Like Herb, it’s easy for me to reflect on my time at the Buckner Ranch. Harry’s youngest daughter, Bucky, was a student at WSU at Pullman, and in 1947 Harry wrote to her to recruit 5 or 6 of her college chums to thin the heavy crop set of apples. My older sister agreed to come and asked if her little brother Jimmy could also come. I was 15, and Harry’s nephew, Bud Gills, also 15, was coming as well. Harry thought it would work well for us two boys to defend ourselves from all those college girls.
We boys stayed in the loft of the new shop by the Buzzard cabin. We all had a great time thinning apples and enjoying weekends exploring, swimming, goofing off, pestering the girls, and helping Herbie’s Dad build their new house down by the river. Bucky took us all to climb Mt. McGregor. I was a city boy (Spokane) and I loved it all.
We were done thinning apples in early July, so we all prepared to leave. But I asked Harry if I could stay the rest of summer and work for room and board. That was fine for him, his wife Olive and my folks. My jobs were to keep the firewood boxes filled, milk the two cows, (Yes, Harry taught me how, including how to aim a teat to squirt a stream of milk to the barn cats who lapped it out of the air), turn the cows out pasture and bring them in for evening milking and feeding them some hay, helping Herb’s dad Tony to cut, haul and split firewood, take the red ford truck(now retired and siting in front of the house) to Maxwell’s hay field and load the cut hay to take back to the farm, and all kinds of other chores. Harry worked me hard, I thought too hard for just room and board, but a deal’s a deal and it was my idea, so I couldn’t complain. He and Olive were my “summer parents” and treated me so well!
Came the time to go back to Spokane for school (I had turned 16), I awaited Harry in the living room, packed and ready to be taken to the boat. Harry handed me a piece of paper: a check for $500!!!! I was puzzled, and he said “Well, Jim I intended to pay you and you've worked hard, but I didn’t tell you because you might go to the landing on weekends and splurge it all on Beryl’s hamburgers and Washington Nut pie. Instead, I want you to put it in the bank for college.” I was speechless! That was a fortune in 1946.
I worked all the next summer for Harry, Olive had died, so there was just the two of us in the house. Once in a while Herb’s parents,Tony and Irene, would visit friends for dinner, so I would toddler-sit little Herbie and his littler brother Chris.
While attending the University of Washington, I would often visit the Buckner Ranch during winter vacation. Summers working trail crew or recreation guard at Stehekin kept me in Stehekin for more summers. And, I’ve been coming back several times a year ever since. It’s my second home.
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