Saturday, July 16, 2011

Memoir: Chapter 36: Fun times in Escalante before I had to go back to school and live with strangers

 It is funny what sticks in your memory years after the fact. I did have my fears realized when I went back to Salt Lake and found some strangers who needed a hired girl.  Mrs. K hired me who was a little bird like woman who said she had raised canaries all her life. She said they took so much time she thought she could use a girl to do light house work for her room and board. Mr. K was away at the time on his shift as a conductor on the railroad.
I thought Mrs. K was as harmless as one of her canaries and moved in, but as soon as I laid eyes on Mr. K I knew he was different. I came to think Mr. K had been a very dangerous man when he was younger but now he was like an old tiger who didn't have any teeth.  He tried to molest me under the table whenever I joined them in a game of cards, but he wasn't determined enough for me to really fear him.
I thought if I left to get away from him, I would just have to test out a new couple.  I decided if Mrs. K had been able to tolerate him for over 45 years, I could put up with for 9 months. Besides that he still worked for the railroad and spent half his life away from home, waiting to work his way home on the incoming train.
I might have left if he had been retired but as it was, my time with the Ks was still going to be shadowed by his ancient habits of exploiting women.  I even suspected that he visited the woman in private who came to play cards with the Ks two or three nights a week.  She was a pleasant widow quite a few years younger than Mrs. K.  I could not imagine him not molesting her under the table as he tried to do me.  It would have been easy for him to visit her coming to and fro from work, too, as he had Mrs. K so well trained she would have accepted anything he said or did without question.

In the meantime in the summers, Margie and I went to all the dances in Escalante and everywhere else we could find one.  Boulder always had a dance on the 4th of July and there was the Mutton Fry and dance in the old CCC camp up at Posey Lake we would not have missed for anything.  Connie's date came from Panguitch one year who happened to be a very funny guy.  He fell into the lake off a boat and kept Connie and me laughing all night talking about how dangerous it was to leave home and go over the mountain for a dance among such wild primitive people as we ignorant natives were on this side of the mountain.  In fact, this guy thought so well of himself I was afraid he was going to break Connie's heart when someone he thought was better came along.
I had not realized that people living in the county seat of Panguitch considered themselves better than the people in the other towns, even though we were all from the same county.  I was having enough  trouble finding boyfriends in the city without being rejected by one from Panguitch.
I thought Connie was very brave to keep trying to land this guy for a husband.  But if he already thought he was too good for her, wouldn't that make marriage rather difficult?  I thought he was the main reason Connie had made up her mind to go to the University of Utah when the time came for her to go. I suspected she hoped to impress him.
I tried to suggest to her that the University of Utah required high school prep classes if you were to do well.  I feared she might be disappointed, as I doubted if she could have picked a harder school. I had heard that you had to take tests to determine the level of your high school education and smarts, too, and that could be so disconcerting to country kids who got low scores they might give up on a higher education altogether.
Margie was talking about changing high schools so she could go to high school in Utah.  She was anxious for them to start busing the Boulder kids to Escalante high school.
I told her I would not be in any hurry to go to Escalante if she intended to go to the University of Utah.  I knew she would get better college prep classes at Bear River High , if she came back to Utah.
High school students from Bear River very often went to Logan to college.  Margie decided she would ask Aunt Neta if she was willing to take in another niece, as the parents had not been able to secure busing to Escalante.  Aunt Neta said yes, and as I expected, she and Margie got along famously.  Margie had always declared she would be a seamstress, until she found out they were starting to phase sewing teachers out of high school.  So she decided to become a nurse, instead.  In the meantime, she was soon sewing everything Aunt Neta asked of her students and very well, too.  The other students recognized a born seamstress when they saw one and elected her president of the Homemakers, so when the parents in Boulder finally did secure busing to Escalante the following year, Margie decided to go another year at Garland so she could attend the convention in Kansas City as the Bear River Homemakers President. Aunt Neta could not have been more pleased and she and Margie remained good friends the rest of their lives.
I was afraid Connie might think I was trying to keep her from attending the best school, so I stopped discouraging her from going to the U of U.  She had mentioned business school or perhaps going to stewardess school so she could work for the airlines. At any rate, she would not be graduating from Escalante Hi for another year, so we would cross that bridge when we came to it.  I would have been attending the U of U a year by then, so I would know a lot more about what she was up against than I did now.
Connie, Marion, my cousin who was Uncle Reed's oldest daughter, Margie, and I had gone on several camping trips together, and when we did we were very apt to get into a heated argument over religion. Connie and Marion fell naturally into the good Mormon camp and Margie in spite of herself showed the influence of the King skeptics.  I was a little alarmed about these big arguments we started having.  I was afraid they might spell the end of a good friendship between all of us eventually.
Connie hadn't seemed particularly religious to me up until then, but I found out when the subject of religion came up she was a staunch believer as was our cousin Marion.
I already knew Margie and I did not get along most of the time at home.  We might not stay friends either.  As long as we were having fun we could keep from fighting, but wouldn't our basic disagreements about anything and everything keep us drifting apart even if we were sisters?  I was prepared to lose friends on a regular basis, and even the friendship of cousins I wasn't around very much, but I had already been separated more from my sisters than I wanted to be.  I just hoped that this early separation would not make it too difficult for us to have a good relationship down the road, even if we didn't share the same interests, even if Margie declared herself a homemaker and I didn't.
I had always planned to be a writer.  For years Margie refused to read books because I did.  That was carrying childhood reactions to an older sister's interests quite far, since when she finally did start to read, she was perfectly smart.  All she had done was lose the opportunity to benefit from the wisdom found in books at an early age.
With parents like ours, I had always thought we daughters needed to read books.  Otherwise they might prove to be bad influences.  I was always saying to myself I am not going to act like them.  I found my examples of how to act in books, but I wondered where Margie was finding her examples.  Well, Aunt Neta was a better one, but she was inclined to be a bit judgmental.
Once when I had been idly naming the books I had read in a book cupboard Aunt Nethella had left there, Aunt Neta flew into me and pecked me good for bragging.  I wondered how hostile she might be to Aunt Nethella, the English teacher, who owned these books.  Was this hostility generated by her sister or by books?  Margie and I were very similar in our contrasting interests to Aunt Neta and Aunt Nethella.
I never dared argue with Aunt Neta as I would have done with my dad.  She seemed unable to brook any disagreement at all from poor nieces she took in. She did not realize that was the reason I left.  I couldn't live there four years never able to express a single doubt about the religion, alone, to say nothing of talking about a problem in the family, like the alcoholism of her brother for example.
What was it with her?  I could see now a person could be irrational even if they did not drink.  They could be downright unreasonable, but if they were old, what could you do about it?  If I had thought she was approachable at all, I would have stayed.  I didn't think she was.
I hoped Margie's temperament was different than Aunt Neta's.  We had always quarreled.  I attributed some of Margie's irritability to her asthma attacks.  So I always cut her some slack.  Her wheezing even caused me to feel irritable.  I am ashamed to say I would sometimes chide her, "Quit sneezing!"  As if she could help it.  Her wheezing scared me, to tell the truth, so I hated to hear the signs of one of her attacks coming on.
Well, it was good that Margie and Aunt Neta could have the chance to become friends.  Margie did not react to her at all the way I had.
Life in the family of five sisters was getting more complex as we grew older.  I was always thinking about how what we were doing was going to affect our relationships.  I was glad Margie was going to Garland for high school.  I might see her more than I had when she was in Washington with Aunt Vesta for sure, but she liked Aunt Vesta, too, and seemed to get along well there.  I thought she was going to make a good nurse because she knew all about how her little cousin Jim had had to have his blood exchanged when he was a baby because his mother, Aunt Vesta, had R-H negative blood and was allergic to her husband's blood which was positive.  The blood types of the parents being different caused some of their children to have severe difficulties if all their blood was not transfused.  In fact, they would die if not treated.  Jim was a miracle baby who had survived the transfusions for the condition that might have contributed to the death of his parents' first born.  He did not seem to have suffered any impairment either.
Margie had apparently asked a lot of questions to be so knowledgeable about what had happened to our little cousin Jim.  She said Aunt Vesta desperately wanted more than one child, but was almost afraid to try to have another one for fear of this clash between the blood types.
I had never heard of such a thing.  A couple whose blood was not compatible.  Margie also had R-H negative blood, too, which probably caused her to take even more of an interest in Aunt Vesta's troubles.  If her husband to be were to have a certain blood type she could have the same trouble with her children!  So now she not only was prone to asthma but had R-H negative blood!  Margie probably needed to become a nurse so she could keep better track of herself.
I didn't tell any of the family about Mr. K, now an old weak molester, any more than I told them about the others.  I seemed to have been resigned to the fact that there would always be molesters around for the young to contend with.  What else did Mother and Dad expect when they sent their daughters out in the world to live with strangers.  I expected the worst rather than the best, so I was prepared.  Hired girls had to take their chances.  Beggars could not be choosers.

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