My Grandpa Fairchild was one of the roughest toughest cowboys I knew. I watched him jump on a horse that was stomping in circles, not cooperating with the rider. He would jump on the saddle and talk firmly and make them mind until they knew who was boss. In high school he would break horses for ten dollars a horse; it would take about a month. He used to say, "Kicked, stomped, run over, and beat down, and still alive."
He was shorter than my dad, but he had a commanding strong presence that demanded respect from people and animals alike. He was firm and you could tell from his confidence he was the master of the house and the ranch. My mom was raised on the farm helping bring in the hay, milking the cows, and riding horses. My grandpa taught her hard work and having fun as a family. I remember my grandpa always smelling of cows, hay, milk, and horses. When I was little I didn’t see him in the house too much, he was always out in the barns, in the fields, or on the horses.
When I was a teenager my grandma and grandpa moved to the little town of Oakley, west of their big farm in the Basin. My Uncle Basil got married and moved in the farm house and took over the ranch. He was a math teacher in Burley and he worked the ranch and taught junior high until he retired. My grandpa didn't have as much to do outside so I was able to visit with him more when they lived in town. He always was telling stories about family and friends in the valley and would keep us laughing. His language was courser than we were used to in our family, but he was always very kind and generous giving us candy and silver coins.
He knew everybody, whenever we walked by someone he would stop to visit. I remember him having a big book of newspaper clippings of all the obituaries of the people in the valley; they were his good friends and family. He was always involved in the community helping out with the Oakley Senior Center. He was a posse member, he rode in the horse races for the posse, and he was a bailiff at the courthouse. He loved to talk about his mission to Germany, then it was Prussia. He would tell us all kinds of stories about working with the people and opening up new missions in Germany.
He still hunted once in a while; you could see the deer horns hanging in his garage. He loved to go to the dump and bring back treasures of all kinds of things. He would fix up, reuse, and repurpose. He grew up in the depression where it was difficult to raise cows, hard to come by money, and even food sometimes. So he saved everything and he could make things out of a piece of wood, wire, and leather. Grandma and grandpa Fairchild traveled with my mom and dad to Alaska and to the World Fair and they had a wonderful time.
Grandpa, after grandma died, came to stay with my mom for a while. He was going to chemotherapy and was really frail. It just wasn't the same after grandma died. I know he was really lonesome. Basil and Renée lived closer than we did and would visit more often.
He has been gone for more than 20 years and I can still hear his raspy country laugh after telling a story. He is a witty man, a man’s man, and a good friend to all who know him. A fitting tribute to my Grandpa Fairchild is on the wall of mom’s recreation room. A black and white photo of him dressed up on his posse horse King hangs above a shelf where his perched cowboy boots and spurs sit. They lay as if he just kicked them off at the back door. Love you Grandpa, you are the ultimate cowboy.