The Search

Of everything
There is so much more than a name
There is so much more than an age
There is so much more than what you see
There is so much more beyond me

Monday, October 31, 2011

Lights On and Off

Through all of the Harry and Mary drama, Joyce and Cary remained our close friends…. When I was keeping the 4 little girls, Joyce would help out in emergencies or any way she could…. One day shortly after Mary left, the kids were all outside playing when I heard a scream… Refusing to wear shoes, the little one had gotten a thorn in her foot….. Long and buried deep, it had to be taken out but she would let no one touch it… Out of all the girls, this had been the hardest on her, she was too little to have been left without a mama…. I tried everything I could to get her to lay still while I poked and prodded with a needle – nothing would work. I called Joyce for help. She came over, we laid the little girl on our kitchen table, the rest of the kids standing right there watching… Joyce’s 3, my 3, and her 3 sisters….all of them crying for her. Joyce held her down while I finally got the damn thorn dug clear and pulled out with tweezers…. Surgery over, filled to the brim with iodine and covered with a clean bandaid, Joyce and I had passed another crisis together….

About 1975, Cary got a chance to go to work for a large company in Lakeland, Florida. Always anxious to get back down south closer to his roots, it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. With many tears & memories we helped them pack a u-haul truck and told them goodbye. There will be more stories about Joyce & Cary in the chapters to come.


As another part of my life, separate from everything and everyone else, I had gotten a real job in about 1970. Other than cleaning house for our next door neighbor when I was a kid, and the responsibility of running the trucks for Jim’s Dad’s trucking company, I had never worked but I seen no reason I couldn’t handle it.

I had to lie to get the job, but I was hired. It was for the local radio station, who needed a bookkeeper. I told them I had kept books for the trucking company, (which I had not). I knew nothing about keeping books, it was all I could do to keep our little checkbook which never had anything in it….. This job was before the age of computers so I had to deal with a big old desk sized, double entry ledger by hand. I had to enter all checks for ads and debits, which included doing payroll. Along with keeping the books, I had to “run traffic”… meaning that I scheduled commercials for the announcers, and I transcribed the incoming API news every morning that came in over the wire or received over the phone as a recording…. Once in a while I was asked to do a commercial…. The boss liked my voice.

Soon, (within about 3 months), it became apparent I was not a bookkeeper… I was called into the office and relieved of my duties, thank God, because I hated it. The boss liked me though, so he offered me my own radio show if I could sell it to the local businesses to pay for it. I didn’t see anything hard about selling, so nothing ahead scared me. I had to find a way to increase our income.

I sold the show with no problem to a couple of local advertisers, wrote my own Ad copy and named my show – “A Moment with Mary” - a 15 minute segment every morning at 9:45 before the 10:00 news. I discussed mostly home keeping issues, entertaining, children, some recipes, decorating, and read small bits of unusual stories off the wire that didn’t make the main news. It always went too fast! Along with my show I announced local parades, and did extra commercials, receiving extra pay when I had a chance to perform.

Because a new bookkeeper had been hired in the office to replace me, plus all the DJ booths being full, I was relegated to work from home most of the time…. I had to drive out to the station about every day to pick up new copy, or help with traffic if the office girl got behind, or to write copy of my own, but this arrangement allowed me stay at home with the kids most of the time and not have to pay a babysitter to be with them. I loved the freedom of being able to fit everything in on my own time schedule. The only timed commitment was the 15 minutes I was actually on the air. My show was actually delivered over the airwaves from my telephone at home. The kids were put outside in the summer with the instructions “not to kill each other”. In the winter I had already taken them to school before the show started. The arrangement worked well, I loved it, I had regular listeners and fans who wrote nice letters to me and it was so great to have an extra paycheck.

Looking back I can’t believe how active my life was, I was on the go all the time, loving and learning every minute of it.

After about 3 years our station was sold to another company, a lot of changes were made, most of our announcers were laid off, our station manager (my boss) was fired, and my little show was canceled. It was sad to do my last show…..

About the same time, which would have been around 1971, another surprise change in our lives happened. My Dad had been laid off from the company he had worked for his whole life…. He had pumped some old wells, sold and sharpened farm disc’s, worked security for an underground missile company, but as with so many others in that area, our home on the creek and small town failed to provide a living…..

Missing Jim and I and their grandchildren, when a chance to buy a rental business came up in the same town we had moved to, they decided to purchase the business and move out there. I loved having them close again! No longer at the radio station, it allowed me to help with their business… The lessons I learned there could fill a book about dealing with public in a “rental” store…. Dad was in all his glory, he loved maintaining the small equipment, and actually did pretty well dealing with the public when he had to. My Mom was the *star* at the front counter though…. The customers loved her…. She was so good with them calming their nerves when they had to use a sander for the first time, or reassuring them that they could use the garden tiller. I remember one time a customer was renting a little disc sander to refinish a table. He ask her how long the sandpaper would last, and without a beat Mom replied “until it wears out”. The customer left happy. Returning it a few days later very proud of himself for accomplishing something he didn’t think he could do!

What Mom did not do well was handle the bookkeeping! She had never done state sales tax forms before…. Or been a business owner with all it’s demands…. Even though I had very little experience myself, I had learned enough at the radio station to get us by. And then………

Not feeling well, and having a lump appear on her clavicle; in 1972 my Mother was diagnosed with Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma….


Those who have been through it know what I mean when I say the lights went out in the world when we received the call that confirmed the diagnoses. Nothing else mattered at that moment, everything stopped.

Both her doctors in Kansas (who removed the original lump) and her general physician in Colorado told Mom that “Penrose” in Colorado Springs had the best treatment center in a 5 state area …. Referrals were made there and an appointment was soon set for her to meet the oncologists and other specialists that would be directing her treatments for the next five years.

As some other tumors were discovered, Radiation was the treatment of choice. Mom had to move to Colorado Springs, rent an apartment, and received the treatments for 6 to 8 weeks at a time. It was about a 3 hour drive from home. Dad took her down and got her settled and stayed with her as long as he could……I ran the rental store when he spent time with her.

We took turns during the next 5 years visiting her, being with her as much as possible, and trying to carry on at home as well….We each had small reel tape recorders that we could send messages back and forth. We all missed her so much and it was hard on her being there alone, but Dad missed her the most…..

Many stories came from those days, and a lot of heart ache, but somehow we made the best of it and everyone did what they needed to do. If I ever need a boost of bravery for my own sake, I can look back and gain inspiration from she went through then…. As the last chapter unfolds in the winter of 1976, it’s hard to this day to even write about. To be continued when I am able…..

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Tarzan Time.....

Post Edit: I didn't like calling these brief stories what I did, so since I own the blog I can change anything I want. Thus:.....It will be Tarzan Time!

There are times I have a thought enter my mind that really belongs to no story but it’s a notion, a reflection, or maybe just a feeling or short story I need to write or want to share with the reader. These are not long essays as many of my posts are. From here on they will be called a “Tarzan Time”. It may be an update on my condition, or something that relates to what I’m doing at any particular moment…..

October 30th, 2011….Today’s Tarzan Time is to rejoice how good I am feeling! This last treatment on the 21st was a rough one and really put me down for a while.

Then yesterday I woke up full of energy and enjoyed getting some things accomplished. I started about noon putting together a huge pot of homemade Vegetable/Beef soup, adding everything editable I had in the house. I chopped long beautiful carrots, stalks of celery, big yellow fall onions, browned and caramelized luscious chunks of rich beef, frozen tomatoes & green peppers from our garden, a package of frozen mixed veggies and Brussels sprouts, and about 6 cups of bite sized chopped fresh out of the field, Colorado golden potatoes. all seasoned with spices & herbs…. The house was filled with a wonderful aroma as it simmered together throughout the afternoon.

Cooled down and left to enhance flavors through the night, I’m warming it up today and have invited company for dinner. The table is set on a warm golden cloth with the big soup pot in the center with green and gold bowls resting on plates at each setting. The silverware is wrapped in fall colored striped cotton napkins setting across the top of the bowls. I will fix a cheese plate and some bowls of sweet & dill pickles to nibble on, along with a big round loaf of “rosemary” infused warm bread. We’re having hot from the oven Apple Crisp for dessert, topped with a dollop of vanilla ice cream…

Life really can’t get any better than a casual homemade dinner with people you love…

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Later that year there was a new couple moved into Joyce & Cary’s neighborhood, just across the street…. It wasn’t long before Jim & I were invited over to meet them. Their names were Harry & Mary…. Mary was a gorgeous dark haired gal, they were about 10 years older than us, but, had kids, our kids ages. Four little precious girls, stair step, starting at about age seven…going down to a four year old.

Mary was outgoing, loud, never met a stranger, had an addictive laugh, and loved to entertain. Mary played the guitar and sang…. She and Harry had met while each of them played in a band. They married and had the kids, then Harry decided it was time to get a real job, settle down and take care of his family…

The first time I remember meeting them, Joyce called one evening and ask us over for hamburgers. When Jim got home we went, had a fast supper with them and they suggested we walk over and meet the new neighbors. They were just finishing supper, introductions were made, we helped clear the table and here came Mary with her guitar….

Right away she begin to sing and encouraged all the rest of us to join in. Joyce had an old guitar so she went home to get it….soon there was a small jam session going…..Having been born and raised with music, I was enjoying every moment of it, and Mary kept telling Harry to go get his guitar….

I figured Harry would be just another “picker”, but to my surprise, when he started in it was one of the most special sounds I’ve ever heard…. This guy was good! He played in a Merle Travis style that not many can match… He had a special way of doubling the melody and when he kicked in to “I’ll see you in my dreams” you couldn’t tell the difference between he & Merle… He wasn’t just another picker, he was talented and very much a professional. He made Mary sound great and you could see and hear the years of experience between them….. Harry was good friends with a couple of big name stars in Nashville, and had been invited many times to play in recording sessions with them…

However; Harry was just Harry, said he had seen what their careers had done to their family lives and wanted no part of it…. His family meant more to him than that.

Joyce, Mary and I became close friends, as was our kids….. We spent a lot of time together… we all had metal detectors in those days and would spend hours at the park or out in the country trying to find treasures….of course there was always a party in the planning, coffee klatch’s were more mornings than not…..

The parties were awesome, now we had real entertainment! Harry and Mary were good together, Mary even got me into writing songs….nothing great but I was able to finish a few they enjoyed doing….. It was a fun time in our lives…. The guys all got along great and the six of us spent a lot time together.

Often times I would get a call to come to Joyce or Mary’s house for coffee and when I got there, maybe around 9 in the morning, they had already opened the bar and both were drinking. Never really caring for liquor, and having seen it destroy a lot of families, it was not fun any more to sit over there and watch the two of them get drunk. We stayed friends but I did not go over as many mornings out of the week as I had before…

We did continue to get together with them as couples, or if any one of us needed anything the other was there for them. I remember a particular Sunday afternoon, Jim was home and we got a phone call from Mary…. Harry had to go out on a job and wasn’t home, so she had gotten another neighbor to babysit and she was down at one of the local bars.. Mary did not like to be alone, she ask if we would come down for a while….. We did, and soon it was obvious she was very drunk but was entertaining all the old boys lined up and down the bar stools…. Jim and I were finally able to get her out of there about an hour later – drove her home and made sure she and the kids were ok……..

It’s hard to remember dates and times this many years later, but I know it was during the late summer, we were all getting ready for the kids to go back to school and Mary & Harry’s oldest was probably 9. Their youngest was going to start kindergarten that year.

Mary called and said she was coming over…. I put a pot of coffee on and she showed up within minutes, all the little girls in tow. She seemed agitated and nervous when she arrived and told all the kids to go out and play then dropped the bomb. She told me she had written Harry a note and she was leaving, and had brought the kids to me to take care of until he got home. It all came out in one long breathless sentence…

I was more than stunned…. No Mary, I told her…. You cannot do this! She told me that she wanted to pursue her career and she would not be able to keep the kids with her…. She knew they would be safe with me until Harry could find someone full time to watch after them. She already had a train ticket that would take her to Chicago, then she could call her sister to pick her up and drive to their old home. She would make her plans from there, but she would never have contact with Harry or the girls again…

I begged her not to do this…. I cried, I yelled, I cussed her out, I pleaded with her, I told her everything I could think of…. That she would regret it, what beautiful children she was leaving, and that she could never replace them with an entertainment career…. I told her how I knew how much Harry loved her and that’s why he worked so hard…. I begged some more, but nothing would change her mind. She went outside and kissed each of the girls, got in the car and drove herself to the train station….. I sat and cried. I called Jim and ask him to come home early if possible… He got there shortly after 5:00. I had fixed supper so I could feed all the kids and us before it got too late. I knew Harry usually got home around 5:30. Sure enough it wasn’t long before the phone ring and it was him…. Mary had told him in “the note” where the kids were and where the car was. He came over, stayed and talked and cried for a while with Jim and I, thanked us for being there for him & the girls, had Jim drive him to get the car then came back for his car and the girls. Then he asked if he could bring them back at 6:00 in the morning until he could figure out a plan….For the time being we were a family of nine instead of five….. I was never able to understand how she did what she did…..

I kept them every day for about six weeks until he found a full time lady to watch them in the mornings before school and every day after school, and help him with shopping and preparing meals…. Eventually he did find someone, an older lady about 60 who was widowed, needed extra income, and lived a long distance from her own family. She arrived every morning to help get the girls ready for school…clean house, cook an evening meal and stay with the girls until Harry got home at night.

Mary took nothing with her except her clothes & her guitar…. In the years to come she never ask Harry for anything… she simply disappeared from their lives for at least another 15 years…..

We took care of Harry and the girls, had them over for meals, took the girls shopping, and though no one could ever replace their mother, I tried to fill that gap she left. Harry just continued to work hard and be there for them as much as he could. For sure, it was never the same.

After a couple of years Harry got transferred through his job, and he and the girls moved to St. Louis MO. They came back to visit us and we went to visit them many times…. He raised them with all the love any Dad would have for his daughters and if he ever thought about it, he never once said anything about turning away from his responsibilities. His girls grew up to be fine decent women with lives of their own, never wanting anything to do with their Mother….. During those years I received many calls from Harry and each of the girls asking for help in many situations from “I hate my Dad and all my sisters and I’m running away”….to “Teri started her period today, what am I supposed to do”! Thank goodness most of the problems were easily solved by the end of the phone call, be it from one of the girls or their Dad. The girls remain close friends with Jim and I, and our kids to this day, and still call me “Mom”…..

Mary did surface a couple of times…. Once when the girls were in high school, and again after they had all left home. I encouraged them to try and forgive but they would not out of loyalty to their Dad. Mary never tried to get in contact with me again and I never spoke to her again.

Harry would often call when he got lonely after the girls had left home. Or he would call to discuss a new song he had heard, or a trip to visit one the of girls, or some funny thing he had read or heard.…… The phone rang one evening and he said you’ve got to hear this song! He told me he had heard a remake on the radio the other day, and had went shopping and found the original on a CD that day, and that it had been so many years he had forgotten about it. It was an old Bob Wills tune, "Goin Away Party” He had the CD blaring in the back ground and when it got to the line “Dreams don’t make noise when they die”, he stopped it and played it over again…. He said that’s got to the be the best line ever written in music….. Dreams don’t make noise when they die. He said “boy that says it all don’t it”.…. As it turned out I also had the disc set “Bob Will's Encore,” disc 3. Harry knew his music and I was his number one fan….

A couple of weeks later one of his daughters called to tell me he died….. Jim and I immediately got a plane and flew to the funeral…. Of course he had also shared the song with the girls so they played it that day. I am proud to say we remained close to Harry until his death in 2002. The world lost a talented man that day, but it also lost a wonderful human being.

The oldest daughter called to tell me she had gotten word from a family member that Mary had died just two weeks after Harry died….

They were indeed a special couple and I always felt they belonged together…. Starry dreams in the eyes of one and reality in the eyes of the other kept them apart. There are other stories relating to Harry and/or Mary or the girls that I’m sure will come up later…

My relationship with Harry and Mary taught me much about the uncertainty in life and human nature and the pain associated with love.

Friday, October 28, 2011

growing and learning

The first year was hard on Jim…. Cleaning a machine shop was not an easy job, he shoveled and carried shavings out in a wheel barrow for about 5 machines, swept the floors, cleaned the bathroom and finally was given a “promotion” as the guy on the big machine was wanting to retire….

Jim worked with some wonderful people – With his other duties he was expected to learn the machines from Paul….. .An older man and a wonderful mentor… Paul and his wife meant a great deal to us but Paul was getting ready to retire and had eyes only on returning to his home in Texas. Jim paid attention and within a year he was on the machine with Paul at his side teaching him all he knew…. Paul left Jim his tools when he walked out the door and Jim has them to this day… along with many of Paul’s old books that Jim has memorized over the years…

We only had one car in those days and with all three little kids still at home, I was stuck at home unless I took Jim to work so I could have the car to go to the grocery store or whatever was needed. A year later we were finally able to get a hold of an old pickup that Jim drove to work, a 1967 Ford….. It was a chore to keep it running but he did, enough to get to work and back. Our son started kindergarten and life became a little easier with two vehicles. That allowed me to get out more…..

And during this time I was making new friends…. The first who come to mind are Bob & Katie. For lack of a better way to describe our relationship, they adopted us. They were older than we were by probably 20 years. Their family had all grown and left home, they grandchildren a distance away, and they were lonely… They fell in love with our children, and us, and as lonely as we were, they became our surrogate parents. Bob worked with Jim at the shop and Katie cooked at the one of the local grade schools…. Often times if there were left over’s at the school Katie would dish them up and bring them over to us….. Her comment was always, “now they were just going to throw this away, so if you don’t need it don’t worry about it pitching it”….. She would not accept any thanks, it was always just here you are, I’ve got to run. So many times that was the only thing we would have had to eat and it was so welcomed…. We enjoyed card games with them, holiday meals when we couldn’t make the trip back home, and fun times on weekends at the lake. They had hearts of gold and I’m not sure I could have survived those first few years without them….

Through others Jim worked with we were introduced to Joyce & Cary, which opened up a whole new world to us.

They were both Jim’s age, older than I. Joyce had left her home after high school to join the air force. She was stationed in Biloxi, Mississippi where she met and married Cary who was born and raised there, then they moved back to Colorado. They also had 3 children. They also loved to dance so we went out with them as often as possible. Almost immediately they became very close friends. Joyce loved to party so it seemed that she and I were always planning something. It didn’t take much of an excuse to decide to get a bunch together…. I always took care of the food and Joyce made sure there was a good bar and that everyone was invited. We made quite the team when it came to entertaining, our parties were always a success.

In 1970 they had planned a trip back to Biloxi to visit Cary’s Mother & family, and ask us to go with them. Jim or I had ever been in another state past Kansas, Oklahoma, or Colorado…. We had never flown in a large plane before…we had never seen water larger than cow creek, and we had never taken a vacation away from the kids for a whole week.

As plans progressed and became a reality to us, we were being transformed into a totally different way of life neither of us knew anything about…..

The folks agreed to keep the kids, we had our plane tickets bought and from the moment we boarded the plane we were on a discovery journey that I remember to this day… When the stewardess found out it was our first flight we were invited to the control cabin to meet the pilot, something of course in this day would never happen. I remember the fear and excitement of take off and finally landing in New Orleans where we rented a car to drive to Biloxi.

As we walked down the steps of the plane on to the tarmac my first thought was that I had walked into an oven…. It was a heat I had never experienced before, but that was only one of many things I had never experienced before. Immediately I realized how much about this old world I didn’t know….

I had written in one of my earlier blogs about my limited contact with blacks, and as we were leaving new Orleans that day in the rental car we passed a park. Most all of the people in that park was black. In complete seriousness and total naivety, I turned around and ask Cary if they were having a convention. He laughed and seeing him just last June, 40 years after the fact he is still laughing about that and many other firsts we had experienced in his company. We were accepted into his family with open arms….. We met his brothers, aunts, uncles, & cousins and they were all there for some of ‘granny’s” gumbo & watermelon that first evening. I can see in my mind standing in the kitchen and watching Cary & his two brothers standing behind their mama as she was putting the gumbo together… each one would sneak under her arm or around her shoulder to steal a fresh shucked oyster out of the pot without her seeing them. I could only stand and smile.

We were there on the 4th of July so as soon as it got dark we drove down to the beach to watch fireworks off of boats out in the gulf…. I stood in the gulf for the first time, I ate my first raw oyster, I learned to dance the boogaloo, I seen my first live oak tree, I visited my first fresh fish market, I was buried in the sand for the first time, we went crabbing that night when the fire works were over, I ate red beans and rice for the first time, and we partied at small juke joints every night we were there….

The day before we were to fly out, we drove back to New Orleans, Joyce and Cary & one of Cary’s brothers & sister in law went with us. We rented a motel room and proceeded to see the city… We started with coffee & beignets at Café Du Monde in the old French market, walked around Jackson square, visited the cemeteries, toured the beautiful Madame Pontalba’s buildings with their intricate iron works and bought some pralines to take home to Mom & Dad.

That afternoon the six of us went back to the motel to rest and pick out a restaurant for dinner…The first criteria was that they serve fresh lobster. I had never eaten it before…. Reservations made, we then crashed and caught maybe an hour of sleep before time to hit New Orleans at night. Dinner was everything we expected and more…. I remember my uneasiness when a very black waiter approached me from the rear to tie a bib around my neck. I was simply amazed as he dressed the lobster for me… gently removing every little piece of meat, it was placed on the plate and he explained each part as he did it. I savored every morsel..

Dinner over, we drove to the dock area and watched some of the big ships unloading cargo…. Then we boarded a dinner/dance riverboat that left at 8:00 and returned at midnight….It was our first time on a riverboat and on the Mississippi river! That’s probably when I fell in love with cruising, and we listened and danced to some great jazz music……..

Getting off the boat we found our way back to Bourbon Street which was just coming alive….. The bars were calling us in, the activity on the street holding us out. We spotted Pete Fountain’s bar, immediately went in and made reservations for the 2:00 a.m. show, then continued wandering up and down the strip until time…. His show being over at 4:00 a.m. Jim and I were dropped back at the motel…. Joyce & Cary had another week so they all drove back to Biloxi that night. We ask for a wake up call at 6:00….and called a cab to pick us up at 6:30…. Our plane left at 7:00 a.m. The next thing we knew the cabby was knocking on the door…. He waited until we hurriedly dressed and rushed us to the airport…. We were the last to board and our plane took off west. Home, family and work awaited us….. Over 40 years later I consider it to have been a big step in growing up…. This was as foreign to us as someone else traveling overseas….

The trip had been a gourmet taste of life beyond Cow creek. This trip was definitely one of the highlights of my life…..

As I was soon to find out there was a lot more to learn about life just waiting on us……

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The early years of marriage......

From my home on the creek..........................To Jim........................................To the Trucks

The wedding, a week off for a quick honeymoon to Colorado, and we settled into life together in our little rented house…. Foolishly, we had gone shopping and bought a new couch and chair for the living room, and a bedroom set. The monthly payments with high interest, along with the car payment & rent taking nearly every cent Jim could bring home in a month. One month later I found out I was two months pregnant. As naïve and uneducated as I was, I had no idea. I remember the day I went to the hospital to have our son, my Mother said to me, “This is the hardest thing you’ll ever do…you’re about to grow up”.

After a very difficult 3 day labor & delivery, I did get through it and as I held my first born in my arms, I promised him we were in this together and I would never let anything harm him. My life was devoted to protecting him. Only later as I learned a little more about life did I realize this was possible only to a certain point......

Jim could not legally drive a truck until he was 21 years old, but shortly after his birthday the following October after our marriage, he took over the wheel of his Dad’s truck. This was a welcome event; he would now make $1.60 an hour… and for a while was guaranteed 50 hours a week hauling oil field equipment whenever and where ever it was ordered to go. The truck became my life as well. I went on a few jobs with Jim, helped unload a string of pipe a few times, or flagged in the rear if they were hauling wide loads..... The rest of the time, I just waited on the truck to come home.....

Jim’s Dad and all the drivers would meet at “the Grill” every morning at 5:00 a.m. to get orders for the day, Jim would stop by the house before he left, to tell me where he was going with an approximate time when he may return… Usually it was very late at night when he got home, as they delivered equipment all over the state…. It was not unusual to get a call in the middle of the night from someone needing something delivered out to a location…. Growing up in a home where the phone rang for work day and night, I was used to that. The big yellow lights on top of the truck, the hum of the winch line, and the sound of the motor when he left and came home are sounds & sights that will be with me forever…..

Even then we had a dream… Someday we wanted our own trucking company… It was a goal, our first goal. His Dad, still unable to get over the death of his wife and the mother of his children, was partying and drinking hard most of the time…I was given the job (with no pay) of answering the phone and dealing with the customers, taking orders for jobs and directing the trucks to the proper locations and times. Between Jim and I we were running his Dads’ company and seen no reason we couldn’t do it for ourselves. The customers loved Jim, he did a good job for them and during this time he learned a great deal about the equipment he was hauling.

Life in one’s “home town” has it’s plus’s but also a lot of minus’s… Having several of Jim’s good friends stopping by constantly became a problem. Single guys for the most part, I could expect them to drop in for dinner whenever they wanted. Any time off Jim spent with his friends. Not only was I trying to raise myself and our son, I was the babysitter for about three other 20 year old guys… There were very few moments Jim and I had together alone.

My only escape was to take my son and head out to visit my Mom, an excuse to go back to the creek where I could find solitude with my roots…. I did that far too often, being unable to handle the new world in town which was swallowing me up and I knew it. It did not help the situation. I was at the folk’s house when the news of JFK’s assignation happened. By then we had bought a black & white small tv and I remember sitting glued to it for a week. I was not a good homemaker or wife…..

Time passed and in 1963 I had a ruptured appendix, Jim was away on the truck so my folks drove me to the hospital…. My Doctor and hospital was 60 miles away. I was so sick, laying in the back seat on the way there, but I remember our son who was in the front seat between them, looking over the seat at me. Dad was driving very fast, they were quickly losing me. It was during that small crisis the doctors found out I was pregnant with twins, due in March of 1964. As it turned out they were born on Easter Sunday… Another hard pregnancy, as I progressed in size it got to the point where I could not drive because my abdomen was too large to fit behind the wheel and allow my feet to touch the pedals….

We had found a larger house, setting in another oil field truck yard, and was now paying $45 a month but it did have three bedrooms if you counted the old porch where our son slept. I found him one winter morning where his little blankets had frozen to the outside wall where his bed set. That day I moved his bed to the inside wall with the hope at least that we could keep him warmer… The girls shared one baby bed, not only could we not afford to have two, they enjoyed cuddling with other. We could hear the mice scurrying around the inside walls, there are many stories of those days…. It was about that time we acquired our first dog……I will post some of the stories later.

Jim’s dad could not get over the grief of losing his wife, and tried to drink his sorrows away. He eventually married a woman he had picked up at a bar who was only bad news for him and his family. The three little ones still at home, Grandma Lucy was ordered to move out, the only stable figure in their lives…. … The new wife, an alcoholic herself, put the family through hell with her own agenda full of hate and destruction, and in the end she won… Seven years later she walked out leaving Jim’s dad broken in heart and wallet.

With the internal family strife, the oil field boom long over with, Jim and I now a family of five with 3 little kids, making barely enough money to eat, unable to pay our debts, and very little hope of improving our lives, it was time to look for survival elsewhere. We seen our dreams of getting our own trucks extinguished, and there was nowhere to go but out. Out of our hometown and away from all of it if we had any hope for a future. Jim begin to look around for other jobs which with no education and very little experience except on the trucks, were very scarce...

In 1966 we got a call from my uncle who lived in Colorado He had an opening for a janitor in his machine shop…. He needed a family man who was willing to work hard and learn the machine’s working on oil field equipment. His job offer was the opportunity we had been looking for. The starting wage was $2.00 an hour, we were still only making $1.60. Jim left for week by himself to look over the job and look for a place for the five of us to live. We would rent a trailer to carry our belongings, and move two weeks later. One week after our move there, grandma Lucy died which delayed everything for a week.

My parents were very sad to see us leave but realized it was the only chance we had…. They agreed to keep the kids for a week, while Jim and I pulled our meager belongings 450 miles west…. I cried the entire way…. Leaving everything I knew and loved behind. Everything I knew and loved…my parents, Jim’s younger brother’s and sister, my friends, and my creek.

But we had to make this work…. We were in it together, we had responsibilities and three children to make a home for. Fifty miles down the road I was already missing the kids…Once again it was us against the world…. 20 miles from our destination we had a flat tired on the car.... Jim changed it and the spare took us on in....

It was during this first year in a new world, 450 miles from “home” when I first found my love for writing…. I sent a lot of letters back to the folks and to friends, but one letter in particular was to my parents telling of my love for them and the home they had made for me growing up… It was personal and poetic… It reflected everything in me, all the love I felt. Mom told me years later that Daddy had cried when he read it. I was so lonely and homesick for all we had left behind…..

The raise in wages from $1.60 to $2.00 an hour was great, but our rent increased from $45 a month to $80 a month! Could we ever get ahead? There were times during that first year that only beans or a fried egg was all there was for a supper meal, but we were too proud to tell anyone, or even think about going back home…..

We did find another old house to rent and it wasn’t long before we settled into a routine. We moved two more times in the next two years. Eventually things did get better….. Jim earned his way and was rewarded with raises. The third year we were finally able to buy our own home… We were acquainted with a family who were moving, they needed $1.000 down and someone to take over their FHA loan. We gave them $500 with a handshake and a promise to pay the other $500 in six months which we did. This was in 1969.

Monday, October 24, 2011

High School to being a wife

My freshman year went fast, Jim and I continued to date and soon were known as “a couple”… He spent time at my house, and I spent some time at his, meeting and getting to know each other’s families.

He became the son my Dad never had….. when he came to pick me up, it was nothing for Dad to suggest they take the dogs out coon hunting, or get a job done around our place that Dad needed help with.… I was left at home, usually mad at both of them for ruining my evening…. Jim and my Dad became very close over the years….

His dad & mother ran an oil field trucking company… moving to our town about the same time as my folks did in order to take advantage of the boom. They were hard working people, a conservative family that came from German roots. Jim’s dad was the youngest of 5 boys, he loved to cook and had his favorite dishes he always prepared. He was a good cook but very slow, and everyone always teased him that they didn’t know if it was really good or just that everyone was so hungry before he got it on the table. The family was not allowed to do anything on Sundays until Jim’s dad called dinner and they had all eaten together…. I was welcomed into the family and they all seemed to like me.

I did not see a lot of Jim the summer between my freshman & sophomore year because he had to work on the trucks… leaving early in the mornings and usually returning home late at night…. He was a “swamper”, the helper who did the dirty work for the driver….. We would see each other when we could, but it was hit and miss….

Jim’s mother was a wonderful woman, Jim’s sister, the oldest child in their family was one year older than Jim, then they had Jim, then they waited 10 years and had three more…. There was a 9 year old girl, a 7 year old boy, and a 3 year old boy….

The beginning of my sophomore year, and Jim’s senior year in 1958-59, brought an immediate crisis. His mother became terribly sick, was at home for 3 days, taken to the hospital, and a few days after that she died on September 16th. The diagnosis was Meningitis, they believe she had been bitten by an infected mosquito. I remember hearing Jim’s name called to report to the office where he was told over the phone to go home. I learned why at the lunch hour.

The entire community was shocked… Jim’s dad was totally devastated. I was at a loss at that time as to what I could do to help. Finally my Mom suggested I call him. It was near evening the day after she passed, and his older sister told me he had not been out of his room since they first got the news. She was worried about him, but she would tell him it was me and see if he would at least talk to me. He did come out to the phone, and after I told him how sorry I was, I ask if there was anything I could do to help, he told me no, not at that time, but he would see me later. Mom and I went to the funeral.

Plans were made in their family that “grandma Lucy”, his mother’s mother would move in to the house to take care of the 3 little ones…. She came immediately. Jim went back to school and we had a date that following Friday night. It was a double date, a friend drove and we “parked” that night outside of town on an old lease road as we usually did. As we were laying in the back seat of our friends car, Jim broke down and silently sobbed in my arms… I could only hold him, be there for him, and try to ease his broken heart.

That also started the routine of Jim going home every day for lunch… The little 3 year old always walked to the end of the alley to meet him and we were told the little guy had a terrible day if Jim didn’t show up… That was only a small example of how drastically their lives were changed by his Mother’s sudden death. It also brought changes to my life.

Jim told the story at our 50th anniversary party…. He would call me for a date, I would ask what we were going to do and he would reply, “Well we’re going to babysit”. A large percentage of our dates were spent at his house with the 3 little ones, sometimes taking them places so grandma could have some time alone, or if she needed to get away we would stay at the house with them… We have always had little kids around us!… Even after we were married, they would come to our house to stay much of the time.

As with any death, life went on….. It had to. The shattered hearts never heal, but it makes the pieces tougher in order to endure the pain. In tribute to her, she has never been forgotten and her strength lives on in her children, their lives and those they have touched.

That year, we had all of the normal “fights”, breaking up and dating others, that one would expect. However; we always seemed to end up back together…. In February of my Junior year without my knowledge, he visited with my parents to get permission to give me an engagement ring. They said yes, but that I HAD to finish high school and graduate. He promised them that would happen. In February of 1959 the night before Valentines day, he replaced his senior ring that I wore, with a diamond. We were just east of town on the highway between our town and where his aunt and uncle lived to go visit them. He pulled off on the shoulder of the road and pulled it out of a box and gave it to me in the front seat of the old Chevy. Immediately I said “yes”, then ask him to take me back home so I could show the folks…. We celebrated with them, then left to go back to his aunt and uncles….

The rest of the 1959 school year drug by as did the summer .….. He graduated from high school that year and went to work full time on the trucks. I had absolutely no interest in school; we spent every hour we could together. With the beginning of the 1960-61 school year, I just couldn’t wait for it to end, get into my senior year, grab my diploma and run. Jim and I spent as much time as we could together with our eyes and hearts focused on my graduation day so we could get married as soon as possible. All we had to do was make it through was time and a few other obstacles. Looming over us was the “Korean war” and Jim’s draft eligibility.. As I turned 16, he turned 18 and carried an active card. I had just gotten my drivers license that year. Of course because we were so young, we had to fight for what we knew in our hearts was right. It felt like everyone we knew was against us.

Early Spring of 1961 we found an old house to rent, consisting of a living room, bedroom, small kitchen with a table at the end for eating, and a built on back porch with room for a washing machine & bathroom. Everything we needed for a cost of $25 a month…. Our landlord’s name was Mr. Godffery and every time it snowed he came over and shoveled the sidewalks.

Jim was making $1.25 an hour. The house was totally covered in loud, flowered wallpaper, which we both hated, so we got permission from the landlord to tear it all off and paint. We and several of our friends met there for a few weekends to steam, soak, rip, tear, sand and paint… Shortly before the wedding, it was finally ready to move in to.

I look back now and think “poor Mom”….. She had relatives come for my graduation, a wedding shower, and the wedding, all to prepare for… Helen Arnold made my wedding dress, who was the wife of “Web” a coon hunting buddy of Dad’s and co-worker. Mom and I had picked out the material and pattern for her.

I’m sure amongst it all was a certain relief to be getting Mom & Dad’s home back to themselves and getting on with their lives without any kids and the activity & stress I caused. Lord knows I had given them enough to this point.

All events went off with no major complications….. At age 17 I became a married woman on June 4th, 1961, just three weeks after my high school graduation. Jim was 20 years old, saying goodbye to the creek, the truck became my new life.