Featured at the Bar-D Ranch

 

Father's Day

Donald W. Fouste
1920 - 1998

 

Below, Sharon Brown and Smoke Wade share words and photos in tribute to their father, Donald W. Fouste, and Smoke's daughter Christina Martin shares two of her poems.

Smoke Wade has contributed many stories and photos to Picture the West and Western Memories, and there are relevant links to some of those stories included below.

Below:


[photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski]

From Sheepherder to Cowboy—My Dad (prose) by Smoke Wade
Don's Song (poem) by Smoke Wade

 

Photos

 

Memories of a Mermaid (poem) by Sharon Brown
Hand on the Wheel (poem) by Sharon Brown
Vitalis Man (poem) by Sharon Brown

and

My Father's Eden (poem) by Christina Martin
Our Journey by Christina Martin

 

From Sheepherder to Cowboy – My Dad
 
A Father's Day Tribute to
Donald W. Fouste
1920 - 1998

by Smoke Wade
 

Donald W. Fouste (Don) was born the son of a homesteader and the grandson of a traveling tinker. His grandfather, able to fix anything, and rarely letting roots grow deep, moved about the northwest in a tinker’s wagon. His father left "home" at the age of 15 and eventually homesteaded Fouste Canyon in Council, ID. Don’s family—3 sisters, a brother and his folks—survived the Great Depression on this homesteaded land throughout his youth.

Don’s maternal grandfather was born on the Mormon 5th handcart brigade somewhere enroute to Utah. From this hardy pioneer stock on both sides of his family, and as a son of the Great Depression, Dad learned to become self-sufficient and live off of the land.

Don’s father taught him to grow food from the soil and to tend cows. He learned how to use his hands and build things. His mother was known as a storyteller at the local event center, and from her he learned the art of storytelling. Perhaps it is from these roots, and that of my mother's writing ability, that I became a prevaricator and cowboy poet.

While attending high school in Lewiston, Idaho, Dad took part time and summer employment working at both sawmills and the Dobbin & Huffman sheep ranch located deep in the Hells Canyon region of the Snake River. During his tenure on the sheep operation, Don met Betty Jean Tippett, daughter of a neighboring cattle baron. They were married in 1941, and together they had five children: my older brother, Donny; my three younger sisters, Sharon (Brown); Rachel and Joanne; and me. Joanne died of a rare childhood disease at the age of four.

Shortly after Don and Betty Jean were married, Dad enlisted in the U.S. Navy as a Seabee during WWII, and served a tour of duty in the Philippines. After the war was over, dad and mom moved to the home ranch of my mother’s youth and took over the cattle ranch there. Two years later they moved to the old ghost town of Rogersburg, Washington, and there they developed and operated a cattle ranch until the end of cattle ranching came about with the formation of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area.

During the years at Rogersburg—the home of my youth—Dad became proficient at raising cattle and growing abundant crops of alfalfa. The winters were long and hard and a great deal of hay was required to sustain the large cattle herds throughout the long winter months. His mechanical abilities allowed him to build large irrigation pumps, thus accessing the nearby water of the Snake and Grande Ronde rivers. Prior to his pump and sprinkler system, hay fields of the region were mostly irrigated by flood irrigation supplied by long ditches fed by the rivers upstream from the fields. [See "Haying Season."]

His mechanical abilities included metal and woodworking. He had learned the skill of welding while in the U.S. Navy, and as the only welder in the remote region we lived in, he often was called upon to repair farm equipment or to build flat beds and stock racks for neighboring ranchers trucks. He was the first to bring into the canyon a tractor with a 20-foot reach buck-rake that allowed him to stack hay without the use of hay derricks, sling & carriage systems or horse power.

But Dad was also a cowboy. My youthful memories of father seem to revolve around horses and cattle. He taught his children how to ride at a young age. He allowed neighboring cowboys, such as Tom Dorrance and Ben Tippett, to refine our riding skills. When I was 5 years of age, Dad made me ride my own horse while on the summer cattle roundup. I remember that day—crying and falling off all day long.

He taught us how to tend to sick cattle, to aid in birth, to brand, and most importantly, to trail cattle. We often followed the seasons with our cattle herds, from winter grounds to spring and summer pasture, to fall market and back to the winter grounds. Oh, how we learned to move cattle from Dad—years of eating dust while riding drag. He taught us how to shoe horses and how to build fence. He required my brother and I to ride horseback to our one-room country schoolhouse some six miles away. And all the while he told us the stories, for Dad was a storyteller—the stories of our land, our heritage and the stories of those that lived there before us.

After the cattle ranching years were over, Dad became a building materials merchant, a general contractor, a realtor and a land developer. Don was visionary. He developed near worthless Hells Canyon river front property into vacation cabin sites in areas accessible only by boat. Today, these cabin sites and developments, limited from further development by the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, are worth small fortunes.

But all the while, Dad remained a cowboy. He often ran herds of cattle on the rugged land as he was developing cabin sites along the Snake River. At times these cattle operations were a challenge that gave him purpose and resolve. To continue punching cows, he resorted to using a small boat to move the cattle upstream in a manner that summed his inventive nature. [See "The Crossing."]

Dad spent his final days stranded in a wheelchair on his front deck. He had lost his balance and could no longer walk without falling. Naturally, being an old cowboy, he blamed the steer that had run him over a few years prior causing some injury to his head and ear. And during that time on his front deck, it was my good fortune to be his care giver, and once again I was able to hear all of the old stories over again—and some new ones. Dad relived his life as a cowboy there from his wheelchair right up until his final words. He wanted me to get the story right—to use the stories at some future time to keep the history alive.

During the ranching years, my brother and I often remember dad leaving at daybreak on horseback, headed up the mountainside to tend to the cattle on what would be a day that would not see his return until nightfall. It was at daybreak on that late August morning in 1998 when he left for the last time leaving me with only the memories and the stories. I spent the day, until nightfall, thinking of my dad, and his final words to me.

After a life of storytelling, the final words he shared with me was "I am ready to go now."

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

© 2010, Smoke Wade 
 

 

Smoke writes: This is perhaps one of my favorite photos. circa 1949. Dad and I somewhere in the mountains looking for cows. I am sure he had recently been telling me a story.



Don's Song
by Smoke Wade
 
 
Smoke writes: My sister and I have different memories of our dad. I remember as a young boy that he told me when he was eighty years old, that he would be able to go to the park and catch a rocket to the moon. He had a lot of faith in future technology. And, he definitely marched to his own beat. But it wasn't cowboy rap, not until now...
 
Don's Song
I’m gonna live to be a hundred years old,
Ain’t doing nothing that I’ve been told.
Will have a lot of wrinkles upon my face,
I’ll raise a lot of hell all over the place.
 
Got me two dogs and a Ford pickup truck,
I never put my faith in Miss Lady Luck.
Keep a cowboy hat behind the pickup seat,
Wear rubber soled sneakers upon my feet.
 
I’m the old man that lives up the river,
The cold winter wind don’t make me shiver.
Won’t find me sitting on the front porch swing.
Ain’t gonna buy a new suit come next spring.
 
When I’m roping cows, I shake out a noose,
Then I get back to town and I turn it loose.
I’ll be at the park come Sunday at noon,
And catch the next shuttle up to the moon.
 
Now, the story of time is etched on my face,
And I’ve been slandered all over the place.
I'm the last cowboy to sing to the sky,
"Might just live until the day that I die." 
© 2009, Smoke Wade 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
 


Photos

with captions by Smoke Wade

Dad with his older sister, Glenette, and younger sister, Margaret, on the family homestead in Council, Idaho, circa 1924

 

Dad with an unknown Navy mate in the jungles of the Philippines, circa 1944. His Seabee battalion went ashore in Luzon, PI, during the battle of Leyte Gulf. First they built a camp. Next they built a movie theater. Then they set about the business of building boat docks and an air strip.


Dad with his arms around me along with my mother and my brother, Donny, circa 1948. My brother was obviously not as well mannered as I. The photo depicts that it is branding time. Dad has his branding gloves on and to the right side of the photo one can see the shadows of the branding corral and the cows are bawling for their calves. The cattle operation was a family partnership with a large herd. Branding time went on for several days. [See The 1952 Hashknife Branding.]

 

Dad in his Jeep along the Snake River circa early 1950s.

The mail box pointed towards the river indicating our remote wilderness life style where mail came weekly, some times twice weekly by boat.

And then there is the jeep. These Willys Jeeps came with a standard pickup box on the back. Dad, being the handy mechanic, and grandson of a tinker, was able to design a flat bed and stock racks to replace the box bed. The springs were beefed up and he could haul two horses in the rig. Note the things he added for road comfort: the lower side bin for tire chains, tools and jacks; and the dog catcher above the cab with the WWII surplus Army box that was weather tight to store groceries, clothing, tack and bed rolls in. Because of his mechanical abilities, Dad often built such flat beds and racks for the neighboring ranchers. The Jeep was even equipped with a power-take-off (PTO) so he could operate water pumps and buzz saws.

 

Our family sitting around the table at the Rogersburg ranch house, circa 1954. Mom was a good cook and we always ate well. Most of our food we produced ourselves or Mom created from the store-bought essentials. Not pictured in the photo is a large wood cookstove that my mother preferred to use over the electric stove. Pictured L to R: Mom, little sister, Sharon (Brown), Dad, myself and older brother, Donny.
 

The men in my family saw themselves as very strong men. while my Grandfather, Jidge Tippett, may have lifted horses, my Dad liked to roll large boulders out of the road. This photo, circa late 1970s, shows the challenging environment that we lived in. Note the ice jammed up along the river, and the boulder strewn road was our only road to town.

 

Dad on horseback during the 1980s when he was running cows up from his Snake River development property. Ironically, the old cow camp in the background was there on the same spot in Zaza, Idaho when Dad was herding sheep as a teenager.

 

Memories of a Mermaid
by Sharon Brown


I originally wrote this poem for my dad on Father's Day in 1997, with a few revisions since then. I was living in southern Florida at the time, and he in my hometown in Washington State, a million miles away. I didn't know at the time that I had only one more shot at Father's Day with him before his crossing to The Other Side.

My early childhood was spent on a remote cattle ranch on the Snake River, near the gateway to Hells Canyon. The Snake is a swift flowing, white water river. So we learned how to swim and be at ease around water very early in life. The setting for this poem was on a neighbor's ranch whose big, lovely yard full of flowers, fruit trees, and bee hives was situated on a bank overlooking that river. They also had a goldfish pond that was very enticing, very exotic to this very young girl. I gave my father the scare of a lifetime. Read on and you'll see why.

Memories of a Mermaid

Innocent little water nymph
Not more than 3 or 4 years old
Gazing in wide-eyed wonder
At speckled, shimmering goldfish
Swimming by
And big, green, glossy leaves
Swaying
Among the wet, round river rocks
Underwater in the fish pond
Out in Lorene’s front yard
There I was, submerged
In murky water over my head
Holding my breath
I suppose
For I felt no fear
That much I remember
As my hair floated all around me
Like the tresses of a mermaid
In a fantasy underwater world
Where time stood still
Till Dad came along
And pulled me out
Gasping
He thought I had drowned
He did not know
That I had immersed myself
In a mermaid’s watery realm
And had no desire to be found

© 2008, Sharon Brown
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 


Sharon writes: This is a photo of me as a baby astride a horse on our ranch at Rogersburg, circa 1953. That's my dad keeping tabs on me. We learned how to ride horseback at a tender young age, with or without a saddle. The horse is probably Patsy, the one our mother rode as a rodeo queen several years prior. Notice the poles in the background for electricity and phone lines.



Hand on the Wheel

by Sharon Brown

"Hand on the Wheel" captures a warm memory of spending time with my dad on the cattle ranch where I spent my early childhood. I was under the age of 5 in this "snapshot." The photo of Dad in his Jeep, above, is probably the old pick-up I recall in this poem. Such an idyllic childhood I had in those early years on the ranch. A daydreamer's delight.
 

Hand on the Wheel

There I was
Driving
The old red pick-up truck
With peeling paint
And dented fender
Dusty seats and
Cluttered dashboard
Driving
‘Round the field
On the bank
Of the swift-flowing river
We were tucked in
Underneath vertical hills
Of the rugged river canyon
Out of sight
Of the big ranch house
Where Mama was cooking supper
I drove
All by myself
As the sun was going down
Behind the canyon walls
While Dad pitched hay out the back
Of the flat bed
Me, so small in a big cowboy hat
That I had to push it back
Out of my eyes
To see
Had to sit up high on my knees
To reach
That big ol’ steering wheel
And look out the windshield
Just barely
With the gear stuck in neutral
Old truck going slow
Shaking along, inching forward
Round and round the field
In a spiral
Of fragrant alfalfa
Calves bawling, cattle mooing
Ambling towards us
I drove
With tiny hands on that big wheel
So slowly
Round and round
Till all the cows had been fed
Every last one
And a day’s work had been done

© 2008, Sharon S. Brown
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Sharon writes: Dad later in life, circa 1978, spending time with his daughters and two of his grandkids (my daughter, Shari, and my son, Cameron, when they were very young). I'm the tall daughter standing next to Dad. That's my sister, Rachel, next to me. My children loved to spend time with their granddad, who would take them to feed the cows, horseback riding, and to the sale yard to watch the auction of cattle.


Vitalis Man
by Sharon Brown

Every time he went to town, he dressed up
In his best shirt laundered and pressed
Hair tonic and Old Spice after shave
Fresh boot polish and Lucky Strike cigarettes
 
Sporting Levis brand new, not faded or worn
Over his Sunday pair o’ cowboy boots
You’d never mistake him for a hired hand
With every strand of hair in place

Dad was a Vitalis man

As he loaded up all four of us kids
In the back seat of the old Nash sedan
It took just one whiff of his cocktail cologne
To make our tummies rumble after the trip began

With Mama holding baby Joanne on her lap
Down the ol’ dusty dirt road we’d go
Dad liked to keep his foot on the gas
At twenty five miles per hour or more
 
Pedro and Ol’ Blue would trail us awhile
Barking and snapping like dogs will do
Till the ranch house was just about out of sight
As guardians of Rogersburg, they remained true
 
Snaking along narrow roads above whitewater
We sang songs and told stories all the way
Leaving in our wake a big cloud o’ dust
As Dad flicked his cigarettes in the ashtray
 
Along about evening we would head back home
After a day spent in town shopping and such
Our Mama snuggled up next to her cowboy
While we sleepyheads snoozed and Dad worked the clutch

© 2010, Sharon Brown
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Smoke writes: I am holding my son, Clint, along with Dad and my grandfather, Will Fouste, circa 1967. Of the four generations, only I survive. 
 



Christina Martin

Smoke Wade writes: In 1999, my daughter came up from California to visit me in Idaho, and I took her on a long day's journey through the high country of our old summer range and cow camps. Un-checked forest fires had ravaged the area a few years prior. I told her of how it used to be and showed her all the secret places that I knew of. And I shared my father's stories with her, for my father was a story teller. When she returned to California, she recapped the adventure in these two poems.

 

My Father's Eden

The mountainsides of my father's youth,
the spots that stay alive in his mind with vivid memory;
Now lay partially daunted with an army of skeleton-like
pale trees, that show the silent signs of defeat.

But, beneath these dying giants,
child-like new beginnings have hatched;
Scattered by the rocky trails are tart huckleberry patches
and sweeping long grasses, enjoying the shade.

Crisp and sweet water flows from
the very heart of this wild bounty;
This is my father's Eden—pure and sincere,
and it offers all the wonders of his unbridled youth.

© 1999, Christina Martin
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
 



Our Journey

My blood flows deeply within the soil of this land,
this is my history, I'm told;
Scaling the buttes and rocks,
to meadows and springs speckled with pine.

Hearing the tales, from my father,
of these ancient, yet common grounds;
As fading shadows of faces I've never known
melt softly into the trees.

These rolling hills and sweeping canyons
once guided those before me—home;
Now, those closest to me
have shown me these fountains of youth.

As the sun drops over the rim rocks,
and the moon wades over the river;
We ride away from these secrets,
but not with empty hearts.

© 1999, Christina Martin
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

  Read more about Smoke Wade and more of his poetry here.
[photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski]

 

  Read more about Sharon Brown and more of her poetry here.


Sharon Brown and Smoke Wade also contributed a 2010 tribute to their mother, Betty Jean Tippett.

 

Find past years' Father's Day tributes (by Jane Morton, Linda Kirkpatrick, Paul Kern, and Andy Nelson) and more poems to fathers in the collection here.

 

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