Tag Archives: William Roy Caple

Chapter 11-The Life And Times of William Roy Caple-The Wild West Show

Roy and his dad joined the throng headed for the show grounds. Several thousand folks decked out in their best dresses and suits roamed about the many tents set up outside the main arena.

They joined a group in front of a shooting demonstration. The sharpshooter lit a 12-candle candelabra. He set it on a gentleman’s head. Bang, out went a candle flame, bang out went the next and next until all were blown out.

 The crowd clapped and cheered at the end of the demo. “Don’t forget folks, you’ll see much more if you get a ticket for the main event,” said the sharpshooter.

Roy touched his father’s elbow, “What do you say, we head over to the main arena and get our seats?

iHis His father walking in front of him said, “that’s splendid idea.”

They joined the long line that snaked around the main arena. The line moved quickly and soon a, a man took their tickets, “Enjoy the show and stick around afterwards for more side shows.”

“Will do, “said Roy as he gave the ticket taker a brief wave.

The soft sound of mini booms accompanied by the buttery sweet smell of popcorn filled the air. Roy’s dad sniffed. “That smells mighty good. What you say I spring for a couple of bags.”

Roy rubbed his stomach. “Thought lunch stuffed me, but who can resist that smell.”

“Two popcorns,” said his dad to the man working the popping machine.

The man handed them each a bag, “That will be 20 cents.”  

Roy’s father handed him two dimes. Popcorn in hand, they headed for the crowded grandstand. They found their seats in the front row of wooden bleachers.

Roy leaned toward his dad, “whoa aren’t these dandy seats.”

His Dad nodded in agreement as they settled themselves.

Roy grabbed a handful of popcorn and munched as he watched all the stagehands scramble to get things set up. “Hard to believe how much stuff they bring in for one of these shows, isn’t it?”

“Yep, I read in the paper this morning, it took 48 train cars”

“Forty-eight,” repeated Roy, “that’s a lot.”

The two men grew quiet as they munched on their popcorn. Marching music filled the air as a voice over the loudspeaker announced, “Ladies and Gentlemen may I present Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders.”

The crowd stood and roared. “Ladies and Gentlemen please, be seated,” blared the loudspeaker as Buffalo Bill sitting tall upon his horse entered the arena.

He wore his trademarked fringed leather jacket, work gloves, felt hat and in one handheld his shotgun. The crowd let out a deafening roar as he took off his hat, held it high and circled the arena.

Roy yelled over the roar of the crowd. “I can’t believe it I am looking in person at the most famous in all the world.”

Roy’s dad leaned over closer to Roy’s ear. “When I knew him, he wasn’t famous or gray, guess I wasn’t either,” he laughed.

Buffalo Bill put his hat back on.

The loudspeaker blared, “May I present the Congress of Rough riders.”

The clipped clop of horse hooves filled the air as riders from all corners of the world filled the arena, Russian Cossacks, mounted troops from Germany, Mexicans, Spaniard, Filipinos, Cowboys, and Chief Sitting Bull with the Sioux warriors in full headdress.

Roy’s dad yelled over the crowds cheering, “And I thought I could ride, they put me to shame.”

He had never seen such an extravaganza, he, and his dad along with the rest of the crowd, sat transfixed as one incredible act followed another.

 Buffalo stampeded across the field as a buffalo hunt was reenacted.

His dad leaned over; “I heard about those buffalo hunts but never experienced one myself.”

They both stood to cheer and applauded with the rest of the crowd when the Deadwood stagecoach raced onto the field followed by blood thirsty whoops and holler of Indians in hot pursuit. Other acts featured Indians dressed in the native costumes and feather headdresses preformed some of their native dances. Riders on horseback showed off their riding skills and sharp shooters their shooting skills. Roy sat breathless as cowboys sat astride horses that did their best to buck them off, and other showed of their skills as they lassoed cattle and horses.

Roy nudged his dad, “I certainly never mastered those skills when we lived in Oklahoma, but Milo wasn’t bad at it.”

“I reckon so,” said his dad. “That would’ve been something if he had gone to work for Cody. Don’t suppose he’d ever want too though.”

The reenactment of Custer’s last stand interrupted their conversation. The crowd went wild and Roy found he needed to sit and catch his breath after all the cheering he did. Only to have his heart race again when finale started. An Indian attack on a settler’s cabin.

As the announcer announced the end of the show, Roy put his bowler hat back upon his head. “That was quite the show. What did you think Dad?”

“I’d say Cody found his niche in life, all right. Thanks for bringing me, son. I never believed I could enjoy it so much.”

“They exited the Arena. Roy waved toward the tents set up around the grounds. Let’s take in a few more side shows before we head home.”

They watched some Indians show off some of their dancing. Their bodies rose and dropped up and down with the beat of the drum. The bronco bucking and sharpshooting acts reminded Roy he would never have made a good cowboy.

After viewing the elephants his dad said, “I reckon it’s time we called it a day.”

They walked past a row of performer’s tents toward the exit. A voice said, “If it isn’t Sam Caple. It’s been years since I saw you.”

His father stepped toward the nearest tent. “Why, Bill, I am surprised you recognized me, it’s indeed been years.”

Oh my God, thought Roy, It’s Buffalo Bill himself. Dad wasn’t telling a tale; he really knew him.

He heard Buffalo Bill say. “I’d recognize those blue eyes of yours anywhere. So, are you living here, now?” 

“Sure do,” said his dad, “Well, actually next door in the town of Puyallup.”

 He motioned for Roy to come closer. “This is my son, Roy. “

Cody reached out his hand to shake, “Glad to meet you. Your Pa and I go way back to our scouting and freighting days.”

Roy gulped, what did one say to someone so famous. “Nice, nice to meet you, sir,” he stammered.

A man came to Cody’s side. He whispered something in his ear, Cody nodded and turned back to them, “I’d love to reminisce with you but I have some affairs to attend to.”

 He leaned over and shook his dad’s hand. “Sam, it was nice seeing you after all these years. Take care,” and he turned and disappeared into his tent.

  


Author’s Notes:

Details for the Wild West show came from watching clips of the show on You Tube. My grandfather often mentioned going to see this show with his dad and how surprised he was when after the show Cody recognized his dad calling him by name. The Puyallup newspaper has an interview with his dad shortly after Cody passed away where he tells of their freighting days when he knew him. Another newspaper article in Kansas mentioned Milo’s prowess as a cowboy.

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.

Chapter 7-The Life And Times of William Roy Caple-Leaving Spokane

     Cheney didn’t prove to be their home long. Within a couple of months, his father felt they’d be better off in nearby Spokane. A brief time later, he announced there were better opportunities on the west side of the mountains. All of his life, Roy’s dad thought the grass was greener somewhere else, and so once again they headed in search of a better place to live.

     Ever since they’d left Cheney, his parents had been bickering over where they should settle. Before they left Spokane, Roy 16, and his brother Joe 18, considered staying put on their own.

     Discussing it one day, Joe had said, “I’m just not sure this is where I want to live.”

     “And it would devastate mother, if we stayed behind,” added Roy. “Besides, I’d like a chance to finish grammar school and maybe go to high school even if I am getting old. I’ll never finish if I set off on my own.”

     Joe rubbed his stomach. “I don’t care about schooling, but I’d miss Mother’s cooking. I don’t spect the two of us could make much of anything edible.”

     Roy nodded, “And I’d like to live close enough to watch little sis grow up and help Mother and Dad if needed. They’re not getting any younger, you know. If we stay here we’ll be too far to help much.”

     “You’re right, besides, when we lived in Washington before I liked the green western side of the mountains better. The climate here reminds me too much of Oklahoma.”

     And so, they dropped any thought of staying behind.

     On an early fall day in 1901 the family wagon rolled down a long dusty road called Pioneer Way. They entered the town of Puyallup, Washington where 10 years previously they had lived.

 “Whoa,” said his father as he pulled the wagon to a stop in front of the businesses on main street. “You folks sit tight while I go inside and check out prospects for work.”

     He jumped out, tied the horses to a hitching post, and headed into a nearby building.

     Under her breath, Roy heard his mother mumble, “And soon you’ll be back saying you’ve heard of a better place.”

     Roy gazed at all the businesses lining both sides of the street. “Looks like this place has grown a bit since we last lived here.”

     “Looks a heap more prosperous, too,” said Joe.

     His mother fiddled with her bonnet, “I always thought we should have stayed here. From the looks of all the activity, they’ve recovered just fine from the depression that drove your dad to leave. I’m sure we’d have managed here just as well as we did in Oklahoma.”

    “So why don’t we stay,” said Roy. “I don’t remember a lot about this place except being happy to go to the fine new school they’d just built. If Father wants to move on, let him. I’ll stay here with you.”

     “You could count me in, too,” said Joe. “Between the three of us, I’m sure we could make a living.”

     Roy made a smacking sound with his lips. “Mother, with your good cooking, you could run a boarding house. I’m sure Joe and I could find some kind of work.”  

     “Humph,” grunted his mother, “I’d hate to leave your father. You boys might be old enough to go without him, but Richard and Lida are still so young. I need some time to think on this a bit. You two stay in the wagon and keep an eye Richard and Lida while they nap.”

     She hitched up her skirts, climbed from the wagon, and commenced marching up and down the street.

     A few minutes later, his father appeared from the store he’d gone into. Spotting their mother down the street, he called, “Maggie, just heard of a town a few miles down the road that sounds like it has better prospects. Let’s get back to the wagon. I want to check it out before nightfall.”

     His mother walked back to where his father stood.

     Joe groaned, “Here we go, moving on again.” 

     But to Roy’s astonishment, his mother planted her feet wide, held her chin high and said, “Samuel Hugh Caple, this place is good as any. Go on, if you must, but the children and I are staying put.”

    She bustled over to the wagon. “Boys, you can unload our things here. I’m sure the hotel across the street has room to put us up for the night.”[i]

     His father stood, his mouth agape in shock. Then he rushed to her side. “You don’t seriously mean you’d stay here without me, do you?”

      His mother’s eyes locked on his. “Indeed I do. So, which is it, Sam? Either you stay or the children and I go it alone.”

     His father stood stunned and silent. He took his hat off and swept his hands through his hair.

      “I think I need me a few minutes to deliberate,” he stuttered before he strode off.

     Roy, too dumbfounded to say anything, watched as his father marched to the far end of main street and stood rubbing his forehead. After a bit, he tramped back to where his mother still stood on the sidewalk.

     Holding his fists tight, he said, “Maggie, you win. I could never leave you and the children. If you say this is the place we should live, then Puyallup we stay.”

     His mother reached up and gave his Father a kiss on the cheek. “Oh Sam, I knew you’d make the right decision.”

     His Dad glanced up at the wagon where Roy sat dumbfounded. “What do you say? Looks like Puyallup has become our new home.”

Author’s notes:


[i] My grandfather often told the story of how they were sitting in the wagon in front of what is now Pioneer Park and his father coming out if a business and saying he’d just been told of a better town nearby. He said his mother put her foot down and refused to go, if he wanted to go he’d do it alone.

The family had lived in Puyallup in 1891. Samuel is listed in the towns directory has an express man at Marker Junction which was near the town depot in those days. My grandfather said he attended 1st grade and the then new Spinning school.

Chapter 6: THE Life And Times of William Roy Caple- Move to Washington

Twelve days after Lida’s birthday the train Roy’s family rode eased into another station with a puff of smoke and moan like an old lady rising from rocking chair.

Roy frowned at his dad and brother Joe said, “Not another stop, at this rate we’ll never get to Washington.”

Going over to the cattle car door Joe eased it back a crack to let in some air. He mopped the sweat from his brow. Man is it ever hot. At least when we’re moving, the air circulates through the louvered sides. What I wouldn’t give to be in the comfort of coach with Mother, Richard and Lida.”

Their dad rose from the bench where he sat. “Those cars get hot, too. Sure, miss seeing my little girl’s smiling face, though. I bet you 2 bits to a dollar right now your mother is fit to be tied trying to keep that wiggly angel contained to her seat.”

He motioned for both boys to stay back and opened the cattle car’s door and gazed out. “This stop is where they change crew and service the engine. We will be here a while. Say if I don’t spot a Harvey House.  Reckon I’ll hop off and see if I can’t scare up some grub for the three of us and maybe catch sight of your mother letting our little Lida stretch her legs. Remember to stay out of view, I can’t afford to buy you boys a ticket.”

 As his dad strode off Roy and Joe stared out at the station. Mounds of luggage sat heaped on the loading platform, waiting to be loaded into the baggage cars. Two Harvey girls dressed in black dresses and voluminous white aprons hurried toward the restaurant.

Joe stared at their attractive young faces. “They sure know how to choose lookers. Sure, wish you and I were the one getting off. I’d love to talk to one of those pretty girls.”

Roy took a deep breath and plugged his nose. “This place smells worse than an outhouse. I reckon the smell coming off us is none to pleasant. They’d run the other way if we came near them.”

Joe laughed, “Spose your right, guess I’ll go take a snooze in the hay until Dad returns with something to eat. With all the stopping and starting this train does at night. I haven’t slept well.”

Roy joined Tango his horse in her stall. He handed her a carrot and patted her side. “I know the all the jostling of the train is hard on you. We aren’t going to move for a spell, so why don’t you take a snooze too.”

  He reached for his ruck sack stashed in the corner of the stall and pulled out his copy of American Family Robinson.

“I’m just going to curl up here and read another chapter. It’s kind of a fantastic story, but it does make for good reading. Thought I’d have finished it by now but reading while in motion kind of makes me seasick.”

As he finished Chapter 11, he heard the cattle car door creak open.

  His dad set a box on the floor and hoisted himself inside, “I’ve come bearing food.”

Roy left the pioneer family and Indian chief deep in some prehistoric cave. He put the book back in his rucksack and joined his brother and dad beside the box. An unbelievably good smell permeated the air. Roy’s mouth watered, “tell me that’s chicken I smell.”

“Indeed, it is, and biscuits almost as good as your mother’s.”

Roy bit into a chicken leg and groaned. “I think I must be in heaven.”

 “Also bought you some cherry pie to top that off with, said his dad.” Saw your mother, Richard, and of course your sister. We were able to enjoy a meal together, and then I took little sis outside to let her run off some of her energy. Hopefully, it was enough to give your mother a little rest. And of course, she sent you, her love.”

Roy clomped some Jam on a biscuit as the train jerked.

  “Feels like we are on the roll again,” said Joe.

His father nodded. “The more we roll, the sooner we get to Cheney. Our next stop should be just after dark. It will be harder to spot you so you can get off and stretch your legs a bit.”

He took a blue paisley scarf from around his neck and wiped the sweat trickling off his forehead.  “Not to mention it’ll be cooler.”

Two days later the train blew its horn and as it screeched to a stop. The sign above the depot said Cheney.  Out on the platform, people scurried about ready to greet folks’ disembarking while others readied themselves to board.  Wagons waited on the nearby streets to take folks to their destinations.

Roy spotted his mother, Lida, and Richard standing in front of the station, waiting for them to have their turn to unload the wagon and horses from the cattle car. Once off, they planned to take their wagon and horses to the public corral and spend the night at the home of a friend, his mother had made when they had lived here before.

Roy wondered how long it would take for them to find a home of their own. Would this be the place he’d make his forever home?



Authors notes:

The book Roy is reading is in my possession and bears his name and word Caple, Oklahoma.  It is considered the fore runner of today’s science fiction novels. The book was printed in 1853. The copy my grandfather had was a boys book club edtioin from the 1880’s.

My grandfather often spoke of this trip and how hot it was inside the  cattle car. He said he and Joe were allowed off on stops after dark to stretch their legs. One stop was beside and orange grove. He said they picked some of the oranges and they were delicious.

Chapter 5- The Life and Times of William Roy Caple- Lida has a birthday

     After breakfast on June 1st, 1900, Roy scooped up his sister Lida from her highchair. He kissed her on the cheek. “Happy birthday, my dear little sister. Can you tell me how old you are?”

     Lida held up one finger.

     Roy laughed and held up one of his own fingers, “Yes, you are one today.”

     His mother turned from the batter she was beating in a big blue bowl. She motioned to Richard and Roy. “Before you boys run off, I want you to move the table out into the yard. Looks like it’s going to be a good day for a picnic.”

     Roy set Lida down and handed her a rag doll. He motioned toward his mother, “best leave her alone until she gets your cake in the oven.”

     His mother tipped the mixing bowl and poured the batter into the round baking pans. “I’m making our dear little Lida a chocolate cake. And I will not have your clomping feet make my cake fall, so off with the table and stay out.”

    “She sure is going to a lot of bother,” said Richard said as the two shuffled the table out the door and into the yard, “for a birthday Little sis won’t even remember.”

     “Your right,” said Roy, “but we are the ones benefiting from good eats tonight, so I’m not complaining.” He rubbed his stomach, “there’s no meal I love better than Mother’s fried chicken, biscuits mashed potatoes and gravy. Besides, with our leaving soon, might be the last time we get to enjoy such a meal for a spell.”

     “What do you think it will be like in Washington state.” asked Richard. “Is it anything like here? I was born there, but I don’t remember it at all.”

    “I can’t recall much either” Roy answered, “except  Cheney is  kind of dry like here. I remember living in Puyallup a heap better. But until we moved here, we never stayed anywhere long.”

     “I don’t really remember any place but here,” said his brother. “I kind of wish we were staying. I will miss Milo.” 

     “I know but he is determined to see to his homestead claim through to the end. For once I have to agree with father, this place doesn’t have much to offer anymore. Might be different if Sammy lived and Uncle Will was still alive. The whole family could have gone into the cattle ranching business like they talked about. I just hope we don’t start moving from place to place again like we used to. I am ready to put roots down, except not here. It’s just too hard to eke out a living. Someday I hope to marry and have a family of my own, and I want them to have one place to call home.”

     Roy’s mother hollered from the doorway, “would you entertain your sister outside for a spell. I’m not able to get anything done with her underfoot.”

    Roy went to the doorway and took his sister in his arms. Come on Lida, let’s get a carrot. “I let you feed Tango.” 

    “Hosy,” said Lida.

     “Horse,” said Roy,” but I guess for one hosy is good enough.”

     Roy couldn’t help but have a soft spot in his heart for his baby sister. I mean, who wouldn’t with her dark curls and sparkling, brown eyes. His family had been so sad after his brother Sammy had died; she’d been like a breath of fresh air. She was the one who could make his mother and father smile whenever their thoughts went to the ones they’d lost. All she’d have to do was reach her chubby, arms out for a hug to put a smile back on all their faces. She’d been a life safer for the whole family.

     Out in the barn, he handed his sister a carrot and held her up to Tango so she could feed him. He let her sit a spell on his back before put her back down.

     “I’ve got more chores to do let’s go find Richard, I bet he’ll swing with you in the orchard.”

     He was throwing fresh hay down for the animals when his father and brother Joe returned with the wagon from their trip to Hardesty.

     His Dad jumped down and handed the reins to Roy, “I got everything squared away for our move west. I’ve got a cattle car reserved for our horses and wagon. You and Joe will ride with me in it to tend to the animals.”

     Roy frowned as he started to unhitch the horses from the wagon. Riding in a cattle car did not sound enjoyable.

     “What about Mother, Lida, and Richard?”

     “They’ll be riding coach,” said his father. “Technically the railroad only allows one person to ride in cattle cars to tend the stock. I figure since I’ll have the whole car to myself I can get away with having you two in there. Wouldn’t do to have your mother and Lida in there and Richard is young enough to ride at reduced fare, he can help your mother out.”

     He helped Roy put the harnesses away and led the horses to the corral, then strode toward the house, “Going inside to let your mother know we leave in 10 days.”

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Author’s notes: Information on this move came from my grandfather’s stories.

Photo is of Samuel Hugh Cape

Chapter 4- The Life and Times of William Roy Caple

Roy’s mother Margaret Melinda Ragsdale Caple

     Two weeks later, on June 1, 1899, Roy’s Aunt Susan woke the boys early. Three days ago she’d come to help his mother until the baby came.

    “Your new brother or sister is on its way. Your Dad left to fetch the midwife. You boys dress quick while I put breakfast on the table.”

     Roy pulled on a cotton checked shirt and over all’s. He had just sat down to eat when his dad sat down to eat returned with the midwife.

     Seeing Roy and his brothers eating, she said, “They should be outside.” Then she went over to the bed where his mother laid.

     The last of his tinned peaches had barely slid down his throat when his aunt scooped up his bowl, “Out!”

She herded him, his brothers and father over to the door. “Let us women do our work. I’ll call you after the baby arrives until then stay outside.”

     Out in the barn, they started their morning chores. Richard scooped up oats for the horses, “How long do you reckon it will be until the baby gets here?”

     Over the whiz of milk, hitting a bucket, his father said, ” It can take quite a while. Reckon it could be suppertime before we get the call.”

     Finished with the milking his father said, “Richard and Roy, you finish up the barn chores. Joe, I want you to ride over and help Milo with the fence mending. I won’t be going today.”

     He picked up the two pails of milk and headed to the house. A few minutes later he came out into the yard and began to pace.

     Roy knew little about the birthing of babies, he knew it could be dangerous. He remembered hearing the whispers of the womenfolk when Mrs. Manning had died. Mr. Manning hadn’t been able to care for the baby or their other children. He’d heard the kids were now living in Kansas with their grandparents.

   No, he refused to think that way. Hadn’t his mother already born six of them without a problem. Why should this time be different? What would become of him and his brothers without his mother? His father at 54 found keeping up with the ranch chores increasingly difficult, he’d never manage without his mother’s help, especially now that they didn’t have Sammy’s help anymore. How would any of them manage? He’d probably have to quit school and work full time around the ranch.

    Last week, his dad and uncle had ridden off to Guymon to make the final proof on their claim since the required 5 years had passed. Soon the land would be theirs. When he returned, he began talking of selling the place and moving elsewhere.

     “Too many sad memories, here now that Sammy’s gone.” He hitched his leg over his other knee, “seems like now would be a good time to sell.”

     To Roy’s surprise, his mother nodded. “Maybe you are right. Once this baby gets here and has some time to grow, I’d love to move back near my kin in Missouri. I know they’d welcome us and help you start a new teamster business. We could buy us a little farm for our personal needs.”

   When his pitchfork shoveling the hay hit the creaking barn floor Roy set it in the corner and sent over to went over to his horse’s stall.” Hey, Tango, how’s it going?”

    The horse stuck his head over the gate. His nuzzled his nose checking Roy’s shirt pocket for carrots. Finding nothing, he rested his chin on Roy’s shoulder.

     “Sorry, I have nothing for you. Maybe later,” he told the horse. He picked up a brush and combed the course dry hair of her mane.

  Roy winced when heard muffled groans coming from the house.

     “Guess you know the baby’s on its way. Sure, takes a long time, don’t it?”

     He nodded toward the doorway where Roy’s father paced. “Reckon he’s going to dig a trench if he keeps going back and forth like that. Richard’s weeding Mother’s garden, so it’s just me and you.”

     He pulled the brush through the tangles of the horse’s mane.” I think father’s worried. Heck, I’m worried, sure wish Sammy were here. He always could take my mind off bad things.”

     His stomach growled. “I had little time to eat breakfast this morning. Don’t suppose it would do me much good to complain. Too bad it isn’t later in the year. I could pluck us a carrot out of the garden or an apple from the tree.”

     A voice pierced the air. “Sam!”

     Roy hurried out of the barn in time to see his father enter the house. He crossed his fingers. Please let him reappear with good news.

     His brother Richard left the garden where he’d been weeding. “Is the baby here, is it here now,” he yelled into Roy’s ear. “Should we go in and see.”

     Roy looked at his brother’s dirt crusted hands and then his own. “I reckon we should wait a bit. Let’s go wash up at the pump. I don’t expect they’d let us in with these filthy hands.”

     Richard stared at his hands and laughed. “You’re right, mother would never let me in with muddy paws like this.”

    They went back inside the barn after they washed and practiced spinning circles with their ropes. Roy was practicing his lasso when their father entered the barn smiling from ear to ear. Roy sighed in relief. A smile that big could only mean good news.

       “It’s a girl. Mother and baby are doing just fine. Go on inside and meet your new sister, she’s a beauty.”

 He grabbed the saddle for his horse. “I’m riding out to let Milo and Joe know. Let your mother I’ll be right back.”

     Roy and Richard left the barn. In the doorway of their soddy stood the midwife. When she saw them, she called, “If it isn’t the two big brothers, come meet your new sister.”

     Roy slipped into the Soddy; his mother still laid in the bed over in the corner. She looked asleep as he and Richard tiptoed her side.

 His Mother’s eyes fluttered open. They looked tired, but the sad worn look of the past two weeks had disappeared.

      “Boys,” she motioned them to the swaddled bundle next to her, “meet your new sister. We’ve named her Lida Lenora. Isn’t she the most beautiful thing you’ve ever saw?”

      Roy looked at the tiny red, scrunched-up face above which sat a shock of dark hair. A beauty wasn’t the words he’d used to describe her, but he knew better than to say that. So he just stared at her. The baby opened her eyes. She turned her head and gazed into his, as if to say welcome. It was instant love; he knew he’d do anything to protect her as she grew up.

Chapter Two: The Life And Times Of William Roy Caple – Getting the Claim -1894

     The winter holidays passed before Roy’s dad and Uncle Will saddled up their horses and rode to Guthrie, Oklahoma. There his dad filed an intent to homestead on 160 acres in township nineteen. [i] 

     After they left, his brother Sammy said, “We have to live on that land for the next five years before we can call it ours. And we have to have a house built by May.”

     Tired of sharing his relatives cramped quarters, May, seemed like a long time to wait.

      He asked his father upon his return, “How long before we can move there?”

     His father fingered the ends of his long mustache, “Well, it’s going to be a bit. It has to warm up enough for us to cut the sod. I reckon it will be March before we get it built. There’s plenty of work for us to do in the meantime. I’ll start on the corral tomorrow.” 

     When the weather warmed enough to cut the sod, it surprised Roy how fast his dad with some help from his uncle and cousins got it built.

     Roy’s Dad had brought the boys over to see it the day he and Milo hauled in the cast-iron stove. They installed it at one end of the 18’ x 24’ room. “There,” said his dad, something to keep us warm and cook on.”

     He handed him and Joe paintbrushes, “Your mother wants all the walls whitewashed before we move in. I reckon it’s a job you two can handle.”

    The next day his mother enlisted him and Joe to help her tack the white muslin sheets to the ceiling. After she pounded in the last tack she said, “there, that should help keep the dust and bugs out.” She nodded to the trunk his dad had set in the room that morning. “Roy, go open that up.”

    She reached in and pulled out red checkered curtains. “I made these for our house in Puyallup. They will work here just as good. While I hang these, you two get the rugs out.”

      He and Joe dragged out braided rugs and laid them on the dirt floor. Then his mother pulled out a gilt covered frame. It contained the likeness of both his mother and Father on some kind of certificate. “What is that?” asked Roy.

       “It’s our marriage certificate.” Her fingers traced the outline of the photos. “My, how young we both looked, I can’t believe that was almost 17 years ago.” She hung it on the wall with the pictures of Ida and Bertle. Looking at Ida made Roy miss his sister all over again.

     The boys helped their mother make shelves out of wooden fruit boxes to hold their dishes and cookware. She designated one shelf just for her China teapot and teacups. “There,” she said, “now we are ready to bring in the furniture.”

     The two boys brought in the table they’d dragged along the trail and two chairs. The rest of them would make do sitting on wooden boxes until they could get proper seats.

     In the corner along one wall they set the bedframe for their parent’s feather bed and the trundle his father had constructed for him, Richard, and Joe to sleep on. Sammy and Milo would sleep on palettes on the floor until they could build a bunkhouse.

     On March 20th, 1894, the family moved into the soddy. His father took out a new ledger, dipped his pen in an inkwell and wrote the date down. “We’ll need to this to prove our claim in five years.”

     While his mother was busy making the inside cozy and homey, he and Joe set to digging her a garden patch, while his dad, Sammy and Milo worked from dawn to dusk getting the fields plowed and planted with crops of corn and wheat.

      Since wood was scarce. Roy and Richard often searched for dried cow chips, which they burned along with corn cobs for fuel.

     Roy learned to put up with bugs, mice and snakes that burrowed through their walls and ceiling. Once while eating at his cousins Jennie’s house, she pointed to the ceiling. “Always look up before you eat. One time we had a snake fall on our dinner.”

    After that, Roy checked the ceiling before he sat at the table. He also learned to never stick his feet onto the floor in the morning without checking to make sure the area was snake free. Some of those snakes were poisonous.

     At first they had to haul their water from his uncle’s place. No matter how careful, the barrels always seemed close to dry. His father had to make several trips a week after it. Roy liked to ride along to help. His aunt was a superb cook, she always had something tasty he could eat, and he enjoyed talking to Jennie. For a girl, she was full of interesting stories.

    Bit by bit the family added on to the homestead, first a bunkhouse, then a hen house for his mother to raise laying hens. They obtained more cattle and horses. After 5 years they’d planted an orchard of 150 trees and two thousand shade trees, fenced 140 acres and cultivated sixty-five acres. [1] His brother Milo took up a claim adjoining his father’s and Sammy had plans of adding to the family’s’ holdings as soon as he turned twenty-one.

     Roy spent more time working on the ranch than going to school. He doubted he’d ever get enough school to graduate from the eighth grade. But that didn’t stop him from learning. Whenever they had a spare dime to spend, his parents bought him books to read and study on his own. He’d also learned to lasso a steer, dig postholes, mend fence, plant, and harvest crops, ride a horse and anyone, and build most anything one needed. Still, he cherished the moments he could read and study the most.


 


 

Author’s Notes:

The info for their homestead claim comes from the actual claim when it was proved.

At time homesteaders in this area were instructed to plant trees which is why they planted 2000 trees.  The scientific thought of the time was if trees were planted the rains would come. 

Prologue

    My grandfather William Roy Caple was born on August 8th, 1885, somewhere near Dodge city, Kansas at his family’s homestead. His parents were Samuel Hugh Caple Senior and Margaret Melinda Ragsdale Caple. He joined five older siblings, including two half siblings, Minnie born in 1867, and Milo born in 1874. And full siblings, Samuel Jr. born in 1878, Ida born in 1880, and Joseph born in 1883.

     Margaret was Samuel’s second wife. His first wife, Polly Sumpter died in 1876 in Monroe Iowa. Leaving Samuel with two young children to raise.

     How he came to know and marry Margaret is unknown. The couple married on September 16, 1877, at her family home in Brookline, Missouri. They are living in Osborn County, Kansas in the 1880 census. Soon after newspaper snippets place them on a homestead four miles North of Dodge city, Kansas. His father appears to have been running a freighting business in addition to having homestead land.

     Around 1887 the family headed west by covered wagon. My grandfather said his dad always thought the grass was greener elsewhere. From family records we know they lived a brief time in Weston, Oregon, and Cheney, and Spokane WA.

     Around 1891 they moved to Puyallup, WA. When a world depression hit and blight severely damaged  the local hop crops the family moved again in 1892 to Multnomah, Oregon where is father found work building a stone house.

    A  bit later they moved once again. Wintering in either Eastern Oregon or over the border in Idaho. My grandfather recalled how destitute the family was at that time and how they would not have survived that winter had they not been able to live on a farm they found. The owner had a jail sentence to serve and needed someone to take care of his property for the winter. They lived off the food found  on his farm.

     After staying there, they continued on their journey to Oklahoma where Samuels’ older brother William was homesteading.

    I have chosen to begin my story as my grandfather’s family enters the state of Oklahoma.

    You will find that I use the name Roy in my writing instead of my grandfather’s first name. Apparently when he was quite young his father and uncle had some kind of disagreement. From then on, he went by the name Roy, except on legal documents. For this reason he never wanted anyone named after him. He said every child deserved a name all their own.

LETTERS TO MONA – Part 54 – The end- 1916 – 1917

So ends the Letters to Mona. The last letter written was by my Grandfather in September of 1915. There is one additional letter written by Roy to this Mother in Puyallup from Belle Fourche.

Both my Dad and Aunt said that after sending letters back and forth for 3 years Grandpa Roy decided he would move to the Black Hills. From these last letters written it appears Mae’s family moved to Belle Fourche sometime in September of 1915.

I know little of what they did in the next 2 years. It is reasonable to assume Roy went there after the logging season closed down in WA at the end of 1915. His last letters mention several logging operations had shut down in the area and the pay was less than it had been, all factors that may have influenced his decision to relocate to the Black Hills. The letter written below tells us he was logging out of Spearfish, SD when it was written.

If the year is correct he would have started logging soon after his arrival.  But I question the year. He writes of the shack on his old logging partner Gus’ property, now in his possession and suggests his brother can live there. My Aunt Iva said Gus was killed by a “widow maker” and left his estate to my Grandfather. The problem is the letter is dated January 28th, 1916 and Gus did not die until some 10 months later. His death certificate gave his death date as Oct. 7, 1916. The cause of death a crushed skull and broken neck which fits with my Aunt’s story. Furthermore the informant on the death certificate is Roy’s mother, not Roy. The death certificate states no birthdate known, birthplace as Sweden, and no known family. For this reason I think the true date of the letter was January of 1917. It would be easy to put the wrong year on something written in January.

He also wrote of his sister’s photo in a way that suggests it had been more than a month or two since he had last seen her. The letter is below:

———————————————————————————————————————

Belle Fourche S.D.
Jan. 28th, 1916 (Author note: or is this 1917?)

Dear Mother and Sister.


Well here I am once again. Wondering how you are both getting along to day just fine tho I hope. I am well as usual and haven’t froze to death yet in fact have never suffered from the cold at all tho last Monday was nearly forty below. We didn’t know it was so cold to afterwards tho, so it didn’t bother us any. It has warmed up since then tho and is quite nice now. Has been thawing quite a bit the last two days. I would rather work in the timber here when it is cold than when it is thawing as it is drier underfoot and don’t feel the cold when you are working.


I am in Belle Fourche today as you will notice from the address. I came down yesterday to try to get the man we are working for to give us better pay.

The timber here is so poor that we couldn’t make so very good wages at the price he was paying. I don’t know whether he will give us anymore or not we may keep on cutting anyway for there is no other work here at present except in the mines. I am going to get him to pay us a little more tho if it is possible. We are able to cut only about five thousand per day and that is hardly enough. We could do better than that if it weren’t for so much rotten timber and is so small also. It is much smaller than any I ever worked in before and it counts up slow.


I got your last letter last Mond. and was glad that you were both feeling so much better and hope you will continue to improve in the future. The Philips folks are all about as usual Mae has gotten over her grippey spell so feel better than she did.

I got your pictures Sis and think it is real good. I can’t see as you have changed very much in the last year, except perhaps you are a wee bit fleshier. Guess You don’t weigh much if anymore than when I was last there.

So Joe and Dad had a bust it. Well I have been looking for that for some time now so was not surprised to hear it. I think it will be much better if Joe or Rich either would never try to work for him anymore for it never ends satisfactorily and they ought to know it by now. They ought to work for some one else and one would do better by them and Dad will do better by any one else than them. In my opinion he did the most foolish thing he ever did when he bought that truck, if he had been a young man it would have been different but for a man of his age to buy himself into a lot of trouble like that is very foolish. If he had managed right he could have lived in ease and comfort the rest of his life but the way he has managed he is liable to lose all he has got. I guess tho that it will make very little difference tho as he would never use what he had in the right way anyway.

What is Joe going to do now? If he has no other place to live he might go out and live in the shack Gus built on his place. I don’t know what kind of a house he built but suppose it is good enough for a makeshift and as it is near the car line Joe could work in town. I would much rather he would live there than have it unoccupied, as some one is liable to burn it up. If he was living there he could look after it and this summer he could clean up a little of land and raise some garden. I believe that Gus said there was an acre or so that didn’t need much work to put in cultivation. I don’t know about it myself as I have never seen it tho I have been over the ground in that section of the country so I have some Idea as to what it is like.

Well I guess this all for now. You better write me next time at Belle Fourche as I might not be at Spearfish then. Write soon and often bye-by.

Roy

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When my Grandfather visited when I was a kid he sometimes reminisced about the days when he worked in the Homestead Gold Mine in Lead South Dakota. The Lead newspaper shows him on the “Disbursements Aid Fund” lists during the months of February and April of 1916. He received 5$ for sickness both times. And then again in May for an injury. These lists were long with over 100 names listed each month. While most names indicated either illness or injuries there were also a few deaths and suicides on each list. Mining work was dangerous and my Grandfather sounded as though he did not like the work.

There is also a brief mention in the Wyoming newspaper for January of 1916 for Mae’s father. The paper states that he moved into his cellar after his house burnt down in Donald, Wyoming and then shortly afterwards while he was away overnight his cellar burnt down too, so if he was going to stay on the ranch he’d have to camp out. The 1920 census has him living in Belle Fourche with his wife and younger children Daniel and Hazel. He is working as a teamster and she is the keeper of a boarding house. They have 3 boarders and they are renters not the homeowner. Daniel is listed as still going to school and Hazel as not working. Perhaps that is the boarding house Roy inquires if they are moving to in one of his last letters written in 1915.

On August 1, of 1917 Roy and Mae finally married. Their marriage certificate states he was a resident of Lead and she of Belle Fourche.  The two towns are about 35 miles apart. They were married in Belle Fourche by a Congregational minister. Her sister Hazel and a Louis Mason were witnesses. She wore a dress of white or a pale color, long elbow white gloves and carried a bouquet of roses. I’d like to think they were surrounded by family and friends on that day with a celebration dinner held later at the boarding house. I wonder did they own a car by then or did they set off for their new home in Lead by horse and buggy?

Roy’s name shows up on the Disbursement list aid fund again in June, July, and August of 1917 in Lead for injury with payment of 4$ and 5$ for each of the months. I am assuming they made their first home in Lead as another newspaper clip of April 1918 states Mr. and Mrs. W. R. Caple of Lead were visiting the Marchant’s. It also noted that Mrs. Marchant was the aunt of Mrs. Caple.  Perhaps they had visited to say good-bye as by September of the same year they lived with Roy’s parent in Puyallup, WA.  At the time he worked as a wheelwright for a shipyard in Tacoma.

From his father they purchased the lot next door to their house and Roy began to build his bride her dream home. Though not finished it was livable by the time they welcomed their first child, Iva Mae into the world on Dec. 17, 1918. 

While this is the end of THE LETTERS TO Mona, stay tuned, this isn’t the last you will hear of them. Next I am taking on the task of writing my grandfather’s life, the courtship years were only a fraction of his long life.

A poem that was enclosed in one of Mae’s last letters

When in my grave I lonely sleep.

And the weeping willows over me leaps,

It is then dear friend and not before

That I shall think of us no more.

Your true Friend 25.19.7 (Which translates to Mae)

Friendship is a golden knot

Tied by a loving angel’s hand.