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Friday, July 29, 2011

Book Entry 50: 1961 The Lamp and the Goldfish

When mom got a new lamp for the living room I got the one that had been in the living for my room.  The base of the lamp was a deer figurine standing in tall grass.  It was a flower vase with a lamp top.  Dad said it was the stupidest thing he’d ever seen.  I remember him commenting on anyone stupid enough to put flowers in an electrical object deserved to get shocked.  I must say all mom put in it was silk flowers.
I always had a goldfish or two while I was growing up.  I had gold ones, orange ones, black ones, big-eyed ones, and striped ones.  I always took good care of my fish and I always named them.  Some of my fish lasted a long time while some had short lives like a lot of gold fish.  
There was one fish that simply disappeared from the bowl.  David promised he didn’t take it, mom and dad both said they didn’t take it, and Phillip was only four so I didn’t suspect him.  I looked everywhere for that fish thinking he might have jumped out of the bowl but finally gave up looking and forgot about it.  
 A long while later, maybe several months, I was looking for change around my room.  When I looked in the vase of the lamp I found some of my nickel rings from the dime store, a partial deck of cards, two dimes, and  my missing fish!  I guess I should say I found what was left of my fish!  It took me a few seconds to recognize the curled up, dried out, and leather-like critter. 
When I showed it to mom she came to the conclusion we hadn’t smelled it as it dried because it was so small.  Dad said we didn’t smell it because I always was spraying cologne around my room.  When dad showed Phillip he clapped his hands and said it was his fish.  He admitted he had been fishing in my room and caught the fish which he put in a safe place  away from the other fish in the bowl.  Mystery solved.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Book Entry 49: 1961 Knocked Unconscious at School

           It was the year of sixth grade.  We were running laps for PE.  I hated running laps.  Our teacher’s name was Mr.  Jericoff.  He said the last person finished would have to run again.  It was our last time around the field and I was almost the last person so I sped up as fast as I could.  I looked behind myself to make sure there were people behind me and when I turned my head forward again… kapow!  I ran straight into one of the poles used to hold up the high jumps.  I remember hitting it and I remember Mr. Jericoff and a couple of kids standing over me when I opened my eyes.  I had been knocked unconscious.  I had a bump the size of half a goose egg on the left side of my forehead.
          Mr. Jericoff walked me into the classroom while the other kids finished their run.  My head was throbbing.  I felt light headed and kept seeing little black specks floating around in front of me.  The final bell rang for the day and all the other kids began running for the door.  Mr. Jericoff said I’d better hurry or I would miss my bus.
          Mr. Lima, one of my friend’s dad, was my bus driver.  He looked shocked when he noticed my forehead as I got onto the bus.  He usually let me out at the Service Rd. corner but that day he drove down to my driveway and let me out.
          When I got into the house and mom saw me she was instantly mad.  She made me lay on the couch and put cloth with ice in it on my forehead.  Next she went to the phone and called the doctors office.  The nurse told mom to watch me through the night and not to let me go to school the following day
Next mom phoned the school and asked to speak to Mr. Jacobs, the principle.  Mom was still mad!  She told Mr. Jacobs I should not have been allowed to ride the bus home as I had to sit on the bus for forty minutes before it reached my house.  She told him the bus driver had more common sense than Mr. Jericoff did and Mr. Jericoff should be ashamed of himself.   
          Two days later when I went back to school I had two huge black eyes.  Mr. Jericoff did not allow sunglasses in his room but he never said one word to me about the ones I was wearing when I showed up.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Book Entry 48: 1961 Cheating on a Test

I remember our music teacher holding class in our regular classroom one morning instead of in the cafeteria.  We had a written test.  I’m pretty sure I was the only one in the class that took music lessons.  When I had finished with the test I took it to the teacher’s desk.  The teacher was walking the rows to make sure no one was cheating.  I noticed a paper with an answer different than mine on one of the questions.  I remember looking around to see if any one was watching me, bending over the paper, and changing my answer to the answer on the other student’s paper.  When everyone finished we corrected the papers.  I got one wrong…yep…the one I changed.  I had changed it from the right answer to a wrong one.
To make matters worse, as I was riding my bike home after school I saw a Volkswagen just like my music teachers turning  off our street.  I was sure she had seen me cheat.  I thought she had gone to tell my parents about what I'd done.  My face felt like it was on fire and I could feel my heart leaping in my chest.  
 I was shaking and ashamed of myself when I went into the house.  My parents never said a word about it and believe me, neither did I!  The damage was done or should I say the lesson was learned!  I hadn’t cheated in school up till then and I never did again.  I decided right then I’d pass or I’d fail, but I’d do it on my own.  
When I was in my 40’s I asked my parents if that teacher had ever told them what I’d done.  They both said they’d never heard a word about it.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Book Entry 47: 1961 "Starnville"

                                                               Me and my Grandpa Starn.

My Grandpa Starn had a cabin at Mission Springs.  Over the front door was a sign that said “Starnville.”  I thought that was so cool.  Our family went there several times for weekend trips during the summers.  We’d gone to the Santa Cruz beach during the day and back to the cabin at night.  The cabin was small.  We had people sleeping in the bedrooms, in the living room and on the kitchen floor.  It was great.  I remember the fragrance of that old wood stove.  I don’t know what type of wood grandpa burned there but the fragrance was distinct and not what I was used to. 
A family, whose last name was Bird, lived in the cabin next door.  It was not a vacation home for them.  It was their home.  The Bird family had three daughters.  One of the girls was my age.  I can’t remember their names.  When I’d get bored at the cabin my dad would laugh and say, “Why don’t you go play with the little Birds next door?”  I’d giggle and go.  I loved it there.
The girls showed me all the best places to investigate.  Down the hill, behind the cabins, was a creek.  On the opposite side of the creek was a bicycle path.  In the creek were crawdads, and on the hillside was a nest of banana slugs.  I thought those banana slugs were funny, they actually looked like bananas lying on the ground.  

One afternoon after leaving their cabin I picked a bouquet of some beautiful green and red leaves the girls and I had been admiring earlier.  It was some type of shrub growing wild on the hillside.  I thought it was beautiful!  When I got to the balcony of the cabin I ran to show dad what I’d picked for the kitchen table.  

Dad grabbed my arm and held it over the railing.  “Drop it,” is all he said.  I knew from the look on my dads face I had done something terribly wrong.  I dropped it like it was on fire.  Dad took me to the kitchen and scrubbed my hands and arms with Ajax and dish soap for a very long time.  Next I had to take a bath, a shampoo, and scrub again under my fingernails.  My gift for the table turned out to be Poison Oak! 
The next day I went to share the story of my dad’s panic attack with the Birds.  Mrs. Bird met me at the door and told me her daughter couldn’t come out to play just yet but I could go visit with her while she took a bath.  Her daughter was soaking in the bathtub with oatmeal floating all around her.  Her face and neck were covered with a thick layer of a pink medicine that was drying and cracking. 
My poor friend was a sight!  Her eyes shinning through all that medicine and her sitting in a tub of cereal was funny but somehow horrifying at the same time!  Her mother laughed at my reaction when I walked in and saw her.  She had picked a bouquet too, but she was allergic to the oil on the plants!  Mrs. Bird had talked to my dad earlier that morning.  They had a good laugh between them about us.
After her bath, we were allowed out to play again.  My friend had been rubbed and scrubbed clean.  Even so, before she was allowed out she was again smeared with the pink stuff.  When dad saw her the first words out of his mouth were, “Egad, what happened to you?”  I thought it might make her cry but she laughed and said, “Oh it’s just Poison Oak, I get this all the time.”  
A short while later dad came outside with my white shoe polish.  He dabbed it all over my face.  The more dad put on my face the more my friend laughed.  We played the rest of the day painted pink and white.

Book Entry 46: 1961 Wally and the Bears

It was on one of the men’s camping trips to Yosemite, previously mentioned, that my uncle Wally and my dad went on a half-day hike.  Dad told me he and Wally came to a small section of the river where on the opposite side of the creek were two small bear cubs.  Uncle Wally was a constant prankster.  He jumped from stone to stone to cross the river and get close to the cubs.  When he tried his best to coax them near with a candy bar they became frightened and scurried up a small tree.  Dad said the cubs were about chest high to Wally.  Wally continued to approach grinning from ear to ear yelling at dad to take his picture.

The cubs began bawling for help.  Wally’s grin turned to panic when he and dad heard branches breaking and the momma bear snarling.  Dad said those cubs flew up the tree to escape from Wally.  Then he added Wally flew twice as fast making his way back to the safe side of the river.  Wally didn’t even try to stay on the stones!  He leaped right into that freezing water, which in some places was waste deep, and made his way to dad who by that time was quickly backing uphill to the path.  

After a good laugh, the two of them sat on a fallen log and watched the bear family.  When the cubs climbed down from the tree they exchanged grunting sounds with their mom and the three of them calmly disappeared into the treeline as if nothing had happened.  Dad said once Wally got color back in his face they shared the candy bars the cubs had not eaten. 

The following week when dad got his photos back from the drug store we saw pictures of all the men around the campfire, several pictures of bears, and one horrifying photo of Wally doing a handstand on the top of Glacier Point.  Wally had climbed over the safety rail and was on the famous rock extending beyond the edge of the mountain.  The photo shows Wally and nothing but space behind and below him.  He was at the farthest tip, had he lost his balance, even for a second, it would have been the end for him!  It gave all of us the “creepies” even to look at the photo.

This is my Uncle Wally sitting on a boulder at Mirror Lake on the Yosemite Valley Floor.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Book Entry 45: 1961 Movie Money

I babysat Phillip for $.35 a week.  I’d get paid on Saturday mornings.  Saturday afternoons I would ride by bike to the theater in Hughson.  We saw some good Disney movies in that old theater.  Each week we’d also see a newsreel, a cartoon, and an episode of some continuing-adventure like “The Iron man” or “Hopalong Cassidy.” 
Mom belonged to the women’s club in charge of the refreshment counter at the theater.  The weeks she worked at the theater I got all the popcorn I could eat for free.
 I usually had to pay $.25 to get into the theater, $.05 for a drink and $.05 for popcorn.   When mom worked I got a candy bar for $.05 and still got the popcorn too!  It wasn’t till I was much older that I figured out my $.35 allowance was exactly what it cost for me to go to the movie.  Mom was pretty smart that way!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Book Entry 44: 1960 Linda and Sammie

One of the little girls in my church was Linda McClurkin.  She had two brothers.  One was Sammie.  Sammie was in my class.  I remember how much I loved being asked to the McClurkin’s house to spend Sunday afternoons!  I thought Sammie was just about the cutest boy I’d ever seen.  He had real curly brown hair.  Sammie was about the first boy ever to be nice to me.  We were kind of unofficial boyfriend and girlfriend for a couple of years.  In those days it was different.  He’d look at me and smile and that was all there was to it.  Or I’d hear from Billy that Sammie told Jerry he thought I was cute.  That would last for a couple of weeks until I’d hear now Sammie thought Sheila or Patricia was cute.  I’d be devastated for a few days until I heard he’d said I was cute again and I was once again his first choice.

I’d go home with the McClurkins to spend the day on their dairy.  They rented the house and Mr. McClurkin worked with the cows.  I remember going to barn to play in the hay bales with Linda and Sammie.  We’d find lost toys in forts on top the hay, we’d dive into open bales and swing from ropes dropping into the prickly soft cushion beneath.  I remember finding new baby kittens in “hay holes.”  

It wasn’t always easy getting to the barn.  In dry weather it was okay.  We could always find a path between the “plops.”  I remember one exceptionally wet spell.  The manure was about up to our knees in the pen.  The only way to the barn was to take off our shoes and socks, roll up our pant legs, and walk in.  It was really gross.  When we made it to the barn, we played a long time before we  had to repeat the process to get back to the house.   
As we'd make our way through the manure sometimes our feet would get stuck.  When we'd pull them out of the sludge we would splash manure on each other.  The first splash would be an accident but the manure-splashing-payback fight would be on purpose!  I remember Mrs. McClurkin laughing at us when we got to the back porch.  She handed us a mirror to see ourselves.  

 We had seen one another get covered with muck over the hours we had played and it seemed OK but when we each took a turn looking at ourselves we began to howl with laughter.  We were covered with manure, the whites of our eyes showed like flashlights and when we smiled hay was not the only thing stuck in our teeth!  Mrs. McClurkin raised the question as to why we put our socks and shoes on when we got to the barn, took them off to tramp out and put them on again before we came to the house.  I remember Sammie saying because the manure was soft we didn’t mind having them off but the hay was prickly so we put them on in the barn.  It made sense to take them off to walk through the manure the second time and there were stickers between the corral and the back door so of course we put them back on.
            All of our cloths, including our shoes, went into the washer.  Mrs. McClurkin hosed us off outside and Linda and I went to bathe while Sammie waited outside for his turn.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Book Entry 43: 1960 The Church Men's Trips

Every year the men in our church took two trips.  In the spring they’d go to Yosemite for two or three days of camping.  They always came home with tales of the cold river, endless pranks they'd played, and the bears they’d encountered.   

In the summer the men would go on a deep sea fishing trip in Monterey.  They’d come home with smelly gunny sacks (burlap bags) full of fish. They’d undo the twine and let me look in the bags.  There were ice chunks mixed in with the fish.  Each one of the fellows would be boasting about their catch.  I remember one time Dan Baptista and uncle Wally picked out chunks of ice from one of the sacks of fish and offered me a piece.  I refused it and remember screaming when they put the ice in their mouths and began making sounds from deep in his throat like it was the best treat ever.
There in the church parking lot, as they divided up their catch, each man eagerly claimed to have caught the fish which gave the hardest fight.  They each poked fun at their fishing buddies.  And, of course, they each told their story of the big one that got away.  As the wives parked and began collecting their husbands the stories were told again and again.  The stories changed, the fight in the fish, the size of the fish, and how many got away changed each time I heard them.  The fullest gunny sacks would begin to empty into the sacks not so full.  Everyone went home happy and with more fish than any of them really wanted!
David usually went on the trips too so it would be just mom, me, and baby Phillip left at home.  Mom always tried to make the times when the men were gone special “girl time” with me.  We’d visit grandma Stevens, mom would do some special project with me, and she’d always make a huge strawberry shortcake!  I don’t need to say she’d make homemade shortcake either because in “those days” that was all there was.  She’d stack up layers of warm cake, juicy berries, and whip cream until they were so tall they would topple over.  I remember eating until I felt sick because every bite was so delicious.  She made enough for a dozen people and we’d have it again for breakfast the next morning.

 When the guys would unload their stuff and start telling their stories I would just look at mom and smile.  I didn’t care how much they boasted about their adventures because to me my time with mom was better!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Book Entry 42: 1960 Lucy

My folks decided I was old enough to ride my bike to town.  Sometimes I would ride to my grandparent’s house.  They lived about 2 miles from us.  Sometimes I would ride to Bernie’s house.  Bernie was my best friend for many of my growing-up years.  Almost every day during swim season I would ride to the pool by the high school to spend the afternoon with my friends.
No matter where I was going I always headed out in the same direction.  I would go down our street, across the railroad, and continue towards town on 7th Street.  I felt so grown up on my bike.  I was glad to have the independence riding my bike gave me.  It allowed me to go to town and do things like the kids who lived in town.  One of my favorite stops was the Sav-Mor grocery store.  I loved to stop at the grocery store after swimming.  I would swim with Bernie and other friends for hours during hot summer days.  We’d be famished when we left the pool.  Mom and dad gave me $.25 a week for treats.  I’d spend $.05 a day on candy bars at the grocery store.  The candy bars I bought weren’t Hershey’s or a big name but… they were 2 for a nickel.
I loved the feeling of going fast on my bicycle.  I loved to feel my hair blowing in the wind.  In fact, I loved everything about my rides to town except Lucy.  Dorothy and Neale Johnson lived at the end of our road right before the railroad.  They owned Lucy!
Lucy was a German Shepherd.  The picture above is how everyone else saw Lucy.  The picture below is how I saw Lucy.  When I’d get close to her house she would start barking at me.  She’d show me her teeth and bite at my ankles.  

Many times Dorothy told me Lucy wouldn’t bite but I never did believe her.  I absolutely hated that dog and I hated going down to that end of the street.  I had to pass Lucy going to town and again coming home.  I would feel such relief when I passed Lucy’s house and my house was in sight.  Many times I’d go a longer way crossing the railroad at Service Road and coming back up Sante Fe to avoid Lucy.  The longer route added two miles each way to my trip.   I hated Lucy for the extra distance too!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Book Entry 41: 1960 The Butterfly Miracle

Mom called me out onto the porch one warm summer morning.  She pointed out a butterfly cocoon attached to the screen.  She told me she had been watching it for a couple of weeks and this particular morning the cocoon had begun to open.  She and I sat together on an old swing type chair and watched for the next couple hours while the opening slowly progressed.  It was amazing! 
When the butterfly came out of the cocoon mom  said she thought the butterfly had something wrong with it.  His body was very big and looked swollen and his legs were crinkled.  We watched for several minutes as the butterfly stretched its legs one at a time.  Next it became very still.    Slowly, first one and then the other, the wings began to expand, unfold, and take shape.  The butterfly was pumping its wings full of fluid from his body.  The butterfly turned from a cocoon to an ugly bunch of twisted legs and then to a beautiful Monarch right in front of us. 

Watching that butterfly was seeing a miracle right before our eyes.  As much as I remember watching the butterfly I remember my mom enjoying it with me.  It is a memory I still treasure.  I love finding miracles in even the smallest things, even if that thing has happened a billion times before.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Book Entry 40: 1960 The Great "Hit and Run"

Grandma Stevens had agreed to keep Ellen, me, Susan Powell, and Linda Hampton for the night.  We talked her into taking us to the drive-in movie.  Somewhere, between my house and the movie we hit something in the road.  Grandma stopped the car and stared into her rear-view mirror.  She had run over an opossum!
All of us girls were hanging out of the car windows to see if the opossum was moving or not.  Grandma said it had better get moving if it wasn't dead or it soon would be.  She slowly backed up next to the opossum to get a good look at it.  Well, the car had run directly over the poor little guys head.  There was no question he was dead.  
Grandma sighed in relief.  She said she couldn't leave it there if it was hurt and didn't know what she'd do if it was still alive.  She went on to say she didn't know which one of us girls she would have hold it till we got home if it had been alive.  By that time we'd all seen the mangled body.  We let out a collective scream and rolled up the windows.  I'm not positive but I think grandma was just kidding.  I'm sure glad we didn't need to find out...just in case!
  I don’t know if grandma was afraid grandpa would be mad at her for hitting the opossum or tease her for it, but she swore us all to secrecy.  I don’t remember what movie we saw that night but we had a blast because we saw it with Grandma. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Book Entry 39: 1960 Dressing Up for Tea

The house where I spent my growing-up years had a wonderful porch that reached across the entire front.  Dad put new screen around the porch every year or two.  Mom and I would go out on the porch to paint our fingernails and our toenails.  I would work on my coloring book there while mom read or watched my baby brother play.  Everybody would go out to the porch during a rainstorm to watch.  Sometimes I even got to sleep on the porch in a sleeping bag.
Mom would set the card table up on the porch and we’d have little sandwiches and cookies and iced tea for lunch.  Sometimes my grandma would join us.  They'd help me dress up like a lady with one of moms hats, some high heeled shoe, one of her dresses which would drag on the floor.  Sometimes they'd put ropes of necklaces on me to match my dress.  I felt so pretty and dainty.  Grandma and mom would put jewelery on too.  Pop beads were popular when I was little.  I remember grandma and mom wearing necklaces of pop-beads to one of our "teas."

Dad would come in for lunch and gobble down everything we hadn’t eaten.  Mom and I would laugh at dad.  His hands were rough and stained.  He would laugh too when his big fingers wouldn’t fit through the little handles on the tea cups.  He’d uncurl his pinkie finger and stick it straight up trying to look dainty.  He looked funny holding those petite cookies and sandwiches with those husky fingers.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Book Entry 38: 1960 The Outhouse

We had an outhouse behind the barn.  My dad used to complain the peach-pickers were going to light the outhouse on fire because they were always smoking inside.  Although it was totally disgusting, I used it myself from time to time when I didn’t want to take time out from play to go into the house.  I was just sure even though it had lots of paper down the hole it wouldn’t burn.  My dad just had to be wrong.  Being sure I was right and wanting to prove it I snuck 5 matches from the kitchen and set out on a quest.  I lit the first match and tossed it down the hole.  Nothing happened.  I lit another and another.  No fire.  Just for good measure I lit the last match and tossed it in.  The entire bottom of the pit burst into an orange-blue flame.  I felt my heart jump into my throat. 
I bolted back and out of the outhouse slamming the door behind me.  I started running down the side of the barn.  Just as I neared the corner of the barn that would take me to the safety of the house I peeked back at the outhouse.  There was smoke oozing out of every hole and crack in the walls.  I felt as if I’d caused the end of the world to begin.  Somebody was going to be in big trouble over this and it was going to be me! 
I ran to my room.  I hid on the floor between my bed and the wall.  I pulled the bedspread over myself to hide.  I remember actually shaking.  I was afraid I was going to vomit but scared to go into the bathroom to do it.  I hid there for what seemed hours.  I heard the porch door squeak.  I heard the kitchen door open and close.  I heard the floor pop and groan as dad walked through the kitchen, then the living room, then my bedroom.  I heard the bathroom door open and close. 
Dad bathed and cleaned up for dinner.  When mom called us to the table I went into the kitchen expecting the worst.  Not one word was said during dinner or that evening about the outhouse.  All I could surmise was that the fire had gone out on its own and dad never knew anything about it.  Either that or dad thought one of the peach pickers had tossed a cigarette in the hole and caused the fire. 
I know the next morning when I went outside to play I couldn’t wait to peek behind the barn.  One of the men came out lighting up a cigarette while a woman went in with one in her mouth.  I remember feeling a huge relief.   I don’t think I ever went in the outhouse again!  After peach season that year dad moved the outhouse to the burn-pile where it finally did go up in flames. 
I watched while dad filled in the hole where the outhouse had been.  Before he started shoveling in the dirt dad took a second look at the paper in the hole and said, “Looks like someone threw a cigarette down there and caught it on fire, we’re lucky they didn’t burn the outhouse and the barn.”  I felt a familiar sick feeling coming over me as he looked in my direction. 
A few minutes later dad called to me, “Joyce, go get on your suit, when I’m finished here I’ll be ready for a good swim.”  I ran to the house and threw on my swim suit.  I coaxed Tina, our dog, to follow me onto the back of the jeep.  It was just a few minutes before dad climbed in and the three of us were off for a refreshing dip in the canal. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Book Entry 37: 1960 Peach Season


It was my job during peach picking season to pull our wagon out to the field.  I was to leave the house at 1:00 o'clock sharp.  Mom would put a big washtub filled with ice and Cokes in the wagon and I’d pull them out to dad where the peaches were being picked.  Dad would take the cap off each glass bottle himself and hand it to the pickers.  They would smile and thank him for the refreshing drink.  In return dad would thank them for coming to work.
The rule was if there was a Coke left when everyone had been served I could have it.  I looked forward to peach season for only one reason.  It was the only time of year we would get to drink Cokes.  Dad usually knew exactly how many pickers were in the field when he’d come in for his sandwich at noon.  There were times he’d miss someone up a tree or a child sleeping in a car and we would come up short or even meaning no Coke for me.  Even then my treks to the field would have two simple rewards.  My rewards would be a smile and a big thank you from dad.
The thing I hated about peach season was as the trees were picked the props holding the branches under the weight of the fruit would be removed and thrown to the ground.  It was my job to stack these props into piles along the roadway through the field to be picked up later by dad or David. 
There always seemed to be some checks (rows of trees between levees) that had more weeds than others.  It would be tall sometimes.  The grass would tangle itself around the props making it almost like a tug-of-war to pick up the props.  I remember being hot and tired working in the field.  I remember having to wade through rotten fruit to get the props and I remember sitting on the levees picking slivers out of my fingers.  I kept a safety pin with me all the time.  Even though I wore gloves somehow I always had a crop of slivers to pick out by the end of the day. 
One other memory I have of peach season happened early one morning.  The pickers drove into our driveway with headlights on because it was still dark.  They parked and gathered together with their lunches and radios and other personal things.  Dad came out and walked them to the check of peaches where he wanted them to start picking. 
I was walking “the row” with my dad as he greeted, encouraged, and directed the pickers to their first “sets” of the day.  Dad had his checks divided into tree “sets” of four.  We stopped at one family’s set of trees.  The husband was coming down off the ladder for his coffee.  There was a little boy and a baby in the car.  I think this family was allowed to bring their car into the field because of the baby.  The wife was sitting by the stack of peach boxes pouring coffee from a Thermos.  When the cup was almost full she put the Thermos down and unbuttoned her blouse.  She reached inside her blouse and lifted a breast out far enough to aim it at the coffee cup.  Yep!  Her husband had milk in his coffee that morning! 
I didn’t say a word, neither did dad.  He finished his greeting and we continued on to the next family.  When we had finished, seeing everyone was settled and working, dad walked me back to the house.  He didn’t say anything to me about what had happened but when he saw mom he grinned and told her he thought I’d gotten my eyes full that morning.  He’s right, I had.  I am in my sixties now but I can relive that event in my mind like it happened this morning!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Book Entry 36: 1959 Suprising Admonition

We went to my Grandpa Starn’s house for a bar-b-que.  Grandpa took me into his boysenberry garden and let me pick berries and put them straight into my mouth.  I thought that was quite a treat.  Then he let his geese out of their pen to show me.  They hissed and quaked and pecked me on the legs.  I don’t think he knew they would do that, at least I hope he didn’t.  I remember it hurt and left bruises.
Later I was in the kitchen with Sarah getting ready to bring things outside for dinner.  Sarah was my grandpa's second wife.  I was nibbling on a ginger cookie and said, “Grandma, you make the best cookies!”  Without missing a breathe she looked at me saying, “Don’t call me grandma, I’m just married to your grandpa.  You can call me Sarah.”  I was just a little kid.  I didn’t know why she suddenly seemed so different and so mean.  I think her wanting me to call her Sarah instead of grandma hurt more than those geese biting my legs!
From that day forward I never did like her.  When we’d go to visit I would visit and play with my grandpa but not her.  I noticed the other kids did the same and later learned they’d also gotten the same instruction from Sarah.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Book Entry 35: 1959 Bossie

We had a barn.  It was the most wonderful place to explore when I was a little girl.  It had a sound and a smell all its own.  It was where I spent a lot of time climbing on bales of hay and playing with the kittens that lived there.  We had a small section fenced off inside for chickens and we had a cow names Bossie.  On the outside of the barn was a small corral where Bossie would spend her days.  I remember sitting in the shade by the corral fence having tea with my dolls watching Bossie.  To me she was a fascinating creature.
Bossie was a Jersey cow.  She gave us rich wonderful milk we used for whipping cream, drinking milk, butter, and buttermilk.  She had the most perfect huge brown eyes with eyelashes that curled back up and touched her forehead.  She stood by the hour lazily chewing her cud.  I remember the long strands of slobber hanging off her mouth and dripping to the ground.  It sounds gross now but at the time it was just part of Bossie.  It was just a “farm thing.”
            Dad was always singing when he came in from the field.  Bossie would hear him and no matter what she was doing or where she was she would immediately walk to the same spot along the front of the fence where she would greet my dad.  Dad would always have a fist full of long sweet grasses he had collected for her on his way in from work.  He’d stand  feeding Bossy a few strands of grass at a time, all the while talking to her as if she were one of his friends. 
It was a special treat when we had watermelon to give the rinds to Bossie.  She would slurp and crunch and make the most hilarious sounds.  She absolutely loved watermelon!
I learned a hard fact of life one day when I got off the bus after school.  I noticed a strange looking truck parked out by the barn.  My dad and a fellow in a white apron were standing by the fence talking.  There was an odd shaped object hanging from the hook at the edge of the barn roof.  With a sharp pain to my head and heart I recognized that shape.  It was our beloved Bossie hanging there and the stranger was the butcher!
I was horrified.  Mom called me from the house but my feet kept walking towards dad.  He met me, took my hand, and we walked the last few steps together to see what I dreaded seeing.  My heart was broken.  I held on to dad’s hand with all my might and kicked at the dirt.
          I remember asking why we had to kill Bossie.  I don’t remember all of his answer but dad said she had been on our farm to provide for us.  First it was with her milk and all the different ways we could use it and now that she was getting older and not producing much milk any more it would be with her meat.  I thought it was all just horrible.
          I remember asking dad why we all spent time with her like a pet and why he sang to her and fed her watermelon if he knew someday he would have her killed.  Dad told me that he didn’t like killing her and he’d miss singing to her.  He said all the things we did for her and the time we spent with her made her life as a cow absolutely as good as it could be.  He said any cow would be jealous of Bossie’s life with us. 
Dad said he’d had the butcher hide the gun and promised me he was talking to her when the bullet hit.  As he talked he held me close to his chest, I knew immediately it was so I couldn’t see the tears rolling down his cheeks.  Dad was sad about Bossie too!  Somehow seeing dad cry made me feel better.  And of course, there was the promise of a new calf in the coming spring.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Book Entry 34: 1959 School Morning Surprise

I could hear our school bus coming from the time it turned onto our road.  I could hear it rumble and bang as it came down our bumpy road.  I remember one morning hearing David getting ready for school.  I got up, made my bed, dressed myself and brushed my teeth.  I could hear the bus coming the whole time, the bus brakes began to squeak and the bus begin to rattle as it came to a stop.  I could hear the neighbor kids talking, the screech of the bus door closing, and the bus engine roar to life as it took off again down the road. 
It turns out I had been asleep dreaming I was getting ready for school!   The bus leaving without me was not a dream.  I sat on the edge of the bed wondering why mom hadn’t awakened me.  When she came into my room I asked her why she had allowed me to sleep.  I was upset I had missed the bus.  I was afraid she was going to be mad and need to drive me to the school.  Mom walked to my dresser, picked up my mirror, walked back to my bed and held it up in front of my face.  I was covered with spots! 
It turned out to be a long week of toast, 7-up, and chicken noodle soup.  I had the Chicken Pox!  I had a gazillion spots and my skin smelled a sickening sweet smell.  I don’t remember being sick but I do remember itching and the smell!  When my brothers got the Chicken Pox they smelled the same way.  Years later I recognized the smell when my kids got the Chicken Pox!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Book Entry 33: 1959 Big Red

           Dad had a cousin named Sylvia who lived on River Road in Ceres.  We got several orange kittens from her during my growing-up years.  One particular cat who I called “Big Red” holds a special memory.  Red would follow me when I’d go out in the field or exploring in the barn.  He’d follow me while I played on the lawn or climbed the big tree in the front yard. 
When Phillip could reach him he’d pull his tail or poke at his eyes.  Red would just keep purring as if he loved it.  Phillip would use him for a pillow.  Red would just lay there and purr.  He was by far the most loving and tolerant cat I ever had.
One spring day I was lying on a blanket on our front lawn looking at the joke pages of a Readers Digest.  I heard a thud from the direction of the road.  When I looked I saw a car but it didn’t slow down it just kept going.  Then I saw Red.  He was walking in my direction.  He was wobbling a bit and not coming in his usual quick gate.  As he neared the blanket his walk slowed even more.  When his front feet got onto the blanket he fell into my lap.  His lower jaw was crooked with blood beginning to soak his face fur.  He had been walking in such an unusual fashion because his back leg was twisted and his foot was facing the wrong way.  I was paralized when I looked at Red.  As he laid in my lap we stared at each other.  Mom was in the field with dad, I felt so alone and helpless.  I couldn’t yell for help.  I didn’t know what to do. 
Red made a squeaky meow like he didn’t know what to do either.  I gently stroked the very top of his head where it looked like it might not hurt.  That gentle old cat held true to his loving nature and began to purr.  I continued to pet and he continued to purr for the next few minutes.  Then, with never a whimper, he just quit breathing.  I sat there with him across my lap till mom and dad came in from the field.  It seemed like a very long time but was probably only a few minutes.  I was crying. 
Dad took Red from my lap and mom went into the house.  When she came back just a moment later she had one of Phillip’s old baby blankets.  Dad took the faded little blanket and wrapped Red in it.  He held Red in one hand and my hand in the other.  We walked out behind the barn. 
Dad dug a hole and gently placed the precious bundle at the bottom.  Slowly dad filled the hole with the soft dirt.  Not a word had been said.  Dad's face looked flushed when he looked at me and gently said, “He was a good cat.”  The two of us went into the kitchen.  Mom had cookies and milk set out for all of us.  
Dad gave mom a grateful nod.  They didn’t treat me like a little kid that day.  They listened to me as I carefully told how Red had been hit by the car and come to me to die.  We talked for a while about what a good and loving friend Red had been.  Dad whispered something in mom's ear I could not hear and she left the room.  I could hear her dial the phone in the living room.
When mom came back she was smiling.  When dad saw her he began to smile too.  He put his hands on the kitchen table and stood up.  "Well Joyce, I guess it's time for a ride to Sylvia's house.  It seems she has kittens again looking for good homes.  I think we'd better get right over there if we want to get a red one.  That is, of course, if you want another one." 

 That evening a new friendship began with me and "Tiger."  Tiger was from the newest litter of  Red's parents.  I think Red would have like that!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Book Entry 32: 1959 Watermelon Haven

The field to the North of our house was planted with new peach trees.  Dad planted the  half of the field with watermelons as well as the baby trees.  I remember sitting under my Magnolia trees watching the men pitching the melons through the field and onto the truck beds.  My Uncle Wally, my dad, and several other men including Henry Haarstad and Dan Baptista were doing the pitching.  Uncle Wally winked at me and “accidentally" dropped a huge melon on the grass beside me.  It must have been two feet long.  It was huge.  The melon made a thump when it hit the grass but didn’t break.  He bent over and gave it a hard smack with the palm of his hand and the melon broke wide open exposing its meaty heart.
Wally gave a loud laugh and motioned all the fellows to come sit in the shade.  They each brought a melon equally as big as mine.  I remember the popping sound as each melon was broken open.  Dad called mom from the house to join us.  We ate the hearts of the watermelons with our hands.  My fingers were so sticky when I made a fist they stuck together.  We all sat in the shade laughing and slurping watermelon for the better part of an hour.  We ate until we couldn’t eat any more! 
When it was time for the men to go back to the field they all lined up by the garden hose and let me squirt the "sticky" off their hands.  It was a hot day and the water was cold.  In one quick motion Dan grabbed the hose from my hands and squirted the group of men as they walked toward the field.  The war was on!  Wally ran  to the faucet around the corner of the house and returned blasting everyone.  The  water fight only lasted a minute but soaked us all to the bone!  It was hilarious to everyone except mom who stood staring at the men drenched from head to toe.  When Wally asked mom for a towel she looked at him and answered, "Not on your life!"
When the last melon truck pulled away that evening each of the men loaded ten to twelve of those huge watermelons into their cars and pickups.   I’m sure their families enjoyed those melons as much as we did.  It was a wonderful hot summer day filled with hard work, sticky fingers, and laughter.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Book Entry 31: 1959 The Cover Crop Bouquet

                                                 Me, my doll, and my brother David.

The field had baby trees.  Dad planted a cover crop in the field to help hold in the moisture.  When the plants were about two to three feet tall they began to bloom.  There were lavender, pink, white, and blue flowers.  I took the better part of an afternoon picking a beautiful bouquet for my mom.  I showed it to dad on my way past the barn.  He said mom was going to love it.
When I got to the kitchen I remember holding the bouquet up for mom to take.  It broke my heart when she pushed the bouquet away and said, “You’re not supposed to pick those.  Those are just weeds!”  I put the bouquet down to my side and went out to the burn barrel.  Dad had gone with me when I’d tried to give mom the flowers.  He’d heard her comment to me.  He’d seen my disappointment and watched me throw the “flowers” away.  He tried all evening to make me smile but my little heart was really bruised.  I don’t think mom knew how much she had hurt me when she refused my gift but I’m fairly certain dad explained it to her in great detail. 
The next day the three of us went out to the field and together picked an even bigger bouquet which was divided and prominently displayed in the kitchen, the living room, my bedroom and my parent’s bedroom!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Book Entry 30: 1959 Blue Boy and Honey

Art and Ruth Starn lived at the end of our road next to the Sante Fe Railroad.  Art was my Grandpa Albert's brother.  Grandpa Albert was my dad's dad.  Ruth had an outside aviary.  She loved her birds!  She had several hundred parakeets.  She let us pick a pair to bring home.  While we tried to pick the birds we wanted Uncle Art watched Aunt Ruth with a huge grin on his face.  She pointed out all the different colors and told why she thought some birds were better than others.  She showed me all the little houses Uncle Art had built.  She showed me nests full of eggs, baby parakeets and adult birds.
Finally Uncle Art laughed and asked her to let me pick two all by myself.  I picked two blue ones which we named Blue Boy and Honey which looked a lot like this photo.  Ruth made sure we had a "pair".  She taught me to tell the males from females.  The males have a dark stripe across the top of their beak.   I think mom enjoyed those birds as much, if not more than I did.  I would find her all the time with Blue Boy perched on her finger trying to get him to say something.  I think she finally did get him to say “Pretty Bird.” 
One day mom and I were playing with one of the parakeets on the front porch.  Without thinking I opened the screen door to go out.  In an instant our parakeet flew past my head and into the great outdoors.  I stopped in my tracks only long enough to look at mom’s face.  Her eyes were watching the bird as he flew about half way to the Magnolia tree in our front yard at which point he turned and flew a straight line back into the screened porch where I hadn’t even had a chance to close the door. 
Mom said that was a good lesson for the bird and for me.  She then told me the saying about “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence,” and explained to me what it meant.  We had a good laugh about that.
           Dad built a little bird house out of some match boxes.  He put a little hole for a door and wired it to the inside of our birdcage.  Our parakeets laid several batches of eggs.  Mom always got excited thinking the eggs might hatch.  She’d count the days waiting and watching but we never did have one hatch. 
One morning mom was sitting at the kitchen table drinking her coffee while I was eating my cereal.  She had let Blue Boy loose in the house, which I still can’t believe she’d do, and he flew straight into her cup of coffee.  She scooped him up and ran to the kitchen sink.    Gently she held the little guy under cool running water.  Dad put some blue salve on Blue Boy's tiny legs and feet.  It was the same thing he'd put on the chickens when they'd peck one another.  Dad said since they were also birds it probably couldn't hurt. 
Blue Boy lost most of his feathers and his legs peeled.  He looked naked like when we plucked our chickens.  It took a long time for his legs to heal and his feathers to grow back!  He was hilarious to watch around Honey.  It was as if he was embarrassed.  I think mom felt guilty about the little guy getting into her coffee.  She took vigilant care of him and after a long while he regained his feathers and his dignity!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Book entry 29: 1959 Peter and Mom's Rooster

The previous story reminds me of the time Walter’s dad, Peter, came to our back door.  It was early one summer day.  At the time we had a few chickens  living in the barn.  Dad kept their wings clipped but he needed to do it again as a couple of them, including mom’s favorite rooster, had begun flying out early in the mornings and going over by Peter’s house. 
Mom would take me out in to the chicken coop sometimes just to watch the chickens hunt and peck.  She loved the roosters too, especially one little Bantam rooster.  His feathers must have had thirty or more different colors.  I remember sitting in the yard one day counting the colors in that rooster’s tail with mom.  She said she thought he could win a prize for having more colors than any other rooster.  It is this rooster, mom’s favorite, involved in this story. 
The rooster had been waking Peter up for a few mornings and it was making him mad.   This particular morning while mom and I were having breakfast we heard a loud knock on the back door.  We both went to answer it.  There stood Peter on the stoop holding mom’s rooster under his arm.  The rooster was clucking but not struggling much as Peter was holding him securely with his elbow.
“Is this your rooster?” he asked.  I looked at mom’s face as she answered, “Why, yes it is, has that bad rooster been bothering you Pete?”  I don’t remember much about Peter but evidently he wasn’t a nice sort of fellow.  I looked at his face waiting for him to answer.  He changed his stance, raised that rooster by the neck high into the air and said, “Yep, he’s gotten me up three days in a row, but he won’t be doing it again.”  Immediately Peter gave his arm a big crank in a circle and popped that rooster’s neck with a loud snap. 
Peter held out the rooster's limp body towards mom.  She took it from him looking in disbelief from Peter to the rooster.  Peter simply turned and let himself out of the yard.  I remember watching mom to see what she would do.  She walked over to a lawn chair and sat down dropping the rooster to the grass.  
I don’t remember what she did after that but I think we just sat there for a long time.  When dad came in from the field I listened as mom told him the whole story from beginning to end.  Dad went straight to the barn, found the clippers, and clipped the rest of the chicken’s wings.  When all the chickens were safe in the coop he  went over and had a “visit” with Peter.  When he got back to the house I could hear dad and mom talking.  Dad’s voice got louder than usual but I couldn’t hear the words he was saying. 
On the farm nothing was ever wasted.  We always ate our chickens but dad took that rooster out and buried it next to the barn where we buried our pets.