Thursday, March 3, 2011

Memoir: Chapter 12: A baby angel is sent to our family

I started to read adult fare in the second grade. I just did not think I could wait any longer to find out if there was anything in books that might explain to me what had happened to my father to cause him to behave so differently from how fathers and married men were supposed to act according to my once innocent conception of them. 
Golda Petersen, my first grade teacher, further spurred me on by having a story writing contest for the first four grades she taught in the little room. I did not trust her enough to write about real events as they were transpiring tin my life then,  so I just made up an out and out fairy story. I thought all the fairy stories had already been written long ago so mine would not be acceptable, but to my surprise Miss Petersen awarded me first prize. I don't know but what my winning while being the youngest child in school caused some of the older students to think I was the teacher's pet, but it promptly convinced me I should become a writer.
In the second grade my new teacher, Mrs. Hansen, was quite annoyed when I suggested I might be allowed to go into the big room to look for more interesting books to read. She said I certainly could not, so I started looking around the house to see if I could not tackle some quite simple reading material that my mother and dad were reading on a regular basis. Mother subscribed to as many magazines as she thought my dad would pay for, and I soon located a story in the Saturday Evening post I thought I might be able to get through about two characters named Babe and Little Joe. 
 I had no trouble at all reading the first story, so after that I just read anything Mother and Dad read. I soon did not even read Babe and Little Joe with a lot of interest since little Babe was just too sweet and innocent to even be believable. Nothing ever happened to her that remotely resembled what went on in my life.
I can't tell you what a huge disappointment Zane Grey as a western novel writer was to me. I borrowed every Zane Grey novel I could, hoping each might be better. Mother refused to buy Zane Grey because she and Daddy thought western novels were beneath their intelligence. Hmm, I could see why they did not relate. Nobody in those novels acted remotely like them. Mothers did not spank their kids for nothing, and Dads did not get drunk and still ride their horses very well out in the bad lands with the apt name of "Down Below". 
I do not know where Zane Grey got his information about the wild west, but about all he got right I thought were his descriptions of the canyons and mesas. And good descriptive writing did not satisfy me. I needed novels with more harsh reality in them than Zane Grey seemed capable of grasping.
I was doomed to be disappointed quite often in novels about the west over the next few years, which was why I determined I would grow up and write about the real wild west. I decided I wouldn't care if my stories disgusted the religious and horrified the old, I would tell nothing but the truth. All these pretty stories were nothing but lies and cover-up and did not help at all in sorting out my experiences in life which had taken such a hard turn to the dark side.  
I did not get to read a whole lot in Salt Gulch I had to work so hard, and neither did Mother. But she was my best source of reading material for years. She would do anything to come by a book to read. 
For a while we took Grit Magazine and I used to look forward every week to reading the serial. I even read Grandma King's relief society magazine stories and I had to be desperate to read those, the little boys and girls in that magazine were so sheltered, I could not believe they were real either. Who were these authors kidding? I wondered if Grandma had thought she could pattern her own boys' lives after theirs. If so it was a false hope. 
Now her second the youngest son had caused my mother to get pregnant again with her fourth child that she no more wanted than an elephant to raise along with her other three who were already about three too many with all she had to put up with.
That was about when Daddy started us to saving his dogey calves and every other critter on that place that lost its mother, as if we already didn't have enough chores to do. He would even bring us baby rabbits he found in the fields after he mowed the hay.  They would just die upsetting us and him, making us feel like failures as substitute mothers  You cannot save wild baby rabbits! 
We didn't even have time to go to church most of the time even though Mother loved to go she said to get away from all the work expected of her a few hours. I suspected that is why all the ladies in town were such faithful church goers. That was how they took the day off without feeling guilty! I thought they were still gluttons for punishment to listen to all that dull preaching on the only day they had an excuse to relax. 
Daddy would be home nursing a hangover from his Saturday night party. The only time he went to church was to bless one of his kids if he even managed to do that. Mother had gotten angry with him each time he had failed to be present when one of his children was blessed.  She was keeping count. In her eyes this was a major crime and surely meant he would burn in hell's fires.  As a matter of fact, I did not see how he could ever escape hell's fires even if we were able to persuade him to stay alive long enough for us children to be able to survive his passing. Mother's temper was simply too bad for her to be able to raise us.  The possibility of either one of them left alone to raise us was just not acceptable.     

Mother had decided to have her fourth child in Salt Gulch. She had persuaded or maybe even demanded Grandpa and Grandpa Wilson come over there and deliver it. Imagine! Her own Dad! She said she and Daddy just could not afford for her to go to Richfield to have a baby in a hospital. Grandpa did not want to do it, but he had to or his headstrong daughter might have tried to have it by herself and he could not let that happen! You never knew what reckless thing my strong willed mother might do to get her way. He probably knew he could not get out of it.
Well, Grandma and Grandpa had the worst time getting that fourth kid born. Grandma described over and over in years to come how Grandpa tried to coax that kid out for hours, maybe days until Grandma herself finally went in and laid down on the bed with a heart attack.
Grandpa had to persuade shy Baby Ann to come out and face a hard world with the help of fat Ellen Thompson, a mid wife's helper he told my dad to bring to Mother's bedside in a dire emergency. Mother said he had to pull the baby out with some nasty forceps that caused him to have to reshape her head entirely once she was born.  But Mother always exaggerated. I didn't quite believe every detail of her terrible stories.  Life for her seemed to have become one long horror filled nightmare. But we were probably lucky Ann was't brain damaged.  Or maybe she was but we just didn't know it! 
She turned out to be the first redhead born in our family. That was always her claim to fame. That and having been born in a real log cabin just like Abraham Lincoln who was a saint, too.
Grandpa was so mad over the very real scare he got trying to save Mother and her baby, he told Mother right then and there he would never deliver one of her babies again, and she just better not ask him to! 
Ellen Thompson stayed two weeks. I remember her doing a lot of work Margie and I might have had to do. She was so heavy she could hardly walk so I was surprised she was willing to relieve us child laborers. She probably did not know she could get a lot of work out of children, which a woman who believes in corporal punishment can more easily do. Mother believed in working her children so she could be free to pursue more interesting tasks.  By our age, we did whatever we could to please her, knowing a whole lot worse could happen if we didn't!
Mother was so long getting back on her feet, I got a little bit scared she still might be dying. But she said she was having her first good rest since LaRae was born even if she had to nearly die to be allowed to stay in bed a few days.  
After about three days Mother caught sight of Margie and me and made us come to her bed while she took a pair of scissors and whacked our hair off clear above our ears. And then she told us we had to go to church. I was mortified over her savage hair cut that amounted to cruelty to helpless animals but I was happy to report to our Sunday school class we had a little red headed sister.
You have never seen such a glorious head of strawberry blond hair as that child developed. It grew in looking exactly like a halo. To add to her heavenly appearance, she had one of the sweetest dispositions a child could ever have. I doubt  she even cried. 
Her hair was such an indescribable incandescent strawberry blond it made people stop in their tracks and stare. I am telling you it was a good thing her hair calmed down when she got older as that is all anybody talked about when they saw her.  Her hair, hair, hair. 
Even after her hair went a little darker, although still gloriously wavy, visiting relatives from afar would want to see the child with the halo of strawberry gold hair. I could see from the sensation Ann's hair caused, why people would come from far and wide to see the little Lord Jesus. They could probably see holiness in his eyes. Ann was a real little baby angel with the hair to match and has remained so to this very day.
I am sure the Lord saw that if ever a family needed an angel in their midst it was this one. And sent Ann.  

1 comment:

  1. That is a touching memory about the birth of Sister Ann without so much of the birth horror story...but never mind, I will tell it in Mother's own words!