Monday, April 22, 2013

Memiors of a West Texas Pioneer

                                                                  Pauline and Martha Rhody
 This entry is all about the stories that Granny told me over the years.  The first I will remember is about the picture above. Granny said that it was taken just before she and her sister Pauline rode the train from east Texas out west.  She said her stepmother had the picture made just before they left.  It was a big deal back then not just because of the rarity of having a photograph taken but because they were wearing the first "No Iron" cotton dresses that were available in the region.  Sure enough, I don't see any wrinkles, do you?  Granny is the one without the hair bow, I guess she was a bit of a tomboy back then.  The other stories she told me about her childhood have to do with her time on a ranch outside of Floydada, TX.  Her mother died when she was little and a good part of her upbringing was left to her older brothers, I guess that might explain the disdain for hair bows.  She told me once that whenever she had had enough and needed to escape she would climb on the back of a horse and ride off.  If the Granny I knew was anything like young Martha, she probably spent a lot of time on the back of a horse.    She and her brothers and sisters also spent time on the back of a mule.   She told me that she and several others would all climb on the mule and ride around bareback  until the mule had enough and then he would head for the nearest prickly pear or thistle and  sit down just in front of it causing whoever was nearest the tail to slide off right into the spines.  When I first heard the story I thought that must have been one smart mule, later I began to speculate on the brightness of the children who would return again and again for the torture of being closest to the tail.  I guess hope sprung eternal back then too.Granny also told me stories about the ranch hands and the ranch.  She said there was a sinkhole on the ranch and that they never could find the bottom.  She said the ranch hands screwed together 17 windmill pipes  and lowered them down the hole and never did touch the bottom.  This is very plausible, the bottomless lakes near Roswell testify to that, as does the fact that the water was too full of gypsum to be good for anything other than the stock tanks, and even then, I think it would have to be diluted with sweet water to some degree.   I swam in Lee lake once at the bottomless lakes park and the water was very full of gypsum, so much so that as the water droplets dried on my skin they left little white patches.  Granny also told a funny story about the ranch hands trying to pull a fast one and sneaking what they thought was a watermelon from the garden only to be sorely disappointed when they cut into it and discovered that it was a citron melon instead.  She also told me of being stranded during the dust bowl days.  She said she was in the car with Uncle Clarence, I am assuming Papa was with them, when they were overtaken by a huge dust cloud.  It was so thick it choked out the engine of the car and it stalled.  They had to hunker down and wait for it to pass and try not to breath in all the dust.  I remember Granny telling me she was very frightened for the safety of Clarence who was just a little baby at the time.
    I am glad I took the time to ask Granny to tell me about her life as a child, there are not many stories, but I treasure the ones I have and I am pleased to capture them here so that Zach will be able to share them with his children, and they with theirs.  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Aunts and Uncles and cousins, OH MY!

 My Aunt Peggy Bartly Arnett

    For this entry I am going to lump together several questions asked about my extended family and family vacations because they all go hand in hand.  As I mentioned in the previous entry my grandparents did not live in the towns in which I lived, nor did any of my aunts, uncles or cousins.  Military life has a habit of making close extended families a very real impossibility.   On my Dad's side of the family were his two brothers and I do not recall spending much time with them as a child.  I do remember meeting my Uncle Dale's two boys  Mike and Doug on our trip to Oklahoma, and liked them well enough but have never spent time with them since then because our only links, my dad and our grandfather, both died shortly after meeting them.  I have since spent time with both of my dad's brothers after a 30 year gap, and am still grateful for the  opportunity to meet both of them.  I have also spent time with Bob's son John.  I remember him from the early days, he was stationed near us when I was little and so I remember him.  I had the good fortune to reconnect with him on our return from Hawaii and had dinner with him and his wife in Las Vegas.  It has been a real blessing to find my dad's family again after so many years.   I still keep in touch over the phone with Bob and exchange the rare e-mail with Dale and I think it does us all good.
     Just like my grandparents I know my Mothers brothers and sister better and consequently I know those cousins better.  As children we did spend a lot of time with my Mom's sister Aunt Peggy.  Several summer vacations were spent in Dallas hanging out at her house in Oak Cliff.  Who knew that as I was sitting in the Texas Theater a few blocks from her house  watching Bruce Lee movies one summer, my husband- to- be was in New Jersey reading about Lee Harvey Oswald and his attempted getaway that resulted in a murder in that very theater.  (Weird how our lives overlap even when we don't know it, yea?) So time spent in Dallas meant time spent with our cousins Marladean, John, Terry Keith and Terrilynn.  We liked all of our cousins and enjoyed time with them.  They were all older than us, but each in their own way built memories with us.  Marla by mothering us right along with her own two children Tommy and Monica, Terrilynn by taking us along on the wild ride that was her young adult life, John by spending happy hours around a dinner table playing Spades and telling funny stories and Terry Keith by zipping us all around Dallas in a silver corvette and then treating us to dinner at the Spaghetti Warehouse in the West End back when it was cool.  Of course there is also Uncle Clarence and Aunt Jean and their kids, the twins Russ and Rene, and Myra Lynne.  They lived in Oregon, so we did not spend much time with them, though they did come several times, and I do feel as if I know them.  I am facebook Friends with Myra, and its nice knowing I can contact her whenever I like.   Mom also has another brother, Uncle Ken.  I guess of all her siblings he is the one I know best because he has lived in Clovis since the early 1990's and in Mom's house for a large part of that time.  He is what could be kindly described as an odd duck, not because of his "alternative" lifestyle, but for numerous other things, each when taken individually is only mildly quirky but the cumulative effect of them all over a span of time gets down right annoying.  This is why he and Mom finally had to part ways.  He is still in Clovis, at an old age facility sporting an ankle bracelet to help ward off his unsafe wanderlust.
      I have not really addressed the question of family vacations.  I can only remember two official family vacations.  Both were trips to Dallas, where we all piled into the car and made the 8 -10 hour drive from Clovis.  The last one was during Thanksgiving and I remember it well.  Granny lived two doors down from Aunt Peggy on Brooklyn.  The Oregon contingent came down in an RV and we were all together for that one glorious extended family Thanksgiving.  Uncle Ken was still living on the edge in California, but everyone else was there.  Those were not the only times we went to Dallas, but they were the only times Mom was with us.  We went several times on our own.  We flew once, but more often we rode the Greyhound bus.  Try putting two kids on a bus alone now and see where it gets you!  But we did it more than once back in the day. One time in particular I remember staying at Granny's house over the 4th of July.  We wanted to see fire works but there was no one to take us so we were out of luck.  Granny tried to console us with the offer of watching them on her TV that was in her bedroom.  No, we opted not to watch at all rather than on a 12 inch black and white TV.  That was the summer of the doodle bugs and the flu.  I came down with the flu and spent the bulk of my Dallas visit laid out alone on the living room sofa with no TV and no one to talk to.  Jamie, who was well went with Marladean, Granny stayed in her room watching soap operas and I laid on the sofa with tears in my ears suffering from not only the flu, but an epic case of homesickness.  When I felt well enough I would sit in the sandy patch in the front yard and torment doodlebugs by digging up their little sand funnels just so I could watch them spin around and make a new ones.  Its amazing how little it takes to entertain the truly bored...  

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Me, Granny and Barnaby Jones

My Granny
Martha Bridget Rhody Bartley
"Did your Grandparents live nearby?" No, yes  and YES.  I find myself getting a little annoyed at these questions because the answers are not ever as simple as the question appears to be.  I then get annoyed at myself for being annoyed at the book for doing it's job which is to provoke thought.  If the answers are all simple yes or no answers then the result might possibly be the most boring memoir ever written.  So I set aside my annoyance to answer the question.
    Lets start with Sol and Gertrude.  No they did not live near me.  In fact Gertrude did not live at all in my lifetime.  She died when Daddy was a boy and I never met her, though in a weird way I feel very connected to her through her quilt which I have inherited. I did get to visit her grave in West Plains a few years ago when Daddy's brother Dale joined me there for a family reunion.  He drove us all over the countryside showing us places and telling us stories.  Gertrude is buried in a beautiful little cemetery in the woods, and I wonder if I could have ever found it on my own.
       I did meet Grandpa Sol though and remember being given a ride on his tractor.  He lived in Oklahoma and we lived in New Mexico.  I only remember making the trip to see him one time, but I do remember that trip, we saw a longhorn steer in a pasture and Daddy stopped to pick cotton bolls out of a field for Jamie and me to play with.  We could see them whizzing by as we drove down the highway and we desperately wanted to have one to look at.  I remember being astonished at his daring, picking cotton bolls right out of a field that was not his own!   That is about all I can recall about my encounter with my grandpa Sol.  I am left with the vague impression that I liked him.  I was a highly sensitive child and if he did something to upset me, or that I didn't like I would have remembered it.
     My memories of PaPa and Granny are far more elaborate since I spent much more time with them.  They lived in Amarillo, only two hours from our home in Clovis, so we went to Amarillo frequently, and they came to see us too, though not as often.  There was a convenience store across the street from Granny and Papa's house on Taylor Street and PaPa would give us each a quarter to spend on candy whenever we came for a visit.  They took us to Thompson park  Zoo and Wonderland Amusement park...trips to Granny and PaPas were almost always fun.  Granny's back yard was a little paradise that we loved to play in, and her front porch had a swing to loll on when it was too hot to do anything else but wait for a breeze.  Whenever we were leaving to go out we always had to wait for Granny to catch the weather report on TV.  This was before the days of 24/7 news and weather coverage.  You had to catch the News at noon, the evening news or the late night news or not at all.   As a child  I never understood what the big deal was  but later learned she was making sure we were not headed straight into a tornadic thunderstorm.  Growing up in the Texas plains I guess she had her share of tornado scares.
    We actually spent the most time with Granny not just because she lived the longest, but because she actually moved in with us for a while.  I don't remember how long she stayed, maybe a year or so?  I do remember that she was in our house when I was in the third grade because that is when I came down with the chicken pox and was sent home from school.  I got to go home because Granny was there, otherwise I would have had to languish in the nurses office until Mom could come get me.
     It did not last long, Granny's time living with us.  We did not know it then, but she and Mom were not able to live together, Granny unwilling to see Mom as an adult, and Mom, then in her thirties, not willing to explain her every move to her mother.  Jamie and I were blissfully unaware of the discord, they did a good job of keeping it out of our world.  All we knew was that Granny made the best pickles ever from the cucumbers she grew in the yard and that every Thursday night we could pile into Granny's room and watch Barnaby Jones with her, and I am glad to have a happy memory of that  time.   She moved from our house to live near her other daughter, my Aunt Peggy in what was soon to become our vacation Hot spot, Dallas Texas.  I have it on good authority that there will be more on that subject soon.