Mail 'Delivery'

Winter was a harsh time in the mountains. The first winter they were at Alder Creek, they had so much snow that their daughter Ruth could not get to town to have her baby. In "The Baby and the Sundial", Elsie Corwin reports that Rose Luella Viets was the first white baby born in those mountains. The next winter was no better - they had up to six feet of snow and two of their pack animals disappeared. During the deadly winter of 1921-22, five people perished in the mountains, including two young boys shortly after they had visited the Ranch (see "Boys Lost in the Snow", by Elsie Corwin).

Communication was especially difficult once the winter snows came. When they first settled in the valley, they had no telephone or any means to communicate with the outside world except via mail which they had to pick up in Acton, some 20 miles away. Once the snow became deep, there was no way for Captain Loomis to make the trip to Acton. On occasion, however, he was forced to improvise, especially when Grace became anxious for word about the children and their families. He described one such occasion, when they had a heavy snow storm during the early part of the winter. They finally had good clearing weather and the snow started to melt at the Ranch. Grace became anxious about the mail and wanted to have news from their children and grandchildren.

Every day she asked the Captain to go out for mail, which meant that he would have to make a trip over to Earl's Ranch ten miles distant over a steep mountain and down the other side. Captain Loomis told her each time that it would be impossible to get animals over the trail, and that there must be at least five or six feet of snow on top. But she wouldn't believe him, thinking that there would be only one foot or so.

To convince her, he took her half way up old Indian Trail leading to Mt. Pacifico where they could see the north side of Mt. Grace and the ridge they would have to go over at an altitude of 6500', Grace said, "Oh, I don't think there's over a foot; we'll go out tomorrow." The next morning the Captain saddled two horses and one burro, the latter to carry the mail. They started up the trail and hadn't gotten more than mile from the house when they were already into a foot of snow. By the time they got to Lonesome Pine, about two mile from their cabin, the snow kept increasing until they found themselves in five or six feet of snow. They broke trail for the animals who kept jumping and floundering through the snow, and they finally got through to the ridge.

At that point, they decided there was no use to take the animals any further. They found a clear place under some bushes, tied the animals, and went on by foot. A light crust on top of the snow held them up part of the time. At other times they would break through and find themselves in four or five feet of snow. They traveled the next three miles across the top of the mountain that way.

When they got to the north side they found even deeper snow but easier going and they finally got to Earl's at about noon. They found a big bunch of mail, ate their lunch, and then started back. On the way back when they got to Mill Creek divide it started to rain, with sleet and snow all across the top of the mountain. It was dark when they finally reached the animals, and they still had two more miles to go. Icicles were hanging from all animal, they had been standing in the same place for so long. They arrived home after 8:00 that night, soaked to the skin with their clothing frozen. They stripped off their clothes, put on new ones, and after eating a hot bowl of soup starting reading all of the new mail.

It had been just another day at the ranch.

[Sources: Lester Loomis Journal - Wandalee Thompson Collection (2002.1.23)]