Thursday, January 27, 2011

Memoir: Chapter 5: Visiting a male neighbor in Salt Gulch and getting suspicious about what he and Dad were up to

Daddy took the family on a tour of the Salt Gulch ranch which I thought was some alarming. First he took us to the giant sinkhole on the north end of the ranch to the side of a field. Whole trees were sticking out of it and since it was quite close to a road that ran along side Dad warned Margie and me never to walk along this road as it might cave in on us and catapult us into the sinkhole. We were frightened enough by his warning to assure him that we would always take the long road around. I for one did not plan to get anywhere near that caved in hole.
Mother who always asked a lot of questions when she didn't know something said that Grandpa King told her when he homesteaded the ranch an underlying layer of gypsum caused the whole ranch to drop ten or twelve feet when he watered it! I didn't know if I believed such a tale. It must have been frightening to go out and find areas of your farm land had dropped ten feet over night. But other frightening sinkholes showed up as time went by causing me to believe the story. 
There was also a little hill that rose up in the middle of the ranch close to the house which I came to think of as Kid Hill. It was not good for anything but kids playing on it and we built lots of slate rock houses up there. We used slate rocks to write on in our play schools. 
Sometimes we would see big yellow blow snakes curled around in the trees with mother birds flying about frantically twittering, but once we learned they were not poisonous, we didn't let them scare us, even though we felt awfully sorry for the little birds they ate. Daddy warned us to watch out for rattlesnakes especially when we were barefoot, as they were around, too. They just stayed out of sight more than the blow snakes.
I was alarmed at the rattlesnake warning about Salt Gulch since Boulder had been settled so long the rattlesnakes stayed in the hills. The Salt Gulch ranch had not been inhabited enough to keep the rattlesnakes away. But I don't think I ever saw a rattlesnake in Salt Gulch even though one got close enough I heard it rattle one night, but enough were killed by the hired men we knew they were there.
I didn't think much of the old log house. The floors were very crooked and the mud was starting to fall out from between the logs. Still, I had never lived in a real log house before. I thought that might be different. I was very careful not to say anything derogatory about the ranch so Mother and Father would not be discouraged with their newly acquired property. 
I already knew that a girl named Barbara lived not far from us in Salt Gulch who was my age. Her younger sister Gay was a year younger than Margie. We could hardly wait to invite them over to play and to go visit them at their place. I already loved their older sister Leah who had worked for Mother one summer at the cheese factory house. I was very impressed with her because when she could not find a ride she would just strike out and walk the whole eight miles back home. 
 I thought their family was very enterprising when it came to living on little money. They did not let being poor bother them at all. They lived so close to the land walking everywhere, with no car to their name, they seemed just like the coyotes and deer.  
Mother was mainly a city girl and had to learn to be a country wife.  It was plain that was not easy for her at times.

But at first she just went crazy with ideas when she moved to that ranch. She could hardly wait for Daddy to improve it. She was so full of plans about what they could do that Daddy had to throw cold water on her enthusiasm once in a while to make her realize they would have to go slow on expenses from lack of money and being in debt. He knew a heck of a lot more about ranching than she did. He knew you weren't going to make money real fast. 
Daddy had a frugal streak just like Grandma King except when he was drinking. He did not think country people should buy any canned food out of the store except pork and beans. He wanted us to raise and bottle everything we ate. He tried to convince Mother that now she was living on their own ranch, she should give up the food she had bought wholesale in her store in the cheese factory house. He wanted her to put in a huge garden in Salt Gulch. He would help her with the plowing and fertilizing, but he was so busy, she would have to take care of it by herself most of the time. 
I had never seen what Daddy actually did on his father's ranch since I was never allowed to go out in the field where the men were working, but now all I had to do was go outside and I could practically see Daddy running the ranch. He did a great deal more work than I thought he did! I was very impressed with his no how and get up and go, rising before dawn to change the water when he was irrigating.  

I thought everything was just lovely in Salt Gulch until Daddy started to visit a male neighbor, taking Margie and me along with him. Bill was a bachelor in his forties who had originally come from Canada. He had not been living in Salt Gulch long. I didn't know but what Daddy was curious about what a man from Canada talked like, because pretty soon he was going over to his old cabin every few days. And he always took us kids along but told Margie and me to play outside and not to knock on the door or disturb them in any way, which we must have done a time or two, as he said he and Bill had business to tend to.

I just could not imagine what this business was since I never saw him take anything into the cabin at all, they never brought anything out, and I could not tell that they were working on anything. They would stay in there about an hour or so. 
Daddy did not seem to care what Margie and I did to entertain ourselves.  At four and five years old, we ran all over the property, even down to the bottom of the fields where we found some giant gullies. I was so excited about finding these deep gullies, I told Barbara about them and talked her into going over there one day with us, so we could explore them.  Afterwards she said when she told her mother about this adventure, her mother said she was never to go over to Bill's with us again.That rather bothered me. Her mother apparently did not approve of either Bill or us playing in the deep gullies, I didn't know which.  

Finally after several months of these visits, I became so bothered about what Daddy and Bill might be doing that I decided to ask Mother if Bill had a business. I did it very casually as I did not want her to wonder why I wanted to know. She must have been a little annoyed with Daddy because she said of course Bill didn't have a business, Bill had no money as Daddy was going to hire him come spring to come and work for him.
I tried to think everything was okay until one day Bill and Daddy were walking up to the cabin. I was still walking along beside them when I heard Bill say the nastiest thing I had ever heard a man say to another man even in adulthood and it was long, too. I turned to Daddy in shock to see if he was going to rebuke Bill for saying such a nasty thing with his little daughter right there listening. 
But Daddy seemed to be concentrating so hard on what Bill was saying he did not seem to realize that I might have heard him. Or he may have thought the best thing he could do was act like he had said nothing out of the way. They walked into the cabin and I walked back to where Margie was playing feeling like I had just been hit with a rock.
The thought struck me that Bill had been talking to Daddy about sex! That was the first time I ever wondered if two grown men could have sex with each other. I remember thinking what could my dad, a married man with a wife and almost three kids, see in this ugly 40 year old man with long horse teeth and a smile like a coyote's? But after I thought and thought about it and couldn't stop thinking about it I decided that maybe my dad was somebody very different than I ever imagined a dad could be.  
I naturally began to wonder if maybe this was why Daddy insisted on partying with men every single weekend, giving Mother the slip. He even gave her the slip in dances and went outside and stayed so long she had to order him back in to dance with her or be divorced. Something out there in the dark interested him more than what was going on in the dance hall with the women.  
My dad. Well, he had been a twenty six year old man when they married, and Mother hardly knew him, but it was common those days for girls to marry someone very suddenly they hardly knew. If a chance to marry a man with prospects came along poor girls especially had to be ready to take advantage before they changed their minds and withdrew the offer.
If Daddy didn't have thrilling love to offer, he did have prospects! Look at them now. They were acquiring their own ranch. Daddy already knew how to farm. He knew how to train horses. He was a hard worker. Everything was in place now for them to make money! That was so exciting to Mother, and had kind of been exciting to me, too.  But this new idea I had about Daddy and Bill took away my joy in our life in Salt Gulch. 
I did have the good sense to realize that I should never tell Mother my suspicions. It didn't matter what Daddy was doing, now that he had a wife and almost three children, he was going to have to take care of us. I did not trust Mother to do it.  It was all Daddy could do to keep her from killing us now with hard spankings, what would she do without him to protect us? 
Daddy was a more sensible father than she was mother. He did not believe in spanking little kids. He had as a matter of fact never spanked us once.
Mother would be okay as long as he worked and supported us and helped her by taking an interest in his children, I hoped. 

I finally had to put this problem I perceived in their marriage to rest. It was Mother's problem after all. She did not know the man well she married. Bu most young girls looking for a husband would never suspect such a thing. Why I was probably more suspicious right now at five years old  than she had ever been. She had stopped loving Daddy anyway, because of his drinking, or maybe she had never loved him in a romantic way. She did not pay too much attention to him as a matter of fact. And she often flirted with other men. That's probably why she was not observant of him enough to suspect he might be cheating on her with a man rather than a woman, as I suspected he was doing with Bill Isabel. 

But she had been a poor girl, and I knew she was thrilled to death with the new ranch. She could not help but spin day dreams about what they would buy when they started to make a profit. That was more exciting to her right now than romantic love. When you were a poor girl you could find a poor boy to fall in love with easier than you could find a guy with prospects who would actually marry beneath him. 

I had to wonder why such a suspicion occurred to me when I was so young, when nothing of the sort had ever seemed to cross Mother's mind. I suspected I might really be a very smart child as some fond King relatives had imagined.  Daddy's sister Nethella told me that one of his teachers said Daddy was the smartest boy he had ever taught.  That was saying a lot since his teacher was old and had taught hundreds. I had come along obviously inheriting his smarts. But now I was feeling like I was too smart for my own good. What was to become of me with so much to worry about already, when I was only five?    
I was glad when the spring work started and Daddy quit taking us over to Bill's. Bill moved into the little chicken coop bedroom Mother had fixed up for us to sleep in and started to work. Mother did not see why Bill moving to our place was necessary. Daddy said he needed a hired man on the property when he was gone to watch over things not over the hill and that was that.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Memoir: Chapter 4: Mother talks about her abortion which caused her to think she would not go to heaven

Mother was pregnant with the first child she would be having in four and a half years. I had become aware that she had aborted her third child, conceived not too long after Margie was born because she just could not bear to have another child so close. She asked an aunt to send her a catheter to start labor. Since her dad was living close by now she thought he would be able to stop the bleeding if she got into trouble.
I became alarmed about her state of mind when she said one day that she would not be able to go to heaven like the rest of us because she had sinned. I asked her why and she more or less told me what she had done to our little brother or sister. She did not go into many details then as to why she had done it, but I knew quite well she was constantly upset over my dad's drinking and thought her family had no idea what it was to live with such a terrible alcoholic. 
Everybody was always trying to figure out why my dad carried his drinking to such extremes. I didn't see how any wife could be expected to put up with how he drank, as fond as I was of him. He had even gone out and gotten drunk when she was giving birth to me in Salt Lake. It seemed that nothing was important enough to slow him down. 
She said that her sin had even caused her to lose twin boys in a miscarriage following the abortion because her uterus was unstable. I knew the towns' people who learned about her abortion looked down on her for causing it, but I figured they did not know how extremely tried she had been. If they had not been there to comfort her and get involved in helping her with her troubles I did not think they should judge her too severely. 
Mother was still having a tough time in her unhappy marriage as well as believing she was damned to hell forever. I thought she was plenty sorry and to prove it she was having her third child without doing a thing to herself.

But she had not even had LaRae yet when another tragedy hit the King family again due to the alcoholism that plagued the King sons and some of the older grandsons. Glen, Daddy's oldest brother, who was running the Salt Gulch ranch had become a bad drinker. His wife Hazel lived in Escalante just as my Grandmother King did so her seven children could attend Escalante schools. They had already lost a little red headed son who died of  pneumonia when I was four. I only remember seeing Ward twice before he died.
I used to see Uncle Glen quite often when he would come to see his folks, staying for the noon meal at the main ranch house and arguing politics like all the King men did at the dinner table. 
Well, I knew he had a drinking problem, and I thought that his youngest son Ray was getting quite a sexual education in Escalante outside of church and school, which he would try to teach Margie and me as fast as he could when he visited. He taught me to masturbate on the fence when I just turned five and he was just showing us how mothers and dads did it on the floor of the granary when his mother came and grabbed him by the ear and told us that she would tell our mother and dad on us, too.
I was very relieved when neither my mother or dad said anything, even though Ray got an awful ear pulling from his mother and he might have gotten a beating when his dad came home. He was two years older than I was, so I was not able to resist his teaching very well. I thought he needed disciplining all right, but I was not sure that an ear pulling and terrible scolding from his mother and a beating from his dad could slow him down, Ray was so wild. 
Now it seemed that his dad was in even worse trouble than Ray had been. A local girl from Salt Gulch who also went to high school in Escalante since there was no high school provided for the children of Boulder caught rides home to see her folks however she could. Uncle Glen drove the mail from Escalante to Boulder the day she asked him for a ride to Salt Gulch from Escalante which is what led to the terrible trouble that followed. He and the girl were seen under a tree off the road by a local rancher who called the girl's mother. 
The girl confessed that Glen had made sexual advances to her and since he was a married man in his forties and she a fifteen year old, it was obvious a bad crime had been committed. The parents were very upset but agreed that if Glen would leave the country they would not go for imprisonment since he had a family to support. I think my Grandfather King also agreed to pay them something like $2,000 damages.

I woke up at the cheese factory house one morning to hear that Uncle Glen and Aunt Hazel had spent the night at our house and had gotten into a bad fight. He had been drinking heavily and the upshot of that was that he chased her down the lane trying to choke her to death.
His life as a family man was in great jeopardy, it was plain to see. The family packed up and left the country with the four younger children, including Ray. Roma was dropped off to my Aunt Neta's where she lived the next four years. 
Aunt Neta, being my dad's older sister, was a lot better behaved than he was, since she was religious and did not drink. Park and Stuart, the two oldest sons, were left behind to Grandpa's. It would be decided later on if they would join the family after they had gotten settled and Glen had found work. I believe Uncle Glen did find a job for a while, but the drinking and the quarreling continued. Eventually Uncle Glen and Aunt Hazel separated for good.
I wondered if such a fate was in store for our family as the quarreling over Daddy's drinking continued the same, not quite so violent, since Daddy was a little less hot tempered I think than his brother Glen, but Daddy was still mean when Mother came at him in a rage. He wasn't going to be bested by a woman no matter how tough she thought she was.
But guess who was going to buy the Salt Gulch ranch, not just lease it as Uncle Glen had done? My father! He was once again being prodded by my determined mother who recognized opportunity when she saw it. He talked to his dad and struck a bargain to buy the ranch for $4,000! His dad probably had little faith in another hard drinking son but I am sure he had more confidence in his determined daughter-in-law, Irene.
She had soon perceived that Daddy thought cheese making was beneath a cowboy like him, and it was very hard for her to climb up the ladder to let the steam out of the boiler when she was pregnant with LaRae, let alone with a baby crying for her after she was born, so she looked around for a way that Daddy could make a better living for us, and she could be a stay-at-home hardworking country wife and mother again.
The one thing my dad could do while still drinking was punch cows and farm. He had been doing that ever since his dad despaired of him ever finishing his university course to become a lawyer. I could not see my dad ever becoming a lawyer either. He was just too country. He could not even drive into the city without getting picked up for running red lights. Rules were made to be broken was my wild cowboy dad's very philosophy of life.
Grandpa was probably rebellious, too, even if he had taken an incredible vow not to drink and smoke, which was why he had probably gone off in the wilds to homestead Salt Gulch ranch. And later he took the chance to add to his holdings by buying his Boulder ranch, which was a jewel anyway you looked at it with its beautiful emerald green pastures. Off in such isolated ranching country he could do as he pleased with no questions asked.
He probably thought since he had taken a solemn vow never to drink and smoke, naturally his sons wouldn't either. But that is where he miscalculated. His sons smoked bull durm when still children and drank everything around the place with alcohol in it. Grandma had to hide her bottles of pure Schillings vanilla because her boys would drink it all for its alcoholic contents and there would be none for her sugar cookies.

I don't know what I would have done with boys like hers. Grandma preached to them day and night and that did no good. I do not think the world has yet discovered what to do to keep rebellious boys from giving their parents fits, while running off to drink and smoke and experiment with whatever drug is the going thing at the time. 
Grandpa King still felt he had to whip his grown son Clyde with a bull whip. He had even attempted to give his mentally ill son Reed a lashing with the bull whip when they were punching cattle once. Grandpa had a very bad temper even though admittedly he was sorely tried by his sons! My dad, convinced that the whipping would cause Reed to go crazy again, rode between them and took the lashing from his dad, who really hit him hard I imagine for interfering and implying he was a cruel dad.
Grandpa had once even hit my Dad's pet bull dog with a shovel and killed him because the dog would not let go of a calf he sicced him on.  Daddy told mother his dad knew a bulldog would not let go, so he never should have taken him to help drive the cattle. Daddy was a long time forgiving his dad for killing his beloved bulldog, and I don't blame him.

Anyway, Mother was very relieved when she was able to turn the cheese factory over to Uncle Reed and Aunt Thirza to see if they could run it. Uncle Reed needed to make a living somehow for his growing family. He could not work for his dad. His dad finally lost all patience with him and just let him wander out in the trees where he preached to the spirits half the day. He let his wife, Aunt Thirza, be the one to try to get some work out of him, since she had married him when even his parents thought he was a bad risk for marriage and fatherhood. 

And once again before you could wink an eye our family was living in the Salt Gulch house with an agreement with Grandpa King to buy the ranch. Otherwise Mother said she would not have any part of running it. She also told Grandpa, she said proudly, for the second time that he was not to go after Daddy with that bullwhip anymore. I was surprised. I thought as mad as she got at Daddy, she would have loved for Grandpa to beat him. But I guess not. Women are funny. So Daddy got his last whippings from his dad after he was over thirty. I think that is probably still a record for how old a son was before his father finally quit beating him. 

Did Daddy drink because he got savagely whipped or did he drink because he wouldn't mind Grandma in Escalante when his dad was off tending to his ranches? In Salt Gulch I was doomed to start thinking about what made Daddy tick day and night. 
I came to think that if he drank himself to death we would all go down. Or at least, we would have a far worse time than we were having already. Mother was not a reliable parent. She did not like kids all that well. Daddy was a kinder parent, upsetting as he could be at times. She needed him to keep her from whipping us too hard, and he needed her and us little girls to inspire him to stay alive. 
He was as suicidal as a man could be. I always suspected him of trying to commit suicide when he drank some poisonous mixture with alcohol in it that could actually kill a man, like wood alcohol.  He needed a drink but he also needed to commit suicide.  I did have a hard time understanding why a man that could do everything as well as he could wanted to die. 

In Salt Gulch I found out what I thought was the reason he was so suicidal, but I could never tell anyone.  It was too bad to tell, so I kept it a secret. Above all I could not tell Mother.  
I was soon keeping so many secrets I could hardly keep track of them.  I was always afraid one of them would slip out of my mouth and land in the ears of the wrong person, but I knew that to tell one person would be to tell all.  So I trained myself to be silent which did not come easy to a little chatterbox like me, but you can keep a secret if it is a matter of life or death. 

Now I am so used to keeping secrets the hardest thing I find is to tell them even when it might be safe. That is enough about secrets.      

I expected Daddy to go on trying to kill himself in Salt Gulch. He and his brothers were that way. I was thinking day and night how to stop him, but I was not sure I was strong enough to reach him. Even though I thought of myself as a little angel sent by God to bring her dad out of alcoholics' hell. Only hell where I had to go get him turned out to be a very scary place peopled by demons with long horse teeth and sly leering eyes. Devils with searching fingers who would take a little girl into the corn and feel her pee pee. Who thought about killing Daddy's little angel, I am sure, but that devil let me live, three times, but I knew he would not let me live the fourth time.
Oh God, what am I saying? I may be half mad. I can see the black bog now. I will try to recall what happened there. Sometimes I just can't talk about it. But sometimes I can. I will see how I do telling the story of what happened to me in Salt Gulch down in the corn with Daddy's worst hired man.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Chapter Three: Taking little Uncle Bill to find a horse to ride

Margie and I had another fall from a horse with a relative on board, only this time it was our little Uncle Bill, two years younger than I, and one year younger than Margie. Grandma and Grandpa Wilson and little Uncle Bill had moved to Boulder, they thought for good. Grandpa bought a small ranch property, but they said they might have to leave in the winter to work so they could be sure to pay the mortgage until Grandpa could make enough money staying around Boulder. Grandpa Wilson had a lot of skills including delivering babies so it wasn't long until 'Doc' Wilson was in demand among poor Boulder ladies who could not afford to go over the mountain to a hospital to give birth. Grandpa had also been to chiropractor's school, but country folks weren't as apt to need their backs adjusted as city folks, so chiropractry wasn't going to buy many necessities. Grandpa had set up a sawmill years before close to the mountain and spent a few summers camped out up there sawing lumber, so he thought he could saw lumber again with his sons helping him.
I was very impressed that Grandpa had even taken his family on the road one summer years before sharpening knives and putting on shows to earn money for his family's supper. They did not need lodgings as they camped out at night. In case they made no money that day, Grandma made Lumpy Dick, which was a pioneer dish made from flour and milk stirred into lumps, brought to a boil, and eaten with sugar and cream (if they had any). Daddy thought it was the worst food he ever ate, but we kids liked eating Mother's poor folks dishes. We made Lumpy Dick when Daddy was camped out on his winter ranges or gone to party. 
I did think it was no wonder Mother married Daddy, no matter his reputation, as the Kings were known to have the fullest cellars in town and never had to eat Lumpy Dick to stay alive.

If all else failed Grandpa Wilson could still teach school, which he decided to do the first year, only no school teacher's job opened up in Boulder so he took one in Escalante. 
It was still summer though when Grandma came visiting with little Uncle Bill. At the time Grandma was working very hard on their little ranch (little compared to the King spreads). She had to bottle the pie cherries off five trees in their newly acquired orchard as she could never let any food go to waste. She had gone hungry too many times. 
Grandpa was the largest man in town and I thought he didn't need to eat cherry pie all winter. I am sure Grandpa got heavy from eating poor people's food and hardly a speck of meat except what deer he managed to shoot. He was always a fisherman, though, so they ate lots of trout. That isn't bad eating. They just did not raise beef or pigs to kill, or at least not until they brought their little-by-Daddy's-measuring-ranch. Mother gave them a ham now and then when they lived in the city, but she resented doing so because Grandpa had come to disapprove of Daddy's drinking  so greatly he could hardly stay in the same room with him. 
I had a great deal of sympathy for my little Uncle Bill because he had been a change of life baby, when people said a woman no longer had what it took to make a kid. Grandma and Grandpa had been so careful for fifteen years, after their last son Kent was born, who was one of the most brilliant fellows ever related to anyone in that country.
I don't know how else to put it kindly, but little Uncle Bill was a slower thinker than the rest of them, but it always bothered me because I thought both Mother and Uncle Kent and possibly the other family members, too, acted embarrassed about little Uncle Bill's slowness.
Grandpa and Grandma, however, were kind and patient with their little son. I am sure Grandpa did not beat him as my mother said he did her, as he had gotten less cruel in his old age. 
Grandma had this long story she used to tell almost every time she had a chance about the terrible birth of little Bill when she was fifty two years old, and how he was born two months premature or maybe it was three, little enough to fit in a shoe box, and had to be so carefully nursed to save his life. Oddly enough whenever she told this story I always had the feeling she had disconnected from little Uncle Bill who the story was about. But then she never seemed able to concentrate on him even when he was right in the same room with her.
All of a sudden I realized that my mother always told about my birth describing the same horrible ordeal Grandma did.  
At first she said she was in labor thirty six terrible hours when her uterus just would not dilate, and then after I heard the story a few times I noticed she had increased the labor to seventy six hours of agony and I was shocked to hear her say one day she had even visited the valley of the shadow of death during my birth. I think I ran outside about then. If I listened very long to such tales, I figured I could never bring myself to have sex for fear I'd have to give birth to a child. 
Mother never focused on me either when I was in the same room with her without saying something like, 'Get your hair out of your eyes! I am going to have to cut that damned hair. Bring me the scissors.” Mother 's hair was curly so she did not realize that her children with straight hair might grow their hair down over their eyes practically overnight. She could hardly contain her endless disgust with my hair. If it was long she would braid it, pulling it as hard as she could so the braids would not fall out she said. 
I was a natural blond like my dad, and Mother said everyone was always exclaiming over the silvery blond color of my hair, so I suspect that pangs of jealousy caused her to cut it off very short every time she got the chance. 
I suppose she resented having to compete with a natural blond from the time I was born. My dad tried not to make a fuss over me, but I wondered if going so many places with him could lead to big trouble.
Mother said I even used to wink at the men. She said one man fell in love with me. He first looked at me very startled and told my mother, “Why I do believe that tiny little girl is winking at me!” After that he would pay special visits to see me. Imagine, a grown man!  But at that age I did not realize what I was doing was extremely dangerous. 
It wasn't very long before something happened that caused me to stop winking at the men forever, but let's wait on that. I promised myself I would not mention a word of my troubles with men until we moved to Salt Gulch. I hate to think about that time in my life which I thought of as the black bog.

To get back to my story, Margie and I took little Uncle Bill down to the ranch and Grandpa King gave us a gentle old horse to ride. We didn't take our little saddle. We rode our horse bareback because there were three of us. I was holding the reins guiding him and that damned horse took a notion to go on the trail beside the road where there was a deep gully. He went down into the gully and when he came back out all three of us slid down his back, off over his tail, and hit the ground. 
Our falls hurt us enough we all got up screaming.  I was scared that I might be responsible for breaking premature little Uncle Bill's bones by taking him horseback riding when he was was just a toddler. Well, this is what can happen to tots who borrow horses. Mother and Grandma came running down the road and checked us out. Grandma was a trained nurse, and she pronounced us all okay.
I think that was the last time, however, she let her son go with Margie and me off down to Grandpa King's to see if we could borrow a horse. Maybe she did not actually think Grandpa would lend us one, but I could be very persuasive. I knew Grandpa King would give anybody a horse to ride if they asked for one, even if they were little girls four and three and a boy only two.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Chapter 2: Life at the cheese factory and Mother's whippings

 Chapter 2: Life at the cheese factory and Mother's whippings

Margie had not even been walking very long when Mother decided she was old enough to spank. I didn't see how she could have intentionally done anything bad enough to deserve a hard whipping on her backside. Well, the first time Mother spanked her hard, Margie opened her mouth to scream and fell down and turned blue for the longest time before she ever let out a yell. I was so alarmed I said something to Mother about it when I dared. Mother assured me that kids sometimes held their breaths when they were spanked, that it was just Margie's temper that caused her to hold hers until she turned blue. I still didn't quite believe her and have a few flash memories of Margie doing this every time Mother spanked her. I became convinced Mother might kill her if she didn't stop spanking her. 

I have never seen a child since do what Margie did, but it was discovered when she was in her seventies when she had a heart attack that she had a hole in her heart wall that had probably been there since birth. Uncle Reed had a daughter named Carol who had been born with a very large hole in the wall of her heart, and her lips were always tinged with blue. No one was ever allowed to upset her as the doctors were not able to fix her heart at the time. They said she would not survive any attempts to do so and would probably die when she got her first childhood disease, which she did when she got chicken pox and died when she was nine.
Margie also developed severe asthma which manifested in frightening croup attacks when she was small. All I can think of is that one or the other caused her to fall down and turn blue when she was spanked. Margie did have a temper, too, so if tempers can cause spanked children to hold their breaths as Mother said, possibly that could have been the cause. 
But one day Mother got angry and whipped Margie when Aunt Nethella, Daddy's sister, who was visiting during the summer, was present. Margie opened her mouth wide as usual, fell down and did not draw a breath while she slowly turned blue. Aunt Nethella apparently hadn't seen any child do this very often either, and she started yelling for a cup of water. When somebody rushed to her with the water, she threw it in Margie's face who to my great relief let out a strangled cry. I thought she was a goner that time for sure.
I don't recall Aunt Nethella saying a word to Mother about spanking her. Everybody knew they better not rebuke Mother about how she disciplined her kids. She had told them too many times her children would not be spoiled as her husband was by his mother not giving him enough whippings.
I found out later that Grandpa Wilson, her own father, had never spared the rod and spoiled the child either, especially Mother who said he whipped her with a belt when she was up in her teens! Grandpa Wilson told me later in life that he still hated his own father who died when he was eighteen. He had up to then given him many savage beatings.
Mother, however, told Grandpa King who would sometimes lay into his grown sons with a bullwhip when they were cutting cattle and failed to understand his orders, that he was never to whip his son Clyde again with a bullwhip or she would leave the whole bunch of them. So Daddy got his last whipping with a bull whip when he was over thirty years old!
Such were the old fashioned ways of disciplining children. The saga of Mother's whippings continued on when we moved to the Salt Gulch ranch when I was five and Margie was four. I don't recall any of the whippings there, Margie's or mine, all I remember is that every single day I had to tell Daddy yes, we got a whipping, because he would ask me every day when he came into the house after his day in the fields. I hated to tell him yes he would act so sad because he knew as well as I did that Mother might whip us even harder if he said anything. So that is how I know she was still whipping us in Salt Gulch.
Because of the whippings, as I said I did not like her for years. Oddly, however, when I heard Aunt Nethella was talking about trying to take us away from our parents because of my mother's whippings and my dad's drinking, I did not agree with her.
I thought Aunt Nethella and the rest of them should have visited them more and been their friends instead. Mother was almost pathetically eager to be friends with anybody. She was willing to talk to anybody who came in her store for hours, even Alvey Leavitt! Daddy was more reserved, but he responded to us children so well, I was convinced that persistence would pay off in talking to him, too, if the adults were willing to try. As it was now, his only friends were his children and his drinking buddies which included some of the worst old drunks I have ever seen. 
Later in Salt Gulch I was to come to the conclusion that there was reason enough for our mother to be painfully frustrated with our father. But I do not want to go into that just yet. I will put it off as long as possible. I will continue to write about my relatively happy little world in Boulder where nothing of really major proportions threatened my physical safety except an occasional fall from a horse.
I was not deterred by falls. I still rode horses as often as possible. Our Grandfather even gave Margie and me a little saddle we were to share. We were still too young to be taken at the same time with our dad. He had us take turns riding with him on his horse until we received our little saddle. Grandpa King also gave us our very own horse. Old Strippy had been a faithful cow horse to him for a long time. Grandpa said his age would make him a perfect kid horse.
But we only had him about three weeks when I came to get him and the hired men said Grandpa had ordered them to put Strippy to sleep! I didn't dare ask our rather gruff Grandfather why he had done such a thing after just giving him to us! I thought it was very cruel of him.
The hired men got a kick out of me refusing to eat my pet lamb Black Wooley when he was butchered to provide mutton for the family table. I had raised him and loved him, but my dad said it was foolish of me to think we could keep a sheep for a pet like it was a dog. He said there was no animal dumber than a sheep. He insisted that the reason he had let us pick Black Wooley out of the dogey lambs when the sheep herds came through on the way to the mountain for the summer was so we could fatten him up and eat him! I am sure he did not mention that to me! These lambs had lost their mothers and it was feared they might not make it to the mountain sheep range, so they were given to the towns people every year. No matter what Daddy said I still would not eat one bite of Black Wooley.

When I got Black Wooley we were living to the cheese factory house. Our mother had decided she had to find a way to make money since Daddy drank up nearly all he made working for Grandpa and gave her such a little allowance to live on, we could hardly afford anything to brighten our lives.
Mother got to talking to the man who ran the little cheese factory up the lane who also had a store in one of the rooms in the front of the house. He said that his wife did not like Boulder and they were eager to sell the cheese factory and move back to Escalante where they had come from. Mother finally convinced Daddy and Grandpa they should lease the cheese factory house, and she started sending away for books on how to make cheese. She also took to visiting cheese factories out over the mountain, although she did get very aggravated because they did not let her go on the visit to purchase the cheese factory property when she was the one who had to run it.
Pretty soon, almost before you could wink an eye, Mother had us moved into the cheese factory house. Mother was always that way. She no more than came up with a new plan than she would not let anybody rest until she could put it into action. Daddy would never have done anything she complained if she didn't light a fire under him.
She had done this to get her homestead house built but she found out she did not like living way out in the fields away from everybody. She thought she would enjoy living on the main highway through Boulder and talking with all the people she saw the sociable Munsons visiting in their store. She just could not wait!
What I remember the most about the cheese factory house were all the hours Margie and I were expected to look after ourselves in the main part of the house while Mother was either making cheese or waiting on the store. I remember Margie and me playing all the time by ourselves waiting for somebody, anybody, to come home.
I found out it made Mother very happy for me to fix lunch for everybody. In order to see her and whoever was making cheese I would do anything to get them in there for a little while, even cook macaroni!
When we had to spend so many hours alone together Margie and I took to quarreling. I was far too close to her in age to be a very good boss, even though I was put in charge of her. She hardly even minded me.
Sometimes Mother would call to me to go wait on the store if she couldn't leave the cheese to do it. The doorbell would ring and ring, so I would go and let them in. They were probably too afraid of my mother to take advantage of me. I remember Alvey Leavitt came several times, but he did not give me any problems in Mother's store as he had down to Grandma King's trying to peek at us little girls taking our Saturday night baths.
Mother and Grandma had complained about Alvey in connection with garlic which they said made them sick when he got near them. I did not know what garlic was at the time, so I was always trying to discover what garlic was to see if I could detect what it had done to Alvey. I never ever got close enough to him to smell his breath.
My most unforgettable customers were some Navaho Indians, probably the same ones who had run through the pond by our homestead house when I was no more than a toddler. They rode into town from the reservation once a year to sell rugs and trade for horses and although they could not speak English, by pointing they managed to make me understand what they wanted. Mother bought three beautiful Navaho rugs for the cheese factory living room we had on our floors for years, so they had money to spend in our store. 
 I was very proud of myself for successfully waiting on Indians, once so savage white people thought they had to kill every one of them they could, which always made me feel sad. My favorite picture for years was of a defeated looking Indian warrior bending over his horse as he rode him into the setting sun.  The horse looked just as sorrowful as he did. 

There was one man who worked for Mother helping her to make cheese I would probably have remembered except I was too concerned about poor Daddy. I remember the other fellow named Wallace who worked for Mother very well. She fired him once for not showing up for work because he got drunk, leaving her in an awful bind. I don't know who else she managed to get to help her that day. Anyway she let Wallace go for letting her down too many times and hired a young guy three years younger than she was, who was in town visiting his uncle, a cattle rancher. He was very handsome and according to her secret history book I was able to read several years later she fell in love with him. She even said in her history she would have run away with him if he had been willing. Sadly she said he asked her younger sister Vesta for a date instead. What a disappointment that must have been to Mother!
But at the same time she wrote how Daddy threatened to kill himself while they were living at the cheese factory house. She said he threatened it so often, she finally told him to go ahead and do it, but take the gun and shoot himself out in the orchard where his blood would run onto the ground! This might have been over Mother's falling in love with the handsome young man she hired to help her make cheese.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Daughters of the Shadow Men Memoir:

Chapter 1:  My earliest memory of high spirited Navahoes riding their horses through the pond by our homestead house

I made up my mind when I wrote my memoirs I was going to do it in such a way as not to depress myself for our family history can get me down in the dumps fast if I don't watch out. It was that kind of family.
Before I ever entered the world, my father had become an alcoholic, but an alcoholic usually isn't regarded as such an abusive figure unless he has a wife and family to torture. My mother proved to be a woman who took greater offense to drinking than most women.
Nobody drank in my mother's family. Oh, her father's youngest brother who rebelled against religion became an alcoholic but he never had any children, and his wife continued to adore him no matter what he did. So my theory is that I had probably heard many quarrels about drinking before I was even a few months old. 
I seemed, even to me, to become a world weary young tot who far surpassed my Grandmother King in my knowledge of her son's lies about his drinking. She wanted to believe him when my father told her he had not been drinking even when he was staggering. I would know just about how much he had drunk. And what we all could expect once we got back home--hours of my mother fighting with him before his buzz would wear off enough for him to sleep.
I am trying to say that I was probably thinking about the problem of my dad's drinking while I was still in my cradle. 
My first actual memory is an odd one. I have a very vivid memory of myself seated in my little homemade highchair looking out the window of our homestead house. I couldn't have been two because we only lived in that house a year, and my high chair was so small I didn't sit in it after I was very old. What I was seeing out the window that interested me so much were six or seven Navaho men on horses galloping through my grandfather's large pond. They were whooping with joy. I had never seen such happy cowboys. I was thinking what a difference there was between the Indians and my father and his cowboys who were a sadder more serious bunch.  I was wondering why they were noticeably more grim than the happy go lucky Indians who had come up from the reservation to trade rugs for horses. I seemed to be trying to figure out the reason for things even at that young age. 
So in my first memory as a very young child I was trying to analyze my dad. Odd but the Kings I discovered later were given to analyzing which drove my mother crazy. She never liked that trait in us which I was already exhibiting so young.
I have several other brief memories of those early years of riding on huge horses with my father. Sometimes I would be on a horse by myself praying whenever the horse approached a ditch or some bars that it wouldn't take a notion to jump over them. If the horse jumped I might be jolted and lose my grip on the saddle horn.  I'd fall a long ways to the ground I would think, so horses jumping over bars must be avoided if at all possible. If I thought our horses might be frisky enough to jump over bars I would ask my dad to please take more bars down so my horse would be sure not to jump over them. My dad would frown when I showed signs of fear, and seemed to remember that I was just a girl after all. But if my horse was a gentle old mare I would think it would be too tired to jump. It would just likely step over the bars. So I would try not to say anything.
Some of these rides on horses must have been both before and after I did fall from a runaway horse when I was three years old. I used to clamor to ride horses even at the same time I feared them. My father had come home that day from riding for cattle 'down below' and my mother and he were walking down the lane toward my Grandfather's ranch. Mother had been up the lane visiting and was carrying Marion, Uncle Reed's daughter, who was only one year old. Margie, who was two, and I were walking along side her and my dad. 
At once I began to beg to ride Daddy's saddle horse. This must have been quite a common thing for me to do. My dad finally gave in and lifted me up into the saddle and put Margie on back of me. Lastly, he placed Marion in front of me. He still retained the reins. We were riding a gray gelding named Dumbell that he had not owned very long. He was always trading for a horse. No amount of scolding that he could not afford another horse ever stopped him from making these horse trades when he was partying. 
Daddy was already saying that Dumbell was not smart enough to be a good cow pony so he would keep him a while to see if he could turn him into a kid horse. I suppose one reason he let us ride him was to try him out.

Dumbell failed the kid horse test almost at once. He suddenly jerked the reins out of my dad's hands and took off running! Daddy managed to snatch our cousin Marion off. Margie fell to the hard ground a little ways further and was lucky not to have been hurt badly. I am sure she got an awful jolt that might have injured her more than anybody knew.  I grabbed the saddle horn and clutched it with all my might thinking I must not fall on that hard ground in the lane once Dumbell picked up full running speed. 
Instead of stopping to the corrals, however, he turned and started running up a sandy hill toward the fields. I started picturing what he might do to the top of the hill where there was rocks sticking up out of the ground. If I happened to fall on a rock I reasoned I could be hurt very badly. I decided I would have to throw myself off Dumbell while he was still running up the sandy hill, hoping to land in some soft sand. I looked for a place I might aim for.  As soon as I saw some heavy sand I let go of the horn and launched myself out away from Dumbell's side as far as I could.
Unfortunately I landed on a drying sagebrush. A piece of stem was driven by the weight of my body into the flesh under my chin. When I felt pain and blood running, I started screaming as loud as I could. 
My dad came running very fast up the hill and picked me up and brushed me off. He told my mother he could see I was not hurt badly and said a few teasing words to me about screaming.
I was mortified over him teasing me and mad because I could not tell him or anybody else how I had planned a jump from the horse so I would fall in the soft sand. Nobody would believe I hadn't just fallen off after I screamed. I thought I was a smart little girl to think so well in an emergency and my dad needed to know that. But I had been so frightened I could not help but scream about my wound.

I think I was establishing myself as a brainy child even then which proved to be quite dangerous given my mother's penchant for jealousy and belief in corporal punishment. But the King men greatly admired brains and cool thinking in an emergency,  especially in one related to them by blood, so their esteem must have been what I was going for.
I also must have figured I needed to be very smart to survive in the dangerous world in which I found myself. The horse world. The cowboy world.

 It would have been along about that time that Uncle Max, my dad's youngest brother, got killed from being thrown from a bucking horse. I can remember Uncle Max coming into the ranch house where we were living at the time. Somebody said he and Uncle Reed had just come in with the pack mules carrying the mail. Max came in the house and said hello to me. He may have played with me a little. That is my only memory of him before he had his fatal ride on the bucking horse. Mother said he always made a fuss over Margie and me because he liked kids.
The King sons had been raised on horses people said later so it would have been very unlike Max to have gotten hurt if he had not been drinking. I can just imagine how drunk he must have been judging from the way my dad drank. Daddy would soon be staggering he drank beer or even whiskey so fast once he started. I imagine all the Kings drank fast which is why drinking affected them worse than it did men who drank slower.
All the cowboys went over and over the story of how Max came to be thrown. They said he did not try to catch himself. He just fell, a dead weight, and hit his head on a stone on the rodeo grounds that had not been cleared of all hazardous rocks. Riders were expected to look down and dodge the rocks when they were thrown from bucking horses.
I remember Daddy saying he had a feeling when he saw them pick his unconscious brother up off the ground and carry him off the rodeo grounds that he would not ever come to and he didn't. He said he was not strong enough to survive such a blow. I wondered for years what he meant. He seemed to think he was physically stronger than both Max and and his older brother Reed. 
Well, everyone knew Reed was not strong. He had nearly died twice when he was a child of pneumonia and meningitis. But I guess for some reason, maybe because he was the baby and considered spoiled, Daddy did not think Max would be able to survive this hard blow to his head that rendered him unconscious.
Reed didn't go to the rodeo. Reed I knew had suffered a nervous breakdown. He would drink no matter how bad alcohol was for his delicate mind. He kept having to be hospitalized when some bad crisis occurred. Not too many years before he and his best friend drank poison moonshine.  They both got very sick, and Rodney died.  After Rodney died Reed started talking to the spirits.  He usually said he was talking to Rodney. 
When Max was hurt in the rodeo, they hadn't wanted Reed to go to Escalante for fear he would drink.  He was talking to the spirits again and they were hoping to prevent another stay in the state mental.  
On the third day after Max was hurt, Mother volunteered to watch Reed so Daddy could go back to town alone because they received word that Max was probably going to live only a few more hours. Daddy left to say his last good-bye to his youngest brother. 

Late that afternoon Mother said Reed came to her crying saying that Rodney had come and told him Max had just died. Max was in the spirit world now. Mother said that a doctor thought Reed's mental troubles may have gotten a lot worse with his own close call and Rodney's death.  It was for sure that he was now living with one foot in the other world. Mother, of course, was jolted by his information.  Max did die that afternoon, and Mother was convinced Reed had been told the very moment his spirit left this world and went to the hereafter.  She did not even think Reed knew Max was hurt, but I think Reed knew very well something was terribly wrong.

When Reed spent hours sometimes laughing and talking to his spirit friend Rodney, he would say that Rodney told him jokes. Reed loved jokes. I was intensely curious about a joke a spirit might have told Reed. I wished that I could just ask him to tell me the joke, but we children were warned not to try to talk to Reed, let alone about his conversations with the dead.
The adults were always shouting at him for saying he was talking to the spirits. They cursed him because he would not do any work. So they would tell him to forget about the spirits. They accused him of trying to get out of work! He wasn't as strong as most men, so he might have gotten more exhausted from the hard work they had to do in those days than his brothers did. Maybe he half way did find out that if he acted crazy enough, they would leave him alone and do all the work themselves. 
I always wished that the adults had been kinder and  more curious like I was, so they could have found out more about the spirit world Reed seemed able to access at will.
But if they had been kinder he probably would not have preferred the spirit world. Still the fact that his mind was swinging between heaven and earth was unsettling. I did appreciate Mother letting Reed tell her about Rodney bringing her the news Max had died. She said they hadn't told Reed Max had been hurt for fear of sending him completely mad with grief, so they would have to take him back to the mental hospital in the middle of all their own upset. 

Reed and Max were the best of friends at the time of Max's death. They had the mail contract together and this was one of the few jobs that Reed had been successful in keeping since he had become mentally ill, probably because Max was kind to him. Daddy loved to party with him because he was so witty, but they tried to keep Daddy and Reed apart when they were drinking. Daddy was thought to be a very bad influence. 
But I really didn't know how Reed could have been so witty and completely mad.  I loved to hear Reed's jokes, like he once he joked that he knew how to handle Clyde.  Apparently people found my dad hard to get along with.  Reed said he just let Clyde take him down to the river and whip him and after that he got along with him just fine.  That is a wonderful example of Uncle Reed's wit.  
When Max died was the first I became really aware of Uncle Reed. Up to then I don't remember seeing him or knowing a lot about him. I did think however that Reed would be able to keep right on talking to Max after he was dead. He knew how to do it. He wouldn't miss him as the rest of the family would because he would be talking to him in the spirit world as soon as Max came to and recovered from his head injury and realized where he was.

Now my Grandmother King whispered all the time but I was not sure she was talking to spirits or just thinking very hard. I tried to get close to her to hear what she was saying when she was whispering but I did not succeed in hearing anything except a name or two. If I had to guess I would say she was thinking out loud rather than talking to the spirits. She just did not seem to have been as nervy as her wild crazy son Reed. If spirits had tried to talk to her I think she would have refused to listen to them, but her sons, especially, had caused her to worry a great deal most of their lives. Hence her constant whispering which sometimes could get so intense it sounded like hissing. 
After Max got killed, I know she was worried sick about her other drinking sons. She even came up with a scheme I thought was kind of preposterous but if it gave her any relief everybody was in favor of it. She came to my mother and told her she wanted her to drive my dad on his drinking parties, even though, mind you, my mother hated his drinking. Grandmother said she could not bear to lose another son. Mother agreed I am sure because Daddy went along with the idea.
Daddy was notorious for giving Mother the slip once he got into town and anywhere near a drinking buddy. Women weren't welcome in the pool hall, so he could always say he was going there to get rid of Mother. I don't know what Mother did once they got to Escalante, she never said, but knowing her, she would have found someone to talk to. She wasn't above flirting with Daddy's buddies either. She got so she could tolerate them quite well. Just as long as she was not married to them she could laugh and joke with guys when they were drunk as they could be.

Every weekend the partying parents would drop Margie and me off to Grandma's and off they would go. Daddy would drive before drinking but would surrender the wheel to Mother once he had got hold of a bottle of alcohol. Grandma would even give us our weekly baths while she had us, as our parents always went partying on Saturday. Grandma always liked to make sure we did not have an excuse to stay away from Sunday School.
I recall a neighbor, Alvey Leavitt, visiting around about the time we took a bath once he knew what was going on. I got very indignant as I thought he hoped to catch sight of us little girls naked. It made me mad that a grown man could be so nasty, but I did not put it past Alvey Leavitt the way he leered and peeked around Grandma who would try to direct us when we were naked away from him. She would tell Alvey to sit down and wait in the kitchen until we were through, but he would peek. I saw him!
I am sure he came for some of Grandma's sugar cookies or apple pie, too, as he was 'batching' it with another old man in a ranch house across the way named Alf Wadcott. This other old man would visit Grandma too, but not to try to see two little girls bathing. I remember I thought Grandma was kind of his girlfriend for he was quite a handsome old guy and probably always had girlfriends. He would call Grandma to come and help boost him back on his horse. Once Grandma boosted him up so far and fast he almost fell off the other side. I thought that was so funny. 
Grandma did seem to get some comfort from believing she was saving her son Clyde from getting killed from driving drunk, All that happened was that Mother got pregnant with LaRae and that put an end to her going to drive Daddy home after he had been drinking. When Mother got big enough so she was not comfortable she stayed home while Daddy continued his partying ways with no let up that I remember.
In the meantime I still have vivid memories of staying with Grandma who was very kind to us. She never saw any need to spank us once. So I was naturally a good deal more fond of her than I was of Mother who believed in spanking children for everything and anything.

 My first memory of Mother was waking up with the thought that I did not like her, that I could not remember ever liking her! She had spanked me into a good case of dislike as near as I can tell. She was just too handy with her strong hand. She could hurt a child, spanking them on their backsides, as she seemed not to know her own strength.  She would hurt their feelings even worse if they did not think they deserved it. It's not as if we were ever deliberately naughty. We knew better. 
Most of the time I thought we accidentally made her mad. And she would grab us and whale away. We would try our best not to do anything that would make her angry but that was impossible. She seemed to get angry and impatient just because we were children and it was her damned job to take care of us. How could I really love such a brutal woman?
Now I better stop before I get depressed with this family history. Next I will go into how Margie, my younger sister, acted when Mother started spanking her. It was kind of funny if it had not been so scary.