Tag Archives: family history

Chapter 24-The Life and Times of William Roy Caple- 1933

After his Sister’s death Roy took solace in spending time with his wife and children.  Mae’s parents had decided to rent a farm just out of town on Waller Road.  They had a four-bedroom farmhouse and when Mae felt well, they enjoyed weekend visits.

Roy did his best to help his father-in-law with some of the heavier work while Mae and her mother worked in the kitchen.

One evening they sat in their parlor listening to the player piano with Verle pretending to play the tunes.

Roy bent over and whispered to Mae. “Looks like we have a new musician in the family.”

Mae laughed, “Yes, even though he can’t carry a simple tune.”

On Sunday as they got ready to leave his mother-in-law handed him a basket. “Mind you handle this with care. I put a dozen eggs inside, the hens have been laying more than we can use this week and I also put in a pitcher of milk and a freshly baked bread.”

The next morning, they enjoyed scrambled eggs and toast slathered with fresh berry preserves.

“May I be excused?”  asked Verle as he wiped the jam from his lips.

“Where are you off to in such a hurry? “ Roy asked,

“The guys are going to have a baseball game and I don’t want to be late.”

“Well, then by all means be off with you. Mae if you don’t mind, I think I’ll take my coffee out to the porch and enjoy the fresh air while I read the paper.”

“Go ahead. Iva and I will do the dishes then we’ll make some pies with the berries we picked on Friday.”

Roy stepped out onto the porch and settled himself upon the wooden rocker he’d made. Across the road from the store, he could hear the Salvation Army setting up their band in the Hobo camp.

A bit later Mae wiping her hands on her apron came out. “Mind if I join you. Iva says she can handle the pie making by herself.”

“It would be my pleasure,” said Roy as the sounds of “Onward Christian Soldier” began to drift a cross the road.

“I see were being serenaded again”

“Ah yes,” said Roy. “I don’t know why they bother the men never pay any attention to them.”

Mae took a sip of her coffee.” I thought we’d take the pies to this evening’s neighborhood potluck.”

“Just so long as you leave some extra pieces at home for me and Verle.”

 There was nothing he or his son loved more than berry pie.

The neighborhood had taken to holding potlucks every Sunday night. Nothing fancy everyone brought whatever they could contribute and the men pooled their money together to buy some wieners to roast over a bonfire. The tough times seemed easier when they were shared.

He and his son took in baseball games whenever they could. Iva had become a teenager.

 One morning Mae informed him. “Iva is going to go get herself a perm today with some of the money she’s earned.”

Roy frowned, “What’s wrong with her hair the way nature made it.”

“Oh Roy, every girl wants curls. So no matter what you think when you see her this evening, say something nice. She’s sure she’ll be the cats meow.”

Roy kissed his wife on the head. “Don’t worry, I will be sure to tell her she’s beautiful just like her mother.”

On Friday November 10th, 1933 Roy came home early in the afternoon after delivering a cord of wood to a neighbor. He found Mae leaning back in the chair, wheezing.

 He sat down in front of his wife; her wheezing breaths were coming in short gasps. “How long has this been going on?”

“Not long, could you see if there’s any belladonna left in the cupboard.”

He rummaged around the cupboard and found some shoved in the back. He returned to Mae’s side who continued, wheezing in short, strained gasps.

“Try to keep your breath regular. Remember in for five and out for five, come on breathe in 1, 2,3, 4, 5. Now out 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.”

As her labored wheezing continued his mind raced ahead. What would he do if she turned blue or lost consciousness?”

 I’m getting the doctor,” said Roy.

“No, she whimpered, we can’t afford it.”

“Yes,” said Roy, “you need his help. I’ll be right back.”

He ran over to the store as fast as his legs would carry him. “Call doctor for me. Mae’s having a bad asthma attack.”

He raced home. Inside the house, he dropped to her side. “Come on Mae, come on, take some deep breaths in for five and out for five. You can do it, you’re doing well.”

Despite his calm reassurance her breaths grew torturous, with each inhalation, it was as if she was at war with herself. The seconds crawled by until the doctor arrived it was as if time had stood still.

The doctor when he arrived dropped to her side.”How long as this been going on?”

“I’m not sure. I found her wheezing when I got home about an hour ago. But it’s getting worse.”

After listening to her heart and lungs the doctor hung the stethoscope around his neck. “Help me move her into the bed. I’m going to give her a shot of morphine.”

After the shot Mae’s breathing started to ease. A sense of relief flooded his body but then he realized she wasn’t breathing at all. The doctor grabbed his stethoscope and put the round metal end on her chest.

His face grew graven. He took the ends out of his ears shaking his head. “I’m so sorry. She’s gone.”

“No,” moaned Roy, as his own heart raced. “It can’t be. She can’t be gone.”

“I thought her heart would be strong enough for the morphine. There’s nothing else I can do. You have my deepest condolences. I will step out and leave you alone to say your good-byes”.

Tears streamed down Roy’s face as he accompanied the doctor to the door. “I’m afraid I can’t pay you.”

“Don’t even think of it, there is no need to pay.” He patted Roy on the shoulder. “I have no words to tell you sorry I am for your loss. I’ll let the folks over at the store notify your family for you.”

 Roy went back to the bedroom where Mae lay. She looked so peaceful. He laid his head down on her chest and sobbed. “How am I ever to go on without you?”

 It wasn’t supposed to end like this. She was only thirty-seven, she had so much more life to live. Why at 48 he was the older one. They were meant to grow old together, watch their children graduate, get married and play with the grandchildren sure to come.

“Oh, Mae,” he sobbed. “There will never be another for me. You were my one and only love, of this you can be sure.”

When no more tears would come he wiped his eyes and stood. Shaking and feeling lost he glanced at the clock. The children would be home from school soon. They couldn’t find him like this, he had to be strong when he told them their mother had passed. He walked into the front room and closed the bedroom door behind him.

He had never felt so alone in all his life.

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Authors Notes:

  1. Information about the rented farm and player piano came from my Dad’s writings and reminisces he shared with me. As did the info about the Sunday neighborhood potlucks.
  2. A note Mae wrote to her mother described Iva getting a perm for the first time.
  3. Info about Mae’s death came from things my grandfather said along with his children’s memories of that day. He death certificate verified the info.

Chapter 23-The Life and Times of William Roy Caple-1929-1933

On October 24th, 1929, Roy hurried home from work looking forward to a relaxing evening. He scooped up the newspapers from on the doorstep before entering the house.

Mae came out of the kitchen, drying her hands on a dish towel. “How was your day?”

“Busy,” said Roy. “How about yours?”

“Oh, you know the usual housekeeping chores.”

She came over and gave him a kiss and nodded toward the rolled-up newspaper in his hand. “The children are upstairs doing their homework. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a few minutes to relax  and enjoy your papers before they come down for dinner.”

Roy sat in his easy chair and unfolded the paper. He liked keeping up with the news and subscribed to both the Puyallup Herald and The Tacoma News Tribune. Bold headlines topped The Tribune.

Dark Day on Wall Street. Conditions almost panicky as millions of values vanish every minute.’

 Hmm, that doesn’t sound good. Thank goodness I don’t have anything invested in the stock market.

Over the next few days, the news grew gloomier as the paper reported increased losses in the stock market. By the end of the year, stocks had dropped $15 billion. Remembering how destitute the recession of 1893 had left his family, Roy worried a bit.

Still life for the next 10 months hummed along normally. He continued to work for the logging camp near Crocker. His job as a saw filer provided better pay than the back breaking logging work he’d done in his younger years. The children grew and brought joy into his and Mae’s life. She still had asthma attacks, but in between they had good times.

His mother had moved to Orting a couple of years earlier in order to get the rations entitled to Civil War veteran widows. On a Friday in late July of 1930, he dropped the children off at her house on his way to work, to spend a long weekend with their grandmother.

The next morning he and Mae were enjoying a leisurely breakfast when someone from the nearby grocer rapped on their back door.

“Mr. Caple, Mr. Caple, come quick you have an urgent phone call.”

Roy hustled out the back door and took a shortcut across the yard to the corner store on Pioneer Street.

Mr. Bryant, the store owner, nodded to the receiver lying beside the phone box. “I think it’s your Iva she sounds hysterical?”

Chills ran up and down his spine. With shaking hands he picked up the receiver and spoke into the box on the wall, “Hello.”

“Daddy,” bawled Iva. “You have to come quick, it’s awful.”

 She was so hysterical he could barely make out what she was saying, but evidently something had happened to his mother and the neighbor was with her.

“We’ll be there as fast as we can come, try to calm down.” He hung up the receiver and dashed out of the door.

Mae was pacing in the yard when he crossed the street. “What’s happened?”

 “Something’s wrong with Mother. I couldn’t make out much from what Iva was saying but the neighbor is there.”

I’ll get my purse and be right out,” she said, as he headed for their Model T.

When they got to Orting, they found Iva crying in the yard.

Mae wrapped her arms around her. “What’s happened?”

“I don’t know, It’s grandma. Mrs. Wilson called the doctor, he’s with her now. She got up from bed like usual and told me to sleep a while longer. But when she came back, she talked really funny, I couldn’t understand anything she said. She got in bed and then she couldn’t get back up.”

A stroke, thought Roy as he hurried into her house. In the bedroom he found the doctor bent over his mother. He turned his head toward Roy when he entered the room.  “Are you her son?”

“Yes, is it a stroke?”

He nodded. “I’m afraid so. I doubt she’ll ever recover. She won’t be able to stay here.”

Roy decided to move her to the old Meeker Mansion which had become a home for Civil war veteran widows. That way she’d be close enough to check on daily. On August 5th, 1930, she passed away peacefully in her sleep.

 A few days later the family gathered in Orting’s soldier’s cemetery to say their good-byes as they laid her to rest, on the gentle slope of a hill, next to his father.

Bereft himself he tried to give comfort to his sister Lida who took the loss of her mother especially hard.

In the years ahead Roy would think of his mother’s death as the beginning of the lean years, the bad years.     

 By 1931 the full brunt of the stock market collapse had hit Puyallup. Industry after industry curtailed  operations or went out of business. The logging operations where he worked shrank and then stopped.

 In 1932 Roy found himself out of work with no prospects of another job. Their small savings dwindled as he and Mae struggled to keep food on the table. Thankfully there was no mortgage on their house to worry about.

During the 1930’s most homes in Puyallup used firewood for heat. Roy decided to lease some of the  logged off land on the hills above Orting. The big trees were gone but plenty of small timber had been left behind that he could cut he could cut for firewood. He’d take orders for cords of wood or sell it on the streets. Sometimes all he got was 5$ per cord. Poor wages, but  nearly everyone in town was in the same boat. Sometimes he found work filing a few saws for loggers and or helping bring in a farmer’s crops.  In the summer the family picked raspberries and then blackberries. If they worked hard, they could bring in as much as a dollar or two each day

As much as possible he let the money the children earned be used for their school and clothing needs. But sometimes it couldn’t be helped they needed a few of their hard-earned dollars to make ends meet.

Fortunately Mae was nimble with the needle. She kept herself and Iva in clothing by turning sugar sacks and old clothes into something new. Still many a night they went to bed with their stomachs unsatisfied by the meager portions the evening meal had provided. Roy loathed those nights. He had never wanted his children to experience hunger the way he had a times during his childhood. On top of that his wife’s health continued to be precarious.

The freight trains that rolled a block away from their home began to carry men hunting for work. Because their house was close to a junction the trains frequently slowed or stopped there making it an easy spot for men to hop on or off.  A hobo camp sprang up on space near the tracks. Not a day went by without some of the men coming by their house looking for work in exchange for something to eat.

He and Mae were sorry they couldn’t give them any kind of work. But they did their best to see to it they never went away empty handed. Sometimes all they could offer was a carrot to help make soup or a cup of fresh coffee. His family grew used to hearing the Salvation Army group each Sunday when they came to the camp to pray and sing. The children thought it funny to watch the men hang their just washed underwear as the band played onward Christian soldier. Though the sanitary conditions were terrible, the camp was peaceful.

Mae canned vegetables from their garden to help get them through the winters and they picked berries together as a family wherever they could find free ones.

In the spring when their stock of home canned vegetables grew low Roy donned his leather gloves and picked nettles and other edible weeds. Mae cleaned and cooked them into a kind of edible spinach. His children didn’t care for it. But in lean times any food for free was welcomed.

One time he asked a farmer if he could have some apples knowing he was going to dump them as part of a government program to give growers more money.

“No,” said the farmer I can’t give them to you. “But I will tell you where I am dumping them.”

 Different things like that got them by.

His sister had been subject for years to periods of melancholy which grew worse after their mother’s death. After a rest at the Western Washington Sanatorium in Steilacoom she seemed better but then her dark moods came back.

He and Mae did their best to help his brother-in-law with their three girls and cheer his sister up. Lida and Mae had long been friends and the two families got together often. Their two oldest children were close in age to Iva and Verle and they enjoyed playing together. The two men had much in common as Roy too struggled to keep his family afloat and cope with Mae’s asthma attacks.

Early in the evening of January 6, 1933, Roy took his son Verle over to his wife’s relatives’ home to help with some bathroom repairs.

He had just reattached the faucet to the sink when heard a knock on the front door. A voice said, “I’m looking for Roy Caple his wife told me I could find him here.”

Dread filled his body as he placed the wrench on the floor. “Why had Mae sent for him?”

He found his brother-in-law George McKay in the front room, wearing a pinched face and bloodshot eyes.

“What’s happened?”

“It’s Lida,” said George as he broke down into sobs. “She’s gone.”

“What,” stammered Roy.

“She took her life,” said George. “She thought she ’d become too much of burden for me.”

“No,” moaned Roy as he covered his face with his hands. “How could she think that? We all loved her so.”

 “I left the girls with Mae. They were the ones who found her. I’d given anything for them to not have been the ones to find her.”

On January 10th the family huddled once again around a graveside, this time three brothers minus their baby sister.

Lida Caple Mckay circa 1916

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Author’s notes:

  1. Most of the information on the depression years in this chapter came from both my dad’s and aunts writings and discussions I had with them. Both wrote and talked of being with their grandmother the day she had her stroke. Both wrote and talked of the hobo camp near their home.

2. My dad told me how he had gone with his Dad to help a relative the night they found his Aunt Lida had passed away. And her two oldest daughters told me about how she had sent their youngest sister to school with them that day. And how they were the ones who found her hanging in the attic.

Chapter 22-The Life and Times of William Roy Caple-The 1920’s

Although he missed his dad the year 1921 went by in a happy blur. He found time to install an indoor bathroom. The fruit trees were growing and had even bore a bit of fruit.

The following spring Mae’s parents and sibling moved into a house near theirs deciding to make Puyallup their permanent home. Her dad found work as a janitor at the WSU farm.

On August 30th of 1922, a baby boy joined the family. His birth overjoyed them. With a girl and a boy, they had the perfect family. They named him Roger Verle, but he soon became known as just Verle.

A few months later Mae developed a high fever, cough, and rash. Roy summoned her mother to check on her.

“Looks like she has measles,” she said. “She never had them as a child.”

She recovered, but the persistent cough continued. He grew concerned when in addition to the cough she sometimes wheezed.

“Perhaps you should go see Dr. Clay.” he suggested.

“Roy don’t worry so about me. You know coughs can linger for quite some time. I just need a little more time to recover.”

One day shortly after that conversation he came home from work to find their front door ajar. Inside he heard a voice say, “breath in through the nose and out through the mouth. That’s it, easy now.”

He pushed open the door. Mae sat upright in a dining chair her eyes closed, beads of sweat sat on her forehead, her chest quivered. Beside her sat Dr. Clay listening to her lungs through his stethoscope. Nearby hovered her mother.

“What’s happened?” asked Roy.

The doctor looked up and removed his stethoscope from Mae’s chest. “She’s had a bad asthma attack. But you can relax the worst is over.”

“Asthma,” stammered Roy.

“Yes, “said Dr. Clay. “I’m afraid there isn’t much I can do for it. There are some home remedies that might work. Often a strong cup of coffee or holding one’s head over a steaming bowl of hot water supplies relief or warm flannels to the chest when breathing grows labored. I’ll give you some belladonna powders, if you have a particularly horrific attack, you can burn it. Many find it brings relief.”

He scribbled out a bill and handed it to Roy. “Try to have her avoid stress. You can expect more episodes. It’s best to stay calm and let them pass. If they seem to get out of hand give me a call.”

Roy went to Mae’s side and took her hand. “How are you doing?”

“Better, but I got so scared, it felt like I couldn’t breathe. Thank goodness, Mama was here when it happened.”

“Were you doing anything stressful?”

“No, I had put Verle and Iva down for their naps. Mama and I sat down to visit and relax over a cup of tea and suddenly it felt like I couldn’t breathe.”

He looked at his mother-in-law.

“She gave me quite a scare. I summoned your mother and the doctor. When he arrived, your mother took the children next door.”   

Asthma would be a cloud over their head from then ever after. Roy was grateful that the children had two loving grandmothers and a grandfather close by to help when things were too much for his wife. She had periods of time when she’d be quite well. But just when he thought the asthma attacks were over, she’d wake up in the middle of the night gasping for air.

She’d say, “Roy don’t get up, you have work in the morning. I’ll just make myself a strong cup of coffee and sit in the rocker for bit.”

Often that was enough. He grew to dread the smell of belladonna burning. It meant her breathing hadn’t eased.

He’d get up and gently rub her shoulders, “breathe in for five, that’s it, now breathe out for five,” until her breathing eased.

If he noticed her lips turning blue, he knew she wasn’t getting enough oxygen and he summoned the doctor.

In between attacks they lived life much as ordinary families did. Each spring he tilled the earth for her to plant a garden full of vegetables and flowers. They took joy in watching their children grow.

He continued to strive to learn and better himself by reading and when he could afford it take correspondence courses. And he continued to love building things.

When he told Mae he’d always wanted to build a log cabin. She suggested he build a small one the children could play in. It took him a while to find, cut and haul enough logs just the right size.

The children eagerly watched him as he built it.

  “When will it be done, Daddy,” said Iva.” I want to play in it tomorrow.”

“Now Iva,” said his wife, “let your father rest. He’s already put in a hard day’s work. He will finish it in due time.”

He took the windows out of an old, discarded car and gave the cabin two windows. Mae made red checkered curtains for it, which reminded him of the ones his mother had made long ago. He installed a small bed and built a little table and chairs. Wooden apple crates became shelves and a wooden grape basket supplied a crib for Iva’s dolls. The children were elated with it.

Next, he built a small house on the property, to house his in-laws.

The summer of 1927 he got a job as the fire watchman for a logging camp. It meant he needed to be on site 24 hours a day five days a week.

“Mae,” he said. “How would you and the children like to come with me and spend the summer in the woods. You haven’t had a breathing spell in a long while.”

“I’d love it, it would be good for the children to get out in nature more.”

He put up a large tent up for them to sleep in. He split cedar for shakes and built a lean-to of them for Mae to cook in.

When the logging crew went back to camp each evening, they would have the woods to themselves. They picked berries which Mae canned or made into jam. Every weekend they’d load up the Model -t and make the 16-mile trek back to Puyallup. Mae would get the washing done and they’d stock up on the needed groceries for the next week.

That fall and winter Mae had so many bad asthmas attacks he feared for her life.

“The only thing I can suggest,” the doctor said, “is to move to high dry climate.”

He hated the thought of moving. Iva had started school and Verle would be ready for first grade the coming year. He didn’t want them to have a childhood full of moves, as he’d had. Puyallup had been his home now for most of the last 25 years. But he loved his wife too much not to consider the doctor’s suggestion.

During the winter of 1928 one of the loggers, he worked with said, “I heard of new logging camp starting  up high in the Blue Mountains of Oregon.

 “Really”, Roy said. “My wife’s doctor said a high dry climate might be best for her. Thanks for the tip I am  going to look into working there.”

 When he suggested it to Mae she said, “Roy, I don’t know. Our roots are here in Puyallup. We both agreed we didn’t want our children to move around the way you and I did.”

“I know, but your health is also important for them.”

“But we don’t know if it will even help. I’d hate to leave this house behind only to find we should have stayed put.”

“What if we went to try it out for the summer?”  “Your parents could look out for our place  here. If we like it in Oregon we can sell the place later, if not we’ll come back.”

“I guess we could try that.”

He spent his spare time the rest of the winter building a cupboard to fit the running board of their Model T Ford to accommodate the staples they needed on the long camping trip it would take to get to Kinzou, Oregon. They left as soon as the school year ended. He got a job unloading the bricks from the railroad for the new buildings being built.

While the new town of Kinzou provided a high, dry climate it was also dusty. Many a day he’d come home to find Mae coughing and wheezing. One hot, dry evening as they relaxed outside, he heard her begin to wheeze.

“Roy,” she said, I’m having trouble breathing.”

 He got her a strong cup of coffee. “Sip it slow and remember to breathe in five and out five.”

 The wheezing continued.

 “Roy, can you get me the belladonna.”

 He rummaged inside the lean-to cupboard and took it back to where she sat. “There isn’t much left but I will light what we have.”

 By now her breath was coming in short gasps. His mind raced ahead what if she got worse? What if she needed a doctor? There were none for miles around.

 Fortunately, the spell passed but he knew  they needed to leave Kinzou.

When Mae’s relatives in Yakima, WA had heard they were going to try living in a high dry, climate. Her Aunt Ann had written.

Why don’t you move to Yakima instead? The elevation might not be so high but it is warm and dry. There are plenty of jobs for Roy in the orchards.

He decided to move the family there for the rest of the summer. While he worked as a pruner in the orchards Mae had the support of a loving family to help with the children.

When he asked her if she’d consider staying there?

 She said, “Of course not, Puyallup is home, I can’t wait to go back.”

 They returned in time for the children to be back at school.

Verle age 6-1928

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Authors notes:

  1. According to my grandfather, my grandmother loved a little boy in the neighborhood named Verle, but she thought two Verles in the same area would be confusing. They decided to name my dad, Roger Verle, instead. While he was still quite young the neighbor boy moved away and my dad was ever after known as Verle.

2. My grandfather said Mae developed asthma after contracting measles while my dad was still a baby. However on her death certificate her doctor wrote the start of her asthma as occurring the year before he was born.

3. In her memories my aunt Iva wrote of how she hated the smell of belladonna burning because she knew it meant her mother was having trouble breathing.

4. The information about the log cabin playhouse came from my aunt Iva’s written memories of it and my dad’s memories. I recall when I was small and we drove down River Road in Puyallup my dad would point out a log cabin sitting in a junkyard on the side of the road and saying it was once his playhouse. My grandfather had sold it to the owner toward the end of the Great Depression for 10 dollars for use as the junk yards office.

5. Both my aunt Iva and dad spoke and wrote of the summer they spent in the woods when there dad was a fire watchman. They both remembered it with fondness.

6. Kinzou was a new logging camp in the Blue Mountains of Oregon. It never became successful and ceased to exist. Information of the town and preparation for the journey came from my aunt’s and dad’s written account of that summer. Both recalled the day my dad almost drowned when playing in the log pond. Apparently my Dad crawled on a log which rolled him under. My aunt screamed and a one-armed man pulled him out. He always said his sister saved his life that day for if she hadn’t screamed for help he would have drowned.

7. According to my dad the place in Yakima where Mae’s relatives lived was quite isolated. He recalled that even in the days of cars they would have to send a horse and wagon out to collect them whenever they visited.

Chapter 21-The Life and Times of William Roy Caple-1920

Samuel Hugh Caple 1945-1920

Most of the next year passed in a blur. Iva continued to delight them and now that she was mobile Mae spent a lot of time chasing after her. Roy continued to work in the logging camp but now had a safer job as a saw filer. In October he finished the stone porch.

Mae came out and stood on it the day he declared it done. “I can hardly wait until the weather warms and we can sit out here.”

In late November a shadow hung over their heads when his father developed an infection in his foot. His diabetes complicated the situation and despite the attention of his mother and doctor the infection grew worse.

On December first, his mother came over to his house with a grave look upon her face. “Roy, the doctor just left, he said your father’s leg has turned gangrene. It has to come off.”

No, he thought, how can it be this bad.

“Your father has absolutely refused to allow it. You know what that means, I can’t bear the thought of losing him. Please talk some sense into him.”

Chills rolled over Roy’s body. Over the years he and his old man had had their differences, but he’d always been there for him all the same. He wasn’t ready to lose him either. But his dad had a stubborn streak. Once he made up his mind, it was impossible to change. Still, he had to try. Maybe if he let him think about it overnight, he’d be more amendable to listening to him.

The day next day he trudged up the stairs to his parent’s room. His hand quivered as he turned the knob. His father lay on the bed under a blue and white quilt his mother had made. A putrid smell of rotting flesh filled the air. A deathly pallor sat upon his father’s cheeks.

He approached the bed, “dad.”

His father’s eyes fluttered open. “The doctor says he needs to amputate your foot if you want to live. The family still needs you; I need you.”

“No, you don’t,” answered his father. “No one needs an invalid and I don’t want to spend more time living in the soldiers’ home. Once was enough for me. It’s better this way. My life has reached its end. I am okay with that.”

Roy felt a sadness squeeze his heart as he took a deep breath. “Dad, there’s still time to reconsider.”

“No,” said his dad. “My mind’s made up; I saw enough legs sawed off in the war to know it’s not for me. If it means the end, then so be it.”

The family kept vigil over his dad for the next few days as his father became delirious with pain and finally on Dec. 6th, he drew his last breath. They buried him in the Soldiers cemetery in nearby Orting with a simple headstone, bearing the name Sam’l H. Caple and his regiment in the Civil War, Company B, 5th Iowa infantry.

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Writers notes.

Details of Roy’s father’s death come from what my grandfather and aunt told me and from Samuel’s death certificate.

Chapter 20 -The Life and Times of William Roy Caple- The Birth of a Child

In early December Roy had the house finished enough for them to move in to before the arrival of the baby. He finally had a place to settle. It was a two-story house with one bedroom downstairs. He’d finish the two bedrooms and bathroom upstairs later. Besides, sewer lines had still not come to their street, so they’d have to rely on the little house back until it did. Mae couldn’t get over the roomy kitchen where he made the counters just right for her 5’ 6’ height. He’d built and painted the cupboards a creamy white.

“Oh, Roy,” said Mae the first time she saw it completed. “It’s even better than my dreams.”  

In the large dining room, he’d built a plate rail for Mae to display her prettiest plates. He also built her glass china closet for the fine china.

Mae opened the cabinet door. “At last, a place to display our wedding china.”

 A long window seat sat in front of two big windows that looked out into the yard.

He showed her the hidden storage he had built under the seat. “I thought you could put seldom used items here.”

From the sears catalog, they selected a large table and chairs to sit in front of it.

 At the other end of the room, he’d built in a sideboard with two drawers at the bottom to keep their linens. And they purchased another Walnut sideboard to sit in front of the window that overlooked the back porch and yard.

For months now he had admired a house near the Scott Hotel with a big cobblestone porch. Every time he and Mae walked past; they admired it.

“One of those would look great as our front porch.” He put his arms around Mae, “Can’t you see us relaxing in wicker chairs as the sun goes down.”

“I’d love it,” said Mae, “do you think you could do it?”

“Yes, I believe I can.”

She leaned into him, “Sounds heavenly, maybe make one a rocker to lull our babe asleep.”

For now, some wooden steps up to the front door would suffice. It was a project to save for later, after the baby arrived and he’d had time to finish the upstairs rooms.

In the early hours of December 17th, 1918, Mae roused Roy from his sleep.

“It’s time’ “she said, “I think today is the day our baby arrives.”

 He hurried to dress and went next door to fetch his mother to stay with Mae while he summoned the doctor.

Once the doctor arrived, his mother banished him next door.

“Go on now,” she said as she pushed him out the door. “Go keep your dad company. I will call you as soon as the baby arrives.”

Most of the day Roy paced outside on his parents’ big porch despite the cold December air. From time to time his dad would come out and join him.

“Relax son,” said his dad, “she’ll be fine, your mother birthed seven of you with nary a problem.”   

It seemed an eternity until his mother stepped outside the door. He could tell by the big smile on her face that all was well.He reached his front yard just as the doctor emerged from the door. “Congratulations, Mr. Caple, Mother, and baby are doing fine. Sorry I’m in a hurry, I have another call to make.”

Roy stepped inside the house and opened the door of their bedroom. An exhausted but ecstatic looking Mae held a tiny bundle. She smiled up at him, “It’s girl.”

She opened the blanket to show off the baby. Such perfection he’d never saw. Ten little toes and fingers, a tuft of black hair like her mother’s and blue eyes like his. His heart was overwhelmed, he never had felt such love before.

He leaned over and kissed Mae.

“You can hold her,” she said.

He took the baby into his arms. Such a precious little bundle.

He gazed down at the baby’s sweet face. “What should we name you?”

“How about Iva,” said Mae. “I love that name.”

“Iva,” repeated Roy. And Mae for her beautiful mother.”

The baby yawned and closed her eyes as if to say she liked it too.

The following year of 1919 was a busy, happy one. At the end of the war Roy lost his job in the shipyard but soon found work for a small logging company near Crocker and the Carbon River. He acquired a Model T to make the one-hour commute, enabling him to be home with his family each evening. When he had an extra few minutes, he’d stop along the river and fill two buckets with rocks the right size and shape to create the stone front porch. When spring arrived, they planted a cherry, four apple and pear trees. And he finished the upstairs bedrooms and bath.

In July his sister Lida and her husband George, still living with his parents, welcomed a baby girl they named Blanche into the world. Giving the two families even more reasons to enjoy each other’s company.

Mae’s grandparents along with her Aunt Sadie and her husband Bert Merchant came for an extended stay, renting a house nearby. They enjoyed showing them the local sights on the weekends

 When December arrived, Roy brought home a Christmas tree on little Iva’s first birthday. “Seems like her birthday is a good day to put up a tree.” It would become a yearly tradition.

 He hurried to dress and went next door to fetch his mother to stay with Mae while he summoned the doctor.

Once the doctor arrived, his mother banished him next door.

“Go on now,” she said as she pushed him out the door. “Go keep your dad company. I will call you as soon as the baby arrives.”

Most of the day Roy paced outside on his parents’ big porch despite the cold December air. From time to time his dad would come out and join him.

“Relax son,” said his dad, “she’ll be fine, your mother birthed seven of you with nary a problem.”   

It seemed an eternity until his mother stepped outside the door. He could tell by the big smile on her face that all was well.

He reached his front yard just as the doctor emerged from the door. “Congratulations, Mr. Caple, Mother, and baby are doing fine. Sorry I’m in a hurry, I have another call to make.”

Roy stepped inside the house and opened the door of their bedroom. An exhausted but ecstatic looking Mae held a tiny bundle. She smiled up at him, “It’s girl.”

She opened the blanket to show off the baby. Such perfection he’d never saw. Ten little toes and fingers, a tuft of black hair like her mother’s and blue eyes like his. His heart was overwhelmed, he never had felt such love before.

He leaned over and kissed Mae.

“You can hold her,” she said.

He took the baby into his arms. Such a precious little bundle.

“What should we name you?”  he said gazing down at the baby’s sweet face.

“How about Iva,” said Mae. “I love that name.”

“Iva,” repeated Roy. And Mae for her beautiful mother.”

The baby yawned and closed her eyes as if to say she liked it too.

The following year of 1919 was a busy, happy one. At the end of the war Roy lost his job in the shipyard but soon found work for a small logging company near Crocker and the Carbon River. He acquired a Model T to make the one-hour commute, enabling him to be home with his family each evening. When he had an extra few minutes, he’d stop along the river and fill two buckets with rocks the right size and shape to create the stone front porch. When spring arrived, they planted a cherry, four apple and pear trees. And he finished the upstairs bedrooms and bath.

In July his sister Lida and her husband George, still living with his parents, welcomed a baby girl they named Blanche into the world. Giving the two families even more reasons to enjoy each other’s company.

Mae’s grandparents along with her Aunt Sadie and her husband Bert Merchant came for an extended stay, renting a house nearby. They enjoyed showing them the local sights on the weekends.

 When December arrived, Roy brought home a Christmas tree on little Iva’s first birthday. “Seems like her birthday is a good day to put up a tree.”

It would become a yearly tradition.

After the birthday cake at his parents house Roy carried a sleeping Iva home. He and Mae tucked her into her crib. They wrapped their arms around each other and gazed down at her sweet face.

Mae said, “It’s hard to believe an entire year has gone by since she entered the world, isn’t it?

Roy kissed his wife. “Seems like yesterday, she’s growing too fast. Just think next year she’ll want to decorate that tree in the front room with us.”

Mae laughed. “More like she’ll be pulling all the tinsel off.”

—————— —————-

Author’s notes:

The description of the interior of the house comes from a piece my Aunt Iva wrote of her childhood home, which my dad agreed was just the way he remembered it.

We visited the house once or twice a year when I was growing up. I too remember the built-in cupboards in the dining room and the bench window seat with a big dining table in front.

My aunt told me they always went and got their Christmas tree on her birthday. A tradition she wasn’t overly fond of. She would have preferred the day be reserved for just her birthday.

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.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

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.”

________________________________________________________________________

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.

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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.”

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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.