Under the Trampoline


by Squaw Tom Sanders

[Editor’s note: This is one of a very few stories that have survived in the original form — Tom’s own spoken voice. It is doubly rare in that wasn’t available for inclusion in his book “Squaw Tom Speaks”. For me it evokes the fond memory of Tom telling his stories into a tape recorder out in the back yard at World Headquarters of The Gold Hill NEWS until he was satisfied with the way it turned out. His stories were enormously popular in The NEWS, and this provides you the rare experience of hearing Tom tell the story and comparing it to the way it appears in print, translated from the spoken word to the printed page.]

Squaw Tom Sanders, Silver City 1974Well, I’m going to tell you a story about that happened in 1925. I lived in Fallon and it was the depression. Wages was only a dollar a day feeding cattle, and they would give you board, damn poor board. Man, it was a starve to death board.

But anyway, I was workin’ on a ranch, and there was an Indian workin’ there, and he heard I was going to Reno. He wanted to go along. You see, you can get stuff cheaper there. I had a car, a model T and you can buy Model T parts in a junk yard there. So, he had a Chevrolet, and so we decide to go together and help on the gas. He had a better car than I did so we was thinking of going in his car.

Well, he told me, “Tom,” he says, “I’ve gotta take my wife to work early so you come down. I’ll be gone but the house will be open.” And he says, “You go right in there and make yourself at home” And he says “I’ll have coffee on. I’ll be gone, but I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

So I did. I left my car home and walked over to his place. It was in the winter-time and it was still dark yet. So I walked over to his place, and he had the lantern on and it was kind of turned low. And he had one big room, with two beds in there.

Well, I waited for him. And pretty soon I heard a car pull up. And some big fat woman got out of it, Indian woman, big fat girl. And this Indian, he was pretty fat, too. Well hell, that wasn’t his wife, his wife was a skinny gal, good lookin’ too. Well, this old gal she was fat and heavy.

And I guess he forgot about me meeting him there. Well, I wanted to get out of there, but I couldn’t get out. I was trapped in there. I didn’t want to spoil it for him, ya know, bringing a strange woman into your house. So I looked around to hide. And um, he had two beds there, and I’d seen this one bed there, so I thought I’d crawl underneath. You know, get out of his way.

By God, he come in there with this gal, who wasn’t his wife, jeez she was heavy. Well, I don’t know what kind of a deal he had with her, but it was just my bad luck that I crawled under the wrong bed. And the bed that I crawled under, it was old fashioned, it had a kind of like a netting wire on the springs. It was a coil spring deal, and then it had a kind of a cable rope like hung from one end to the other and then they had a few slats. I think they was three slats in the middle. And they had coil springs.

And I crawled under there. Well, I didn’t know what was going on. Well anyway, they turned the old lantern down low and they both got on this bed. And you know when they both got in that bed, that bed went down to the bottom.

But you know I was a blacksmith and I was pretty stout, weighed about 180 at that time. And good thing I was skinny and — hey you talk about a trampoline! Why God I got in there and — jumpin’ up and down on that bed, it was just like a trampoline.

Well, I was under the thing and I about like to got beat to death. Them slats was ahittin’ me in the head underneath. I darn near pushed that whole spring over. But I just suffered it out down there. And man, they was a — I don’t know what was going on. By golly, that bed was up and down! I swore them two was jumpin up and down on that bed like a trampoline. Well, if you guys ever go to hide under a bed, make sure that there’s a few suitcases around. Boy, they about liked to hammer me to the ground.

And it went along for quite awhile. I don’t know what they was doing. Jumpin’ up and down or something. By Golly, you know, they near beat to death undeer there. And boy! I was just a holding my breath. I really got a punishment there, about like ta beat me into the ground there.

And that woman was pretty heavy, and that man — they was both fat. And I was there quite awhile, and they’s jumpin’ up and down. I don’t know what they was doin’ — I couldn’t see, I was under the bed you know. And hey, you talk about a man getting a beating. Man, if I wasn’t a strong man they would have caved in every rib in my body.

And then finally it got over, whatever it was, and the man says, “Well, I’m supposed to meet Squaw Tom, he never got here yet.” He says, “Well, I’ll take ya uptown and I’ll be back, I gotta go to Reno.”

Well, they left. By golly, thank god they did. And man when I got out from under that bed I was about beat to death. I thought every bone in my body was busted. And by golly, ya know, I had a mile to walk and I could barely make it. And when I got in the house my wife says, “Well, I thought you was goin to Reno” and I says “I was. But,” I says, “I’m pretty well beat up.”

I says, “Jaysus Christ, you get under an old bed and with the springs pretty weak, and two big heavy people jumpin’ up and down on it! Why, you talk about a trampoline!” Well, I was sure beat up. I had to stay home for a couple a days — I thought every rib in my body was busted. It was a good thing that I was a very strong man, or I’da got killed under there.

Well, here’s a little advice for some of you guys. Never hide under the bed unless you have two or four suitcases under there to take some of the weight off or you’ll get trompled to death. Trompoline you know. Well, they made a trompoline outta that bed.

Well, I never did get to Reno, and when I seen him later on he said, “Hey Tom, I waited for ya. What happened?” “Oh,” I says, “I got stomped to death.”

He says, “Where?”

Squaw Tom Sanders 1900 - 1980“Oh,” I says, “it happened yesterday, I was trompled to death.” Gee whiz, I didn’t tell him I was under that bed.

By Golly, I never did get to Reno to buy them parts. I don’t know if he ever knew what happened — well, I didn’t wanna spoil it for him, so I just suffered it out, ya know.

Us old guys, we got ta stick together ya know. Well, this is a true story, it happened in 1925, in the old Depression days.

[The last time I saw Tom was in April, 1976. He was living in China Camp, a marvelous oasis tucked out of sight in the barrens of the Mojave Desert, attending to a streamside vegetable garden in the shade of towering palm trees.

“Say hello to the boys at the NEWS!” he called as I was leaving. “Tell them Squaw Tom is living in Shangri-La!”

That’s the way I think of him now, in a Heaven of hot springs and friends gathered around. Plenty of good food, no work, and free access to that part of Paradise where the artists go, sharing his grub with Michelangelo.]

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