Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Memoir: Chapter 24: I am called upon to go down on King's Bench again and act like a real cow puncher on a great horse if I could stick him

Once I knew I was going to leave home, I started feeling fairly cheerful although I was worried about how my sisters would survive our troubled home.  Margie would know she was going to get to leave home, too, but not for two years following my departure, since I was skipping a grade.
I started paying special attention to the little ones, thinking I would always have to come home for the summers so they wouldn't feel I had abandoned them.

I do recall a really hard job of cow punching I did that spring when I was twelve at my dad's behest. Daddy said some of the young heifers needed to be gathered up from Kings Bench and brought home as they were not as good at foraging for feed as the older cows.  
I was very wary of going with Daddy so soon again to Kings Bench but after he said he had not been able to find anyone to go with him, I said I would go.  The very fact that he would try to find someone to take in my stead was a warning that this was not going to be an easy job.
As we were going to have to drive the cattle all the way home, we got an early start. We set out for Kings Bench at a pretty fast pace the next morning. I remember it was pretty cold but I hardly even noticed the chill.  I was too worried about what I was going to have to do when we got there.
I had done right to worry, because after we got to King's Bench I could not believe what Daddy expected me to do.  He started cutting out some of the young heifers who would be calving in the spring and as they were milling around in a bunch, he told me I was to keep them together while he went off and found more!  He even dismounted and gave me his Sorly to ride and took my horse. 
He assured me Sorly would be a great help in keeping the cattle together, but even though Sorly was a wonder horse, he could not do it all by himself.  I was going to have to stick him and ride as they say 'hell bent for leather'. 

That was the longest and hardest few hours I ever spent punching cows in my life.  I thought Daddy would never stop cutting out poor heifers which Sorly and I were expected to keep milling around and headed in his direction without losing any!  He did a lot of screaming and hollering and Sorly had to lunge here and there trying to keep a nervous heifer from taking off through the trees. When one did manage to escape, Sorly was after her in a flash with me hanging on for dear life.  You could see Sorly had done this job before, but I sure hadn't! He knew he had to get that pesky heifer back under control fast before the whole herd scattered.
My nerves were pretty ripped before Daddy finally pulled up and said he guessed he had cut out all the ones that needed to go home.

As we headed back down the trail with the heifers running so fast we had trouble keeping up with them, I observed that these poor young cows acted pretty strong to me, so why did he think they weren't doing well?  He told me to look close at one heifer when we caught up to the herd, and I could see she was shaking.  He said she was scared of people, which was why she was running so fast, but she was so weak she couldn't stop trembling.  She probably had not been feeding very well at all and might not have survived until the spring round-up.

I reflected that next winter I would not be there to go with him, so I had better enjoy the last cow punching job I would probably ever do in the late winter.  Poor Dad had been patient with me up until now, and just when he deemed me experienced enough to do something difficult on horses, I was going a long ways away to school.
I figured it was probably a good thing before I got hurt doing some of the didoes on a horse I had done that day.  When Sorly rounded up a cow he did it with a lot of authority.
All of Daddy's cow ponies had been trained to chase run away cattle, but none of them ever took the work as seriously as Sorly did. Nor were any of them as fast at bringing a critter under control as Sorly, despite being bigger than most cow ponies.  Some horses I had ridden would act so skittish if they had not been ridden for a while you would think they had never been near a cow.  Their training like mine tended to come undone.

We got home after dark, but Daddy was satisfied these heifers would all stay alive and have their calves in the spring.  He had come back once more from the near dead and was acting like the great cow man he had it in him to be.
And for the first time, I thought, I had proved myself worthy that day of being a great cowboy's daughter.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Memoir: Chapter 23: Daddy drinks a bottle of rubbing alcohol and I go crazy

I was always in a quandary about my dad, my teacher in the art of cow punching. I generally divided him into the good dad and the bad dad, who mainly existed on weekends which he reserved for getting drunk. During the week he was an admirable hard working dad who knew how to do everything on a ranch, knew when it was time to clean the ditches and get the fields ready for planting, knew when it was time to cut the hay, knew how to train a horse to work with cattle, and exactly when he had to round up the poor cattle on the winter range and bring them home before he lost them
 He even knew how to tell funny stories and for years he would tell them if I asked him to. One of the stories that I liked the most was one about Iry Thompson.  He said Iry Thompson went to work for Perse Leavitt and so when Alf Wadcott, up in his seventies, called up Perse one day, Iry answered the phone.  Alf said, "Is this Perse?"  Iry said, "No, this is Iry."  So Alf hung up the phone and rang Perse again.  Iry answered and said no, he was Iry again, when Alf asked if he was PerseThe third time Alf called Perse and Iry answered,  Alf exploded, "Iry, will you git off this god damn phone.  I'm trying to call Perse Leavitt!" 

The first really bad thing that happened that winter was that Uncle Glen who was working at the time in Oakland, California after Aunt Hazel divorced him was found dead in his apartment, a suspected suicide.  He wasn't even fifty.  Aunt Hazel and the kids that were still at home were living in Bend, Oregon.  Glen had been home to Boulder to visit only a couple of times since he had been banished.  
I always thought banishment from the country was kind of a strange sentence, which he accepted rather than being charged with a crime which would undoubtedly have resulted in a jail sentence.  I did not know how long his banishment was supposed to last, but he came home about a week each time, did not drink, and behaved very mildly while he was visiting around town. 
He came to visit our home, one of the few Kings ever to do so, but he had been good to visit his brother Reed's home, too, when they were living there.  Aunt Thirza said Glen was the best help to her of anyone when Reed's nerves were very bad and he would not sleep.  That is, after Uncle Max was killed who was Reed's best friend in all the world at the time, since they carried the mail together, probably the last time Reed ever had gainful employment.  
It was hard to believe Glen would actually commit suicide when Grandpa was so old, which would surely cut his family entirely out of the will.  I did not know if Grandpa intended to disinherit him or not after the trouble he got into.  But I thought it was surely too bad that Glen was not in the country when Aunt Nethella came back to help on the ranch before either Grandpa or Grandma King died.  
If he could have helped take over the running of that ranch, Aunt Nethella would not have been able to take complete control of it.  Or rather what she did was take control of it and turn it over to the hired man to run, which I did not want to see happen. Perhaps in her mind, Glen's banishment needed to be forever, but Aunt Nethella did not realize that Cecil was no better.
I thought Aunt Nethella was naive for a rancher's daughter just from having been sheltered.  She never had to do 'boys' work as I did. Her dad had plenty of sons to do it, for a while. So she did not stumble onto the activities that were none of her business, had never been any of the women's business. I didn't think she had any idea how dangerous that ranch had been for kids.

Years before her husband had gone to the barn to do chores and slid off the haystack onto the handle of a broken pitchfork, which had penetrated deep enough into his bowels to kill him.  She told me this strange story about finding him.  She said when he did not come back from the barn for a long time, she went to look for him. When she came up to the corral she saw two little men standing there out of the corner of her eye.  She said she did not recognize them.  They almost looked like dwarfs. She said she decided later they were messengers from the spirit world there to warn her about what she was going to find. 
I think she had been so traumatized by the fatal accident she hardly ever came back to the ranch again except for brief visits in the summer once she had graduated from college and secured a school teaching job in the northern part of the state.  I think she and Aunt Neta both decided to raise their boys just as far away from that ranch as they could to keep them 'safe'. 
Well, fine, but now that she was back on the ranch she did not seem to know how to go about making the ranch in Boulder safe for kids, despite her in charge. She might have discouraged Glen from thinking that after his history of alcoholism, divorce, and criminal behavior he could ever come back and play an active role running that ranch, but she did not seem to realize that he wasn't the only bad egg in Boulder, he was just the one who had been caught because his victim was a girl instead of a boy.  

I still couldn't imagine why Uncle Glen would give up on life altogether, but the way Aunt Nethella acted after he was found dead bothered me.  She held a graveside service for him and we were not encouraged to go. She seemed to think he had acted too badly to be mourned by anybody around there. She also insisted none of the family was to talk about him having possibly committed suicide. I had grown up with Uncle Glen around, as he visited the ranch often, ate dinner there with his folks, and talked politics.  I knew him better than I did her.    
I could not see that Glen acted a whole lot worse than my dad did especially, under the influence.  He had done a very bad thing yes but I doubted if even the parents of the girl wanted to see him commit suicide. They agreed not to charge him because he was the father of seven kids.  Two of his seven kids had already died. 
He had done some good things just like my dad had. He was a capable hardworking rancher who had been well trained by his dad.  It had just not been in my nature, even with what I knew about my drinking dad, to give up on him and his brothers that easily.
I was very worried about how Glen's death was going to affect my dad.  And I did well to worry because it was not long before Daddy drank a bottle of rubbing alcohol. I don't see how that could have been anything but a suicide attempt. 
This was the second bottle of rubbing alcohol that my dad had drunk, but he had been talking about committing suicide for a long time.  Mother had described in her history how he had threatened to commit suicide so often when we were living in the cheese factory house, that she finally told him to just go ahead, but to shoot himself out in the orchard where he would not mess up the house.  I shuddered when I heard such tales even though by then I could see Mother had lost all patience with his suicide threats. She wanted him to shut up about it if he wasn't going to do it.  
I figured that he had feared she was falling in love with Reed, her hired man at the cheese factory, and now he probably feared she was falling in love with other men who hung out at her store.  I already knew she had a 'case' on one of his drinking buddies. Daddy probably knew it, too. She could never hide her feelings. I could read her like a book, and Daddy probably could too.  
Daddy knew as well as I did that her tubal ligation may have removed the last bit of hold back she had. Mother was fearless when she decided to do something dangerous even if she thought she could burn in hell for it.  Her powerful emotions could always overcome her reason.  

Mother still did not 'know' exactly how my dad might be straying as I suspected he still was.  In fact, I knew which one of his drinking buddies was his present favorite. But not knowing everything did not keep my mother from being as angry as if she had known it.  In fact, possibly angrier.  She was like somebody being repeatedly stung from some mysterious direction, and not able to figure out what or who was the culprit.  

She became so infuriated with Daddy drinking a second bottle of rubbing alcohol she said she simply would not take him to the hospital, he could die for all she cared. I had to view her intention to let him suffer through his crisis in on our couch as an indication she had gone near crazy.  No normal woman was going to be that hard-hearted with a bunch of this guy's kids to take of, too.  She was seething with resentment, like a pressure cooker on the verge of blowing sky high.  
He did lay on the couch unable to get up for five days. I guess the other kids brought him water or whatever he was able to ask for. I didn't ask him if I could bring him anything. I just felt compelled to go check on him every little while to see if he was still alive. He turned sort of gray around the second day and beads of cold clammy sweat broke out on his forehead at one point. In fact, I thought this was the closest I had ever seen him come to his death while drinking at home. 

 My theory is that this incident constituted the ultimate in stress for me over his drinking. He usually did not threaten to do his dying right on our living room couch.  

I could see Mother was not going to change her mind. She probably was even disappointed when he began to rally because then he started to beg her to go into the bedroom for sex! Yes!

I was not used to seeing my dad beg my mother for sex, either. I could almost read his mind, “I am too weak too go find sex from the hired man, so she is going to have to make me feel better.” 
His children listening to his vulgar demands for sex probably infuriated my mother more. I know they disturbed me.   Finally she cursed, “All right, you son of a bitch, let's go get it over with!”
They went in the bedroom in the late afternoon, and since the bedroom door was warped and did not entirely close, by coming near it,  I was even able to look in on this bestial act.  I seemed not to be able to help myself.  I walked over and looked in on them, feeling kind of detached. My mother cursed him and called him names the whole time they were having sex. 
I remember making a resolution that  I would never have sex with a man, husband or not, unless I wanted to. This was going to be my iron rule when I grew up and married. 

I suppose the stress of wondering whether my dad was going to rally and then witnessing this violent act of sex on top of everything else did somewhat unhinge my mind and send me a little crazy.

When we went to wash the supper dishes after my dad and mother retired into the bedroom for the night, what I did was walk into the kitchen and flop down in a chair, feeling like a rag doll that had lost all its stuffing.  I looked around in complete despair, deciding that this grim state of affairs due to the perpetual drinking of my father was never going to end.  I started a helpless little crying spell. I did not know if I could ever stop.   
My sister Margie took one look at me and ran screaming into the bedroom, “Mother, Dad, Gerry is crying for no reason!” She really meant nothing had happened to me she could see that should have made me cry!  
They both ran out and tried to talk to me but I just ignored them.  I felt like I had gone a little ways off in a little world of my own. 
I did not respond to any of their suggestions that I might want to go upstairs later on either. I just kept on ignoring them like I didn't hear them.  Finally the whole family went to bed and left me there. It was like they didn't dare disturb me too much for fear of what else I might do for no reason! I finally got tired of crying by myself and climbed wearily up the stairs to bed. 

I swear to you that is all that happened, but in a few days I was being told that I had suffered a nervous breakdown. After my parents consulted with my Aunt Nethella, she called and petitioned Aunt Neta to take me into her home up north a year ahead of time I presume before I cracked up entirely. Aunt Nethella also advised Mother and Dad not to work me so hard in the summer. 
I don't know how she knew how hard Mother worked us, but Mother must have been scared into doing more of the bottling herself because I actually noticed a difference. 

That is how I lived through the following summer without dying of whatever ailment had manifested the end of the summer before. I knew that ailment could possibly be fatal and it had been persuaded to retreat into the shadows with a restful school regime but would come to visit me again if I was ever severely stressed and overworked again at the same time.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Memoir: Chapter 21: Sorly, a horse destined for greatness, inspired his suicidal King owner to live a few more years

Barbara promised me that she and I would go to the nine room cave even if we could not get anyone to go with us. She assured me that this hike would not be too hard for me as I balked at climbing some of the places she did. She would climb up the front of the school house ledge like the boys did, but I would not. I used up all my bravery riding horses and had none to spare on sand rock ledges.
One Saturday she stayed over night on Friday as that Saturday was my day off from doing the wash. We climbed what she called 'the easy way' up to the school house ledge, then we began to walk to the west. Barbara kept saying it was a little further and a little further. Finally we entered what was a fairly large cave with several compartments in it, which was why it was called the nine room cave.  Some of the cave rooms had old bones in them which made me a little nervous.  What if a cougar suddenly came home? That thought caused me not to want to linger long in the nine room cave. 
Next Barbara showed me the trail that led down 'the crack' where we could climb down off the string of ledges. She said the green fields we could see close by belonged to the Haws ranch.  As we were walking along to the road leading back to the main highway through Boulder she pointed out the ledge our school boy chum Darrell had fallen down.  I had always imagined the blood spots they said he left on the pale sandrock to be permanent and therefore still plainly visible, but the rain had long since washed them away.  But I thought Darrell's spirit would always haunt that ledge.  
I was glad I had such a good sensible guide to all these places as Barbara. She was always respectful of my limitations and did not urge me to take chances I was not ready for. I had no doubt one of her older brothers or sisters had in turn been her guide to the nine room cave. Maybe Leah took her who worked for us more than any other hired girl and saved us children from all getting a bad case of chronic fatigue when we were young.   

We were sorry to see our teacher, Edison Alvey, go at the end of the year, but he had gotten a job in the Escalante High School where he planned to teach the rest of his days. I had not thought where I might go to high school. I didn't even know if I would live that long.

The parents had a hard time finding a new teacher when I went into the 6th grade and finally drafted Rosa Petersen, the wife of a local rancher who had taught school years ago. I remember she was appalled at my bad handwriting and tried her best to teach me better penmanship and failed. She was also big on spelling which I aced easily. I thought my bad handwriting could have been the result of nerves, writing with my left hand, or inheriting my penmanship from Grandpa Wilson. Everyone complained they could not read anything he or I wrote.

That spring I had another troubling encounter with Cecil, Grandpa's resentful hired man, which did not seem too bad on the surface but I became very worried about what could come of his unwelcome interest in me. How this meeting came about was through me having to go down in the draw during the spring roundup with my dad to bring up some cattle. Daddy got me going with them and then hurried on ahead of me to Boulder to do other tasks. The round-up of the cattle from the winter ranges was always a stressful time for him, which was why I could be drafted any time to help him keep some old cows from making their way to the mountain summer range by themselves where they would be trespassed.  
Cecil must have seen Daddy riding back through town alone because pretty soon he rode up saying he had come to 'help' me. I was immediately alarmed because he was observing my comings and goings so closely, but everything seemed to go okay until just before we rounded the turn into Boulder with the little herd of cattle, where we were more apt to be observed by someone. Cecil turned back and rode up close to me and grabbed me around my thigh exactly like a rough young cowboy might do to his girlfriend. Only he was thirty years old and I was only eleven. He was also getting far too close to my 'private parts' grabbing my thigh for me not to become very alarmed. Was this going to end like my encounters with Bill Isabel had done when I was five, with his hand down my pants? 

To my relief Cecil went no further, but the very fact he would lay his hands on me again after last summer's encounter in the pasture was ominous. From then I spent a lot of time worrying about Cecil and how I could put an end to his attentions without having to risk a scandal and worse to do it. 

But a big exciting new addition in our troubled lives proved to be Daddy's new horse, Sorly. Before the Baker family moved to Richfield, Daddy bargained with Hayward for a big colt he had gotten out of a lively work mare he bred to a local thoroughbred stallion. Daddy said he was big for a cow pony, but he thought this sorrell colt might just make a good cow horse, and when he actually started working with Sorly he got even more excited. He said that he had not let him buck when he was breaking him because he proved to be so intelligent and quick to learn.
Now that Daddy had trained Sorly and was riding him all the time he could not get over his lucky break in seeing the makings of great cow horse.  He acted like he had probably found his cow horse of a life time and that proved to be true. Sorly was soon taking first place in the judging of the best trained cow horses they had every year. Everybody in the country thought that my dad had spotted the makings of a great horse when no one else did, and now he truly had a wonder horse, so quick and intelligent he stood out. 
The only thing Daddy ever had trouble with was training Sorly to stand still after he roped a calf off him. The reason for that was because Daddy had gotten so he never dismounted when he was roping calves for branding, so Sorley only had to stand still and hold the calf in the calf roping competition on the Fourth of July.
The first year he competed in public in the 4th of July rodeo, he disgraced Daddy by running off with the calf he had roped when Daddy dismounted to go tie him. Sorly had been so excited the morning of the rodeo. Somehow he knew he was going on display. When Daddy rode him down to the store for something just before the rodeo, Sorly danced all the way. A dancing horse. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen him dancing myself. I couldn't get over it.  Daddy said the only time he danced was when he was on display in front of a bunch of people, but he seemed very pleased that he owned a horse that showed he knew the difference between ordinary days and the 4th of July in a little town like Boulder.  
I asked Daddy when he was going to let me ride Sorly to punch cattle.  He said I had better wait a couple of years until he settled down. I guess he did not want him running away with me because he was overly excited by a new young rider. 

 Daddy was the only one who got to ride Sorly the first couple of years. But I thought because of Sorly, Daddy was sure to live a few more years. He finally had the horse of his dreams that every cowboy is always looking for. He was going to have to stick around now so Sorly could live up to his promise with a legendary career as a rancher's treasure, just like Grandpa's Old Breech had done.   

I thought I had even more reason not to tell Daddy about Cecil though. He and Cecil still had to ride the winter ranges together where Daddy and Grandpa ran their cattle. Relations between them did not appear to have improved.  The yellow palomino mare with the black mane and tail, Grandpa's horse that Cecil trained, had been taking the prizes for being the best cow horse, but not after Sorly came into his own.
Grandpa King's horses had been outdone by the poor Widow Baker's colt nobody thought would amount to anything. I was so proud of Daddy for seeing the potential of this horse. He had really been rewarded with a horse that defines a great horseman, a horse as intelligent and quick to understand as  the cowboy who trained him. 
I always knew my dad was an even greater horse trainer than his dad and the hired hand he had taught, Cecil.  Daddy was a little more patient and a little more tenderhearted. Besides that he was one of the smartest men in the country.  He always saw a little deeper into any problem than other men.  But he was going to need every bit of the brains he possessed to keep from going down in flames like so many of his male relatives had done.  
I felt I was going to have to carry on where the other victims left off.  I would have to deal with the shadow world but without being addicted to alcohol as my male relatives had been maybe I could survive. I was like Grandpa King.  I was smart enough to keep my vow never to drink, but I was a girl for a reason.  I had to introduce women to the way the men had pulled the wool over their eyes, took advantage of them, because the males would never tell.  The women had to be able to figure out what went on somehow, observe for themselves, believe what their senses, instincts and analyzing powers told them.  They had to be able to think, with a problem like this, in order to figure out what was wrong in their marriages that so adversely affected the sons especially.  
Mother could not reach Daddy because of not fully understanding what caused his suicidal depressions. Her thinking abilities fell short, but I might be able to.    
I knew I had inherited the element that was superior in Daddy's thinking, which was another reason why I was so tortured. I could put things together faster than most kids. I knew Daddy could see a lot that was going on that he could never talk about it, and thanks to my ability to observe, analyze, and come to conclusions about what I saw, I could, too.  Well, this ability I inherited from him was either going to save me or cause me to have the worst crack-up in history.  Some days I just did not see how I could keep my sanity and deal with the shadow world that I thought my dad and his cowboys also inhabited.     
My dad had already all but cracked up as I saw it or he wouldn't have been trying to kill himself as often as he was.  My mother just was not  analytical enough to figure out the one big problem that was torturing him the most.  She did not have that kind of mind.  I figured Grandpa King had a good idea, but he was up in his 80's.  And it was obvious from how scared the women in his family were of his temper, he had always tried to protect himself.  He had not been self sacrificing enough to help his boys.
His daughter Nethella, my dad's oldest sister, had come home from teaching school with a new husband.  Together they were going to take over the management of the ranch from Grandpa.  I could see as soon as I got around her a little more she did not seem to have any perception of the shadow world that existed right under her nose on that ranch. In her years of interacting with her Dad and brothers she had not been able to pick up its insidious presence. Or if she did know anything, she had committed herself never to show it. 
Whereas I had a reoccurring dream that I was sneaking off over to the government corral at night when I heard the sounds of activity over there.  I would climb the fence and look down and see men who looked like bulls circling around in a deadly dance with each other, I would see their penises flashing silver in the moonlight, which filled me with great fear.  I would think that if they spotted me watching their rituals in the shadows, they would beller with rage and try to gore me with their long sharp horns or maybe with their stiff gleaming slick penises. I would shrink back down into the shadows trying to hide before I was killed for watching the male dance, a sight I was never supposed to see. 
I thought what I had to impart to the women of the world about the shadow men was so important that the spirits themselves would need to guide me.  If I could not talk to anyone else about this, and I could not, I could talk to the spirits.  I understood now why my Uncle Reed was always out in the trees talking to the spirits.  It was likely about this. 
I had to carry on where he left off, too.  With his sensitivity, his fragile health, he had broken.  Nothing he said made sense to people after he had gotten locked up a few times.  The world could no longer interpret his 'gibberish'.  Dementia praecox was his dread diagnosis. Alcohol was Uncle Reed's downfall before he got locked up. Poison moonshine they said split his fragile mind, so he was of not one mind any more.  Killed his best friend and almost killed him.  
I had to keep my head.  Keep from being raped and murdered by a shadow man.  Keep......

Friday, May 6, 2011

Memoir: Chapter 20: Kings had their troubles but they could afford beautiful horses

Daddy was not doing any better with his control over his drinking. He perforated an ulcer while he and a hired man were on a trip to Richfield to buy supplies. He was helping lift a hundred pound sack of feed, when he said later he felt the tear, and the next thing he knew he was throwing up blood.
If he had not been within a block of the Richfield hospital the doctors said he would have died. As it was they had a difficult time saving him the ulcer was so large. He had to stay in the hospital two weeks after they got the bleeding stopped. Even when they let him come home, he was so white, he reminded me of a corpse. I knew very well he had barely escaped with his life. It showed in his ghostly face which did not come back to normal for several more weeks. 
But wouldn't you know it, this did not stop his drinking. Oh he went easy for a while, and every little while he would come in and drink soda water if he felt any pain. Unbelievably he was able to heal up his ulcers in this fashion, that and trying to eat when he was drinking so the stomach acid would not burn another hole. He never had another problem with a bleeding ulcer, but he still had crisis after crisis with his drinking.
He was coming to the end of his drinking days whether he wanted to accept it or not. He was going to have to quit or die. I got used to Mother saying every year the doctors did not give him another year to live the way he was drinking. I did not know what would happen to the family if he did die. It was going to be terrible. Life with Daddy could be pretty bad, but without him I thought we would know poverty like we never had before. 
Mother would have to sell out as she could not run the ranches, whether she knew it or not.  No woman could do that hard ranch work no matter how smart she thought she was. 
I thought if only Daddy would realize how bad off his daughters would be without him, maybe he would to do the impossible for a bad drinker, quit before he left the world entirely.

I am sure as a result of the stress in my life that winter I came down with a strange childhood disease. Nobody else in town got it. Mother called my last year's teacher, Mrs. Hansen,  to come and look at me. I broke out in a fine rash and had a terrible headache and fever. I remember I felt resentment when I was the sickest and went out and told Mother visiting in the store and she said for me to take an aspirin and go back and lay down. She would never sit with the sick. I felt sorry for myself as I suffered through a long afternoon alone.
Jean Hansen thought I might have scarlet fever but it wasn't bad enough so maybe it was scarlatina, a milder form of the dreaded childhood disease that used to kill kids. I thought it was bad enough to be scarlet fever, myself. I had an uneasy feeling about this disease. Especially when my skin all peeled off in long strips. That was very weird. Nobody around there had ever had that symptom before.
Nothing happened the following summer since Mother had a hired girl, Leah Coleman working for her, helping with the always heavy bottling season. But the summer after that Leah announced she had to quit working for Mother at the end of July, to get ready to move to Salt Lake. 
Not long after she left,  I started with terrible fatigue early in the morning, so bad I could hardly drag myself out of bed even when I was expected to work hard all day. The heaviest part of the bottling season was on, which was work that could not be put off. I could not afford to be sick. I could be dying, but the bottling still needed to be done so we would have food for winter.
I got through rest of the summer the best I could contemplating the idea that maybe I had leukemia or rheumatic heart disease. I had gone up and stayed a week with my Aunt Vesta in the spring after she suffered the tragic loss of her first child who only lived a few hours after a very hard birth. I met a little girl my age while there who had been spending a year in bed with rheumatic fever. She could not go to school. She could barely play. We did play a little, but when I started having chronic fatigue symptoms several months later, during the last weeks of summer I thought of how horrible it would be to be confined to bed by the doctors, staying home with Mother. I could not bear the thought.
I decided I would just go ahead and die without telling anyone I thought I had leukemia. Until I passed away I intended to keep riding horses. 
When school started, to my great relief I revived when I could sit down most of the day. My terrible fatigue finally eased after a few weeks in school, and I started feeling fairly normal, but I figured I had received a warning. 
I realized I was becoming a little fragile from the effects of my hard life of secret worry and stress from so many different directions. I was going to have to be more careful, but what could I do to save myself? I would be very apt to start dragging again the following summer when the bottling season started.
I had known that strange disease was a bad sign. I was the only kid in town that came down with it. No child in town had more stress than I did, with molesters, a father who was on the verge of death all time, not caring if he lived or died, and an impatient mother always in a rage at home, so taking it out on the children of the father who was to blame for her unhappiness. I did not think Mother was a whole lot different than the resentful hired men, getting back at the owner's children. She was cruel to us because she was so mad at Daddy for not quitting drinking and becoming a good husband. He was tender hearted enough that it hurt him when she hurt us, and she knew it.   

I thought she did not know how difficult quitting drinking was going to be for a man like him. He was into habits far harder to break than she could possibly imagine not suspecting what I did, so he could be a normal husband. I thought he was pretty much set in his ways at his age. I had already read The Grapes of Wrath when I was still eight. I preferred intelligent writers like Steinbeck who seemed to know a lot about farm people. I was apt to learn something about adult problems that plagued me reading his books. I had found another book of his called "Of Mice and Men" which affected me a lot too.  It was rare though for even the smartest novelists like Steinbeck to say anything about Daddy's problem. His affliction, an unnatural attraction to his own sex acquired from childhood molestation probably,  just wasn't written about, let alone talked about by any people I knew. 
You would think it did not even exist, and poor Daddy was committing suicide over his dilemma, I was sure. What on earth could be done to convince him nothing was that bad? He did not have to commit suicide over his secret addiction that seemed to be killing his very soul and will to live with its awfulness.  I would have had to say his double addiction was what seemed too much for him, although doctors probably only saw one, his addiction to alcohol.  If a man was twice damned maybe he could not save himself.  

The year I was ten and in the fifth grade I enjoyed Edison Alvey from Escalante as my teacher. When he would ask us to write stories I outdid myself. The last story I wrote for him was about a girl who committed suicide! I wondered about that one, but it just came naturally to me, flowing easily from my pen. Not that I was going to do it, I didn't believe in committing suicide, but the story just came to me, so I wrote it down and passed it in to Edison. 
That one might have alarmed him as he told my mother he thought maybe I might be a genius but he did not quite know how to handle my gifts. I decided I better ease up a little before I got myself in trouble. I knew it wasn't a good idea to write about real life in school, but Edison was so appreciative of my talent, I had just gotten carried away. Threw caution to the winds, you might say, hoping for praise.
Edison knew all the popular songs and initiated a music class where we would sing the songs he wrote on the board. I recall “Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree” and that's about it, since I was never able to carry a tune well enough to distinguish myself with music. Edison was the only music teacher I ever really had.
Edison also took us on nature hikes. The most memorable one was to the Ice Tanks down past Sadie's Nipples. We were all made so happy by this long wonderful hike that Dynamite or RayL as I called him even dropped his usual truculence and walked along beside us without saying anything derogatory to Barbara and me at the end of the long day.
I was happy just to have him treat me a little bit nice as that was the year that I had thought I just could not go on any longer without Dynamite at least knowing I liked him. I knew Elaine did not like him so I felt free to go ahead and try to tell him the truth about having loved him since I was in the first grade.  I talked Barbara into trying to tell him this for the sake of her hopelessly romantic friend Gerry when she arrived early at the school in the morning.  She acted reluctant to approach the moody Dynamite, but I kept urging her to at least try, so she finally agreed. 
On the morning she was to tell him, I could hardly wait to get to school.  As soon as I started walking up the path in sight of the school, RayL saw me and walked swiftly up to me and snarled, "You god damn son of a bitch!" And turned on his heel and left. 
I thought I would literally die at first from such a wounding, and his words hurt me every time I thought about them for weeks. Barbara just shook her head when I told him what he said. I decided Dynamite might never be able to stand a girl up close who loved him, he was so full of dark emotions. 
I had no doubt he hated my dad with a passion that knew no bounds for having such great horses while his dad had only one. He could probably no more have loved me than he could have loved a rattlesnake. I just accepted RayL's hate for me from then on that just got worse with my over aggressiveness.  He and his Uncle Cecil were of the same breed, frustrated cowboys who were too poor to fulfill their dreams of owning fine horses and lots of cattle and land.  It must be awful, I thought, to be so poor. 
It was no wonder RayL loved Elaine and always would.  Her family was large and poor. Or at least not as well off as our family, as their dad had more children to keep clothed and fed.  
I did not think my dad was that rich, but we were Kings.  I guess our name counted for something, too.  We had our troubles, but Grandpa did own a lot of horses, at least 40, and my dad owned quite a few too.  Still compared to some rich people, we were not rich at all.  
The huge King ranch in Texas dwarfed our little spreads.  I guess it just depended on what people thought around us who were a lot poorer than we were, so poor it embittered them and sent them over the edge.  
I hoped that RayL would soon be able to go down to my Grandfather's ranch and help with the breaking of the broncos to earn a bronco of his own.  Having his own horse might save his sanity.  But he would be working with his Uncle Cecil.  Oh dear.  Would be become another victim or would he be taught by him how to really hurt the hated Kings?  

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Memoir: Chapter 19: Another dangerous animal to watch out for on my Grandfather King's ranch

During the summer Margie and I headed off down through the pasture to Grandma's house as often as we could get away. We had to walk through Grandpa's lower half of the pasture to get to the gate leading down the sandy hill to the ranch house. Grandpa owned a black milk cow with a crooked horn that hated kids, and whenever she spotted us she would let out a little 'beller' and start running toward us with her head down ready to attack.  We had to keep an eye out for her to make sure we made it over the fence before she caught up with us.
When we got to Grandma's house we would have to climb on the fence and start calling for Grandma to come out and hold old Jack, the dog, so we could proceed on into the house safely. Jack hated kids, too, but we were determined to visit Grandma, so we weren't going to let a ferocious cow or dog stop us. 
Grandma would always feed us supper and after a while Mother got tired of us saying we had already eaten supper and forbid us to eat supper to Grandma's any more. I could not give up my supper to Grandma's, so when I went by myself, I would still eat supper to Grandma's and come home and eat another supper so Mother would not suspect I was already full.

The summer I turned ten I encountered another dangerous human predator in the pasture quite unexpectedly. I was riding a horse bareback heading for the gate to Grandpa's pasture when suddenly Cecil, Grandpa's main hired man, appeared on foot and stopped me. He said 'How about a ride?” Before I could say anything he jumped up on the horse behind me and the next thing I knew he had put his hands around my waist as though to hang on, and moved them up swiftly, and began to fondle my little button breasts. 
 I had not even gone into puberty and did not expect to for another two or three years, so there was nothing there but little nubs.
Stunned, I thought that Cecil knew very well this was an unacceptable act of aggression but his resentment of my dad's status as a privileged King's son seemed to know no boundaries. That was just about as far as I figured his thinking went. His grudge against my privileged dad had caused him to commit the crime of molesting me to get even. 
The molesting wasn't very bad yet, but what did happen made me very uneasy.  I knew he was bound to behave worse now that he had started in on me. 
My dad would just have sneered at him had he tried to express his feelings to him about the unfairness of his life as a poorly paid hired man, subject to his employer's will, and to his son Clyde's, too. Cecil could hurt Daddy far worse than any ideas he would have been allowed to express doing something bad to his daughter! He was gambling that I would keep his transgression secret. Maybe I wouldn't even know he had done anything wrong! 
Cecil was resentful enough that what he might have to pay for such acts if I told did not penetrate. He only thought of restoring a sense of power to the powerless. To me this was just another version of Bill and his motives in molesting me on the Salt Gulch ranch when he got angry at Daddy leaving him home when he took off to party with other guys.

After what seemed like an eternity, Cecil jumped off my horse to go tend the water leaving me to wonder how I could protect myself. Cecil was loved by his sisters. He was a handsome skilled cowboy, but even I knew opportunity to make money was very limited for a poor cowboy and hired hand unless he could somehow come by some land and cattle. 
Only that year I had come to love Cecil's oldest sister Ruby who became our family baby sitter when Mother and Dad went out over the mountain together. I was happy now when both Mother and Dad took off on a trip and left us with Ruby who would tend the store and spend the night, cooking delicious meals for us. Ruby was poor, too, but not being as well off as the Kings did not seem to bother her as it did her brother Cecil.  
I didn't see how I could upset Ruby by telling about her brother's small but frightening transgression down in the ranch pasture, full of ominous portent for my future in Boulder. I decided instead I could not be going down through the pasture alone where he could very well be tending water. 
He hadn't done enough for me to raise a hallabaloo about it as I saw it. I just would not be able to explain to anybody how dangerous his sudden aggressive move on me seemed to be. What could happen if he suffered from any more loss of control over his emotions? I was bound to get my period eventually.  What would he do if I ever did grow some real breasts from these little nubs I had now? 
This was a lot worse than being chased by a cow with a crooked horn who hated kids. Was Cecil going completely crazy?  I just did not know if I could protect myself now from all the dangers that seemed to be coming at me from more directions in Boulder.  With a new transgression from still another adult male, my mind once again felt badly strained. 
There was a price to be paid for even venturing into the pastures the men inhabited who took care of a ranch.  I was my father's only substitute son. Margie could not help him after developing hay fever. The other girls were too little to do boys' work yet. I was the lone target for disgruntled employees.   
I had not realized until now what the young boys on some of these ranches had to fear from brooding insane men in the form of disgruntled hired men.  Was this what happened to my dad when some his pwn father's hired men instantly resented their boss's spoiled privileged son? He could not have gotten away from them as easily as I did from Cecil, pleading that I had to help bottle peaches and could not do boy's work. My dad would have been out there all day long at the mercy of whatever predator his undiscriminating dad hired. 
During the horse age, more men were required to do the work on the ranch.  In the summer, hired men would be sleeping out under the trees on my Grandfather King's ranch I did not even know, who had come into town looking for a job.  My Grandfather was known as a go to rancher for wanderers looking for good grub, a bed roll, but darned little wages in those days.   
Bill had been a transient from Canada that people knew little about when my dad hired him. But Cecil being a local man with a lot of relatives would make it even harder for me to tell anybody about what he had done. But what in the world was I going to do to keep this new threat from accelerating?

I wished I could see more clearly back into the dim past.  Cecil was required to go down below and camp out for days to look after the cattle in his off again and on again employment on the King ranch.  My dad, ten years older, would have been along to determine what had to be done in the days after he took over as manager. Grandpa had gotten too old to ride the range anymore.  He had had to stop camping out for days. 
My dad was the winter range boss when they went down below because he and his dad still ran their cattle together on the Boulder winter range. What if my dad had been molested as a child and had turned aggressor as soon as he was in command, letting Cecil know what would be expected of him as a poor young cowboy hired to ride the range and do whatever was wanted or needed.  
What if that included being sexually assaulted in the tent at night and just putting up with it as something a poor cowboy had to do to keep his job. Had something like that been going on for years, and was that maybe why Cecil always seemed to have mixed feelings about my dad, even when he was partying with him on the weekends?  Is that why Cecil seemed to have lapsed into plain old seething hatred for my dad now that he was acquiring more and more property and had not killed himself as had been predicted would be his alcoholic's fate?  
I was tortured by horrible suspicions. I had been just too well educated about horror by the dark side of this world I had been born into.  If something happened Cecil felt helpless to prevent in order to learn to cowboy and keep a good job, no wonder he had no hold back.  Maybe he was out to get revenge at whatever price because he felt he had been forever altered, changed to a thing that was less of a man than he had imagined he would be, growing up in his more normal father's care.  
But his father was poor, so he wouldn't have been able to protect Cecil very long. He would have been expected to get out and see if he could find work as soon as he was old enough. 
Was this a cycle of abuse, with my Grandfather originally not paying enough attention to what happened to his own son Clyde, making him work, camp out with hired men at a very young age, do all the work that had to be done on a ranch, no matter the price.  My Grandfather believed in hard work and he demanded it of his sons.  They didn't even get Sunday off most of the time.  I always thought my dad had to drink to get the nerve to play truant from the heavy ranch work. He said himself his dad was the sort to wrap a bull whip around an offending son who did something wrong when they were handling cattle.  
I knew my Grandfather had a bad temper.  I had seen him angry. Had that temper caused him not to value his son for fear of spoiling him?  Even to the point of sending him on long camping trips into the hinterlands at the mercy of predatory older hired men?
Maybe similar abuse happened to my Grandfather when he was a poor young cowboy trying to get ahead after his dad drank up everything he owned and died broke.  My Grandfather lived on the cattle trails for years, driving a herd of horses clear to Chicago twice that I knew of.  Now I had  to wonder what happened at night in the tents he inhabited? 
Were there trail bosses he had to satisfy who could not get access to women in their jobs?  My Grandfather was a small man.  He might have seemed like a satisfactory substitute for a woman to a predatory trail boss who had an eye out for attractive, dirt poor young cowhands who might have needed the job too bad to resist and tell him to go to hell.  I was sure my Grandfather had probably gone to work as a cowboy when he was a mere child.  He was that good at handling horses and cattle. 
Nobody ever talked about these possible scenarios in books or anywhere else I knew of.  How was I going to handle such dangers?  I had never imagined boys being treated like sex objects when I aspired to do boy's work on my dad's and grandfather's cattle ranches.  And I knew if I did tell tales about the hired men I might never be allowed to ride a horse again.  I might be imprisoned inside the house for my own safety.  Could I bear that? 

Even the prospect of being put under the thumb of my volatile mother made me put off telling as long as possible.  Of course if it looked as if I was going to be raped and killed, I might have to ask somebody for help.  
I felt I had been lucky in Salt Gulch to have escaped a  very dangerous predator with no more damage to my body than a molesting of my private parts several times.  After all, I had not been raped or murdered. 
Another very disturbing thought struck me about my male cousins. Grandpa's grandson Ray who was not much older was wanting to come to Boulder each summer after his dad had been banished from the country because of a crime. I doubted now if he would be safe on Grandpa's ranch when he came to work.  He would have to do what Grandpa said if he was going to earn his keep.  
I was even wondering what else had happened to my cousin Stewart, Ray's oldest brother, who died so fast in a terrible fire?  He had done a lot of work on that ranch, both him and his younger brother, Park.  Did what happened there have anything to do with his death?  Was there some kind of despair going on, some deep terrible mental anguish disturbing him so he got so drunk he didn't care if he lived or died, like my dad, suicidal maybe, without the will to live after he had been altered forever, turned into somebody who could not be normal, who sought those dangerous men now who could satisfy lust just as well as a woman when none were around.  A habit that could not be resisted even with marriage.  
Was this how men became altered forever on some cattle ranches, how my dad's normalcy had been so affected that I had to worry all the time about his frequent near death experiences while drinking? If this is what happened to men who grew up and worked on some of these ranches in this country, it was a damned tragedy.  I mourned for both my dad and Cecil and their tortured minds.  Maybe they had both been victimized and grew up to torture others just like they had been tortured. Like Cecil had begun to torture me.  
I was seeing a possible endless cycle of cause and effect, with new assaults in every generation with the inevitable result of men sinking into angry revengeful despair.  Somebody had to talk about this.  I had to survive all these dangers somehow. I had to live to tell the sad stories of these broken men who would never tell anybody about being tortured.  
My cousin Ray, the youngest brother, would likely be allowed to come to the ranch this summer. He was sure to become a victim, too. How could anybody save him?  The family could not endure another death of a King son, first Max, my dad's youngest brother, and then Stuart, his brother Glen's oldest son, young men who could ride so well because they had practically been born on horses.  Dead drunk and dying as though by accident, but were their deaths really 'accidents'?  I doubted it.  At least I had no desire to tamper with alcohol, but I was sure that would not be the case with my wild and reckless cousin Ray.