J. Alfred May

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James Alfred May

Death: June 29, 1985 (83)
Immediate Family:

Son of Andrew May and Laura May
Brother of Martha Elizabeth May; Andrew Lionel May; Laura Ivy May; Howard Joseph May; Myrtle Alice May and 4 others

Managed by: Private User
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About J. Alfred May

Life History of J. Alfred May by James J. May

Source: http://wmalvin.tolmanfamily.org/history/naomi/jalfred.htm

J. Alfred May was born on 26 May 1902 in Rockland, Idaho to Andrew May and Laurel May Summerill. He died 29 June 1985. He lived 83 years 1 month and 3 days. He was the first child born after his father served on a mission in the southern states for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. His life span covered an era from the horses with buggies and wagons as a means of transportation to modern day with automobiles, airplanes and trips to the moon. From a time when most medical attention was given in the home to 1985, when people go to doctors and hospitals for almost every ailment.

I remember dad telling of an occasion when his older brother went to the blacksmith to have a tooth pulled. He remembered his hollering and yelling as he was drug around the floor of the blacksmith shop attempting to get the tooth out. Dad also told of occasions when people died of diptheria and other contagious diseases in which part of his dad's duties as Bishop involved going into the homes and taking care of the bodies and burying the people when no one else would.

So far as entertainment is concerned his life span began without TV, stereos or radios. If people wished to be entertained, they did it themselves, either in families or organizations such as the MIA organization.

Dad was always an independent individual. He either did what he wanted to or what he thought he ought to. He was never motivated by a concern with what people thought was proper. He often did things that other people would think about and never get around to. His individualism and independence began at an eary age. I remember him telling the story of when he was quite small of going out and crawling up on the side of the corral and getting on a horse that eventually moved out in the middle of the whole corral of horses. His mother came out to see where he was and all she could do was get excited as there was no way she could get into the middle of the corral and get him off the horse. When he was around 12, he and two other boys decided to run away from home and go to Texas. They got their horses and loaded their belongings on and headed into the mountians east of Rockland. No one knew where they had gone and eventually his dad caught up with him after they had spent the night and were wet and bedraggled and willing to turn around and come home. Dad was always impressed with the fact that his dad did not reprimand him, but just invited him to come back home.

He went away to school at Stanford, where he attended a half year and ended up working in redwood logging camps in California. Many of the logging camps were maned with immigrants from foreign countries. He told us some of the circumstances and conditions, particularly involving eating. Apparently, they would be served family style and you had to learn to really dig in and defend yourself or you would starve. When the plates were brought, often the first one to get the bowl with different item would dump it all in his plate and not worry about getting anything else.

At a later date, after his marriage, he went to Albion Normal School, where he recieved a lifetime teaching certificate. He was always very proud of that certificate as it did not have to be recertified regardless of how much lapse of time was involved in this teaching.

During the depression, while selling the Idaho Farmer Magazine, he moved to north Idaho. While traveling in north Idaho, be bought a 100 acres of what was later called the Stump Ranch for $1000.00 and the down payment was a bottle of whiskey to a neighbor, John Stick, who amoung other things transported whiskey across the Canadian border during prohibition days.

During World War II, dad continued his independent actions by going to Spokane, working as a guard in a government plant and attending night law school at Gonzaga University. He completed a four-year course in two and 1/2 years.

In his early sixties, dad commenced a second family and continued to be active until shortly before his death.

Another story of independent action involved his older brother, Lionel who was ten years older. On one occasion, he saw him stretch accross the tongue of a wagon, attempting to hook or unhook the tug of a horse on the other side. Dad happened to have a slingshot and shot Lionel in the rearend while in that position and apparently suffered the consequences of the shot when Lionel caught up with him.

Rockland-Bonanza Bar

Dad's growing up years were spent in the Rockland and Bonanza Bar area. I am not sure of the dates that he moved back and forth between the two. I do know that his dad was foreman of a horse and cattle ranch on

Bonanza Bar. In traveling by that area, dad told us of the use of horses and buggies as a sole means of transportation. He said that there was a place where the Snake River was crossed if you knew the exact location. He also told us, of going from Bonanza Bar to Rockland, to church a distance of about 15 miles. Apparently, he would load the whole family in a wagon or buggy, put a pair of green broke horses on the buggy, let out a yell and let them start running toward their destination. By the time they made the round trip, the horses were willing to be decent.

So far as Rockland is concerned, apparently the family lived in Rockland during some portion of the time and farmed a dry farm out of Rockland. Dad told of spending two or three months plowing in the fall with six horsed on the two bottom plow and it seeems as though he mentioned nine horses on a three-bottom plow at some point in time. His sister, Myrtle, told how the family would spend the week on the dry farm and they wopuld load everybody up in a wagon and drive to the dry farm and spend the week and then come back to Rockland for church on Sunday.

She also told of an occasion when they had a watermelon patch on the dry farm. that they were all preparing to harvest the watermelons and they found that dad had plugged all the watermelons and ended up with no one being able to eat any.

Dad also told of combines that were pulled by 32 horses and the tremendous mess you had if the hitches come loose or the horses became tangled.

He told of breaking horses and of curing them of bad habits. One I remember him telling was a horse that when he would go to get onto it, it would rear over backwards. To cure the horse, they got him standing in fornt of a deep hole and when someone started to get on himm why the horse keeled over backwards into the hole, apparently that cured him of such activities in the future.

Dad also told of driving wheat wagons from Rockland to Ameriacan Falls, pulled by ten horses. Apparently dad spent a lot of time doing this. This was during the period immediately following World War II when Hoover was feeding the world wheat to keep them from starving. American Falls was a big shipping point at that time.

World War I came at a time when dad was too young to be in the service and one of the things he spent his time doing was hauling wheat. During that period of time dad told of lightning striking on occasions. At one time, he was driving four horses on a wagon, lightning struck, knocked him off the high box he was on and knocked the horses down. After some periond, dad got up and the horses got back up and they went on their way without any permanent damage. On another occasion, he and his sister Myrtle were chasing pigs, lightning struck and hit the pigs, burnt holes in the bottom of their feet and killed them, but didn't harm either dad or his sister. Myrtle also told us when the first shows came to Rockland. They were $.10 for admittance and she and dad hurried to get their chores done on Saturday so they could go to the show on Saturday night.

Albion Normal School

I don't know too much of dad's activities at the Normal School. I do know that he had to work his way through and he spent part of that work sweeping floors. In addition to that, he and mother bought a cow and they sold milk and cottage cheese and other thins so that they botyh ended up with teaching certificates. Some time after graduation, they moved to Arbon Valley, where they taught school for several years. They were both teacking at a two-room country school when I started the first grade at the age of five. I remember of dad telling when he started teaching there that one of the first things he dad to do was prove that he could lick some of the big kids that were still in school. Apparentely they did'nt move them through as fast in those days and there were 17-18 year old kids that made life miserable for teachers. If you couldn't lick them you weren't able to stay around and teack school.

North Idaho

From Arbon Valley we moved to the farm in north Idaho somewhere around 1931-1932. I can still remember many of the events of that move. Dad had some kind of a truck and trailer. We had a Shetland pony, horses, cows, chickens, pigs, and everything to set up a farm operation. Dad's brother Summerel came along to help with the move and it took us ten days to travel from Arbon, south of Pocatello, Idaho to Port Hill in northern Idaho. Each night we would have to unload the animals and load them up again the next day. As I remember, we lived in a tent as we traveled. That was before the improvement of the roads over Whitebird, Winchester, and Lewiston Hills and going up and down those hills, with the load we had and the type of equipement was a real challenge.

Dad's place in Port Hill was a 100 acres fo uncleared ground. It was totally covered by timber and brush. We had a house with no running water, no inside toilet, no electricity and approximately a half acre cleared right next to it. We commenced clearing the ground by hand as that was beofre the days of the caterpillar tractors. We first cut all the timber and trees off the ground, used the larger trees for wood and burned the rest of the brush. We needed to wait three years for thesmall stuff to die then started clearing it. We first went through it with a team of horses and pulled out all that we could. Next we wnet through the ground with a block and tackle, pulled out some more and then we went through with a stump puller, which was a device like you see in the picturees of running water wheels in Egypt or somewhere in which one horse ran around a circle on a pole and with a rachet slowly pulled stumps out of the ground. I can remember cedar stumps pulling up with almost a half acre fo ground that had to picked off of the bottom, but it was a real extremely slow process of the horse going around and around and the stump very slowly moving up out of the ground. With the Tamarack and Fir trees, we had to dynamite them. I can remember putting as many as 75 sticks of dynamite under the stumps and, of course, you had to be carefu that they didn't bounce on any rocks so they exploded in your face and to set the fuse properly so that it went off and you didn't have to dig it out. Thewre were occasions when the dynamite load had to be dug out and on occasions dad did that. There were others that were killed in that process as in digging it out if you jolted it then the dynamite goes off and you go up with it.

Dad started the spring toothing of alfalfa ground in the area. At first the local farmers thought sure he had plowed his alfalfa and that it would never grow again. Alfalfa in north Idaho can be planted and grown indefinitely. The roots go down 15-20 feet and they seem to last forever so long as you keep farming it. This period in Dad's like was during the depression. He managed to get a job teaching school in various country schools around Boundary County and farmed the farm in between time. As we worked clearing the ground, if you managed to cut the trees and clear ground for five acres during one summer's season you were lucky and it took a lot of heavy work to get that done. Later on I remember hauling hay and threshing alfalfa seed. We had thresing crews that moved from house to house so that you had to cut the seed early in the mornigs when the dew was on it and stack it in piles carefully and then it was hauled in wagons to a stationery thresher and it was an extremely dirty job, but the meals that were put on by the housewives were something that I still remember, of the fried chicken and the roast beef and all the other good things that went with it.

During the times that we worked dad kept us in a positive attitude by talking about going to school, improving the farm, buying other farms and a lot of other things that didn't develppe, but they were goals at that time tat made life more interesting. We dug our own wells. I can remember mice getting in the wells, having to clean out the wells, and hauling the water in five gallon buckets and putting it in a barrel so mother could wash clothes. We grew gardens, chicken and livestock. We made our won shakes to put on the buildings by getting big cedar trees and using a fro laying it on top of the block and splitting the shakes off from the big block then using them to put on top of the roof to keep the rain out. We used cross cut saws to cut down big trees and to cut wood in two. We used wedges and mauls to split the wood and we had a lot of cedar trees that grew naturally, some of them we had to split to make into rails and posts, others were the right size without. Baths were taken on Saturday only and the same water was used for all of us kids at the same time. Of course, the best deal was if you got the first water. As we began working we often went to the Koutenai River located about a mile awway and went swimming after hard work in order to get washed off.

We had a rubber wheeled wagon that we used in going to and from the fields for various things. The horses were braced to make the wagon like a chariot. I am sure the neighbors thought we were crazy at times. Dad started the process. As we worked out in the field mother often brought mid-morning and mid-afternoon tomato juice and different things for us to eat and we usually worked from daylight to dark,

We later purchased another farm located about five miles form the original one. It was located exactly on the Canadian border. The first farm that we had was about a quarter mile away from the border. We sometimes crossed over into Canada. There was a large area where there were large raspberries that we picked during the days of prohibition and on one of those trips the immigration officers raised up out of the bushes with guns and made quite a deal out of crossing the Canadian order.

In that area being all mountainous, periodically the government would have crews go through the country and they would clear out an area, as I remember it was 20 rods wide and cut all of the trees out of it and could see where the boundary line between Canada and the United States went right over the mountains every place because of the cleared area. We worked hard in clearing the ground, but we also took time out to go fishing. Our favorite place was going up Smith Creek Canyon. Dad took us up there and we then proceeded to catch small brook trout anywhere from 50 to a 100 and often cooked while we were up there and I still remember how good rthey tasted.

With dad's consent or maybe urging, I remember one Fourth of July when we were up in the mountains, I took a stick of dynamite and got up early in the morning in the campgtound and set the stick of dynamite off as a firecracker on top of a stump and remember the tremendous noise that it made and the echos that kept reverberating around the mountains and the excitement it created in the rest of the camps in the campground.

Since we had no toiklets on the inside, I remember our toilet was outside. There was a huge wild Syringa bush that grew along side of it and when it was in bloom the smell from it counteracted somewhat the smell that came from the toilet. There was no toilet paper because of the cost during the depression. The Sears catalog lasted throughout the year. It was always better the first part of the period than it was later, because the colored pages were the ones that were the last ones and being slick the were not quite as effective as the other type of paper.

Since we had no electricity wwe used lanterns inside the house. To read we used Colman gas lanterns and out in the barns we used a coal oil lantern that we carried around with us during the dark periods and there were lots ot those. We were located 25 miles form onners Ferry and thats where we had to go to high school once we got there. It was 25 miles each direction and we caught the bus at 7:00 0'clock in the morning. During the period that we were in Port Hill, the radios came out. I remember that since there was no electricity we had the radio hooked to a car battery and we would have to periodically take the battery in and have it charged and bring it back and run the radio for periods of time. Some of the radio programs were Amos & Andy, Gildersleeve, and I don't rember all of the rest of them, but radio was a big thing to be able to listen to at that stage.

There were occasions when dad was teaching school at Moyie Springs and other places in the county when the family moved there and lived with him and dad had to take the school bus and go up and take care of the livestock and stay by himself at the house during the winter a little bit of a scary process. There were occasions when we would go to Spokane or other places to conference and get back around midnight or later and we would have to go find the cows. The cows would go back through the timber and pasture on our ground as well as some school section ground immediately behind us and they could travel as much as four or five miles back through there. We has bells on all of them and we would have to go get the cows and I can remember going through the night with the lanterns going back there hoping you could hear the cows and bring them back so we could milk them. On one of those occasions, I can remember hearing a mountain lion scream and it was quite a scary process. There was also an area that we usually went over where the mountian sounded hollow and you went by miners cabins and old mine shafts and things of that nature.

Because of the depression, we lived on what we grew. We never did drink any whole milk, it was always skim milk, because we had to sell the cream. Our chickens laid eggs and I remember selling them for six cents a dozen. Obviously, because of the low price, we ate a lot of eggs and to this day, cold egg sandwiches are something which I would just as soon do without.

They also got wheat ground in town and then made ceral out of course ground whole wheat. I remember having to eat that stuff and it always developed a skum on the top real fast. I have since learned if you put the sugar on it quick, the skum didn't develope, but back in that day, you didn't know about that.

We a learned responsibility early because there were things that had to be done. Dad started me driving horses when I was six years old and shortly after that I started taking a .22 rifle back and shooting squirels and grouse and then shooting deer. I shot my first deer when I was 11 years old with and old 32-40 rifle that dad had gotten someplace. He apparently didn't know how to sight it in and I sure didn't, so it shot low and to one side. ou had to take that into account when you would shoot the deer so you would hit it in the right place.

Again medical attention was somewhat primitive. I remember dad got blood poison in his arm. Ican still see the red streak going up his arm and instead of getting into a doctor, he soaked his arm for several days and managed to cure it under those circumstances. I remember getting a sliver in the bottom of my food and laying on the table while dad dug it out with a knife. There were sometimes when he made the decision to come to southern Idaho to visit relatives; often they were on an impulse, I assume, based upon economic circumstances and conditions and we always enjoys coming down to get acquainted with other relatives. It was an area where you could be greatly self sufficient. We learned places where to pick huckleberries and mother canned a lot of those. There were some wild cherrie, wild service berries, Oregon grapes, raspberries, and strawberries. Mother made a lot of jams and jellies out of different combinations of those we picked.

The Canadian border was a real barrier. There was a town only six miles across the border by the name of Creston. We occasionally went over there particularly for the purpose of having church. Dad located some church members over there just by driving around the country. The first ones he went to were Reorganized LDS and then he eventually locasted others. We met outside in small rooms in various places, but we did go to church and dad became Branch President and served in that capacity over in Canada and Port Hill in between and in Bonners Ferry because of the shortage of people to take jobs. I was secretary of the Sunday School somewhere around eight or nine years old and I was a counselor in the Sunday School somewhere around ten or eleven years old. We learned a lot of responsibility, I learned how to bwe self sufficient and a lot of other lessons during this period of dad's life.

Other periods, I don't know a lot about some periods in dad's life. I do know that he went to Salem, Oregon where he was active in the church and was a Branch President for a period of time. He also spent some period at Ogden, and I think that must have been the time when he worked for a mortuary. He, of course, lived in Spokane during World War II and during the week was a guard a government plants.

He went to Gonzaga Law School where he completed his four year course in 2 1/2 years. He loved the practice of law, loved the challenge of seeing what he could do for people. If he went to work for anyone as an attorney, he went all out to do everything he could for them. He was often not to careful about getting paid for it. He was more concerned with getting the job done, many cases when he wasn't getting paid. He treated everyone alike and was able to get acquainted with people fast and to get aloing with them good.

He used that ability when he was selling the Idaho Farmer. I remember him telling the experience around Montana, Idaho, Oregon, when he was traveling across the country, meeting with people and selling the Idaho Farmer getting paid in goat meat,which apparently wasn't too good. Being asked questions about whether he was a Mormon and how many wives he had. I remember him saying his response on one occasion was that he was pretty young yet and had only one, but after he got a little older he was going to go back to Zion and get some more wives. Dad always belived in the church and he had a testimony of the gospel. During much of his life he was active, first as Branch President. He took care of funerals. He learned a lot of things and I am sure mostly about himself in the process. Later on,he became a teacher in thr gospel doctrine class and he always gave a lesson that was interesting and entertaining which got participation of almost everyone in the class. Dad admired my grandfather, his father Andrew, even thought I am sure that he gave Grandpa May some bad times during his growing up period. Dad talked of his dad being Bishop 17 years in Rockland. He always had a lot of compassion for people and he was willing to overlook many of their problems. One of those examples he said he could remember his dad coming into a dance that the church put on and instead of giving someone a bad time over having a bottle of whiskey in his pocket, he just came down and lifted the guys shirt or coat tail over the whiskey so that it didn"t show. That was an attribute that he admired in his dad.

Dad was always patriotic, he believed in heros and he believed in the American system and good things that benefited from it. He was always up. He was an optismist. He always felt there was a solution to things and in the times he was Branch President, he was a good motivator to get people to do things.

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J. Alfred May's Timeline

May 29, 1902
June 29, 1985
Age 83