This is part 1, of a two part story about Weed as Raymond Hitchcock remembered it. I originally wanted to make all of it fit in this issue of the paper, but could not bring myself to edit any of it out. Part 2 will publish next month.
One could wonder why the first people went there in the first place. All old timers talked of beautiful timber, fertile valleys for farming, and a small stream of water called the Aqua Chiquita Creek. Therefore, lumbering, farming and ranching were the principle industries.
A Weed store or mercantile company was present from the beginning. A few owner or operator names were spoken of, for example: Knottley, Potter, Sanders, Wasson, Boyce and Weems. These operators covered years into the late 1900’s. In 1902 Tom F1eming had a store.
A public cemetery was selected close by to the west of the Weed School. A fence was built around that cemetery.
A rather elaborate water system was engineered through and by the small town. Water rights were available to the small farmers for orchards, alfalfa fields, gardens, etc. The water ditch meandered through the village on down to other larger farms to the east of Weed.
My story, "Weed, As I Remember It," starts in 1915, and more specifically about 1919 and 1920 as I could better see and understand the village by that time. Born in 1914, my actual memory began in about 1919 concerning facts and details of Weed.
Topography of the Land Weed was located in a small unlevel valley south of the creek which ran east and west. A canyon ran toward the north right through the center of the village, draining into the creek. The main street ran north and south competing with that canyon. The property on the west portion of the village was: Earl and Laura Sanders’ two-story home, the cemetery, the Weed School, the small Warren home and Uncle and Aunt Dan Stephens’ fine home, barn, orchard, garden and grain field. Also, the Sanders’ Mercantile Store crowded against the Weed School playground. The old Potter warehouse was below the Sanders’ store. On the east side were several homes, the post office, and later, the Wasson store. Some of the homes belonged to the families of Stephens, Lewis, Wilkinson, etc. The Weems home and orchard were to the north near the running creek.
Down the ridge to the east was a fine orchard owned by the Wilkinsons. A beautiful alfalfa field was to the east of the Weems orchard. To the north of the running creek was a tall one story wooden Baptist Church with tall pine trees nearby. Then there was the Robertson home, barns, orchard, garden, and alfalfa field. Grandpa and Grandma Sanders had a beautiful home, large barn, orchard, garden and alfalfa field. They also had a spectacular water cistern with a walk-down stairway to the cooler which was cool enough to keep milk and other foods. On east were other farms and orchards belonging to the Gage family, the Akers family, the Potter family, the Jernigan family, the Prude family and others. Blue Water and McDonald Flat were considered Weed neighbors as was Avis and Duncan.
One’s Impression of the Village Most homes were well kept and painted. The Sanders’ and Stephens’ barns were neat and painted. Yard fences were decorative and inviting. The water ditch would "gurgle" as it ran along. Many lucrative plants grew on the ditch banks.
In the spring time, the orchards would bloom, spreading a delightful view and odor throughout the neighborhood. Very soon, the alfalfa fields would turn green and produce profusely. The gardens and flower plots would soon set the village ablaze with color. During the summer, the green fields and orchards would welcome birds, bees and insects to their fruits and blossoms.
The Real Influence Was People The families were of Anglo-Saxon descent. These people were for the most part kind, friendly, intelligent, inventive, determined, tough, God-fearing people. The one-to-one, neighbor-to-neighbor spirit gave color and power to that community. The majority of the people were of the Baptist and Camelite faith. Later, in 1922, the Methodist Church was established.
A Local Memory That I Cherish Most all Grandpas, Grandmas, Uncles and Aunts were addressed in that sense, whether kinsman or not, by children and even younger adults. This childhood practice was very natural with me and has lingered to this day. Very probably, the generations following the teens and twenties did not care for that method of greeting. Later in life, I have been challenged for using such a term when speaking of people in the past whom I loved and respected. In my writing about Weed people, please excuse me if I refer to some of those dear people in that manner.
Weed School Stories Some very talented people of our community were outstanding story tellers. Let us assume that the first Weed School started in 1885, 100 years ago. By concentrating and digging into my memory, the old school did start in the "school" location. The story tellers liked to talk about many occurrences including the school story. It must have been 33 years old when it burned. I remember one novel story teller who would talk about the burning of the school building. With a twinkle in his eye, he would say, "Perhaps the bad boys started the fire." I certainly do not know about that.
Before the school building burned, the story tellers mentioned over and over about some of the school students harassing the principal and the teachers, often causing them to give up and resign. This procedure was repeated year after year until it was very difficult to obtain a teaching staff. Aunt Lizzie Wasson related the following story, and being the "saint" that she was, I certainly believed it. She was on the School Board as was her husband Uncle Jack Wasson. In desperation, the School Board members were at their end of possibilities when Aunt Lizzie said, "My brother, Mr. Peck, is a fine school principal who is large, broad shouldered, handsome, and kind but very strict. We might persuade him to take a leave of absence to guide our school." The Board asked Lizzie to contact her capable brother about this proposal, withholding nothing from him. Mr. Peck did comply.
The School did start and went through that whole year without serious incident, but Mr. Peck did not agree to another year. Then, the school building burned. I think I’m correct in saying that the new and second school building was built and served the year of 1919-20.
More About School -
My Own Experience When I was 6 years old, in 1920, 1 started to school for the 1920-21 year session. I did not want to go to school, but my parents and a lovely teacher, Mrs. Rose, convinced me that I should or must go to school. The new building was very neat and clean. It had new desks, oiled floors, heating radiators in the rooms, a giant wood burning boiler in the basement and large blackboards. Grades were from 1 to 12 inclusive. I think there were six separate rooms and a large assembly room with stage and divided doors which converted this space into two large rooms. The first and second grades were started in the area next to the stage. Mrs. Rose was our delightful and beautiful teacher.
That morning in early September, the opening was an all-grade gathering in the multipurpose room. All students were seated with teachers "spotted" near their students. The stage was open but nothing was in sight. At a specified time the new principal, Mr. Rose, came out on the stage dressed in a black leather suit. The trousers were designed for leather leggings, all strapped and polished, as were his shoes. Mr. Rose had a long black leather horse whip in his hand. He would "crack" that whip in loud reports, to the left, then to the right. Then he stopped and faced the students. "We’re here to run this school, and we mean one entire year. We’re here to learn, play and build character. Do any of you have a notion of harassing the student body? If so, come right on up here now. We’ll settle the issue on this stage right before your fellow students." Did anyone appear before him? Of course not. We all knew this man was tough and perhaps very fair.
School did start as scheduled. The Otero County Seat in Alamogordo furnished chalk for blackboard writing, a janitor to attend the school, and wood for the furnace. All books, tablets, pencils, paste, etc… were furnished by the students’ parents. Used books were always in demand. Once they were spoken for, from student to student, the teacher would order the necessary new books.
The famous tablet was a "Big Chief." The small size was 5 cents and a larger size was 10 cents. There was a cheaper pencil, two for a penny. The better one was l cent. A good eraser was 5 cents. At that time, Uncle Earl and Uncle Bill Sanders’ store was nearby. Their business got a boost during the opening of school.
For recess, marble games were popular. One could get clay marbles for a penny each or a crock marble for a nickel. Taws, the shooting marble, came in several types. A glass marble was from 10 to 20 cents. An agate marble ran from 25 cents up. Some games were just for fun, and no one lost their property. Also, there was the game of "keeps". Most high school boys wanted to play for keeps. A poor player could loose his "pocket of marbles" quick. Many did, including me.
Another game was stilts. We had those on tin cans, but the real winners were a pair of poles designed to raise a person high for balanced walking. Naturally, the taller the stilts were, the better the sportsmanship.
A chin-bar soon followed. That built muscles, sure enough. Thirty to fifty chin-ups was the goal of every male student. Then, pole vaulting became very popular. I remember my good friend, Emmett Gage, became very good in this sport as did others.
Baseball (really softball) was indeed exciting. The school had no balls, so the students would make them starting with a rubber substance in the center rolling string around and around the rubber core. Bees wax served as a string or twine stabilizer. Sometimes, a good heavy strike would loosen the homemade ball, thrusting it through the air with the string unraveling.
Basketball was a dream of our principal, Mr. Rose, but the County had no funds to provide this luxury. So the dads of students brought their horse and mule teams with plows, scrapers and fresnoes. On the south side of the school, near the cemetery, a court was built. The entire school ground was sloping so it was necessary to create a bank on the upper side. The bank served as a seat for players and spectators. The ground was a reddish-brown colored clay. The court could be dusty, dry and hard, wet and slippery, boggy, snow covered and thawing, or frozen. But, the games went forth whenever possible.
The local dads made the goal posts, backboards, and iron hoops. All was well, except no basketball. The boys would improvise play objects to substitute for a ball. The School Board and parents, I suppose something like a PTA, decided to have a box supper for the young people. The pretty girls would bring a box filled with food goodies, all wrapped pretty-like. The boys were to "scrounge" for some pocket money to purchase the boxes at the auction. An auctioneer would create a "big show" selling the boxes by bidding. If a boy could spot the box from a girl of his choice, the bidding could run higher. An extremely popular young beauty could create competition a-plenty. That was fun indeed. Some boxes went for 25 cents, but some went for 50 cents, 75 cents, $1.00 and more. Please believe me, a dollar was a fortune for most young boys in those days. Anyway, some of those funds were routed to purchase two basketballs, one for the boys and one for the girls.
Mr. Rose and his teaching staff kept us kids so busy doing sports and scholastic work that we had little time for pranks. Mr. and Mrs. Rose served three years as I remember. The students learned at a remarkable pace. In my class there were some very "sharp" students, Leonard Akers and F. A. Sanders to name two. Those boys seemed to master all school work and with seemingly little effort. They were both my very good friends, and I was determined to keep up with them. That was not easy for me. I had to study nights and weekends to match them while they played at other things. Several girls were outstanding also.
Some Handicaps At School Most out-of-town students brought their lunch in a "Mary Jane" syrup bucket. If we wanted water, we had to bring it in that bucket because the school did not have a water supply. We did have a few alternatives. I would go to Aunt Lara Sanders home with her boys who were my friends. Or we could sometimes go to the Sanders Store and get a drink from a water bucket with one community dipper. Ugh! The lack of water was a real handicap, not only for drinking water, but to wash very dirty hands from playing marbles or basketball. Even school books, tablet paper and personal clothing took its toll with dirt soiling.
We Must Have Water Parents saw the need for water at the school. The County superintendent was approached. Funds were low as usual. The tax base was even higher than the people could afford within the County. World War I was over, but the economy did not rally very fast. An offer was made. Two willing men offered to dig a cistern at the school at no labor charge if the County could furnish the cement, a wooden platform, a hand cup-type pump, and the eave-troughs to catch the rain and snow water from the building’s roof. This arrangement was successful. The very nice cistern was completed by September of that particular year. Rains came late and the cistern filled, but the water was not usable due to strong "new cement" taste. It had to be emptied by hand which meant with water buckets and rope. A long period was endured until a snow storm came - then the water was drinkable.
By the next school year, an epidemic hit the students. The absentee rate was far too high. The County Medical Officer tested the water finding it loaded with bacterial organisms. The cause was very clear. In an effort to save funds, a wooden cover was installed with cracks between the 1" x 6" boards. When the students put their cups into the stream of water, or washed their hands, the surplus water ran back into the cistern causing a real potential trouble maker health wise. The water was again emptied and a new cover built with a trough to carry waste water away from the cistern area. Also, spring water was hauled during dry seasons from the Chester Stephens’ farm about two miles west of Weed.
Poor Sanitation The school had two "pit type" toilets, one for the boys and another for the girls. The County did not furnish toilet tissue, so the parents would send discarded catalogs (Sears and Wards) to school. Looking back in retrospect, considering how people live today with excellent sanitation, good water fountains, electric lights and many other considerations, one would wonder how our students survived so well in spite of their handicaps. Even so, the Weed School has always been noted for superior students and teachers. Many, many worthwhile people have launched their lives from that school, making many contributions to their own lives and others.
School Plays About all the community could count on for recreation and diversion were the churches’ and school’s activities. At Christmas time each year, many students took parts in drama, music, poetry and long renditions of literature from memory. A nice Christmas tree would be placed near the stage. The decorations would be strings of popcorn, paper rings looped together and other ingenious ideas from teachers and their students. For lighting, we used candles attached to metal candle holders. This was very dangerous indeed. The lighting ceremony would only last for a few minutes just before the Santa Claus gift presentation. Then the lights, supervised by an adult crew, would be carefully extinguished.
What? No Electricity? In those days, there was no electricity, no radios, no television. In fact, we had no knowledge of such things as radios and TV. But the telephone on the store wall was known. There was a phone at the Weed Ranger Station and one at Doctor Shields’ ranch west of Weed about 10 miles in Haye Canyon. That line ran on to the Cloudcroft Drugstore, and it was possible to get a call through to Alamogordo. The phone system was operated by the station, like a store. The pulls or rings were coded in shorts and longs. Therefore, each of these stations had a combination of so many shorts and longs. In later years, a phone was added to the Artesia Summer Camp caretaker’s home.
In 1919-20 on to the late twenties, kerosene lamps and lanterns were used at home, in businesses, churches and schools. Oil, wick and globe ran those lamps. Then, hurrah! A miracle light, the gasoline lamp and lantern, came into being. It had a heat generator with two mantels made with a material that would not burn up. But they were very fragile. Gasoline in the storage tank was loaded with air pressure to form a gas vapor which entered the heated generator and burned into a rather soft white light at the mantle.
What About Picture Shows? No, we had no theater. About two times each school year, our county agriculture and forest agent would bring his Studebaker touring car that powered a movie projector. This machine was operated by jacking up a rear wheel, then placing a leather belt on the tire which extended to a pulley on the projector machine. One could call it a DC electric dynamo. The pictures were generally on farming, poultry, milk cattle, hog raising and forestry.
I remember one year our county agent, Mr. Ware, was having trouble keeping the belt on the old Studebaker’s wheel. He would go in and out until it looked like the show would he a failure. Being an automobile fanatic, I dared to ask Mr. Ware if I could be of help to him because I did know him very well. "Yes," he said, "Come with me." Mr. Ware developed a system to keep the revving belt on, provided another person held his device in a certain location. He gave me the job, and that made my day. (The wheel appeared to be out of alignment to the dynamo pulley.)
The Giant Furnace In winter, the rooms could be kept warm provided the old furnace was kept red hot every minute. The county could not afford a furnace operator. The problem was solved by allowing the boys alternate duty time to keep "Old Giant" stoked with wood. A schedule was posted for us boys to watch. The teacher would help each boy to not miss out on his school work. Even the girls helped the boy students with that assignment.
Aunt Laura’s Hens As mentioned before, Aunt Laura and Uncle Earl Sanders lived to the south of the basketball court. Aunt Laura kept a rather nice flock of hens. These hens were very gentle and would roam the school ground, picking up scraps of food that the students would discard. The hens discovered that the underside of our school house was nice and warm. Also, during winter when the snow was deep, our boys would play marbles in the dirt near the big boiler. The hens liked to flit their feathers in that clean (?) dirt when the boys were not there. Soon, the hens discovered that there was a dandy place to lay their eggs back in under the school floor. When a hen laid an egg, she would sing out with her natural cackle. Then the boy on fire duty would climb on hands and knees to rescue the egg or eggs. One could place those eggs in the medium hot ashes and cook them. Then the boys would share the cooked egg with a girl of his choice.
Aunt Laura knew all about this daily maneuver. She loved kids very much, so we didn’t feel any wrong in doing that. After all, she didn’t want to gather eggs under the school building. I loved and admired Aunt Laura for several reasons. I liked her sour dough bread, I liked Uncle Earl and her sons, and she was my first Sunday school teacher until I was nine years of age. To this day, I can remember her method of teaching the life of Jesus and also other important people in the Bible.
What? No Chalk? As indicated before, our County and its people were poor. One time our principal ordered a supply of chalk because the teachers and students really did use lots of it. A back-order situation existed. Teachers taught without chalk except for some special situation. They were saving tiny pieces to use. A number of weeks passed before the chalk arrived.
Weed’s Automobiles There weren’t many automobiles and the roads were terrible, just ruts mostly. But there were a few cars. Buck Jernigan and Uncle Dan Stephens both had black Dodge touring cars with 12-volt systems. The starter was silent when turning the motor, and that was only for a moment because those little 4-cylinder motors would start rain or shine, summer or winter. Uncle Bill Sanders had a Ford Model "T" touring car. I think Mr. Mike Mills had a Ford "TT" truck. In 1922 the Rev. Lewis Means, Methodist pastor, bought a Model "T" touring car. As time passed, more and more cars were added. In 1924-25, the Artesia and Roswell people brought a variety of nice cars into the community in the summertime. Uncle Jack Wasson added a Ford Model "T" Roadster for his son, E.0., and his new wife, Effie. Then a Chevrolet 1 ½ ton truck was added. Mr. Dave Lewis added a one ton Ford "TT" truck to his new mail route later. Soon, there were too many to account for.
Roads to Weed When the pioneers first went to Weed, they used Mule Canyon so I have been told. It was a slow rough route. Then Denny Hill road was built followed by the Weed Hill road. That route has been updated and improved down through the years but paving came after World War II. The same for electricity and telephones.
The First Radio When Boy Scout Troop #38 was organized in 1925 led by our forest ranger, Mr. Boone, we were told to be at the troop meeting on time and in full force. Mr. Boone had a surprise for us. Guess what? A battery powered radio! We all took turns listening with the head set to an announcer and music. "What next!" I thought.
Uncle Dan Stephens Uncle Dan had many talents. One was to entertain people with his cylinder-type phonograph. The record cylinder was about 6 inches long by 2 inches in diameter. He would place the cylinder on a spindle, turn it on after winding a spring, apply the needle, and behold, music. The sound came from a bugle-like amplifier horn labeled "His Master’s Voice". I think it was an RCA design.
Uncle Dan took several important newspapers. He read lots and shared the news with his fellowman. At Uncle Jack Wasson’s store, there was a heater that kept the store and post office warm. Uncle Dan had his favorite chair near that stove. He had a friendly greeting for all people who entered that store, even children. He had the knack of asking the right question of everyone. He analyzed all this information and could tell us how the town and community should be run, even the school and churches. He had the County government at his finger tips. He knew how Santa Fe was handling the State’s affairs - likewise the Federal Government in Washington, DC. What was needed was a local Weed paper. Let’s call it the "Weed Chronicle". Uncle Dan could have been its editor. Yes, Uncle Dan Stephens was the "eyes and ears" of Weed. I felt a deep devotion and respect for that wonderful man.
The Mountain Doctor When anyone became ill in the Weed community, Doctor Shields was summoned. It could b e hours or a day or two before he could arrive. Once his office was in Weed in Grandma Robertson’s home. But generally, he lived on his Haye Canyon Ranch. Doctor Shields was a good doctor and even better, a real dedicated gentleman. He never had a bad word for anyone, and he never grumbled. He smoked a pipe even when "doctoring" his patient. Somehow, that pipe didn’t bother. He had a way of putting his patient at ease. Doctor Shields’ wife was a very competent nurse. She also managed their ranch in Haye Canyon. When local people were ill, neighbors would take turns helping the ill person and their family. Even day and night duty was practiced.
The Weed Cemetery The cemetery was "hemmed in" by the Sanders’ property and the school building. Access to the cemetery gate was right by the school building and the basketball court. When a person died, the casket would be built by local people (Rass Robertson as a principle example) and presented to the family at no charge. The grave was dug by volunteers of the village and community. Before cars, the casket, family and friends would come to the cemetery in wagons, hacks and buggies, etc… These rigs and teams would, of necessity, come upon the school grounds. The casket would be carried through the gate. Now what would a bunch of students do with a commotion like that within a few feet of the school windows? The teachers were smart. They would allow the students to go to the windows if they cared to, but they were to do this with care and respect for the deceased person. Once the group of people passed, the students would resume their studies.
Part of the funerals were planned and programmed with a pastor, music, grave attendants, pall bearers, etc… But, all too often, a situation came about where no arrangements were available. In that case, Aunt Lizzie Wasson would always help. She had a routine which was very well done. One could count on Aunt Lizzie leading the song "Shall We Gather at the River." Then she would read some appropriate scriptures including the Twenty-third Psalm. Aunt Lizzie could always find the words for a prayer to fit the occasion. I can remember grave side funerals in sunshine, rain, wind, snow storms, hot or cold weather. The impressive part was the compassion that was felt and displayed for anyone at a time like that.
The Great Drought The Sacramento Mountains are basically an oasis in a desert. The seasons are so important. There are rainy seasons. There can be adequate snow in winter. At times, water is no real problem. Then there can be times when little or no rain will fall along with dry winters. A long dry period is very difficult for Weed people. One year the creek went dry. Weed people hauled water in barrels from Chester Stephens’ farm west of Weed. That tract of land had some great springs north of the Stephens’ home place. A ditch was developed to run water to the road. Then a pipe was arranged high enough to fill barrels in wagons and trucks.
The Old Sanders’ Store The Sanders’ store was an interesting place. In addition to food and grocery supplies, there was a dry goods section, a shoe section, and men’s clothing such as trousers, shirts, hats, etc… There was a harness and saddle department as well as hardware such as horse shoes, nails and rope. To a kid’s delight, there was a large candy counter with several types of candy. Our choices were made from the stick candy bin, the licorice bin, and the all-day-sucker bin. Coffee and tobacco gave a mixture of smells that intrigued youngsters. Liking Uncle Earl and Uncle Bill so much, it was always a treat to go there to shop for a few items. They later closed the store, and I do not remember why. What I do remember is that the Methodist Church people purchased the old store building and converted it into a church. A basement with fireplace and other rooms were added on. During my long absence, I have never found out exactly when or why the church was torn down. I’ve inquired a great deal but have never found a person who seemed to know.
The Newer Wasson Store I’m not sure when Uncle Jack Wasson opened his new store at Weed. Perhaps it was about 1928 or 1929. Aunt Lizzie housed her post office in the store. As I recall, the store was smaller than the Sanders’ store, but it had similar characteristics. Uncle Jack’s intent was to stock merchandise that the local people needed. Uncle Jack was a kind and capable man. He was as honest as Lincoln. I’ve watched him measure or weight some item for his customer, then toss or add some extra to the bag or container.
The normal smells of a grocery store were there. Seems like the coffee grinder and vinegar barrel were most prominent. Then add the old plug tobacco cutter to the list. His candy counter was similar to the Sanders Brothers’ Store. Seems as though the children’s finger smears on the outside of the glass openings was a natural process. I suppose I contributed my share of smears also.
When Uncle Jack opened his store, gasoline and oil was needed in the community because the car and truck population was constantly increasing. The first supply of white gasoline was delivered in 55 gallon steel barrels. Uncle Jack had a hand pump to transfer the fuel to the car’s gas tank. The measuring process was not too accurate and was also wasteful and dangerous. Lubricating oil was also pumped from a steel barrel into a quart measuring device with a flexible spout to pour the "lube" into the engine. Kerosene was likewise handled and generally used in lamps and lanterns.
In 1929, my family bought our first automobile, a 1927 used Model "T" Ford tudor sedan. One day I was purchasing some gasoline. The wind was blowing making a fuel purchase difficult. Uncle Jack, a very patient man, ran out of patience when a portion of gasoline wet his clothes. He declared to me, "Raymond, I can’t continue this way with this fuel business. Either I get some underground tanks with a real pump or I’m going to stop handling auto fuels. It is not profitable anyway, dang it!" "But, Uncle Jack," I reasoned. "You must continue. Otherwise, we’ll have to go to Mayhill or Cloudcroft for gasoline." I doubt that my appeal meant a thing, but the underground tanks and the gas pump were installed, and leaded fuel became available. Uncle Jack had charged 25 cents a gallon for the original white gas, but this new leaded fuel was 33 1/3 cents per gallon selling at 3 gallons for $1.00.
Uncle Jack was a pure Democrat. He disliked President Hoover, and one could appreciate his point of view because our economy was in deep trouble and getting worse. The "Black Friday" experience with our nation’s banks, savings institutions, and other financial firms in 1929 convinced me that he was right. His belief was highly endorsed by Uncle Dan Stephens. So again, the "Weed Chronicle" voiced the state of the Nation.
As time moved slowly on ahead into the 1930-31 period, it became rather certain that candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt would run for President and win. Uncle Jack was known to often declare, "Well, when the Democrats take over in 1932, this country will get hack on its feet." Franklin D. Roosevelt did win the nomination by a landslide majority. Many solutions were established: The NRA, WPA, CCC, school building renovation, forest service reclamation jobs, soil conservation, geodetic surveying, etc… All of these programs helped our Nation’s people.
One item was not recognized... and here is where we will begin next month, with part two of this story.
Raymond Morgan Hitchcock wrote this story in 1985, when he was about 71 years old. His memories of Weed are sharp and vivid. This manuscript was furnished by the Sacramento Mountains Historical Museum.
This is part 2, of a two part story about Weed as Raymond Hitchcock remembered it… As time moved slowly on ahead into the 1930-31 period, it became rather certain that candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt would run for President and win. Uncle Jack was known to often declare, "Well, when the Democrats take over in 1932, this country will get hack on its feet." Franklin D. Roosevelt did win the nomination by a landslide majority. Many solutions were established: The NRA, WPA, CCC, school building renovation, forest service reclamation jobs, soil conservation, geodetic surveying, etc… All of these programs helped our Nation’s people.
One item was not recognized - our Nation’s defense capability. Hitler’s Germany and Tojo’s Japan had been stretching their military might since the later twenties. As our country was pulling out of its economical stagnation during the happier thirties, both Hitler and Tojo had their eyes on taking our country from us. Men with political influence pulled us in many directions. As a result, we were ill prepared when Japan struck our Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. But, by the grace of God and a loyal people, we were given the time and wisdom to prepare our military forces and retaliate against two fronts, Europe and the Pacific Ocean. World War II will cost our Nation billions for many years to come.
In reality, I wish Uncle Dan Stephens and his good friend, Uncle Jack Wasson, could have had a newspaper, The Weed Chronicle. Very good reading it would have been, I’m sure. This points up the fact that there have been many heros in our Nation who were never recognized.
More About The Weed School When Mrs. Rose taught our second grade, we experienced an incident that should be related. The Akers children, Ruthie, Leonard and Robert, walked to school over the northern hill on a special path that they had originated. When the children arrived one morning, Leonard was slow in his walk, almost speechless, and had a very pale face; he was actually very ill. Our teacher and all the boys and girls were deeply concerned about Leonard’s welfare. At the teacher’s suggestion, the students placed their coats on the stage making a rather comfortable bed for our very ill Leonard. This young man was very popular. His friends would take him water, offering tidbits of their lunch. Just anything to help their patient. When recess time came, Leonard was not able to go outside and play. A few students stayed inside to attend him. About 11:30am, the teacher, being very wise in considering his problem and its possible cause, kindly asked Leonard what he had done to cause the illness. Well, I suppose that was a tough question for him. However, Leonard was noted for telling the truth. So, he sat up and told Mrs. Rose, "I took a chew of Dad’s plug tobacco, placed it in my mouth on the trail, and then I got sick." It is amazing how Leonard’s illness improved. He played at noon time as usual. The story about Leonard was understood and became a "guarded" subject. School continued as usual.
School Competition As we kids grew older and larger, we were allowed to play basketball. Some of the younger boys did real well and were welcomed by the older high school students. In my own case, I was tall and strong enough, but I was nearsighted and could not see a fast ball coming toward me well enough to always properly catch it and pass it on correctly. This handicap aggravated one of our best players. He became very impatient with me, and I’m sure that was justified. Many days of that harassing went by. One day my temper raised, and I said some unkind words to him. He threatened to hit me and knock me out of the game. To retaliate, I said, "I can’t whip you, but my Cousin Don can. He will be on the Cloudcroft team next week, and he’ll whip you good." This outbreak did kick me off the team because this valuable player was the team captain.
Meanwhile, both the Weed and Cloudcroft Schools were preparing for an aggressive athletic program with many types of sports. However, basketball was the leading event for both boys and girls. We also had scholastic contests for other students. I moved to chin-bar and long distance running and did very well. I also did well in several scholastic events. Then we all could watch the basketball games. The girls played first. Our girls did well, but Cloudcroft got the highest score. One reason was Cloudcroft’s key player, Bessie Quick, who later married my cousin, Don Bonnell. Then, the boys played. Both the teams were tough and well trained. My Cousin Don, a good-natured kind of fellow, was playing against our team captain, the boy who had dealt me misery. At a very critical time, Cloudcroft’s Don Bonnell was being over-guarded at Weed’s goal and he couldn’t pass the ball or dribble out of his position, so in a split second he passed a high fast-ball toward the Cloudcroft goal post. To the amazement of the Weed team and all student spectators, the ball made a clean approach goal. At that very moment, my enthusiasm exploded. "See what I mean? My cousin whipped you!" The words were gone, never to return again. I was ashamed a little bit, yet kinda pleased. The captain yelled at me, "I’ll beat the hell of you, Mr. Smart." No more was said or done about that incident. My cousin spent the night with me, so I told him why I had yelled that statement.
This story points up the fact that all is not well on a school ground when training and competition is in the making. The moral is that kids should be more patient with each other and the same goes for adults.
An Unforgettable Student If I were to write about all of the students at the Weed School who were outstanding and deserving, my story would be a sizable book. Allow me to mention a young lady who suffered infantile paralysis when very young. Today, we call this disease poliomyelitis or polio. In those days, children often died with that dreadful ailment. By school time, I think in 1921, this new student, Eppie Warren, began her school attendance. She lived very close to the school near Uncle and Aunt Dan Stephens. As I recall, she was their granddaughter. Eppie may have been handicapped in her body, hut her smiling face, her kind nature, her loving everyone, and her intelligence was a constant challenge for us all. She commanded the respect of all her teachers and fellow students. Surely, God must have walked with that little girl.
Names to Remember at School Anytime a person attempts to name people, someone will be missed or omitted, but I’ll take that chance. To the best of my memory, sixty-five years later, I recall the following family names who were in school or lived in the Weed community while I was growing up: Akers, Allen, Beanblossom, Bell, Boone, Boyce, Buckner, Calkins, Criedbring, Fisher, Fuller, Gage, Greenhaw, Guilliams, Hitchcock, Huffman, Jernigan, Jones, Lewis, Loring, McShan, Means, Mills, Miller, Peck, Potter, Pritchard, Prude, Read, Robertson, Sanders, Scott, Shaefer, Shields, Sowell, Spencer, Stephens, Strang, Warren, Wasson, Wassum, Weems, and Wilkinson.
Families Who Made Deep Imprints Grandpa and Grandma Sanders were very progressive people. Their small farm and home place was beautiful and well attended. They had a black buggy and a white team of horses. Very often, they would visit their daughter’s family, Arthur and Mrs. Criedbring and three children, Velma, R.F. and Dorothy. That was west of Weed about 5 miles in Criedbring Canyon.
Grandma Mary Rebecca Robertson lived on their small farm northeast of Weed. When I knew her, she had two sons, William Finis (Rass) and Gentry Earnest. Rass was a competent and capable carpenter. Gentry went to school for several years. He was a teacher and later a U.S. postal executive. At this date, they are both alive at ages 88 and 85. (This was written in 1985.) As I understand their background, they came into New Mexico living at Badger (now Hope), then onto Weed. The father, William Oliver Robertson, purchased 80 acres from Mr. Weed who had started with 160 acres. This left 80 acres remaining for the town site, but even that was sold and divided into smaller plots. If my information is correct, there were five daughters and six sons. These children were born in the years of 1873, 1875, 1877, 1879, 1881, 1884, 1886, 1887, 1890, 1897 and 1900. The latter two were Rass and Gentry.
Gentry remembers when the creek of water was very shallow allowing people to walk over the stream. As time went on, the flooding cut the stream bed very deep. These boys saw many changes in the Weed community. Many were good and some were comical. I think Mr. Robertson (I did not know him) was engaged in sawmill work in addition to his small, but beautiful, home place. Research indicates that he operated a saw mill on the east end of the old Cox place four miles west of Weed. That 160 acre farm later became the Homer Robertson farm, then the Frank Hitchcock farm.
Grandpa and Grandma Gage had a fine apple orchard. In the fall, he would make many gallons of apple cider. He would invite me to hold my cup in the stream of sweet juice so as to drink to my stomach’s content. Grandpa Gage also had a one engine gasoline powered grist mill. He would grind corn into corn meal and wheat into whole wheat flour. The old "one lunger" engine would make lots of noise. In fact, it could be heard for a long way off. That put-put-bang-bang-chug-a-chug-chug, over and over was music to my ears. Grandpa would allow me to sit near by and watch the "rascal" run. Likewise, Grandpa and Grandma Akers had a larger farm with two orchards. They gathered lots of fruit to be sold to the public. I think there was a cider mill also. These great people were very kind to my parents while they were pioneering their new homestead nearby. Our family held them in high esteem.
There was Grannie Jones (Mrs. Kidd Read’s mother) in upper McKewan Canyon. She was everybody’s friend. She never turned a stranger down. Her gracious home and excellent cooking was a noted commodity for anyone who stopped by. Grannie had a beautiful garden with lots of flowers. She raised lots of fine potatoes and corn. Her home had a fireplace. She had a device where ashes were collected to be processed for homemade lye, and it really worked when she made lye soap.
There was the Criedbring family. Grandpa and Grandma Criedbring lived near the Willis Allen sawmill. Their farm was larger than average. They raised grain and had an orchard and garden. These dear people always seemed rather old to me, and I suppose they were. Prior to Grandpa’s death, he became very ill and suffered day and night with his illness. The neighbors took turns, in pairs, sitting with him and helping where possible. I was now old enough to sit with sick people. Willis Allen and I took the midnight shift to help Grandpa. He was so very ill. He passed on at about 6:00am.
Another Criedbring and his family lived nearby. Arthur was always a personal and special friend to my family, and especially to me. When I farmed alone in 1931, 1932 and 1933, Arthur befriended me many times with blacksmith work and more than that, he took a special interest in me as a young man struggling to succeed with my crops. I hold him in my memory today.
These aforementioned families are only a sample of the goodness of these generous Weed people. Again, many heros passed our way.
Epilogue As a child and then a young man, I suppose I was a dreamer. I couldn’t understand why my parents couldn’t have a well drilled for much needed water. I couldn’t understand why Weed couldn’t have a village well or pipe water from the west where water was. I couldn’t understand why a dam couldn’t be built in that dangerous canyon that ran torrents of water during flood times. Slowly but surely, the town of Weed began to deteriorate in the late twenties and thirties. It seemed that no one wanted to help make the town better.
I was away from Weed for about 48 years due to school, work, the war, and helping to raise our family. The old town didn’t progress much. But today, there seems to be hope again. I can think of few places that has the favorable climate that Weed does. With better roads, electricity, phones, radios, television and better transportation, Weed has made progress. But, how is your water supply?