Posts Tagged ‘cigarettes’

I don’t intend to write this out chronologically. It’s too hard to put dates on memories. I remember living in Jarbidge, Paradise Valley, and Winnemucca in my early years. We lived in the house on Lay Street in Winnemucca from early 1961 until I was around 8 years old. I don’t remember how old I was when the following memory took place, and it could be a collection of memories of television news broadcasts.

The Bloody Bones incident happened during the same time period, in the same ranch-style house with the picture window and roses in the yard.

The view from under the couch was fascinating. I lay on my back and tried not to sneeze. The springs in the couch sagged slightly under my dad’s weight and he snored. Loudly. The television was on, but I don’t know if there was sound or not. The images were of flooding throughout the midwest, the worst in decades. The entire M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I River was washing away all of the states from Wisconsin to the delta, although I didn’t know there were states.

I could spell M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I. I watched in morbid fascination as houses were lifted from their foundations and floated down the muddy waters. There was no end in sight to the torrential rains.

I wondered if the Humboldt River would swell over its banks and drown us all. Would it come up suddenly? Or maybe it rose slowly, and you had time to crawl out onto the roof of the house to signal for help? Would Dad make sure we got our dog, Butchey, up there, too? What about all the horses? Could horses swim?

My dad was really tall and strong. He would save me. But what about my mom and Terry and Denny? They weren’t home with us. Would the wide waters catch them in the robin’s egg blue Buick called Nelliebelle, and would they be swept downstream like a boat? Would Dad and I be the only ones left?

How far away was the M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I River?

The front door opened. Voices floated in with the rattle of brown paper grocery bags. My little sister’s small feet flapped into view, with my big brother’s feet. My mother called out cheerily to Dad on the sofa, “Sorry we woke you up!”

I could hear Denny running down the hallway toward our bedroom. I was supposed to be in the bedroom. Maybe I was supposed to be taking a nap? Or I was sick? Dad’s feet swung into view as he rose from the sofa and blocked my view of the TV. Denny came rushing back, breathless.

“I can’t find Jackie!” she wailed.

(I suppose) Mom’s voice turned concerned, maybe worried. Maybe she was slightly accusatory. “Where is Jackie?” she asked my dad. He was supposed to be watching me. Terry brought in another bag and declared I wasn’t outside.

Maybe they thought I got swept up in the big flood!

“Here I am!” I shouted gleefully as I rolled out from under the couch, sneezing dustbunnies from my nose.

“What?” “Why?” “How long?”

I just shrugged. “I wanted to hide under the sofa,” I explained. “It felt safe.” Somehow, it felt lame to tell them about the floods and the houses floating and…


My sister and I could tickle Dad so hard that he would swallow his cigarette. It didn’t happen very often that he was even playful enough to let us do it, but, sometimes… Just sometimes… He wasn’t always the guy who shot out a cowboy boot and caught your rear end when you let slip a swear word you heard him use all the time. Sometimes, he was really funny.

He’d get down on the floor with us and start tickling us, and then he’d let us tickle him. He always had a cigarette dangling out of his mouth and he’d warn, “Don’t make me swallow it.”

You never knew if he was being serious and he’d get mad if you accidentally made him drop the cigarette on the carpet, or if he was going to do the magic trick where he swallowed the cigarette. We had to gamble it was the latter.

When it was the latter, suddenly, the cigarette would be gone. “Oh, you made me swallow it!” he would moan.

We’d sit back and giggle, waiting for it.

Then he would push it back out between his lips, still lit, and laugh. “That’s enough for now, girls.”

We loved those moments.



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