The Life History of Emerson Wilcken Pratt
This history was written in letters to his son, Emerson Wayne Pratt, during the time Wayne was on his mission in Argentina, and later in the army of the United States serving in Germany.
I was born on November 26, 1901, a son of Helaman Pratt and Bertha Wilcken, in Colonia Dublan, Chihuahua, Mexico. At a very early age I showed a pugilistic tendency that seemed to have stayed with me most of my life. I remember my first year in school, I and a little red-headed boy would meet out behind the wood-shed and would fight during recesses and after school. Neither one giving in to the other. I also remember a boy whipping my older brother and when I heard of it, I whipped the boy the next day.
Mine was a happy life, even with all the fights, until my eighth birthday. I remember my mother having all my little friends over to a party and my father sitting at the head of the table with about twenty little eight-year-olds sitting around the table with him. We were celebrating my eighth birthday and I was promised that on the morrow my Father would take me out to the lake and baptize me. I was so happy. The next day I awoke early and rushed into my parents bedroom to wake them up so we could get started early. I found my father sick. The doctor was there and my mother told me that we would have to postpone my baptism. An hour after that my father died. This was a great blow to a young eight-year-old. My father was so understanding and such a wonderful pal that I did not know how I could get along without him. Perhaps the reason that I have failed so many times in being a father is that my father left me while I was so young in life. I can say for my mother that she tried to fill both father and mother’s shoes and I appreciated her very much.
In finishing this chapter, I think it well to give you a little of my ancestry. My father is the next youngest son of Parley Parker Pratt and Mary Wood. Parley joined the church in the early days and was a great missionary. My father Helaman was also a great missionary. He was the first president of the Mexican Mission. His sons Rey L. and Harold W. were also presidents of the Mexican Mission. My mother was a daughter of Charles and Carolyn Wilcken. Charles was a member of Johnson’s Army who were sent to exterminate the Mormons. Instead of the Mormons being exterminated, my grandfather was converted to the church and brought a much needed talent to the early settlers of Utah.
Son, I will continue this story from time to time, I hope it does not bore you too much. May God bless you in your missionary labors. I am sure that your great-grandfather and your grandfather and your father are proud and happy in the work that you are doing. It is one of the greatest services that man can render to humanity, that of giving to the plan of salvation, whereby they might have an opportunity of life everlasting.
I love you, son. May God bless you is my prayer.
I’ll continue with the story of some of the interesting happenings in my life. It seems that from my earliest recollections, I have had horses in my life. My father was a breeder of fine Hamiltonian horses and when I was about six he gave me a mare and all of her offspring were to be mine. I remember that I had a saddle pony, and it was my job to get the milk cows from the prairie every night. This pony was a very independent animal and sometimes quite difficult to handle. One day I went out to the corral to get him and he didn’t want to be bridled. After my trying for a long time to bridle him, he became tired of the game so he picked me up by the clothes on my back and tossed me out away from him. I never remember of him hurting me, but he surely could stall the wheels of progress. Another time, I was riding this same horse in the corral and our Jersey bull rushed us and lifted the horse, me and all, right over a five foot board fence. On another occasion, while on this pony, I was driving a bunch of colts to water when one of them kicked me knocking me unconscious. The pony stopped and stayed by my side until I was found by some Mexicans an hour or so later. On another time, I was chasing a calf, which ran under a large cottonwood tree, the pony and me right after it. A large branch caught me under the chin, dragging me off. The last episode with this pony: I was chasing another calf out on the flat east of Dublan and the pony ran into a prairie dog hole, breaking his leg and knocking me out. When I didn’t come home after night had fallen, they sent out a searching party and found me and the pony. They had to shoot the pony to get him out of his misery.
I was given another horse. This time it was not just a mexican pony, but a real blooded saddle horse along with a new saddle and bridle with lots of silver on it. Boy, was I proud of it! One night I came home with the cows and when I got there I found a group of bandits there. One grabbed the bridle of my horse and the other reached to pull me off so they could take my horse and saddle. As quick as a wink, I hit one Mexican with my quirt and then hit my horse, running over the other Mexicans and headed for the river where I hid my horse, thus saving him from the Mexican bandits.
As you can tell by my writing, Mexico was in a terrible turmoil about this time in my life. The revolution was starting and there were bandits and revolutionists everywhere. The story of the revolution will come in another chapter, but just one more horse story and then I will stop for this time. We had a Hamiltonian stallion that we had paid twenty-five hundred dollars for. When the bandits started to take our horses, my brother Leon was successful in getting him upstairs in our house and there we carried to him feed and water. All went well until one day when the bandits were in our yard looking for this horse, one of their horses whinnied and the stallion naturally answered. That was the last we ever saw of him. And so it went, we trying to hide our horses and the revolutionist trying to find them.
God bless you, son.
Your father, E. W. Pratt
Dear Wayne: July 25, 1954
I have been so busy taking care of the present and planning for the future that I have had very little time to think of the past.
This period in my life is one of excitement and change. The Mexican revolution had started. Not only was there fighting between the government and the rebels but there were also a number of bandits roaming the country, taking possession of whatever they could lay their hands on. One of these bandits was a man by the name of Salazar. He was a local man and had mobilized quite an army of followers. When he had what he thought was enough strength in horses and men, he decided to attack the federal garrison that was stationed at Casas Grandes, which is about five miles from Dublan. It was about five in the morning when we were awakened by cannons booming and rifle fire. The attack was on. My brother Leon and some other of his friends went up to an old abandoned church so they could see what was going on. They climbed up in the tower where they could see the fight. They were enjoying it immensely, seeing the rebels charge and take a position, and then seeing the federals countercharge and retake the position. Then the federals discovered that there was someone in the church tower so they turned the cannon on it. The first shot plowed a big hole in the wall and buried itself in the floor. The boys didn’t wait for the second shot. They left on high. After the battle, Leon went back and dug up one of the shells which he kept in memory of that event.
The rebels finally won the battle and then our troubles really began. They stole our horses, drove off our cattle, robbed our granaries of wheat, destroyed our crops, and threatened our lives. Finally, they gave us an ultimatum to leave, or they would kill us all. This was hard to do. We were in fair circumstances, a comfortable home, good farms and ranches, and now everything that we owned we must leave. I remember it was in July. The orchards were loaded with ripe fruit, the fields still unharvested with ripe grain, the prairies green with waves of grass. We were to leave all this, perhaps never to see it again, and further more, where would we go? Would we ever see our friends again? How could we live with not much money, no farms, no ranches, no homes? But we must go or die, so we decided to leave. The men of the villages decided to send the women and children to El Paso on the train and they would try to salvage some horses and cattle that had been hidden in the mountains.
I remember the whole town assembled at the railway track, waiting for the train to come. It was due at six p.m., but it didn’t come. We waited and waited; it was to come at seven and then at eight and then nine. We got tired of waiting. We were so hungry so some of my boy friends and I went back home and picked a gunny sack full of peaches and then went back to the track and ate peaches and waited some more for the train. There was really a mess at the track. Babies were crying and mothers were trying to find their children. There was bedding, suitcases, and trunks scattered all around. Most youngsters were lost from their parents when along came the train. We were all loaded into box cars with many a worried mother still not having found some of their children. (They finally got together in El Paso). So with troubled hearts, crying and bawling and yelling, we started for a new country and a new experience. When everyone was loaded in the box cars they closed the doors and then started the train. Then I got sick. It must have been too many peaches, the odor of too many people closed up in a box car with no fresh air, and the motion of the train in travel. There was no window to hang my head out of, no corner that was not taken up, and there I was. I couldn’t hold it down and so up it came; the devil pity the one that caught it. We finally arrived in El Paso dirty, smelly, tired and hungry. But that will come in another chapter, son.
May the Lord bless you in your missionary labors, I pray.
E. W. Pratt
October 31, 1954
We received your wonderful letter and were surely glad to get it. We look forward to getting your letters each week. I can see that you are very busy and that is the way it should be, always more work to do than one can accomplish. May God bless you in your labors.
You asked for another chapter of my life, so here it is:
Upon arriving in El Paso we got a small apartment and stayed there for a few days. We were more fortunate than most of the exiles. Many of them were taken out to an old lumber yard where they camped with no privacy and where thousands of curious came to look at the Mormons each day. Your mother was one of these that was in the camp.
El Paso was the first city I had ever been in; therefore there was much to interest me. So many people, street cars, large buildings, and windows to look at with all the sights and smells that go along with a big city. After staying in El Paso for a few days we boarded the train for Salt Lake City. Upon getting settled in Salt Lake City, my mother secured a position teaching school in a town north of Salt Lake. I stayed in Salt Lake with my Aunt Dora where I went to the Webster school during my fourth and fifth grades. Being quite athletic, I was chosen to be on the school soccer team. We played a number of the other schools in Salt Lake.
The first summer in Salt Lake I picked berries all summer, making about a dollar a day. Boy was I in the money! After buying my winter clothes I had enough money to buy me a bike. I was surely proud of that bike. The following summer I worked on a dairy, up by Park City. Working on the dairy was very enjoyable to me. I was the cow wrangler, so I got up at five in the morning, got my horse, and went out to bring the cows to the barn. The country is very beautiful up there; it is among the pines and the grass reaches up to a horse’s belly. There are all kinds of wild flowers and an abundance of wild life. While rounding up the cows, I could see deer, bear, pine hens, and turkeys. That summer, Mr. Dahl trapped four bears that were killing his calves. After finishing the milking, we would put up hay. I would drive the team while a man loaded the wagon. This was done by hooking the wagon onto a loader that would bring the hay up to the wagon bed, and then the man would spread the hay over the wagon bed. After working all day in the hay, I would again go after the cows and then we would milk them and go to bed by nine o’clock. On Sundays there was no church because we were too far away from town to get to church. It was still the horse and buggy days. I would either fish for trout in the stream or go hunt pine hens with a .22 rifle I had. I got so I could knock the head off a pine hen every shot. I lived all week for Sunday to come around so I could fish or hunt. That was before I was told it was wicked to hunt or fish on Sunday.
After staying in Salt Lake City for two years, my aunt Dora and my brother Harold left for Mexico again and my brother Joe and I moved up to Clinton with Mother. There I skipped the sixth grade and completed the seventh grade in one year. It was in Clinton also that I learned to skate on ice. There were many ponds and canals in Clinton and when they froze over, that was our winter sport. I remember one day of skating to Ogden and back home again on the canal, a distance of about 15 miles. Speaking of winter sports, we used to sleigh ride down the hill from 15th East in Salt Lake on 7th South to beyond 9th East. It was a great sport for us kids.
After spending one winter in Clinton, my mother, Joe, and I returned to Mexico. We had been in Utah for three years, now. We thought that things had quieted down in Mexico so that we would be able to live peacefully in our home. However, that was not the case as you shall see in subsequent chapters. May the Lord bless you in your missionary labors is my prayer.
Your father, Emerson W. Pratt.
By the insistence of your sister Maurine, I am continuing with my life story. The last chapter that I wrote you was at the time I left Utah and returned to Mexico. At that time it appeared that the revolution had died down and it would be safe to return home to Mexico. So in the spring of the year, after school was out, we returned to Mexico. Everything seemed to be quiet for a short time but then the revolution broke out more severely than it had done in the past. Villa’s army had taken charge of the northern part of Chihuahua and had moved into our town, Colonia Dublan, in great numbers. They demanded that we deliver all of our horses and livestock over to them, that they might have transportation and food for their armies. In Dublan there were located in the neighborhood of 15,000 soldiers and we could not walk up or down the streets without stumbling over soldiers or their camps. On our return to Mexico, the school board asked my mother to teach school again in Colonia Dublan. There were many times I have known her to walk down the streets from our home to the school with soldiers bathing in the irrigation ditches on either side of the street; but she was not molested in any way by any of the soldiers. These were perilous times, but Villa had complete command over his men. They respected his orders and he had ordered that not any of the Mormon people be molested and so they obeyed his command.
One afternoon after school, there was a great gathering of soldiers on parade with bugles blowing. Naturally we boys, being curious, rushed over to see what was happening. When we got there we saw Villa sitting on a big, beautiful black horse, his generals sitting behind him, and the whole army lined up in parade formation before him. Standing up against a little brick building was a man who was blindfolded facing the firing squad, and as Villa dropped his hat the firing squad fired and the man slumped down in a sitting position against the building. This was just one of the many experiences we went through as boys in that time.
After Villa had accumulated his army and had rested and obtained sufficient provisions, he started to march on Agua Preita, a little town across from Douglas, Arizona, where he anticipated a victory over Carranza’s forces. He was assured of a victory because he had them bottled up where they could not get reinforcements and could not escape, as his forces completely surrounded them. He was in for a big surprise. Unknown to Villa, Carranza had negotiated with the United States to ship forces across the boarder and land in Douglas and then cross on over into Agua Prieta. So when Villa finally attacked, his forces were completely whipped and scattered by the superior Carranza forces. This posed a much greater danger on the colonies because the scattered forces came back without any leadership. They were now roving groups of bandits without guidance, and naturally they started to loot, plunder, burn, and kill as they went.
One Christmas night, tension was very great because the bandits had decided that they would loot every house in the colonies. Our family and two or three other families in town had decided to gather together in our house and resist this attempt to loot our home. It was bright moon light, and peeking through the shades we could see bandit crowds milling up and down the street. After a short while we saw in the distance a great fire, and we knew that they had looted someone’s place and burned it. It turned out to the Robinson’s place. Again in the south, we saw another fire and thus spent the night expecting any moment for them to come into our house and loot us. But the Lord must have been with us, for they didn’t ever attempt to bother us. During the night there were five homes burned in Dublan and all the things that they had stored and saved, both in food and clothing, had been lost to them. The Robinsons had attempted to stop them from coming into their house and had exchanged fire. They finally took Brother Robinson into captivity, and for some time we feared that they had killed him. They finally let him go without injuring him.
After the defeat at Agua Prieta, there was a group of the artillery that came back to destroy the cannons before they moved on. They lined up their cannons against a wall, filled them with powder, plugged up both ends, set a fuse to the mount, and blew them up. I remember I was standing in the back yard chopping wood when this tremendous explosion happened. A large piece of steel came flying through the air just missing my head a few feet, it seemed to me, and landing in the dirt.
On another occasion before Villa left to attack Agua Prieta, about five o’clock in the morning, we heard a great explosion, so we hurriedly got out of bed and put on our clothes and rushed down to the tithing yard which had been taken over by Villa as a camp ground and storage yard. There we saw the most terrible sight that I had ever witnessed. It seemed that one of the soldiers had been sitting by the fire on top of a case of dynamite, which he knocked his feet against to get warm, and in doing so set it off. The dynamite was sitting in the center of the whole camp of soldiers and close to the tithing building, which was full of grain. It completely blew the building to pieces. Miraculously, two men sleeping on top of the wheat were not injured at all. There were 56 men killed in the blast. Arms were blown one way and legs blown the other. Some body members were found a block away from the explosion. There was one man crawling around on his hands and knees, his face completely blown away. The captain took the butt of his gun and hit him on the head to put him out of his misery. Because I was the first American boy there after the explosion, an army officer got hold of me and sent me back home to get a team and wagon. They gathered up the legs, arms, entrails, and different body members, which I hauled out to an abandoned well on the flats where they dumped the bodies and covered them up. It was a very sickening experience.
After Villa’s defeat at Agua Prieta, we lived in mortal fear for our lives and property for about three or four weeks. We didn’t know when or who would come through to rob, steal, burn, and kill. So at that time we were made to rely on the Lord a great deal. Naturally, Villa was very angry at the United States Government when he found out that they had allowed Carranza to ship his troops across the boarder to reinforce his garrison. Villa gathered around him a picked group of about 200 or 250 men, his top generals and best men, and set out to attack the United States garrison at Columbus. It was his plan to take them by surprise, go in and kill as many as he could, strike fast and get away before they realized what had happened to them. This they did. He killed a great number of them, then he headed straight for Colonia Dublan vowing to kill every white man he came in contact with. At Palomas he killed two white men. Then he came down to Corralitos and killed a number of white men. He vowed the next night he would come to Colonia Dublan and kill every white man in town. This was reported to us by a Mexican from Corralitos twenty miles from us. The bishop called all the priesthood together so we could decide whether to defend ourselves or trust in the Lord. Soon after we had gathered together and a prayer had been offered, the bishop stood on his feet and told the body of men to go home and gather their families around them and not to turn on even one light in their homes that night and God would protect them. This we did and there was not a single light in any house that night. We all went to bed and went to sleep feeling secure that God would protect us. During the night Villa and his band came right up to the edge of town and suddenly they stopped and skirted the town and went on their way. Some months after that, word came back to us what had happened. Villa was determined when he left Corralitos that he would completely annihilate all the people in the town and burn it to the ground. When he was just about to enter the town, he said he saw lights light up in every building in town simultaneously and he gave the command to stop. One of the generals riding by his side asked “Why have you commanded us to stop?”
Villa answered, “Do you not see all the lights in town? If we go in there, we will surely go into a trap.” The general replied that he did not see any lights. Villa became angry and said that they would surely be destroyed if they went in the town and he gave the command to go around. We were very thankful to our Heavenly Father for taking care of us.
I will close my remarks for today. May God bless you in your duties and may you enjoy your stay in Germany. And may God protect you in all that you have to do.
P.S. There is one amusing incident I overlooked in telling you. At the time Villa was located in Colonia Dublan and after the explosion, there were a great quantity of ammunition that was damaged which could not be used because they were bent. This ammunition was left laying on the ground. All had left for Agua Prieta except a 70 man garrison which stayed behind to keep the supply line open. We boys, thinking that we could have some fun, gathered up these cartridges in tubs and took them to the bottom of an old church building foundation that had been excavated before the revolution but had never been finished. We built a fire there and pored the ammunition that we had gathered over it. Naturally they started to explode and it sounded just like an army attacking. When we looked over the flats we saw the small army garrison retreating as fast as they could go, some on horse back and some on foot, but all were getting away from the attack as fast as possible. After the cartridges had stopped exploding, they came back and discovered what caused all the noise. The captain in charge took us boys and put us in a box car and swore he would shoot us at sunrise. We were scared to death and there we stayed all night expecting to be shot by a firing squad in the morning. However, our parents had prevailed on the captain to be lenient, so the captain gave us a lecture and turned us loose in the custody of our parents. It turned out all right but could have been disastrous.
God bless you, Wayne, We’ll look for your speedy return.
Obeying the persuasion of my daughter Maurine, and having time on my hands while vacationing in Hawaii, I will try to write more of the experiences that I have had during my life.
The afternoon after Villa skirted the town, we saw a large column of dust rising out of the foot hills; therefore we knew that a large body of men was coming. We anticipated a new catastrophe to befall us. You can imagine our surprise when we discovered them to be American soldiers. They came into capture Villa, but he was elusive and could not be found.
When the American troops left Mexico, it was decided that it was unsafe for us to stay there and we left with them. We rented a farm in Chamberino, a little town above El Paso. I spent a year there and then went to Kaysville, Utah to school. Upon completing the school term, I returned to Dublan. When I returned, my older brother Harold left for officer training school in Logan, Utah. World War I had started and he was old enough to be accepted and felt that it was his duty to go. That left me with the responsibility of running the farm, which I did. I also completed my high school by entering after the crops were planted in the late fall and stopping as soon as spring farm work started. The teachers allowed me to make up what I missed by extra studying and sending in written reports on the subjects that I missed.
After graduating from high school, I continued to farm. In the winter time I supplemented the farm income by freighting lumber out of the mountains with a six-horse team pulling two wagons coupled together. This was very dangerous because the roads were very poor and many times covered with snow and ice. I had many narrow escapes, but that did not deter me from going back again. It would take me a week to make the trip. I would camp out at night, hobble my horses to graze, feed them grain night and morning and thus was able to keep the horses from wandering too far.
One evening I camped in a nice little valley that had good forage in it. I hobbled my horses, cooked my supper, and went to bed. The next morning I was unable to find two of my horses, and after searching for a half a day with no results I decided that they had broken their hobbles and gone home. So I harnessed up the remaining four horses and made them pull the load that was meant for six. On hills I would uncouple one wagon until we reached the top and then go back for the other. That way I finally arrived home. Upon arriving home, I found that the horses were not there. So I saddled up a horse that I had been taming, which was still quite wild, and set out for the mountains to find the lost horses. I rode all one day and camped that night in a beautiful little valley. I was afraid to hobble my horse because I knew I could never catch him again; I staked him out with my lasso rope. The next morning I found him loose and I knew that I couldn’t get close enough to catch him. There I was, on a lonely trail that no one traveled and that seemed to me a million miles from nowhere, left afoot. I knelt down and prayed that I might be able to catch this bronco. After praying I started after him, he would trot just in front of me where I could not catch him. This he did for about a half hour and then for no apparent reason he left the trail and went up a little side canyon with me following him. We had not gone far when the canyon narrowed down boxing up on all three sides making it impossible for the horse to go farther. Thus I was able to get close enough to throw a rope on him. I saddled him up and continued on my way.
I arrived in Hop Valley early in the morning and there I saw my two lost horses tied to a post in front of a Mexican’s home. This was completely off the regular road, twenty miles from where I had lost them. Finding no one around I untied the horses and went on to the colony of Garcia. My only deduction was that the horses had been stolen. That night at a dance in Garcia I said that I felt that they were stolen. Some Mexicans that were there took exception to that statement and invited me outside. Outside I found myself facing three Mexicans with drawn knives coming at me. My only way out was to fight. I knocked one man out before he could strike and he fell against another one slowing him a bit. The other one struck at me with his knife and I warded it off with my arm, but in doing so, I received a deep wound. I finished him off with another blow and the third Mexican, seeing that he was facing me alone, ran. I am still carrying the scar of the knife cut on my arm. It seems that I was always getting into some kind of fight in my youth, but this one will suffice in this tale.
Horses were very scarce and very precious because they were the only means of our cultivating our lands and because of so many having been taken from us during the revolution by the different armies. The only ones that we were able to save were those that we hid out. Whenever there was a scare we would send our horses to the mountains and hide them until the scare was over. The few horses that we managed to keep, we protected almost with our very lives.
There was a lot of horse stealing going on and when a horse was stolen we would do everything in our power to recover him. During harvest one year when I was very busy, one of my horses was stolen. I tracked it until I found that it was being taken toward Ojo Federico. I sent word to a friend I had in Ojo Federico to look out for this horse. About a week later, I received word that he had seen my horse and for me to come. Being very busy I decided to leave that night and I rode to Ojo Federico, a distance of sixty miles. My friend had another horse which I saddled up and rode all day. I was unable to find the horse, so I saddled up my own horse and rode all night for home. I arrived home after being in the saddle for about 36 hours. I slept for an hour or so and then went back to work harvesting again. The horse was returned by my friend a week or so later. Young men do a lot of foolish things.
One day while plowing in the field with four horses, I saw a thunder storm coming toward me; I hurried and unhitched the horses. I mounted one and raced to the wagon leaving the other three to come as they wished. The rain and wind, which was of considerable force, drove the horse against the fence. I jumped off the horse and into a wagon, which was nearby, still holding the leash. I had no sooner gotten into the wagon when I heard a loud clap of thunder and at the same time the leash was jerked out of my hands. I looked out and saw the horse that I had been riding lying on the ground. Then I saw the other three horses lying on the ground also. They had been struck by lightening. Two of them were dead and two later recovered. If I had been one moment later, I possibly would not be telling this tale today.
When I was a young man of twenty-one, I thought I was very mature. Girl friends, I had many. First going out with this one and then with that one, but never being interested in any one girl to go with more than a few times. I did not care to tie myself to any one girl. I was having too much fun playing the crowd. Whenever a new girl came to town, it was common gossip that ‘there’s another girl for Emerson to try’. Then Irene came town. She was beautiful, had the curves in the right places and those legs were a thing of beauty! Of course, I could not wait to have a date with her. When I did, I fell completely and totally in love with her. She stirred something in me that no other girl had ever been able to do. After she arrived I was her humble servant; no other girl had any attraction. When I found that she loved me as I loved her, I proposed that we get married. We met the twentieth of October and were married the first of January.
I have now lived with her for thirty-five years and have learned to love her more each year. She has been an inspiration to me through the years. One thing that has made it interesting to live with her is that one never can tell what she is going to do next. She takes up this hobby this year, learns all about it and then the first thing you know up pops another hobby. Or she is studying something new which is far too deep for me to comprehend. But it truly makes life interesting, wondering, “What’s next?”
Marjorie was our first child. When she was born we thought that nobody could have as beautiful a baby as she was. She had long dark hair when she was born and was not red-faced like so many babies I had seen. But then a year later another lovely child came to our home just as beautiful as Marjorie, we called her Bobbie. Another year later the third little doll came to our house; this one we named Glenna. Were we ever proud of our little family. They were so nearly the same size that Irene dressed them all alike. Cuter kids never lived, I am sure. Whenever I was around the house you would find all of them. They would meet me at the gate when I returned from the farm. I would put them on my horse and turn him loose. They would ride around the corral while I was doing my chores. This horse, although very spirited when I was on him, would walk very slowly when I put the children on him. No matter what they did, he would not move any faster.
And then I remember Irene hooking up old Sofie to the one-horse buggy and with the three children in the seat beside her. She would drive off to Primary or to shop or visit. You see, she was really in class, a horse and buggy to drive. Even though we didn’t have much, we were happy and were struggling to get ahead.
There is one instance that I recall that I must tell you about: Charlie and Hannah Call were our neighbors and they had a prize rooster that they spent their hard earned money for. One day this rooster got out of its pen and came over to our place. The first thing I knew, I saw him attack our little girls. I had a hammer in my hand and I threw it at him. Not intending to kill him but just to frighten him away. He ran right into it and so the hammer clipped his head off as neat as could be. Naturally, I was very sorry and so I picked the rooster up and took him over to Charlie’s, saying I was very sorry. Charlie said, “Oh, that is all right. Come over this evening and we will have a chicken dinner.” So we enjoyed a nice chicken dinner.
Not long after that, one of my small pigs, the size that is just right to roast whole, got out and got into Charlie’s garden. He picked up a clod and threw it at him. I am sure he didn’t intend to kill him, but the pig ran right into the clod and it killed him. Now is was Charlie’s turn to come to me with the dead pig. He was awfully sorry. It was my turn to say, “Oh, that’s all right Charlie, bring your family over tonight and we will have roast pig for dinner.”
Irene and I seemed to be doing alright. We had our little home and a small farm paid for and in addition we were running my mother’s farm. It is not my nature to be content with what I have, so after talking it over with Irene we decide to buy another large farm. We knew that it would be a struggle, but felt it was worth the effort. Everything would have been all right except the following year we had a drought and were unable to harvest any crops at all. They say that a man has to have two or three failures in a lifetime, anyway. After settling up all our debts, we found that we had eight-hundred dollars left to start a new life with. We moved to Mesa, Arizona and bought a twenty acre farm and some dairy cows. This was in 1928 just before the crash. We were able to exist and make the payments on the farm by my doing my work and also milking cows for my neighbors.
In 1932 things got so bad that I sold the cows and went to work for the Arizona Farmers Cooperative. I received for my pay sixty dollars a month. I started stacking baled hay in a barn, but was later transferred to their Phoenix Branch and put in charged of keeping the books. Then the cooperative went broke. They owed quite a bit of money to a man by the name of Charlie Martin. He came storming into the Phoenix Office and said that he was going to close the store up. I told him that he would be foolish if he did. I pointed out that if the place was run properly that it could make money and that if he closed it up he would loose considerable money. I also said that if he would put in about five thousand dollars in inventory and with me managing it, I was sure that I could make him money. He could at least recover what he had already lost. He thought that was quite audacious for just a bookkeeper to say and he told me in no uncertain terms, and then went storming out of the store. On arriving at his own office, he reconsidered and called me up and said all right. I could be manager and for me to order the merchandise and he would pay for it.
Things seemed to prosper in the business and it was not long until he had recovered all he had lost with the cooperative. One day he called me into his office and told me that he appreciated what I had done for him, for he had made up his mind that what the cooperative had owed him was a complete loss. He asked me if I would like the business. I said that I would love to have it but I didn’t have any money. He said that he thought that could be arranged. I went into debt to buy the business agreeing to pay so much a month until it was paid off.
We were still living in Mesa, and about this time we had two more lovely children. First Maurine, a regular little doll, and then a year later along came Wayne — a boy after four girls. Were we thrilled!
Living in Mesa and traveling to Phoenix every day, putting in a long day’s work and then driving back to Mesa, made it so that my family never saw me. I left before they were up and returned after they had gone to bed. This was not the way that Irene wanted it, so she insisted we move to Phoenix, even though I felt it would be an extra obligation to buy a new home, etc. However, she was right, so we moved to Phoenix. Instead of being a burden, it made it so that things came easier and I was able to enjoy the association of the family.
The children were growing up now; the older girls were in high school and the younger children in grade school. The older girls were starting to date and there were many happy times with the family. There were the jokes we played on one another, such as putting a large sign on the front door for Marjorie, stating: It’s too late for that last kiss.
The first thing we knew Marjorie brought around a young man that she wanted to marry, a boy from Idaho. So Basil and Marjorie were married, then next came John and Bobbie, and later Bud and Glenna, and so it is life repeating itself over again. Grow up, get married, start a family, they grow up, get married, start a family, etc.
Our business prospered and so after World War II was over and material became more plentiful, Irene and I built a new home. It was very comfortable and we are enjoying it very much.
When Wayne became 20 years old, the church called him on a mission to Argentina. When he was released, we joined him in Argentina and spent six weeks visiting all the points of interest in South America, Central America, and Mexico. I will not go into details about this trip but to say that we took numerous pictures and Irene has put on the tape recorder a travelogue of the trip. I think she did an excellent job. Also, I made a lecture on the evidences of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon that are found in South America and Mexico. I might say that we enjoyed the trip very much.
Maurine graduated from Arizona State College in Tempe, taught school two years in San Francisco, and then took a teaching position in Hawaii. After her writing about the beauties of the Islands and by extra persuasion from Irene, I was finally dragged away from my business. I must admit with Mark Twain, that Hawaii is truly a paradise on earth, the most beautiful spot this side of heaven. The verdant land, the beauty of the shore line where the sea meets the land, the graciousness of the people, all tend to give the feeling of happiness and contentment that is hard to find any place else. I can say that I enjoyed our stay there immensely.
May I say that this life has been fun to live. The joy of Irene and raising our family and watching them raise their families. We now have ten grandchildren and more coming.
Our business has prospered; I am still sticking my neck out a little too far, but that is the fun of life. If there is no risk, there would be no thrill of accomplishment. All my life I have lived dangerously and I hope that I will never get to the point that I don’t. Irene and I have many plans, yet. It will take us at least another hundred years to accomplish them.
We thank our Father in Heaven for all the blessings he has given us and hope we will always deserve His blessings.
Emerson Wilcken Pratt Life History
Part II Written 1979
I have been requested by my family to write a brief history of my life.
I was born on November 26, 1901, in Colonia Dublan, Mexico to Helaman and Bertha Pratt. My life was uneventful until I was eight years old. My father and mother were discussing my being baptized that day (my eighth birthday) when my father had a stoke and died suddenly. This left mother to raise three young boys. This was just before the revolution in Mexico.
I recall coming home with the cows, from out on the prairie and on arriving home. I found Mexican soldiers all over the place. They had taken all our horses and were waiting for me so that they could take my horse and saddle. I recall them coming up, grabbing the horse’s bridle and pulling me off my horse, then taking it away.
By July 1912, things got so bad that we had to leave Mexico. I recall that we waited all day for the train. It finally came and we were jammed into box cars and taken to El Paso. There, most of the people were placed in an old lumber yard. We were more fortunate, we stayed in a hotel until we went to Utah. We stayed in Utah for three years until we thought the revolution had quieted down. Then we went back to Mexico, just in time to get into the hottest part of the Revolution.
About 1915, Pancho Villa was trying to gain power over the then established government (Carranza). He moved all his troops into our community prior to going over to Agua Prieta. He thought that by conquering Agua Prieta he would have control of the entire northern part of Mexico. He felt sure that this would be easy as there would be no way for Carranza to get reinforcements to Agua Prieta. But he was mistaken.
Carranza got permission from the U.S. government to ship troops across the U.S. from Laredo, Texas to Douglas, Arizona. Then they could march across the border to Agua Prieta, Mexico.
When Villa attacked Agua Prieta, he was soundly whipped. This made Villa very angry at the United States. He decided to attack Columbus, New Mexico. He chose his top generals, attacked Columbus by surprise, killed about sixty U. S. soldiers and was gone before the U.S. soldiers even fired a shot.
On leaving Columbus, he headed straight for Colonia Dublan, vowing that he would kill every white man in town. When we heard he was coming, the Bishop called a meeting of the priesthood. After prayer the Bishop addressed the priesthood and said, “I have been inspired to tell you to go home, gather your families around you, go to bed, not have a single light burning, sleep well and the Lord will protect you.” This we all did. The next morning we saw by the horses’ tracks that Villa had come to the edge of town, stopped, then turned and passed on into the next valley. Surely the Lord protected us that night.
After Villa had passed by and left, we who were living in the colonies breathed a sigh of relief and offered a prayer of thanksgiving to our Father in Heaven for his protection.
The day after Villa had passed through, we looked over to the northwest of town, and saw a large column of dust coming down off the mountain, and we wondered, “Well, now what is going to happen?” Just about dark the first unit of American soldiers who were coming into Mexico on an expedition to catch Villa, arrived in town. We felt a great deal of relief from knowing that we would have that extra protection.
I recall going down to the U.S. Army with one of my friends and we found that they were all colored people, all from the ninth and tenth cavalry and of course we talked to some of the soldiers. One of the soldiers said that, “He would sure like to get his hands on that man Villa,” meaning Villa, and my friend said, “Yes, he’s just like the niger that caught the bear, he wants someone to get him loose.” Of course, the colored man was incensed because he had been referred to as a “niger”. This was the first time that I knew that negroes didn’t like to be called nigers.
I might tell you a few instances that happened while the American forces were in Mexico. Of course, all the Mexican communities were incensed by the United States government for invading their country.
On one particular occasion, further down in the country than we were, there was a captain of a company that decided to go through a certain town. The scout, one of the Mormon scouts that was along with him, advised him to not go through that town, and that he would meet with extreme resistance if he did. But, this captain decided he was going to go through the town anyway. So as he started through, he met a wall of people who were armed with rifles, clubs, rocks, and pitchforks–anything that they could use to protect themselves. The captain ordered his men to go on through, and of course a fight occurred when the men started through. They were overpowered by the Mexican community who were much more numerous. They were dragged from their horses, and many of them were killed, including the captain himself. Those that weren’t killed were put into jail and kept there for a number of months.
Of course, it was impossible for the United States Army to hunt down Villa in his own territory. He was very elusive and they never even knew where he was the entire time that they were there. But while they were there, everything prospered. They brought a lot of money into the country to purchase a lot of merchandise; food, hay and grain for horses were purchased there in Mexico. Finally, the U.S. government decided on the futility of trying to catch Villa and decided to leave the country. This was a second exodus for the Mormon people who were afraid of the reprisal by the Mexicans. So again we sent the women and children out by train and the men drove the teams and wagons out to the United States. I, having grown up some, was chosen to go with the men. I recall going out, we did not have the fear of being injured or of attack that the men had on the first exodus when they left with their horses, because we were traveling with the U. S. Army. We traveled about twenty miles a day and I recall one night, as we camped, I saw the sun go down in the west — and that next morning, I woke up and the sun was coming up in the west! That was the first time I had ever had that happen — I had lost my sense of direction. And the sun was in the west until we left the river where we had camped and got into open country again. We eventually arrived at Columbus and made camp there. My brother, Ira, went to El Paso while my brothers Harold and Joe and I stayed in Columbus. I remember there were a lot of burros running around on the range, and they were bothering us by coming and eating the hay and grain that we had for our horses. So we caught one of these burros and tied a tin can to his tail and let him go. He started to buck and kick, running into wagons and kicking them over, running into campfires, running over people eating their lunch, and raising general havoc. So we didn’t try that any more.
Eventually, my brother, Ira came back. He had been successful in renting big tracts of farmland up above El Paso and Borino, New Mexico. So we moved our teams and wagons over there, and worked on the farm. I worked there all summer long and then I went to Utah to further my education. My sister and my Aunt Dora were in Utah. The previous year, I had gone half a year — so I registered in the Davis County High School as a Sophomore. Davis County High School was located in Kaysville, Utah, and it drew students from as far north as Clearfield and Layton and as far south as Bountiful. The students traveled on the Bamburger electric train to get to the high school. I enjoyed the year at high school very much. After the school year, I decided that I should go back to Mexico. I went down to El Paso, and tried to cross the border, but the United States officials would not let me pass. At that time, they were in World War I and there was regulations that no one could pass through the border without a special permit from Washington D.C. So while I was waiting for this special permit, I went to work for the El Paso Country Club, and believe it or not, I was hired to be the bartender at this country club. I didn’t know anything about mixing drinks, but I could pass the bottle down just as well, even though it was prohibition.
While I was there, there was a colored boy who was well trained in boxing. He and I would put on the gloves after working hours and box. He taught me the art of boxing quite thoroughly and the art of protection. I recall one day, after we had boxed for quite a little while, he said, “Look out!” all of a sudden, he just swarmed all over me, and knocked me kind of dizzy. So the next day, when I put the gloves on, I didn’t just start to box like I usually did. I gave him a hit with all my might and hit him on the chin when his guard was down. I knocked him flat on the ground, and then I took my gloves off and I never boxed with him again.
After about six weeks, the permit came from Washington D.C. allowing me to pass down into Mexico.
My mother and my two brothers, Harold and Joe, had returned to Mexico when I went to Kaysville, along with Ira and his family. So, when I finally got back to Mexico, I had a pleasant reunion with my family. My recollection at this period was that my brother, Harold and I and Joe were trying to farm my mother’s property without proper equipment and with a poor old Mexican team that we had picked up. We’d hook this team to a hand plow and go out and plow all day and maybe plow half an acre of ground. We didn’t know to much about farming, so naturally the crops we raised were not good. I might tell you some of the experiences I had at this time. When the wheat was ready to harvest, I worked on the thresher, same as other men. The thresher was operated by teams of horses going around and around, turning a large gear which in turn rotated a drive shaft which drove the threshing machine that threshed the wheat.
In baling the hay, we had a baler that we hooked our team of horses to. The team of horses would go around and around and each time as they went around the plungers would plunge in and rotate hay down and many times we would tromp on the hay with a foot, and sometimes somebody would speed the horses up and they would make a little different timing and you’d barely get out of the way of the plunger. I’ve even had the sole of my shoe taken off by the plunger.
I might tell you one faith-promoting instance that is part of my life. I had forty acres of alfalfa hay, all cut and raked and put into piles and ready for loading on the wagons and putting it into stacks. That morning was Sunday morning, and I saw the clouds coming up and it looked like it might rain before the end of the day. So I borrowed several teams and wagons from neighbors, and using my own team and wagon and hired some men and we worked all this Sunday putting up the hay. We got it all into stacks, and just as we’d finished topping off the stack, a heavy rain came, and I was very thankful that I had spent that Sunday putting the hay up. However, I felt that possibly I was breaking a commandment of the Lord. In a few days, as I passed the hay stack, I could smell something peculiar about the hay. As I was standing there wondering what about that hay, all of a sudden I saw a flame coming from the hay stack and it burned down. The reason for that was that the hay was put up just a little green and that caused it to get so hot that it started a fire and the entire crop was burned. This taught me a lesson that I should never break the Sabbath Day, and to this day I have very seldom broken the Sabbath Day.
Another instance that I can recall very vividly: I was plowing with four horses and a double-dish plow. I saw a storm coming so I unhooked the horses and jumped on one of the horses and raced to the covered wagon that I had at the edge of the field before the storm hit. The other horses followed along behind me, and just as I got into the wagon, I heard a sharp clap of thunder and all four of the horses were lying flat on their backs. Old Nell, the horse that I had been riding, survived. But the others were all killed by lightning. One of the horses was a mother of a colt and this colt survived. This colt and Old Nell were the only horses that survived that storm. Harold was called on a mission to Mexico and Mother and I felt that Joe should go on to high school, so it left me to do the farming. I would plant the grain and harvest the corn and get everything in shipshape and then a little after Christmas, I would go back to school again and would go to school for maybe three months and then I would go back home to take care of the crops again. This is the way I got my education. However, President Mecham set up a kind of correspondence course where I could keep right up with my classes while I was farming. I recall that every Friday night after school let out, I would walk 18 miles from Colonia Juarez to Colonia Dublan, where we lived. This would take me about three and a half hours, and then I would spend Saturday working on the farm and get up early Monday morning and walk back to Colonia Juarez, to the Stake Academy, where I was getting my schooling. It was not all work, we had fun also. We had basketball and we had dances, and we had an enjoyable time as well as all the hard work that we did.
Let me tell you about one dance that I recall very vividly: But, before I tell you about the dance, let me tell you something that will build up to the ridiculous situation. There was a man in our town who weighed about 350 pounds (in our estimation). and was very wealthy. Of course. Harold and I were struggling with our Mexican team, and every time we’d pass him he would make some blighting remark about it, and also talk behind our backs, which got back to us. This didn’t make us feel very good towards him. One night his wife had gone to El Paso on a shopping trip. He gathered all of the girls together, all twelve of them that were in town, and put them in his car and gave them a ride and then they went to one of the girl’s homes and the girls cooked dinner for him. This didn’t set very well with Charley Call and I, so we decided to let the air out of his tires. As we were letting the air out of his tires, he came out of the house just abounding. Charlie, having had rheumatism, couldn’t run very fast so he ducked into the hedge, and this man chased me. Well, I could outrun him very easily, I was in good shape from all the work that I’d been doing and he was just 350 pounds of blubber. Purposely, I slowed down so I just kept him a short distance behind me. Finally, he thought he really had me, and reached out to grab me, and just about that time I went down on my hands and knees and he went spilling all over the road. By the time he’d picked himself up I and Charley were nowhere to be seen. Now, back to the dance. At this particular dance, there were some young people who had come from Colonia Juarez, and we were going to have a very nice dance. I was dancing with one of the girls from Juarez. He was the dance manager, and evidently he didn’t like the way we were dancing. Anyway, he came and told us we were not dancing properly and I said, “What’s wrong with my dancing?” He said, “Step outside and I’ll show you.” We were right close by the door, and so as I began to step outside, he knocked me against the door. I turned around, just to see him on the top step — he was facing me — and I let go with all my might, and hit him right under the eye, and he literally flew down those steps. He landed near a car parked at the bottom of the steps and he hit the back of his head on the fender of the car. I don’t know whether in landing on the car, it knocked him out, or my blow knocked him out, but there he lay as if he were dead. Blood was squirting out of this cut that I had made with my fist, and it looked like he was dead, and I was pretty scared. But, finally he came to and they took him home, but from that day on, he had a great deal of respect for Emerson Pratt.
After a few years, we were able to get good horses, and good equipment to do our farming with. In between farming, we would freight lumber out of the mountain. I might tell you one of the interesting things that happened while I was freighting on the mountain. I had gone to Colonia Garcia to get a load of lumber, and I loaded up and pulled back into a nice little beautiful glade that had lots of grass and water for my horses, and there I camped for the night. I hobbled the horses so they couldn’t go too far away from camp, and I always fed the horses before turning them loose, so they would come back for their grain the next morning. The next morning when I got up, I couldn’t find my lead team — they were nowhere to be seen. So I looked around and I found their tracks going down the dugway into Hop Valley. So I followed their tracks down, and when I got into the valley, I found that they had turned up into the valley past the adobe houses that were there on the road, and had gone out into the forest. So I decided I would not try to find the horses at that time, and went back to hook up the team and wagons, the two teams and wagons I had left, and went on my way home. This put an extra burden on the team, so going up the hills we would have to stop and let them rest more often than we did when we had the six horses. But, finally we got home. When we got home I had a horse that was just half broken, a beautiful white horse. I saddled him up and went back to look for my team of horses. I didn’t go back on the road I had come up on — I took a shortcut to Hop Valley which I knew. At noon I stopped at a little place where there was plenty of grass and water to water my horse. I unsaddled him and put a lasso rope around his neck, and staked him to a tree. The first thing he did was to roll over and loosen the rope that was around his neck, and the rope fell off his neck. There I was, off the regular road and thirty miles from home. So, I knelt down and prayed to my Heavenly Father that I might be able to capture this horse again. So I started after the horse. He was following along the trail just ahead of me, not a chance of me ever catching him. But for some unknown reason, instead of continuing on the trail, he turned up a little side canyon there. As we went further on, the side canyon narrowed down until finally it became a box canyon. I was able to capture the horse again. I saddled him up and we went into Hop Valley.
My two horses were tied to a fence in front of one of the houses in Hop Valley. I looked around and there was nobody around so I put my rope on the horses and untied the rope that was there and took the horses and went on to Colonia Garcia.
Another instance of this horse that I had been riding that I recall very vividly: It was in the summer time when we were threshing grain. I got up one morning and one of my favorite horses was not in the pasture where it should be. So I started to track him down and I found that he had been taken out of the pasture and his tracks were going north. So, I tracked him for several miles and decided that somebody had stolen him. I had a friend in Ojo Federico which is a little hacienda about fifty miles north of Colonia Dublan and sent word to him that if he saw this horse that he was to let me know. Not long after that, he sent word to me that he saw the horse. So that night just at sundown, I saddled up this horse after working all day in the threshing and rode to Ojo Federico. Between Ojo Federico and Dublan there is a great forest of cactus. These cactus look just like armies of people coming toward you. All night long I was afraid that I was coming on to a group of people. Finally the next morning, I arrived at Ojo Federico. We left this horse there to rest that day and saddled up one of my friends horses and he and I went over to Asencion to try to find my horse. I didn’t find him, so after riding all day I came back and saddled up my pony and returned back to Dublan. On my way back I was so sleepy that armed forces or anything couldn’t keep me awake. I just turned the horse loose and let him take his own gait and I slept most of the way back. I got back the next morning just in time to go threshing again. I left word with this Mexican friend of mine at Ojo Federico that if he saw the horse he could bring him in and I would give him the reward. A week or so after that, he brought the horse to me. I gave him the reward and was very thankful to get the horse back.
Finally, I graduated from high school and settled down to farming. I was very fortunate to be one of two boys in a town where there was about 12 girls. I and this other boy were having a glorious time trying to keep the girls happy. About that time in the fall of the year, in October to be exact, there came to town a beautiful little girl. We met at a dance where it was a costume ball. I was dressed up like Simple Simon and I didn’t impress her at all. In fact she fell in love with Charlie who was already married. She thought that she could really go for him. But the next time she met me was at a party and I sang a love song. When I was singing this love song I looked directly at her and I knew then that she was the one for me. We met on October 20th. I took her out two or three times and then I asked her to be my wife. She thought that I was just kidding because she had had some of the other girls tell her all about me. But I wasn’t kidding and finally I convinced her that she was the right one for me. We were married on January 1st, 1923.
A short time after we were married, I decided that I would have to go and freight some lumber out of the mountains to make enough money to carry on the farming.
I might tell you how we freighted lumber out of the mountains. We took two wagons and hooked one up with the other. Then we hooked six horses to the front wagon. The one team was the lead team and then we called the second team the swing team and the third team was the wheel team. Now the way we did this, we put a saddle on one of the wheel horses. Instead of riding on the wagon, I would ride the horse and drive the teams from there. The only reins I had were on the lead team. The other teams functioned by just voice command.
I hooked up this team and left my bride and went freighting lumber. I was gone for about three weeks. All this time I had not shaved nor bathed. From cooking over the campfire my whiskers were real dark. After returning home she came and looked at me and said, “That’s not my husband” and went back in the house again. But after I had bathed and shaved and put on clean clothes she accepted me again as her husband so everything turned out all right.
Freighting lumber out of the mountains was a hazardous thing — especially on Strawberry Hill. It was named from a little valley at the foot of the hill that had wild strawberries. Strawberry Hill had a dugway built on the north side of the hill and in the winter time when it snowed, ice would form on this hill and make it very hazardous. The only way Mexican freighters would come down the hill, would be to get drunk to get up enough nerve to come down the hill. On this particular hill, one would come down off the mountain going down a dugway and then you had to cross a little canyon on a very narrow bridge and turn right back down the hill, making a complete U-turn at the bridge and not go over with the load of lumber. It required that the swing team to jump over the chain as we made the U-turn and let the lead team go on down the road, but they would go on up the hill a little and keep the tongue of the wagon way over, farthest away from the edge of the bridge. By so doing, it would throw the front wagon as far away from the edge of the bridge as possible. And if you were lucky, your hind wheels of your back wagon missed going off the edge of the bridge by one or two inches. Also, the ice on the hill made it very treacherous to go down this hill. Many times I’ve had to roll in the snow or on the ground to relieve the tension that would build up while going down this hill.
Irene and I were married on the first of January in 1923. On the 7th of December, she presented me with the darlingest little girl that anybody could ever behold. She had dark hair and fair skin and roly-poly just like a butter ball. Of course, Irene and I adored this darling little girl. Irene was very happy that she was a little girl so that she could dress her up in all the fancy little clothes.
We named this little girl Marjorie. About a year and two months later Irene presented me with another darling little baby girl. So she had two darling little baby girls. We adored this little girl also. Then about a year and three months later she presented me with the third little baby girl. Three darling little baby girls. How happy Irene and I were for these darling little spirits from our Father in Heaven.
As they grew up they liked to be with their father working around the place. One day I was fixing a fence between Charlie’s place and mine and Charlie’s prize rooster came over and attacked one of these little girls. I didn’t mean to kill the rooster. I had a hammer in my hand and in order to scare the rooster I threw the hammer. Believe it or not, that rooster ran right into that hammer and it killed him dead. Well, I looked down at the rooster and I felt really bad and wondered how in the world I was going to tell Charlie that I killed his rooster. I finally picked up the rooster, and went over to Charlie and said, “Here is your rooster, I killed it, I am sorry.” Charlie said, “Oh, that is all right, your family can come over tonight and we will have chicken and dumplings.” So we went over that night and had a very enjoyable evening.
Not long after that, one of my little pigs got out of the pen and went over to Charlie’s and was destroying his garden. He picked up a rock I am sure he didn’t mean to kill it, but you know that pig ran right into that rock and it killed him dead. Now it was Charlie that had to come over to me and say, “I’m sorry I killed your pig. I didn’t mean to.” And it was my turn to say, “Oh, that’s all right, you and your family come over and we will have roast pig.” So my wife baked the pig, put it on a large platter, put a red apple in it’s mouth and we had an enjoyable evening with Charlie and his family. Jesus said, “Love thy neighbor as thy self.” This was loving our neighbor.
I might tell you another story: It’s really out of context, but I will tell it here anyway. There was an L.D.S. man who had married a Catholic woman and the bishop had sent a number of elders to this home as home teachers, and she would not allow them in the house. So the Bishop, in his wisdom, I guess, through some inspiration from our Father in Heaven, decided to send two young teenagers there as home teachers. And I recall very vividly that before we went, Charlie said, “Let’s have a word of prayer.” When we arrived at their home, there was a white picket fence in front of their home, and we walked back and forth several times in front of that picket fence before we finally got courage to go into the home. When we knocked on the door, she met us at the door and we told her that we were her home teachers. She looked at us and figured, “They`re so young, that they can’t do me any damage.” So, she invited us in.
She had two or three children around her and Charlie said, “Do you mind if we have a word of Prayer?”
She said, “No, we pray in our church also.”
And he said, “Do you mind if we kneel down to have a word of Prayer?”
She said, “No, that would be all right.” So we all knelt down and Charlie offered a word of prayer, and I’m sure that our Father in Heaven put the words in his mouth. He prayed for the welfare of her children, and for their health and strength and for all the blessings that they deserved. He prayed for her. I can’t recall all that he said, but I noticed that when the prayer was finished, that there was a tear in the woman’s eye. Well, from then on we were welcome in her home. We visited her each month on our monthly home teaching assignment.
This continued on until Irene and I left and moved from Mexico. When the first Lamanite conference came to the temple at Mesa from Mexico, her son, who was a missionary by that time, met me and said, “You know what I am going to do?” I said, “No.”
He said, “Well the mission president has given me permission to go down to Colonia Dublan and to baptize my mother.” I felt very good about this, having been a small part in carrying the gospel to this wonderful woman. She became a very active Latter-day Saint woman and was a leader in both Relief Society and Primary for a number of years.
Irene and I were struggling to get ahead. We had an opportunity to buy a large piece of land right next to ours and we decided that possibly, if we could rake up all the money we could, that we could make a down payment on this property. And so we finally gathered enough money together to buy this large piece of ground next to our own property. We felt like, “Well, now we have it made.” So, we planted a crop, and then a drought came along and there was no water to irrigate the crop, and we had a complete failure. So naturally, we had no way to make payments on this property and we had to turn it back. We decided then to leave Dublan and come to Mesa. We had been in Mesa the year before when the temple was dedicated; and we liked the looks of the land in Mesa. We got in our old 1926 Dodge coupe — the children and everything, and came to Mesa. On arriving in Mesa, we stopped at my brother’s place, located at Center and Main Street. As we unloaded our car, there right on the bottom of the car was my rifle. I noticed that the rifle was cocked, and knowing that the rifle was not loaded, I pointed the gun down to the ground and pulled the trigger and off the gun went, making a loud noise. You could see women running everyplace for their children, thinking that possibly the Bandito had come out of Mexico.
We were able to accumulate a little money before leaving Mexico from the sale of our property, and we also took many promissory notes, (by the way, we were never able to have them redeemed). But, we had enough money to make a down payment on a twenty acre farm East of Mesa. Then we went in debt for some cows and we started to establish ourselves in Mesa. This was in the fall of 1928, and in the early part of 1929, the crash came, the Great Depression. The banks went broke, and the particular bank that we owed the money for the cows to, also went broke. The man from the bank came and said that he would settle for fifty cents on the dollar if I could raise the money. In order to raise the money, I sold all the cows and was able to get enough money to pay off the bank.
Then I started looking for a job, and the only job I could find was bucking bales of hay, filling barns full of hay with the Arizona Farmers Co-operative. I did this for some time and then they called me into the office to run the trucks and to dispatch them, to tell them where they were to go, to weigh their loads, and tell them where to put their loads. Also, to give each farmer credit for the hay that was hauled from his place. At about this time the dust bowl of 1932 came on and even though we had all the barns full of hay from the previous year, when the dust bowl came on we had orders for hay. So we took all the hay that was being raised, plus all the hay that was in the barn and shipped it to the dust bowl area. This, of course, required about twenty hours a day work for me, we literally didn’t send out just carloads of hay, but we sent out trainloads of hay.
They finally decided that they should move me over to be an assistant manager of the Phoenix branch. This Arizona Co-operative had been miss-managed and had had so much interference from the farmers that they had lost a lot of money. At this time, there was one man who had loaned them some money. He decided that in order to protect his rights, he would have to take over the Arizona Farmers Co-operative. His name was Charlie Martin. He decided the first thing he should do was to close down the Phoenix branch. So he came down one day and he said, “Well, I’ve decided to close the Phoenix branch.”
I said, “Well, I think you’re foolish if you do.” That kind of set him back a little bit, so he turned around and walked out and went to his office.
An hour or so after that, I received a call and he said, “Come down, I want to talk to you.” So I went down and he said, “What do you mean by telling me that I was foolish to close the Phoenix branch?” I told him that I felt by proper management, that it could be made a paying thing for him.
And he said. “Well, how much money will it take?”
I said, “Another $5,000.” That again jarred him.
He sat back and thought for some time, and finally said, “Okay, I’ll make you manager, and we’ll see how things finally turn out. I’ll give you the $5,000.”
So, I managed the business until it had completely paid back all the money that he had put into it plus what he thought he had lost before I took over. When this came about he called me into his office, and said, “How would you like to have the business?”
I said, “I would like to have it, but I don’t have any money.”
He said, “We’ll arrange that.” So he arranged for me to buy the business by paying off a certain amount each month until it was completely paid off.
After moving to Mesa, we had two other lovely spirits come to our home, Maurine in 1932 and a year later, Wayne. How proud I was when we finally got a son. I have enjoyed my family immensely. They’ve been wonderful children. Especially have I enjoyed my wife, Irene, a wonderful companion and helpmate. I’ve enjoyed every moment of living with her. They say that the measure of success is not the amount of money one accumulates, but the way his children turn out. I can say that my children have turned out everything I expected of them. They are all wonderful children, all faithful Latter-day Saints and all living their religion to the best of their ability, and all good members of this great United States. They are all married, and have children of their own, and some even have grandchildren.
Emerson Pratt Biographical Sketch
In 1973 the Arizona Poultry Association honored Emerson Pratt for the service he has rendered to the industry. This is the Biographical sketch given when the Association honored him with a plaque for 35 years of service.
Emerson W. Pratt sold his farm in Old Mexico and moved to Mesa Arizona in 1929. He worked in various agricultural pursuits during the depression years. In 1936 he had the opportunity to get into the feed business by taking over a feed store in south Phoenix by assuming its debts. In the feed business he became aware of the opportunities of the poultry business. Selling baby chicks to customers with small flocks became a vital part of the business. In 1943 he built a hatchery building and purchased a Robbins 32H incubator with capacity of hatching about 7000 chicks per week. He purchased the hatching eggs from local flocks around the valley and sold the chicks through the store to various small producers throughout the valley. Soon the local egg supply was insufficient and hatching eggs were shipped in from California and the Pacific Northwest.
After World War II there was a growing demand for broiler meat. So he started the first broiler contracting program in the state. He would furnish to a grower the chicks, feed, market and financing and the grower would furnish the housing and the labor. There were great opportunities in those days with 20 – 50 cent live weight broiler prices. He had a good working relationship with Mr. Firpo who provided the market for the birds — eventually ending up in the A.J. Bayless market meat case. This was the start of the local fryer production that still exists today with the Firpo organization.
The broiler business continued to grow. Hatching capacity was doubled. He built a breeder ranch in Yarnell to supply hatching eggs to the operation. At its peak, he was marketing from 10,000 to 15,000 birds per week. When broiler prices fell to the point that contracting was no longer profitable for the producer, then Mr. Pratt rented his customers’ houses to continue producing on his own. In the early 60’s competition from the south became too great and he phased out of the broiler business and into the egg business. The breeder ranch was converted to a market egg production unit and the hatchery was changed over to producing leghorn pullets for the growing egg producing industry in the state. With change, the hatchery he started 30 years ago has ground to a halt, but his interest and involvement in the poultry industry is very much alive.
At the young age of 72 he still involves himself full time in the feed business and poultry business, overseeing the operation of his ranch, egg processing and marketing operations.
We salute Emerson Pratt for his 35 years of involvement in the Arizona Poultry industry.