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Frank W. (Red) Kinney

AIR #23
Thursday, April 1, 1965

When Red was a little fellow, their mother viewed with trepidation the approach of spring because she just never knew what to expect to find in Red's pockets when she'd undress him for bed. He'd stuff into his pockets anything from rocks to bugs, toads to watersnakes.

The boys had a variety of pets on the ranch, including two toads. When they wanted the toads to come out of their holes, they'd sprinkle a little sugar on the ground nearby to attract flies, and as soon as the flies started collecting, the toads were out of their holes, catching their prey.

Their winter home in Glendive was located where Guelff's Lumber Yard is now. One day a hobo came and asked for something to eat so Mrs. Kinney fixed him a sandwich. When she gave it to him, he started cursing and tried to get in. Mrs. Kinney couldn't get the screen door locked so she grabbed the broom and started wielding it. Then it was the hobo that tried to shut the door. Unnoticed by him, Mr. Kinney had driven up during the fracas. He reached the door in short order, grabbed that tramp by the collar and trouser seat, and pitched him over his shoulder. Harold reflected that to a small boy watching this was a mighty feat, and unmindful of the advantage that his dad, on ground level, had over the tramp on the step, his estimation of Dad's prowess soared immensely.

The boys early tried to imitate anything they saw the cowboys do, and of course, any cowboy should be able to rope so they started practicing. Anything they would find on a saddle or any place else, they'd 'borrow'. This could be inconvenient for the unintentional 'lender' so finally their dad bought a throw rope for each of them; these ropes were to be exclusively theirs, and they were to keep hands off other ropes.

Came a day when Arnold Holling, hauling hay for them, noticed his brake rope was missing (the boys were innocent this time) so he took one of theirs. They discovered it before he left however, and recovered their property, so when Arnold had gone some distance and started down a hill, he found himself without a brake. That could have been a calamity so Arnold came fuming back in a mood to thrash 'those kids', but since this was not within his jurisdiction, he insisted Kinney whip them.

This time, though, Mr. Kinney figured the youngsters were within their rights so he refused and Arnold quit. Arnold packed his clothes, but then Kinney soothingly protested, "Oh, you don't want to quit over a little thing like that." Holling finally relented and stayed on, but he wouldn't speak to the boys for three or four days... He quit several times on account of the boys during the twenty years that he worked for Kinney, but he never 'quit' long enough to get to town.

The two boys were great helpers, their mother (harassed woman!) discovered on numerous occasions. One of their jobs was gathering the eggs each day. They decided they'd surprise her sometime when she was ready to go to town by bringing her a whole bunch of eggs so they dug a hole about the size of an apple box, with which they covered it, and each time they gathered eggs they'd slip a few into this hole. Finally they accumulated a goodly number of eggs and decided one day (one very hot day) when their mother was ready to go to town that the time was ripe (unknown to them, so were the eggs) to 'spring' their surprise. They lifted the box off the cache, only to find that some hornets had made a nest under the box. Poor little Red, intercepting one of those piercing stingers, quite forgot to watch his step and fell right into the middle of that hole full of rotten eggs!

Corn shelling was another of their jobs, one they couldn't have liked less. They had an old wooden washing machine, and each Saturday they were supposed to shell enough corn to fill that tub. Who can think of a more tedious job than shelling corn? Two animated boys couldn't so one Saturday they decided on a short cut; they filled the bottom half of the tub with cobs, then finished filling it with the shelled corn. They escaped the drudgery, but all their activities were overshadowed by the certainty that they would inevitably be 'found out'. All went well the first few days, but about Wednesday, Mother got to the cobs. Then the reckoning. They didn't try that dodge again.

Fruit was hard to 'come by' in those days so when there was a good crop of buffalo berries (which might not be more than once in three or four years) their mother canned all she could. She'd cook the berries, squeeze out the juice, and discard the pulp, canning gallons of the juice in a good year. Harold and Red threw the discarded pulp, a bright red, to the chickens and soon had them coming whenever they threw out something red.

The boys had some red firecrackers which they had carefully hoarded since the Fourth of July, and they discovered that if they threw out some pulp, then a firecracker, the hens would grab the firecracker just as eagerly. A merry chase would follow with a dozen hens chasing the celebrated holder of the firecracker. Finally the firecracker would explode, and the boys would almost explode with hilarity at the ensuing squawking and dust raising. Their hilarity was abruptly quenched when their mother noticed the commotion and discovered what they were doing, fortunately before they blew a chicken's head off.

That wasn't their only adventure with fireworks. However innocent their intentions, they always seemed to precipitate some sort of cataclysm. One year they got hold of a device that would explode in a ball of fire when struck. One night after the boys had gone to bed they figured out that if they'd break the things in two their supply would last longer so they proceeded to break them.

They managed all right with the first few, but then one exploded - and another. Their mother came charging in to see what was happening, saw the balls of fire, and began beating them with the broom to extinguish the fire. The more she beat, the more they exploded until balls of fire were dancing all over the bed and all over the floor.

Another time when they were herding horses over on Seven Mile, they had some torpedoes that would explode when thrown. There were always a few mares that were hard to get started home so they'd toss one of these torpedoes behind them and the mares would start in a hurry.

Red was prepared to start them with three or four of these in his back pocket, and it was just about time to go home. While they waited, Red kept teasing until Harold lost his patience and as Red ran past, Harold gave him a kick. The torpedoes exploded, and for a while Red thought he had exploded, too, but it was soon evident that only his back pocket had been blown off.

Another of the boys' escapades involved their mother's prize gobbler. Her sister had sent them this registered gobbler (he weighed about forty pounds) but after a time he got mean, and every time the boys tried to go through the barn door, the gobbler would jump on them. That was rough on the boys. Finally they hit upon a plan to break him of the habit. They got hold of some 'soup', a concoction to smear on bucking horses before they left the chute to make sure they'd put on a good performance, and then watched their chance.

The next time the gobbler jumped on one of the boys, they caught him and rubbed him thoroughly with the 'soup'. What a performance that gobbler did put on! As soon as they turned him loose he tried to gobble, but instead of gobbling he started turning somersets. He'd get himself straightened out and stretch his neck to start to gobble, only to start turning somersets again. By the time he got over the effects of the 'soup' he was a chastened gobbler, and that was the last time he jumped on one of the boys.

If there was one thing their folks tried to drill into them, it was that they should tell the truth. They might accidentally kill a horse or a calf or break a window, but tell the truth about it and they wouldn't be punished. One day while Harold was fishing with Bill Dion at Intake, Scribers caught a fish, the likes of which none of them had ever seen. They tied the huge catch onto the side of their Model T to bring it home, and the snout hung over the fender while the tail dragged behind. When Harold got home he excitedly reported Scriber's catch to his dad, but Dad was unimpressed. He merely cautioned, "Now don't tell a lie!" Harold insisted, but Kinney reminded him, "I've run the ferry across that river three different times" (probably seven or eight seasons, altogether); "I've fished that river all summer long and I know there is no such thing in it!"

Harold was hurt that his dad would so flatly reject his story, even though it was a fish story and without precedent, and determined to catch a fish like it to produce as proof. He offered Bill to take him to Intake, but halfway there they remembered they had to play baseball so they had to come back. He didn't catch a paddlefish, and his dad passed away before the recent influx so he never did get to prove that his 'fish story' was true.

 

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