Cover photo for Thomas Niblett's Obituary
1929 Thomas 2022

Thomas Niblett

November 8, 1929 — April 16, 2022

Memories of Childhood Days of Thomas Carroll Niblett

Autobiography written by Carroll Niblett in 2008

Beginning November 8, 1929

The Great Depression Days

Historical setting: Nov 8, 1929, my birth date. United States and most of worldwide nations plunged into deep depression. Banks going broke, whole monetary systems failing, manufacturing plants closing. People out of work worldwide and on top of climatic conditions and industrial failures, a nationwide drought lasting several successive years, caused what we refer to as the “dust bowl days” added to the misery and included agriculture failure to the industrial woes. Many people, including my grandfather and dad, walked away from the “blown away” farm in Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri & other states.

I was second in line with an older brother, Lee, two years older than me & two girls to follow in the next four years and another boy & girl several years later. I mentioned these conditions to explain that external conditions and events have an influence in the development of a young mind & attitude almost from birth. It affects the internal thought process & character-building resolves that will determine the decisions & actions for the rest of my life.

At the time, I wasn’t aware that the meager beginning was steering my efforts & decisions & character so much but looking back to those times from the advantage point of my maturing years, I realize my character & determination even to my present time was molded at an early age.

I recall moving around a lot, my dad’s getting a little work now & then, here & there, kept the family relocating often.

I want to mention to the youth of this age (that expects a new toy every few days) that I have never had a bought toy in my life. Also, that I have never had any money given to me - not one dollar, quarter or even a nickel.

I mention these things to explain my attitude about work as I grew up. At the age of eleven (1940), I managed to acquire a paper route, delivering the daily newspaper, Current Argus at Carlsbad, New Mexico. I bought a used bike that I paid for weekly. It was a start & I can honestly say that I have never been out of a job since. My attitude was that “work means money”. I knew no one was going to give me anything but an opportunity to produce some labor in exchange for some money. I resolved to work hard at whatever I was doing. If there was more than myself on a job, I was going to produce more work than anyone else & guess what – I still have that same attitude today.

Now, I am going to fast forward through several years of growing & various jobs from grocery stores, filling stations, creameries, delivery truck helper & many more jobs at Carlsbad to Morton Texas, where my dad decided to move to. The next four years I consider the low point of my growing up. I consider those years as mostly negative times.

The setting was a small dry land farm town with cotton and/or Milo maize as the primary & almost totally grown crops. The school was a small run-down building that I was entering as a freshman. The school had no art program & that put the brakes on my interest in doing any oil paintings that I had discovered I had a natural talent for. My Carlsbad art teacher thought highly of my work & encouraged my pursuit of it. I’ll talk some more of that pursuit later.

The Army: At the time of concluding 4 years of school at Morton, myself & 2 buddies signed up to be inducted into the army. World War II was over, but the draft was still on & since we were able to volunteer for 2 years, instead of the minimum 3 years for the draft, we entered the army on a “buddy” plan. One of us went to Panama, one stayed in the States & I went to Japan. Some “buddy” program – huh! When I was about due to return to the States after having served about 1 ½ years in the occupation forces in Japan, my journey hit a major bump in the road. Inside of a week I had been detoured into Korea, given another year to serve & was part of an amphibious landing on the western shore of Korea. Since that was the “forgotten” war I feel compelled to spend a little time describing the circumstances of the next full year of my life. North Korea had planned to invade the south ½ of the peninsula nation for a long time & were preparing by forming a formidable war machine. When they came barreling down through South Korea, they came with fifty-one divisions of infantry - highly trained, well equipped ground forces. They had tanks everywhere & artillery too numerous to count. The South Korean army was unable to even slow them down. General MacArthur’s south Pacific forces were very slim, having sent all of the Veterans of WWII home, that they could, in response to the outcry of the war weary citizenry of the United States saying “Bring our boys home”, at the victorious end of the 4 year war. The situation in Korea demanded an immediate response by whoever they could gather up & get them moved into position to challenge the North’s onslaught. We were moved across 300 miles of water in small ships & landing crafts & onto the beach with 2 and 1/3 divisions. One division of the 1st Cavalry, one division of 7th Infantry and one Regiment of 8th Infantry. (A Regiment is 1/3 of a Division). We had no artillery, no tanks or any type of armor. The largest weapon we had was some 4.2 MM Mortars that we could carry on our backs. We had no air power, as there was no Air Force stationed in Japan. It is not my purpose to describe in detail what happened in the next days & weeks, other than to say it was not pleasant. In the same time frame the military training facilities were busy training new recruits & getting them over to us. The Air Force was busy transferring “wings” of Saber jets from the States to Japan. When stationed in Japan we were able to call a strike on a target & those guys made a big difference – fast.

I will take time to briefly describe what happened on a “target”. The Sabers broke out of flight formation & onto a target area in a circling single file (9 planes in a formation). Each plane would strafe the target with 4-50 caliber machine guns. When the last one had cleared the target, the first one had circled & came right in behind him in a continuous circle. Then they circled, firing the 2 rockets under each plane’s wings. Then on their last pass they released the 2 Napalm tank bombs & covered the area with jellied gasoline that incinerated the whole area.

I thanked my God, every time I witnessed that scene that they were on my side. I won’t relate to more military experience except to say that my conversion experience when I was 12 years old became more real to me as many times, I asked my Lord to deliver me safely through the savagery of the killing fields & my promise to become a soldier in service to my Savior. I have attempted to honor that commitment.

Back Home: Since I had about 6 months to serve on my “Truman Year” I was sent to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, where I spent the remainder of that time doing almost nothing. During that time, I was treated for a bad case of Malaria, cleaned my stomach of several different worms, eggs, bacteria & whatever else that didn’t belong in my digestive system. Also, the Army surgeon removed a ball or “knot” just to the outside & below my left eye. He cut it open & there was a small piece of shrapnel imbedded that I did not even know about or know even when I got it.

While I was still in the service, I met & dated a young lady of 18 years, named Sue Smith, when on my visits to home. We were married soon after my discharge. Within the next 3 years we increased our family with the arrival of 2 children, Ronda our daughter, the Brad our son. I would like to take a moment to explain that by this time, which was 1952, that things had changed considerably. World War II & the worse part of the Korean War were over. The factories that had

been in full gear turning out war machinery had been converted to civilian cars, tractors & trucks & household goods that I never dreamed of, even a very snowy television – wow! There were jobs everywhere. There was a shortage of help because of the loss of so many young men in the wars.

Since my folks had moved back to Carlsbad, New Mexico, while I was in Japan, I immediately called that my home again. One of the opportunities available with the highest pay scale was at the Potash Mines, which had opened up in recent years to produce an ingredient to add to chemical fertilizers for crop growing, along with nitrate & phosphate. I went to work for a company names U.S. Potash & Chemical Corp. I went in with my eyes wide open for long range opportunities. The only thing that caught my attention was their apprenticeship program. I applied for and received an opportunity to enter the electrical apprenticeship program, which was a 4-year program. I had to take a small reduction in pay as a first- year apprentice, but it was well worth it as I have taken advantage of my training many times throughout my ensuing years. I remained at the company for 8 years, 4 as an Apprentice & 4 as a Journeyman. I’ll extend that thought to include getting my master license & contractor’s license, after I left that company.

I will at this point back up to the time that Sue & I married. Although sue was living in town (Carlsbad) with her mother & stepdad, she was raised on a large cattle & sheep ranch west of Carlsbad in the foothills of the Guadalupe Mountains. Sue Carroll Smith was born into a ranch family that dates back to the early pioneer days of the settlement of the New Mexico Territory. This was long before statehood & before any homesteading law. Sue became my wife in 1952. She is of small stature, (5 foot, even up) and a lady who is much larger than that in life & character. My wife has never worked outside our home, but she has been a great help to me in our home on the farm & ranch and with raising our children.

I guess we could say that I was entering my second apprenticeship when I worked on Sue’s fathers ranch. I learned that I was very welcome to the ranch, especially on the times of gathering & working those sheep & also the cattle. Gathering, branding, vaccinating, castrating, dehorning, shipping & numerous other things concerning ranch life, including repairing & maintaining six windmills, was part of my “apprenticeship”. It seemed a little strange that it always happened on my days off from my regular job. I guess that I became somewhat more than the “kid from town”. At least I began to suspect it when a fulltime hand was “let go” soon after we married.

I should explain that for a few years when my brother & I were preteens & early teens we lived in an old ranch house south of Carlsbad & we had milk cows & a couple of horses. We also raised a beef & a couple of hogs to butcher every year. There was a windmill & an overhead storage tank. There were corrals, barns & a large garden area. The old house had no wiring, no electricity & no screens on the windows. There was a covered porch that went halfway round the house & us kids loved the old place. This was just before my Dad decided Texas was the place to be. I included the preceding paragraph in order to explain that livestock & country life wasn’t totally new or foreign to me as I started helping Sue’s Dad on the ranch. I soon bought a horse & some tack of my own, instead of using his when I was helping at the ranch. About the third year of our marriage Sue’s Dad decided to sell all of the sheep & to limit the ranch to being just a cattle ranch & since the sheep were gone there was more range available than he needed until he built up the cattle numbers to replace the sheep. Somewhere about this time I was offered the opportunity to purchase a few heifers & herd bull & lease a pasture that was on one end of the ranch & not being used.

So, this was a beginning of a way of life that I soon knew I wanted to pursue & it actually became a prominent part of our priorities & ensuing moves & purchases throughout the next 45 years.

We remained in Carlsbad, New Mexico for 8 years & I continued working in the electrical maintenance job & raising some range cattle on rented pasture & living in a new house that I had purchased that was framed out & sheet rocked at the time of purchase & I finished it myself. By then we had a daughter of 7 years & a son of 5. My wife, Sue & I succumbed to our pioneering spirit & our desire to have our own land, so after a couple of trips into other states looking & pricing, I (on an excursion to the north) located an irrigated farm for sale in a farm valley near Fruita, Colorado, which lays in a large valley adjacent to the Colorado River. In my mind everything was right for this move - the size, the price, the honest, helpful person that owned it & the fact that the valley was growing which offered opportunity to use my electrical training if necessary. I’ll not bore you with the details of the next 2 weeks, except to say that with a shake of hands, we bought the farm, I went to Carlsbad & began the process to liquidate our property including livestock, house & lot, quitting my job & saying goodbye to family & friends & moving to a state that we had been to only a couple of times on an annual vacation for a camp out fishing trip at a lake situated at the bottom edge of the state.

Colorado Farm Life: This was in March 1960. We had relocated to an area where the winters are much colder & the growing seasons were much shorter than we were used to. The farmers tried to plow the fields in the fall after the crops were out before the freeze down season that shut the work down until the spring thaw, but there had been no work done, plowing or otherwise & we did not have one piece of farming equipment. But within a few days I had purchased a tractor, plow, disc & the essential implements to get started & was spending some long days & half the nights plowing the ground & preparing it for planting. To my surprise & I’m sure the neighbor’s also, we had a quite good crop of corn, milo maize & alfalfa the first year of our farming venture. By the second year we had decided to feed out some livestock with the feed crops instead of selling the crops outright. This involved much more time & effort as well the purchase of feeder pigs and beef calves. After a couple of seasons of adjusting our agricultural programs & trying new endeavors such as growing sugar beets as a cash crop, I decided that it was the better part of wisdom to again take advantage of my electrical training. Hence the process began of taking an exam & obtaining my Colorado, Journeyman, Masters, and then Contractors License. This allowed me to make the long winter seasons more financially productive. I mentioned that the valley was growing with lots of people moving into the area & with this more residences, as well as commercial being built. So, for the next 5 or 6 years my time was divided by farming through the growing season & doing electrical contracting jobs through the rest of the year. This pattern in our lives lasted 8 years when we became restless again. I really preferred to have a ranch of native grasses to grow beef on, rather than irrigation watered farmland. We started looking for ranches for sale. Our tour took us into southwestern New Mexico & into a small town named Silver City. This area had lots of things going for it. It was in hill country just south of high mountain forest country. I guess it was meant to be because we drove right to a ranch house with a small sign out at the highway that said, “Ranch for Sale”. I talked to the lady who told me her husband was dying & she must sell the place. I looked the place over as best we could from a vehicle & everything seemed right. 6500 feet to 7500 feet elevation, good grass cover of side oat graham grass, 17 to 18 inches of rain per year & joined the US Forest to the north. She priced it with the cattle to go with it. It was not a large ranch, just about 100 cow capacity but the best part was it contained 1000 acres of deeded land (give or take an acre or two – which is unusual down in the southwest). One convincing element was the fact that there were 3 open pit copper mines within a few miles of the ranch. I knew there would be opportunities to ply my trade if necessary. I told the lady that if she would take my word & give me 2 weeks, that she could consider the place sold.

Move Back to New Mexico: So back to New Mexico we went & for the next 25 years. It was our home & quite a different lifestyle. Instead of tractors & putting out feed for the animals, it was saddles, horses, cattle & all the many jobs & chores of ranch life. Instead of the straight Hereford breed, I started using Simmental bulls for size & cross breed vigor. The program put about 100 pounds of weight per animal on my annual calf production.

Another program that I became involved with over several years’ time was my love for good horses. I had the opportunity to obtain a couple of registered AQHA mares, starting with a beautiful lined back dun mare. She was a Poco Bueno bloodline, heavy muscled “American Quarter Horse” registered filly that became my foundation into the world of producing good, registered quarter horses & starting a training program for them, soon after the colts’ birth. I will admit that after retiring from all of the ranch life the working with the colts & fillies is the part of all the endeavors that I miss the most.

Since I have mentioned that the copper industry would offer opportunities for off ranch income, I should explain that they certainly did just that. For probably 90% of the 25-year span in our productive life I took advantage of working through the electrical union on one or the other of the mining (open pit) operations. These were construction projects ranging from a new mine opening up, that required building a totally new facility, to smaller contracts of changing or adding something to the existing process of mining, crushing, milling, smelting, reverbing & refining process. I am talking about multi-million-dollar contracts. This was especially good for me because the union headquarters were in Albuquerque, N.M. (300+ miles away) and their contract to furnish the manpower to do the work outside of Albuquerque was zoned into 4 regions with a higher pay scale for each zone. The Silver City area was in zone 4, the highest scale. Not bad when it was only seven to ten minutes from my house. Also, I should mention another advantage I had after I become familiar with the operations & personnel of the companies. At the beginning of the contract & a request to the union headquarters for manpower I fairly regularly was appointed as foreman of the first crew & sometimes general foreman as the need for manpower increased. I have had as many as 200 electricians working under my supervision. I don’t mean to be bragging, I just want to be historically correct in recording this phase of my life. I do not mean for this 25 year stretch of my life to sound like a fairy tale, there definitely were some bumps in the road. I’ll describe one of them as it pertains to the last 3 years of our tenure in southwest New Mexico. The construction projects pretty well had stopped at the mines.

The possibilities of what we were going to do for our retirement years were facing us. I built a solar adobe, sun scoop Spanish style house on one corner of the ranch & sold it with about 15 acres of land. I need to explain here that my 2 children, after finishing school in Silver City had migrated back to the Grand Valley in Colorado (where we previously lived for 8 years). After making a trip back to visit the kids & just driving around, looking & talking & some soul searching, we agreed that we preferred to make one last move – back to Colorado. So, the next year was spent surveying 40-acre tracts of land on our New Mexico ranch, selling them including the home place with 50 acres. We sold the cattle to the man who bought the house & land & we leased the grazing to him on the remainder of the property.

Back to Colorado: So on with our third major move. We bought & paid cash for an 11.4-acre farm with a comfortable 3 bedroom house on it. We love it here – this is home. I was just 59 years old when I retired from chasing electrical work & settled down for enjoying my kids & doing a little farming which was just irrigating pasture grass & alfalfa. I’m writing these 15 years after it happened & Sue & I are thoroughly enjoying our retirement years.

Up to this point I have used what we would call in the electrical field, a one-line diagram that serves a troubleshooter the different function or apparatuses involved in a circuit. In applying this thinking to my life, it will have a skeletal effect to trace the events & geographical locations & moves we made throughout the years.

Details throughout the years: I think now, as I have concluded the history of moves & pursuits up to present time which is AD 2008 & 15 years into our retirement that I will trace some more personal character traits & experiences down through those years.

I mentioned at one point that I have attempted to be faithful to a promise that I made while on the battlefield, to live my life in the service to my Lord & God. Within the first 3 years of our married life, I rededicated my spiritual life to that resolve. I read & studied God’s word regularly & began to teach Sunday School classes, of teenage young people at first & progressed to older ages as I became older through the years - young adults, general adults, then older adults etc. through the years. While in New Mexico, I was ordained as a deacon before I was 25 years old & chairman of the board of deacons soon after. One of the aspects of my attempt to serve my Lord was to volunteer to organize & function as leader of a group of boys that we call the R.A.’s (Royal Ambassadors) made up of boys ages 9 to 12 years. We developed a great bunch of kids who proved to be mostly Christian who were very active in witnessing to kids who were not. They turned out to be very athletically capable kids who never lost a game to other church group teams. I kept up with the kids even after we moved to Colorado. I know of 4 & possibly 5 of the kids that later surrendered to be preachers of the word.

In each of the locations where our move took us, the pattern of service to my Lord was repeated. Also, I should mention of my burning desire to know what the Bible, God’s word, was saying to me & I ardently pursued a continuing study of & desire to apply the truths to my life as I attempted to follow God’s will & plan & pattern for my life. I am proud to say that all of my family has joined me in these pursuits & join me in saying that we have one more move to make - the final joining together with God’s family in our heavenly spiritual ever after.

Christian Beliefs: I think that I will add a paragraph to report on my spiritual pursuits that are very real to me. As I had trusted my Lord to be the captain of my ship, it became apparent to me, that He was directing the places & events as we made the major moves throughout our lifetime.

Family Notes: This was written by Carroll in 2008, but we could not improve upon the story, so therefore we let him have the last word! We were so blessed to have dad and mom as such strong Christian leaders in our family. Dad was genuinely loved by his caregivers over the past 10 years & they commented on how he was always a gentleman & remained pleasant & appreciative, even as his Alzheimer’s progressed. He often watched TV & sang along with the National Anthem (as he saluted) and he loved to sing “Jesus Loves Me” or “Amazing Grace” also.

Dad’s yard was his pride & joy. When they moved back to Colorado in 1992, he began remodeling the house & focused extensively on the yard & the abundant water, in the true hard-working style with which he had always pursued every task.

“Bid”, as his granddaughter Shay nicknamed him, was more like a father to her - & what a great one indeed! When her son Logan came along, he spent many hours catching bull frogs & chasing butterflies with Bid’s assistance. A game of football was always a favorite too.

Survivors Include: Ronda & husband Jerald Sutton, Shay & husband Bobby Boe & their son Logan Boe

Memorial Service: Carroll will be laid to rest, April 29, 2022, at 3:00 PM in the Elmwood Cemetery in Fruita Colorado, next to his beloved wife & life-mate Sue.

Donations can be made in Carroll Niblett's name to HopeWest 3090 North 12th Street #B, Grand Junction, Co 81506, 970-241-2212 or to Roice-Hurst Humane Society, 362 28 Rd, Grand Junction, CO 81501, 970-434-7337 for his love of animals.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Thomas Niblett, please visit our flower store.

Visits: 1

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the
Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Service map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

Send Flowers

Send Flowers

Plant A Tree

Plant A Tree