Gold in the Hills: The Alton Krause Family Story

transcribed & edited by
Larry Pearce
with excerpts from “Together we Make a Family”
and “Family Group Record for Charles Frederick Krause”
compiled by
Cindy Krause Leonhardt
with links to copyrighted short stories by
Becky “B.A.” Krause and Alton “A.F.” Krause

Floyd Alton Krause

Floyd Alton Krause was born in Berlin, Somerset County, Pennsylvania, in 1913, the third of eight children in a traditional Swiss-German-American family. His mother Annie (1885-1971) was raised Amish and married Charles (1884-1973), a Lutheran from Western Maryland. You can follow the young couple as they lived in several small towns in southern Somerset County and raised their eight children in an article entitled “A Journey Between Two Passages.” When Alton, as he was known growing up, was about 15, his father accepted a job as the caretaker of what was called “The Presbyterian Farm,” the predecessor of what is now Pine Springs Camp in Jennerstown, northern Somerset County. Along with helping his dad and brothers run the farm, he worked at the adjacent Green Gables Restaurant, part of the famous professional Mountain Playhouse. Alton even had time to play football while studying. Graduating from what is now North Star High School, Boswell, PA, in 1933, he soon began work as a laborer at U.S. Steel in nearby Johnstown, where he learned to be a welder. In 1937, with a good income, he married a Johnstown girl, Genevieve Overdorff.

Genevieve Overdorff Krause

His metallurgical talents paid off when at the start of World War II he went to work at the Portsmouth Navy Shipyard in New Hampshire. By the end of the war he had taken a promotion as efficiency expert and inspector in the building of submarines for the Navy in Wisconsin. Soon the demand for ships was waning, and Alton and Genevieve moved south near his brother Ralph in Texas. He helped in his brotherʼs restaurant business, drove a milk delivery truck, worked on the docks, and did odd jobs for almost twenty years before moving back to Pennsylvania to work again in the steel mill. That lasted less than a year because, he said, the kids were always sick in the colder weather and wanted to go south again where it was warm. The truth is, according to his survivors, he just didnʼt like working inside the mill. So, it was back to Texas for a short time before moving north to find his fortune in far away Idaho. The highlight of this article are the summers the family spend searching for gold in the mountain streams above Leesburg. We have lots of exciting first-person accounts to share.

Eventually, the Krause family moved one last time, to Wyoming. The year was 1966. But, his days in the real American West were cut short when in 1978 he had to have prostate and hernia surgery. No one expected his life to end as the result of a blood clot and heart attack that same year. The story of Alton and his family is a remarkable one, filled with love of God and family and service to his country and community. Letʼs go back and fill in some of the details, giving credit when we can to those family members whose memories we call on.

Alton & Genevieveʼs family: Becky, Debby, Butch, Sandy, Cindy

To help you keep the various voices of this account straight, here are the names and dates of Alton and Genevieveʼs five children shown above with links to more information:

*Debora Jean “Debby” (b. 1939, Johnstown, PA d. 2002, Missoula, MT)
*Rebecca Ann “Becky” (b. 1941, Johnstown, PA)
*Alton Floyd “Butch” (b. 1943, Manitowoc, WI d. 2014, Phoenix, AZ)
*Sandra Lee “Sandy” (b. 1945, Corpus Christi, TX)
*Cindy Ruth “Cindy” (b. 1959, Salmon, ID)

First, for some reason, Father Floyd Altonʼs kin in Pennsylvania always called him by his middle name, “Alton.” Daughters Becky and Cindy say their dad often went by “Alex” and kiddingly by his friends as “Smart Alec.” Later, when he did Civil Service work during the war, he had to use his birth certificate name, “Floyd,” which most of his family back home didnʼt learn of until later. When his son was born, Alton and Genevieve purposely reversed the names so “Butch” wouldnʼt be called “Junior.”

How many young men can say that they hitch-hiked across the country? Alton did just that one summer with a friend and neighbor, Bill Ringer. According to his brother Lawrence, Alton used to hide his spare change in the springhouse on the farm. Heʼd stick his coins inside the metal pieces supporting the sides. When he decided to take off for the West Coast, he emptied the springhouse of its treasure, all but a quarter that his brother found and never gave back. Too bad he didnʼt record the details of that experience. If he left with little money, Lawrence says that came back with even less, working on a dairy farm to get enough for meals on the way home. Altonʼs sister Olive Adams wanted the world to know that he was generous too. She said that one New Yearʼs night on the way home from the Green Gables Restaurant where they both worked, he asked her how much she was being paid. Olive replied, “Ten cents an hour.” At that Alton reached in his pocket and handed her a little more, saying, “Donʼt tell Mom.” Olive thought Mom might not let him work there if he were being paid more that his sister. Alton soon got a reputation and became known as “Mr. Worthmore.” Olive said that the restaurant owner didnʼt even let them keep their tips in those days.

Alton & Genevieve Krause

Alton and Genevieve met in the late summer of 1933, when she was camping at the farm with her family. Apparently, Alton was discouraged from dating Genevieve because her parents wanted her older sister Ethel Lou to be married first. Olive claimed that brother Alton would “bribe” his brother Clyde and friend Bill Ringer not to say anything when the two love birds sneaked out on a date. Well, the couple was married four years later and Olive was a bridesmaid and Ethel Lou was the Maid of Honor. Daughter Debbie was born two years later, and Becky two years after that, just a month before the family moved to New Hampshire before the start of the war. Son Alton “Butch” was born in Wisconsin and another daughter, Sandy, was born in Texas. Little sister Cindy was born in Idaho before the familyʼs final move to Riverton, Wyoming. In a minute weʼll hear more about the move to Idaho, where Alton built a cabin in the mountains, staked a mining claim, and panned for gold every summer. But first, here are some first-person accounts by the children of what they remember about their parents.

Becky Krause
Leesburg cabin, Idaho

Letʼs start with Becky. Her recollections go back to what her dad told her about living through the War: “Dad served on a team when he was a submarine inspector. They were hooked somehow to the Navy but weren’t official Navy. They were called Civil Service. He wanted to join up and go fight but was told that it cost a lot to train an inspector, and if he went they would see that he had the lowest job they could find and they would keep him stateside. That’s Democracy for you. But then I don’t think he had the temperament for war. Of course, most of the other men didn’t either. But it was a heavy burden when they missed something and the submarine never came up.” One of the most unusual “careers” that Alton had was when they lived in Mathis, Texas. A friend, Dr. Jack Love, had opened a medical clinic there and got Alton a job as a butcher in a local grocery store. Later, Jack bought a small hospital, perhaps a clinic, and asked Alton to work for him there. After taking a beginners course in radiology, he helped Jack with whatever needed doing around the hospital. Alton jokingly referred to himself as “a doctor” and came home with amazing stories of broken bones and operations. Becky says, “We were the healthiest ever when we lived there because we were afraid to complain about anything for fear Dad would work on us.” Another story goes that a lady came in the waiting room asking for “the other doctor,” meaning Alton. After getting her into a room, Alton recorded her answers to basic medical questions while Dr. Love responded. Becky says that between the two “doctors” the lady got fixed up and went home. “At the end of the day Dad swept the floor,” laughs Becky.

At one rental house in Texas the story goes that Alton offered to paint the place if the landlady bought the paint. Well, she did and he did and she ended up raising the rent because the house looked so much better. Becky says, “Dad got mad and we moved.” Dr. Love examined Alton one day because his arm hurt. It was determined that the chronic pain was probably from doing so much welding, and Alton was advised to quit. Perhaps it was carpal tunnel, which no one knew about then. But, Alton sarcastically said that if he had to quit welding, he may as well move to Idaho. Becky claims that her dad had seen beautiful pictures in hunting and fishing magazines.

That summer, 1954, he and his son went to Idaho and came back with glowing reports. The move the next spring introduced the Krause family to a whole new part of the world and lots of new experiences. Becky has lots of fond memories: “When we lived in Salmon (Idaho) there was a huge skating rink where the beer distributor is now. It was the whole block and was banked up with dirt and the firemen came and flooded it so we could have a skating pond. When it got too chopped up Dad would go to the fire department and coax them into going and putting a new coat of water on it. There was a light switch on the telephone pole for night skating and a burn barrow stove to warm up at. The whole family would go skating. Mother and Dad had hockey skates from probably that time period and the rest of us had figure skates, except the first winter, I had Dad’s old clip on skates tied over my saddle oxfords (maybe with boots), because my skates hadnʼt come. They were to be gifts for Christmas. I had figure skates the next year. Butch and I would compete in jumps. We’d roll snowballs to jump over them. Once, at least, we went skating on the river in an area where the water backed up behind a little island. I didn’t like it because the ice kept making an awful cracking sound. Dad said that was normal.”

Debby, Butch, Sandy, Genevieve, Becky, Alton & Max in front

It was not always easy to read Altonʼs usually light-hearted mind from his comments or his pictures. Becky claims, “Dad did look somber in his pictures. I think that was the way men were supposed to pose. But in real life he laughed a lot. As I said before, he laughed when he was with his family (brothers and sisters and father). When he was at a gathering in Leesburg he was always laughing and at the archery club in Texas. Thereʼs a picture of Cindy, on her first birthday when she smeared her cake all over her face, and he is laughing.” Becky says, “When Dad was alive, Mother seemed to always wear blue or some neutral color, because that was Dadʼs preference, and never slacks. Perhaps it was because of his ʻalmost Amishʼ upbringing. Itʼs the way Grandma Krause dressed.

When Dad was gone, Mother not only started wearing slacks and pant suits, but she loved them in RED. I used to come to the door singing ʻLady in Red,ʼ until she told me to just stop it!” “Dad was a hard working man and expected we kids to be the same,” according to Becky. His motto was “There is no girlʼs work or boyʼs work. Whoever is not busy when something needs done, thatʼs whoʼs job it is.” When Mother told Butch to wash the dishes Dad said, “Butch shouldnʼt have to wash the dishes, thatʼs womanʼs work.” Mother replied that in that case Debby, Becky, and Sandy shouldn’t be mowing lawns, shoveling snow, chopping firewood or working on the claims. Becky laughs, “Dad quickly replied that it wouldnʼt hurt Butch to wash the dishes.”

Sandy & husband Jay Cristler

When asked to describe her father, daughter Sandy used the following words: “Fisherman, hunter, fisherman, seeker of the elusive gold, fisherman, and he liked to play golf.” She says that her husband Jay and she would take her dad fishing up East Fork and Bear Basin. “We always had to stop at the Crowheart Store for Dad to buy his Fig Newtons. He said that was the best part of fishing – his snacks.” One time he got lost while out in the woods. It was at Turpin Meadows. He walked over two miles to Brooks Lake, where he met some hunters that gave him a ride out to the highway, where he met up with Jay. Another time they were up around Warm Springs. Sandy reminices, “Dad walked all the way to the Dubois Airport before we caught up to him. It always makes Jay sad every time we drive above Dubois because he remembers all the times he took Dad and Butch up there. Dad has been gone a long, long time, but I still think about him about every day and miss him.”

Becky feels the same way: “Dad was very easy going most of the time. Nothing seemed to bother him. Once when I had the use of his car I had a flat tire on the bridge and it startled me, so that I clipped the side of the bridge. I went home very nervous. The family was watching TV. I went in and said, ʻDad, I hit the bridge and bashed in the door on your car.ʼ Dad just kept watching TV. I said it again. Dad just kept watching TV. Finally I couldn’t stand it and started again. He stopped me by saying, ʻI believe you. I’ll look at it when the programʼs over.ʼ And he continued watching TV.”

Another story Becky loves to tell goes like this: “Dad and some of us kids were on the Ridge Road past the cabin, on our way to check out some mining area, when we were stopped by a huge bull in the middle of the road. The bull had its back to us and clearly wasn’t going to move. He just kept eating the grass that grew in the middle of the road. So Dad eased the car up and bumped the bull in the rump. The animal jumped off the road and then started chasing us. Dad just stepped on the gas and laughed like it was just the funniest thing. I bet that bull chased us a mile. I suppose you get your fun where you can find it.” Yet another of Beckyʼs memories goes like this: “Dad started us reciting poetry when we worked the gold claims, as a way to keep us awake I think. Some of his favorite poems were ʻThe Village Blacksmithʼ and ʻThe Last Leaf.ʼ Probably because those were the ones he knew–except the parts I remember him reciting as ʻda-da, da-da, da-da.ʼ”

Becky claims that her dad never met a pie he didn’t love, especially the berry ones. But little sister Cindy thinks she remember one: “When Mother went back to PA in 1977, because Grandma Overdorff was sick, I had to do some of the cooking. I didnʼt have much experience, so made Daddy banana cream pie over and over again. That may have been the pie he didnʼt like, after that experience. He didnʼt complain though.” Cooking is an important part of life for every family, and the Krauses were no exception. Becky remembers this tale: “When we kids were teenagers we were having a party at our house in Salmon. It must have been a birthday for one of us or something because a lot of our friends were there. We were serving hot dogs. Mother told me to put them in the pressure cooker but without the gauge thing. ʻJust use it like a big pan,ʼ she ordered. Mother seldom let us cook as she said we had no food to waste. She had total confidence we would mess up. So, I stuffed the pressure cooker full of hot dogs as there were a lot of us to be fed. Unbeknownst to me, hot dogs got bigger as they cooked. When I took the lid off, the hot dogs exploded. There were hot dogs on the counter and on the cupboards and on the ceiling. Did I ever tell you that in a crisis we had the best Dad? He just picked up a bun and scooped up the nearest hot dog parts and said for everyone to eat up. And they did!”

Cindy & husband Laurin Leonhardt

Recently, when Cindy recorded impressions of her dad, she wrote down, “He grew up on farms, working very hard. He liked animals – we had rabbits, guinea pigs, ducks, chickens, quail, cats, dogs. Girls liked him because he was fun and good-looking. He loved to fish and hunt and whistle little tunes. He enjoyed rock hunting, archery, ice skating-hockey, golfing and flying. He had his own airplane for a while. He loved poetry and made up little ditties – some off-color. He helped me memorize poetry for school.

Once, he wanted to raise rabbits for a living, but that didnʼt work. If someone admired something, heʼd give it to them and it didnʼt matter who the item belonged to. Dad was raised Lutheran, but switched to Presbyterian when he married Mother. He hitchhiked to California when he was about 18 and hitchhiked back home again. He milked cows in CA to get money to get home. Dad had a spirit of adventure and was born under a wandering star. He was never afraid to try something different. I love how he liked to crack jokes with Butch and Jay and others. Dad liked to go out and hit golf balls across the field. Weʼd go out sometimes and do that. It was fun. I donʼt remember who went and retrieved the balls. The first time I heard him cuss, I was in high school. We were fishing East Fork and a fish flopped out of his creel and escaped into the creek. It was a nice one too. He didnʼt know I was close to him and could hear him, or I donʼt think he would have cussed. I donʼt think he did cuss much at all.”

Alton fishing in Wyoming

Letʼs talk more about Alton and the Krause family’s prospecting days. According to Becky, while her dad and brother went to scope out Idaho those many years ago, someone taught them how to pan for gold. After they moved, Alton bought a big tent and backpacks and others items that would be needed in the wilderness. She says, “He got a rinse tub and taught us how to pan for gold in it. He set the tent up in the back yard first so he could see if it was big enough. The next summer we set off for the mountains with a boxer dog, a cage full of parakeets, and a trailer holding all the belongings we thought we needed.” For the full details of the move and incidents that happened over those memorable summers we will refer you to several short, first-hand accounts of life for the Alton Krause family on the mountain above Leesburg, Idaho, written by Butch and Becky.

Butch panning for gold in Idaho

But here are some highlights, beginning with Butchʼs story. He begins with this lead: “Finally finished in the summer of 1957, the Krause cabin nestles just several feet from the small creek that beckoned, “come here! Come here! I have riches for you. I can give you great wealth. I can give you Gold ! “ How many times and how many places has that specter beckoned to people with itsʼ outstretched hand and itsʼ whispering, ghost like, voice? The few times it did yield riches were decoys to entice and trap countless thousands of hapless souls who would invest time and lives in quest of this promised, Holy Grail.” Butchʼs complete work is entitled, “Quest for Yesterday & Uncle Tomʼs Cabin.” Hope you take time to read it, then come back here for more.

As we said above, Alton had actually moved his family to Idaho two years earlier, arriving at a cafe on Main Street in Salmon in April at 4:00 in the morning. Their 1950 Ford was pulling just about everything they owned in a trailer. They were on their way to an even smaller town farther up the mountain named Leesburg, but the waitress informed Alton that, because the heavy winter snow was still making roads up there impassable. The woman offered to let the Krause family store their things in her garage until such time as they could establish permanent residence in Salmon. Butch tells of their determination to spend the summer, at least, up in Leesburg: “When we crossed the bridge over Napias Creek and turned right toward Leesburg it was a different world altogether. A single lane, rutted road with muddy stretches which demanded some time to get through with several attempts and some assistance from people pushing on the back of the trailer. The last obstacle we thought we would have to over come was the hill just after we crossed Camp Creek. There was a large beaver dam across this creek, causing the water to be re-directed onto the road and so the steep and rocky hill was also covered with running water. After several attempts we did work out the right formula for success and reached the top of the hill just at the outskirts of the “town” of Leesburg. From there we encountered about 200 yards of swampy road, which became our downfall. Somewhere in that ooze we were done for. We could not go forward or backward. Simply, we were stuck, lock, stock and baggage. In desperation, Dad un- hitched the trailer and we managed to get the car down the road to dry land and a cabin where we spent the night. The next morning we carried our belongings to the cabin and, with some difficulty, did rescue the lightened trailer from itsʼ muddy grave. As it would turn out, this experience would have itsʼ rivals in years to come, some itsʼ equal and some which would champion over this with very little difficulty. And so was our initiation into the world of Ghost towns, gold prospectors, mountain living and the people who we would find to inhabit this new and strange world.”

Krause family cabin above Leesburg, ID

Alton re-established contact with an older, retired couple when the family got to Leesburg, Tom and Dosie Sears. Tom had been part of the enticement when Alton and Butch had been in Leesburg back in 1954 on their exploratory trip. Living in an available cabin in town the first year, Alton and all pitched their tent and staked a claim near Tom three or four miles up from Leesburg. That first claim was to be filed as the “Sandra Lee” at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) back in Salmon. Eventually at least two other claims would be staked nearby. In a humorous story entitled, “Getting the Car up the Hill – Or Not,” Becky explains how difficult it was to reach their claim. In another story she calls, “Biscuits and Beans,” the everyday life in the pre-cabin mining camp days is remembered. (link) Becky goes into some detail in other writing how the “panning for gold” operation went: “In our ʻplacerʼ mining, or sifting through gravel from the stream bed, my job was the ʻtailing person.ʼ” While Dad shoveled the dirt into the sluice box, or “doodlebug” as the locals called it, Debby picked out the big rocks so they wouldnʼt let the gold wash away. I shoveled the gravel that washed through that would build up at the end of the box. If not removed, the tailings would cause a dam and allow the water to back up and wash the gold out of the box.”

As Becky grew taller, she says she hated the short-handled shovels they had brought up from Texas. She insisted that “a long-handled shovel would be easier of my back.” Because there was no money to buy such things, she asked for one for her birthday, and sure enough, thatʼs what she got. The problem was that when they returned to the mountains that summer, her dad thought that because he was taller than Becky, he should get to use the new shovel. She remembers, “We figured we had the best dad ever – but I never said that he was always fair.” As if that werenʼt enough, Becky claims that he would hold her new shovel, smile, and say, “You can use MINE once in a while.” As if that wasnʼt enough, they came to a giant boulder that had to be dynamited out of the way. Alton set the explosive, lite the fuse, and all headed for protection behind the nearest tree. After the smoke and debris from the blast had cleared and all went back to the work site, they saw that the giant boulder had only rolled over slightly – right onto the new long-handled shovel, breaking the handle in two. The kids had moved their shovels, but Alton had forgotten to move his. Becky shakes her head: “As I stood there, Dad walked over to the boulder, picked up my shovel with half the handle gone, and handed it to me saying, “Itʼs your turn to use it for awhile.” For more details of that incident, read Beckyʼs story, “My Long- handled Shovel.”

In 1955 Alton began work on a more comfortable and permanent abode near the claims, which Butch describes this way: “Our cabin was not large. I would guess approximately 15 feet by 25 feet. Upon entering the door you would find yourself in the main room. To your left was a wall, which divided the cabin into the main room and one bedroom. In the bedroom there was a double bed frame made out of logs for Mom and Dad and a triple-decker bunk bed for us kids. Now, a triple bunk bed in a room approximately eight feet high would not allow much room in any one bunk. The bottom bunk was about two feet off the floor, the second approximately four feet off the floor and the third at six feet. Our closet room was a wooden apple crate at the head of each bed for us kids and I do not seem to remember what the folks used. Back to the main room. The main room had a large window in the front, center of it. It was composed of glass window panes set in a frame made of boards. The panes were taken from the mill at Devlin Falls on Napias Creek and carefully wrapped to make the safe journey four miles from Leesburg to our cabin site. Memory seems to tell me there were probably enough panes to make a window about three feet-high and about six-feet long. Approximately 18 panes set in the framework Dad made for the window.” Interestingly, with no electricity, the cabin had a “window box” through a small opening in the wall to the ourside. This served as their refrigerator in the cool air of the mountains. What didnʼt fit there could be placed in the ever-flowing spring, about 200-feet up hill, in five-gallon cans.

Not so incidentally, As Butch and Becky have related, the Krauses helped Tom and Dosie build a better cabin the next summer. Well, I use the term “cabin” loosely. Becky insists that, “They didnʼt really have a cabin. They had a half cave dug out of the bank and a bit of roof over it with some canvas pieces on the open end to make it sort of like a tent there. But it was close to their diggings so they didnʼt have to walk far.” Hereʼs what Butch has to say about the nieghborly endeavor of constructing a new place to live: “Again, it was quite small but Docie thought it was a mansion. No longer living in a leaky tent for the summer was a fabulous dream come true for her. The building of it took only a few weeks and we all thought ourselves quite adept at construction of mountain cabins. No blue prints were ever drawn. I think each phase of the construction simply matched up to the last. Soon it was done and no one ever looked for square corners or level surfaces.”

In her short story, “Strolling in the Mountains,” Becky describes some of the pleasures – and dangers – of living in the minersʼ cabin above Leesburg. The whole family would take a day off and walk the four or five miles to town. They would visit friends and go fishing. In those days the government price for raw gold was $20 to $30 an ounce, but one neighbor was willing to pay $35 just to establish a claim. So, there was some spending money. It wasnʼt all fun though, says Becky. She tells of her sister Debby and the family dog Max encountering a bear one day on the way back to the cabin. She thought for sure sheʼd have to use her bow and arrow to defend themselves. But, instead of barking and chasing the bear, Max took off for the cabin. When Debby saw the bear head in the other direction, she too ran full speed behind Max. Another time, the kids had been fishing in Leesburg and got a late start home. As the sun set and the shadows lengthened, the coyotes started howling. Becky says, “They sound a lot different when you are out in the dark with them than they do when you are in a cabin. Infact, they sounded like they were behind every tree. And they kept getting louder and closer, louder and closer. We had to walk about two miles listening to the coyotes behind all the trees. After that we always made sure to be home by dark.” Beckyʼs essay closes by revealing how so many of her old friends in Leesburg had died: some from old age, some in plane crashes, and several were found frozen to death in the mountains, either in cars or their cabins.

Butch outlines in his story how he almost died: “While work was being done on the cabin there was a tent set up for living space. On one occasion, Mom and I and my sister Sandy stayed in Leesburg while Dad and Debby and Becky went to the claims to finish the cabin. While they were gone, I managed to cut my foot on a piece of broken glass, which was laying on the ground not too very far from the cabin we were staying in. I remember looking down at the amount of blood and running to the cabin yelling to Mom, ʻMom, Iʼm bleeding to death!ʼ Little did I realize at that time that I had accurately summed up the situation. The glass had cut an artery just below the bump on the inside of my left ankle. We soon found that blood would squirt four or so feet each time my heartbeat and we immediately knew we were very much in trouble. Nothing we tried would stop that type of bleeding. The more we tried, the more we realized our situation. We were four miles from Dad and the car. The other direction we were about 25 miles from Salmon. It was getting dark and Mom realized that I would simply bleed to death if something were not done very soon. She left me and took a flashlight and walked about two miles down the Napias Creek Road to where Bob Spaeth, another neighbor, had his mining claims. She got him to come back to the cabin and take us into Salmon to the hospital. While she was gone, I had to keep pressure on the artery to let as little blood as possible escape. When Mr. Spaeth arrived, he tried to pour flour into the wound and wrap it tightly to curb the flow of blood. It would not stop bleeding and continued to bleed a little the whole way to town. When we reached the hospital I was taken immediately into the emergency room and the artery tied off. A blood test revealed I was dead. The loss of the blood was so severe that my hemoglobin count was practically nil. With no ability of my blood to carry oxygen to my body I was in very poor condition. A quick blood type test revealed that I was O positive and that Momʼs blood was compatible with either an 0 positive or an 0 negative. A pint of blood was immediately taken from her and a transfusion given to me. I stabilized during the night and the rest is history, as they say. Dad and the girls returned to Leesburg that next day and found the cabin abandoned with a note describing the incident and a mass of dried blood on the floor. On the trip to town he and the girls did not know if they were going to find me alive or dead and I was told the trip was made in record time. That next day we returned to Leesburg after thanking Dr. Mulder and the staff of the hospital.”

Alton “Butch” Krause

In one last irresistable story, entitled “Max, Cows, and Dynamite,” Becky relates the familyʼs new “find” above Leesburg, a strange rock that promised new wealth. Mixed in the narrative are some local livestock and one curious dog. But despite the exhiliaration of being in the mountains, mining was hard work and the payback was usually much less than gold (or uranium) fever had promised. And that “good” life for the Krauses on the mountain above Leesburg had to come to an end someday and it did. Alton moved his family farther north in 1961, settling in Coeur dʼAlene, Idaho, having accepted more stable work. But, it seems remarkable that this young family of seven could survive, if not thrive, alternating between one small town, Salmon, nine months of the year, and what could hardly be called a town, Leesburg, during summers of prospecting. Becky, who today has returned to Salmon, once made a partial list of all the things her father did to support the family while living there: butcher and custodian at a grocery store, cook and “bottle washer” for a wilderness pack trip company, house painter, snowplow driver, backhoe digger at the cemetery, log/timber estimator on the river, and of course whatever welding needed to be done. Becky smiles when she says, “Dad refused to go on unemployment and take winters off like the other guys did. Heʼd get after me if I was off work and he needed help, even on my day off.”

The flamingo pink & pilgrim red Krause house

In 1966 Alton & Genevieve moved for the last time, to a wonderful little western town just below Yellowstone National Park, Riverton, Wyoming. I remember taking my own young family to visit one summer. These Krauses used to comment on the many green trees fighting to see the sky when they visited us back East, but my impression of their space was that of a few pines and aspens looking up into Wyomingʼs “Big Sky.” The earth was a dusty brown and Jay and Sandy were constantly redirecting the small irrigration ditches to water their garden crops. The sheep seemed to play “King of the Mountain” behind the Krause house. That short visit left a lasting memory with my family, one of stepping back in time similar to the way our American pioneers must have experienced the West.

This brings us to the end of our tribute to the Floyd Alton Krause family that began with his birth in the mountains of South-Central Pennsylvania just before World War I and ended with his early death in the Rocky Mountain foothills of Wyoming shortly after the Viet Nam War. But while the world may have been in conflict at times during his life, and Alton had proudly served his country during World War II, he found a peaceful place in the American West to raise a family well, instilling in them the hopes and dreams of a life well-lived. The “Gold in the Hills” that this Krause family found was no doubt more valuable than shiny metal; it was realizing all that life has to offer beyond material possessions. As the family and friends who knew and loved Alton read these accounts, no doubt additional stories will come forth, and weʼll post them on this page, but for now, our desire is that you read and re-read what we have so far and share the adventures of this unique family with others.

Alton & Genevieve Krause

We close with a very special composition byAltonʼs son “Butch” Krause, written about a decade after his dadʼs death, titled “Time Machine”:

It spins and makes a throbbing, humming noise, this time machine of mine! I face into the breeze, close my eyes, and find myself back in time, where I rock my babies to sleep and fall asleep myself while still holding them. I fish for wild trout in Wyoming with my father and my son. Pleasant times when my mother and I would drink coffee at 4:00 AM and talk of life and people. I hold a young woman in my arms, the one I will learn to love and will grow old with. Grandchildren play around me, making me feel very old, and, at the same time, very young. I can smile as I stand on a mountain top which is dressed in winter plumage of white, realizing that only through this marvelous machine will I ever do so again. Now is when I realize my need for solitude and solace for my soul. Facing the awesome realization of the power of God, I begin to understand my own mortality. All this and more… much, much more… as I sit by my fan in my quiet times. Sometimes sleep creeps in as subtly as a thief in the night, robbing me of the pleasure of pleasure. My sleep robs me of the delusion of being contented as the fan continues to caress my face, and this ʻtime machineʼ caresses my soul.

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