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I write this some fifty years after the fact. I still do not understand all of the dynamics. I hope I never do. My eyes were innocent and I want them to always be.

One of my very early friends was a dark-skinned girl named Peggy Garfield. We walked to and from school together and played together in the Kindergarten playground. We always met somewhere on the trail to school that passed through the sagebrush. She usually took the western trail, the one we kids labeled “The Horny Toad Trail”, and I took the one just east of that. Somehow, we always hooked up together.

The Horny Toad trail was so-named because a person could always catch a horned lizard along the way. I didn’t know a single kid who had never caught a lizard: we all were adept at capturing the little flat creatures that resembled a triceratops in the most minute form possible. The Horny Toad Trail may have had it’s ending along the same trail I took to school, but it had it’s beginning in “The Indian Village”.

The Indian Village was a small parcel of dusty land that housed the Toms (a group of wild Shoshone boys that terrorized the rest of us school kids), the Garfields, and a number of other Paiute or Shoshone tribal members who chose – for work or other reasons – not to live on the McDermitt Reservation. I understood little of this. Peggy was my friend, everyone was afraid of the Toms, and noone talked about that little dusty section of town at the end of Bell Street and the beginning of the Horny Toad Trail.

Peggy once bragged to me that horny toads “would spit blood from their eyes”. I didn’t believe her and cited every evidence I could from my small, sheltered life. She was brazen and sure of herself, and she mocked my innocence. “You have to make them mad,” she told me.

Years later, as an adult, I witnessed a horned lizard “spitting blood” through its eyes. Damn! They really can do that!

Once, Peggy and I were both late for school. We hid behind a dust bank along the dry creek bed, debating what we should do. I was of the mind that we should curl up in a ball and just die. My parents would be mad and the principal would be mad – and Miss Smith or Mrs. Butts (First Grade teacher) would be mad. I couldn’t abide anyone being angry with me. Peggy, however, had a more pragmatic view of life. The adults would be angry, but we would survive. Therefore, we went on to school. And survived.

I asked her once or twice if I couldn’t just walk all the way home with her along the Horny Toad Trail. Both times, she looked at me like I was an alien. “You don’t know nothing,” she said. “You can’t come into the village. You’re white. I’m an Indian. That’s just how it is.”

I accepted that from her, but it didn’t stop me from wondering why. My 6th birthday was approaching and I asked my mother if I could invite Peggy to my birthday party.

My mother deliberately stopped whatever she was doing and looked hard at me. She seemed to understand what I wanted. Peggy was my friend, maybe my best first grade friend. But it was not possible. Even though Peggy only lived a block away on Bell Street, she lived a world away. She lived on the Reservation. I was white. Even if we were to bend the rules and invite her, her people would not reciprocate. Whites and Indians did not mix.

I cried. I did not understand.

Once, when I was walking home alone, along the streets instead of on the trails, I had the sense I was being followed. The Tom boys were behind me. I didn’t know their names. They were older than me, wore their hair in long braids, and they beat up white kids for no reason. I was alone. I was nearing the Dog Lady’s house – she had high red board fences that kept her wild dogs on the inside, but they always went crazy with barking when kids walked by. I never teased them – how cruel! – but she accused every kid on earth of teasing them. Tom kids approaching from behind and Dog Lady on the left.

Then they were beside me, around me, and laughing. One of them lightly slapped my back. They laughed. “Coup!”

Me? The slap was hardly a slap, more of a touch. Years later, I would understand they were merely counting coup. Young Shoshone braves trying to make sense of their world in an all-white world, counting coup on frightened white children. That light tap on my back erased every fear I had of the Tom boys. They weren’t so tough. They didn’t mean any harm.

Peggy and the Toms faded away after about 2nd or 3rd grade. I never saw any of them again, although my heart has searched for Peggy since. Maybe their families returned to McDermitt. I don’t know.

~~~

I was in 7th grade when Wanda Brown came to school. She was 16. She’d lived in McDermitt her entire life, and had dropped out of school after 3rd grade. She was as wide as she was tall. Shoshone or Paiute, she hated everyone who was white. Rumors flew. She kept a knife on her person.

She did, at that. She showed it to me. Strapped to her inner thigh. It was long and sharp, probably 4″ long. She kept it for “protection”. She knew how to use it, she assured me. I was 12. I was innocent. She liked me, for whatever reason. Maybe it was because I wasn’t afraid of her. I wasn’t afraid of her skin.

I let her know I wasn’t afraid of the knife. She wouldn’t use it on me.

She granted me that. I was too simple. Too innocent. She didn’t even try to taunt me, but she let me know that my innocence had a price – not now, but somewhere down the road.

~~~~

Virie. I’m not even sure I spelled her name right. She lived on the Duckwater Reservation and she was a poet. She received a scholarship from an Ivy League college. She was as wide as she was tall and she was beautiful. She was older than me and graduated in 1972? 1973?  I don’t remember. She liked me and I liked her. She had none of the hardness of Wanda or Peggy, but all of their wisdom. She was a Medicine Woman, if I were to guess.

~~~~

The end of this is that I wish I could have been real friends with Peggy and Wanda. 1960-1970 was not the right time for an innocent white kid like me to make friends with kids from the Res.  It still hurts my heart.

I wanted Peggy to come to my birthday party. I really did.

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I just spent two days playing “Boothy” at the Canterbury Ren Faire for my friend, Mary. I did this last year for the first time & blogged about it here.

All I brought home was one low quality photo of a Corgi in chain mail. (It’s a Lady, not a Sir, by the way – not sure why they put chain mail on her instead of a tiara!)(I took the photo for a friend who loves Corgis.)

Mary always comments about how I stay close to the booth and put my whole heart into being there for her, and – honestly – I don’t know any other way to be. I did take a couple of turns through the faire to look at other booths or to purchase a luke-warm soda, but I declined the offer to allow me to go watch the joust. I was there to work.

A hundred years ago, when I was in the 7th Grade, I volunteered for some menial job. All I remember about the job was that it was a class project, the “popular” girls were in charge of it, and I felt really blessed to have been “accepted” by them to do the menial little task. It had to do with writing or typing out a bunch of names for a drawing (I think) and bringing them back to school. I cut each name out so it would be ready for the drawing and arrived at school, excited to be included.

They were crowded by the main entrance. If you weren’t one of them, you know exactly who I mean: THE girls. The perfect ones, the chosen ones, the groupies, the future cheerleaders (with an apology to some really down-to-earth cheerleaders I have known). The girls who ran the school. The ones who could make you feel small. The ones who worked really hard at stepping on little people.

I overheard them as I neared the door.

“Do you think she even remembered?” “Do you think she did it?”

The ring leader, who I will call JC, sneered and showed her teeth in a fake smile, with an aside, “I bet she didn’t.”

By 7th Grade, I was So.Over.Them. I narrowed my eyes, pulled out the envelope, and dropped it into JC’s hand. “I cut them up, too. Just so you know that I not only did the job, but I thought ahead.” And I pushed them out of the way as I walked into the school. I could hear their collective jaws drop.

They didn’t think I had overheard them (although JC’s voice was sotto on purpose – hoping I would hear). They weren’t ready for the 4’8″ shy girl to come on the offensive. They weren’t ready to realize they weren’t the queens of the ball – or that they may not always be on the top tier of society.

That day settled something inside me: if I say I will do something, I will do it. Over and above. No one will ever – not ever! – again make me feel small.

I’m not saying I haven’t failed people in the years since (many, too many to count), but on that day, I had my backbone installed. I was pissed off, and royally. I determined that if a hated person asked me to do something & I went beyond the call of duty, then a beloved person would get even more of my friendship, service, loyalty.

Seventh Grade was my turning point. That year I challenged everything about popularity in junior high and anyone in a popular role in junior high. I decided it was time for this introvert HSP to fight back. JC, another girl friend, and the big girl – Big J, the one who everyone feared because she was not only popular but she was twice anyone’s size and she could WHOMP! you if she just wanted to.

I was with my close friend, Trudi. To this day, I cannot tell you what Big J said to me in the hall of the school, right next to the Home Ec classroom door. It was nasty, derogatory, mean, spiteful, and hurtful. It was meant to add to a long list of hazing that would keep me in my position as a preferred person to pick on. It was meant to elevate her in the eyes of her friends and enforce their status as the Class Elite. It came on the heels of the job I did but they didn’t expect me to do. It came on the heels of JC’s derogatory sneer in the entrance as I gracefully dropped the job finished into her hands.

What I do know is what I felt. And what came out of my little mouth. I turned on my heel and looked the three of them in the eye. I tipped my little chin up and I said, with as much venom as I could muster (pulling from my mother’s Scots’ roots), “Just because YOU are a big BITCH…” and I trailed it off there, turning on my heel and stomping away.

The hall went silent.

As we turned into the exit door for our lunch, Trudi punched me in the shoulder. “Did YOU just SAY that??” She was incredulous. My big, bossy, friend’s jaw had dropped. (It was in the mid 1960’s)

I smiled. “Oh yeah.”

We collapsed into giggles and hugs. Those girls never again approached me as a victim they hoped to offer up to the god of popularity.

Isn’t it amazing what bitterness can be turned into? (I no longer hate JC or the others. I think I gave tit for tat, and that’s that. We were all victims of Junior High cliques. I just used my victimhood to grow.)

(unedited. I’m too tired to edit.)

And I was wonderfully happy to stay until everything was accounted for. Because that’s what you do when you volunteer for anyone – and for a friend? Even more so.

Paradise Valley Ranger Station.

We moved shortly after I started Kindergarten. It seemed like our new home was miles and miles and miles away – probably across country! It was, in reality, just another county over and up US Highway 95 from Winnemucca, then 20 miles off to the east. It is close to where we tossed our father to the wind in 2012, on the 4th of July. Mom was already at rest in the Santa Rosas.

The new house was the same as the previous three: white clapboard with green trim. The log cabin structure right next door was the Ranger Station, but it didn’t have bears living under the foundation. Maybe I was older, or maybe the addition of a little sister cum best friend had eased the terror.

There was enough other scary stuff around, like the white steepled church next door that boasted “Katty Kissin'” lessons. The house we lived in was haunted. There was a huge swimming pool in the middle of the yard that we couldn’t see in to or go swimming in.*

*It was a water reservoir for the pumper trucks and only used in case of a fire. Later, it would be empty and would be the final corral for Smokey, Dad’s favorite bronc. But that’s another story.

Denny and I clung to each other in the move. Terry moved on, making friends with the local ranch kids as easily as ever. I honestly have no remembrance of his transition (he will have to post a comment). I know he got his own bedroom upstairs and Denny and I got the other bedroom. I believe? there was a bathroom between us. There was a stair case to the living room with a long bannister and I sometimes hid on it, just out of sight of my parents, listening to the movie they were watching and afraid to go back to bed. I’d wet the bed or had a nightmare, or the ghost had awakened me. Sometimes, Denny sat on the stairs with me.

Caught, we were offered no sympathy. Only punishment from exasperated parents.

Once, I remember catching mom sitting up in the kitchen nook in the middle of the night. She was alone and teary. A 2-way radio was turned on beside her. I crawled into the booth with her and cuddled, asking why was she upset. I think Terry came down, too. Dad was off fighting fire. Mom was scared and worried for him. I was too little to understand the capriciousness of a wildfire. Later, when I read Young Men and Fire by Norman MacLean, I understood.

Hallowe’en came. There was a huge to-do in town, and one of the ranch mothers took all of us trick-or-treating in her car. It was so dark out and the roads were so long and straight! You could see ranch house lights twinkling in the distance and when we arrived, dogs would bark as children piled out of the car with paper bags in hand and little masks on their faces. I think mine was a teddy bear face. Then we’d get back in the stuffy car and make another long drive, until we’d exhausted all the ranch houses.

It was not fun. It was scary. It was long, lonely, and I think I was getting motion sick. I don’t remember getting ill, but I’m pretty sure the nausea began to play into my late night soiree.

The big party in town had a cake walk, booths to play in, and all the pumpkin pie you could eat (or so it seemed to almost-five year old me). I wanted a piece of that pie so badly! Dad told me I could not have it: last year, I didn’t like pumpkin pie and had refused to eat it.

Of course, I couldn’t remember the previous year and I was certain he was wrong, so I whinged. Pleeeeease. Pretty pleeeeeeease. I’ll eat it all this year.

I ate it all to spite him. (To this day, I love pumpkin pie.)

I turned five in the haunted house. I don’t remember my birthday (a cake and candles).

Best memory:

We were ballerinas. We had a little stool we could stand on and twirl on. The ceiling was low, with one of those old-fashioned light fixtures in the middle. Denny went first, but she couldn’t reach the ceiling and she was clumsy, at best. Me – I was a regular ballerina-diva-talented dancer. I pressed my finger against the little brass knob on the glass fixture and twirled away on the stool. Around and around and around. We sang. LALALALALA.

The brass knob came off and clattered to the floor, followed by the heavy, ornate, light cover. There was a crash and the sound of shattering glass. I looked down from my perch to see my sister, her legs sprouting bloody streaks. She shrieked in pain and fear. Dark blood spurted and dribbled. I stood, transfixed by the awful sight.

Mom burst into the room with Terry. DO NOT MOVE! She shouted at me as she grabbed my sister and rushed her down the stairs, wrapped in a towel. My dad was working in the log cabin and moments later, I heard him coming up the stairs. He took one long look at the room, at me in my make-shift tutu, the blood on the floor. Then he stepped through the glass and lifted me off of my pedestal, at the same time landing a hefty slap to my rear end.

I didn’t understand! I was being spanked?! I’d only been dancing! I didn’t make the fixture fall! I didn’t men to hurt my sister! I didn’t understand! My cries mixed the air with my sister’s pain-filled cries drifted up the stairs.

Denny and I laughed about it, years later: how I tried to kill her with my ballet routine. She carried scars in her legs from the shards of glass. Mom and Dad never did think it was very funny.

Oddly – they later paid for ballet lessons for the pair of us. Maybe they wanted me to learn how to pirouette without unscrewing a light fixture. Ya think?

We spent part of the summer at Mahoney Ranger Station and part at Pole Creek RS.  I have almost as many memories of Pole Creek as I do Mahoney and Jarbidge, but they are more scattered. The palomino was at Pole Creek, as was my father’s favorite horse, the outlaw named Smokey. Smokey stood an easy 17 hands, a blue roan with a wicked temper. Legend had it that you couldn’t hobble him – my dad would double hobble him and he’d still be a long way off from camp come morning. He was everything Mustang and everything that Will James wrote about in his own memoir of a similar horse, Smoky the Cowhorse.

It was the palomino I was drawn to. The flies got to it and he had a huge sore where the throat latch on his bridle had rubbed him raw. He was a miserable horse and it was left to my mother to doctor him when the fire crews and my father were away from the Ranger Station

My mother hated horses. She was afraid of them and she truly disliked the animal. The only way she survived the doctoring of the palomino was that she could do it over the fence and he was a willing patient. She lured him close with treats and then applied salve to the sore that protected it from the flies and helped the horse heal. She was completely baffled by my love of the animal and my insistence on being under her feet or hanging on the fence when the horse came over for his treatments. She never did understand my love for horses.

She rode a friend’s horse. It was a barn-sour old nag and as soon as they were turned back to the barn, it bolted and took the bit in its teeth. It felt like she was going a hundred miles an hour – straight for the clothesline where she would surely be decapitated. She managed to survive – maybe she bailed or maybe she ducked – I’ve lost that part of the story now. She never liked another horse. Ever. Nasty, conniving, half-ton animals with a hate for human beings.

~~~~~~

My brother ran into a moose at Pole Creek. He was five years old and going to the dump? He’ll have to correct me on that. I just remember he rocketed into the house with more ADHD energy than normal, babbling about the moose. It stood on the path, and he wasn’t going to argue with it.

~~~~~~

Granny and Gramps came to visit at the same time the Eastern Idaho State Fair was taking place in Buel. ROAD TRIP! Cotton candy! Carnival Rides! Yowza!!

002(Granny Wilcox, Terry, Me. Don’t know the dog’s name, but it belonged to Granny.)

Oh-my-gosh! I remember only one thing from the Eastern Idaho State Fair and that was the Kiddy Ferris Wheel. No kidding – they had a pint-sized Ferris Wheel for tots. It probably went 20 feet in the air and each basket held one child. I begged. I pleaded. I groveled.

Dad relented.

It was The.Best.Ride.Ever. I felt like I was flying! I didn’t get sick! I wasn’t scared! I could see the whole fair! (Well, it seemed like it).

I’m pretty sure there was a melt-down on the way home or two, but since I don’t remember that…

001I had a cool new pirate sword that my big brother drooled over. Yeah, baby.

(I like that photo because Gramps and Dad are in the background, under the hood of the car. I could have been Vinnie’s girlfriend from My Cousin Vinny, if only I had paid attention…)

 

I started school when I was 4.5 years old. In those days, there was no cut-off age. I turned 5 in November, therefore I could start school that September. I was not ready socially. I was far ahead academically.

Kindergarten, for me, started in Elko. Then it took a break when we moved to Paradise Valley where there was no school. It resumed after my birthday in Winnemucca.

My first day of school was with other little kids more worldly than I. I remember the teacher taking role and my name was Jackie. One kid joked “Jack Frost?” and it stuck. The teacher did nothing to stop this. I was mortified. I knew who Jack Frost was: pretty ice paintings in hoar frost on the windows. I also knew I didn’t want to be Jack Frost. I was ME.

We moved before October. Dad accepted a position in a different leg of the same National Forest. PIE (Pacific Intermountain Express) trucks came, packed all our belongings, and moved us to yet another white house with green trim. We lived in that house for two months and packed a lot of memories in there.

Then we moved into town: Winnemucca. I started Kindergarten, again. It was horrid. My teacher was a first year teacher, Mrs. Smith. The veteran was across the hall, and if my mother had known what I was about to experience, she would have pushed for the veteran.

I did make friends. Mary. Rita. Peggy.

I heard older kids sing-song at us through the fence: “Kindergarten Baby!” It was awful.

I had to stand in the corner once. I was never sure what I did wrong, but the teacher was angry and there I was – in the corner for some infraction I did not understand. I think it might have had to do with lollipop trees, but it could have been anything. I just remember that lollipop trees set the teacher off, too.

The little girl next to me raised her hand and whined, “Teacher, she’d drawing Christmas trees!”

I wasn’t sure why it was a crime to draw a Christmas tree, but I also knew I was not drawing Christmas trees. I was drawing pine trees like the ones around Mahoney RS. And I said so. Christmas trees have ornaments and lights on them.

Teacher wasn’t buying it.

Whatever. Bitch. My mother told me in later years that if she had only known…

Once, I tried to get on the bus. It seemed an easy way to get home. The bus driver stared at me. “You don’t belong on here,” he challenged. He was right: I could walk home and the bus went to the Air Force Base. Reluctantly, I got off the bus. I just wanted a ride home.

My brother showed up to take my home. Sometimes, he was actually handy to have around.

We lived four blocks from the school. You could walk along the street, take The Trail, or take the Horny Toad Trail. You had to pass the woman who lived behind the big red fence with the vicious dogs.

Once, early in my induction to this system, we took The Trail. And I walked into an abandoned roll of barbed wire. My head was in the clouds and my feet on earth. The barbed wire coiled and grabbed. My brother had to take me home where my mother nursed the wounds on my leg, scars that I bear to this day. I remember the blood.

One of my first memories has to do with cows. There’s a story behind the memory that has been repeated many times over the years, and that embellishes my memory. I don’t actually remember the events that have been told in the story: those memories belong to my mother and my older brother. My memories are in italic.

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Sunlight filtered through the aspens. Quaking Aspens. Shadows. A narrow one-lane gravel road on an incline. I am sitting in the little Red Flyer™ wagon, holding on to the sides. My brother is pulling the wagon, his back to me. I can hear the tinkle of bells in the trees.

Torgerson’s cows. He belled at least one of them so he could find them when he needed to. They are beef cattle, probably cross-breed Hereford/Angus/Charolais. Maybe purebred Hereford. Red cows. Big. My fear probably originates from my broken middle finger, the memory I don’t have but my mother says happened: the cow that stampeded and stepped on my tiny hands.

I begin to cry. The bell, the cows. the unknown. No mom in sight. Only filtered sunlight and the tinkle of a bell on a mad Hereford cow that is probably going to charge us any second now…

Torgerson was a rancher who owned a lot of the land just north of Jarbidge. He paid for grazing rights. His cattle roamed free.

The story goes that my brother – probably age 4 – had a fight with my mother. He told her that he hated her and we were going to go live in town with someone my brother was certain would take us in. He loaded me into the little red wagon, with my stuffed bear and a few possessions, and off we headed. He was fuming mad.

Mahoney RS was almost a mile out from the edge of town. Terry pulled me in the wagon all the way. Our mother followed us in Nelliebelle – at a very discreet distance – until we were with in sight of the edge of town. Then she passed us and went on in to have coffee with Youra.

Terry hauled me on in, stopping only when he found his destination. Someone he thought would surely take us in and adopt us from our evil mother. They offered us drinks and lunch.

Terry stopped pulling when I started to cry. He came back and hugged me, and then told me that I had to be brave. He would protect me from the ‘mean mommy’. Always. I sucked it up and hugged Teddy tight.

After we were fed and my brother was calmed down, our mother came by and acted like she didn’t know we had dropped in for a visit also. She offered to take us home in the car, and Terry readily agreed. It had been a really long walk, after all.

~~~

We were visiting Jarbidge. Denny was maybe 4 at the time and I was 7? I just remember being down near the saloon when someone shouted that there was a rattlesnake. Then there was a terrifying BOOM! and someone else said, “Old Torgerson shot the head off of it.”

My sister and I were escorted along the street back to where we were staying by our mother. We saw the bloody length of snake in the street, but it wasn’t what we worried about. Mom hissed that the head had been shot off and to watch for the head. Rattlers could continue to snap for hours after their head was severed from their bodies – and it was the head that was dangerous. Don’t ask me what images that conjured up – but I never lost any sleep over it. Rattlesnakes weren’t the same as Dementors. Rattlesnakes could die.

I don’t think I ever saw Mr. Torgerson. I have no recollection of the man. Only his red-painted log cabin home and the spread along the Jarbidge River, the cow with the bell, and the doomed rattlesnake. Oh – and his name.

* it is a fact that rattlesnakes can continue to bite after the head has been severed. We never saw the head to that snake. I do not personally hold a grudge against rattlesnakes, but in the early 1960s, a lot of people did. Still do.

Did I mention there was the possibility of Dementors in this? No, not my sister. She was more like a vampire. But not when she first came into the world. That happened when we fought over blankets and she bit me. Hard. I think I was six at the time, and she was three. And later, she and I both fought Dementors.

1959. Elko, Nevada.

We lived in Elko during the school year. Winter in Jarbidge country is harsh and the roads snow in. There was no need for a young Forest Ranger to keep his family in the high country during the long, cold, winters.

We stayed in a tiny white house with green trim in the metropolis of Elko, Nevada. The man who ate worms lived on one side of us (I did not make this up), and my best friend, Brenda Brush, lived on the other side. I didn’t make up her name, either.

The man who ate worms was problematic. He growled at us kids. He told us he ate worms. I believed him. My mother, on that unfathomable plane, thought he was funny. I think my brother thought it was a joke, too. But I was afraid of him. He ate worms, for crying out loud! What next? Pill bugs?

I was not aware there was anything odd about my mother, but one day my grandparents came to stay with us and my dad took my mother away somewhere. My grandparents let us eat out at the fast food place, and they even bought me a foot long hot dog, despite my brother’s warnings (the tattle tale) that I wouldn’t eat it. Grandpa put it in the fridge for me when I didn’t eat it, smiling kindly and patting my head. He didn’t get all mad like my dad.

I don’t remember her coming home. Just one day there was a crib in the basement with my brother and me, and we had to be quiet lest we woke the baby up.

I remember sneaking out of bed one night and climbing to the top of the stairs where the baby gate was locked in place. We had the gate because of my little sister, not me. Mom was bent over her books in the kitchen. I don’t think Dad was home, or I would never have been brave enough to sit on the stairs and whine. Mom never scared me as much as Dad did, but she wasn’t giving in and I had to go back to bed.

Mom had a dog. I think it was a chihuahua mix. Squeaky. That should tell you everything you need to know about the dog. Squeaky. Who names a dog that? What kind of evil dwells inside of a dog named that? Why would they unleash that horror onto unsuspecting small children in the early mornings? Squeaky would leave no bone unturned. No flesh un-nipped.

He nipped, whined, yapped, nipped. His sharp teeth pinched and I swear he grinned at my mom when she giggled at us. He never drew blood, but – by God! – his nips hurt!

I hated Squeaky.

I loved the little bundle of human being we called Denny. I didn’t even care that she un-throned me as Baby. There would be plenty of time for sisterly spats in our future.

She was olive-skinned, with dark hair and black eyes. Her coloring was so foreign to the rest of us: fair-skinned, brown-haired, hazel-eyed. Even Dad was fair skinned enough that he didn’t look like my sister, and his light brown eyes were no match for her fierce black eyes. His only advantage was his jet black hair – that trait  my sister did not inherit. People looked at Mom and Dad, and then waggled their eye brows. Mom brushed aside the questions of my sister’s father with a laugh, “Oh, it was the old Indian down the road.”

Years later, her cheeks would flush red when she thought about that statement. She hadn’t meant it like it sounded. Mom only meant it as a way of deflecting people in the same way I learned to deflect people when I was alone with my children, a generation later. Only my children were pasty white with pale white hair and large blue eyes. My tan skin, brown hair, and hazel eyes was not reflected anywhere in them. I counted the rude comments. My mother made them into a joke.

And somewhere in there, Squeaky passed over the Rainbow Bridge. My mother cried, I am sure. She loved her little dogs. I didn’t even note his passing, cruel child.

But I did make friends with the man who ate worms. He let me in on the joke about the time I left the house to attend Kindergarten. He just said that to gross us out. I vowed to grow up to be like him and eat worms.

I need to tell my grandkids that I eat worms. They won’t believe me.

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