Wednesday, March 10, 2010

MEMOIRS---Chapter Two Living at the Cheese Factory House


Chapter Two

I remember when Mother decided Margie was old enough to spank. She had not even been walking very long and I didn't see how she could have intentionally done anything bad enough to deserve a hard whipping on her backside. Well, the first time Mother spanked her Margie opened her mouth to cry and fell down and turned blue for the longest time before she ever let out a yell. I was so alarmed I said something to Mother about it when I dared. Mother assured me that kids sometimes held their breaths when they were spanked, that it was just Margie's temper that caused her to hold hers until she turned blue. I still didn't quite believe her and have a few flash memories of Margie doing this every time Mother spanked her. I became convinced Mother might kill her if she didn't stop spanking her.
I have never seen a child since do what Margie did, but it was discovered when she was in her seventies when she had a heart attack that she had a hole in her heart wall that had probably been there since birth. Now Uncle Reed had a daughter named Carol who had been born with a very large hole in her heart, and her lips were always tinged with blue. No one was ever allowed to upset her as the doctors were not able to fix her heart at the time. They said she would not survive any attempts to do so and would probably die when she got her first childhood disease, which she did when she got chicken pox and died when she was eight. Margie also developed severe asthma which manifested in frightening croup attacks when she was small. All I can think of is that one or the other of these caused her to fall down and turn blue when she was spanked.
But one day Mother got angry and whipped Margie when Aunt Nethella, Daddy's sister, was visiting during the summer. Margie opened her mouth wide, fell down and did not draw a breath as she slowly turned blue. Aunt Nethella started yelling for a cup of water and when somebody rushed to her with the water, she threw it on Margie who to my great relief let out a strangled cry. I thought she was a goner that time for sure.
I don't recall Aunt Nethella saying a word to Mother. Everybody knew better by then not to rebuke Mother about how she disciplined her kids. She had told them too many times her children would not be spoiled as her husband was by his mother from not giving him enough whippings. It came out later that Grandpa Wilson, her own father, had never spared the rod and spoiled the child either, especially Mother who said he whipped her with a belt when she was clear up in her teens! Grandpa Wilson told me later in life that he still hated his own father who had died when he was eighteen, but who had up to then given him many savage beatings.
Mother, however, told Grandpa King who would sometimes lay into his grown sons with a bullwhip when they were cutting cattle and failed to understand his orders, that he was never to whip his son Clyde again with a bullwhip or she would leave the whole bunch of them. So Daddy got his last whipping with a bull whip when he was over thirty years old!
Such were the old fashioned ways of disciplining children. The saga of whippings continued on when we moved to the Salt Gulch ranch when I was five and Margie was four. I don't recall any of the whippings there, Margie's or mine, all I remember is that every single day I had to tell Daddy yes, we got a whipping. He would ask me every day when he came into the house after his day in the fields. I hated to tell him yes he would act so sad because he knew as well as I did that Mother might whip us even harder if he said anything. He had tried that. So that is how I know she was still whipping us in Salt Gulch. I don't recall Margie falling down and holding her breath in Salt Gulch, so she either got over her indignation at being whipped or Mother figured out just how hard to whip her to keep her from nearly expiring.
Well, it's a wonder she did not kill us both, but I did not like her for years. Oddly, however, when I heard there was talk from Aunt Nethella of trying to take us away from our parents because of my mother's whippings and my dad's drinking, I did not agree with her. I thought Aunt Nethella and the rest of them should have visited them a lot more and been their friends. Mother was almost pathetically eager to be friends with anybody who was willing. She was willing to talk to anybody who came in her store for hours, even Alvey Leavitt! Daddy was a lot more reserved, but he responded to us children so well, I was convinced that persistence would pay off in talking to him, too, if the adults were willing to try. As it was now, his only friends were his children and the alcoholics which included some of the worst old drunks I have ever seen. There were just too many nice people who acted like they couldn't stand either one of them.
Later in Salt Gulch I was to come to the conclusion that there was reason enough for our mother to be so painfully frustrated with our father. But I do not want to go into that just yet. I will put it off as long as possible. I will stay in my relatively happy little world in Boulder where nothing of a really major problem seemed to threaten except an occasional fall from a horse. I was not deterred. I still rode horses as often as possible. Our Grandfather even gave Margie and me a little saddle we were to share. We were still too young to be taken at the same time with our dad. He would have us take turns riding with him. Grandpa King also gave us our very own horse, old Strippy. Strippy had been a faithful cow horse to him for a long time. Grandpa said his gentleness would make him a perfect kid horse.

But we had only had him about three weeks when I came to get him, and the hired men said Grandpa had put him to sleep! I didn't dare ask our rather gruff Grandfather why he had done such a thing after just giving him to us! I thought it was very mean of him. I am just now thinking the hired men probably put the worst interpretation on Strippy's death that they could. He probably got so decrepit Grandpa was afraid he would drop dead when we were on him, so gave orders for him to be shot.
The hired men also got a kick out of me refusing to eat my pet lamb Black Wooley when he was killed to provide mutton for the family table. I had raised him and loved him so, but my dad said it was foolish of me to think we could keep a sheep for a pet. They were too dumb! He insisted that the reason he had let us pick Black Wooley out of the dogey lambs when the sheep herds came through on the way to the mountain for the summer, was so we could fatten him up and eat him! I am sure he did not mention that! These lambs had lost their mothers and it was feared they might not make it to the mountain sheep range, so they were given to the towns people every year. No matter what Daddy said I still would not eat one bite of Black Wooley.

At this time we were living to the cheese factory house. Our mother had decided she had to find a way to make money since Daddy drank up nearly all he made working for Grandpa and gave her such a little allowance to live on, we could hardly afford anything to brighten our days.
Mother got to talking to the man who ran the little cheese factory up the lane who also had a store in the front of the house. He said that his wife did not like Boulder and they were eager to sell the cheese factory operation and move back to Escalante where they had come from. Mother finally got Daddy and Grandpa convinced they should trade for a lease on the cheese factory house, and she started sending away for books on how to make cheese. She also took to visiting cheese factories out over the mountain.
Pretty soon, almost before you could wink an eye, Mother had us moved into the cheese factory house. Mother was always that way. She no more than came up with a new plan than she would let nobody rest until she could put it into action. Daddy would never have done anything she complained if she didn't strike a fire under him now and then.
She had done this to get her homestead house built but she did not like living there because it was way out in the fields away from everybody. She thought she would enjoy living on the main highway through Boulder and visiting with all the people she saw the sociable Munsons visiting in their store. She just could not wait!
What I remember the most about that house was all the hours Margie and I were expected to look after ourselves in the main part of the house while Mother was either making cheese or waiting on the store. I remember playing hours and hours waiting for somebody to come home. I found out it made Mother very happy for me to fix lunch for everybody. In order to see her and whoever was making cheese I would do anything to get them in there for a little while, even cook macaroni!
I suppose this was when Margie and I took to quarreling so much, we had to spend so many hours alone together. I was far too close to her in age to be a very good boss, even though I was put in charge of her. She hardly even minded me.
Sometimes Mother would call to me to go wait on the store if she was too busy with the cheese to come. The doorbell would ring and ring, so I would go and let them in. They were probably too afraid of my mother to take advantage of me. I remember Alvey Leavitt came several times, but he did not leer at me in Mother's store. Mother and Grandma had complained about Alvey in connection with garlic which they said made them sick when he got near them. I did not know what garlic was at the time, so I was always trying to discover what garlic was and to see if I could detect what it had done to Alvey. I never got close enough to him to smell his breath.
But my most unforgettable customers were some Navaho Indians. They were in town selling rugs and although they could not speak English, by pointing they managed to make me understand what they wanted. Mother had bought three beautiful Navaho rugs for the front room we had for years, so they had money. I was very proud of myself for successfully waiting on Indians, once so savage people had thought they had to kill every one of them they could which always made me sad.
Now there was a man who worked for Mother I would probably have remembered except I was too concerned about poor Daddy. I remember the other fellow who worked for Mother very well. She fired him once for not showing up for work because he got drunk, leaving her in an awful bind. I don't know who she managed to get to help her that day. Anyway she hired a guy three years younger than she was who was visiting his uncle to take Wallace's place. He was very handsome and according to her secret history book I was able to read several years later she fell in love with him. She even said in her diary she would have run away with him if he had been willing. Sadly she said he asked her younger sister Vesta for a date instead. What a disappointment that must have been!
But at the same time she wrote how Daddy threatened to kill himself while they were living at the cheese factory house. She said he threatened it so often, she finally told him to go ahead and do it, but take the gun and shoot himself out in the orchard where his blood would run onto the ground! This must have been over Mother's falling in love with Reed. I am sure I picked up on all that. I just don't remember, but years later when I met Reed at a dance when I was in my early twenties, it was as though I had known him before, a long time ago and he seemed to know me. He was still very handsome and charming and my mother soon claimed him again.

Mother when she was 18 in first photo. Grandma and Grandpa King as they looked then. Daddy in the last photo.


Herrad said...

Please come by my blog and pick up your Beautiful Blogger Award.
Herrad said...

Fascinating! I think you should just leave the photos in as you go.
But you can decide. I think the oldest child has to tend too much, too early usually. I was able to cut and paste pictures right along with my cover, so you can just move them to the manuscript! (Or the pictures alone.) Good chapter!

LaRena said...

I agree with Ann about the photos. I like them very much right along with the story instead of all grouped together.It gives the reader a clearer picture of who you are talking about.

I was struck by how much your mother at that age looked like LaRae when I first met her.(Except for the hair of course. Good job Gerry.

Have Myelin? said...

I love the photos and your ability to tell a story. I am so behind on reading your blog.

Lots of heartbreak all around in this life of ours.


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