Interview with Mary Craig!

May 08, 2002



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May 8, 2002

(informal interview with Clair & Liz Roberts and Sharon Carter, granddaughter)

What year were you born, Mary?

Jan 5th, 1900. I don’t feel old, but I guess I am.

Tell us what it was like living up at the Craig Ranch. Did you have a car, or do you remember using stock or horses?

Well we had a car – we had a Buick. And we had horses of course. I always liked to ride horseback.

Did you help run the cows, then?

I didn’t do much in the way of helping, but I just had fun with the horses. No, he usually had his own idea of what he wanted done.

How often did you go to town

It depended. Sometimes we would go twice in a week, for some reason or other. Riffey would call from the rim. He would call, "Flyboy to Smokechaser". (Or Flyboy to Groundhog.) He would call down and he would say, "We need so and so, and so we’re planning to go into town, and what do you want?" And Al would say, "I’ll go too." So lots of times, he didn’t always go, but lots of time the both of them would go to town. I didn’t go to town very much, ‘cause I would just write a list of things I wanted, and they’d bring back whatever I wanted.

John would also fly fire patrol. Do you remember that?

Yes, and he knew the area pretty good, so he’d tell Al where the fire was or where the smoke was. And he’d say, I’ll come back in half an hour and we’ll check it again, and then if there’s still smoke, then we’ll go see what its all about.

Did you have all your children out here? Did you raise them out here?

No, they went to school in St. George. I used to go in to school in the fall, to have them in school.

Did they board with someone, or did you go to town and live during the school year?

(Sharon - She owned the house where Ben Franklin crafts is now, in an adobe house, and she lived there in the wintertime).

Do you remember when you first built the ranch up at the Craig Ranch? When did you first come to the strip?

Well the first house we built didn’t amount to much. I think it was 20 feet long and 12 feet wide. With two windows on one side and one window on the other side, I think. And then the kitchen. And the kitchen was really where everything goes on. I think in a ranch house the kitchen is always where everything goes on.

Do you remember when you first moved up on there on the mountain – what year?

I’m trying to think. Jean, I imagine, has got a record of it. She’s the one that would know. I’ll ask her.

Do you remember when Grandpa was looking for land, and he brought you out, and first he took you to Bryce, so you would fall in love with the country?

Oh yeah, oh yeah. He was all for getting us to want to live there, so he showed me all the nice places, all the pretty places to go.

Well your mountain probably ended up being a good home and it was pretty when you lived up there.

The first place that we built burned down. I’m trying to think how long it was – I think it was three or four years before it burned down.

That’s too bad. Did you loose a lot of stuff?

Oh yeah, a fire in a place like that, you never save anything. The next house - by that time we were busy with cows and everything and it didn’t amount to much as a house. We never did build us a real home down there.

Did you have dances at your house up here on the mountain?

When the CC boys were there, that was long afterwards, and I wasn’t there when they were there. I don’t know what they did.

Do you ever remember going into the ice caves?

I’ve been in the ice caves an awful lot. And the year that I was pregnant with Jean my mother let us take down an old-fashioned refrigerator that she had stored out in a back room someplace. Anyhow we took that. Always after a noon meal or whatever it was, we took anything, the butter and anything that would be apt to spoil, and we would take it down into what we called the dug-out – it was just a cellar, was what it was. And we would put things in the dugout.

Did you get ice from the ice caves to put into your icebox?

The year that I was pregnant with Jean, the boys made up… We didn’t have pack saddles, so we just made, took a saddle and then made a box to put stuff in, and over here, and this was what held it. The boys would take that over to the ice caves. And one would go down and fill something with ice from the ice caves, and then the boy up on top would have a rope down there. And when they hollered it was full, he would pull it up. And they would bring home two saddlebags, one on either side like this, and each saddle bag had a place to put ice in. And they would go full of ice. They would go over and fetch two bags of ice and bring it back. Do you remember when the ice man would go past the door, and holler, any ice? So we had one of those old-fashioned ice boxes down there, we would put the ice in that. I kept the ice box in my kitchen…the year I was pregnant with Jean, so I wouldn’t have to go up and down those cellar stairs.

Did you try to grow a garden out here?

Well, not really a garden, but we did have, down in front of the house, a place maybe about 100 feet long and 30 feet wide.

Did you grow vegetables and things like that?

I wasn’t the gardener, but my mother-in-law was the gardener.

Did she live out here with you?

Yes, on account of the children in school, she was out here all the time, while I would be in town, where the children would be in school. I would be in St. George, Utah so the children could go to school.

How many children did you have?

I had two. Jean was my older daughter. But Jean was so much older I never thought of the two of them as being daughters (sisters). (Sharon: Margaret was actually older.)

Did you have your kids in St. George or did you have them at home?

(Sharon – they were born in California. Remember you lived in Redondo Beach in Orange County).

Do you remember when they made the airport, landing strip up at your place? Did your husband have a bulldozer, a cat, to make that strip?

I’m trying to think - that airport. Laura Riffey, Riffey’s wife, was not at all well. And finally they were going to take her to town to take her to the hospital. So that’s when they built the road up high. When you go through the gate at the Kent place they were up high, and down in the valley was really where the road was and the people were. (The Tuweep airstrip is also at the lower level.) When Laura Riffey got sick, why, they were going to have to fly her out. Al didn’t think that she could stand the trip out. In fact we didn’t have much hope for her at all. But Riffey did. He flew off the hill to save her, but there was really no chance.

Today is the first day that I’ve ever been in this house.

I think you made that up. Where did you and Jean Thompson stay when you came out – did John make you sleep down in the garage? Where did you stay?

Oh, we stayed in what he said was normally his office. He would put a cot in there. And we would be in there. And when she’d fly down, of course he would meet the plane. And I would drive down and take her up to my house. And if we stayed at all here, he called that north room his office. (The office is this room back here. We’ll take you to see it after you eat.)

I understand you held a fancy wedding dinner for John and Meribeth when they got married. And Al brought home the wrong meat…

Oh, you can’t cook a roast. Anyhow, Al brought home the roast. And then he went to our friend there who lives in Fredonia, and said that I had sent him in to get meat for dinner and he was taking the stuff out. So I don’t know whether she asked him or he asked her, but anyhow she found out he was going to take this piece of meat out to roast. And she said I would never be able to get this done in time for the dinner in the afternoon. He was going to bring these people out with him. And I guess he thought, whatever he brought, I would fix. But my gosh, a roast, wasn’t something you could just fix in a minute.

Was that Bill and Gai Cusick?

Yes, Gai Cusick. She’s a wonderful person. Well she knew right away that I would have to have something besides what he had, and so she had a refrigerator and she got some meat out of the refrigerator. And she took whatever he had bought and figured I could cook it the next morning or afternoon or whatever. She had steak in her refrigerator and so she came out with steak. I don’t know what I would have done without it. It was thick, about so thick. I would have had to have sliced it and fried it or something. Well, it wasn’t fry meat. I don’t know what you could do with it.

Did John and Laura come to visit you up at the ranch? And what was she like?

Oh yes. She was really a lovely person. I admired her a lot. She had never lived in that kind of a way of living. It was all sort of a hardship as far as she was concerned. But my goodness, she just took ahold and right away got things going. She just seemed to know how to take hold.

How did the old ranger introduce John Riffey to Al Craig down in SB Canyon? Do you remember? Al was sliding around on the slickrock and wore out his pants.

Oh yes, I’d forgotten all about that. The pants were torn, and this woman loaned me something to mend it.

Tell us about running the cows in SB Canyon.

The trail, there was a wall about like so, that you had to go like this to go down. It wasn’t quite that steep, but pretty much of a bad place to try to walk. You could start the cows down. Someone said, "You’ll never get a cow down that trail." And Al said, "I bet I will." And this fella said, "No cow will ever go down that trail," because it’s just zig-zag, zig-zag - it was so steep. And Al said, "Well, how much you wanna bet." Well, I don’t remember what the bet was, and they finally worked out a bet. He took the milk cow over first. Grandma after she milked, would always give her some feed out of the bucket. And so he gave her a little bite of feed, and then walked a little way, just a few feet, and then shake the bucket. And she would eat that and then come down for more, and they led her down the whole way that way. And the other cows would follow. And the trail was so narrow and went around like this, that they couldn’t turn around to go back up – they could only go down. And they got all the cows down that way. And it was so steep, they didn’t want to come back up.

What springs were down there?

First there was one spring, but oh, that water was bad. I don’t know the name of that spring. It was like Epsom salts. He would fix a little place like that so that the animals could drink, but we didn’t drink that water, that water was as good as taking a dose of salts. We waited till we got to Little Joe Spring. That water was so sweet. It was the best water around. So we always waited till we got to Little Joe spring. And we always filled our canteens there. He fixed a place there for the cows to drink too. We would drink out of that if we got there first.

What time of year did you go down there? When did you take the cows down, in the spring or the fall?

In the spring we bring them back up. Its too hot there in the spring. We bring them out in the spring and put them down in the fall. They would come out and they were just rolling fat, they looked so good.

So when you went down and stayed at Hotel, how long did you stay down there?

Oh we didn’t stay long. It was just Al and I and sometimes one of the kids with us.

I can remember I wrapped every egg in paper and put them in a bucket to carry down that steep trail. And I slipped and my feet flew up and down I went. But I didn’t break a single egg.

Did you take all your pots and pans and have a kitchen set up down there?

Oh no, we always just cooked in a campfire. We made the campfire back against the wall. He never did make me a stove, always a campfire. He left my good dutch oven down there. We had three nice ones and left all three of ‘em down there. Once you carried anything down that trail, it was there to stay. You weren’t about to take it back up.

There were two camps, Hotel, and what was the other?

Well, there was one camp right at the bottom, and then we would let them spread out when they got there. That was the first camp. After they had been fed off pretty good, a week or so, we gathered them and moved them up a narrow trail with the horses. We would go around another area, like that for level, fairly level, so we would just turn the cows down there. The feed was pretty good. We put a, like a gate, the same proposition, so they couldn’t come back up.

Do you remember that you went to the University of California?

Yes, I went to Berkeley. I went in 1919 and part of 1920. All of 1919 and part of 1920. (She went until 1922 when she got married.)

What were you studying?

(Sharon – you were studying economics, and one of your teachers told you you were a girl and should be studying home economics).

When I first went to register, I registered in Economics. And he said, "Economics, what do you want with Economics?" And I said I wanted to major in Economics. And he said "No girl… Economics is a man’s business. If you major in Economics I’ll never graduate anybody with a major in Economics. And I said why not? "Economics is a man’s business - women had no business majoring in Economics." I liked Economics real well, and I got good grades in it.

But you went to home economics, and you really liked that. You also started learning about how fabric was made in things.

Oh yes, I got interested in that, and in weaving and that sort of thing, and I ended up taking a major in weaving. And did all kinds of fancy weaving later, much later.

When was the Craig Ranch, first house or second house, built?

Sharon: My grandfather - (she told me this) - they allowed World War I veterans to homestead. They didn’t have a GI bill or anything like that, but they would allow them to take up homesteads if they wanted to. My grandfather and his best friend in California, Jack Preston said, "We’re not going to get anything for the time we spent in Europe unless we take up a homestead." And at that time my grandfather had a business in Redondo Beach. And so they cruised the west looking for land to homestead. And they went in northern California and Nevada and all the good land was taken. ‘Cause this was in the 20’s - the late 20’s. It was before the depression. They called them the tourist ranchers for about seven years until they settled here. His mother homesteaded one homestead as a widow, and he homesteaded one homestead, and other people had homesteaded, and they bought the third homestead, and that was the Craig Ranch, the three homesteads together.

Did Jack Preston end up homesteading?

Sharon: He never did. His wife hated it. They all, Jack and his wife and my grandfather and my grandmother first went to Bryce, and they drove around. And my grandfather, as they’re coming down mainstreet, said, "What do you think?" And she said it’s beautiful. And the first Mrs. Preston did not care for the area.

Mary: We looked over the rim and heck, we weren’t going to live there, we were going to live back here, but she said "It would take a shotgun to have me live in a place like this." I looked over and said "Oh, isn’t that beautiful. Oh, I love this. Let’s make a camp someplace." I think she thought I was going to camp right on the edge.

Now Jean was born in California, but you already had this ranch by then. But you went back to California because you had a business to run. Tell them how long it took to drive from Redondo Beach to Craig Ranch on a weekend.

I forgot how long, it took quite a while though.

You would drive eight hours and Grandpa would drive eight hours. And the road wasn’t paved all the way from the Los Angeles area, through Las Vegas and Mesquite, and St. George at that time. You told me that in some places the road from Los Angeles and Las Vegas was two wheel ruts. And you would be driving that truck. And they would stock up on can goods and haul a bunch of the stuff out.

We did a lot of driving at night. It was cooler and we didn’t have to be bothered with all those things, overheating, and small animals. Your flashlight would flash on them but they would leave the road if you got closer to them.

What kind of truck did you have?

I suppose a Ford!

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