Welcome to my World

Welcome to the domain different--to paraphrase from New Mexico's capital city of Santa Fe which bills itself "The City Different." Perhaps this space is not completely unique but my world shapes what I write as well as many other facets of my life. The four Ds figure prominently but there are many other things as well. Here you will learn what makes me tick, what thrills and inspires me, experiences that impact my life and many other antidotes, vignettes and journal notes that set the paradigm for Dierdre O'Dare and her alter ego Gwynn Morgan and the fiction and poetry they write. I sell nothing here--just share with friends and others who may wander in. There will be pictures, poems, observations, rants on occasion and sometimes even jokes. Welcome to our world!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Another fun essay, just a bit of wry humor here...

This is a recent offering for the Sr Center project. I asked a friend if a few terms were too risque but she was okay with it and everyone got a chuckle. It is odd; I have always gone back and forth from very short hair to very long--in between only in the growing out stage.

BC Glasses and Tissues in Your Bra

Growing up in the late 1950s and early 1960s, teenage girls had some hard role models to emulate. The likes of Rita Hayworth, Jane Russell, Jayne Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe were tough acts to follow. Bombshell material R Not Us. Of course from about sixth grade on, there would always be one or two girls who seemed to go from training bras to about a 36C over the summer. I think the term used then was “blossomed out.” That made it even worse for the rest of us, the chronic late bloomers. Now had I come along in the Twiggie era, I would have been fine but no such luck. Soon I had two more strikes against me.

When I was about nine I got my first pair of glasses. I am not sure of the date since it was before I began to keep a diary or journal shortly after I turned twelve. Anyway, I could see clearly to about six inches in front of my nose and little beyond that distance so glasses it was. I was already a tomboy and soon would be riding horses and such so my parents were much more concerned with safety than appearance. I was already a skinny kid with knobby knees and very straight hair so what the heck. The first and many following pairs had plain metal frames with safety lenses which made my already thick prescription even heavier. Pretty they were not and they made my eyes (which I always considered my best feature)  look small, distant and swimmy. For a short time I didn’t care but then I turned twelve and discovered boys. How I hated those glasses then.

Many years later while I was working at Fort Huachuca, I overheard some young female soldiers talking about the very ugly spectacles that were government issue. Few wore them if they could help it. The young ladies called them “BC glasses.” Now you might think they were referring to prehistoric times, but no. the two letters stood for birth control.  The girls swore no man in his right mind would even touch a woman wearing them because they were so ugly.

That put my early specs into a whole new light. As I grew up I was convinced my father would have been happy to see me in a nunnery until I was at least forty five so long as I could get out into his protective custody when he needed me to work, more or less daily. Maybe those glasses were chosen with an ulterior motive. He seldom had to use a big stick to beat off the boys.

Now I jump back to the bra bit. Yes, it became a common stratagem, at least in my high school, to try to add a bit that nature had not seen fit to award, at least not in the early teens. A few tissues carefully placed added some enhancement and were much cheaper than the ‘falsies’ advertised in the likes of Fredericks' of Hollywood. You know, those push out and up concoctions that allegedly made anyone look like Jayne Mansfield.

I did not do this a lot, honestly, although perhaps on an occasion or two. ;-) I remained very thin and rather straight until I was well into my twenties and finally had the sedentary lifestyle that allowed me to gain weight and more feminine curves. Finally Twiggie was in and I was no longer echoing her image. Just my luck. C’est la vie.

By then  I was finally buying my own glasses, able to pick some more modern and flashier styles. I recall one pair, the “cat eye” style all prettied up with rhinestones. Today’s kids would call it “pimped out.” Now they would remind me of a pawnshop window full of cheap jewelry but at the time they were the epitome of cool. I had many other styles, big and little, flashy and plainer as that became the vogue and none quite that wild again.

Now age is sneaking up on me. I wear plain metal glasses again—titanium now which is very light and flexible, and as myopia eased some with age, not as thick or nearly as heavy as they once were. Still, the magnifying lenses--from the inside--work the opposite from the outside and still shrink the appearance of my eyes. Vanity is long gone and since I use no eye makeup it does not make much difference.

And funny, too. Most of my summer shirts and sun tops do not have pockets. In the winter it is okay since I wear boy-style flannel 'lumberjack' shirts a lot but summer its a nuisance. Having allergies and now eyes that alternate from drippy to over-dry and require frequent use of artificial tears, I always want a tissue or two handy. Where is the easiest place to put them? You guessed it. I don’t need the extra padding these days but being imminently practical, I say why waste a perfectly good storage spot out of any false modesty or misplaced nostalgia?  Once again it is BC glasses and tissues in the bra!  What goes around does indeed come back around in time.
Winter of 1961-2
as a senior in high school,
still in ugly glasses!
Last month after
I cut my hair!
Photo-sensitive glasses

Monday, September 28, 2015

The First-of-Fall Day...

Has already happened here for 2015 but there have been many others in my memory. Although born in the spring, fall has been my favorite season for as long as I can remember. I know it has the infamous sneeze weeds like rag weed, goldenrod, and various members of the sunflower family--so many of the fall flowers are yellow and allergenic but I'll accept that.

After a long hot summer and the higher humidity of the rainy season or monsoon as the "newcomers" call it (grin) most of us are looking forward to fall. It means a little more wind as the weather patterns and jet stream changes but the bright blue days and the brisk mornings and evenings are very welcome! With that in mind I have always waited eagerly for that day the first subtle signs of the season's change are detectable. I've called it the "first-of-fall" day forever. The clouds change their character and the wind has a totally different feel and flavor. It would always make me restless. When I was in school I fretted at having to be inside and counted the hours until the closing bell and the weekends. That was true when I was working, too.

Fall has many good memories of rides in the hills and mountains around Arizona's Verde Valley as we got the horses and mules in shape for the season, scouted for good hunting places and just enjoyed the weather. Yes, my dad and I went deer hunting every fall during the season for a number of years. Now it would bother me to go out with a rifle for the express purpose of shooting a deer but these days I do not need the meat. We hunted to put venison in the freezer for the coming year; it saved a lot of dollars at the grocery store and insured we would have healthy natural protein for the family's meals.

There were not many seasons from my twelfth year, when I could get a hunting license in Arizona, until the last year or two I was home that we did not get at least two and often three deer. Mom often was the last to go out after Dad and I had each bagged a deer. Dad may have shot them for her; I don't know as I was usually home taking care of Charlie (Mike) and later Alex when she went out!
The largest mule deer I ever shot.
He weighed about 180# field dressed.
I was about fifteen that fall.

Things have changed a lot since those 1955-1965 years. Before that Dad hunted alone or with friends and got a few trophy deer and elk. That was good meat too but not part of my more treasured memories.

So it is fall now, both by the calendar and by the feel. It was 97 today which is still pretty summery but the wind was dry and the few clouds that passed across the bright blue sky were light and feathery, not a slight threat of any rain from them. It was cool just after sunrise when I took my dogs walking too. That felt good. So another season turn has blessed me and I enjoy it very much! The memories of past falls coem back and I enjoy them too.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

English is a Funny Language

This is only partly memoir with an anecdote or two but is one I wrote for the group. Enjoy!

English is a Funny Language
I’ve been fascinated with words since childhood. Maybe it’s the Irish as I love silly puns and doggerel verses, and taking big words apart with sometimes hilarious results. Take embarrassing— maybe it becomes em-bare a$$ing?? (The process or uncovering one’s posterior!) Anyway I discovered early on what a strange beast is our mother tongue. English is classified as a Germanic language but it has drifted far from those old Deutsche roots.
For one thing, as a long ago English teacher proclaimed, it is a portmanteau language. By the way that is a French word for what many of us might call a suitcase or similar piece of luggage. People came from many places –as the Anglo Saxons did from mainland Europe to bring the Germanic into the Celtic or pre-Celtic tongues of the earlier British Isles. Maybe even those folks came from elsewhere. But many ethnic groups came to England and on to the US bringing their special words and idioms in their luggage, so to speak.
Thus English has a lot of different words for essential the same things and also words that have numerous meanings as well. We have synonyms and homonyms –the first being words that are very similar in meaning and the latter words that have the same sound but different meanings.
A case in point. If we packed a piece of luggage for a trip we might call it a suitcase, a valise, a portmanteau, a carpet bag, a carry-on or, if we were railroaders, a grip. Also a duffle bag, a gym bag, a carry-all, a sea-bag or any number of other terms.
And for an example of words with varied meanings, I will tell a little story on myself. I must have been about five at the time when my parents and I drove out to visit three aunts who has settled in southern California and become school teachers there. Aunt Ruth, just older than dad, was quite the fashionista and still fancied herself a “southern belle” with as many shoes as Imelda Marcos and stylish dresses to match. Appropriately she taught art and drama. She was both artsy and a drama queen.
Anyway we were fixing up to go somewhere and I was dressed up as was everyone else. I watched with interest as Aunt Ruth did her makeup and hair. Then she turned to me and said, “Here, Gaye. Let me put some toilet water on you too so you’ll smell as pretty as you look,”
I let out a piercing shriek and ran to hide behind Mama. “No, no,” I wailed. “No toilet water.”
It took a few minutes for Mama to calm me down enough so she could explain that this was not liquid out of the commode but something like cologne or perfume. I do not recall now if I finally permitted the anointing or not, but I had learned another example of the quirks of the English language!
Not only do we add words and meanings, we even change the purpose and the part of speech of many words. The sixties were known for using several familiar four letter words that once got mouths washed out with soap as nouns, verbs, adverbs and almost anything else. A professor from India did a great monologue on the infamous “f’ word to illustrate this. 
Another case, once ‘rock’ denoted a stone, either a common garden variety one or perhaps a large and flashy gem such as a big diamond. Then it became a genre of popular music and most recently it has morphed into a verb as in this celebrity rocked her risqué designer gown, or that athlete rocks his or her game and so on.
So English continues to evolve and change, chameleon like, over time. It is a living language so this is inevitable. Latin, for example, is not and other than having a few modern ideas and concepts ‘latiinized’ to use in those Catholic homilies and perhaps prayers that are still offerd in the traditional language instead of the local ethnic tongue, it has changed little since Caesar’s day. Vini, vidi, vici is still the same.
I guess we would not want our English—be it American, Canadian, Australian or the Queen’s back in Merry Olde to be dead, would we? But old fuddy-duddy folks like me do get frustrated at times to see the language of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Keats, Stevenson,  Churchill and even Hemingway devolve to R-U Red-E? and other current slang and texting usage. Oh, I can text to my kids and grandkids and use a little of “that stuff” but I still prefer the old time rule-guided English I learned a half century ago as I suffered through diagramming sentences on the blackboard and the proper tenses and other rituals.
They say you have to know the rules to break them. As I writer I hope I know when to follow religiously and when to free-wheel it a bit. Contractions and even vernacular or colloquialisms are useful to form realistic dialogue. One can have fun with slang, regional usage and dialects as well. Yet normal prose should mostly be correct.
One more odd thing is the fact I learned more English in Spanish classes than I did in about sixteen years of formal English classes! Some of those complex and exotic verb tenses, the feminine and masculine nouns, and the like are examples. Spanish has a unique form for almost any sort of verb usage such as the past and future conditional. We might have to say something like, “If it had rained today, he would have gotten wet if he had not remembered to bring an umbrella.” Spanish has one word to cover each of those mights and woulds and ifs. Much cleaner and more direct! I think this tends to be a romance language—meaning based on Latin and not referring to love!—trait because German can be very complex and involved not only in tense but in other verbal matters.

I’m not too familiar with some of the world’s other linguistic families such as the various Oriental tongues, those from Africa and Micronesia or the aboriginal Australian speech but I am sure we could pack and bring home useful tools from learning any of these. Some already have slipped in such as “monsoon” for summer rainy season and “haboob” for dust storms—even if ours are but scaled down versions of those phenomena in their native places. Who knows what will come next?

Friday, September 25, 2015

Next Memoir essay... The Camp Wood Boys

I read "The Rest of the Story" in the Writers' Group today and there was silence for a few seconds after I finished. Finally one lady said "Thanks for sharing that." I think since all of us in the group are 65 or so and up, every one has experienced some tragedy and trauma and gradually more of us are telling those stories. It is therapeutic in some ways.

Anyway here is a lighter essay to bring a different feeling now that the hard tale has been shared.

 In the photo below, the boys are: bottom row: Mervin and Leroy Foster, middle row fred Merrit, Jack Crow and Bill Pehl and top row, Ronald Foster, me and Lauren Foster. In the b&w shot, that is Fred with his coonskin cap and teh original building during the winter of 1950-51.

The Camp Wood Boys

I'm in the middle in the top row!
I went to second grade in Jerome at Clark Street School for just a couple of weeks. After that, I began an interesting adventure as the only girl and for one year the youngest pupil in a tiny one room school in a remote corner of central Arizona.
     Camp Wood was not even a real town, merely a settlement hardly worthy to call a community. It did have a Post Office which was also a kind of company store, a saw mill and a school. It sat in the middle of the Prescott National Forest in Yavapai County, about seventy five miles out on gravel roads from Prescott, the town. Even that town, the county seat, was not a huge one in those days—the fall of 1950. Today’s Prescott Valley was nothing but bare rolling grassland serving several ranches for grazing. Changes wrought by sixty plus years are amazing.
     I had not been too happy in the Jerome school because I was still adjusting to being among a group of kids for the first time in my life and I was a misfit because of the way my parents dressed me. Camp Wood was a much easier adjustment for me. There wearing jeans or miniature railroad overalls was no odd thing. There were no other girls to compare to, certainly none in frilly dresses and patent leather Mary Jane shoes!
     The student body of the school consisted of a grand total of eight students. In the seventh grade were Bill Pehl and Jack Crow. They both came from the Yolo Ranch, one of the Green Cattle Company’s properties and part of the old Spanish Land Grant called “The Baca Float.” Bill’s dad was the foreman and Jack was the son of a cowboy and at least part Indian. I am not sure if Mervin Foster was in seventh or eighth grade. More on his family in a minute. The sixth grade was Fred Merritt whose dad ran the sawmill and whose mom was the Post Mistress and queen of the very small kingdom of Camp Wood. He often wore a Davy Crockett style coonskin cap with the ringed tail hanging down. I envied that cap no end!
     The rest of the students, scattered among the grades were all Fosters. Their dad was the foreman and main sawyer for the saw mill. They were some kind of “hillbillies” and perhaps had come from Alabama, where the Merritts were from originally. There didn’t seem to be any girls in the family. The eldest, Norman, was out of school and working beside his dad. He was probably in his mid teens. Next was Mervin, already mentioned, then LeRoy who was in the fifth or sixth grade, Lauren a grade or two lower and finally Ronald, who I think was in second or third grade. In actuality, we all progressed at our own pace, so grade designations were a bit artificial. I was, of course, the eighth pupil.
     The teacher was my dad, who had just gotten certified to teach in Arizona at the time. He, Mom and I lived in a tiny trailer which was smaller than a lot of today’s RVs and Campers. There was no electricity or running water. The school was served by two outhouses of the traditional variety. The first year we used an old rickety frame building. I guess it was heated with a wood stove but I really do not recall.
      Anyway, the boys all wore jeans or dungarees to school, mostly with polo shirts which were striped knit shirts, sometimes with a front placket but pull-overs instead of a full button front. Bill may have worn some western cut shirts, probably miniature versions of his dad’s work uniform. At that time, cowboys wore Levis and long johns, denim or chambray shirts and jean jackets or leather coats lined with sheep skin for the most part. The saw mill people, Mr. Foster and the Mexican men who also worked with him dressed much the same, either bib overalls or dungaree work pants.
      I wore my overalls or jeans with kid-sized high top ‘clod hoppers’ and flannel shirts or polo shirts like the boys, a jean jacket or sometimes the little red wool coat that my grandmother had made me. By then it was about car coat length on me although it had begun as a regular coat near knee length. I loved red at that time and really enjoyed that little coat. It had a matching bonnet or hat with a strap under the chin to keep it in place which I was not so fond of.
     Within some limits, I played with the boys and we all had a lot of fun. We played a baseball game that had no teams—Dad called it “work up” since each player began in one position and ‘worked up’ through them all until he reached the at bat turn. I was no great athlete but played my positions and sometimes managed to hit a ball when my turn at bat came around. There were tag games, dodge ball and even crack the whip, I think. The next year, after the new school house had been built, we played “king of the mountain” on some piles of dirt left from the construction.
      The second year, we had a new building but still only a one room school. However it was less drafty and had shingled sides—probably asbestos (oh my!) and clean bright windows. Still a wood burning stove and still no electric lights but it seemed nicer. The old building became a kind of wood shop for the boys and Dad managed to get some simple basic tools like hammers, hand saws, pliers, screw drivers etc. The kids had a great time building things with the scrap lumber left over from the new school. I didn’t participate much but did play with some of the cars and things they built.
     Behind the school and the teacher’s trailer home there was a fairly deep arroyo. The boys soon cut roads in the banks and with “log cabin” syrup cans and other odds and ends created a regular little community and drove the trucks and cars they built up and down the banks. I joined in this some too. Still, I tended to do some girly things too and with sticks and pine boughs laid out some ‘houses’ furnished with a few boxes and odds and ends where I devised elaborate games to amuse myself. I could do that even when school was not in session and the other kids were not around.
     That second year, I think Mervin either graduated or quit and a new younger Foster came to school. Verlin was in first grade and two years behind me.  At that point in my life, I hardly differentiated between boys and girls. I dressed much the same and except for being kept a close eye on by my parents, I did not experience a lot of different things during school than the other students. Since I had no girls to play with, the boys were okay and beat being alone all the time.
     Looking back on those days, I realize what a unique and amazing experience it all was! Not a lot of my contemporaries ever got to live such a thing. I am sure my education did not suffer, either, as the teacher was especially strict and demanding when it came to my lessons. I got a full dose of readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic appropriate to my grade levels. I mostly made B’s and A’s on my six week report cards which my Mom duly signed and sent back! In many ways, it   ended too soon.
     I have not seen any of the other students since I left really, although I think a couple of them came by Clarkdale, where we lived, several years later, now ‘big boys’ past high school and working to put together a rock/country band! As for Camp Wood itself, from my research it appears that the community has gone back to the forest and few traces remain. A small sawmill would not be economically feasible now and although the ranches still exist, they are more often managed remotely by people who live in more settled areas and only visit as needed to care for the stock during round up and such. Perhaps one or two reclusive cowboys may reside in a small bunkhouse or line cabin but that’s it.
     I did look for a few names on the internet and may have located two or three of the former students, but never tried to get in touch. I seriously doubt they would recall me, just one pesky little girl who briefly passed through their lives… And I never did get a coonskin cap!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Book Review and The Rest of the Story

I just finished a book I got through Amazon that my friend Constance Albrecht alerted me to over a year ago. I was prepared to be angry, upset or at least offended but I wasn't. In fact I was pretty sympathetic before it was over. Turns out we basically had a common enemy and tragedy came to all through that person. The book is Son of A Gun by Justin St. Germain. I pronounce it well written, disturbing and powerful. However, it only told the story from one point of view, his and that of his mother, as best he could reconstruct that, so I had to give another view.  That follows. It is long and not pretty but then life sometimes isn't.  Here is

The Rest of the Story…

               In September 2001, just a few days after 9/11, a young man of twenty going to the University of Arizona, lost his mother. She was murdered by her fifth husband. In 2013 that young man, now grown and an English and Creative Writing professor, published a book about this tragic event. It became a “best seller” and garnered the author his fifteen minutes of fame if not a little more. The title of the book is Son of a Gun and the author is Justin St. Germain.
           This book came to my attention in the spring of 2014 when I was in Silver City. I had gone over to help a friend who I had met a few years earlier when I lived in that area as she packed up to move. She mentioned a book she’d discussed with others in a book club there. As she talked about it, a faint prickle of concern slipped down my spine. Finally I had to interrupt her. “What did you say the author’s name was?” When she told me, I sank onto a stack of boxes, briefly stunned beyond speech. I could hardly believe my own ears. There really are no coincidences...
            Although it is not likely to get published, much less gain any fame and gushing reviews, here is the rest of the story. In 1983 my husband and two younger step children were living in Olivehurst, California, about forty miles north of Sacramento. I was working at McClellan AFB in a job I disliked but had promised my daughter she could finish high school there.  When she did, I had already begun to search for a place to transfer and move to. The same year her brother enlisted in the Marines.
            We moved back to Arizona that fall and eventually settled near Huachuca City. Jennifer went to Cochise College for awhile, ran through a few boyfriends and even managed a small thrift story for a charitable organization in Tombstone, just about twenty miles east of our home. Our VFW Post was often involved in joint activities with the Tombstone American Legion and one school district encompassed both communities.  So we almost had a foot in each community..
            David did a total of eight years in the Marines, getting out 1991. Over the course of his enlistments, he brought several friends home on visits. The last one was a few years his junior and also on “Motor T” or transportation. The guy’s name was Ray Hudson. For some reason, Jennifer and he hit it off and seemed to fall in love very quickly. We suggested she postpone marriage until he did the year in Okinawa for which he already had orders. She did and they were married on September 25, 1988.
             When he returned from Okinawa, Ray was stationed at Yuma, where my husband had ended his Marine career in the early 1960s and become a city policeman for several years before coming back to Bisbee. On November 14, 1990, Jennifer’s first child, Jarrod William Hudson arrived. After a year or so, Ray did not get the promotion he needed to continue in the Corps and they moved back to Huachuca City. He drove a beer truck briefly and then became the animal control officer in Huachuca City while he completed training to become a licensed police officer in Arizona. Then he joined the small force in Huachuca City. In January 1992, they had a second child, Rhiannon Mehgan. Within a few months, Jennifer was pregnant again. Ray wanted her to have an abortion as he said they could not afford another child. She refused. Caitlynn Marie was born a year and two weeks after her sister. Ray never did make the third child feel welcome.
            Not too long after that, Ray left the Huachuca City department and became a deputy to the Tombstone City Marshal. A few months later, he left Jennifer and moved in with a woman about ten years his senior who lived in Tombstone. Her name was  Her name was Deborah St. Germain, mostly known as Debbie. Rumors gave her an unwholesome reputation and she was called “the black widow” for an alleged practice of taking up with men, getting everything from them that she could, and moving on. She may just have copied ZaaZaa Gabor who said she was always a fine housekeeper: when she split with a man she kept the house.
            After some unsuccessful but mandatory counseling, few sessions of which Ray attended, Jennifer filed for divorce. Before it was final and child support orders were issued, Ray quit his job by the simple expedient of not going to work. He did not get unemployment since it was voluntary and thus had no income to be attached when he ignored the court order. He also made himself scarce as he and Debbie traveled around the country camping and riding horses for many months.  
            Jennifer could not pay for the van or the mobile home they had bought or much else with no income. We could not pick up those debts either. Things were very rough for her and the kids for some time. For all practical purposes, Ray disappeared although he was seen off and on, always in the company of the woman he now lived with. They seemed to be virtually joined at the hip.
            Meanwhile Jennifer struggled, having few marketable skills, limited no work experience, and three children in the five to ten year old age group that required supervision. Her dad and I helped as we could and her former husband’s mother and step father did also, but it was still hand to mouth for the small family. It was not an easy time for any of us.
            Then nine eleven happened and a few days later, a deputy sheriff came to our house. My husband had been in law enforcement most of his career and knew many local law enforcement people. By then David was employed by the Cochise County Sheriff as well, working in corrections. We learned that Ray Hudson’s new wife, since they had finally wed in May 2001, had been found shot multiple times and messily dead in their travel trailer parked in the desert near Gleeson, east of Tombstone. Their truck and Ray were missing. He was the prime suspect.
            We kept Jennifer and her three kids at our house for several days and all adults  went armed since we had no idea what might happen. After a week or so we deemed it safe for them to go home. Jennifer had now rented a mobile, less than a mile airline from our home though a bit more by road, still near enough to call for help if she had to.  Finally in December, close to twelve weeks after the murder, a red Ford diesel dually was found near Caballo Lake in New Mexico. Inside was a decomposing body with a suicide note and the Arizona driver’s license of Duane Raymont Hudson.
            Due to the state of the corpse, dental records had to be used for positive identification. Jennifer offered to go identify the body but the NM police told her no, she emphatically did not want to do that. I expect it was gruesome. The sordid tale was in and out of Arizona news for a short while but was soon eclipsed by newer scandals. For the living, life went on as it does.
            Less than a year after that, the following summer, Jennifer and a girlfriend packed up their households and a total of seven kids between them and moved to North Carolina. Local kids at Huachuca City school had been nasty to our three grandchildren since  nieces/nephews of Debbie lived in the area and knew her killer was the Hudson kids’ father.  People did tend to “take sides” as small towns are wont to do. Thus Jennifer felt she needed a new start. Jim did not see his daughter and grandchildren again since he died just a year and a bit later, in November of 2003.
            We had always thought of Debbie St Germain as a home wrecker since there was no question Ray was still married when he took up with her. I find it hard to believe she did not know this. Our theory was there may have been drugs involved since many local law enforcement people have gotten sucked into the same issues they were supposed to be curbing although we did not know.  At any rate, how they managed for a couple of years mostly with neither employed is an unsolved mystery.
            We had also theorized that Ray had told Debbie he was the sole heir of his maternal grandparents who lived in Montana and were fairly well off and of  his mother, who had a high level job with Southern Bell and her third husband who was the senior civilian in the FAA. They all changed their wills after Ray abandoned his three children but he may not have known that at once.
            If any of her reputation was factual, perhaps Debbie found this out. Having by then run through the money she apparently had when they became a couple, she decided her ‘toy boy’ was not so attractive after all and told him to take a hike. He would not have taken that well… Again, we don’t know nor does Debbie’s son since there was no one around but the two of them when the killing took place. Few had even observed them a lot since they had been generally reclusive or traveling all over the country. She was discovered by a friend some hours after she had been shot.  
            We also learned that Ray had been cheating on Jennifer almost from the start despite his great avowals not to be a bad father like his own etc..  He had always told us said how devastated he was by the fact his father had left when he was very small and that he would never do such a thing to his kids. Well, he lied. I am convinced he was a totally sociopathic person and like many such could do a wonderful Jekyll and Hyde act so as to appear kind, mild, charming and nearly too good to be true.
            That he was totally amoral is hardly subject to question, looking back over the situation. At least in dying he did one good turn for the children he abandoned since Jennifer was able to collect Social Security for them until each one turned eighteen which made life at least possible if not comfortable for her and them.
            Finally this past week I got a copy of Son of a Gun on Amazon and read it. I was surprised in a few things, hardly shocked and of course saddened. Too many damaged lives had occurred because of two people’s selfish acts.
            Yes, the author is a good writer… I suppose that is not surprising although he came from mostly uneducated people; even he calls them trailer trash at times in his memoir.  Of course Justin presents his mother in the best light possible although admitting she had bad taste in men and an inability to make a relationship last and work. He managed to pull himself out of the mire of this rather sordid early life and upbringing. I admire him for that and do not begrudge or resent him telling his—or his mother’s as he recreated it--side of the story.
            Still, as a Vince Gill song says, “There’s three sides to every story, your side, my side and the truth.” I suspect the truth of the Hudson/St. Germain affair lies somewhere between her son’s book and my recollection of the events from the point of view of several other people who were traumatized by the situation.  Jennifer has never remarried and only had one relationship in the years since her divorce. It also ended badly but not with any horror, thank goodness. Her kids are now grown and only Rhiannon has a semi-serious boyfriend. The other two still live with their mother and barely got through high school. They were surely damaged by losing their father not once but twice. I doubt she will ever trust a man again.
            In case you wonder, yes, I do plan to send my version to Justin, not that it will make any difference to or impression on him. I just think he needs to take at least one look at some other people’s pain besides his own. For me, I am glad Jennifer was out of Ray’s life before he finally went berserk or whatever happened.  Her father and I were both very thankful for that. She lived as did her children; in that she had the ‘last laugh’ although it is rather hollow. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Home Schooled....Part II

Here is the rest of the story!

Home Schooled With an Audience Part II

At Willard School, named for some early settlers and ranchers in the area, the building itself was part frame with an addition made of middle sized creek boulders set in cement. That type of construction was used a lot at the time because half the material was essentially free. Every small gully or arroyo had an assortment of rocks one could pick up and use. There were still outhouses but we did have a washroom and a kitchen. The first year or two it served lunches but later was closed and only used for special events and parties.
By this time I did wear dresses quite a lot. Thank you, Grandma for providing them for me and for giving me that odd gene for sewing by which I later outfitted myself. Still, jeans were not odd and many girls wore them frequently. Even the teacher wore them, at least Mr Morgan did! It seems there were more girls than boys, by odd coincidence, but most of the kids had horses and often rode them to school. The community consisted of a number of small farms or ranchettes and there was a dairy and a few small businesses such as a general store and service station and perhaps a tavern.
The first year, I was in Mrs. Fuller’s class as she taught the first four grades. I was the only girl in fourth grade but there were several a year ahead or behind with whom I became friends. At least by then I could interact with other kids and fit in well enough. For fifth grade I moved back to Mr. Morgan’s room and there spent the next three years advancing grade by grade to be an “upper class” pupil the final year as a seventh grader.
My memories there are almost all happy ones. All the kids played together so the fact I was not any kind of an athlete was no big issue. We all played whatever the game of the day was and did out best, mostly to have fun! Students ranged in age from six through early teens with a few who were taking some extra years to get out of the eighth grade.
I had gotten my first pair of glasses near the end of third grade when the county school nurse noticed I seemed to have trouble seeing the blackboard at Camp Wood. I found out my vision was 20-200 in the right eye and 20-400 in the left, an extreme case of nearsightedness. But it was correctable to 20-20. One time I caught a kicked football smack in the face but the glasses did not break—I guess vindication of the fact my parents insisted on sturdy metal frames and safety glass. I had a gash or two but no other damage.
In the classroom
By this time I had a kid brother but he was not yet in school. In fact he began first grade the year I started eighth grade. Anyway, when I read about pioneer and frontier children who rode their ponies or walked a mile or more to school, might help bring in wood to heat their classroom or carry water and the older ones helped the younger with their lessons, I realize how lucky I was to have a similar experience in the middle of the twentieth century! By then most of my contemporaries were going to town schools and they missed out on so much. 
The front of the school

A few more highlights of those years. At Bridgeport the end of school was a festive time, a community wide celebration. The last Wednesday was the graduation. The eighth graders had a free day, the girls to primp and the boys to goof off. The rest of the student body scoured the area with wheelbarrows, red wagons and pickup trucks to collect flowers, which by late May were in full bloom. We got roses, hydrangeas, iris and many others to decorate the multi-purpose room that had once been the lower grades and lunchroom divided by a folding wall. It was a virtual florist shop madness.

Gaye start of 7th grade
Every student had at least some small role in the evening’s ceremonies—singing some songs, reciting a poem or maybe doing a skit. But of course the grads were the stars and center of the show. Afterwards, there was Kool-Aid and cookies for everyone with most of the community sharing in the fun.
The next day was a community wide picnic. Some parents, mostly dads, were working but at least one adult from most families attended. There was a potluck with all kinds of delicious dishes. The event was held down along the Verde River, just south of the bridge for Highway 89A to Sedona and Flagstaff. We all played games—baseball, horseshoes and just racing around, splashing in the stream and letting off kid-type steam. The amazing part, in retrospect, was the equality and community feeling. While there were well-to-do and impoverished families there did not seem to be any big distinctions, no cliques or snobbishness at all.
Friday the rest of the students got report cards, put books and sports gear away and tidied up the building which was then closed for the summer. That was the end of the school year although at least a couple of years, there was a field trip or short campout the following week. The students had gathered scrap iron, held rummage sales and asked local merchants for donations to finance this trip and they were a lot of fun as well.
I still marvel at the simplicity and openness, the camaraderie and trust of that small community. Later I missed that the most. Nobody was harassed and if someone was in need—like when one father lost a hand in a farm accident, everyone pitched in to help, raise needed money and donate goods to help the family. I may have been naïve or not noticed but I do not recall anyone being harassed or made to feel inferior and unwanted.
Finally that school, too, was closed. Allegedly this would allow the rural students to have all the ‘advantages’ a larger school could offer. The Bridgeport kids then went to Cottonwood but since I lived in Clarkdale, I went on to begin my eighth grade year there in a “regular” school.. Advantages or not, I had no trouble making grades that kept me near the top of my class so I had not missed much.
What I did miss was all the good things. I went from a one-room school to a junior high or middle school that was co-located with the high school and had the same subject-exclusive teachers so we went from room to room. It was basically just mini-high school. Talk about culture shock. No jeans now as girls were not allowed to wear any kind of trousers except on a few special occasions like dress western day. I survived but that is another story.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Another Memoir Tale

So here is another installment in Rawhide Butterfly's varied memories!

Home Schooled With an Audience
As a first and only child for eight and a half years, I was overprotected and had little contact with other children before I started school. Thus first grade was traumatic to find myself one of about twenty- five six and seven year olds and the only girl in Clark Street Elementary who often wore overalls or blue jeans. Yes, in 1949 that was emphatically not the thing.
Nowadays it would probably be called bullying, but then teachers turned a blind eye unless there was real physical mayhem on the school ground. I liked the class room, although I was half afraid of my teacher, Ms. Pew by name. At the time she seemed very big but I do not think she was an unusually large woman. At that time my main female role model  
was my mother, who was slender and almost petite. However, recess was torture.
I can recall playing jump rope, at which I was not very good. It was one of those act it out games where you had to salute to the captain and bow to the queen. There I was sketching a curtsy with a skirt that did not exist and the others howled with laughter until I slunk away, demoralized. All in all that was not a good year.
Me as a second grader
With that behind me, I moved on to second grade and soon to what was a totally different environment. After just a few weeks, I transferred to a very small rural school.  There my father began his teaching career as school master for a one room school in the remote community of Camp Wood, Arizona which boasted a small sawmill and a couple of ranches that supplied the eight students. There, as the only girl, my ‘britches’ were not odd and frilly dresses would have been absurd. I was the youngest student that first year.
It did snow at Camp Wood
I still had little trouble with the academic part even if the teacher was more demanding of me than of the rest, or so it seemed. I was already reading well and had mastered simple arithmetic. Spelling was a slight challenge but I managed that too.
The school was a frame cabin, barely more than a shack, with no running water and two outhouses, his and hers, and a wood burning stove for heat. It was straight out of 1900! And my parents and I during the week lived in a tiny trailer. It had propane for heat, light and cooking, no refrigerator, and barely room for our small family. I slept on a fold down shelf that by day served as the dining table and benches. Still, in memory, it was mostly fun.
The kids played dodge ball, tag and king of the mountain. Sometimes we had a softball game with no teams called “work up” where every player rotated from position to position to include at bat. I don’t think there was such a thing as scores.
Since Camp Wood was about sixty miles from Prescott over mostly primitive dirt roads, we traveled out there and back in a Jeep, one of the early four wheel drives that came out right after World War II, having been perfected for the military use. It was not a family car. The small back seat area was used for cargo so I sat in the gap between the two bucket seats on a cushion or two. I expect that was about the time I started to make up stories since I could not see out very well and certainly did not dare to whine or fuss.
In some ways my parents were casual and lenient but with me they were mostly protective, restrictive and strict. Still, when I look back I treasure most of those two very formative years.
As one of eight students and the only girl, I was kind of a pet of the older boys. The second year a younger boy of the large Foster clan was there so I was only next-to-the baby! After the second year, that school was closed. I suppose they bussed kids into a facility nearer Prescott, perhaps Williamson Valley or even the edge of Chino Valley. At any rate, I then began fourth grade in a larger school—for two years there were two rooms and probably twenty five or more students!
This school was located in Bridgeport, Arizona on the highways between Cottonwood and Sedona and the one going south to Camp Verde. All the towns were much smaller than they are today and now, Bridgeport has vanished into Cottonwood. I cannot even locate the exact site where the school stood.

To be continued with more pix tomorrow!

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Tale from Memoirs of A Rawhide Butterfly

That odd title goes back some years. I have been reading old journals recently--again. I seem compelled to go back and do this now and again. That strange vision was there in some of my writings about 1969 or 1970. At that point I was nearing the end of my college experience and thinking about where I was going to land to start really making my own way. A couple of intense love affairs were criss-crossing through my life and coming to ends that I knew were inevitable. I was in a word, struggling and fighting to land on my feet. So that peculiar metaphor cane to me: A butterfly is very fragile and ephemeral although often pretty for its brief time; rawhide was a substance that tied the west together, so tough as to be almost indestructible, used by the Native Americans, the Hispanic people and the Europeans who migrated to the southwest. Combine those two qualities or images--that was me. I was fragile and fleeting but also incredibly tough and resilient. Somehow it still seems to fit.

So here is one tale from far back in that odd creature's past. BTW this essay triggered an idea for a Deirdre O'Dare story which will be out in a month or two entitled "Thank You, Ranch Romances."

Before the Internet…

“Hey Grandma, how did you keep track of your friends and meet guys before the internet?” I expect a lot of us baby boomers have heard this. Here is my answer.
Well, back in those days we actually talked quite a bit, not sitting by a friend with silent mouths while our thumbs fly over the smart phone keyboards or texting to someone farther away, either. While waiting for or riding on the school bus, between classes and at lunch time, we stood or sat around with our BFFs and talked—about clothes and boys and the current music and movies we liked, probably a lot like what you talk about on your phones. We might flirt with some of the boys in school, too.
Then we did use a telephone, just a regular old talk type phone in the house. I was less of a phone person because for a long time my family did not have one and when we did, it was for grown up business and I could only talk for a few minutes at a time but I know some kids spent hours on the family phone. Strange to say, many homes had only one and it was connected by a cord to the wall so you could not take it off to your room. Made things pretty tough to talk secretly!
There was also a strange institution called “pen pals.” This was a favorite of mine. Sometimes there would be a project in a class where students from two different schools, usually in different states or parts of the country would write letters to each other through their teachers. Most kids dropped this as soon as they could but some became friends with a girl or boy far away and kept writing. This was done with plain old letters written by hand or typed on paper, put in an envelope with a stamp and sent through the Post Office! Strange though it sounds now, we were all shocked when the cost a stamp for a letter went up to five cents! I had to collect and turn in soda bottles to keep myself in postage. We waited eagerly for the mail to come every day or in some cases made a daily trip to either a mail box by the road or a box in the local post office. Getting a letter or a greeting card was a very special event.
In fact, the idea of pen pals became so popular that quite a few magazines had a pen pal column. You could send a letter to the magazine and they would print it. Sometimes they gave your address and sometimes the first letter had to be exchanged through an employee at the magazine. When I was a teenager I saw a pen pal request in a magazine called Western Horseman. This was a magazine for people who loved and worked with horses as I did at that time. The letter I noticed was from a girl near my age who said she loved rodeo. She had also included a neat drawing of a horse head that she had made. I wrote her and we quickly became friends.
We’ve stayed in touch all our lives. We heard about each other’s boyfriends and fun things we did growing up, going to school, our first jobs and so on. Then shared when we really fell in love and eventually married, when our kids came along and even after they grew up.
I first met Linda some twenty years after we began to write. She and her husband and two children visited me and my family when I lived north of Sacramento, CA. They were on their way from Washington state where they lived to visit relatives in southern California. Later on when I was back in Arizona and retired, Linda came and stayed with me for about a week. I showed her all the local sights and we had a terrific visit. After my husband had passed away, she and her husband came by and stayed in the area for a couple of days. Those few visits are the only times we have been together but we are still truly BFFs and will be to the end of our days, all because of a pen pal column.
I had my own letter in the same magazine shortly after finding hers  and made quite a few long distance friends but that was only for a season. I wrote to horse loving girls all over the country and to some boys and young men. Some were stationed far from home in the military and some worked on ranches or farms where, like me, they did not have a lot of social life. Those visits on paper were special to both of us.
There was no internet dating yet, but sometimes pen pals would develop into potential boy friends or girl friends. A few of the fellows I wrote to did make a trip to meet me and although none of them ever became long term relationships, I met some interesting people.
I even advanced past Western Horseman to a magazine called Ranch Romances. As the name implied, it published romantic fictitious tales about the west, mostly historical but some in modern (the fifties and sixties then) times as well. They too had a pen pal column, for grown ups rather than kids and teens, where you could post a kind of profile and let it be known you were looking for a special friend of the opposite sex. I wrote to several guys from that source for awhile as well.
One fellow became a long-distance beau for a couple of years. I always hoped we’d meet but that never happened. However he did send me some roses for Valentine’s Day one year, the first real florist type flowers I ever got and the only such gift for many years. We wrote regularly for about three years. Finally I got a “Dear Jane” letter that he had met someone else and it would end. I was heart broken for awhile but later that year met my flesh and blood first love to help me recover from the loss. And that happened in the regular way of just seeing someone and getting acquainted.
So you see, it really was possible to hook up without having Facebook, Twitter, Match.com, or any of the other online resources people use now. I think every generation finds its ways to do what people have always done to let Mother Nature and the birds and the bees work for us! Can you even imagine what routes will be available when you are telling your grandkids about “how we did it in the old days?” We have gone from “Mail Order Brides” in frontier times to eHarmony.com and like sites. Who knows what the next thing will be.

The hurrieder I go ...

the behinder I get as the old Pennsylvania Dutch saying goes.

Finally after losing a major part of two months with seriously impaired vision I am close to back to normal. My eye doctor insists it is just my dry eye issues but I question that somewhat. I was on the verge of throwing in the towel and all at once it got better. I am now mostly back to near normal. Thanks be given with much praise to the Powers That Be.

I stumbled through July and August with a number of days I did not dare drive lest I hazard myself and others. Computer time was very limited --like no more than 15 to 30 minutes twice a day. I managed to meet a couple of writing deadlines and proof some galleys but it was not easy. No glasses and my nose about six inches from the screen. A crash of my main old computer near the end of that period added to my distress. But life goes on.

Summer is winding down in the high desert. I'm ready. Fall was always my favorite season--except when I was in Colorado and dreading the inevitable fall of winter with too much snow, ice, cold and not enough sunshine. Here even winter is hardly a threat. July was very wet; August was very dry. Climate is what you expect but weather is what you get and we get it. We hope for a good 'bright blue' sort of fall!

I think I mentioned before the project at the Senior Center with the "Older Writer's League" and our planned book of stories and essays about our past. That is coming along and I am fired up enough to be thinking about a book of my own, in addition to my tentatively titled memoir: Shoving Smoke and Herding Cats. This collection will be some of the stories from the "OWL" anthology and many that did not get into it and most will have illustrations.

I figured what the heck, why don't I share some of them here as well. And I will in the coming weeks starting in the next day or two. Also, in lieu of the much anticipated fall trip to Alaska which had to be postponed, I'll be going to Arizona for a week or so in late October. A friend and I are going to take the tourist train trip from Williams on I-40 or old Route 66 out to the canyon and back. There will also be a swing down through the Verde Valley and perhaps some other spots as well. Photos promised and a travelogue report!!
And after

I got a haircut--very short--about a month ago and I love it. No trouble at all and at this stage of life, no trouble trumps 'glamour' any day. Here is a before and after shot just for spits and giggles. Hasta la manana!