Jacks

Jacks

These are Jack mules (jackass mated to mare horse) pulling a buggy on the way to fishing  around New Plymouth.  Note the vegetation.  It is very representative of the hills around New Plymouth of that time, but not on the Plymouth bench proper, where the sage was much bigger.  You can still find this kind of vegetation around NP area on various hills.  I am guessing that this is out by what became later, Hamilton Corner—on the way off the bench.  They may have gone this route because of gully or drain ditch made crossing closer to town problematic—or they might have just wanted to go up farther on the river—at that time there was no Black Bridge.

This is the Sloan family and friends on the way to fish in the river.

Jacks were bred purposely for certain tasks. They use a big jackass male with horse mare to produce large mules, greatly desired by freighters.  Locals who might want to cross the Payette liked the longer legged Jack mules instead of the smaller, shorter legged regular mules.  Gus Zeigler who lived north of New Plymouth near the river, bred jacks for many years. Jacks are taller than horses–very long legs and great stamina. They made great teams for tasks like this but were obnoxious to have around. They sounded just like an extremely rusty pump — like scratching a blackboard with finger nails only pitched lower.  When hungry they would bray up a storm.  Evenings — the “gloaming” in old time parlance — the dew would be heavy in the air as sun went down–twilight.  The heavier air carried the braying like it was next to your ear. Though Gus lived a mile from us we all got to share his jacks!  Jackasses were a specialty breed.  Very good for niche business, like fording the countless un-bridged streams.  But, burned way too much hay for regular competition with horses or mules.

This photo, not dated, is most likely 1900-1910. At that time, with no roads, you simply took off anywhere across the sage.  Roads in Idaho lagged way behind, and because of, the railroads.  The rails provided very quick and very easy transport — and very cheap. So why build costly, hard to build, and unnecessary roads? So roads, especially in Idaho, were simply not available away from town.  Look at a map of Idaho — you will see that all the early towns were served by rails — probably before the town sprang up.

My grandfather drove a team and wagon from Cache County, Utah to Pendleton — with stop at Weiser in 1902 — took 2-3 weeks — hard weeks. Very probably across land that looked exactly like this.  When he brought his family to Weiser in 1913 for good, they put all their belongings on a flatbed rail car and were in Weiser that same day!

Note that when apple industry first started in Idaho — it began in Washington County because the RR was there in Weiser.  It took folks this kind of effort to found Falk Store and Emmett and other Payette towns.  Idaho in the winter and spring can be knee deep in mud.  We did not get even graveled roads until after WWII, then county paved some county roads in 1947-49.

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