

This was primarily a logging community in which most residents worked as loggers with a small farm to supplement their income by producing most of the family's food. The ethnic majority of the people were second generation from Sweden and Finland. Most of the Scandinavian customs still persisted including putting the coffee pot on the stove before answering the door and the ever-present steam bath houses in every back yard. I never learned to speak either language, but I could understand it when visiting in the homes. Underneath all this tranquility there lurked the presence of the -"Great Depression" that held everyone in its grasp. All the logging camps had been shut down as there was no demand for lumber, and the mills were not buying logs.

Everyone in the community was of the same social mores with absolutely no money to buy unnecessary items. We lived on what we produced always hoping to get from one season to another. We were fortunate that no one went hungry for there were always eggs, butter, milk, plus the meat and vegetables that were canned. What little money came in was used to purchase staples such as flour, coffee, etc. These conditions had the effect of drawing everyone closely together by living harmoniously and the helping of each other. No one was any better than the other.

When we started school we were triumphant to have a new pair of blue jeans (I still do not like blue jeans) and maybe a couple of shirts for the school year. Many of the clothes were hand me downs, and by the end of the year usually were barely held together. Our shoes lasted until they could no longer be repaired or re-soled and lasted even longer when rawhide was added for the repairs.

The actual transition from childhood to the responsibilities of adulthood began as we entered high school. At the end of the four years we found ourselves having to handle difficult situations plus suddenly wearing the mantle of an adult. World War II was to totally and drastically change our lives forever.

At home my primary jobs were the care of the six to eight cows that included milking (by hand) each morning and night, feeding them, and cleaning the barn. There was always the task of cutting the necessary firewood so the house was supplied with dry wood for cooking and heat. The wood came from two sources; the first choice was hopefully finding a wood log of solid fir left from the logging. These logs were usually about four to five feet in diameter and about 40 feet long and about 2/3 usable. This was before chain saws and we used a "drag saw." This was a one-cylinder cantankerous gas engine set on a heavy triangular frame that operated a heavy crosscut saw (Sears used to sell them). The top of the saw (the open end of the triangle) was placed on the wood log then dogged with the bottom of the saw resting on the ground. After each cut the saw was moved about sixteen inches to the next cut. Each round was then moved to a location where it could be split into firewood, and then loaded to take home. The second source of wood was to cut green alder or maple (which grew abundantly) by hand with a six foot cross cut saw.

These were usually maneuvered into joint venture with my friends all of us doing this together. We would have everyone believe we were slaving away cutting wood. Considerable time would be spent climbing the seventy feet plus tall trees to the very top and swinging back and forth until they bent over giving you a thrilling roller coaster ride to the ground. This worked most of the time except every so often the tree would break with the ride ending abruptly on the ground. We would also bend the treetop to the next tree to see who could go farther than the other.

To earn spending money we would locate a large cedar stump left from the logging usually about fifteen to twenty feet high and twelve feet plus in diameter. This would be cut off at ground level (with a cross-cut saw) and cut into thirty-inch lengths called spaults. Those pieces, which split evenly and were straight grained, were cut into cedar shakes. This was done with a fro which is a twelve inch wide wood chisel with a handle. For a hammer a block about six inches in diameter was cut from a yew tree with a handle inserted used in order to avoid damaging the top of the fro. Each shake was three quarters of an inch plus thick and trimmed so it was straight with no waste on the edge. The other parts of the cedar stump would be cut into shingle bolts, which are large chunks of cedar to be cut into shingles sold to a shingle mill for processing as cedar shingles.

There was more money in the shakes when they could be sold but very little or nothing for the shingle bolts. The usable cedar stumps were never close to any access road so the shakes and shingle bolts had to be carried with a pack-board to the nearest road. We would carry about 110 to 130 pounds balanced on the pack board. Many times there would be no market and we would have to wait to sell.

Each summer right after school was out we put up hay as the barns had to be filled to feed the livestock in the winter. Every one helped each other as an annual community project. The grass (along with the weeds) seemed to grow everywhere and soon after school was out it was time to start mowing the hay fields, hoping it would not rain once the hay was cut. It ordained to never cut the hay until after the 4th of July. You could always count on it to rain during that time. Once the hay was cut and left to dry, it was raked into windrows (we used an old dilapidated dump rake). It was then shocked (put into small piles about 6 feet in diameter and about 5 feet tall) as no one could afford a hay baler. Then two people with hayforks and with their backs to the hay wagon would pick up the whole shock swinging it over their heads placing it on the hay wagon until the hay became too high to reach. As the weather remained clear everyone went from farm to farm harvesting the hay and hauling it to the barn. Arriving at the barn there was a large fork (either a double or single), which was inserted into the hay on the wagon. This was pulled up to the peak of the barn (about 60 feet) by horses or tractor where it connected to a tract that ran along the peak of the barn until reaching the proper place to dump it. Those who pitched the hay were in the barn to keep the haymow even and when the load was in the proper position a trip rope dropped the whole load. There was considerable amount of ragweed in all the fields. When the hay was dumped in the barn there would be a big swoosh of refreshing air, but the ragweed would look like snow clinging to your sweaty arms and face. This added to the discomfort of trying to breathe in the hot and stifling hayloft.

After haying came time to pick the wild blackberries which grew abundantly on the cutover land after logging. With several five-gallon milk pails and some small one-gallon pails the family would proceed with my uncle and cousins to the Deep Creek area where the berries were both big and plentiful. To me this was always a very tedious task and hot, but I never seemed to be able to maneuver myself out of going. It never seemed to fail you would be blissfully picking berries over the logs left after logging, and bang you would be face to face with a black bear. Both you and the bear would stare at each other while the pucker sting tightened, and then with a big grunt from the bear and a yell from yourself both went in opposite directions. Never mind the berries in the pail as it went flying in your hasty departure.

The berries were large and sweet so you nibbled as you picked thinking about how these berries would taste in a bowl with thick cream and sugar over them. We usually made two trips for the berries and then gorged ourselves on the fresh berries as pies and cobblers. The rest were canned for the winter.

As school opened in the fall it was also when the Silver Salmon would begin spawning in the rivers. Our favorite spot was the local Lyre River a very short river that is the outlet for Lake Crescent. This river ends up against a cliff with a huge logjam. It was an ideal location to gaff the Silver Salmon when they were fresh and had not yet turned red. We all had gaff hooks which were large halibut hooks with a barb (I still have mine). On the shank of the hook we would solder a piece of copper tubing and attach a long piece of rawhide to the eye of the hook. A willow branch about four feet long was cut and inserted into the tubing attaching the other end of the rawhide around our wrist. We would then crawl out on the logjam looking for the ideal salmon. Lying on a water soaked log we would watch the salmon slowly swimming past, and then select a good looking one I would hook with the gaff hook. When we gaffed a salmon the pole would break, and we would then pull in the fish and run to the bank of the river. We could tell how fresh the fish were by looking for sea lice, which after 24 hours in the river leave the fish. Gaffing the salmon was illegal, but since this was done as a source of food for our own use the Game Department was not too strict. You have not lived until you have been chased by a Game Warden through head high ferns holding two 25-pound salmon by its gills with the fingers on each hand. The silver salmon were eaten fresh, canned, and some smoked (I still do not care too much for fresh salmon to this day). Later in the year when the Dog Salmon (Chum) were running we would gaff them in the same manner for smoking. The Dog Salmon are very oily, but excellent for smoking.

A smokehouse looked like the old fashioned outhouse, but had chicken wire shelves instead of the usual two holer. Green alder or maple would be cut and a fire started with dry cedar shakes and left to smolder. We would filet the salmon (removing the bones) soaking them first in brine and then place them directly on the racks in the smokehouse. The salmon eggs we would save for steelhead fishing in the rivers later in the year. This was a large edible game fish similar to a Silver Salmon, which was fun to catch as they always put up a terrific struggle before you could bring them in.

After the salmon came the butchering of the pork and the beef. We usually raised two weaner pigs, feeding them scraps from the table and garden plus some grain. This was mixed with the skim milk and was always my job to slop the pigs. The day we were to do the pigs it was my job to get up early fill a large steel cauldron (which is a large 30 gallon black kettle with a handle) with water and build fire underneath for the hot water to scald the hogs (it always seemed that water would never boil). The hogs were scalded to remove the hair by scraping and were never skinned Once the hogs were brought out they were killed with a 22 then slashing their throat to cut the jugular vein. We then attached a gambian (a heavy stick about 30 inches wide with pointed ends which were stuck into the hocks of the hind feet) and hang them up to let them bleed properly. We then filled a 50 gallon barrel with the boiling water and some cold water along with some ashes and charcoal to dunk them in, using a block and tackle to raise the animal up and down. We then began the tedious job of scraping the hair from the skin. If these steps were not done correctly it was a miserable job. They were then cleaned (saving the intestines for casings), split, and then left to cool, the heart and liver kept to be eaten immediately or made into liverwurst. After 24 hours the hams and bacon were cut out and set aside for curing and smoking. The rest was cut up into steaks, roasts, and chops. The sausage was made from the cuttings and scraps, some went into headcheese and scrapple, everyone had their own special receipt for the sausage. The fat was cut into chunks and rendered for lard. All this was shared with the neighbors who would also give to you when they butchered which kept all of us in fresh meat longer. The cattle were done later as the weather became cooler. The animal to be butchered was led out and either shot in the head with a 22 or hit over the head and the throat cut severing the jugular vein. Inserting the gambions into the hind hocks so as to bleed properly then hanging them. The animal was then cleaned with the heart, liver, and sweetbreads being saved. They were not dipped, but instead began the tedious job of skinning the hide off which seemed to take forever. A lot of the hide can be pulled off, other areas was a tedious process of separating the hide from the flesh with a skinning knife. The last job was splitting the carcass into halves, which was always my job (I still have the meat saw). This seemed to take forever while everyone else sat around with a cup of coffee or a beer commenting on how much better they could do it. Netting was then put over the halves and moved to the barn for about a week to age, as the nights were now cool. The meat halves was then cut into the usual roasts, steaks, stew meat or hamburger. A lot of this was canned, and again shared with the neighbors

The fall and winter when we would go clam digging which seemed to be always at night and raining because of the tides. With a gas lantern we journeyed on foot to the beach for both the butter and sand clams. This is when we discovered the large number of skunks that were on the beaches at night. Al Jacobs (a classmate who still comes to all of our reunions) probably became the lead trapper. We would spot the skunks with a light and then shoot them for the furs. I was never adept at this or getting the smell off after the skinning. We sold the fur for 10 cents each if they were in good shape.

During the Christmas break in our junior year in school we figured why not extend our holiday. We had collected several jars of skunk oil. The school was heated with a steam boiler and this skunk oil was liberally spread over most of the radiators in the school. It took ten days to get the smell out and it lingered for the rest of the school year. No one ever could put the finger on the culprits who had done this dastardly deed.

When we started High School there were twelve of a bonding and us began between all of us. This camaraderie exists to this day between the eight of us who are still here. We recently celebrated 60 years since graduation. We were fulfilling all kinds of activities as a group, becoming like a family with a brother-sister type relationship. Through many kinds of escapades we all stuck together. The school several times threatened to expel us for these harmless acts, but could not very well kick the whole class out. In our junior year we received a new class advisor (Ann Marie Best Koller). She came with a Masters Degree in English from the University of Washington, and immediately became integrated with our class. Through her we learned of the world outside our community. She also opened the door to music, drama, history and the classics in such a way they became adventures. This was during the depth of the depression and she appreciated getting a job in this remote community. Her salary was $90.00 per month. She rented a two-room house for $5.00 complete with cold running water and an outside privy. Ann Marie and the class have become friends for life. Although she never participated directly, she conveniently looked the other way because she was always on our side. She later went on to take a Ph.D. in English, teaching at Stanford. She comes to our annual re-unions each year and has related us she usually knew all about our antics.

During our senior year we decided for a Halloween joke we would put an old car on top of the flagpole. The car was a 1926 Model T Ford somebody had abandoned. The flagpole was an iron pipe set in concrete so it was necessary to perfectly balance the car on the top. We borrowed a team of horses and a block and cable, which we rigged to a "gin pole". A gin pole is two long poles in the form of a triangle which is raised almost vertical and anchored and kept in the air with a cable. The whole class participated which took us over two hours to do with a great deal of maneuvering to get the car balanced on the pole, Why no adult noticed what we doing amazes all of us to this day. The school took two weeks to get it down, however never accused us, as they did not think we were capable of doing this.

Every one had "Stumping Powder" at home, which was low percentage dynamite with caps and fuse used to split stumps for clearing the land. We discovered some left over firecrackers, to which we attached a long blasting fuse. The length was set for about ten to fifteen minutes. The firecrackers would go off and echo throughout the school while we were in class all very innocent. The school administration was going to expel all the boys in our class, but the girls said if one goes we all go. The school never did get around to taking any action.

We very often (sometimes instead of school) would go to Agate Beach or up to the Olympic Hot springs, usually with a case of beer or a gallon of white port wine. No one would be intoxicated, but we all had a good time as we basked in the warm waters of the hot springs. The road to the Hot Springs was a treacherous winding road up the side of a mountain above the headwaters of the Elwah River. Why we were able to make it up and down by car and motorcycle with no one getting hurt remains a mystery to this day.

In the summer between our Junior and Senior year three of us decided to enter a bid for a portion of the wood contract the school let leach year. The school had a monstrous wood-burning boiler used to supply heat and at one time even generate electricity for the school. This used about four hundred cords of four foot wood each year and the school would put out four wood contracts The School Board was reluctant at first to let us have a contract, but we convinced them to give us a chance after having our parents agree to fill the contract if we did not. This was for one hundred cords of four-foot alder. The trees were no problem, but we had only two cross cut saws and one hundred cords is a lot of wood to cut with a cross cut saw. We had an about 75 cords cut and delivered by the first of August by working 10 to 12 hours a day. It had been a hot and dry summer and a large forest fire broke out at the west end of Lake Crescent. We went to look and to our surprise hired for eighty cents an hour and worked for two weeks as a part of the fire crew. I was kept on for another week in the cookhouse as a "bull cook" which is doing all the menial chores connected to cooking and food preparation. This included cutting firewood, doing dishes, pots and pans and anything else the cook could dream up. In the Army during WW II it was called this KP. Needless to say when we returned home there was a real struggle to finish off the wood contract, working 12+hour days.

We had some money in our pockets so decided we had earned a vacation, as we had worked hard all summer. A fishing trip was planned to hike into the Seven Lakes Basin, which is fourteen miles on the Ridge Trail above the Sol Duc Hot Springs in the Olympic National Park. The Basin is a series of lakes formed by melting glaciers. Each of us had pack boards and like carrying the shakes packed about 100 to 125 pounds of gear. This included two heavy wool blankets (we did not have sleeping bags) and a tarp. At night we wrapped the down blankets around us Indian fashion laying down the tarp on a bed of needles and moss (you always seem to miss a couple of rocks). A frying pan, axe, knife, bacon and canned goods completed our packs. We didn't know about all the dehydrated foods. Once we had made the laborious climb up to the ridge we came to the turn-off to the Seven Lakes Basin. The main trail continued to the Blue Glacier and in the distance Mount Olympus was looming in the background. It was a picture post card view. Why don't we go on and climb the mountain and see what it looks like? It was an instantaneous decision, and it did not occur to us we did not have the necessary equipment or food. This was a two-day trip and we about froze on the Blue Glacier, as we did not have sleeping bags, but only two heavy wool blankets. The snow was like chunks of ice, but we seemed to always have good footing. The four extra days almost totally exhausted our food. The trip was worth it as I can still remember the grandiose scenery and looking down on the world and Vancouver Island. Coming back we dropped down into the Seven Lake Basin. We were almost out of food, and stuffed ourselves with fish out of the icy lakes cooking them on a stick over the fire. The fish almost jumped out of the lake when you cast a dry fly.

We realized time was running out as school was starting but had to go fishing one more time. Reluctantly we had to climb out of the basin in the pitch dark, as there was no moon or other lights. There were no flashlights, and we used the fungus that glowed from rotten logs fastened on our backs to keep track of each other. When we gained the Ridge Trail it was pitch dark. This was extremely dangerous and foolish as the trail covers some very steep ground and cliffs. We felt our way along the trail trading positions, and soon crossed the bridge over the Sol Duc River.

In the fall of 1938 I returned for my final year of high school. After graduation, in the summer of 1939 I worked in a logging camp at the extreme NW tip of Washington (Neah Bay) by making beds, washing dishes, and finally setting chokers in the woods. I was able to earn enough to begin my departure from the area by way of Washington State University. World War II began in September. There was no way we could anticipate the tremendous ensuing events of World War II that would change all of our lives forever! Two years into my college in 1942 I joined the U.S. Army Air Force as an Aviation Cadet. I completed pilot training and flew 35 missions in B 17s over Europe in the 8th Air Force. My first visit home was February 1945. After the war I returned to Washington State University on the GI Bill receiving my BS in Agriculture in 1948 (my wife her "PHT", put husband through). I have never really returned to the - Joyce Stump Farms except for visits and re-unions.

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