Biography of John Perkins
Contributor: kevsha Created: 2 years ago Updated: 2 years ago
John Perkins was born December 11, 1882 inside the old Mormon Fort in the little town of Bluff, Utah. He died January 4, 1981 in the San Juan Hospital at the age of 98 years and 24 days. As far as we know he was the oldest living citizen in San Juan County.
Grampa was the sixth of eleven children born to Benjamin and Mary Ann Perkins, Welsh immigrants who only a few years before had been some of the main participants in the famous Hole in the Rock expedition.
Grampa was a very small baby at birth, and though he never grew to a very large stature, he always stood tall in the eyes of those who knew and loved him.
When Monticello was just beginning, cowboys - many of whom were fugitives hiding from the law - would ride into town and startle the few inhabitants with their drunken cries and threats. On one occasion they came riding by where Grampa as a little boy was playing. One of them pulled out his gun and shot a turkey that was strutting nearby. Incensed by this wanton act upon one of his mother's prized birds, the little boy came running up to them and told them what they had better do. Surprised and impressed by his courage, the cowboy jumped off his horse, went to the house and confessed his sin to Mary Ann, and paid her for the turkey. As he went to pick up the bird however, he was once again surprised to meet the angry little boy John dragging the big bird to take to his mother. With tears in this eyes he kicked and fought so hard that the cowboy laughed and rode away without the turkey he had paid for.
At an early age, Grampa accompanied his father on some of his freighting trips to and from Mancos and Durango, Colo. He often recalled these trips with happy nostalgia, recalling several occasions when they carried passengers who, like his Welsh father, loved to sing. The miles were shortened as the air resounded with beautiful harmony. Grampa learned to love music, and these trips may have been where he also developed a liking for and an adeptness at handling horses and cows.
He was always proud of his nickname, "Soapy" which he earned during one of the local rodeos. Cowboys from Colorado said his calf-roping was as skilled as the famous cowboy roper, Soapy Smith.
At one point in Grampa's life, his parents lived and ran a dairy at Dodge Point. They were happy to have the Parley Butts family from Verdure come to visit for a few hours. Just before it was time for them to leave the sky became overcast and the temperature dropped noticeably. Rustling up coats and jackets for her departing guests, Mary Ann could find nothing to fit the Butt's little brown eyed daughter, Stella except a little red jacket and pants suit that belonged to her son John. Grampa was very alarmed to see his favorite clothes being worn away by "that" girl and he vowed to get even. He didn't, but he married her on August 24, 1904, after riding horseback between Verdure and Monticello several times in the process of courting her. He said she was the prettiest and best dancer of any girl he knew. They, along with his brother Dan, and his fiancé, Margaret Jones went to Thompson by team and buggy. There, they boarded the train for Salt Lake where both couples were married in the temple.
Grampa earned his living by "punching" cows, hauling freight and mail, trapping, building roads and sometimes by hiring out as a cook for different companies that would come through looking for uranium, oil or whatever. His sourdough biscuits were the best and he was very particular to see that his little sourdough jug received the best treatment as he packed his grub boxes and beds to camp. Steak and fried potatoes from his dutch ovens were cooked meticulously and anyone traveling in his outfit considered themselves lucky indeed just to be able to eat "Soapy's" grub.
At home, he and Grama teamed up to turn out some mighty fine meals, Grama was also a good cook and if you were lucky you got to their home in time to eat her good pies and Grampa's fried steak and whatever else. Relatives often exclaimed how they made it a point to be at Uncle John's and Aunt Stella's right at meal time if they could. Then there was always visiting, reminiscing and quite often those who liked to sing would get together and Grampa's house would almost vibrate with the sound of happy, harmonious songs. Grampa and Grama tried to never let anyone go away from their home hungry. If there was anyone lonely or without someone to care for them on Christmas and other special occasions and they knew about it, they would insist that they come to their home and share such as they had.
Times were hard! Luxuries of life as we know them were mighty scarce and most didn't exist in the forepart of Grampa's life, but he coped. Many times his job depended on him sleeping outside and cooking on a campfire in the middle of winter. His life depended on his knowledge of the outdoors and his ability to care for himself and his animals.
One time as he was moving some horses from winter to summer range, Grampa found himself looking down the barrel of a sawed off shot gun, and a U.S. Marshall demanding him to "Put 'em up." The Marshall had been warned that Kid Jackson, a criminal outlaw was on the loose and probably headed that way with a band of horses. Kid Jackson was small and daring and Joe Bush, the Marshall had been warned not to take any chances. It just happened that Charles Walton was riding with Grampa, and as he also knew Mr. Bush, he explained that this was not Kid Jackson, but just a darn good cowboy friend of his. Later they heard that Mr. Bush had not hesitated to shoot a man who would not come out of his cabin with is hands up as he had ordered him to do. "Experiences like this can cause a man to go bald", Grampa would say as he mourned the loss of his hair at quite an early age. This was ironic, as he became the town barber with both women and men seeking his service. They probably always got their money's worth (if indeed he charged) as he always believed in cutting it short. His little granddaughter, Kristine once described his hair as being beautiful and the color of her bare feet.
Another thing that may have caused baldness or something worse, was to be the owner of one of the most clever and smartest animals ever to live in Monticello or whereabouts. Grampa's mule Chub, could open any gate or pick the lock on any shed and he often did just that. It wasn't so bad for Chub to steal all the hay and oats he could eat, but it often proved fatal for the less intelligent animals who didn't know when they had had enough to eat. At one time a neighbor accused Grampa of picking a lock on his granary. Grampa explained that it wasn't him but he thought he could show him who it was. The man was astonished to find it was old Chub. Most of the grandkids learned to ride on him, and by the time they were finished, they were pretty well educated to any trick that a horse could pull. Every one knew Soapy's mule Chub and he was a favorite in the family.
In his later life, Grampa was able to acquire a pretty good cattle outfit in Colorado, which went ideally with his range in Dry Valley. "At last I've got what I always wanted," he would say. He was always a hard worker and younger men were surprised at the stamina and strength he had, and especially for such a small person.
Grampa and Grama were the parents of four daughters, Leah, Nedra, Loya and Dixie. Leah was born with an enlarged heart and was more frail than her younger sisters. The other girls learned to ride horses and milk cows, and no matter what time they arrived home from a date or otherwise, their cows were there waiting to be milked. Dixie and Nedra sometimes rode the range with Grampa helping him on his semi-annual roundups or to look for lost livestock.
It was typical of Grampa and Grama to welcome Leah and later her baby daughter into their already crowded, modest home when their husband and father drowned. They made them comfortable and life was made much easier for them by the love and help given by the whole family. They loved all their grandchildren and wanted them to have privileges and opportunities that they hadn't had. They were happy to send Mike on a mission and looked forward to the letters he wrote back which enabled them to share his mission with them. They extended this same privilege to all their grandsons. When Herma became ill in 1956 he went to Salt Lake with Rex to be near her, and he was a great source of comfort and help to both of them during this seemingly long time.
Grampa was fifty or older when he learned to drive a car. He was living in Dry Valley at the time and he figured that a car should be able to go anywhere a horse could, so the sage-brush flats became his roads and small trees and brush were only small obstacles to be run over. Sandy washes, rocky terrain - you just held on and the way he went. We soon forgot that his car had originally had a back seat. He took it out and filled that space with neatly chopped wood to add to his supply in Monticello. His wood-pile was as tall as the house, which gave us a good secure feeling during the cold winters that we used to always expect.
Grampa's unique sense of humor was something that sustained both him and his family during the years he spent in the Nursing Home in Blanding. Even when his mind was not clear and alert, you always had something to chuckle about on the way home. He grew to love the patients and the workers in the Home. They were all so good to him and he usually had a joke or something funny to share with them and they with him. Milton Pipkin began working there soon after Grampa went to the Home to live and their relationship was very special. Grampa nicknamed him "Sambo" and he depended on him a lot. We always felt that he was in mighty good hands with "Sambo" and so many others who contributed to his welfare and care there.
We are happy to know that after nearly 10 years Grampa as we called him is happily reunited with Grama, his daughter Leah, his parents and brothers and sisters and many other loved relatives and friends. Though we miss him, we are so grateful for his influence during our lives, for the high principles he set and lived by and tried to instill in his family. We know that we will have to sit tall in the saddle if we are to once again enjoy the companionship of our beloved Grampa "Soapy".
He is survived by three daughters, Nedra Hazlewood and Dixie Scorup of Monticello and Loya Gardner of Salt Lake City. Six grandchildren, 21 great grandchildren and 10 great great grandchildren. Two sisters, Sarah Barton of Blanding and Minerva Rowe of Beaver also survive.