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AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF WINFORD MELVIN BARRUS

AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF WINFORD MELVIN BARRUS Edited by Marilyn B. and Ronald J. Taylor I was born 30 July 1912 at Groveland, Bingham County, Idaho (Groveland being three miles northwest of Blackfoot). I am the second child and first son of Ruel Melvin Barrus and Zina Emeline Hale. My parents were sealed in the Logan Temple, 22 December 1909. Following in order are the names and birthdays of their children: Leola (27 December 1910), Winford Melvin (30 July 1912), Verla (03 September 1914), Lillian (14 January 1917), Rosalie (19 January 1919), Delsa (27 November 1920), LaVern Alma (21 June 1923), Ruel Hale (20 April 1925), Neil Hunter (13 July 1927). My father was born 02 July 1890 at Grantsville, Tooele County, Utah. This was the year the State of Utah was admitted to the Union (Utah became a state on January 4, 1896). In 1902 my father's family moved to Idaho, locating in the Thomas District. In the spring of 1910 my father built a two-room home on a thirty-acre tract of land he bought from his mother. Leola, myself, Verla, Lillian and Rosalie were born in this home. I do not know if a doctor delivered any of these I have named. It seems likely that my Grandma Hale was the midwife to these births. I will mention a couple of incidents about me when we lived here as they have been told about me. We had Indians working in the beet harvest. At the time they lived in a tent up in the field. One evening mother asked me to take a two-quart bottle of peaches up to them (I was four years old). The Indians told mother after, that I came in the tent, set the bottle on the table and ran home as fast as my little legs could carry me. Another one they told on me was my first day of school. Picture in your mind a square section of land, one mile on each side. On the south side, halfway across, was our home. To get to the school or church you would follow the road one-half mile east, then one-mile north, then one-half mile west which puts you a mile north of our home. From this point, which is on the edge of the Groveland town site, it is about one-fourth mile north to the schoolhouse. The first day of school mother took Leola and me and the younger children in the horse and buggy to school. I guess she did what she had to, to get me enrolled and then headed back home. She had hardly got there when I came running up out of breath, I had cut through the section and almost beat her home. I don't know what measures were taken to get me to stay; it was not in the story as it came to me. Father bought a Studebaker car. I don't think there were many cars around at the time. I doubt if mother ever drove the car. She had her horse and buggy and got around where she needed to go, I believe. In 1919 my father sold the house and 30 acres and entered into a contract to buy an eighty-acre farm with an old brick house. This place was approximately a mile and a half northwest of where we had been located. Delsa, LaVern Alma, Ruel Hale, and Neil Hunter were born here if I am not mistaken. Maybe Neil was born after we moved to the Groveland town site. My folks worked very hard to make a go of it on this farm. Leola and I could help a little on the farm when we were in our early teens. I shall not attempt to relate very many of the experiences we had on the farm. There are many happy ones and sad ones. The saddest happening was the death of my little brother, LaVern Alma. He died of diphtheria on 08 December 1923. I do not remember that he had been very sick. However, his condition was very serious because of congestion in his lungs. He just couldn't get his breath. The doctor had been sent for and was there with father and mother and me but there was nothing he could do. Sweet little baby struggled for breath and died. I guess the doctor must have looked at me and thought I had signs of the disease. I remember him saying, "Get that boy in bed." Mother was crying and tears were flowing from father and me. I was put to bed in the back bedroom. The next day I heard talking and singing coming from the closed-in front porch. Some people of the ward were holding a little service. It was very cold out and we were quarantined. They took LaVern away in a little white box to bury him in the Groveland cemetery. As I lay in bed I had an awful feeling of resentment toward God. I could not understand why God would take him. Four girls had come into the family since I wanted a brother so bad and then to have one and have him taken away. With my sweet mother's loving care I was soon able to get well and go to school again. Where we now lived we had several quite close neighbors. There were the Manwarings, the Herbstes, the Hammonds and the Hales, (the last two mentioned being relatives). About a mile north of us was the George Bailey family whose land bordered the strip of lavas we had to cross to go after wood. Coal could be purchased in Blackfoot but it was not cheap. Getting the wood was not only hard work but also dangerous. I will tell you about one incident that happened on one of these trips. It was a rare occasion when father took me with him. It was a two-day trip and I suppose he didn't want me to miss school and he knew that with our livestock to care for, there were quite a few chores. The first several years, water had to be pumped by hand. It was a happy day when we got electricity and a motorized pump. To have lights was also a cause for celebration. I will tell you about this trip after wood. It was September and the morning was nice as we loaded the wagon and hooked up the team, said goodbye and headed north. Father slackened the reins and spoke the horses' names and they began to trot along until we came to where the road headed onto the lavas. Father guided the team carefully over this section of road for about a quarter-mile. Then we began crossing several miles of flat land, which not long ago had been dry farmed by some of my Hale uncles and others. Drought, low prices for wheat and the invasion of grasshoppers brought about their failure. After crossing this area we were at the edge of a lava bed, which was quite extensive and impenetrable with the wagon. However, there were lots of cedar trees (old and young trees), which when cut down and carried to the edge could be loaded on the wagon. We got a few of the young trees (the size for fence posts). We needed some on the farm and could sell some for cash. Before dark father took the harnesses off the horses and put halters on them, tying the halter ropes to a tree. He built a small fire and warmed up some soup mother had sent. We had some cookies and after making sure the fire was out, we crawled in bed in the wagon box. Father went right to sleep. He had worked hard cutting trees and dragging them to the edge. I turned on my back and looked up into the sky with millions of stars. Could LaVern be out there? Mother said he had gone to heaven. I could hear father's heavy breathing, the munching of the horses on the hay we had brought along and the howling of the coyotes. It was a long time before I fell asleep. We were up early and after a quick breakfast we harnessed the horses and drove them to the nearest pile of wood we had thrown over the edge. Loading the wood was even harder than the cutting and carrying had been. I wished that I could have been of more help. I got up on the high seat. As father was just starting to get up, the horses began to rear and buck. Father yelled at me to pull on the reins. He grabbed a stick and held on one horse's bridle while beating at the rattlesnake that had crawled between the horses and caused them to go crazy. Father was able to kill the snake and get the team quieted down. Neither the horses nor father had been bitten – surely a miracle. Mother and the girls were happy to see us. Especially, we were all grateful for Heavenly Father watching over us this day. Father worked at leveling the farm whenever he had time. He had a Fresno and with a four-horse team he would move the soil around and make more gentle and smooth slopes so the land could be watered more efficiently. One time I remember he had been helping a neighbor up the road with some leveling. He had brought the team and scrapper out on the road to go home. Of course the scrapper was in the dump position. Father said later that he dropped the four lines on the ground while he was going to shut the gate and had no thought that the team would take off. A dog must have frightened them and they took off running. Father tried to grab the lines but was not quick enough. The scrapper banging at their heels made the horses run faster. Father ran as fast as he could but couldn't catch them. I was hoeing in the garden and heard the noise and saw the team coming. The front gate was open. Four abreast, they swung through the opening, hitting the posts on each side. Before going on, I will tell the reader that the derrick was in the yard and the long tip-end of the boom-pole was down, the least dangerous position if there should be a strong wind. The butt-end of the boom was about twenty-feet off the ground and a log-chain with a hook in the end was hanging down. If I had not seen it I would not have believed it. The horses split the chain and the strap, yoking the two middle horses together, hooked onto the chain. The horses came to a sliding stop against the corral fence. Father came puffing up and quieted the horses down and was so thankful there was no damage. It was certainly a miracle. I will tell an experience which, to me, greatly increased my belief in the power of prayer. It happened on a sunny afternoon. We children were helping mother shell peas and just playing around when mother looked around and asked, "Where is Rosalie?" Leola thought she had gone in the house to get a drink of water. She came back shortly and said that she was not in the house. "Go over to the neighbors" mother said, and to the rest of us she said to scout around. Father was in the shop fixing a broken shovel. Seeing the running around he came to mother and wanted to know the problem. Now the whole family and some of the neighbors were taking part in the search. One man suggested we go to the head gate of the canal, which runs south and is probably 1/8th mile east of our place. He said the volunteers could then wade down the canal and hunt for her body. Mother was crying. I hurried into the house and to the bedroom. I knelt and prayed to Heavenly Father that we would find my little sister and that she would be all right. I went outside and my eyes were directed to the clothesline. Mother that morning had hung some blankets on the lines to air. They hung clear to the ground. Something about one blanket seemed strange. I ran to it, and unfolding it, found little sister waking up and wondering what all the fuss was about. Father called out loudly that we had found her. How thankful we all were that she was all right. She could have been smothered. They say truth is stranger than fiction and I am inclined to believe it. Who would have thought that Rosalie, unnoticed, would wrap a hanging blanket around her, standing up, and go to sleep? But it was true. To me, that day I received a testimony that God hears and answers prayers. These were hard years for my folks. Looking back now I am sure I did not realize their problems. They had given the thirty-acres with the nice little home and their Studebaker car for down payment on the eighty-acre farm with the old brick house with a well. Father wanted to make things easier for mother and to give the children good educations. But in spite of all the sacrifice and hard work by the whole family we could not make the payment in 1926. Many things were against us it seems. Prices for farm products, especially potatoes, dropped way low and there was a shortage of irrigation water. We were not the only farmers who lost out that year. It was sad. We moved to Grandma Hale's old home on the Groveland town site. There was some improvement in our situation in one way. When we lived on the "Old North Farm," the ones of us in grade school had to walk to school except sometimes in the winter when one of the neighbors would take us in a sleigh. About this time the school board hired Orley Yancey to build a school bus and he took high school kids to Blackfoot. Ever since we lived on the north place we had to go to church in a surrey pulled by one horse. Now we could walk to church or other ward activities. Father bought an old Dodge car and overhauled it so he could get around where he needed to go. He was contacting influential men and trying to get the job of game warden, which was soon to be open. He had kept the farm machinery from the "North Farm" and he rented the twenty-acres from Grandma Barrus and directed Leola and me in running it along with what time he could spare. Father did work hard to get the job and prayed a lot too. He was given the job. Later on he was called "Conservation Officer." Leola, Verla, and I worked in the beet fields thinning and hoeing. We were in demand as we had been taught to do a good job. When school was out, my cousin Lucious Hale, whose folks lived in Logan, Utah, joined our crew. When the haying season began, Lucious and I went out to Mud Lake where they grow a lot of alfalfa and got work for a while. I had bought this old Model T Ford. It was a wonder it made it to Mud Lake. I took the pan off and tightened the bearings before we headed back. In high school the classes I liked were Drama, Speech, Geometry, and Shop. I entered a short-story writing contest and came out second-place in the State of Idaho. I ran the mile on the track team but did not set any impressive records. At one time in my junior year I stayed out of school several weeks to pick up potatoes. Then I made up my mind that I was not going back to school. My dear mother persuaded me to go back. I became very engrossed in mechanical drawing and decided that I wanted to go to college and learn to be a draftsman. When I attended Utah State Agricultural College I found out that the drafting course was in the College of Civil Engineering and I turned out to be a civil engineer. College days were fun but trying because of finances. My folks sent Leola, Verla, and me to college at the same time. My sisters cooked for us and we lived meagerly. The potatoes and carrots we brought from home were stored in a pit we dug in Uncle Orlando Barrus's garden. These were very important to our food supply. We were glad father knew Uncle Orlando and was able to get rooms for us there. I slept with their son Thayer and the girls slept together in the combination kitchen, breakfast nook and bedroom. In college I ran the mile on the track team as I had done in high school. How my folks sacrificed to give us this education is only fully known by them. To me it is a miracle that they could accomplish it. I know that I am not thankful enough, but try to be, for the encouragement and struggle they made to help us get a college degree. Verla and I received our Bachelor of Science degrees in June 1936. Leola got married and did not finish. When I graduated from college I soon started for the government agency known as the Resettlement Agency or Administration. This took me to the Uinta Basin in Utah and, looking back, I think my dear parents must have prayed for me constantly as I did escape some very bad pitfalls of life. In the winter of 1936 I was transferred to the office in Logan. Then happened the most rewarding experience of my life. Feeling lonely that my girl friends had gone home for Christmas, I attended a holiday dance and there met Orlean Hodges. How I danced with Orlean and enjoyed her company so much that I went with her quite often there after. This dance was sponsored by the M.I.A. of the Logan LDS Fourth Ward. I am ashamed that in my last years of college and after graduation there from, I had drifted more and more from the teachings of the gospel. Orlean and I talked a lot about the gospel and she got me to see things I had not been sold on. She had a great influence on me for good. With her help and that of Uncle Frank and Aunt where I had been staying I was converted to the principle of Temple Marriage. When she consented to marry me it was not just for time but also for eternity. WINFORD MELVIN BARRUS

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