From End of A Time –”I did not want to write this story. It was a time of uncertainty and sorrow in my family’s history. There were great changes in how I viewed my parents, life, and myself. Changes would have to be made. But what? What could heal my parents’ marriage? What would hold us together? My relationship with my dad was not very strong to begin with, but now it was even weaker. It was an end of a time…a time of trust.” https://pleasemaam14.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=102&action=edit
What would have to be changed? How was I going to adapt to the new circumstances with my parents. My mother thought that I had been disloyal to her and she was hurt. My father had tried to unsuccessfully, buy me off with a motorcycle sponsored by his girlfriend. I was confused, hurt, and angry.
The new school year started and I was going to the ninth grade at Putnam City. I was an average student. I had potential with the proper guidance, but just an average student. I tried to suppress the problems I had home, but I had one class that really gave me problems, freshman English. It has been said that I phrase things differently than others and I would agree. I see things and think about them and express them in a slightly off center manner. I have a dry sense of humor mixed with sarcasm. I don’t tell jokes, but choose to make, hopefully, humorous comments on observations and situations in life. That is how I approached freshman English. My natural sentence structure did not easily coincide with the established sentence structure. To my readers who are school teachers, you have effortlessly identified this problem on your own. Nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, and prepositional phrases were names that were an unknown language to me. It might as well have been Swahili. My father had a sixth grade education. My mother had an eighth grade education. It is my understanding; they were pulled from school to work in the fields, which was a common practice of the times, so I could not ask them for help. Our communication level was very low at the time as well. I did ask someone for help, but as it turned out, I don’t think they understood the curriculum either. My grades got worse.
I was struggling with English when the nine week report cards came out. I thought in regards to my education, “All was lost, I’m a failure”. It was at this time, another change would be made. I was told we were going to move again. My dad had two sisters who lived in Grand Coulee, Washington and that is where we were going. They bought a fixer-upper house with one and a half lots for $400.00. That would be less than $3,000.00 in today’s money. It was just down the street from Aunt Maggie. You cannot imagine what we would find at 327 Dill Avenue.
Knowing the house was to be repaired before we could move in, it was decided Dad and I would move first with Mom and Brenda coming after we had the house ready. We began looking for a truck to move our things and then be able to use it during the remodel. Dad settled on a 1956 Ford one and half ton truck with a flat bed and slate board sides. It looked like something from Mayberry RFD except instead of a shiny red paint; the paint finish was faded. It have been well used, but in good shape. We loaded the truck and together we started for Washington. We didn’t talk much, but that was not my Dad’s way with me.
Grand Coulee, Washington is a little over 1,800 miles from Oklahoma City. It is located in Grant County which is in the central eastern part of the state. It is 90 miles west of Spokane and 230 miles east of Seattle, on the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains. It is located on the Columbia River Plateau. Geologists believe the coulees were formed by ice glaziers moving through the area, forming U shaped channels. The vegetation was many sagebrush and desert like with buttes and basin. To the East and West sides of the state are many pine trees. To the North and South are many orchards; apples, cherries, pears, grapes, and raspberries. Above the coulees, wheat was grown. We could grow sagebrush.
Our route would take us through Northwest Oklahoma, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Washington. The first stop I remember was in Boise City, Oklahoma. It is located in the extreme western part of the Oklahoma panhandle. We stopped for supper. I should have known it was not going to be food-on-the-table type supper, when we stopped in front of a small grocery store. I was told to stay in the truck while Dad went into the store. He came out a little bit later with our supper in a brown paper sack. Hidden within the sack were a few slices of thick cut bologna, a loaf of bread, a small jar of sandwich spread (a mix of Thousand Island dressing and mayonnaise), a cut of chewing tobacco, and maybe a bottle of Pepsi-Cola for me. We set the table between us on the bench seat of the cab. Dad used his pocket knife to spread the sandwich spread and then a cut of chewing tobacco. I’m thankful he did not reverse the order of preparation. I learned that without very much money, you had to take shortcuts, like this meal, to make your money stretch. We drove on into Colorado. It was dark now and snowing. I did not have a driver’s license, so when Dad got tired, he pulled the truck to the shoulder of the highway. It was very cold, so he left the motor running to provide heat for us. After a short time, a Colorado State Trooper tapped his flashlight on the window of Dad’s door. He asked if we were alright and said he was concerned we might get carbon monoxide poisoning from the running engine. Apparently the nap was enough to refresh my father because he said we would drive on. We got to Pueblo and then north on Highway 87 toward Colorado Springs and Denver. This part of the state was familiar to me, since we had lived in Castle Rock and Denver. Anything north of Denver would be completely new to me.
We entered the State of Wyoming and we would go through Cheyenne, Gillette, and Sheridan. In 1966, the interstate highways were not in place here. I remember two things, in particular, on the first passing through the state. First were the snow fences. They were a combination of a barbed wire fence and two inch wide wooden slates tied together. I had never seen this before. Secondly, the highway went through a grassy valley with low hills starting about a half mile of the highway. A herd of about twenty pronghorn antelope were grazing between the highway and the hills. I was excited to be able to see wild animals like these.
The next state was Montana, known as Big Sky Country. There were mountains on each side of the highway. I’m not sure if it was just the power of suggestion or what, but the sky in Montana did seem bigger than other places I had been. We would turn west at Billings, unto Highway 191, which is now Interstate 90. Just south of Billings, a lone sign marked the turnoff to Little Bighorn; the battleground of George Custer and the 7th Cavalry against the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho Tribes in 1876. I began tapping my Dad’s shoulder and said, “Dad, Dad, its Little Bighorn. Let’s go see…. it”. He drove by the sign without even slowing down. From Billings westward, the bigger cities were Bozeman, Butte, and Missoula. I always thought Bozeman and Missoula were funny names and sometimes difficult for me to pronounce. When I was younger, Ramada was a hard word for me. Back then, the motel had a large neon sign with a guy who looked somewhat like Ben Franklin, waving a lantern. I would try to say the word and my parents would help me by repeating it until I could say it. Between Bozeman and Missoula, there was another lone sign marking the turnoff to Yellowstone National Park. I began tapping my Dad’s shoulder and said, “Dad, Dad, its Yellowstone. Let’s go see…. it”. He drove by the sign without even slowing down. I made a big decision that day. I decided when I get behind the wheel; I will stop to see things. And if someone in the car asked to stop and see something, at least I will give a response in some way. We were driving through areas that Lewis and Clark explored. Could you imagine what would have not been discovered had my Dad been on that trip?
Just west of Missoula is the Idaho state line. We were in the panhandle of the state, crossing the Bitterroot Mountains. The roadway seemed very narrow and steep to me. The guardrail was a continuous gray ribbon, turning and twisting downward. I looked out my window and was looking at the tops of the trees. I was imagining what it must have been like when Lewis and Clark or even the guys who made the road must have thought when they first saw this place. Were they in awe like I was? As with most mountain roadways, there were many curves and switchbacks. We were coming out of a switchback when I saw one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen; Lake Coeur d’Alene. We were about halfway down the mountain when I saw the bright blue water shimmering from the strong sunlight and contrasted by the dark green of the forest that surrounded the lake. What an incredible view.
We were almost to Washington and a new life. Would it be better than in Oklahoma? Would our family be close again? To a fifteen year old boy, I had much to learn and most of it was across the state line.
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