I moved away from the town I grew up in years ago, but sometimes I reflect on what my life was like there and wonder if I should have stayed.
It seems that everybody wants to know where everyone else grew up. When I tell people I was born and raised in a town called Trickledown, they want to know how in the world the founders came up with a name like that!
I’ve heard a few stories, but the one that people repeat the most, is the one I usually tell folks. First, I’ll give you a little history of how the town came to be.
I’m a third generation Trickledowner, so my accounting will be somewhat subjective. Facts will be intermingled with folklore. I’ve also been gone for twenty years.
For a couple of decades, the place was nothing more than a wide spot in the road where people came to sell or trade whatever they had been able to grow on their land during the reasonably warm spring and summer months. They called it truck farming and it was the only thing that kept families going while they put together a temporary sod house, accumulated some livestock, and figured out how they were going to keep everything including themselves alive through the bitter cold days that would begin shortly after fall arrived.
Trickledown wasn’t like most other places people traveled great distances to homestead. Other parts of the country saw the leaves on the trees turn beautiful shades of red, orange and yellow in the fall. The leaves that were unlucky enough to be on a tree around what would be known as Trickledown, turned brown and blew away in a day or two. It was as if they knew it didn’t make sense to stick around and become nothing but frozen fodder trapped between cold, lifeless, tundra and hardened banks of snow.
The farmers and ranchers who settled in the area were those who were late to the game. The sign outside of town said, “Many passed through, but nobody stayed.”
Many of the families who dreamed of owning their own land didn’t stick around after experiencing their first winter. The ones who made it through the second, were tough, hardheaded, tenacious and extremely committed. I will include the women, children, cattle, horses, dogs and any other living thing in the category of, do’r die’rs.
Even so, it wasn’t long before a certain hierarchy formed. Five or six ranchers, who with their families, had stuck it out the full five years, which was the requirement to own the land they homesteaded, began to meet on a regular basis; ostensibly to plan the future of the little settlement.
One of the first buildings to go up was the school house. It was a small, square, structure. The unique feature was the second story. The idea wasn’t to make room for overcrowding, but to provide a small teacher’s quarters. They all figured it would take some added incentive to get a good teacher to live in Trickledown.
Both the school room and the quarters had a wood burning stove. If the pull-down ladder was down, and the hatch was open, the rising warm air from the schoolroom in addition to the stove going upstairs, would keep the quarters pretty warm. In the beginning, before a teacher was found, the ruling ranchers were very comfortable while holding their meetings up there.
The building was perched on the side of a lonely hill so it also served as a lookout for any bad weather coming in… and a few other things. It was a widely known secret that more than a few hands of poker were dealt up there. Along with the cards, an occasional jug of moonshine, obtained by trading some of those valuable vegetables, was passed around. The men swore they were only thinking of the possible need to escape quickly when they put in a door to the outside leading to a small platform. Instead of stairs, they put a pole with places to put one’s feet and hands while climbing quickly down to safety. Coincidentally, the outhouse was only a few feet away from the pole.
Not wanting to have all the fruits of their labor thrown down the gullets of their men, a few of the local rancher’s wives had a meeting of their own, and devised a plot to kill their husband’s buzz.
It seems one of the plants that flourished in the gardens, but didn’t sell or trade very well, acted as a potent physic, (an old fashioned term for laxative). It was remarkably easy for the ladies to intercept the vile moonshine and add their own contribution to the mix. Soon, sliding down the pole, using the outhouse, and then climbing back up, interfered with the hierarchy conducting any business, such as naming the town. On the plus side, they were outside more than inside enjoying the comfort of the two-stove schoolhouse. Consequently, in addition to being cold they were worn out.
It must have been somewhat satisfying, yet difficult not to snicker, when those ladies watched their starving men gulp down a good meal, knowing it would be trickling down soon and they would be back out in the cold.
In the end, It was the rancher’s wives who came up with the town’s name. Trickledown had a ring to it, and it would be a constant reminder of the real value of a vegetable.