Friday, February 28, 2014

More Pets

You have heard about some of the pets we owned. But there have been many others. I will tell you about some of the more unique.

My father was always looking for ways to make a bit of extra money. He decided to raise rabbits to sell their pelts. We made them into pets and that was the end of that venture.

But not to be outdone Daddy tried raising minks. Same thing. When I say pets I do not mean we held them and played with them. We simply named them and became so attached to them that we would not allow them to be killed for pelts.

We always raised chickens. I can honestly say I did not think of them as pets. Those nasty things thought my bare feet were a food source. Luckily it was my brothers' chore to take care of them.

Mom would kill and dress the chickens to sell them sometimes. I was designated to be her assistant. We plucked feathers and cleaned insides. The giblets were my job. I could clean a gizzard in no time at all without breaking the pouch that holds the grit that grinds their food for them. I now buy frozen chicken breasts so that I do not have to mess with those nasty things.

When I was younger we had a pet goat named Nanny. She was a pretty little thing and we loved her so. Then she had a kid that we creatively named Billy. We loved him just as much. These two we could pet and hug.

I was in the 2nd or 3rd grade at school. One day we came home and Nanny and Billy were both gone. Nanny had been given a new home, we were told. We had stew for supper that night. Of course we realized that Billy was main ingredient of the stew.

All of us sat at the table and cried. We would not eat our friend. We were finally excused. I still do not eat anything that I have been introduced to, especially a friend.

One time we were playing in the barn and found these cute little babies. They were pink and had no hair at all. They were about 1 1/2 inches long. We got a small box and put them in it. Then we took it into the house to show Mom.

Mom was not impressed at the baby mice we had found. She told us to take them back because they were too young to be away from their mother.

Of course we decided that we would take care of them in secret. Even as young as we were we knew the mother would probably have nothing to do with them because they would have our smell on them. And of course we were not equipped to care for them and they did not survive.

Daddy liked birds. He had so many parakeets and tried to teach them to talk. They never did.

Once he even bought a canary. It did not talk either. But he did occasionally let it fly loose in the house. Mom was not thrilled with this.

Then came the day that one of us kids held the door open too long while the bird was loose. Out it went. Mom would every once in a while see a flash of bright yellow fly past the window while she was doing dishes.

When we llived in Tennessee my husband bought a pig. His intention was to have some good pork to eat. He was truck driver and gone all week. The children and I were home with the pig all week.

We named her Hortense. She was a great pig. And I was happy to have her because there were poisonous snakes in the area and pigs are known to eat them. Of course she was our pet. There was no way anyone would feed her to us.

When we moved away our neighbor took her in. She loved her as much as we did and promised to keep her as a pet.

While we were living in one of the major cities of the United States we had some unusual pets. We had chickens and ducks. One of our favorites was Cooper.

Cooper was our goat. He was big and full of fire. In the beginning we kept him tethered in the back yard. But he kept butting into things and ruining them. So we put him into a fenced in area next to the house. He was a novelty in the city of course.

When we went to get him, a friend of my husband used his camper. His wife and I rode along to have a day out. Cooper was understandably nervous about being in this contraption with all these strange humans. Apparently when they get nervous, goats get gassy. I was so glad to get out of that camper when we got home!

We put an old cow bell on Cooper to keep track of him. It worked quite well.

The boys had a little league baseball game. When we returned home my husband was taking a nap. He was not much interested in sports. We did not see Cooper. I went in and asked him where the goat was. He rolled slowly off the bed and went to see what kind of ravings I was having.

Cooper was gone. We never found a trace of him. We lived close to the railroad tracks and often there were hobos who came past the house. There were also a lot of different people whose heritage ate goat. They often stopped to see if they could buy him. Or maybe he just got loose. Who knows?

My daughter was given a love bird by a man I was seeing. (Trying to make points with Mom, don't you know) She loved it. As time went on it even started to mimic sounds.

There was a bar on the corner and if the windows were open there were the normal sounds of people coming and going. Soon the bird was giving wolf whistles and saying a few things. I never could figure out why it did not say, "Damn dog!"

That was because Tilly was a puppy. She chewed things; my things. Never anyone else's things. After a trip I took she even chewed through my leather suitcase and chewed one shoe from each of two pair of dress shoes. Every time I came home it seemed like I was saying, "Damn dog." You would think the bird would have picked up on that. Dumb bird.

We had all those cats too. They were eying the bird. Birds hearts are delicate. One day we came home and the bird was in the bottom of the cage. The cage was off center. My belief is that the cats tried to get it and it had a heart attack.

Speaking of cats many of them were calico cats. Calico cats are always female. If you ever come across a male you can make yourself rich. But I digress.

The mother of about 5 kittens abandoned them. We bought bottles and special kitty formula for them but they did not eat well. One day we stopped at Taco Bell to get supper because we all worked that day.

The kittens were swarming around. I suggested that a little of the taco meat be out on something for them. They ate it right up. For a few weeks we had to pick up tacos every day so the kittens would eat.

My daughter loves any and all animals. Since she has had her own family she has owned birds, turtles, hermit crabs, dogs, gerbils, hamsters, and fish. She is still wanting to get a scorpion and a tarantula for a start.

The neighbor across the street from my brother-in-law had a skunk in her garage. How it got in there was a mystery. My husband and brother-in-law captured it to get it out of her garage. When they discovered that it had been "de-skunked" my husband decided to take it home. It was so soft. And the children loved it. It was gentle but I worried just the same about bites. i finally convinced him to find it a new home. By the way, "de-skunked" skunks retain a bit of their musky smell so things smelled for a bit after we had it.

One of the best stories did not involve me at all. My brother-in-law bought a horse. In the city. I have no idea what he intended to do with it. Eventually he tired of it and the expense involved with feeding it. Enter my by then ex-husband.

He took the horse to his house. Again I have no idea what he intended to do with it. But he lived along side of the freeway.

One day on the local news there was my husband's horse wandering around on the freeway. I think animal control officers (dog catchers) finally picked it up.

Again these are just a few of the animals we have had over the years. And me not being an animal lover.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Doggone It

Animals have been a big part of my life, whether I liked it or not. I always thought I was not a big animal lover. I would never mistreat any living thing but I honestly do not need the companionship of an animal.

That being said I must admit that my families have always had pets. They range from horses to rodents and almost everything in between.

Dogs. There have been so many dogs. If you have been around for a while you have read about our dog Trixie's puppies being thrown down the hole of our outdoor toilet. There have been countless others. For a while every dog we had was named Suzie. It did not matter if the dog was male or female, it was named Suzie. Don't ask why, I have no idea.

The dogs ranged in size from rat terrier to German Shepherd. Usually they were strays that one or the other of us kids (and sometimes Daddy) brought home. Mom did not like animals in the house so they always had houses outside.

Then I married a farm boy who loved having dogs too. We had four children who all love their pets as well.

My daughter is the biggest animal lover of them all. Our next door neighbor had well over a dozen dogs. She was worse than we were We only had a couple at a time.

If we went next door to visit my two year old daughter would go to the middle of the room and stretch out her arms waiting for the dogs to engulf her. She was in heaven.

My father-in-law liked German Shepherds. One time that his dog had puppies we decided to take a couple of them for the two boys we had at the time. We drove back for a visit to the farm to pick them up.

The boys each chose their puppies. They were little bits of fluff.

My sister-in-law was going to the store to pick up a few things to feed the family that was there. Because we did not get to see them often there were quite a few of us on the farm that day. My sister-in-law was being so careful as she backed out of the driveway so she would not hit any of the children.

She hit no children. But she ran over my oldest son's puppy. She felt terrible. A couple of years later when she and my husband's parents were visiting us, my son went up to her and said, "Shirley, why did you run over my dog?" 

We had an old hound dog named Redneck. He was reddish in color and his barks always turned into a baying noise. He was good with the children. Redneck was a fast runner. We lived on a fairly busy street. Motorcycles would come by and Redneck would take off after them. It took me a while to realize that he was not trying to attack them. He was racing them.

Redneck like to roam. He was well known to all the female dogs in the neighborhood. He was also a favorite target of the dog catcher who could never quite catch him.

One day I heard someone talking in front of the house. I opened the door to see who it was. There was the dog catcher trying to sweet talk Redneck into coming down from the porch so he could catch him in the net and take him a way.

Redneck was too smart for that. He was huddled up by the door. The dog catcher could not come onto private property so his best bet was to get the dog to come to him. When I opened the door Redneck rushed into the house. I smiled at the dog catcher and closed the door.

My husband found a dog that had been hit by a car. It was lying in the road and could not move. The dog was scared and growled to defend herself every time someone tried to help her. Finally one of the people who lived near there gave them an old blanket to throw over her so they could pick her up.

My husband took her to the vet. Her leg was broken in three places and her hip was completely shattered. The vet was not sure how well she would be able to heal but he did his best.

My husband came home with this beautiful Doberman in a leg cast. She was healing quite well. Unfortunately she was jealous of my younger two children. Any time they got near their father she would growl. She liked my oldest son and I think she was just a bit afraid of me. My second son did not seem to concern her one way or the other.

The children named her Sheba. Sheba was still in her cast but she could get around much better than the vet thought she would. Then she came into heat.

We had to keep her away from Redneck who was the neighborhood Lothario. It would not be good for her to have puppies in her condition. Not to mention that I did not want any more dogs to take care of.

We had somewhere to go so no one was going to be home. We carefully shut Redneck on the back porch and left Sheba in the house. You should never leave them alone together in a situation like that. We made sure everything was secure so they could not be together.

When we came home and opened the door, there were Sheba AND Redneck greeting us with big smiles on their faces. A few weeks later Sheba had her puppies. Thank goodness she had an easy time of it.

Some of the puppies looked like Redneck... little red hounds. Some looked like Sheba... little Dobermans. But where a Doberman is tan they were all red.

Sheba's disposition was worse after she had her babies. When she snapped at my daughter I laid down the law. She had to go.

I allowed the children to keep one puppy. Sheba and the other puppies were given new homes.

The puppy the children kept was a little Doberman-looking puppy. He was cute. They named him Attila Thor Doberhound.

Attila and his father got along well. Attila liked to race the motorcycles just like his father. And after his father was no longer with us, Attila became the favorite target of the dog catcher.

One day I looked out the window for no reason and saw Attila running like crazy. The dog catcher was after him. The dog catcher had a huge round metal ring about the size of a hula hoop. It held the net that the dog catcher intended to toss over Attila to capture him.

Attila was smart. He ran right up next to the fence. When the dog catcher threw the net it landed at an angle propped up by the fence so that Attila could run under the edge. He ran to the door I was holding open and into the house. I smiled at the dog catcher and closed the door.

Attila knew he was one of the children. He knew he was a different kind of child but he was one of them just the same. He watched television with them. He would put his rear end and hind legs up on the couch and hold himself in place with his front legs firmly on the floor.

Attila also played games with the others. Hide-and-seek was his favorite. If he was "it" he would wait until the others hid and then go find them. If not he would go hide until they found him.

My second son came home one day with a dog that he said had followed him home. Of course the piece of twine around its neck being held at the other end by my son had nothing to do with anything.

This was a big shaggy nasty dirty looking dog. She had long hair and was badly in need of brushing to get the tangles and old hair out of her fur. After that she was still a shaggy ugly dog. My son named her Shaggy.

I insisted that she be kept outside. My son fixed up the doghouse for her. Plenty of fresh straw so she would have a soft place to sleep. That did not last long. Soon she was in the house with the rest of us.

What we had not realized when she first came to live with us was that she was going to have babies. She had about 8 puppies. The children named them all and fully expected to be able to keep them I allowed them to keep one. His name was VaVoom because he looked like a cartoon character who could shatter mountains just by shouting VaVoom at them.

We found homes for the rest of the puppies. Eventually Shaggy wandered away. She had been a stray dog for a long time and I think she missed her freedom.

Just before a cub scout meeting (I was the den mother so it was at our house) VaVoom ran into the street and was hit by a truck. My children all saw it. I told them we would have a funeral right after the cub scout meeting was over.

When the other boys arrived my children were all in mourning. They sat with their faces buried in the backs of chairs and would not participate. I finally sent the other boys home early so we could say good bye to their pet.

I was at a friend's house. The neighbors had small children. Then they got a puppy. They would tie up the puppy in the yard with no water and leave it there all day. Then I saw the children poking at it with a stick. I could contain myself no longer. I went over to talk to the mother.

She told me they were thinking of taking the puppy to the dog pound. It would be euthanized there. I told her if they were not going to keep it I would take it. (See? I am as bad as the rest of my family.) She immediately handed me the puppy and I took her home.

We named her Tilly after Attila who was no longer with us. She was a beautiful dog of mixed breed. She did not bark at all for months. Actually she was never much of a barker unless it was absolutely necessary.

We had taken in a stray cat soon after we moved into a new house. My daughter who liked animals much more than people wanted to bring her in when the weather started to get cold. I resisted as long as I could then finally relented and in she came.

Of course she had kittens soon after. It seemed like we were overrun with cats. People do not take in kittens as quickly as they do puppies for some reason.

Tilly was probably not even old enough to be weaned when I got her. So she was around all these cats. I think she identified with them because she did not know any dogs.She would climb up onto a chair and from there onto the window sill. She would lie there sunning herself just like the cats did.

She kept growing and it was getting harder for her to lie in the window because of her size. The day that she let herself relax a little too much and fell out of the window I laughed.

Tilly was such a lady. She would not eat in front of us at all. And she certainly did not want scraps of our food. My children would try to force her to take pieces of meat from them but she was having none of it. You could have placed a steak on the floor and walked away and Tilly would not even sniff at it.

Tilly liked her dog food. The dog treats she would eat were Pupperonis. And she liked cherry flavored mentholated cough drops.

She also liked money. A twenty dollar bill meant we had ordered pizza and she could guard the door. My son kept some of his cash on a shelf beside his bed. Tilly like to pull the money onto the bed and roll in it.

One time we ordered fast food. The place we ordered from has a drink called Frostys. They are similar to a milkshake. We were all sitting in the living room eating and talking. As usual I was doing a lot of the talking. My children were all looking at each other and snickering but I kept talking anyway.

Then I reached down to take a sip of my Frosty that was on the floor beside my feet. Tilly's nose was in it! She was stealing my Frosty. The kids burst into laughter and I began to laugh too. It was so out of character for her.

These are just a few of the dogs. And like I said there were many other pets. Another day perhaps.

Friday, February 21, 2014

You Look Just Like...

I must have the world's most common face. All my life I have had people tell me that I look just like someone they know. It is amusing most of the time but sometimes I wish I had something unique to distinguish me from other people.

Usually it is nothing more than a waitress saying, "You look just like my cousin's best friend!" or someone might say, "You look just the the person who used to live next door to me!" After so many times of this happening I have learned to just smile and say, "Really? I guess I just have a common face."

My husband and I had a junk yard. We bought cars for scrap. We salvaged usable parts and sent the remains to larger scrap dealers. I was the one who dealt with the public. I also dealt with other companies, like the larger scrap companies. I went to the small factory that made the work gloves we used. I went to the company that supplied the propane we used to power the cutting torches. You get the idea.

Often I was mistaken for someone else. But this time she had a name. She was MetaCore Mary.

MetaCore was a company that rebuilt auto parts like carburetors and starters then resold them. Mary was the one who picked up the gloves and propane for her company.

I would walk into one of these companies and be greeted with, "Hi. Mary. We've got your order ready." When I would tell them I was not Mary I was always told, "You look just like MetaCore Mary."

After a couple of years of this I finally crossed paths with MetaCore Mary. I had gone to refill the propane tanks. I was waiting for my turn when I heard the man at the counter refer to the woman in front of me as MetaCore Mary. I had to get a look.

I said, "So you're MetaCore Mary." She turned around with a guarded expression. I guess she thought I was going to accuse her of something.

I could see a resemblance but it only looked like we might be related, not that we looked alike. I told her about how I had been mistaken for her for several years and I just wanted to see what she looked like. She started to laugh and had a hard time stopping.

I was puzzled at her reaction. When she was able she finally said, "I've been hearing about you too. I don't think we look that much alike, but you look exactly like my younger sister!"

Yep. I have a common face.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Burn, Baby, Burn

A person who has never experienced a house fire cannot possibly imagine the sense of loss one feels. The house itself is not what I missed. It was losing things like photographs, favorite and cherished things that have a special meaning only to you, and even favorite clothing. That is if you are lucky enough to not lose a life.

One of my favorite pictures is of us five children standing in front of the Christmas tree. We were dressed up and all had big smiles on our faces. We were going to leave for Grandma's house the next day to visit her for a few days.

It had been a wonderful Christmas. The gift that stands out most is my sister's kitchen set. It was a little metal stove, refrigerator, and table. She loved them so much. They were big enough for her to feel like she was really working in the kitchen. The boys got yet another train. My sister and I always got a doll.

Now I never played much with dolls. They were rather boring. After all I had always had real babies to play with. After opening the dolls we got that year I realized that my sisiter and I had 18 dolls between us. I gave her all of my dolls but one. I hardly ever played with her but she was special to me for some reason.

After a good night's sleep we went to Grandma's. Grandma had one bedroom upstairs that Mom and Daddy would sleep in. We slept on the floor. I did not find it strange at the time that her spare bedroom downstairs was not used. Anyway I liked that bedroom upstairs. There was a risque ashtray on the nightstand.

The first night we were there we were getting ready for bed. Mom was reading to us and trying to settle us enough so we could sleep. Grandma hollered up the stairs that Daddy had a phone call so he went down to answer it.

Being the nosy thing I was I followed him downstairs. He got on the phone and was saying, "Fire? How bad is it?" and similar things.

I went running back up to tell Mom that I thought our house had burned down.

Mom was the voice of reason. Daddy was the town marshal which meant that he was also the fire chief. She said they were just keeping him informed. I argued that they would not call him about just any old fire.

Daddy came up and said that out house had indeed burned completely to the ground. The principal of our school did not know that we were out of town. He went into the house to try to get as many of us out as possible. He was in the hospital because he inhaled smoke and was having breathing problems.

Some of the volunteers who served as firefighters tried to save things by hooking them through the window and pulling them out. They were able to save Mom's iron, Daddy's suit, and Mom's Bible.

When we went home we visited the spot where our house had been. I remember looking at the melted mess that had been my bed. The washer and dryer were still on the back porch but the seals were all burned so they were no good either.

The town had found another house for us to rent. It was much bigger than the other one. It was right across the train tracks from the first house. They had also had a fundraiser and deposited the money in a department store in the next town. We were getting all new clothes. And store bought clothes at that.

The first night we spent in that new house I suddenly began to cry. My doll burned in the fire and I was finally able to use her as my focus to mourn what we had lost.

I had a little friend who had three little brothers. She was actually a couple of years younger than I was. I spent a lot of time at their house because the little girl who was about 7 or 8 years old was expected to take care of her brothers while her mother was gone, which was most of the time.

I worried about them and because I was older I tried to take care of them too. When Mom found out what was going on she told me they were not my responsibility and I should not go there any more.

We moved to a new town. I was in the basement helping Mom do laundry. She chose that time to tell me about a news article she had read. The mother had another baby but she did not take care of that one either.

One day the little girl had gone to the store to get them something to eat. Her brothers were playing with matches. They would light tissues on fire and watch them burn. So that they would not get caught they were lighting them and throwing them under their bed.

The bed caught fire and the fire spread quickly. The bodies of the boys were found in a kneeling position, as if they were saying their prayers. I believe they were trying to put out the fire. The sister survived because she was not there. I was heart-broken.

We lived in a duplex. That is a house in which two families have their own quarters side by side. It's two houses in one. The other side was empty.

My oldest son, my third son, and my daughter lived at home with me. My second son was married and lived a couple of blocks away with his family.

I was visiting a friend one evening. It was very late when the phone rang. My third son was on the phone. Our house was on fire. They were all out but I could tell he was terrified.

My second son got them to his house which was a good thing. Everything was blocked off. I met them there.

The reason the roads were closed was that there were three fires withing a half mile or so on that street. An abandoned building just south of us had been fire bombed. Then our house was fire bombed. Then a railroad car carrying some sort of wood chips was fire bombed.

My children had been in bed but not asleep. They heard something hit the front door. My youngest son looked out the front window and saw the porch burning. He called the other two. Their dog slept in my oldest son's room and came down with him.

My oldest son felt the front door and knew they could not get out that way. So they rushed to the back door. Of course there was a certain amount of panic but they were safely out. The house was burning fast.

The dog balked at the kitchen and the kids yelled at him to come out. He thought they were angry with him and ran back into the house. My oldest son wanted to go after him but was afraid the other two would follow him. And they told me they would have.

It soon became unsafe to stay in the yard so they went to the street in front of the house. My oldest son had on only his pants. A neighbor was kind enough to offer him a blanket to keep himself warm. He shared with the other two.

After the fire was put out my older two sons and their father who also lived nearby went to the house to see if there was anything to salvage. The dog had been hit by a falling beam. We hope that was what killed him and that he did not suffer too much.

Not much was found. There was a photo album that somehow did not burn or suffer water damage. Everything else was destroyed.

My oldest son could not go to work. He had no clothes. His boss was wonderful. My son had left his work boots at the shop so his boss brought them to him. He wanted to make sure my son was okay. He said that my son should take a few days off anyway and not to worry... he would see to it he was paid.

In losing the two houses to fire I was so fortunate that no one was seriously injured. I still feel bad when I think of those three little boys and the baby that died in the other fire.

Friday, February 14, 2014

In The Water

I love to swim. It is the closest thing to being able to fly. That feeling of floating along and feeling free... like I said I love it.

Not everyone in my family feels the same way. My mother, for instance. She never did learn to swim. She said she felt claustrophobic when her face was covered with water.

I was working and could not be with my family when they went camping for a weekend. Not that I missed it. Camping is not a favorite activity of mine. There are no indoor toilets.

They were near a lake and decided to go swimming. Mom was content to sit on the edge with the baby and read a book. Daddy was there in case of an emergency.

The kids were happily romping in the water and making a lot of noise. Someone called Daddy to come help them with something. He told Mom he would be right back and disappeared over the hill. Mom nodded and went on reading.

The kids started calling for help and Mom told them not to ask for help unless they meant it. They kept yelling. She finally realized there was something wrong. She sent my oldest brother to get Daddy but she knew he could not make it in time.

My sister and brother had been wading and hit a drop-off in the water. My sister could not swim at all, my brother just a little. My brother was trying to help my sister get back to where she could stand but they were both in trouble.

Mom told the baby to stay where he was. She started to the water. On the way she saw a medium sized stick and grabbed it up. She got brave and waded into the water.

She went out to where my brother and sister were struggling. She told them to grab the stick. My sister reached for it but went under the water instead. My brother managed to get out by himself and went back to the blanket and fell exhausted, trying to catch his breath.

My sister surfaced again and Mom tried again. She told my sister to grab the stick. My sister tried but just went under again.

Mom was right at the edge of where the drop-off was. She knew she could not help anyone if she was drowning herself. She tried to dig her toes in but of course she could not. My sister surfaced again. Mom saw that her eyes were starting to glaze over and knew this was probably the last chance.

She yelled for my sister to grab the stick. Somehow she got through and my sister reached for the stick. As soon as she had her hands around it my mother jerked towards herself. The stick was rotten and broke. But there was enough force that my sister floated forward a little and Mom was able to grab her and get her out of the water.

Daddy came running over the hill just in time to see them connecting and coming out of the water.

The town we were living in was building a swimming pool. I was so excited. Then they announced that they would be selling season tickets for admission to the pool.

I was disappointed. I knew if there was a fee we would not be going swimming often. We had very little money and there were so many of us.

Then they announced a contest. If I could sell a certain number of season passes, I would receive a season pass for myself. Double the sales and I could get a family pass and we would all get to swim.

I sold my little heart out. I was in the fifth grade at school. I think a lot of the people who purchased from me thought it was cute that I was trying to sell them. And I had people that I did yard work and other odd jobs for who I got to before anyone else did. We had our family pass.

We lived at the pool that summer. We were there when it opened and went home when they were closing.

The Red Cross gave free swimming lessons to all the children. My oldest brother took them along with the rest of us. He just did not like taking the chance. He always said that sticking your face in the water was a good way to drown.

The instructors tried hard with him but he just did not like it. Then came the day that they came to my second brother and me and told us to take him out to the deep end and leave him. They said he would learn to swim that way. Even we knew that was a stupid idea. We refused. He did learn to swim a bit in the Army but he did not enjoy it.

My high school had a swimming pool. Everyone was required to take at least one semester of swimming. It was part of the physical education program.

We learned to dive and do fancy turns. We learned all the different strokes, like the butterfly and breast stroke. I received my junior lifesaving badge in high school.

My husband learned to swim when he was young. His brother and his brother's friend tossed him into the water and told him to swim. He did not swim that time. He did finally learn to slap his arms in the water and move around a little. I do not know if he could have been able to do any real swimming if the occasion called for it.

But he enjoyed taking us swimming. He would gamely get in the water. Then he would start to shiver and turn blue. He would spend most of the time sitting on a blanket and wrapped in a towel while we had a good time.

When my oldest son was a baby I was amused by the fact that he hated to have his face washed. When I would take the cloth and start to wash him he would gasp for breath. I soon discovered that all I had to do was cover his eyes with my hand for the same effect. Naturally he did not like the water for recreation either.

Then when he about 5 years old he asked if he could take swimming lessons. I immediately signed him up. He worked so hard to try to be able to put his face in the water. I sat in an observation room for the parents of the would-be swimmers and watched.

When the series of lessons were over he still could not swim. He wanted to try again. This time his little brother wanted to learn too.

I sat in that observation room and watched my sons taking swimming lessons. My first son was trying so hard. My second son was right at home.

When they were learning to dog paddle my oldest son was trying. The instructor was working with him and the other children watched. All except for my second son. There he was down at the deep end of the pool paddling along with a big grin on his face. I was up banging on the window for someone to notice that my baby was trying to kill himself.

The last day of that series one of the fathers offered to help by dropping the children from the diving board so they could dog paddle back to the shallow end. One by one each child walked to him and he gently dropped them into the water. My oldest son was last.

The man took him by the arms and lowered him toward the water. My son was terrified. The man let go. Have you ever seen someone climb air? My son did. He made it back to the man and held on for dear life. The man finally gave up and carried my son back to the side of the pool.

My son tried so hard to learn how to swim. He still cannot and he says he has no regrets.

But his cousin was not convinced. My son did like going to the pool and splashing around at the edge of the shallow end. His cousin somehow got him out in the middle of the deep end. Her intention was to let go of him and make him swim to the edge. (Her father is the older brother of my husband who tossed him in the water. It runs in their family I guess.)

So she got him out there and tried to let go. He clawed and scratched and held on. She was covered with wounds when they came home. She said she would not have tried that if she had known he was going to maul her.

My children were growing up. I knew it would not be long and it would be difficult for us to do things together. I planned a trip. It was just a weekend at a nearby amusement park.

My two older sons were friends so I knew they would hang out together. I told my youngest son and my daughter that they could each invite a cousin to do things with.

We got two rooms at the motel. The boys stayed in one and we girls were in the other. I made sure to get a place that had a pool so the children could swim in the evening after we left the park.

I wanted a shower but the kids wanted to swim. My second son could swim so I asked him to keep an eye on them until I came out. He did not want to swim but he said he would watch them.

I took a shower and was drying my hair. I looked out the door to check on the children. They were fine.

Then my nephew got into the deep end and was having trouble. My son gave a soft curse and jumped in. He was fully dressed so he was not happy.

My son fished my nephew out of the water. Everyone was fine. I told them that was enough excitement for the night and it was time to come in.

I think everyone should know how to swim. It is like knowing how to do first aid. You should know. But watching my son try to learn to swim I have realized that not everyone can.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Two For The Price Of One

My grandmother was going to have another baby. At the same time two or three of her cousins were also having babies. Of course the cousins had twins running in their families so there was much speculation about which of them would have twins. Surprise! It was Grandma.

My aunt and uncle are twins. Two more different people you will never meet. My aunt is slightly vain, my uncle could care less. My aunt is aloof and haughty, my uncle is just one of the folks. My aunt has dark hair, my uncle has light brown hair (or they used to anyway). My aunt was very cerebral, my uncle was more sports oriented. I think you get the idea.

You know, I do not remember my aunt being around much when we were real young. She is only about 5 years older than I. Odd that I do not remember doing things with her then.

When we all lived in Washington on the dairy farm, my aunt was the one who tried to keep us supplied with worms for fishing. She had dug around and loosened the dirt in an area about the size of a frisbee. She covered it with a rock. Every day she would empty coffee grounds and a few bits of vegetation in it and stir it gently. We went fishing across the highway often so we were glad to have a good place to get our bait.

When we moved back to Nebraska from Washington there were a lot of us. Grandpa drove his car and Daddy drove ours. Our car was poulling a trailer with all our belongings in it.

The cars were crowded so us kids took turns riding in the trailer on top of a lot of nice soft blankets. I liked riding back there so I rode as often as I could. My aunt and I had a long turn once. Remember that Daddy liked to drive with as few stops as possible.

I think I probably annoyed her. She was a teenager and I was a lowly child. She liked to peek out the back of the trailer and flirt with the men who were following us. Not to be outdone I tried to flirt too. After all I was not that much younger. I realize now how ridiculous I must have seemed but there was a bit of a rivalry at that time. Anyway she just laughed at my efforts.

After a few more years we were attending the same school. She was very intelligent. She was in high school and I was in grade school (there was no such thing as junior high). She graduated at the same time as my best friend's brother.

The two of them were in a tie for having the highest grade point average. It was finally decided that my friend's brother would be the valedictorian, partly because he had lived in that town all his life and mostly because he was a boy. With everything being equal a male always took precedence over a female. After all someday he would have a family to support.

I can remember my aunt coming in to town to go to church on Sundays when I was small. She would ride the horse and tether it in our yard. It was good for Daddy because if she put it in a different spot wach Sunday he would not have to mow the yard; the horse kept the lawn short.

She married. I am not sure I ever met her husband. When I first learned she was married she had a baby boy and her husband was in prison sending her threatening letters. I was not supposed to know all this but I liked to listen to the adults talking so...

She did remarry. Again I did not meet her husband. Her family moved to another state. She is now battling leukemia. For the time being she is winning.

My uncle worked hard on the farm as did most sons of farmers. But I remember us all playing together sometimes too. He was enough older that he was one of the milkers who would squirt milk from the cows so we could catch it in our mouths at milking time.

When he was around 9 or 10 he had to have an emergency appendectomy. That was a major operation then. He was in the hospital for a long time. Then he had a long recovery time at home before he could do any chores or go back to school.

The doctor finally cleared him to return to normal life. So he went back to school. One weekend he and some of his friends were doing whatever they did at the farm. Off in the distance they could hear a train.

My uncle decided to climb a tree and see if he could spot the train. He climbed to very top. And he lost his grip.

He slid all the way down the side of the tree trying to stop his fall. He lost a lot of skin from the friction. There was another longer hospital stay.

He needed to have skin grafts all over his body. He still has scars and puckers from the trauma of it. He missed the whole year of school. That made him graduate a year behind his twin sister.

My uncle was tall. He participated in all sports. He played basketball, football, and track. Football was a major sport in Nebraska. Friday night was game night. The whole town turned out for home games.

It was a chilly autumn night. Perfect football weather. The game was in full swing. The coach sent my uncle in to take the place of another player. As he ran onto the field the laces that held his pants on came loose and his pants fell to his ankles.

He was much younger when we were going home after school one day. One of his friends lived right next door to the school. A bunch of them decided to have a contest. They were going to see who could urinate over the top of the garage. It was a major event and practically the whole school was there to watch. I do not remember who won.

My uncle married a nut. And I do not mean it kindly. They had a little girl and a little boy. Then they divorced so she could remarry. Soon the authorities were knocking on my uncle's door to arrest him for physically abusing his children.

They had marks from cigarette burns and bruises and cuts from being hit. They said, "Daddy did it."

It took a while for them to discover that the stepfather was the daddy they were talking about. It was their mother and stepfather who were inflicting these injuries. My uncle gladly took custody of his children. They have grown to be worthwhile adults.

After a few years my uncle remarried. I have not met his wife but we correspond regularly. She had children and they had some of their own. It is a big happy family. My uncle is more than content.

After a rocky start to their adult lives both my aunt and my uncle found happiness. In the end that is what we all strive for.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Death Of A Rabbit

My daughter and I took her children for a walk. My grandson was 6 or 7 and my granddaughter was 4 or 5. We walked through their neighborhood looking at flowers and watching for animals and birds.

As we usually did, when we returned to their house we made a tour of the back yard. In the spring we watched as the flowers came up through the soil then grew and bloomed. We smelled all smells and tried to identify where they came from.

On this day it was autumn. The leaves were falling from the trees at a record pace. The flower beds and the grass were covered with fallen leaves. Sometimes we would startle a rabbit back there but we did not see any that day.

Until my grandson went, "Oooooh" in a sympathetic tone. My daughter and I realized at the same time that he was starting to reach for an animal. We both yelled at him to stop. He looked at us, startled.

We quickly went over to him. There lying in a flower bed was a dead rabbit.

We explained to him that whether the animal was sick or dead we did not know what was causing the problem. You cannot just touch any animal you do not know because it could cause injury or illness to you. He seemed to undeerstand.

My daughter did not want to leave it lying there. I told her to go get a shovel and we would dispose of it. She was worried about my grandson being upset. I told her that was why we always held a funeral for animals when she was growing up. It is a way to say goodbye and it showed the finality of the animal being gone.

My grandson loved the idea of a funeral. He went and found an old shoebox. When we asked where we should bury the rabbit he chose a spot under the bushes right in front of the house. He wanted to conduct the ceremony so we let him.

We dug a hole and my grandson placed the box containing the rabbit carefully into the hole. We covered the box with dirt and tamped it gently down. Then my grandson started to speak.

"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to say goodbye to our friend, the rabbit." I stood in total shock. He had never been to a funeral so I could not understand where these words were coming from. My daighter and I looked at each other in amazed amusement.

He continued with his little tribute about how we did not know the bunny but we felt bad that he was dead. Then he knelt to say a prayer. I started to choke a bit with laughter. He looked like such a little angel with his hands pressed together looking toward the sky imploring that this little bunny rabbit be taken to a better place. Finally there was an "Amen".

My daughter and I started to go inside. I was actually halfway up the steps. Then my grandson stood at attention and put his hand to his forehead in a salute. His other hand formed into a loose fist and was placed at his mouth. Though that hand we heard, "Phtt, phtt, Phhhhhttt...". He was playing Taps!

I was choking trying to keep from opening my mouth and laughing out loud. Tears were running down my face. I did not dare look at my daughter because I knew I would not be able to contain myself. So I stood there not able to breathe with tears all over my face, turning red.

At the end of Taps, my grandson sweetly said a soft goodbye. "Goodbye, little bunny rabbit." It was over.

I jerked myself into the house so I could breathe and laugh without hurting his feelings. When my daughter came in shortly after she was laughing almost as hard as I was while berating me for leaving her out there all alone.

Bugs Bunny was the culprit. My grandson had seen a Bugs Bunny cartoon in which a funeral was held. He had practically memorized the whole thing. Thanks a lot, Bugs!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Family Vacation

Usually when we took a vacation, we went to visit family. Most of the time my paternal grandmother lived far from us so we went there several times. But in the 1950's vacations were something that wealthier people took. So there were not that many vacations.

When I was about 12 years old we took a vacation. It was to visit family. But these were family members we rarely saw because they lived so far away.

Daddy had a station wagon. We needed a lot of room because there were six of us kids then and we were also taking my grandmother.

We put the largest part of the luggage on top of the car and put the back seat down so there was one big area in the back. It was easier for us to sleep as we rode but at times uncomfortable for riding.

Daddy drove, Mom rode in the middle holding my baby sister, and Grandma was on the passenger's side. We were indeed crowded. We took the baby in the back with us when we could but rambunctious behavior sometimes made it hard.

So we set off from Nebraska to West Virginia. As he always did, Daddy pointed the car and drove at top speed in order to get where we wanted to be. Bathroom breaks were expected to be quickly taken care of when we stopped to refuel the car. Most of the time we ate sandwiches in the car but we might stop at a rest area and eat at a picnic table there. Other than that we drove right on through.

My mother's sister and her family lived in West Virginia. The only cousins my age lived there. All the rest were quite a bit older or quite a bit younger.

My aunt has a large family also. We had a real house full of children. I believe there were 15 of us. But we had a great time.

It was during the school year so my cousins had to go to school. One day I went to visit with my cousin who is my age. The wild ride in the school bus along the side of the mountain scared me to death. There was mountain on one side and nothing on the other. It seemed like the driver was trying to break the sound barrier with his speed. I can understand that because all the kids were up, yelling and screaming and horsing around the whole way.

I was greeted with the popularity that any novelty enjoys. I was not going to be there long so most of the students wanted to know what someone from another part of the world was like. They had a juke box in the room where they could go after they ate lunch. A lot of the kids did the latest dances. This was before American bandstand was popular so it was interesting to see the way they danced.

Then there was the wild ride home. I was ready to kiss the ground.

Their house was on the side of a barren mountain. My uncle was a coal miner and they lived in a company house. They shopped at the company store. My aunt wanted to show Mom what the company store was like so all the adults were going site-seeing. My uncle's sister was going to keep an eye on us. The only children not there were my baby sister and my aunt's baby daughter.

Aunt Goldie was a gem. She decided to lay down the law as soon as our parents left. That was not the wisest course when she was outnumbered 13 to 1. Actually we were pretty good. We went to the kitchen to make some toast and cocoa.

Aunt Goldie was sure we were up to no good so she was spying on us from outside through the kitchen window. The oldest of my cousins got up and closed the window. We considered locking her out of the house but did not. We all laughed as Aunt Goldie tried to open the window from outside but my cousin held it down. He was not going to allow her to open that window. She started to bang on the window. It broke. Of course we got the blame for it when our parents got Aunt Goldie's report.

Aunt Goldie loved the Lawrence Welk Show. We were banished from the living room so she could watch it. We were in hysterics as we peered around the corner to see her dancing (including up and over the furniture) to her favorite songs.

We went from West Virginia to Tennessee. My father's younger brother lived there with his family. At that time he had a son and a daughter. He was a barber.

My aunt was funny. She was very pretty. But she could not cook worth a lick! One evening she made us these treats before bed. Actually they were delicious. They were sweet and gooey. I kept telling Mom she should learn how to make them. When I asked my aunt what they were called, she said they were donuts. Mom took me aside and told me to go to bed and shut my mouth.

It turns out that what they were was made by taking canned biscuits and stretching a hole in them (I never saw a hole). Then they were deep fried and dipped in frosting. My aunt did not fully cook them so we were basically eating warm raw biscuit dough with frosting that kind of melted from the heat. That was her best dish.

My uncle wanted to show Daddy around town. Off they went. My aunt was frantic after about twenty minutes. She was going to find them and bring my uncle home. Grandma watched us while Mom went with her.

Daddy and my uncle came home after an hour or two. Much later Mom and my aunt came in. When my aunt was out of hearing range Mom said that she must have seen every moonshine still in the state. My aunt was certain that they had gone drinking.

My cousins were spoiled. We laughed at the way they would say, "Wanna dollar, Momma, wanna dollar." with their southern drawls.

While we were there I spotted a pair of shoes in the store window. I was in love with those shoes. I had saved my money from odd jobs I did like pulling weeds, delivering papers, and my job setting pins at the bowling alley. I really wanted those shoes.

So I had Mom go with me to see if she would approve. She was a bit unsure but it was my money. If I really wanted them I could buy them. I bought my first pair of high heels.

The next stop was my aunt's house in Cleveland, Ohio, to see my father's sister. My aunt had been married but divorced after a period of time. She had never had children. Being a converted catholic she did not believe in remarrying so she lived alone.

She had a very good job and was quite comfortable; not rich but comfortable. She was not thrilled that we were there I think. She did not take time from work to spend with us. She had a very ordered way of life.

Her apartment was lovely. It had a corner window of the building. I loved being able to sit at the window and watch the things going on in a big city.

We only stayed there a couple of days and we were on our way home. I think she was happy to see us go.

On the way home we passed through the Ozark Mountains. They are beautiful. What I remember most was the pipes coming out of the sides of the mountains. They had spring water coming from them. At that time people were welcome to stop and use the water for drinking or whatever. It was so sweet and cold. Now they have to put up signs stating that it is not for human consumption.

By now everyone was tired of traveling and even a little irritable at times. We had stopped for gas. When Grandma was getting in the car she became indignant and told my father that my mother had tried to hit her.

I do not know exactly what happened. All I saw was Grandma getting in the car in a huffy mood. Mom was sitting in the middle again. Mom grabbed the baby's blanket and jerked it out of Grandma's way. Grandma thought Mom was trying to hit her. I know that neither of them was happy.

All in all it was a good vacation. I got to see people and places that I had not seen before. And I know we were all glad to be home.