Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Memoir: Chapter 30: Four younger sisters were growing up without me around

I tried to interact with my sisters as often as I could when I came home for the summer.  I felt I risked losing the sister relationships I had with them by living so far away I could not even visit.  The second year Mother and Dad started letting me come home for the Christmas holidays, too.  The richer they felt the more apt they were to agree to the expense.  None of my sisters that I remember except Linda, the youngest one, wrote to me when I was in high school.  I still remember the letter she wrote. I practically memorized it.
"Dear Gerry
    Henry Harws had a stourke down in Horse Canyon.  They thought that he would live but he died the other night.  Your sister Linda"
I still entertained Linda and Ann when I came home with stories I made up, but LaRae did not join us, so I really didn't know how I was going to keep track of  her. She was very independent.  It was hard to tell during the jam packed summer months just what problems they were all having surviving Mother and Dad.  I would have two more years of high school in Salt Lake and four years in college to go through before I could hope to spend any more time with them.
If only they could get through the rough conditions at home somehow, maybe we could connect a lot more down the road aways.  I had no idea at the time what would happen to me to necessitate some months of recovery at home.
I seemed to have pretty much returned to normal after two years in Garland.  The chores I did for Aunt Neta seemed like child's play. Aunt Nethella was helping to bring electricity to Boulder. They were talking about hooking the town up inside of a year! Modern conveniences would surely make my child laborer sisters' lives a lot easier.  They were still the hardest working kids I knew.
Electricity would surely make a big difference in the bottling. No more wood to chop the men had to drag in from the hills.  No fires to keep burning all day long under the pressure cooker.  Most of the meat could be frozen.  Aunt Neta knew how to freeze vegetables and fruit, too.  She thought as I did that primitive conditions in Boulder had probably shortened the lives of some of the hard working women like her mother, my Grandma King.
My mother probably wouldn't die of overwork because of having five daughters and no qualms about using child laborers, but my Grandma King had been one of the hardest working women I have ever seen. She had gone to her reward, but we were really going to miss her.
Never mind, her daughter, Aunt Nethella, was a fiend for work, too. She had plans to put in a big garden spot next to the new house and one of the biggest lawns in town.  She said she was even going to order five peach trees for the orchard, which already had a number of them. How many peaches was she planning to bottle anyway for just her and Grandpa?  Well, she was going to sell them to the townspeople she said. Anything to keep their cellars full and not eating out of the store.  Daddy's sisters were just as horrified as he was over lazy people eating store boughten bread.
Grandma King had been giving us an over supply of fruit to bottle for years, and Aunt Nethella thought the King ranch needed a larger orchard?  But she probably needed more to do since the King women thought visiting was a waste of time.  Whenever I visited Grandma King her hands were always busy with handicraft. There was always a quilt in the works in one of the back rooms.  Somewhere a task was waiting as idle hands were simply not acceptable. Talking while quilting was okay. Grandma's furniture was covered with doilies.  You could always make another doily.
In such surroundings I thought I had done really well to reach Aunt Neta's abode without ever sewing hardly a stitch.  Of course having to do boy's work was the best excuse in the world!

Whenever I went home I was always somewhat overwhelmed with the amount of work that people were trying to get done around me. Margie and I had started to go to the dances, so we insisted on trying to find a dance we could attend every week.  Summer was not going to be all work and no play.
I had gotten over my crush on RayL who just never cared for me enough to make it worth my while. Besides he had gotten to be a bad drinker at a very young age.  That was heart breaking to see.  The better cowboy he became the more he seemed to think he should drink.
There seemed to be just too many wild young local guys in both Boulder and Escalante where my dad had been raised tampering with alcohol.  The prospects of finding a husband who wasn't already an alcoholic did not seem good in that rough country.  I hoped it would not come down to that.  What was the use of going so far away to school if I could not find more promising husband material?
I thought both Mother and Dad were imagining I would find a prospective doctor or a lawyer to marry at the very least.   I thought I needed to find someone who appreciated good books as I did. Whose IQ was somewhere in the same range. After all, hadn't both Daddy and Uncle Max gone to the University with the intention of becoming lawyers? We Kings were smart people.
Demon whiskey interfered with their plans, but since I was showing a good deal less inclination to be wild, what could possibly interfere with my going right straight to the top?  On my Mother's side, her brother Kent was home from the service and was going to the University of Utah.  He aspired to be nothing less than a doctor. Her brother Vance was home from his tour in the military studying engineering at Utah state.  Aunt Neta had taken me to see him in Logan twenty miles away from Garland. Since Mother's brothers were not addicted to alcohol there was a very good chance they would both stay the course and become big successes in life.
I came from people with intelligence even if they did not act like it most of the time.  Mother appeared to be still having affairs while hanging out in her store.  I had of course never breathed a word to my sisters yet about what I thought our dad was doing.
I had shoved his problems to the back of my mind as now that I was becoming a teenager I was worried about finding a boyfriend who did not have the same problem he did.  Daddy was Mother's problem, but a similar boyfriend would be mine!
I had fallen in love with Neil who spelled trouble, a cheer leader no less.  The football players at Garland even dared to refer to him at times as a faggot.  What red blooded American boy wanted to be a head cheerleader all during high school?
I loved Neal every bit as much as I had loved RayL, but I was never going to marry one of the lost boys and live the kind of life my mother had.
I didn't see how my sisters and I could be expected to grow up normal with such parents.  Look what had happened to me by the time I was twelve.  I had half way not expected to make it to my thirteenth birthday.  Mother and Dad acted as though I had returned to normal, but had I really?  I doubted it, and I doubted that my sisters were not being badly affected, too.  Mother and Dad were still fighting, not like cats and dogs I would say, but more like lions and tigers. If they managed not to kill one another, it might be possible the kids would make it to adulthood.  I still could not see anything but a rocky road for all of us.
Well, there was really nothing I could do except try to maintain my health while I was away to school.  Now that I had finally solved my molesting problem at the hands of the Kings' main hired man, I was feeling a lot less strained and more carefree, but I was still troubled about not telling anyone what had been going on.
Didn't seem like much now that I had managed to stop the contacts.  But what if he targeted some other boy or girl who came to stay on that ranch?  Aunt Net's grandson was back visiting with her in Escalante, but in the summers she and Uncle George came to help Aunt Nethella with the work, and she would be bringing him with her.
I still did not see how I could possibly have a talk with Aunt Nethella now that she had come to rely on the hired man so heavily since Grandpa was too old to do any real work anymore.  Her theory seemed to be that he had not been treated well enough, so she was talking about giving him a lot on the property so he could build a house for his family. He could grow old and retire there.  No, no, I thought, but I was always in a quandary about how a man who had acted as he did deserved to be punished.
If I could have talked to her about my dad's problems that might have paved the way to a talk with her about hired men on that ranch who had probably been employed a long time because they did not mind working for such men.  I thought my dad and the hired men usually became of the same mind.  It went with the job, you might say.
I was pretty inclined to think that Grandpa had the problem, too, which was a lot more common than people thought, I was sure.  I figured this was the real  reason he would not go to church even though he did not drink or smoke. He was probably uneasy about how far he should risk going outside his own property to spend any time.
In fact, after the war, Grandpa had employed a very handsome young ex- soldier he seemed so taken with that even Mother and Dad said he had fallen in love.  Grandpa wanted to sell part of the ranch to him at a very good price, but the young man saw that the son was going to object, so he decided to take off.
I just did not see how I could be the one to introduce the subject to Aunt Nethella who did not seem to have any idea that any of her relatives could be of this persuasion.  For a woman with a degree in literature, she seemed to be strangely ignorant to me or just plain unobservant. But she was still so authoritative that I doubted she would listen to me at all.  In fact, I thought I might be in a world of trouble if I ever tried to educate my Aunt Nethella on this subject.  She was known to have a very sharp tongue.  I figured I had just better keep my mouth shut or risk making things a whole lot worse.
I had to settle with warning my sisters to stay away from the hired men.  I still had not told them about Bill Isabel in Salt Gulch either, but I could not get that close to the subject of my dad's problem as I felt they were way too young to be burdened with such heavy thoughts. I had certainly been too young at age five to be burdened with them too, but molesters are ruthless when in the grip of  violent emotions. They obviously don't care what happens to their victims, so my mind had gotten heavily burdened in spite of myself.
Margie was still doing very little out door work, so, although I thought working with Mother all the time might give her questionable ideas, at least she would be safer from dangerous predators.  Mother's example was not the best for daughters, but she and I were getting along better.  I depended on her to drive me to the city to attend high school and to get money for my needs out of Daddy during the school year, who tended to be very stingy with his daughters, and now she had even found another place for me to live as I had requested.  She was all for me going to Salt Lake to high school now I was willing to take a chance living with her relatives while leaving my dad's more perfect one behind.
I thought I might be able to get home easier living in Salt Lake, and I would see Mother and Dad and some of the kids, too, who came to Salt Lake once in a while.  They had never had time to go further north to Garland.  In fact, I thought I would see many more people I cared about in Salt Lake.  This move seemed to be a better plan for my remaining high school years all the way around.
The Boulder people were talking about possibly busing their kids to high school in Escalante down the road a ways so my younger sisters might not even have to go away to school.  I didn't know but what that would be unfortunate for them.  I was being exposed to far more of the world than they would be in little Escalante, home to only about 500 people compared to 100 in Boulder.  I planned to take college prep classes my last two years in high school so  I would be ready for the University.  I was glad not to be going to Escalante.  Besides that is where Daddy went to get drunk.  I doubted that would have helped my stress due to his alcoholism at all.
No, I had needed to go away to school.  Margie would benefit, too, I thought from her years away from both Mother and Dad. But dang, it was hard to leave little sisters every fall.  They were such beautiful kids, smart, lively, active, always turning somersaults, climbing ledges, and hiking to some swimming hole.  I just hoped nothing bad would happen to them.  I just hoped we would all survive our rough childhood years and become good friends somehow.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Memoir: Chapter 29: Friends I should have made for life but didn't

The second winter in Garland Grandma King died.  Mother and Dad decided it was too far away for them to afford to bring me home for her funeral.  Aunt Neta had already been there a week because Aunt Nethella called her to come and spend a few days with her.  I stayed with Miss Woodside.
So when I arrived home in the summer I was acutely aware that my beloved Grandma was gone. I felt guilty because I had not gone to see her the previous summer hardly at all.  She had been busy, too.  Her sister Lil and husband, Uncle George had asked if they might come and live close to her in Escalante.  A very sick daughter-in-law had joined them with her two boys.  One of the boys had the same wasting disease that she did, so they weren't there long before she took him to seek more medical treatment.  They both died, and Dan, the older boy, came back to live with his Grandparents.
Grandpa and Aunt Nethella were busy building the new ranch house.  I was curious about how that was going and would go down and check on them from time to time.  I wondered how long Grandpa would live with his partner for a life time gone.  They had been married a little over 50 years.
I did bring a friend from Garland home with me who was destined not to stay the full week we planned.  I really didn't see any purpose for Bonnie to come since I was not returning to Garland, but she insisted.  I told her I was afraid that she would not be able to handle staying in my parents' home who were much rougher people than Aunt Neta.
I had stayed a number of times with Bonnie in her parents' beautiful old brick mansion in one of the farming communities northeast of Garland.  They were reputed to be some of the wealthiest people in that whole area.  Bonnie's bedroom was as big and well furnished as most living rooms.  She and her younger brother were the only children they had, so I thought Bonnie may have been too sheltered to enjoy our primitive ranch community.  We still didn't even have electricity!
Bonnie assured me that she had been hunting with her father and was used to roughing it.  So I agreed to let her come.  Another friend of mine from Escalante joined us, and we went camping in Kings Pasture.  I recalled later Bonnie noticing the sheaf of letters I had saved from the previous summer that Neal wrote.  I told her yes, they were from Neal but they did not say much, I had been disappointed in them.
Was that the reason she suddenly demanded to be taken to the train in Junction so she could return to her home as soon as we came home from the pasture?  Surely she could not have been jealous of Neal's and my tepid correspondence?  But you could never tell what girl was madly in love with Neal.  I also wondered if Connie, my Escalante friend, who seemed to feel a little jealous of Bonnie because I said she came from wealth, had said or done something to rile her.  I just had no idea what caused Bonnie to have such a big change of heart about my company.  She never wrote to me and explained anything when she got home, either.
In fact, all the way to the train, Bonnie acted like she could not leave soon enough.  Well, that was certainly a switch.  I thought it was a very lucky thing I had decided to leave Garland, because having Bonnie reject me in school would have made matters worse.  She was regarded as highly intelligent due to having the highest IQ in the school, two points higher than mine at 133, besides possessing the wealthiest parents in the valley.  She could have done me serious damage.
Years later I ran into her again when I was a junior at the University of Utah after she acquired a job working for a company downtown in quite a public place.  She had gotten her degree early she said, but she was still just as unfriendly.
By that time I had been rejected as a friend by another small town popular girl at the University who joined a sorority and got more picky. I was beginning to get an inferiority complex when it came to making and keeping friends. Even my Escalante pal whose friendship I thought I could never lose married well and eventually decided she was done with me, too.
Barbara and Elaine, my Boulder school chums, came from large families and when they married both had  fairly large families of their own.  I really did not expect them to have the time to keep up a school girl friendship.  Keeping up their relationships with their family members was I thought more important.
I was even having a hard time staying friends with my sister Margie, less than a year younger.  She told me the first summer after I had been away that at last she had been able to make friends after I left.  That seemed like a low blow. Did I have something in my makeup that made lasting friendship impossible?
Our father seemed to be doing fairly well.  He and my mother were even talking about purchasing a new ranch property.  The sisters who had stayed home said Daddy was still drinking, but he was not going to the extremes that had caused me such upset I had to leave home early.
Margie would be going away to school for the first time when I planned to be in Salt Lake attending high school. She and Aunt Vesta had decided that she could take dancing lessons even though she would be going out of state to Washington.  I told her that if she ever changed her mind about going so far away to live with Aunt Vesta, she should try to live with Aunt Neta.  I was sure given her interest in sewing, Margie would make an ideal school girl boarder, just as our cousin Roma had.  Margie did not even blink at the prospect of making a suit.  I still felt guilty over Aunt Neta's anger at my leaving, but not enough to change my mind even though I knew I was now her least favorite niece.
I was relieved when Mother said she talked to her Aunt Anne in Salt Lake and she agreed that I could come and stay with Great Grandma Wilson who lived across the street from her.  She said that Grandma was either going to have to start living with her kids or someone would have to be brought in to stay with her.  So I would be on trial for the next winter, being a companion to this old lady. She might not fall in love with me either, but I resolved to do my best to entertain her.  I made up my mind not to take it personal if I failed my trial period.  I just hoped I could hang in there a year.
I really did not know Great Grandma very well, having only seen her a few times in my life.  But if staying with her would get me established in Salt Lake, I was willing to try it.  I told Mother to tell Aunt Anne that come fall, I would be there!  In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I thought that living in Salt Lake might be exciting in all kinds of ways!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Memoir: Chapter 28: Demon-possessed cattle cause me to lose Sorly in Big Holler who trotted back home to Dad

When I came back to southern Utah after my first year in Garland, before I turned fourteen,  I had developed a plan to take care of my problem with Grandpa's hired man.  After many hours of agonizing, I decided that I would refuse to do any cow punching down in the draw for Daddy.  Amazingly this plan worked.
After nine months away from home Daddy was used to doing without me to help him, so when he asked me to get on a horse and go down in the draw to bring up some stray cattle he accepted my excuse that I was urgently needed somewhere else that day.  I had planned that he would not be suspicious enough to try to track down my real reason for refusing to help him.  I was still certain that if any crisis brought on by Cecil's interaction with me surfaced, a possible murder might result, whose I wasn't sure, Cecil's or Daddy's.
A few days later, however, Daddy told me that he had something urgent to do and he needed me to drive a herd of cattle to Sand Creek, his Salt Gulch range.  This time he seemed determined I wasn't going to get out of it.  He suggested I call and ask my friend Barbara in Salt Gulch to see if she could not use one of the Coleman horses that day, so she could trail the herd up the mountain while I went on lead and eventually guided them to a gate near a cattle guard, which I was to open so they could be driven through to the right range.  The directions sounded awfully complicated to me, but Daddy insisted that he could not go.
He told me I could ride Sorly and he would help me drive the herd across Home Bench to Big Holler.  But I was still pretty much stunned when the herd turned out to be the largest one I had ever managed by myself, around fifty cows with calves, and what turned out to be a small demon-possessed herd of five dry calves and a bull.  
Right away this wild bunch moved out ahead of the slow cows and calves.  I was alarmed and asked Daddy how I was supposed to keep the two bunches together.  He said I would need to push ahead of the herd from time to time as when there was a wash ahead the wild ones might take off from the road and run up the wash toward the mountain!
I remembered there was a wash down to the bottom of Big Holler.  Surely they would not run away so soon up that wash, but oh yes, they did.

Daddy was long gone.  Mercilessly he had turned back at the top of Big Holler.  There was no way for me to push ahead of the herd as they headed down Big Holler.  The road was too steep and narrow.  I doubted if even Daddy would have pushed ahead on this road so he could hold up the dry cows and the bull.  I thought the slow cows and calves would never reach the bottom of Big Holler.
When we did, I could not see the dry cows and the bull anywhere.  I rushed up the wash a little ways to see if I could spot fresh tracks.  Sure enough, there were tracks, but the demon possessed herd must have run fast because I could not see them.  The further up the wash I raced Sorly the more alarmed I became.  Finally, finally I caught up with the wild bunch apparently headed for the mountain as fast as they could go just any old way they could get there.
I managed to get in head of them so I could turn them back around.  To my horror, instead of running obediently back down the wash, they started climbing up the steep sides of the wash.  Oh drat.
I simply did not dare try to scale that steep hillside on a horse, coward that I was, so I jumped off the horse and tied his reins to a bush, and headed up the side of the hill on foot! I finally got the cows and bull headed back down, so I ran back and jumped on my horse again, and whoops, they turned, once I was no longer behind them, and headed back up the side of the hill again. I jumped off my horse again, and in my haste I must have tied Sorly very insecurely to the bush.
I had barely left him and started running as fast as I could up the side hill again, when I turned and out of the corner of my eye saw Sorly pull loose from the bush.  Oh my God I had forgotten that Sorly tended to bolt when his reins were down.  He wasn't like a long line of King horses you could have walked up to and caught in the open fields. He headed down the wash very fast!  He acted like he meant business.  He was through with my amateur cow punching.  He was going back to the barn. 
The demon-possessed cows and the bull, I am sure, laughing all the way, proceeded on up the hillside and disappeared over the top, headed I was certain, all six of them, for the mountain and a trespass.
I ran past the slow cows heading slowly out to the other side of Big Holler on their way to Salt Gulch, hollering for my horse, who was not paying the slightest bit of attention. I never did catch up with him the whole five miles home.
When he arrived home, if he could have talked he would probably have told the whole horrifying story to Daddy, who by the great grace of God, had not left for his other urgent job whatever it was. You can imagine how happy he was to see me and Sorly show up.
He did not say a word to his prize horse as he caught him and waited for me to mount him again, but he said plenty to me after he had saddled his horse to accompany me back to Big Holler.
"We won't know any more than a pig where all those other cattle have gone!" was one thing I vividly remember him saying.  I think he was as surprised as I was when we rode fast down into Big Holler and all fifty cows and calves were laying down taking a rest by the side of the road, having never left Big Holler at all after I disappeared.  Maybe they were waiting for me to come back and drive them!
Daddy turned and headed his horse straight up the steep east side of Big Holler and said he would try to catch up with the dry calves and the bull before they got too far away.  I was mighty surprised when I had driven the main herd out of Big Holler and down the road aways, to see him come racing back driving four dry cows and the bull.
"One of those dry cows is headed for the mountain as fast as she can go," was all he said. "I couldn't catch her!"  Then he pulled up his horse.
"Where are you going?" I all but screamed.  Surely he could not be thinking of leaving me with this giant herd and that little demon possessed wild bunch again!
"I told you I've got things to do," he said firmly. "Just don't get off your horse!" he added, as if I would. "And make sure you go ahead of the herd when you come to any kind of wash or turn off. Your main herd isn't going anywhere.  It's the dry cows and the bull you have to keep up with."

Yes, they headed up another wash just after we came off the little Rocky Hill, but I was ready for them.  And so was Sorly.  He went after that demon possessed bunch with a vengeance.  All I had to do was stick on him.  He knew what to do, oh did he ever, and he made sure this time, when I gave him the chance, that he got it done. We ran that little wild bunch back into the main herd hard!
But I had a mighty strained mind before we arrived to the Coleman ranch in Salt Gulch, rushing ahead to every possible turn off those cattle might take a notion to go down.  I was so happy when I saw Barbara's horse tied up outside the Coleman fence.  
As soon as Barbara saw me pass with my cattle she rushed out and got on her horse and joined me. She was a great help just herding the slow cows along who were inclined to meander and graze while I ran Sorly ahead, keeping up with the wild bunch.
I was still mighty worried about losing the dry cows and bull once we got to mountain terrain, but Daddy said that was why he had included some of the dry cows in the herd because some of those old dry cows knew where they were going.  They had been there before.
I hardly even had a chance to say hello to Barbara I was so busy.  It still seemed like an eternity before I spotted the fence Daddy said we would come to.  I rode quickly ahead and found the gate by the cattle guard.  I was even able to unlatch it and open it without dismounting, thank goodness.
Somehow or another we had arrived to our destination with all fifty head of the cows and calves and four dry cows, instead of five, and the bull.  I breathed a huge sigh of relief when they crowded through the gate and scattered. There they'd be all summer growing fat and sassy.
Barbara and I had time for a few words as we turned our horses around and started back down the mountain.  I was telling Barbara a little bit about my morning's ordeal when I noticed something strange and wonderful.  Sorly was dancing.  Yes, that darned horse danced with me all the way down the mountain.
Sorly could not have said in any plainer words that he was celebrating our mission accomplished.  His trainer and my dad had not allowed us fail.  He never let either one of us fail when it came to handling cattle, if he could possibly help it.
Sorly had learned I was a greenhorn.  And he had bolted.  Daddy forgave him, but he made him and me go back and finish the job that only he thought we could do.
Mother brought the pickup truck over to pick me up so she could give Sorly a ride home, too.  I thought he had earned it.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Memoir: Chapter 27: Falling in love with the lost boys for the rest of my life

It did not take me long to find an interesting possible boyfriend, a very popular boy from Garland named Neil who insisted he was going to run for cheerleader that year arousing talk about what he was all about. He did not seem to care what the kids said about him. I suspected right away from such an attitude that Neil was one of the lost boys, already beyond the power of the female sex to retrieve from whatever world he inhabited now, even at fourteen going on fifteen. I thought he would marry though in Mormon society and possibly have a family, but tepid love would be all he could feel for the lucky girl which I did not think would be enough for me.
However I feared I was doomed to fall in love with the lost boys forever. Neil found out I wanted to be a writer, so once when we were being bused to Salt Lake to see a Shakespeare production he told me to write plays and he would perform in them.  But only one time did I ever feel a real spark from Neil, which happened under very bizarre circumstances, but it was enough to keep me his willing slave for the rest of the time I lived in Garland.
I got acquainted with a little circle of girls from Garland, all freshmen.  Although I felt inadequate trying to be one of this sophisticated gang who had all grown up together, I did my best.  Aunt Neta and her daughter-in-law, Ada, started telling me right away I had to go to the football games in order to be accepted and popular.  Both appeared to be dismayed by the stacks of books I started bringing home.  I had never had access to well stocked libraries in my life, so I was taking books home from the school library as well as the town library and was reading so much, my eyes hurt to turn them.  This simply would not do as far as my advisers were concerned.  The least I could do was join the pep club so I could wave pom poms.
Given my past, it was impossible for me to dedicate my life to doing something so trifling. I never did go to the football games which I had not seen before, but I finally learned to love basketball games. Even though I never waved a single pom pom in Garland. 

When the girls day dance came around, Pauline, one of the girls from my Garland gang, begged me to ask a boy and take him in her car.  Her mother had promised she could take the family car since she had been driving forever even though she was two years away from being able to secure a legal license.  For some reason the cops looked the other way when she drove by, she insisted. 
 I felt very uncomfortable about asking a boy who had never asked me out to a dance.  She said everybody did it.  The way she got me to go along was by suggesting I could ask Neil.  The fact that I liked him had not escaped her notice.
I protested that Neil had not asked any girls to the previous dances that year.  She said that didn't matter.  He would expect to be asked to the girls' day dance.
Our plans were made but just a few days before the dance when I was going to have to rake up my nerve to ask Neil to go, Pauline said that she was going to ask Neil to go after all, but I should ask DeLyle, Neil's best friend.  She pretended to think there was very little difference between the two boys, but DeLyle was not very attractive even though he was a constant buddy of Neil's.  I did not have the faintest interest in him, and was horrified that I was now expected to take him to the Girls Day Dance.
Pauline said I had to go because she had persuaded her mother to let her drive so she could take at least three of her gang to the dance.  She was  fourteen, nearly two years older than I was, so I found her to be too forceful to resist. I dutifully asked DeLyle, kicking myself for ever getting into the position of feeling obligated.

I was sitting in the backseat with DeLyle who I scarcely knew on the way to the dance.  We were all crowded together. Everyone was talking.  In the dark car nobody appeared to notice when Neil slipped his hand over the back seat and grabbed mine.  I was sitting a little forward so there would be room for the other two in the back seat. He held my hand the rest of the way to dance. I have still never forgotten the feeling of mad delicious passion he inspired in me. Just that one time he seemed to feel it, too. 
I figured  Pauline might have even told him that she had gotten me to go by promising me I could ask him.  Now he was getting even. He did care enough about my obvious misery to respond!  He knew very well DeLyle did not appeal to me at all, and Pauline had taken advantage of my younger age and inexperience to force me into a humiliating situation. He probably felt manipulated by her willfulness, too. After all, if he was going to get elected cheerleader he could not afford to rile a powerhouse like Pauline either.  
 I was not used to dating boys at all and I thought the actual dance would never end. I never even got to dance with Neil. The dance occurred at the end of the school year, and Neil further alleviated my pain by asking me if I wanted to write to him during summer vacation.  I said yes with a leaping heart, but alas, I was to be sorely disappointed in his letters.
He sounded amazingly like Aunt Neta with her complaints about her ex husband's infidelity. Neil's letters were chock full of bitchy complaints about girls.  There was not one speck of passion for me or them in any of his writings, although I never stopped looking and hoping. 

I knew by those letters that school girl charms did not interest him.  Someone somewhere had already responded to his need who was not a girl.  I heard that his father had died leaving his mother a widow.  I thought that might have had something to do what happened to him. I knew Neil was not attracted to the quite ordinary DeLyle.  He really was just a friend. Neil was still fighting whoever it was, all of them.  He did not want to be one of the lost boys with all the misery and humiliation that might cause him.  Who could blame him?
It was as though he knew I did not have the power that could reach him.  His letters reflected his resignation.  I just accepted with as good of grace as I could muster what had happened to him.  That was the least I could do.  He had thought enough of me to write the letters, even though they were painfully revealing.

I went back to Garland for a second year unable to get out of a year of sewing.  I made a simply horrid looking dress I thought would at least be easy to make but it was so ugly I could never bear to wear it.  So much for the beautiful clothes Aunt Neta said I would be able to make if I would just learn to sew. 

I attended Mormon Seminary faithfully for two years, five days a week.  We studied the old testament the first year and the new testament the second.  I was going to have to take church history the third year which was partly the reason I balked.  I had even attended Mutual for the girls and boys my age.  I had gone to all the Sunday church meetings Aunt Neta required of me.  My second year in Garland was so uneventful, so completely lacking in excitement I made up my mind I simply had to get out of there before I had to make that suit.
I started asking my mother if she would please let me live in Salt Lake during my junior year in high school. I told her I needed to get down there and graduate from a big city school so I would be better prepared to attend the University of Utah.

In the meantime, Miss Woodside, the history teacher, had come back to live with Aunt Neta.  We three had quite a companionable time my sophomore year, getting along I thought very well.  But when I told Aunt Neta I thought I would be transferring to a Salt Lake high school the next year, she acted furious.  Why, I didn't know.  She seemed to take it very personally.  She said, "Oh but you won't be able to have Miss Woodside as your history teacher."  I said, airily, "Oh, that's all right, she talks too much anyway!"
I never should have said that because it made Aunt Neta angry beyond belief.  Miss Woodside did talk too much, I thought, because she could not possibly talk about what she was really interested in I did not think. But Aunt Neta all but never spoke to me again after I persisted in moving to Salt Lake.
I did not think she had been that attached to me.  A seamstress I was not going to make, a devout Mormon I did not want to be, so what was the source of her anger at me for leaving a school that was not really doing anything for me? 
Nobody read books in that school.  Neil had been my one hope. He only had expressed interest in the plays I would write, but his letters to me had been so flat, he could not hold me there.  We had no plans to correspond the second summer. I was not even able to get a part in the school play.  The drama teacher was in love with cheerleader type girls and they and other popular girls got all the good parts both years I was there. 
Nor I did not dare say an unconventional word or I would have had Aunt Neta smiting me down.  She appeared obsessed with what girls had to do and say to be popular.
I just did not care that much about being popular.  I was never going to be popular.  I read too many books.  I had always been regarded as disturbingly smart.  I was used to it.  But I still chose to read obsessively.  That's what people who were going to be writers did.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Memoir: Chapter 26: High School in a whole new world in northern Utah at thirteen

Summer passed in a blur as I had my mind on what was going to happen come September when I left home.  I know Mother must not have worked me as hard because I did not get that horrible fatigue during the bottling season.  She also said she would buy me new school clothes, a promise she failed to keep.  She insisted on giving me a home permanent which I hated.  Mother did not trust anything but curls on her daughters.  She even gave perms to the daughters with curly hair and put them in her own curly hair. 
My hair was so fine it always turned frizzy with a perm.  I thought I looked a mess to go off to school.
As a matter of fact I had never even curled my hair with bobby pins or curlers as the older girls did in Garland I soon found out.  But not before Mother took me to Salt Lake and found some second hand clothes somewhere I knew were going to make me look a fright when I entered high school wearing them.  
I hated every outfit she bought me.  I wasn't even there to pick them out as Mother figured on telling me after she bought them that she and Daddy couldn't afford new clothes.  She also told me that I would have to make do with the steel rim granny glasses she and Daddy had decided I would have to wear because I broke every other kind with rough play.  Granny glasses were not in style in those days either! I had even stepped on the granny glasses and they were permanently bent. If I didn't watch closely one side would hike up considerably higher than the other side, making me look totally goofy I thought.
I found out just as soon as I attended school the first day, I would need lipstick at least.  It was time to learn about makeup although I doubted I would ever slather it on like some of the freshmen girls did.  I did not have my period yet, even though I had turned thirteen in July, but surely it would arrive any day.  Barbara had gotten hers a couple of years before.  I didn't know what was holding mine up.
I had never been to Garland before and could only recall seeing my Aunt Neta two or three times in my life.  But I had been visiting Aunt Nethella ever since she had come home to help Grandpa and Grandma on the ranch.
I had always looked upon Aunt Nethella as the aunt most like me since she was the English and Journalism teacher. I had not pictured myself at the mercy of the sewing teacher, Aunt Neta, who taught home economics which most of the high schools still offered in those days.
Aunt Neta did not lose any time in informing me that if I was going to live with her I would be required to take sewing for three years!  That was a bad shock.  I had contrived to get out of hardly sewing a seam up to then and now I was hearing that I would be making a suit in my third year!  A suit??  I could not picture myself even wearing a suit that I had cut from a pattern and sewed.  I was going to have to see this feat accomplished by myself to believe it could happen.
In the meantime, I begged off taking sewing the first year. I told Aunt Neta I would need time to adjust to her conditions.
She also informed me that I would need to take Mormon seminary all three years if I was going to live with her!  And I was to attend church regularly!
It started sounding to me like Aunt Neta was a living saint or trying to be.  I was sure she would be attending every church meeting along with me.  We would become saints together.
It wasn't very long until I began to wonder if she was not trying doubly hard to dot all her i's and cross all her t's.  I wondered if she actually feared such a paragon of virtue as she was could be fired.  She did say Home Economics was probably going to be phased out of the high schools after she retired, the way society was going.  Women did not think they needed to sew their own clothes any more she snorted.
If the women from the north were anything like the handicraft fiends of southern Utah I was sure there would be plenty of would be seamstresses around there for years to come.
The whole story or at least the way I perceived it to be came out a little at time.  Lesbians at that time were very rare in Utah, or at least that is the way Mormons saw it.  Mormonism prevented homosexuality it was presumed, I am positive.
But I could not help but notice, given my perceptions of Daddy, that Aunt Neta was a man hater of the first order.  She was soon telling me the whole story of what her first husband and the father of her two boys had done to her with almost as much venom as surely occurred when it happened over twenty years before. Her boys had even departed from college and were serving their country.  The war was still going on.
I had already heard a version of the awful story of her straying husband which had shocked me at the time.  It seems that her husband, a handsome fellow from her town, was the oldest son of a doting mother who had tried to get all his sisters to help send him away to become a dentist.
As near as I could tell Aunt Neta had decided to become a truly self sacrificing wife, too, and stayed home with their two sons to save money, while he went many miles away to dental school.  I couldn't imagine any wife expecting such a handsome fellow not to stray under these circumstances.  Her husband not only strayed but he married the woman which was quite extreme lengths for a liar to go to while away from home deceiving his wife.  Only Grandpa King did not take kindly to such treatment of his daughter and saw to it that the bigamist spent a year in jail!
Any ordinary fellow would have considered his life ruined and become a hopeless drunk after he became a jailbird, but not Aunt Neta's ex-husband!  He was made of stronger stuff. He came out of jail and finished dental school with the help of the second wife who he made his legal only wife and was still with him to this day.  He had even become a Mormon Bishop in another state of course! It was quite a startling story I thought.
But I was not prepared for the raw emotion that Aunt Neta still exhibited over her husband's infidelity.  She said she vowed never go with a man again!  She said some had tried to date her, but they soon found out she was not to be tempted by the likes of men.

I only gradually found out that another teacher had been living with her for a year previous to when I came, but they had decided that she should find another place to live to see how it went with me living there.  I wondered what she thought I might do as it looked as though the house was big enough for the three of us with Aunt Nethella and the two aunts' three sons gone.
When I did finally meet the teacher in question I had to wonder.  She was a tall mannish looking older woman about Aunt Neta's age who smoked cigarettes in a holder and wore pants suits.  She had quite a deep voice, and she was not Mormon.  She was from Ogden, Utah, and had never married.  She taught history and seemed quite intelligent if a bit garrulous. She actually seemed about the closest thing to a lesbian I could imagine in a school teacher which did not bother me as I thought that everyone had the right to earn a living even homosexuals.  
I was not that bothered by the idea of lesbians teaching the young either.  I was sure that any improper behavior would be quickly squelched by somebody.
What I feared a whole lot more was absolute denial and secrecy which I thought was bound to cause the tortured abnormal people to be more stressful for relatives who had to contend with them.  I was thinking of my dad in particular.  Although I was pretty sure nobody would be voicing a suspicion of homosexuality in Mormon society except on the quiet.
Well, I had not expected to be able to discuss with Aunt Neta what I thought plagued my dad and caused him to be so suicidal, but I was some disturbed by her determination to keep my reputation spotless with frequent church attendance as well as a submissive attitude toward sewing.
I thought she was risking her reputation far more than I would ever risk it living with a woman like her mannish friend.  Surely someone besides me might suspect she could be a lesbian, but Aunt Neta apparently did not think the likelihood was very great.  She had established herself as a great mother to her two sons, and she may have thought her reputation could withstand whatever suspicions might be aroused by two middle aged teachers choosing to live together in an all but empty house. I didn't know but what she was right, but I still felt uncomfortable because of what I was expected to do to create the impression that she and I were extremely upright and terribly religious.
I just hoped this whole complex thing would not prove too great a problem for me to handle with two members in the family manifesting the same possible tendencies.  Well, Grandma and Grandpa King had such a distant relationship with each other I thought that Aunt Neta having grown up with their marriage arrangement might have become susceptible to a woman's healing love after the searing humiliation of her husband's bigamy. 

Aunt Nethella had come back home with a new husband in tow she had only known a very short time, so she was obviously not nearly as hostile to men as her sister O'Neta. Aunt Nethella had told me more than once that her first husband had been one of the finest men in the country. Even my dad liked him. She had not blamed him for deserting her since his death was totally accidental.  
Her new husband didn't prove to be ranch manager material and when he left her quite soon it appeared that he had enough of his authoritative bride and her father. But they had also had enough of him. So nobody's heart was really broken by this brief marriage. Aunt Nethella was even in the market for a new husband, possibly.  Since she was a woman with a very old father and an ailing mother who was bound to inherit when they passed, local widowers were likely to be interested.
Aunt Nethella had left some passionate love letters from the new husband out in the living room in a bowl, and when she was outside doing something I could not help but read a few. I have always admired a masterly letter writer.  I thought their contents had probably won her heart in the first place.  Her new husband had probably had very little experience with horses however. He could probably go on beguiling women with his expertise in writing love letters, even though proving to be a disappointment in person to horse people like my Grandfather and his daughter Nethella.
Aunt Neta also took me over to see another single teacher friend of hers who she informed me would be my English teacher the following year.  This teacher was a big gentle acting woman who had gone to Europe with Aunt Neta a few years previous.  I thought she seemed a trifle withdrawn in relation to her friend Aunt Neta. Given my active imagination I had no doubt it was over the outsider history teacher now living with her, or that is, would be living with her again as soon as my trial period  was over with.  This nice English teacher lived with and took care of her mother, so there was no possibility of her having any extended living arrangements with Aunt Neta.
I considered that I might have a too active imagination, but this scenario is more or less what I perceived was really going on in a society that probably recognized such arrangements less for what they were than any culture on earth.
It is easy to understand why.  People were always afraid of hurting the kids if one of the parties in question had some peculiarities.  Aunt Neta had raised two fine sons who did not smoke or drink she told me proudly.  One had already married a lovely Mormon girl in the temple, so it was up to Aunt Neta naturally to maintain a spotless reputation to maintain his current high standing.  
I soon met her oldest son's wife who was  indeed a gorgeous, wholesome acting Mormon girl and very nice. She immediately got me a job tending the children of her sister.
Her sister had a bad heart, so I became very interested in her case, as she was not expected to live too many years.  I was glad to tend her children as well as earn a little spending money for the movies, so the ailing sister could have all the pleasures of life she could possibly enjoy before she passed on.
I could see that Aunt Neta's oldest son's wife could not possibly have wrapped her mind around the deeply hidden problems in her mother-in-law's life let alone in her alcoholic brother's life, so I knew better than to discuss even my dad's alcoholism while living in my aunt's home.
I also learned that my cousin Roma had graduated only a couple of years before while living with Aunt Neta and Aunt Nethella, too, before she retired and left. Roma, I took it from Aunt Neta's remarks, had been a nearly perfect school girl her whole four years in Garland, despite being the sister of wild Ray and the daughter of the alcoholic Uncle Glen. She took after her long suffering mother, my Aunt Hazel, who was very religious.  Aunt Hazel had little effect on wild Ray, but I am sure she could have imprinted her personality on her daughters' a lot easier than on her sons. 
Aunt Neta said that Roma sewed a perfectly beautiful suit. I am sure Roma was a very talented seamstress, and would have gone on to become one of the handicrafty women geniuses in the King family.  If this is what Aunt Neta was expecting from me, she was going to be sadly disappointed, I was sure. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Memoirs: Chapter 25: Barbara, Elaine, and I take last school girl hike up to the Salt and Pepper Shakers in Salt Gulch

Barbara had a wonderful destination in mind for a last hike she, Elaine, and I would take before we went away to school after we all got double promoted.  Not long before school was out she invited Elaine and me to Salt Gulch for the weekend, and on Saturday we set out to to climb to the Salt and Pepper Shakers on a high hill to the north east of the Coleman ranch.  This turned out to be just the right distance to make us feel we had accomplished something by the time we labored up to the last few steps to the Salt and Pepper Shakers that gave way to a colorful shale incline so steep it was denuded of any vegetation. Trying to climb such loose shale inclines would have been dangerous, so we never attempted anything so foolish.  We stayed among the pines and cedars when we had to labor up the last steep part of the hill but were in no danger.

I had never even noticed the Salt and Pepper Shakers before but now they would live in my memory as the destination of the last school girl hike I would ever go on with the Boulder girls.  There would be a few more cousin and friend camp outs and hikes but no school girls in southern Utah getting together to find new challenges to climb in the rugged canyon country where we lived.
Barbara and Elaine were going away to school out to Wayne Country where they both had relatives who agreed to let them board with them.  Maybe making themselves useful as I hoped to do to my Aunt Neta's to pay for my keep.
We enjoyed a quiet Sunday in Salt Gulch and returned to our school room studies on Monday on the bus.  Not that we studied very hard.  We coasted with our rancher school teacher, Reeves Baker, who had had to respond to the desperate call for a teacher when nobody else who was qualified stepped up.  We thought Reeves was way too 'easy' and didn't quite know what he was doing but he was very kind, so that was his main virtue.

I was impressed with Aunt Nethella's firmness in dealing with my upset over my dad drinking rubbing alcohol. I knew that my dad would never have told her about his crime, although Mother could have done just to impress on her what extremes her brother could go to. However, I was still concerned about going off to school without having a talk with anyone on the King ranch about the head hired man.  I was just fumbling and bumbling along with the problem, talking to my cousin Ray who arrived early, planning to spend the summer, which would have followed his Dad's death just before Christmas.  Ray was fourteen. He managed to tell me that Grandpa King was insisting that he go down below on a camping trip that would last at least five days where the men would be gathering cattle on the spring round-up.  He had been telling Grandpa he did not want to go, but Grandpa was saying he was going to have to go or else he would be sent home.
Well, I learned that Ray did finally go.  He could not get out of it I am sure, for Grandpa was very forceful when he wanted to be.  Grandpa wouldn't be going of course, he was too old.  He hadn't gone down below to camp for quite a few years.
I know I had another encounter with Cecil, too, during the spring round-up.  He caught me once again alone out on the trail down in the draw where I had been sent to drive some cattle. When he appeared there the third year in a row, I knew he was conscious of me and had watched my comings and goings close enough he had managed to find me alone again.  
As I dreaded he would. He rode up boldly just before we rounded the bend in sight of Boulder and grabbed me again around my thigh in a rough embrace.  I froze.  I just couldn't say a word.  I was afraid to protest for fear I would enrage him and he would go further.
I still hadn't had my period.  I feared that would be the turning point with Cecil when I would very likely be raped or even killed.  He was possibly just waiting for me to turn into a real woman.

A few days later Ray and I drove a herd of heifers and some cows with calves to King's Pasture for the summer.  Grandpa had picked them to spend their summers inside the lush fenced enclosure.  I remember when we started back my wild cousin Ray challenged me to a horse race.  I had always avoided any activity so risky as racing my horse but Ray would not take no for an answer, so I spurred my horse into a run, and we raced across the flat.  Thank God, I did not fall off.  That was all I was hoping for.
After we got to the other side of the flat Ray was in such a good mood I thought that maybe he would talk to me about what happened down below.  When I asked him, his face darkened, and his mood changed completely.  "I will never go down below again," he declared with great forcefulness, "even if I never come back to this ranch again. Grandpa cannot make me."
I knew enough about the hired men not to ask him what happened down there in the five or six days they were camped out.  I just thanked God my dad had not been along.

A few weeks later I discovered that Ray had left the ranch before the summer was even half way over.  I did not know what was involved until years later when my youngest sister Linda told me what she saw happen.  She had been playing close by and saw Ray run the team of horses pulling a wagon loaded with hay too fast around a turn. The wagon tipped and all the hay fell off.  Grandpa was so angry he grabbed Ray and hit him several times and told him to get off the ranch and never come back again!
I thought driving the team too fast would have been typical for wild Ray.  He did not have the gentle and more submissive nature of his older brother Park who had never gotten into such trouble working on that ranch.  
I thought that Ray was probably better off not being there at his age, although it was very sad to me that a boy could not find comfort with his grandfather after his dad has been found dead in a lonely apartment after losing everything that meant anything to him, rancher occupation, home, wife, and family.
I didn't think I was going to be able to fix anything either.  At least Ray would be safe now.  I wouldn't have to worry about him any more, but I still had to worry about myself and thus began hours and hours of trying to figure out how to get out of my dilemma while I was still expected to do the work I loved for my dad which was not safe for me to do.
All the rest of that year I thought my mind would crack with the strain of trying to figure out how to avoid a deadly encounter with a second threatening predator, especially after I got my period.  All I could think was danger danger.
Thus the prophetic dream I had had at 8 years old when I dreamed someone was pounding a nail through a long plank, one end of which rested on my head, was coming true.  When the nail started going into my brain I screamed so loud with the pain in my sleep I could have wakened the dead.  Worry will do that to you.  I would spend at least an hour if not two every night worrying about and trying to think how to prevent a tragic denouement to being the target of another molester.