Cakes and Dogs

Now we get into cabin stories. This is about the best one.

Aunt Lo and Uncle Gee lived about a quarter of a mile down the road from us. Uncle was a tall, broad, smiling, craggy faced farmer and Aunt Lo was a short, round, true believer, who put 110% into everything she did.

They had 2 boys, Woh and Fum that were in there late teens. The boys had a big old collie named, honest!, Shep. Shep was no pup, he was as big as me on all fours and as big as Mom standing up.

Aunt Lo had promised a wedding cake to a young couple in her church. That Saturday she baked and whipped and iced till she was covered in white dust but the cake was done and it was a beauty.

That cake was half chocolate and half vanilla, buried in white bakers frosting with trim all around it in pink and roses draped over the corners with a big sugar ribbon in the middle behind a small bride and groom. Their names and the date were sculpted under that. Aunt Lo had put tooth picks all over the cake and then covered it with layers of plastic wrap to keep it from the dust on the dirt roads they had to travel. It was so BIG a sheet cake that it took Uncle G and Fum both to load it in the back of the station wagon.

While Aunt Lo got cleaned up, Fum was cleaning out the car with the vaccuume. The doors were all open except the back loading door. Do you remember the windows in the rear of station wagons that could be rolled down? Well, they had one and it was rolled down.

Once again, it was a beautiful day for a wedding, sun lit blue skys with pretty little clouds drifting on a gentle breeze. One of those perfect days when nothing could go wrong.

Because it was such a warm, sunny day all of us kids were out playing in the lilacs. There was a great, empty space in the middle of them, just our size, that kept the heat at bay.Out of the clear blue sky comes this deep rumble followed by a big BOOM!. We were awed that a jet had gone right over our house and were getting out of the bush to look at it when this horrendous scream ripped through the air! Then another!

We bolted for the house but Mom had already cleared the door and was headed, full speed, up the road. We beat feet after her.We knew it was Aunt Lo screaming, she was the only other woman inside hollering distance.

We must have made pretty good time because she was still screaming and trying to kill Shep with her purse when we got there.

She's scream his name and he'd run toward her, like the good dog he was, then she'd swing on him and he'd duck and run away. If she hadn't been so purple it might have been funny but even at 7 I knew purple was the color you got just before you head exploded.

Mom ran right on up but we hung back, a little worried about the swinging purse. Come to find out, Shep was afraid of airplanes, especially the sonic boom kind.

When the boom went off, Fum was the nearest human to hide near. He had gotten to the driver's side of the front seat with his cleaning. Shep had been laying under a tree near the back end of the car.

When the boom rang out Shep spotted Fum, raced to the car, jumped through the back window, came down on the cake, then leaped the back seat and the front one to huddle under Fum.

Aunt Lo had just come out the door and was crossing the yard to leave. She heard the boom, saw Shep fly into the back of the car and started screaming before he got to Fum.

Mom had Fum and Uncle run the cake back into the house and sent us home. She and Aunt Lo cut out the spot where Shep's four feet landed. It was just like a diamond pattern, Mom told us later.

Being an experienced cook, Aunt had made an extra cake for her family. They trimmed a piece out of that one to match the hole, snugged it into the cut out, re- iced the area, minus a few roses and got it back in the car, all in lightening time.

Some how the dog had missed the center where all the special decorations were. All was well, the wedding went excellent and no one ever knew the dog had jumped in the cake.

I always make an extra cake for my family when I am fancy baking, even today.



My little bro was old enough to run well, probably almost two. He was six years younger than me, so that makes it the summer I was almost eight.

We were going to have to move. The landlord wanted to sell the little, yellow house. Some where in here my parents started having problems I was aware of, fighting, dad staying gone a lot and such.

I know I probably don't have the sequences right, memory fails me often. We spent that summer in my Great Grand's cabin "up north", I believe, and moved to the big white house in the fall of that year. Around '63. And that's how I do math.

The cabin was not really a cabin, it was just a small, single story house with that brown gingerbread tar paper siding on it. There was a kitchen with a single light bulb hanging by the wires over the table, a sink with no faucets and a couple small cupboards. There was a window by the table and a small window over the sink. A tiny refridgerator sat in one corner. I think we had a wood cook stove. I know we had a wood heating stove.

A little door lead into the next room, the living area. To the left of the door sat a big, wooden pump organ! We did love that contraption! Knobs to pull and pedals to pump made it a fascinating past time. It took two of us to work it, one to push the keys and one to pump with their hands. We'd play at it till we were too exausted to take turns anymore. (Then we wonder when Mom seems a little "off"!)

There was a couch and one chair, a trap door with a rope hanging from it that pulled the drop down ladder out. It lead to the attic, where we four girls slept. Off the living room was a little bed room where Mom and Aboy slept. On the wall by the kitchen door was a funny knob that looked like a baseball hat with two bills. It turned on the one ceiling light. By the bedroom door was another that you could turn it off with. Very tricky!

The cabin had a large lilac colony out front that shaded the two front windows. There were wind breaks of trees along one side and across the back yard. It always seemed dark inside the cabin to me. Thinking about it now I guess that coming inside from the bright sun would have made it seem darker than it was. I know we kept candles around. What little power we had went out with every wind or rain that passed by.

The pump was around the corner by the back wall of the kitchen. We had several buckets for hauling water to the house. It took at least 4 buckets to do dishes and keep the jug filled in the fridge for drinking. The water all had to be heated on the stoves for cleaning and baths.

I HATED bath days! We took baths by two's in a round tub to use less water. Makes my arms ache just to think about it. It wasn't that the buckets were heavy, it was that you had to pump forever to fill them. I could run the pump and keep my feet on the ground, mostly, but the little girls would do it by two's be cause the handle went up so high they had to jump to catch it. It was a team effort to keep the water running...lol, mom's effort to keep her team busy and out of mischief! Laundry was done in a nearby small town, bless their little laundry mat!

The out house was further back by the trees. Yes, out house.

For the really young out there it was a small shed far out back of the house with a hole dug under it. Their was a bench seat built against the wall with a hole cut into it for doing your business. There was usually a bucket of lime and a shovel near by. You layered the lime over the business every other day or so to keep the smell down. When it was full you dug a new hole and moved the shed.

Ours was a solo seater, pretty small even for small people. There was no light in it. Pretty scary even for big people. All kinds of critters lived in the back yard. There were moles, skunks, possoms, owls, snakes, mice, cats, stray dogs, coons and assorted invisible terrors that only made noises and were never seen. There were bats in the evening and barn swallows in the daytime. Every trip was an adventure.

At night we use "chamber pots" for the nessesary needs. That was a mess for me, too. Being the oldest and largest, it was one of my jobs to take it down the ladder every day and up each night. Totally ick! You did get used to it and it wasn't so nasty feeling, just another job.

What's really funny is that it seems like it was such a wonderful time while we were there, even looking at it from the present, when I understand more about what was going on.


School K to 6

My first day I know Mom fussed me up cute, curly hair and ironed dress, so I would make a good impression on the teacher about what a wonderful parent I had. I would have worn shorts and a t-top.

We must have walked to school together that day because Mom was with me for the first hour or so. The teacher was wonderful, Mrs. Arnold. She was a little heavy for her height, had short, dark, curled hair and liked little kids. I was lucky to have her. She was wearing a dark royal blue dress with short sleeves.

She greeted us at the door and then walked us over to a poster on the wall. To get an idea of where her kids were on the learning trail she asked each child to read as far as they could the alphabet on the chart and a few small words at the bottom. Then she asked each one of us to count as high as we could. While there were no preschools then I began at the top of the class with a few others. We could count well past 100, read the whole alphabet and all the words on the posters.

Why was I so advanced? I'm not sure. Reading to us was something the grandparents did a lot of when we were little because you could do it with all of us at once. Fairy tails, Bible stories, newspapers, kids magazines, TV guide, Reader's Digest, and chapter books; I remember all of them and being on or near a lap, while we listened. I was watching Grama's finger move along the lines while she said the words in a Grit one time and I think I got the idea between the words she said and where her finger was.

I just couldn't stand chapter books as we only got one section a night. I wanted to know how it came out NOW! My curiosity would drive me to beg for another reading.

However it came about, I was going to the library for Dr. Seuss and more before I was 5. I know Mom thought I just memorized the stories at first but when someone gave me a new book one day and I was telling her all about it the next, she interrupted me to ask who read it to me. I told her I did. We are genetically related - she had me fetch the book and read to her from it. My pronunciation was off for new words but I showed her I could read.

The first several years of school were easy for me. Math wasn't much of a problem, except for long division. I was a "teacher's helper" a lot. I had a lot of practice in that at home. I tried to show other kids how to read and such.

I just noticed that there is nothing here about the other students, what Blank wore or how raggedy Blank2 was. Not only was this before I learned any of that mattered, I never learned very well to judge clothes as part of a person until I was much older and frailer. Even now it's just to protect myself from the people who obviously want to be taken for a negative stereotype that I use it unthinkingly. Most of the time I am banging myself in the head for EVER judging by appearances. I hate when I do that.

One of the best dressed girls in my classes was the sneakiest, meanest kid I knew. She could get you in trouble and you would never see it coming. One of the nicest girls I knew kept her hair short like a boy's and always wore jeans and t-shirts. Another nice girl was really plain and had a skin condition, yet another had a wine birthmark on her face. They were really NICE kids!

I liked to play sports at recess with the boys. We also had tops, marbles, Red Rover and cat's cradle around but I liked softball with the boys the best.

I can't really say that I had a lot of friends in school. Maybe, with 5 of us at home I didn't feel the need in my youth. It became more of a problem later.

School was close and we always walked, even in bad weather. Most of the time it was no problem. Sometimes we got annoyed or chased. Just before we moved from the little yellow house I was "wall walking", a forbidden entertainment, took a fall and broke my front top tooth off at an angle.

I didn't always get A's but I did well and my marks for attendance and behavior were always good. I liked school, I liked tests, I like quizzes and spelling bees. I liked story problems and reading. I didn't like history and geography when they came along but mostly I liked learning new things. I still do or I wouldn't be out here in virtual land building web sites and blogging.

If you can entice your child into wanting to know what happens next badly enough to find out for themselves they will learn their whole life.

Next, we move to a new house.


Yellow House Lore

The little yellow house had a lot of things happen there. I guess the bad stuff just sticks better in a memory than the everyday good stuff.

Things I learned in the yellow house:

Don't leave your Teddy Bear where your sister can get it.
Now think about it, folks. My Mom did laundry for 4 kids and 2 adults outside with an old ringer washer and a tin portable double sink. You may remember ringer washers. They smashed the clothes between two rollers to get the water out of them. They smashed anything else you fed them, too. You had to be careful or the clothes would wrap right around one roller and make a nasty, tangled mess. And fingers? Eowwee!

Mom would roll the washer and tubs outside, heat water on the stove for the whites and fill the sinks with plain cold water in one and cold water with vinegar in the other. She would get a load going and then do other chores while it agitated.

Sister Vee was just tall enough to throw Bear in one of the tin sinks. I saw her do it! I don't know what she thought she was doing, she was 3 or so. Bear didn't need a bath! I grabbed both my cheeks, shrieked in disbelief then ran and told Mom.

She huffed out and pulled Bear from the sink and then ran him through the ringers as I stood powerlessly watching. I didn't cry that time, it wouldn't have done any good. Bear was full of water, bear had to go through the wringer. Then she hung him by his ears on the clothes line. My poor bear! What a life he had.

Talking Monkeys are Bad.
I had some pretty neat uncles. Mom's bro joined the Navy. They sent him to Italy once. He came home for the Christmas holidays and brought all his little neices big, stuffed monkeys. They were brown with shaggy fur and big eyes and ears. The one he picked for Vee talked and rolled his eyes when you pulled the string.

The big day arrived and Uncle Jay brought his gifts over. We got them all unwrapped and were dancing around with them, they were almost as large as we were! Then he told Vee to let him see her monk. He held it right in front of her face and pulled the string on the back.

The monkey made Monkey noises and his eyes rolled round and round. Vee made siren noises and ran to hide in Mom's lap. You couldn't pry her out of there with a crow bar. The adults all laughed and tried to kid her out of it but she never touched that monkey again.

Always get your Mom if someone is hurt.
I was always Mom's helper, fetcher, holder, finder, watch her, kid. I was aware of how tired she could get after a day of chasing us around. I got tired just helping her!

One night, Vee fell out of the top bunk in our room. No real surprise, she was always flopping around in bed. She wasn't suppose to get the top bunk but we must have made a deal of some kind. So she fell from the top bunk, no big deal.

I heard her land and start to cry. I jumped out of bed and started shushing her, giving her hugs to comfort her. She settled pretty quickly but kept saying her head hurt and reaching toward the back of it.

Well, I was a big girl and I knew what to do for that! You put a cold cloth on it. So I took her hand and led her off to the bathroom. We got there and shut the door then I turned on the light. I could see what she was pointing at now, the back of her head was bloody. It was all in her hair and everything, ick!

But I was the biggest so I didn't say ick, I said "You're OK, we just need to wash you up a little. I found a cloth and held it under the water till it was cold enough to hurt my fingers then started sponging off the blood.

When I wrung it out in the sink and she saw the red water running down the drain her eyes got bigger and she asked me, "Am I hurt really BAD?"

By now I had found the cause of the problem. She had a button stuck in her head. I reached down with the cold rag in one hand and ran it gently through her hair and over the back of her head again to get it real cold. I told her, "No. Here, hold this and I'll show you."

I passed her the cloth then parted her hair away from the button. It was a metal shank button off a pair of our coveralls. There were red outlines of blood around the little anchor and rope design on it. I took my tiny fingers and put the little nails right at the edge of the button in three places, like a little claw, then popped it out.

"OW! Owie!" she complained, but not loudly. It didn't really hurt now that it was out. I know, because she said, "That feels better!"

"OK, give me the cloth," I ordered. She handed it back and I used soap this time to get all the blood out of her hair. I rinsed the cloth out in cold water till it was all clean and washed her face. We were both sleepy again by this time and she just leaned with her hands on the edge of the sink while I brushed out her hair, careful not to hit the sore spot.

Having successfully completed the routine for her, I led her back to bed. I made her take the lower bunk and climbed to the top one myself. She didn't give me any lip about it, just fell right back to sleep.

What a wonderful child I was! Trying not to bother the folks so they could rest and taking care of the little sis! Right? Nope.

Fact of life: Your best is not always good enough.

When we got up in the morning and were having our cereal I casually asked Mom to please check the back of Vee's head because she fell out of bed and got a button stuck in it last night. I didn't get to the fishing for compliments part where I would have said, I took care of her all by myself!

Mom ran from the sink over to Vee and there was a great big goose egg on the back of her head. Well, fancy that! I didn't know heads could get REAL bumps like in the roads. We all looked at her bump, fascinated.

But that bump set Mom right off. Level two alert, kid down, possiblly fatal damage! She hollered up the stairs for Dad to come down and watch us while she took Vee to the doctor and had gone out the door, with Vee in her arms, before he could rumble down the stairs.

I was pretty surprised. I thought I had fixed her up just fine. I couldn't reach the peroxide but I had done everything else the same as Mom could have. I didn't know why she went so ballistic. I found out though, you bet!

After they got back I heard Mom tell Dad Vee was going to be OK, (see, I KNEW I had done a good job!) and then she said, "Where's Val?" Of course he told her I was in playing with the little kids.

Mom came in and said, "Val, come with me!" She took my hand and led me off upstairs to my room. We went in and she shut the door behind her. I had that "Oh crap now what did I do she's going to kill me," feeling from the moment she had said my name. I was right.

Mom pulled me over to the bed. She sat down and took hold of my shoulders and looked me square in the eye from about 3 inches away from my nose and said in her very serious, teeth grinding voice, "NEVER EVER do that again! !!!! You ALWAYS come and get me if someone gets hurt!!!!! Vee could have had a concussion or died!"

I was tear-ing up on cue with a triple lip quiver running. What the hell was a concussion? How could she die from a button? You bet I didn't ask her anything!

She popped me up and laid me over her knees then gave me several firm whacks. I put all the bells and whistles of despair into this cry. It not only hurt, I still didn't know what I did that was wrong. I thought I was getting spanked for doing a good thing.

Now I'm older and I know concussions are bad and for a head injury you have to keep people awake and infection can (especially back then) make you sick enough to die. It doesn't make me feel any better but I forgave my Mom.

Always turn the light on when you go to the bathroom.
I have always been comfortable in the dark. I used to (and still do) get up and just wander over to do my business, take care of it and go back to bed.

One night I pulled down my undies, hoisted my pj and sat down on the chilly seat in the little bathroom to do number 2. I just got started when there was a sloshing sound beneath my buns. I heroically locked it down, hobbled over to the round knob and turned on the light. I leaned over and looked in the pot.

I was so freaked that lock down was nooo problem! I just ran right out of my panties, through the door and up the stairs. I knocked on the door to my parents room then went in and around to Mom's side. I got right beside her and started whispering, "Get up, help! There's a monster in the bathroom!" I just kept saying it, over and over, till she woke up.
"What?" she whispered back.

"There's a monster in the bathroom, he's in the potty!" I whispered and whimpered at the same time.

"Well just use our bathroom, Val!"

"I will, but Daddy has to go kill the monster! It might get out!" I wailed.

Mom looked perplexed, I was not a tale teller. I looked at her and said, "Honest, but I gotta go!"

I ran to their bathroom and did my business. Behind me I could hear Mom.

"AR. Ar? AR! Wake up. Val says there's a monster in the bathroom downstairs!"

I heard my Dad give one of those dinosaur groans and then I heard his feet hit the floor. I cleaned up and ran out where he was waiting for me in his robe. "Come on," he grumbled gruffly, "Show me your monster."

I really loved him right then. I took his hand and started bravely down the stairs. About 4 feet from the door to the bathroom I froze up. He looked down and me, exasperated. I pointed to the cube of light coming from the little room and told him,"It's in there, in the potty!" and let go of his hand.

The end of the story involves cruelty to a dumb animal. For details, email me. When Dad didn't come right back up, Mom came down. I was still standing there in my jammies. She walked past me to where she could hear Dad cussing up a big storm, stuck her head in the door and said, "Well, what is it Ar?" Then she shrieked and jumped clear back where I was! She had Shrieked RAT!

It was a big one, too. Dad one, rat zero, Val no spanking, Mom, trip to the hardware the next day.

I had never seen one and that one was a river rat. OK, it was a farm rat, but it was bigger than I want to deal with even now.

So live and learn, see you tomorrow.


Bad Boys

Probably the same summer my treasure was broken I had another bad experience on the hill. I believe it has shaped my view of males to some degree, sad to say.

Mom must have gone some place and Dad would have been at his day job, fixing cars. The little kids were likely napping and I was grabbing some treasured solo time down the hill. Grama El was watching us that day.

It was another day that seemed as if nothing could be wrong in the world. Warm, breezy, sunshiny; A great day to be outside.

I really can't remember what I was doing, probably nothing special, looking at shiny rocks could occupy me for hours. I used to look for "picture rocks". These had multiple colors and if you looked carefully you could see pictures of far away places. I found caves, hills, oceans and the rare face. There were also "story rocks" which were picture rocks with things on every face that you could tell a story about. What ever I was up to I was way down the hill playing in the shade of the old maple tree.

This was a great climbing tree. It was big and solid. I'm guessing it was quite old, 70 years or so, anyway. The trunk was "Y" shaped and only about 2 feet high before the split. This made it easy to get up into the fork, lean, belly down, against one arm of the "Y" and stretch tall to grab the next branch then scramble up. It also meant that there was lots of shade from the double crown. It was always cool there, even on the hottest days.

I was intent on whatever amusement I was involved with because I didn't hear the two bigger boys coming down the hill behind me. I know I was crouching down and looking at or playing with something on the ground in front of me. I didn't know anyone was there until one of them said, "Hey - Little Girl!"

Of course, I jumped right up and turned to face them in my surprise. I didn't know these boys. They wore the standard kid outfit that year, blue jeans and a horizontally striped t-shirt. I thought they were smiling kind of funny but I said a shy little "Hello" and waited to see what they wanted. I wasn't afraid. I had not learned to be afraid of other humans, yet. I was out-numbered and aware of it.

"You have to go behind the tree and close your eyes." The taller one told me. His face was all narrow and skinny. He had pointy eyes, a narrow chin, pronounced cheek bones, brown eyes and brown hair with an unruly duck tail hair cut. (his hair would darken along with his soul as he grew)

I was puzzled and probably looked it. "Huh?"

The other one, the shorter one, had lighter brown hair, dark eyes, rounder features but the same funny smile on his face as he explained, "We have to pee. You go around the other side of the tree and don't look."

Now I was enlightened! I knew all about boys and peeing outside. I had cousins and uncles on farms all over the state. I felt less threatened now, they just needed some privacy. I was a polite child so I said, "OK." and ran around the down hill side of the big tree then stood facing the back of the church.

One of them said, "No, you have to scoot down so we know you aren't peeking while we pee!"

So I slung my butt down between my knees and, for good measure, covered my eyes with my hands. It's just as well I did.

Some of you may have seen it coming, but I never did.

Those two boys, Junkie Human and Bowel Movement, lifted their little cocktail wienies and peed all over me - in my hair, down the sides of my neck and soaked the back of my shirt.

It was just like the window all over again. I was stunned. First I thought it was raining then I knew what it was. I jumped up and looked through the trunk at them as they shoved their weapons of shame back in their tiny zippers, laughing their heads off. I sucked in air to holler for Grama and there I stuck. So I took off running up the hill as fast as my short legs could go, getting purple and blue from not breathing, when about half way up I got the screams of rage and shame out.

Grama was Johnny-on-the-spot and came shooting out the front door. I loved her! She started taking names and flinging curses before she could understand what I was upset about. That lady was fast at the math, fleeing girl, two boys running and laughing = one angry Grama.

Once again I was crying so hard I could barely talk. Grama came to meet me, saw and smelled what the problem was and just picked me up anyway and took me in to bathe and put clean clothes on me. She was a big woman with a comforting, large breast area. I cuddled right down and sobbed out my shame.

I have hated those two boys ever since. To forgive you have to be able to understand the action. What possible reason did they have to mess with my day? Who taught them that would be funny? Did they pull this on other little kids? I told all my friends to stay away from the two bad boys, so they didn't get any of my pals.

My revenge is that they did nothing with their lives. They grew up to be liars, thieves, drunks, drug dealers and disease carrying males who had to pay to get a woman. I don't believe they have any off-spring. So yes, there is a creator.

I ran into one of them at my workplace once and when it was his turn I put his order down in front of him and said, "Pissed on any little girls, lately?" with my most evil, hate filled face on. He had the grace not to try and look like he didn't know what I was talking about. He just put his head down, took his stuff and left quietly. I could have killed him and his pal even those 15 years later.

Is the world not callously cruel enough to humans without us being cruel to each other?


Moving Right Along

I could write 10,000 words on the childhood I shared with my sibs. Let's get a few fact into place and then hit the high spots so I can move on to my teen years, which is where my life as an individual really began.

We were blue collar folks with red neck leanings and aspired toward more. My Dad held several jobs in his younger parenting years but the two that are remembered by me are his job as a mechanic at a Chevy Dealership and his second job as a gutiar player/singer in a local contry music band.

Mom didn't work when we were little but had to start picking up the slack as we grew and worked for an auto manufacturer sewing car seats.

My sisters joined me quickly. We were all about 13-15 months apart. (Whew, MA!) This made us a very tightly bonded group. Mom held off a couple years before my brother joined us. He was 6 years younger than me. I got to be an only child my first year and 3 months, that was it. I craved being an only child often when I was growing up. I think most kids with sibs dream of it frequently.

There wasn't much gender differentiation in our lives until Ay, the brother, was added to the mix. We girls did whatever Dad was doing or Mom made us do. It doesn't take many brains to figure out that guys had it better than girls. We were struggling against gender boundries before we knew what they were.

It was a constant fight to get to play games and sports with the boys in the 'hood. We didn't just like sports, we were good at them. As an adult, any form of "you can't do ____, you're a girl!" still sends me crusading into the education of ignorant humans. It's the big, black button in my life and has caused many fights or debates.

We have all participated in many sports, softball, baseball, football, swimming, bare-back riding, track, wrestling, golf, tennis, bowling and just about anything else you can name.

I started learning to ride dirt bikes when I was nine. We two older girls rode in dirt track scrambles and hill climbing events. I took 2nd in state at 13, my 12 year old sis took 3rd. We would have taken first & second but we threw a climb because we were beating her boyfriend out of first and she BEGGED me to let him beat us so he wouldn't stop liking her. It stunk, but she was my sister. What's a girl to do?

This isn't to say we couldn't dress up as cute as puppies and lay the boys low with our charms. We did that well, too, when Mom could get us to wear dresses. We could even dance, a little. We learned standing on the toes of our brave uncles. We sang enthusiastically.

We could diaper a baby, cook a meal, fix a button, iron anything, clean a house and do laundry by the time we were each 12 or 13. We knew basic first aid. That was OJT, mostly ( on the job training).

We could also adjust a chain, change a bike tire, check the oil in a car, pump gas, fish, baiting our own hooks, (most of us) and cleaning our own catches. We could run off snakes, pick off blood suckers, milk cows, feed chickens, fetch the eggs, feed a baby, a calf, bunnie or kitten by bottle, weed a garden and keep from getting caught in a strawberry patch.

Dad taught us gun safety with a .410 rifle. We had targets and did pretty well. Uncle taught us archery. I missed the 3 stacked hay bales and put an arrow through a knot hole in the barn wall. The arrow smacked into the loft ladder my Grampa was climbing down. That got me restricted from the bow for a week. I consoled myself stealing a few fat, ripe strawberries.

So there's an overview. Back to the nitty gritty tomorrow.


Kid Games

The little yellow house was great for kids. It had big trees. You could climb up and play space pilot or, if the wind was blowing you could ride the bucking broncos. If you leaned against the trunk from a large branch you were perfectly perched to read a book. When you were really quiet up there no one could find you.

The large catelpa tree had beautiful blossoms that could be strung into leis. We would make two apiece and then wrap towels around our swim suits and hula all over the yard. My Mom had an Aunt in Hawaii that sent us what we called seed bead necklaces and such trinkets. We loved them. It inspired us to learn about faraway places and the hula.

The garage roof was a permanent point of contention between my parents and us. A retaining wall held the side walk away from the garage. This meant that there was about a two foot gap between the edge of the roof and the sidewalk. The gap was probably about a 6 foot drop to the ground.

The danger didn't seem severe to us but Mom always thought we'd get killed there. The gap wouldn't have been a problem but we loved to sit on the warm, tarpaper roof or lay there and sun bathe. That meant crossing the gap and that meant making the Mom angry if she caught you.

You could bounce down the rock wall and get banged up or slide down the garage wall and get splinters. Of course, you might miss them both and just drop six feet and get the wind knocked out of you.

One sister was on the roof, slipped, and managed to grab the edge of the eaves to hang full length (about three feet, including her arms) and then drop. That created a whole new game for us to play. Sort of like Tarzan we would run up to the edge, lean across, grab the edge, swing by our arms and then drop down just to run up and do it again.

We had tricycles, clamp on roller skates, a wagon, whistles, balls, real sleds that steered (sort of), a tobbagan that we only used when Dad and Mom went sliding with us, dolls, teddy bears, of course, and a troupe of three to start with that expanded to four when Ar got big enough to play outside with us.

Our repertoire of games and entertainments was extensive. Inside, outside, in the car, at the farms, we always had something to do. If we didn't have a game for the occasion, we made up new ones. They were new to us, anyway.

For the car there was singing; Henry the 8th; 99 Bottles of Beer; Side by Side; Old Mill Stream; You are My Sunshine; We had rare harmony but frequent enthusiasm. We had " I see something you don't see, a guessing game; Road ABC's, find the alphabet in order from signs on the road; Button, Button, Who's Got the Button, with 8 hands to hide a penny in this could go on a long time.

Reading aloud and storytelling were also favorites in the car. Dad could screw up any fairy tale and make us laugh. Like "The Three Bears" where Mama bear had cinnamon rolls for breakfast and Baby bear jumped into his bed so hard that he and Goldilocks went crashing down. He did this one at home once and jumped into the baby crib to demonstrate. He leaped the rails like it was a race car and it did come crashing down. Mom didn't laugh. Dad fixed it later.

For the farms we would visit Loft Leaping was a big favorite with all of us. First, you had to make a big pile of loose hay. (note: bales WILL NOT work! V. O. E.) Then, you had to clear a path to the ladder that was safe for little kids. After that - climb up, jump down, rake hay back up and repeat till exhausted, sweaty and your shirt and hair are full of hay crumbs.

Catch the kitten was a great barn game for us. I am not sure how the kittens liked it. We have several pictures of us with the wild felines, so we won at least once in awhile.

Outside games were fairly common; Statues; Red Rover; Simon Says; jumping ropes, climbing trees; marbles; yo-yo's, of course; hop scotch, Keep Away; Dodge Ball; Hide and Seek are the ones I can remember.

Don't forget sports! We played all of them. Don't you dare tell us girls can't play, either. If you did we messed with your game till no one could play! I was scared to death of getting tackled in football and could catch fairly well - great advantages for a receiver! Softball was where I could shine. I could "hit the hole", which meant I could put the ball where there were no players 9 out of 10 times, and I could hit hard enough to get a few home runs in my pocket.

It wasn't all skill and talent, there was a little luck involved. At school one day a boy hit a major pop up. It went miles into the air. I ran back and watched it and ran back and stopped.....Then I just KNEW it was going to thump me right on the noggin' and I threw my arm up over my head - mitt up! It dropped in - just like downtown! Too sweet a memory, what a thrill!

For inside we had some board games but, most of the time, we played card games. We learned them from friends and out grandparents and a few Mom or Dad taught us. It was cheap entertainment and worked for lots of kids at once.

Our imaginations were vivid and we put on skits and plays that were almost as dangerous to us as crossing the street. We made puppets and stages, used our dolls and pets for actors, contrived our own clothing for costumes and generally could spent most of a day putting one together.

I'll fill in some details tomorrow.

Wayback, the end of the worst day ever

While we sat in a row in the green and tan waiting room on the hard chairs Dad told us his part of the story.

He had quieted the kids, fed them breakfast, fixed the window, got the mess from the door and the wall cleaned up and patched the door. We didn't have portable phones back then so he had Vee stay near it incase Mom called.

When she did call he was angry at first. He said he got right over it. He knew if it wasn't really important Mom would not have asked him to get to the hospital so he did what most boys do when they have a problem and called his Dad.

His Mom, my Grama, answered the phone and said Grampa was out plowing a field when Dad asked to talk to him. There was no way around it, he had to tell her I was hurt and at the hospital and I guess she got a little excited. She hollered for Dad's little brother, the Uncle that gave me the gift, without remembering to put the phone down first and got Dad right in the ear!

Uncle was sent to fetch Grampa while Grama got all the details from Dad. Grama wasn't a fluttery woman by any stretch of the imagination but, back then, being in the hospital meant you were dying. She assured Dad that as soon as Grampa could get in from the field they would drive into town and watch the little ones while Dad used their car to come to the hospital.

That problem was all taken care of, now all he had to do was find the bear. The little girls were napping in the playpen by then so Dad asked Vee to come upstairs and help him look for my Teddy.

If you remember, earlier that day I had searched for the stick horse. That means I had dug under the bed and in the toy box and closets. I also ran out of the house without making my bed. Vee got scared awake and hadn't made hers, either.

When Dad told Mom about the state the room was in he was HOT all over again. We were taught to take care of our clothes and toys. He said it looked like six kids hadn't done a thing but play in that room for a month. He said Vee started right in making her bed. Then, Dad said, he rememberd how helter skelter the day had started and told her to stop.

They had to find the bear. They would look in my bed first, then start picking up toys till they found him. It was a good plan. Vee told me later they found him in less than 15 minutes. He was under HER bed. When I got up he must have gotten tossed off the covers I flung off that morning and slid just under the edge. She found him because one paw was sticking out.

Now everything was ready and they just had to wait for our Grands to get there. Dad told us he took Vee into the kitchen to fix a little lunch. They were just going to have a glass of milk and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. (this was before pb&j, which is much shorter to write) Dad got everything ready and they decided to eat in front of the t.v. like it was a little party just for them.

They sat the plates on the old, tin, t.v. trays we had and tuned into "I Love Lucy". Dad got one bite of his sandwich and the phone rang. Worried it was the hospital again, or Mom, he jumped right up without thinking and over went his tray with the milk on it, right into the carpet, all over the center of the room. It made a big blobby spot.

Those tin trays are noisy when you tip them over. The the little kids woke up, crying, of course.

In all this confusion Dad answered the phone and watched Vee trotting to the bathroom and coming back with the dark blue towels. She had most of the spill cleaned up before Dad got done on the phone and the babies quiet. Not bad for only a little over 3 years old. Dad said he only had to rinse out the towels for her. With four kids Mom had trained us early in Basic Clean Up.

The call had been Grama calling to say they were leaving right then. It would only be about 20 minutes and he could join Mom and bring me the bear. Dad and Vee just had time to finish their lunch before they arrived.

And there we sat. He finished up by saying he had better call them to give them the latest news and got up to go find a phone. Then the Nurse came out and called for Mr. and Mrs. P. Mom got up, leaving me with a look that said "Sit, Stay!" and went to see what she wanted.

She and the Nurse went to find Dad. They all went down the hall we had come out of after the X-ray. I sat alone and, finally, quiet, with my Teddy holding my head up for me.

Another Nurse came out with a small bag wrapped in a white wash rag. She brought it over and sat down beside me. I looked at her. "Val, this is only ice. I wrapped it up so it won't drip on you. All I am going to ask you to do is hold in in your sore hand. It will make it feel better." Then she waited.

I knew what Mom would tell me and Dad would be right behind her. I raised my head, lowered my Teddy to my lap and took my first real look at my hand. The poor fingers were missing a lot of skin. One of my finger nails was black. The whole thing was about twice as big as it should have been and red all over like hamburger. I was grossed out. I turned to her and took the ice in my good hand then GENTLY eased it under the still curled fingers. I couldn't really hold it, I just held my hand palm up and let it rest there.

The nice Nurse smiled at me and said, "Good girl, now just relax. It will be better in a few days." "Not a chance," I thought, but I picked up my bear and cuddled him to my cheek. She got up and went back wherever nurses come from.

The clock on the wall of the waiting room said two twenty five. Dad and Mom came back looking almost happy. They came over to get me and Mom said, "I don't know how, but you didn't break even one bone. We just have to keep ice on it and let you rest for a few days and it will be all better!"

Dad picked me up and we went out to the cars. I rode with Dad so Mom could stop to get some Epsom Salt from the drug store. Dad put me down in the front seat and strap my lap belt. He got in on his side and started the car. We pulled out of the parking lot and headed for the house. I don't remember another thing after that. I have always fallen asleep to the sound of wheels going around and if ever a girl was worn to a frazzle it was me that day.

I imagine Dad carried me up to bed when we got home and Grama would have tucked me in, she was great at tucking in. I slept till the next day.

I know a few days later my nail fell off. I saved it to carry in my pocket. I showed it to Jay along with the naked finger and grossed him out good. I don't recall how I apologized to him or made up for his black eye. (yes, I officially blacked his eye. Tough girl!) He didn't buy me another yo-yo, either. We were neighbor friends for years after that so we must have worked out something.

Our room got cleaned up as soon as I was mobil again.

Dad put my horsie back together and patched the hole in the wall so you could hardly see it.

They never used the stick from our horses to hold windows open again.

Life went on and I never had eight hours that bad again for years and years.


Wayback, Early Afternoon

Needless to say, this had been going on WAY too long by now. Everyone was tired, annoyed and getting hungry. Mom was trying to deal with me and worry about the houseful of screaming kids she left Dad with at the same time. She was ready to crawl under a rock in shame, too. Apparently she made a decision. She walked over to me and took hold of my top knee and squeezed until I looked at her. "You stay right here on this table and don't you move!" she growled with a shake of her finger at my nose.

I had heard that one enough times to know she meant it. I nodded and curled back up. Then she left the room. I guess she asked the nurse to stay and watch me because I know she wouldn't leave me alone. I really don't remember anything but the dim room, the cold table, crying helplessly forever and a day and the pain in my hand.

She must have gone to a phone someplace. I can imagine the conversation. The phone would ring in the house with a hole in a wall, a hole in a door and a window stuck at the top of the frame. Three girls had been calmed down, dressed, put in front of breakfast and told Mom and Val will be back later. Val is fine. Mom is fine, eat your cereal! They would be watching cartoons in the living room with a Dad who was worried about how badly his oldest girl was hurt and how he was going to pay for a doctor.

Ring...Ring! Hello? Mate? It's me. I'm still at the hospital. She would have to explain that I was totally uncontrollable and wanted my Teddy Bear. It will be in her bed under the covers somewhere.... I know I have the car.

Dad would be grumbling over every option for getting a teddy bear to a little girl with no car and no one to watch the little kids. Mom would be trying to be calm and explaining why in h--- the bear had to be brought and, finally, she would break down and tell him I had not stopped crying and every time they touched my hand I screamed and what if she loses all her fingers...Oh, mate, please, find a way to get over here with the bear, we need you. Then the (real) operator would have broken in asking for more coins and Mom would not have had any so she would have had to hang up and start praying.

When she came back in the room I knew it even though my face was away from the door because the light from the hall sprayed into the room like a flashlight beam. The nurse left to get her lunch. Mom came over to me and started rubbing my back and telling me everything was going to be all right soon. Just be a brave girl a little longer. She had a whole list of nice things to say that I guess she learned from her mom.

The tears still would not stop but they were slowing and had lost considerable volumn. The rejected Panda stared at me from the chair where he had been forgotten. The eye of the storm, you might call it. We both rested while we waited. The almost peace couldn't last. The doctor came back.

I suppose I could be remembering him a little harshly but, I swear, when he came into the room and shut the door it was darker. There was no smile on his face this time. He looked at my mom and I could feel him looking at me, huddled over my mangled hand. I just KNEW he was going to be mean to me. My tears picked up some of the lost speed and I whimpered and snuffled loudly. He announced, "Mrs. P, I want you to leave the room while I take the X-Ray. Val will be just fine with me. He was trying to emote "firm" but it came across to me as menacing. "I'll have the nurse in with us so there's nothing to worry about," he continued, to placate my Mom.

I panted a little faster. I knew what he was going to do. If she left me alone with him he would mash my hand on that plate! To give Mom credit, inspite of her embarrasment, previous tears and stress she looked him right in the eye and explained, "I couldn't leave Val alone in a strange place, Doctor. She's too upset already." I wanted to cheer. It didn't last.

I guess he expected that answer because he gritted out between his teeth, "Then we will attempt to get the hand on the plate only ONE more time. If it can't be done you will both have to leave."

Mom and I looked at each other. Waves of tears stood in my eyes just waiting for their cue to flood my face. Mom wasn't doing much better. She explained very slowly, for the umpteenth time, that the plate was in front of a camera that would take a picture of my bones to see if they were broken and needed to be fixed. The tears cut loose but the sobbing held off. I just hiccupped now and then while she continued to tell me that it was very important to see if they needed mending. I HAD to put my hand flat on the plate to get a good picture or we would have to do it again and it would hurt again. Would I try again, like a good girl?

I nodded helplessly. Again, they put my bed by the machine, brought the plate down where I could reach it and squared it up. I knew what was coming and I started gulping back cries as hard as I could. Squeeks kept sneaking out between my teeth. I slid my legs under the strange table. My right hand moved down and rested on my lap. I twisted a little sideways so my armpit was at the edge of the table and slowly brought my crumpled hand over plate on the end of my crimped elbow.

The nurse went into the small room in the corner. My Mom stayed behind me, rubbing my back. The Doctor was across the plate from me. By minute particles I moved my hand closer to the plate. When there was about a half inch to go I started to un-curl my fingers v-e-r-y----s-l-o-w-l-y. I was crying again. I don't know how. There shouldn't be a tear left in my body anywhere. But, Oh, how it HURT!

I was almost there when the Doctor's hand shot out like a hen's beak after a worm and grabbed my wrist. I had been watching my hand and concentrating on carefully unfolding it. He startled me and it HURT! I was back at full speed, full volumn as quick as a wink. He was hurting me. I couldn't pull my hand back!

Mom shouted, "DOCTOR!" in an admonishing tone. He snapped, "Mrs. P!!", I screamed over both of them as they glared at each other.

Then the Angel of Death came for me on a glittering path of light.

I was almost right. The door was flung open. I had tears going full blast and when the door opened into the dark room it look like the light was glittering. And my eyes were squinted up in pain so it looked like a big, black angel backlighted in the door.

It was my Dad. He had one hand on the door knob and in the other he held my bear. I guess he would have heard me clear from the waiting room and might have gotten a little worked up on his way in. I must have sounded just about as bad as I had when the window first landed on my hand.

Dad strode three big steps into the room. He looked at the three of us with his "What is going on here!" face. He gave a second look at the doctor who quickly let go of my wrist. He moved Mom and leaned over behind me on the table. I looked up into his face and knew he was angry. I also knew he wasn't angry with me. Dad was angry with the Doctor! I wasn't in trouble, now, the Doctor was. I sighed with relief.

"What's she supposed to do?" he growled into the face of the Doctor.

The Doctor was suddenly quiet, polite and considerate. "We want her to lay her hand flat on the center of the plate so we can take an X-ray," he stated in a voice like a teacher's. "I guess it is quite painful for her, " he finished.

Dad knew I wasn't stupid, not by a long shot. He usually talked to me just like I was grown up. I was crying more softly now and my hand was clutched next to my chest again. "Val," he said, "is that right?"

I looked at him above me. His face looked funny upside down but I didn't even grin. I nodded to him. He pulled my good hand gently to the right, stuffed my wonderful Teddy into it and let it go. I hugged Teddy - hard! "They can't make it stop hurting till they get the picture. Here's your damned bear. Put your hand on the plate."

I twisted and laid my bent arm across the plate and put each finger flat one at a time. My face was buried in my bear while I screamed into his tummy. The Doctor did NOT grab me this time.

The nurse did something that hummed and clicked and the doctor said, "We will have the results in about an hour, come back then. He went out, leaving the door open behind him.

My ordeal was over.

Dad picked me up and I calmed down a lot. All that was left of my 5 hour freak out were the hiccups and the mess.

We walked a little way down the hall to a lady's room door. Dad put me down and told us, "I'll meet you in the waiting room."

Mom and I went in to do the routine. I could have done it but Mom did it for me. She ran the water till it was good and cold while she got some brown paper towels from the dispenser then soaked them good. She laid one on the back of my neck and used the others to wash my face and hands and arms and knees and legs. Cooling down was part of the routine.

Using some dry ones she went after the mess on my shirt. It was pretty much hopeless but we both felt better for her trying. She got a comb out of her purse and worked carefully through the rats nest it had become. It took a while. I just stood there with my hand hidden under Teddy and my head hanging low.

When she finished I gave a great sigh and turned around to look at her. I must have still looked pretty pitiful. She dropped right down and hugged me carefully as I leaned my right side against her. "I'm really sorry, Mommy," I mummbled into her hair.

Then I told her everything, how the gift yo-yo got broken, about how it hurt my hand to slug Jay on his face, how it made me feel so bad inside that I hurt him and that I didn't know what to do to fix it. When I got through to "and that was why I wanted my horsie." I just stopped.

She had held me the whole time. Now she stood up. "When we get all done here and get things straightened out at home I will call Jay's Mother to see when you may go over and apologize. Dad will put your stick horse back together. It will all work out." and she reached for my good hand to lead me to the waiting area.

A load lifted off my chest that I hadn't realized was there. Now Mom would help me fix the mess I had made. What a wonderful thing a parent is!

It was about 1:00 now. Stop back for the final installment.

Wayback still, yes it's all one day

We lived in a small town about 10 miles from anywhere. My Dad's folks had farms about seven miles south of town. My Mom's people lived in town about 10 blocks away. There was a doctor in town we saw when we needed attention. His office was about 7 blocks from the house. In those days he might set a broken arm but he didn't have any fancy machines. They cost too much money.

Inspite of the panic, Mom and Dad decided I had to go to the emergency room at the hospital in the next town. They knew I would need to have an X-ray. That meant that for 14 miles I kept crying and Mom tried to calm me while she wheeled down the roads like a ridge runner with my sirens reverberating in her ears. I was too short to see out the windows but I could tell by the trees that we were going FAST!

I cradled my wrapped hand next to my chest and protected it with my other hand. It throbbed and tingled and ached. Sobs shook me. I could NOT stop crying. I had reached the point where the tears perpetuated themselves. If I had been a baby I might have fallen asleep but I wasn't tired so I just kept sobbing. I couldn't hear what Mom was saying over my own noise so I could only sit there in my misery and bawl like a lost calf.

When the car screeched to a stop Mom jumped out, ran around the car, un-buckled my lap belt, lifted me up in her arms and ran into the hospital. Being moved made my hand send pain flairs clear to my shoulder. I was back at full throttle, full volumn in under ten seconds. Let me tell you, they don't make you wait in line when your kid is screaming like I was! We were showed right to an examining room and they made SURE the door was closed.

A nurse followed us in. I would guess she asked all the same questions they do now when you show up at emergency. While Mom answered her I huddled in a forlorn pile on the table where she had put me, shuddering with the force of my tears. I had no idea what we were doing. I only knew that I HURT and I wanted someone to make it STOP! When the nurse left Mom tried to hold me next to her and rock me but that hurt, too, and she quickly resorted to rubbing my back and crooning in my ear.

The real fun began when the doctor joined us. He spoke with my Mom a moment then stepped to the table and tried to talk to me. I was old enough to be ashamed to have snot all over my tear soaked shirt like a little kid and my hair every which way. I tried to hear him but I still couldn't stop crying and that was scaring me. I had never cried so much in my whole life.

When I managed to understand he wanted to examine my hand I moved the protective one down about 2 inches and tried to hold my hand out to him. Unbending my elbow sent arrows of fire ripping from my hand all over my body and I burst into a helpless, pathetic repetition of "Ow, ow, ow, owwie, OW!" through my tears. I will give him credit for trying to be understanding but I know he had never been in pain as totally encompassing as I was dealing with that day. I also knew he didn't have any kids.

I knew I had only hurt my hand but I hurt everywhere. My head throbbed, my eyes stung, my nose was swollen shut, my chest ached and my whole arm was frozen from pain.

The Doctor wanted me to let him MOVE the fingers on my hand! Every time he touched it I jerked it back and curled up around it. He and Mom would coax me back upright and I would try to cooperate again only to end up with a fresh scream bursting out of me when he touched that hand. He was getting upset. I remembered he said, "Mrs. P., If you can not control your child you will just have to take her ELSEWHERE!"

Completely stumped and frustrated, they decided to just get an X-ray. A nurse came in and pushed my table and me down to a funny smelling, dark room and left me there with my Mother.

I craved comfort and freedom from pain more than man in a desert craves water. I latched onto the idea that my Teddy Bear would make me feel better. I tried to tell Mom but now I had the hiccups as well as the endless tears. Understanding a little kid is hard most of the time and even my Mother had trouble sorting out the words from between the hiccups and the sobs. I knew she wasn't getting it so I just said it over and over. " I want my Teddy Bear." She finally got it and looked at me like I was nuts.

"Teddy's at home, Val. You can have him when we get home." she told me in an exasperated voice. I wanted him now.

The doctor came back in. He moved my table over by a big square plate and told me he wanted me to put my hand down flat in the middle of it. I understood, I tried, I cried and I failed; several times. I could get my whole arm over it with the elbow still bent, I could lay the whole arm on the plate, I just couldn't get the fingers to un-curl. It hurt too much.

After about five tries he took my wrist and tried to PUT my hand flat and I brought up emergency octave number one to full volumn. That had done it. Finally, I was afraid of him and his supposed to be firm but really mean and scary tone of voice and I curled up on my side and screeched, hiccupped, cried, "I want my TEDDY BEARRRRRRR!!"

He didn't know what to do. My Mom was in tears by this time and completely embarrassed by my behavior. No parent likes to see their child hurt and she KNEW I was in real pain. She also knew we had to have an X-ray to see how badly I had ruined my fingers but she couldn't stand to make me scream. I don't know what she said to the doctor but he went away and, in a little while, a nurse came back in holding a Teddy Bear in her hands. Mom had been rubbing my back and shusshing me again and I was a little calmer, like a tropical storm instead of a hurricane. I looked up when the nurse came in and knew instantly what she was trying to do. TRICK ME!

Did she think I was STUPID!? THAT thing wasn't my bear! It was a brand new, never been hugged PANDA bear. MY bear was a little brown flannel bear! I must have said all these things out loud because the nice nurse looked thunderstruck at my protest when she was trying to be kind.

Mom took the bear and brought it to me. "Here, Honey, here's a bear."

I managed to get one breath clear of any hiccups and shouted in despair, "NOT MY BEARRRRRRRRRR!" I collasped into fresh torrents. I am sure they were all amazed at my stamina and determination. I still had untapped tears that flooded down my face in a white water channel past my nose to run through my saturated shirt and into the waist band of my shorts even though I must have been crying for several hours.

It was almost noon. Stop back for the rest of the story.