A Page out of the Book Cliffs – Feb. 13, 2020

Page 62 — The Millers — Part 1

AJ Rogers
AJ Rogers

Oh … Where to start? Way back I guess, before I ever knew them since I wasn’t born yet, of course.

Ted, Nana, Bill, Sharon, and Bruce, plus Grandma Sando. They lived in Thompson, Utah from the 1940s until the 1980s. It’s always wonderful to have a second family and they were mine.

Our little town is officially known as Thompson Springs, and, has been for over 30 years but during the years set down in the first paragraph it was just called, Thompson. That short name gave our little burg no reason for existing like it does with the “Springs” added to it. I also used the name Nana in the above paragraph, but her true name was Lillian.

Ted was the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad section foreman here for about 30 some years. He was damned good at his job, too. No one could outwork him, and no one was ever more loyal to their job! Lillian was a good mother, a homemaker, a waitress at the Desert Moon Café and sometimes at the Crescent Junction café.

She was also a registered nurse and the Justice of the Peace for a stint. Their oldest son was Bill. He left here to go to the Navy and then ended up living in Denver for the rest of his life, I believe. The second child was Sharon. She left this little town and ended up in the Washington, D.C., area where she worked for the CIA in some capacity. I’ve not seen her in 40 years.

The youngest son was Bruce. He was seven years older than me, but was a good friend and trainer of sorts during the years when I was busy trying to get too big for my britches. When Bruce was a worldly college man and I was a teenager we spent quite a few evenings around several campfires where I attended what I’ve later come to call “Bruce Miller’s School on Women.” Those were enlightening training sessions and lucky is the youngster who has a good mentor for such important things.

Ted was an interesting character. He had the ability to drive folks nuts with some of his ways and mannerisms, but I always liked him a lot. His wife Nana said he was a little off kilter because he’d fallen off too many train cars and lit on his head too many times.

Ted grew up somewhere around “Dirt Poor Texas” in the early 1900s. His folks were German immigrants, I believe. He once told me about the first time he ever got away from the farm and went to see the elephant, so to speak. I suppose he was 16 or 18 years of age and I’m not sure just what town he went to, but it was somewhere near the Mexican border.

Ted had a buddy who tagged along on this particular adventure and he was apparently every bit as green as Ted. I was a teenager when Ted told me this story and he was doing his best to teach me some good sense by telling it. He said they had a few dollars and were looking for some fun and some action without knowing much about what all that entailed. Apparently, some kindly citizen from across the border in Mexico offered them a heck of a deal on a gallon of tequila and some Mary-juan- ya (as Ted called it) cigarettes.

Having had no experience with any such stuff the boys cashed in all their fun tickets, found some shade and proceeded to get blasted. When Ted related the experience to me many years later, he said: “Damned near killed us! Took three days to quit head thumpin’ and see straight again! I’m warning you boy, leave that damn green-smoke stuff alone. It’ll kill you, too.” Apparently, the booze got none of the credit for tipping them on their butts.

A couple of years later Ted got a chance to learn the truck-driving trade. I don’t know how long he was at it but not very I’m thinking. It seems that somewhere somehow, he was involved in a truck versus automobile crash where a family was killed. That’s all I know about it, but I do know that Ted gave up driving for the rest of his life.

Why Ted left Texas and ended up in Colorado is beyond me but that’s what happened. He was lucky to get a job on the railroad, especially since the Great Depression was winding up. Ted and Nana got married around that time and ended up living in De Beque, Colorado during the height of the depression.

I was once admiring an old octagon-barreled Winchester model 94 in .25-35 that hung in Ted’s house. Nana told me she sure was mad as a wet hen when Ted brought that rifle home one day. He’d bought it from a hobo along the tracks: paid $8 for it! A full one-quarter of their monthly income! She then said it turned out okay after all because, “Ted fed half the town of DeBeque with that little pea shooter throughout the Depression.”

When Ted became the section foreman here in Thompson during the 1940s, he was able to move his family into the fine old foreman house down by the tracks just north of the depot. I halfway grew up in that house and will always miss it because the railroad had it torn down three or four years ago. It was a warm and comfortable place. Very homey and filled with love.

A wood/coal burning range in the kitchen and a coal-burning Warm Morning upright in the living room kept the whole place toasty.

Since Ted didn’t drive, he’d always catch a ride with my family when we headed up Sego Canyon to cut a Christmas tree. Ted always had to have the perfectly formed blue spruce and tended to climb up several rims to cut the perfect example. It was always a very big tree and almost too much to drag, but, drag it he did. He was a tough old boy!

Packing rails, pounding spikes, and shoveling slag all day tended to keep a guy in good shape. I remember it was always a challenge to tie Ted’s big old tree to the roof of our Scout, but we always managed to get it home for him. Then good old Ted would lay the tree out in his yard, go in and measure from floor to ceiling, then come out to cut the tree in about half, usually.

Next, he’d put the bottom half in his tree stand and bring it in and set it up near the living room window looking out on the tracks. It was a grand site to see with such a big old base, and since it was cut off halfway up it appeared to be growing right through the ceiling. You were tempted to go outside to see if there was a star sticking out of the roof. More on the Millers next time.

On Another Note: I’ve recently had some nice little communications regarding this column sent to me via The Times-Independent by a couple of readers. Anyone who wants to can email me at [email protected]. Or call me at 435-259-9543.