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Life With Hiccups - Second Installment

Mexico

 

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Our next trip was to Mexico. Robert had traveled their many times through the years. We flew in over Mexico City after dark and we flew and we flew and we flew over the lights of that enormous city. We arrived really late. Robert never made reservations. He did everything “by the seat of his pants.” That’s a weird saying, “by the seat of his pants.” I wonder where that came from? Anyway, the clerk at the hotel Robert had chosen remembered Robert from previous trips but said he was sorry but he was full, he had no room. We were exhausted and it was way too late to be roaming the streets of Mexico City to find a room. Today we could just pull up hotels on our cell phones but in the 1970s phone service in Mexico was a little tricky. It was close to 2:00 a.m. by then and Robert told the attendant that we would just park on the big leather sofas in the lobby until daylight. “OK,” he said, so we fumbled around in the dark and I laid down on one long sofa and Robert on the other. We slept on the couches in the lobby until first light. During the night, I heard scuffles of little feet, rustling here and there. I cringed a little and thought “mice,” but as light crept in, I saw the very large rats that were sharing the lobby with us.  

The first thing that struck me that first day was the grey of everything. The smoke from diesel trucks and buses layered everything with smut. Sidewalks were grimy with smears and spittle. As I complained, Robert said, “Look up, you don’t like the filth, look up.” A life lesson, one of many I garnered from Robert during our years together. Stop complaining and find the good wherever you are. I looked beyond the grime and discovered the beautiful architecture of the many cathedrals. Inside, the heavy wooden pews and carved walls led my eyes to the gold-plated icons stretching to the high arched ceiling behind the alters and the colorful cut glass windows bathed everything in soft light. We joined the crowds of people going here, going there, and toured the stunning Zocalo, the main square in Mexico City. We ate delicious local food and walked for miles.


The next day we caught a bus to Veracruz, a lovely cosmopolitan city on the water. Those buses were an experience. They were rickety to begin with and were always more than crowded. Locals traveled with baskets and bundles as well as fresh cooked food and live chickens. The traditional Mexican music blared loudly from the buses tinny sounding speakers over the noise of the bus roaring down the highway. There was the noise of the adults and children calling out and of course the chickens. Once in lovely cosmopolitan Veracruz, away from the noise of Mexico City, we were among tourists from all over the world. We had cafe con-leche on the patio of our favorite restaurant in the cool morning air overlooking the water and watched performances by colorful dancers twirling and stomping, accompanied by a Mariachi band, on the square after dinner. During that first trip, and others that followed, we visited many cities and fully experienced Mexico and its friendly people. Sadly, that does not seem to be the Mexico of today.


After a week traveling across Mexico, we decided to head home by the train that ran along the west coast into Nogales. That would be fun, right? Scenery, interesting people, dining car. The train had no dining car, its passengers were the same passengers we had shared the buses with, chickens and all, and the worst part was that the train would run slowly for an hour, pull over to a side track and sit there for two. We might slowly begin to roll out to go forward for only a short time then pull to the side and stop again. We finally gave up and got off as soon as we got to a town of any size, found the bus station and headed for an airport.


At one of the towns along the way after we boarded the bus, we had a rest stop and all piled out of the bus to get food and visit the toilets. Those toilets defy description. The stench was unbearable and what clung to one’s shoes leaving the scene was -------- well, you know.


One or two at a time, everyone got back on the bus, all that is but Robert. The bus driver closed the door and began to drive forward. I panicked. “Alto, alto,” I yelled moving out of my seat and up the aisle toward the driver. Everyone sat placidly looking at me. The driver ignored me and immediately stopped in front of the station where he had been heading all along. He turned to me and motioned for me to be calm, waving his hand in a downward motion and got off the bus. Embarrassed? Yes. But if he had driven off without Robert, I had no language to communicate.


Before that first trip to Mexico, Robert had told me to pack light. “You will have to carry your luggage a lot because of the way we are going to travel.” I didn’t get the message. I packed a regular size suitcase with the things I thought I absolutely had to have and wagged that thing all over Mexico. We traveled there many times through the years but not with that suitcase.


Stay At Home Mom

1960s

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I felt fortunate to be a stay-at-home mom. I was determined to have a “Beaver Cleaver” home life for my family. Yikes! Today’s generation won’t even know what a “Beaver Cleaver” life is unless they watch an awful lot of reruns of old TV sitcoms. Let’s say “Perfect” life.


We did not go out. Couldn’t afford it. That was my fault. The ever-increasing size of our family was my idea. I continued to overreact to being an only child I guess; always wanting another baby. My budget, Joe wanted nothing to do with finances, was very tight once we moved to the larger house in Handley. I grocery shopped every two weeks. I thought out healthful, well-balanced meals and made the grocery list. I used every scrap I bought. I made homemade pizza and Mexican food in addition to our beef, pork, potatoes and that must have at every meal salad. On every birthday, I baked a cake from request. We had a football once, a Barbie in a long full skirt, a horse, a bunny, all kinds of animals - - - great cakes and great birthday parties and as they got older and busier, we had cake and presents for breakfast before we all went off to school or work.


I planted flowers and tended all the flowerbeds. I went to all the PTA meetings and made all the costumes required for plays or pep squads. I cooked perfectly balanced meals, used Joe’s mother’s recipes hoping to please him and yet he fell asleep and we often could not wake him for dinner. Slowly I realized that after the big breakfast I cooked for him each morning, he was not hungry until 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon when he bought a big meal and drove home to sleep. Oh, we had family meals together and the kids loved his jokes and kidding, but far too often for me, we did not.


Joe smoked up to three packs of cigarettes a day. Ignorant of the dangers, we sat as a family watching television through a cloud of smoke as the children grew up. Both boys took up smoking, Mike as a senior in high school. Joe and I both came down hard on him to stop. Joe had tried to quit a few times and could not and did not want that addiction for Mike. As we had begun to understand the killer that smoking was, we convinced Mike to give it up. He simply switched to “dipping” his tobacco. It was a Herculean task for both Mike and Randy to give-up tobacco as adults.


Christmas was good. An exciting time while the children were growing up. We picked out our Christmas tree as a family and Joe set it up and we all decorated. A few times Joe and I went together to buy the children’s gifts that Santa would bring. We hid them and assembled only after the children were in bed sound asleep Christmas Eve. I wanted it to be a magical time for the kids and managed to spend too much on gifts and decorations. I cooked and cooked special treats of cookies and candy. Both sets of grandparents arrived before dawn Christmas morning, hoping to witness the kids surprise and delight as they arose to see what Santa had brought. The Christmas tree would be a blaze of lights and squeals of delight and laughter filled that front room on Cravens Road.


GranGran, NanNan and I would cook a monster breakfast including every one’s favorite. The kids dressed while Joe, Grandpa and PaPa took any outdoor gifts, bikes, basketball hoop or bat and ball outside. Very distracted, wanting to play with new toys, the children managed to get through breakfast before rushing out the door.


GranGran, NanNan and I immediately began Christmas dinner preparations. NanNan brought her Texas pecan, tart lemon chess and chocolate cream pies with melt in the mouth crust. GranGran brought candies she had spent days preparing. We roasted a ham and turkey with stuffing. There was so much food our huge oval oak pedestal table could barely hold it all. Some Christmases, Joe’s brother and family came also.


Another great memory of life on Cravens Road was the floor to ceiling windows throughout the house. One or more of the children and I would lie on the floor with our heads on the windowsill and read; sometimes aloud to one another and sometimes each would have a book. The cool breezes pulled in by the huge attic fan in the hallway in the center of the house often lulled us to sleep. The snow-white blossoms of the gardenia bush in the front of the house, just outside the window of the boy’s bedroom, sent their sweet smell floating throughout the house. Summer times were fun and I remember thinking almost every day, “This has got to be the best day of my life. These kids are at a perfect age. I never want anything to change.”


Two years and three months after Anna arrived, I went to our family doctor and said, “Tell me I have a tumor, tell me I have some dread disease, but do not tell me I am pregnant.” Cristy Ann was born eight months later.


I have read many times that a fetus is influenced by music and voice. That the fetus feels when it is loved or not wanted. That has to be true. Cris never felt she belonged. I know I was much too distracted by the condition of my marriage during that pregnancy and while she was little. She did not have the devotion growing up as the other four.


What a dirty trick to play on Cris. Didn’t name her Christy because I was deep into trying to understand Christianity and was ticked off at the Christ.


 I began to question organized religions at age thirteen. I am grateful that I live in a Christian based society, but I cannot align many Christian denomination’s dogmas with what I think are Christian concepts.


When Cristy’s due date rolled around, the doctor suggested that we induce labor. He wanted to leave on his scheduled vacation. “It will be OK, she’s ready,” he says. He assured us that the procedure was totally safe and we bought it hook, line and sinker.


It was not OK. He induced one morning and labor started. Labor continued and continued and he gave another injection. Labor continued into the night. Joe sat with me through it all. I had to lie on my back.

“Keep her on her back. I don’t want her curled up on her side,” the doctor said.


When the constant pain became too much and I would roll over, Joe would gently encourage me back into proper position. Cris finally came into the world quite blue. Her little feet were very blue. Our doctor did not leave for his vacation trip. He hung around until her color began to improve and she was eager to nurse.


Randy, Mike and Anna had asthma. An irritant for the boys but Anna would invariably develop pneumonia. She and I had hospital visits up to five times a year. In addition to broken arms, other allergies, thyroid disorders, mumps, measles, chicken pox, impetigo, hernias and flu epidemics, Mike was extremely ill one day with an excruciating head ache. A friend had dropped by with her little boy and stayed and stayed. I had given Mike something for pain and he slept fitfully. By the time Joe came in from work around three in the afternoon I was really concerned about Mikes condition and asked Joe to take him to Dr. Zimmerman’s office. He had encephalitis and was admitted to the hospital. Guilt never left me for indulging that “friend” instead of saying, “Go home, I have to take my son to the doctor.”


We had a close relationship with that doctor, our family physician. So close that his wife had me served with a subpoena when she filed for divorce. She claimed that I and one other patient had had affairs with her husband. Well, he did chase me around my daughter’s bed a few times when we were in the hospital for another bout of pneumonia. He would show up to “check on her” at 6:00 in the morning, but I would teasingly ward him off. I never mentioned those advances to Joe. That doctor knew my kids and their health problems so well, was not expensive and accepted our insurance. We needed him.


First Memories

1935

My first memory, I guess I was about three, I was in a forest of legs. I was outdoors. We, my parents and I, had just walked out of church with a crowd of people. I reached for my mother’s hand and a stranger bent down to smile into my eyes. She was holding my hand. I was terrified. “Where is my mother? I am lost. Who is this woman?” My mother is there quickly to retrieve me, but I am humiliated. No one shamed me, no one scolded me that I remember. Why did I feel so ashamed, why did I feel that I had done something wrong?


The next memory, when I was five, was of five-year-old Joe Branch who lived next door to us. I do not remember the house we lived in, only the dirt floor garage where he and I built roads and played with his cars often. We were great friends and discovered our genitals were different when he decided to urinate in a corner of the garage one day. I offered to share. “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”

We both started the first grade at D MacRey Elementary, but I have no memories of teachers or the school building. My family moved the following summer when my parents bought our little three-room house on Ave. D in Ft. Worth. For the considerable sum of $6,000, they owned their first home where I lived until I married and my parents continued to live until my mother died far too young.

 

Our little house was on a narrow lot with living room separated from the bedroom by glass French doors. There was a tiny bathroom off to one side of the kitchen which came next. There was a small dinning nook behind that. The living room, where I slept on my twin bed, had a small gas heater that was turned off at night so my mother would heat a brick and put it under the covers at my feet during the Texas winters. Our little shotgun house had no insulation and wind whistled in around the windows. If I had a cold or cough, she smeared my chest with Vic’s Vapor Rub, pressed a hot towel, which she had warmed in front of the gas heater, over that and tucked me into bed with my hot brick.


We had a wooden ice box with freezer on top where the ice man put the big block of ice when he delivered it. He and the milk man parked in front of the house and walked down the long driveway to the back of the house. The ice man knocked on the door to bring the ice in that he held with giant scissor hooks and the milk man left a bottle of cold milk in a glass bottle with a cardboard top inside the neck on the back porch.


After the war, we soon had a shiny new electric refrigerator and went to the store for milk.

I remember my first day in the second grade at Poly Elementary, three blocks from our house, as OK. I had no fear as I walked alone under the sycamore trees that lined our street that early morning. My mother and I had visited during the summer to get me registered. I remember walking the cracked sidewalk humped up in some places by tree roots. The houses were old but nice with shrubs and flowers in the yards. The facade of the big brick school building upon a hill across the final very busy street was impressive. It stood on one corner with the middle school on the other. To my left, was a “filling station” where Joe, my future husband, someone I would not meet for eleven years, sat before dawn many mornings waiting for the newspapers he would deliver to the neighborhood.


I was Queen of the May Fete in second grade and Mother made me a floor length dress of stiff lavender organdy with ruffles. I am pictured with the most handsome blond boy, King of the May Fete, and I am a smiling, freckled, cherub with short, permed, auburn hair.


Life on Ave. D was good.  Our little home was pretty if small and Mother kept everything clean and neat. My father kept the grass and flowerbeds manicured at all times. He built a brick planter box along the front porch where Zinnias and Phlox bloomed backed by lacy Nandina shrubs with their red berries. Zinnias bloomed in front of the running rose bushes with their double red bloom along the white picket fence dividing the ally from our backyard. More white picket fence divided our dirt driveway from the neighbor’s yard on the east side of the house where honeysuckle grew. I still remember the taste when I pulled a bloom and sucked its nectar.


A double garage with a dirt floor lived far back in the corner at the end of that driveway. The wide wooden swinging doors scraped the ground when they were forced closed. Once we finally had a car after the war, my father worked on it there changing the oil and the smell of oil and dirt that had not seen rain in forever filled one’s nostrils.


A six foot wide space with a cement floor ran along behind a wall at the back of the garage. It could be entered through a door on the side of the garage. My dad cut a small window in the back wall overlooking the alley, built a bunk bed at one end and made a table and make-believe stove and WaLa! I had a playhouse.


Most of the other houses on our block were much bigger than ours and the house alongside our driveway was a big, grey, hulking two story thing. There were multiple cotton wood trees in front of that house and the tree next to our driveway had four thick limbs that grew out from the trunk forming a bowl about six feet up. Those limbs sprouted into a canopy of shade above. I climbed into that bowl so many times through the years that it was smooth and slick, bleached white from wear. It was a place to sit and contemplate.


On the other side of the back yard from the picket fence, a large hackberry tree on our neighbor’s property grew right up against the low rock wall separating our yards. It’s rough, long limbs stretched out and shaded the flagstone patio and brick barbeque pit my father built and a two-person swing hung from its branches. My dad cooked steaks that would melt in your mouth on summer evenings in that back yard. 


The neighborhood kids and I played in the tangled jungle of the Poly Pop factory on the corner, one house down, from our house. The small wooden factory, painted silver, was where Mr. Hollis made the powdered drink he called Poly Pop. It was exactly like Kool Aid long before we had heard of Kool Aid. Did he sell his patent to Kool Aid? Did he just fade away? I don’t know. After my father sold the house and moved away, I did not visit that neighborhood for many years and when I did, everything was gone. A whole new world there.


The factory was on the corner down the street, the elementary school was up the street, it sat at the top of a hill with a driveway alongside for receiving and shipping. The surrounding area and down the steep slope to Ave. D was a jungle of undergrowth and trees.  We played “Nioka, Queen of the Jungle,” a recurring serial at the movies we all thought we had to see every Saturday. We made guns out of carved wood, clothespins and rubber bands to play space explorers and cowboys and Indians.


Mr. Hollis liked us kids to politely knock and come into his office to visit. He was OK with us playing all over his property and gave us little packets of Poly Pop. We licked the sweet yet sour grains until our tongues were raw.


One of my friends stole cigarettes from her mother’s pack and we lit up one day in the Poly Pop factory woods. Just as we began to puff away, my mother called from the back yard of our house. Only one house separated the factory from my yard so we could easily hear her. 


“Lunch is ready,” she called.


We quickly stubbed out our smokes to head down the alley towards my house. As we walked, we blew into one another’s face.


“Does my breath smell like smoke?”


“No, does mine?”


Well, Mother, who was standing inside the screen of our back door waiting for us, saw the “smelling” bit, and knew instantly what we had been up to, so during lunch she just happened to mention the evils of smoking and what it could do to one’s health. We stared at one another. “How do mothers know everything? Will I be able to know everything when I’m an adult?”


The Poly Pop factory was directly across from the spacious grounds of Polytechnic High School, an impressive, three story, red brick building with white stone trim and a tall spiked tower, the High School I would eventually attend. The school where I would grow up and bring my girlfriends the half block home for lunch. Mother loved to heat Campbell’s soup and fry potatoes or make baloney sandwiches and potato chips for whoever came. In the small alcove adjoining the kitchen, we ate at the red Formica table with chrome trim and four chairs to match that stayed in our family with one family or another through generations. Mother loved those girls and they loved her.  


The very steep street running in front of the high school, between the school and Mr. Hollis, plunged down to Ave. D then rose again into the neighborhood beyond. We seldom saw snow in Texas so when we got a full two inches one winter we kids went wild. We made sleds of metal lids, cardboard and anything else we could find to ride that steep slope. We played outside until our noses and fingers and toes felt like they were about to fall off.


Mother was an outstanding seamstress. She made all of my clothes, as well as her own, on a pedal operated Singer sewing machine. We bought patterns and material when we went to town and she could whip up a dress in a day. There were occasions when we would see something on display that we liked and if we could not find a pattern, she simply went home and made one out of newspaper. Then she sewed up an exact duplicate of the one on the manikin. I was one of the best dressed all through my school years. She continued to make my clothes after I married and as the children came along she dressed the girls in adorable things and made handsome suits for the boys. One of her proudest moments was when she got a brand-new electric Singer in a handsome standalone case.

She and I walked a good ten miles on summer days when we didn’t have bus fare to visit her sister Marie and her two girls, my closest cousins.  We, as a family, often spent family time with both of Mother’s sisters and their families. We visited at their house or they would come to ours. They came for dinner or came over later to play cards or just sit around and talk. No TV or cell phones to distract. We were also close to my dad’s sister Hatti, her husband and their two boys. When we visited them, my cousin Jerry, two years younger than I, would play house with me if I agreed to then play war with his tiny army of soldiers.


My dad did not care for movies so my mother and I would gather up Coke bottles and sell them at the grocery store to raise money to go to the movies in the summer while Daddy was at work. After the movie, we walked three doors down to the ice cream parlor for a cone of Hawaiian Pineapple, my favorite, at Ashburn’s Ice Cream store.


I had my tonsils out when about seven and was assured it wouldn’t hurt much. “It’ll just be like a little sore throat,” they said. Ha! I thought I would die it hurt so much. My grandparents, my mother’s parents, came over and brought all of my favorite foods, fried chicken (I can still smell it today,) green olives (I once asked for a gallon of olives as a birthday present I loved them so much,) ice cream and who knows what else. I was traumatized. I not only hurt like hell, I couldn’t eat all that lovely food.


Mother’s older sister Laverne and her son, much older than me from a previous marriage, married my Uncle Gene. He was an upbeat, good man who loved to tease me and all the other cousins. They built a home in Kennedale, Texas, just out of Ft. Worth, and had a house warming one warm summer night. They scattered corn meal on the still unfinished floors of the big open kitchen area and two men with a fiddle and guitar strummed up a hoe-down tune. The dancers flew around the room and when they became overheated and sweaty they would saunter out to the detached garage back of the house in twos or threes. I don’t think alcohol was illegal but frowned upon in those puritan days. One of the men asked my mother to dance then the two of them walked out to the garage. He asked her if she had ever had any Southern Comfort. She thought he was making an improper suggestion and slapped him. She had no idea that was the brand name of a smooth drinking whisky.


Gone With the Wind was rereleased when I was ten. My beloved Aunt Laverne and Uncle Gene took me with them to see it. The movie was just too long and emotional for me.  I began to sob on the way home and could not stop when we got there. My perplexed aunt and uncle felt bad and did not know what to do. When we got home, they and my mother tried to comfort me but there was just no consoling me. My father came into the room and said “Stop that crying right this minute,” glared at me until I snuffed my last gasp and walked away. That was what I heard any time I cried from as far back as I could remember.


I guess I was a pretty emotional girl because at age thirteen I saw the movie “A Song to Remember,” the story of Chopin. I had never heard classical music and was so moved I could not stop talking about it. I begged and begged to see the movie again and raved so about the beauty of the music that they both went with me. I couldn’t believe that my father would set foot in a movie theatre, but in retrospect, it was the thought of music he had not heard that took him there. He loved music, had a great voice and sang in choirs and quartets every chance he got.


Our very dear friends, Asa Phelps and his girlfriend Dorothy, would pick my parents and six- or seven-year-old me up on a Friday night and the debate would begin. “Do we want to go see the Cats (a local baseball team) play or go to the airport and watch the planes land?” I had a huge crush on the first baseman of the Cats but I also loved to watch planes take off and land. They always had me sit or stand in the front seat of their car between them (long before consoles.) If I stood, I could see out. Asa would ask “Who do you love the most, me or Dorothy?” I couldn’t win; no matter who I pointed to the other would act so hurt. (What a dirty trick to play on a little kid.) I of course I would be so upset that I had hurt the other, I learned to point to one with the other on the other side and say “the point goes right through to both.”


My father and Asa had met at work and had become friends even though Asa was quite a bit younger than my parents. Asa was drafted as World War II threatened and he and Dorothy decided to marry before he had to leave. We accompanied them to the Justice of the Peace one Friday night and stood as witnesses. Mother cried, I cried and poor Asa cried. He sobbed through the entire ceremony. He forgot to pay the Justice of the Peace so my father pulled out his wallet. There was no consoling Asa. All he could say was that he just could not bear to leave Dorothy.


“You will watch out for her won’t you?” he repeatedly asked my parents.


Years later, my son Mike brought one of his friends home from high school with him and introduced him as Phillip Phelps.


“Hi Phillip, do you happen to know an Asa Phelps?” I asked.


“That’s my dad.”


It’s a small world.


World War II

 1941

World War II rushed in in 1941 when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The United States declared war on my ninth birthday, December 8, 1941. We had just heard the news and I remember walking alone outside in the sunshine as I walked down our dirt driveway trying to understand just what that meant. Three days later Roosevelt declared that we were also at war with Germany. “These ‘vicious’ people had attacked us, the good guys, we would certainly be victorious,” I thought. The draft worried my parents until they realized my dad was too old to be called up.  

 

The Army Air Force moved in to build the huge mile long Consolidated Plant on Lake Worth north-west of Ft. Worth. They would build airplanes there and as soon as it was completed, my father quit Monnig’s department store and went to work at the “Bomber Plant.” The pay was double what he had always earned.


Then there was rationing. Coupons were issued that determined how much sugar, gasoline and shoes one could have. We had to mix our own coloring into white margarine, butter was unheard of and I believed I would never see a chocolate bar again. I saved foil, encouraged by the government I built a baseball sized ball of foil gathered meticulously here and there feeling very patriotic. That frugal thing from the depression already had my mother washing foil after use in order to use again and again and having it scarce during the war made that a habit handed down to me as I began to keep house. Peggy’s elementary teacher cleaning up after the children had lunch one day, gathered up Peggy’s paper bag and the foil her sandwich had been wrapped in.  As she crumpled the trash from the table Peg cried out, Oh, don’t throw that foil out my mother washes and saves it!”


“What?”


“My mother will wash and use that foil again.”


The teacher thought that was the funniest thing and teased Peggy, embarrassing her.


“Why do we wash and save foil mom?” Peggy asked after school, “No one else does that.”


She and her teacher loved the depression/World War II foil story and the teacher always wanted to hear it again when we ran into her at the grocery store.


As the war raged on through the years, my uncle Fred, my mother’s sister Marie’s husband, found work at the Army base in Killeen, Texas, a two-hour drive from home. Even higher wages than “The Bomber Plant,” he and my father took jobs there and traveled back and forth to Ft. Worth on the weekends.

My parents had never been separated for a single night since their wedding and my mother was unnerved. Nights were really bad. She had me sleep with her in her bed instead of mine. We had no AC so had to keep the windows open in that Texas heat. She would hear noises outside and when the house creaked she just knew someone was trying to break into our little house and murder us. She hung coat hangers, one hooked into the other, on the locks at the base of the window screens so that if someone tried to cut the screens and come in they would clatter to the floor and wake her. We could not close and lock the windows with no air conditioning, in fact, no air-conditioning until 1952. Only then did my mother argue strong enough to get my father to put a swamp cooler in the living room window.


“The kids can’t take this heat like you can and they won’t come to see us. I want a cooler so that they will come and bring my grandson to visit,” she insisted. It took another few years before she got a TV using the same ploy.


During the war, my girlfriends in the neighborhood played WACS. We made cardboard hats and shoulder purses and dressed as closely as we could in costumes to simulate the Women’s Army Corps’ uniform. I always seemed to be in charge, bossing everyone around.


As the war wound down in 1944, demand for warplanes diminished. Plants began to produce less and less, so when my dad was let go in Killeen, he went to the Bell Bomber Plant in Georgia to work. Daddy had been away for a couple of months when Mother and I took a train out for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. I had never been on a train, and if that was not exciting enough, we had a berth for overnight just like in the movies. We didn’t sleep much. We were too busy peering out under the slit of window when we raised the shade to see the lighted train stations along the way.


Marietta, Georgia was packed and housing was at a premium. There were people everywhere, people from all over. We heard a lot of southern drawl as well as many other languages when in town. We were used to humidity and heat but Georgia did seem a little muggier. We had one bedroom and shared the kitchen and bath with a family of four in a tiny, three-bedroom house, the only place available that my father had been able to find to rent. Our house was exactly like the house next door, like the houses on the entire block, like the houses on the twenty blocks of the development that had been thrown up to accommodate war workers. They were all even the same color. Mother and I got lost more than once coming from town roaming around the curved streets of that neighborhood trying to find our house as we rode the city bus. We were able to visit the shops and a few places of historical interest while Daddy was working. Mother was not one to sit around so even without a car at our disposal we took advantage of the bus lines and went out and about.


We woke Thanksgiving morning to a roaring row in the kitchen. Our apartment mates were arguing fiercely about the holiday dinner. He was a southern gentleman who wanted cornbread dressing in the turkey and she was from New York and said she must have white bread stuffing in the bird. The three of us sharing that little house with their family was hard enough, but the row was just too much. Even though Daddy hated eating out, he could not tolerate strife. One did not raise one’s voice. We bolted and had dinner in town at the one restaurant open on that holiday. January had me back in school and Mother, once again, fearful of being alone with a twelve-year-old child.


The news in the summer of 1945 that the war was over hit my father in Marietta and my mother and me in Ft. worth, as I am sure it did people everywhere, like an explosion. My dad said everyone in Marietta rushed out into the streets. “Hundreds of us made it to the town square where confetti and newspapers floated through the air. People were crying and shouting and singing at the top of their voices.”

The nightmare was almost over. Our radio broadcast nothing else for days and Mother and I saw the newsreels of the celebrations, as we had seen the newsreels of death and destruction during the war at the movie theaters downtown. The Japanese surrendered three months later and Daddy came home to Texas.


Maturity

1943

I loved school. I made friends and did well. I felt superior in sixth grade. I was the first of my girlfriends to develop breasts, barely enough to be able to ask for a bra, but beginnings at least. I felt that was one of the signals that I would live an above average life. Since I had blossomed a little earlier than the other girls, starting my period before any others, I was looking forward to being a very feminine teenager. Little did I know how attending William James Jr. High School (now called Middle School) would bring me down.    

         

A week before I was to start school at William James Jr. High, Mother gave me a perm, trying to give my thin hair a little body. We had at one time shampooed with Tide detergent. It had body all right in a sticky sort of way and was dull as dirt. We gave up on that and tried other products to no avail. She braided my hair occasionally with red yarn as the third strand. That was pretty unique. Hair aside, I would certainly be the best dressed. She had made me a wardrobe to die for that showed off my little five-foot two inch, ninety-nine-pound figure.


I was part of a group of five girls who remained at the top of our class throughout Jr. High and High School years. We had similar interests and did many fun things together. We remained close even into adult life through weddings, childbirth, divorces, funerals and one friend’s husband divorcing her to marry her mother. Eeeee Gads!


Being honor roll students gave us privileges. We were allowed out of class to help with Christmas decorations or help in the office. We were chosen to perform a preachy play about the struggle between good and evil. I memorized pages of dialog and our costumes were made of sheets draped around us. When taking part in these things I was miss sparkly. I knew how to be upbeat and join in the picnic or practical joke, but I, the real me inside, was humiliated having to do all of that in what I thought was the most pitiful body one could have.


My body never developed past the “blossoming.” I was straight as an arrow, no hips, flat chested, a very freckled teen-ager with thin fine hair. Throughout my school years, I simply did not get the attention that my female peers got. I just seemed invisible, not only to boys, but to teachers and peers as well. That came through to me as “ugly.” I hated what I saw in the mirror. I felt so unattractive I would cross the street when walking if I saw someone coming towards me to protect them from an unpleasant experience.


Riding in the back seat of our family car with the window down as a rain shower began,

I smelled that earthy smell of wet soil, that aroma that made my mouth water and my throat ache

and longed to be beneath that sweet smelling soil.

 

I have experienced close, loving relationships with family, partners and friends. We know one another, we see beyond the costume. I am no shrinking violet nor am I unsightly, but - - - the costume limits me. I identified with the phrase, “beautiful women who have their path paved by men’s desire,” written by Isabel Allende. The disappointment has never left me that others, upon first meeting, place me in a category far from who I think I am.

 

“This is not who I am!” I whispered to the mirror when I was young. “This is not who I am,” I moan today, years later. Transgender? No, just born with a face and body that could not be farther from who I feel, I think, I am.

 

We are human across a spectrum so broad one can only imagine the variations and yet we still place ourselves and others into limiting categories: nationalities, religions, white, black, straight, gay, male, female – on and on. Science shows the many gradations of the makeup of each new born, of each individual. Beyond XX or XY there are so many factors that figure into whether we are male or female or somewhere in between.

 

Because of ignorance and fear, we condemn those different from ourselves. I would like to think we are getting smarter, but there is still so much angst and upheaval concerning our differences it makes me wonder.

 

PERCEPTION

 

We see our bodies petite and round,

Long and lanky, aware of each pound

 

Of flesh so pink and white and smooth,

Or brown and lustrous, old and new.

 

A kaleidoscope of brilliant red mouths

Now smiling, now pursed, white teeth housed

 

Within full black lips or a purple slash,

A pink puckered bow turned down in a flash.

 

Eyes that twinkle, smile and laugh.

Eyes that seduce or cut a man in half.

 

Tall we are wise, lazy if fat.

Thin is beauty, cover bald with a hat.

 

The rules of identity are hard and fast.

Perceptions of worth are firmly cast

 

In stone in minds rigidly bound,

Flexible reasoning seldom found.

 

Of course, my challenges are nothing, absolutely nothing, compared to the handicapped lives many of my fellow man must live. We are not all equal in appearance, mental ability, physical ability or the level of wealth we are born into, but, if only we could abandon condemnation of different. If only.   

 

****

As the first day of Jr. High School rolled around September of 1943, I was ready. William James Jr. High School was across the street from the elementary school so my walk would be the same as it had been for the past four years. That morning, traffic had picked up in front of our house as parents and students drove down the hill to the high school a block away in the other direction from William James. Our street ran down the hill, past the Poly Pop Factory and dead ended into the street that ran up the hill and in front of the high school. My little puppy ran out into the street and was struck by a car. I, of course, was devastated. My parents would have no hysterics. I knew not to act out in any way. That would not be tolerated. I had my hysterics internally, hidden as they rushed me out the front door and off to school. No talk of the accident, no words of consolation. Off I went to my first day in a strange new school. I was a basket case climbing the stairs into the new school building, trying to find my way around, trying to find my friends. When I got home after school that day, there was no little body and there was no discussion of the accident, ever. 


Many years earlier, someone, probably that same uncle, had given me a black Scotty dog just like FDR’s, our president Franklin D. Roosevelt. I loved that little dog. He got a fungus on the pads of his feet and was really uncomfortable. He could not leave it alone and worried it with his tongue. One day he was just gone. There would be no money spent on a visit to the vet and no discussion about what happened to my little Scotty.


Why didn’t I scream and yell and demand some answers? Why didn’t I cry and vent my grief? No teenage tantrums for me. I thought our family behavior was “normal” behavior. I had been shushed since birth. I felt gross and ugly if I lost my composure - - - - and still do to this day.


My father ruled. No speaking up, no complements, no crying or whining. That is the way he was raised and all that he knew and Mother never crossed him. In trying to help me feel more self-assured she would try new things with my hair and correct my posture which just confirmed to me that I needed help to be attractive.


Did I raise my children in the same way, expressing disapproval if they acted out? I think I was very patient and affectionate with my children when they were small, but as they reached twelve or thirteen, I expected them to act responsibly.


Teenage Angst

1949

****

I was soooo moony over Joe while attending Wm. James, now called middle school, but simply considered that another of my childish dreams. Me, the less-than expects to be noticed by a handsome boy? “Get real girl,” I would chide myself. Once in high school I could see how popular he was and why. He was exceptionally handsome in his ROTC uniform and he and his pal Bill were state champions as part of the school’s team of target shooters. I knew I could not compete with all those cute girls that were attracted to him, so I just kept my feelings to myself. I was also attracted to another sophomore and commented on that to my girlfriends. They gave me rubber falsies for my 17th birthday to “help me catch my guy.” Ha Ha Ha! We were close enough that I could laugh at that as they challenged me to wear them. “OK, OK,” I said, “I’ll wear them. Well, one Sunday morning I not only wore them, but also put on a tight sweater and began my walk to the Baptist church a few blocks from my house. I got half way there, couldn’t do it, and turned around and went back home.


We, my close group of girlfriends, all dated the guys from our class and some “went steady” for a while and some of the guys made the rounds dating one girl after the other in our group. One couple even stayed together through graduation and into a seventy-year marriage.


On a double date with another couple one night, we parked in an out of the way place after the movie. My date Don and I were in the back seat. I had really wanted Don to ask me out and had enjoyed the evening, but after what seemed like an hour in that back seat kissing and kissing, I was really bored. Like a dummy, I gasped, “It’s hot in here and reached over to roll down the window just to get out of Don’s clutches. Well, all three laughed thinking I was overheated from passion. Don was ready to go some more with his “hot” date.


                                                                                                ****

After Joe graduated and was working full time, his father happened to notice that he wasn’t going out or dating and said, “If it was me, I would ask that cute little freckled face red head down the street. She is as cute as a button.” He did just that and to my surprise continued to come around.


Now my first kiss was with Tommy Pressley. I think it was my sophomore year in high school. A crowd of us went on a hay-ride followed by a cookout. After dark, we were playing hide and seek and Tommy grabbed my hand and we hid behind a bale of hay. He stole a kiss and I think I managed to hide my unpleasant reaction. He was sort of pale and squishy.


The night Joe first kissed me was very different. I was trembling and absolutely giddy. I could not believe that my dream was coming true. We had spent the evening in our living room. My parents, knowing Joe was coming to spend the evening with me, were away. As Joe rose to go and walked to the door, I followed. He turned, looked down at me from his five foot eleven and said, “I’d kiss you but you are so short. Got a big book?” He pulled one of our encyclopedias off our book shelf, put it on the floor and had me stand on it to pull me close and kiss me.


When my parents got home, Mother said, “How did it go?” as they walked in the back door. She took one look at me and said, “Oh, OK!”


The night Joe asked me to go steady, the other handsome guy I had been interested in called to ask me out. Wow! Jackpot. Years later when life with Joe was not working out, I would think about the “other guy” and wonder what life would be like had I chosen him instead of Joe. Well, I ran into the “other guy” at a high school reunion many years later and there he was with his big belly stuffed into a pair of coveralls. Yikes!


I wore Joe’s senior ring around my neck and strutted my stuff at school. At the time, I really couldn’t believe that Joe had noticed me. He had dated all those other beautiful girls up until he graduated a year ahead of me. He was two years older than I, but had repeated second or third grade and that put him only a year ahead in school. Why had those other girls in his class fallen by the wayside, some after the first date?  

 

Dating for us consisted of hanging out in the big swing in my backyard, watching TV through the window of the local hardware store (nobody we knew had a TV in their home yet) or strolling a mile to get an ice cream cone. We never had a real date, like, dress up and go somewhere. Joe did not have a car but we could have taken a bus maybe.


We sat on the little cement porch steps right outside the back door of my house one summer night when Joe noticed the small pepper bush in the adjacent flower bed. The tiny, tiny green peppers were hotter than a dozen jalapenos. I have no idea where my parents got that little plant, but they had enjoyed those peppers for years. Joe plucked one and I warned, wide eyed, not to touch his face with that hand, explaining the peppers intense heat. He popped it into his mouth and bit down. His mouth exploded open as he began to sweat and cough. Trying to be cool he sat, but soon began to groan. I had immediately jumped up to get butter explaining to my parents, sitting in the kitchen, what had happened. Mother grabbed the loaf of bread and she and I had Joe taking big bites of butter followed by bread, then more butter as sweat poured off his head and face. It was half an hour before he could speak.


One night he said, “I’ll come over after work tomorrow.”


He never showed. After dinner he had gone to sleep in the bathtub. I don’t know how long he stayed there before someone in his family woke him and sent him to bed.


The clues escaped me. I chose to ignore that so many girls had rejected him, that he slept through a date, that he had very little interest in anything, which made conversation difficult. We necked a lot, but nothing assertive on his part.


I was a Distributive Education student my senior year. I attended school mornings and worked down town at J. C. Penney’s each afternoon. I received credit for the DE class and job. I was the only girl in my clique who chose to work my senior year and my girlfriends thought I was crazy. I had no allowance while growing up with very controlling parents and I wanted money and freedom.


Mid-term, as Joe and I began to discuss marriage, I used my income to build a hope chest. Something every girl in the forty’s had to have. My graduation gift from my parents? A cedar hope chest. A big, hulking, high varnish beautiful chest where I packed cup towels, dishes, a quilt, crochet dollies sent to me by my grandmother and treasures, glorious treasures for my future.


Just before Christmas, Joe bought a ring and ask my father if he could speak to him the next day after dinner. With great ceremony the next evening he asked my father’s permission to marry me. The following evening, in the living room of our little shotgun house, Joe knelt on one knee and asked me to marry him. We set a date.


Family

1951

****

Mother moved in for a week when each child was born to “help out.” She was not patient with Joe’s sleeping passion so there was tension. She was a fiery, high-energy woman and let him know when she was not pleased.


Randy and Mike became “The boys,” and Anna and Cris became “The Girls. Peggy, the middle child, would ask, “What does that make me?”


Each of the five had their own individual look. They did not all have a “family resemblance.” Mike and Anna had characteristics form Joe’s mother’s side of the family, the Noahs. The other three had Moore and Dunton characteristics to some degree. Randy had a little Colley, my mother’s family and Cris was definitely her daddy’s girl.


Meal time was always a civilized affair. The table was set and we all sat down at the same time and passed food. There was always enough for seconds if they wanted, but if I made cookies or if I made pizza and we were eating it on the run there was the possibility that the last one to grab might find nothing left. So, when that was the case, I would call out, “Three apiece,” or, “Two apiece,” to let them know how much was available.


One evening we were entertaining our Sunday School class and Peggy was helping serve the cookies and punch. Meaning for her to put the platter of cookies I handed to her onto the table with the punch, I walked into the den to see her making the round of our guests saying, “Take two. Take two”


My parents would drop by in the evening to visit often and Mother dropped in unannounced during the day a lot. We, as a family, went with my parents to the lake or camping many weekends and as the children got older my parents began to take one or two of the children with them on their two-week vacation to Colorado each year.


Anna had additional opportunities to travel. My cousin Curtis, Laverne’s son, quite a bit older than I, had a daughter the same age as my Anna and the two girls became close through the years. When they reached the age of ten or twelve, Curtis and his wife invited Anna to go with them on their yearly vacations to keep their daughter company. Anna loved it. She loved not only the places and new things she saw, but the experience of being an individual rather than one of many.


The children loved GranGran and PaPa. If I disciplined any one of the kids or gave them a tacky chore, they would get on the phone with their GranGran and tell her how terrible I was being to them. My parents often scooped the children up for an outing. One of their favorite day trips was driving out of Ft. Worth to the Brazos River each fall to gather pecans under the big old sprawling pecan trees along the river. I was often included on these trips and we climbed on the trees low, accommodating branches, waded in the slow-moving river and played in the creamy sand of the long, wide beach. Joe and I had gone there with my parents while courting and have a picture of us sitting six feet off the ground on a long branch stretching out from the thick trunk of a stately pecan tree. I’m in white anklets, saddle shoes and a neat matching sweater set, costume of the fifties. That yearly trip had begun when I was young and the tradition continued until my children were grown.


Occasionally we and my parents would drive just across the red river into Oklahoma and spend a weekend in the cabins of Lake Murray. The cabins were rustic, but the camp was right on the lake with woods to hike through. We played frisbee and paddled around the lake in those things you sit in and work with your feet. We cooked outside and made friends with other visitors. We continued to spend time there at least once a year as our family grew. The children loved it there. We had such great memories of our times there that after divorce, adults, Randy, Anna and Peggy and I met up there one weekend when Peggy’s son, my first grandchild, was about two. They said they felt strange there as adults but fell right into teasing one another as they had done as children. We marveled at how very rustic the cabins were, like run down, but the memories of being there when they were children made our weekend special.


Jamaica

1983

****

Robert and I flew to Jamaica. We had enjoyed a week in Puerto Rico the year before. In Puerto Rico we had a very nice B & B right on the beach where we had coffee on our little second floor balcony each morning. Then our hosts, Ben from Australia and Pat from France, made a beautiful breakfast which they served on the patio covered by a flower bedecked pergola. They were delightful and while the four of us ate they regaled us with tales of their amazing travels all over the world. We enjoyed their company as much as the great sights of the island. We, of course, toured the renowned fortress El Morro and the beaches. We hired a guide one morning who drove us around the entire island and up into the rain forest.


On our last Sunday there before flying home, we were strolling the streets of San Juan, watching the families gathering for church. The little girls in white ruffles with white bows in their bouncy black curls ushered little brothers in shiny black shoes with slicked back hair. Such a charming, peaceful scene. We suddenly heard a loud squeal and turned to see two men, in their Sunday finery, hauling a large pink pig across the lawn of one of the houses. With its last excruciating scream, one man held its back legs while another slit its throat. There was little reaction by the witnesses in the yard or those passing by. Just getting a little head start on Sunday dinner before going to church I guess.


Jamaica did not live up to the ads. Unfortunately, I had chosen an out of the way hotel rather than one downtown Kingston. The hotel and its grounds were beautiful in the pictures and that held true when we arrived. It was very nice, but there was nothing else around. We were surrounded by dry, barren fields. Our first day there we flagged down the local bus driving from town out into the neighborhoods to see what we could see. At each stop between villages someone would tap us on the shoulder and whisper, “Get off with me here and I can show you a beautiful sight here in Jamaica.”


“Well no, thanks but no thanks.” We were the only white people, the only tourists on that bus and soon realized we were not in a good place. We foolishly had not prepared ourselves for the poverty there. We were not aware of the warnings to remain in tourist areas in order to be safe. The second day we decided to walk to Kingston, a couple of miles away. We got directions from the hotel clerk and though it was quite hot, began our walk. After a quarter mile, we could see that we were coming to a small village nestled in the thick jungle to our right. A big, tall, black man walked out of that thick jungle to our left towards us smiling and waving. We knew immediately that we were in trouble. As he came across the blistering black-top of the street and up beside Robert chatting us up, Robert tightened his grip on my left hand and I grasp the wooden handle of my little small purse in my right hand as tight as I could as the giant passed behind Robert and then me to reach around and grab the purse. I had such a grip on it that I was thrown to the ground as he ripped the purse loose and ran into the woods. I was stunned at first because my head had hit the hot tarmac hard. As I looked up, unbelievably, Robert was disappearing into the woods right behind the thief. I jumped up and began to scream. “I’ll get the police. I’ll get the police,” as if we were in New York City or Dallas. I’m sure the thief was trembling with fear.


I stood there alone in the quiet and the thought crossed my mind, “Well Robert, it was good knowing you,” but he immediately appeared, walking out of the woods carrying my purse. Now Robert was not a tall man, I knew he was tough, I mean really tough, he had had life experiences that had made him tough, but to have taken that purse from that giant man???????


I did not know for hours what had happened in those woods because Robert grabbed my arm and marched me back towards the hotel asking, “Are you hurt?”


“I banged my head, I have a knot,” I said as I rubbed the aching spot.


When we got to our room at the hotel he examined my head, washed away a little blood and began to kiss me passionately. He backed me to the bed and made violent love to me, quickly. Stood and said “Pack.”


We flew out on the next plane leaving for the states. The Jamaican had pulled the five-dollar bill out of my purse as he ran then threw it down on the path leaving my lipstick and comb. Thank goodness I had left larger bills and my passport at the hotel.


When we arrived in Florida, it was getting dark. We walked out of the airport (By now I knew to pack light on our trips. Just one light suitcase because I never knew where or how far I would need to drag it around.) and were standing on a corner waiting for a bus to take us downtown to find a room. An older man watched us for a while and finally said, “You folks not planning to go downtown Miami this time of night are ya?”


“Yea, we need a place for the night,” Robert said.


“Don’t do it. It’s not safe.” He told us to take the bus to a suburb he named and we thanked him.

Robert asked the bus driver to drop us off at the nearest hotel and he replied that there weren’t any. Oh great, can this day get any worse? He did suggest a B&B a few blocks off his route and we went there. It was a dump. We slept in a room so humid and sour we would never have stayed except that we were totally exhausted by then. Daylight revealed the mold and mildew throughout the room as we peeled off the more than damp bedding and took to the street. 


A Ranch Visit

1959

****

My grandpa Colley, my mother’s father, had access to an enormous cattle ranch up on the Cap Rock out of Post, Texas. The Cap Rock Escarpment in the Texas panhandle rears up from the lower plains and  stretches to the west. The ranch was owned by the bank Grandpa had worked for and he and grandma would go there for a week occasionally and take family members. The year my parents and Joe and I and our three children were invited, Randy was six, Mike was four and Peggy was two. The area was so beautiful covered in sage and cactus. The distance to the horizon seemed to stretch to eternity. There were a few scrubby trees here and there in the ravines, but elsewhere the hot Texas sun beat down on the blowing dust.

The guest ranch-house where we stayed was rustic with bunk beds and a screened in porch where we ate at a big old, round table with a lazy-susan in the middle. After a big breakfast around that weathered table, Grandpa and Joe walked down to the main ranch house to meet up with the caretaker. He was a wizened old cowpoke and asked Grandpa and Joe to ride with him to get one of his bulls out of the middle of one of the water tanks.

“That darn bull has been standing there in the middle of that tank for two days, so I gotta assume he’s stuck. Finus, I know you know how to ride, but what about you City Slicker? Can you ride?” the caretaker asked Joe.

“I have no idea. Never been on a horse,” Joe replied.

About sunset, as Grandpa and Joe limped up to the guest house, Joe could hardly walk. They had been on horseback all day roping and dragging that bull out of the mud. Poor Joe had saddle sores so big and deep he could hardly do anything but lie down.


Meanwhile that same day, after breakfast and dishes, I decided the kids and I should explore that beautiful country. We walked and walked and walked. We pulled sage leaves and rubbed them between our palms to inhale their rich scent. We picked tiny wildflowers that hugged the ground and we walked down into ravines to see rabbit tracks and deer droppings. We walked too far! The munchkins were very tired and thirsty and we had to walk the same distance back. They were brave the first half hour then they began to cry and drag along. I took turns carrying one on my back and babbled about how much fun we were having. Those little ridges we had hiked over time after time to see what was on the other side were twice as steep heading back and the sun had evidently moved closer to the earth. How else could it be so hot?


We were maybe halfway back to the ranch house when carrying Mike on my back, I lost my balance, pitched forward, and dumped Mike right into the center of a huge stinging nettle bush. That poor little guy was in agony with stinging red rash on his face, arms and legs. They were all crying, I was crying, as we doggedly marched on.


Twice during our stay, my dad and I went out to hunt jack rabbits. I had a twenty-two rifle and was a pretty good shot. He and I had done some target shooting and gone squirrel hunting together. (I had even gone frog gigging (Oh my word!) with my father and uncle in the dark on the muddy banks of the Trinity River.) The jack rabbits were huge and not too worried about our presence. They would sprint away as we approached but then stop to look back at us. Reared up on their hind legs to peer over the sage and cactus they were a good three feet tall with those enormous ears. It was too easy to shoot them at such a close range and seemed cruel since they really had little fear of us. We did a little target practice and tried to count how many jack rabbits we saw but lost count because there were so many.


1978

****

Jumping ahead many years, I went dove hunting with Robert one year. We had talked about rifles and the fact that I owned a twenty-two and was a pretty good shot so he invited me to go along on the annual dove hunt with his guy friends. The guy friends were not happy. Why on earth had Robert brought a woman to their party? Well, everything went downhill from there. There were no doves. It was my opinion that all doves headed for the cities during the hunting season as did deer in deer hunting season. After a long day, the disappointed bunch of men began to gather back around the trucks and pull out the beer coolers. As we all stood or sat around gratefully drinking the cool and refreshing beers, we noticed a rat running back and forth across the trail about forty or fifty yards away. He would run into the tall weeds on one side and run back to the other side with a mouth full of grass. Robert said, “Get it Barb.”


All eyes turned to me. “Oh good grief,” I thought. Not only could I not embarrass myself, but I must perform since Robert had bragged so much about what a great shot I was. I raised my gun, sighted in on that little moving target and shot him right through the head. I was the hero of the day. Robert was happy and each and every guy had to pat me on the back and tell me, “You can hunt with us any time.

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