Thunder Butte

May 07, 2006

Crowley Family Outings

I have probably given the impression in trying to depict life on and around Thunder Butte that life was dumb, desperate and destitute. Nothing could be further from the truth. Those were the happiest days of my life. We also took numerous trips, vacations and outings. These trips were usually in the company of Cynthia Gulden, my aunt, her children, Tracy and Vernice, my mother, my sister Cecilia, and myself. I recall one trip when we toured the Black Hills, stayed in tourist cabins and spent about six weeks, just enjoying the Black Hills. My cousin, Tracy and I had the time of our lives, playing in the mountain trout streams, crawling over rail-road trestles, playing with other kids, and shopping with our parents. This vacation trip was about 1927.

In approximately the year 1930, my mother, Cece and I took a trip through Yellowstone Park. For the life of me, I cannot remember who had a car, who did the driving, or much of the details of the trip. I believe that Cynthia’s husband, Lee, took us on this trip. We first went to Anaconda, Montana where we had an extended visit with my mother’s half sister, Mabel Van Sicklin. Mabel’s first husband, Petersen, had died and she had later married a Van Sicklin who was an electrician at Anaconda Copper. He was later accidentally electrocuted at work. My cousin Lester Petersen, the same age as Tracy and myself, went with us to Yellowstone Park. After the Yellowstone Park trek we all returned to the ranch by Thunder Butte.

Tracy was very spoiled. He always did just as he pleased and everyone else had to go along with him. Well, Tracy had a .22 caliber rifle, which he carried everywhere. We were sitting in a car, in the front seat one day. I was on the driver’s side, Tracy in the middle, and Lester on the passenger side. I didn’t notice what Tracy was doing with the rifle, but there was a muffled explosion and he shot Lester in the knee. Lester was treated for the wound, but he had trouble with that leg for years and probably has trouble with his knee to this day. He lives in Pleasant Hill, California. Tracy wore himself out and died many years ago, in Lake Williams, North Dakota.

In the summer of 1935, when I was 13 years of age, my sister, Cece was married to Floyd Theodore (Ted) Dickinson. Ted’s father owned and operated the Consumer’s Grocery, a wholesale and retail grocery company in Lemmon, South Dakota. In the summer of 1935, Ted was dispatched by his father to travel to Yakima, Washington, and contract for a railroad car of apples for their store. Ted wanted company and I agreed to go along with him. This was a pretty uneventful trip unless you can say that not stopping to sleep was an event. Ted drove night and day, stopping only for an hour or so now and again to catch a few winks of sleep. He had a brand new 1935 Ford coupe and it went very fast.

When we arrived in Yakima, Ted drove immediately to the warehouses where he contracted for the railroad car full of apples to be shipped to the grocery in Lemmon. Then, after getting something to eat, we started on the road back to Lemmon. After Ted had driven about 100 miles to Ellensburg, Washington, he stopped the car and said to me that he was unable to go any further without sleep. He then asked if I thought I could drive for awhile. Of course that being a great opportunity, I agreed and I got behind the wheel. From Ellensburg to Spokane was about 200 miles. The road was good and straight, so I had no trouble at all until I suddenly started running through stop signs. After having driven so far, without stopping, and probably going eighty miles an hour at the time, we had entered the Western city limits of Spokane and I didn’t know it. After whizzing through two or three stop signs, I got scared and shook Ted’s shoulder. He came to with a start and ordered me to stop immediately. He then took over and drove all the way back to Lemmon without again stopping to sleep or trusting me to drive. Well, it was a great experience for a 13 year old, and I didn’t even get a ticket.

Later, in the school year, when I was 14, Ted let me drive the car again. I had a date with Vivian Kusler, the girl across the street. Unbeknownst to me, Ted had a five gallon can of oil in back of the seat. Somehow, I spilled that entire can of oil on to the floor of the car—again, without knowing it. To say that Ted was infuriated would be a gross understatement. I don’t know how he ever cleaned it up.

I also worked in Ted’s father’s grocery store on Saturdays for awhile. I even sold some of the apples that he had contracted for on our trip to Washington. Most of the time they only allowed me to sell candy. I was pretty dumb.

There were many other trips. Some of the most memorable were my summers in Lake Williams, when I stayed with Cynthia and her family. That will have to be dealt with at another time.

--John Crowley
Mike Crowley Sunday, May 07, 2006


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