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.

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