Strolling in the Mountains

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

When we lived in the cabin above Leesburg and we had a day off work we would take a stroll to Leesburg. It was about four to five miles one way. The whole family would go. I remember once that Dad drove us up the big hill and then maybe another mile until we got to the area where it would be down hill and stay–meaning that we wouldn’t be able to get the car back up. So he parked there and we walked the last approximately three miles. He and Mother would visit with Chic and Kelly and the Colonel and maybe the Cowboy (friends and family) while we kids went fishing. I don’t think any of us had watches so I don’t know how we met back at the right time.

We had a hook on the end of a line that we carried in our pockets and then we’d cut a willow stick to tie it too. Butch was the only one who had a pole and I don’t remember if he carried it or cut a willow. He was the only one who had a creel so we’d try to get him to carry the fish. Sometimes he would and sometimes we’d have to use a forked stick. Sometimes I just wouldn’t fish as hard because of carrying the fish. Then we’d all meet up again and hike back up the hill. None of us thought a thing about walking that far to visit or to fish. In fact, we kids sometimes hiked down in a group just to go fishing. And sometimes we went to Wallace Lake the other direction–also a hefty hike and a steep hill down with only a path. Today there is a road there and you can drive to Wallace Lake.

One day Debby wanted to go to Leesburg and the rest of us didn’t. Finally she decided to go by herself. So she took Max the boxer dog and her bow with one arrow (because that’s all she wanted to carry. She said if she missed with that one she no doubt wouldn’t have time to grab another anyway.) Guess she had a nice visit with Chic and Kelly and the Colonel who probably thought we were crazy to wander all around the mountains. They hiked around too, but with a pistol on their hips. Chic and Kelly Hess, brothers, were retired and from Wisconsin. (Their real names were John and Oscar.) They came out to Leesburg every summer. The first year they came, Lloyd whose last name I can’t remember, came with them. But he only came that one year as far as I can remember. I think he got sick and couldn’t come. We really liked Lloyd because he took us for hikes and taught us how to identify all the trees by their bark and needles and leaves. And (he) showed us other nature things. I wonder if he was a retired teacher. While we lived up there we knew a lot of stuff that we have since forgotten. (I wonder if Lloyd teaching us is the reason Butch wanted to be a biology teacher.)

The Colonel just wandered in one day in his old Henry J car and decided to stay for the summer. Down where Chic and Kelly lived there were 2 cabins. One was a regular cabin and one was the building where assays were done. It was smaller and had a cement floor. Chic and Kelly and Lloyd emptied their stuff out and let the Colonel have that as his cabin. He came back every year. The cowboy came to our claims one day on a horse and wearing all black, with a pistol on his hip. So we just referred to him as Cowboy and everyone else took it up. He didn’t mind as he was running away from his family and didn’t like giving his name out. Dad gave him directions to Leesburg and he went there and just stayed–winter and summer. He ate anything. I remember tiny fish that he cooked up guts and all. And we suspect he’s the reason the Leesburg Marmot family went missing. He put pieces of petrified wood out on a bench in front of the cabin and sold them to tourists who came to see Leesburg. But he must have had some money to live on.

Dosie and Tom Sears were the older couple who showed us where to stake a claim. They lived around the corner a few miles from our cabin. They were originally from Texas and wintered in Idaho Falls where they worked at the potato factory (they always had instant potatoes in all forms). Phil Shockey showed up our first summer I think. Dad showed him where all the creeks were. He was doing mapping for the state or something like that. Later he came back with Wally Orff (spelling?) Wally was a nut job in the minds of us kids. There were also a couple of young women with them. I think all were working on geology degrees. One of them had a crush on Wally. He said things he thought were clever and she’d say, “Really now, Wally!” and giggle, over and over again. For days! We’d go off from there and one of us would say something and another would say, “Really now, Debby” and giggle, or “Becky” or whoever. Kids can be so nasty. Good thing we were never caught.

Maude and Mike Fraker were a couple who had the claims on Leesburg and Dad and us kids worked for them sometimes. We mined gold that they used to prove their claim. I think he paid Dad $50 every once in a while. He also paid Dad for the gold we found. And he bought what we found on our claims, $35 an ounce. The government was only paying $20 or $25. We lived in their cabin until they came for the summer (nice—four rooms) and then we moved next door in the old one room school house. The next year when we had our cabin the cowboy took the schoolhouse and just stayed. There were only five or maybe six cabins that had good roofs–no leaks. That’s about all of us.

Now back to Deb and her arrow and dog. She had a good visit and came back in the late afternoon. On top the hill maybe 1 1/2 to two miles from our place she met a very big bear in the road. She said she just stopped and thought that she wasn’t sure she could kill it with her one arrow but she knew that if Max went after the bear she’s have to try because she couldn’t let the bear kill Max. Fortunately the bear and Max sized up the situation and the bear wuffed and Max yelped and the bear went running off the road and Max went running home. Dogs may be man’s best friend but right then Deb could have cheerfully fed him to the bear. But no problem, Deb went running home after him. She had been in track in high school in Texas and she was a good runner (and jumper — as in Napias Creek). She ran the whole way. Max got there first and he just dropped down panting and no doubt drooling all over the place. So we were a little concerned. But then Deb came in some minutes later. She wasn’t drooling but she couldn’t catch her breath so we had to wait to find out what was wrong.

Another time, the next summer, Deb’s boyfriend was up helping with the mining. Anyway, that was his excuse for being there. But all we kids decided to go fishing at Leesburg. That was the closest fishing creek as we were on top the mountain. And it was an ok trip but we overstayed and it got dark as we were walking home. Then the coyotes started howling. They sound a lot different when you are out in the dark with them than they do when you are in a cabin. In fact, they sounded like they were behind every tree. And they kept getting louder and closer, and louder and closer. And Deb’s boyfriend kept telling us that Dad was wrong about them not attacking people. (I didn’t like him much that summer.) And we had to walk about 2 miles listening to the coyotes behind all the trees. After that we always made sure to be home by dark.

Lloyd, Chic, Kelly, Tom, Docie, Mike and Maude all died from getting old. Cowboy was found dead up at Leesburg one spring and it was thought he’d frozen to death–perhaps he got sick and couldn’t gather firewood or something. The Colonel went and got some kind of job with the Cobalt mines. (Dad worked there a while when we were in Post Falls. He’d drive to Post Falls on weekends and then go back. I forgot that when I wrote about his jobs. I believe he welded.) Dad was irritated with the Colonel for taking a job someone who really needed it could have had. He had a good pension already. He kept his Henry J and got it stuck on some back road one winter and they found him frozen to death in it. Dad said it didn’t have to happen because he could have bought himself a brand new jeep and stubbornly kept that old car. Phil died in the plane crash. Deb’s boyfriend died years later in a plane crash. He had learned to fly and took hunters out or something like that. Dad and Mother are gone. Deb and Butch are gone. Max died of cancer.

Sometimes I think that, except for Sandy and me, Leesburg has become a ghost town a second time. I know that a lot of other people lived up there after we all were gone. But they don’t count. Do you suppose ghost towns keep their time periods separate? I mean, do our ghosts mix with the old ghosts or are we segregated?

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

Transcribed by Larry Pearce: 3/1/17

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