This biography was printed in March 1980 by the William Halls Family Organization in its family periodical,
Through the Halls of History, Kristine Halls Smith, editor.
© 1980 William Halls Family Organization
Frank(lin) Halls was the ninth child and third son of William Halls (1834-1920) and Johanne Marie Frandsen (1855-1913)
by Merlene Halls Garard, Daughter
Franklin Halls and Mary Elizabeth Wood were married January 5, 1916 in the Salt Lake Temple. That marriage surely must have been made in heaven, as they lived together happily for almost two‑thirds of a century. Dad said the secret of a happy marriage was never to get angry at the same time. That formula seemed to work for them, though I suspect their ability to laugh at life helped smooth some of the rough times. Their marriage produced five children -- Franklin Devere, Lowell Keith, Carol Merlene, Samuel Fred, and William Wood.
Dad had a keen sense of humor and no one appreciated it more than Mother: "Frank, tell them the story about the time you and Fred hid Dan Perkins' car in the State Road Department's shed.” Even though she'd heard each of his stories many times, she would laugh along with everyone else. After almost 62 years of marriage, most men would consider that the highest accolade of all. Mother thought he was perfect -- only admitting to one minor fault. She waited on him hand and foot and he expected her to do so.
As we children were growing up, money was rather scarce, but being poor didn't seem to be a detriment to us. In the first place, we weren't really aware of that state, and secondly, we knew we were loved abundantly. Of course, we never went hungry, as we, like most everyone else in town, raised nearly all the food needed to fill our stomachs. We ate pork, beef, lamb, and chicken, along with vegetables and fruits from the garden. Mother was the gardener, and she loved it. Lucky for the rest of us, too, as she could hardly ever find a boy or girl to help when the garden needed planting, watering, or weeding. However, unlike the story of "The Little Red Hen", she was happy to share the fruits of her labor.
She was a marvelous cook, too -- but housekeeping was not her forte. For that reason, and the financial rewards, she often worked outside her home as a secretary and bookkeeper, -- the local bank, L.H. Redd Mercantile store, Stearns‑Roger Manufacturing Company -- to name a few.
Grandmother Wood lived with us during much of that time. She took over the care and feeding of five little hellions, relieving Mother of many mundane chores which weren't to her liking. It was a good arrangement -- we all loved Grandmother, even though she wouldn't let us get away with much. Dad appreciated his mother‑in‑law and often marveled at the fact that disagreements were practically non‑existent.
Grandmother often told us stories of Dad's antics while he was courting Mother. One I recall was when Dad offered to do the dishes so Mother could get herself ready to go on an outing. Next morning, Grandmother found all the dishes neatly stacked in the cupboard -- dirty! Another time, Mother was mortified to find Dad wearing her shoes with plenty of room to spare. She didn't feel the size of her feet was anything to joke about.
Many stories have been told about pranks which Dad and his long‑time friend, Fred Keller, devised for their own amusement, as well as for the enjoyment of the townspeople. In a town as small as Monticello, where cultural pursuits were found wanting, you had to make your own fun, and they did plenty of that.
Dad tried several occupations before he settled on the one that made him happiest -- ranching, with a little farming on the side. His favorite pastime was to "take a ride out and see the cows." Many times we were transported in his car, old or new, over fields and range lands thick with prairie dog mounds, rocks, oak brush, etc., just to get a closer look at the beautiful white‑face heifers and calves. I can still see Grandmother Wood bouncing up and down on the seat beside him as he tried to dodge the most imposing hazards in his path.
One of his first ventures as a youth was an attempt to sell stepladders. He spent one summer in the northwest, traveling by motorcycle with one demonstrator ladder tied on the side. He came home sadder, wiser, and no richer, selling only the one he took with him. His subsequent undertakings are best told in a poem written by Fred Keller:
A Smithy once was he,
But steel, it soon got cold.
A stitch came in his strong right arm
The blacksmith shop was sold.
And then he got the smell of gas,
Ambition burst to flame.
He built a brick garage, boys,
And thought he'd rise to fame.
Then sheep came in the picture,
For just one fleeting summer.
What didn't die, he sold dirt cheap
Except one bleeding gummer.
And then he turned to politics.
I'll be a clerk, said he
And now with slow staccato
He works a typewriter key.
"Clerk" being County Clerk for San Juan County, an elective position he held for four terms. During that time, and after, he began accumulating land and cattle. With the help of his four sons, he put together what could be called a "sizeable spread". Cattle with the Triangle H brand could be seen in parts of southeastern Utah and southwestern Colorado. Years later, Mother and Dad built a motel in Monticello and called it "Triangle H Motel." Mother enjoyed the motel business, but the only thing Dad liked about it was the big fireplace in their living quarters.
They both loved to travel and did a lot of that after they retired. One thing they didn't enjoy was old age, along with its loss of independence. The last few years were not the happiest of times for them, but they had many wonderful memories to sustain them -- and they had each other. Hardly ever separated in all the years of their marriage, death came for them together -- Dad living less than three weeks longer than Mother. God's infinite wisdom at work!
Frank and Lizzie's daughter‑in‑law, Gwen Halls, wife of Samuel, collected stories told by Frank and poems or rhymes he wrote to some of his friends. She put these together for Christmas 1977.
"My Father‑in‑law, Frank Halls, was born July 12, 1887, in Mancos, Colorado. He was one of twelve children, raised by strict, Mormon parents. His parents were of pioneer stock, believing strongly in the proverb, 'Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.'
"In the years I have known Frank, he has lived by that precept and tried to raise his children with the same philosophy. Through the years, I have become more than a little fond of him, with a real appreciation for his history, his morality, and his personality.
"In his youth, he was 'privileged' to witness the final generation of pioneers and cowboys. His stories and experiences are not much different from many others about that time, but his perception is not one of bare fact, but of color and contrast. He saw things honestly and in a proper perspective, with all the appreciation of a unique cultural tradition.
"He is a man of the highest moral standards, but has always tried to resist the temptation to judge others. Failing this, he is apt to poke good‑natured fun at himself for his own weakness. His sense of humor is legend among his family and friends, with an underlying vein of subtlety and honesty that occasionally hits a little too close to home for comfort. But, as any acquaintance knows, he is just as quick to turn that keen wit toward himself, as he is toward anyone else.
"I will not attempt to write a history of Frank, but would like to offer the following collection of poems and stories that relate directly to him and his life.
"In February, 1974, I began to tape some stories that Frank liked to tell. In transcribing them, I tried to take the facts and make them into a grammatically perfect story. I soon discovered, however, that my poor tamperings were taking away the flavor that Dad put into his stories. So I transcribed the stories directly from the tape, as much as possible. The continuity is not perfect, but the words are Dad's, which make this account charming and original.
"With Affection, Gwen Halls"
Stories told by Frank Halls
transcribed by his daughter-in-law, Gwen Halls
Back in time, just after the turn of the century, I wanted to go to BYU in Provo, Utah to school. At the time I lived with my family in Mancos, Colorado. The narrow gauge railroad that ran from Durango was broke down and didn't run, so my father had to take a horse and buggy and take me to Thompson to catch the train that went through this country.
The first day we reached Dove Creek, Colorado. At that time there was only one house there, right down along the creek. It belonged to Jodie Wood and his wife, and they were stock people. All the Bluff cowboys used to drive their cows through Dove Creek, and they'd stop there at night. This woman was good to everybody. She'd invite them in and not charge them a thing. The country at that time was full of Texas outlaws and cowboys and people trying to keep away from the law, don't you see. There were all kinds that would pass through there, and she'd take them in no matter who rode up, and then she'd feed 'em and treat 'em good. And those old cowboys thought she was the greatest woman that ever was, and if anyone would have ever hurt her, they'd have shot him. They felt that way about her.
Well, like I say, she'd take and feed these cowboys, and they, in return, would do anything for her. George Perkins -- he was a big cowboy in Bluff in those days -- he was taking his cattle over to the railroad to sell, and they stopped there over night. We were stopping there, too, on my way to school. She invited us all into supper. Now we just felt that this was routine for she was always doing this sort of thing for passers by...
Now she and George were talking....and she had 3 or 4 kids running around there. George pointed one out and said, “That boy there looks just like Jodie.” And she said, “I'll have you understand, Mr. Perkins, that all my children look like Jodie!”
Generally, the narrow-gauge railroad ran from Durango through Telluride and Mancos and around that neck of the woods. Then you'd go down to Montrose the next morning and catch the regular, broad-gauge railroad. But, at this time, the railroad was broke down and so my Father said he'd take me to Moab so that I could reach Thompson and the train.
The first night, traveling by horse and buggy, we stayed in Dove Creek. On the second day we managed to reach Monticello. In those days you could go all over and it didn't cost you anything. You could stay with people anywhere you were, and they put you up. Now my Father was well liked, and when he'd go around like that, he'd just drive right up to somebody's house, and they'd just take him in and feed and grain the horses and feed and sleep him and be just glad to do it. The next morning they'd give him breakfast and send him on his way.
When we came into Monticello, we just drove right up in front of Bishop Jones' place, and he came out and they talked a minute, and Bishop Jones told us to drive right in and unhitch the horses. So we drove in, unhitched the horses, fed them, and went right into the house and had our supper and stayed right there. And the next morning we had breakfast and left, and they didn't charge us a thing.
Now on the next night we stayed at Hatch Wash. We had a camp outfit and everything, and that was a regular stopping place for anyone traveling through ‘cuz there was water and everything you needed for a camp and horses and such. They'd have to haul wood in there cause so many people camped there, don't you see?
Now the next night we went right on into Moab. And, like I say, they had a stage that ran from there to Thompson, but it would take all day to get there. 'Course you had to ferry across the Colorado River. Moab was as far as my Father took me, and I continued on from there alone.
It cost just a dollar or two, I don't remember just what, to take the stage to Thompson. We didn't have much money – oh, we had everything there was to live on, but not much money -- and we'd do everything we had to to eat, but you didn't need much money to get along in those days.
From there I took the stage to Thompson and then the train on into Provo. The whole trip took about six days, but nobody minded the time then, ‘cuz nobody was in such a hurry as they are now days.
There was a man named Page from Payson that was in charge of the road work in that area. In those days there wasn't much machinery for that type of work, and most of it was done by hand. Mr. Page was just an awful good man and tried to help students out whenever he could. At that time there was another kid and myself that had to have a job in order to go to school. This kid's name was Page, too, but he was no relation to the road supervisor. Mr. Page gave us a job for the days that we were out of school, you see. He just took real good care of us, even though the city didn't like it much because they wanted regular hands hired all the time. But Mr. Page just told them he'd do what he wanted and hired us anyway for whatever hours we could work. They only paid us two or three dollars a day, but that was enough to take care of what little I needed. I had to work in order to keep my education going, but I was always lucky enough to find what work I had to have.
When I was a young fellow living in Mancos, the country and the people were so much different than it is today. Everything was western with cowboys and quite a few miners. The country was new and rough. There weren't too many people, and with the mines and ranches in the area going full blast, everyone had jobs and a lot of men had a lot of extra money in their pockets. There was no law to speak of, and everybody did pretty much what they wanted, as long as they didn't bother other people too much.
There was a man named Curt Williams that raised the best quarter horses in the area. Now Mancos had no race track, but the horses would run in a straight line for races around the area, and everybody loved it. Now Mr. Williams had a good horse named “Silver Dick” that he rode and trained. Now this horse was very heavy, but fast as anything you ever saw. With timing his running they discovered that he could match the world record and sometimes even beat it. Now they'd run Silver Dick locally and bet a few dollars and win a little, until gradually, word got around about what a fast horse Silver Dick really was, don't you see.
Along about the 1st of April, there was some men came around Mancos that claimed to have a horse named Big Tom that was every bit as good as Silver Dick. Instead of running 1/4 mile, Big Tom could maintain his speed for 3/8 mile. At any rate, they wanted to fix up a race between Silver Dick and their Big Tom. They stayed quite a while around there trying to make a match between the horses. After some talk such a match was made. They compromised between 3/8 and l/4 mile for the length of the race. Now they needed a real track to fix up a good race with betting and a crowd and such. So Curt Williams said he had a great big level spot that would be a good location for a race track. Everyone agreed that a circular track in this area would be fine for the upcoming race.
The race was scheduled for the 4th of July, so that the track could be built. A lot of the town people helped fix up that track, building a high board fence around the track and grandstands so that they could charge admission and make a paying proposition out of the affair. Now the trouble with a circular track is that the inside horse has a big advantage over the other horse. So, it was agreed that they would draw for the inside position. The draw was won by Big Tom.
Silver Dick was ridden mostly by a kid called "A". He was a good hand, and he really liked the horse, and the horse loved him. He just knew everything there was to know about that horse. Now Curt Williams wanted to ride the horse in the race himself, don't you see. But the folks around town didn't fall for that. So Curt talked it over with this kid, and the kid hollered around and raised hell until Curt said that the kid would be riding the horse.
After the track was completed, both horses began training there, but they trained privately, never letting what they were doing be seen by the other side and such. Curt knew that his horse had the outside track so he trained and trained Silver Dick and his jockey to jump off the starting line real quick so as to overcome the inside track advantage, don't you see.
On the big day the race started with Big Tom on the inside and Silver Dick on the outside. When the race started, Silver Dick just jumped out there fast, as he'd been trained to do, and in four jumps he had the lead and the inside track. That's what they had trained him to do, don't you see. Now that kid that was riding never even looked back; he just rode Silver Dick just as fast as he could go. He did just about everything he could to make that horse go as fast as he could. But after a quarter of a mile Silver Dick began to slow down and was beginning to lose the lead he had, with Big Tom coming up pretty fast, and the other rider doing his level best to pass Silver Dick. When those two horses reached the finish line, Silver Dick had won, but just by a head -- heck, not even that much -- just by a nose, by golly! If they'd had to go any farther Big Tom would have won the race.
The crowd was immense, with people coming from ranches and mines for miles around to see the race and to bet some money on whichever horse was their favorite. Well, when the race was over, the money began to change hands from all the betting that people had done. When the race was arranged, it was agreed that the purse would be $1000, but that was only a small portion of what was actually made on that race. It was just surprising to see how much money changed hands that day. And the money was all silver and gold, in those days. I had managed to get $5 to bet on Silver Dick, and I won, by golly. Dear me, mine was only a little bit. I was just a big kid and just wanted to look around. But a lot of people would just stand around before the race and yell at somebody else... “Fifty dollars on Silver Dick (or Big Tom)?” And somebody would always answer, ”You got a bet.” It was one of the darndest sights I ever saw -- just rolls and rolls of money being bet and being paid off afterward. It was something to see, I'll tell you! There were thousands and thousands of dollars there that day, I'll tell you.
Now this boy "A" that had ridden the horse didn't wear any kind of jockey uniform. There wasn't anything like that in those days around this country. He just wore a plain pair of overalls. Well, when he'd won the race and turned the horse around to come back, people around, gamblers and such just started to fill this kids bib overalls with silver dollars and money till that kid could hardly walk.
Curt Williams was just so sure that Silver Dick would win that he'd bet all the money he had and even went to the bank and borrowed more to bet. If he'd lost that race, he would have been just flat broke. And he was very well to do, but he was so sure that he didn't even hesitate and bet everything that he could get his hands on that day.
This was one of the biggest events in my young life, and I'll tell you, it was one of the biggest things that had ever happened around that country. I've never seen anything like it before or even since.