Grant Lyman Bayles and Josephine Harris Bayles – From cows to poetry on the San Juan frontier
GIANTS OF SAN JUAN
Grant and Josephine Bayles were some of the most successful cattle ranchers in San Juan. But it is their service to family, church and community for which they will be long remembered.
Both Grant and Jo (as Josephine was affectionately called) were born in Bluff, UT. Grant was born in 1904 to Hanson and Evelyn Lyman Bayles and Jo was born to Joseph B. Harris and Lucy Ashton.
Grant’s father, Hanson, was part of the scouting party which marked the trail to San Juan in 1879 and then came through the Hole-in-the-Rock with the original party in l880.
Josephine’s Father, Joseph B. Harris, was one of the earliest professionally trained teachers who served in San Juan. He and arrived in Bluff in 1907. J. B. Harris, was probably the most influential school official in San Juan County for the next 40 years.
Grant’s father, Hanson, was in the livestock business all his life and was very successful. At one time he owned 6,000 sheep and several hundred cattle. Grant was one of 13 children in the Hanson Bayles family and his brothers worked closely with their father as boys and came to know the cattle and sheep business inside out.
When Hanson died in l922, young Grant and his brother Clark took over much of the family livestock business. Clark was killed in 1931 after being thrown from a horse. Grant and Clark were very close and Grant never got over losing his beloved brother.
Josephine was the eldest of J. B and Lucy Harris’s six children. The family moved to Grayson (Blanding’s early name) in 1912. They lived near the Hanson Bayles family and the Bayles and Harris children played together growing up.
Their first year in Grayson, the Harris Family lived in a one room home and an adjoining tent. Jo remembers working hard feeding the families animals, chopping wood, working in the hayfields and tending dozens of children. They melted snow for drinking water their first years in Grayson and used a tub in their front yard filled with boiling water to wash their clothes.
By the time Josephine started school at age six, her father was the principal at the Blanding school. He was strict and had no use for slackers. From the beginning Jo loved school and was an excellent student.
There were not enough classrooms in the early days, so an old chicken coop was pulled off the Lemual H. Redd property across the street to add to the school campus. It was nothing more than a shack with bare board walls with cracks which let the snow and wind in during the winter.
One day their teacher, Miss Hunter, had to leave the room. She cautioned them to be good and that another teacher would be along shortly. The substitute did not show up and so Allen Black, Irvine Guymon and Riley Hurst climbed up in the rafters and started crowing like roosters. Enone Lyman and Grant Bayles starting leading the others in song.
The substitute teacher, a Mr. Mack, walked in about this time. He was big and he had no patience with mischievous children. Grant hid under his desk in terror. Enone was bodily thrown out the door into the snow.
The three “roosters’ in the rafters got the lecture of their lives and did some major repenting before they fled for home. Grant was finally discovered cowering under his desk and he too was pitched into a snow bank. In those days, “sparing the rod meant spoiling the child” and all involved got worse than Mr. Mack’s treatment when they got home.
By the time Grant was 14 years old, it was evident that his father, Hanson, was in failing health. He was required, of necessity, to take on greater responsibility in the family’s livestock operations which curtailed some of his formal schooling.
When Grant was 16, he was given the responsibility of getting 4,000 lambs to the railroad at Dolores, CO from Dry Valley north of Monticello. About the time they got this huge flock to the state line it began to snow. This slowed them down and Grant was afraid he might lose some of the lambs and not make the railhead in time to get them on the train.
He and his helpers spent miserable days and nights sleeping in the deep snow. When they finally arrived in Dolores, they were relieved to find the railroad cars had not yet arrived. However, this presented the problem of feeding their enormous herd of sheep until their transport did arrive.
Grant would go out and buy a stack of hay and move it to his hungry sheep. That many sheep ate a lot and it was several hay stacks later that the rail cars finally arrived and the sheep were loaded. Grant delivered a $24,000 check to his ill father. That was an enormous sum of money in 1918.
Josephine was a good student. She completed high school early, acting as student body president in 1926-27, with Weston Bayles as Vice President. She went to college at the University of Utah, where she quickly learned the difference between being “a big toad in a little puddle to a small toad in a big puddle.”
Grant served an LDS mission to Mexico from 1925-28. Jo’s mother became ill and she had to come home from college. She worked for two years at the Parley Redd Mercantile.
Before Grant left on his mission he had been dating Jo off and on and he asked her to write to him while he was gone. She was faithful and sent him a letter and all the news for the entire time he was in Mexico.
They were married in the Salt Lake Temple on April 4, 1930. They rented the Doug Galbraith home and their first child, Finley, arrived in l931. Jo was in Provo to have her baby because there were no doctors in Blanding at the time.
When Grant received word that his beloved Jo was about to give birth, he caught a ride to Monticello and waited for the bus. The bus passed him by without stopping. He caught another ride to Thompson planning to take the train. He was told the next train was an express and would not stop.
Grant was beside himself. He ordered the manager at Thompson to call his boss in Denver. When he finally got through, he reminded the railroad management that he and his dad had shipped thousands of sheep on their trains over the years and that they better damn well stop for him or there would be trouble! Needless to say, the “express” stopped and the next morning Grant was with Jo and his new baby boy in Provo.
Grant was a friend and a champion of the Navajos and the Mexicans. He had a good working knowledge of their languages and enjoyed being among them. He was known far and wide in the two cultures.
He loved livestock. In addition to cattle and sheep, he became a breeder of mules. He developed a hybrid mule using Jinni burrows instead of horses. During the Depression years, he bred and raised from 40-50 of these mules every year.
They were highly prized by the Navajos and they came from deep in the reservation every year to buy and trade for Bayles mules. These selling and trading sessions went on for 3-5 days every year. Navajo’s would bargain, think about it, talk to their peers and come back and bargain some more. They always bought mules, but they were not in a hurry.
In the meantime, it was Jo’s job to feed everyone. She would cook gallons of vegetables and mutton ahead of time and then host 30 or 40 guests under the cherry trees of her front yard until the mules were sold and everyone went home. It was always a huge relief to have the sale end and be able to relax.
Grant and Josephine enjoyed a good reputation among the ethnic minorities of San Juan. They always treated them fairly. They fed hundreds of hungry people that knocked at their door seeking food at all hours of the day and night.
After Jo had fed them, they often asked Grant to take them home in the back of his pickup, especially if there were children or ill members in their group. Because of the reputation Grant and Jo developed over the years and the respect they received from their “Lamanite” friends, they had no problems becoming trusted trading partners.
There were a lot of wild cattle in San Juan in the 1920’s and 30’s. The large cattle companies had no fences when they ran thousands of cows over the county early in the county’s history. Some of their cows were never rounded up and they became as wild as deer, but they were fair game for anyone who wanted to try to catch them.
Grant had a knack for finding wild cows and getting them to market. He often said some of them were more work and trouble than they were worth, but in the long run he got enough of them to make it worth his while. The very large bulls, which were almost impossible to handle, were sometimes shot on the spot and their meat and hides hauled to town for sale.
Grant and Teak Lyman were driving a small herd of wild cows over the Sawmill Trail to Blanding one day. One wild cow broke and ran back the way they had come. Grant told Teke to go on to Blanding and he would go back and get the renegade cow.
Grant tracked her for 10 miles and finally cornered her at the Brushy Basin Corral. He roped her, threw her down, tied her up and then tied an old powder box board straight across her face and attached it to the cow’s horns so she could only see a little of the ground directly beneath her feet.
He took the rope off, watched her jump up and crash around blind, knocking down small trees and acting completely crazy. Finally, exhausted, the cow had little choice but to cooperate. Grant put a rope around her neck and led her back to Blanding, arriving long after dark.
Grant hired a lot of help over the years, but Jo was always his best cowhand. From the outset of their marriage, she helped with all the cattle drives and other chores. When their first son, Finley, was born, she refused to stay home and leave all the work to Grant. So when Fin was two years old, they rigged up a packhorse with duel panniers, putting salt in one side and Finley in the other.
Jo would lead the “salt” horse and help drive the cattle. When cows tried to escape in the brush, she would tie the pack horse to a tree and head out to chase the errant cows, leaving Finley to roast in the sun with huge blow flies whizzing around his tiny head. In 10 or 15 minutes little Finley would hear thrashing in the brush and his mother’s “Shoo, shoo you dang cow” and then the abandonment process would begin anew.
While it is doubtful that Finley even remembers anything that young, he claimed in later life that he could remember and that he thought he was going to starve. Cows didn’t sit down to lunch in those days. His mother and dad could not just stop under a shady tree for lunch when cows were wandering off in every direction.
On good days, Jo would open a can of sardines in the saddle and give some to poor Finley. Most of the time it was a raw potato (Fin’s favorite) or a can of stewed tomatoes. When Fin was four, he graduated to the cross buck of the pack saddle with a foot in each pannier. At five he got his own saddle.
In the 1950’s, after government trappers killed off most of the natural predators in San Juan, deer because exceedingly numerous. Locals, especially those who had a string of good horses, made extra income every fall providing guided hunts for out-of state hunters.
In those days, anyone could buy a regular hunting license and then a two deer special license for a total of three deer per person. There were no “buck only” hunts, and it often sounded like a war on the Blue Mountains on opening morning as thousands of deer were slaughtered. The large hunting camps would have scores of field dressed deer hanging in the trees.
Grant and Jo Bayles provided guided hunting trips on the Mountain and at their Allen Canyon Ranch. Jo and Lucy fed everyone royally, Lloyd was the go-fer, Joe Hutchin was the clean-up man and general helper and Grant, Fin and Lloyd made sure everyone got their deer. After the new wore off, this was just plain hard work, but the hunters went away happy, and it was probably easier to make a little extra income that way than trying to catch wild cows.
Josephine loved school. Her dream was to go to college and become a school teacher. However, an ill mother, and a cowboy husband and children got in the way of that dream.
Nevertheless she loved language and literature and was a prolific writer. She wrote limericks, poems and stories. Her father, J. B. Harris and her sister Lucy were also poets. Their works are preserved and cherished by their posterity to this day.
Music was high on Jo’s priority list. She had a good voice. She sang in the choir from the time she was 14 years old. Her callings in the church were usually music related, but she served in every auxiliary of the church at some time in her life.
Josephine also loved gardening and always shared the fruits of her labors with her neighbors and friends at harvest time.
Jo loved quilt making. She made scores of them during her long life. Her sister Lucy often made quilts with her. They gave them away, and it was said they would ride around town just looking for someone who looked like they needed a quilt so they could give one away and start another one. Every grandbaby got a new quilt and every grandchild got a special quilt from Gramma Jo.
Grant was active in the LDS Church all his life. He filled a mission in Mexico. He was a counselor to Bishop John D. Rogers for nine years, and then served as the Bishop for eleven years. He served on the San Juan Stake High Council and in many other church callings.
Grant served his community and county as a San Juan County Commissioner for two terms.
In 1972, Grant and Jo were called to the Arizona New Mexico Mission. They also served two stake missions and worked in the Spanish-speaking Extraction Program.
As Grant grew older, most of his livestock operations were sold off. However, he kept a small herd of 40-50 cows in his pasture off Blue Mountain Road in Blanding. He knew his cows intimately. He named them all, and knew everything about them. Winter or summer, he could be seen riding around in his pickup and checking on each cow.
Grant died in 1987. Josephine joined him nine years later in l996. A special tribute was paid to Jospehine during her funeral by her ward choir which she had sung in continuously for over 60 years. As the service ended, the old Blanding Bell was rung in her honor.
These two giants, descended from San Juan’s revered pioneers, carried on the tradition of goodness and greatness. The respect they command from their posterity and those who knew them is a testament to their service and goodness.