Part of a series of interviews done by the Imnaha School Kids in 1987.
Interviewer: Arthur Martinez
Q. What is your name?
A. Bud Maxwell.
Q. How long have you lived in this area?
A. I was born here. In fact I was born in Enterprise, my folks lived here at that time. In order to get to town, they had to take a team and wagon part way, then because of the snow, they took a sled all the rest of the way to Enterprise from approximately Midway.
Q. What do you like about living here?
A. Where else in Wallowa County maybe with the exception of the Troy area, would you find an area like this, that is more enjoyable to live here with everything you could possibly want, right here on the river? If times should really get tough, you could be self existent right here on the river. Sometimes it might be a little illegal, but then you could still live.
Q. How many people lived here when you first came?
A. There was more people living up and down the Imnaha River at the time I was born than there are now. There were more ranches and farms up and down the river than there is now. Times changed so that the small places were unable to survive. They had to sell and it was accumulated by different ones into bigger places, so they could make a living. I know that you children have interviewed Ferm Warnock. And I think I can get him a rig and go anywhere up the river or toward town and get the most enjoyment out of just visiting with him and listening to him than you can imagine. I wish that now, when I was your age, I had took more interest in the history of Wallowa County and the Imnaha area than I did. Now I look back and wish I could go talk to some of these older people. One person, when my Dad was a younger man before he come here to Imnaha was Lou Minor. My Dad and him used to work together. By the time I got around in being interested in history, I went to talk to him and he couldn’t hear. This is something you should remember, if you are interested in something and can learn something, do it when you can.
Q. What was life like then?
A. Most of the people that lived up and down the river, if they didn’t own anything and was making a living, would start on the lower part of the river and go up the river working on these little farms if they didn’t work for a sheep outfit or a cow outfit and help put up the hay. Usually by the time the Fourth of July come around, they could go to town and spend a little money. Here on the river, the Fourth of July was one of the highlights of the year. People would get together and have great big picnics. Sometimes, you know where the mouth of Gumboot is, it was a real picnic area at that time, for people on the Imnaha. They would go on horseback or with teams and wagons, go up there and stay for two or three days. They’d picnic and have horse races, play ball and all kinds of things that now days for some reason they don’t get together to do it. Up here on the hill by Will Wilde’s, used to be a drift place where they used to go to play ball.
Some of the main amusements on the playground at school in those days here was Annie Over and Kick the Can, Hop Scotch. When the old school sat down here in the corner they used to play Annie Over over the school house, it was the only building they had. I never had the pleasure of going to school here at Imnaha at what they called the Bridge School. I always went down at Rimrock. That’s down in the bend of the river where Jess Crader has his garden spot now right across from Witherrite’s. I went to school there my first year. Then I went to Clarkston, Washington until the sixth grade. I come back and went to sixth, seventh, and eighth grade here. Then I went out and stayed and went to school in Enterprise.
Q. What kind of equipment was used?
A. Mostly at that time was a team and wagon. Mostly it was all haying and everthing pertaining to haying was done with horses, like your plowing. In fact if you wanted to do most anything you used horses. They didn’t use cars the way they do now. Your teacher, Char would have a terrible time to get down here to school–It would take her quite a while on horseback. Or with a team and wagon and sled going out the other way. Most generally they shocked the hay, put it in piles. They would pitch that on a wagon and then go pitch it into a barn somewhere. It took quite awhile to maneuver it around and about all you had left generally was the stems. They would eat that cause that’s all there was.
Q. What changes have taken place since then?
A. I think I have described some of them. There is not the farms that there were, there are bigger places. In livestock, at that time there was over 200,000 head of sheep in Wallowa County. Now it would be hard to find anywhere that much. I doubt if you could come up with 5,000 sheep anymore. Most of the sheep were run in the Imnaha area at that time. On the Snake River area there were cattle on more benches over in Snake River country. I can’t remember where I saw it, I don’t have it but a lot of the people on Snake river would come to Imnaha to buy groceries. Big long pack strings would come over here and pack them up. There’s a picture and I’m not sure but what A.L. Duckett might have it, it shows three or four pack strings tied above the store over thee where it is right now. They were all from Snake River and had come over here to get groceries to take back to Snake River. That was quite a tour to come that far just to get groceries. When we moved, when my folks sold the store in 1926 and we moved to Horse Creek in 1927 where Phillips are now, is right where we lived then. Instead of coming this way, we went to Snake River to Dug Bar and took the boat to Lewiston most generally all the time when we were going back and forth. After we moved there in 1927, we just stayed there in the summertime. In the wintertime, my older brother and sister were going to school over there. So we would go over there in the winter and come back over here in the summertime. Until we moved to where I live right now and I started going to the Rimrock school again in the sixth grade.
Q. What changes do you think will come to this community in the near future?
A. I can’t foresee too much change in this area in the near future. We would like to see a few changes where people could make a little more money with their livestock or whatever. But it will be a few years before we will see that probably. But as far as their operations in this valley, I don’t see how they can change it a great deal, because it is too far to haul fruit or row crops to preserve them. They used to. This field over here of Will Wilde’s and the one above it were all orchards at one time. People would come from town in their team and wagon. They had a big stove and wood over there and they would can their fruit right there when they picked it. That was a little bit before my time too.
Q. What was school like?
A. School wasn’t a great deal different, only there were more of them. Besides this one, there were two on up the river and one down the river. Probably here, there were about the same amount of students as you have right now. Down the river, we used to have ten or twelve. Up river, I don’t know how many they had up there. There couldn’t have been too many at the school they called Park, because the school wasn’t that big. The Fruita school was up above Summit Creek, near the Palette Place. Then down this way at College Creek was the Freezeout school. Fruita was close to where the Imnaha River Woods is now, I don’t remember exactly where it was. Probably Gene Butler might have went to Fruita School, a lot of the Butlers lived up there. The Puderbaughs lived up there too. There’s where you could learn a lot from Ferm Warnock riding around with him. He used to ride up there and he would say so and so lived over there. You’d swear nobody had ever lived there, as there is nothing there now.
Q. Would you repeat for us the year you were born and when your parents lived here?
A. Are you trying to find out how old I am?
Q. Yes. How old are you?
A. I’m 61 years old. I’ll be 62 the 25th day of this month.
Q. You look younger. In fact a lot younger!
A. I don’t know what year my folks really moved into that house. You see, they lived in the back of the store for awhile. Then my folks homesteaded in what they call Bailey Canyon down here. And every night except mail night and they would walk down and stay up at the homestead. But on mail day they would stay in the back of the store until they moved into that house. I’m not sure what year that was, but they were living there in 1925. My parents were married in 1914 and took over the store with my Aunt Anna who homesteaded up Deer Creek in what they call Maxwell Basin.
Q. What brought people to Imnaha to live?
A. I think the weather and maybe being more free. Not being tied down. Then they would get out and do things you’d never dream of doing now. They would come from Snake River to Imnaha to go to a dance. They rode horseback all day to get here. They danced all night, have a meal at midnight, dance until daylight then get on their horses and head back to Snake River. People won’t do this anymore. They felt like there were more opportunities to get started down here, than in a more populated area.