Thursday, March 18, 2010

MEMOIRS--Chapter eight--Aunt Vesta and Uncle Crae and Two-fingered Joe


Chapter eight

I was concerned when Daddy started to work so hard on the Salt Gulch ranch, since it was now going to be his, that his right hand would give him trouble. Daddy only had two fingers on that hand, his thumb and fore finger. The other three had been chopped off in a wreck that he caused.
I don't remember the actual wreck, but it seems like I do I heard about it so many times. During the cheese factory days I believe it was when Daddy was going to Salt Lake now and then to take the cheese, get freight, and so on in the truck, my Aunt Vesta decided to come and visit her sister and Mom and Dad and asked Daddy if she could catch a ride with him.
Oh Aunt Vesta! If she had only known more about alcoholics she would not have risked her life or her sanity on a trip clear from Salt Lake to Boulder with Daddy! In those days the trip was much longer than it is now because the road around the east end was so slow, narrow and twisting, and very slick if there had been a storm on it.
From what I hear Daddy got sleepy and asked Aunt Vesta to drive. There was also a young guy with them, it was said, he had picked up on the road, but he was not about to let him drive. Aunt Vesta said she had never driven a truck before but she did know how to drive, so rather than risk her brother-in-law falling asleep at the wheel she took over.
All went well until she decided to pass an extremely slow car ahead of her. She was just passing it when Daddy happened to raise up out of his stupor and saw that she was on the wrong side of the road. He grabbed the steering wheel and turned the truck so sharply that what with him and Aunt Vesta fighting over it, the truck tipped over! Daddy grabbed his window which was down a ways as the truck went over and the glass in the window cut three of his fingers nearly off. He got out of the truck and was waving his mangled fingers when the ambulance came and took him away. Aunt Vesta was very banged up. In fact Mother said thanks to Daddy her back and pelvis would never be the same again.
Daddy had the nerve to be quite mad at her because he lost his fingers. This made Mother so angry she tried to beat him up. I am sure Aunt Vesta vowed never to ride anywhere again with my dad, but it was a little too late to prevent the damage done to both her body and Daddy's fingers.
Daddy was very worried he would not be able to do farm work, but he was soon managing everything quite well, but the drunks all started calling him “Two -fingered Joe.” That nickname would stick to him for life. I was even destined to be called “Two-fingered Joe” in school by smart eleck school boys. But in the photo above you can see his two-fingered right hand. I thought he was mighty lucky that was the only thing that had happened to his body due to his drunk driving up to then.
Little children would ask him what happened to his fingers. My Uncle Vance's little girl was one of them. My dad showing questionable judgment told her that the birds had picked off his fingers, and when she got home she started screaming and crying when some birds swooped down in the yard. She thought they might pick off her fingers and that is how they found out what my dad told her, so none of Mother's people were too happy with my dad's attitude for years.
What I loved about all Mother's brothers was that none of them drank. Her brothers were all good looking guys who loved to dance and party just like mother did, but they could all get together and have the best time without drinking a drop of alcohol! Mother said her brother Guy had once attempted to tamper with alcohol but her dad would always go to all the dances, too, usually to play an instrument in the band, and when he saw any of his boys acting up he took them right home.
I know Grandma King could never get Grandpa King out to socialize with the Mormons to a dance. I wonder if it would have made a difference if he had acted like Grandpa Wilson did when his boys acted up.
Mother and Aunt Vesta were always the life of the party they were such good dancers, but like most Mormon girls they did not even like liquor.
Anyway what I was getting around to saying was my Uncle Crae came down to visit his Mom and Dad, and he came over to the Salt Gulch ranch and worked with Daddy for a while before he went on his mission. There was even talk that he might go in with Daddy on the ranch after his mission.
Grandma and Grandpa Wilson no more than got one son off a mission until they sent another. Guy and his girlfriend had gotten married in high school because there was a baby, my cousin Claudia, on the way, so he was the only one of Mother's three older brothers who did not go on a mission. Anyway Crae was glad to go on his mission. Grandma said he just loved the gospel.
Uncle Reed was the only King son ever to have gone on a mission and it did seem to slow his drinking down some, even though he broke the rules someway and got sent home early. Some Mormon ways stuck, but some of the things he observed people doing got Reed to imagining a whole bunch of religious people were hypocrites. When he was very upset and could not take any more deaths, he would say the religious people were poisoning people. I think what he meant was that religion could poison minds, but his logic was not too clear, so his message whatever it was was pretty much lost on most people.
I paid very close attention to Reed however, because I thought he was kind of an oracle. I paid a lot less attention to my Wilson uncles who went on missions, even though you could not get Uncle Crae angry. He was like my Grandma Wilson. He could not be bothered to get mad at anyone. He was not going to quarrel, and he never did that I know of.
Now Mother did not take after her mother but her dad, so she was a fright when it came to temper, but she loved her brothers. She could never be mean to any of them, at least when she was adult. I would like to bet she gave them a few smacks when they were young, so they learned to respect her temper just like they did their dad's.
I could not count on any of them cussing her for whipping her kids, but she did not whip us when they were around. I did not know that Crae was an angel in disguise and would not be with us long. He was the only brother on both sides of the family who would die in the war and there were a lot of King cousins who ended up in the service before they were through as well as three of Mother's brothers. It was said of Crae when he was killed that he did not have anything left to do to be a good guy. Margie and I really enjoyed having him in Salt Gulch a couple of months before I turned six. He was a good influence on our dad, and we hated to see him go on his mission and right after that to war.
Thanks to him I did not refuse to be baptized as I intended to do. Because he was coming to baptize me before he went on his mission, I swallowed my doubts. When he dipped me in the Boulder creek and prayed, I actually felt a connection to God Almighty. That is how powerful he was.

Top photo Daddy on Dinah with his right hand showing loss of fingers. Aunt Vesta climbing Sadies Nipples close to the Wilson ranch before she banged up her back and pelvis I am sure! Last photo of Crae in his radio operator uniform he wore as a crew member on a long distance bomber that went down coming back from Japan.


Connie said...

Oh my-Crae does look like an angel.
Aunt Vesta looks like she was fun and courageous.And your daddy was as handsome as he could be.
I am lovin your memoir.
I am in awe of you remembering in such detail..I went through childhood with blinders on and quite backward...

DB said...

Fascinating stuff, Gerry. You wrote about that accident very, very well.

DB said...

You are getting a lot of important family information jammed in this blog. The story reads so well.

LaRena said...

This is an interesting tale. I thought your dad's nickname was Gomez. Never heard the three fingered Joe tag. I'm sure you will get to the Gomez part if it fits in your story. You made the wreck very vivid. I'm finding your touches of country girl humor most charming. This picture of Crae is very handsome. Everyone always talked about the Wilson boys and their interesting ways of approaching life. Your mom always seemed so happy when any of her family came to visit. I think she felt a lot of warth and love for them.

Anonymous said...

THX for sharing.


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