Tom Fry, born in Iowa Feb. 04, 1876, was the "Oldest Man" at the Grant County Fair for the fifth
time this year. His 96 years have given him a wealth of memories.
He came to Oregon when he was 2 years old with his sisters, parents, Mr. and Mrs., Wm. Fry, and
his mother's sister and her husband and their two children, in two wagons. Instead of joining a
wagon train, they traveled by themselves. Indians had been attacking the wagon trains, and the
little group passed the burned remnants of wagons. They overtook an Indian whose horse had been
killed by some wagon train members or by U.S. Cavalry. Tom's father gave the Indian a ride in his wagon and
tried to visit with him. At first the Indian's only response was, "I don't savvy". But soon Tom's father
said the Indian was talking as well as he was. When the Indian left them after a ride of several miles he
said, "You won't be bothered by any attacks." And they never were. Tom's father was sure the kindness to that
one Indian had saved them. The two wagons arrived in Canyon City July 04, 1878.
Most of Tom's childhood was spent on his parents' homestead on Mt. Creek near Caleb (Calop), 12 miles east of
Mitchell. Tom and his two sisters and three brothers rode hoseback three miles to the one-room Caleb school.
There were about 20 pupils in 8 grades. The school year began in June and lasted three months.
There was a store and post office at Caleb. An up-and-down, or sashsawmill powered by water from a creek
provided lumber. Later a mill with a circular saw, also water powered, was built by Wm. Keeton and Mr. Campbell.
Necessities not raised or made at home came from The Dalles.
The big celebration each year was on the Fourth at the race track George McKay built at his ranch at Waterman
Flat, about 10 miles from Caleb. Many families camped overnight, and the others spent the whole day. A platform provided
a floor for the almost 211-night dance. The fireworks were mostly firecrackers and rockets. The horse races were the
main event. "we Didn't have race horses, but we all just raced the horses we had," Tom reclls.
Sometimes they also rode bucking horses.
Tom's Dad ranched and drove freight wagons. Tom began freighting at the age of 14 when he and his dad each took a load
of wool from the Jake Barnhouse ranch near Caleb to The Dalles. There were many more freighting trips in that area
and others, including trips from Bend to Burns and Riverside in Harney County and to the Silvies Valley.
How did a teamster keep from freezing in the winter? "You bundled up. You might put heated rocks by your feet, you were used
to it, and still your feet usually almost froze, " Tom says.
When Tom was in his 20s, he worked several years breaking horses for an outfit in the Dayville country that was selling
them to the U.S. Cavalry. They went broke and told the people financing them and those working for them to help themselves to
their horses with the 2-1 or heart brands for payment. Horses weren't worth much in Grant County. So for three or four years Tom
gathered as many as he could and drove them to the Willamette Valley and sold them for $40 or $50 a head. Two winters he broke a
bunch and then took them to the valley in the spring. Tom and one other buckaroo made the trip, one riding ahead of the herd and
one behind. They pastured them at night and sold some along the way. When they reached Sandy or Gresham, they put the horses in a
feed lot and fed them hay until they were sold.