TAPE MINUTE SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
0-5 Pete was born in Markina, Bizkaia. His father worked in the local quarry, as well as on the farm. Pete was the second of three children, with an older and a younger sister. His father was a contractor for the quarry, for road construction, and for building in general. They worked two baserri’s, and since his father was often away at work, the mother and the three siblings were left to work both by themselves. He says he went to school for a very short period of time, including to night school. He did not do any work to prepare himself to work as a sheepherder prior to coming to America. He came to America before performing his military service. He got the idea to come to the US from a cousin who was also coming here. Pete tells the story of a day in which he was building a fence around the baserri when his cousin told him, “Pedro, I am going to America and you, too, will do better if you come--instead of working like a donkey all your life.” Pete took the advice to heart and thought about it very often. He had to balance his familial obligations with his own desires. Finally, after three years of internal debate, he came to America. What tilted the balance was his desire to not always be poor.
5-8 Pete’s father offered to pay Pete’s passage to America and said, “Pedro, I will pay your fare to America and after you check it out, if you decide to come back, you know what you are leaving behind here. I will also send you the money for the return trip.” Pete says that once he came here, he would have done anything before asking for money to come back. He does not remember how much the ticket cost his father. The trip was from Markina to Donosti, an over-night stay in Donosti, then a train trip to La Hâvre, France. From there, they took the ship named La Gascogne [edited from La Tourraine by the Barinaga family]to New York. The trip was in March and was supposed to last only seven days, but the stormy seas extended it to nine. Pete remembers being very seasick throughout the whole trip.
8-12 Pete’s destination was Battle Mountain, Nevada, where he had an uncle herding sheep. He was helped in New York by Valentin Agirre, who put him on the train to Nevada. He does not remember too many details of the train ride, except that the conductor used to yell “Red-hot coffee!” to offer coffee to the passengers. He remembers eating very little food, because he did not know how to ask for it. During one of the train’s stops, he remembers someone coming buy selling bread. He paid one dollar for it and the seller must have said something about the change, but never gave it back, and he was joking with some of his traveling companions that it didn’t matter, for he would retrieve his change on their trip back to the Basque Country. Pete reflects on his notion that, upon arriving in America, he would become rich immediately. He had a girlfriend back home, and he planned to become rich in three years and go back to marry her. On the trip they went through St. Louis and then to Nevada.
12-21 Pete arrived in Battle Mountain and stayed at the Basque boarding house run by Mr. and Mrs. Juan Belaustegi. There was also a Basque store in town run by Esteban Mendibe. Having only three dollars left to his name, and he used it all to buy his shepherding supplies. (There was a saying that the New York money-changers would give Basques horrible rates.) His first job at the sheep ranch in Battle Mountain was to help shear the sheep. The hillsides were full of sheep and his job was to bring in 500 (or so) at a time to be sheared. His foreman was Pete Olabarria. After shearing and birthing the sheep in the spring, there was no more work for Pete. He asked how much money he had made, and was told that he actually owed money for clothing and supplies, plus he had yet to pay for the initial lodging at the boarding house. So, he went to work for a German rancher and on the way in he asked them upfront how much they were going to pay him there. The new foreman told him, “You young guys only think about money. The short of it is, the more you work, the more you make.” So, even thought the nights were very cold and frosty, Pete would be up and before dawn waiting for his first job. At the crack of dawn, he would furiously chop wood. His new German boss came and told him that he needn’t start that early. Pete replied that he needed a full day of money (laughter). Not knowing English, the German’s attempts to tell Pete not to get up so early were futile. “Peeedro,” he would say, “sun up, you up.” But Pete didn’t understand and would continue to get up at the crack of dawn to fire up the old ax. Finally, the message got across with the statement, “Peeedro, I go woooo--you up!” (More laughter…) For three years, money was not mentioned, although his new boss bought him a suit and occasionally gave him some spending cash. One day a horse he was trying to break in broke his arm in a very serious accident that resulted in blood poisoning. The medical bill was $300.
21-33 During these first years Pete never thought of returning to the Basque Country, because he had not saved/earned enough money. After his three-year contract had expired, Pete had managed to own a horse, a saddle, a bed, a duffel bag full of clothes and shoes, and his boss paid him a $90 check. His boss told him that, if he ever wanted to come back, he would be welcome. After this he went to work for a French-Basque by the name of Marcos Rekalde in another ranch near Battle Mountain. The new boss told him that his previous boss had swindled Pete, because the custom was to pay a dollar a day ever three months and that he had gotten paid for the last three months. Pete says that learning English was a slow process, telling the story of how he went one time to go fix fences with his boss. Apparently they had forgotten the iron bar used to pound through rocks. His boss gesticulated for a while but Pete didn’t understand, so he walked back about six miles and retrieved a wheel-barrow full of every tool he figured might be useful, and pushed it all the way back up. The tool, however, was not in the wheel-barrow. He went back again and saw the iron bar standing in a corner, and grabbed it and a load of other tools just to be safe and made the six mile return trip for the second time. His boss told him, “Mucho bueno, that’s it, this is crowbar.” At that point in time, Pete told himself that he had to learn this language!
33-40 One day Pete was tending sheep way up in the backcountry of Nevada when he saw that a big male coyote was chasing a rabbit almost to his feet! He made some calculations and set a trap for the coyote. He had never trapped coyotes before and was surprised the next morning when he found the coyote trapped—not by the head, as he had presumed, but by the paw! Having brought only a pitchfork ant not knowing what else to do, he led the coyote all the way back to the ranch using the pitchfork to lead the chain! Later on, Pete became a well-known coyote trapper and earned extra cash from the Sheep-Owner’s Association. Even the Nevada and Idaho state governments paid hunters to trap coyotes, and Pete was one of these trappers.
40-45 Pete got married on November 6th, 1926 in Twin Falls, Idaho. He met his wife in Jarbidge, Nevada.
45-50 Pete remembers that one of the first things he ever bought in the US was a big block of chewing tobacco after seeing cowboys chewing it. He went into a store and pointed at a big block and, after buying it and taking one huge bite he decided that it was disgusting stuff. At the next opportunity he sold the whole thing to a guy who chewed all the time!
50-58 Pete didn’t have any problems with the cowboys but heard that there used to be problems before he came. He tells the story of a Basque from Amoroto nick-named the Bronco who ran into lots of problems with the cowboys. Several of them formed a group to go and kill him one night but Amoroto was waiting for them. The cowboys arrived at night and began shooting at his camp. He shot near them to scare them away because he did not want to kill them. It worked, and they fled.
58-60 The most difficult obstacle for Pete to overcome was the language. The thing he enjoyed the most was when he started working for himself. He also enjoyed tending cows and trapping coyotes.
NAMES AND PLACES
Amoroto, the Bronco from
Battle Mountain, Nevada
La Hâvre, France
New York, New York
St. Louis, Missouri