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Chapter 19- The Life and Times of William Roy Caple -1918 – Puyallup, Influenza and War Ends

As the train pulled into the station in Puyallup, Roy spotted his parents waiting on the platform. He and Mae gathered their bundles and made their way down the aisle to the door. A porter helped them get their baggage onto the platform.

Roy’s mother threw her arms around Roy. “You do not know how good it is to see you again.” She kissed Mae’s cheek, “And you too, your family now.”

Roy’s Dad stepped forward and shook Roy’s hand. “Good to have you home, son. He tipped his head toward Mae. “Glad you finally brought that girl of yours back to Puyallup. I brought my delivery truck to collect your baggage. It’ll be a might crowded, but I expect we can all squeeze into the cab.”

As they drove down Main Street. American flags fluttered and red, white, and blue buntings hung from all the buildings in support the war in Europe.

 “Sure, wish they’d get that mess in Europe done with,” said Roy. “If you ask me, it should never have started and we should have stayed out of it.”

His father steered his truck around a corner. “I have to agree with your son, I’m proud of my service in the War Between the States, but this war is a horse of a different color. I fear nothing good will come of it.”    

His sister, Lida, and her husband George were out on the porch when his dad jerked the delivery truck to a halt in front of the house.

Roy gazed at the big white house before making a move to get out of the truck. “I’ve missed this place, it’s good to be home again.”

Lida hugged both Mae and Roy. “You don’t know how much I have missed both of you.

Roy took a step back. In his 2 years away, she’d changed from a girl to a beautiful young woman. He stretched his hand out to the dark- haired man standing next to her. “You must be my brother-in-law”

 “That I am, George McKay.” He offered his hand, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, I’ve heard so much about you.”

Roy chuckled. “Nothing good, I imagine. Would mind giving me a hand unloading our baggage.”

Over dinner, Roy reached for Mae’s hand. “We have an announcement to make, we’re expecting a little bundle of joy.”

“Oh, wonderful,” said Lida. “I can’t wait until we have a child of our own.” 

“I knew it.” said his mother, “the minute I saw Mae. She is positively glowing. Now we’ll have two grandchildren. Joe’s little guy is such a cutie. When can we expect this little bundle?”

Mae blushed, “Not for a while, mid-December I think.”

“How nice, another December birthday. Robert, Joe’s boy turns two in December.”

“I can’t wait to meet him and Joe’s wife,” said Mae.

Roy’s mother stood up to clear the table, “Hopefully they will be by Sunday, since they moved to South Prairie, I don’t see nearly enough of him.”

Roy and Mae spent the next few days with his parents. They agreed three families in one house were too much. They obtained some rooms at the nearby Scott hotel to live in until he got their house built on the lot next to his parent’s home. He found a job in Tacoma working as a shipwright for the Wright ship building company.

He bought plans for a craftsman bungalow, a style becoming popular. He purchased a large tool chest of the tools he’d need from a retired carpenter. Every spare moment he had that summer he spent working on their house. He wanted it ready to move in before the baby arrived. His brother-in-law, George, came over and gave him a hand whenever he could. Roy found he enjoyed the man’s company. And Lida and his wife picked up their friendship as if there had been no six-year interruption. The two couples enjoyed going on outings together.

News of the war in Europe continued to make headlines. Roy was not happy when a third draft required all men up to age 45 to register. The first draft had been up to age 31, and he had escaped it by a year, but now at age 33 he would have to register.

On September 18th, he took the interurban bus to Tacoma. With a heaviness in his heart, he got off on Pacific Avenue, walked to the tall Bank of California building. He stared at the door as he rode the elevator to the third floor and found room 302. He’d considered applying as a conscientious objector.

Chuck at the shipyard said, “Roy if I were you, I wouldn’t do it. I’ve heard of too many cases where you get drafted into the regular military pronto. Besides, I doubt they will ever draft guys your age, anyway.”

Roy hoped so, besides not wanting to leave Mae and their soon to be born baby, he wanted no part of killing in this war.

 That fall news of war continued to make headlines as well as reports of a nasty flu in Europe and parts of U.S. But in Puyallup, Washington, it was a distant problem.

On October 5th Roy picked up a copy of the Tacoma paper while he waited for the bus. Once seated he unfolded the newspaper. The headline at the bottom of the front page caught his eye.

 “Flu scares in Seattle.”

The article stated churches and theaters had closed. He pointed the story out to the man seated next to him. “That’s getting close to us.”

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” said the man. “We’re safe here, haven’t heard of a single in Tacoma or Puyallup.”

“You’re probably right,” said Roy.

But when he opened to another page, he found another disturbing headline ‘Fluenza Rumors officially Denied’ said an article about Camp Lewis.

Over dinner that night, “He read the front-page article aloud to Mae.

“Goodness,” she said, “that doesn’t sound good. I’m glad we’re young and healthy. Maybe we should suggest to your parents that stay close to home for the time being.”

Roy closed up the paper. “That’s not a bad idea, but you know Dad. He likes to keep busy supervising his transport business.”

Mae dabbed her mouth on a napkin, “And with Lida and George going out daily, I suppose it doesn’t help much having them stay home. Besides, I haven’t heard of any flu cases here.”

On the 7th of October, the Puyallup Tribune mentioned there were a few cases in town. The schools and theaters closed indefinitely as a precaution. People were encouraged to not meet in large groups and to keep ‘rooms fumigated daily.’ Mask wearing became  common though not required in Puyallup. Nearby Tacoma required masks for all waiters, cooks, barbers, and city employees. Quarantine signs appeared on houses. Roy noticed one on the door of a sweet older woman who lived a couple of blocks from his home.

“Poor woman,” he remarked to his wife, “she isn’t in good health, this flu will do her in.”

 Only to hear a week later she’d recovered, but her strong healthy logger son had died within 3 days.

 A neighbor told him, “He seemed better and got up to eat dinner with the family and died later that night. The newspaper reported that four of the six young adult children of the George family died within four days of each other while the parents remained well.

Roy worried about Mae. She was due to give birth in a mere six weeks. Had he made a mistake moving to Puyallup.

A letter from Mae’s family arrived. That evening she read it aloud to him.

Such awful news about the flu, her mother wrote. We’ve had a few cases in Belle Fourche, but it’s hit Lead hard. So many miners are ill and too many deaths. I am thankful you aren’t there any longer.

Mae folded the latter up. “No one seems to be spared, this flu is everywhere.”

Just after midnight on November 11th, the loud continuous whistle of the town’s cannery roused Roy from a deep sleep. He rolled over and whispered, “Do you hear that.”

“Yes,” said Mae. “I wonder what it means.”

Minutes later, all the whistles and bells began to ring. From the hallway outside their rooms someone shouted, “The war has ended.”

Soon the hallways of the Scott hotel filled with the noise of cheering and noise makers.

Sleep was impossible, so Roy and Mae hastily dressed and went out to join the rest of the revelers. Out on the street, pedestrians carried flags and every kind of noise maker available. Cars joined the group on Pioneer Avenue, beeping their horns. Roy and Mae made their way toward his parents’ home a short 2 blocks away. On the way, they ran into Lida and George.

Lida threw her arms around Roy, “Isn’t it wonderful, the war is over. We’re joining the crowd headed to town. Won’t you join us.”

Roy looked at his wife, heavy with child. “I think we’d better pass.”

They found his parents on their covered porch beating pots in celebration and went up to join them.

His Mother hugged him. “This is the best news, now I don’t have to worry about any of my boys getting drafted.”

After most of the crowd in front of the house had headed for the downtown area. Roy and Mae went back to their rooms at the Scott Hotel to catch a nap before he had to head to work.

After breakfast, Roy kissed his wife. “Don’t get up I can see myself to the door. He patted her round belly. You two try to find some time for more sleep.”

He walked to his bus stop amidst all the wild cheering still going on. The bus arrived full of men waving flags out the window and creating a ruckus of noise. Instead of work, many headed to celebrate in downtown Tacoma.

Not a lot of work went on at the shipyard that day. The ship workers spent much of the day pounding on anything that would make a booming sound, joining the mill workers who in turned pounded on large logs. The busy harbor filled with boats, small and large, blasting their horns and whistles as if to say peace at last the war has ended. Everywhere folks were happy and celebrating.

Mae greeted him at the door at the end of the day and gave him a big smooch on the lips, “Hasn’t today been the best day. Did you see any of the celebrating in Tacoma?”

Roy hung his coat on the coat tree next to the door. I saw little of the city, but I can tell you there was plenty of celebrating going on at the port. He patted her protruding tummy; I hope you two got a chance to nap.

Mae patted her tummy, “I caught a catnap or two but his little one has been kicking all day. I guess he or she wanted to celebrate, too.”

After Roy washed and changed his clothes, he sat down for the dinner Mae had prepared.

She poured him a cup of coffee. “I hear there’s going to be an enormous bonfire in front of Victory Hall tonight. Appears folks can’t quit celebrating.”

“I can’t blame them,” said Roy taking a bite of the stew she’d prepared. “But I for one am bushed, it’s early to bed for me.”

School reopened in Puyallup on November 16th. The nasty business with the flu also seemed to end with the war. Although isolated cases in Puyallup would continue to occur for the next year, life went back to normal.

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Authors notes: specifics on Roy’s registration for the draft came from his draft registration. Interestingly enough the room he had to report in the Bank of California building was the same room my husband registered for the Viet Nam War draft. He often mentioned that he had opposed this war and that he had considered being a conscientious objector should he be called for service.

Information on the deadly Influenza outbreak of 1918 came from old Tacoma and Puyallup newspapers as did the information on how the town celebrated the ending of World War I. My grandfather also spoke of how older people he thought would die from the illness lived while the healthy younger ones did not.

Chapter 18 – The Life And Times Of William Roy Caple – Roy Marries -1917-1918

Roy and Mae picked a day for their wedding in mid August. Roy found a small house to rent. It contained a sitting room, kitchen, one bedroom and all the furniture  needed to start married life.

When Mae’s parents had brought her to Lead to take a look at it. She had thrown her arms around him. “Oh, Roy I love it. It’s a storybook house.”

 Her mother had nodded in agreement. “It’s a perfect starter home.”

Roy had hoped his parents and sister would come to witness the occasion. His mother had written back that she didn’t think his dad was up to the long train trip and Lida had upped and eloped at the end of May just before her eighteenth birthday. Neither the newlyweds nor his brothers could spare the cash to make the trip.

He and Mae decided to keep the ceremony small. Just some members of Mae’s family, able to attend a Wednesday wedding.

When the day of the wedding arrived Roy laid down his new dark suit, white shirt, and dark blue silk tie he’d purchased for the occasion on his bed and went downstairs for breakfast and to bid his fellow boarding companions goodbye. Afterwards donned in his suit he bade goodbye to Mrs. Olsen.

 “We’re going to miss your face at the dinner table tonight,” she said. “I wish you and that bride of yours all the best. And don’t forget to bring her around so I can meet her.”

“ Will do,”  said Roy as he bounded down the steps of his boarding house in a rush to catch the train to Belle Fourche and his bride. He couldn’t be late today of all days.

At a quarter of three he stood inside the vestibule of the Belle Fourche church with his best man and the minister. Butterflies danced in his stomach. Somewhere else in the church he knew his bride waited. Is she as nervous as I am?

 Out in the main church area he spotted his soon-to-be brother-in-law, thirteen-year-old Daniel, seating the guests.

At last, the moment came, an organ began to play music. The minister beckoned Roy and his best man to join him in front of the alter.

Mae’s sister walked down the aisle, and then came Mae looking more beautiful than ever before. She wore a long white dress which danced at the top of white ankle boots. The elbow length sleeves of her dress met long white gloves. Her slender waist was accented by a wide band above which revealed a  bodice trimmed with a white caplet. The heart necklace he’d given her on her birthday graced her throat and in her hands she carried a bouquet of white flowers.

At the altar they locked eyes on one and other.

“You look beautiful,” Roy whispered. And at last they began to exchange the words he’d waited so long for.

“Roy,” said the Minister, “Will you take Mae to be your wife to love and cherish until death to you part.”

 “I do.”

Mae handed her glove to her sister and he slipped an engraved gold band on her finger.

 She the repeated words and slipped a gold band on his finger.

“ I now pronounce you man and wife,” said the minister.

Arm and arm they made their way down the aisle where they were soon encircled by the family wishing them congratulations and well wishes.

The minister directed him over to the parish office to sign the register. Roy dipped the pen in the ink well and signed his legal name William Roy Caple upon the certificate. He handed the pen to Mae. Her her face radianting like the warm summer sun. She dipped the pen into the ink and signed Mae Edith Phillips, then passed the pen to her sister and the best man to sign as witnesses. Then the two of them returned to the church to have their formal wedding photo taken.

Outside they joined the group waiting and strolled the few blocks to the Phillips house where a celebratory dinner had been made. Afterwards they checked into the Belle Fourche Hotel to spend their first night as a married couple.

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Six months later, a blast of frigid air hit Roy’s face as he emerged from the homestead mine. What, he wondered, had happened to the warm start of the day? Why the thermometer on the front porch had registered sixty when he’d headed off to work. Now it felt cold enough to be zero.

He huddled his chin into his light jacket and hustled home.

Mae opened the front door as he reached for the handle. She threw her arms around him in a warm embrace. “Goodness, you must be half frozen to death. This morning felt like spring and now it’s winter again.”

He nuzzled himself inside her warm arms, “I didn’t take the time to notice the temperature before I came in. Did you look?”

“I did, it’s twenty. That’s South Dakota for you spring one minute and winter the next.”

He shivered, “I believe that’s the biggest temperature change I have witnessed, in all my life, in such a brief time. And here I thought I thought I’d relish a warm stroll in sun on the way home.”

Mae took one of his icy hands in her warm one and led him into the kitchen where a pot of soup bubbled on the stove.

 She put a blanket around his shoulders and poured him a cup of hot coffee. “This should warm you up.”

Roy greedily sipped the warm coffee as the warmth of it and the cook stove gradually unthawed him. He observed his wife as she stirred the pot of soup. She looked as beautiful today as the day they’d wed. Had it really been 6 months since that day? He glanced at the room; Mae had added touches to make it feel like home. A picture of her old homestead hung on the wall along side a photo of his parent’s house in Puyallup. Red gingham curtains framed the windows reminding him of the ones his mother had hung in their Oklahoma Soddy as did the big, braided rag rug under table. The only difference was here a crocheted lace cloth graced their table where they’d had a piece of old oil cloth instead.

He sniffed the air. “Something smells delicious.”

“I thought you’d need something to warm your innards tonight so I made potato and bacon soup and crusty wheat rolls.”

She ladled the soup into two bowls and placed them on the table along with a basket of hot rolls. Then she joined him.

Blowing on a spoonful she set it down. “It needs to cool to cool a bit. Just think, next March we’ll be in Puyallup. I doubt we’ll find it so cold there.”

Roy reached for a roll and slathered it with butter. “Warmer, but wet. Are you positive you’re okay with leaving your family.”

As much as he longed to return to Puyallup and leave the wretched gold mine behind, his wife needed to be content too. They’d talked of moving ever since they got engaged last May.

She got up to pour him some more coffee. “I’m positive. I can’t wait for you to build our dream home.”

He swallowed a spoonful of soup. “I’d feel better if this blasted war would end. There’s talking of upping the draft to include my age bracket. ”

Mae reached for another roll, “Surely it won’t come to that. And if it does, your parents would be next door to help if needed. I’d be fine, it’s you I’d worry about.”

Roy reached for another roll. “Are you sure you are okay with moving?”

“Roy, I will miss my family but I don’t like you working in that gold mine any more than you do. There is no future for us here. Besides, I have family in Puyallup. Maybe not Mama and Papa, but they’re family just the same. And your brother said he could you a job at the shipyards in Tacoma. You’re better suited for that work and it’s safer too.”

Roy looked into her determined eyes. “That settles it. What do you say we leave in May just after your birthday?”

She smiled, “That’s a splendid idea. We can throw a birthday-going party at the same time. She got up and went to the stove. “Let me refill your bowl. Stop worrying about taking me away from mama and papa. I’m not a kid anymore, I know moving to Puyallup is the right choice for us.”

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Author’s notes:

My grandfather often mentioned the sudden temperature drop he experience while working in the gold mine in Lead. He worked deep in the mine and was surprised when he emerged at the end of the day to find it well below freezing when it had been a warm spring morning when he had left for work. I chose to include it in here in this story.

I am not sure when they moved to Puyallup but a local South Dakota newspaper mentioned they had gone to visit Mae’s aunt Sadie in late april of 1918 most likely to say good-bye. By September when Roy had to register for the draft he is working in a Tacoma Shipyard. So it had to have been sometime in the late spring or summer of 1918.

Chapter 17, The Life and Times of William Roy Caple-Life in Lead

In February of 1916 Roy moved into a boarding house in Lead. That evening he joined the fellow boarders in the dining room for the evening meal. Unlike the logging camps where meals were always silent, lively talk accompanied the food. Of the twelve men seated around the table most spoke English in halting voices or not at all. In fact, the table was a melting pot of sorts. Two he learned came from Finland,  2 from Italy, three were from Croatia, two from Germany  and another two were from Slovakia.

Guess I’m the only one born and raised in the United States,” he said. “Glad to meet you all.”

Mrs. Bryant, who ran the boarding house, was a good cook.  He soon settled into a routine, up early every morning, a quick breakfast of Porridge and occasionally bacon and eggs, grab one of her prepared lunches and out the door for the mine.

He was not fond of the work. After years of working outdoors he found working deep in a mine claustrophobic and dangerous. But it did provide a better income than logging. In April a falling rock injured his arm and forced him to spend time off. He spent the next few days in his room reading as he continued to find solace in reading about others’ lives and how they survived. When he grew weary of reading he’d walk the town.

Lead, for a mining town was surprisingly cosmopolitan. He’d been surprised to learn it had been electrified since 1888 just 3 years after his birth. None of the places he’d lived when young had electricity. The town also had a large opera house where he occasionally enjoyed a show, a well-stocked library, and several newspapers though most were in foreign languages.

Whatever the language the newspaper headlines were filled with the news of the war in Europe. Increasingly the talk was of the of the United States entering. He worried he or his younger brother might be drafted along with other folks he knew

Recalling his father’s stories of serving in the Civil War, he knew war was a nasty business and he wanted none of it, at least this war. He prayed this one would end before the United States got dragged into it. He sighed in dismay when he saw the headlines on April 6, 1917, that his country too had entered the war.

But a month later on Sunday, May 6, 1917 war held little of Roy’s attention as he stepped out of his boarding house. The sun shone and the air crisp as he walked to the train station carrying a box and a card for his sweetheart. Today he and her family were  celebrating her 21st birthday. And today Roy intended to propose.

He’d hoped to pop the question when he first got there before the party started but problems on the train track delayed his arrival. The house was already filled with people when he arrived.

Mae greeted him with a smile and a kiss on the cheek when he finally arrived. “Now my party’s complete. I worried the trouble with the train would keep you from coming entirely.”

She motioned for him to place his gift and card on a table filled with other ones. When he turned back she was thick in a conversation with some of her aunts.

 One of Mae’s uncles grabbed him by the arm and spoke. “Roy tell us what is the news from Lead.”  

Every time he attempted to break free someone else came up to talk or he found Mae knee deep in conversation with others.

It wasn’t until the end of the day when he needed to head back to the train that he was able to get a moment alone with her.

He took her hand. “I need to be going  if I aim to catch the last train back to Lead tonight. Won’t you walk with me to the station.”

“I’d love to,” she said, gazing into his eyes. “Lett me grab my coat.;

Though they’d talked of marriage many times, he’d never formally proposed. While he was almost positive she’d say yes, butterflies and been flopping in his stomach all day.

After Mae got her wrap they walked into the cool evening air and headed for the train station. Roy reached for her and she readily grasped his.

 Roy cleared his throat. “It’s time. Time for me to ask for your hand in marriage if you’ll still have me.”

 Mae threw her arms  around him. “Oh Roy of course I’ll still have you. I have been dreaming of this day ever since we met.” 

“So it’s affirmative you’ll be my wife?”

“ I can hardly wait,” said Mae.

“Next week when I come we can go shopping for a ring,”

“Roy I don’t want you to spend money on a fancy diamond, I don’t need one. I want the money to go to our future home. All I need is a plain gold band on the day we marry. When do you think we should have the wedding?”

“Well why don’t you talk about it with your family and we can finalize the plans when I come next weekend.”

“I don’t know how I will survive the week until then,” said Mae.

As the train clanged into the station, Roy embraced her in his arms and kissed her deeply on the lips. “That will have to suffice he said until next week.”

Then he stepped onto the train and waved until his fiancé was out of sight.

Chapter 16- The Life and Times of William Roy Caple -Roy Moves to Wyoming

For the next 2 years Roy continued to write to his Wyoming girl. At the end of the 1914 logging season, he once again went to spend the winter break in Wyoming. He had been saddened when his parents had decided to move to Missouri to be close to his mother’s family. He considered moving with them but he liked Puyallup. Maybe he could buy his parent’s home, he thought. He was thankful when they decided to make the trip a visit rather than a permanent move.

His parents were getting older and particularly his father was showing his age. He preferred they lived close so he and his brothers could look after them. His brother Joe married at the end of 1914. Sometimes both his brothers joined him for a time in the logging camp. Their presence kept him from feeling lonely for family, especially when Richard was there as he would often serenade, he and Gus in   the evenings with his violin playing. He continued to care for his raspberry field. But at the end of the season in 1915 decided to let the field go. His dad could use the income selling the property would yield. Roy purchased the lot next to his parents house from his dad in hopes he could some day build his forever home on it.

By the fall of 1915 logging wages were low. Rumbles of discontent filled the air. Men in all sorts of work talked of striking and forming unions. Roy preferred to  avoid conflict if I could be avoided.

Thoughts of Mae continued to occupy his days. Her parents were having a tough time making a living off their homestead property. They both hoped her parents would decide to sell the property and join their family in the Puyallup area. Instead, they moved from their ranch to Belle Fourche to run a boarding house.

In November a logging operation in Spearfish, South Dakota, where he’d inquired about work the previous winter, wrote, and said they were looking for loggers, if he was interested.

As much as he hated to leave his family and friends in Puyallup, he needed to be closer to Mae. He made the difficult decision move to South Dakota. He’d hang on to the lot of land he had purchased from his father. He still hoped to one day return, build his Wyoming girl her dream home, where together they’d raise a family and grow old. In the meantime, he’d cast his lot in South Dakota.

On a chilly day in early December, he stood with his parents waiting beside the tracks to board a train headed to the Black Hills.

His mother wiped tears from her eyes, “Please give the Phillips our regards, especially Mae. And bundle up, it get’s so cold there.”

He gave his mother a gentle hug. “Don’t worry I remember the cold we got in Oklahoma. And don’t forget I have already spent the better part of two winters there.”

His father reached out his hand to shake and then thought better and gave him a hug. “Son, please tell me you will bring that girl of yours back for at least a visit if not to live. This isn’t good-bye it’s just adios until we see each other again. Soon, I hope.”

Logging in Spearfish allowed him to see Mae on weekends. In December of 1916 he left his Spearfish logging camp and arrived in Belle Fourche and took a room in the hotel. After he deposited his bag and gave himself a shave. He descended the stairs out to the street whistling Jingle Bells in anticipation of seeing Mae in a few minutes.

On arrival Mae flung open the door. He read the look of alarm on her face. His gut felt sucker punched..

He reached for her hand. “What is it?

She handed him a telegram.

“This arrived this morning from your mother.”

His heart started to palpitate as he took it from her hands. Something happened to my father, or it’s one of my brothers. His hands trembled as he opened it.

 Mr. Cook killed yesterday in accident. Planning for his burial in Sumner. Details will follow in a letter. Mother and Dad.

Mae took one look at his blanched face. “Its sad news isn’t it. Is it your father?”

“No,” he said, “It’s Gus, he’s dead.”

“Oh no,” said Mae. “He’s so young. Here sit down, this is such a shock. Does it say what happened?”

Roy shook his head. “No just it was an accident that occurred yesterday. I am in shock.”

“Let me get you some tea”

“No, I don’t need want any. I’m sorry I don’t think I want to go out for dinner , I need to be alone for a bit and get some air.”

“It’s alright,” she said softly. “I understand. But please come back in a bit and let me know you’re okay.”

“I will.”

He got up to leave. He walked down the steps of their boarding house not sure where he was headed. He walked aimlessly for the next hour. Gus who’d been so full of life. His falling partner, an orphaned kid from Sweden who’d come to make his fortune in America. His life snuffed out too soon. He wondered if a tree he’d been falling had taken him. He’d seen other men lose their life that way. It wasn’t an image he wanted of Gus. No, he’d remember him the way he’d been when he’d left the logging camp in November. Full of life and plans for a future on a piece of land he’d recently purchased. He shook his head wondering if he’d be dead too if he’d been working with him yesterday. Or could he have done something to save him? Just like the day he lost his big brother, in an instant life is gone. He took a gulp of fresh air. There was only one place he wanted to be right now. That was in the arms of his sweetheart. He looked around, he wandered around a bit and was now over by the town stockyards. He turned left and headed back for the Phillips boarding house. He knew Mae would be there anxiously waiting for his return.

A few days later Roy received a letter from his mother with the details of Gus’ death.

October 10, 1916,

Dear Roy,

Your father and I have just returned from laying Gus to rest. We buried him in the Sumner cemetery. I know you must wonder what happened. From what we were told by the loggers who accompanied his body to town, a large limb fell unexpectedly from a tree, breaking his neck and crushing his skull instantly. You can take comfort in knowing his death was instantaneous.

I am told his will leaves you as sole heir. I have enclosed the address for the attorney, taking care of his matters. He asks that you write immediately so the probate can be closed. Your presence in town will not be necessary, he can take care of the matter by mail.

Roy folded the letter in half. And took a deep breath of air. So it was a “widow maker,” the name his fellow loggers gave to the giant limbs that storms left lodged in the tree canopy until one day something set them flying from the tree. One could run from a falling tree, but if you didn’t see one of those coming, they were impossible to escape.

It didn’t surprise him Gus had left him the heir of his will, but it was sad he had so few to mourn his loss.

Logging in South Dakota provided even lower wages than Roy had been earning in Washington. No matter how careful he was with his money, he’d never be able to support a family on it. Working in Lead at the Home Stake mine seemed to be the only alternative. Faced between choosing to work in the mine or leaving Mae behind, he chose the mine. It would  be another year before Mae turned twenty-one. Though they’d talked of marrying anyway, Roy was a man of his word.

“Mae I promised you Father I’d wait until your twenty-one before asking for you hand in marriage. Some cowboy might still come along and sweep you off your feet.”

She laughed, “Fat chance of that. I only have eyes for you.”      


Author’s notes:

[i] Gus Cook was a real person and my grandfather’s falling partner. His death certificate confirms the date of death and that he was killed by a falling limb giving him a crushed skull and broken neck. Roy’s mother Margaret Caple was listed on his death certificate as person giving his date of birth, place, etc. It stated he had no known family. He is buried in the Sumner cemetery, Pierce County, Washington. Roy inherited the piece of land he had recently purchased just outside of Puyallup city limits.

Chapter 15-The Life And Times OF William Roy Caple-Mae Moves to Wyoming

The next few days were the best and worst days of Roy’s life. They were best because he’d had so many memorable moments with Mae, the worse because the day after Thanksgiving Mae’s family announced they were returning to Wyoming in December.

They’d promised to write, but he supposed it was only a matter of time before some Wyoming cowboy swept her off her feet and he’d be forgotten. He debated for several weeks whether to write at all. What was the point of writing when she was so far away for more than friendship?

True, she had sent both him and Lida letters. He’d been careful when he answered to keep it polite and distant. He’d been right in the beginning; it was plain foolish to think of making any life plans with her especially now that she lived in Wyoming.

Still, he couldn’t stop the frequency in which the memory of her brown doe like eyes, dark hair, and dimples revealed when she smiled popped into his mind.

He’d walked into town today, with the intention of getting some new work clothes. He hoped the logging camps would soon be back in operation. If he got back to work he could stop thinking of the pretty girl named Mae.

He’d left the clothing store with his purchases and passed the stationary store window done up in red, pink, and white hearts. “Remember those you love this February 14.”  The display window said.

I bet Mother and Lida would like a card he thought as he opened the door of the store.

Hearing the bell above the door ring a clerk in a long white apron covering a dark dress approached him. “Could I be of assistance?” she asked.

“Yes, I’d like to get a card for my mother and sister.”

She directed him to two sections marked Mother and Sister.

 “Thank you for your help,” said Roy, handing her his selections. “I’ll take these two.” 

“Are you sure there isn’t someone else you’d like to send a card to?” she asked.

He glanced at the cards again. “I guess it could get a couple for my friends in Wyoming. Nothing flowery though.”

The clerk directed him to some generic valentine cards. He found a one that featured two children sitting on the grass surrounded in moonlight. “By the great moons pale beam, life just seems like a grand sweet dream.” I’ll get this one for Hazel. For Daniel he found a card featuring George Washington as a lad that simply said, “Valentine Greetings

He was about to choose another such generic card for Mae when he spotted a card with a big red heart and a face that looked a lot like Mae in the corner. The heart itself was encircled with a gold chain and lock in the shape of a heart. Printed on the heart were the words “A heart’s secret.” Below the heart were the words

You are safely locked into a heart that pines, and beats for you alone, so this fair Valentine Day, I’ll claim you as my own.”

He knew if he sent this one there would be no denying what his intent was still. He threw all caution to the wind and handed the card to the clerk. “I’ll take this one too.”

“A very fine selection,“ said the clerk. Whoever is getting this one must be very special indeed.”

“She is,” Roy murmured.

The clerk wrapped his cards up in brown paper and handed them to him, “I am sure your loved ones will appreciate these.”

With the packet clutched to his chest he stepped back onto the street and glanced into the window of the leather shop next door. His eyes landed on a braided quirt. He recalled the conversation he’d had with Mae about her horse, Drummer.

 I bet she could use one of those when she is out riding.

He turned the knob of the leather shop door and said to the clerk looking up from the counter.” I’d like to purchase the quirt you have displayed in the window.”

“Ah said the clerk, “That’s one of our best. Is it a gift, for someone special?”

“Yes, said Roy, “for someone very special.”

Back at the house he readied the valentine cards for mailing. He placed the quirt in a box along with the fancy red valentine and wrote. “Mae Phillips, Mona, Wyoming.”

The next morning he walked to the Post Office. He gulped as he handed the box to the to the postmaster. His heart quivered as though he had actually sent it, instead of a paper one. Would Mae accept his gift with the same love he’d sent it. Perhaps he’d get a letter back saying she was sorry but they could only be friends or worse never answer. Whichever happened he guessed he’d burnt his bridges.

Mae took her time answering his card but when she did, she there was no doubt in his mind she shared his feelings.

Logging began again in March. He was content to go back to work. Arduous work helped keep his mind off Mae at least during the workday. But each night when he arrived back at the bunkhouse, he hoped a letter from her had arrived.

“I swear,” said Gus as Roy hurried out the door for mail call, “you’re more lovesick than I thought possible.”

Roy wanted to deny it but he couldn’t, he was lovesick.

On the first of May he spotted a big box of chocolates for sale in the company store. Perfect timing he thought. I’ll send it for Mae’s birthday. To accompany the box he chose a beautiful card trimmed in bright spring flowers. How he wished he could be with her to celebrate her 17th birthday.

By the first of June he lived for her letters which usually arrived twice weekly. A letter sent his heart soaring, when an expected one failed to come, it sank. He reminded himself that the mail was not dependable, all sorts of things could hold it up. It didn’t mean a Wyoming cowboy had grabbed her attention.

The first of July found him back home to tend to his raspberry crop. He recalled the day he and Mae had picked together and cemented their friendship. He wished he could send her some of the berries but knew they’d never survive the journey so instead he sent her two apple boxes of cherries from his father’s orchard.

After the berries were harvested, he headed back to the logging camp to join Gus once again in falling trees.

On his first night back, Gus shared some pamphlets he’d picked up on free homestead land in Montana. “These have gotten me thinking, maybe I should try and get some of this free land. What do you think Roy?”

“I’d be careful,” said Roy. “My Dad homesteaded in Kansas, got swindled out of one over in Spokane and had another one Oklahoma and none of them proved to amount to much. I’d be sure to look the area in question over carefully first.”

Still, he browsed the pamphlets. Despite his reservations he began to think he should try a homestead in Montana. He knew he preferred to be in WA and near his family but the lure of free of free land was strong and Montana was a lot closer to Wyoming, Maybe Mae would prefer a ranch life.

He wrote to her, “I’ve got half a notion to go look at some of the homestead land in Montana when the logging camp closes for winter.”

He was surprised when he got a letter from Mae extending an invitation for him to spend some of his winter break with her family in Wyoming.

“You could look the land in Montana over on your way back to Washington,” she wrote.

He mulled the idea over and decided to accept the Phillips family invitation.

So, in mid-December 1913 he found himself in downtown Tacoma gazing at the decked-out Christmas windows. He’d come to town to get Mae a Christmas gift and when he spotted a fur muff and stole in one of the department stores windows, he knew he’d found the perfect gift.

He arrived in Wyoming on Dec. 23rd, 1913. Mae’s Aunt Sadie and Uncle Bert had picked him up. He enjoyed meeting all of her extended family, especially Sadie and Bert, who were closer in age to he and Mae than most aunts and uncles.

He had done his best to help the Phillips with all their chores and to not interfere with their daily life. He had very few chances to be alone with Mae, but the ones they had cemented their love. They discussed the possibility of her moving to Washington after she turned eighteen in the coming new year. She said she would consider, but he knew if she did her parents would be heartbroken, something she didn’t want to do. Instead, she hoped they’d want to move back to Puyallup.

He’d also had a serious talk with Alex Phillips Mae’s father.

Mae’s quite smitten with you,” he’d said.

“And I her,” said Roy.

“She is only 17,” stated Alex.

“I know,” said Roy, “it’s just she seems mature beyond her years.”

“I take it then; your intentions are toward a future of marriage.”

“I believe so,” said Roy.

“You are a fine young man, of that I have no doubt, but your age difference concerns me. I’d like you to promise me something.”

“What’s that?” asked Roy.

“Wait until she is twenty-one before you ask for her hand in marriage. If you honor this request, I will not stand in the way of you courting her.”

Roy sighed, twenty-one was more than 3 years away. Not that he was in a position to offer his hand in marriage, anyway. He figured Mae would be willing to live in whatever logging camps he found work in, but he wanted more than that for his future family. He wanted his wife and children to have the stability of one home and a community that could be theirs forever. He wanted none of the moving around his family had been subject to growing up. During the next 3 years, he’d work hard to make this possible.

 “Alright, sir, I agree.”

The two men shook hands.

Mae was less than pleased when Roy told of his promise. “I am capable of making up my own mind.”

He did stop in Montana and look over some homestead land. But it looked arid and dry, much like the places his dad had failed being a successful homesteader. Besides, he didn’t really think ranching was in his blood. He didn’t have what it took to be a cowboy.


Author’s notes:

i] The details about the valentines, quirt. Christmas gift, chocolates and cherries come from letters Mae wrote to Roy. The original letters are in my possession. They are also in here in my blog.

A quirt is a short, braided leather piece used by the rider to give a horse signals. I have in my possession the quirt he gave her.

Gus was my grandfather’s falling partner and we know from the letters that they shared a bunkhouse together with, sometimes the addition of his brother Richard.

From the letters I also learned do he looked at homestead land in Montana on his return trip to Puyallup after his winter visit in Wyoming.

My grandfather always told us he promised to not ask for Mae’s hand in marriage until she turned 21.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Chapter 14-The Life and Times of William Roy Caple- Thanksgiving 1912

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Four days before Thanksgiving, Roy headed home. An early cold snap had closed the logging camp down for the winter. He’d miss making a little more money for the year, but he welcomed the chance to relax in his parents’ cozy house.

On his first morning home as he stood on his parent’s porch and spotted Mae out walking. He sprang down the steps and scurried over to her side. “Would you mind a little company as you walk?”

She tilted her head demurely. “Not at all.”

At the next block they headed west on Pioneer. As Spinning school came into sight Mae stopped in front of the handsome, two-story, brick building.

 “It’s quite a school compared the one room one I attended. Did you go there?”

“I did though not continuously. I went for first grade and finished with the seventh and eighth grade. In between, we were mostly in Oklahoma. School there only went for three months a year, mostly in the winter, consequently it took me forever to finish.”  

Mae nodded. I can understand that in Wyoming winters were often too cold, so we often didn’t finish our school term into well into summer.”

Where in Wyoming?” Roy asked as they began to walk again.

“A little place called Mona,” said Mae.” It’s in the Black Hills in an area called the Bear Mountains. I guess Aladdin would be the nearest place you’d be likely to find on a map.”

I am a bit familiar with the Black Hills, said Roy, your place must be near the South Dakota borderline.”

Yes, in fact we got most of our supplies there.”

“Did your dad ranch?”

“Yes, he came there as a homesteader with my grandparents and his many aunts and uncles. He still owns the place but he’s renting it now to my cousin.”

“Ahh,” said Roy, “that’s something we have in common as my dad homesteaded too, in Kansas where I was born, and then in Oklahoma.”

At Main Street they headed north toward the fairgrounds. They strolled past the big, white, wooden roller coaster.

Roy gazed at the structure. “Did you get s chance to go to the fair in September?”

Mae nodded, “Lillian and I went, but we chickened out of riding this roller coaster.”

“That’s a shame,” said Roy. “I’ve ridden it. It’s quite a thrill.”

“If I’d a handsome hunk like you to protect me, I might have gone. We did ride the merry- go- round. If you’d been along, we could have ridden double. I miss my horse.”

“The merry-go-round horse,” he teased.

Mae’s eyes crinkled in laughter. “No, my real l horse. The one I left in Wyoming. I hope my cousin is taking good care of Drummer.”

 Roy  nodded. “I had a horse when we lived in Oklahoma. Nowadays I am quite content to walk or catch a train.”

They turned around to walk back toward home. A car beeped its’ horn at them as they crossed the street.

 “You never see automobiles where we live in the Black Hills.” said Mae.

“Didn’t see them here either until a few years ago when Doc Kushner bought one. He nodded to the showroom window they passed, full of new cars. “Times are a changing, that’s for sure.”

When they walked back down their block for home, Roy asked. How would you like to join me for a movie in town tomorrow? I’ll ask Lida along so we’ll be chaperoned.”

“I’d love to,” she said.

“Great, I’ll find out what time it’s playing let you know later today,”

He watched her as she climbed the scant steps to her porch. When she reached the door, she turned and waved, sending his heart into flip flops. Justin is right, maturity matters more than age.

They had the best time going to the movie. Lida and Hazel bounced ahead of them as they walked to town, leaving him and Mae to carry on a conversation without them. Afterwards, he’d treated them to chicken dinner at the diner.

Thanksgiving morning, the sun peeking through the windows awakened him. Reluctant to get out of his warm bed, he yawned and stretched. Logging camp never allowed him the luxury of sleeping in. Below him he heard his mother and sister bustling in the kitchen. His stomach growled thinking of the feast awaiting him later. He could hardly wait, well, that and the fact that Mae would be there.

 He forced himself to crawl out of his cozy, warm bed. Throwing on his overcoat he made a bee line to the necessary house out back and back up the stairs where he splashed the chilly water from the pitcher on his face and pulled from the closet his best suit of clothes. Once dressed he headed back down the stairs. The scent of turkey roasting mingled with spices and the yeasty smell of bread rising accosted his nose on entering the kitchen.

His mother looked up from the pot she stirred. “I’m glad you slept in; you work too hard in the woods.” She nodded toward the dining nook in the corner. “I left a light breakfast on the table for you, everyone else has eaten. Help yourself to coffee.”

Roy took a cup from the cupboard and filled it from the coffee pot simmering on the stove. Careful not to spill, he carried it over to the nook and settled himself on the bench beside the table. He reached for the bread, jam, and fruit his mother had left for him. “Who all will be here for dinner?”

His mother wiped her hands on her apron. “Well, there’s your dad and I, you boys and Lida, Aunt Ida, and the Phillips family. So, the answer is twelve.”

Roy finished eating and took his plate and cup to the to the sink.

“Do you need me to help?”

She pointed to the cupboards. Your father and brothers have gone to fetch Aunt Ida so I could use someone to get my good china down.”

Roy carried the china to the dining room table covered in a freshly ironed white, embroidered tablecloth.

“Anything else you’d like me to do?”

“No, that’s it for now. Why don’t you work up an appetite by going for a walk?”

Roy rubbed his stomach. “Not needed; the smell of that turkey roasting is driving me wild. But I can tell when I am not wanted and walk does sound nice.”   

Grabbing his hat and over coat from the hook in the front foyer he headed down the front steps. He felt disappointed when he saw no one out on the street. He’d prefer to have someone to walk with especially if it we’re Mae. He headed over to the Henry’s and found Justin and Lillian in her yard. He joined them in conversation.

After a while he looked at his pocket watch. “Goodness look at the time. I’d better be off for home. Mother will throttle me if I am late for her dinner. “   

As he approached the house, he spotted Lida in the parlor window. She opened the front door. “It’s about time you got home. Our guests have arrived and you’ve been sauntering around town.”

 “Sorry,” he said, “I lost track of time.”

Hanging up his overcoat and hat on the coat tree, he stepped into the parlor where his dad, brothers, and Mr. Phillips sat conversing.

 “Spotted you talking to Justin and Lillian.” said his father, “I imagine they caught you up on all the latest news.”

Roy nodded, finding a place to sit. “Sorry, I’m the last one here.”

 “Your Father was just telling us about his time in Andersonville prison,” said Mr. Phillips. “It’s a wonder he survived.

“Well, I for one am glad he did,” said Roy.

His brother Richard laughed. “We wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t.”

Mr. Phillips smiled, “I guess not. Your brothers were telling me they had a good year harvesting the wheat and apple crops east of the mountains. Still finding plenty of trees to cut down, are you?”

Roy shifted in his chair, “Don’t suppose they’ll ever run out of enormous trees.”

Mr. Phillips nodded. “They’re sure bigger than the timber we have in the Black Hills. I hear they feed you well out in those woods.”

“True,” said Roy. “But our cook quit in September. Another logger agreed to take the job but only until someone complained.”

“Goodness how did that work out?” asked Mae walking into the room.

“He’d been a cook before, so he did okay.”

“Did anyone complain?” asked Mae.

“No, but one day, but he got tired of cooking so added a box full of salt to the soup. One of the men took a taste and said, “My, this soup is salty.”

Then he remembered the complaining rule and added, “Just the way I like it.”

Laughter filled the room.

“Oh my, she said that is funny. Did he quit?” asked Mae

“No, but they soon found us a new cook.”

 Mae clapped her hands. “I almost forgot I’m supposed to say dinner is ready.”

Roy jumped from his chair to be the first to follow Mae into the dining room. A large roasted turkey sat at the head of the table while steam rose off dishes of yams, mashed potatoes, beans, and cornbread stuffing.

Roy pulled out a chair for Mae “Allow me.”

“Thank you,” she said as she sat.

She patted the chair next to her. “And please take this one next to me.”

Roy wasted no time in doing so.

After everyone took their seats his mother bowed her head, “let us give thanks.”

Everyone bowed their heads in thanksgiving.

Raising her head back up, his mother handed his dad the carving knife. “Let the feasting begin.”

His dad began to carve the turkey as the other savory dishes were passed around. Soon heaps of turkey dressing, mashed potatoes, beans, rolls, and salad sat on everyone’s plate.

Roy swallowed a bit of mashed potatoes and turned to Mae. “Would you like to accompany me to the new movie starting Saturday? Hazel could go too.”

“I can’t speak for her,” said Mae, “but I’d love to go.”

______________________________________________________________________________________

Author’s notes: 

Both of my grandparents made references to this special Thanksgiving dinner in 1912 in their letters to each other. Also they referenced going out to movies and for meals together.

According to my grandfather his dad often referred to his experiences in Andersonville prison during the civil war.

The story of the salt in the soup was a favorite my grandfather told of his logging experiences.

The first car in Puyallup was owned by Doc Kushner according to Puyallup history.

Chapter 13- The Life and Times of William Roy Caple-Getting to Know Mae

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Roy and Gus caught the last train out of camp on a Saturday a to attend his mother’s birthday party in March. Late in arriving they found the house brimming with friends and family including the Phillips family.

His mother threw her arms around him. “Oh, Roy I’m so happy you made it. And you too Gus she said giving him a hug. “Now all my children are here. You may have missed dinner but you are just in time for cake.”

One of the neighbor ladies handed him a slice if cake. Roy noticed Mae in the kitchen helping the neighbor women with the dinner dishes.

He hoped to find a moment to talk to her alone later and joined the men conversing in the corner of the parlor where her overheard her father speaking to another of their neighbors.

“I know she looks older,” he said as took another bite of cake, “but Mae is only fifteen.”

Fifteen thought Roy dismayed. She’s way to young for me to court. Still, he had a challenging time taking his eyes off of her the rest of the evening.

 Gus and Roy returned to the logging camp Sunday night; Gus teased. “Roy, I do believe you’ve been bit by the love bug. I saw how you never took your eyes off of Mae.”

Roy shook his head, “No way, didn’t you also hear, she’s only fifteen. She’s just a girl.”

Still at odd moments, he daydreamed of the girl with dark hair and eyes the color of melting chocolate. He decided it would be best if he stayed away from Puyallup until he had forgotten her. When he had idle time on his hands, which wasn’t often, he’d coax Gus or another logger to go fishing or hiking.

 On a Sunday in late June, Roy sat on the bunkhouse stairs dozing in the warm sun.

An envelope waving n front of his face startled him. “Wake up, sleepyhead. I’ve brought a letter from your mother, “said Gus.

He blinked and shook the sleep out of his eyes. Sitting up straight, he grabbed the envelope from Gus. “Thanks, I wonder what news she has.”

He unfolded the note written on crisp linen paper.

Dear son,

Your father says the first of the raspberries are turning red. It’s time to come home and tend to the picking. We hope to see you down home, soon. Will wait until then to catch you up on the news around here.

Love, mother

Roy went inside the bunkhouse. He sat the letter down on his bunk and turned to Gus. “Time for me to tend to the raspberry picking. Any chance I can entice you down to Puyallup to help with picking?”

Gus laughed. “No way, Guess I must find me a different falling partner for a while.”

“Just so you take me back,” said Roy. He really wasn’t worried. The two of them had worked out a good sawing rhythm which made them efficient fallers. He knew he’d take him back.

He picked up his knapsack and put his things inside. “Think about coming down for the Fourth of July, though.”

“Will do,” said Gus. Roy caught the first train out the next morning. he stepped off the train at the depot just in time to catch his father loading a delivery.

 Roy waved his arms in the air. “Hey, Dad, wait up.”

He dashed along to the side of the tracks.

His dad looked down from his seat on the wagon, “Spec, you’d like a ride home.”  

“If it isn’t too much trouble.”

“Climb on up.”

Whoa,” yelled his father as he drew the wagon up in front of their house, “I have a few more deliveries to make. Tell your Mother I should be back around four.”

“Will do,” said Roy as he jumped out of the wagon and went up to the house.

His sister Lida met him at the door. At thirteen she was getting to be a looker with her dark dancing curls and eyes that looked like a rich dark chocolate. She threw her arms around him, almost sucking the air out of him. “I’m so glad to have you home. I wish you’d quit logging so you could live here full time. I miss you too much.”

“I gather school must be out already,” said Roy, setting his duffle bag down. “Where is mother?”

“I think she’s next door visiting with Mrs. Phillips. We’ve rounded up an entire crew of pickers for you.”

“Really,” said Roy, relieved he wouldn’t have to worry finding pickers. “Are they anyone I know?”

Lida smiled. “Well, you know me and mother and we have Lillian Henry and the Phillips family next door, Justin Phillips, both of his aunts, a girl named Blanche and a few others from school.”

“Sounds like an interesting crew,” said Roy. “Glad to hear there are a few adults in the group to keep you giggling girls in line.”

Lida threw a silk fringed sofa pillow at him, “make yourself at home, I am going to meet my friend, Blanch.”

Roy went up the stairs and deposited his duffel bag inside his room. Guess I might as well mosey outside and check on the raspberries.

He walked the neat rows of raspberry canes, pleased at how lush, and laden with fruit they were. Here and there he plucked an already ripe berry into his mouth. There was nothing he liked better than berries. He reckoned another day or two of sun and the crop would be ready to pick. After leaving the berry fields, he wandered over to look at the cherry trees his dad had planted when they’d move to Puyallup. They too hung heavy with fruit. He reached up and enjoyed a few low hanging ripe ones. Looks like it’s going to be a good harvest this year, he thought.

Picking went well that summer, the girls Lida had rounded up were diligent workers even if they prattled on and on about things as they picked. They kept him busy checking in their flats. He noticed Mae liked to pick mostly with Justin or her parents and aunts. She seemed past the giggling stage his sister and her friends were in.

Twice his mother had pointed out what an attractive girl Lillian was. “Roy, she’s 19 you should think about courting her, it’s high time you settle down and started a family of your own.”

Roy sighed; He wanted to settle down one day, but not until he had a nice nest egg for the future saved. He never wanted to move his family from place to place without a dime to their name like his father had. Besides, as nice as Lillian seemed to be, he didn’t find himself attracted to her. He thought Justin was, though. It was Justin’s cousin, Mae, who captivated his heart.

Yesterday Justin had suggested they take the girls out on a double date. “I’ll ask Lillian and you can ask, Mae.”

Roy crossed his arms, “Don’t you think she’s a might young for me.”

“Not at all,” said Justin. “She may only be 16, but she’s mature beyond her years.”

“I thought she was only fifteen,” said Roy.

Justin shook his head, “Nope, she turned 16 back in May.”

“Still seems too young to me,” Roy said.

On the last day of the berry season, Roy woke to sunshine. He stretched, climbed out of bed, donned his gray trousers, freshly starched white shirt, and a brown vest and went downstairs to the kitchen.

His mother filled his teacup with coffee, “Sure, you don’t need my help, today. I understand most of the Phillips folks are gone.”

He grabbed a piece of toast set on the table and slathered it with butter, “I’ll be fine with a skeleton crew, we have little left to pick.”

He rose, lifted his felt hat from the hook next to the door and headed out the front door. “See you at supper.”

 He assigned his remaining pickers in teams of two. As they headed into the field, Mae came scurrying up to him. “Sorry, I’m late. I had to help Mama with some chores first.”

“Quite alright,” he said. “As long as you don’t mind partnering with me.”

She batted her eyelashes at him “Of course I don’t mind.”

She reached for a wooden flat and carrier to take into the field. Roy grabbed it from her, “Allow me.”

He set the flat and carrier at the head of a row. “I’ll just go get another one for myself”

 Returning, he couldn’t ignore how beautiful the scene before him looked. Mount Rainer stood majestically above his raspberry field with Mae looked equally beautiful in her a long-sleeved white blouse. A dark skirt with a cinched white apron revealed her slim waist.

 He headed down the other side of the row and soon stood on the opposite side of her unnoticed.

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She plucked a large raspberry from the bush. “So good,” she murmured to herself.

“Sure are,” he said.

 Startled, she said, “Oh goodness, you caught me eating part of your precious crop. Sometimes I just can’t resist.”

“Think nothing of it.” He plucked a berry, reached across the row, and dropped it in her mouth. “Have another.”

 She laughed.

He groaned how he’d love to reach over and draw her close enough to kiss her raspberry-stained lips.

Before long she surprised him by plucking a big ripe raspberry in his mouth. “How is logging going? I can’t get over how enormous the trees are here It must take forever to cut those big ones down.”

“The bigger ones take all day,” he admitted. “But there are plenty of days we can get two or three smaller ones down.”

“I noticed you reading a book the other day during our lunch break,” she said. “I love to read; Mama says I have my nose in a book too often. There always seems to be chores to do, so I don’t really don’t get to read much.”

Roy reached for another group of ripe berries, “Me either and I’m razzed a lot in camp for reading as much as I do. I don’t mind though, it’s better than drinking or gambling my earnings away. I’m saving my money to buy some land of my own.”

“Sounds sensible, having a place to call your own is important, I think. What do you like to read?”

“Almost anything,” He reached or for another plump raspberry and dropped it into her mouth. “But I’m studying too.”

“Oh, I’d like a chance to go on to Normal school, but Papa thinks schooling beyond the eighth grade is a waste for women when we’ll just end up married, anyway. He thinks I should just stay home and learn to keep house and cook. But I’m already an excellent cook. I want to earn my own money, which is why I am picking berries.”

“What are you currently studying?” she asked.

“Electricity, It’s the future. I plan to electrify my home and soon as it’s available in this area. Course I will need a house first, but maybe by the time electricity comes to Puyallup I’ll have one.”

“Oh, wouldn’t that be nice and indoor plumbing? You must learn how to do that, too.”

 All that day they picked. Occasionally they surprised the other and held up a red, ripe berry to the other’s mouth. They talked and laughed until quitting time arrived. He’d never enjoyed picking with someone so much. She could be the girl, he thought, if only she were older.

Chapter 12-The Life And Times of William Roy Caple-Meeting Mae

At the start of 1912, Roy was 26 years old. He’d yet to meet a girl he cared enough about to marry. Not that there was much chance of meeting a girl in a logging camp.

From time to time, he’d attended the dances the camp held. A dancer he was not. The legs, which kept him out of harm’s way in the woods, turned to mush when he tried to dance.

He’d learned to read the sounds of the woods. Every ping, chug or whistle he heard meant something different. He’d grown accustomed to the steady sawing sound the buckers made cutting limbs from the giant trees into logs that would fit on trains. Daily he experienced the shattering sounds of mighty trees as they fell to the ground.

Besides the logging, he ran a raspberry field on some of his father’s acreage. It was a small operation; one he could manage himself with the help of a few hired pickers at harvest.

He’d toyed with the idea of buying enough land to raise berries full time. But that meant taking out a mortgage and giving up the nest egg he’d saved. He’d spent his childhood being poor, he loathed the thought of borrowing money. He wanted to be debt free. So, he stuck to logging.

Now it was a Friday in late February, it was time to get his raspberry field in order for the coming growing season.

 “Timber,” yelled Roy as he leaped from his springboard.

Together he and his falling partner, Gus, watched as a tree let out one last groan, creak, and snap before it fell in a thunderous roar. It had taken them all day to topple the immense tree, but together they had gotten it done.

Gus tugged on his end of their twelve-foot crosscut saw, “bet the lumber from that one is enough to build an entire house.”

“You’re probably right,” nodded Roy. “What do you say we take this saw over to the dentist shack and head for camp.”

On the way Roy, chuckled to himself as he remembered his first day logging. He’d thought the dentist shack meant a real dentist, not someone who sharpened the blades on their saws. It hadn’t taken him long to learn that loggers had a language all their own. Now he now spoke it as well as any of them.

At the shack, he and Gus heaved the saw onto the counter. Come Monday morning its teeth would once again be razor sharp, like a hungry piranha ready to munch way its way through any tree it encountered.

“You still fixing to go home tonight?” asked Gus, as they headed for the crummy, a train car, which took the men to and from the bunkhouses to the woods.

“Can’t put if off any longer,” said Roy. “Sure you don’t want to come along and help me prune?”

Gus adjusted his spectacles. “I reckon I’ll stay put and rest. Give my regards to folks. Tell them again how much I appreciated spending the holidays with them. Sure made this orphan feel less lonesome.”

“Guess, I’d rest too, if I could,” said Roy, as the crummy jerked to a stop near the bunkhouses. “I’d better hurry if I’m going to catch the last train into town tonight.”

At the bunkhouse he washed and changed into clean clothes. Finished, he glanced at his pocket watch.

“Time for me to go,” he said to Gus. “See you Sunday night.”

The next morning Roy awakened to sun streaming through the bedroom window of his parent’s house. One eye cocked open, he squinted at the clock. “6:30 already,” he mumbled, “I’d better get a move on, I meant to be up earlier.”

He donned a clean pair of overhauls and a plaid shirt and ventured downstairs to the kitchen where his mother poured him a cup of coffee and set it on the table. “It’s nice to have you home. I miss the days when all my boys lived here. Your father is already off making deliveries. He said to tell you he left the pruning shears you need on the back porch.”

“Thanks,” said Roy, sitting down to drink the coffee. “I should’ve been off earlier, too. I really hadn’t meant to sleep so long.”

His mother buttered a piece of bread. “Did I tell you new folks have moved into the rental next door.”

“No, Tell me more.”

His mother swallowed, “They’re the nicest family, I hope they stay. They’re some relation to your friend Justin Phillips and the Henry’s. The last folks barely moved in and they left.”

“You, don’t say.” Roy gulped his coffee and scooted his chair back. “Sorry I can’t dawdle over a breakfast. I’ve got a lot of work to do before I head back to Nagrom tomorrow.”

He grabbed his jacket and hat and opened the back door. “See you at supper.”

He hunkered his chin down inside his jacket to ward off the morning chill, as he headed toward his berry field. The morning sun had risen above the foothills surrounding the valley, bathing them in a pale pink. High above rose the majestic peak of Mt. Rainer.

Roy stood at the head of his field and gazed at the view. Today Mt. Rainer looked as though it was holding court over the entire valley. I’ll never tire of this view, he thought. Sure beats flat, dusty Oklahoma. I can’t believe it’s been 11 years since we left there. Mother and Father are right, time flies. I best stop my gawking and get to work though, or I’ll never get done. 

Several hours later, engrossed in his work, a voice startled him.

“Hello, you must be one of the Caple’s sons.”

 Roy looked up from where he knelt on the ground. A tall, bald-headed man extended his hand to shake. “Name’s Alex, Phillips. And which son might you be?”

“I’m Roy, the middle son. Mother mentioned you’d move next door. She said you’re related you to my friend Justin.”

“He’s my nephew. My brother John, his dad, lives across the Narrows in Tacoma. I have a brother Herbert and Hue here in town, though.”

Roy set his pruner down. “I’m acquainted with both of them. Mother mentioned you’re also related to the Henry’s.”

Alex nodded, “We’re shirt-tail relatives. And I have two daughters and a son. Hazel, my middle one goes to school with your sister, Lida. And I mustn’t forget my wife, Mattie. Speaking of her, I’d better scoot on home or she’ll have me in the doghouse. Hope to see you again soon.”

“Might be awhile,” said Roy, “nowadays I spend more time in logging camps than home.”

He seems nice enough thought Roy as he got back to work. When the sun dropped low in the western sky, he stopped and surveyed what his work. Content with what he’d accomplished, he picked up his tools and headed for home. As he approached the house, he noticed his sister Lida stood in front with a knot of people.

He took his hat off as he passed them and bade them a “good-day.”

Lida ran over and tugged on his arm, “Wait, I want to introduce you to our new neighbors.”

She held onto his hand and led him back to the group. “This is my brother Roy.”

She pointed to a dark-haired girl with an enormous bow pinned in back. “This is Hazel, she goes to school with me.”

A freckle faced red-headed boy peeked out from behind her.

“That’s Daniel,” Lida said, “he’s kind of shy and eight.”

 She pointed to a tall, young woman on her right. “And this is their big sister.”

Roy found he couldn’t take his eyes off of her. Something about her dark hair and eyes the color of melted chocolate captivated him.

 She put her hand out to shake. “How do you do, I’m Mae.”

He reached out to take her hand, then noticed how filthy his was. Swiftly he dropped it to his side. “I’m sorry I’m really not dressed for socializing. I’ve spent the day working in my raspberry field.”

She smiled at him, revealing enchanting dimples. “It’s okay, it’s nice to meet you just the same.”

 He waved his hand goodbye, “Nice to meet you, too.”

Great, he thought. Some impression I must have made in these mucky clothes. He opened the back door and stepped into the kitchen.

His Mother looked up from something she stirred on the stove. “Roy, take those muddy boots off before you take another step.”

“Sorry, Mother, I forgot I wasn’t at camp.”

He balanced on one leg and the other and shook off his boots. He headed to the sink to wash. The delicious smell of cooking vegetables and beef filled the air. “Mmm, something smells wonderful,” he said as he grabbed a bar of handmade soap and lathered his hands. “What’s for dinner?”

“Beef stew,” she said, “and because I know how much you love them – biscuits. You’ve just enough time to change into clean clothes before it’s done.”

Roy chuckled. “They aren’t that bad, are they? But I’ll change.”

“Please do,” she said, swatting the air behind him. “And don’t you get smart with me.”

Upstairs, he slid his feet into a clean pair of trousers and thought about the girl he’d just met. I sure wish I weren’t headed back to Nagrom tomorrow; I think I’d like to get to know her.

Monday afternoon found Roy and Gus standing on springboards falling another tree. Hitting a patch of sap, they stopped to clean their saw.

Gus grabbed the bottle of oil they always kept handy. While he cleaned his side of the saw, he said, “You aren’t very talkative today. I’ve barely heard a word out of you since you got back last night. You’ve got a dreamy, faraway look in your eye. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear you’d met a girl.”

“I have,” said Roy, reaching for the oil to clean his side of the saw.

“What!” said Gus, “Are you serious?”

“I am, and I’ll be darned if I can’t get her out of my mind.”

“Tell me about her, is she a looker?”

Roy let out a whistle, “I’d say so, tallish, slender, dark hair and the most enchanting brown eyes. Trouble is, I met her while I had my muddy work clothes on, I don’t thing I made much of an impression.”

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” said Gus. “Surely she’s seen men in work clothes before. Did you talk to her much, how old is she?”

“Well, really we didn’t talk, just a glad to meet you. As far as age goes, I’d say twenty.”

“Will you see her again?”

“I spect so her family moved into the vacant house next door.”

Gus gave his side of the saw a pull, “Sounds to me like you and I need to plan an outing to Puyallup soon.”

Roy gave his side of the saw a push. “Mother’s birthday is next month maybe I will go then.”


Chapter 10-The Life and Times of William Roy Caple, 1910

Roy stood on the corner of Meridian and Pioneer and watched cars weave in and around the horse driven wagons going down the street. In 1907 Doc Kushner had brought the first car to Puyallup, and now three years later everyone seemed to be yearning for a car. If he hadn’t spent more time in a logging camps than town, he’d be tempted, too. He turned to the building looming above him. Plastered on the side of its wall was a huge advertisement. “Buffalo Bill Cody Wild West show, coming soon to Tacoma, Washington, September 16, 1910.”

Roy ran his fingers across his thick, black mustache. How many times had he heard his dad brag, “I knew Cody back in the day before he was famous, when we both freighted between the forts in Kansas.” Though it had been long before he was born, Roy had never quite believed the story. He’d probably worked in the same area as Cody all right but he suspected he only knew him from afar.

 Just then, his friend Jimmy Phillips startled him with a tap on the back. “Surprised to see you here, what brings what brings you to town?” 

“Just taking a short break from logging. I got bruised pretty good by some falling branches the other day and decided a few days of rest were in order. I’ll be back at camp soon enough.”

Jimmy waved at poster behind Roy’s back, “what I’d give to go to that Wild West show.” 

“I’d love to go too,” said Roy.

“Well, I definitely can’t afford it right now.” said Jimmy. “Between your logging and berry fields you must have some money saved up. You certainly aren’t one to drink and gamble it away. I bet you could swing it. I’d like to talk longer but I have an appointment to make. Stop by the house if going to be around a few more days. Maybe we can do a little fishing before you go back to camp.”

Roy watched his friend cross the street and pondered. I’m not one to spend money foolishly, but I do have a nice nest egg saved up. Seeing that Wild West show would sure be something. But do I really want to spend the money? I’d have to stay here in Puyallup a couple of extra days, but I bet Dad would get a kick out of going with me. We don’t get a chance to spend time together much anymore. We could just go and partake in the parade and free parts of the show. No if I’m going to do it, I should take in the whole show. Maybe I should make sure Dad is free first.  Oh heck, if I don’t get the tickets now I never will. I’ll take Lida if Dad can’t go. She would love going, too.

 Throwing caution to the wind, he strode into the drug store.

“May I help you,” said the pretty young woman at the counter.

“Yes, I’d like two tickets to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.”

“Certainly, she said, and will there be anything else. “No, thanks” said Roy, “just the tickets will be fine.”

“All Right, that will be two dollars.”

Roy took out his worn, leather wallet from his back pocket and handed the woman two green backs.

 She handed him the tickets, “Enjoy the show. I wish I could afford to go.”

“I probably shouldn’t splurge either,” he said, “but I want to do something special for my dad, I’m taking him.”

At home that evening, he pulled the two tickets out of his wallet and waved them in front of his dad’s face. “Look what I bought? How would you like to go with me on the 16th?”

His Dad’s eyes widened, “Those set you back a bit. I’d love to go. Why I remember how Cody and I ran freight back in Kansas like it was yesterday. He was quite the performer, even then.”

“Great,” said Roy. “What you say you and I make a whole day of it.”

“Sounds like plan to me,” nodded his father.

The morning of September 16, 1910 dawned bright and sunny, both men dressed in their Sunday best.

Roy’s Mother handed them both their bowler hats at the front door and waved them goodbye. “Have a wonderful time.”

 They caught the electric train into Tacoma and joined the throngs of people all decked in their finest suits and dresses to watch for Cody’s arrival.

Clip- clop, clip-clop down the street appeared two fine white horses drawing a carriage where Buffalo Bill himself sat. The throngs cheered. Behind him trailed Cossacks, Indians, Mexican Spaniards, Filipinos, cowboys, the famous Roosevelt Rough Riders all dressed to the hilt and interspersed with bands.

When the last of them disappeared into the distance. Roy turned to his dad, “what you say we get ourselves an early lunch and then head over to the event grounds in plenty of time for the 2:00 show.”

His dad tipped his head, “Sounds good to me. I wouldn’t mind getting a load off my feet for a bit how about we try a meal across the street in that Jap restaurant. Since you bought the tickets, lunch is on me.”

Roy stepped off the curb. “Deal.”

The two men negotiated their way past the cars, buggies and throngs of people and crossed to the other side of the street.

They found a table inside the restaurant and sat down.

A man came and filled their glasses with water.” What can I get you?”

Roy scanned the menu, “I’ll take the number 3.”

His Dad lifted his eyes from the menu, “make mine the same.”

The waiter bowed his head, “two number 3’s coming right up.” And he walked away.

His father leaned into the table. “He speaks pretty good English, don’t you think?”

 “Yes,” said Roy, “I imagine he was born here and not Japan.”

“Getting to be a lot of them farming in the valley,” said his dad. “Wasn’t that parade something else. Never saw so many interesting folks or animals in my life.”

“Sure was,” said Roy. “Cody is quite a show man. His fancy carriage even had a footman.”

“Yep,” said his dad, “It sure wasn’t that way back when I first knew him, he drove an ordinary freighting wagon.”

Roy was glad the arrival of food interrupted his dad’s story. He’d heard enough of his freighting stories with Cody to last a lifetime.

The two men dug into their food. Roy thought the rice tasted particularly good. He wasn’t something he partook in often. Meat, plenty of potatoes and bread were the mainstays of logging camp food.

When they finished, their waiter returned with the check. His Dad took out his wallet and paid the sum then he pushed back his chair, “I reckon we should mosey over to show grounds. Don’t want to miss anything.”


 


 Author’s notes:

My grandfather often talked about how his father had worked with Cody freighting in Kansas and their visit to the Wild West show when it had come to Tacoma. He said he was so surprised when Cody recognized his Dad. There is a Puyallup newspaper article written after Cody died where Sam is interviewed and said the same thing. An archivist at the Cody museum in Wyoming told me that for my grandfather getting to meet Cody would be much like meeting the most famous person of today.

The Life and Times of William Roy Caple-A new life in in Puyallup, 1901

For a time, Roy’s family stayed in a boarding house. His father started his own delivery business. By September, they settled on a small ten-acre farm near Meeker Junction. Unlike the one room sod house they’d had in Oklahoma, this house had a covered porch, a proper parlor with a bay window, a dining room, kitchen, and four bedrooms on the upper floor. Roy shared a room with Joe while Lida and Richard had their own.

At 16, Roy felt he should find work instead of going to school. To his surprise, both his father and mother urged him to go continue his studies and graduate from the eighth grade.

“You love learning,” said his mother, “And for once we can afford to let you devote your time to studies.”

In the fall of 1901, Roy found himself back at Spinning school, where he’d gone as a first grader. After classes, he helped his dad with deliveries which made him feel better about not working full time.

In the summer, berry and hop picking gave him the money for his personal needs. His dad let him use an acre of his farmland to experiment with growing berries on his own.

In June, 2 years later, Roy sat on the stage of the school as the valedictorian of his graduating class.  His parents had bought him a new suit for the occasion. Nervous, he twisted his program as his classmate, Robert Dargan, finished his recitation of “My first Recital.” He felt clammy as the girls sang the song “Hey-ho Merry Jane.”

“And now,” said the Superintendent of the schools J. M. Layhue, “our valedictorian, Roy Caple, will give his speech titled, “Out of the Camp and into the Field.

Roy rose and walked to the podium. He gazed into the crowd and spotted his family in the front row.

He took a deep breath and began. “And so gathered here today…”

He remembered little of the rest of the speech, just being relieved when he finished and the audience applauded. He wasn’t much for the limelight, although being valedictorian had been an honor.

His teachers at Spinning urged him to go on to high school. But at eighteen, he felt it was time to join the workforce. He couldn’t depend on his parents forever. His Dad was getting old, he’d be sixty soon.

“I understand how you feel,” said his teacher, “but you have such a keen mind. Perhaps you can continue your studies with correspondence courses.”

“Now that’s worth looking into,” said Roy.

His dream to become of becoming an electrical engineer seemed impossible. Even if he took correspondence courses, he’d never find the time to complete both high school and college. He’d have to do the best he could to learn it on his own.

That summer, he kept busy picking berries and then hops. He enjoyed working with berries and expanded his own field. But it was seasonal and weather dependent. Did he really want to take the chance on such a business even if he found the money to buy the needed acreage?

He could continue to work for his dad and one day take over the transport business. Except he found it hard to work for his dad.

In September, he stood outside the neighborhood store as train on the other side of the road roared past loaded with logs when a neighborhood friend emerged from the store.

“Hey Ernie,” Roy called. “I haven’t seen you around in a while. What are you up to?”

“I started working as a logger,” said Ernie. “Just back here to visit the folks for a few days. What about you?”

“Looking for work, now that picking season is over.” His friend swept his hand up to the hills surrounding the valley. “There’s plenty of money to be made in up there. You’ve got the muscle and brawn a logger needs. I’m sure the place I work for could use you. Plus, it’s close enough to come home every weekend for your mother’s home cooking.”

“Guess I could try it,” said Roy.

Ernie folded his arms in front of himself. “First you got to get yourself some better work clothes.”

Roy looked at his overalls, shirt, and sturdy shoes. “What’s wrong with these?”

“You need some tin pants.” Ernie guffawed, “course they aren’t made of tin but a thick waterproof canvas.”

He pointed at Roy’s feet. “And a pair of good cork boots and pants that only come to their top. Otherwise, they hang up on the brush and cause injuries. Also, you’ll need thicker shirts to prevent bug bites and scratches and warm socks. It doesn’t pay to skimp on logging clothes unless you enjoy spending all your spare time mending.”

Roy heeded Ernie’s advice and invested some of his hard-earned berry picking money on good logging clothes. And on the first Monday in October he followed Ernie to a logging camp near Alderton to inquire about work.

When they arrived, Ernie pointed to an office in a railroad car. “I’ll introduce you.”

They stepped inside the office.

A man rose from a desk covered in paperwork. “Do you need something?”

Ernie turned to Roy. “This is my friend, Roy Caple. He’s looking for work. I can attest that he is a real hard worker. You won’t go wrong hiring him.”

The man looked Roy over. “Well, you’re dressed like a logger. And those broad shoulders look like they could handle the work. We always need more buckers. Do you know what they do?” 

 “I believe they’re the ones who cut the limbs off the felled trees.” 

“You’re hired,” said the man.

He thrust out his hand to shake. “I’m Mr. Smith, by the way.”

He assigned Roy to Ernie’s bunk house.

“I hope you aren’t expecting much,” said Ernie as they approached the bunkhouses.


Author’s notes:

Info on the house came from the 1910 census, and my aunts written memories of the house. I also have a photograph. The info of the graduation ceremony came from the program in my possession.

The store Roy stood in front of still stands some 100 years later on the corner of Pioneer and SE. 16th street. Just this past week I drove past it as a train on the other side of the road roared past my car.

The house pictured above burnt down in the late 1930’s when his parents no longer lived there.