Cutler Family Activities

dear-old-family-bibleThe Cutler family spent a lot of evenings at home that they called family home evenings, a practice the Mormon church would later recommend to its members.  Joseph Jonathan Cutler would read Bible stories to his family out of the big family Bible.  He would read and read as long as the children kept prompting him for just one more story, which prolonged their bedtime.  Years later, his children recall with fondness and clarity the stories he shared as well as the sound of his resonant voice. He would also lead them in family prayer both in the morning and at night.

The family also spent many nights gathered around their mother Lucy’s pump organ, with everyone having a turn to play.  Young  Cleo would have to stand on the pedals in order to play, pumping her feet the whole time.  After Lucy’s death, the family traded it for a player piano on the advice of a cousin who only knew how to play the piano and didn’t appreciate the value of the organ.

There were also many father and son outings and mother-daughter outings.  And, if the family couldn’t think of anything else to do, they would take their beds up to the reservoir and sleep out all night, arguing over who would sleep with their father.  They loved to fish, catching mostly suckers.  Suckers were not good eating fish because of all the bones, but they ate them all the same.

The Cutler family loved to go to the fairs too.  Peach Days in Brigham City, the fair in Tremonton, and carnivals where it only cost a nickel to ride everything. Cleo especially loved the Ferris wheel but hated the merry-go-round because she would inevitably end up  sick.  They had a lot of fun times.  One year, Cleo and Wanda, her sister, planned to go to a Valentine’s Dance.  Their brother Doyle’s wife Amanda made dresses for them out of crepe paper and old sheets.  Feeling like queens, they went to the dance and had a wonderful time.

Every Sunday and sometimes during the week, the family would make ice cream in the big ice cream freezer from the ice that was packed in sawdust in the ice house at Grandpa Cutler’s place.  Sunday nights were also a gathering time for family and friends with singing and talking.  There was always plenty to do.

Friends

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In Snowville, Utah during the 1930s it didn’t take much money to have a good time with friends.  Cleo and her girlfriends would usually take walks, and then when they got tired, they’d go home, eat deviled ham sandwiches with cocoa, and play Rook.  A loaf of bread and a can of deviled ham were only a nickel each.  They also loved to ride horses up into the nearby woods that they called The Cedars.  They would ride, talk and sometimes race their horses.  Cleo had an old horse named Tony that could never be beat.  Going to dances, school functions, church and so on were all excuses to be with friends.  Cleo’s brother taught her to dance and would escort her.  He would tell her, “Sister, when you’re dancing hold yourself up straight and dance nice.  It looks lots more graceful that way.”

 

Work and Play – Couche Place #2

1945-1952

14170 Wilsonville Rd., Wilsonville, Oregon (now known as Riverview Farm)

Boyd standing with children in front of church building.

Boyd standing with children in front of church building.

Cleo standing with children in front of church building.

Cleo standing with children in front of church building.

The Fergus children had a very work-oriented relationship with their father.  Instructions for chores were given and expected to be done.  There may have been a lot of playing between times, but the job always got done.  Many times the children would play tag in the dark and before long Boyd would be in on the game, chasing them.  It was fun until he caught one of them because they were in trouble for not doing their chores.

One of the children’s many jobs at the Couche place was to kill squirrels and bluejays because they would eat the nuts from the trees in the orchard.  Sometimes they shot them, other times they left poison barley out in the open, or they built traps or cages to catch them.  Another one of the children’s jobs at the Couche place was to drive the tricycle tractor, called so because it had three wheels.  Howard was often accused of trying to drive it up a tree.  Usually Howard or Darwin, would hook up a trailer to the tractor and use it to carry the household garbage up the ridge to the end of the cliff overlooking the river.  Their difficult and sometimes scary job was to back that trailer up to the edge in order to dump the garbage.  It would have been so easy to slip over the edge of the cliff.

One day while the boys were working in the barn, they had an awful argument and got Monty into trouble.  Monty had a habit of hiding when he was upset or in trouble, so after the argument he slipped into the house to hide.  While everyone was out looking for him he got tired.  He crawled into bed and pulled the covers up.  The family looked and looked for him outside, never thinking that he might be inside the house in his own bed, sound asleep.

Life on the farm, while fun, could be fraught with danger for children because of the heavy responsibilities they had.  They had their share of accidents and Monty in particular, seemed accident prone.  One night, after a day full of pranks and setting booby traps in the barn, the kids were rushing around to get the cows and calves fed so that they could go to the movies (a Ma and Pa Kettle double feature).  They had forgotten however, about one booby trap that had not been sprung; a covered rope strung between the calf pen and the hay.  Monty came running through the barn, hit the rope, and stabbed himself with a pitchfork.  He insisted on going to the movies anyway.  During the wait in the ticket line, Boyd and Cleo had to ask if Monty could wait for them inside the theater because he was in so much pain.  As they came inside, Monty was waiting for them on the stairs.  He was sick through the whole movie.

The kids always knew how to have a good time together.  Sometimes, too much of a good time.  Once after milking the cows they started playing around and let the milk sit out until the calves ate most of it.  To cover up their “crime” the kids added water to the milk to bring up the volume, and then took the pails up to the house.  Cleo was so surprised as she tried to separate the milk and there was no cream in it.  Another prank the Fergus children loved was throwing apples and pears at the chickens, knocking them flat, and then dunking them in the water trough to bring them back to consciousness.  Apples could also be stuck on the end of twigs and sticks, preferably apple suckers which were supple.  Then you could swing it like a sling shot and watch the apple fly.  This brought trouble when they managed to hit the house.

Couche Place

Couch Place - cropped

Gary in front of the old farmhouse at the Couche Place.

1945-1952

14170 Wilsonville Rd., Wilsonville, Oregon (now known as Riverview Farm)

Shortly after World War II ended, Boyd was laid off from the shipyards.  Even though it was inevitable, he was very nervous because he had never been out of work before.  Boyd was always concerned with job security, due in part to childhood memories of his father’s frequent job changes.  Providing for his family with a steady job was important to his peace of mind.  Job changes were stressful.  On Labor Day he went looking for work and when he came home he had good news for the family.  He had found a job working on a dairy in Wilsonville.  It was called the Couche place.  The family moved to Wilsonville that same month.

Moving to the Couche place and managing a dairy were both difficult adjustments for the family.  The house that they came to occupy was old, rundown, and very drafty, an unpleasant change after the well-kept Sattler house that they had rented in West Union.  Many times the house would become so cold that the family would sleep downstairs around the stove in order to stay warm.

The new job brought a decrease in pay for Boyd and was very challenging because of all the record-keeping needed to track milk production and cow pedigrees for 20-30 cows.  The cows were all milked by hand until a machine was acquired.  Boyd had only finished one year of high school, and with the setbacks of illness during the first two years of grade school and the forced switch from left to right-handed writing, he tended to question his own abilities.  Thus, the clerical tasks required by the hard-to-please Mr. Couche, were frustrating to him.

There are bright sides to every situation however, if you look for them, and this is what Cleo and Boyd tried to do.  Boyd was grateful for the job security which paid $225 a month and Cleo thought the situation of the house, on a bluff overlooking the Willamette River, was beautiful.  The Wilsonville area was blessed with deep snow many of the winters that the Fergus family lived there and the children have many happy memories of wrapping chains around their shoes to make tracks in the fields, and sledding down the hill towards the river.  As much fun as it was watching the children enjoy the winter wonderland, Cleo could not help but worry that they would slide themselves right into the river.

Couch Place - 1993 - cropped

This home replaced the original farmhouse that burned to the ground in 1953 after a lightning strike. Riverview Farm (Couche Place) – 1993

1993 - beautiful view of the Willamette River from the Couch Place.

1993 – beautiful view of the Willamette River from the Couche Place.

Couch Place - Wilsonville - 2015

2016 – Couche Place is now a million dollar horse farm.