A Little Troublemaker in Taylor Rapids, Wisconsin

A Little Troublemaker in Taylor Rapids, Wisconsin

The following is another story by Robert Knapp (1913-1994) about his childhood growing up in Northern Wisconsin, in a small logging community called Taylor Rapids, not far from Goodman. While the logging camps, homes, school, and human occupation of the area is now gone, his memories and stories keep the place and the people alive.

In this story, he shares some of the more mischievous childhood activities from about 1917-1918, involving his brothers, Wayne Knapp, and Loyd Knapp, and his sister, Nora Knapp. He also mentions the Lindquist family, nearby neighbors.


Wisconsin 2006, the corner where Ruby Shack once stood, the family home for the Knapp Family, photograph copyright Lorelle VanFossen

The location of where Ruby Shack once stood.
Taylor Rapids, Wisconsin, 2006

My memory is fairly clear of most incidents that took place after we moved into the Ruby Place, known as “The Ruby Shack” – altho we only lived there a short time, it seemed to me it was much longer. It must have been either 1917 or perhaps 1918.

The “Bird and Wells Lumber Company” had built a railroad from Wausaukee up past Taylor Rapids so that the logs and timber cut in that part of the state could be transported to the Mills in that city. This road was so close to our houses that it rattled the dishes in the shelves each time the loaded train passed by.

The Ruby Shack was a log building as I recall, probably 20 feet by 30 feet. There was a small log barn close by and a pump in the yard that went dry in summer. I have no recollection of the whereabouts of the “Back House” but am certain there was one some place near at hand.

While we, the Knapp family, lived at Ruby Shack, I was perhaps five, and my younger brother, Wayne, must have been three. The next older than I was Loyd who was five years older.

I owe much of my youthful happiness to my wonderful departed sister, Nonie. She was indeed one in a million. She taught me to tell time, and many other things that was such a big help to me when school began. My younger brother, Wayne, and I were far ahead of most of the other children in our classes.

Wisconsin 2006, the corner where Ruby Shack once stood, the family home for the Knapp Family, photograph copyright Lorelle VanFossen

The location of where Ruby Shack once stood. Signs are for Goodman Road and Benson Lake Road.
Taylor Rapids, Wisconsin, 2006

During the seventeen years that I was in that state, I can not recall any winter that didn’t have from three to ten feet of snow. Snow generally fell in early November – or late October. Bare ground began to show in patches in late April, so you see we were so accustomed to this snow that we expected it, and really thought nothing out of the ordinary. We just took it for granted. in fact, that’s all we knew.

The following stories were, I suppose, my very first dirty little acts. I shouldn’t tell, but it is the story of my life.

Along the railroad in front of our house were several fills, made by the railroad. This was a fine soft sand and was nice for us children to play in.

Loyd had one of these places that he called his own, and us smaller kids were not supposed to mess in that one at all. One day, Wayne and I passed by this particular “sand hill” as we called it. Here was a mass of well shapped little sand houses, etc. Loyd was always neat and could build things so much better than my younger bros and I.

We proceeded to smash up all his little objects, and completely destroyed his hard work. I don’t know why we did this. Anyway, the crap hit the fan when the old boy found what had been done, and our mother turned our little rumps good, you can be assured of that. We never went even close to the sand hill after that. Boy, the way he fussed and fumed, you’d have thought we had committed murder!

There was not too much excitement during those long years for quite often I was forced to conjure up some false hood to kind of stir things up, and cause other than common actions.

A fellow known as “Long John” – I guess he was a friend of the older members of the family – had at one time or another cleared a patch of ground not far from where we lived, and tho I had never seen him – this particular patch was known as “John’s Garden”. I guess the fellow must have raised a garden there at one time.

Things had been quiet and I don’t know why, but I ran into the house, quite some distance from John’s Garden, and yelled that there was a bunch of pigs in John’s Garden rooting up our potatoes!!!

The folks had planted spuds in this area. You must know this really caused some excitement, as everyone in the house tore for the garden patch – some had clubs – and some had short poles to chase the hogs with, I suppose.

When they all got to the scene, there were no pigs and not even a track of one. But I still held to my story. “Well, they were there!!!” I supposed I got trounced for that also.

Some folks by the name of Lindquists lived several miles to the south of us, and quite often their hogs got out and traveled way up to our place. Often they did damage to our gardens. I suppose the folks figured it was their pigs that I had seen, naturally. There had been no pigs at all.

I can’t tell you why I did those things, I guess it must have been for lack of excitement.

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Robert F. Knapp (1913-1994)

About Robert F. Knapp (1913-1994)

Robert F. Knapp was born Wausaukee, Wisconsin, in 1913, and moved with his family to the Pacific Northwest in the 1930s. His father, James Asa Knapp Jr., worked in the logging camps and rarely spent much time with his eight children. Eventually, James and the children's mother, Emma Beatrice Primley, divorced and Emma packed up the family and headed west. Robert grew up working odd jobs in logging camps, railroad camps, on farms, and taking what work could come his way until finding steady work and a home with his wife, Evelyn, in Monroe and Lake Stevens, Washington. He had four children and many grandchildren. Robert left behind a legacy of stories and poems written for a creative writing class throughout 1960-1980, writing of life growing up in Northern Wisconsin and the struggles to find work with a huge family to support through the Depression. Permission to reprint this has been graciously granted by the family of Robert F. Knapp with the hope that you will enjoy reading about the life and times of this amazing man.
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