Chapter Five-Grand Junction:1900


The year of 1902 was a momentous one in my life, perhaps the most momentous. Rev. Jacobs haunted the store, in earnest discussion with me on pros and cons, from health standpoint, and as to what a change of climate might do in our respective troubles, he with throat, and I with asthma. With all the charts and data we could get from the Department of Agriculture or other government bureaus, including the Weather Bureau, we narrowed our choice as between Texas and Colorado, after mulling over alternatives most of the summer.

I had some leanings toward Colorado, as Denver was noted as a health center for such ailments and I had in prior years had some little contact with that phase, in the state, and especially with the Western Slope, the center of which was Grand Junction. Most of the summer we pored over statistics, to be fitted to our particular needs, with the result that we chose Grand Junction for the gamble. Although Winfield was on the way, I decided it was safe for me to leave for a month, leaving Fred and family in the other part of house as insurance for Daisy, in case of emergency; and Fred to run the store; and Daisy to run the poultry department, which proved quite a task.

Therefore, Jacobs and I bought roundtrip tickets to Salt Lake City. S.L.C. being a competitive railroad point, with the Union Pacific running into it, as well as the Rio Grande, we could buy tickets there cheaper than to Grand Junction, such were the weird rail regulations of the times. This was the middle of August.

Taking the Pennsylvania to Chicago, we changed to the Burlington for Denver, and from there took the narrow gauge Denver and Rio Grande to our destination. Grand Junction is at the confluence of the Grand and Gunnison Rivers, hence the name. Those two rivers unite to form the Colorado. On the leg of our journey Chicago to Denver I was huffing and puffing with my old trouble and Jacobs with his, and could eat nothing substantial, but he found no surcease from his trouble, from climatic change, in contrast to my experience, and by the time we reached Grand Junction I had rid myself of my enemy for a full month, and felt renewed life.

We looked up suitable private lodgings and bought weekly meal tickets at the Senate restaurant. Thereupon Jacobs sallied out inspecting farm or fruit ranches that were advertised for sale, and tramping all over adjoining districts of that hot valley. Commenting upon the alleged Western Hospitality, he afterward told me that on numerous occasions he had called just at dinner, or noon mealtime, and had never been invited to partake, and so took the hospitality slogan as more or less fiction, but further comment on this angle a bit later in this story.

I at once after landing began to look around for work, with the double purpose of an income to defray expenses of my trip, but, most important to test out the climatic experience on my system. I applied first to a well-recommended pioneer settler on what was called Fruit Ridge, a Mr. Robert Orr. We had one of the best-developed fruit ranches in the valley, and was right in the midst of peach and apple harvest. He hired me at once @ $1 a day and found, and I went to work immediately, leaving Jacobs to hold down our room in town.

I worked hard for 19 successive days, and I do mean hard. Orr had ladders made from 2X4’s, strong and safe, but mighty heavy to lug around the orchard and hoist into the trees. However, tyro as I was, I seemed to give satisfaction and inspire confidence for one day he entrusted to me an exclusive job, rather than to a more experienced hand, that is to pick a special pet tree Mr. Orr had and the result proved it, in fact, to be a better that average tree.

I worked on that tree all-day alone and picked some 36 boxes of large luscious peaches. It was a large spreading tree, larger than I had ever heretofore seen. From the picking, I had nothing more to do with the process, as Orr had a nice packinghouse of his own, where only experienced hands were permitted.

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