I don't like spiders and snakes

One of the first things we did as we got chores done that first day was run off to explore. For some reason I got off all by myself. It's too bad because I could have used a witness.

I headed right for the pond. The water drew me like a seagull to french fries. You just cut across the back and side yards to walk right down to the old mill dam. In fact the place used to be called The Mill Pond. Now we called it Two Flag Dam, I have no idea why. I should look into it.

The dam was only about 12 feet from the top to the drop but is seemed taller to me as I was about four feet and a piece now. There was a 12 or 15 inch wide steel beam to walk across on or several 2 inch bars over the back of the dam to tip toe across on very carefully. Of course, the first time I took the narrow steel to prove I could do it.

Once you were across you continued east about 100 feet until you came to the first access road. People could park in that area to fish or further on about 25 feet it forked south or east where you could hunt or train your dogs in the woods and fields further in.

East took you up to where the exit road hung a sharp left and another trail continued east past the swamp, the sand pit, the field and the pines. South took you along the shore of the lake through the woods and pines then became a path that led to a clearing. At the very edge of the clearing on the south there was a perfect for sitting on tree stump where you overlooked the creek feeding the pond from the east. It filtered through a little swamp before becoming open water just as the whole thing turned north and became the pond proper.

And yes, I wandered through most of this in my hour or so but did so quickly. I got to know it all much better later. But this day I ended up at the perfect for sitting stump and sat looking over the swamp with the creek cutting a trail through it to the pond and daydreaming of being Diana the huntress or Maid Marian or a wood sprite or a druid princess.

It was just perfect back there. You could still here the harley's and the big trucks but they were far off and easily ignored. The sun drew a yellow path across the waters for the turtles and fish to sport in. In the woods behind me the jays scolded and the squirrels chattered a challanged back at them. The frogs and crickets sang. The air smelled of lake and hay in the heat as well as the lilies clustered all over the near edge of the swampy area. The stump was comfortable with a root exposed just where your foot would brace naturally. I sat and watched the blue heron poking around for treats across from me.

There were dragon flies dancing and fish rising and frogs leaping and turtles sunning. I loved it from the first moment I found it and it was all mine. But as I gazed out over my new kingdom I noticed what appeared to me to be a beaver or muskrat swimming just to the left of my seat and headed my way. He was out about 10 yards but closing fast. He was in the sun lane. It was a little hard to see.

I had never seen a wild beaver so I got up and moved to the shade of the tree line east of me, slowly so I didn't startle the critter and looked again. Just then 2 huge coils popped up in the water behind it and I realized that the thing with a head the size of a large beaver was a HUGE SNAKE!

I was still a city kid in training for the country I guess because I lit out of there, racing like the devil was coming for me, tore through the field, crashed through the forests, whipped in and out of the pine trees, raced over the parking area, across the fishing area, levitated over the dam, slashed throught the swampy field, staggered across the side yard to the back door and collapsed in a chair safely inside the house. I could not catch my breath! I think I did a 1.5 minute mile that day.

Mom and the kids are all "What happened?!" and I'm stammering and gasping for enough wind to do more than hiss, "SSSssssssnsssnss snssss!" I finally gulp out "SNAKE!!! BIG SNAKE!!" and they start looking out the window and such before I can finally tell them where I saw it. Mom makes me show them but I didn't want to share my clearing very much.

We all went back out to look for it but, of course, it had probably eaten all the frogs it needed and was gone. So was the heron and most of the turtles had run for cover. Even the crickets and squirrels were quiet.

So Mom issued a strict go in pairs rule that we all broke as soon as we were out of sight of the house. We did have whistles and calls for emergencies and were usually where we could hear each other.

After some searching in the Encyclopidia we decided it was probably a black rat snake. But it could have been a water moccasin. When I described it I told them the head was as big as a can of frozen juice. The thing was huge.

Welcome to the wilderness!


There's a Red House over Yonder

The red house move is a story all in itself. We had a limited time to get out of the house in town and the people in the red house didn't want to move out. They were finally evicted but totally trashed the place. The kitchen was bad enough painted a dark purple, add obsenities in black paint on the walls and it was pretty dreary. The basement was just a dirt "Michigan" basement and had been used as a bathroom. It was that way all over the poor house and toss in garbage, unbagged, all over for the final picture. Ick!

The good news was it sat on 5 acres+, had a pond about 50 yards east of the house that fed down to aand was state land on three sides. There was a large tree out in the west side yard just screaming to be climbed and a forest across the road and behind the house it went all around the pond for wandering and hunting in. Aside from the cars doing 90 mph down the road, it was perfect.

There was a massive family and friends clean up day, of course, to get the place at least fit to live in. We cursed the previous tenants with every bucket of filth and trash we hauled out and breathed deeply of the pine and pond scented air the second we were ou the door.

There was a pile of stuff to burn and bury at the end of the drive and Dad got our attention when he hauled the TV off the truck and dropped it on top of the pile. He looked at us all watching him, bent over, picked up a rock and said, "This is why you don't throw balls in the house," then proceeded to put the 4 inch rock through the vaccuume tube.

It EXPLODED! BOOM! and shot glass everywhere. Mom screamed, "ARR! What are you DOING!"

"I'll never get a lick of work out of these kids if they sit around all day watching the boob tube," he exclaimed! "Now they won't be."

Stunned is as close a word as I can find to fit how we felt. Appalled in in there, too. Wow! No TV ever and no appeal, that really reeked.

Now we were bus kids with no TV. Great!


Another Move

There are more stories from the white house but the ones that affected me the most are here, I think. If I forgot any we will come back to them later.

I guess I should throw in here that my mate went to the same church we did til I was about 9 and then we switched churches. We used to race around the building during the break between Sunday School and Services. I thought he was cute when he was 7 and I was 5. When we were about 9 and 11 I was in a kids program with him and watched him learn to do a 4 strand braid in a flash while I fumbled around with mine.

Then both our great grand parents lost their partners and married each other so we both had the same great grandparents and would see each other at family dinners and parties.

Our story starts way back here. I just wanted to mention it in passing because at the time, that's all it was, being in the same places sometimes.

The landlord again notified the folks that the house was up for sale. Being large, in town, on a corner lot with a garage and a nice yard it was more than they could afford at the time. We were looking for a new place to live.

Renting with 5 kids and a dog and a cat was not easy. As we got closer to the deadline for moving things got a little tense around the house. Trying to pack us all up was a killer, too.

Dad worked on race cars, motorcycles and pretty much anything else with a motor that was broken. The garage was a project in itself. Five kids collect a lot of stuff plus beds and clothes. And the kitchen! We could feed half an army with the pots and pans and they could all have a real plate!

While we didn't know it at the time there was a story behind the next home we had. When my town Grampa and Grama were younger they wanted to move from their apartment downtown into a lovely little bungalow by the river with a big yard. They didn't have enough saved to pull it off by themselves. My great Aunt, grama's sister, bought the house and sold it back to them on a landcontract.

Now they were in a little better shape and decided to buy us a house and do the same for my parents. Mom and Dad found a brick two story farm house on a pond with state land on three sides and got it for less then than you pay for a great used car today.

The good news was we would have the whole outdoors to play in. The bad news is now we would be, OMG!, Bus Kids!

Stay tuned for the Red House stories!

The boy

On top of all the rest that being twelve made me deal with it wasn't quite done being a big year for me. Mom was pregnant again. It must have happened just after Grama and Aunt Mary died. The results were a brother for all of us and a son for Mom and Dad that fall.

A brother that was 6 years younger than me was a little hard to figure out what to do with. He was too small to play with and pretty boring at first. We all added fetch and carry for the baby to our list of chores and soon it was like he had always been there. He was so much younger than me that it was like having a live practice run on having a baby. I did a lot of his care when Mom was busy.

While he was still little, cute and defenseless we dressed him funny and ran him around in his stroller a lot. When he could sit up well we used the little red wagon and would dress him and Baby Lion up funny, like little clowns or teddy bears, then drag them around the block so all the kids got a laugh.

When he was about 8 months old Dad got him a beagle pup. I think we called it Buttons or maybe Puddles. The boy loved the pup but he didn't last. I don't remember what exactly happened but the pup was gone. Then we got a new dog, another beagle breed and named him Ozzie.

Ozzie was a pain in the butt. He wouldn't stay in the yard, we were always running around calling him, he chased the kittens from next door away and he didn't learn any fun tricks no matter how hard we tried to teach him. But he was ours and slept in our room every night.

So with a new baby, a half grown pup, 4 girls from 12 to 9 years old and a mate that worked two jobs while she worked one, Mom started packing us up to move in the spring.

I had my 13th birthday in the white house. I only remember I had a lovely deep royal blue princess cut high necked, short sleeved dress with real fur on the collar, around the sleeves and as pom poms on the end of the strings that tied in a bow at the neck.

In the spring, around April, we moved.


And the beat goes on

Twelve was a big year. I guess you don't realize it when these things are happening, especially when you are a kid.

I got over the peritonitus and got out of the hospital after about a ten day stay. I was pretty pitiful for another couple weeks. I think my friend apologized to me for not letting me off hall duty but I really don't remember. I know I don't hate her. I even kind of still liked her as a person in high school but we ran with different groups.

I had been watching my sibs since I was 10-ish for the folks for short trips to town or the store. I was home with them one summer afternoon and we were all spread out doing out own things. We all knew the rules when the folks were gone. No friends over, no phone calls in case they had to reach us, no leaving the yard on foot or by bike and, way down at the bottom of the list, no tree climbing.

So our friends stood on the sidewalks and visited with us and mostly we followed the rest of the rules with no problem. Mom and Dad never left us like that more than about forty minutes. What could happen? (LOL the STORIES!) Most of what happened I could deal with - sibs fighting; not doing chores; not doing homework, small potatoes!

But this day I was just walking out of the front door when I heard Arr scream and then stop screaming. The screaming didn't rush me out too badly but when she stopped my stomach clenched up and I took off at a run.

I didn't have to go far. She was lying spread eagle on her back in the middle of the sidewalk under the best tree for climbing we had. I dropped to my knees by her head. She wasn't screaming and she wasn't crying but she was sort of breathing, or trying too. I knew she had had the wind knocked out of her clear into next week - what I didn't know was how to tell what else was wrong. And the big thing I didn't know was where to find mom. She was at the store but I didn't have the number.

True to form, all the sibs had come running at the scream of one of us. We might kill each other but no one else was allowed to whale on us! The two little ones started tearing up and screaming "Is she dead?' over and over at me. I was busy thinking and just let them waste their wind.

She wasn't dead but something might be broken. I knew I shouldn't move her. Then I was stuck. What next? Ambulances were expensive. So were doctors. I had heard the folks talking over the bills from my surgury and the big accident grama died in. I couldn't call them till I was sure I needed them...

Then the light went on in my head! The City Grama! She would know what to do! I told the little kids to hush, told Vee to stay by her and not let her move and did my best Flash imitation running for the phone.

I had her number down cold but the party line was busy! AKKK! I hung up out of polite habbit then snatched the phone up again and told them I had an emergency. I had to call my grama NOW, please. They were nice about it and hung up.

Punch four digits, ring......ring. ring.......ring. And grama picked up. I gabbled out that Arr had fallen out of the tree and that I couldn't find mom and she hung up on me. I stood there a second before I realized she was rushing over.

I raced back outside to see Arr, like a giant gingerbread kid, her arms and legs still spread out, slowly rocking and swinging from one foot to the next, headed for the steps to go inside. Vee was right beside her, Cee and theboy blasted past me, running ahead, for a pillow and a blanket for the couch.

"I told you not to let her move!" I snapped at Vee. She shrugged and flipped, "What was I supposed to do? Sit on her? She wanted to go inside! I told her not to move her arms or legs in case they were broken," she offered as a defense. THat's why she was walking funny!

We helped her make the steps and grama was running around from the drive way before we got her into the house.

Now the city grama was a little lady. Not much bigger than me at twelve but she bumped me out of the way to get to Arr and I stayed bumped. She was trying to get Arr to tell her what happened and what hurt and Vee and I were trying to tell her and the little kids came pounding down the stairs dragging the blanket behind them till they saw Grama, then they got it up off the floor fast before she saw them.

Our gaggle all gobbled and squeeked into the living room and got the girl on the couch. By now she was crying. I felt better then, because I was sure she wasn't dead. Grama tucked her in and chased us all out like the silly gooses we were.

Arr told her she slipped going between branches, caught one but couldn't hold on with one hand and fell. Then she didn't remember anything till Vee telling her not to move. She had knocked herself out and had the goose egg to prove it right in the center of the back of her head.

That took like 2 minutes with us peeking around the door edges while they talked. Grama sent me to make an ice bag up and sent Vee for another blanket because she was afraid the kid was shocky.

I don't think all of it took more than 25 minutes from downed kid to ice pack. Grama only lived about eight blocks away.

She had the little kids sitting down and watching TV, sort of, while she got the ice on Arr's head and told us to have a seat and keep quiet. You didn't give Grama any lip so we sat and sort of watched TV and Grama checking out the wounded victim for other damage. There was none, luckily for Arr, but she was dizzy and winded still.

Then my Mom came slamming in the back door, calling for us. I heard her drop a bag of groceries on the kitchen counter. She would have gotten home to see her mother's car in the drive way and known right away that something was badly out of whack. I jumped up to go answer her and Grama gave me that "What did I JUST tell you to do - SIT back DOWN!" look.

Then little Grama arose from the couch, stomped across the living room and met Mom in the entry way. She did NOT look happy! We were ferverently watching TV with our faces and the confrontation with out eyes slid as far sideways as they would go and our ears twitching.

"Valerie's MOTHER's Full Name HERE! What were you THINKING! Leaving these children without....."

"MOTHER! In the KITCHEN! Please!" our mom interrupted her with a big "SHHHHH!" on the end for emphasis, pointing at us like we were previously invisible.

They huffed and puffed out to the kitchen and shut the door but with a vote of all "eyes" four of us crept out to listen.

What we heard that day I think every child should witness at least once in their life. My Grama dressed my Mother down like a nine year old with a chocolate mustache who said she didn't eat the company cake. She even made Mom cry! We looked at each other when that started and beat feet back to our seats - pronto!

Grama come out and had us two older ones go get the rest of the groceries while she and Mom cleaned Arr up. Then Mom took her to the doctors office to have her head examined. We thought that was pretty funny.

Meanwhile, Grama got the two little kids to set the table while we put the groceries away and she made dinner. I don't remember what she cooked. It could have been boiled sawdust and we would have eaten it without a word. She made MOM cry! We never angered that Grama again if it was at all avoidable, not as long as she lived. The thought was too scary. Anyone who could take OUR Mom and make her cry with just words was TUFF! We didn't EVEN want to know what she would do to US!

When you are little your parents are the biggest and the tuffest adults you know because they directly affect you when they have something to holler about. To see one of them screamed at just like they are a little kid is food for many thoughts. The main thought we got out of this was "Don't cross Grama!"

Dad got home and she met him at the back door to explain that afternoon's excitement and I thing she put a bug in his ear about kids being alone at home, too.

She left to go home and make dinner for herself and her man. We all ate dinner quietly and were just getting finished when Mom got back. She started to jump on me for calling Grama and Dad gave HER a look and asked how Arr was.

Like most children, the sis had a tuff head and, aside from a headache, was fine. Mom got us all through the bath, jamies, and tucked in routine and came over to my bed before she left. "I know you did the right thing to call another adult in an emergency, Val. If it happens again would you call Aunt K? Please?"

I nodded my sleepy head and drifted off just glad no one had hollered at me like Grama hollered at Mom!


Before Carol Burnette

Once I was in a real room again I thought I would be going right home. Mom popped that balloon for me by telling me I couldn't go home till they took the drainage tube out. Well, crap! I didn't like it here but I was too groggy to fight about it.

All my grandparents came to see me that day. They all brought gifts. My dad even bought me a pipecleaner poodle that could tell the weather by changing colors. The hospital wouldn't let my sisters and theboy in because they were too young but even they waved to me from the yard outside the window. My mom brought me my current book to read and a crossword book. I tried to visit with everyone but I kept falling asleep and I HURT!

Then I started to wonder why everyone was being so nice to me.....This was not normal proceedure. Of course, going to the hospital wasn't normal for any of us either, except Dad. So I sucked up the presents and slept and dealt with the pain.

I really don't remember much of the ten days I spent in the hospital except for bits and pieces. One thing I remember is that my sibs were allowed in to visit me. I didn't know at the time it was because I had acute peritonitis and at the time it was often fatal. All I know is that the little brats made it REALLY hurt when I laughted.

Before Carol Burnette, who is one of my favorite comics, there were my sisters. Now I don't know that we were a true laugh riot when we got going, we are pretty easily amused, but we thought we were right up there with Red Skelton, whom we stole many of our skit ideas from and modified to fit more actresses.

Kids, can't help it, they are just contrary. The nurse says they can come in for five minutes but to keep it quiet and NOT to make me laugh and tells me I have to lay still and behave while they are there and the next thing you know every thing they say is funny.

It was an accident. Maybe the little one wanted to know if it was true I could die laughing or they might have just asked why my face was all puffy like this and made a face at me. With the first chuckle the pain hit and I doubled over grabbing my bandages gasping, "STOP IT! Don't make me laugh!"

And it was off to the races! The tears ran down my cheeks and the pain grew with each deep inhale to laugh with them at their wise cracks. The nurse came stomping back in and dragged them away before I could pop my staples but we were all roaring with ribald revelry as they were removed from the room. I wish I could remember what we thought was so funny.

The second day after my surgury the nurse came in during the time they call morning and woke me up to take my vitals and change my bandages. This involved taking the safety pin out of the blue drainage tube, yanking it up through the muscle and skin that was trying to heal around it, about an inch, and putting the pin back in through the stiff rubber which felt like a whisk swiping around my insides. This must have been before it was common practice to tell me what you were going to do before you did it because that first time was a shocker! Every time they came to change the bandages after that I started crying as soon as they woke me to get a head start on the pain.

Then the third day the strange doctor came in to see me right during visiting hours. My mom and her mom were there and I was enjoying having a grown up conversation with them all to myself. He walked over to the open side of the bed, shoving them out of his way, and said something like, "yo ve up gut no!"

I had been straining to understand him when he spoke to the nurses and was getting better at figuring out what he meant.

"Not till after my visit!" I declared. "I have company now." I guess I expected him to just nod his head in agreement and leave because I turned away from him to continue talking with the mom and grama.

Next thing I knew he had me by the upper arm and was sitting me up by brut force. Now I was pissed! And it hurt to bend in the middle almost as much as it hurt to straighten out the middle. "Ow ow OWWWW! That HURTS!"

"Hup un movf is fer you gut! Vee Volk NOW!" he announced as he pulled my legs around and let them drop over the side of the bed. "Ma Ma vil go now, laddar wisit! Go ON, Ma Ma!" he said with a shooing motion.

To my utter dismay and shock they both abandoned me to this brut. Tears were leaking down my face, both hands grabbed my belly when my legs extended and then he put his hand behind my butt and slid me off the sheets to the floor. I started to crumple but he still had a firm grip on my upper arm. "Volk, gurl, ist gut!"

I could not stand up straight. I would not let go of my wound and I did not stop crying. He didn't have to be so mean about it! I hobbled about 3 steps holding on to the bed and he dragged me another 5 to the door of the rest room. "Up you klen and den to bet. Again ve tonat do, " he ordered.

I grabbed the door know with one hand and took tiny baby steps till I could reach the sink, grasped the edge of that and eased myself to the seat, still crying. I managed to rinse my face and smooth my hair with wet fingers, did some painful business and then shuffled back to bed all on my own this time without him dragging me off balance.

Visiting hours were over and Mom and Grama left without saying good bye. Hateful, nasty doctor ruined my life!

In a way he had. They never replaced the nasty staples with stiches. The muscles in my stomach healed with a big, wide line down the middle and never held my guts in right again. I never had a flat tummy in my life and I hated gym class changing periods because I didn't look like all the other girls. My scar makes doctors think I have had a c-section for twins. They think the scar from the drainage tube is my appendix scar. Stupid doctors!

I missed my tight flat tummy. I took years to get used to my body always looking fat in the middle. I was too young to believe I would really have died but they all thought I would at one time. That is why they let the sibs in - to say goodbye. Now I am glad I wasn't dead and have learned to mostly accept my scar and round place but it sucked all through my teens and into my twenties. If I hit the lotton I would have them cut down both sides, take the fat out and put it back together, layer by layer, neatly, with little tiny stitches, even at my age.