Tales From A Visit To Greenback Ranch



In last week's column Jinx wrote of the day we visited 86-year-old E. C. Conway at his Greenback Ranch. Now I'm going to tell the rest of the story.

Lorraine Cline went with us and our visit was primarily for the purpose of getting E.C.'s information about the history of the Payson Rodeo for a book we are currently writing, but when old-timers get together, it's difficult to stay on one subject. One old memory brings up another and so on.

E.C.'s grandfather, David Harer, had settled in Greenback in 1874. He was the first settler in that area and had brought in lots of hogs. I asked E.C. who had taken the last hogs out of Greenback.

"Clarence (his brother) and I did. We took out about 80-90 head of big ol' boar hogs. We caught 'em and tied sticks in their mouths so they couldn't bite, then took a hack saw and cut their tusks off. Then we hauled 'em to the auction in Phoenix. Clarence said when he took the first load down there -- you know how they got them little whips and they get down in the ring with 'em? One of those fellers got in there with them big boars, and he just barely escaped by running up the wall!" E.C. laughed as his lone duck watched on in silence, ignoring the hound pup and hoping for a bite of someone's sandwich. No luck for the duck.

E.C. continued, "After that first trip to the auction, when them ‘whip poppers' got in some big hogs, they wanted to know where they come from and if anyone said anything about Greenback, they stayed out of the pens."

Big and mean, those acorn fed hogs were something to contend with. Some of them weighed as much as 800 pounds with tusks bigger than jar lids, curved and razor-sharp.

E.C. said that his family did real well with the hogs during the years that the Roosevelt Dam was being built, 1906 to 1911. "They butchered ‘em and sold lard and bacon. They had a big smoke house up there at the old place."

Klaus Halmer arrived to gather the eggs. Klaus is E.C.'s son-in-law, married to his daughter, Jeanne. Lorraine helped him gather the eggs that were laid in a trailer, behind a cactus, under a bush, etc. The day's take was four dozen.

I asked E.C. who had brought the first cattle into Greenback. "It was some people named Criswall. My folks said they used to milk them old range cows. Then Cone Webb bought them out."

When asked if there was a cemetery at Greenback, E. C. replied, "Not really, but some people are buried here. Two Packard kids are buried here, and my dad's twin sister who died at birth. In later years another guy died and they buried him across the creek under the cottonwoods. There was a post there, but they cut it down and now I don't know exactly where he was buried. I just don't remember his name."

We looked down the valley and saw the majestic Four Peaks, part of the Mazatzal Range, then back up the valley and saw Greenback Mountain, located in the southern reaches of the Sierra Anchas.

"That's Three Sisters Mountain right over there," E.C. said. "It's named for three of David and Josephine Harer's daughters, Annie, Alice, and Clara."
Annie married Henrich Frederich Christian Hardt and had eight children: Susie, David, Henry (grandfather of Billy Hardt), Robert, Lottie (mother of Buster Neal), Sadie, Joe (father of Connie Brown), and Leonard.

Alice married E.C. Conway and had seven children: Ed and his twin sister (Ed is the father of the E. C. Conway), Mary, David, Belle, Georgia (mother of LeRoy Tucker), and Irl.

Clara married a Mr. Gish.

Three Sisters Mountain is named for the above named three Harer daughters, but there were four more Harer daughters: Mary Elizabeth (Vineyard), Evaline who died as a baby, Narsissis Jane (Blake), and Sarah Frances (Packard).

"My grandmother and granddaddy raised the Blake kids," E.C. said.

"Their parents, Andrew and Narsissis (Harer) Blake, died when they were young, so they were raised here. They were born here. That was Mark, Garfield, and Eva."

Mark Blake married Grace Gladden, Garfield Blake married Lillie Emily Toby, and Eva married Hardy Schell (parents of Asbury Schell, world champion roper).

"Mark Blake was one wild cowboy. He ran a big old steer into Hell's Hole near Salome (pronounced Sal O May) and roped him. Dad asked him how he was going to get that steer out of there now that he'd tied him to a tree.

Mark said that anyplace he could catch a steer, he could lead him out of. He did, too. Another good cowboy was George Felton. He was the greatest bronc rider there ever was. He rode in Payson."

With the mention of the Payson Rodeo, Lorraine said, "I was just this dumb little old Baptist girl and when I went to Payson I thought, ‘oh, my gosh, if my mother knew where I was!' It was a pretty wild place."

E.C. asked me if I remembered his mother driving his dad to visit my family at Gisela -- because his dad never learned to drive. I remembered.

Jane and Ed Conway would come and spend the day with my grandparents, Duke and Birdie Hale, and they all had such a good time. They picked fruit and my grandma would cook a big meal for them and they really enjoyed visiting -- something we all need to do more of.

E. C. was coming forth with more knowledge. "I want to tell you how Punkin Center got its name. I've heard several different stories, but Kidd Jones told me the real story and I believe him. He used to get mad as . . .e knew the real story ‘cause he was there when it happened and when someone told a different story he sure didn't like it.

Story he tells is, Florence Packard owned the store then and it was called Packard's Store. John Norton had a freight wagon that ran from Phoenix to Payson. One day he drove up and saw ol' Florence Packard's Model T and him standin' by it. ‘Well, I'll be darned. It's ol' Uncle Josh from Punkin Center,' says Norton. That was a line from a song on one of those old big, round records that they used to have and the name stuck. They started calling it Punkin Center.

"There's two things I regret," E.C. told us, "One is, John Rhodes wanted me to take him to see my Aunt Clara. The reason he wanted to go was because she baby sat him when he was a little bitty boy -- he was really a Tewksbury."

"Oh, I remember," I said. "His father died before he was born and then his mother married a Rhodes."

"Yes. Aunt Clara lived with his family during the Pleasant Valley War," said E.C. "I've kicked myself a million times for not taking him.

And the other thing is -- Old Man Giles wanted to go see Old John Herman. I never did take him and I've hated that for the rest of my life -- up til now." He laughed.

"I should a did it."

Jinx said to E. C., "I have always heard that David Harer got along good with the Indians when they were killing everybody else in the country."

"They thought he was some kind of a god," said E.C. "He packed a defanged rattlesnake around his neck. He pulled its fangs out so it couldn't bite. They knew he had some medicine that they didn't have or that snake would have bit him on the neck and killed him sure.

But it did bite Josie. He didn't know it, but the fangs grew back. After it bit Josie, he got rid of it."

"Yeah, Josie was my great-grandmother. I've heard the story many times, but I didn't know why the Indians left David Harer alone," Jinx replied.

"The Indians dug an irrigation ditch for him and cleared all these fields. He was good to them, too, though. Let them camp down the creek and fed them if they didn't have any meat."

It was time for our visit to end. On the way out, E.C. drove his four-wheeler for a ways and we followed. He took us to an old oak tree.

Using his worn out History of Tonto book, he showed us a picture of an Apache woman, "Blackie," standing in front of that tree more than 100 years ago. We looked at the tree and it didn't appear to have changed at all.

Blackie had delivered many babies at Greenback years ago, including Jinx's great-grandmother. If that old tree could talk ...

On our way out of Greenback, Jinx, Lorraine and I looked at Picture Mountain and discussed what we thought we could see.

Jinx's new book, "Mountain Cowboys," is back from the printers. His first scheduled book signing is May 1 at 2 p.m. at Corral West in Payson. The price is $25. Ya'll come!

Jinx Pyle and Jayne Peace own Git A Rope! Publishing, Inc. Their books, "Looking Through the Smoke," "Blue Fox -- War to the Knife!" and "History of Gisela, Arizona," can be found at Jackalope Books, Sue Malinski's Western Village, East Verde Trading Company and the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce.

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