Friday, April 15, 2011

Memoir: Chapter 17: Mother rebuilds her homestead house in Boulder saying good-bye to Sinkhole ranch, and plans to build a store to escape her marriage problems

Mother announced to Father one day that she had secured the 'catchall' as it was called from Grandpa King where she was going to move her homestead house. She told him she was never going to live in Salt Gulch again! Father reminded her of her promise to live with him in Salt Gulch if he bought the ranch, and she reminded him that he had also made a promise to her to quit drinking, even to taking the Kiely cure, and he had not stopped. She was not going to be made unhappy anymore by him saying he had to go to Boulder for something and slipping off to Escalante to get a bottle
Daddy seem quite surprised she had persuaded Grandpa to give her land in Boulder, but he thought to tell Mother he would have to have part of the upper pasture that belonged to Grandpa where he could pasture his horses, milk cows, and the steers he would be fattening for market in the summer if he was going to live with her in Boulder.

Grandpa reluctantly agreed that Daddy would need pasture all right. The catchall property east of the big government corral, which land Grandpa owned, was enough for a smaller 'catchall', a garden spot and a place for an orchard, a barn, and corrals as well as the house and yard. Grandpa said Daddy could fence part of his pasture heading south from the government corral for his horses, steers, and milk cows.

Mother hired Albert Coleman to tear down the homestead house and haul it to the building site and then Art McInelly, a carpenter from Escalante, and his sons were to do the reconstructing. In the meantime the family spent a few months of our last winters in Salt Gulch down to the old King ranch house and even a couple of months over to Grandpa and Grandma Wilson's ranch house. All I remember about sleeping in one of the back bedrooms down to the old King ranch house was a reoccurring dream I had of an old model T grinding away in deep sand, unable to move forward. Talk about a dream of futility. I can still hear the dreary sound the engine made. I got so I dreaded that dream and that sound. I know it was about my father's drinking that even after the Kiely cure, looked as though it was going to go on forever with our family making no progress toward stability.
While we were living to the Wilson ranch home, I had a really alarming nightmare. I dreamed a man was chasing me and caught up with me in a pasture and took a very long plank, set one end on the top of my head, and with a big hammer, pounded a nail into the top of my head. I screamed so loud I must have awakened the whole household, but nobody said anything. For years I pondered the meaning of this dream. Just now I realized what it meant after all these years. It had to do with the new house and the pasture there and another hired man doing me harm.

I can't say that I was too unhappy about leaving sinkhole ranch for by then I had acquired my very own sinkhole that I felt responsible for causing. This is how that happened. Barbara, Marilyn, and I who had all gotten to be better and better friends, decided we wanted to go swimming, but I thought we should try going in our ditch where we might find some water a little deeper than in Sweet Water which did not have as much water in it as our ditch, as my father's ranch had the best water rights in Salt Gulch. I don't think I said anything about this plan to my parents. I saw no need.
The day we were to meet my mother insisted I had to go to Boulder with her for something, so I called Marilyn and Barbara who said they might try swimming in our ditch anyway. When we got home, we received terrible news. They had no more begun traipsing up and down our ditch looking for deep water when the water started whirling around in a most frightening manner right under their feet. Barbara said they were barely able to leap out before a big hole opened up in the ditch and all the water that went to our ranch gurgled down and out of sight!

This spelled disaster for our ranch. It was not long before my father realized no water at all was coming over the hill, and he and the hired man rushed up the road to see what had happened. The water went an amazingly long ways underground before it surfaced in a gully down below the ditch and flowed through the neighbors' land.

Well, I can't tell you how many times that summer the men would fix the ditch with a wooden waterway of some sort and then the ground around it would inevitably give way and the water would disappear down into an even bigger sinkhole.
I couldn't help but have nightmares about that sinkhole, imagining if I had been there, I was not able to jump out in time for some reason. I would have gone down the hole with the water! Well, thank goodness, I went to Boulder or I believe I would not be here today, and I told Barbara and Marilyn not to blame themselves as I was the one who insisted on swimming there. I don't know if Daddy would have even forbidden me to swim in the ditch had he known what we planned to do.

Finally in desperation Daddy asked the CCC engineer who was working on our roads to come and look at the sinkhole and see what he could suggest. He looked and told him to buy two of the longest culverts he could find that would hold the water, haul them home, and weld them together so they would cross the unstable ground entirely. The culverts were quite expensive, but that's what Daddy did, and this solution finally worked.
I was relieved to have the water running steadily over the hill into our ranch again without the sinkhole gobbling up more and more of the ditch.  But still another emergency in our crisis ridden lives had been exhausting. I was reminded of the poor Ogden boy who had a nightmare event happen while trying to swim in a water tank over in Sand Creek. The Ogdens had run the Salt Gulch ranch before my Uncle Glen moved there. The boys found a water tank that was quite deep when it was full from a storm when they were riding over into Sand Creek. They took to diving into it. One Odgen boy came up in an underground passage  they didn't know was there and never surfaced. The other boys went in again and again looking for him but never found his body! Needless to say that water tank was off limits to swimmers forever after and so was our ditch!

Knowing we were moving, I started saying goodbye to 'our hill' which we children claimed in the middle of the ranch. I would never climb that hill again and listen to the blackbirds singing in the trees. I wouldn't hear the coyotes howling at night just barely out there where you couldn't see them, or watch the deer come in every night to feed in my father's alfalfa fields. Well, my dad would see them, because he'd still be farming over there, but I would never again live on this ranch as a child. Mother had even taken Barbara and me to Sand Creek to camp out. Margie and Gay, her sister, came with us, but Barbara promised me she knew where the Nine Room cave was over past the school house ledge and we would still go exploring over to Boulder as we had done in Salt Gulch. I could still come and stay with her in Salt Gulch as she could come to to stay with me in Boulder in the new house. Yes, I thought that might be nice to have our own home in Boulder where I could have friends over night.
Daddy said we would take old Don to Boulder, but he was so burned out, he didn't know how long he was going to last. I knew if anything happened to him I could always go down to Grandpa King's ranch for a horse to ride if I lived close. 
In Salt Gulch I never liked the fear that one of the cows just coming off the mountain would bloat on the alfalfa in the fields if we didn't find them in time and put them in a pasture. Daddy had to stick a couple of them and they still died. But alfalfa was the richest hay for cattle in the winter. And Daddy loved his precious water so much in Salt Gulch he would hardly let a hired man tend the water. The only time he ever let the water run too long on his fields was when he was drunk. The rest of the time he was the most conscientious farmer you could ask for. Mother made me mad because she acted like Daddy didn't do anything. It was hard work out there shoveling ditch. To my mind, Daddy actually worked harder than Mother did, and that is saying a lot.
Mother was the kind of worker who would tear into some big job like bottling five bushels of peaches and about kill herself and all her helpers, but Daddy wanted order to his work routine. He wanted a nice dinner ready on time after the hard morning's work was done and hot new bread for supper and he was satisfied. 
You never knew what Mother might do, work hard one day and not do a thing for days with the house left in chaos. She would be no where to be found.  I got used to growing up with the house in a mess half the time.
Mother wanted a homestead house. She got it, she didn't like it, then she wanted the cheese factory house, and then the Salt Gulch ranch, and now she just had to have another Boulder house! Would she ever be satisfied? Daddy was afraid not. I heard him tell Mother he knew she would not come to Salt Gulch if she lived in Boulder to cook his dinner in haying time. Mother said I would be big enough, I could do it! It looked to me like Mother was raising me to take her place in Daddy's life.
She was already refusing to ride horses with him. Why not? I always wanted to ride with him! Well, now she had the babies, but I knew and he knew she could leave them with one of the hired girls to tend if he wanted her to ride horses somewhere with him. The truth was Mother did not really want to go anywhere with Daddy if she could help it.

I was worried, too, about what was going to happen to their marriage when we moved over to Boulder. Mother told us girls she intended to build a store. Neither Grandpa or Daddy knew about that yet, because Daddy would probably have gotten mad and cussed when he heard this plan, so she didn't tell him, she just told us kids. Why else would she want to move back to Boulder? She needed a way to escape Daddy, that's why! I already knew how she loved meeting and talking to people in the cheese factory store. That is where she met Reed, and hired him for the summer to make the cheese with her. She had fallen in love.  
I could see the meaning of Mother's store plan. She was going to live a separate life from Daddy. She could not wait. 
 Well, what was he doing? I did not forget the suspicions aroused when I was younger by his behavior with Bill, the rattlesnake man. But I did think Daddy hoped that he and Mother could still become successful partners. I thought Mother was done with all that. He had his chance to win her love, and he had failed.
She could make some money in a store and still together, they would raise their children. She would not be happy, but she would be doing her job as a parent. I could see that she had made up her mind that she was never going to be happy with Daddy. She talked about him so bad that everybody knew it. He never talked bad about her. Why did she never have one good word to say about him? It looked like we were in for an awful lot of unpleasantness if she acted like she hated him until we were grown! But Mother wasn't the praising kind. She probably didn't have a good word to say about me either! That was just her.
She talked to us girls quite a lot, or at least she did to me.  Women did not trust her not to flirt with their husbands so they generally did not like her. She had to have somebody to talk to, and I was intelligent. I read books. I was about as good a confidant as she could get, even when I was pretty little. I was worldly wise.  I could have told her a thing or two about her husband, but she had too bad of temper for me to trust. If I couldn't tell her I had been molested because of how Daddy had been involved, what could I tell her?  
I didn't like her very well a lot of the time, but she was my mom. I knew what she was up against. I knew it even better than she did. I knew I could not have stood Daddy's kind of infidelity. I would have been telling Daddy what I suspected even if he tried to kill me. But I would have been out there riding with him, too, trying to take him away from the hired men. That's what I was doing right now. I was doing what I thought should have been her job. I was teaching Daddy to value me more than he did them. I wanted him to depend on me and know that no matter what his faults were I would still love him. 
He was worth it.  
After all, he was one of the smartest guys around. There wasn't anything he couldn't do as good or better than any man.  He was if you really wanted to see it, a magnificent specimen of a man, and it was just a tragedy what had happened to him. What did Mother expect out of life, a perfect man?  She read too many of those damned romantic novels of hers, I thought.  She wasn't realistic. Those novels did not reflect real life. But unless she could control her temper, she was not even going to be able to make the most of this tough relationship.     
Damn it, why couldn't she see that you had to look for what was good in a man, before rejecting him because of the bad? She was always saying he didn't love her, but did she love him? No, no, no!  She had given up on him far too soon.  Instead she would talk about how much she loved Max, Daddy's younger brother who got killed. They were more the same age. Finally one day, Max hurt her feelings by telling her to stay out of his business. He probably felt uneasy about how much she liked him and he wanted her to stay back. I knew Max wanted her to try to love his brother, if she could, because that was the only thing that might save him from a hard death as a drunk.  Max didn't know it then, but he was the son who was going to die an alcohol related death first when he was only 21 years old!  
I knew how much she loved Reed, the handsome young man visiting his uncle who worked for her that summer helping her make cheese. Even at four I suspected that she would have been in his arms in five seconds if he had been willing to romance a married woman. She would have run away with him, and I bet you anything she would have left Margie and me with Grandma King.
But I still loved her. Yes, I did love Mother. She was tried by one of the worst problems any wife could ever ever have by marrying Daddy, but she fell short of really loving him too soon. Terrible problems and all.  That is what it would take to make any difference at all. I didn't think she had it in her to really love a man.  Her feelings tended to be fickle.  
I came to this conclusion because of how Daddy loved and protected us kids, never spanked us as she did.  He didn't have it in him to be that mean.  He had to be my protector from her because of her temper. I couldn't forget that either. Mother was too impatient to love her kids well, either. She could not control her darker emotions.   
I had to think day and night to try to figure out solutions for their problems.  I felt that our lives depended on how well any of us could think our way out of our terrible dilemmas as a family. These problems seemed almost insurmountable.  It was a good thing I had inherited brains, I thought.  I was going to need them to survive childhood.  

The world was full of imperfect men. You could not give up on any man too soon, or the problem was in you, not in the man.  Mother was a terrible reckless flirt.  Daddy still loved her and would not give up on her.  She needed to open her eyes more and see what his problem was, because if she did not know what it was, how could she fight it?  I just knew Daddy did not intend to be the kind of man he was.  He hated himself. I hoped not bad enough to commit suicide. 
Oh, I knew what his behavior was more about now. I was reading enough and thinking enough that I had finally got an idea of how it could have happened. He'd probably been molested I figured, enough that he acquired those tastes. I hadn't really been molested that long. But as a boy forced to interact with older hired men on his dad's ranch all the time, it could have happened so easy, and a lot more times than it happened to me. And then maybe these feelings were reinforced by older boys who would get him drunk, and drinking at a very young age, he was probably game for anything.    
 It looked to me like Grandpa King did have the same problem as Daddy with the hired men. He seemed perfectly happy to be living alone with his hired men while Grandma went to her church activities in town.
But it was easier for people to tolerate Grandpa and overlook anything he might have been doing because he did not drink. 

Neither Aunt Hazel or Grandma King wanted to leave town to live all year on a lonely ranch. They jumped at the chance to live in town probably even when their boys would not mind them and they suspected they were coming home drunk. Aunt Hazel's two oldest boys, Stewart and Park, were now very bad drunks. The same thing was happening to them that had happened to their father, Uncle Glen, when he lived in town. Started drinking something terrible. All the King males were very bad to drink when they lived in town. 
Grandpa King would come to town and crack the whip and take them in the summer to the ranch and work them as hard as he could. But it was too late, they had already become some of the worst young drunks around.

I observed all the families around me. The Coleman boys did not drink! Neither did the Petersen boys. The Wilson brothers did not drink. Their dad, my granddad, kept them very close to him, always doing big projects so they would not have time to get into trouble.
What was the use of the wife moving to town so the kids could go to school if the sons were going to be lost to alcohol? Grandpa King was a smart guy but I thought he was too willing to be parted from his wife. Yes, he had the problem, too, now I was almost sure. None of the other husbands and fathers acted like they could be separated from their wives overnight. The effect of his mother and dad's problem with togetherness probably influenced Daddy's behavior, too.  Which was why I thought he had been so determined Mother should live with him on the Salt Gulch ranch.   

Oh strike me dead if you will because of a suspicious mind, but I felt these were the hard cruel facts of life. Alcoholics like my dad and his brothers were the worst thing that could happen to a family. Every week the same god damn dreary scene, Daddy coming home drunk and Mother yelling, hollering, cursing. Mother never cried. She was too hot tempered to cry. She would have beat up on Daddy, if she had been strong enough. She was a very fiery woman, more tiger than woman at times, if you ask me. Hardly any tears in her. Just rage. Meanest woman around. 
She could not think when she was mad. Nobody can. Even Daddy did not like to get her too mad. He was too tough to be really afraid of her. He knew he could whip her in a pitched physical battle. But she could not change anything with sheer rage. Daddy was too bad of an alcoholic. I wasn't sure but what he was not going to kill himself, somehow, just as Max had. Reed was gone from his family now, probably for good. They couldn't keep him away from alcohol when he was out of the hospital. Poison whiskey could have started all his trouble. Split his mind. Glen had been banished from the country, and divorced because of his drinking and violence toward his wife and family.  

Would Daddy be the next King son to die?

1 comment:

  1. Tough chapter on the alcoholic Kings. You worked on this one.