I inherited most of my Mother's writing. She had done much of her writing on PC's and DOS on the old five inch floppies. In transferring the files from DOS to Macintosh and from Word to OpenOffice, some of the formatting was lost. Someday, I may go back and edit this further but for now, I am posting as is with the formatting problems intact.
THE STORY OF MY LIFE
This is going to be a very bitter and angry book. I
don't know why anyone would want to read it. My advice, is to
throw it in the wastebasket. I have lived for over seventy-
five years, and each year I have grown more angry, resentful,
hateful. I can't imagine why I have such a wonderful husband,
who never fails to tell me he loves me each day--usually many
times. When I ask him "Why?" as I usually do, he answers,
"Because you are a sweet little darlin.'" I always tell him I
am not sweet, and he answers that he ought to know because he
has lived with me for all these years, (now 28), and he knows
how generous, kind, and considerate I am. Of course, that
sounds great. He has always been one to uplift me and build
my self-esteem. I know he is sincere, but it is almost
impossible for me to believe that he really can see anything
sweet, kind or generous in me. I am a very hateful person.
Surely no one can be anything other than evil, and be so
full of hate as I am. I hate everything. I hate almost
everybody. I hate the wind. I hate the cold. I hate the
heat. I hate the dust. I hate the insects. I hate hay
fever. I hate headaches. I hate to work. I hate injustice
and pain, and fear, and heartache, and disappointment, and all
the things that make people unhappy. It's a screwd-up world.
It's a mess!
Everybody other than me, is a damn-fool. Come to think
of it, I am a damn-fool, too. That doesn't make it any easier
to stand all the other damn-fools. I don't like anybody. I
don't even like kids. I don't like dogs. I don't like cats,
and I don't like old people. No one could possibly be a sweet
darlin' who doesn't like kids and old people. Is there
anything I do like? Yes, I like rivers and trees, and horses,
and goats, and deer, and wolves, and birds. I like good music-
-just the kind I like. I like kindness, neatness,
consideration, good judgment, intelligence, information. I like striving for excellence--in others. I don't want to
strive for anything.
Maybe my liking for kindness was learned from my mother.
I resent my mother, because she never showed any affection for
me, or approval. I resent that very much. On the othr hnad,
I recognize that she was a very fine and wise woman. My dad
was brilliant--and crazy--but my mother was wise. I remember
when we lived at the "Green Place," where there were no
screens on the doors, how my mother used to hate the flies.
She would keep the doors closed until she almost roasted in
the hot summer time, in order to shut out a few of the flies.
Even hating them so, she would shudder and remark about how
burning was too bad for any living thing, when my dad would
get up in the morning, while the flies were immobilized all
over the ceiling, and take a lighted piece of paper and burn
them. Also, even though my mother hated ticks to the point
that she would literally get sick when she saw one, she
didn't want any of us to put them in the fire. That was
really the only way we could be at all sure they would be
killed, as they are almost impossible to kill any other way.
Anyhow, these things go to show how exceptionally kind my
mother was. She didn't want anything, however menacing, or
excecrable, to suffer. I guess I got some of that from her.
I hate to see anything suffer. I guess that's why I don't
like this world. It consists mostly of suffering. I can't
understand why people go on having kids. Seems to me the
worst sin anyone could commit.
How or why a gentle, intelligent woman, like my mother
ever married, or lived with a man like my dad, I will never
understand. He was mean, ill-tempered, and disageeable. He
could be very charming, and he seemed to know everything.
That wasn't just my opinion. People used to love to come to
our house and eat brown beans, and mama's lightbread, instead
of the good food they could have had in their own homes--that
is, when we had beans and the flour for mama to make
lightbread. Many times we didn't. On the occasions when we did have this much, people came as often as they could, from
miles around, to eat and listen to my dad. He could be very
interesting, and as I said, very charming. He certainly was a
different man when other people were around, than he was when
we were alone. If we ever happened to say anything the least
bit derogatory about him in the presense of any of these
people, including my sister-in-law, Annie--Deb's wife--they
would insist that we were just angry because he wanted us to
"do right." Ha! Little he cared what we did, as long as we
kept out of his way; didn't cause him any trouble. And those
same people who admired him so much and basked in his charm,
would have been appalled, probably, if they had known that as
soon as they were out of our door and on their way home, my
dad couldn't vent his contempt for them enough. They were all
Mama, even though she was a gentle and wise person,
didn't seem to be able to stand us kids any better than dad
could. She couldn't even stand to have us in the house to
help with the constant work of cleaning, mending, washing, and
cooking when she had anything to cook. She wanted us to carry
the water needed, and she wanted us to carry in wood, and cut
it too, when dad wasn't in the mood. Occasionally, she would
allow one of us to bake a cake, or do some other chore in the
kitchen, if she could be in some other room.
She wanted us to help with the gardening, when there was
a garden, the harvesting from that garden when there was a
garden, and the picking of apples while we lived at the Green
place, where there was a scraggly, little, dry-land orchard.
Sometimes, we were wanted to wash clothes on the board, but
even that, she usually did herself, rather than have any of us
"in her way."
She wanted us to run to the cellar to take the fresh
milk, when we had any, or to get the milk and butter, when we
had any, or to bring potatoes, apples, canned fruit and so on,
when there was any there. I guess we had something in the
cellar about as often as there was nothing. If it didn't happen to rain enough to raise a garden, or bring some apples
on the old apple trees, or if dad had got hungry for beef and
killed mama's milk cow or butchered all her laying hens, there
was sometimes something to eat in that cellar.
I don't remember of my dad's ever working a day in his
life. The older ones talked sometimes, of his working a
little in the cotton fields, the butcher-shop, or in the
woods, but even they usually admitted that that was very
little. It was up to mama to keep us alive. She worked
absolute miracles to do so. She never seemed to resent the
fact that dad didn't work, or even do anything around the
house, such as gathering the wood, unless he just happened to
want to. She seemed to take it for granted that that was a
man's prerogative. The boys, when they were home, were not
really required to do anything, either. They were to be
waited on. They were to sit at the table and be served first,
if there was any food in the house. Their clothes were to be
washed, and their beds to be made, and their food prepared,
and their every need, insofar as it was possible, was to be
met--just as dad"s was.
There were nine children in our family. Mama and dad had
had ten, but our youngest sister, Nina Belle, died when she
was less than two years old. The children, from oldest to
youngest, were Deb, (Delbert), Haden, Ray, Bert, (Bertha),
Flo, (Florence), Hank, (Lois), Ole, (Olive), me, Nellie,
(Nudel--noodle for years), and Billie, (Lola).
I hated, and still hate, all my brothers, and my dad. My
sisters were all wonderful people--but even they had faults--
probably none of them as many as I had, and still have. For
some unknown reason, I always wanted to be "good," and tried
every day of my life to improve. I didn't have much success,
but I never could give up. Kind of silly, really.
Of the nine children, I was the "goat," of the family.
One might think that that was just my opinion, and I had even
begun to think this myself, when one of my sisters said that she knew this was true. Flo had told Ole that she had
thought, at first, that I was just complaining, when I said
that everyone in the family hated me, but later she decided
that I really was the "goat." Ole said that she agreed.
If that is true, I wonder why Ole seems to be as bitter
as I am. She doesn't express her bitterness as openly and
often, but she certainly is as bitter. It seemed to me that
everyone in the family, and everyone else she met, always
loved Ole. That, it seems, should have given her a lot of
self-esteem, and confidence. It surely didn'w work that
way. She almost never, if ever, talks about her hatred or
resentment, as I do, but she shows her anger in other ways.
"I don't feel that I have a right to the space I take up
on this earth," is one of the things she says, that shows her
anger. Another is "Why did I have to be the one that was
really the damn fool?" Deb always called everyone other than
himself a damn fool, no matter how intelligent, well informed,
and reasonable any of those people were. I told Ole, and I
sincerely believe, that the one that was the damn fool, in
almost every case, was Deb, himself. I believe, that like
dad, Deb is brilliant. He has an extraordinary memory, and he
has always read a great deal--so he is well informed. But
information is not all there is to intelligence. Deb has
absolutely no power to reason. He has absolutely no "common
sense." This was true, too, of dad, Haden, and to a lesser
Just as dad was, all these brothers were exceptionally
charming. Everyone seemed to think they were outstanding
people, smarter than anyone else, more capable and even more
ethical than the average person. Ha ha! Ethics, justice,
understanding of anyone who disagreed with them, was beyond
their ken. Everyone who disagreed with them was a damn fool,
and that was the end of it. Deb is the only one of them still
living. Well informed as he is, you would think he would like
to converse with other people who were somewhere nearly on the
same intellectual level. Not he. All his friends were picked from the least informed, the least educated.. In this way, he
could "lord," it over all his friends. He could make them
believe that he was the most important, and smartest man on
earth. He loved that feeling of being judged to be up there
somewhere near the gods.
When he was accidently thrown with someone who was
educated, or well informed, he couldn't be vehement enough
about what a damn fool that person was. If that person
disagreed with him, his hostility seemed to know no bounds.
He couldn't show his contempt enough. He would not argue with
this type, however. He would bide his time, until he was with
his "inferiors," again, and then vent his contempt for anyone
who dared not think as he did. His "arguments," were always
toward those whom he knew he could override, or with those,
like his sisters, and nieces and nephews, whom he knew would
not dare contradict him. We, his sisters, had always been
taught that we did not dispute the word of the older ones. In
fact, I was scared to death of all of my brothers, and
believed I didn't have any right watsoever to cross any of
them. All my sisters were quite a lot the same way, even
though some of them did not, and do not hate Deb as much as I
do--or claim not to.
I was born near Tulia, Texas, in 1913. I was, as I
said, the eighth child of Mattie and Haden Walling. My
mother admitted that she never did want any children, and I am
quite sure my dad never did, either. He almost always behaved
as if he hated us. It is true, I think, that mama and dad
both enjoyed their new babies after they arrived, until the
next one came--then the older one was shunted over into the
annoying "growing up," group and the baby was the new pet. Mama always carried the new baby around on her hip while she
cooked and did the other necessary chores. Dad liked to play
with the babies, like a child with a new puppy, until they
cried, or needed attention, or until he tired of playing. If
the psychologists are correct, this is probably the only--or
one of the only things, that prevented us all from being
completely ruined by the lack of love and attention. That
first two years, they say, are formative, and even though the
shock of suddenly being no longer the pet, was devastating, to
say the least, this first two years was probably extremely
beneficial for what mental stability we have.
The fact that I realize that my brothers and my dad, and
my mother, too, were certainly molded by the same kinds of
nonsalubrious circumstances I was, does not make me feel any
more love for them. Like mama with the flies, and ticks, I
would not do any of them any harm, if I could. I wish them
only the best, but my hatred is not lessened. This, of
course, brings up another psychological question. Just
exactly what is hate; and what is love. Can one hate and not
wish the object of that hate any harm? Can one deplore the
actions of others, and that abject malevolence, not be hate,
but be love, because you do not wish any harm to the
perpetrator of pain and heartache? I am not sure. I do not
believe that anyone could say that I love my dad and brothers,
because I would make some sacrifice to keep them from
heartache or suffering.
I can remember some of the things that happened in my
life before we left Texas. I was not yet three when we left.
I remember of sitting on the dresser, which was in the living-
room. I remember mama sitting in a rocking-chair, holding the
baby. That baby had to be Billie, of course. I remember of
sensing somehow, that mama was worried that I would knock
something off the dresser top, or get the mirror, where I was
looking at myself, soiled. The Molotte girls were combing my
hair and making a fuss over me. They were close to Flo's and
Hank's ages. I was loving the attention. I didn't want mama to be worried, but I didn't want the girls to stop their
attentions, either. I honestly believe that from that day on--
and maybe even before--I never had another day without some
guilt or feeling of failing in my obligations, and what was
expected of me.
When the girls decided it was time for them to go home, I
remember of them taking the little, dusty path that led under
the wire fence. Flo and Hank were running up that path with
them. I was behind. I ran as far as the fence. I can still
see Flo and Hank crawling under that fence in the dust, but
couldn't get under it. That is as far as I can remember, too.
The next memories I have are of arriving at Grandma's
house in New Mexico. We arrived in a wagon. Aunt Mary and
Lou came running out, in their long dresses, to meet us. They
helped us down, and there again, we were treated like someone
could care about us. They were genuinely glad to see us.
They hugged us and led us into the house. That is almost all
I remember about that occasion. One other thing, is that I
remember of looking into the bright blue eyes of someone--the
others disagree on who it was--who picked me up by the ankles
and saying "Hold your back tip," brought me in an upright
position, as I held my back stiff, to be even with his eyes.
We were really on our way to Montana, where dad and Haden
had already gone. We had come from Texas in the wagon, but we
were to go the rest of the way by train. When Billie, who
couldn't have been more than eighteen months old, heard the
plans to go on the train, she said, "I can't go. I can't
straddle the train!"
I don't remember anything about that trip. I do know
that all of us kids got sick, with measles, I think it was,
and that mama had to take us off the train and remain in a
hotel somewhere until we were released from quarantine. How
she paid for this, I have no idea. We never did have any
money. I wouldn't be surprised to know that she had to wire
some of her relatives for enough to bail us out. That would
have been very difficult for mama. She had a great deal of pride. She never did ask anyone for anything, excepting in a
very few cases of absolute necessity.
I don't remember about arriving in Montana. I remember
of hearing the others talk about it. They said dad was
working in a butcher-shop. In fact, I think he owned a half-
interest in it. He was a good butcher. Dad could do almost
anything. He could have made a good living as a carpenter, or
cabinet maker, or probably even building furniture, or any
one of many other things. He just didn't want to work. Who
am I to judge him. I didn't want to work, either. I know and
can explain why I didn't want to work but I can't understand
why he didn't.
As always, we moved every few months, in Montana. Dad
always saw "greener pastures," somewhere else...anywhere,
other than where he was. He had dragged mama, and whatever
children they had at the time, around with him ever since they
Of course almost all the work and worry of moving was
mama's. Dad never did much of anything he didn't just want
to. Mama was an exceptionally clean and sanitary woman. She
never moved into a place without cleaning, scrubbing, and
making the place as neat as possible. She never moved out of
a place without leaving it sparkling clean, too. Well, I
shouldn't use the word "sparkling." None of the places we
ever lived could have been said to sparkle under the best of
Dad sold his half-interest in the butcher-shop and we
moved. Dad had a falling-out with the man we rented our next
place from, and wouldn't stay there. Haden and Ray went to
work in the harvest field. Haden was young and strong. He
had to be about sixteen then. Ray was a scrawnie kid, so thin
one would wonder how his back held his body up. They worked
twelve hours a day out in that hot sun and dust, seven days a
week. I think that some of the older ones said that dad
worked part of the time, too.
I still have a letter Ray wrote to me. He told about dad's going to their boss and collecting their wages at the
end of the week. He took the money and went into town and got
drunk. He also had always to have his tobacco, and his
coffee, whether there was anything to eat in the house, or
not. More than likely he bought a few groceries too, with the
I can remember quite a few incidents that happened after
we moved into what was called the "Fred Lowe" place. Mama and
Bert had managed to acquire a couple of nice milk cows and a
couple of heifer calves. It was wonderful to have all the
milk, cottage cheese, cream and butter we wanted. Bert was
alway a "tomboy." She and mama had problems over this. Mama
wanted her girls to be "little ladies." Bert didn't want to
be a lady. She refused. I think it was probably a very good
thing she didn't want to be a lady, because the things she had
to do, most young ladies would resent a lot. She always took
care of the cows and calves. She took care of the horses,
too, when we had them. She loved horses more than she did
anything else in the world, I think.
Anyway, when I was about five, Bert began taking me with
her to get the cows. I loved pattering along after her in the
dusty trails. I, like she, enjoyed being outside more than
inside the house. I spent every minute I could with Bert. I
think to this day, I have to give Bert a lot of credit for
saving my sanity. She seemed to enjoy my company, and she
took good care of me. When we found the cows each night, she
would lift me up onto Old Pale's back, and I would ride home.
It was a joyful experience. Just being with Bert was a joyful
experience. She liked to talk. She was very intelligent and
creative. She taught me many things. She didn't know she was
teaching me--there was nothing pedagogic about her. She just
talked to me about things that interested her. Mostly how to
care for the animals.
When we got back to the barn with the cows, Bert would
send me to the house to get the milk-bucket. Mama always put some hot water from the teakettle in it, so that Bert could
rince the pail out before milking. Bert usually sat me up in
the manger while she milked. I was afraid of the long horns
the cows tossed around. Quite often, Bert would have to send
me back to the house to get a five pound lard pail, in which
to finish the milking. When the weather permitted it, she
milked outside. Even though there were times in my life when
Bert got irritated with me, and one time she slapped me very
hard for I know not what even to this day, I still feel that
Bert simply was not on the same level with other mortals.
Well, actually she wasn't. She was more intelligent than
most, and far more talented than anyone else ever realilzed.
She never had any idea, I believe, herself how talented she
was. She used up her life and wasted her talent working for
wages--to support a worthless son and his children. The only
other person who realized her full potential for art, was my
son, Jim Tarbert. He remembers and often talks about the fact
that she could draw animals with a few scribbles of the pen or
pencil. They were as uniform as any picture could possibly
be. It didn't matter what position the animal she was drawing
was in--a horse bucking, a dog jumping, a rooster crowing, a
man falling from a saddle, or anything else, it was all in
proportion, each joint just as it would be if it were a
I don't think most people, even most artists, realize how
hard that is to do. Even Leonardo Da Vinci, had to make
several marks with the pencil, from which he then chose that
which looked most right. That is the way he taught his
students to do. Bert never erased a mark, nor had to choose
among them. When she made one, it was already right--always.
What wouldn't I give for a smidgeon of that talent. Millions
of other people would give a great deal to have that much
talent, too--but few, if any anywhere, were ever that
talented. What a waste!
All of us were talented. Any of the boys could play
almost any musical instrument they picked up. They all had wonderful voices, too. Ray had the best. His voice and dad's
were capable of raising emotions one hadn't previously known
one had. Ray could make you cry or laugh, or want to do both
at the same time. He could make you feel that you had been
carried away out of your own body and existed without body--or
that your body had been reincarnated into anotherr completely
different. Actually, no one could describe what he could do
with his singing voice--so I don't know why I am trying...
How hard to believe that a man gifted with such unusual
qualities, along with his great charm, handsome countenance,
good body, beautiful eyes, strong, white teeth, could be a
molester of children. What made him so unhappy. People
adored him, men, women and children. He could have done
anything with his life he chose. He could have become
president of the United States. People swarmed around him
like flies after honey. There would have been a lot of energy
thrown behind anything he wanted to do, as all these people
would have backed him to the Nth degree.
He died a miserable drunk, without ever realizing any of
his potential--without, indeed, ever even knowing he had that
potential. He was always unhappy and depressed. He had no
self-esteem, no confidence in himself or his ability. He
never got to enjoy all the gifts he had been handed. what a
Who knows what drove him to molest little girls. I
believe that there is something in the lives of people like
him, that causes them to be perverted. I have read that some
large per cent of all sexual molesters of children, were
sexually molested when they were children. I don't know
whether anything like this ever happened to him, or not. It
certainly could have.
It makes me wonder about myself too, when I think that he
came within a hair's breadth raping my daughter when she was
only about twelve, and that I can still feel more love for him
than I do for Haden, Deb, or my dad. While I do not believe
there is a more heinous crime than child abuse, especially sexual abuse, I supose the fact that Ray treated me with so
much more respect than the others did, that my feelings about
him were not so twisted. While I do not believe that Haden or
Deb or my dad would have sexually abused a child, certainly
they abused me, and all the other children in the family who
were young enough that they could manhandle them, or maneuver
them, or control them. Maybe that is part of the reason I
don't feel even as much hatred toward Ray, even though I feel
more hatred for his crimes.
When we had to leave the Fred Lowe place, Dad sold all
our cows. They wee Red and Pale, with cales, Sunshine, nearly
ready to calve and and Tulip, a young heifer. Tulip was
red,with little freckles on her hooves. Bert led me over to
her and stooping down, pointed to one of tose freckles and
said, "See that little freckle? Don't ever forget it as long
as you live.
When I was a a child, I had terrible nightmares. I feel
sure in light of the psychological books I have read that they
were a result of my fear and hatred of my brother Haden and my
dad. Haden hated me, and he never lost any chance to make
that known to me. Mama said that when I was about a year
old, Haden came home, after being away for several months. He
came over and picked me up and I squalled. Haden was like
dad. He liked kids as long as they didn't give him any
trouble, and were fun to play with. He couldn't stand a kid
that "squalled." Ever since that day he hated me. He kept me
in misery any time he was near, for the rest of my life.
Haden liked Flo and Ole and Billie. They hadn't ever
squalled when he wanted to play with them, I guess. Flo was
the most daring one of the girls. She defied him now and
then, and he liked her "spunk." Ole was so quiet that she
never caused anyone any trouble of any kind. Billie was the
baby, and she too, showed her spunk. One time when we were
all on the train, Ole and Billie were riding in the seat with
Haden. Billie stood up and when Haden started to make her sit
down, she said, "I'll spit in your eye!" Haden laughed and no
one in the family ever forgot that. If I had ever had any
spunk it had all been taken out of me long before that.
I may never have had any, but I am inclined to believe I
had had. I was always called "feisty." I was the one that
always fought back, other than to Haden. I don't know whether
the family disliked me because I was feisty--that caused
"trouble"--or whether I got feisty from knowing that I was not
capable of achieving approval.
In one of the homes we lived in in Montana, we girls all
slept upstairs. I was scared to death. When we moved into
that house, we were told that it was"haunted." There were big
stains on the stairsteps, and we were told that they were
blood stains; that a man had been murdered there--or that a
man had murdered his wife. Of course we kids believed it.
Anyway, by this time, I was having terrible nightmares
every nitht, which helped further to take all that "spunk"
Haden admired, out of me. I discovered later, that Hank had
nightmares, too, which kept her in a constant nervous state.
I don't remember whether it was before we lived in that
house or after, that we were all out playing one night. We
had some company, but I don't remember who the company was.
anyway, we were all running and having quite a good time. It
began to get dark. All the company left. Somehow, Haden got
Hank and me over to an old abandoned cellar and down into it.
I think we must have all gone into it at first. Anyhow, he
got everyone out excepting Hank and me, and then put the door
down. It was very dark, damp, spider-filled, and smelly. Of
course Hank and I became hysterical. We could hear Haden
laughing up above. I don't remember how we got out, but I
expect Flo induced him to open the door. Incidents like this
certainly didn't add to our showing any "spunk"
He hated Hank, too, and treated her in the same way he
treated me. He caused her to have a nervous breakdown. We
didn't know what a nervous breakdown was at that time, but after I learned what they are like, it was easy to know that
was what she suffered. She couldn't ever relax. She had
nightmares, too, and had "trembling" spells. One time she was
looking down over the banister and saw Bert. She started
screaming. She was so frightened she almost fainted just
ecause she hadn't expected to see Bert there at that time. I
don't know what all he did to make Hank so nervous, but I
expect that he started in on her years before he started
torturing me. She is five years older than I.
As poor as we were and as much as we moved around, mama
always managed to keep her feather-bed. She made it up each
morning and spread it over with a snow-white sheet. (We never
since I can remember, had sheetss for our beds, but somehow
mama managed to keep that one, and keep it sparkling white for
her feather-bed). Most of the time that feather-bed was in
the living-room. Everyone in the house knew that it was taboo
to go near that bed. Mama would not have any dents made in
it, or any grimey hands touching it.
However, if one of us was sick enough, mama would usually
put us in her sacred feather-bed. I had begun to have very
severe headaches by the time I was five. I expect the causes
were mental and physical--fear, dread, lack of sleep,
malnutrution. Anyhow, Mama put me in her bed at these
times. On several different occasions Haden came to the bed,
picked me up by one heel, swung me around. "You don't have
any headache!" he said. "Get out of that bed and quit puttin'
on." Mama never said a word. As I said before, I believe she
and dad were afraid of Haden. Maybe he had taken the "spunk,"
out of them, too, by that time. He was seventeen when I was
My hatred of Deb seems to me as intense as my hatred for
Haden. I can't understand this myself, because in many ways
Deb did champion me at times. I remember of calling him "good
Haden," and Haden "bad Haden," when I was little. I really
didn't know them apart, otherwise. They were gone out to work
sometimes and when they would return, I never was sure which
was which. Deb did make Haden put me down on one of the
occasions when he picked me up by the heel to swing me around
when I had such a splitting headache. Deb was older, and had
probably put the fear of God into Haden when they were
small. As far as I know, he was the only person who had any
influence whatsoever on Haden's terrible behavior.
When we lived in the house with the upstairs, Deb got
sick. He was in bed in a room downstairs. We kids would go
in to see if he needed a drink of water, or something, Two or
three different times, when I did this, he grabbed my wrist
and wouldn't let me go. This brought on contradictory
emotions. It scared me because I was helpless. But I was
flattered that anyone would want me around enough to hold onto
me in that way. I thought (much later), that it might have
been an opening to sexual child abuse. My sister says--and I
am inclined to believe now that she is right--that he did the
same thing to her, and that she believes he was simply lonely
in there hour after hour by himself, and wanted our company.
In any case, it left a pretty deep imprssion on me.
When we lived at this house, we owned two horses. One
was Old Nell. She was very old, In fact, I believe some of
the neighbors had turned her out to "pasture." Dad got her in
and used her to pull the buggy and to plow the garden and so
forth. We also had a beautiful horse named Rosenanti. He
was a good saddle-horse. Bert loved to ride him. Mama and
dad worried about her as they were not sure the horse was
At this time Mama still had a nice old coat her mother
had given her. It was cut in at the waist, and flared at the
bottom, as was the style. Mama also had a becoming hat she
had been able to hang onto. Once in a while, she would decide
she could dispense with her everlasting chores. She would get
dressed up, put on her hat, hitch up the horse to the buggy
and drive away to "Aunt Betty's." Aunt Betty was her mother's
sister. She had married a Divine. They were comparatively
wealthy wheat farmers. I think they had had an influence on
mama and dad in getting them to go to Montana from Texas.
Mama usually took me with her. She was irritated with me for
having to go, but she didn't dare leave me at home when Haden
was around. I hated the long, dusty trips, but I did enjoy
being at Aunt Betty's. They always had good food, and I
always was given some kind of treat, often an apple. Also, it
was a pleasure to be dressed in my best clothes.
One time when we went to Minnie's, I was trying as usual,
to be good, but the strong smell of apples assailed me. I
said, "I smell apples." Mama scolded me and shushed me up.
She believed that I was bidding for an apple. As much as this
might have been like me, on that occasion, I was not hoping to
get one--but the wonderful smell overwhelmed me so much that I
lurted it out. I got an apple.
Someties, mama would take some of the other children. I
think they enjoyed going on these trips, too. Minnie Divine
was mama's cousin and they loved each other. Orion was
Minnie's brother. There was also a retarded boy, Paul, in
this family. There were two married sister's. Their names
were Molly Henderson and Nannie Bivens. I believe they had
both gone to Oaksdale, Washington, to live at the time we were
We used the poor old worn out horse, too, to go to pick
chokecherries. Flo and Hank and Ole and I usually went on
these trips. I wasn't able to pick enough berries to make it
pay to take me along, but I was at least out of mama's way. I
enjoyed these excursions. It was cool by the pond where we
went. I liked the bitter chokecherries--we were all probably
starved for fruit, and the chokecherries were rich in citrus.
I even got a few in the bottom of my bucket to add to those
taken home for mama to make chokecherry syrup. The old horse
was allowed to drink and browse while we picked berries. We
usually had some kind of lunch, too. I don't remember what it
was, but it did make the whole day seem like a picnic outing. No small part of my liking to go along was that we were away
from my dad all that time. I wasn't as afraid of my dad as I
was of Haden, but I hated to be around him, and tried to avoid
him any time I could.
One day Old Nell could not be found. Hank worried about
her. One of the neighbors reported that he had seen her over
near the pond. Hank and one of the others, probably Flo, went
to look for her. She was there, bogged down in the
quicksand. Han and whoever was with her tried to help her
out. Of course their efforts were worse than useless. Each
struggle the horse made, caused her to sink farther into the
mud. She lay there and died. That was almost more than Hank
could bear. It seemed to leave a greater scar on her psyche
than it did on the others.
There was a heartbreak too, for Bert over Rosenanti. I
don't remember just what happened, but I believe dad sold him.
From there we moved to Carter. We didn't have any land
there, or any milk cows, even though it was in the country.
We lived about a mile from the town. I was not old enough to
go to school, but once in a while, I was allowed to go and
visit in Ole's room. I remember two incidents there. One was
when the teacher told the children to go to the board for
something. I went along, not knowing what was expected of
me. As I stood there I felt the warm wet urine pouring down
my legs. I wet my pants and wet all over the floor. I had
been so accustomed to not having any "spunk" that I was afraid
to tell the teacher I had to go to the toilet.
Another time, Ray came in to meet us when we got out
ofschool. He brought each of us a box of cracker jacks. What
a treat! A special treat like that was something we hardly
ever had. It was delicious, besides the wonderful feeling of
having it seem someone cared about us. That was the way it
was for me, anyway. Maybe things like that were some of the
reasons I could forgive Ray for his abhorant crimes more
easily than I could Haden and Deb.
While we were living at that house, Hank and Flo and Ole
were caught in a showstorm. They almost always cut across a
field to go to or from school. It was freezing weather. The
storm became blinding. Ole was so cold she could hardly move,
and almost refused to try. She had been with the older girls
on another occasion, when they were caught in a blizzard.
That time, dad went out and found them. He always got a lot
of credit for knowing just where to look, and for being able
to find his way in the "white-out." When he got the children
home, Ole's hands were frozen. Dad soaked them in cold water,
and then a little warmer and a little warmer until they were
thawed without serious damage. However, to this day, when her
hands get cold, they become almost paralyzed. Probably one of
the things that made it so difficult for Ole to keep going
this second time was the fact that her hands were so nearly
frozen again, and had lost all feeling.
Flo and Hank got Ole's muffler from her neck, put it
around her middle and pulled her along to make her keep
going. They arrived at a neighbor's house about two city
blocks away from our house.
The neighbors were afraid they were going to be blamed
for Ole's frozen hands, or for delaying the children about
getting home, so they were not very cooperative. Flo was
always the aggressive one in our family. She went ahead and
soaked Ole's hands as Dad had done, and probably saved them
from being completely ruined. Hank stayed with Ole at the
neighbors and Flo went to get dad. Dad went down and carried
Ole home and ministered to her hands again.
There was a country road up between the wheat fields,
where we kids liked to walk. One time we were walking along
up this road. We saw an old broken colored, glass door-knob
lying in the road. Hank and Flo told Ole and me it was the
devil's eye. I don't think it bothered Ole, but it scared me
out of my wits. One thing that did scare Ole, though, was
that the older girls asked her to run up ahead for something.
Probably some game they were inventing. When she had run a
few dozen yards, they yelled "That's far 'nough." Ole turned
and ran back as fast as she could, crying "Where's Farnuf?
We still had a buggy, even though there were no horses to
pull it. We kids liked to take the buggy out and coast down
the hill in it. The older ones fixed it up some way so that
it could be guided to a degree. We wuld all get in it, and
start down the hill. It was exciting, if far more dangerous
than we knew.
It was at this house too, that Deb somehow had got a
motorcycle. He was riding it down that same hill, when it
flipped and threw him off. He was quite badly injured. I
didn't know it for years, but he and Haden were drinking
whenever they could get hold of anything intoxicating to
I don't know what we lived on at that time. I don't
remember of any of the boys or dad working, but there may have
been some work in the harvests in the fall. Bert and Flo,
young as they were had jobs when school was out, in the homes
of people who wanted help with their housework. Bert worked
for a family by the name of Miers. They were terribly
stingy. They wouldn't allow Bert to have more than one egg
for breakfast, and showed their parsimony in many other ways.
While she was working there, also, Bert had to fend of the
advances of Mr. Meirs. She was about fifteen years old at
Flo worked for a family by the name of Fourboards. She
didn't enjoy it, but didn't have as much trouble I believe, as
did Bert. Of course, as I said, Flo was the most aggressive
one of the children, and would have made demands that Bert
wouldn't have. It always seemed like forever between the girls
visits home. It seemed like Heaven too, to us younger ones,
when they could come home for a day.
I don't know why; I never did know why we moved so often, but we moved from that house to Eureka. When we
arrived there, we found a little house up on a hilltop. We
got into it somehow, and stayed there overnight. Right next
to us was a family by the name of . They evidently were
French. They had a girl by the name of Fifi, and one by the
name of . they were close to Bert's age, and they became
quite good friends. Almost sixty years later, when my husband
took me to Eurika to see if there were any thing left that I
could recognize, we found the house in which the 's had
lived, and several others that we recognized, still standing.
We finally settled in a little house down over a hill to
which there were several wooden steps. For some reason there
was a barn. However, there was no room for a milk-cow, or a
horse. We lived right in town. Mama did have a fine garden.
There was a sawmill where Haden got work. I believe Deb
worked at the sawmill, too, for a while. Dad, as usual,
didn't do anything. There was a period in there somewhere,
when he and Deb and Haden worked in the woods. It must not
have been for very long. It was as long, I expect, as Dad
enjoyed the good food they could afford out there where they
camped and the freedom to drink and do as he pleased, without
interference. Mama never gave him much trouble, it seemed to
me, about anything, but she did hate for him to drink, and let
him know it. I don't remember of their ever fighting about
this, but Ole says they often did.
The boys, Haden especially, must have given mama some of
his money. Anyway, we lived better there than we had for a
long time. We had food on the table most of the time. I
remember of wanting a pink dress more than I wanted anything
in the world. One time mama went to town and brought home two
pink dresses for me. I could hardly contain my happiness.
Mama took in washings. She had to do all that laundry by
hand on a washboard, of course, besides taking care of all her
family, doing all the cooking, mending and so on, and keeping
our clothes clean. Flo and Hank sold mustard plasters to earn a bit of money. They did pretty well with them. Mama
even had to use some of the mustard plastars on her poor
aching muscles, in order to keep going. As I said, I cannot
imagine why she ever lived with dad.
. We kids had to deliver the laundry. Once, when Ole and I
delivered some, we saw a tricycle on a big, shaded porch. I
ached to ride it. I don't know how we managed it, but I did
wind up by riding it up the porch. I couldn't express my
thrill at that once-in-a-lifetime event.
There were some people living abut three-quarters of a
mile from out farther from town than we did. Thier name was
Gardner. There was a girl named Aida, who was Ole's age. She
and Ole became quite good friends. She had some kind of
speech impediment. She had an older sister named Irene, who
was about Bert's age. Irene was cosidered a little "wild,"
and mama hated for her daughter to be friends with her. Also,
there were two boys in the Gardner family, Orb and Clyde. The
boys liked to drink and I think Irene did, too. Bert didn't
like the boys, and she never did drink, but I'm sure most
everyone who saw Bert and Irene together so much, thought Bert
was as wild as Irene was.
Deb liked the boy--or at least he liked to run around
with them and drink with them. They drove to Canada every
time they could and brought back bottles of whiskey. Haden
liked to drink too, but he didn't spend much time with the
Gardner boys. I think we have a picture, though, of Haden
taken with the two boys. Also, we have a picture of Ray taken
with Clyde Gardner. This picture shows how scrawney Ray still
was at that time.
There was a girl named Hannah Broderick, who lived down
the road from us, too. She limped. Somehow, this frightened
me. One of my worst nightmares was a dream that someone was
cutting off my kneecaps--and I thought that was why Hannah
limped; because her kneecaps had been cut off. We never did
get very well acquainted with her. Maybe her limp frightened everyone else, too. She always walked alone.
Next door to us lived a woman and her little daughter.
Their name was Sullivan. Mama said afterward that the mother
was crazy. I am inclined to believe it now. We saw her out
nailing boards over all her windowd and doors. She said she
was nailing them up, so that her husband couldn't get in. She
was kind of a pretty woman, and not any older, I think, than
Bert. Her daughter, Cora, was four years old. She introduced
me to sex. In fact it seemed that sex was about all that was
ever on her mind. I was appalled at first, but childlike, I
began to enjoy the sex games. I felt guilty, because it was
against the rules in our house to ever mention anything about
our "private parts," or show our naked selves to even our
sisters or our mother. I began to play sex-games even with my
doll. Of course, guilty as I felt, my feelings were not
really very different about myself than they had always been--
I had always felt guilty about most everything I did, or
thought. I thought I was a "bad" person, in any case. In
later years I tried to draw Ole and Billie into these sex
games, but without much success.
About a block up the street from us lived a family by the
name of Welling. There were four or five girls and they were
all beautiful. One of them was about my age. When my
youngest sister died while we were living at that house, she
came down one time and sat on a little bench beside the house
with me. She told me that she thought it was her fault that
Nina had died. She said she had hated Nina, because Nina was
prettier than she was.
Mr Welling had a patch of potatoes. He wanted us kids to
come up and help them hoe up all the weeds from the potato
patch. I went along. I couldn't tell the potatoes from the
weeds, and proceeded to hoe up as many potatoes as I did
weeds. Mr. Welling seemed a little irritated, and kept
showing me which was which, but he never did make me stop
We kids all liked to play in the old barn. Flo and Hand
were good at inventing games. There were big square cuts in
the upper floor which had been used to pitch hay down through.
One day I fell down through one of those holes, and fell right
on a stack of old lumber, where there was a nail sitcking
straight up through a board. The older girls took me to the
house, where I was taken care of--but what I remember best,
was that I was scolded for being dumb enough to fall through