Memories of a Seven Year Old Girl
These are my memories about what happened to me when I was 7 years old. Many of them had roots is what happened to me before I was 7.If I seem to get bogged down in them I apologize, but I don’t know any other way to get you to truly understand the significance of what happened.
My Seventh Birthday
The first one has to do with the first day I was 7 years old, my 7th birthday.The first thing you have to understand about that is that I am catholic, born and raised.The next thing that you have to understand is that my parents had what was thought of then as a mixed marriage.That is my mother was catholic but my father was not.At that time, the church required that children from such a marriage be raised catholic.So from the time we were babies my mom would take my older brother, Steve, and I to church alone.
When I turned 4, Steve was eligible to go to catechism class. That was for 15 minutes, just before mass started.The teacher was Sr. Fleurette.Seeing Mom’s predicament in church with two small children driving her crazy, she took pity on her and took me into the class along with my brother.That bore fruit approximately 2½ years later.
Sometime after I turned 6, my mom got pregnant for the third and last time. It was a difficult pregnancy for her.She had pneumonia 9 times in 9 months.She had pneumonia at other times as well, but that year was the worst.Naturally, she did not tell us children right away when she knew she was pregnant.Fortunately, she did tell Dad.But when spring came around her condition was obvious and we started discussing names for the baby.
June the 15th of that year was a Friday.It was hot and we didn’t have any air conditioning.
None of our neighbors did either. Air conditioning was a new-fangled thing at that time and very expensive.To cool off in the evening we would take a ride in the country.On the country roads outside of town, you could go just as fast as you wanted to and the breeze would cool us off.
So right after supper, Dad told us, “Go upstairs and get ready, we’re going for a ride in the country.” Then a moment later, he came upstairs.Without a word of warning to us, he took us both by the hand and took us to the neighbors.He told the neighbors, “Keep an eye on the kids for me for a few hours, will ya?It’s time.”So we spent the evening in the neighbors’ darkened living room with all the fans they had on.We ate Ice Cream and watched TV with them.When we got sleepy, we simply laid down, and went to sleep.
About 9 pm, Dad came back and got us by himself. He told the neighbors, “It’s a boy.”My Dad was never the excitable type.In that day and age, it was impossible to know the sex of the baby before it was born.The neighbors congratulated him and he took us home and put us to bed.That night other neighbors came by and also congratulated him.
The next day Dad, who burned water, took us out for all of our meals. Then happened something which I thought for years afterwards was the normal practice for when a woman had a baby.We were told that our mother would be ready to come home in the morning, but that the baby would not be ready to come home until evening.So we went to the hospital and picked her up.One of the things that she told us after she got in the car was, “I decided to name the baby Curtis Paul.”She’d thrown out all the names we had decided on for the baby.
That day she looked after her family and rested as much as she could. That night just before dark, we went back to the hospital and picked up the baby.He was crying and that was when we learned that babies cry.But he stopped when Dad got the car going.We got home and got out of the car and he started crying again.Mom got him upstairs and in to his crib and somehow to sleep. When he woke up, Curtis started to cry again.It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that he cried for the next 6 months.Babies cry a lot, but this was far above the call of duty.
At any rate, when Mom went back to the doctor again he told her. “Ceil, you are going to have to get out of this climate or you will be dead by the time this baby is 5 years old.”So plans were made for us; that is Mom, my two brothers, and I, to spend some time out in the desert.
Mom and Dad took off in the month of August and took the baby with them. They went scouting places for Mom and the kids to go for a while where it would be warm and dry and everything would be within easy walking distance.At first, it was planned that Mom would not have a car.They found a place and brought it.
The whole month of August, we had a live-in babysitter. She was an elderly spinster, but she was great with kids.My brother Steve, who would try to pull anything on anybody, didn’t get away with a thing.She even made sure we got to church in time, which by then was within easy walking distance for us.Still, we were glad to see our folks again when they came back.We weren’t so glad to see our baby brother again.
That was when the plans began for my 7th birthday.You see the folks did not know how long we would be in Arizona.Now to explain; the 7th year is very important if you are a catholic child.Easter time is when catholic children receive one of the most important sacraments of the Catholic church.Sacraments are very important to us.At Easter time, Catholic children who are in the second grade receive their first Holy Communion.It is a very important occasion and should NEVER be missed.But here I was, possibly going to miss mine.
So our Pastor. Fr. Berg, my folks, and the Sunday school teacher and my second grade teacher, Sr. Fleurette, got together.The made plans, and my parents ordered me a very, very special dress.Then one day Fr. Berg called me into his office.We had a private conversation
about things that had to do with our faith. I answered all of his questions and he smiled.He let me play with his little Scottie dog while he spoke to my parents.Then everything was ready except for my dress.It came sized for an adult.Mom sent it back with a note and the proper dress arrived about a week before the big event.And I should say that the dress came with a veil.
October the 22nd of that year was on a Monday.That day we were at church as usual.For children going to a Catholic school every day starts with church first and class afterwards.But this time we were there extra early.On Friday, I had had my first confession.It was to Fr. Berg, thank goodness.He was very patient with me.I told him everything I had ever done wrong in my entire life and he absolved me of all my sins.Then he told me that I would have to be a good girl until Monday and I was as good a girl as I possibly could be.
On Monday morning, I arrived at church dressed in my very special dress with the veil. It didn’t cover my face, after all, I was not a bride.In fact, I would never be a bride.My mom arrived with the family camera because we would want pictures of this event.My brother Steve arrived in a nice white suit that he had worn for his own first Holy Communion the spring before.He was going to escort me down the aisle.
Sr. Fleurette was so concerned about us that she met us in front of the church. We got her to pose for a picture with us.We really wanted that because we all loved her so much.Fr. Berg was already in the church getting ready for mass, that’s what our main services are called.So we took some pictures of me and Steve in front of the church before mass.Then we went in and sat in the seats that were reserved for us in the back.It was one of the few times Dad was with us.There were other people there in the church that we had invited especially for this event.
In the church, Fr. Berg came out of the sacristy vested for mass. Priests always wear special clothes over their regular clothes for mass. He stepped to one side of the altar, which is unusual and made an announcement.“Today is a special day,” he said.“One of our children is going to receive her First Holy Communion today.So we ask that all of you planning on going to communion wait in your seats until she is finished with everything she is going to do and is back in her seat.”
In that day and age, Catholic churches had communion rails around the altar. The priest gave out communion usually moving from right to left and then back to the right until everyone who wanted communion had received it.They would kneel on a step right in front of that railing.This day there was a special kneeler inside that railing right in front of the altar.
Far to one side of the altar was what we called a Lady Altar. It had a life sized statue of Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary, in it.There was also something like an altar, but really more the size of a shelf.On that shelf, there was an empty vase.I heard some snickering that the ladies of the Altar Rosary Society forgot something.Those are the ladies of our church who clean the church.But all was as it was supposed to be.
When communion time came around the two altar boys who were helping Fr. Berg came down to the communion rail and opened a gate that was in the center of the rail. Then the organist started to play a processional and my brother Steve and I walked up the center aisle of the church, me three steps behind him.When we reached the rail he stepped aside and I went on alone.I was carrying a bouquet of flowers at the time.I stepped up to the kneeler and did all the things that Fr. Berg told me to do.I received the wafer in my mouth and swallowed it.That was never a problem for me.Then I got up from the kneeler and stepped over to the Lady Altar.I deposited my bouquet in the vase that had been put there for that reason.After all the Blessed Virgin Mary was my patron saint, not just because of my name, but also because I was born in the month of the Holy Rosary.Then my brother and I processed back down the aisle to our seats. We knelt and prayed for a time and the rest of the people went to communion.
Most Catholic children don’t go to school after they received their first Holy Communion, after all that would be on Easter Sunday. So it was agreed that my brother and I would both have that day off school.At that time, our church did not have a social hall so we said good-bye to our friends outside the church and we all went home.That day my brother Steve and I about gave our neighbors heart failure by playing policeman out in the street.Fortunately it was not a busy street.
About two weeks after that was my parents wedding anniversary. They had been married for 9 years.It was after that we took off for Arizona.
We drove all the way out. Steve and I were in half of the backseat of that car.Curt, which we were calling him by then, was in a portable crib in the other half.There was a U-Hall trailer hitched to the back of the car, loaded with everything we thought we would need, yes the company was around then.The first night we were on the road we pulled into my Aunt Cay’s place in a little town in Missouri called Rolla.She was one of my mom’s sisters and her place was just about a day’s drive from our place.We were tired, but I had some fun playing with my two girl cousins there.Cay’s older son was a little young for Steve and her other son had not been born yet.
The next day we left Aunt Cay’s and drove straight through until we got to Yarnell. Mom and Dad switched off driving each time one of them got tired.We had bottles for Curt and a bottle warmer that plugged into the cigarette lighter.Cars had those things in those days, right next to the ashtray.Curt’s diapers got changed regularly and Mom washed them out in the gas station restroom sink.We didn’t have disposable diapers yet.
The morning of the second day we were going from Wickenburg up the Yarnell hill into the town of Yarnell. Yes, this is the same Yarnell hill that had such a bad forest fire a few years ago that made it into the national news.The road up to Yarnell was long and winding.At one point there was the head of an elephant painted on a rock with it’s trunk stretched out to show how the next few curves went.It is there still.
We finally pulled into Yarnell AZ. I sometimes joke about Yarnell the way it was then.I tell people, “I once lived in a ½ a horse town.It was so small it had to share it’s horse with the next town down the mountain.”In case you’re interested, a one horse town is a really small town.
Yarnell had exactly two paved streets in town at that time. One was the highway that went through town at the east edge. The other one went past Yarnell’s halfhearted attempt to draw tourists to the town.It was the Shrine of St. Joseph of the Mountain.There had been mining in Yarnell many years before, but the mines were all played out now.
Well, it just so happened that our house was right on that other paved street in town. And it was kind of a strange situation.On our lot we actually had two little houses.One was the main house with two bedrooms and connected to it by means of a covered walk way, was another little house.It had one bedroom, a living room, a kitchen, and a bathroom.On the other side of that there was a carport with room for two cars in it.And just through the carport was a storage room where someone had made and canned jars of jelly and jam.On the other side of our house was a little orchard which only had access from our property.It had about 6 different fruit trees in it which provided the raw materials for the jellies and jams.
There was an old fashioned country store in town. It was run by a family by the name of Wagoner.They also had the post office that was attached to it and they lived behind the store.Also the grandfather had a trading post right next door.As you went into his post you went through a pair of large double doors.And just over those doors, on the inside, he had a pair of Texas Longhorn Steer horns.They stretched across those doors and beyond easily.We would go in there from time to time, but we were told not to bother the old man.
Well the first full day we were there was a Sunday. Right next to the afore mentioned shrine there was a small Catholic church and there was mass there every Sunday.So we went to church.Now I pause here to tell you that God has a sense of humor.We found that out when we met the priest who was our pastor there.Yes, God has a sense of humor.Why else would he take a german speaking priest fresh out of East Germany and put him in a Spanish speaking parish in an English speaking country.His name was Father Gerard Liskowski.And we found out his nationality after church that Sunday.He was out in front of the church greeting all his parishioners when Curt started to cry. He said, “Oh mine Gott,” that’s in a german accent.Well we talked to him for a bit inspite of Curt’s crying.We found out that ot have a rectory for himself to live in and to carry out church business.So the folks mentioned that we had an extra small house on our property.He said he would come by and take a look at it when he got the chance.
The rest of the day we got the rest of the way settled into our house. The folks had brought groceries at Wagoner’s store so we had our meals.The next day our folks took Steve and Me up to something else that proved that Yarnell was a very small town, a one-room country school.We had one teacher by the name of Ms. Godsey and 6 grades of students.I quickly discovered that I was 1/3rd of the 2nd grade.There was no first grade this year.The other 2/3rds of the 2nd grade were Bobby Wagner and Monty Ramsay.My brother Steve was ½ of the third grade, the other one was Monty’s sister Cheryl.The 4th grade was composed entirely of girls.
So that made Monty the boy in school who was the closest to Steve’s age. They also lived the closest to us, about 1 block on the other side of the street.That also made Cheryl the girl in school that was the closest to my age.So we became friends too.
Now about going to school in a one-room country school. If you’ve ever seen, “Little House on the Prairie,”it was just like that.The second graders might be getting instruction in math while third graders were reading their reading assignment while the fourth graders were working on a history assignment while the fifth graders were working on geography while the sixth graders were working on something else.Homework assignments were always turned in on the teacher’s desk as soon as you got in in the morning.
Well that day, since Dad had discovered that there was no doctor in town and that Mom would have to go either down the mountain to Wickenburg of up the mountain to Prescott. So he made a decision and took Mom down the mountain. There was a used car lot in Wickenburg.So he got her a car.From then on for very nearly the rest of her life, Mom had her own car.They brought it back up the mountain and parked it in the car port.
Fr. Gerard did get around to look at our property soon. He found it perfect for his needs and within a few days, he moved in.We got to know the Ramsays.The folks were Dick and, I think, Janet.Dick’s sister Charlene also lived with them.They were Okies and they made and sold gifts on consignment at the trading post.They had all sorts of things decorated with crystals that abounded in that area.They also made cards with the crystals glued on them and the names of the different stones written under them so that people could identify what each one was if they ever saw them along the roadside somewhere.
Since there house was past ours from the highway and the school was on the other side of the highway and Dick was in the habit of giving Monty and Cheryl a ride to school every day, he volunteered to do the same for us. So every day that was how we got to school.We took our lunches with us and ate them on the playground out back of the school.Then, if Dick wasn’t available in the afternoon, we’d walk home.
As I said, the teacher was Ms. Godsey. She was still somewhat young and very pretty.All of the boys had a crush on her, including my brother Steve.But she got sick with a sinus infection and was out of school for some weeks.During that time we had a substitute teacher.We never did really get to know her.But we managed to muddle through.By the time Ms. Godsey was well again and was able to come back and teach it was Valentine’s Day.So the boys drew a beautiful big valentine on the blackboard and put a sign on it that said “Welcome back, Miss Godsey.”It was so pretty that she didn’t want to erase it, but she had to to get on with the lessons.
The next thing I guess, is to talk about the store. It was a real country store.They had a little bit of everything. The Wagoner’s had groceries in the front, those were some of their most popular items.They even had some reasonably fresh produce most of the time.After that they had some frozen meat, canned meat, canned vegetables, potatoes, pretty much just standard stuff.If you wanted anything else, you would have to go to Wickenburg of Prescott to get it.They had men’s clothing, mostly work clothing, in one area and women’s clothing in another.They had Children’s clothing in another, shoes in yet another, tools, etc.They had just a little of almost anything a body would want.And through a doorway on the south side of the store was the post office.That was where you had to pick up your mail.Jo Wagner did not deliver.That was her name, I never knew her husband’s name.
At any rate, at the end of the week Dad delivered the U-Hall trailer to Wickenburg and then took off for Illinois. I am told that while we were in Yarnell he took a lot of meals with his sister who was in Freeport, the same small town we’d come from.Ma hired Charlene Ramsay to be a mother’s helper to her.It was good training for when she later married and raised a family of her own.
Well it is getting down to only one other thing to talk about in this section, and that is my brother Curt. I think Curt was the most colicky baby to survive infancy.Whereas most babies slept for 20 hours out of 24, he cried for 20 hours out of 24.Dick Ramsey gave him the nick name, Curt the Pill.It refered to the bitter medicine that people sometimes had to take in those days.That was quickly seconded by Fr. Gerard and soon the rest of the town followed suit.Mom thought it was because he was allergic to his formula.So she switched him from cow’s milk to goat’s milk.He kept crying.We did not find out for almost a year that he was more allergic to the goat’s milk then he was to the cow’s milk.
Now the person I think I should talk about is Fr. Gerard. As I said before he was from East Germany.For most of you I have to explain what I mean by that.I don’t mean he was from the eastern part of Germany.There once was a separate country called East Germany.It was a communist country under the control of Russia.It was part of the old eastern block and also the Warsaw Pact.His first language was German.And yes, he was a Catholic Priest, every bit as much as anyone else.I know it was East Germany because he was the only person in Yarnell whose mail was censored.He got a letter from home once and when he opened it there were big black marks from magic markers all over it.There was also a photo that was stapled to the letter.“That’s odd,” he said in that accented voice of his, “They promised me a picture of my nephew.But these are my parents.I already have pictures of them.”I never saw anyone else get letters that were censored or where the people had to staple photos to the stationary.
He lived in the little house next to our bigger house. When he was home, he also took his meals with us and mom did his laundry.Years later, I discovered that this was something of a problem for my mom.You see, we had a washer, but no dryer.Again they were new and expensive in those days.So mom had to hang the wash in the back to dry.We were lucky that the laundry line could not be seen from the street in the front.But all the backyards on that side of the street lined up almost perfectly with one another.And there were no walls between any of the houses.So all a woman would have to do was go out in her backyard and look around a little and she might very well see my mom hanging men’s shorts on the line to dry.And this would be when everyone in town knew that my dad was back in Illinois.But our house was still so small that Steve and I would have known immediately if there was anything going on.No, Mom was in her room with Curt the baby, and Steve and I were in a room that we had to share.There was a bathroom in-between us which only had access from mom’s room and from our room.There was no access from the main part of the house.So if the doors between were open, we could see and hear anything that went on there.
During the week, Fr. Girard would visit his far flunk flock. He would come back into town on Saturday night.We found out that Catholic priests were supposed to fast before mass on Sunday.So Fr. could not eat a special meal that night.He would stop by Wagoner’s store on the way home and buy some groceries.Then he would pull into our place.We were frequently playing on the mountain behind our place.When we heard his car, we would look down and see him carrying a bag of groceries into the house.We would see a stalk of celery sticking out of the top of the bag, and we knew what was going to be for dinner tonight; German Potato Soup.
Most people were somewhat familiar with French Potato soup. This was not the same thing.French potato soup would leave your stomach growling in less than an hour.Especially if that was the only thing you were having for dinner, not so German Potato soup.It was a real stick to your ribs sort of soup.But, it didn’t break Fr. Girard’s fast.To this day, on a cold Saturday I feel like I would love nothing more than a hot bowl of German Potato Soup.But my mother never taught me how to make it.
And when we went to church on Sunday Fr. Girard could not believe that I was old enough to have received my first Holy Communion. So when I went to communion, he would always take the communion waver and break it in half and give me half a waver.He didn’t have to do it though.I never had any trouble swallowing the waver.
Fr. Girard had an altar boy whose name was Julien. Julien went to our school, though I am not quite sure what grade he was in.But there were times when Fr. needed more then one.After all the things that had to be carried and moved from place to place were heavy.And the altar boys had to do it right every time.So Steve studied to be an altar boy.Fr. Girard gave him a recording of the mass in Latin to use and a book to study from.Then Steve helped Julien a few times and then, from time to time, took over for him.When we went back to Illinois Fr.Gerard was out of a place to live and short one altar boy.It was sad for him at the time, but you will be pleased to know the situation did not last long.
Steve and Monty’s Epic Battle
Now I think the next thing to talk about is about an incident that happened at the school. It was something that should prove beyond the slightest shadow of a doubt that this was a country school.Ms. Godsey became ill and was several days out of school.We had a substitute teacher at the time.All of a sudden, we started having trouble at the school.We kids would go out into the yard to eat our lunch and there would be garbage spread all over the school yard.
The teacher thought it was one of the kids doing it. After all sneaking out of the classroom when the teacher’s back was turned was the type of thing kids sometimes did to a new teacher.So she started punishing us for it.She made us clean up the yard, and in those days a spanking was also on the table.
She tried to keep a closer eye on the kids, but that was virtually impossible to do when you had 5 grades of kids all in the same room and all doing different things at the same time. Lunchtime rolled around again and we went back outside again to eat.Again, there was garbage spread all over the yard and again we had to clean it up.Again, we went back in and teacher scolded all of us.She wanted who ever was messing up the yard to stand up and take their punishment.But no one did.
The next day, my brother Steve and his friend Monty did succeed in sneaking out of the school while she was distracted. The next part I heard from my brother Steve that evening.They got out of the school and were walking around the yard when they heard a rattling in the garbage can.They thought that whoever it was that was messing up the yard was in the garbage can right now, and they were right.They thought they would teach that kid a lesson.So they grabbed the lid of the garbage can and slapped it down tight on the can.I should mention here that is was a steal garbage can and a steal lid.Then they picked up two sticks and proceeded to beat the sides of the can.After a few minutes, they decided that the kid had had enough and was now ready to be taken to the teacher to confess his sins.So they took the top off the garbage can.Inside was an adult skunk, fully loaded and real mad.He completely baptized both Steve and Monty*.Then he got out of that can and took off running.
When I saw my brother again after school, he was standing on the back porch with a towel wrapped around his middle. He was washing his clothes in a large tub of soap and water with a stick.I heard later Monty was in roughly the same condition at the Ramsay place.
In the past skunks were well known for their anal glands that produce an oil with an extremely bad smell. They are also known for being able to spray it at least 3’ and they like to aim it at the eyes.They look over their shoulders to aim and hoist their tails to spray.
Sabby and Edith
Now I think I will tell you about some other friends of my Mom’s. You see it seems that she had actually come to Arizona before she ever married my dad.The reason was close to the same, she was recovering from having had pneumonia.Being a single girl, she had to have someone to stay with who would act as sort of substitute parents for her. She did not know anyone, but her recently married sister Mary did, through her husband, I think.
At any rate, Mom went out to Prescott AZ and stayed with Mary’s friends the Saberson’s. They were an older couple that never had any children of their own.Apparently they got along well with my mom.They were pleased when she got a job working in the newspaper office.She spent the summer with them, at which time, she assured me, she earned the reputation of being “The Seven-up Kid from Chicago.”Chicago being the nearest big city to where she was living at the time.
At any rate, once we got settled in Yarnell, mom contacted them. They were at their place in Wickenburg at the time, but It did not take much time before they were coming up to see us.We kind of felt it was our lucky day when they did.They were kind of like Grandma and Grandpa to us.Edith used to like to wear what we called squaw dresses, and boy were they beautiful.They usually had loose bodice tops with a V neck.They had bands of bright colors which were repeated in the full or even pleated skirts.When the girl twirled around they flew out into an incredible wheel pattern.
We always called the man Sabby. I never knew if he had another name, and he seemed to like it.They also would try to come about 1 weekend a month at least.They would take us places when they came too.They took us to our first rodeo.We had a ball there.They would also take us other places, none of which sticks in my memory now.But one thing I remember was that Sabby was so sweet, staying in the car with Curt while we got out and away from the crying for a while.Also there were a couple of times they came to see us when Dad was there.They would take all of us exploring the country when that happened.I also believe that it was Edith and Sabby that got my my Concho belt.These were not like the ones you see today.They were all metal without a lick of leather on them.They would have either a thunderbird or a sun design.Mine was a thunderbird.It had one big thunderbird at the beginning.Then there would be small thunderbirds and circles of metal going the entire length of the belt.On the back of the big thunderbird, there was a metal hook.So to wear it you just hooked it into the right circle and away you went.It was so simple.
My Most Unforgettable Character
Now it is time to tell you about a man whose name I do not know. But he was unforget-table.We met him one Sunday in the spring.My Dad had come out again form Freeport.
We went to Sunday mass and then went fishing. For the record, that is one of the worst times to go fishing.Go earlier in the morning, or later in the evening, but not right after mass.
At any rate, we packed the car. Brought along fishing equipment for most of the family, and my mom’s painting equipment and set out.We found a fishing spot near what we kids then called, “Rich Hill,” but what I now know was actually “Antelope Peak”.So Dad, my brother Steve, and I went fishing.But Mom wanted to paint, so she took the baby and the car and looked for something to paint.Well after a while it was certain that the fish weren’t biting.So we gathered up our fishing stuff and began to look for Mom and the car.
We didn’t see the car, so we followed the tire tracks. They followed the stream for a ways.As we walked along the stream we saw a wood burned sign that said “Rattlesnake Haven #2”.There was a little trail going off to one side and on up the hill.We decided we didn’t need to go up there.A little further down and on the other side of the stream was another wood burned sign lying in the dust.It said, “Rattlesnake Haven #3.We decided that we did not need to go up there.We kept on following the tracks and finally found mom.
She was painting a prospector’s shack. Her painting had smoke curling out of the chimney.We got our stuff in the car, and Dad asked her, “How do we get back to town from here?”Mom said, “I don’t know, but maybe that prospector can tell us.”We looked, and sure enough, someone was home.
So Dad drove the car right up to the shack door. The man who lived there came out.He was a great big Italian looking guy.He had black hair, a full black beard and mustache, and he stood over 6’ tall.My Dad told him, “We’re looking for directions back to town from here.Can you help us?”“Sure,” the man said.“You strike out across the desert going that way…”My Dad was a married man with three kids.He wasn’t striking out any where.
The man just looked at Dad for a moment. “Or,” he said.“You can wait.I’ve got a friend who said he would stop by sometime today or tomorrow and check on me.He’s got a truck.He can tell you how to get back to the road.”That sounded fine to Dad, so we waited.
That was when there was a problem. You see the man had two big dogs that came out of his shack.My brother Steve and I were sitting in the car minding our own business, but those two dogs were friendly and they wanted to play.Every parent in the world will tell you that no 7 or 8 year old child is going to sit still when two big friendly dogs want to play.So we got out of the car and played with his dogs.
Then I said to the man, “You look like a jungle man.” He brought his face down to mine and spoke in a Southie** accent, “Well maybe that’s because I spent 14 years in the jungles of Brazil.”I’ll tell you later what he was doing there.***
At any rate then Steve spoke him, “Can we see your digging’s?” “Sure,” he said.He lead us over to the side of the hill where he had a rocker.He took a shovel full of dirt out of the ground.Then he let the water run through the rocker and shook it.He took the big rocks out and shook the sand and dirt.The water washed it all out.If there had been any gold it would have fallen through to the lowest section.But when he pulled that section out to look at it, there was nothing there.
“Have you ever gotten any gold out of your diggings?” my brother asked. “Sure,” the man said.“It’s back at my cabin.Come ’on I’ll show you,” he said.He turned and started back to his shack.I was right behind him and my brother was right behind me.I know it had to be that way, because I would never have seen what I saw if Steve had been in front of me.
We got back to the shack and the prospector went straight in. I stopped dead in my tracks right at the door.The sun was shining in the windows of his shack like it always does in the desert.There was a pool of sunshine on his bunk, coiled up in that pool of sunshine was a live rattlesnake.There was also a pool of sunshine on the floor.Coiled up in that pool of sunshine was a 2nd live rattlesnake.He’d been baking in an over built into his wall that day, (the curl of smoke in Mom’s painting).Coiled up in that still warm oven was a 3rd live rattlesnake.He had a cubbyhole in his wall with kindling in it right next to the oven.Coiled up on top of that kindling was a 4th live rattlesnake.We had stumbled on to rattlesnake haven #1.Luckily, his friend got there before sunset and got us back to the road.We made it home that night and slept in our beds.
About 2 days later, I think it was Dick Ramsay, was driving down to Wickenburg when he saw a man along the side of the road. He was hitchhiking into Wickenburg.Dick, being the friendly sort hs was, pulled over.He asked the man, “Where ya going?”“The TV station in Wickenburg,” the fellow said.“Well that’s not far from where I’m going,” Dick said.“Hop in.”Dick described the man to us later.He said the man was big, at least 6’ tall, with black hair on his head, a full black beard and mustache.But what clinches it for me was what happened after they had gone a little distance.The sun was shining in the windshield of the truck and there was a pool of sunshine on the seat.A live rattlesnake crawled out of the man’s pocket.Dick hit the brakes, through open the driver side door, lept from the truck and hollered, “Out now!”The man calmly picked up the snake and put it back in his pocket.Then he got out of the truck, which fortunately stopped on the road, and started hitchhiking again.
Well that is just about it. The next time my Dad came out to see us in Arizona we packed up and moved back to Freeport.We arrived home the day before Easter Sunday.So I went to church and wore a very grown-up pink outfit.I was allowed to join my classmates to receive our scapulars that evening.The rest of the year was the very mundane going back to school, playing with our friends when summer vacation started and going to school again in the autumn.We sold our house in Yarnell to the Ramsays.They loved it.It was bigger than their house had been in.We saw Fr. Girard for the last time a couple of years later when he came through Freeport on his way to his new assignment, as chaplan at Joliet federal prison.He had saved up his money and had been able to visit West Germany and by himself a Mercedes Benz.After Sabby died, Edith moved to Gallup NM.After we moved to Albuquerque NM we saw her a few times, and then she too passed away.
* Skunks produce a pungent oily secretion from glans under, and on both sides of, their tails. They can spray it for up to 10'. It is their main defense against predators.
**Southie is South Boston pretty much any where in the US. We had a dear friend from Southie and his accent was just like her's.
***He was a herpologist, that is a scientist who studies snakes. That is what he was doing in Brazil.