Lejardi, Juan

Joseba Chertudi
Interview Location: 
Homedale, Idaho
Interview Date: 

Juan was born in Ereno, Bizkaia on 14 February 1910 to José Lejardi and María Onaindia.  He grew up on the family farm and finished his formal education at the age of 12, when his family sent him to Bilbao to work for a dairy company.  When Juan was 17, he had a chance to join the merchant marine, replacing a relative who had fallen ill.  He went to Lekeitio to arrange his documents, and was warned not to try to jump ship.

Juan worked on the ship for a short while before he decided that it was not for him.  When the freighter docked in New York, he and a friend jumped ship and escaped into the city.  Juan remembers other Basques who entered the United States the way he did, but were caught at boarding houses and deported.  He found work as a kitchen assistant, bought his first suit, and started adjusting to life in America.  After a year, Juan decided to move to Idaho, where he knew there were other Basque communities.

In Boise, Juan found a job as a herder for Archabal's Jump Creek Sheep Company.  After two years he became a camp tender, and remembers the friction that existed between sheep outfits and cattle ranchers.  He married Francisca Hormachea in 1951, bought a farm in Homedale, Idaho, and settled down to raise his family.  John earned his US citizenship in 1963.

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