Life History of Ivan E. Lauper

Chapter 3

Working Away from Home

I left the family and farm life rather early, taking a job with a railroad in Salt Lake City, and then the Ogden Roundhouse, where I stayed with our friends, the Elswoods, at least part of the time. I worked at various crafts there, and would have probably gone out as a railroad fireman when ad-vancements were offered, but mother discouraged my signing on with this definite 'away-from-home-job'. One experience while working at Salt Lake roundhouse, I helped outfit President Harding's train. He said if we did a good job, he would meet with us, which he did in the Hotel Utah. Then I learned that on his short trip into Northern California, he died. I had then left the railroad, had gone to Bingham Mines, and was there running an air hoist back 2-1/2 miles into the mountain. As we miners received the word of United States President Harding's death, we took off our hats and stood in two or three minutes silence. I was a very young man then among a mature and mixed group of varied nationalities ---the Bohemian type. I knew little or nothing of politics and national affairs. When one of these older men turned to me and asked, "What do you think of this man, Coolidge?", I was obliged to answer that I didn't know much about him. I have reflected many times since as I have become quite involved in politics, as I remember this man turning and shaking his head, saying, "What a pity, no one knows".

It was while working there in Bingham Mines, during fall of 1923, that I also received word of my brother John's death; and as recounted other where in these writings, I left the mines then to return home with the body and stayed home a very short time.

Many other jobs I worked included road construction here and about, and even into the beautiful Ogden canyon where I worked at Hermitage Hotel. I also recall a vivid experience of fire fighting while working on Tremonton farms. This was a sad experience for most of the crop belonging to a poor and older man, a widower with two half-grown children, was destroyed. He had solicited help from the Tremonton Township and one other fellow and myself went back into the mountains to help with his farm. We worked several weeks with this farmer, stacking grain. One day, at noon, looking across the field a long distance away, we sited smoke. We could not really be sure of what we saw; but the farmer was uneasy; so when we finished eating, we went on the buckboard (four of us), taking some shovels and sacks and headed for the site of smoke. If you can picture the rolling hills of dry farm, you see us travel through gulleys, ditches, some fences, etc., over a wide range. We at length arrived at the foot of the hill where we could see the smoke. Now the harvest had been nearly all cropped, and fortunately there was some ploughed ground around the house. One of these four owned the team; and the farmer stayed on his riding horse. The man with the horses would not go on with us, saying he had already lost a team on a similar experience; so even though the others of us thought him ·”chicken", we could not coax him to proceed further. Three of us barely got to the top of the hill when a gust of wind came up, and it seemed a full span of about two miles of fire met us head-on. Without a word being spoken, the three of us turned back as fast as we could go, throwing our shovels to the side. I was tearing down that hill about sixty miles per hour, praying my legs would not give way. When a boulder appeared before me, somehow I found the ability to escape falling. Looking to the side, I could see the rabbits running as fast as I. We reached the bottom of the hill to find the man had turned his team around, which was now raring and jumping. For this we were thankful as we bounded aboard. It seemed ages of running, and with the fire coming so fast, it was a race for our lives. Aboard the buckboard, we were hanging on desperately as the team ran wildly. The heat of the fire could be felt and every once in a while the wind would favor us, the fire would slow a little and we would make a small gain as we raced toward the cottage. The farmer on his own horse had beaten us there and had rescued his daughter and son, along with a cow and calf ---taking them out into the ploughed area. But the lives were all that was saved. Later that evening after sending word into Tremonton, fifty, sixty or more people arrived, and we fought fire most of that night. I can tell you that your breath leaves you and you become parched, but we kept hammering away until the fire was finally extinguished.

I was thus about three years in total away from home, seeking my fortune, tying to get enough money to feel proud enough to return home, but I barely kept even. It was not until John's death that I did return. I stayed home that year from September 1923, until the end of the year, helping with the farming. As much as I disliked the drudgery of beet work, I surprised myself by leasing a piece of ground, and apart from helping Dad, raised a fairly good crop of sugar beets. I even received a small bonus many months later after the saccharin test was made to determine sugar content of the crop.

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