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.

1 comment:

  1. I thought that
    children holding their
    breath until they
    turned blue was
    just in cartoons...