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.

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