"MY MEMORIES OF UNCLE ERNEST" (Ernest L. Tucker)
Contributor: SouthPawPhilly Created: 1 year ago Updated: 1 year ago
Initially given at the George W. & Keziah M. Tucker Family Reunion By James W. Roberts (Jimmy), his nephew with some additional input later from Stan Roberts Jr., Susan Roberts Hartley and Maxine T. Wight
My earliest memory of note of Uncle Ernest is seeing him riding down the Canyon Road near the old BYU Dairy Farm (now it would be about 2400 North & 150 East) on his motorcycle. He was traveling at a high rate of speed and then he stood up on the seat, steering the cycle by his weight on the seat. He must have had some kind of lock on the throttle, as it did not slow down when he let go of the handlebar. He went like that for several blocks then dropped back down into the seat just as he was passing out of my sight. That really made an impression on me. I was walking home from school and was maybe 9 or 10 years old. However, a little later I got to ride on his motorcycle. It was at the Mower Family Reunion at the City Park in Murray, Utah. Our family had gone to the Reunion and Uncle Ernest was there and in the afternoon he offered a bunch of us kids a ride on his motorcycle with him. He would put one on the seat behind him and one of the smaller kids in his lap in front of him and take us for a spin around the park. He would reeve up the engine a bit and give us kids quite a thrill. Man, the kids really gathered around for that and they sure did not want it to end. Sometimes, if there were only a few of us, we would get to ride more than once or he would make the rides longer. What a special fun time it was for all of us.
Later on, my Dad (Stan Roberts) told me of the time that Ernest came by the 'farm' and asked my Dad to go up above the mouth of Provo Canyon and retrieve his wrecked motorcycle that was out in a sandbar of the river. Also, to please turn back the speedometer. My Dad did and kept the motorcycle in our garage for a while until Ernest finally came out and got it. He must have had a 'special guardian angel' that was assigned to him, as he sure had a lot of near escapes from certain tragedies. As the story goes that my Dad related to me. Ernest worked over at the Geneva Steel Plant at the time and he had a co-worker that he had offered a ride home from work to, several times. Each time the fellow had declined, as he said that Ernest was liable to kill him on the motorcycle if he did. However, the time came that the fellow was very anxious to get home, as his regular ride was not available so he accepted Ernest's offer. All went well until they came to some curves that Ernest took at an extra high speed. This literally scared the rider to death. Of course, this required Ernest to really lean the motorcycle into the curve, but each time he leaned 'in,' the rider would lean 'out.' However, Ernest had been able to compensate for this several times. The rider had a lunch bucket under his arm and on the curve just below the old "Christmas City Beer Parlor", as he leaned out, the lunch bucket slipped and he suddenly reached over with his other hand to hold on to it. This fouled up the balance, Ernest lost control, and the motorcycle shot off the road and over into the river. Luckily the river was pretty dry and there was a large sandbar at that point and that is where they landed. The motorcycle smacked down and was pretty well wrecked, but they were thrown on over into the sand and rolled several times to absorb the impact before they hit any rocks and that saved their lives. However, they were pretty well beat up. I do not believe that the fellow ever rode with Ernest again. Ernest did love his Harley-Davidson motorcycles and he went through several of them over the course of his life. I remember an orange one, a green one and a purple one. I think my Dad said that the one that was wrecked in the river was a yellow one. He loved to ride them and could really make them do things that made others stand in awe or stark fear.
I guess that Ernest was born with a special "dare devil" attitude, as my Mom (S. LaVon Tucker Roberts) told me the story of what happened when as a young teenage boy he had been racing with some friends on their bicycles. The family had all gone over to the farm in Benjamin and she was home watching several of the younger kids. Ernest in his desire to beat his friends, had taken a short-cut through a back yard, but unbeknownst to him, they had put up a wire clothesline and he did not see it and hit it going full bore. It caught him right across the neck and cut a deep gash in his throat, before throwing him backwards off the bicycle. He walked home and met my Mom with blood all over his chest. He was very lucky that it had not damaged him more severely. Mom wanted to take him to the Doctor, but he refused and he also begged her not to tell anyone about it, just clean it up and put on some bandages. She finally consented to his wishes and it was quite a chore, but she succeeded in fixing it up. They had to change the bandages several times, but it healed up well and he kept it covered when the family came back and no one ever knew about it. He always felt indebted to my Mom for this.
He paid the loan back, big time however, when my Mom lost a baby due to a miscarriage while I was on my mission. My Dad was out of town and she was not feeling well. She called Ernest and he came by the house. My sister remembers him kneeling down by Mom's bedside and touching her head tenderly as he inquired about what was the matter. He gave her a blessing and took her to the hospital. Later, he came by when she was ready to be released from the hospital. She was concerned about the hospital bill as it was significant, etc. He told her not to worry about it as it was taken care of and she was to just take it easy and get better. He then brought her home. My folks never received a bill as he had taken care of it. He did have a special tender side to him, but I think that he liked to keep it well covered most of the time.
My Mom told of a couple of stories of Ernie and one of my Dad's dogs named Napoleon that he had when they were first married. He was a very good watch dog and had a reputation for being vicious on occasion. He was fearless and would tackle anything or anyone if you said "sic him" to him. Ernest had worked for my Dad so he knew the dog and the dog was familiar with him. One time he dropped by with a friend for a visit. Ernie was feeling devilish evidently, and as he walked by the dog with his friend behind him, he quietly said "sic him" and immediately Napoleon leaped up on the guy's chest, snarling and trying to bite him. My Dad was close by and quickly called off the dog, before he did any damage, but the poor guy was terrified and was white as a ghost. Dad really chewed out Ernest for pulling such a stupid stunt. Ernest claimed that he did not think that the dog could hear him as he had said it very softly as a slight whisper, but it showed the alertness of the dog and how quick he was to respond. Knowing Ernie, you knew he had done it on purpose just for the kick of it. Another time, his knowledge of the dog caused him to have to back down and lose face in front of his friends, which at that time in his life was really a bad experience. My folks had had a bumper crop of apples and decided to make a bunch of cider. They had it stored in wooden barrels down in the fruit shed in the edge of the orchard. It had been there a while and they had a lot left over, so it got hard and they decided to let it turn into vinegar. Ernie knew of the hard cider and brought a group of his pals to the place one evening after dark when he knew that my folks were not home. They had a good time drinking up, but when they finally left, one of them forgot his glasses and left them there.
They were probably feeling so 'good' from all the hard cider that he did not know he was missing his glasses until the next morning. He got a hold of Ernie and together they came out to my folk's place to retrieve the glasses. My Mom had injured her knees and was on crutches and she had a neighbor's teenage daughter, Thelma Pierce, over to help her with the housework and tending me. When Ernie came into the back yard, she stopped him and asked him what he was doing. He innocently said that they were going to the shed to get his friend's glasses. Mom knew what was up, so she ordered him to stay away from the shed and to leave and forget the glasses for now. Ernie challenged her and said he was going anyway and in her condition, she could not stop him. She responded that if he stepped one step off of the bridge, she would turn Napoleon loose and sic him onto him. He laughed and said he would be gone before she could hobble over to turn the dog loose. She said she would have the hired girl do it and told Thelma to get a slice of bread and take it over to give to the dog and he would allow her to unsnap his chain. At that, Ernest said, "you would not sic the dog onto your own brother, would you?" Mom said, "yes I will and you just take that step and see what happens!" At that, Ernie stopped and backed up and told his friend they had better leave and let the glasses go for a while. You know that had to bum him down deep, but when he was convinced that Mom would sic the dog onto him, he wanted no part of a mad Napoleon, so he swallowed his pride and left.
Another early and special memory was going to the Tucker Family Reunions up at Camp Boulger in the Skyline Drive Mountains above Fairview Canyon. It was probably at the headwater area of Huntington Canyon. All the families would camp out and it was a real great experience. They always had some great programs in the evenings at the large central campfire. The highlight of the event for me however, was when Uncle Ernest would take his 22 pistol and rifle out to target shoot and to shoot at "potguts" or ground squirrels. He would invite me and one or two other young cousins to join him and we soon learned to 'live' for that event. Man, did I love doing that. There was a large open area just above a storm water storage reservoir and a short distance outside the Camp Ground and it was just full of ground squirrels. The direction of fire was away from the Camp and it was wide open, so it was an unusually safe shooting area. Usually you could see only one or two squirrels at first, but when you shot once, it seemed like the whole field was alive with them. They would be running all over the place. He was always our 'favorite' uncle at those times. He was always very patient with us and carefully showed us the safe way to shoot and other wise precautions to take, but man, would he really straighten us out if we made a mistake. After that, if Uncle Ernest did not go to the Reunion, then it was no fun for me.
He had worked with his Dad on the threshing machines down in Fairview and on the farm in the West hills. Also on their farm in Benjamin. He became very adept with tools and equipment in creating new and novel 'things.' He and his brothers really came up with some marvelous machines and tractors. They did not have much money, but with access to some tools and a junk yard they could work miracles. One machine that I saw that they had put together was made of a Sampson Tractor frame with a single wheel out in front that could be turned in any direction. With two wheels on the rear axle it had great maneuverability. It was powered by a Model A engine and it had a good sized, very old Ford Truck rear end and axle. He mounted two large pipes on the rear end that made a boom with a pulley at the end for a cable. Then he had a
second cable extending to the front of the tractor to hold it in position. He had talked of using a pipe for this instead of the cable so it would not bounce back if the item that he was lifting happened to drop suddenly. I do not know if he ever installed the pipe or not. The cable was adjustable so he could vary how far out to the rear he could lift things. For heavy items he had It almost vertical, while for light items he could lean it out quite a ways. He mounted an old Army Truck winch on it to enable him to lift heavy pieces. It had two transmissions so it had a big variety of gears. He could lift items and carry them all over the yard with ease. With the large rear end and tires, it had the ability to carry a pretty heavy load. It was quite a vehicle or tractor or crane, depending on the purpose for which you wanted to use it.
Maxine, his sister, has several stories that she wanted me to add so here they are. She remembers the old jalopy that Ernest and his brothers made from parts that they got for little or nothing from the 'Junk Yard', Provo Hide & Fur that was down on 6th South by the D&RG Railroad tracks in Provo. Man did that place stink from all the old animal hides they had stored there. The jalopy had an engine, a frame, radiator, wheels, clutch, transmission, steering wheel and a gas tank and that was about all. The parts were all from different makes of cars, so they did not match in color, etc. You had to set on the gas tank in order to steer it as there was no seat. One Saturday evening they were coming back from the farm in Benjamin and it was just getting towards dusk. They always came back to Provo on Saturday evening in order to go to Church on Sunday as most of the older kids always had assignments to fill. They lived on 3rd South and the boys were almost home, but at the corner of 7th East and 3rd South, where the road makes a 45 degree turn, a cop was waiting and he could not believe what he saw as they passed. Needless to say, he soon stopped them and Ernest, who was driving, had to spend the night in jail. They had no lights, no license plate, no registration, no driver's license, no money and the driver was underage. Grandma Tucker felt so bad for him, she had Grandpa take her to the store where she bought an ice cream cone and took it to him in the City Jail. That jalopy did not make any more trips to Provo! It was stuck on the farm in Benjamin, but they sure had a lot of fun with it over there.
Maxine said that he was always fiddling around with electrical stuff as a young boy and he put together their first Christmas lights. They had a grainary at the back of the house and a high porch with it. Ernest built himself a room there and had it fixed up so that when you opened up the door the lights came on and then when you shut it they would go off. He was good at coming up with various gadgets like that.
Maxine got Rheumatic Fever as a young girl and her legs ached a lot. Ernest felt sorry for her and would come in and rub her legs and tell her stories. He was the best story teller ever, she says. He also made a little miniature Rodeo Grounds with a little fence around it under the tree in the front yard for her. It had almost all the features like the big ones had and she loved it. One time in his later teens he was getting ready for a date and he wanted his white shirt ironed just so, as he was quite finicky about his dress at those times. He did not like the way his Mom ironed it, so he talked Maxine into ironing it for him the way he wanted. She had to take out the light bulb in the kitchen that was over the table and screw in an outlet plug in order to use the electric iron. When she finished ironing the shirt, she set the iron down on the kitchen table and forgot about it as she took the shirt in to Ernest, who was in the bathroom. Soon Grandpa Tucker's voice boomed out "who did this?" He rarely raised his voice like that and everyone came running to see what was the matter. Maxine soon saw the burnt spot on the table and realized what she had done, but before she could get up the courage to confess, Ernest spoke up and said, "I did," and he took the whole blame for it. He was always a special hero to her for that along with the story telling noted above.
Maxine also tells of another time that Ernest stood up while riding his motorcycle. It was in Salt Lake City and when the cop stopped him, he asked him why he was doing such a dangerous thing? Ernest answered by saying, "I was getting tired of sitting down." The cop was not impressed and gave him a ticket and he went to jail as he had no money for bail. He also had the gift of talking himself out of trouble at times, so when he appeared before the Judge the next day, he put his gift to work. The Judge was Reva Beck Masonni and she was favorable impressed at first by his story, so she went along with him and reduced his sentence in half. However, Ernest was not satisfied and decided to push his luck too far and she soon got ticked off by him and his jargon. She then restored the original fine of $10 and some time in jail. It hit the newspapers. The next day at work down at the mine in Carbon County, Clarence, his brother, saw some fellow workers laughing at the article in the newspaper and he went over to see what it was. He got a kick out of the story too, but not for long as he ended up having to pay the fine for Ernest, as he did not have any money himself.
Grandma Tucker made delicious cinnamon rolls and Ernest would eat more that his share whenever he could, so she would go to great lengths to hide them from him. However, Ernest always seemed to find them, no matter what she did. She was not the best organized housekeeper, so one time as she was making the frosting for the rolls, she got the bottle of "Mixture" mixed up with the vanilla and used it instead. It was very nasty and bitter, and did Ernest ever get the surprise of his life when he bit into that batch of rolls. The whole family got a kick out of that and figured that he got his just deserts.
One time, Ernest's Mother-in-law, Mrs. Con Adams, wanted someone to drive her to Stake Conference. She had a habit of 'outspokeness' and backseat driving so she had no volunteers at first, then Ernest agreed to drive her. On the day of the conference, he made some special preparations to the car then went to pick her up. It did not take her long to start to criticize something about his driving, so he up and pulls off the car's steering wheel and hands it to her, saying "do you want to drive?" With the car moving, she quickly said "no," so Ernest puts the wheel back and continues down the road. She soon started to say something again, so Ernest again starts to pull off the steering wheel. She has gotten the message by this time and corrected herself and she did not say anything else for the rest of the trip. He was real good at coming up with little tricks like that to drive home messages that he wanted to put over and stay put!
Ernest and Olive, his youngest sister, were always playing tricks on each other. One time she got a box with a spring loaded, coiled up replica of a snake in it for him. She wrapped it up real nice in some pretty wrapping paper and gave it to him. He figured that something was up, so he opened it up real carefully, but even he was surprised when the snake jumped out at him. Another time his sisters got a special Christmas gift for him. It was a little potty-chair pan like the one they said he used as a little boy. However, inside it, they placed a plastic replica of a person's bowel movement. He got a real kick out of it when he opened it. Everyone was laughing about it too as they would look in it, so Grandma Tucker wanted to see it too as she could not understand why all the laughter, etc. When she got it and looked into it, man did she let out a shriek, as the replica was so realistic looking, she thought that it was for real.
He worked for my Dad at times early in his career, he drove tractor and truck along withMonte Wight, Maxine's husband. One time they hauled a truck load of brick for my Dad down to a new school site in southern Utah. The truck pulling the trailer was a mid-sized GMC and it did not really have the power needed to pull the large semi-trailer when it was fully loaded. They came to a steep and long dugway and Ernest was driving. The truck could not make it up the grade and they had to stop and back down and try again a couple of times. Ernest did not like to accept defeat, but he finally gave up. Monte figured that he could make the truck pull the hill, but would not tell Ernest what he had in mind to do to be successful. When Ernest finally gave up, he reluctantly turned the wheel over to Monte. He backed up and got a good run on the dug way and when the truck started to slow down, he started to swing back and forth across the full width of the roadway in big lazy 'S' turns. This had the effect to make the hill longer and thus reduce the grade slightly and the truck was able to just barely pull the load up the hill. There was no traffic on the highway at all, so they had the full use of the road, thank goodness. My Dad said that Ernest was the better mechanic of the two, but Monte was the better truck driver. They did make a very good team together.
On that same trip with the brick, Maxine tells a funny story on herself. She and Connie had been dating Monte and Ernest for some time, so they asked to go on the trip with them and they said "sure." It was a good trip and they really enjoyed it. However, it was also a bit long and when they got to Scipio they had to go to the restroom at the Service Station. The school site was only a couple of blocks away, so the girls decided to take their time and then walk over to the site where the boys would be unloading the brick. Maxine, was wearing a new pair of English riding pants with high boots and a nice matching blouse. She was real proud of them and felt that she cut quite a figure in them. Plus, she figured that the people in that little country town had probably never seen pants like that so as she and Connie were walking down the street, she could see that people were really looking at her and making comments. She was a bit taken with herself and felt real good about the attention that she was receiving at that time. When they arrived at the truck, Ernest was on top of the load and looked down at her and started to chuckle. He then said "Hey Dippy, (that was his pet nickname that he called Maxine) I hope that you left some for the next poor fellow." She did not know what he meant, then he motioned to the area behind her and she turned around and looked. To her horror, she could see a long string of toilet paper strung out behind her for some distance. It had caught on the back of her pants and she had been trailing it behind her all the way from the Service Station and that is what all the people had been looking at, etc. Man, was she ever embarrassed. It took her some time to get over the experience.
Ernie loved 'new' machines. When he went in to business for himself, his first bulldozer was a new cable operated Caterpillar D4 loader, called a Traxcavator. He told Stan Roberts Jr. in later years, that he borrowed the money from his mother-in-law in order to purchase it. If you knew her, that should show you how much he really wanted that machine. My Dad had him come and push out some prune trees for him with it once when his own machine was out of state. I remember being impressed by it and the simple little trailer that he made himself to haul it behind his dump truck. He really loved it, but it had its limitations, so when Caterpillar Tractor Co. came out with the new hydraulic D4 loader (it was an HT4) a few years later, he was one of the first in line to acquire one.
He eventually obtained two dump trucks, a Chevrolet and a Studebaker. He always preferred the Chevy of the two trucks, but when he was cleaning out a Blast Furnace at Geneva Steel one time, he found out to his chagrin that the Studebaker could pull out of the pit with a full load, while the Chevy could not without some help. This really 'bugged' him I understand, as he considered the Studebaker to be a less than ideal truck.
He had this machine (the HT4) when he worked for the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad up Spanish Fork Canyon and they were combating the flood waters of the river. The high water was doing a lot of erosion of the banks and was endangering the railroad grade in some places. They were dumping large rocks in the eroded spots to protect the railroad. He went up and visited the site to see what was happening. When he saw how slow and complicated the process was that they were using, it did not take him long to come up with a lot better idea. To get the rock into the river from the RR cars, they were using a large dragline on one car and switching loaded cars repeatedly to be next to it so it could unload them, a single car at a time. He told them he could doit faster and better with his loader right from the flat car and he could take care of several cars at a time with no switching. They took him up on it and had him show them what he could do and he had the job immediately. They would put the rock on a row of flat cars and he would be placed on the end of one. They would then spot the car at the erosion problem site and he would proceed to push the rock off of the car and into the river. When he finished one car he would cross over the hitch area to the next car and they would spot it and he would proceed to empty it too. It meant that he would have to hang the back end of his loader off the side of the car every so often, but his nerves of steel came through for him while others could not stand to watch him. When he had finished emptying the train of cars, he would back the loader off the side of the car a ways and then have them hook a chain from his bucket over to the far side of the car. Then he would use the bucket and the hoist arms to hold him steady as he backed off the car and let the back end of the loader drop down to the ground. Then he would have a helper unhook the chain and he would back up some more, using the bucket, etc. to hold the machine steady while he lowered the front end to the ground too. With that, the train of now empty cars would leave and they would bring in another train of cars full of rock and he would proceed to work on them. He was so adept at this that he could keep several trains of cars busy as he could empty one almost as fast as they could load it at the quarry. It also greatly increased the volume of rock that they could place in a day. Needless to say, he really impressed them with his skill, daring and insight.
One time he was placing and grading topsoil with his Loader around the Helaman Halls on the BYU Campus and this professor drove up in his pickup looking for a "freebee." He walks up to Ernest and waves for him to stop his machine. When Ernest has stopped and cut the throttle, the man says, "I want a scoop full of this dirt put in my truck there." Whereupon Ernest simply asked, "How much of this dirt do you want in your truck, a part of a scoop or a whole scoop?"The man answered, saying, "I want a whole scoop full!" not realizing what he is saying.
Knowing Ernest, you know what is coming now. He pulls back the throttle on the Loader and plows into the pile of dirt and fills the bucket to overflowing and promptly drives it over to the man's pickup and with the bucket up high, he dumps "a whole scoop full of dirt" into the pickup box. The load is too much plus with the impact from the high bucket, the pickup is immediately squashed to the ground with dirt piled up against the cab and overflowing on all three sides of the box. What a sight! You can just imagine the look on the poor man's face, first beaming with glee as he sees that he is getting a "whole scoop full" of topsoil for his yard at no cost to him. Then, he sees disaster strike and his truck all but ruined right before his eyes. Meanwhile, Ernest drives off to work around on the other side of the building without even looking back. You know he is feeling downright pleased with himself and grinning his special grin that he has when he has pulled off a good one!
After a while and his business grew, he added a 9U D6 bulldozer to his fleet. When Caterpillar came out with the new model 17A, Series C, D7, Ernest was able to obtain the first one in Utah in the spring of 1956. He did like that dozer. He later bought another D6 and a larger loader, but I do not recall what model it was. I do remember that it had a hand clutch. Later on he bought a 955 loader with a power shift transmission. With that machine he became converted to power shift transmissions and no longer wanted to have to depend on a clutch in a machine. It freed his hands to steer the machine and work the bucket a lot better. He also bought an Eimco bulldozer, but he did not care much for it. He preferred to operate the 'Cat' and let Uncle Brady operate the Eimco. However, when Caterpillar introduced the new D6C in the mid 1960's, the salesman knew where he could sell one right off. Sure enough, Ernest was quick to trade in the D7 and buy the new bulldozer. It had a power shift transmission and more horsepower than the old D7, but it was lighter, quicker and easier to maneuver, so it was more productive. He said the tracks and rollers also lasted a lot longer on it than the heavier D7. After he had his first stroke and they had finished with the Cat at Snowbird, he took it into Wheelers in Salt Lake to have it gone through. Caterpillar was coming out with an improved version of the D6C at the time and sure enough, he ordered one of them. However, as Don Wheeler the Cat Dealer owner observed Ernest's condition, he told Ernest they would put it on hold and when he had his second stroke, it was cancelled.
With bulldozers to operate, you need a truck and trailer to haul them around from job site to job site. As I have noted, he built a small four-wheel trailer that he pulled behind his dump truck to haul around his first loaders. He made it in his little shop that he had by the home down on South University Ave. and near 5th South. However, as he acquired larger machines, that trailer would not be up to the task. Ernest then bought a yellow Ford truck and mounted a fifth wheel on it and bought an old Army surplus, small tank trailer to put with it. He built some special ramps on the rear end and added some fold-up ramps to reach the ground, which allowed him to drive the bulldozer up onto the trailer. He placed some large, thick wood planks on the trailer that extended from the sides of the gooseneck back to the tire wells, so that the bed of the trailer was essentially level for the bulldozer. The planks took the wear and tear from the tractor grouzers and were cheap to replace too. The area in the middle of the trailer was a nice convenient place to hold odds and ends, plus small pieces of wood for blocking, etc. He constructed a storage place at the rear of the trailer between the two ramps to hold chains or blocks of wood to place in front of the ramps when the ground was especially uneven. He also placed a large two feet long pipe at the head of the trailer's goose neck to place the dozer on. This kept the dozer blade up high above the cars that he passed and also allowed him to see under it to the rear of the trailer for better maneuvering, especially when backing up. This was typical of his ability to come up with little gadgets or features that were a big help to solve certain problems or that made a given task a lot easier or quicker to do. He later bought a red Ford truck from Petty Ford and hooked a second trailer to it. This trailer was the same type as the first with the same modifications, but with some improvements that he had thought of with the use of the first trailer. He never did license the red Ford, but traded the license plates from the yellow Ford back and forth. He took special delight in doing little things like this to break the law or to get away with something that he knew was wrong, but that he wanted to do just for the heck-of-it or to see if he could get away with it. If he could save a buck in the process, so much the better. He later sold the first trailer and junked out the yellow Ford truck. Stan found out about the lack of title when he went to license the red Ford truck after he had bought it from Ernest.
When you operate machinery, you need a good shop to service and repair them on a regular basis. It is especially satisfying to have a nice warm place to work on them in the winter when it is freezing cold outside. So one of his first priorities when he got the place in Edgemont was to build a sizable shop. He selected the Southeast corner of the lot for his location. He rerouted the canal and removed part of the foot of the hillside so he could use the entire space right up to the back road that went along the East side of his property. Then he proceeded to build his shop. It was a significant structure and it took him quite a while to pour all the concrete and put up the building. The front part was taller to give access to larger pieces of equipment and the back part had a smaller area for parts, tools, welding and machine shop. Then he had a lean-to area on the right to just park machinery under the shade or to wash them down. He also had to take his time building it due to limited finances, but when he finished it, he was really proud of it. He did most of the work himself or traded work for work and materials from other contractors and suppliers. He got a lot of reinforcing rod from an outfit over in Springville that went out of business and he made a lot of the trusses for the building himself from that steel. It was really a nice and well planned out facility. I remember him taking us on a tour of it and being impressed by it and how happy he was to have it. He also had a large garage located just south of his house where he usually parked his dump trucks along with the truck and semi-trailer. The garage for the family cars was on the north side of the house.
He did not like to service a dirty machine out in the mud and grime of a job site in wet and cold miserable weather or under a hot blazing sun. In either situation, he could really get hot tempered fast, which was understandable. However, he was never very bothered by the cold. Often you could see him walk out to do something on the spur of the moment in the winter with snow on the ground and he would be barefoot with no coat or hat on, but he always had 'his coveralls' on.
One time he got in 'dutch' with a cop and the cop followed his truck and trailer up to the Indian Hills area where he was working. The cop was all ready to write him a ticket, when Ernest asked him if he could use some good 'topsoil.' As it panned out, the cop did need some and Ernest got out of the ticket with a load of topsoil hauled to the cop's home. He had a real knack of being
able to talk himself out of trouble at times when others would think that he was going to get it and get it good!
On another occasion, when I was talking to him about his business, he said he wished that he had bought a backhoe excavator earlier instead of one of his extra bulldozers. He figured that would have given him an extra edge in the excavation business as that type of work became more prevalent. He had a good sense of business and money flow. He told my brother, Stan that after he got established, he never saw the time that he was not able to write out a check for $5,000 at a moments notice. Of course, the fact that Connie was also working and used her funds to cover a lot of the domestic bills was a big factor that helped make this possible.
The first time I worked for him was when he borrowed my Dad's little 22 Cat to haul some cast iron pipe up a steep hill for a water line in the foot hills by East Lawn Memorial Hills. He could not use his loader on the job as the street pads could not get enough traction to go up the hill as it was pretty steep. He had me come along to operate it for him and my brother Stan came along, too. Ernest would hook up the pipe with a chain and direct me where to take it. The end oft he pipe would sometimes drag in the dirt and get dirt in the pipe. He did not like the idea of having to clean out the pipe, plus having to repeatedly handle the chain was time consuming. So he placed the bell shaped end of the pipe up on top of the drawbar of the Cat to keep it out of the dirt and then he stood on it to hold it in place. He held on to the back of the seat and away we went up the hill. This was quicker as he did not need to mess with the chain and little or no dirt got in the pipe so that is the way we put the rest of the pipe in place. It was pretty steep in places and I remember that it was all the little Cat 22 crawler tractor could do to get up the hill in those spots. As I sat in the seat, that radiator cap sure seemed to be jutting up into the sky at times. It would almost lose traction in those areas and dig itself in, but we made it and were able to complete the job.
I had the opportunity of operating his bulldozers for him several times. One was in August of 1959 up on the face of Mt. Timpanogos. He had a sub-contract with Cyril Walker to cut a road across that area for the US Forest Service. You had to go up American Fork Canyon and partway up the Alpine Loop and catch the road that brought you around to the valley side of the mountain. It was up on top of the shelf of low hills that make up the lower face of the mountain. From where I was working you could look right down into the City of Pleasant Grove. That was a nice job. Later in June of 1960 I went up to Idaho to help him under a contract to fight forest fires for the Forest Service. We sat around the village of Shoshone for two days with nothing to do, as they had no fires to fight. However, they paid us under standby time to just be there and be available to go in a moments notice. Ernest was okay for the first day, but sitting around doing nothing soon got to him and he yearned for some work. In the meantime, a bad fire started burning over above the village of DuBois, which was way across the state. So they decided to transfer us over to that site. They sent a highway patrolman over to escort us and we traveled most of the night with him leading the way with his red lights on and siren going. We were going as fast as we could to keep up with him. What a ride that was. Ernest drove and told me to get some sleep as I would have a long day the next day. We put in several good days there. Ernest had sprained his ankle so he had me do all the operating. We saw some fantastic scenes of what a good wind can do with a small fire where there is plenty of dry fuel to burn. It can become gigantic in size in just seconds. The other Cats on the job all had cable dozers, so they were really happy to see that Ernest had a hydraulic dozer on his machine. They sent me all over to dig up 'hot spots' or to work where the others were not very effective. Boy did they feed us well too, we had steaks twice a day, every day. When we finished there, they released us to go home as the Forest Fires in the state had all been controlled.
We met Uncle Brady (Brady Walker) and Aunt Connie (Ernest's wife) in Idaho Falls with a new tire that they brought up to us. We had a leak in one on the trailer. Ernest came on home with Connie. Brady and I replaced the flat tire and came home with the truck and Cat. I remember we parked over in back of the Temple for the night and put our sleeping bags out on the lawn. It was sure nice to wake up looking up at the Temple the next morning. I dug and back filled several basements for him in Orem. I was able to also work on a new road to the Stewart Flat area of North Fork of Provo Canyon (the area where Robert Redford has his home now. It is also the place where Grandpa Tucker use to herd sheep for several years) and worked on cutting in some new ski lift pads for a new larger Ski Lift at Sundance. I also drove the D7 up on the Pole Canyon Road when he was grading and widening it. It was in the winter time and there was a cloud cover that caused an inversion so the valley was wrapped in fog and freezing temperatures. Up where I was working, it was nice sunny, shirt sleeve weather. I looked forward each day to going up there to get away from the cold in town. I also worked on a job across the lake at a mine over on the face of Cedar Mountain. That day was memorable as the large main spring under the Cat's engine broke in two just as I was finishing up for the day. I had a heck of a time getting the machine back to a level and clear area where it could be worked on easily. I did not want to leave it parked down in the pit where I had been working. I had to hold up the engine by pushing down on the dozer and dragging the dozer as I went in reverse. It was really a chore, but I finally made it. Another time was cutting a road across the mountain, high above Alpine, Utah. It was on a Saturday and I was filling in for Aime Ferre who had gone Deer Hunting. I had to haul a barrel of diesel fuel up the mountain in Uncle Clarence's (Clarence Tucker) old Army Power Wagon. I got into a real pickle when the Cat got off the track just at 'quitting time'. I had to drop down off the road in order to put the Cat in a position to force the track back on as I did not have any tools. It took me only about 5 minutes to do that, but it took me a couple of hours to get the machine back up on the road. I had to really work, going down and around the trees and looking for a slope that the machine was able to climb. It was so steep that the machine could not climb up in most of the places, as it would just dig in. I was really working up a sweat plus saying a lot of prayers before I was finished. Cyril Walker later told Ernest that he did not know what his nephew was trying to do, but that Ernest should count his lucky stars that he still had a bulldozer.
Earnest really worked hard to see the completion of the new Chapel when he was Bishop. One day he asked me to come and help him complete a job so he could then go work on the Chapel grounds. Then he asked me if I would be willing to donate my time to help him clean up the debris and grade the grounds area in back of the building, so it would be ready for the landscaping and look good for the first meeting. I did and we put in a long day on it. I was not as good at operating the loader as the dozer and he soon got tired of watching me on the loader that day. It did not take long and he changed our tasks, he ran the loader and had me run the dump truck and do the leg work. Only the Lord knows how much time and money he put in to make that building become a reality, as it was a lot. When he and his counselors received word that they would soon be released, he decided that he did not want to leave the new Bishopric with a big building construction debt. So in his next Bishopric Meeting he told his counselors of his desire to pay off the debt and not leave it in the laps of the new Bishopric. He was willing to pay 'X' amount to cut down the debt and did they want to join him in the process and thus take care of the debt? They did and they entirely paid off what the Ward owed on the Building Fund so the building was debt free for the new Bishopric. Shortly thereafter, the wife of one of those present in the meeting asked Connie "What she thought of Ernest giving so much money to the ward and didn't it bother her?" Connie told her, "It wasn't her money and it did not bother her, plus it was a lot better than some things it might end up going for," which really caused the lady to walk off royally perplexed.
The last time I operated for him was just before I moved to California. It was when their little son Terry was drowned in the canal in the fall of 1963. It was a sad day for all of us. Ernest had a contract with the Forest Service up Hobble Creek Canyon and he had to keep it going. He had not been able to find a substitute operator, so it looked like he would have to go to work and not attend the funeral. Connie called me to see if I could get off work and fill in for him. I had planned to take off for the funeral, so it was easy to extend the time to the full day and fill in for him. I missed the funeral, but I felt it was well worth it to help them out. Besides, I would rather run a Cat any day than get dressed up and go to a funeral.
My sister, Susan Roberts Hartley, tells of finding little Terry Tucker's body in the Upper East Union Canal in back of our family home. She had just arrived home from school and had changed her clothes. Dorothy Young was out visiting with my mother and the telephone rang. Susan answered it and it was Connie saying "I can't find Terry, I can't find Terry!" Susan knew exactly what this meant, so she ran out of the house as she repeated the message to my Mom. She crossed the bridge and got down on the landing by the side of the canal where she could easily look up and down the canal. As she looked upstream, she saw his little body come floating down from under the bridge. She jumped in and grabbed him and called to my mother. Mom took him and wrapped him in a blanket and had Dorothy call the operator on the telephone for 'emergency response.' Susan went down into the Pear Orchard where my Dad was picking pears and told him and he took off and vaulted over the fence with a picking bag almost full of pears. The Fire Department Rescue Team soon arrived and took charge, but it was all over. Tommy Giles was one of those on the Rescue Crew. Doctor dark who had delivered the little fellow also soon arrived. In the mean time. Mom sent Susan up to Ernest and Connie's home to watch the other kids so she could leave. This was areal tragedy, but I could always see the hand of the Lord in that Susan was there to respond just at the right moment as his little body arrived. If she had not been there at that time, there is no telling where the body would have ended up and how much longer it would have taken to find him.
After Ernest had his second stroke, he could not drive, so he would call Stan Jr. to see if he had some free time to drive him around in order to run some errands. He ended up driving him around a lot at this time. He also bought the red Ford Truck and trailer and the Massey-Ferguson Backhoe/loader from Ernest. Ernest also gave him the old 22 Cat that he had. At this time Ernest was very positive in his outlook. He was going to the Temple regularly and was adjusting to not being able to operate machinery. During this time he told Stan a lot of the stories of his life and business adventures and there were a lot of them. Stan really enjoyed this experience. Later on when additional strokes hit him, he could not communicate very well, he lost much of his memory and he became very frustrated, disappointed and angry. The family decided to clean up the yard of a lot of the old tractor parts and tracks, etc. and Stan hauled two truck loads of this material to the junk yard in Spanish Fork for them. It was hard on Ernest as you could see that there were a lot of things that he did not like to part with. Stan decided to not take the 22 away while Ernest was around as he knew that it would be hard for him to give it up. Finally one day when no one was home, Stan went up with the loader/backhoe and towed the 22 down to my folks place. When Ernest got home, it did not take him long to notice that the 22 Cat was gone and it really upset him. He took off and followed the machine's tracks down the back road to my folk's place and found his 'little Cat'. Man was he mad at Stan! He tried to call the cops and accused Stan of stealing his property. It was a very painful experience to see as he did not remember giving it away and he was so mad at having it taken. It is hard to see a breakdown like this that occurs in someone you care about. In their condition it is impossible to make them understand the real facts or communicate effectively with them.
I hope my telling of all the times I worked for him does not sound like tooting my own horn. I mean for it to show to a degree a variety of some of the jobs that he engaged in and that he went out of his way at times to give me employment. I am sure that on some of these occasions he could have hired better operators, but he knew I needed the work plus I enjoyed it so much, so he deferred to me. I am very grateful for that and I think that it shows what kind of a person he was at heart.
I really appreciated the opportunity to work for Ernest as it was a big help to me financially when I was going to college. However, he could get real impatient at times and be downright mean. He was this way with his own kids and I felt sorry for them, especially the older boys. It must have been partly inherited as I had the same problem at times and from what my Mom said, Grandpa Tucker (George W. Tucker) could be the same way on occasion. One time when I was being mean to my kids, my brother (Stan Roberts Jr.) brought me up short, real quick by just saying, "alright Ernie Tucker!" I knew exactly what he meant and he was right. It burnt down deep and caused me to shape up right now! I would remember the incident occasionally and it helped me to try and do better many-a-time.
When I was called on a mission to French Polynesia (Tahiti) in April of 1956, the Tucker family had a big get-together down at the Tucker home on 6 North in Provo to celebrate the occasion and to also give me some gifts to help me for my mission. There had not been a grandchild go on a mission to that point in time, so it was extra special for everyone and I was the lucky benefactor of their joy. Uncle Ernest took a $50 bill and rolled it up in a piece of cigarette paper and made it look like a cigarette and put it down with my other gifts. When I got to it, I was somewhat taken back and did not know what to do with it. I thought it was a 'gag' gift and was wanting to get rid of it as soon as possible, but he spoke up and said "you better take a close look at that before you throw it out." I proceeded to do so and found the $50 bill inside. That was just like him. He was so generous, but was also ready to have fun at your expense.
In his early business days, he loved to have a can of cold beer every so often when he was operating his loader and it was hot and he got thirsty. His dear wife worked on him and he finally agreed to drink lemonade instead, on one condition, she had to make sure he always had plenty of lemonade to drink. He had mounted a small cooler on the side of his machine to hold the cans of cold beer and she would keep it well supplied with the lemonade. More than once I saw him take a drink of the lemonade and wished I had a wife to do that for me. I really admire all that she went through to put up with his attitude at times and kept the faith for his eventual activation in the Church. She really went the extra mile and then some.
Many people were blessed by his activity in the Church, but Connie and his Mom and Dad were the ones who really hung in there when it looked dark and impossible earlier. Maxine remembers his Mom on more than one occasion, putting her arms around his neck and looking up into his eyes while saying tenderly "Son, I know you are going to do what is right." They really rejoiced and were so proud when he finally turn edit around and started to honestly serve the Lord. I don't think I ever saw a more grateful and happy couple than Grandma and Grandpa Tucker were on the day he was sustained as the Bishop of his ward. They knew that the Lord had answered their prayers. He had always done many good deeds for others on occasion, but his streak of opposition and indifference to certain parts of the gospel took a while to overcome.
My sister Susan said that she was impressed with the fact that in family discussions about Ernest and Connie and some of their problems, that Grandma Tucker would always stand up for Connie. She never sided with Ernest. That is unusual for a mother to do. Even in discussions in their home when the family was all together at holiday times and something came up between Ernest and Connie. Grandma was quick to support Connie and not go along with Ernest. It was a good lesson to learn about family relationships. He had a lot of respect for his Mom. One time when the family was going to Pinedale, Wyoming for Patty Wight's wedding, it turned out that Susan and Carol rode with Grandma Tucker in the car that Ernest was driving. They soon noticed that at times the car would slow down and go relatively slow, like 55 miles per hour. Then later he would speed up and go real fast, like at 90 mph. This really perplexed them for a while and then they saw the reason. When Grandma Tucker was awake, he would slow down, but when she would fall off to sleep, Ernest would speed up. He did this repeatedly on the trip.
I will be eternally grateful for all that Uncle Ernest did for me and my family plus his role in the Tucker family in later years. There were a lot of great family get-togethers and holiday dinners at his home up in Edgemont after he got it remodeled. The entire Tucker family really enjoyed these and he and Connie enjoyed hosting them. He was a special man and touched the lives of many others for good. Many an Elder had to get out of bed to go to the Welfare Farm on an early Saturday morning due to the loud sound of his truck and semi with the extra loud air horn that he had installed on it. He would pull up in front of their house and honk that horn until they came out and climbed up on the trailer. There was no getting away from it. On one occasion, he went into one brother's home and took his bottle of real expensive liquor and poured it all down the drain. That took gall, but it worked. That and some other actions eventually got the man back into full church activity.
He was an excellent equipment operator and mechanic. His feel and touch for the machine while he was operating it was phenomenal. He always seemed to know just how much dirt was in the bucket or how much the dozer was cutting and he would adjust to any changed condition at exactly the right moment. He thought nothing of going out in the evening and taking an entire engine out of one of his trucks and replacing it with another one. It did not take him all night to do it either! Everything would be already to go the next morning and it would run perfectly. He also seemed to have no fear in dangerous conditions as he had complete confidence in his machine and his ability to make it do what he wanted it to. In situations like this, it would often scare others so bad that they could not bear to watch or it would really enthrall them as they seemed to hang on with baited breath to every movement that he made. He had a keen mind that allowed him to think"outside the box" and come up with better ways of doing many things. He loved practical problem solving like this. As he watched many-a-operation, it would not take him long to figure out ways to do it better or faster.
I learned a lot from him and it was fun to watch him work and marvel at what he could do. As I think of him, three personal things come to mind; the coveralls, his hat and his drawl. He was always dressed in coveralls (man did he like them) and they were usually open at the top button on the chest. He always wore the special hat with the black visor and green cloth top (it was like a police officer's and military officer's hat). Often, as you asked him a question at a casual moment, he would lean back a bit while pushing back his hat on his head, take a breath and speak with along, slow drawl as he started to speak. Usually it would be while saying "Well-1-11-1-1-1." It seemed to have a partial, guttural type sound that seemed to come from down low in his throat. It must have been an inherited trait as I also remember Grandpa Tucker speaking in the same way at times, so it had a special meaning for me.
I appreciate the opportunity to write up these items and share them with you. They have meant a lot to me and I hope they are of value to his family and descendants as they contemplate him and remember his role in their lives. He had his faults like we all do and did he ever love to tease or pull tricks on others (that must have been an inherited Tucker gene). If you did him wrong, he could get real sneaky and mean. Sometimes he did not need a reason to be mean, he would just do it for 'kicks'. He could also be real stubborn, so much so that it could drive you up the wall. However, he also did many kind deeds for others - he had a very tender heart at times. Plus most importantly, he made a big turn-around in his life from the Restored Gospel's standpoint and came a long way, which we will all be very grateful for. I am happy to claim him as my "Uncle Ernest."
Jim Roberts 26 April 2004