With the horror of World War I behind him, Walter was anxious to get back to Arizona and his ranch on Webber Creek. He was even more anxious to see Belle Russell.
Walter L. Lovelady and Belle Russell were married in Miami, Arizona on August 5, 1919 by Walter's good friend, Judge J. W. Wentworth. Belle was 17 and Walter was 28. The couple had their wedding reception and dance in Payson with Jess and Lena Chilson who had been married in Payson on the same day.
The day after the reception, Walter and his new bride set out for the Lovelady Ranch just below where the Boy Scout Ranch is now above the Control Road on Webber Creek. The road to the ranch crossed the East Verde River about where the bridge is now, on the road to Pine. They were moving up to the ranch with a wagonload of household items. The river was up, but they decided to cross anyway. The horses lost their footing and the whole shebang washed down the river about 50 yards before hanging up on some rocks. Walter was able to climb out and get the horses on good footing where they pulled the wagon on across and continued the journey without further incident. Although Belle was born in Gila County and raised in the west, she often said, "The ride across that flooded river was my first real introduction to the Wild West."
The honeymoon suite didn't have a stove, so Walter showed Belle how to cook in kettles hung on hooks over the fireplace. Often they would broil large chunks of deer meat over the open fire.
Small incidents and inconveniences like these, however, were the least of the couple’s problems. Walter had thought his health to be on the mend, but his repeated exposure to the poison gas of World War I had caused residual damage to his lungs. Additionally, the considerable cow herd that he had worked so hard to attain had, with the exception of a very few head, been rustled.
Paul Vogel and Bill Craig had tried to watch Walter's ranch and cattle, but they were old men and hadn't been able to ride enough to prevent the thieving. The two old Payson pioneers determined to put up the money for cows so Walter could restock the ranch, but Walter's health soon became the main issue.
A trip to Doc Risser's in Payson and subsequent testing revealed that Walter had contracted TB. The good doctor also told Walter that he wouldn't live to see 40.
Walter was not able to handle the hard work of the cattle operation on the Lovelady Ranch, and to compound the problem, Belle was soon to have her first child. So, after living on the Lovelady Ranch for just over a year, he accepted an offer as caretaker of the Hammonds Ranch, which took in Elephant Head just northwest of Payson. Mr. Hammonds had several hundred acres of sub-irrigated land and about 30 head of cattle. Walter brought his W L L (brand) cattle down from the Lovelady Ranch and the two men became partners in the cattle operation. Walter could keep the proceeds from anything else that he raised. Belle and Walter's daughter, Dorothy, was born at the Hammonds Ranch on July 28, 1920.
Belle's younger brothers, Walt, Link, and Lane Russell, stayed on the ranch some of the time and helped Walter farm the place. The ranch house had an attached porch, complete with several cots for relatives who came by for a stay. They raised hay, corn, maize, pumpkins, watermelons, and a truck garden.
Along with the partnership cattle, the Loveladys had turkeys, chickens, a herd of over 50 hogs, both saddle and work horses, and a milk cow named Hood.
Each year the barn was filled with hay and milo maize. Great stacks of this fodder was tarped down on higher ground leaving the bottom of the stacks open so that the horses and cattle could eat from them. The hay was put up in the barn in layers. Each layer was salted then stomped down before the next layer was added. This absorbed the moisture and greatly reduced the chance of spontaneous combustion, an incidence that burned down many an early-day barn.
One year Belle’s exuberant brothers ignored Walter's misgivings and put up the hay too early. It started smoking and they had to hustle and fork all the fodder from the barn, spread it out in the field to dry and redo the whole job of loading it back into the barn.
Belle's mother, Josie, was also a frequent visitor. She was subject to seizures, lingering effects of a rattlesnake bite suffered during her childhood at Greenback. Bell's father, Tuff, who was the deputy sheriff at Roosevelt didn't want to leave Josie alone when his duties as a lawman took him away. Josie often milked Hood who was a bad tempered ol' sookie. Hood liked Josie, probably because she was far gentler than the boys with the milking. Josie was one of the few people who could handle or milk Hood without perpetuating a rodeo.
Walter's father, James Lovelady had been elected to the office of Payson Constable and had a home in Payson on Texas Flat. When his duties permitted, James would often spend a night or two with Walter and Belle. A little farm and ranch work was a welcome reprieve from his duties as constable.
The Lovelady family prospered on the Hammond's Ranch. Mr. Hammonds had good farming equipment for the time, along with several wagons. Although Walter was ill a great deal of the time, he worked when he could and was usually able to shoot the pills (supervise his many in-laws) even when he didn't feel well enough to work.
A springhouse was built across one of the small streams that ran by the ranch house. Shelves were put in place. When the cow was milked, Belle would put the milk in shallow pans and place them on the shelves to cool. The homemade butter, eggs and anything that needed to be kept cool was kept in the springhouse.
Soon a smokehouse was erected near the springhouse. Walter was a master at curing and smoking both hams and bacon. Soon the Payson Mercantile and Boardman's Store were carrying pork products from Walter's smokehouse.
Walter's health continued to plague him. Dr. Risser was concerned that Walter was working too hard. He told Walter, "I want you to get off of that ranch and move into town. You need complete rest and as long as you work that ranch you just won't slow down. The TB is worsening and I don't want you to hold Dorothy for any extended time or to be shut into any unventilated room with her as she could contract it from you."
This was a severe blow to Walter and Belle, as well as to Mr. Hammonds who was very pleased with the arrangement he had made with Walter and the subsequent management of his ranch. Walter and Belle, though, heeded Doc Risser's advice and moved into a house on Texas Flat near James Lovelady's place.
Walter was able to slow down here and did little work for a while. After a year, he was able to work in Boardman's Store, but they let Walter take off whenever he didn't feel well. Several years slid by and Walter's health slowly began to improve. On March 2, 1926, a son was born to Belle and Walter. He was named Lawrence Russell Lovelady and dubbed “Shove.”
Walter and Belle missed the ranch life and with Walter doing better healthwise, they began to look for another place where they could have livestock and raise a garden. Walter was able to obtain a 90-year lease from the forest service on a plot of ground northeast of Payson. The land included the area where the Y Rodeo Arena was later built in 1950.
Walter started to build a house there, working only when he felt up to the task. He hired Lewie Pyle to help him cut and set the rafters. The house boasted of a big kitchen window above the sink where Belle could look out over the meadow as she worked. Walter had the house completed in a year and the Lovelady family moved onto it in 1927. Walter again took up farming doing the same work that he had on the Hammonds Ranch, but on a smaller scale. A cur-dog named Pal herded the chickens and turkeys and protected them from the many predators that came by the ranch in search of a meal. Once more he built a springhouse, a smokehouse and his cured hams and bacon were available at the Payson stores.
In 1929, Walter Lee Lovelady was elected Payson's Constable, succeeding his father in that office. We will deal with Walter's years as constable in the next issue.
This story was written and told by historian Jynx Pyle!
To read the 1st and 2nd parts of Walter Lovelady's story click here!