Transcript of taped interview of Elmer Harker
Taped at the home of Reed Harker,
Salt Lake City c. 1977
Moving to the Farm
I was born in 1903 in Magrath.
We lived in Magrath. Our home was in town, but we had a
farm, a half section (320 acres) out about three miles. Dad decided
he didn't want to go out to the farm every day during the summer,
so he moved the house out to the farm. He put big logs like telephone
poles-put them under the house like a skid and then he got thirty-six
head of horses on them and moved it down to the farm. I was three
years old then. They had left all the bedding in the house and
I got tired of walking and went in the house and went to sleep
on that bedding while they moved.
I was three years old when
I had my tonsils out, but I can remember it as plain as it was
yesterday. They didn't have any hospitals- the doctor came
to the house and he took my tonsils out while I sat in a high
chair. They didn't have any anesthetic or anything. He
had something like an ice cream scoop and he just put that in
there and - click- out it comes.
The Move to Hillspring
I was eight when we moved to
Hillspring. That was the saddest move my Dad ever made. He had
a nice farm in Magrath and nice horses. He had one of the nicest
stallions in that country. He decided he needed more
land so he and Heb [Elmer's brother] went out and bought a section
and a half (860 acres) out in Hillspring.
When we were moving, we moved all
the machinery from Magrath out there. We loaded it all in the
big hay rack and moved it out there. The ice had gone off of
the river only at the edges and it was about a foot high. The
horses would pull the wagon up against that ice and then they
couldn't pull it up enough to get it up on that ice. So, they
had to put some of the horses out into the river and pull the
thing back so they could take the rack off. They had this stallion
out there and his mate to pull the thing back and they got it
It was late at night (about nine
o'clock) when they finally got to the house. Dad didn't unharness
the horses, he just went in the house to have supper. When he
went out after supper to unharness the horses....he had kept
this stallion in the box stall. He opened the door to unharness
him and he just fell out the door. He got the cramps from pulling
in that ice cold water and he never did get up again. Dad took
his bed down there and slept by him at night but he never did
get up again.
Threshing in Hill Spring
We didn't have a home when we first
moved to Hill Spring. When we weren't using the granaries we
pulled three or four of them together in the summer time and
lived in those. When we needed them in the fall for the grain,
then we'd live in the cook car. It was like a little mobile home.
They called it a cook car because in the fall when they harvested
the grain, they'd go out and the women would go in the cook car
and cook for the men while they were harvesting grain. These
would go from one farm to another. There would be a big crew
of men and the cook car sometimes would be going for a couple
of months to cook for the men while they thrashed.
There were five of them who started this
trashing business. Finally it ended up with just Dad that owned
it but they hired so much a bushel to thrash and he hired all
the men to woek. Dad had it all figured out. They could work
as long as they wanted to, it didn't make any difference what
time they started or what time they quit. It took so many thousand
bushel a day to pay expenses, then after that he paid the men
so much a bushel extra for overtime so they didn't care whether
they worked til ten or eleven o'clock at night. It was all more
money for them. They started at daylight and worked 'til it got
so dark they couldn't see. About six o'clock in the morning was
daylight but we had to be up before daylight to get the meal
ready for the men.
I was what you call the water
monkey. I ahuled the water for the steam engine. We
had a great big water tank that held sixteen barrels of water.
It had a pump on it and I'd drive down to the river or to a lake
and pump the water up out of the lake. Then I'd haul it to the
engine or I'd take it out and put it in the storage tank while
I went for another. I was fourteen years old and driving four
head of horses.
One time when I was down pumping the
water getting the tank full, the whistle. That meant they were
out of water and I knew I had to hurry back. I started up and
reached for the whip, it dropped. I let go of the horses and
went back for the whip. The darn horses hadn't got water that
morning and turned off into the ditch to get a drink and tipped
the water tank over and broke the pump! So then I had to dip
the water. Boy, was I just soaking wet every day 'til I got that
pump fixed. I'd drive out into the river until the horses were
just about to swim, then I'd pull the plug out of the back end
of the tank and it would almost fill. Then I'd put the plug back
in and dip the rest 'til it was full. I was soaking wet!
One time when we were thrashing
along side the flume where theyhad the irrigation ditch and it
was running in a wooden box way up high above the tank. I'd just
go up there and throw the hose up in that flume and start the
pump. Once it got started I just let it go and the water just
ran through the pump down into the tank. I didn't have to pump
at all. It just ran straight through the pump down into the tank.
I hated for them to move away from that spot.
The Three Day AWOL
When we were
putting up hay we kept our horses out by the Indian reservation.
They'd go out there to pasture at night and then I'd have to
go out there and get them in the morning. This one morning when
I was out there after the horses, the wind was blowing like the
dickens. A kid I used to chum with, Lowell Caldwell, came along
with me. He said, "You can't hay today the wind is blowing
too much, you couldn't do anything in this wind." So
we took off. We went over to a miner's place about seven ot eight
miles from there. He was running a coal mine but he wasn't home.
He had a nice little buggy there and harness, so we hitched our
horses up and went over to Leavitt and got some girls. We came
back and killed some of the chickens this guy had around there
and had dinner. We took the girls home and I never went home
for three days!
I don't know how they ever stood
it. My gosh, your kids are out for an hour too late now and you've
got the police out looking for them. But my Dad didn't
do a thing. Well, he was cross at me. He scolded me. He
never laid a hand on me in his life, never gave me a lickin'.
Mother used to give all the lickin's. I knew I was
in for a scolding, so I thought, "If he scolds me I'll just
run away from home. I won't take the scolding." He started
to scold me, so I went over to the dresser and started to throw
my shirts out.
Dad says, "What are you doing?"
I said, "Well, I'm getting
my clothes out, I'm going to leave home."
He got up and walked out to the
kitchen. He always kept the buggy whip behind the door. He never
drove a horse without a buggy whip. He got the buggy whip and
said, "You take one step outside of this house and I'll
wear this out on you!" and I knew he meant ever word he
said! I went back and put all my clothes in the drawer.
[How old were you?]
I was fifteen.
Shooting Dad's Cow
everybody was gone to Cardston to conference. There was no one
in Hill Spring but Lon Folsom and me. They had a lot of pigeons
and we went down there and shot some. I had a little single shot
.22. We shot some of these pigeons and cooked them for dinner.
After dinner we went out and target practiced with the .22. We
shot everything we could see. There was this cow across the lake,
it was about half a mile away and I said, "I wonder if I
can hit that cow?" So I pulled up and took a shot at her. She
just kept right on and never paid any attention, so I shot again.
She kind of kicked and swished her tail and walked off. That
night she didn't come home. Dad found her dead three days later
up on the hill. A good milk cow she was (with a couple
of .22 shots in her). He skinned her to get the hide but he wasn't
looking for anything like that, until he skinned her and found
this blood mark on her on the inside. It was clotted and then
he found the hole....and then he found out who did it!
Dad had given me a pig and I raised
it. It was just a little bit of a fellow and I raised
him 'til he was big enough to sell. I was going to
buy a suit of clothes for Christmas. I got about twenty
dollars for the pig. I had to sell the pig and give money
to pay for the cow. I didn't get my suit of clothes
I was fifteen they put the irrigation ditch in out in Hill Spring.
My neighbor got a contract for digging a certain amount of the
ditch and he hired me to come over and help him dig that ditch.
Vern was helping Dad on the farm. Well, this guy I was working
for was the president of the Mutual. Our baseball team was playing
Calgary for the Alberta championship. We had won everything in
the church around there so we went to Calgary to play the Alberta
championship. This guy I was working for wouldn't let me go.
He was the president of the Mutual, this was a Mutual team, and
he wouldn't let me off to go. It made Vern mad so he went up
the river where they were putting in the dam and he got the job
running the steam engine to mix concrete. So, I had to quit my
job and go help Dad. Dad liked sports and whenever there was
a baseball game, they'd shut down and he'd take us to the baseball
Going to School
In the summer time when it was warm, Margaret
and I used to ride two horses to school, but in the winter when
we got cold we only rode one. She rode ahead and broke the cold
wind from me, and I rode behind out of the wind. Besides that,
when I was on behind, the horse was warm because there wasn't
a saddle on the back and I rode on the warm horse.
We started out one morning and
went across the field with a blizzard on, it was colder that
heck. We were gone about a good half hour and we'd come back.
Here the horse ws, right back at the house. We couldn't see where
we were going with the drifting, blowing snoe. It was a regular
blizzard on. The horse just went out there and turned around
and came back. I said, "Well, he's got more sense than we
have, let's go in the house." We went inside and didn't
go to school that day.
We always had something
to do for Halloween. One time we took a hay rack and pulled it
down in the Coulee and got somebody else's buggy and put the
buggy inside the ahyrack and left it there.
I guess the worse damage we ever
did was on this fellows mowing machine. It was sitting out in
front of his house. We took a wrench and we took all the nuts
off that mowing machine. Then we just took a rope and put it
on the horn of the saddle and started up. The front wheel would
drop off here and a wheel would drop off there, until we had
that mowing machine all apart. We never did find all the parts
to it. They were here, there, and everywhere.
One time, there was a wagon
with fifty bushel of wheat in it ready to go to Cardston. This
fellows kids helped us. (J.B.Merrill) We pulled the wagon up
to the school house, emptied the wheat into sacks, took the box
off, took the wagon apart, and put it on top of the school house.
Then we put it back together again on top of the schoolhouse,
put the box up there on top of the wagon, and poured the wheat
back in. It took us half the night to do that.
There was this
one fellow who was kind of a crab. He didn't want anything to
do with kids. He was a crabby old guy. He had what they call
a style. Instead of having a gate in the fence he had these steps
going up to the landing and then down the other side. So we took
and tied a rope across the top of the posts on top of the style.
He used to keep his slop right out by the side of the door, and
they'd just open the kitchen door and put this slop in the barrell.
(That was what they fed the pigs.)
We took the slop pail up
on the porch and learned it up against the door and then kicked
the door. We all stood out there at the door and watched him
do it. He opened the door and this whole barrel fell out into
the house, all over the floor. He saw us do it so he took in
after us. Of course we went up over the style and down the other
side and away we went. When he went over the style he didn't
know that the rope was there. He stumbled over that rope and
down he went. We were long gone. He never did catch us.
One time this kid that I used to chum with
around town was with me. We were wondering what in the heck we
could do, it was after dark. There was this house right across
the street from the school house. Nobody was living in it. It
was all papered over wood. The paper was coming off. So