• The Early Years

    Dictated by Earl Halls

    Transcribed and Edited by Kristine Halls Smith

    Grandpa was a storyteller, so he was encouraged by many people in his family to tell his stories so they could be preserved. In 1968, he complied with those requests by telling his stories into a tape recorder and they were then transcribed.
    —Kristine Halls Smith

    This is the beginning of a pressurized account of some of the incidents in the life of Earl Halls, now living in Morgan, Utah. Starting in at the point of beginning, I was born in Mancos, Colorado, a son of William Halls, Jr. and Ellen Melissa Barker, on April 16, 1890, full of life, and really acting as if I were glad I had been born. I have been told that at the early age of possibly a little under a year, I was harnessed in the jumping jack, the jumping jack being made with an oak stick fastened to the ceiling of the house with a rope coming down with a harness going around me so that I could jump. People came from several miles around just to see me jump. And now, all they have to do is just point their fingers at me, and I jump.

    My father [William Halls, Jr.] had gone to Mancos, Colorado with his father [William Halls, Sr.] and his father’s second family, [Johanne Marie Frandsen Halls and her children] along with Uncle Tom, [Thomas Halls] who was my father’s full brother. Uncle Tom and Father lived with the second family until they were both married, and helped to support the other family and keep them going.

    Mother [Ellen Melissa Barker Halls] came through the Hole-in-the-Rock from Parowan with her mother, her younger sister, [Dora Barker Burnham], and younger half-brother, [John Harvey Dunton]. The year was 1880. Grandma Barker [Mary Ann Doidge Barker Dunton] had five daughters from her first husband, [Joseph Barker] then she later married a man named James Harvey Dunton, and they had one son.

    But, as Mother grew up, she worked in the hotel, making beds. She was only twelve years old at the time and had to do everything possible to help keep her sisters and widowed mother. Mother and Father were married in Mancos. I don’t know exactly, but I think Mother was 17 or 18; I don’t know just the age of my father. 

  • They lived in Mancos on, not a homestead, but a desert entry that Father had taken up in what they called “The Webber” and lived close to Uncle Tom Halls. Uncle Tom’s oldest boy was named Francis, and he and I were about the same age. We used to play together a great deal, and in back of our home there was a little hill that we called “Flint Hill” because of the arrowheads that were there. Later on in life, Francis had an arrowhead made into a tie pin for me, and gave it to me, and when were on a ranch in Monticello, someone stole it out of the trunk. I didn’t like that at all!

    When I was about six years old, they discovered Mesa Verde. Three cowboys by the name of Wetherill took pack horses, or pack mules, and blasted a road out to Mesa Verde. They used these mules to carry pottery, mummies, and different things out of the ruins of Mesa Verde. They stored them in a big barn in Mancos. My father took me there to see this barn, and they had the pottery and all these things on the shelves. When it came to the mummies, I asked Father what they were, and he said they were dead people, so I still remember the barn and the things that were in it.

    Backing up slightly on my story, back when we lived on “The Webber” and I was a small child, we used to have what we called a cistern to store our house water in. A cistern is quite a hole in the ground, plastered to make it more waterproof. It was filled about once a week from the ditch that ran near the house. In summer the wigglers would get in the water and would have to be strained out before we could drink or, if we preferred meat with our drink, we could drink without straining. One time, however, the straining wasn’t necessary as someone left the lid open, and I fell in. And that killed all the wigglers.  Had it not been for my cousin Pearl being there and lying on her tummy and holding me up until Aunt Emma and Mother came, I would have died along with the wigglers.

    Another thing happened at that home. We had a fireplace, and one morning while Mother was milking the cow and Dad wasn’t home, I got too close to the fire and caught my pretty little nightgown on fire. Of course, being a smart boy for my age, I ran outside shouting in my tiny wee voice, “Mother, Mother, my night dress is on fire!” She made a fifty-yard dash and put the fire out by wrapping her apron around me. I wonder if that is why I haven’t any hair today!

    I well remember climbing up on the cupboard, reaching for a pan of cookies, as that is where Mother kept her cookies, or tried to, but she also kept a paper sack of cayenne pepper up there. She used cayenne pepper in the chicken mash to warm the chicken’s innards in the winter. But in my sliding the cookie pan, I also slid the pepper, and got cayenne pepper in my eyes. Lesson number one! The next time, I was older. In order to get the cookies off the top of the cupboard, I pushed the table over against the cupboard.

  • I got the cookies okay, put a nice bunch on the table, and started to get down. I took hold of the top of the door. The door went one way, the table the other. I slid down the end of the door where the latch was, with my knee stuck out, and got an awful gash on the inside of my knee. Well, I was in a jam! I couldn’t tell Mother how it happened, so I told her I did it on a slivery place in my little chair that Uncle Tom had made for me. Now my mother knew I wouldn’t tell a lie, and she believed me until I was thirty years old. She often told folks about it. Darned if I didn’t believe the yarn myself! Then one day when she was telling someone, I felt guilty and told her the truth. I came near getting a licking right then.


    Edited by Kristine Halls Smith

    Dad traded for an unbroken burro, and I decided to train him. Well, the burro began to bray and buck, and landed me in a ditch of water, and that was the end of me riding the burro. Dad traded him off.

    In the fall of each year, a family of Navajo Indians would come to the back of our field and camp in the cedars and pinions to gather pine nuts. One old squaw who had no children of her own made beaded moccasins, gloves, and jackets for me, and when she went to Mancos, she would take me on the back of her horse and take me to town, and buy oranges and peel them for me. The best oranges I ever ate!

    My first year in school was in a little board building about a mile from our home. My Aunt Emma (that would be Grandfather’s second wife’s oldest daughter) was the school teacher. So I had a real good start for an education. After that year, Dad moved to what they called the “Lemon Ranch.” It was a ranch just south of Mancos town, and was owned by a company. They hired Dad to run it. It wasn’t too far from the school, probably about three-quarters of a mile from the ranch to the school. The teacher there was a Miss Shackley. By that time I had learned to write, at least enough to write notes to the girls. It seems the teacher didn’t like the notes that I and two other boys were writing, and she sent us out to the oak brush to gather six switches each. That was where I wasn’t smart. The other kids cut circles around their switches, and they broke easily. But not honest Earl! I selected good strong switches, and still smart from the effects of them. But as time went on, I got wiser and wiser.

    One night after school when I arrived home, Dad was chopping wood.  He said, “Earl, carry some wood in the house.” I said, “I won’t do it.” Well, Dad threw a stick, hit me on the head, and I was out. When I awoke, he had me almost to the house, carrying me in his arms, but never again did I tell Dad I wouldn’t do it.

    A school friend of mine by the name of Jimmy Richter used to play with me at recess and noontime at school, and on our way home at night we’d fight, just as we parted. Jim always sent me home with a bloody nose until one night when Mr. Taylor, the storekeeper, set me on, and I licked Jimmy. That was our last fight. On my last trip to Mancos a few years ago, while we were waiting for the rest of the family to come down from Mesa Verde, we parked on the hill just south of Mancos town, and that was near the side of the Mancos cemetery. While we were waiting, I walked around through the cemetery, looked at the headstones, and remembered the names of a lot of the old people that were there when I was a boy. Among the headstones I found the name of Jimmy Richter. I think the fight had all been taken out of him.

  • For two or three years after moving from the Lemon Ranch, we lived in a small settlement one mile or so south of Mancos called “Dogtown.” My sister, Ruth, was born on January 6, 1893 and Maude joined the family on January 21, 1895. My brother, Clyde, was born on February 23, 1897, then another sister, Nina came on March 7, 1899. They were all born in Mancos.

    My second sister, Maude, had what they called at that time, meningitis, when she was eighteen months old, and we, the rest of us kids, had to move out because she was so nervous and she couldn’t even stand for the dishes to be washed in the house. I remember sneaking in and seeing how her head was drawn back as a baby. The disease left her deaf. When she was seven years old, Father and Mother left Mancos and moved to Huntsville where they could send her to the deaf school in Ogden. Maude later married, and she had two boys. She and her husband later divorced and she as then married to James Smitham. Later she married Paul Wardell. Last year, 1967, Maude passed away from a stroke that had left her in a wheel chair for the last fifteen years.

    My parents decided to move back to Huntsville so Maude could go to the School for the Deaf and Blind. In the winter of 1899, my father and Peter Frandsen, who was a brother to Grandfather’s second wife, went by wagon through the mountains to Huntsville. Mother and us kids stayed in Dogtown, and later went on the train which we had to take at Mancos on the narrow gauge railroad, and change at Grand Junction to the wide gauge, then made our way to Ogden by rail, arriving there on January 1, 1900, the first day of the new century. Ruth and I didn’t go to school that winter, but started to the Huntsville school the next year.

    Ruth was baptized on January 6, 1901 in the icy water of the South Fork, by Jens Winter, my wife’s father. Jens’s wife had diphtheria at the time and died a few days later, leaving four children, including Eliza, who later became my wife.

    My second brother, Dale, was born on July 24, 1901 in Huntsville.

    The following years after moving to Huntsville were hard ones. Father worked for his brothers on the ranch for thirty dollars a month in the winter and forty dollars a month in the summer. Of course, he had to board himself. Mother cooked for men in the summertime at a rate of eight cents a meal, and later they raised it to twelve cents. Of course, that was a big raise. Squirrels were very plentiful on the ranch, and I had a single-shot gun which Mother used more than I did. The county paid a bounty, but the stores would allow five cents a tail to pay on grocery bills or buy things at the store. We could use them as cash. Well, that’s a tale for you! It was at that time quite a business to trap squirrels and get the money we could out of that, either in clothes or whatever we could buy at the store, or we could take them down to the Weber County Court House and get five cents apiece for them. Later they started to poison the squirrels, and that spoiled that game.

  •  Father’s brothers, George, John, and Mosiah, owned 200 acres of land below the ditch on the south side of Huntsville, and quite a number of acres of dry land above the canal. They also had about nine sections of range land between Huntsville and Mountain Green and an 800-acre ranch in Geneva, Idaho. When Grandfather Halls was called by the church to help settle the Mancos district, he took his second wife and family, together with Dad and Uncle Tom. Of course, the boys in Huntsville got the land of the two places, but were left with their mother to provide for.

    When we were in Huntsville, for several years Dad worked for his brothers on the ranch. Among other chores, we had ten cows to milk and ten cows that fed two calves each. I well remember, I helped milk the cows and get them out of the pasture in summer. I had to get up at five o’clock and wrangle horses from the pasture during haying season, and the putting in of crops. In the fall they gave me a ten-dollar gold piece. Of course I felt rich, and went to town to buy clothes. After doing my shopping I thought I should have a purse full left, with all that dough, but found that I had just ten cents change to put in it after the clothes were paid for.

    While Maude was going to school in Ogden, she came home one winter with scarlet fever during the Christmas holidays. Of course, the whole family got scarlet fever, with the exception of Mother, Father, and me. It was all pretty well over, the fumigating all done, and we had started back to school. And about two weeks later, I took down with scarlet fever. That meant a whole bunch of fumigating to do over. That ended the school for that year. They had only six months of school then.

    The milk men in those days came early. They drove wagons with long-bodied boxes on, and hauled five- and ten-gallon cans. The creamery stood about half way between Eden and Huntsville. The spot is now covered by Pine View Reservoir.

    In 1903 my folks bought a home on the north side of Spring Creek. It was eighteen acres and cost $1,800. Father traded in a span of pure-blood Clydesdale horses as the initial payment on the home, and paid for it in yearly payments from then on.

    On February 15, 1904, my sister, Ruby, was born. Doctor Shields was the attending doctor.

    At fourteen, which I was then, I worked for my uncles in the summer and went to school in the winter. In the fall of the year I would follow a horse-powered threshing machine at the end of a straw carrier, a nasty, dirty job from dust, chaff, and weed seed. As I got older, I would pitch bundles. The old horsepower was run by twelve horses pulling in a circle, and the power was transmitted to the machine by a long tumbling rod to the face gear which gave the cylinder speed and knocked the grain out of the heads.


  • I pitched grain onto the table where a man stood and cut the twine bands that bound the bundles. If any one of us would throw a bundle with our forks and it would land with the heads toward us, he would knock it off and curse us. Also, we had better not throw one on top of another. After he cut the band, he would push it over to the guy who fed it into the machine. The grain came out into a box at the side of the machine in half-bushel measures which were counted, and then the man would put the measured grain in a sack. I sometimes held that sack for the measuring man and, boy, I’d better hold it right!

    The farmers who were having their threshing done would furnish the feed for the men and the horses. They would feed the men before daylight, and we would work ‘til after dark, very often twelve hours, and almost always at least ten. All my life my right arm would not straighten out entirely from overworking it by pitching bundles on threshing machines.

    Another job was baling hay which was done by horse power, a team walking around and around to provide power to push a plunger into the baler to compress the hay so a man could put a wire around it, weigh it, and tag each bale. This baling job took three men – one to pitch the hay from the stack onto the table, the next to take it from there and, with one foot, push the hay down into the hopper. The other man would wire, weigh, carry it away, and stack it.

    Better watch out that a foot wasn’t down in the hopper when the plunger came in. Many a man lost a leg that way. A friend of ours went in head first when he was putting a wooden block in that had to go in to separate the bales. Killed him right now. This happened in Canada. He was a very fine young fellow.

    At our Huntsville home, we carried our house water from Spring Creek, a creek that ran through our eighteen-acre farm. When the water was muddy, we got drinking water from a small spring about 100 yards from the house.

    One summer after I finished grade school, I was staying home. I spent most of the summer hauling gravel on a wagon and stirring it on a mixing board with a shovel, mixing cement for fish ponds. We had no cement mixers, and that was hot, hard work in midsummer.

    I wanted Dad to let me fix a barrel and put shafts on it with an axle in the center of the barrel and a door on the side. I could then put the gravel, cement, and water in, hitch the horse in the shafts, and lead the horse around to stir the cement. But no soap! Dad won out, and I stirred the cement with a shovel. I still think it would have worked.

    By this time in my young life, I’d started to comb my hair and wear celluloid collars that came up under my ears, patent leather shoes, and derby hat, and I’m not sure that I didn’t look sideways at the girls.

  • My younger sister, Pearl, was born on February 9, 1906 at our Spring Creek home. Dr. Shields was the doctor.

    In the fall of 1907, a depression hit the country. I went to Idaho to help Uncle George with the cattle roundup. I rode with Andy Evans most of the fall. We had two horses each, and changed horses every other day. There had been a lot of rain and the Bear River was high from Cokeville all the way down to the bottoms until it emptied into Bear Lake.

    There were only certain places where we could cross the river without swimming a horse across, but Evans and I didn’t look for those places. We would dare each other to cross wherever we came to the river. 

    One November morning, colder than all get-out, we came to a steep bank. There was a crevice in the bank where the water had run down, and below, a deep whirlpool hole. Evans went first, and his horse swam across while he stood in the saddle and held onto the horn to keep dry.

    I had a small brown mare that day, and when she hit the water, she went under. Me too! When she came up, she swam around and around and then down we would go again.

    Swimming wasn’t good with a pair of chaps, overshoes, and heavy coat on, so Evans hurled his rope to me and I put it around Dobbin’s neck and was pulled out. The nearest house was about two miles away. I shook so much I was sweating by the time we got there. We took some time to dry my clothes by a fireplace and thaw me out.

     Uncle George was going to make a cattle-buyer out of me, so we bought steers for about three weeks, all over Bear Lake County. A good two-year-old steer was worth about sixteen to seventeen dollars. He gave his check, postdated for thirty days. His banker had promised to cash his checks in thirty days. He had money in the bank, but all accounts were frozen. Then about the last of November I headed through the hills for Huntsville, going by way of East Bear Lake (Laketown). The usual way would have been by way of Cokeville over Monte Cristo and down Beaver, but Uncle George told me to take a shorter trail over Monte Cristo by way of Laketown. I did. I stayed in Laketown the first night. The second day I got pretty well up on Monte in the tall pines and quaking aspens, and it was starting to snow real hard. By four p.m. there were ten inches of snow and I couldn’t tell where I was going. I finally came across some fresh tracks, and a closer examination found they were made by my own horse. Well, I was lost, and there was only one thing to do. So I found a good pitchy log and started a fire, and one damn lonesome kid kept the fire all night. About ten p.m. it cleared off and got cold. The horse whinnied, and the coyotes howled to keep me company. In the morning the sun came up and showed me which side of the earth it was on. I saddled up and headed for home sweet home. And I do mean sweet!

  • When I was a young man, dances were the main entertainment, most every Friday night. People were not so clannish as they are now. I was a little backward about coming forward and spent several early dance nights just watching the rest. Then one night some of the older girls and a couple of married women seized me and almost danced me to death. But their feet sure got walked on. After that I couldn’t be stopped. I would rather dance than eat. Later my girl played the piano for the dances. I would take her to the dance and then I’d dance while she played. Generally she would come down for a dance. Maggie and I went together off and on for about five years, and then she married Charlie Felt. Maggie died of cancer in 1962 and Charlie died in 1966. So, I’m still here and I expect to keep goin’ for at least a few more rounds.

    I attended the Utah Agricultural College in Logan during the winter of 1910-11. I was studying to become a blacksmith and horseshoer. Aside from forge work, wheelwright, and horseshoing, I also had English, math, and veterinary science. 

    On February 27, 1911, a man came to fly his plane on the AC campus. There was a heavy wind that would almost blow us away, and he was parked with his plane at the corner of the shop where I was working.

    On Mondays we had no school, but were allowed to work up there part time. We were to leave at noon, but four of us decided to sneak upstairs and watch the plane flight. We could afford that, but it would have cost a dollar and six bits if we paid our ticket. So, Andrew Peterson, Lawrence Felt, Horse Nelson, and I went up the stairs, sat by a radiator, and watched the plane.

    But with the wind being as strong as it was, they had quite a time. They had it staked down with ropes, with trips on, and he sped up the motor sitting astraddle a plank, operating his controls with his feet and hands, and when he gave the order, they jerked the ropes and turned him loose.

    He got into the air for about fifty feet, but the wind was too much for him and downed him. It broke his plane up pretty badly, but he was unhurt. The plane had to be taken to pieces, crated, and shipped east. I got in on that job of dismantling the plane and helping to crate it. The plane had an automobile engine, water cooled, and as I said before, the pilot sat on a plank and handled the throttle and controls with his hands and feet.

  • On March 7, 1911, news came that Thomas Smart had donated $10,000 toward building a new gymnasium, and the state legislature had voted the balance.

    Well, the students went wild and had a funeral in the chapel for the old gym. Later they took the form of a casket, labeled it “The Old Gym” and took it down onto Main Street. They stacked wooden boxes around it, and set it on fire. Someone called the fire department, and there they came with their three horses drawing the fire department.

    When they attempted to put the fire out, the students interfered and the firemen all got wet, but the fire didn’t go out until it had burned pretty well down.

    On March 13, 1911, which was a Monday and again no school, I visited with my half-uncle, Frank, who was also taking blacksmithing. Frank and I were almost the same age. He came from the second family of Grandpa Halls. This day the boys were running races, and one fellow was trying to get on the college track team. But I outran the field that day and this fellow dropped out from the team. I guess he figured if I could beat him, there was no use.

    On June 3, 1911, Frank Halls, Virgil Halls, and I started from Huntsville for Geneva, Idaho with 112 head of cattle and seventeen head of horses, which made a lovely combination – night herding and driving cattle for six days. The cattle and horses were Uncle Mosiah’s.

    The Halls brothers had divided the land and stock. John and George were paying us for the trip. The entire trip took us ten days – on trail, branding and other things, and the train ride home. I was paid twelve dollars for it and it cost me two dollars for train fare home. If you want to get rich, work for your relatives.

    During the winter of 1911-12, I fed cattle for Uncle John on the ranch on the south bench of Huntsville. He owned the land where the road entering Huntsville now crosses.

    There were 200 acres below the canal. He paid me thirty dollars per month and I boarded myself. I was behind on finances from school the year before. One morning in March I woke up sick, toughed it out all day, fed cattle, and rolled all over the ranch house floor that night.

    At seven a.m. next morning, I called Dr. Edward Rich in Ogden and asked him how soon he could operate on me for appendicitis. He said, “How do you know you have appendicitis?” I answered that I just knew. He said, “Can you be here by ten o’clock?”

  • Dad came and fed cattle for me. Mother and I went to the Dee Hospital, but before leaving, we went to David McKay’s home and I had him give me a blessing. He was the father of David O. McKay, present president of the church. The old man then came to the hospital and watched the operation, which I appreciated very much.

    I was in the hospital for six days, and then Mother and I went down to Aunt Lottie’s and strayed there for a few days. Aunt Lottie lived on Jefferson Avenue, four or five houses south of the city cemetery. Very often I went there and helped her out one way or another. She was a widow. Her husband died on a mission in Germany and she had three little kids. But she was a very dear friend. 

    She died in a car crash in 1967 on her way home to Logan after the commencement exercises at Weber State College. She and her daughter were up somewhere near what they call “Dry Lake.”

    A car came onto their side of the road and ran head-on into them, killing the two and hurting a daughter-in-law who was in the back seat. Incidentally, while I was at Aunt Lottie’s trying to get over my hurts, I walked out in the cemetery and sat on a headstone and wrote a poem about my hospital stay which I later wrote out on the typewriter. This is what it said:

  • A Week Off

    by Earl Halls

    I reached the hospital at half past ten

    Feeling so husky and strong, then

    I could have turned the doctor upside down

    And almost broken the surgeon’s crown.

    I had taken a bath and my gown was on

    I looked in the mirror and sang a song

    And smiled at myself and wondered why

    I had come there, perhaps to die!

    But I smiled again at my strange case

    For here was I, about to face

    A table where, at the doctor’s will

    I could not move, just take my pill.

    So in I walked without a fear

    Of sword, knife, or even spear.

    I climbed on the table and was there strapped down

    Just as though I’d robbed half the town.

    But I took it easy and did not weep

    And asked them to go, so I could sleep.

    We joked awhile about this and that

    In fact, we had quite a jolly chat.

    Then all of a sudden my eyes they did cover

    And very soon I began to smother.

  • (Continued)

    Then from the earth I seemed to rise.

    Things grew dark, how dim my eyes.

    If death is worse than this affair

    Oh, God in Heaven, hear my prayer!

    When next my eyes finally saw the light

    I was in my room and all was bright.

    I tried to move, but oh, the pain

    The knife and ether were to blame.

    There are numerous things I will not mention

    Because the night nurse drew my attention.

    Her beautiful hair, eyes, and loving heart

    Caused all my sickness to depart.

    It seemed to me when my pulse she’d take

    That my heart was swimming in a lake.

    She would rub my back when it ached at night

    With her nice soft hands, so pretty and white.

    My heart with joy and rapture would swell

    And the hospital seemed more like Heaven than Hell.

    It seemed to me of all the joy

    That ever came to this farmer boy

    Came to me when I could see

    That charming night nurse at the Dee.

  • When I had to go down to the doctor to get the plaster pulled off of my belly, I took it in there and read it to the office nurse. She called the doctor out and he read it. Then he said, “I’ll take you home.” He had one of the first automobiles in Ogden. Instead of taking me home, he took me to the hospital and called all the nurses out and wanted to know who that charming night nurse was. Well, I wish I could have fallen through the floor; kinda’ embarrassed me.

    During the winter of 1912-13 I attended the UAC again. I quit in April to help Father with the spring planting. He and I ran Uncle John’s ranch on shares.

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