Karl was born to Milton Lee and La Vern Forsyth Taft on January 25, 1923. He was born on the Taft farm that was settled by his grandfather Seth Taft. His grandmother, Olive Ethel Lyman Taft, was the mid-wife who attended La Vern at Karl’s birth. Karl was the first of six children born to Mitt and La Vern and he proved to be a fine example to his siblings, four sisters: Cula, Arleen, Juanita, and Dixie and one brother, Milton.
Karl was a dark haired, slender child and tried to do his best in all his endeavors. When he was about two and a half, he became very proficient at riding his red tricycle. Because of long, cold winters, he learned to ride his tricycle in the house. His riding track started in the kitchen and proceeded into the front room where he made a large loop around the open floor, circled behind the wood burning stove and he would then swing back into the kitchen where he circled back around the kitchen table and the track started over again.
As Karl became more proficient and his coordination improved, he gained speed. Karl was encouraged by his father who would say, “Lean Karl, lean into the turns.” Karl followed instruction and his agility and skill improved and a fun time was had by all.
As Karl grew up, he did the regular farm work of that time: chopping wood, milking cows, digging post holes, gathering the cows from the pasture, milking cows, irrigating, turning the cistern to get water and carrying the water from the cistern into the house. He was hard working, dependable, and industrious. To assign a task to Karl, meant the job would done in a neat and skillful manner. Never was he slipshod or sloppy in his performance.
He learned to hunt and fish with his father. The Fremont River ran through the south end of the Taft pasture and Karl and his father fished often. The wild geese used those same swamps for a winter feeding ground. Karl also became skilled at hunting. When the geese flew in and clustered on the ground, Karl was careful in the manner he approached the flock. Geese are very smart and alert and leave many hunters empty handed. The geese have some birds on the outer circle of the group and those sentinals keep a wary watch for danger.
Karl put a bridle on a horse and with no saddle, he rode the horse up toward the geese. As he got close, he hooked a heel over the hip bone of the horse and held onto the mane with his hands. He was then able to slide out of sight on the side of the horse away from the wise and wary geese. Quite often he would be able to ride right up to the feeding birds. He often returned home with one or two large fat geese for Mom to roast. This was a tasty treat for our family.
When Karl was ten years old, he had a life altering accident. He rode a horse that had recently been broke to the pasture to get the milk cows. Karl got off the horse and let the bars of the gate down and the cows went through. After putting the bars up again, Karl was getting back on the horse and his foot slipped through the stirrup. The horse was spooked and ran bucking and pitching along the pond bank.
Karl was drug and whipped about as the horse ran. The horse went galloping up the corral past a tall post that us standing in the area. The horse went one side of a post and Karl’s body went on the opposite side. Here the stirrup broke loose from the saddle and Karl fell to the ground. His head and body were banged and beaten. The white bloody end of his leg bone protruded through a rip in the leg of his bib overall.
George C. Brinkerhoff drove Dad, Mom, and Karl to Salina to the hospital where the medical staff felt they could do nothing for the boy. So they traveled on to the L. D. S. Hospital in Salt Lake City. Karl remained in the hospital for about four months, where he hovered between life and death. After about a week, Dad returned to the farm to take care of the family and Mom remained in Salt Lake City with Karl.
One morning, during an exceptionally low time for Karl, Mom walked into the hospital room and Karl said, “Oh Momma, I’m so glad you are here. There has been a man all dressed in black pulling and pulling on my leg. When you came into the room just now, he left.”
Karl’s head doctor was Dr. Tyree and his assistant was Dr. Alfred Okleberry. Dr. Okleberry had just returned to Salt Lake from medical school. He brought knowledge of the most advanced treatment for infection in the body from school. The treatment was to open the wound and put sterile maggots directly into the wound. Karl’s leg was swollen and red with infection. He was in grave danger of losing it.
There was no other effective treatment and so Karl was wheeled into the operating room for the maggot procedure. The wounded leg was opened and sterile maggots were counted into the damaged and infected leg. The maggots were left in the wounded area and the maggots ate the infection. They were left there until the maggots were ready to hatch into flies. Then the reverse procedure was done.
Karl was wheeled back into the operating room and then the fat, mature maggots were counted out and new maggots put back in. Karl said the maggots made his leg itch and feel funny, but the infection was beginning to decrease.
Karl became an experienced checker player while laying long hours in the hospital. A professional checker player came to the hospital and played checkers with the patients. After much tutoring and losing what seemed to be endless games, Karl was able to beat the man. Karl felt he was really doing well if he could beat his instructor one in ten tries. Karl carried that checker playing skill the rest of his lift. As a mature man living in Salt Lake City, he entered adult checker tournaments and often won.
Karl’s life and leg were both saved. But, he would suffer through many surgeries. When he was out of school in the summer, he and Mother traveled to the L. D. S. Hospital in Salt Lake City and surgery was performed on his leg. The medical treatment helped and he improved over time, but he was left with damaged leg and a limp that would last the rest of his life.
He was never able to participate in active sports and so his athletic prowess and desire to enjoy sports was achieved through playing marbles and pitching horse-shoes. Karl left home for school in the morning with his favorite taw and a couple of marbles to work with. He returned home with an overall pocket full of his friend’s marbles. He even learned to lean on his crutches and pitch ringers in horse-shoes. Arleen was a good gopher and she gathered up the horse-shoes and delivered them back to Karl.
Karl graduated from Wayne High School and because of his skill and interest in agriculture, he attended the agriculture college in Logan. Karl did well in his college courses and was a hard working successful student. He was also well liked and gained many friends. One of his friends owned an old rattle trap car that the friend equipped with a variety of different sounding horns. One horn sounded like a police car siren. What great sport to go down the center street of Logan and have obedient drivers pull to the side at the sound of police siren. Total dismay and shock was felt when a rusty old rattle trap of a car carrying four laughing college boys, rolled down the street.
Further dismay and shock was experienced when Mitt Taft, Karl’s father, was setting in his easy chair back at the farm reading the evening paper. The article stated that “Joe, Jack, Jim and KARL TAFT were picked up and arrested for falsely using a police siren.
It was at Utah State that Karl became friends with Steve Gilmore. On a visit home to Salt Lake with Steve, Karl met Margaret, Steve’s sister. Karl and Margaret were married the day Karl graduated from college with a degree in Educational Industrial Arts.
Life sketch written by Arleen Taft Johnson for Cula Taft Ekker to present at Karl and Margaret’s Golden Wedding.