Mons Larson Smith
Contributor: bwdraper Created: 2 years ago Updated: 2 years ago
Daddy grew up in Snowflake, Arizona. He was surrounded by a large family, as his father married two ladies, Ellen Johanna Larson and Maria Elizabeth Bushman. Family tradition says that the second marriage was the last polygamous union performed in the St. George temple and that the person who sealed them was severely chastised. They all lived in a two-room house. At Grandma Ellen's funeral they said that the two ladies lived under the same roof for sixteen years without a cross word between them.
Daddy's formal education ended before he graduated from the eighth grade. There was an epidemic of influenza that year and all public meetings were canceled. So he did not finish the eighth grade.
In 1916 Daddy joined the Army and went to Camp Kearney, California, for basic training. He went to Europe during World War I. His assignment was to take food to soldiers on the front line. He drove the horse-drawn wagon from the field kitchen to the soldiers. He said there was one time when the Germans were shooting mustard gas grenades. He suggested to another driver that they race back to the field kitchen. He was winning the race when a gas canister hit near them. He was affected in that after the incident he had low lung capacity. The other driver died from the effects of mustard gas.
He spoke of the Black Forest in Germany. He said all of the trees were cut off at about the ten foot level because of all of the artillery action going on. He said that there was a certain installation that the Americans wanted to take out, so they lined up a series of big cannons, all pointed at the same location. The cannon at one end fired, and then the second, and then the third, and so on down the row. When the last one fired, the first was ready to fire again. Survivors on the German side said it was like a large caliber machine gun fire.
Later he served in the Southern States Mission. He said that the other missionaries called him "Methuselah" because he was so much older than the average missionary. He spoke of being in Valdosa, Georgia.
There is a story that Grandma Ellen got tired of waiting for him to get married, so she had the names of a couple of young ladies that she was going to take to the temple and have them sealed to him. Fortunately something else worked out. He was helping his sister Seraphine and her husband C.A. by working at the dude ranch south of Monticello, Utah, when he met Cora Hawkins. She was living in Gallup, New Mexico, at the time and his comment about proposing marriage was "You don't drive three hundred miles just to talk about the weather." They were married in the Mesa, Arizona, temple on 10 May 1949.
Daddy was 53 years old when he married Cora. For me (Silas) that means that I have cousins with grandchildren older than I am. Richard was born on 28 May 1950; Mack on 19 June 1952; Alma and Silas on 6 December 1953; and Elna on 12 March 1956. That meant five children under the age of six.
Daddy's sister Seraphine had married C. A. Frost and she and her husband had homesteaded on land south and east of Monticello, Utah. Daddy's brother Alof had also set up a homestead. At the time you had to lay out boundaries of the property sized forty acres or more and live in a house there for five years and then you could call it your own. Uncle Alof died in an accident at Kennecott (copper mine in Salt Lake County, Utah), so Daddy went to claim the homestead in his place. That's how the ranch came into the family. Grandpa Silas and Grandma Ellen helped Daddy with the farm. At the time many reported that the ranch was a show piece for San Juan County.
During and after World War II there was a demand for uranium ore and some mines in the area were producing pitchblend, from which uranium was refined. The government built a refining operation in Monticello. Daddy had the job of running the crusher, where dump trucks unloaded rocks into the machines that ground up the rocks. At the time we lived in the house we called the "mill house." Although the housing no longer exists, that is where my memories start.
Daddy grew wheat on the ranch. Because raising wheat had been highly mechanized, there wasn't a lot for kids to do. Usually Daddy leased out the property so that somebody else was in charge of planting and harvesting and then he got a portion of the proceeds because he owned the land. The machines that harvested wheat (we called them combines) would usually have a spinner on the back to disperse the cut straw. Daddy would have them turn off the spinner so that the straw lay in rows. We would go along with pitchforks and pick up the straw for the horses to eat during the winter.
One of Daddy's great loves was horses. He often took jobs that involved caring for the horses. In the days before machinery made roadways, he spoke of caring for horses for the road crew. When we were growing up, he always had horses around. At one point, he had upwards of twenty horses. Richard was taken to Salt Lake City for an operation on his back. We sold most of the horses to pay for the medical expenses. After that we had only four or five horses at a time.