The half a dozen houses [in Hunt, Arizona] were situated in a valley about 10 miles long and five miles wide. Through the valley coursed the Little Colorado and Zuni rivers.
Udall had more than 1,000 acres under fence and cultivated about 250 acres. The balance was used for grazing. Irrigation water was obtained from a reservoir about seven miles east on the Colorado. When the river flooded as it did often in the spring it would wipe out the dam and it would take most of the next summer to rebuild it.
It was a stupendous job to build and maintain miles and miles of canal and diversion dams. The farm produced all kinds of grains and alfalfa. Also sugar cane and a truck garden. It was a daylight to dark job of harvesting the crops in the summer. In addition we milked 25 to 30 cows night and morning in addition to our many other chores.
During the winter we attended a one room school. Part of the year we attended classes in one of the Udall houses and the other part in the home of Rancher Harris Greer, a mile and one half distant. We walked this distance night and morning for three or four years and had great fun doing so. We also had lively times at night after the chores were done. We would gather with the neighbor children and play outdoor games. When the weather was unfavorable we would stay in door while Aunt Ida Udall read to us faith promoting stories and from novels of that time. We had family prayer night and morning. The boys slept in a small upstairs room. The beds on the floor were so close together it was almost impossible to walk between them. At the spot where we turned to climb the stairs over the roof of a lean to the sleeping quarters, stood a large greasewood bush, one of the hardest shrubs on the Arizona desert. Here the line would halt as the eight or 10 boys answered the call of nature. Although of greenish hue for many years the bush gradually took on a saffron look.
For may years Udall had a contract for carrying the United States mail from Holbrook, the nearest railroad station to Springerville, about 35 miles south of St. Johns.
When the boys at the ranch reached 15 years of age they took turns driving the span of horses hitched to one-seated buckboard on which were piled sacks of mail. Two of the boys were employed driving between Hunt and Holbrook and two others between Hunt and Springerville. I had both routes at different times for months on end. It was a lonely all day ride on either route. Often time in addition to the mail, we carried a passenger, mostly traveling salesmen. For a year or more I was camp attendant at a way station near the Petrified Forest. Here the drivers would change horses. During the day while herding the horses, I would ride over the multicolored clay hills and washes. It was lonely but a lot of fun.
While in my early teens I drove a four horse team carrying farm produce from the ranch to Holbrook or St. Johns. On return from the railroad station we would load with flour, sugar and other staples for the St. Johns stores. Jesse Udall, now an Arizona Supreme Court Justice, made numerous trips to the White Mountains to bring out poles for the telephone line under construction from Holbrook to Springerville and building materials for the Udall mansion then building in St. Johns. We had many good times together.
Among the many sports we staged at Hunt were the rodeos, which we usually staged on Sunday after Sunday school. We would round up some wild steers and calves in a cedar post corral. The animals would be placed in a smaller corral and turned loose in the larger arena after they had been mounted by one of the would be cowboys. Other times we would corral a bunch of wild horses. These rodeos were equal to any I have seen.
After the rodeo we would climb aboard our ponies and race four or five miles to a crystal clear body of water called Indian Lake for a swim. Every kid had to learn to swim. Two of the larger boys would seize a non-swimmer, carry him to a ledge overhanging the lake and throw him in. The water was about 12 feet deep. The half scared boy would thresh the water with his arms and legs to keep himself afloat and soon would be swimming as good as the next one. Those were happy and exciting days.
To be continued...
The picture of fields with alfalfa is from flickr.com/photos/oceanflynn/1535397596/.
The picture with the horses facing each other is "Meeting of the Mail Carriers" from Arizona Pioneer Mormon.
The horse and wagon picture is of Isaac Thomas (probably a cousin or uncle of Jessie Christensen's) driving the mail.
The picture of the wild horses is from flickr.com/photos/findthejake/2386385008/.