Uranga, Rufino "Rufus"

Joseba Chertudi
Interview Location: 
Homedale, Idaho
Interview Date: 

Rufino was born in Mainaria, Bizkaia at the turn of the century.  His father was a carpenter, and his mother managed their home, children, and the garden.  Rufino started working as a sheepherder in the Amboto and Urkiola mountains when he was 12 years old, one of the very few Basque immigrants who had had any experience with sheep prior to their arrival to the U.S.  Even though he was making a good living, he was interested to see if he could do better in the United States.  Melitόn Arrizabalaga, a neighbor who had already spent about five years there, told Rufino about his experiences and plans to return.  Taking a chance, Rufino decided to emigrate with his friend, Melitόn, and Concha Abarrate "Arboleda" in 1919.

One of his aunts gave Rufino $300, which covered his expenses from Mainaria to Bordeaux by train, from Bordeaux to New York aboard the "Niagara," a steamer full of American servicemen returning from the First World War in Europe, and from New York to Boise by train.  Valentín Aguirre helped him find the train to Boise, and Rufino arrived with $50 in his pocket, a large sum in those days!

Rufino's first job in the United States was on a forest railroad crew in Centerville, Idaho.  He helped pull timber from the mountains and lay railroad tracks.  It snowed a great deal shortly after he arrived, making the conditions so bad that all the workers decided to come back to Boise after 15 days.  His next jobs were as a sheepherder for the Echebarria and Macleod sheep companies.  Rufino remembers the onset of the Great Depression, when many sheep owners went bankrupt.  He married in 1938 and settled in Homedale, Idaho.  Even though he struggled with the English language, Rufino became an American citizen and voted as soon as he could.