Getting the car up the hill – or not

Becky Krause
(Supplemental first-person material to
“Gold in the Hills: The Alton Krause Family Story”)

When we lived in Leesburg we met Tom and Docie Sears. One day Tom told Dad he would show him a nice piece of land to gold mine on and that we could stake a claim on it. It was a nice piece of land and did have some gold, but I think Tom’s also wanted some neighbors in case they needed them. The land was a few miles from their cabin. To get there from Leesburg we had to drive back toward Salmon, take the road toward Baldy and from there take the Ridge Road. The land was near the Ridge Road. That took a long time as it was a long ways. Our other choice was to go on the old Leesburg Trail about 4 1/2 miles. A few times we made it up that road in our 1950 Ford. But more often than not we did it with lots of pushing by us kids and more often than that we gave up and walked.

We had to go up there to make a home site–somewhere to live. The first year that was a tent pitched on top a few logs to make it higher. Where we came out of the tent was a canvas lean to that was the kitchen. It had back and side and top. During the night something was draped over the front.

Debby and I, however, had our own room. It was a pup tent on top a few logs that were shaped like a boat. It was just big enough to hold a single mattress and the pointy end by our heads was where we kept our clothes. This is what we had to go up and build. Plus, we had to do some mining up there to see if it was worth it. The problem with going up the hill is that it was very steep and had loose gravel. The car wouldn’t always make it without the pushing. Now get this. At that time I was just out of 8th grade and about 5 foot 1 inch and probably weighed around 95 pounds if that. Deb was only a little taller and a few pounds heavier. How much help were we?

When our pushing wasn’t making it anymore Dad decided it would be better to just have some weight on the rear end of the car. Deb and I were the weight. He had us stand on the bumper and hold on to those hinges that hold the truck lid on. They bumped up about an inch. So we did and Dad took off and lost us after not very far. So he went to plan B. He rolled down the back windows and put a rope thru them and around the back outside and tied it together. Then Dad took off toward the hill. YeeHaaw! The rope was interesting. Because it wasn’t fastened to anything–just thru the windows–it slid and we slid and we were thrown from side to side. We didn’t fly off because our toes were curled around the bumper. But we made a heck of a racket.

So Dad backed down again and fastened the rope to something so it wouldn’t slide. I can’t think what. And we started again. About this time Deb and I had resigned ourselves to short lives and thought the sooner it was over the better, but even though we sort of held on — maybe one or two of us fell off — maybe not, the car wouldn’t make it up the hill. Dad thought it was too churned up by then. I know we were churned up. So we gathered all we could carry, left the car and walked the rest of the way to the new claims. Dad let the road settle for a few days and then we went again. He had a new plan this time. He had gotten a come-a-long from somewhere and between that and us the car would be sort of pulled up the hill. We had our orders to pull up the slack each time the car made headway and then to hold it. We were told the come-a-long would do all the work and would hold the car. So he took off. We reeled in the rope as fast as we could until the car stopped. Ok so far. Then he raced the engine and stepped on the gas again and we hauled rope again.

I’d like to say this worked. But the come-a-long failed us and Debby and I were pulled off our feet and went flying up the side of the mountain hanging on to the rope. We were dragged over sticks and rocks and whatever else mountains are made of. The faster the car rolled back down the hill the faster we went up. Finally I yelled, “Let go!” And we both did. Dad was really angry with us for letting go. Actually, I believe he was more angry with the car but the car didn’t care if he yelled so we got it. Finally we convinced him the stupid contraption that was to hold the car wasn’t working so he went up and checked it and discovered that something had broken. Then we were in the right again, but still bruised. So we took what we could carry and walked up the mountain to the claims again.

After that we drove as far as our stash pile of lumber and nails and whatever, which was at the bottom of the hill, and just carried something, whatever he wanted that day. An interesting thing, to me anyway, is that Dad moved a board to discover that a mouse had made a nest under it and it contained baby mice. He said we didn’t need that particular board yet and maybe the babies would be gone when we did. So he picked up a different board. And his kids he made ride a wild Ford! Go figure.

Another problem area between Leesburg and our claims was a mudhole. This was the mother of all mudholes. Maybe it competed with another we will see later. Once, Chic and Kelly were with him in the car when he went through that mudhole. The car slipped and slid and did all kinds of tricks before getting through. The guys told everyone that when “Floyd drove through that mudhole the car went on both side of the tree at the same time.” They loved it. Every time they told about Dad and the mudhole it got wilder. I think that was one of the highlights of their summer. But one day Dad decided he’d show the mudhole and we’d just avoid it. The way we were going to do this was by crossing Napias creek below Chic and Kelly’s house and then re-crossing it further up the creek. Deb’s boyfriend was there so it had to be our second year in the mountains. He had a jeep with a winch. He went across the second creek crossing no problem. I looked at it and said we couldn’t do it. Deb said we couldn’t do it. Dad said nonsense of course we could. The problem was the downhill and uphill with the creek in the middle. So we all loaded up and plunged toward the creek. And there we were. Hung up bumper to bumper on the hill side and the car was making a dam and filling with water. After a little while Dad said as calmly as ever, “Open your doors and let some of this water out.” So we did and then sat there in the car with Napias Creek running over our feet. Deb’s boyfriend (Glen) hooked onto the front of the car with the winch and winched us out. Then we continued to wherever we were going.

The other mudhole that was bad was between our claims and Tom and Docie’s claims. Dad was going to go work for them for a few days. We were living in Leesburg then. It was our first summer. For some reason we kids decided to ride up with him and then walk back to Leesburg. Probably it was to give the car traction to get up the hill. We made it up and when we got to the big hill near our claims Dad said to stay in the car and he’d show us where we could look over the mountain and see Salmon down below. We didn’t want to go down the hill because we didn’t want to walk back up. But we did when he said he’d drive us back up and then turn around and go to Sears’. So down we went. We were looking over the hill when someone looked back at the car and noticed something dripping underneath. Dad ran over and looked and it was gas. We’d knocked a hole in the gas tank. So he said sorry he couldn’t take us up the hill he had to go and he jumped in the car and took off. We had to climb that hill and then walked home.

We didn’t hear the rest until he came back a few days later. He got close to the Sears place and hit the other mudhole. He slid all over in it. This wasn’t a short mudhole it was a parking lot. Finally after thrashing around in it a while a tire blew and then the engine stopped and he could see he was out of gas. So he got out and just left it and walked the rest of the way to Sears’. I don’t know if he kicked the car or not.

Return to “Gold in the Hills: The Alton Krause Family Story”

Transcribed by Larry Pearce: 3/1/17

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