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(2 girls and logger)

Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
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Home of the Tarheel Stomp (bullet) Mortimer Cook slept here & named the town Bug

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Three holidays in row for Gramp
From the Journal's extensive Dowdle collection

By Mollie Dowdle, Skagit Valley Herald, Jan. 3, 1963
(Mr. and Mrs. David Moyer)
Mr. and Mrs. David Moyer

      Today, Dec. 28, my Dad, Gramp, celebrated his 90th birthday. To quote him: "There's three holidays all in a row Christmas, my birthday and New Years." And so there is! Gramp came to the Skagit Valley in the early 1900's so he considers himself a pioneer. He vividly remembers when bottom farmland was selling for ten dollars an acre and he says, "that was a big price in them days."
      He remembers when the hills were still covered with virgin timber, six and eight feet through, and when the lowlands were just beginning to be logged. And he says, "The weather was different then. There was almost always deep snows in the winter and cold, freezing spells."
      Gramp located in Hamilton, which was a rip-rearing town at the time of his arrival. There were lots of saloons, hotels which accommodated the river travelers and a "big bad house." He tells of horse racing on the Fourth of July and of working on a log boom in the Skagit and once, falling off of it into the deep waters. But he said: "I could swim good at that time so I wasn't scared."
      Gramp was a gay young blade and considering his age is still "a gay blade." He can tell a joke or a good story and tries hard to keep himself informed about world affairs. For example, it took him weeks to find out how the dikes were constructed in Holland, but after awhile someČone gave him a satisfactory anČswer. You can't put Gramp off and you don't exactly push him aside either.


Garden, visits and church
(Mollie and her woodstove)
Typical pose: Mollie Dowdle, upriver author and homemaker, relaxes in her comfy rocker by the wood range in her roomy kitchen. (Herald staff photo)

      Gramp has never indulged in any real bad habits except cussing behind Gran's back. He's a tee-totaler in alcohol, tobacco and coffee. He says when one of his older friends go on: "If theyda' drunk lots of cold water and milk and went to bed on time every night, maybe it wouldn't have happened." He was real disgusted with one of his brothers for dying at the age of 85.
      With Gran's help and insistence, Gramp has made a big garden every year with enough Tarheel beans to sell a few. He's milked cows, fed calves and pigs and he's had only one real sick spell in all his life and that was less than a year ago. I rode in an ambulance with him to the hospital and for a day or so I thought he wouldn't make it. But he got hiss fighting spirit back in less than a week and has been going strong ever since. Besides his garden and animal care he has cut all the wood for two stoves, mowed the lawn and helped Gran with her flowers. He loves to visit, particularly anyone in distress, and he manages to always come home with news and a sprinkling of gossip.
      He faithfully attends every Sunday morning service at the Tarheel Church and is a charter member. He always sits in a special place on a front bench. He carries his magnifying glass so he can read the songs and sometimes when he goes to sleep it falls off and makes a lead thud on the floor.
      Until a short while ago Gramp rode his bicycle which he calls his wheel, all over God's creation. After he was eighty, my brother once took it into town for repair. A few days later Gramp accompanied him down to get it, crawled on and pedaled all the way back home. That time Gran was really mad and threatened some awful things if he ever pulled a trick like that again.
      About three years ago he called on the phone one day and asked if I'd take his old crosscut saw over [to] town and have it filed for him. His wood cutting project was being slowed up by its dullness. But I forgot to do it right then and Gran called a couple of hours later and said he had become impatient and took off with it, strapped to his back. I caught up with him a mile from home with the saw whipping on both sides. He said he was alright, the saw wasn't heavy, he'd done it before and he figured I'd forgot to take him anyway.


Bicycle leads to thoughts of motorcycle

Journal Ed. note: Mollie's father, "Gramp," was David Moyer, who married Florence Wood in Hamilton on May 24, 1911. So he was technically her stepfather but he obviously had a strong influence in her life, more than her birth father, whose identity is a mystery. Dave died in 1969 at age 97 and Florence died in 1965 at age 85; both are buried in the Hamilton cemetery. David had three children by his former wife, including Gertrude, Chester and Vinnie, who also lived into her 90s. Dave also moved his family West, from Arkansas, in 1900 and he went to work as a logger for the Lyman Timber Company. Mollie's maternal grandfather, Malcolm Wood, moved Florence and Mollie and other members of his family from Haywood County, North Carolina in 1908 and they settled on land across the river from Hamilton, where a school was also built.
      Many thanks to Carol Bates, for the information from official records and descendant memories in her book, Hamilton 100 years, that helped me sort out the genealogy of this very complicated family tree. Dave's former wife remarried to Irving Cary, a son of another pioneer Hamilton family, and in other Mollie stories linked below you will find many of Mollie's memories about the Carys.


      The only accident he's ever had on the wheel happened a few years ago. [Journal Ed. note: at the turn of the century, a bicycle was commonly called "a wheel."] He was pedaling down a slope in the road with a neighbor boy coming home from school. The boy dashed ahead, let go of the handle bars and called back to ask Gramp if he could do the same. Not to be outdone he tried it, but failed and went catapulting through the air and landed head-first on the gravel road. A neighbor called my brother, who came and carted Gramp off to a doctor under much protest. He was skinned, shook up and a deep cut on his head required five stitches. The physical damage could in no way compare to the deep affront of his pride
      For a long time Gramp dreamed of something to ride that was motor-propelled. He concluded his bones were stiffening up and he could cover more country — perhaps even have a side cart to carry Gran along. All he got out of that idea was insults. But anyway, he sneaked around behind her back, caught a ride into town and drew out the funeral money. For a long time he's been planning a big blowout for his exit so an occasional five or ten dolČlars was banked with an undertaker in anticipation of the best the house had to offer. The outfit returned all his down payment but $25 and the remainder was deposited back in the funeral fund.
      He hasn't talked much about a motorbike for a long time but he has some catalogs with pictures of them and I'm sure he can still see himself sailing down the road 1n one, in high gear. Gramp's eyesight isn't too good anymore, his feet are sore and crippled, hut he has a lot on the ball for his age. I put the famous pedometer on him last summer and he clocked off two miles in a day.
      The broad fields surrounding his and Gran's home were all cleared by his hands and the help of an old horse and stump puller. He's quite an old guy.


Links, background reading and sources
Other Dowdle stories

Story posted on Oct. 29, 2006 . . . Please report any broken links so we can update them
This article originally appeared in Issue 36 of our Subscribers-paid Journal online magazine



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