Work To &Thru College


Twelve days in the wilderness – 

haying and dynamiting 

    One Sunday evening before the band concert I was walking up Main Street and Keith Dixon stopped me and ask if I was busy working.  As we were between crops of  hay I said I was not working just then.  He asked if I could be ready to work at 5 tomorrow morning and I said of course.  He picked me up at 5 right on time and off we went to work.  I had my gloves and hat and thought that I was ready to work.  Off we went to Mosida about 45 miles away on the other side of Utah Lake.  Little did I know that I was going for twelve days.  No change of socks or nothing.     

 Mosida was a ghost town that had been a great community in the early 1900's from irrigation and farming. After a few years Utah Lake receded and the land owners lost their shirts. Most of them returned to the east but maintained ownership of the land and as it passed down through families.  The land had been divided several times thus no one really had enough land to farm. Several thousand acres was fenced but not developed because no one could establish  ownership of enough land to be worth while. This is the land owned by easterners. The Dixon's owned about 400 acres which they had developed using irrigation with water pumped from Utah Lake.  Thus most of the cultivated land was near the lake. 

The major crop here was alfalfa hay.  The hay was moved with fork lifts on tractors.  The hay was cut and raked into large piles that were picked up with a tractor with a fork lift and placed onto a stack.  Our job was to tramp and move the hay around with forks.  This was much more serious than with hand forked hay on a wagon as we really had to move large amounts of hay around on the stack. It was important that there was very little wind as the tractors could be blown over when the hay was in the air.  Since, there was a wind in the middle of the day we had to work early in the morning and late in the evening.  Thus, we were lazy in the middle of the day when the wind was blowing. 

    we had a radio, no books, no TV just a battery operated radio and a gas refrigerator. This is where I learned the words to “I dreamed I was there in hillbilly heaven” by Tex Ritter. The first thing that I noticed was that the best ice cube we could get was a cloudy slush, may be a white snow cone.  The water was so alkaline that it would not freeze and as it cooled the alkaline salts would precipitate giving the white color.  I never got used to the alkali water.  I do have to say that cold alkali is much better than warm alkali so it was worth trying to make ice. That is why I love a little lemon in my ice water to this day.   Actually the salts in the water are probably good for you they just taste bad. 

    The first morning, we had milk, bacon, homegrown stake, and eggs.  Now this was a breakfast that you could sink your teeth into. We had to hurry as we needed to get the haying in before the wind started.  The crew consisted of Keith Dixon, Arnold Ainge and myself. The first day went well and soon the wind came up which meant that we could go back to the cabin and relax.  Everything we did was new and exciting.  

    We had a small border collie that would help us herd the milk cow to barn for milking, chase rabbits and be our friend.  The dog was amazing as he would follow the cow nipping her heels and she would try to kick him in the head but she always missed by an inch. The most excitement came when the dog was chasing jack rabbits.  It seemed that he would always catch them if he really tried.  In some cases he would start to run but give up the chase quickly as he could not get close enough to catch them.  Soon we got so we could predict which rabbits he would catch and which he would not chase.  There seemed to be this perimeter distance that if he could close it quick enough he would catch them, if not he would give up the chase.  One day he started chasing a rabbit that was just barely in his perimeter that he would chase the rabbit.  After the longest run we had seen he was just closing in on the rabbit when the rabbit ran end wise into a pile of poles.  The dog tried to jump the poles but could not get high enough so he went summersaulting end over end along the top of the lodge pole pines.  He soon returned shaken up but with no broken bones.  That was the one that got away. 

    As we were returning to the shore and the jeep, the dog was whining and rubbing his face with his paws.  What was wrong?  Can a dog have a headache?  When we got to shore the dog would put the top of his head on the ground and run around with his head sliding on the grass.  It sure looked to me as if the dog had a headache.  I still didn't know if the dynamite caused headaches, I thought that I might have a slight headache but I tried not to rub my head but I had to wipe the sweat from my brow now and then.  I decided I must be paranoid.  

    When I went to college one of the first things that I asked by biology Professor Jack Twente was about dynamite headaches.  He laughed and said I was crazy.   I then explained the story about the dog.  He assured me that the dog was responding to the noise from the blast not the dynamite.  Now I didn't know who to trust.  The data said that the dog had a headache and the dynamite seemed to be the culprit.  This bothered me for another four years until I went to work for Hercules Powder Co.  There I learned that it was the nitroglycerin that caused the problem.  It was withdrawal from nitroglycerin that caused the headache.  In the meantime the biology of nitroglycerin metabolism and action has been worth a Noble Prize.  Interestingly, Nobel made his fortune by mixing nitroglycerin with diatomaceous earth to make dynamite.  Nobel started the peace prize because of his guilt about the uses of dynamite.  What goes around comes around. 

    All-in-all my twelve days in the desert allowed me to live as my story book heroes the mountain men did,  without a bath or change of clothes.  I survived with only one scar.  I had blisters on one of my ankles that could be seen for years.  It seems that lysol is not a good personal disinfectant.  Carbolic acid causes burns and scarring. I was now happy to bathe and clean up for the next band concert and happy to get back to work at my regular day job.