Friday, November 12, 2010

A Sister's Memories


My mother, Joyce Lynn (McGuire) Salling (DOB November 1, 1917) wrote the letter which follows to her older brother Noland McGarvey McGuire after visiting him in Oakland, CA in 1988, following his surgery for a life threatening illness. Joyce drove from Denver together with her sisters Cassandra Ireland (formerly Muriel McGuire) and Audrey (McGuire) Malloy. Noland died not long after, and Joyce in January, 1995. Joyce reported that Noland's reaction to the letter was not entirely positive.

December 7, 1988

Dear Noland,
Since I saw you I’ve been remembering a lot of things from our past. I’ve decided I’d better get started if I want to share them with you. I also wonder if you remember any of this which, evidentally, are high points from my childhood.
The first thing I remember was a man holding me on his lap after dinner and turning over in his chair. I went whimpering to mother, who was outside hanging up the “washing”. The man definitely was Uncle Bee. He spent a summer in Colorado helping Dad, when I was two.
I remember you and I riding in a wagon with this hired man named Jake Schrock. He helped us down and I can hear him saying, “Come Polly” and holding up his arms for the jump into them and to you saying, “O.K. Pucket” and you jumped to him!
Probably the next thing I remember was Dee’s birth. The night began strange. You and I were bedded down in the bedroom, not in our bed in the front room. Some time later I waked. I could hear Taylor and May Havins voices. I could also hear a cat that was really howling! The next morning Dee was there, and she was still doing the cat howl!
My next memories are of you and I playing; chasing the calves up and over a big cane stack that was in the barn, licking the salt block and squeeling and kicking at each other and then drinking from the tank—we were being horses, I guess. I remember mother leaving her riding horse, Gyp, standing tied to the fence, still saddled and bridled and ready to go. You helped me get on and I went for a ride. Gyp walked, probably a quarter of a mile, down the road, which was fenced on each side. The fence stopped and I was ready to turn around and go back home. Gyp wasn’t ready to home. Off in the distance she could see other horses grazing, and so she neighed and started galloping across the prairie around them. I distinctly remember getting both feet on the same side of the horse and then jumping. I also remember the walk home and the loud noise Dad made before finding the pony and returning her to my Mother. And you know what, I doubt I had had my fourth birthday yet. We still lived at the Allie Cline place, and I was probably four when we moved to the High Prairie farm. I know we spent one winter there. I have vivid memories of going to Mays and Taylor’s in a wagon and through prairies covered with snow. As we returned home that evening the horses were trotting along very briskly and some how as you and I horsed around in the back I did the neatest summersault right out of the wagon. Very clearly I remember running very hard trying to catch up and ride home!
Do you remember the new Ford Touring Car and Dad’s trip to New Mexico and Missouri? Do you remember our summer and fall trip to Kentucky and Missouri? The hills the Ford couldn’t climb and we’d all pile out while Dad put it in reverse and backed up hill. Once Dee squatted behind a rear wheel to pee and was almost run over! Do you remember the tent? Dad slept on a folding cot of his own; Mother and Dee slept on one and you, Erwin and I slept together on one. I have memories of lots of pork & beans, Post Toasties and I think, Bran Flakes. In Kentucky I remember crowds of relatives, Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I really do remember carriages, buggies, a spinning wheel and a big weaving loom up in Grandmother’s haymow. I remember Aunt Carma working up there. We saw our first aeroplane while there. It was “down” in a field and was waiting for repairs, I think. People came for miles to see this thing. We packed a picnic lunch and spent the day. This is definitely my first memory of a gala family affair.
I loved that long period of time we spent at Grandma Hooks. I slept with her and I thought she and I were the best of buddies. You and I had a great time playing in the orchard with Aunt Phyllis and Donald and Elizabeth Lowry. Aunt Phyllis was ten that July and you were seven the same month! You haven’t had it so rough, Noland, that poor lady has been in a vegetative state for probably the last thirty years and still lives on! Poor Uncle James.
That Christmas spent at Grandma Hooks was most exciting and so much fun, remember?
I also remember Doyles arrival—he was “just there” one day when we got home from school!
Bucklin has very pleasant memories for me. Some memories are: the robins nest above our hammock, the crotch of a very large tree, the brown Thrush and her nest above the living room window, the Wren nest inside a small hole in a back yard fence. Some traumatic memories: mom letting this “mama hen” chase me around and around her and her doing nothing but laugh, Dee putting my baby bantam chicken into the boiling water of the stove reservoir, my getting Doyle up on top of the barn and almost dropping him off as I tried to get myself up, baby Doyle’s penis turning purple and an emergency trip to see a doctor! To this day I don’t know if that was a permanent condition or just something going around!
Do you remember the wonderful bobsled Dad made and those big beautiful sledding hills? A most exciting thing I remember was Catherine and Mary Easter Riley and I lining up across the middle of the hill and playing chicken as you and Bernard came racing down on your sleds, I was the most daring evidentally. I stood so long I was hit by Bernard’s sled, above the ankles, and I did this neat flip and landed behind him and I rode down the hill. This is absolutely a truthful memory!
Do you remember Mother making us each sew a quilt block before going out to play? Do you remember the wild strawberries, picking Hazel nuts, and that very steep wagon ride down the hill to the bottom land? Remember the mud and Dad taking us to school riding the mules? Evidentally Bucklin lost it’s glow for Dad, but I’ll never know what interested him in Morrilton. What a trip the move to Arkansas was! My memory is very clear of following faint trails through heavily wooded areas. Just when our parents were sure they had lost the trail a highway numbered marker would show up nailed to a tree trunk. We drove and drove and drove and finally arrived at a little tobacco farm carved out of the woods. We made the acquaintance of Mom’s cousins, Ethel, husband Emmet Campbell and their three daughters, Lois, Lenore, and Monabell. (Lenore’s wedding and reception was the one we attended in Arkansas that Christmas.) Thank goodness they were happy to see us because we sure stayed a long time. Dad waked the next morning very ill. He had come down with the chicken pox we kids had been having. Do you remember sampling the tobacco hanging in the barn in the twists?
Two weeks later we continue on to Arkansas. We spent a few days with Mom’s cousin, Ena Covey, rented a little house down the street from them and evidentally furnished it. I remember two beds, a leather davenport that made into a bed, a table, a cookstove with a sheepskin in the floor behind it (what a cozy, warm spot?) and an ice box into which the ice man put ice in about every other day. Do you remember the outhouse and the honey wagon, late at night? Do you remember our first hint that that there was a difference between blacks and whites? The ice plant had the most delightful ice water receptical, on the outside of their building, for the enjoyment of all persons passing by. There were two metal cups chained beside it. One was just a tin cup and was for white folks. The other was painted black and was for the black folks. Once I almost made a mistake and drank from the black cup. Really I gagged at the near mistake! In later life I’ve wondered if any blacks ever drank from “our” cup, just to get even!
Evidentally Dad wasn’t happy with jobs available there. His job with the “dray” company didn’t last long or the one in Traywicks store. I know that before long a period of time he joined Uncle Dee in Detroit and worked for General Motors. I understood that we’d all join him there when they had enough money.
In the mean time you and I thought we were the head of the house. We took our huge basket and picked up and delivered laundry from the girls dormitory at Harding College. Mother did the washing and ironing for the girls in the dorm, who could afford her services. I thought dorm life was terribly exiting. Their laundry smelled beautiful, they probably really poured on the perfume. I always had to preceed you up the stairs calling out “man on second floor” and “man on third floor.” We really got a laugh out of that! For years I dreamed of going back and living in the dorm and going to school!
You know, Noland, I think in Morrilton you received quite an extensive sex education. Our Mother was very friendly with a Mrs. Stanley and her two daughters. There didn’t seem to be a man. The daughters were Dorothy, in my grade, and Doris, an eighth grader and as big as Mother. When our mom’s went to church at night they would leave all us children at home, and big Doris was in charge. Do you remember any sexual activity with her? She would make all us kids stay in the bedroom and she would take you into the kitchen – to “hunt cake” she would say.
There were lots of vacant homes in and around our area and none seemed to have the doors locked. We played in them and had such fun, especially you and Doris! She would take you into the bathroom and something went on between you and Doris in the bathtub! I was posted as a look out to announce the sighting of a mother. What I find so strange about this arrangement was the fact that you are fifteen months older than I and you were her partner in the tub. I was small enough that she would put me on her back and gallop around through the vacant house. This was my treat if I wouldn’t tell about the bathtub game.
I’m sure it was for the best that hard times hit General Motors and Dad was again unemployed. I’m sure Colorado was much kinder to poor people with large families. I certainly was horrified by the Colorado farm scene when we first arrived there. Those badger holes were terrifying to me and the thought of a rattle snake slithering out of them was just to much! We did survive, which is about all I can say!
Do you remember one of our first “chip gathering trips?” You, Erwin, and I filled out wagon with those things they you tied the driving lines around the hub of a front wheel. You and Erwin then walked to a vacant farmstead about a fourth of a mile away telling me to watch the horses. As I remember it, there was plenty to watch! Probably the lines were tied a bit to tight or the horses became tired of standing around. They began to back up and every inch they moved back made the driving lines pull tighter on their bits, which where in their mouths. As the lines tightened, the horses were pulled back on their back feet and then they fell over backward into this screaming pile of horse flesh. I ran for you and I shall never forget how loud you howled as you frantically worked over the mess! I’m still impressed at how smart you were for a dumb city kid. You finally got the bits, which were still in their mouths, apart and then the bridles off their heads and this released the tight pressure. Anyway, you got them up and baked back to the wagon and we all rode home just like nothing had happened! It shocks me to remember how hard you worked at least by the summer of 1929, actually about like a man. I worked hard, too, but I don’t think Mother was quite the expert slave driver that Dad was!
At any time has it ever occurred that all we kids were unkind to you? I don’t think I see it that way. I remember it more as “some younger kid would get in your bad graces” and it took all the rest of us to try and save the victim from you! Somehow you must have invited teasing. Do you remember that pig that you called yours and named Hosana? Well, as I remember, it was always good for a very wild time if we went out to slop the hogs, and we’d yell “Don’t let Hosanna eat”, and we’d her over the head and yell again “Don’t let Hosanna eat!” Talk about a distorted view of fun.
There are lots of nice things I remember about our relationship. You gave me $1.50 to get my first hair perm. They almost burned me to death, however, I have worn my hair straight basically straight ever since! You gave me $3.00 to by a class ring, also the $3.98 to purchase a sleazy black dress, which I thought so beautiful. Do you remember where the money really came from? From Dad’s pocket, that winter he was ill with a lung problem, and his overalls, with billfold, hung in the kitchen! I went along with you, we thought if we did the work, we should have a dollar now and then!
You gave me other money after you left home. One time enough to buy a red sleeveless sweater and a pair of black boots. I wore these with a black skirt and one of your white shirts every single day that I went to school in Fort Collins. It didn’t take me long to discover that the “Minnie Pearl type cotton frock” was not the uniform of the day, on college campuses, even in the old days! This is just a little tidbit that I’m tossing in. That semester, at Colorado State, I had the highest grade in the freshman class of plus six hundred students!
By the way, what year did you actually leave home? I’m sure you were around for Curtis’s birthing, November 10, 1929. That’s the first time I really caught on to the signs of a new arrival. If we kids got up, Dad was making breakfast and Mom was still in be, start moving over at the table and in the beds! Curtis arrived through a terrible blizzard stranding us kids down in the terrible cold basement or hours. Dad officiated, evidentally, he didn’t go to the basement.
Perhaps you were gone and missed Audreys arrival, October 23, 1932. By this time I was also catching up on the cause of the problem! I heard Opal Simpson tell Mother that if Richard so much as laid his trousers across the bed she became pregnant! I could not understand why Dad wasn’t more careful—he probably only had a couple pairs of trousers to keep track of!
In spite of all your obvious problems with Dad I felt hat when you did make your appearances you showed a very genuine respect for him. I thought you did a better job of forgiving and forgetting than I did. I also felt, that in God’s eyes, he did a very good job – the best he knew how. I really believe that, so why does it still annoy me to remember certain times? I remember working so hard and so long that my arms ached until I could not sleep. This particular bad memory was when Mom was so very ill and in the Brush Hospital. The morning finally arrived when she was able to return home. Dad brought the first pails of milk to the basement to the separator and I haven’t got the cream pail in place! Do you know how he handled this oversight? He comes roaring into the kitchen and he is yelling “Where is the cream pail?” “If you can’t do anything right around here get out! I’ll hire someone who can do something.” I stuck around and do you know why? Because he never, at any time, thought of hiring anyone. Mother was getting home and she could do it! There, I have that off my chest, now I can forget it.
You know, there is one very positive and wonderful thing about my life and I give Dad all the credit for that and I’m grateful. You wouldn’t guess in a million years what that is so I shall tell you. I always was very determined never to marry and be reduced to this non-person that I felt Mother was. Probably this accounted for my fun times with much younger guys. Dennis kind of sneaked up on me!
Dennis and I had so much fun. He had this wonderful fun loving nature, and he loved his mother so much and was so kind and good to her. He also had good ideas about marriage. I couldn’t resist! I’ve never regretted it and I hope he hasn’t. We’ve had a very wonderful life and wonderful children. How I love them, I wouldn’t want to change a thing, so I guess it is time to say “Thanks Dad, you are forgiven!”
Also, it is time to say, “Bye, Noland, I love you, and I pray I’ll see you in heaven.



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