ByH. GARDNER PETERSON
'VFThBRE" there's a will W%f there's a carder, or so reasoned Jim Crook, pio¬ neer resident of San Juan Island. But that was three years before he turned clothing manufacturer. This account is 1,095 headaches later. With ample supplies of wool from his own sheep, all that was needed was that it be carded and spun. But here was the .tub: A carder, he learned from a cata¬ logue, cost around $2Q&00. That
was a little high, Jim thought, for a-few- suits of clothes. He studied the carder ¦ picture, scratched his head and thought. Another look, and, by Hector, he had ft! ;HeM build one.
/ Now. this momentous decision might -be explained by the fact that, as the ""son of a pioneer who had journeyed | across the plains by ox team to take up residence in a strange, unknown wilder¬ ness, Jim Crook has a lot of what it takes to tackle a big job with the same gusto he would approach, the matter of - building a wheelbarrow.
But -three weary years later,,when he'd rolled off the first 72x90-inch. ban of White, fluffy wool, he declared—and - with no little vehemence—that had he known how many consarn parts it takes to make a carder, and how much hair a fellow can pull just figurin' what apple tree to cut down for the next part. ; hanged If he wouldn't have gone to town and bought the suits.
CHEDDING the dust of Wyoming for the greener coastal fields, Jim," his father, mother, and two sisters reached San Juan Island In 1874, by -"jet propul¬ sion" of the roaring '70s—Nap and Tony. . two faithful oxen. Their wagon plied high, with all their goods and chattels. the Crooks arrived just two years after the settlement of the historically famous San Juan boundary dispute. In fact. Jim's father took over English - Gamp. ' site of the British'entrenchment during
San Juan Pioneer
MAKES OWK O01HES
COMPLICATED carder, copied from a $20,000 model, with its cylinders, rollers, belts and chains, on which Jim Crook ca.rds wool from sheep which he raises on his San Juan Island place.
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the near-war crisis. Still very much a wilderness; San Juan had no schools and the only store was 13 miles away at the south end of the island. To go "shopping," Nap or Tony was
hitched to the. shay very early in the morning. And very late that night the shoppers rumbled to their journey's end. Shaking the dust from poke-bonnet en¬ sembles, they were placed in readiness for next, year's shopping tour.
But when Nap suddenly'sickened and died one day, that was indeed a tragedy. Forewarned, Jim's father butchered Tony, and of this Incident Jim repocis, "darned if it wasn't the best meat we ever ate#\
JIM CROOK, San Juan Island pioneer, wool cloth and a cap made from wool
with a pair of trousers, a length of carded on his home-made machine.
W7ITH the corner hardware ¦ store a three-day trip by land and water, necessity was naturally the mother of invention for these hardy pioneers. Vir¬ tually all their working equipment was the product of their, own creation and ''manufacture. When, "*.e Oliver Wen¬ dell Holmes' wonderful one-horse shay ''that ran a hundred years to a day," their wagon fell asunder, they simply looked around the farm for materials with which to build another. Raised on a diet of resourcefulness and Invention, and confronted -with the high cost of clothes, and the still higher cost of carders. It Is small wonder then that Jim Crook succumbed to the law of Inven¬ tion.
When once the decision to build a carder had been reached, nothing about 1 the farm was exempt in a forage for parts. Two wheels of the manure spreaaer were the first to fall in the raid. These, Jim decided, were just the \ thing for the carder's cylinder-shaped rollers. Soon they were covered with maple lagging (a couple of shade trees provided the maple) with the lagging cut to precision by the slow and labori¬ ous process of holding a chisel against a revolving wooden drum. Smaller rollers were built in the same way. Covered with carder cloth (canvas in which small wires are embedded) they work in clockwise and counter-clockwise directions, carding and combing the tan¬ gled wool. Strips of dried steer hide provided belt lacings. Strings, gears, and chains are all home-made' and self- created. The frame is of various woods —fir, oak, cedar, maple and apple (for the latter Jim cut down a couple of apple trees: he didn't like the apples, anyhow). A tractor of museum vintage. Ingeniously fitted into the maze of carder equipment, provides the power
for this novel invention. It took three years to construct,, but it works. And Jim got the suit and a hat to go with
TO complement the carder, Jim added a weaving machine and, after spin¬ ning the yarn, has made long lengths of cloth. He found too, after a little experimentation, that by tapering and Sharpening the teeth of a threshing machine and attaching a belt to it, that he had an excellent wool picker. So ^nw.'when supplies run low and there's need of a new wool-lined quilt, some yarn for socks, or a new suit, Jim sim¬ ply runs the power unit (the tractor) Into position,- places a pile of wool on the carder, throws the lever, steps on the gas, and it's all in the. making. Soon long batts of fleecy white wool are rolling off with clocklike precision. Says Jim, of his creation: "Now that it's finished it's fine, but building two such In a lifetime would be one too many." But the mark of resourcefulness Is on numerous other things on the Crook estate. For instance, the sawmill is built from materials on hand and, with the exception of the circular saw and steel shaft on the carriage, is all wood. The logs, which he cuts into lumber, are off his own land. A few additions and subtractions and the tractor, be¬ sides running the carder, provides the power to operate the sawmill. Then, fitted with a belt, it cuts the winter's wood supply. Out in the field Jim had a connecting; device, best known to himself, by which he uses the tractor to run the threshing machine. Nothing must serve single purposes on this farm, so putting into effect another original idea and with the use of a few pieces of scrap metal, Jim made a blade and, fitting this to- the tractor, he builds and conditions the roads around his place. It's not the rip-snorting, tree-up* rooting bulldozer of the modern age but still It works.
Most persons, deprived of the facili¬ ties of the corner hardware store, would suffer genuine hardship and discomfort But Jim Crook, without the hardware, just picks up his ax and starts for the woods via the orchard . . . there a lot of those apple trees need pruning at the ground.
THE SEATTLE TIMES, SUNDAY, MAY 16, 1948
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