Wednesday, July 25, 2012



Hurrah for a chance to tell about our hobby—the education of the Little Four! My husband and I had a hard time in college trying to earn our way through and we resolved to make every effort to give our children their years in college free from this anxiety.

We live in the mountains on a small farm part of which is not fit for general farming. This land we dedicated to the education of the children. We determined from the beginning to refrain from buying fancy clothing, fragile toys and things that are not necessary for comfort, health or development. Every penny so saved we felt we were saving for education and we felt that if the children were given training for a life work which they like, then we would have provided a rich and sufficient legacy worth more than money.

From their cradles we have talked college to our Little Four and they understand that “college” means studying the line in which they are interested. They may go to “Tech” or to the Agricultural College or to the State University or to a business school but they know that at the right time will go somewhere to be equipped for work and life.

The kick of the hobby, the thrill of the plot is this—the children are education themselves, they are sharing our responsibility, our burden of seeing that they get their life tools. They will know the cost of an education before they get to college and I know they will not fritter away their time there.

Out of money carefully saved, we bought and planted for each baby in his first year, fifteen pecan or apple or peach trees. The children take great pride in their trees. Except for spraying them, they take care of the trees without much assistance. The fruit and nuts will be sold and the money put in the bank for education.

The eldest boy had pecan trees planted when he was a month old. These trees are now bearing a few nuts. Each year will bring a larger crop. Already the peaches are bringing in returns. The apples are slow but sure. The money derived from the trees will be invested but all the proceeds will return to the great cause—the schooling of four enthusiastic youngsters to whom an education already is a very vital thing.

For eight years we have been working out our idea and while the trees grow, the children grow and the savings grow. The children are developing business ability, thrift, ability to work, a sense of values, and a knowledge of the cost of education. Years from now when they are grown, the faithful trees will be working on, bringing in a steady income. Fruit trees of standing varieties are almost as dependable as National Banks. Our fruit trees are the guardians of the children's future. We love them.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

THE GREEN RANCH IN THE DESERT, part 4 of 4; by Thoda Cocroft (1919)

Betty met me at the door in a dainty gingham. "How do you like it?" she asked.

It was a radiant home, spotlessly clean, bright, comfortable. When dinner was served on radiant linen with bright silver and the boys came in clean and shaven, and told me the story of how the miracle came about, I was speechless with wonder and admiration for the splendid Saxon woman, their sister.

It was long before I learned of the struggle in all its detail. There had been so much that was strange and new and difficult for this woman-rancher to put up with, lack of comforts and facilities, and exasperating difficulties to be adjusted. Then there were the ever-present crawling things! "How did you ever endure them?" I asked. I was lounging on the comfortable couch in the living room staring up at the ceiling and suddenly I exclaimed, "Why, Betty, look at the cocoons on your ceiling! There are millions of them!"

"They're empty now," she replied quietly.

"How in the world did they get there?"

"Oh, that was the caterpillar pest," she replied nonchalantly. "It only lasted two weeks. We had just moved in but the roof wasn't finished. There were cracks about that wide." And she indicated a half inch with her fingers. "We were still waiting for the shingles."

"Tell me about it!" I insisted.

"Oh, they dropped through the cracks," she calmly replied. "You see the cottonwood trees near the house were covered with them. They hatched in the spring and crawled everywhere, dropped from the trees to the roof and through the cracks. The boys were used to centipedes and didn't mind common caterpillars! Sometimes they would drop into the food. I drew the line when they dropped inside of my clothes. I was so nervous I thought I couldn't stand it but they started to spin cocoons and in a little while they were all gone."

She laughed at my gasp of terror. "Oh, it never could happen again," she said. "The roof is thoroughly shingled and every inch of the house is screened."

"The rattle snakes used to bother me a little in the beginning," she continued. "But I got over that as soon as I learned their habits."

This stoicism was incredible to me. I had never dreamed of these "minor annoyances" as Betty called them, coupled with the other obstacles she had to conquer.

"Why you're simply wonderful, Betty!" I cried. But Betty refused to take ever so little credit for the making of the glorious Rancho Verde.

Some weeks ago before Peace was declared a few words came from this courageous Saxon woman then in France. A caretaker had been employed for the ranch. The three brothers and herself were all in the service. Irv, in the artillery, Sid, in the engineers, and Art already cited in the newspapers for "conspicuous bravery" in bringing down enemy planes. Betty was serving in the operating room of a hospital near the front, working sometimes forty eight hours at a stretch without relief, sleeping in almost air-tight boxes to keep out the poison gas and waking with blue lips and a throbbing head to go back eagerly to duty.

"I don't mind the fatigue," she wrote, "but when they bring in the poor boys, many of whom will never walk again, and many of them blind for life--a cold terror creeps up into my heart and chokes me. What if I should find one of my boys--one of my "three musketeers," among the dead and wounded? I long for the deep quiet and sunshine of Arizona but I can't go back again without my boys."

Peace came and in time there was a jubilant fiesta in the low green house on Rancho Verde for the "three musketeers" and their wonderful sister are at home again in the oasis they brought to pass on the shifting sands of the Arizona desert.

The end.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

THE GREEN RANCH IN THE DESERT, part 3 of 4; by Thoda Cocroft (1919)

She managed to cook dinner in the rickety cook house the first night she arrived, but the screens were full of holes and buzzing insects swarmed around her as she stood over the hot stove. The filth of the adobe house and the crawling inmates drove her that night to a bed in the open. The following morning she surveyed the general chaos and disorder, and contemplating at the same time the change, outward and inward, in her brothers, she shook her head.

Then all the sturdiness and energy of her Saxon forefathers surged up in her breast. Pluck and determination asserted themselves. "Hopeless?" she said to herself with a smile. "We'll see!"

First she must persuade the boys to begin to build immediately but they were reluctant to waste time on what they considered non-essential labor and they replied in the Mexican spirit of postponement that was slowly creeping over them, "Manana--Manana,"--tomorrow--tomorrow.

But Betty said briskly and firmly, "Today! boys, today!" She was even sharp about it.

So they began to discuss plans, skeptical at first and indifferent, but when Betty talked eagerly about a sleeping porch and modern plumbing and a porcelain bath, they swung about.

Building operations began. Another Mexican family was employed and Betty gave thorough instructions in the art of laundering. Carlosa was taught to rub and rinse and rub again as she had never seen it done before.

When Art returned from Los Angeles with the porcelain fittings for the bath room, the house was almost ready. One of the workers spread the word that running water and a modern bath were to be installed and news spread. Mexicans and whites alike flocked to "the green ranch" to inspect the novelties. That was the only bath in the desert for ninety miles around! Sink and stove were put in the kitchen and an open fire place built in the living room. Bright cretonnes were bought for curtains. Betty was busy hemming towels and tableclothes and poring over catalogues for inexpensive rugs.

In all this, the crops and land and pigs had not been neglected. Work was severely scheduled. Each day one of the boys devoted his entire time to the land. Betty herself cared for the chickens, and the boys gloated over fresh eggs for breakfast with crisp hot biscuit and clear coffee.

Hours before dinner, they would anticipate the feast ahead and they no longer appeared at table dirty and unshaven. The penalty was bread and water if they did.

Some months later when the success of the desert venture was assured and full property rights to the land had been granted, I visited Rancho Verde, the green ranch indeed. When our car neared the edge of the mesa, Sid pointed to the green valley below. "There she is!" he said proudly. The miracle had come true. There was the wonder oasis, great fields of blue-green alfalfa, acres of sturdy maize, and stretches of sudan grass. The long low house was painted green and from the roof a bright American flag was waving.

To be continued...

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

THE GREEN RANCH IN THE DESERT, part 2 of 4; by Thoda Cocroft (1919)

It was necessary to go back to Los Angeles for new parts and they drew lots for the trip. Art drew the lucky straw and his brothers decided they must accompany him. They would leave the "Mex" in charge of the place.

It was a dreary Rancho Verde that greeted the three boys on their return. Devastation and wreckage were on every side and no sight of the "Mex" or Chiquita.

A casual visitor from Palomas told them that the Mexican had gone off on a drunken fiesta and never returned. With the place unguarded, stray cattle broke through the fences, trampled down the ditches and roamed at large over the ploughed land. Someone had stolen most of their food supply as well as farming inplements.

But the plucky lads went at it again, put the pump in working order, irrigated the land, planted seed and as if by magic, a crop of green alfalfa appeared.

It was time for the pigs now; cattle would come later. So a shipment of pigs arrived.

December in the desert is divine. The purple Mohawks beckoned alluringly. "Hunting trip for a week," Art proposed. Before their holiday was over the rains began. When they came back to the ranch, the lowland in the river basin was filled with water and some of the higher land was already soggy. And still the torrents came down and the treacherous river arose.

It was near ten in the evening two nights later. The 'dobe house was on high ground so they had turned into dry beds, but suddenly Sid pricked up his ears at a new sound. Above the noise of the torrent came the squeals of frightened pigs. He knew what had happened.

It broke," Sid yelled. "She's coming a mile a minute!" The three boys piled out to save their drowning pigs from flood.

They spent the entire night swimming and propelling a hastily constructed raft across the seething waters and each trip added one more pig to the howling collection on the mesa.

Before morning the three boys shivering in their wet clothes, cut, bruised and exhausted, gathered on the dry sand of the high mesa and counted twenty-five out of fifty pigs.

"The game's up," they agreed. "No use. We might as well quit right now."

But they had not counted on the sister back home who had followed them through every hardship and discouragement of the last eight months.

Betty's job was in San Francisco where she was head nurse in one of the largest hospitals in the city. When she read her brothers' brief story of the flood, she packed up and departed for the Arizona ranch. The boys needed her and she knew she could help them.

The floods had subsided when Betty arrived. In the dry Arizona air the ground had rapidly absorbed the excess moisture. In a half-hearted way the brothers had prepared new alfalfa crops, but their courage was at low ebb and Betty knew she had come none too soon.

To be continued...