Lovelady Saw A Century Of History

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Jayne Peace or Jinx Pyle will be writing this weekly history column. Both are authors and publishers in Payson, and are descendants of the pioneer families who settled the Rim country area.

This first column is by Jinx, about his maternal grandmother. It will give you a glimpse into the life of a pioneer lady.

Belle Russell Lovelady

Belle Russell was born of true pioneer stock in Globe on March 14, 1902. She was the great-granddaughter of David Harer, who settled in the Greenback Valley in the early 1870s.

Her mother was not a King from the King Ranch in Texas, as has been previously reported. Her mother was Josephine Packard Russell, daughter of Florence Packard and Sarah Harer Packard.

Belle's father was Thomas Fredrick "Tuff" Russell (he was, too), who was deputy sheriff at Roosevelt during the construction of Roosevelt Dam, and was a good friend of Governor George W. P. Hunt.

At the age of 10, Belle got a new dress and bonnet, so she could march in the inaugural parade in Phoenix when Arizona became a state. She was present at the dedication of Roosevelt Dam in 1911, and told of the terrifying swinging footbridge across the chasm where the dam is now.

She also recalled the abandoned mine tunnel that her father used as a jail in the days of the dam construction, and told of Indian construction workers who would get drunk and be thrown in the tunnel. Someone would be stationed outside with a broom and bucket of water. When a prisoner would try to come out, a guard would swat him back into the tunnel with a wet broom until he was judged sober enough to be allowed back into polite society.

Belle was the fourth of 10 children -- five boys and five girls. She spent a good part of her youth in Wheatfields, just out of Miami on the road to Roosevelt. She often spoke of the wonderful green farms there. She also remembered the bowl in the rock, a special place because whenever the snow melt would cause the creek to run big then go down again, she and the rest of the kids could go there and wash out the gold.

She attended school in Miami, and later in Tonto Basin, and spent several summers at Greenback with her grandfather Packard and great-grandparents, the Harers.

Belle's mother, Josie Packard Russell, had been bitten by her Grandfather Harer's pet rattlesnake at the age of 16, and had health problems for the rest of her life. Grandpa Harer had pulled the snake's fangs, and they all believed it to be harmless, not realizing rattlesnake fangs could grow back. One day Josie was teasing her grandpa and he threw the snake on her. The snake bit Josie on the arm and she almost died. When Josie had spells of illness, it was Belle who took over the household duties of cooking and doing laundry for the large family.

Belle married Walter L. Lovelady on Aug. 5, 1919 at the age of 17. Belle and Walter had their wedding reception and dance in Payson with Jess and Lena Chilson. Walter had worked for Jess, and Jess once told Dorothy (daughter of Belle and Walter) "Dottie, the horse has never been born that your daddy couldn't ride."

Walter owned the Lovelady Ranch on Webber Creek below where Camp Geronimo is now located. The road to the ranch crossed the East Verde River about where the bridge is now, on the road to Pine. They were moving up to the ranch with a wagonload of household items and the river was up, but they decided to cross anyway. The horses lost their footing and the whole shebang washed down the river about 50 yards before hanging up on some rocks. Walter was able to climb out and get the horses on good footing where they pulled the wagon on across and continued the journey without further incident. Although Belle was raised in the west, she often said that this incident was her introduction to the Wild West.

The first year at the ranch, she didn't have a stove, but cooked in kettles hung on hooks over the fireplace. Often they would broil large chunks of deer meat over the open fire.

One day while Walter was riding, looking after cattle, Belle had a visitor. He said that he hadn't eaten for some time and asked for a meal. Belle spread a tablecloth, and fixed him a good meal, which he ate, thanked her and left. That evening while she was relating the event to Walter, she described the man. Walter said, "Belle, what am I going to do with you? You are too young to take with me and too dumb to leave home. That was ol' Red Whiskers!"

Red Whiskers was sort of a hobo outlaw that roamed the country. He would come onto a ranch or camp when no one was about, fix himself a meal, clean up afterwards and leave. He never did any real harm, but kept people concerned that he might. He would never come around when there was a man present and could never be caught.

Another story that Belle told related to a time when she taught at a school near the ranch. She had students from first grade level to as old as she was. She taught several Apache children and one day during a reading lesson, she called on a little Apache boy to read a nursery rhyme. He stood up and proudly proclaimed:

"Little Miss Mu-hut set on a tu-hut eating hu terds and hay." This sent Coony Hale and some of the older boys to the floor rolling in fits of laughter, while doubling up other youngsters with squeals of mirth!

Walter had been exposed to poison gas in World War I. His health was failing and doctors told him that he had tuberculosis and wouldn't live to see 50. He was no longer able to handle the hard work of the cattle operation on the Lovelady Ranch, so they moved to the Hammonds Ranch, near Elephant Head just northwest of Payson.

Walt, Link, and Lane Russell (Belle's brothers) stayed there with them some of the time and helped Walter farm the fields. They raised hay, corn, maize, pumpkins, watermelons, a truck garden, and hogs, and had a milk cow named Hood.

Belle's mother, Josie, stayed with them often, as she was subject to seizures, lingering effects of the snake bite, and Tuff didn't want to leave her home alone when his duties as a lawman took him away. Josie often milked Hood when she was there. Hood was bad-tempered and Josie was one of the few people who could handle or milk her.

Belle and Walter's daughter, Dorothy, was born on the Hammonds Ranch on July 28, 1920. A son, Lawrence (Shove) Lovelady, was born six years later.

Belle is best remembered for the 10 years, beginning in 1947, that she spent as Payson's telephone operator. Folks for miles around knew her voice on the old hand-crank lines. Belle recounts how those lines hummed and howled to the tune of the weather, but they were Payson's link with Pine, Young, and the far away ranches under the Rim.

The switchboard was open 24 hours a day, every day. Belle explained someone might be in trouble and need help. How many times this happened we will never know. There are stories without end if you can find the folks to relate them. Here are a couple:

Once when non-existent medical oxygen was needed to save a woman's life, Belle called on the Flack Brothers (Dick, Charlie, Gordon), who with frontier ingenuity, ran welding oxygen through an improvised water filter, giving the heart attack victim the boost she needed to recover.

Another time, a call came in from a frantic mother on the OW Ranch. Her little boy had drowned in the horse trough! Belle's daughter, Dorothy, who had married Gene Pyle, had been to the OW and recalled that there was a barrel near the horse trough. She had the mother lay the little boy face down across the barrel to clear his lungs of water, then gave resuscitation instructions, which the mother followed, and the boy was revived.

On the lighter side, someone once called and wanted to know the names of Santa's reindeer and the order in which they were harnessed. I don't recall if Belle knew the answer or put the woman in touch with Santa who gave her the information.

Always the pioneer and endowed with a great sense of humor, Belle moved with the Pyle family to western Oregon to ranch on private land in 1987. At the age of 86 her mind was as good as ever, which was pretty darn good. She was much taken with the rivers there and asked me if I knew that the Willamette River ran north. She pronounced it Will-a-meet-ee, so I told her that it was pronounced Will-am-it and that the natives said that the way to remember it was to say, ‘it's Will-am-it, dammit.' She gave me a grin and asked, "Well, did you know that the Will-a-meet-ee runs north? Dammit!"

Belle was as gentle as the flowers that she loved, but just as tough as she needed to be. During the Great Depression, many tramps would come to Belle's door in search of a handout. They were never turned away and would split wood or attend any other chore that they found undone.

Belle found a particularly large, unkempt tramp at her door one day. He asked for something to eat and she bade him, take a seat on the porch. When she returned with a plate of food, Shove was hanging onto her apron strings. "Momma, what's you gonna do with that gun in your pocket," he quarried?

"Nothing, if everyone behaves themselves," she replied.

When Payson Sanitation District personnel surveyed an easement through her lilac hedge, she told them that they could have an easement, but not there. Workers approached with a backhoe, she met them with a shotgun and told them, "Dig that trench deep if you are going to dig it there. Dig it deep, because you are going to need it!" They rethought their position and put the trench at the edge of the property, where she told them they could.

Belle Lovelady died Sept. 4, 1997 at the age of 95. She had friends without number, and I cannot imagine her ever having made an enemy.

I shall end this column now, and leave you with one of several poems she authored that you may better glimpse her talent -- and soul.

Como Siempre, Grandma.

The Wind is Free

by Belle Lovelady

The wind is a ribbon of music,

so satin soft and fine.

It blows to all the other lands

and then blows back to mine.

Oh sing to the ships a melody,

as you cross the briny foam.

Unfurl the banners of liberty,

as you sing your way back

home.

I kneel in the forest isle to

pray, that all the world be

free,

The pipe organs play among

the pines, as my Savior

speaks to me.

He speaks of hope and charity,

of trusting faith and light.

He speaks of love and brother-

hood, but warns of force and

might.

Oh sing with the wind the

freedom song;

oh sing it loud and clear.

Lift high your voice unto the

wind,

that all the earth might hear.

Fly gentle dove, on the wind

wing high, to the lands across

the sea.

Sing your song, let freedom

ring, and then fly back to me!

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