Oklahoma! | John Raitt and Florence Henderson
January 5, 1995
Dear Mother and Dad:
We had a heavy snow last night, and I am one of the few faculty in this building this morning. I am proud to be a Visiting Professor at the University of New Mexico, and I know I wouldn't be here except for the values you inculcated throughout my life. I am keenly aware that I owe much of my career and good fortune to your guidance, to your values, as well as the sound advice, continuing support, and constant love I have received for the past 45 years from my wife Nedra. And, of course, I owe my genes entirely to you!
Mother, you left us on February 1, 1990 at age 88, but the memory of you is with me many times daily. I never did say a proper farewell to you, and I regret it. I had no guidelines or experience to deal with the terminal illness and death of my mother and my father. I did tell you that we all loved you and appreciated everything you ever did for all of us, and you simply said, "I love you, too." But that brief exchange wasn't nearly enough to say about your lifetime of love and concern for your family. I know it's too late now, but I should have expressed myself better, and shown appreciation for your lifetime of love for your family, and conveyed much more about my lifelong good fortune in having you as my mother. The day before you passed away, our verbal exchange was limited to your concern about me being able to locate all your financial and property records. You said, "I worry about the records." Well, it did take a lot of time to piece all your records together and determine the status of your estate. Your records were in various places. I know that all your hard work and self-denial devoted to building a sizable estate were for your two sons --- my brother Ladd and me --- because you never chose to enjoy the fruits of your success. Your enjoyment was in the pursuit of success, rather than the fruits of your financial success. I know that your family was your lifelong concern and priority. You passed away before my brother Ladd, who died prematurely at age 66 on October 16, 1991 (my birthday) from emphysema caused by the insidious, toxic effects of tobacco. I had repeatedly admonished him to stop smoking as far back as the late 1950's. But tobacco creates a fatal addiction, resulting in slow suicide.
Dad, you left us on October 25, 1992 at age 91. As with Mother, I wish we had had a better farewell. I did see you almost daily following Mother's death, so we certainly visited a lot. But we avoided the subject of good-byes until we ran out of tomorrows. You had suddenly become comatose and unable to communicate when I last saw you. I told you I had to leave town for a few days to do some consulting work at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, but I doubt that you understood me. Shortly after I arrived in Knoxville, I called home and Nedra said you had passed away that afternoon. You had never recovered from the anguish of Mother's death, and subsequently from the trauma of losing Ladd. Ladd and I always knew we had a real man for a father; a father who was a role model for his sons; a father we were proud of and bragged about; a father who cared; a father who would do anything for his family.
The older I get, the more I am aware that most of my traits were acquired from the two of you. I am proud of this fact. When I was younger, I did not fully appreciate this.
As I left home to follow my own trail in life, I forgot some of the wonders of my younger years at home and the importance of your love, support and family roots. Developing this document has helped me re-live and better remember the wonderful and happy days when we were all younger, and enjoyed traditional family values.
Developing this document has been a rewarding labor of love. Dad, shortly after your death, I started this as a short tribute to you. The minister asked permission to read the tribute at your memorial services, and a few copies were distributed to friends and relatives. A later version included remembrances of you and Mother, was distributed to relatives and friends. Several people requested that I significantly enlarge the document and reorganize some of the material.
Following your deaths, I realized that I wanted to remember and know more about you. This is always the case following the deaths of loved ones. And we always wish we could have done more. We think of the things we wish we had done or said to make a life happier or easier. Developing this manuscript has helped me to better understand you, your uniqueness, your successes and your contributions, as well as your failures.
Fortunately, I have been able to draw on some of your letters and other documents, as well as my memory, for much of the content. Many of the letters were addressed to my brother Ladd, (March 9, 1925 - October 16, 1991), as they were written during World War II when Ladd had joined the Navy about 18 months before I enlisted. Many more letters exist, so I found it necessary to be selective in quoting parts of your letters.
Whenever any member of your family was away from home for any extended period, letters were exchanged almost daily. While Ladd and I were serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, at least 2,500 letters were exchanged among the four members of our family. These not only detail routine experiences, but more importantly, they deal with all our hopes, dreams, and aspirations.
This manuscript will be distributed to your survivors so that they too will have a sense of family roots, family support, family history, family love, and family identity; and so that they may continue to love, honor, respect, remember and understand An American Family: Not Merely a Couple with Children.
I will always love you!
An American Family: Not Merely a Couple with Children
Larry J. Gordon
My Father, Andrew Jackson Gordon, Jr.
On a cold, windy day in March, 1901, there was considerable hushed excitement about a little half dug-out which was located more than thirty miles from the nearest habitation on the wind swept prairies of western Oklahoma Indian Nation. A very anxious man, dressed as the average cow puncher of that time, stood in front of the dug-out scanning the horizon for sign of a coming horseman. On the inside of the dugout, an expectant mother was lying on a bed, attended by two Indian women of the Caddo Tribe.
Finally dust rose in the distance, and in a few moments, two horsemen could be distinguished. One was a lean, wiry man riding a big red-roan horse white with lather from traveling more than fifty miles in less than four hours. The other horseman was an Indian who had been sent post haste several hours before to Fort Sill, for the only physician in the area. Pulling his horse to a sliding halt, the doctor dropped his reins and hastened into the dugout. In a short time, I was ushered into this world with lusty cries.
My parents were very proud of their first-born son, and I was christened after my father, Andrew Jackson Gordon, Sr. My mother was the former Blanche Thomas. My father and mother were of pioneer stock, which had originally immigrated to America from England, Scotland and Ireland. My mother was born in Texas and had been reared in a mission school near Anadarko, Oklahoma Indian Nation. The school had been established by the Presbyterian Missionary Society for Indian and white children whose parents found it necessary to place them there for education. My father was reared in Texas, and like most young men without education of that time, had followed the only vocation open to him ----- range riding. At the time of my birth he was managing his ranch, the Diamond A. He was also Deputy United States Marshall in the Kiowa-Comanche territory that was to be opened to settlement by the whites in August 1901.
In 1907, the railroad built west to Mountain View where we lived at that time. I well remember the prevailing conditions. Trail herds of cattle comprising from small groups to ten and often twenty thousand head would wind their way through to our town and the end of the railroad, to be shipped to northern markets. After these herds arrived, the town would be filled with noisy cowboys, and I remember many instances of "shooting up the town" by rowdy punchers who had imbibed a few drinks too many. It was my father's responsibility to uphold law and order in town, as he was at that date the only commissioned peace officer in western Oklahoma.
During the first ten years of my life, one brother and three sisters had arrived to fill places in our family. The days of my childhood passed happily. Each succeeding year found me attending school during the winter months, while each summer vacation brought the jolliest rounds of duties and pleasures. I was allowed a pony when I attained my eighth birthday, and each summer we moved out to the ranch, where we children would "work off" some of our surplus energy doing many helpful little tasks.
The beginning of the World War I found me able to ride range for my father, and to help farm the feed crops he raised each year. I would have graduated from high school in May 1918, but the patriotic spirit got the best of me and I enlisted in the United States Navy on April 17, 1918. Later, I was given an honorary diploma from the Mountain View High School.
I found life in the Navy thrilling. I had enlisted as a ship's cook because I had experience cooking in cow camps and there was a shortage of cooks in the Navy. I had been in the Naval Training Station at Algiers, Louisiana, only two weeks when I was ordered to report for duty aboard the gunboat "Comanche" which had come up the Mississippi for part of a new crew. In less than three weeks we had made port at Bordeaux, France. Before the end of the war, I had glimpses of Cuba, Mexico, Central America and France.
I will never forget November 11, 1918. Our ship had docked at La Havre, France. I heard a sailor yelling at the top of his voice, "It's all over!" I stepped out of the galley and asked him what the **##??? was all over, and to my surprise, he told me to listen to the Frenchmen celebrating the close of the war. Our ship returned to the United States on December 24, and I was released from active duty February 14, 1919.
After being discharged from the Navy, I went home. I had expected to work for my father, but found that he had sold the old ranch place as farms, and farmers who had gone crazy over high prices of wheat had rapidly plowed it. I had no special training for earning a livelihood, so I had to do the only work that I knew. I did range work, broke horses and competed in rodeo contests for almost three years.
In the fall of 1921, I contracted with Carr and Driggers of Chichasha, Oklahoma, to break their broncs on their 71 Ranch in the Wichita Mountains, near Saddle Mountain.
I had never been much of a ladies' man, but the local schoolteacher, Miss Dewey Lee Stewart, soon had me terribly "wrought up" and trying to compose poetry. We gradually became better acquainted, and one day shortly after I had acquired a badly broken leg caused by a horse falling on me, I got around to the subject that was uppermost in my mind. I told Miss Stewart how badly I wanted to marry her. To this she replied that she liked me, but would not consider marrying me, as I was not earning enough to support a wife. I began thinking seriously of how little I was earning and later, after talking the situation over with Miss Stewart, she consented to marry me some day, provided I quit breaking horses and returned to school.
The following fall, when the long term opened at Oklahoma University, I enrolled in the regular freshman course.
College life was almost grievous. I had become so accustomed to living and working outdoors that the four walls of a classroom seemed to stifle me. My skull was non-absorbent, and my brain resembled a sieve. I suffered such throes of love sickness that my temperature seemed to increase.
When the Christmas holidays rolled around, I hastily dropped books, inkhorn, etc., and rushed madly away to Dundee, Oklahoma where "she" was teaching in the largest rural consolidated school in Oklahoma. We entered the Holy bonds of matrimony on Christmas Day, 1922. Mrs. Gordon resigned her position in the Dundee school and returned with me to the university city of Norman. At the opening of the spring term, we both enrolled in the University and continued our studies there until the end of the summer term.
We then located a school at Arlington, Colorado. The school was in need of a Superintendent and intermediate grade teacher. Upon applying for the positions, we received contracts to sign. The total salaries were $2,385.00. With my wife's advice and coaching, I made a wonderful success of my work as a teacher, much to the surprise of friends who thought a cowpuncher was unable to do anything but ride a horse until becoming so bowlegged that he could not catch a grown hog between his knees.
In May 1924, we returned to Oklahoma and purchased the old MK ranch in Comanche County, with a small down payment and the balance to be paid in yearly installments. Our ranch included 1,280 acres of grass and farmland, and we were allowed a grazing permit on the Wichita National Forest adjoining our land. I also became a Ranger for the Forest Service, and in that capacity worked for the Government and also managed our ranch. Payments were met promptly and the deal went smoothly for two years.
In the spring of the second year of our residence on the ranch, a tiny son, "Laddie Boy", was born to us on March 9, 1925. I spent several hours each day trying to teach him a few cowboy yells. He was a smiling toddler when financial reverses overtook us. I had dealt for three hundred head of Mexico cattle. Deflation of cattle and land prices sunk us. We lost the cattle and our equity in the ranch.
Life assumed a gloomy aspect for a time. But on October 16, 1926, our second son, Larry, arrived to cheer us. He was in possession of a goodly number of cowboy yells, ---- inherited, no doubt.
The beginning of a new year found us living near McGaffey, New Mexico, where Mrs. Gordon and I taught at the Page School. We lived in the teacherage a short distance from the two-room school. Additionally, I worked as a Brand Inspector for the New Mexico State Brand Association.
Andrew J. Gordon, Jr.
The foregoing excerpt from a short autobiography my father, Andrew Jackson Gordon, Jr., wrote as a term paper while attending Texas Tech University in 1931, provides some insight regarding his early years. Dad wrote well, and he also had the ability to embellish his stories, including the foregoing, to make them more interesting. Dad always earned excellent grades on his papers. It is reputed that his English professor at the University of Oklahoma used some of Dad's ideas for his own publications.
My father lived an interesting life as a cowboy, Navy veteran of World War I, rancher, farmer, school teacher and principal, brand inspector, forest ranger, conservationist with several federal agencies, New Mexico Boys Ranch Father and Ranch Manager (my mother was Ranch Mother), farmer and rancher, and property owner and manager. His avocations included trick roping, fly fishing; hunting; and, most interestingly for him, water witching --- the art of rhabdomancy. He successfully located hundreds of water wells for farmers and ranchers throughout the arid southwest, often after geologists and others had failed. Only in his later years did he even bother to accept expenses for his efforts. He enjoyed the hobby!
Later in life, Dad wrote:
I learned how to use water witching techniques, called by some dowsing, at age 6 or 7, from an old man whose name was Tom Jordan. He was better known as Slough Foot Jordan. I well recall when the Kiowa-Comanche part of Oklahoma was just beginning to settle with homesteaders, when one day a wagon, pulled by two sore-necked horses, pulled into Mountain View. It was summer time and I, as a kid, had to take notice of the newcomers. Particular interest was noted of the wagon sheet over the wagon bows on which was painted "Water witching, $5.00". In this wagon, beside the bewhiskered man wearing brogan shoes, patched homespun, tight-legged breeches held up by one gallus, was a fairly nice looking plump woman whose face peered from under a calico sunbonnet. There was one boy, heavy set and ornery looking, and his sister 2 or 3 years senior to the boy.
The man asked of the local hanger around kids where the Marshall's office was. Feeling important, I replied that the U.S. Marshall was my papa, and pointed to a small office down the street. The sign and the office said "A.J. Gordon, Marshall, Ice and Dray." I tagged along just wondering how soon the newcomer would be locked up. Well, he wasn't immediately locked up. He informed my dad that he was from Tennessee and that he had driven all the way to file on a homestead. My dad told him that homesteading was no good and that if he wanted to stay he had better camp at a wagon yard and look for local work. My dad saw the witching sign on the wagon and stated he didn't believe in such damned idiocy.
This was at the time when Mountain View was planning a water system and had drilled several dry holes in the heavy red hardpan with little success, using horse power to turn the well rig.
School soon started and I had already matched several nose flatteners with the Jordan boy, but one day he told me that his paw, old Slough Foot, was going to witch a well and guarantee plenty of water for the town that afternoon. This I had to see! Well, a lot of others had to see too, so we went to the wagon yard where old Slough Foot was sitting on the wagon tongue trimming on a hackberry forked limb about 2 feet long. He finally stated he was ready, so the crowd followed, some with doubts, others with apprehension. He sent north, past the dry holes, studying the lay of the land, finally mumbled that here was a likely looking place. He struck the ground three times with the forked limb. Why, I couldn't discern. He then lovingly placed the forked limb, one fork in each hand, raised it high and a peculiar light shone in old Slough Foot's eyes. He lowered the stick to waist level and held it in front of his gaunt body. He couldn't hold that fork! It kept bouncing. He tried to hold it still to no avail. Believe it or not, the skin from the old man's hands was pulled loose (This was to happen to me many times in the years to come). Well, anyway, he said "Drill right here", and placed a pile of cow chips to mark the right spot. It did develop that the town fathers did drill the well, found plenty of water, and paid Slough Foot $25.00. They erected the first water tower, and I decided to be famous as a water witch. The forked stick would, and did, work for me too.
That Jordan boy and I had lots of fist fights, mainly because he would kick at my pet coyote. Slough Foot witched or hung paper in houses and was often put in jail for rustling --- usually a calf or pig to feed his hungry family.
But I owe debt of gratitude to Slough Foot, as I became a full-fledged witch.
In the summer of '71, Dewey Lee and I stopped in Mountain View to visit boy-hood brothers named Kalb who owned the First National Bank, which their dad started in 1902. We had quite a reminiscing of days gone by. One of them referred to the Jordan boy with whom I had so many fights. He said that in 1926, the poor devil had been working in the oil fields in Texas, finally came back leading a mule. It developed that the mule had a Texas owner and the Jordan boy was taken back to Texas and jailed for mule theft. Old Slough Foot just stole for food, but the boy didn't eat the mule.
As I continued to grow up, there were more people moving to the new country and, as a result, there was a corresponding need for farm and ranch water. I often rode horseback to witch a well for some fellow who had spent his last dollar on a dry hole. Before I went to the Navy in War I, I had become a pretty good cowpuncher and bronc rider and, often on weekends or after school, I would be called upon to locate an underground stream of water for someone. Often I would locate several locations for wells on one trip. Seldom was I paid but, at least, I made a lot of acquaintances.
After we moved to New Mexico in 1928 to teach school, I continued weekend excursions as a witch, and my reputation as a witch grew. I had studied enough geology in school that I knew where underground water should be, so that I saved a lot of time bypassing non-productive spots. I continued this while I was a Forest Ranger and a U.S Conservationist, during which time I probably witched 1,000 wells in New Mexico and Arizona, as I worked primarily with ranchers. I resigned in 1945; we began the New Mexico Boy's Ranch and later developed our land at La Joya. There I witched our two excellent irrigation wells and, as a result, I was frequently called upon to locate irrigation wells for others. Later, I joined the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and then transferred to the Bureau of Land Management, and later to the Corps of Engineers. I continued to enjoy locating water throughout the southwest.
(Many scientists commonly deride Water witching, also known as water dowsing or the art of rhabdomancy. However, in 1995, a German physicist confirmed that water witching works! Reporting on a 10-year German government study of dowsing in arid regions, Hans-Deiter Betz of the University of Munich wrote, "it works, but we have no idea of how or why.")
While young, life was not always smooth for Dad and his family. While Dad was in the Navy in 1918, his older sister Mary wrote:
June 14, 1918
Dear Brother -...
.... Mother has sued for a divorce...You wrote a letter saying you were sending some money. It was sent to Mr. or Mrs. Gordon. Mamma opened it and there was no money in it. She just supposed you were sending it to the bank. She gave the letter to Papa and he accused her of stealing it. Then the little thing began. He gave her a black eye and she fell, he jumped on her and stomped her.... they got some papers filled out and the Justice of the Peace came and got him. Then Papa came back and said they wouldn't do anything with him. He then cursed and fitted around about her having him arrested. She told him if he didn't hush that she would shoot him (they were out doors at this stage of the act). She went in the house and got the shotgun. He reached in his pocket and pulled out his .45 wrapped in a handkerchief and ordered her to drop the gun. Uncle said ‘For God's sake, drop it’, and she did. The next morning the, 13th, she went to Watonga and had him arrested and sued for a divorce. Mamma came to town Tuesday and got another letter from you. It had the money in it and she banked it to her name....
If you go over there, hope you get a Kaiser!
From way out west where the hop toads wink,
He was six feet two in his stocking feet,
And kept getting thinner the more he'd eat.
Goodbye, Ma, Goodbye Pa
Goodbye mule with the old hee-haw.
I may not know what the war's about,
But you bet by gosh, I'll soon find out.
But he was brave as he was thin,
When the war broke out he got right in.
Unhitched the mule, put the plow away,
And then the old folks heard him say:
And, oh! my sweetheart don't you fear,
I'll bring you a King for a souvenir
I'll get you a Turk and a Kaiser, too,
And that's about all one fellow can do.
If all the soldiers and sailors wanted to come home, the darned Germans would get over here. So stick to it brother and help bring it to an end that I hope will be soon, because Mother will need you.
With Lots of Love,
One of Dad's first jobs when he was young and before attending college was with the U.S. Forest Service on the Wichita National Forest near Cache, Oklahoma. The Forest Supervisor wrote:
Mr. Andrew J. Gordon
Your letter of March 3 is received.
From the description you have given of yourself, I believe I can give you work as soon as you can get down here. However, I can only give you work by the day at $3.00 per day and you will have to board and sleep yourself. A house is furnished for you to live in. The nature of the work is building houses, fences and roads.
I will always remember Dad holding me in front of him in the saddle to teach me to ride shortly after I was able to walk.
I will always remember Dad teaching me to handle a rifle as soon as I was able to hold the gun to my shoulder.
I will always remember Dad wearing western boots, and his pride in his +A (Cross A Bar) brand stitched prominently on the front of his boot tops.
I will always remember Dad running beside me while helping me learn how to ride a bicycle when he was U.S. Forest Ranger on the Tijeras Ranger District near Albuquerque.
I will always remember hunting with Dad and admiring his accuracy with his L.C. Smith double barrel 12-gauge shotgun as a covey of quail flushed from a nearby mesquite bush.
I will always remember Dad trick roping from the ground or on horseback. He could jump through or over the large loops of his own constantly swirling rope, or would tell my brother Ladd and I to run by him and "beller like a calf" as he playfully threw a loop around one or both of us. I doubt that Will Rogers had anything on Dad when it cam to trick roping!
I will always remember Dad shoeing neighbors' horses, or castrating their livestock without any thought of recompense.
I will always remember Dad grabbing a camp stove that had caught fire in our tent and tearing through the tent's canvas side with the burning stove in his hands.
I will always remember Dad sleeping in his bedroll and cooking over an open fire (usually fueled by "buffalo chips") in order to save his per diem while working and traveling for the government.
I will always remember Dad teaching me the concept of "carrying capacity." As we hunted or fished, he also identified the various range plant species, noted their palatability ratings, and mentally converted these into a statement of "x" head of cattle or "y" head of sheep carrying capacity for a given area. In this manner, he taught me that every animal species, including the human animal, must live in harmony with its environment in order to survive and prosper on a long-term basis. Dad also taught me the concept of "home range", or the space required by every animal to prevent violence within its own species.
I will always remember Dad breaking his leg while attempting single-handedly to stay a flood that ravaged much of their Amber Acres farmland near La Joya.
I will always remember Dad becoming unconscious from the effects of carbon monoxide working on a pump motor in an irrigation well-pit by himself. A cowboy happened to come by and pull him out with a rope.
I will always remember the glint of the sun on Dad's silver-mounted 44/40
Smith and Wesson Peacemaker as it suddenly appeared from under his shirt when a malcontent itinerant farm laborer threatened me with a pitchfork. That individual was never seen around there again! Dad always termed his single-action pistol his "resolver".
I will always remember Dad's enthusiasm upon receiving another request to "witch" a well.
I will always remember Dad enjoying every position he ever held. He should not have retired in 1969, as his job was his primary interest.
I will always remember Dad having a wide ranging knowledge of history and geography, and his pertinent comments and questions regarding any area any of his family might visit.
I will always remember Dad invariably asking how he could help others or me even after he was too feeble to walk without assistance.
I will always remember Dad inquiring about his grandchildren and great grandchildren every time I would visit him at the retirement center. He always asked about every family member, and continued to want to be helpful and supportive in any way possible.
I will always remember Dad being good natured, exhibiting good manners, and expressing appreciation for help and visits right up until the end of his life.
Dad had so many interesting and varied experiences and could write in such an interesting manner, that we always encouraged him to write articles and books. But the years went by, and the writing became increasingly impossible. A wealth of knowledge, love, and good advice went with him when he passed away.
In his own words, from a letter he had written almost fifty years earlier on May 6, 1945, Dad
"--- took the long ride over the sunset trail, and galloped into the land of the waving blue grama and unbranded calves"
on October 25, 1992.
Following Dad's death, his cousin Mary Coker Daly wrote, in part:
The first time I remember seeing your dad, I was a very small child when a handsome young man rode to our place on a beautiful horse. My mother was so excited to see her nephew and she told me, ‘This is your cousin Andrew’.
Another cousin, Zuleika Coker Cullers, wrote:
Andrew came to see us once on the farm when I was a little girl and I remember what a handsome young man he was. He looked so much like his father, Andrew. You have certainly had a family to be proud of.
Stanley Fish, Dad's friend and long-time associate wrote:
Andy and I became friends somewhere around 1935. He was my supervisor in the Soil Conservation Service in Las Cruces from 1937-39. We had many good times together, and he encouraged me on many occasions. You and Ladd were fortunate to have had such good parents, and they were always proud (rightfully so) of both of you.
Dad's cousin Homer Halverson wrote:
...Andrew certainly never let moss grow under his feet. Just recently, he remarked to me about what a wonderful life he had had.
Sarah Kotchian, a friend of mine, wrote:
He was a very special and original person from all you have told me about him, one of the last of the early pioneers in the state - I have mental pictures of him tromping over miles of forest and range land teaching you things, and of your parents teaching in the out of the way places. They gave you so many things - values, ethics, good genes, independence, perseverance - what a legacy to the family and the state. As you say, we celebrate 91 years of life and love of the natural world.
My Mother, Dewey Lee Stewart Gordon
My mother, the former Dewey Lee Stewart, was born September 5, 1901 in Oklahoma Indian Nation. Her name was a contraction of those of Admiral Dewey and General Lee. Her parents, the former Birdie Little and Thomas Bailey Stewart, were Oklahoma farmers. Like the Gordons, the Stewarts were primarily of English and Scottish ancestry, and were born in Texas. All of Mother and Dad’s ancestors were “Founding Citizens” who had been in America prior to the Revolution. Three were members of the Jamestown Colony, the oldest continuous English colony in America; five were on the Mayflower and were residents of the Plymouth Colony.
Mother’s father, T.B. Stewart had managed to obtain an education through some two years of college, which was unusual for that time and place.
The Stewarts and their three daughters Adelia, Dewey Lee and Grace moved by covered wagon to New Mexico Territory in 1908, and homesteaded near San Jon in eastern New Mexico. Finding it impossible to survive on the arid prairie homestead, they soon returned to Oklahoma.
In 1990, my Aunt Adelia Stewart wrote:
-----Dewey had first been taken to New Mexico as a 2-month old baby in 1901. Grandma Stewart leased land about one mile east of what is now a town (Portales), but was then a very small trading post on a railroad. Grandfather had a lot of cattle. He and Papa (Dewey's father) drove the cattle through and built a two-story house. When things were ready, Grandmother Stewart, Mama (Adelia's mother) and I and baby Dewey went there on the train. I have forgotten about train connections, but for some reason we had to spend a night in a hotel near the train station. The room partitions were made of 1 X 12" boards and the occupants of one room could see the happenings of those in the adjoining room. Every room had a pot-bellied stove for heating. In the adjoining room to us were 2 men and 2 women and several other men. The men were gambling and drinking. Just as we were about to go to sleep, the law officers broke into the other room to arrest the men. The men resisted, the officers beat them with Billy Clubs, the two women cried, "Oh, please stop, you are killing them." In the melee the stove was tipped over and hot coals spilled onto the floor of that room. The officers handcuffed the men, set the stove up right, put the coals back in the stove and left with the men. But Mama and grandmother had re-dressed all of us and were ready to take flight when the hotel manager came in and assured all of us that all would be well. So we managed to get some sleep before we boarded a train to finish the journey.
When I was teaching in Hope, NM (in the 1950's) I drove to Portales and grandpa's house was yet there on the east side full of hay bales.
We were all there when an attorney from Henderson County, Texas came to buy grandmother's inheritance from Champion Choate's land. The attorney convinced grandpa that the land was worth only $25.00. So a deed was made to the attorney. Several years later, the heirs learned that oil wells were on the land at the time of sale. The heirs sued, but the court decided in favor of the attorney. There go riches.
Just because we have all lost Dewey, my last sister, please don't forget me. I love all of you. I'm awfully lonely now, and not young. Excuse my writing. I realize it is failing just as my health is. I know so much interesting about early times.
Aunt Adelia Sallee
Mother was an excellent student, but frequently had to miss school in order to perform necessary farm work, including chopping and picking cotton. She did not graduate from high school, but took college entrance exams and passed with flying colors so that she could enter Oklahoma State Teachers College with advanced standing.
Mother's childhood work and deprivations shaped her character and life. She thirsted for knowledge, was inordinately ambitious and imbued with the zeal to work hard and succeed even if it required self-deprivation. Mother literally "pulled herself up by her own bootstraps" throughout her life, and believed that adversity created strength of character. Throughout her life, her efforts and interests were focused on the well being of her family. She firmly believed that no one with any of her genes could be a failure!
Mother attended Oklahoma Central State College, the University of Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and the University of New Mexico, as well as taking numerous correspondence courses. She taught school in various locations in Oklahoma and Colorado, and in New Mexico at Page, Coolidge, La Joya, Riley and Mountainair. During the formative school years of my brother Ladd and I, she either taught where we attended school or did not teach so as to be home when we arrived home eager to discuss our new knowledge, experiences, and ask questions.
Mother enjoyed music, and loved to sing. She insured that my brother and I learned to play several musical instruments, and she always had a piano in our home.
Mother was unusually beautiful. As a nineteen year old, she was chosen Queen of the 1919 Cotton Festival for the southwest area of Oklahoma where the Stewart family farmed.
Mother worked side by side with my father when it came to painting, carpentering, roofing, farming or plumbing. She was obsessed with achieving and providing a sizeable estate for her sons and grandchildren. The numerous homes and buildings that my parents personally constructed at Coolidge, Las Cruces, Roswell, Safford, Albuquerque, the New Mexico Boys Ranch, and La Joya attest to their hard work and constructive lives.
Mother was unparalleled in her business affairs. Starting with very little capital from my father's salary, she invested wisely in real estate over a period of some thirty-five years and developed sizable property holdings. She did not believe in investments that she could not see and touch. She accomplished this with a keen business acumen, self-discipline, hard work and consistent self-denial. In her mind, the self-denial counted toward a larger estate for her children and grandchildren. She said she wanted to travel, but would never bring herself to spending the necessary time and money. Mother was the driving force and decision maker in all my parent's business affairs.
My mother could do anything, whether it was building a house, knitting, sewing, crocheting, plumbing, riding a horse, using a gun, or being shrewd and successful in business matters. All of this while being a devoted, full-time parent.
"slipped the surly bonds of earth --- and touched the face of God"
on February 1, 1990.
One prominent community leader simply said,
A lady whom Mother had taught as a first grade teacher in Oklahoma in 1919 wrote:
I want to express my deep feeling of gratitude I have to that dear teacher I had in the first grade. She not only taught me to read, she instilled in me the desire to do a lot of it. She went out of her way to give a little girl a feeling of warmth and value. She would write letters to me during the summer while she was in school, and I learned to write letters at that early age. I have her to thank for that and also the ability to write legibly, for she did stress penmanship. I've tried to pattern some of my teaching after the things I remember from my first grade teacher. I'm sorry I wasn't able to tell her just how much she meant to me and the influence she had on my life.
My friend Sarah Kotchian wrote:
She was a wonderful pioneer woman who left many gift to New Mexico and the other places she taught, and a great history of strength and pride to you, your children and grandchildren. They are all fortunate to have had her in their lives for so long.
Mother's friends Ruth and Stanley Fish wrote:
You and your families meant much to her and she was very proud of each of you and you accomplishments.
Albuquerque Mayor Louis Saavedra wrote:
It was inspiring to read of her pioneer life and her exemplary work.
Among mother's treasures, as she called them, we found the following which were read at her memorial services:
Dear loves, dear hearts, when time is fled
And I no longer sing,
I leave this message to be read
In sunlight and in spring.
Of life, of faith, of years content
Because our love was so,
That when the form in anguish went,
The spirit would not go.
And on this page, in very truth
A lyric and a flame,
Immortal April and a kiss,
The music and your names.
Oh I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings:
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds
and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of, wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence.
I've chased the shouting winds along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high-untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.
John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
Another instructive item which Mother had copied in her handwriting:
He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much; who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; who has left the world better than when he found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul; who has never lacked appreciation of earth's beauty or failed to express it; who has always looked for the best in others and given the best he had; whose life was an inspiration; whose memory a benediction.
Bessie Anderson, 1904
Without attribution, Mother's personal belongings also included the following in her handwriting, well worn and stained:
There are nice young men who are nice pro tem,
But look what happens when you marry them!
They turn into husbands - A sordid tribe
Who gloom and yammer and rant and gibe,
And grouse 'round the house like a wounded bear,
And acquire that woefully wedded air.
So I haven't the least excuse, it's true,
For the weak, rash moment when I married you.
I knew misgivings; I crawled with qualms;
I kept humming that minor lament of Brahms.
So imagine, darling, my pleasant surprise
When you didn't changeling before my eyes.
For you were the nicest of nice young men -
But now you're just ten times nicer again!
You don't barge 'round like a tin King Kleagle -
Maybe the ceremony wasn't legal!
No husbandly halo obtrudes its pall,
And marriage has ruined you hardly at all!
My Parents, Andrew and Dewey Lee Gordon
Mother was teaching school in Oklahoma near the Carr and Driggers cattle ranch where my father was working as a cowboy. They met at a box supper, where Dad paid $3.90 (all the money he had, but he said he "would have tried to borrow $100") for the box supper prepared by Dewey Lee Stewart. Snapshots taken during their courtship show them riding horses and enjoying picnics. After Dad attended college, they taught school in various locations in Oklahoma and at Arlington, Colorado. They then had enough money for a down payment to purchase the Medicine Creek farm and ranch near Saddle Mountain, Oklahoma. Falling cattle prices, plus the grasshoppers devouring their crops as the seeds germinated, made it impossible for them to meet their payments, and they lost the ranch. (In their late years after they had become financially successful, they frequently talked of buying the ranch again, but realized you really "can't go home again.")
Andrew and Dewey Lee Gordon, along with their young sons Laddie Stewart Gordon and Larry Jean Gordon (I was supposed to be named Lassie but fate and chromosomes interfered), moved to New Mexico in August 1929. Andrew and Dewey Lee had been offered a school at Hope, New Mexico, but they selected the Page school because it opened earlier and they needed pay checks as soon as possible. They were pulling a four-wheel trailer containing their worldly goods including Dad’s saddle horse, Nester. Their mattress, in the moving style of that era, was tied to the top of their car. Despite over-heating of the over-stressed engine, they made it to the Page school and two-room teacherage near the small lumber and sawmill community of McGaffey at the top of Zuni Mountain. But they first stopped in Gallup to sign their teacher contracts. As they were financially destitute, they contacted banker Glen Emmons on a Saturday afternoon at his home. They requested $50, but after looking them over and hearing their story, Emmons retorted, "Hell, you don't need $50, you need $350." He promptly wrote a check and a deposit slip to be deposited in their new bank account the next Monday morning.
Dad nominally served as principal teaching a small number of high school students in one room, and Mother taught grade school in the other room of the small building.
The first brutal winter storm found my parents in Gallup obtaining winter supplies. The storm was so severe that they had to borrow McKinley County's only Caterpillar tractor to return to the teacherage where they had left Ladd and me with our Aunt Billie. The Caterpillar remained in the schoolyard all winter, because impassable roads precluded it being returned. The wooden teacherage walls were covered on the interior with newspapers that did not prevent snow from sifting in and covering our beds during the frequent storms. All water for the teacherage and the school was carried in buckets from the nearby manual pump. Students drank water from a bucket using a common cup, except during recesses when they could drink from small holes drilled into a water pipe connected to the pump while some other student worked the pump handle. My parents found that most of the students had offensive body odors, so they brought in washtubs so that my father could scrub all the boys, and my mother scrubbed all the girls.
During storms, students arrived at school on horses, snowshoes, or home- made horse-drawn snow sleds. Dad kept a tunnel open through the snow from the teacherage to the school, and the tunnel walls were considerably taller than I was.
Saturday nights were family bath nights. Dad would carry water to a large wash tub, heat the tub and contents on the pot-bellied wood heating stove, in the living room, and we would all take baths. Being the youngest, I was first; and subsequently Laddie, Mother, and Dad. Beware of sitting on the edge of the tub that had been near the stovepipe! Laddie learned the hard way, and experienced painful burns. Laddie also learned that "caps" for his "cap-gun" would ignite in his back pocket as he warmed his posterior by the stove. We were rather elite, as we had a "three-holer" for a privy, instead of the more common "two-holer."
We had a radio that was powered by dry cell batteries, but the radio didn't always work. Dad built a crude wooden snow sled that was pulled by our horse, Nester (which he had brought from Oklahoma during a later trip), when we occasionally visited neighbors. But best of all, we were happy, confident, secure and self-sufficient. We didn't have any health insurance or doctors, and we didn't have any social do-gooders telling us we were deprived, or needed empowerment. Life was good, and we were all happy and secure!
Dad was also a Brand Inspector for the New Mexico Brand Association. Additionally, he leased land and raised potatoes that he sold to grocery stores in Gallup. Sales were frequently difficult because some local potato farmers added a few rocks to their bags of potatoes to increase the weight.
I had the opportunity to return to the site of our Page home and school in the summer of 1996. I could only see where the foundations of the two-room school had been, plus some weathered remains of the teacherage and outbuildings. Most people would not imagine that a happy family had lived there.
During the early thirties, amid the Great Depression, my mother taught six elementary grades at the Coolidge one-room school at an isolated location near the continental divide east of Gallup, New Mexico, while my father returned to school at the University of New Mexico. Mother had the title, "Principal of School District 8", Coolidge, New Mexico. We carried all water for the school and the one-room teacherage from a "section station" on the AT&SF railroad about a half-mile away. Dad moved the "teacherage" from Fort Wingate on a flat-bed wagon pulled by two borrowed giant Percheron horses which had such immense hooves that they didn't need to detour around cattle-guards, but simply walked across them. The teacherage was simply the shell of a house when moved, but my parents completed it so as to provide a comfortable one-room home. The teacherage was located a short distance from U.S. 66, where "bums", as they were termed (now rediscovered as "homeless") were part of the passing parade. Mother kept her pistol handy, and did not answer a knock on the door without having her pistola in hand. Frequently, I would be awakened in the morning by the blast of gunshots as Mother decimated the coyotes attempting to feast on our chickens. But life was still good!
In 1933, my father was attending the University of New Mexico when he wrote:
Darling sweethearts: ...
...I saw the new moon tonite. Looks beautiful. It is clear and cold outside. Do you still make wishes when you see a new moon? I do. I will always wish for you and my men the following: Faith, Health, Patience and Bountiful Happiness...
Goodness! How much Chemistry I have learned - and then there is more yet. Lots of knowledge in this old world - and the more I study - the more I realize how dumb most of us really are...
...Little men - you must be good to Mother all the time. Obey and mind her - and you will be proud of having done so. Love each other and Daddy and Mother will be proud of you. Help little Mother while Daddy is away. I had a wonderful dream of all of you night before last.
Write often to me, sugars. Love - hugs - and memories
During the Great Depression, most banks had closed and money was in short supply. Schoolteachers were not being paid in a timely manner. Mother wrote:
Coolidge, N. Mex.
October 1, 1933
Dear Andrew -
...You must let up on writing checks. You are getting the banking business in a mess... When you are away at school, you should consider yourself lucky to eat without cooking for yourself and just suffer along doing your class work.... Do not write any more checks for any purpose outside of paying $22.50 per month for board...
The Boys and I went to town late yesterday and got my warrant and paid a lot of debts... I have nothing to wear. The boys are barefoot, also. I'll buy a money order and order them some shoes tomorrow...
Well, I must now sweep the schoolhouse...
Some of Mother's other letters to my father follow:
Coolidge, New Mexico
October 16, 1933
I can hardly write because my arms and muscles are sore from washing those blankets yesterday.
I received the Extension Bulletins, but there's not a single thing in it for me but Spanish and I am not anxious to enroll in it just now. I'd rather work out a few Home Economics courses. I'll enroll in one from Silver City next week. I'm writing for a bulletin from Las Cruces.
I've a real pretty cake all fixed for Larry's birthday dinner & 7 pink candles on it. I'll bet its good, too. I’m cooking a lot of things for his birthday dinner. This is a fine day for a birthday.
The following letter to my father indicates an excellent method of controlling incorrigible students, and should be followed by teachers today and in the future:
Coolidge, New Mexico
October 25, 1933
...The school attendance from the section station has been poor, but the number of others coming has almost driven me nuts. I've had several fits right in the schoolroom and spanked several well. The nuts from up in the mountain are trashy. The boys, aged 8 & 10, cursed & talked vulgar the second day they were in school and I wiped up the floor with them. I told them that they weren't needed in this school and if they didn't act and talk nice that I would send them home in a hurry. Wednesday morning, their mother, grandmother, aunt, and another woman came to school trying to figure out a way in which I would allow the children to stay in this school. I wasn't too nice to them. I told them that this school was overcrowded and that the only way in which her children would be tolerated was for her to see that they acted and talked nice as the nicest child here, and that they obeyed me immediately when I spoke. So they all agreed and went away slightly crestfallen. The 10-year-old boy did not obey me quite quickly enough yesterday morning and I lifted him around by his hair. They're a dumb bunch from Capitan....
It is surely cold in the schoolroom this morning. No wood yet. I'm going outside and play in a few minutes to keep warm.
I'll quit & work.
And Mother's sound advice to my Dad was exemplified in a letter of November 11, 1933 (Armistice Day) when she was encouraging him to apply for a position with the federal government:
Coolidge, New Mexico
November 11, 1933
Dearest S.H. -
I'm going to write you a real long good letter. I am lonesome for you - as usual, so I'll send a lot of kisses to start off...
...If you have your picture made, fix up without a hat and hold your chin slightly raised and look very serious but not gloomy. Get it to look as much like our first pictures made at Norman as possible. Make your hair stay back nicely. Don't try to look mean... It will not cost much to get your application in for Civil Service, so do so as soon as possible. About 4 - 6 pictures won't cost much. Give Mr. Floyd or Billy (W.E.) Morris or other fellows as references, and by the time it all works out you will be a Master Mason and I'll have put in application for the Eastern Star.
Don't let all of this influx of new ideas worry you greatly or keep you from sleeping at night or doing your best by your work there, please. Just keep plugging away. These new ideas help me greatly to do better by my present work. I hope you are benefited that way. I surely need some incentive. I get so lonely and blue -- feel crazy.
Laddie and Larry say they are through, so I'll get through also so I can interest myself in their interests 'till bedtime...
I'll quit. Love to you -
Coolidge, New Mexico
November 14, 1933
...The boys and I went piñon picking with the Lopes' past the Top O' the World. We went at 9 & got home past sundown. I took some light bread, fried beans & chocolate fudge and we spread lunch with them and ate part of their boiled pumpkin, frijoles, tortillas, chili con carne and most burned up. The boys and I picked about 15 pounds - and I am so sore and lame that I could cuss. I can hardly get up or down - but I got up early this morning and fixed a nice cake before school so that the boys would have cake to eat...
Mr. Layton told me why he thinks the pump won't work and it sounds reasonable. If we can fix it by following his advice, it will require only about 2 hours...
I am giving tests this week, naturally the attendance is slim. Wish I could frighten about 15 away every day with tests.
Have you written to Mama and Papa yet? Their offer is too generous and the boys are awfully excited about it. If we could get a job under the Public Works Program for 2 years - we could pay off that terrible loan & everything - and have cows, ponies, chickens, tractors 'n everything when we decide to live there. Have you written for your Civil Service questionnaire? (or application.)
Wish I could see you today. The boys are counting the days 'till we see you. It won't be long now.
Love, Dewey Lee.
Coolidge, New Mexico
November 20, 1933
Monday night, most bedtime
Wish I could see you - I'm lonesome for you - cause I like you...
I made a big white cake for the boys this evening after school. I visited "Pansy" for a few minutes after you left - and felt degraded for having done so - Cheap people are terrible - worse than no people at all...
If you plan to go shopping for the boys Christmas things, please do not spend more that $2 on the 2 of them. You can get one nice toy each or 2 cheaper ones...
Bushels of love to you -
Coolidge, New Mexico
December 4, 1933
...The bus seemed to come slow enuf. A tractor pulled it through Grants. There is no road through there now. We got here about 8:25 pm. There's plenty of snow here. We got inside and had fires going at 5 'till nine. We did not get cold. We were awfully warm when we got off the bus. I cooked supper and hooked up the radio. I did not run it last night. I'll wait 'till four today and examine it all well to make sure I have it right.
I have some beans cooking for dinner...Did you remember to get the fan belt? Did you get your supper and lecture?
The boys and I do not miss you a bit, this time. I see the difference in you being here or us visiting you there. I suppose our presences linger in your camp, tho. Do your work well, dear. Don't neglect any of your reports or anything. I am sure you enjoy your work.
I'll quit now and hear class work. Write soon to us.
Love, Dewey Lee
Coolidge, New Mexico
January 7, 1934
My Own Darling Sweetheart -
I guess that you are just now about Los Lunas. The boys and I have a great game of traveling with you...
...I finished reading the Little Lame Prince to the boys tonight. They are now studying the fountain pens in the catalog...
Well, my bed doesn't look as lonely tonight - I suppose I'm in a more cheerful frame of mind. Tell me of something that I can do for you, or make for you - that would make me happy, to be doing something for you.
Love to you -
Coolidge, New Mexico
March 3, 1934
I am bathing the boys - and while I wait for more water to heat on the stove to finish Ladd - I'll write...
I cut the boys hair today and cleaned house. We carried water - also a lotta wood and chopped it. The house is very clean tonight, and comfortable. I will bathe shortly & wash my hair. The boys and I are going to church tomorrow. I hope you worked hard today, huh?...
McKinley County School Superintendent Mrs. Roat deposited my February warrant and sent me a little note saying that the March warrants may not be forthcoming on date - So lets go easy on expenditures.
I am cooking a great big pot of beans tonight. The first since we came home....
Wish I had you - I still love you. I am expecting a letter from you tomorrow. Good night dear - and best wishes.
Be careful - Love to you - Yours - Dewey Lee
Dad was a Forest Ranger on the Magdalena District when he wrote:
Magdalena Ranger Station
Magdalena, New Mexico
May 3, 1934
Dear Little Sweethearts: I wonder how each of you are tonight? I am located here at last, and if I were not lonely I would be just as happy as a bug in a rug...
...I will have charge of all the fire fighting forces, all the office work, and the warehouse... I like this town pretty well. It is just big enough for everyone to know about the other person's business. No bank here. Three or four big general stores, a drug store, two cafes, several garages and filling stations, a saddle shop and other things most too numerous to mention. The streets are level so that the boys will not have any difficulty in riding their bicycles...
...I am getting terribly lonely for you and the boys. Please hurry and come to me. ...
...I have running water and electric lights. Gee, but I feel funny sitting here with a good light behind me. I am going to work like the devil here so that I will be able to get into a better place in the near future...
...I'm tired and sleepy. Good night and sweet dreams to you -- my Angel darlings.
Bushels of Love - from Daddy
When Mother, Laddie and I moved to Magdalena to be with Dad, we rented a small house a few miles from Magdalena in the foothills of the Magdalena Mountains. Laddie and I rode a horse into Magdalena daily to attend school. And for the first time we had a semblance of electricity and running water. When it worked, we derived electricity from a Kohler gasoline-powered generator. On weekends, Dad backed the car onto a wooden wheel with a large continuous belt which powered a pump that pumped water from an old mine shaft into an elevated storage tank. This worked fairly well, except when the car's rear wheels would slip off the conveyor belt, or the belt would break, or the wooden wheel would break and really create chaos!
Dad was subsequently transferred to the Tijeras Ranger Station near Albuquerque where we all lived in a one-room "house."
In 1935, Dad accepted a position with the U.S.Indian Service (now the Bureau of Indian Affairs) to conduct human and livestock dependency surveys in the Tewa Indian Basin of northern New Mexico in 1935, while Mother was attempting to operate a small grocery store on South Fourth Street south of Albuquerque. They had opened the store using credit from wholesale firms Gross Kelly and Charles Ilfield. We lived in one room behind the store, had a pitcher pump nearby for water, had a pit privy (as usual), and had a smoldering 55-gallon oil drum for garbage. Ladd and I attended Five Points School where education was not the greatest at that time. Mother and Dad then rented, but did occupy, a small house near Eugene Field School in order to establish residence in the Eugene Field school district so Ladd and I could attend a better school.
The grocery store enterprise failed shortly when Safeway Stores opened less than a block away.
Española, New Mexico
Dear little sweethearts:
I will attempt to write a few lines to you tonight in order to let you know that I arrived here OK and am on the road to a lot of very interesting work. I arrived in Santa Fe this morning at 8:00 and found Dr. Shevky in his office in the Federal building. I talked with him for a few minutes and then drove on up here. I ate dinner at the onliest cafe worthwhile, and then collected my wits, looked at a map, and then set out for valuable statistics. I visited five small villages up northwest of here for a distance of twenty-six miles. I talked with natives and schoolteachers. I drove up to Abiquiu and by the time I finished there it was time to think of returning here. Work is very interesting and I am certain that I can give them more information than they asked for in the work sheet that was given me in Albuquerque.
Meals are 50¢ here with no choice; of course I will not eat dinner here so that will help to economize. The room is nice. It was $1.50 per day or $7.00 per week in advance. The advance part is what put a crimp in my pocket book. Gas is only 20¢ here and the car averaged a little more than 20 miles per gallon on the trip today. Miles for today were about 200, which is $10.00 coming sometime on the expense account.
How did you all get along today in the store, and in school? Hope it was as successful for you as it has been for me. Do not worry about me. I'll do fine. Will be home before you know it. Remember that I love you and you and you more than all the remainder of all creation.
Dad transferred from the Indian Service to the U.S. Soil Erosion Service (later changed to Soil Conservation Service), and held increasingly responsible positions in various parts of New Mexico, including Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Roswell, and Mountainair, as well as Portal, Safford and Douglas, Arizona.
When Dad was working out of Portal, Arizona and the rest of the family were still living in Roswell, he lived in a large framed tent. At that time he wrote:
Sunday, October 27, 1940
Dear Little Sweethearts:
I wonder how each of you are today, and what you are doing. I cannot help but spend a large portion of each Sunday thinking of you, and longing to be with you at home or have you here with me. Weekends certainly do grow long when a fellow is far away from the one he loves more than life itself. I would not feel quite so sorry for you if you had the car there. I have no need for it here. However, I am earnestly looking forward to the time when I can come home again for a day or two visit.
Wish you could have been with me today (and all days too) to have enjoyed an excellent meal with us. I got up this morning and made toast, coffee, and fried two eggs for each of us. After breakfast, I was out in the yard sweeping and heard some quail near the windmill. I stepped back in the tent and got my shotgun and stepped out in the yard and blasted away with two shots. I picked up six fine, fat birds. I then began to wonder how to prepare them. I finally decided to par-boil them and then finish by frying. I put them on boil in a pot with a lid on it, and then went with Trask to get a load of wood. When we came back they were just right, so I placed them in a frying pan and cooked them slowly while I made a bowl of Tapioca pudding, sour-dough biscuits, coffee, and cream gravy. It turned out fine, so I am feeling like dozing off for a few minutes. Don't you wish you could see me?
Finally got the air mattress fixed, and have been sleeping on it for the past few nights. This is the hardest bed I have ever undertaken to sleep on. The air mattress certainly does help a lot. My cot is more comfortable than is the double bed because it bends in the middle, and that is not overly comfortable either.----
The weather here certainly has been lovely. It is threatening rain today. A few sprinkles fell on the tent fly just a while ago. The apple trees out in front have about quit blooming. I have even noticed a few Yucca in bloom for the second time this year. ---
Well I shall quit and undertake to wash out some socks and underwear. Have plenty of clean ones, but washing will take up some of the time that wears away so slowly. Sweethearts, I love you a terrible lot. Wish I could hug your sweet necks for a minute or three. You boys oil up your shot guns for a bird hunt when I come home. When you come over here you can shoot all you care to as we have plenty.
Bushels of love, Daddy
(Dad and/or Mother wrote to both Ladd and I almost every day while Ladd was in the Navy and I was away at school before joining the U.S. Navy. Ladd saved more of the letters than I, so many of the war-time letters which followed were addressed to Ladd.)
The following was written right after my brother Ladd left for the Navy, initially for training at Notre Dame University. Ladd had previously been enrolled at Gila Jr. College near Safford, Arizona. Dad was working as a U.S. Government Range Examiner, headquartered at Safford, Arizona. Such letters were invaluable to the morale of young men serving in the Navy. Some of the other letters follow, in part:
June 27, 1943
Dear Laddie Boy: It seems sorter odd to be writing to you when it seems that you should be here. Larry has gone to Church, and Mother is here beside me writing to you too...
The dog, Chad, just sits near the car as tho waiting. Of course, I don't miss you at all, but your mother, Larry, and Chad do. We all wonder where you are, and how you are making out. I surely hope you are well and happy, and I am sure that you are. I hope you like your new surroundings. We try to visualize how you will look in your new uniform. Mother and Larry will leave in a few days for Larry to attend the University of Oklahoma, and then I'll really be lonesome. Larry seems to look forward to going to school.
Is there anything I can do for you - just drop me a line and I'll do it. Larry will take care of the racing pigeons somehow. I'll try to remember to take the quail out toward Bowie and turn them loose so that you, Larry and I can have some birds to chase down sometime. I'll oil your guns and put them away for the future.
I want you to keep your chin up Ladd, and study hard. You can and you will find life a real interesting game and the world is before you to conquer.
You will be busy I know, but write us when you can have a minute. I'll be looking for a picture, too.
Bushels of love
June 28, 1943
Dear Ladd: ...Am leaving for Douglas and have quail ready to release. Surely hope you are now dressed out in your white uniform...
Love from Dad
Dad was being transferred to Douglas, Arizona where my parents were to live in a tent due to a housing shortage when he wrote:
June 29, 1943
My dear boy - Ladd: ...
Ladd, I am proud of you. When you were a little fellow, I never dreamed that some day you, and perhaps Larry too, might follow my footsteps in the Navy. It is a fine Navy, and I know that you are going to like it fine. You will be lonesome for the many things that you have had to leave behind, but I know from experience that a fellow can adapt to new environments easily if he is busy and willing to make the change. You are no longer a boy, but now a man. You can and will, I know, make the best of this wonderful opportunity to secure a splendid education. Such action on your part will be tedious now, but you will reap a rich reward in the future when you will settle down somewhere and take hold of things for yourself. You can now do the things that I have longed to do. You have the ability and the golden chanced. My hat is off to a fine boy. I salute you, my son.
Little Mother and Larry will be leaving soon for the University of Oklahoma or Texas Tech. I admire Larry's courage to carry on. He is a fine boy. Write to him often, and encourage him to keep his chin up.
I turned the quail loose where we hunted with Rowe. They flew a little ways and stopped and looked back as tho wondering why. When Peace comes again, we will look for their tracks and listen to the flurry of their wings...
Ladd - write often to your mother. She loves you many times more than you will ever know. Her heart is broken over losing both her boys. When you are lonesome and blue, just sit down and talk to her in a letter. It will be a source of contentment and peace of mind for you...
June 30, 1943
Ladd:...Golly! How I would love to be up there too...
...Before I left home, Sat., Larry and I oiled all our guns. I bo't part of them down here. Will take good care of guns, but may shoot a lot of shells this fall in order to provide Mother and I with meat... Guess Larry will take his 16-gauge shotgun to Oklahoma. I may get to shoot some bob white quail with him.
Well my boy - keep your chin up and be courageous at all times. We all love you and wish you the very best in all things...
July 5, 1943
Laddie Boy... Mother and Larry left Safford last nite or before daylight this morning. I think Larry has decided to go to the University of Oklahoma or the University of New Mexico for a while. Told him the roads forked at Las Cruces and for him to make up his mind there... I'll surely be lonesome now that Larry is gone too. Only a few days ago you were my little boys. Now, too soon, you are men. I am very proud of each of you and know that you will each make a success of your schoolwork...
Wish I could see you.
Love from Daddy
I had enrolled at the University of New Mexico, following two semesters at Gila Jr. College when Dad wrote:
Douglas - Friday morn.
July 4, ‘43.
...Larry has had a cold from swimming at 8 A.M. Has nosebleed from it. Writes he is having English Composition difficulties, and wishes to drop his band. When you can, drop him a card. He misses you dreadfully. I have him a whole box full of extra shirts and clothes ready to send him. I want to make some fudge to put in his box. We'll take it if we start tomorrow.
Our air cooler keeps the tent inhabitable. The refrigerator keeps food nicely, so we make out...
With worlds of Love and Good Wishes -
Sunday Sept. 12, 1943.
Hello my fine Boys: ...I surely hope each of you boys are happy and are taking an active part in Church and other activities. By doing so, you will be far less lonesome, and also better qualified to knock down some fine grades. Looks as if the damned war will not last forever now, and that each of you may soon be ready to strike forth in schools of your choice, and to do so with the least effort and expense will necessitate some good grades...
Love from Pap
P.O. Box 1119
Dear Ladd -
...We did not yet have a place to stay or live in. Our tent is getting thin, too.
...Do those Methodists sort of "take" to you and let you help them run their collections box, etc., like they did at Safford? If they haven't, it is just because they don't know how good you are in that way - you must approach the preacher or some big shot and tell him that you would enjoy helping whenever you are fortunate enuf to be present. I know that you have a terrible lot of studying to keep up and cannot attend any thing regularly. How is DeMolay?...
With Love and Best Wishes
Dad was patriotic and had served in the Navy in World War I. He had falsified his age in order to join before he turned seventeen, so in later years his government documents continued to reflect this fact. While employed as a U.S. Government Conservationist during World War II, he wanted to enlist in the Sea Bees, but was considered too old. He wrote:
Thurs. A.M. 9/16/43
Dear Ladd...I'll see Navy Officer this PM about enlisting in the Sea Bees. I want to be a Vet of 2 wars... Mother and I always think about our ranch idea.... Love from Mother & me too. Daddy
Earlier, he had written his supervisor in the U.S. Soil Conservation Service:
June 16, 1942
.... offering my assistance in any capacity where it may be used in our present war effort...a sense of duty to serve where I can be used to the best advantage prompts this action....I think the three greatest words in the English language are Let Me Help, and that is my sincere wish in an attempt to do my part.
Sunday Evening, 9/26/43
Hello my fine men: ...
I have been here at the office on some routine work in an attempt to have my desk clean before leaving in the morning for San Simon. I must go over there to help move a lot of cattle from the big pasture on the Fan into the Johnson grass pastures. Unless we move the cattle and utilize the Johnson grass before the frost there is some danger that we will suffer death losses due to hydro-cyanic gas action as a result of frost and the expected recurrent growth after frost nips the cane grass. We will have a lot of short-age calves to brand and vaccinate also....
.... I would like to join up and see some action in the South Pacific or elsewhere. I will have a scalp lock to hang with our other trophies if I can enlist. There is a chance that I might be eligible for a commission...
Bushels of love & Best Wishes from Dad.
Dear Ladd - ...I sent a box of fudge your way this morning. May be shaken to pieces when it arrives....
With Love and Bushels of Best Wishes. Mother
Hello Boys: ...
...We can tolerate the house where we are living. It isn't much, but is cheap...
I am going to get some kerosene for the little oil heater, and if we can make the oven work on that stove we will undertake making something sweet for you. There is no gas out here, so cooking is going to be a problem. Wish we had a good oil cook stove.
... The racing pigeons coo a lot. I am afraid to turn birds loose for fear they will tear away for Safford. What do you think - When can I turn them out. Only one pair have raised squabs...
I love you both. Daddy
October 14, 1943
Dear Ladd -
...I'm mailing you a box of cookies & a bracelet. It may be too long, but a link can be removed on the long end. But don't make it too tight. It should fit snug, not tight.
A large wolf or coyote was in our yard this morning. We will have our dog Chad vaccinated for hydrophobia today...
With Love and Best Wishes
November 5, 1943
Dear Ladd...Keep your chin up - no matter what happens. I am with you always. More follows tomorrow.
Dad. Good Luck Boy
November 18, 1943
Dear Ladd, Larry, and Little Mother...
Surely wish you fellows could have been here on the buck hunt with me. I rode a horse all the first day of the season. Was back of the place where we camped last year. Did not see anything the first day except a lot of does and fawns. Got up yesterday morning before daylight, got the whole bunch lined out on horses and then got in a pickup and went around to the west side of Orange Butte by myself, and after hunting for about an hour I found a four point buck looking at me. I took one shot and stacked him up in a pile. I dressed him out and dragged him down the hill. Then I thought of the other men who had hunted the day before without any luck, so I took the 33 Winchester and did not walk more than a hundred yards from where I killed the first buck and saw a great big buck lying in one of the deep rock gullies looking at me. I took a rest over a rock and shot a horn off and the bullet plowed through his ear. He jumped and ran north, and I saw that he was just about to get away from me, so I took a squirrel aim and broke his neck with the next shot. Boy, did I then have some meat on my hands. I dressed him and dragged him down the hill. Loaded them in the pickup and went to camp. When I got there, the whole bunch was there. Left the pickup out near the corrals, and walked on to camp. One of the boys asked me if I had any luck, and I told them that I had got a coyote, and that we could have liver for dinner. I then asked Jarrel to go out to the car and get the liver. He went out and saw the two bucks in the car. He called the other fellows to come and help him skin the coyote. Were they surprised! Well, after that the Douglas Postmaster, Rice, went in north of camp and got a small buck. I gave the San Simon boys the first buck that I had killed, and brought the big one in here. I really believe he is the same one that got away from Larry near the little round mountain last year. He has the largest set of antlers I ever saw on a deer. Well --- there will come a day when we three can again hunt big bucks on Orange Butte. Incidentally, I got these within 200 yards of where you boys first jumped Ladd's buck last year...
Will be glad when Mother comes home from Oklahoma where she is visiting her mother. Seems ages since I saw any of my family...
Write lots and quick. Bushels of love and best wishes,
Andrew, y Dad.
Dear Ladd, Larry, and Little Mother: Thanks muchas for your nice letters which just came. Seems that I just live from one letter to another. Guess I am just getting old and sorter childish, sedimental or something else. I do miss each of you a terrible lot...
Ladd, I wish you could have been here to show me how to hunt deer. I will admit that either of you can beat me shooting, but you will have to admit that an old man is fairly good when he can stack up two bucks with three shots. Of course, I have a good gun, and there must be some attraction between a bullet and a buck...
Love and best wishes to all of you.
In January 1944, Dad was transferred to Mountainair, New Mexico as District Conservationist. Ladd was being transferred to Great Lakes Naval Training Station. Following this he was transferred to the Pensacola Naval Air Station where he was a research assistant to a noted naval medical research officer. I had transferred to the University of Oklahoma for one semester.
Jan. 4, 1944
I like it here fine, and will like it better when we get moved from Douglas. I rented the only house, it is a nice 6 room, unfurnished place, @ $27.50/ month. There is gas, water and electricity here too, and boy how glad I will be when Mother can cook me a biscuit...
Love and Best Wishes to a swell boy from Dad.
Dear Ladd: I've been thinking of you all day. By this time I imagine you are far, far away, and enroute Great Lakes Naval Training Station...
Surely do miss you a heap, Ladd. It seems more of a dream than a reality that you were here at all. Ladd - you are a wonderful boy, and if you will always keep that lovely smile and disposition, I am sure you will always continue to be loved by everyone. Some time in the not too far distant future all this strife will end, and you can be free again to do those things of your hearts desire...
It won’t be long now until you learn what, and where. I hope it turns out to be the place most satisfactory to you. You will surely have a new field of adventure, and I know you will like it in a great way. Often do I wish that I were young again, and could share in these experiences with you...
Please write to me if and when you have time and want to visit with me via letters as a substitute for something better.
Love & best Wishes - always
Dear Ladd: ...
...Do you wish me to send you a suitcase for the furlough, or will you use your sea bag like a salt? Don't make any pick-up acquaintances of the female girls on your way here. Remember, females are fresh and troublesome and will get a guy headed for trouble aplenty. I'll tell you more about such dangers from time to time. But there are a gang of "huntresses" on the loose, making a point of keeping on trains and busses.
Much Love and Bushels of good wishes. Mother
Sunday nite, 2-21-44
Mountainair, New Mexico
Dear Son (Laddie): Another day of life has come and gone - and no letter from you. In your last letter you stated that I should not write until I heard again from you. I just cannot refrain from sending a note, even tho it may, of necessity, be forwarded to you at some new assignment location.
The footsteps of your marching feet reverberate on my heartstrings, and I know from experience of yesteryear that a boy can get lonely when he is far away from the many things held dear to him. For that reason in part, I write to you my boy. Surely as day follows nite there will come a day when you can return to the mountains, and in a state of freedom, you may view the sunrises and sunsets which are different from the ones you now see in the Navy....
Well Ladd, its about bed time, so Adios, goodnight, sleep tite, and say your prayers.
I returned to the University of New Mexico from the University of Oklahoma.
March 6, 1944
My dear boy, Ladd: It may look as tho I've forgotten you - but I haven't...Larry is having a hawg (Javelina) hunt since the season is open in Arizona. The K-22 rifle might be a trifle light for a boar, and he also might get his hind leg chewed on - -...
"An old lady was traveling across New Mexico on a train. After passing across many miles of open expanse, she finally exclaimed to a cowpuncher sitting near her, ‘I don't see why people live out here.’ The cowboy said nothing. Later she said, ‘I can't see how people make a living out in this dreadful country.’ The puncher looked out the car window and said, ‘Lady, do you see any people out there? Why worry so much?’"...
Write often. Affectionately, yore Dad.
Mountainair, New Mexico
Dear Ladd: Nineteen years ago, just about right now, you came to live with us. We have surely been glad all these years that we have you. Ladd, since this is your birthday, I want you to know that more than once today your mother and I sincerely hope that you are happy. And beyond all the things I might say, we pray that you will have many, many happier birthdays in the golden years to come....
I boxed you up some ginger bread. I know you do not particularly care for it without icing, whipped cream, or ice cream. So go see the Admiral or someone and secure permission to go to the kitchen and top it with whipped cream.
... I must drive out east of town 14 miles this P.M. about sundown and meet the bus from Albuquerque that will have Larry on it...
...I study the Hospital Corps Handbook, and the more I study it the more I learn!
Love and Best Wishes, Mother
Sunday P.M. 3-12-44
...Study diligently and be alert to doing your duty in an exemplary manner. Learn all you can...
Love and Best Wishes
Dear Ladd -
...the law did not get amended by the legislature to give the vote to anyone less than 21 years old. So you wont get to vote for Dewey this time...
..We'll all be so happy when the war is won and both of you can return home and we can all be happy together...
Love and Best Wishes, Mother
May 1, 1944
Dear Ladd.... I am waiting - any day or hour for news of the long awaited invasion. It's coming. Too bad about Sec'y Knox.
Write often. Love Dad.
Monday P.M. 5-1-44
May the first.
...Larry will not enlist in anything before October - about the middle. He will have more than 60 hours at the end of this semester. When he re-enrolls he will have another 17 - 20 hours (5 semesters) almost completed when he reaches 18 yrs.
Daddy and I drove down to Socorro yesterday and looked at land & I didn't get anything written to you.
I hope you are fine, industrious and happy.
Dear Ladd: ...
We camped near the Tajique Ranger Station in the Manzanos last nite. We tried to catch some truchas, but no luck. There were very few small ones up there. Slept on the ground - and boy oh boy! am pretty stiff and sore. Old men haint got no business sleeping on the ground all nite. It was cold too. Saw quite a bunch of wild turkey. Even lost my knife. Wouldn't worry if’n I could buy a new one - oh well, the war will end again before long and I can buy one then.
I've been getting lots of shells for your .22 pistol. We will do a lot of shooting when you come home... Hurry back.
Love and best Wishes Always
June 8, 44
Dear Ladd: Daddy and I have been over to Fence Lake - way over on west boundary of state - 70 miles south of Gallup... We camped out last nite in old S.C.S. buildings over there - saw no bulls nor snattlerakes, Not even a mountain lion... Love and Best Wishes. Mother
Hello Ladd:... We are now in Socorro again... Going to Los Lunas tonite, and home about noon tomorrow. Planning to go fishing with Herb Stewart and his wife. Will write a fish story afore long...
Love - Pap
Mountainair, New Mexico
June 9, 1944
My dear Boy: Nite is coming along again, and since nite always brings dreams of you - I'll just write a line or two....
We want to impress on you the necessity of pursuing your studies and work diligently at all times...
As always, Your Dad.
June 9, 1944
Mountainair, New Mex.
Dear Ladd: ...
We surely hope your leave is before trout season closes. Fishing in Rio Grande is open all year (warm water fishing) and people from Mountainair go down to River - only about 40 miles and catch some whopper cat after the weather becomes cool and all winter. Daddy learned about any sort of fishing after we have been raising you boys. He did not even know about trout fishing in the days before our trips to El Vado. So he can learn about catfishing. We are going catfishing until late Sunday. We are going down stream between Socorro and San Antonio...
The war is being won speedily, it seems. In a way, Larry wishes to be in the Navy. I feel certain he would get better association than he now has. So many left in colleges are psycho, and some of their mental set-ups are sort of radical.... Of course Larry recognizes then for that and does not see much of them, but the barracks life might be a good training for him anyway. What do you think? Every experience a person has either improves or further spoils one.
Love and Best Wishes, Mother
Mountainair, New Mexico
Dear Ladd -
...We may not go fishing this time after all. I'd rather wait and go to the upper Pecos, later - perhaps with you and Larry. Jensen says the fishing is surely good there - The fishing season is open all year in Rio Grande up to the Taos Junction bridge, (way up there) and can fish for anything to a certain limit - Rowe and Jensen both claim that a good fly fisherman can catch large trout up there anytime...
We mean to investigate land for sale near Socorro as soon as we can take a day to go there and look. Daddy will take a few days leave as soon as he gets caught up with his work.
Are you saving part of your money? Do they give medals there for good behavior? ...
Love and Best Wishes
Tues, Nite, 6/13/44
Hello Ladd: ...Was on a forest fire all last nite in the Manzanos. It was daylite when I went to sleep. Read that the San Simon Cienaga burned. Am preparing for a week of staff conferences in Albuq., beginning Thursday. Will see Larry then.
Dear Ladd - ... A new Bond came for you just now. The radio said that American Air Men bombed Tokyo this A.M...
I'll go to Albuquerque in a few days to advise Larry about his schedule... He was a bit reluctant about re-enrolling. Hardly knew what to do instead. Finally said he didn't like to get so many more hours credit ahead of you. I told him not to worry about you falling behind in that line as I felt certain that the practical experiences and associations you were getting would benefit you as greatly when you reached an opportunity to take hold of your studies again...
Love and Best wishes,
June 22, 1944
Mountainair, New Mexico
Dear Boy Ladd: It isn't often that I write to anyone twice in one day, but since there isn't anyone in the whole world that I care for more than you, I'll just make this out to you...
...Your red racing pigeons have one more squab - another to hatch soon. I'll start training some young birds soon.
Did Larry write about our trout fishing expedition up on the Pecos? Some time (before too long) you can go up there with me. We saw several deer up there...
June 28, 1944
Dear Laddie Boy: Mother and I just returned from Socorro. We left Larry there to catch a bus enroute Safford. He will return here Monday nite. Hope he has a swell trip to Arizona.
We left here Saturday 3:30, and drove way up the Pecos. Next morning at 5:30 we began walking 2½ miles strait up and 2½ west. We found the most beautiful little lake ± 2 acres. It was made by CCC, but the beaver added have added about 4 ft. to it. Elevation ± 11,000 ft., and ice banks everywhere. The Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) peaks just back of it. It was working alive with trout, but so much natural food available made them durned hard to catch. I got an 11 inch one, and Larry caught a 13 inch one. Some Texans had been there a couple of days and had plenty -- gave us 2, and we had a nearly perfect day. It would have been perfect had you been there too. Elk tracks thick around the lake. Some time we will (all 4/4 of Gordon family) pack up there for a week or four for a real outing.
Started raining before we left lake, and believe me, the 2½ miles strait down the trail was slick. Mother has lots of blistered feet.
The war news is most encouraging. Many people predict the end of Germany before Xmas. Japan will not last long before the onslaught of all combined forces...
As Always - Daddy
...If you're tops in your work and have learned a lot, you may get a promotion or something fine from the interview.
Love and Best Wishes
Ladd: Hello. How? Us too...We are expecting to meet Larry in Socorro Monday nite. Hope he is having a good time in Arizona... War news looking better all the time. It wont be too long now.
Write often. Affectionately, Dad and Mother
Monday P.M. Aug 2
Dear Ladd -
...I've been rushing around trying to finish knitting that Red Cross sweater...
I've made a batch of fudge & will mail some to Larry tomorrow. I'm afraid he doesn't get enuf to eat.
Love & Best Wishes, Mother
Mountainair, New Mexico
August 22, 1944
My dear Boy:
...Yes Ladd, the war news sounds better day by day and I'm sincerely hoping that the end is not far away. It may, however, be months before you are released from active duty, so be brave and keep your chin up. Life isn't all bad, and you and Larry have a bright future ahead - in the not too far distant future.
...Well, now that you won't be home for a few weeks, spect as how I'd better tell you about the two day rodeo. We had a good crowd and fair rodeo hands. Everything went off pretty smoothly, except the other Judge got poked in the eye by a dissatisfied contestant. I don't know why they didn't try to "whop" me too. We had calf roping, team tying, wild cow milking, bull riding, bronc riding,n every thing.
At the grand opening (both days), my horse wouldn't run when I was introduced to the crowd so, being a fearless and true knight of the range, I set spurs to his ribs, and instead of him dashing out like "Silver", he just bogged his head and put on a show - all of which proved to be sorter embarrassing to an old bronc stomper, and particularly since I was being introduced as one of the best riders of all times - er sumpin. Anyway, I did not fall off or pull leather - ahem, etc.
Mother and Larry held free passes, and took in the show. Gosh! Wouldn't it have made their faces turn pink if'n I had been thrown in the Grand Entry?...
This morning, school Superintendent Wood came to the house and talked Mother into "larnin" the 7th grade all year for $1,700. She stipulated that she couldn't be on the job when you are here on leave...
The tops of the mountains will soon take on the pretty colors of fall. It hasn't been long since the last snow disappeared from Capillo Peak in the Manzanos.
Well Ladd - I'll be seeing you in my dreams. Good nite dear boy and God Bless you.
Siempre, su Daddy
Dear Ladd: .....
...A gang of "Holy Rollers" (Holiness) church folks are encamped just S. of Daddy's office. They are all over the wooded hill, there. They surely holler, moan, dance, flop in fits, talk in "unknown tongues", etc. almost all nite. They all make noises at one and the same time. What a Babel! Daddy and I went to his office late one evening and sort of peeped through the bushes at a group that were really working off steam. When one would have a whirling fit and dance, then flop down in a writhing, frothing, moaning fit, others would fan than one with hankies or whatnots. It is quite a study in movement and noise. They must believe that God's attention is difficult to attract...
Love and Best Wishes Mother
Mountainair, New Mexico
September 24, 1944
Hello Laddie Boy:
... We were in Santa Fe yesterday with Larry. While he was getting a part of the Navy physical, I made the statement that I could pass all the physical except the hearing. A big Pharmacists mate run something in my ears and twisted it around a couple of times, then said, "Fellow, I would advise that you wash your ears." Well, seeing as how I didn't like such insinuations, I replied that I had washed my ears - once. Then he said, "Fill them with soap and water and shake well while using." I'll try that on of these days, and perhaps I'll be able to hear anything that flies, walks, crawls or swims again.
Larry did not learn much about his enlistment. They attempted to make him believe that he should be a Radio technician er sumpin. Guess as how he will enlist in the Hospital Corps just before he reaches that certain age.
... I shouldn't be at all surprised if’n it snows up in the high country before this spell ends. The grouse season opened there yesterday. If I knew where to go I might take a shot or three. Antelope season opens on the October 16. I may apply for a special permit yet, and go to the Flying H and try out old Betsy this fall.
...Well, the paper is getting short, so ------
Adios por este tiempo. Love, Dad
I joined the Navy on October 13, 1944 --- three days before turning eighteen and becoming eligible for the draft. So I guess I was a draft dodger, but not quite like President Clinton later proved to be.
I enlisted in Pensacola, Florida where Ladd was stationed, inasmuch as New Mexico's quota for Navy enlistments directly into the Hospital Corps had been filled. Mother accompanied me on the train to Pensacola, and Mother had the opportunity visit with Ladd for a few days. Thirty days later, I was transferred to Navy "Boot Camp" at Bainbridge, Maryland. I subsequently attended Hospital Corps School at Bainbridge. While at Hospital Corps School, I learned that the "Honor Man" of each class could be assigned to the Naval Hospital of his choice. I selected the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda, Maryland where I remained for the remainder of my tour of duty in the Navy. Both Ladd and I received several promotions and we both became Pharmacist's Mates, Second Class by the time we were discharged in 1946.
Sunday nite. October 15, 1944. 8:15 P.M.
Dear Little men of mine:
...I have to be in Estancia in the morning at 8 for the handling of 258 cases of young fellows who have heretofore had agricultural deferments. I don't intend for any of them under 26, irrespective of marital status, to remain here to increase the population any more before the end of the war -- unless they do so while on furlough. I surely do no enjoy seeing any of them have to go, but this is just about as much one fellows was as another, and I do not intend to be a party to keeping lots of unnecessary boys here while you are away doing a job for all of us....
Good night boy, say yore prayers. Good nite.
Dagumittttt you had better be a ritin some too.
October 22, 1944
Dear Little Men: Well, another Sunday has come along on the wheels of time, and I am really thinking of you this morning. Surely would love to see you, and to tell you what a famous pheasant hunting pap you have, ahem, etc. Wee, anyway the evidence is now being prepared by Mommy in the kitchen, of course the evidence that is lacking, and the part you may often wonder about and will never know is how many shells I shot to bag two cocks. Do you remember where we hunted between Los Lunas and Belen - off to the west of the highway? Well, that country is almost lousy with birds. I first hunted along a built up irrigation ditch, with a cornfield just below and on my left. I had only walked an eighth of a mile when suddenly a cock flew up near me from the corn field, and quartered off to my rear and left. I waited for him to get out a ways, led him about two feet, and let him have a dose of #6s. He crumpled in mid-air, and landed in an alfalfa field. I then felt kinder happy and proud of my ability. I hunted over west some more, and finally I walked in a weed patch that had just previously been hunted by several men (I saw them coming out). I saw sumpin move in a clump of camel thorn bush, and walked in to see what was there. Well, he flew uppish, and I carefully pointed my gun and waited for him to get about thirty steps away. Then I let him have a lot of shot, and he dropped to the ground amid a lot of feathers. He hit the ground running, and I began running too. In a minute he dashed into and across a small opening in the brush and weeds and as a mighty hunter should do in such emergencies, I let him have the second bunch of 6s. Just wish you guys were here to help Mommy, Sam and Adelia (me too) eat them.
Since this is Sunday, I wonder - did you go to church this morning? I hope so... Keep your chins up, your shoulders squared, and last but not least - keep your tummies pulled in. (The latter part of the instructions should be adhered to as I say, and not to be done as I do.)
Let us know at any time if there is anything here that either of you need. If there is anything we can possibly send, please let us know.
Incidentally, I will send a picture of your poor old father proudly displaying s season's limit of fessuntz...
If'n you boys get a furlough during duck season, I'll not be selfish and kill all of em. Hurry home. Dad
Sunday P.M. 10-22-44
Dear Larry and Ladd -....
...Larry, if you start to Bainbridge or Great Lakes, remember to secure information from every office. Just as you get off a train where change is due, study your ticket and examine it for transfers from depot to other lines. And be active and prompt, so as to be among first to head in right direction. Some people fool around and miss connections. If you are placed in charge of other boys, tell them right "off the reel" that your advice to them is to keep on the ball or learn to be prompt about getting off trains when changing and boarding other trains; that if any one has to wander off for a drink, that you will not chase him nor wait for him, but will report him missing when your arrive without him. Try to keep your group together by riding together in one bus, if possible, when transferring, but do not worry yourself about any wayward ones: report them to the Shore Patrol or Military Patrol. M.P.s are on all trains and in all stations where trains stop. If a train stops and you can see a cafeteria or cafe in depot, before going in depot inquire of conductor, porter, brakeman, or M.P. as to how long the train will be there, before you get off. Then look at # of you coach before getting our of sight of it, watch your wrist watch, and get back on in proper time. If you miss the train in a minute - it may be switching about, and not gone. Watch for it to come back - perhaps on the other track; and ask questions.
More love and best wishes - Mother
Mountainair, New Mexico
.... I went to Carrizozo yesterday. While enroute below Corona I ran into a bunch of quail. They ran, and I ran. Finally they thought they had an old man out-distanced and made the mistake of stopping in a bunch of low oak brush. I ran some more, with cocked escopita, and my tongue hanging out so far that it was about to drag in the cholla. They flew up in a bunch, and as a mighty hunter (ahem - just let me tell you this story), I waited and picked out one bird. Just before I pulled the trigger, two birds swung together, and I went banggggg.. Two birds killed flying with one shot! Not bad for an old man. Huh, What? I was so proud of my ability that I didn't chase that bunch any more. (Was too busy patting myself on the back) ...
Friday night in God's Country
November 24, 1944
Dear Larry and Laddie Boy:
...Mommy checked with the depot agent, and learned about the train schedules. He said there were only seven different and separate choices as to how to get here from Bainbridge. It will take between 55 and 60 hours of travel time. Get that pair of boots off in a hurry and come home and help me pull mine off. Tell them that I am planning to get you out of the Navy just in order to have someone to pull my boots off at night.
Also to have someone to let me sorter do a little twisting on his neck...
Ladd ... I am keeping your gun request in mind, and will buy you one the very first chance. I have a lot of shells waiting for some sailor to come along and shoot them. I can just naturally do better when I am bragging or to show off in your presence.
The war news is sounding better all the time. Lots of people think Germany will crumple before many more weeks elapse...
Well, good night, Say yore Prayers,
Forever your - Daddy
November 29, 1944
Hello Little Men: ... I came back from Corona last nite about dark. I had been down near the lava beds in Lincoln County, and believe it or not, but a bunch of quail got in the way, and I just had to take time out and give them a little chase. When I stopped running and shooting, I had seven birds in my jacket. Of course I didn't go down there on a hunting trip - just sorter accidental like, etc. We had baked quail for dinner, dressing too. Surely wish you fellows were here to give me a few pointers on how to shoot...
Well, I don't got much to say tonite, except that I miss you very much, and want you to hurry and get this here war off our systems, so that you can come home and play with ----
Yore old Pap.
Dear Ladd: ...Daddy will see if he can shoot some quail. I am now cooking a pot of pintos to take to eat. I'll buy wieners. We had 2 swell letters from Larry this morning. He seems to be existing in spite of everything.
Love and Best Wishes
Over in God's Country,
New Year's Day, 1945
Howdy Boys: Well here is your poor old father feebly writing to you on New Year's nite, primarily for the fun that I get out of visiting with myself while proof reading the finished product of a letter, and secondly, for the purpose of wishing each of the two finest boys in the whole Navy a very Happy, Prosperous, and Victorious New Year...
Impatiently waiting for you to return - safely,
Here, Friday A.M.
January 19, 1945
Darling Ladd -.... It seems when I think back on you leave that it must have been a dream. I suppose that is because it all slipped by so quickly. Perhaps it wont seem unbearably long until the war will be won and you and Larry sent home, and you will be free to go ahead with your training for a profession, after a long and real outdoor trip. The time you will be earning such a nice salary may not be long, and "will power" should be exercised to make a degree of thrift your daily behavior: you know, "easy come, easy go." But in the long run, your earnings now are not derived easily. There is quite an amount of inconvenience, worry by all of us, and some wasted or lost time involved. So make the most of your opportunities, in every way. I worry much about some of the social hazards that I know could entangle you. The greatest of these is girls. Pick-ups are dangerous to a man's freedom. It is the atmosphere, because of the hazard of war, for young folks to be in a hurry to have fun, spend money, do foolish, unthoughted things. But is it worthwhile? Not in the long run. A person should look ahead and plan for real happiness tomorrow and next year. It is generally understood by girls and women that there is rapidly developing a serious "shortage" of men. Some of them will use any tricks, blandishments, and skull-duggery to get theirs, or a man. And don't fool yourself and think that they are just willing to grab any male who gets within grabbing reach. If you must have girl friends, be careful how and when you make their acquaintance, and use every caution to keep such acquaintance on a strictly friendly basis - a man needs to know a lot about girls' previous schooling, interests, home folks, ideals and abilities before becoming serious. If the girl has character and good sense, she will not "rush' anything either, and such statement is not "old-fashioned." People who are real will always act with dignity and pride and think how their acts affect their future. There is quite a difference between a girl who is independent enough to not be willing to be sill and fast and try to rope a man because she has instincts of a huntress and wants a 'meal ticket", and a girl who is petulant. spoiled, clinging and generally stupid and silly. An intelligent man had best avoid such tripe, as nothing but life-long unhappiness can be the man's lot after such a girl gets started on him. Alimony forever is one of the milder results. So be proud and allow no one to put the notion in you that the risk is worth a moment of your time. You'll have plenty of time to meet and know girls of the right sort, and on an even footing, when the present world hysteria is settled to some extent, and you have accomplished more about a profession. I know that your intentions and instincts are above criticism, but no one's are above cautioning, as, "the way to Hell is paved with good intentions", and "there's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip." But withal, "a word to the wise is sufficient", or "a stitch in time saves nine." So when a friend starts out without a known goal or anchor, make some discreet excuse and not try to keep up with him, neither financially nor socially, by going. But stay around your own business...
Love and Best Wishes
God's Country, Sunday Morning, 8:00 AM
Dear Laddie Boy and Larry: ...
Now that my mind is on the great outdoors that the Master has made available to us, I should like to leave a thought with you. One based primarily on experience, and partly on the experience of others. Live and act at all times in such a manner while you are in the Navy, that you will be proud of your physical and mental facilities. You are completely surrounded by the many temptations of life, and the crowds with which you must associate to a greater or lesser degree are evil minded and a vulgar lot. There are a few fine fellows there. Keep your companionship limited to these, and when the time comes for you to return triumphantly to the things of your choice, you will surely and certainly are worthy and well qualified to participate and enjoy the great outdoor creation to the greatest extent possible. You will also be the better qualified to make the best from the possibilities of life itself...
I remain, faithfully waiting for you.
God's Country, New Mexico
Jan. 23, 1945
Hello Fellows: ...
...Have given some thought to the preparation of a talk on conservation which I have to give tonite at Gran Quivira. I gave a talk on a similar subject at Claunch yesterday afternoon before almost 100 farmers...
Good night, and say your prayers. Daddy
...Did Larry write that I bought each of you a swell hunting knife? They are Marbles - con 5 1/2" blades, and I have honed them to a point that they will shave. Lem’me know if’n you want your knife down there. Might come in handy in case you may go to sea and wan’na operate on sumpins.
And another letter from Dad was written while Ladd and I were still serving in the Navy and Mother was visiting in Oklahoma. This 1945 letter read:
Away over in God's Country
Mountainair, New Mexico
... Supper is over - baked beans, steak, and chili peppers, and for dessert I baked a cake. Believe it or not the latter was fine. Part of it was in a pan, and the remainder was turned into muffins. My latent ability is showing up in good stead. The dishes are even washed, and even the floor is swept.
After supper I sat on the back steps and took the little fly rod completely apart, and sandpapered all the shellac and varnish. I then took some steel wool and polished until it is very clean. I will look for some silk thread and rewind all the ferules, and all the other parts. I warmed the tip and straightened it out. The moral of this story is that I wanna catch some truchas in the upper Pecos one of these first days. The season opens the 15th. Homer Pickens, Assistant State Game Warden was up in the office today with Walt Wiltbank of the Forest Service. They said that all the upper country is thawing fast, and that all the good trout water will be murky. Pickens told me to try a grey quill, hook size #14, on a tapered leader on those monsters up in Stewart Lake. He says he has caught good fish there in that manner. Larry may be might when he says that a 30-30 may be the proper system up there.
Went by the Ranchitos (Amber Acres) just to see if the high water in the Rio Grande was on our land. I found the river high, but not anywhere up to a point where our land is in any danger. I am surely proud of that property. The first time I saw it, I fell in love with it. Later, I showed it to Mommy, and she says it's fine. You fellows have seen it and I think you will agree that it offers possibilities for a real future home. There is no reason that I can see why that may not be the "Sun Valley" of our dreams. Some day our dreams will come true. With the change in the war situation within the past few days, that Happy Day may not be far away. Will you dream with me?
I have been notified that I have been selected as Conservationist
for the Region for the past month. I did not recognize that my work was outstanding to any such degree. Guess as how my reports must have been beyond the ordinary. Heh-heh....
Sincerely, as ever - Dad.
PS - Mommy come home.
Ladd come home.
Larry come home.
...Keep your chins up at all times and keep on trying. You will be proud of those grades and the future rewards. The whole world will come to your door someday if you keep on.
Hello Ladd and Larry: ... Larry, I want to congratulate you on all your successes. I know you earned the promotion, and further earned the right to be sent to the finest hospital in our Country. There is an old saying which goes something like this: "All things come to the deserving." Anyway, I think it is just grand, and I know that you will go thru there with the banner waving high....
If’n you have the notion that yore Pap is an old man - just wait until you come home, and I'll show you how the old man can bring in the rainbows, big bucks, and top-knot quail. I have the fishing tackle in order, and the guns are all well oiled --- just waiting for the happy day. By the way, I have subscribed for the New Mexico magazine for each of you. Will also order some other SW magazines for you fellers.
God's Country, New Mexico
Sunday morning, 5/6/45
... When you boys come home, I will have the pack outfit ready, and we will eat beef and galletos con las truchas y otras animales until our hearts are content. That day is drawing nearer each and every day....
Ladd, you asked me about the future of range men and foresters. Well, I could write reams and volumes on this subject, but here is the essence: The woods and ranges will be filled with BS degrees on of these firstest days, and a fellow would have to have a lot on the ball to meet the competition. Of course, that goes for any profession. The trouble is going to be somewhat as follows: The eastern colleges are gonna manufacture students overnight. They will flood the Sanctum sanctorum equally fast. They will have political pull as strong as BS (?). Of course, all they will have will be the educational angle of this work, but that is the craving of the Civil Service, and the old style rancher is rapidly being replaced with the eastern dude type. (Hell, I was borned about 50 years too late. I can't stand this transfiguration). Birds of a feather will naturally gravitate together, so the West as I have had the privilege of knowing it will fade from sight almost immediately after the war. Not a very purty picture to paint, but I must use the colors as I honestly see it. Ladd, the old West will be gone before you know it. Already this country is filled boots and spurs, but sadly, on the feet of drug store punchers, and running horses are replacing the type of ponies which I have caught wild and broke to be honest to goodness cow horses. Am sending one of my recently made pictures of an honest cowman on a real cow horse. Larry saw me rope a big saucy cow last summer off the same horse. When this fellow and I have taken the long ride over the sunset trail, and gallop into the land of the waving blue grama and unbranded calves - the old range man, forester, and pioneer will merely be a legend. The moral of all this may be summed up with this true story: When I was a little fellow, and believe it or not I once was, I was riding a pony along side of my Dad. He turned and looked intently at me sitting on my horse. Finally he said, "Son, what are you going to be when you grow up?" I replied, "I'm gonna be a cowboy." He had seen the handwriting on the wall even in that day long passed, and almost with tears in his eyes he said, "Son, when you grow up, all the cowboys will be plowboys, and you will merely be in middle age when the boys of the trails will be legend." That time has come to pass.
From now on, things will be different in the mountains and on the prairies. Different men are coming. You fellows are of true pioneer stock, and I know better than you do just what the call of the West means. But honestly, my sons, take heed and prepare yourselves for the call that can be established in your blood, and be a pioneer in something better than that for which I was intended. Neither of you know perhaps that even before you were born, that Mommy and I were building dreams for you. I do not wish that you endure the hardships that I have encountered in life, but rather that each of you equip yourselves for the fullest use of the splendid minds with which you are endowed. (You got only muscle and guts from me, your talents are from your Mommy).
Well fellers, this epistle is getting lengthy, and the call to cook dinner is upon me, so --- this ends the hablos por este tiempo.
Adios, niños de mio. Vaya con Dios siempre.
Siempre suya, Daddy
Dear Ladd-.... We had a letter from Larry - and $25.00 this A.M. to add to his savings. We are surely proud of you and Larry and so grateful that you both are so fortunate. Never falter being right on your toes where your work is concerned, and always be careful and be sure to keep clear of trouble....
Love and Best Wishes
Here - Tuesday p.m. 5-15-45
Hi Ladd- Daddy and I rose at 4:30 this A.M. and hied away up to Tajique Canyon & started fishing at daybreak - opening of trout season. It was surely cold up there - creek running good but clear. I had quite a time trying to get wet wood on fire, but after about an hour's effort and using every match I could rake up, the fire finally was started - - then after about 30 min. of enjoying my fire, the rain began again - lightly, and I got into car. Just sat there a bit and was becoming sleepy when I saw Andrew coming thru the shower - He had 11 nice trout. We cooked 7 right away - he ate 5 & I ate 2....
Love and Best Wishes
Sunday, 5/27/45. At home
Hello Larry and Ladd: While Mommy is cooking somethings, I will occupy myself by making some visit with you. It would really be more better if’n you were here, but since you aren't, I spect as how the best substitute will be by scribbling some words...
...We are coming along grande. Had planned to go trout fishing over the weekend, but after studying the moon for a spell, I decided to postpone the fun for a couple of weeks. The moon will not be so bright then, and the high waters will have receded somewhat by that time. The Pecos will be rather murky even two semanos from today, but try I must. My flatfish lures for fly rods will be here by that time, and I must see what will happen when a monster and I attack one another. Irrespective of what really does happen, you may be reassured that I will have a special lie regarding the one that got away...
The fishing calendar indicates that most all of August will be fine trout weather. Larry may be able to get leave about the same time and really help with those big ones. I cannot think of anything, with the exception of the end of the war, that I would prefer than having you two fellers here on a real fishing tour of the Sangre de Cristos and upper Pecos drainages. Anyway, you can depend on me for having everything ship-shape for the recreation...
I banded some squabs this AM. We shore do got lots of racing pigeons. All of them are loose in the yard now. The best looking young bird that we have is from a pair Larry got in Safford. He is big and strong looking. I may fly some of the young birds this summer.
God's Country New Mexico
...A piano tuner came along yesterday, and Mommy made arrangements with him to tune our piany. He arrived about 12:30 and tuned on it for a long time. Hours later he called Mommy and said "play a tune, and then we can hear the improvement." She say, "I can't play," and he say same thing. Now the piany is tuned (I guess), and no one here to make play on it. Now the morale of all this is something as follers --- You boys just gotta come home fast. Of course Mommys Scotch blood arose to the call just before the tuner say, "$10.00 pliz." Know what she do? Well just listen: She tell the tuner that she has a splendid violina upstairs, all in good shape, excepting the como se llama being loose. The tuner, also Scotch, rose to the bait and said, "I often repair violinas, and perhaps I can make the necessary repair." Well, she gets the violina and tell him that it cost a heap of dineros, but even in spite of the fact that her lone sailor doesn't care to entertain on it anymore (due to the fact that he ain't here) she still would like to have it repaired. He say, "Lady I will repair it for ten buckaroos." She reply somethings like this, "You want as much to repair it, as I consider it worth." Finally he say somethings like this, "Tell you what I'll do - I will just call the piany tuning bill of $10.00 square, and recheck the piany the next time I am thru here, for the violina." She sorter reluctantly accepted, but when he had gone she tell me that she bought the violina for $6.39 years ago. Now some morals: If you fellers fail to get rich, and have a lot of fun doing it, about all I have to say is that it wont be my fault - I gave you a smart Mommy - heh, heh."
...Now about this cold in the goozle: Last Saturday I insisted that Mommy go on a trout expedition with me to Cowles, on the upper Pecos. Well, to make a long story somewhat short, she finally loaded the car with almost everything except the davenport and cookstove, and finally we arrived at the last cabin on the Panchuela about two hours afore dark. Naturally I had visions of a lot of monsters all fried to a turn for supper, so I took the rod, reel, flies, spinners, and everything and pulled up the canyon. I soon saw the righteousness of Mommy's argument that the water would be too high to catch the fish, but after a lot of wading ice water, and bruising one shin in a beaver dam, I finally inveigled one little feller to get sorter close to my flies. When he was just right I jerked, and believe I snagged that truchas in the side. (I ain't told Mommy the straight of this episode, she think I caught him legal like.) Later, and woe-begone, I stumbled into camp, bearing in my hand the fruits of the trip. Now here is the beginning of my neck cold. She tell me that a Ranger had been into camp on his horse, and told her that ifn we had a dorg that we better keep it in camp, because he had set so many lion, cat, and bear trap in the vicinity for to catch varmints which were in turn killing all the fawn and turkey. Well we talk lions and bears for a long time after going to bed. I couldn't go to sleep very good (she had the air mattress), so in my restlessness I finally felt a lion jump from the bluff just back of camp on my bed. I shook him off, and found my pistola, and while sitting up in bed looking for the marauder to return, Mommy say, "silly, lie down and go to sleep." I felt foolish. I sorter dozed off some more agin. Believe this true part of the episode, - without a warning note the car horn (which was about ten feet distant from my ear) suddenly began to blow long and loud. I didn't think, I just acted (like a true Gordon) and assumed that the booger had returned and was trying to steal the car. I ran over thorns and tent stakes, and all the time beating heck out of the car with my pillow. I finally got the battery cable loose, and stopped the noise that was almost as loud as the Panchuela. Mommy she shore does roast me over fighting lion and bear with a feather pillow instead of my pistola. The frost had fallen, and ice was forming, so you can understand why the sore neck. Morals of this is: don't fish until Mommy say ok, and use a gun instead of a feather. You had better just come home and take care of an old man in his dotage.
God,s Country, Pap's Day
June 17, 1945
Hello Boys: Just a note to tell you that I received the Father's Day card, and I think it's grand. Swell of you to remember the old man. We have surely been receiving a heap of swell letters from you boys. We always enjoy them. From the way the war is going, there is little doubt that we will all be together during the most of 1946. We will celebrate in a big way - all the holidays, and other important days when you fellers are released. I tried out the flatfish in the Manzano lake this morning. While I did not catch any truchas, I did catch several nice bluegills. Lots of small perch struck many times at the lure, but their mouths were too small too catch. I am of the opinion that these lures are just the things for the monsters at Stewart Lake. ...
Well, I started out just to say "hello and how", so guess I had better be riding along.
God's Country, Tuesday 6:00 PM
July 31, 1945
My dear boys: I have just returned from the office, and have with me Larry's last letter. With Ladd and Mommy gone far, far away, it surely is lonesome hereabouts.
Ladd, I just want to tell you a thing that I forgot to tell you before you left today: I surely enjoyed every minute of you visit with us. You are a swell fellow, and if you will continue to be the same fellow, the world will long remember you. I know that things are not too pleasant for you during the war period, but all this will blow away, and there will surely come that day of which you have so long dreamed. Come home again, Ladd. I shall always welcome you, even tho you did catch the most and biggest fish. I shall count the past two weeks as the hi lights of my life. Thanks for being here and showing me a splendid time.
Larry, Thanks for your letter which I received today. There remains only one regret about Ladd's leave, and that is because you were not here with us. We have had some fine times together, and I will reassure you that you and I will have some more - bigger and better than ever, just as soon as someone makes a mistake and signs a leave slip for you... Ladd surely thinks the Ranchitos is a fine piece of land. We have looked it over twice, and he and I think more of the possibilities all the time. When you come home I will discuss all the details of it's development with you.
The war news sounds better every day, and I will stick with my guns with the thought that the war is rapidly coming to a close. The Air Force and the Navy apparently have little opposition, and can almost come and go at will these past few days. I am curious as to the role Russia may play in the war against Japan...
I will bring this to a close for this time. I sincerely hope and pray that the war ends before you have to read many more of these communications...
As always, Daddy.
Laddie Boy: Nite is coming on, and I miss you a great deal. Wish you were here once more to play the piano for me. Hurry home - to Dad.
August 4, 1945
I had a letter from Larry yesterday that Daddy had forwarded to me. It is a swell letter. I am very anxious to go home. Am busier than I should be. This hot weather hurts, as I'm not accustomed to it at all. But there are several things here that I must get accomplished before I can leave. All the electric wiring needs checking. I must tack the paper up overhead in kitchen, and the gas heater must be installed. The plumbing needs to be checked and repaired, but I'll not be able to get that done....
The news yesterday stated that Japan is now blockaded to where the people there were getting less than 1/2 enough food. It won't be long now!...
Love and Best Wishes, Mother.
God's Country, New Mexico,
Tuesday evening about dark.
August 7, 1944
Hi Everybody: Well I be sorter happy tonight inasmuch as I received letters from the two swellest sailors in the world.
First of all I want to congratulate Larry on the fine promotion. That is grand, and I am certainly proud of you. It all goes to show that boys who try to make good in spite of the obstacles of warfare can do it. When you come home I will really tell you how proud of you I really am at all times....
...You have each heard a lot about the atomic bomb by this time. It was perfected just north of the Bandelier Monument across the Rio from the Caja del Rio, and the first bomb fired was set off on July 16 between the White Sands and Fort Bliss. A one-quart bomb rattled windows in Gallup. The light from the explosion was visible in Albuquerque. The concussion alone knocked down men more than 7 miles away. No wonder that after the first bomb was dropped on Japan those rats said it was inhuman. They have a choice, and I predict they will get out in preference to mass national suicide. Them calling a little friendly bombing and inhuman act, makes one ponder their actions of the early days of the war. They appear to have forgotten Pearl Harbor, Corregidor, the death march, and many other cruelties of their own. Drowning rats surely act curious...
...Well, I gotta go to the pigeon loft and check on the birds which I flew this PM.
Love and Best of Everything to you, you, and you.
Larry: I will endeavor to get a copy of Outdoor Life, and check the land story. We have a deed as long as your arm for a lot of land now. More wouldn't hurt.
Mountainair, New Mexico
August 8, 1945
Dear Ladd - ... Ain't Science Grand? The new bomb discovery has cleared up the war situation, it appears...
Love and Best Wishes, Mother
August 8, 1945
Russia's entry in the war, coupled with the new devastating bomb will bring quick peace to the world. Even should you and Larry be sent to sea - you will never see any action - just the results of it. I doubt that you or he will be sent anywhere. I'm surely happy over the progress of the war. In haste,
As always - Dad.
Friday p.m. August 10 - 1945.
Dear Ladd: ... This appears to be VJ day, regardless. Of course, battles are still happening, but such are apt to occur in out of way places for perhaps months. Guerilla bands will not learn for some time that peace has been arrived at, even when it is officially declared...
Love and Best Wishes
August 11, 1945
Hi Ladd: Well, it looks as though this is the day for which we have so long waited. I wasn't kidding when I told you that it was "bout near" over, and that you nor Larry would ever see action in the Pacific Theater. I'll snap my pistola, and yell "Oh happy day" just as soon as its definite.
Larry may be here 'bout Wed. I'll be glad.
In haste, Adios, niño de mio
Sat. P.M., Aug. 11 - 45
Dear Ladd - I'm keeping one ear tuned to radio to not miss any developments. Peace seems to be assured. I've had a feeling - all summer that it would happen soon. I mean to celebrate some way: like chewing an unusually large piece of wax or something. Daddy intends to shoot his gun...
I've been reading all I can find in Chemistry texts about radioactivity and Uranium. It is interesting.
Love and Best Wishes, Mother
August 13, 1945
Dear Ladd: ...
Gosh, boy I'm excited. The news just flashed that Japan had accepted the terms. Mom said, "shoot your pistol!" I did, all five times. Hope its all true instead of another rumor and caused me to waste 1000 grains of lead. Commentators now saying mebbe it ain't so - dunno. The siren down town is trying to tear it self to pieces anyway...
Spect as how Larry will be here about Wednesday. I'll show him how to fish - as I did you - when you were here. Heh-heh! Anyway, it wont be long now until we can all be together again, even if the radio did just now pull a premature "boner." The true announcement is coming - before you receive this.
Yours - always,
Monday, 6:30 P.M.
Dear Ladd; Just a line to say "hello", and to warn you that you may not hear from any of us for 3 or 4 days. We are leaving in a minute or four for the Upper Pecos and the wide-open places. Wish you were here to help Larry and me at Catherine or Stewart Lake. We will camp below Cowles in the Rio Pecos late tonite, and may fish there tomorrow...
Too bad the war news flashed out, but in a few hours it will be true pronto. The time when we can all fish together is not far distant now.
Well, my boy, keep your fingers crossed, and hope that Larry and I catch a heap of monsters.
God’s Country, New Mexico
Tuesday nite, 9/3/45
Hello Larry and Ladd: ...
... I have been expecting and Australian Captain of the Royal Aussie Air Force here as a visitor for the past ten days. I finally met him at Barton yesterday morning. We got along fine, did a heap of visiting, fought the war all over again, and saw a lot of my bailiwick.... I enjoyed the Aussie very much. He is the most highly decorated man I have ever seen. He saw service in both theaters of operation, and has surely had some great experienced. Wish he could have stayed with us longer.
I am planning to attend the Scottish Rite reunion in Santa Fe next week for two or possibly three days. I will check on the last land bid while up there in an effort to expedite action toward conclusion of the purchase of the remainder of the Ranchitos lands.
Have not located a satisfactory man to operate the farmland. There will be the right fellow show up one of these days, and we will then undertake starting.
We are very hopeful that you boys will be released about next spring - or even before that. What ideas do you have on the subject of discharges at this time? We will make some sound plans for your future educations as rapidly as possible after your return home. I have hopes of being transferred about the time the elm leaves become the size of a mouses ear.
Love and best wishes to both of you - always. Dad.
Dear Ladd - ....
The radio has just announced that the Americans have smashed thru the Siegfreid line east of Aachen on a wide 24-mile front. So 'twont be too long now.
Love and Best Wishes,
Sunday Morning, 9/16/45
It surely seems that each of you have been fortunate by so long over-staying the normal assignment at your present stations. The only reason by which I can account for such action is that you are each doing more than is normally expected of a fellow. That type of pursuits will go to the end of the rainbow in life for you. Keep it up, and I will assure you that the rewards to be reaped will far exceed your greatest expectations... I dreamed last nite of camping with both of you at the lakes in the Sangre de Cristos; therefore, I fell that such happy days are merely in the offing...
Fall of the year is here... Deer season will soon be here too. Wish you were here to shoot a buck with me and thereby save me some hard climbing...
Love and Best Wishes
October 12, 1945
..I must build Chad a nice doghouse tomorrow. Also dig a cesspool for the kitchen sink....
Love and Best Wishes, Mother
Thursday nite in God's Country
October 13, 1945
Howdy fellows: ...
Mother and I returned from Santa Fe Tuesday nite. I enjoyed the Scottish Rite Degree work a great deal as usual. Some day, before long, I surely hope that each of you will avail yourselves of the opportunity of receiving that fine Masonic work. While there Mother spent most of the time in the Capitol building preparing data for the final procurement of the remainder of the Ranchitos land. We hope to have the deed within the next two or three weeks....
Sam and I were over in the edge of the Gallinas country this afternoon. We stopped at an isolated windmill for a drink, and while there I had to look around to determine what type of game was watering there. I found deer tracks a plenty, and to my surprise I found that a large bunch of turkeys are watering regularly there too. The tracks are small - all of which indicated that there was a late hatch, and the birds have not yet reached maturity. I have a good notion to sleep there about Saturday nite when the season opens and when the coconinos come in to water along about sunup to scatter a couple loads of number 4s right in the middle of the biggest bunch. Wish as how you were here to back me up with your shot guns on either side. Next season we will harvest some big bucks and gobblers as in the days of yesteryear. OK ?...
Well, mommy is insisting that I look over the material she prepared on the last bid. It involves approximately 432 more acres of the valley.
Come over - some day - soon, and play with me. Forever - Daddy
Saturday P.M. October 13, 1945.
Dear boys, both...
The R.E.A. will put electricity in our ranch neighborhood before many more months, and we can get a hook-up from it. We can operate a drinking water supply from an electric pump on a deep well by our house. We will build the house of stone and adobes. Stone can be secured for the bed of that arroyo that is just south of the building sites. We can make our house of stone up to the base of the windows, or slightly higher, in a sort of irregular pattern... We could be smart and pay off the mortgage after a few crops of calves, etc....
Love and Best Wishes, Mother
Monday nite, October 15, 1945
God's Country, New Mexico
Hello Ladd and Larry: ...
While we were at the Ranchitos today, one of our tractor operators caught his hand in a drum between heavy cables, and resulted in the amputation of three fingers, and possibly a crushed arm below the elbow. Sam dashed him off to the Maytag hospital in Albuq. He has not returned, and now I am anxious about him. Troubles always comes in big quantities...
We have been doing a lot of thinking and planning about you fellers of late. While we have only a remote idea when you may be released from the Navy, we desire to take this opportunity to say "hurry home and help us make up a heap of practical dreams for your futures." ...
Love and best wishes, Daddy
God’s Country, New Mexico.
October 17, 1945
My dear boys...
...Fall of the year is here, and October's bright golden days are again with us. This fall brings range surveys, soil terracing programs, and best of all - hunting season. The mountains are orange and red with splotches of yellow in the tall aspen thickets. The mesas and valleys have taken on the somber hue of fall. I had a view of the White Mountain and the Sangre de Cristos today, and they too have taken on the color of fall and winter - the most beautiful season of the year. Fall, resplendent with her robes of change is a gentle reminder to me that while nature is becoming dormant for a time to be, that she will bloom forth again in a little time - after a while. So goes life in its complexity....
There is no news or recent developments regarding the ranch. We hope to have the remainder of the deed before long. I am still looking for a satisfactory farmer.... The brand department would not approve our old brand because someone else had a near duplication. The Three A's suits me about as well anyway.
Well, we noticed in today's paper that the Navy is lowering discharge points. Whey will continue to lower point systems month by month, and before you know it, you will have your sea bags and hammocks thrown across your shoulders and be headed for the wide open spaces, and a hearty welcome home and to the things you love.
God’s Country, New Mexico
Saturday afternoon, 10/20/45
Remember that I wrote to the REA in Socorro a few days ago regarding electricity for the ranch? Well I have a reply from them wherein it was stated that the new line will run from Socorro to La Joya and Contreras. The line will parallel our property along the east side. I am surely proud that we will have a power line for all future developments. That line will increase the value of the ranch considerably....
Ladd, what do you think of the battlewagons which you have seen there in the bay? Did you have an opportunity to go on board? I should like very much to see one of the modern ships. If’n you see a sub-chaser, you can imagine how I won the other war while serving in the mosquito fleet in the Gulf of Mexico....
Love and Best Wishes, Daddy
Dear Ladd and Larry -
I'll have to tell you about the skunk. Yesterday about 5:30 A.M. the small pup ran into the skunk. The skunk really sprayed him a bit and the pup really howled and ran into a small hole under the house. He stayed under there till about 10, crying and whimpering. He was really embarrassed or something. He smelled bad, too. Perhaps he will know better next time...
...Save all the money you can. 'Tis smart to be thrifty, 'cause a fool and his money is soon parted. 'Tis foolish to form prodigal habits about money, you know.
Much Love and more Good Wishes
In 1945, I had escorted a patient from the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, where I was stationed as a Pharmacist's Mate, to the hospital at the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, where Ladd was stationed as a Pharmacist's Mate. Dad wrote:
God's Country, New Mexico
Howdy, How anyway?
Mother and I were delighted this morning when we received letters from each of you and learned that you boys had a three-day visit. I know each of you enjoyed one another a great deal. One of these first days we can all have a real visit together, and then if you write from school we will know that all's well....
While in Querque yesterday, I visited Dick Strong in his office. He invited me to hunt turkey and deer with Cass Goodner and himself on the Ojo del Espirito Grant. He said they had packhorses and everything ready. And there are lot of game there now on the west slopes of the Naciementos. I had been planning to hunt in the Gallinas, but this invitation may change my mind. The Gallinas are between here and the Capitans. Cass has killed two bear this fall. He has some hound dawgs with which to hunt los osos del montaños. Would you like for to make some chase of bear about next fall??????????
Mother went with me to Chilili this morning. We came back by Glenn Williams ranch. I have bought a big calf from Glenn to butcher this fall. I will hang it up in about two weeks. We are having ice every night now, but the days are quite warm, and keeping the beef this early would necessitate keeping it hung up all the time, wrapped in a tarp during the day, and unwrapping it at night in order that the cold would strike deep...
Write soon, lots and often.
Sincerely, as ever. Daddy
In 1945, Dad's supervisor with the U.S. Soil Conservation Service wrote:
...He is a hard worker, conscientious and dependable, and exhibits and carries over to others his enthusiasm for any job he tackles. Mr. Gordon has always been eminently successful in his contacts with farmers and ranchers of all types, and he is able to secure their interest and cooperation in large measure because of his ability to understand their problems...
Early in 1946, my parents were appointed the first Ranch Managers and Ranch Father and Mother for the New Mexico Boys Ranch, which was a few miles north of their own Ranchitos land near La Joya, New Mexico. At that time, the Boys Ranch was just a concept and a location. My parents supervised construction of the first buildings, drilled the first water supply and irrigation wells, commenced farming some of the land, acquired livestock, re-planted some of the grazing land, and fenced the property. My parents acquired some of the original land for the ranch directly in the name of the ranch from their personal funds.
New Mexico Boys Ranch
La Joya, N.M.
April 3, 1946
Hi Ladd: Well, this - another day, brings you nearer home, and also deletes one from Larry's time....
Mother and I are coming along first rate. We are making plans for our trip to Amarillo tomorrow. Mother has a new dress to wear - with the new toothies! I'll leave my horse Indio with Ulibarri (our neighbor on the south - he speaks English) while we are away...
Have 3 men working, and more will come as soon as their spring plowing is over...
Love y Best Wishes, and Hurry home, Dad
The house in nearby Veguita in which Mother and Dad lived while developing the Boys Ranch was a small two-room adobe with dirt roof and floors. Sometimes things got both hectic and wet when it rained. There was no electricity or plumbing and, during the warmer months, the nearby irrigation ditch served as the family bath after the dark of night. Ladd arrrived home in April 1946, and I arrived home after being discharged from the Navy on Independence Day --- July 4, 1946. I hitched a ride to Bernardo after arriving on the train in Belen, and walked the several miles on a clear moonlit night from Bernardo to Veguita. Our family was home and together at last following WWII! This "home" in Veguita is now only a gently raised mound of melted adobe with no indication that a happy and grateful family once lived there. Ladd and I returned to the University of New Mexico in September 1946.
While I was attending the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Michigan and my parents lived at Amber Acres, our farm-ranch near La Joya, Dad wrote:
La Joya, New Mexico,
Tues, AM. Sept. 29, 53.
.... The transition from a position back to the halls of learning is often a radical change, so make the best of it.
We are coming along first rate. Mommy has the fireplace just about completed. It looks grand! However, the test will come when she lights a fire one of these cool mornings. She has made it in accordance with all the well-regulated specifications, so it should work. It's purty!
Well, the tractor D-8 has worked in the bosque for several days, and you just wouldn't recognize the area north of the house. That Cat walks through the brush just like a bear through buckwheat. Of course the big job is yet to come in the raking and burning. Am going to wait until the brush is dry this time, and I hope to have at least a 90% burn the first time over the area. The lake is dry, and I have harrowed practically all of the flooded portion, so it looks good at this time.
Guess as how Nedra and all the little Gordons will move from Santa Fe to Albuquerque about today. We are anxious to run up and see them one day this week --- about Friday I 'spect. I know you surely would love to see that little feller Kent. We have been able to see him the one time, and he wasn't quite so big, but he really did entertain us royally by looking our way, showing his hand, and generally just showing us a good time. From the vantage point of looking thru a damned glass window, I'd say he just about looks like his Dad, and somewhat like his G-Dad ----, ahem, etc. Anyway you will be the happiest fellow in the world when you see him this Xmas time or before. In the meantime, I will make a point to tell him all about his dad, and sorter keep that little Debbie gal remembering you too.
I haven't heard from Ladd for some time. The Gila country is ablaze some more again, so I imagine he has had smoke in his eyes for days. The Fair is on in Albuquerque, and it is possible they may drive over this way some day this week.
Felipe, the Isleta Indian Cat skinner, came very early this morning, and he told me a while ago that there was ice hanging on the canvass water bag this morn, so guess this valley will soon be turning amber colored once again, taking on the beautiful hues of autumn.
Well, I have often heard that a feller isn't a man until he has planted a tree, built a house, and been the father of a fine boy, so --- I salute you! Hasta luego, y Adios.
Both my parents offered sound advice and support throughout their lives. For example, when I was considering resigning my position as Director of the Albuquerque Health Department due to the antics of a harassing boss, Dad wrote:
Las Cruces, New Mexico
Sunday AM, 1-26-60
Dear Larry ... Have been thinking of you and your problems a heap all week, and if you will take my penciled words in the thought they are offered --- I scribble some for you to think on ---.
I have a similar problem --, never was free from it, and probably never will be as long as it is necessary to work with and for people. The only consolation I secure is my knowledge that "all the monkeys are not in a zoo." Wade Cooper's type is everywhere. You and I could be the same if we tried hard enough. We are too straightforward, honest and sincere! I know things get under your skin - they do for me -, as I work under men just as Cooper; however, if you were to quit and move elsewhere, you would find the same type there ahead of you. I work under men who wouldn't know a cow from a bull elephant, but the powers that be like that type. Such has been the case in government work through all my experience, and men long retired have told me that it always prevailed as such. Its in the Pentagon, Army, Civil Service and related work. We all like approval of our endeavors and we do receive much, not always from the boss but from the public. I believe - and this hits me too - if you and I were to use more patience, and perhaps more tact or diplomacy, we would be better off in the final analysis.
True, we could transfer elsewhere and get away from the face or the name, but never from the type that causes knot in our tummies. I've thought a lot on this! If you or I were transferred, say, east of the 100th meridian, we would never be happy and would return to the sunshine both sadder and wiser. I've come to the conclusion to just tough it out as long as my salary will make ends meet, and by doing without many of the superfluities, accumulate some for old age, and try to be content.
Lets get together some weekend soon and go catch a trout.
Love, and the best of everything to you.
(I took Dad's advice, and did not resign. Subsequently, it took me two more years to get the position occupied by the incompetent boss abolished by a unanimous vote of the Albuquerque City Commission.)
Other things I will remember include:
My parents' joy upon finding two silver dollars in a trunk during the depression.
My parents' taking us on frequent weekend trips to fish, hunt quail, swim in a stock-tank, or just enjoy the great outdoors of the magnificent southwest.
My parents' belief that an occasional justifiable whack on the rear of children leads to rapid improvement in behavior.
My parents' happiness when Dad could visit while he was attending the University of New Mexico in the early 1930s and my mother was teaching six grades at an isolated one-room school near Coolidge, New Mexico.
My parents asking grade school arithmetic and spelling questions for my brother and me to answer after we were all in bed at night.
My parents fly-fishing beside a mountain stream or lake while instructing my brother and me in the art of fly-fishing at an early age, thus beginning our lifelong love of fly-fishing in beautiful remote areas.
My parents' belief that God was with us whether beside a noisy mountain stream or in a church.
My parents helping me with my schools work even after I was in college. While at the University of New Mexico, I was having trouble with my papers for an English class. Dad and I sat on a log in the Sandia Mountains while he dictated my next two papers. That was the best lesson I ever had in composition and dictation, and has helped me ever since. And Mother had the intellect to help me with such subjects as math and chemistry even after I was in college.
My parents' gift of a new saddle which they could then ill afford while they were building and developing the New Mexico Boys Ranch when I returned from the Navy in July 1946.
My parents' enthusiasm and toil, and Dad riding his horse "Indio", while he and my mother developed and managed the New Mexico Boys Ranch.
My parents clearing the land and developing their farm-ranch near La Joya, New Mexico; and the smell of sourdough permeating the one-room shack where we lived as we began developing our La Joya property.
My parents mixing and pouring adobe mud into forms to construct the various buildings at Amber Acres, their farm and ranch near La Joya.
My parents' admonitions that:
"If I Had A Problem, I'd Get Rid Of It!"
"The Harder We Work, the Luckier we get",
"A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned",
"Don't Swing on Other People's Gates, and Don't Let Them Swing on Yours", and
"God Helps Those Who Help Themselves."
My parents' sweat and toil as they remodeled and maintained their various rental properties.
My parents' daily phone conversations with me for the past twenty years. After they became infirm, these were converted into almost daily visits until the day before my father passed away.
My parents' emphasis on morals, ethics, hard work, loyalty, and education that enhanced the lives of all their children and grandchildren. They were always proud and supportive of all achievements of their family members.
My parents' joy and satisfaction when able to help their children and grandchildren after becoming reasonably affluent through hard work, self- deprivation and wise investments. Their children and grandchildren have an improved quality of life due to their continued help and constructive advice. My parents usually ignored giving for the common holiday and ceremonial reasons, but were inordinately generous with major gifts or sizable loans when they saw the need.
My parents providing a home and family environment conducive to security, mutual support and love. For example, when I joined the U.S. Navy in 1944, my brother Ladd had been in the Navy for more than a year. Ladd wrote the following (without attribution) to me:
For My Brother
Among life's sadness I find
The one most bitter to my mind,
I cannot spare you as you go,
One single sorrow you must know.
Much rather would I go again
Down the dark alleyway of pain,
In that bewildering, narrow street.
My wife Nedra and I toured Scotland in 1984. On cornices of one of the old Gordon castles, we photographed the inscription Henriette Stewart and George Gordon. My parents did not represent the first union of Clan Stewart and Clan Gordon. (I have researched the genealogy of both my parents and have not identified a single ancestor who was not in America prior to the Revolutionary War. Two were members of the Jamestown Colony, the oldest continuous English colony in America. Another arrived in Massachusetts Colony on the Anne, the third ship to bring colonists to Massachusetts, in 1623. So all were “Original Citizens” of the United States. See separate genealogy manuscript)
The last time my parents saw each other was when I helped my feeble father visit Mother in the nursing home where she was dying. Dad said, "I love you," and Mother responded, "I love you, too." Those were the last words they spoke to each other in this life.
My father, though infirm and legally blind, penciled the following with trembling hands for their joint marble headstone:
Sixty-seven Years on Earth
Forever with God in Heaven
We are thankful and we celebrate the fact that my father and mother not only gave us life, but also encouraged and helped us all achieve and live good lives. They ensured a family atmosphere of loyalty, belonging, comfort, love, security, support, and family roots.
The first principle of living a good life is to choose your parents wisely. In this, Ladd and I excelled.
My parents lived good, happy, constructive lives.
My parents were do'ers, not complainers.
My parents had the determination to overcome adversity, rather than being victims.
My parents were builders, not destroyers.
My parents were givers, not takers.
My parents were the essential core of An American Family: Not Merely a Couple with Children.