Riding the Rails: Teenagers on the Move during the Great Depression

By Errol Lincoln Uys | Go to book overview

Phoebe Eaton Dehart 1938

“Punk, ” her brothers called her, a moniker her grandfather objected to. Grandfather Rogers nicknamed her “Peggy, ” and it stuck. Peggy's parents, Raymond Hannibal Eaton and Ella Frances Rogers, filed a claim on a 320-acre homestead at Sheep Mountain near Glendo, Wyoming, in 1917, five years before she was born. The chalk rock mesa rose fifteen hundred feet above the prairie a mile northwest of the log cabin Raymond built for the family. They ran cattle, kept horses, and raised crops on lands where shots still rang out in range wars. The Eatons and the Covingtons, their neighbors, engaged in a long-running battle over fences and strays and anything else that set them to “locking horns.”

Peggy was eight when “the bad years” began with the coming of the drought in 1930. She recalls strings of saddle tramps stopping at the ranch where they would be fed and have their clothes washed before moving on. By 1932, horses were selling for five cents, hogs for sixty cents, and cows and calves from ten to seventy-five cents. In 1934, grasshoppers invaded the prairies and devoured everything in sight, even clothes on the clothesline. Peggy remembers her father filling a washtub with insecticide supplied by the government. She drove a wagon team around the edge of their fields, while her father stood in the back broadcasting the insecticide with his bare hands.

When Peggy started high school in 1936, she rode her horse Babe four miles every day to catch a bus to Glendo. She would leave Babe in a neighbor's barn and ride her back home after school. Through

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Riding the Rails: Teenagers on the Move during the Great Depression
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Preface 9
  • Introduction 11
  • Catching Out 45
  • John Fawcett 1936 67
  • Arvel Pearson 1930-42 82
  • Phoebe Eaton Dehart 1938 90
  • Hard Travelin' 99
  • René Champion 1937-41 122
  • Clarence Lee 1929-31 131
  • Tiny Boland 1934 138
  • About the Photographs 144
  • Hitting the Stem 145
  • James San Jule 1930-32 185
  • Jan Van Heé 1937-38 191
  • Clydia Williams 1932-35 201
  • The Way Out 207
  • Charley Bull 1930 246
  • Jim Mitchell 1933 255
  • Robert Symmonds 1934-42 264
  • References 271
  • Acknowledgments 289
  • Index 291
  • About the Author 303
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