GEORGE WINTERS DAVIS SR.
by Geo. Davis
I was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, U.S.A., November 30, 1910. My father, George Winters Davis, was a construction worker, oil driller, carpenter and miner. My mother was Edna Flavia Durfman, housewife.
I have lived in Arkansas; Kansas; Nebraska; Oklahoma; Colorado; South Dakota; Illinois; Elk Point, Alberta; Gold-fields, Saskatchewan; Bluffton, Alberta; Vancouver, B.C.; and Long Beach, Pomona and Porterville in California. I have lived in Porterville since 1959. You might say I'm a Daniel Boone at heart and the frontier was what I most wanted, and I guess I still do.
Since I thought there was no game left in the U.S.A., and hunting was my first love, Canada, I knew, still had a lot of game. I also wanted to trap and fish in unspoiled country. Also, homesteading had a great attraction, although I never homesteaded.
Clint Brackett was the one who told us about Elk Point. After my mother died, he lived with us in Highwood, Illinois, for a while. The stories Clint told would have sold anyone on that part of the country. It wasn't as Clint told it by quite a stretch of the imagination, but nevertheless it did have a lot of good points.
Warren, my brother, his wife, Mae, and myself left Chicago in the spring of 1929 in a Flint touring car -- a big car-and we came with only what we could put in that car and a small trailer. The trip was nice and we saw a lot of the fading west as we crossed Wyoming and Montana. We thought we had really jumped off the edge when we arrived at Elk Point.
Clint had told us of the Smiths many times, so that was where we went when we arrived. We stayed with them until Warren had a homestead picked out -- three miles north of Elk Point. We then went up there in a tent and the three of us proceeded to build a log cabin and a straw barn for the horses. We dug a 4' x 4' well, forty-six feet deep under the house, which never did work out, so we enlarged the cellar and filled the well.
Our toilet was built of logs, with a board door full of bullet holes from sighting our rifles. We always checked to be sure no one was reading the Eaton catalog before we started shooting.
We built a log barn the next summer. Our buildings were all made of logs chinked with straw and mud. The cost to build a house like that was very small compared to today. They didn't look as nice but they did serve the purpose and were very warm if done right. We did it right.
Soon after we arrived in Elk Point, it was very apparent that we needed horses, cows, a wagon, plow, etc., so we traded the Flint car for a lot of these things. We swapped with Buster and Merle Valentine and had enough to start getting hungry with. Later on Buster made a good wood saw from the motor on the Flint.
After selling our auto, our transportation was horses --bareback if riding and a wagon if by wheels. As time went on I made a surcingle for riding and got a buggy and cutter later. We didn't have another car until 1938.
My schooling was all through before I came to Elk Point. I went to seven different schools and three different high schools, never long enough in any one place to become an honor student. I travelled to school by foot, horseback, Model T Ford and by the elevated electric trains in and around Chicago.
The thing I was best at in school was speed. I was never beaten in a foot race until I was twenty-eight years old. My fastest time clocked was 9.9 seconds for 100 yards. I was also a very good marble player.
My education really started after I got to Elk Point --trying to make a living for 77 cents a day, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Of course, this was depression time, and nobody was making much money. The depression did a lot of damage in a short time -- not so bad in Elk Point as in the cities. Here we grew our spuds and our carrots, raised some hogs and ground up some grain for bread and "cake", roasted some barley and ground it up for coffee -- not at $5 per pound, maybe 5 cents. We made it do the job.
Clothes were the problem. This required good old money, and who had money? So again knitting was the thing -- buy the yarn and knit it yourself.
There was a man in town with a store who had a heart bigger than his pocketbook; who was willing to help those who really tried. He was Mr. Markstad. If you brought him a load of "tamarack" he would give you $3.50 in trade for anything you needed. Today in California these same loads would bring $200, but also a man is drawing $50 a day. I'm sure Mr. Markstad didn't need all that wood. The pile was six to eight feet high and two hundred feet long. A lot of it my brother Warren hauled all the way from the big swamp back of Moose Mountain. He and I built a cabin and a two-horse barn up there and I trapped from this cabin and cut the tamarack he and Cliff Flanders hauled to Elk Point. I charged 50 cents per load to cut it -- five and a half foot bunks, three feet high and sixteen feet long.
We also cut poplar cordwood, mostly for the hospital --$1.25 per cord, four by four by eight feet, cut, split, loaded, hauled, unloaded and stacked by two men. That cord today where I live is worth $160. We also had to cut, haul and saw up ten to fifteen big loads for ourselves. Some of this we split for the cookstove. It split best when frozen solid. I didn't like a saw but loved to cut with an axe -- either single or double bit. No matter how big the tree!
Warren and I cleared land the best we knew how -- one stump at a time and one rock at a time. We used four horses to break the sod and it took forever to clear an acre. Now they move in with a bulldozer and a few hours later the wind can really howl across a treeless plain.
After all the work and labor to clear ten acres, you planted it. Then came the time of waiting to see if it was going to rain or hail or freeze or some other disaster. You finally got fifteen bushel to the acre and you were a nervous wreck. So you cut cordwood all winter to pay your doctor bills from the summer.
No indoor toilet. At 60 below you had a cold, slippery, snowy trip. At night, if you were at all afraid of the dark, you raced the boogey man all the way back to the house. He never caught you because you were just too fast for photos
If you needed a doctor and got word to Dr. Miller or Dr. Ross, you could expect one of them at the earliest time possible, driving a pair of fast and sweating horses.
We had a dentist once in a great while at the Caskey Hotel. He didn't use a hammer and chisel, but almost. I needed a crown on a front tooth -- gold, mind you. It cost $17.50, for which I cut and delivered 120 tamarack posts. The crown lasted about twenty years. I had some gold crowns in 1976 --$135 each.
Sports consisted of baseball, hockey and skating. Elk Point held her own with all of them. Lots of times in the dead of winter, I have piled on my saddle horse and ridden three and a half miles to go skating. We did not have a thermometer at the farm but, when I topped the hill north of town and all the smoke was going straight up, I knew it was cold, but not until I got to the rink, found it empty, then went to the Chinese restaurant where everybody was, did I know it was 60 below. So I would blanket my horse and join the brawl until I felt my horse was about frozen, then pile on and start that cold three and a half miles north. If Ronald Flanders were there, he usually rode a mile and a half north, then turned west for home. The wind didn't blow much in those days but it did get cool 45to 65 below.
There were dances at Armistice, Elk Point, south of the river and Spring Park, which were the best in the country. Our music was usually catch as catch can, but Augie Bartling sure fiddled for a lot of them. Ben Francis on the accordian, a couple of mouth organs and away you went right through to daylight. The ladies brought food, a real feast, good strong coffee, (25 centssa pound then.)
I used to bring my hunting clothes and rifle with me, dance all night, then hit for Moose Mountain, hunt all day and run the trap-line. Few men knew that Mountain as well as I did.
The usual day in summer. You get up at the break of day, stoke up the fire and go throw the horses some hay, grab a pail and milk the cows, then slop the hogs. Breakfast is the shout from the house - flapjacks and bacon with a couple of eggs; that's got to hold you to the middle of the day. Enough time fooling around. Grab your hat and hit for the barn, slap that harness on those mustangs, crack that whip and hang on to the reins. Out to the plow and hook them up, swearing and puffing. Everything is ready for a rugged day. You've got to plow ground so you can grow more hay. You bounce over rocks, get stuck in the stumps, chop your way out, and dinner time comes. You look around. You've hardly done enough to ruffle the ground. Back after lunch. Same old grind. You swear you're getting farther behind. Along about 6 p.m. you crawl to the barn, unharness your horses and throw them some hay. Repeat all your chores. Grab an armload of wood on the way to the house so the cook can finish that venison stew.
Supper's all done, dishes are washed. No radio or T.V. Only a deck of well-worn cards and a smoothly-worn cribbage board. All peace and quiet. Most everybody has gone to bed. Then comes the night sounds of the horned owl and the yipping calls of the coyote pack. You know it's time to hit the hay to get some rest for the coming day.
When one doesn't have much to start with, what to do to make a fortune? During the winter of '34 I trapped everything I could find to get enough money to go to Goldfields on Lake Athabasca. In April, 1935, I left Elk Point. I worked up (or down) north until October 1st, 1938.1 came out and married Vivian Flanders. We went to Bluffton, Alberta, until 1940, then to British Columbia for a year, then to Long Beach, and many moves after that.
In World War I, I was in Tingstin, Colorado, and the war did not bother too much. In World War 11,1 spent five years welding on ships.
We have one son, George Winters Davis, Jr. "Skip" for short. He married Donna in Porterville and they have two daughters, Tina and Christy. We live close together and enjoy each other very much.
We come back to Elk Point every so often and enjoy the friends we have there. When we were there in January, 1977, I went ice fishing with Bill Milholland and Gordon Arnott. Also went back of Moose Mountains by horseback with Don and Ken Pinder. The country had not changed much and the fish looked the same. I think, from the tracks, there is more game in the country now. The white tail deer started to come into that area in 1932 - 33. The first one I shot was on Moose Mountain.
Vivian and I will have our 39th wedding anniversary on October 19th, 1977. We have made a lot of tracks on those years. I would like to move back to the north country. However, Vivian isn't too anxious to do that, so guess I'll have to be happy just to visit once in a while.
George Davis Jr. 1977.