May 17, 2021

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Out Our Way: Remembering Grandpa Ransom, a real pioneer

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Ransom Higley and his wife, Maggie

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Last month I wrote about our newest great-grandson bearing the name of Hubby’s grandfather, Ransom Luther Higley, one of his heroes. How was he a hero? I’m sharing excerpts from Hubby, and anyone who knows him may note some similarities:

“As a young person I thought of Grandpa Ransom as one of the original pioneers. He told of brush 40 feet deep, so deep that the understory had an understory; that if you had to hunt to live, you would starve because you could only see 20 to 30 feet through the brush and the deer could hear you coming for a quarter-mile.

He told of snatching his line out of the water just before a big one got it because fish hooks were scarce and he would rather let a big one get away than lose his hook.

He did what it took to put food on the table and keep the house warm.

He was honest, just and feared not.

Grandpa came to the Quinault area in 1901 to help his uncle A.V. and cousin Orte Higley with a contract to carry mail between Quinault and Evergreen Post Office at King’s Bottom on the Queets.

The contract said they need not carry more than 70 pounds at a time. It was a day’s journey from Quinault across the lake to Park’s Landing and trail to the Queets. Ten o’Clock Creek and Lunch Creek were named by the mail carriers by where they were at that time of day.

He also freighted on the lower Quinault River. A. V. had a hotel at Quinault and some groceries and ammunition. The trip to Taholah for supplies in a dugout canoe took a day to go downriver and two days to return with a load. If Ransom was by himself he could bring back 700 lbs. With a bowman they could bring back 1,000 lbs. River canoes were usually about 20 feet long, 3 feet wide and 12 inches deep.

Wet alder on a rainy day

Father said of Ransom that he could get a fire going with wet alder on a rainy winter day. He also said if it was made of wood, Ransom could make it.

Once I was with him in the lower field. The leaves were off the alders. Across the creek a ruffed grouse perched on an alder limb about 75 feet away. He shot its head off from his 9-millimeter Luger. I asked him why he aimed for its head. He said if you shot it anywhere else there wouldn’t be enough left to mess with.

He kept his guns in the house. You did not have to ask if they were loaded. If there was a varmint in the hen house you needed the gun now, with time for only one shot.

I heard stories of Ransom going up to the snow on the south side of the Quinault Valley and bringing back enough snow so that Grandma Maggie could make ice cream for 4th of July picnic.

I thought that was noteworthy so on the 4th of July between when I got my commission and when I was ordered to active duty, I took my Trapper Nelson packboard, some burlap and light rope and hiked up Ewell Creek trail to the avalanche slope. I returned with 70 lbs. of snow. The rest melted and ran down the back of my pants and legs and into my boots. It kept me cool on a hot day!

In 1948, the barn collapsed under the weight of the snow.

Grandpa, providing security for Mayr Bros Logging Co was allowed to cut shakes from broken alder slabs on the landing and poles from their logged-off land. By summer he had enough poles and shakes to frame our new 30’ x 40’ barn.

He was the epitome of my favorite definition of the term work: ‘Work is Love made evident.’ “

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