Thursday, April 21, 2011

Memoir: Chapter 18: Moving to the new house and riding horses on a camping trip for the first time to King's Pasture on Boulder Mountain

Oh what a busy bunch we were when we moved to the new house. Daddy was building corrals and the barn after having fenced his share of the pasture off. I thought he seemed very satisfied about what land Mother had been able to persuade his dad to give him. Mother said, however, that Cecil who was now working for Grandpa was angry at having the pasture divided up.  Mother said you would have thought it was his pasture. But I figure he thought that was only another way a rich man's son got ahead while a poor hired man had to labor away on the King ranch hardly able to earn a wage he could live on. And how was he going to fatten Grandpa's steers with half of the upper pasture foolishly given away to his alcoholic son?  

 Mother wasn't very sympathetic. She was after all the rich man's son's wife, and Grandpa had given her the land free and clear she said in case she had to divorce his son. At least she thought that's what he had done. Years later, it was discovered that the land had never been recorded at the court house as having changed hands, but since it had so long been in Clyde's possession it was conceded.

As far Mother, she seemed beside herself in a new situation alive with all kinds of possibilities. In fact, she could not get her store built fast enough and decided to open a one room store as had existed at the cheese factory in hers and Daddy's bedroom down stairs. Daddy when he heard about this plan, shouted as was his wont when he heard something that greatly disturbed him.  
I was not happy with this plan either, as Mother and Dad were going to have to move upstairs where we girls slept. That was like sharing our sleeping space with two giant ogres apt to break into horrible roars at any given moment. Or even worse, have frightful sex barely down the hall way. 
In fact, I recall a most disturbing dialog taking place in their bed the night before Mother was to go out to Richfield to have some some sort of medical procedure. I heard her snarling to Daddy, “Hurry up and get it over with!" She sounded like a demented tiger who would liked to have clawed him to death instead.  
Conversations about sex coming from my parents were very disillusioning but I hoped that the store building would soon be finished and they would move back down stairs far enough away from me that I could not hear any noises remotely resembling sex.
In fact for years, if I woke up and heard any noise that sounded like sex to me I would not be able to sleep for hours even though it was very unlikely I could have heard anything from Margie's and my bedroom coming from theirs down stairs. The noise was more likely coming from the wind blowing a branch of a tree strong enough against the window to make a rubbing noise. 
Once you have been traumatized by sounds of savage sex emanating from your parents' bedroom accompanied by curses you are not going to recover very fast, probably not until you leave their home.
Anyway, Mother said that Daddy was spending so much money drinking, she had no choice but to open a store as fast as possible to earn some money.
And she also had to earn money to employ a local carpenter practically full time for the next three years. Mother decided she did not like the staircase ascending to the top of the stairs in front of her and Daddy's bedroom, so she hired carpenters to turn it around! Daddy could not believe his ears and protested mightily, so she just waited until he went to Salt Gulch, and told the carpenters to go ahead. 
The carpenters were weeks completing that remodeling job, with Daddy shouting protests every night when he came home to the mess. They also petitioned off the front room as Mother said the long open room into the dining area was too hard to heat. 
Eventually the staircase was completed starting in the dining room to the side of the bathroom door and enclosed instead of open. All the spaciousness of the big open room with a visible staircase was gone, but Mother was happy with her decision--for a while.

Daddy fenced in a garden plot and fertilized it and also an orchard spot, all with Mother prodding him. Mother ordered trees. They built a shed for machinery and tools, and a cellar to store potatoes, apples, and winter squash.

I hadn't lived there very long at all when I took a little walking tour of the pasture and over the fence saw a big hulking neighbor kid about four years older than I hurrying toward me as fast as he could. He hollered at me, “Do you want to fuck?” I whirled around and hurried back home as fast as I could go. Another damned molester! I was going to have to watch out for that fat leering bastard. I could not believe my bad luck in getting him for a neighbor. 
The worst thing about the new place was the fact that we had no water running into the house yet, and in order to wash clothes, we had to start carrying it from the ditch past the front yard to the black tub in back where we heated the water. Then we had to carry water to fill the rinse tub on the back porch. After we carried wood, made a fire, and heated the water, we would have to carry the hot water in to fill the washer.  
Grandpa had given Mother a Maytag washer run by a gas motor for their wedding present. Mother always warned us to watch so we did not get our arms pulled off in the ringer. 
Washing was an all day job, so it really cut into our play time. After Mother had taken us through the process a few times, she told Margie and me that would be our job, every Saturday! I hated that because all the kids living in Boulder went to church on Sunday.  No more getting out of it by living in Salt Gulch. Mother frowned now if we balked, and said things were going to change now we lived in Boulder, and we were all going to church except Daddy of course.  He still did as he pleased. 
Weekends could be pretty dreary when all we did was wash clothes and go to church. By the time we had done the washing a few times, I came up with the plan of taking turns so Margie and I  would not quarrel the whole time. Quarreling seemed to be the only way she express her displeasure at having to work so hard.  She was always in a bad mood when we had to do some giant task. She did not much like the idea of doing the wash all by herself, but we did whatever we wanted to on our Saturdays off, so a hard days labor was worth getting in some good playtime on our free days. 
By the time I was ten and Margie was nine we did the family wash all the time with no help from Mother thank you, sometimes as high as eight batches of clothes. I don't even know how little Margie managed to carry all those heavy buckets of water. I was considerably bigger boned and taller than she was, so it was less hard on me. It was no wonder she turned into meaner little Margie, especially when she got too close to something she was allergic to and wheezed all night.  
Mother had plans for a cistern and promised us that soon we would be able to use a hose to fill the tubs instead of carrying those big heavy buckets. In the meantime her little washerwomen proceeded to work harder than any little girls in town I am sure.  Mother had far more important tasks to do than the family wash.  She broke all the laws of common sense when it came to child labor, her ambitions were so much greater than her conscience.  
Mother meant it when she said that with five daughters she should not have to do any house work at all! All the other mothers worried about tattle tale gray sheets, but Mother did not care as long as hers got washed by somebody else.
Since Linda was still a toddler and Ann a year and half older than she was, and LaRae, two years older than Ann, it looked like Margie and I were going to get worked nearly to death before they were big enough to take their turns.

What made me the maddest was Mother failing to wash the dishes from the big noon dinner. There they would be every day when Margie and I came home from school, and we would have to wash those before we could start supper. Mother cooked breakfast. I guess she washed the breakfast dishes when we went to school, but they were the only dishes she ever washed. And she would iron most of the clothes. Margie and I used heavy stove irons to do the 'easy' flat stuff. She always ironed Daddy's shirts. 
 After a while Mother got so sick of the old stove irons, she bought an iron that ran on white gas. When she lit that thing a flame would shoot up clear to the ceiling. I would run outside! I would not touch that iron, and Mother could not get me to, but she was willing to blow up the whole house to get an unpleasant job done a little sooner.  She had gone clear crazy, that woman.  
Now other than doing those heavy chores right Mother was not a fussy housekeeper. In fact, we used to joke that the kitchen floor often looked as though chickens had the run of the house. Stuff would be spilled all over the floor, and apparently everybody was too tired to mop most days. Upstairs, after Mother and Dad moved back into their bedroom, would be one unholy mess with clothes scattered everywhere. Mother had this one storage closet where she stored trunks of old clothes the little kids loved to drag out to play dress-up. Mother never even looked upstairs most days. Once in a while she might go up there and scream and holler and threaten to whip everybody as she furiously cleaned it up.

Eventually the carpenters finished the new store building enough for Mother to move her stock and the cistern really did get built in another year or so, only it was another big chore to fill it. Some kid had to sit up there most all day and watch it, and turn it off when it was full. I think LaRae was old enough by then that filling the cistern became one of her jobs. Only another task added to so many more. But we did enjoy using the hose to fill the tubs for washing. 
 I preferred to water the garden and orchard to working in the house. I always liked the outdoor work the best so I didn't have to quarrel with anybody and get mad at Mother when she left the child laborers to go out to her store, usually never to be seen again until her customers tore themselves away from her clutching presence. I pictured her never saying she had to get back to her tiny little children working so hard in the house.  Mother had become like a big kid herself, I thought, when it came to the drudgery of keeping a big country household going under the most primitive of conditions.  I felt like she was burned out from hard life threatening labor to have us and putting up with a husband she no longer loved.  She was like old Don.  She wasn't going to be any good around the house ever again.  But as she said she had a passle of scullery maid daughters who would see that her majesty never had to do any dull housework again.    

However as soon as we moved to Boulder I was just as hot to trot as Mother was to get to get in all the fun I planned. I asked Daddy some time during the summer if he would let me and Barbara ride horses to camp out over night to King's pasture on one of my Saturdays off. Barbara and I were only nine at the time, but I thought I had enough experience handling horses to do it. 
 I had only been up to King's Pasure once helping to drive cattle, but I was sure I could find it again.  Daddy said he guessed we could, so I went down and borrowed a horse named Buttons from Grandpa for Barbara to ride. Buttons was a big tame gray they were using for a pack horse who also served as a kid horse when grandkids came to visit in the summer. I rode Old Don I am sure.
Barbara and I set out to ride the 8 miles to King's pasture. We forgot the matches and had to go back and get some, and then we stopped for some worms along a ditch bank Daddy had showed me. We were going to try fishing in the big stream in the pasture that was full of trout but hard  to catch. I knew we were not fly fishermen like my dad, but maybe they would be tempted by some big fat worms.

When we arrived I fell in love with the neat summer camp the Kings kept at the pasture that Grandpa said we could use. The tent was as big as a fair sized bedroom with a bed roll spread out covered with heavy camp quilts. We did just fine that night, cooking our meal in the bake oven over the camp fire. We talked until late into the night with the tent tied up tight in case of bears. 

To my great dismay, when morning came we discovering that Buttons had pulled loose from the tree where we tied the horses up as Daddy said to do so there would be no problem catching them. Now we would have to go roaming the big pasture to see if we could spot him.  
We finally found him down to the bottom of that 460 acre wooded pasture running around with some other horses. Buttons was not like Grandpa's bay mares that would let you walk right up to them any where. We chased him and chased him but we could not get close enough to grab the rope he was dragging. I got really nervous. We were really sweaty and tired.  
I knew we couldn't keep doing this all day, hoping Buttons would tire enough to let us sneak up on him. He was such a big strong horse, we would be sure to give out long before he did. I knew Daddy would be ready to kill me if we came back without Buttons. He would scream all night and say he did not have time to drop everything and go catch a damn horse 8 miles away.  
 I finally thought to go look for some oats in the summer camp, and sure enough there was a noose sack there I filled with some oats from a gunny sack near by. Naturally Grandpa and his hired men were prepared for anything.  
 Buttons just loved oats and let us walk right up to him when I shook the sack at him.  I was so relieved I just patted Buttons when I caught him. I couldn't even be mad at him.  But after such a stressful crisis, we did not even feel like trying to catch any fish.  The two tired young horsewomen just went on back home.

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