Biography of Lyall Wilson
CCCMan, Duchesne,Utah & Salina, Utah & Gunlock, Utah & Cedar City, Utah
In the summer of 1934 the Government started the CCC program, which looked like a pretty good thing so I went up to the Memorial Hall in Lehi and signed up for it along with a lot of other guys my age including my brother Dean. In the fall of that year I got a letter directing me to go to Provo, Utah, get a physical examination and a written test to see if I was in good enough shape and smart enough to be admitted to this organization. A short time after this I received another letter informing me that I had been accepted and to be at the County Court House in Provo at the parking lot on October 16, 1934.
To me the following events were the happiest and some the most important of my life. I had just turned 21 and on my own now, to make my own decisions, right or wrong, I had to live by them. When we first arrived at Duchesne ,Ut. I was a little frightened with it all but as I got used to being away from Dad and other members of my family, and especially my friend Audrey, I made new friends and learned to like it very much. Later when we moved to Salina, Gunlock and on to Cedar City I enjoyed every minute of it, especially the Spike Camp at Leeds and the work we were doing in the Southern end of the State, in the quaint little towns of Virgin and Toquerville, then in St. George, which at that time wasn't much larger than American Fork. This is a part of my life I doubt I will ever forget.
As I have mentioned before we all met in Provo at the County Court House parking lot. Dad, took my brother Dean and I down in his car. It was early in the morning and cloudy. After we had all arrived and our names were checked off we were given a few minutes to say good-by to our families, there was a lot of mothers and dads there in the parking lot and it was filled up it seemed to me.
The man in charge of this group finally got us all into a flatbed truck that had church or park benches, I can't remember which, down each side and a double row back to back down the middle. There was a canvas tarp across the front, down each side of the cattle truck and another across the top, but the back was open. There were around twenty-five or thirty in this group, which made a pretty good load for this truck, which was slow and didn't have very much power. When we were pretty well up Provo Canyon our feet and hands started to get cold and as you will find in every group of the older fellows said "If you think it's cold here just wait until we get up Daniels Canyon." He was right it was a lot colder but by then he comes up with "If you think it's cold now wait until we get to the Strawberry." By this time we had started to go numb with the cold. At the top of Daniels Canyon we stopped for gas at a service station and luckily there was a café next to it. I believe that is all that saved our lives we were that close to being frozen stiff by this time. After we had a cup of coffee and walked around a bit we loaded up and headed across Strawberry for Duchesne. By now we had learned that by huddling up close to each other and tamping our feet we could keep fairly warm. In Duchesne we fueled up again and had another cup of coffee and some more exercise. At the service station the truck driver got the wrong information as to were the camp was located and we went over to Myton where we stopped at another service station for more gas and this time we got the right directions to the camp, which was about twenty miles back and north of where we were. The man at the service station drew a map for the driver. We turned north and worked our way back to the west. It was pretty well along in the afternoon by now and threatening to snow. After what seemed like forever but I would say it was close to five hours we arrived at the Moon Lake Camp. The camp officials were pretty worried; they had expected us hours before. They had a warm meal ready, which had been warmed up three times. It didn't matter to us we had not eaten anything since before daylight that morning; we ate everything they put in front of us.
After we had finished our meal we were assigned to a barracks and given our bedding and a straw tick mattress, the straw to fill these mattresses was out back of the mess hall. Most of us were so tired we didn't bother to fill our mattress with straw we just made our bed on our bunk and went to sleep. My brother Dean and I were assigned to different barracks so I didn't see him very often while in Moon Lake it seemed he was always on one job while I would be on another.
These "CCC" camps were run like an army camp with a Captain and usually two Lieutenants in command of the camp. These officers were usually from the Army Reserve, they had a first Sergeant usually from the Army also. An Army Doctor and Supply Sergeant. The cooks were in most cases either from the Army or Navy but I was in a camp or two where there were cooks that had joined the CCC's like the rest of us. We worked for the Forestry on Soil Conservation Service. These departments had a Superintendent and some times an assistant with offices in the camp. When we were in the Camp we were under the Supervision of the Army Officers, when we were outside the camp working we were under the Supervision of the Superintendents or one of their Foreman. We got our pay in an envelope at the end of the month. If we wanted a few days leave we had to arrange it with the Captain.
We were issued army clothing and bedding, which was army issue right down to our underwear. They gave us a shaving kit in a metal box that looked like it was left over from World War 1 with a round bar of shaving soap that was hard as flint and a piece of chrome coated metal that served as a mirror. After we had used the issued toilet articles we had to replace them ourselves, everything else the army replaced.
To start with we were given two clean sheets for our bed but after that we only got one clean sheet a week. We would take the bottom sheet and turn it in and put the clean sheet on top and move the top sheet to the bottom. These camps had a bugler to get us up in the mornings, tell us when to eat and when to go to bed. The lights in the barracks went out at 10:30 PM but if we wanted to stay up a little longer they left the lights on in the recreation hall an hour longer. This was the way all the camps were run except the Spike Camp at Leeds, but I'll talk about that later.
The morning after we had arrived in Moon Lake they had all us men from Provo meet in the mess hall, there the Captain and the two Lieutenants had us form a double line and told us they were going to swear us in and if any of us wanted out to step out of line and they would send us home in the truck that brought us in. One of the guys standing by me said "Hell I'd work here for the next six months free before I'd make that trip again." After we had served this six months period we could either sign up for another six months, or ask to be sent home at the Governments expense. Although we were under these army rules we didn't have to salute the officers but we were asked to stand at attention when we were talking with them.
At moon Lake we built new roads, cut timber in the forest around camp, these trees had a bark worm in them so they were cut down and used for a power and telephone line that we built. The bark and limbs from these trees were piled in a clearing and burned to kill the worms. We cut cedar posts for fences for each side of the roads we were building. There was also a bridge across a creek, which was nearly finished, we worked on this also. The camp itself used a canvas covered truck, called a convoy truck, to haul supplies from the towns around this camp but the men always rode to work and back in flat bed trucks with high racks all the way around. They had planks across the width of the truck between sideboards of the racks for us to sit on. These trucks were mostly Fords and Reo's.
We were pretty high in the mountains and the snow came early in the fall. Naturally it got cold and windy about the time we arrived. After a month or so in camp I found out they needed a night watchman. I figured that was a lot better than freezing my tail off chopping down trees or working on the road, so I applied for this job. I was given this job, which consisted of making the rounds of the camp once an hour to watch out for fires or theft from the garage and gas pumps. When the cooks had finished the evening meal and everything had been cleaned up and put away the cooks would bank the two cooking ranges. When I wasn't making the rounds of the camp I went into the kitchen where it was always warm. At about 4:30AM I would open the drafts on the stoves and wake up the cooks, and then make my final rounds. At 6:30 AM I woke up the bugler and the officers. After the men had their breakfast and left for work I would crawl in bed and sleep until they came in from work. It was a little rough trying to sleep during the weekends when the men were in camp, but I managed. About once or twice a month the officers let the men use a truck to go to one of the small towns nearby for a dance, which was a big affair at that time, on top of that we got a chance to get out of camp for a little while. We even held a dance one time in the Mess Hall and invited all the people from that end of the County to come to this dance free of charge. We decorated the hall and hired an orchestra. All our trucks were sent out to bring in the people who didn't have transportation. For the people who had their own cars we had a parking lot all cleaned and lighted for them. It was a huge success and we talked about this dance and the girls we had met for days after.
While working as a night watchmen from the time I made the final rounds in the mornings until I woke the officers and bugler I would hang around the kitchen and visit with the cooks and help them in a lot of ways. In return they taught me a lot about cooking for a large group. There were about two hundred and fifty men in this camp, which meant everything was cooked in five, or ten-gallon stainless steel kettles; the griddles were four feet long and two feet wide. The food for these camps was purchased out of Salt Lake or from the local merchants except the coffee, which came in a wooden barrel about the size of a five-gallon gas can. These containers were marked in big black letters across the side, "United States Quarter Master Corps 1918 which meant they had, had this coffee laying around in their warehouses since World War 1. After a gulp of this brew you knew with out a doubt that it was at least that old. The coffee was the same in every camp I was in. I don't know of one camp that had a good cup of coffee at mealtime.
We were paid $30 a month but from this the Government would take the amount we had assigned to a dependent that we had to have to get into the "CCC's". We were paid the balance of this at the end of the month in a little brown envelope in cash. If we wanted money during the month we could go the P.X. and sign a coupon worth one dollar, in other words with one of these coupons we could buy a candy bar or a bag of Bull Dhurham for five cents and get back 95cents in change. This was one way we had of getting money during the month the only catch to this was after we had drawn as many coupons as we had money coming to us each month that was it, we had to go without pocket change until the next month. Some times Dad had a few dollars extra, and then he would send a couple of dollars to Dean and I. Dad wrote about once a month and some times some of the other relations would drop us a few lines. Audrey and I corresponded with each other at least once a week and I surely looked forward to her letters, I will write more about this later in my story.
The moon lake camp was made up entirely of Utah men and about half of this camp lived in the nearby towns and farms, so on the week ends when they had a couple of days off they would go home. The days were long and the nights were even longer so the boys found whatever entertainment they could which was usually playing poker. There were a few good poker players and they had all the extra money, the rest of us just played until we went broke then suffered it out until the next month. I learned real early I couldn't play poker and I could use my money for other things so I stayed out of these games. I have seen some of the guys in Moon Lake who couldn't play any better than I could and they would play night after night until they had lost all the money that had coming for months in advance bum cigarettes and candy bars from every one they could. We soon learned to stay away from these dead beats.
Along about the middle of June they sent a large group of the Moon Lake men to different camps. Brother Dean and I were a couple of these men. As I remember it we could volunteer to go and we had two choices as to where we went. Half of the group was to go to Gunlock Utah, which is west of St. George to build a new camp. I choose to go to Gunlock while Dean went to Mayfield Utah, which is east of Salina. I lost contact with him from this time on and didn't see him again for about ten years. They weren't quite ready for us in Gunlock so they dropped us off at a camp in Salina. After a day or two in Salina the camp officers found out I knew a little bit about cooking and the asked me to make the lunches for the men to take to work with them. I would get up the same time in the mornings as the cooks to prepare around eighty lunches, 160 sandwiches, fruit, cookies or other goodies. Put coffee, cream and sugar in containers as they could make it up hot at noon for their dinners. I would have all this ready in big wooden boxes out in front of the mess hall to be picked up when the men left for work. After they left I would eat my breakfast and I was on my own the rest of the day.
In the evenings I would go the mess hall to get the next day's lunches lined up, like making sure I had all the bread and goodies etc. that I would need the next morning. I was only in that camp about a month. The only thing of importance that happened here was they repealed the "Liquor Law." This sure made the boys happy, now they could buy it in a Liquor Store instead of going to the local bootleggers, like they had been doing.
On June 15, 1935 all the men from the Moon Lake Camp and a few more were loaded into convoy trucks and taken to Gunlock. This is a little town the size of Cedar Fort (a very small town 7 miles from my home in Lehi), northwest of St. George in a wide canyon running North and South. It consists of one road, one small store and one very small Post Office; there was also one small church. There were farms farther up this canyon and a few alongside of the road through the rest of the area.
We were to build a new camp so we were housed in tents until we could complete the barracks. We were just a short distance from town on the East side of the canyon on a flat area that had been leveled and graded for the new campsite by another group of CCC men. I believe they were from a Midwestern state but there were no Utah men with them. We arrived one afternoon and they left the next morning in the same trucks that had brought us to Gunlock; they were a chicken outfit as far as were concerned. When they left they put salt in the sugar, which really fouled up our meals until we got a fresh supply. The officers and a Navy cook stayed with the camp and the cook we called "Pop Eye."
The people in town quickly found out we were all Utah men and sent the Bishop of their church over with an invitation to a church social they were having that weekend. We all shaved, bathed in a small stream of water that ran just below the camp, put on our best clothes and were sitting on the church steps at least a half hour early.
The townspeople started coming with home made cakes, fresh green salads and big pots of Boston Baked Beans, along with homemade bread and butter. They all smiled and greeted us like old friends. As soon as they had all gathered there and put the food on the tables in one corner a combo of guitars, violins and a piano started playing dance tunes, an older lady sang some of these songs and she was pretty good. We danced a few dances with the younger girls, then to our surprise we found that all the women present from 16 to 60 were there to have a good time and they would sooner dance with us, their husbands didn't seem to mind it at all. One thing we noticed right off especially the older girls, when we put our arms around them to dance they had muscles across their shoulders and down their backs that us guys would have given a lot to have. These ladies had lived on the farm all of their lives and had pitched hay and shoveled manure right alongside the men. One of the guys said after the dance "he bet anyone of them Ladies could have thrown any of us two out of three falls." As the evening wore on the dances got faster and they people really got with it. The girls sweat just like the men, this town was in the same local as St. George, so it gets quite warm in the summer, this evening I would guess it was at least 85 degrees, they didn't mind so we didn't either. They had one dance where we would start out with one partner then the lady who had been singing would shout "Men swing the lady on your left," when we reached out for the lady on our left we found out what she meant, these girls would put everything they had into it, they clamped down on our hands with a grip like you couldn't believe and they just about lifted us fellows off the floor when they would swing us around, after we had made two or three trips around the floor we would swing a new partner and dance with this one. By now everyone was having a good time on these fine people and us CCC men had a time that I doubt any of us will ever forget.
After a good two hours of dancing and games the floor was cleaned and tables setup. The ladies put the food on the tables and asked one of the men to say a prayer. That was something we hadn't heard in a long time. Most of us had not eaten home cooked food for months so we really put away everything that was handed to us. After everyone had eaten what they wanted the ladies ask us if we couldn't eat a little more of what was left. When we couldn't get down another mouth full they made us take the leftovers back to camp with us. We just couldn't thank these people enough for the good food and the good time we had that night. This was the way these people in Gunlock treated us all the time we were there. They invited us to their church services on Sundays and other town activities, which we attended when we could.
In the meantime we were laying out the footings for the camp buildings and roadways around the camp. The Captain split us up into two groups to unload the lumber and supplies for the camp when it came in. It came at all hours of the day and night. I was the leader for one group and a friend, Ashley Workman, was the other. We took turns unloading the trucks when they came in. They usually came in the middle of the night for some reason I could never figure out. When we wasn't unloading trucks or catching up on our sleep we worked around camp. The Captain was a stickler for neatness, every lumber pile had to be just right and all the other building and plumbing supplies had to be exactly right or we had to do it again.
Somehow our little group had been lost on the payroll books. We hadn't been paid since before we left Duchesne and we were out of everything and not a dime in our pockets. Most of us couldn't even buy a three-cent stamp to write home. Ever faithfull Audrey wrote her usual letters and even included a few stamps so I could answer them. The Captain would pass out cigarettes at suppertime once in a while, we would smoke them down until they burned our fingers or maybe we would smoke half and save the other half for later on. This act of thoughtfulness made us all like the Captain and we worked a little harder for him. The trucks kept bringing in these new building materials until we had it piled everywhere but we still hadn't started to erect one building. One evening about dark some convoy trucks pulled into camp and we were ordered to pack and be ready to leave in the morning. Every man that was in camp but the officers and cook was taken to Cedar City. I have never been able to figure out why unless we were needed in Cedar City and we were finished with our job at Gunlock.
In Cedar City we were moved in with a full camp of men from the streets of New York Cit and some men from a city in Kentucky, which were city men also. Us men from Duchesene or Moon Lake were the only Utah men in this camp. The Army Officers were from the Eastern States but the Forestry Superintendent and his Assistant were from the Cedar City area. These officers and forestry people just turned the trucks and other equipment over to us along with just about all the leadership. I was assigned to a 1935 Ford flatbed truck, my friend Ashley Workman was made a Lead Off Man the night we arrived.
These New York and Kentucky people didn't know one end of an axe or shovel from the other. We were building a stock trail up Cedar Mountain for the sheep and cattle men to move their stock from the winter range in the valley up to their summer range on the upper part of Cedar Mountain. These City People were willing enough but also doing more damage to each other with the axes and other tools than they were doing to the Cedar Trees and Quacking Aspen they had been cutting down. They had already wrecked a new truck on the mountain roads and had a couple of others in the shop.
They would assign the Utah men to different jobs and assign Eastern men to work with us. The cattle trail was twelve to fourteen feet wide, which was cleared of Scrub Oak and underbrush, the rocks that could be moved were moved over to the edge of the trail as a marker. The Cedar Trees and Quaking Aspen were cut and taken to the top of the trail where they were used for corrals and holding pens.
I would load the truck up in the mornings with men and tools and haul them up the mountain to the work site on the cattle trail, there the trail workers would unload and the rest of the crew would go up further on the mountain where they were cutting the Cedar trees and Quaking Aspen. As soon as they had a load ready I would haul it over to where they were building the corrals and pens. About noon the trail crew would run out of water to drink so they would put two or three five gallon milk cans on the truck for me to get fresh water in Cedar City. There was a clear cold stream of water running down the mountain but the City People wouldn't drink it because they believed anything that was on the ground was dirty and unfit to drink. I would go down the road a couple of miles where I was out of sight of the trail crew, wait for about an hour then fill the milk cans with fresh water out of this stream of water and take it back up to the job. These guys never did catch on to this, if they had of, they probably would have killed me. Snakes was another thing these fellows couldn't take, just any kind of a snake would send them scattering like Quail, some times to tease them we would find a dirty rope or a stick that resembled a snake and throw it in a group and they would run in all directions. When things had quieted down we could pick up this same object and throw it at them again and get the same results.
At mess call they were always in front of the Mess Hall ten to fifteen minutes early, as soon as the doors were opened they would rush in fill their Mess Kits until the food ran over the sides, put three or four slices of bread on the top and sit down at the nearest table, there they would wolf this food down as fast as they could. As soon as they had eaten what they had they would get up, go out the back door where there was two twenty-gallon garbage cans. One had soapy water in it to wash the Mess Kits; the other had clear water to rinse the soap off. They would wash their Mess Kits then go around the Mess Hall and go through the chow line again. This time they would take an extra slice of bread or two and save it for a little later in the evening. About eight thirty they would get these slices of bread they had saved, put them on a stick of wood and put them up against the side of the stoves that were in the barracks to heat the buildings. When the bread was mostly toasted or mostly burned on both sides, they would eat it. So the barracks always smelled of burned bread, dirty clothes and tobacco smoke. These men were right off of the streets of a city and most of them had never known where their next meal was coming from. This explains their eating habits. When they learned to use their tools they were as good as any of us on the job. After we had worked with them for awhile we got to know them and their ways, we all learned to like and respect each other. They started to tease us just as we were teasing them and a lot of new friends were made. They were weirdo's to us but when I think about it we were weirdo's to them to.
After we had been in Cedar City a little while our money caught up with us. We had quite a celebration. After that was over we paid off our debts and bought some of the things we had been doing without for about three months, like ready made cigarettes and shaving soap. Audrey and I had been writing to each other all this time, after I told her we finally got our money she quit sending extra stamps, she had sent me a picture of her and a Stetson Hat that I wore all of the time. These city fellows thought that hat was about the best thing they had ever seen.
When we had the Stock Trail and Corrals finished we built a Check Dam, North of Cedar City and some roads west of the city. I was on both of these jobs and that was where I learned to operate a Cat with a bulldozer on it. I have always love machinery so this was very enjoyable work for me.
In the spring of 1936 the camp official asked about 25 of us men to go to a Spike Camp in Leeds, Utah. This small town is about halfway between Cedar City and St. George on Highway 91. There was an old CCC Camp that had been unused for sometime. It took a few days to get the Shower Room, Mess Hall and one Barracks cleaned up and in working order so we could move in. I don't know why it was called a Spike Camp it was just 25 of us men plus a foreman and our equipment at this camp. We got our supplies and pay from Cedar City. They had a small Post Office at Leeds so we got our mail there.
We worked out of Leeds all the time we were working in the small towns of Toquorville and Virgin and later in St. George. We would eat our breakfast in the mornings, load up and go to work and return to Leeds in time for our evening meal. What we liked about Leeds was there were no inspection of our barracks no bugler and no bed checks at night, but we did have to turn the barracks lights out at 10:30. We didn't have a Recreation Hall so we spent most of our free time in one end of the Mess hall where we had a couple of the tables set aside for card games, writing letters etc. We could stay up as late as we wanted to but we had to be on the trucks and ready to go to work in the morning. A few of the men got to goofing off and missing the work trucks in the morning and these men were sent back to Cedar and replaced with others that had wanted to come down with the first group.
The camp at Leeds was hot and dusty and the temperature usually ran around one hundred in the daytime and about eighty at night. There were the biggest lizards there that I have ever see, some of them were a foot long. There were also Scorpions and other creepy, crawly things, so we always shook our bedding out at night before we crawled in and tied the laces of our boots together and hung them on a nail in the roof rafters at night or when we wasn't using them. These Scorpions and bugs loved to crawl into clothes and shoes. None of us ever got bitten but we had a few close calls.
At first we would go North a few miles then turn left on Highway 15 which is the highway to Zions Park, to two small towns named Toquerville and Virgin. There were two narrow steel bridges very similar to the ones West of Lehi, one just South of the river bridge on the road to Cedar Fort and the other just a little South of Camp Williams. When the State Highway Department rebuilt this stretch of highway in southern Utah, they bypassed these old bridges, leaving them unused and barricaded on each end. These bridges were bolted together instead of riveted like the ones near Lehi. They had a square head and a square nut and were very rusty, which didn't help any while we were dismantling them. We numbered every girder and beam with white paint, put some scaffolding under them and had at it. In those days they didn't have mobile cranes, so we used what we called a Gin Pole. (see enclosed picture) We used this Gin Pole to dismantle and load the parts of the bridges on our trucks. When we had them torn down we moved them to a site South of St. George called Fort Pierce Wash. We cleaned up the area barricaded the old roads loaded our Gin Pole and moved to Fort Pierce Wash.
While we were doing this another CCC Camp stationed in Snow Canyon had been constructing the abutments and center pier to place these bridges on. They had the West abutment finished, the center pier nearly finished and had started on the East abutment, when we finished up our job and took over the completion of their project. While some of our men worked at Fort Pierce the rest of us finished transporting the rest of the bridge sections to this job site and we all then worked at finishing the pouring of the concrete for the East abutment.
I'll explain a little about this Wash, as it was called and the reason for this bridge across it before I go on. Fort Pierce Wash at that time was about seventy-five yards wide with a soft sandy bottom and dry most of the time. When it rained in the mountains it was a natural drainage from the mountains to the Virgin River. There was a suspended footbridge across it, which was used when the water was in the wash but the cars and trucks had to wait until it was dry or they would sink to their hubs in the soft sand and silt. This caused a lot of problems for the people living in this area if they had to get to the other side it meant a long detour into St. George and back.
A flash flood or two nearly caught us while we were constructing the abutments and erecting the bridges. It scares a person to see a wall of water coming at him that is three or four feet high and as wide as the wash. We learned to stay out of the wash when there was rain in the mountains. There was no way we could get equipment and ourselves to high ground when one of these floods came down. When we saw a flood coming all we could do was to get on the higher banks then after the water went down we would go back and recover what tools we could find, dig out our equipment and go back to work.
While I was working in the Leeds and St.Geroge area I drove a Ford, flatbed truck hauling men to and from the job and hauling the bridge sections down to Fort Pierce. While we were constructing the abutments they used an awful lot of bagged cement for the concrete, which was stored in one of the buildings at our Leeds camp. I would make a trip or two a day with a load of cement when it was needed. I loaded and unloaded this cement myself which kept me in pretty good shape. When we had finished the last abutment some of the men were erecting the old bridge on the other end of this span. We were to make one bridge out of the two that we had salvaged from Toquerville and Virgin. The plan was to rebuild the two end to end and form one bridge, when we had finished it worked out very well.
It didn't take long to finish up the remaining abutment and when we got the hang of it the bridge sections went up quite fast. We had done a good job in marking these sections when we tore it them down and we had been careful when we layed them out to rebuild them, which made the Superintendent in charge and us very happy. I worked with the steel gang as we were called until the job was pretty well along by then we had to have a road built to and from this bridge, so the Cedar City Camp sent the bulldozer and road grader down to do this job. I went back to operating the bulldozer after we had unloaded the work crew in the morning. The county had a couple of dump trucks that brought the fill dirt for this road. The road was completed just about the same time as the bridge was, it seemed everyone around that area was in a hurry to finish this job.
It was getting pretty late in the fall by now and I'll bet the Camp Officials and the County Road Board gave a big sigh of relief to see it finished before bad weather set in.
I ask for and received an assignment to drive a convoy truck, hauling supplies from Cedar City to different camps in the southern end of the state and sometimes over into Arizona. The reason we were using Cedar City to haul these supplies from was that Cedar City had a railroad into it so it was used as a supply base, from here we would take what supplies these different camps needed in our covered convoy trucks.
In the first week of December I got a leave from the camp and came to Lehi where Audrey and I were to be married. A few days after the wedding I returned to Cedar City to finish my enlistment.
After I returned to Cedar City the weather was good, sunny days and cool nights until a couple of days after Christmas. We spent one day cleaning up around camp with the Cat and Dozer in our shirtsleeves. That night it started to snow and blow out of the North then it really got nasty. It snowed for a good week to ten days. When it wasn't snowing the wind would blow like crazy. It went on like this without a letup. When the weather finally cleared up and the sun came out the whole area around Cedar City was snow bound, not a road was open anywhere. The State and County equipment were all tied up trying to get traffic moving again on the highways and in the city itself. The Sheep and Cattlemen that had their stock out west of Cedar City came to the Captain and the Superintendent and ask them if they could help them reach their stock that was snow bound. It was decided to take our Cat, bulldozer and hook a Sheep Camp on the back of it which the sheep men said they would furnish, and try to get through to these cattle and sheep which were starving for lack of food. There were also small towns along the way that needed help to, the names of the towns were New Castle, Enterprise and one other that I don't recall. These were about 30 miles west of Cedar out in the boonies.
Our camps were three blocks east of Main Street in the heart of the city. As soon as it was decided what we had to do the sheep men brought the Sheep Camp into Cedar and we checked our Cat over and gassed it up. Three of us CCC men were to go and one Foreman who knew the country and the roads we would be trying to clear. It was very cold so a man could only stay on the Cat a half hour at the most at one time then he would get in the Sheep Camp to warm up while one of the other men would take over. We had no protection at all from the cold on this Cat, it was a warm weather machine so there were no side curtains or windshield and the fan seemed to pick up all the loose snow and blow it right back in our faces.
There was always a big pot of coffee on the stove in the Sheep Cam and the stockmen saw to it we had all the fuel for the stove and food that we needed. After we had cleared the city limits and started across the open stretches of fields and pastures we could see it wasn't going to be a Sunday School Picnic. The drifts were as high as the Cat in some places and a hundred foot long. When we came to these we would unhook the Camp and break through the best way we could, in some cases we had to detour around them through the fields and back onto the roads. When it was passable we would hook up and take off again. There was always a bunch of pickup trucks and cattle trucks following with feed for the stock and food for the herders. We also had a truck in this group with gas and oil for the Cat.
We made better time than we had hoped for when we first started out but it was still a slow cold journey. As soon as we cleared the road past a farmhouse or a herd of stock one of the trucks would drop out of the group following, but there were always new ones to take their place. It wasn't too bad during the day but at night we had a heck of a time fighting snow and staying on the road with just the one light we had on the Cat. We kept with it all night and through the next day. One of the farmhouses we passed the woman that lived there had given birth to a baby during the storm or shortly after. The husband had helped her and took care of things as well as he could. As soon as we passed their house we could see them loading her and the baby into their car and take off for Cedar City as fast as they could. We traveled and cleared roads all that day and after dark we stopped to rest and get a little sleep. We would have to go out and start the Cat every hour and let it run long enough to keep it from freezing up. At that time we didn't have permanent antifreeze only alcohol and we couldn't use this in the Cat. The next day sometime before dark we got into Enterprise. This was the end of our journey, where they had a hero's welcome for us with all the homemade goodies we could eat and one or two of the stockmen slipped us a little hard stuff to liven things up a little.
We took the next day off to rest and fix a few things on the Cat that had to be done for the trip back to camp. Please remember this Cat was a 1934 model which only traveled about three miles an hour in first gear which we used most of the way coming to Enterprise and it traveled eight to ten miles an hour in high gear which we used to get back to Cedar City
The foreman went back to camp in a pick up so that left the three of us to get the Cat back. That was the longest, coldest ride I have ever had in my life. We took turns on the Cat like before but the weather had turned colder and we were traveling faster. If we hadn't of been so young and dumb I don't think we would have made it. We got into camp after dark some time. It didn't take us very long to drain the Cat and get into bed, which had never felt better.
I west back to driving the convoy truck either to town for mail and supplies or making long hauls to different camps, when the weather permitted. That was a long cold winter as I remember it. When my reenlistment came up in March I ask to be sent home. I took the Union Pacific railroad out of Cedar City, which dropped me off in Provo. This is the same line that runs through the north end of Lehi. They didn't stop in Lehi so I had to get off and take the Orem line home.
It was late in the afternoon when I arrived but Audrey had been looking for me all day, I believe because as soon as she saw me coming down the side walk on Main Street she came out of the house and ran up to the corner to meet me.
My life would now change again as I faced the challenge of being a husband and father. I was now unemployed and living with my Audrey's mother, the economy was still not good but the experience's and training I received in the CCC's gave me the confidence and ability I needed to move forward and find work that would provide for the needs of my family.
----- Lyall Wilson
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