Tuesday, March 23, 2010

MEMOIRS--Chapter ten--"I hated Dick and Jane and Spot in the first grade"


Chapter ten

The fall I was six I went to school for the first time riding the bus eight miles to Boulder with the Salt Gulch kids who lived there year around which included Frank and Barbara Coleman and Marilyn and Mack who were step children of Morias Hall who had married their mother Marie and brought her to Boulder. She was pregnant with their first child. I had already been studying hard how other people lived who did not have alcoholism in their home. Barbara's father, Parley, did not own a ranch as large as my father's Salt Gulch ranch, nor were the water rights as good, but I thought he and his wife Esther lived a lot more sensible life with their eleven children so far than my mother and dad did with only three children.
As far as I could see Barbara's parents never quarreled at all and seemed very content with the entertainments they came up with to keep them and their children occupied. I found out they played all kinds of games and Barbara and Gay were the most delightful companions in showing Margie and me how much fun we could have playing steal the house in their pasture and making squawberry beer and going hiking and making hollyhock dolls. Sometimes their older sister Leah, who had worked for us at the cheese factory house, would play with us which made it even more fun.
Although Barbara and Gay had no horses to ride--their father and older brothers had to use them for farming--they had a great deal of nerve. Barbara would even handle snakes when she found them which caused me to run home when she decided to do that. I had been developing a phobia about snakes. I even had nightmares about them. But she had also learned all the places you could hike to from her older brothers and sisters, and from the general history of Salt Gulch which the family knew well from living their a long time. She said she would take me on hikes here and there, so I could see all the sights there were to be seen in Salt Gulch. The Colemans were very proud of the Salt Gulch terrain which they seemed to think was quite as spectacular as the Boulder side. So I could hardly wait for summer to come so I could be guided to all these places by an expert like Barbara who seemed like a real country girl to me. She did not know what town was all about but she sure knew the country.
Marilyn Steffensen, a couple of years older than I was, was very beautiful but did not like Boulder very well. She had been very sorry she had to leave the city to go with her mother. I felt sorry for her because she had not wanted to be a pioneer girl at all, and now she had to be whether she wanted to or not.
When I got to school I found out there was another girl, Elaine, in the first grade who was from a large family, too. Elaine and Barbara were distantly related. I soon surmised her father was not an alcoholic either, so their home was bound to be more peaceful than ours. Elaine was also very beautiful like Marilyn. She was a real country princess. LaRell was the only boy in our class. I felt very sorry for him because his dad had died of a heart ailment a year or so before, leaving his mother on a sandy little ranch with eight children to feed. They were dreadfully poor and missed their father very badly.
But my greatest joy was to be my teacher, Golda Petersen, who had been persuaded to teach in Boulder that year but was to leave the following year to go to Wayne Country to marry her fiance, another teacher. Golda was red haired and very kind. I dearly loved her. She made a special point to tell me that she had three younger sisters she loved, who were all red headed, too! I thought my sisters had beautiful hair, too, but it was not red, even though I had a red headed grandmother King.
But I regret to say that I did not love Dick and Jane and Spot. I can't tell you how those first grade primers aggravated me. Mother was confused and could not figure out why I hated Dick, Jane, and Spot. I thought it was too risky to tell her that no children were probably as simple minded and ignorant about life as to love those little books. I just could not wait to get to the more interesting stuff to read. As far as I could see all the primers, even in the grades above me, were the same boring texts. I could not wait to get to the novels Mother loved to read so often to my Dad's disgust that might enlighten me about the problems that bedeviled people. My reading fare in the first grade greatly tried my patience.
Given my penchant for analyzing problems I had already concluded that poor Grandma King with her love of church had inadvertently done a bad thing in moving to Escalante every winter so her children could attend better schools. I doubted if the boys had gotten any better education than the older Coleman children were getting in the two room school house in Boulder the parents had all insisted on building. Why hadn't Grandma decided to do the same? Perhaps it had been the custom for some of the women to move to the bigger town in the winter, but I thought it had been a terrible mistake, because Grandma was no match for those wild boys of hers! They needed Grandpa King's strong guiding hand at all times, even if he applied the bull whip when extremely exasperated. In fact, they got so out of hand during the winter, that was probably why he was driven to the whip when he had to straighten them up in the summer.
I could just see from what my cousin Ray had been doing in Escalante what my dad and his brothers had done. They had probably tampered with alcohol and tobacco, and since they did not have a ranch in Escalante, were far too idle in town during the winter months when they should have been kept so busy with chores they did not have time to get into so mischief.
Naturally living in town might have seemed more entertaining to Grandma and Aunt Hazel who were good women and loved a big church relief society, but town was not good for their boys who tampered with alcohol every one of them!
In fact, since Grandpa King had not married until he was thirty I could not help but wonder if he had fallen into the same temptations as my dad must have done in his teen and bachelor years, which might have caused him to agree to Grandma living in town while he stayed on the ranch with the hired men.
Oh, the things I thought about after I was molested were never to be found in Dick and Jane and Spot primers. But I thought my studying all these problems was crucial to my survival, because even though I was now able to keep that molester at bay, every single weekend, my drunk father, who I thought of as two men, the drunk and the sober, came home to disturb the peace of our home. My mother seemed to go a little insane when she saw him drunk. She would start to call him names and she would fight with him sometimes all night. She just could not be calm when she saw that he had altered his total personality into a state she could not and would not tolerate without extreme protest.
What was to be done? Grandma and Grandpa Wilson did not understand alcoholics nor it seemed did Grandma and Grandpa King, since Grandpa was not alcoholic even though his four sons were and some of his grandsons, even though not very old. Some of the hired men even got drunk regularly on their days off.
I realized that I was the poor little daughter of a bad drunk right away, from what some of the school boys would holler at me at recess. “Two-fingered Joe!” Hurt, I did not see why they would call me by my father's drunk name, but some of the boys seemed proud they knew what he was called by some of his alcoholic friends. These were the wild boys who had older boys in their families who partied and drank. Some of them aspired to grow up and drink too as well as ride horses and punch cattle.
There was a lot to learn at recess that was not contained in those simple little books about Dick and Jane and Spot. How long was I going to have to wait until I could read grown-up books. I guessed that I was not going to find any real information in children's books, at least not in the ones I found in that school. Fairy stories like Hansel and Gretal were about all I related to, where the poor parents had no money to feed their children so took them out in the forest for the wolves to eat, but guess what Hansel dropped little rocks and found his way home again to be tolerated I supposed by the parents for a while longer until their money ran out again. I thought Hansel and Gretal were frightfully forgiving. I doubted if I would have been that loving to those hard-hearted parents. Looking to find them again so they could get treated the same way all over again! Dick and Jane and Hansel and Gretal did not seem to be in the same class of children. I was surprised mothers and dads and teachers even let us read Hansel and Gretal.

Photo Hell's Backbone Bridge--most scenic spot above Salt Gulch. Header photo-Boulder schoolhouse where I attended the first grade, with the same towering silver maples and cottonwoods that were there when I went.


DB said...

Who could blame you? I remember that as kids in our free time we used to make up very nasty stories about Dick and Jane.


Connie said...

Oh we are so alike _I feared snakes sooo much-still do.My brothers used to tease me when we went berry picking and sometimes threw them at me which sent me home screaming--they would deny they did it and that I just wanted out of berry picking,which was untrue -I loved to pick berries. And oh how I loved the days the bookmobile came to our school and I could get all the pony and horse books I could carry. AT recess little shy Charlotte Fawcett and I played horse .We'd take turns putting a rope around the other and the horse would gallop and whinny and the rider slapping the reins behind...such fun...

vooman's voice said...

Gerry, I think you should going into a little bit in your book about the rape that caused Daddy to end up the owner of that ranch. You were very young, but you must have heard a lot of the talk about Uncle Glen having to leave town forever. This too being a sexual thing that may have caused fears in you...if you were found out. There must have been a lot of gossip and talk around Boulder and Escalante of this. Dan told me Glen was in jail and Grandpa paid his dad $2000, plus the promise of never coming back.
That was probably invovled in his suscide...or death. I'll bet you heard fights about it, even if you don't remember. It was also said that Reed was sent home...for something? (What was it?) You would have also been in on the death of his best friend from drinking poison wiskey. There are lot of ???. If you are going to make the whole town family... town,etc, etc. mad you might as will tell the WHOLE story.

kanyonlandking-annk.blogspot.com said...

I loved Dick and Jane and Spot, especially Spot. I thought they had a very simple life in the city, not our hard country life. No problems! Didn't they have the ideal easy life with lots of games to play? Who would object to that?? You were just too brilliant to appreciate such simple folk!

LaRena said...

I'm afraid I'd have to vote with Gerry about Dick and Jane and even sweet little Spot. i loved my first grade teacher, as she was a lovely lady. However her method of teaching kids to read left something to be desired. She would have each kid stand up and read a loud while the others followed along. A boy named Rulen B had a terrible time getting the words out. I felt like I was being tortured. Having five older sisters I learned to read long before going to school. We didn't have many books but I devoured the Camp Fire Girls. One about gypsys I must have read ten times as it was filled with suspense and adventure. Viola and I poured over Mother's big fat Doctor's book until the pages started falling out. We were suppose to read it as it had graphic anatomy stuff in it. (The best part for us.) Melba was privileged to bring home the World Encyclopedia over night. It was the rule that it should never leave the school house. She was such a brilliant and curious student that her teacher made an exception. God, we were thrilled and impressed with her.

When Barbara came to Wayne County for school I thought she was rather ordinary looking but she soon charmed everyone, including a boy I sort of had a crush on. I didn't understand this at all. The beautiful Elaine didn't get nearly as much attention. I eventually figured out Barbara was more aggressive and adventuresome than either Elaine or I. LeFair talked about the beautiful Marilyn Steffison and he sharing a few
Salt gulch kisses.

I kept waiting for you to tell about the lone grave in Salt Gulch where the Ogden boy was buried. I think he had drowned in the tanks above Calf Creek falls. Life was not with out it's dangers in this gorgeous country.When it came my turn to raise boys there I prayed I could keep them alive until they were twenty one. I don't know why I thought twenty-one was a magic number. I'm sure by then my delightful first born son was quite established in the world of the alcoholics, taking him to an early grave at 46. Damn, that alcohol was a curse for towns like Boulder and Escalante for decades. Probably still is.


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