Thursday, March 4, 2010

My Memoirs--Chapter 1-1

I decided to post part of the first chapter of my Memoirs. The rest of the first chapter will follow. You will see more chapters from time to time as I write them. The year I reached five became the start of some really tough years for me to write about, so those chapters will appear as I can build the strength to write them. Thanks for inspiring me to do this difficult job. I appreciate your support out there. Especially some of my relatives and Doc who have urged me without flagging to get my story down before I go to the other side!

The top photo is an old photo of the King ranch house where I spent my first year. My Grandma and Grandpa King are standing in front. The photo of the little girl is me when I was about 3 or 4 standing in front of a tree in the barnyard of the King ranch house. You can see part of the barn and a couple of cows.


Chapter One (1-1)

I made up my mind when I wrote my memoirs I was going to do it in such a way as not to depress myself for our family history can get me down in the dumps fast if I don't watch out. It was that kind of family.
For example before I ever entered the world, my father had become an alcoholic, but an alcoholic usually isn't regarded as such an abusive figure unless he has a wife and family to torture. My mother proved to be a woman who took greater offense to drinking than most women.
Nobody drank in my mother's family. They were generally thought to be too religious to drink. Oh, her father's youngest brother who rebelled against religion became an alcoholic but he never had any children, and his wife continued to adore him no matter what he did. So my theory is that I had probably heard a great many quarrels about drinking before I was even a few months old, which probably explains why I seemed so precocious at such a young age. Compared to my Grandmother King I seemed to myself even to be a world weary young tot who far surpassed her in my knowledge of her son's lies about his drinking. She believed him when my father told her he had not been drinking even when he was practically staggering. I would know just about how much he had drunk. And what we all could expect once he got home.
I am getting ahead of my story, but I am just trying to say that I was probably becoming educated about drinking while I was still in my cradle.
But my first actual memory is an odd one. I have a very vivid memory of myself seated in my little home made highchair looking out the window of our homestead house. I couldn't have been two yet because we only lived in that house a year, and my high chair was so small, I didn't sit in it after I was very old. What I was seeing out the window that interested me so much were six or seven Navaho men on horses galloping through my grandfather's large pond. They were whooping with joy. I had never seen such happy cowboys. I was thinking what a difference there was between the Indians and my father and his cowboys who were a sadder more serious bunch I was wondering why they would be noticeably more grim than the happy go lucky Indians who had come up from the reservation to trade rugs for horses. I seemed to be trying to figure out the reason even at that very young age. I was thinking about it.
So in my first memory as a very young child I was already trying to analyze my dad. Odd but the Kings I discovered later were given to analyzing, which drove my mother crazy. She never liked that trait in us which I was already exhibiting at such a young age she would have been bound to notice and feel annoyed.
I have several brief memories in those early years of riding on huge horses with my father. Sometimes I would be on a horse by myself always praying whenever the horse approached a ditch or some bars that it wouldn't take a notion to jump over them. If the horse jumped I might be jolted and lose my grip on the saddle horn. I'd fall a long ways to the ground I would think, so falling must be avoided if at all possible. If I thought our horses might be frisky enough to jump over bars I would ask my dad to please take more bars down so my horse would be sure not to jump. My dad would frown when I showed signs of fear, and seem to remember that I was just a girl after all and therefore a 'scaredy' cat. But if my horse was a gentle old mare I would think it would be too tired to jump. It would just likely step over the barriers.
Some of these rides on horses must have been both before and after I did fall from a runaway horse when I was three years old. I used to clamor to ride horses even at the same time I feared them. My father had come home from riding for cattle and my mother and he were walking down the lane toward my Grandfather's ranch. Mother had been up the lane visiting and was carrying Marion, Uncle Reed's daughter, who was only one year old. Margie, who was two, and I were walking along side her and my dad.
At once I began to beg to be put on Daddy's saddle horse. This must have been quite a common thing for me to do. My dad finally gave in and lifted me up into the saddle and put Margie on back of me. Lastly, he placed Marion in front of me.
He was riding a gray gelding named Dumbell that he had not owned very long. He was always trading for a horse. No amount of scolding that he could not afford it ever stopped him from making these horse trades when he was partying. Daddy was already saying that Dumbell was not smart enough to be a good cow pony so he would keep him a while to see if he could turn him into a 'kid' horse. I suppose one reason he let us ride him was to try him out.
Dumbell failed the kid horse test almost at once. He jerked the reins out of my dad's hands and took off running. Daddy managed to snatch our cousin Marion off. Margie fell onto the hard ground a little ways further and was lucky not to have been hurt badly. As for me, I grabbed the saddle horn and clutched it with all my might thinking I would not fall on that hard ground in the lane for anything once Dumbell picked up full running speed.
Instead of stopping to the corrals, however, he turned and started running up a sandy hill toward the fields. I started picturing what he might do to the top of the hill where there was a bunch of rocks. Anything might happen there. Dumbell might be able to get into the pasture somehow, but if I happened to fall on the rocky ground, I could be hurt very badly.
I decided I would just have to throw myself off while he was still running up the sandy hill. I hoped to fall into some soft sand. I let go of the horn and launched myself out away from his side as far as I could.
Unfortunately I landed on a drying sagebrush. A piece of stem was driven by the weight of my body into the flesh under my chin. I lay in the sand and screamed when I felt blood running.
My dad came running as fast as he could and picked me up and brushed me off. He told my mother he could see I was not hurt badly and said a few teasing words to me about screaming.
I was mortified over the teasing and mad because I could not tell him or anybody else how I had planned my jump so I would fall in the soft sand. Nobody would believe I hadn't just fallen off now that I had screamed so loud. I thought I was a very smart little girl to think so well in an emergency and they needed to know it.
I think I was establishing myself as a brainy child even then which proved to be quite dangerous given my mother's penchant for jealousy and savage belief in corporal punishment. But the King family greatly admired brains especially in one related to them by blood, so their esteem must have been what I was going for.
I also must have figured I needed to be very smart to survive in the dangerous world in which I found myself. The horse world. The drinking cowboy world.
It would have been along about that time that Uncle Max, my dad's youngest brother, got killed from being thrown from a horse in a rodeo when he was only 21 years old! I remember Uncle Max coming to the ranch house where we were living at the time. Somebody said he and Uncle Reed had just come in with the mail. Max came in the house and said hello to me. He may have played with me a little. That is my only memory of him not long before he had his fatal ride on a bucking horse.
Those King boys had been raised on horses people said so it would have been very unlikely for Max to have been hurt like he was if he had not been drinking. I can just imagine how drunk he might have gotten judging from the way my dad drank. He would soon be staggering he drank beer or even whiskey so fast once he started. I imagine all the Kings drank fast which is why drinking affected them worse than it did men who drank slow.
People went over and over the story about Max being thrown. They said he did not try to catch himself. He just fell, a dead weight, and hit his head on a stone on the rodeo grounds that had not been cleared of hazardous materials. Cowboys were expected to look down and dodge the rocks when they were thrown from bucking horses in the rodeos. I remember Daddy saying he had a feeling when he saw them pick his unconscious brother up and carry him off the field that he would not come to. He was not strong enough. I wondered what he meant. He seemed to think he was physically stronger than both Max and and his older brother Reed. Well, everyone knew Reed was not strong. He had nearly died twice when he was a child of pneumonia and meningitis. But I guessed for some reason, maybe because he was the baby and rather spoiled, Daddy did not think Max would be able to survive the hard blow to his head.
And he didn't.
Reed didn't go to the rodeo. He was talking to the spirits a lot so they were afraid he might drink. On the third day after Max was hurt, I remember Mother had volunteered to watch Reed, so Daddy could go back to town alone because they received word that Max was probably going to live only a few more hours.
This was when Mother said Reed came to her crying saying that a spirit had come and told him Max had just died. He was in the spirit world now. He said Rodney told him, his best friend who had died a few years before from drinking poison whiskey. Reed drank it, too, and was very sick. Mother said that the doctors thought Reed's mental troubles may have developed from this near death experience. That his mind might have split at that time. It was for sure that he was now living half in this world and half in that one.
He was always laughing and talking to Rodney in the spirit world. He would say that Rodney told him jokes. Reed loved jokes. I was incredibly curious about a joke a spirit might have told Reed. I wished that I could just ask him to tell me the joke, but we children were warned not to say anything to Reed about his conversations with the dead.
The adults were always shouting at him for thinking he was talking to the spirits, trying to cure him that way. They cursed him because he would not do any work. So they would tell him to forget about the spirits. They accused him of just trying to get out of work! I figured that was why it would be dangerous for us children to ask him what the spirits were saying. He had been criticized so much for it.
I always wished that the adults had been kinder and as curious as I was, so they could have found out more about the spirit world Reed seemed able to access at will.
But if they had been kinder he probably would not have needed to live in the spirit world so much of the time. His split state of mind was kind of a no win situation the way I saw it. I did appreciate Mother letting Reed tell her about Rodney bringing her the news Max had died. She said they hadn't even told Reed Max had been hurt for fear of sending him completely of his rocker so they would have to take him back to the mental hospital in the middle of all this upset. However, Reed was not stupid. He probably picked up from the way they were acting something was terribly wrong.
Reed and Max were the best of friends at the time of Max's death. They had the mail contract together and this was one of the few jobs that Reed had been successful doing since his nervous breakdown, probably because Max was kind to him and did not abuse him. Or at least that is what I imagined by the way they loved each other. Daddy loved Reed, too. He loved to party with him, but they tried to keep those two apart when they were drinking. Daddy was thought to be a very bad influence.
When Max died was when I first became aware of Uncle Reed. Up to then I don't remember seeing him or knowing a lot about him. I did think however that Reed would be able to keep right on talking to Max after he was dead. He knew how to do it. He wouldn't miss him as much as the rest of the family did because he would be talking to him in the spirit world as soon as he came to and recovered from his head injury.


LaRena said...

Gerry, I very much enjoyed the beginning of your memoirs. You will catch people's interest right away. I always think this is so important in a book. I think your horse stories will bring up many memories for people who have been raised around horses.

You were indeed working on being smart to start figuring these things out when you were only three. You seemed to get a grasp of how important it was for you to be brave. I, on the other hand was quite oblivious, both to the danger and what might be expected of me. We rode a frisky horse in to town from our ranch. My sister Viola, who was four years older than I was always in charge. I fully trusted her to take care of me. We had bought a bag of candy at the store and I climbed on the back of the saddle rattling the paper bag. the horse took off and dumped us quickly. We weren't hurt but I became quite a chicken about riding at that time. Subsequently this same horse would run under a tree and brush us off. This must have worried our parents and we changed horses a few times.

I didn't really get the proper respect for horses until I was an adult. Our little boys had a horse that hadn't really been broke enough for them to ride. LeFair said he just didn't have time to do it and he would take it to Kirk Lyman to be broke. I had heard how Kirk broke hoers and we argued about it. When he left for Salt Gulch I thought, "Well I have time, I'll break this sweet horse for the boys". All went well until I tried to make him cross the bridge running over the creek. He bucked back into the yard and I was totally scared and clinging for dear life. Finally he headed toward a big pile of rocks and I knew I had to get off. Of course I took quite a bump to the ground, but wasn't hurt. I knew I had to get back on and not let him think he could get away with such behavior. I managed to get him to cross the bridge and head down the road. I'm thinning,"that's good enough" and I jumped off and led him back to the corral. I had to listen to quite a lecture that night and I knew I had been dumb, so couldn't defend my self. Unfortunately old Dusty died before anyone got around to breaking him. It wouldn't have been me at any rate. My reasoning about where to get off was much like yours ,but then I was in my late twenties where you were three. Obviously I didn't start working on being smart or brave until long after you. Yeah Gerry. said...

I knew it was easier to fall off a horse than have Dinah run under the shed and scrape you off. That happened once, and I was covered with scrapes as well as bruises from the fall. I, too, tried to fall off in the deeper sand. I wasn't thinking about being brave, I was just saving my life. I don't think I ever thought about being brave. (I guess I figured if I lived, I was brave enough).

Gerry said...

When I started riding horses I was very conscious of Daddy wondering how much toughness he could ask for from daughters as compared to sons. I thought if I had been a son he would have demanded I act a lot tougher and more would have been said about my acting like a sissy, scared my horse would jump the bars instead of just step over them, stuff like that. The hired men and Daddy also made fun of me for worrying about the death of animals, including of old Strippy, the horse Grandpa had just given to us. He up and died or as the hired men was put to death, so I was very sad and indignant. I also made a terrible fuss when my lamb Black Wooley was killed for lamb chops. Daddy said that was why we had gotten him when I would not eat any of him. It was only the beginning of more protests about anything that hurt the animals. This I was made to understand were sissy girl reactions, not tough little cowboy's.

DB said...

Excellent Gerry. The story is already intriguing. It's great tht you're doing this.

Connie said...

Spell binding-from start to finish.
I just knew this was going to be a good read,and am so very glad you started it.
I am proud of your tenacity !!!

Bohemian Cowboy said...

This is a great beginning! Think of the story you have lived! I love it when you use those small punchy sentences for emphasis. Great writing, great story telling.

Amrita said...

Nice reading your memooirs. The photos are so precious


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