Drum Corps: The beautiful brass sound of ballads filling the air. My favorite seats were top row. On a mild and breezy evening you can get so wrapped up in the sound and the images much like a quiet evening on the seashore listening to the gentle waves lapping on the sand.
I enjoyed band but I loved drum corps. One fall band competition I noticed a booth for the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps so I picked up a brochure. Later the next day I handed it to my son who brushed it aside with an "I don't want to do that" and gave me a look of disdain for what I was trying to get him involved in. Ironically at the end of May that year his best buddy who had joined the Blue Knights told him that the horn instructor would give them a six pack of Mountain Dew if he brought Scott to the next practice. So for a six pack of Mountain Dew his life was forever changed. He would go on to blow his bugle in the heat, rain and wind across America up and down many times over the next four years building relationships that would last a life time.
At the same time that he was performing the summers in drum corps he began performing the winters in Winter Guard building another set of lifetime relationships. After three trips to the world championships for Winter Guard, garnering one silver medal, and four trips to drum corp world championships as a bugler (high brass lead in the 4th year), he wanted to either be the drum major or perform in the drum corps guard. With the Blue Knights that was not possible. He was needed as a strong horn player and they did not have male guard members. In the fall of 1992 he flew to Bergen County, New Jersey and auditioned for the Cadets guard and won a spot. The 1700 mile (flight) trip several times a year and corps fees were expensive but he had saved and kept working to pay for the experience. This final drum corps experience would take him to the world championships in 115° Jackson, MS that August and a gold medal and championship ring.
How do I fit in with all of the above since this is my story? Overland High School Band Parent Vice President, President, Bingo Operations Manager and Bingo Games Manager for 4 years; Winter Guard International - Bingo Games Manager for independent guards for 3 years and 1 year as independent guard sponsor and fundraiser (++++), all of which included 4 trips to the world championships in Dayton, OH; Blue Knights Drum Corps - 4 years as Bingo Games Manager, 2 years on the corporate board of directors and many other volunteer projects as well as 3 trips to the Drum Corps world championships. And then came the Cadets of Bergen County when I stood on the sidelines of that Jackson, MS field with tears as I heard the announcer name off 11 places without the calling the Cadets. They had won the world championships by 1/10th of a point. The after show celebration was unique as in the parking lot as all celebrated who should come to celebrate the win with Scott: the 4 second soprano buglers from the Blue Knights that he had lived with for four summer tour years.
The Cadets had a long history of championships and funding. They were a very sought after corps with a group of supporters that followed them year after year. Most of the volunteers were from the New Jersey area except for Moe and Moe was from "Nawlans." He was totally unique and I fell in love with him for the two weeks we were on tour together. The Cadets schedule brought them to Denver and Drums Along the Rockies. I used the opportunity to hook up with them as a van driver through the last leg of their tour into finals. I volunteered to drive the cooks van so the cooks could sleep. While the buses with corps members, instructors and management were air conditioned. The van for the cooks was not. Even though travel was always during the night, that summer was a hot one and you often could not drive with the windows down as the heated wind took your breath away. We first stopped in Hutchinson, KS for a show and then on to a show in Oklahoma, Dallas, Houston and finally Jackson, MS. The biggest entertainment during the dark of knight was identifying the manure smells along the highway: pig farm, no feed lot, no ??? Needless to say the nights were long and bathroom breaks were few. Somewhere during our last leg into Jackson we stopped at a gas station where the bathroom was an upstairs composting type of toilet with only a curtain. As I was about to pull the curtain back I saw to the side of me two white eyes lit by the gas lamp. I closed the curtain back and spent the rest of the journey in agony.
Somewhere along the way between Kansas and Dallas a big bug blew in through the open window and committed suicide in my eye. If it weren't so painful it would have made a comedy act. My eye was so sore as a part of the bug seemed embedded in it. I had to keep it closed to drive as the hot air that came in the window greatly aggravated it. At one point I taped the bottom of a paper cup over it to protect it from the hot wind. When we hit Dallas, I was taken to an ER unit where I was diagnosed with conjunctivitis and given an antibiotic which helped greatly.
Every where I go I carry a good camera. I had been taking quite a few pictures of the corps when the director came to me and said (not asked), "I want you to take 700 slides of the tour and I will pay for the film and printing." Throughout those two weeks I did take that many pictures but he was not happy about the cost as I had copies made of the slides for them. I took pictures for myself first and copies for the Cadets which turned out to be expensive. Digital has made such a difference in the world of documentation.
Dallas housing was in a beautiful high income area high school. The driver's quarters were in the "dance studio" with walls of mirrors and spring floor including AIR CONDITIONING. Finally I slept and recuperated. After one competition and a few days of rehearsal we moved on to Houston where housing was in a high school in a deprived area. There were huge cockroaches hanging from the ceiling and on the walls. The shower drains and bathroom sinks were peppered with dead cockroaches. This was the only location where corps members personal items were stolen and where I had a heart wrenching experience. After two months of touring competition one set of the guard's flags were pretty shaggy looking. The seamstresses on tour had called a strike and refused to sew new ones. Scott had mentioned to the guard instructors that I had sewed many flags for his groups before. One of the guard instructors asked me if I would (and could) make 32 flags before finals which was in about 4 days. The flags were double headed lion silhouettes on an a burgundy background. This would mean that I would be photographer, driver and now seamstress. My comment was that if it made 1/10th of a point difference in their show I would do it. This also meant that I had to deal with the defiant attitude of the corps women who had refused to do the task. The guard members and instructors set about laying out and cutting all of the flags as I sewed them together. I don't recall exactly the amount of time it took but I do remember sleepless nights. I was exhausted and asked to sleep on the instructor's air conditioned bus. When I sat down on the bus, I was immediately ordered out by the instructors. Back to the cooks hot van. Although I garnered a great deal of respect for the corps members, the determination they fostered to perfect a beautiful show and the teamwork atmosphere that made it happen, I lost tremendous respect for the management and was happy to see the end of the tour. The greatest reward came when the final championship winning score was announced, the Cadets show, "In the Spring at a Time When Kings Go Off To War," had won by 1/10th of a point.
If tomorrow never comes...and yesterday is done...will I have left my family and friends with happy thoughts of me. Reaching seventy and watching friends and family go before me, I choose my words ever so much more carefully than before. If tomorrow never came and my last words to any of my grandchildren were harsh, would I rest easy in heaven? Would my parting be more difficult for them? What should I have done or said that would leave them with happy thoughts of me? Sometimes after their terse words (today's generation I will leave there) I just look at them rather than respond. Often I hear "WHAT" back even if I have spoken no words.
If tomorrow never comes - are you prepared? That is a question I ask myself often. That one question translates to many questions.
1. What to do with me? A firm believer that heaven waits and that the body is non-essential after death, I have instructed my children that I am to be cremated. I have even down-to-the-dollar detail explained that elaborate preparation would not be for my benefit and they can put the money to better use. As an avid traveler in advancing years I have instructed my children that if I should pass when overseas to "fry me" and mail the ashes home. Do not waste money shipping a body from overseas to home when I would be cremated here anyway.
I wasn't one to be "potted" in life but I do want to be potted in death. Specifically there is a company (website: www.thelivingurn.com ) that specializes in sapling pots for planting of ashes. I would like to be potted in a Silver Maple Tree and planted on the family homestead. How is that for economics and efficiency? Perhaps a small plaque mounted on the tree with my favorite quote: "Imagination is more important than knowledge." Albert Einstein.
2. Who to contact? I have listed along with my will and "planting" directions the few key people to contact to notify friends and relatives. I have many friends and relatives in South Dakota where I grew up and the same in Colorado where I have spent close to 40 years very involved in many arts and sports activities as well as a number of businesses.
3. What type of services and where? In following with my love of theatre, I would want the Colorado service to be held at a small theatre on a Monday night which is the night most theatres are dark. This would not be a religious service, rather a memorial where people would hopefully share funny stories and show a slide show, pictures which I may have already put on thumb drive. Music, skits or whatever else.
In South Dakota where I want my potted ashes planted, I would like the service on a weekend at the Sturgis Methodist Church where I was baptized and confirmed. I would rather people came to the service to say goodbye and not be thinking about having to donate to a memorial or to my family who will be financially covered for everything.
Some graduating students fear that step off from security of home and consistency. Not me. I had been living on my own all of my senior year and looked forward to a new and less time-constricting life. Oblivious to how it snowballed, I had floated through high school accumulating organizations and offices held in them. Mom asked me once why I did all of the things I did and the only answer I could give her was that others asked me to or voted for me even though I may not have run of my own initiative. As a senior I participated in: Future Homemakers of America (President), Thespians (Student Council Representative), Student Council, Yearbook (Editor), Methodist Youth Fellowship (President), Honor Society and L-13 (as social organization not involved with school.) Participation-only organizations were Chantelles, an all girls choir, and Pep Club. Throughout all of this I worked in a grocery store as a checker 20 hours a week. In the Spring of 1964 I won a trip to the United Nations with 60 Methodist youth from all over the state. For 10 days we lived on the bus while spending 3 days at the United Nations listening to delegates talk about their countries and problems, toured Washington, DC and observed a congressional session and spent two days in Chicago visiting a depressed area and the work the church was doing there.
I had missed my senior prom for a few reasons: 1) I had just returned from an exhausting trip one week prior, 2) I had no money to pay for prom, and 3) I had been asked via the grapevine to go with a young man that I really liked but I had been dating exclusively the young man at boot camp. Not wishing to complicate things I declined the heresay invitation. I had attended the Junior/Senior prom in both my Sophomore and Junior years. My senior year was topped off with an explosive graduation party that in itself is a story and lesson for every unknowing young girl; what can so easily happen to you and the lifelong memory and reminders that follow.
Escape from everything and probably everyone except my family was pretty much on my mind that June. An invitation to work as a desk clerk in a hotel 30 miles away was easy to accept. I had no car but my aunt was the bookkeeper and invited me to live with her and my uncle. They had only had one boy and he was grown up with a family of his own in another state. The summer was fun at the hotel. I met many new people who were a lot older than myself. The exposure in the workplace to older responsible team members was great for my growth as an employee. I worked the night shift most of the summer which at times was a real lesson in other ways. The making of the original movie, Deadwood, happened in South Dakota that summer. The producer/director (I can't remember which) stayed the summer as a hotel guest. His revolving door of young Indian women opened my eyes to the trash of the project. I remember one particular young man (yet much older than I) who befriended me across the desk. He was always interested in what I was doing and often late at night what I was reading. I showed him a book I had picked up and was halfway through. To my surprise he raised his voice, chewed me out about the garbage type of book I was reading and lectured on and on about lack of values and ethics in that trash. That really stuck with me and age 18 was the last and only time I ever started to read a trash novel. On a more congenial Friday night he asked me what I was going to do that night when I got off work. I told him I was going to go to Spearfish with some of my girl friends. To my confusion he asked "How do you do that?" It took me a while to understand that he wanted to know how I was going to "spear fish." I grew up around that area and never once gave thought to the name of the little town as anything other than "Spearfish." One word. Name of a town. Nothing else. I to this day do not know why the town was named Spearfish. For me Friday in Spearfish meant dancing with a few hundred young people from miles around at the Park Pavilion, an open air dance venue.
Interesting how names are accepted without question. Only when I saw the local undertaker's business on national television did it dawn on me that the "Jolly Funeral Home" was a humorous play on words. The Jollys were school mates that I grew up with. Their family owned a funeral parlor. End of thoughts.
I don't recall dating anyone that summer. I palled around with a few young men but nothing serious. A tall handsome young man that I had worked with at the grocery store the previous year was one of the pall dates. He drove a unique car named Avanti. His dad was a doctor so he had privileges that most of us did not. I don't recall whether we went to movies or races or ???? only that he was a lot of fun to practice necking with. His privilege did not serve him greatly as he died on a naval ship from a suspected drug overdose. I did find it odd that his family allowed a party (after graduation) in the basement of their home and provided cases of port wine for underage drinkers.
I had not intended to go to college in the fall of 1964 because: 1) I had no idea how to register, 2) I had absolutely no money and had just bought a car, and 3) I didn't think I was smart enough to go to college. Growing up all I wanted to be was an interior decorator. I looked in a catalog for schools where you could learn the art and could only find one a thousand miles away in Washington state. That was totally out of the question as I had absolutely no idea how to make it happen nor the funds to make it happen. The desire to be an interior decorator lingered with me for years but I never acted upon it.
In late August my brother drove from Eugene, Oregon where he was attending the University, informed me that I was going to college, took me up to the local college (Black Hills State College) and enrolled me paying my tuition and fees. I still had to make payments on my car, gas and insurance so I continued to work nights at the hotel, drive 50 miles to school, stop for a few minutes at my families home for sleep then head back to the hotel to work the night. I had begun to rely on No-doze pills to stay awake in class, at work and driving. Something had to give and it was the job. Thank God for my dad who help me with car payments to finish the semester.
The term "gripped with fear" has a real reality to it. Exposed to any element of height would freeze my entire body, my head feel like it was swaying as my stomach turned cartwheels. On our honeymoon my husband and I took a ride up the mountain on a ski lift to lunch at the restaurant at the top. The only way down was the lift or slide down the slope. I was in shear panic worsened by my newly wedded husband laughing at me and causing the chair to swing even more. Stubbornness kept me from tears but I have never forgotten the emotional violation of the experience. A year later we planned a trip to California taking the road over the Rocky Mountains. Little did I know it would include a mountain pass with thousands of feet drop offs. I thought my heart would explode from fear which overshadowed the entire vacation knowing that the way back home included the reverse trip over that pass. Later while living on the coast of southern California we took our toddler to the ocean shore amusement park. I don't know why I even got on the double ferris wheel; the fact remained I was on it and no way off until it stopped. My daughter decided to stand up and turn around in mid ride compounding my panic attack. When the wheel we were on reached the top, we were also on the top of the total wheel which created the maximum falling experience as the two wheels went around.
At that time I could not even stand next to a window of a high rise. Interesting that I would eventually jump off a 35 foot cliff. Overcoming that gripping fear was an achievement that started years earlier one step at a time, none of which were planned to achieve the end result. I started with painting a house. I have always improved every house where I lived. One particular challenge was how to paint the peak of a house which meant I needed to stand at the top of a 20' ladder with paint can and brush. Determined to get it done, I convinced myself I was standing on the ground not on the top of a ladder. It worked even though it was a bit dangerous because I almost just stepped sideways off the ladder. Another challenge was proposed by my son who was maybe a preteen at the time. We were at Lakeside Amusement Park where they had a ride called the Chipmunk. It was a little two man in-tandem bullet type roller coaster. He challenged me: "I dare you to ride on it with me." I accepted the challenge just to amuse him and not back down from a dare. I wasn't sure if I would get on the ride or not but not wanting to back off I found myself at the loading platform with the bullet in front of me. He asked if I wanted to be in front or back; I chose back. As we whipped around, over, up and down, I never said a word. He could not believe I was even on the ride let alone being so silent. He turned around to check on me and found that I had my head securely buried down behind his back. I couldn't see a single thing, only could feel the movement. I survived the ride and that for me was a big step that allowed me to enjoy every ride at Disney World, not once but twice.
I had never wanted to ski for fear of the lifts. My husband at the time had wanted to learn how to ski but remembering how he laughed at me and intentionally swung the lift chair on our honeymoon, there was no way I was ever getting on a lift with him again. Fast forward 18 years, my son had become a black diamond skier through the Eskimo Ski Club and offered to teach me to ski. Knowing the he would never do anything to scare me, I jumped at the chance as I had always wanted to come "down" the hill. Our first lessons out we chose the slope with the tow rope. I quickly fell in love with the freedom of flying down a snow packed slope and was ready to take on the lifts. Much like being with my care taking brother, I had total comfort with sharing a lift with my son. I enjoyed many years of skiing thanks to him even though I would still get a small feeling of panic every time the lift took off. I loved Keystone because they had a gondola located at a spot on the mountain where the lines were never long. I referenced my son as being of the same caring personality as my older brother. I would follow my brother up and down cliffs as he would always say, "Don't be afraid, just grab onto my belt and I will pull you up." And he always did.
That 35 foot cliff? It happened around age 60. I had been dating an Italian family; yes an Italian family. You don't date just one person in an Italian family, especially an old cohesive Italian family. Events include the whole family and that wasn't a complaint as I enjoyed their entire family. One such event was a white water trip down the Arkansas River. I love water and boats so this was looking forward to a totally exciting adventure. The family gathering involved three ten-man rafts. As it turned out there was one too many participants for oars to participate in the rowing. Being the oldest female I was delegated to the seat "between" other rowers. I was furious and really just wanted my money back. Bored beyond bored, I was enlightened when a young twenty something niece gave up her oar because she had been bucked out of the raft twice and was hurt and afraid. The guide barked the rowing orders and I was having an amazing time following with muscle and vigor. Then the second obstacle of the trip came to us as we met face-to-face with a huge boulder. Try after try the guide tried to get us released from the boulder in the middle of the river but failed. We were all evacuated to stand on the boulder to wait for rescue which was so much fun to me. I had no fear as I had a life vest on whether a rosy attitude or not, I somehow didn't believe I would ever drown in the rapid. One by one, we were towed from the boulder to the shore via a rope with t-bar that went between your legs like a chair. I was last and those ashore were worried that I would be alright. I was having fun; I mounted the t-bar and jumped into the raging rapid. As warned I was pulled under the rapids and remained until close to the shore. All ashore, the raft deflated, pulled to shore, inflated again, we all boarded once again on the downside of the bolder and were off to continue our adventure. ,
Somewhere halfway or more down the rapids trip, the lead boat pulled into a quiet alcove. Raft two and our raft number three followed. Everyone ahead of me jumped off their rafts and started running up a hill. I asked my date what was going on to which he replied, "We are going to jump off of a 35' cliff." Why would anyone want to jump off a 35' cliff? I wasn't sure I believed him. "You can wait here if you want." he said and he was gone. Curiosity got the best of me and I followed them up the hill. As I climbed the winding trail I could see laughing swimmers coming back around toward the boats. At the top was a narrow spot at the end of the trail from which one-at-a-time each individual in the party jumped down to plunge into the pond 35' below. I stood for a few minutes on the ledge trying to convince myself I could do this. They all survived. What was my problem. So once again I convinced myself I was standing on the ground. I closed my eyes, raised my hands out like Jesus on the cross and peacefully stepped forward. The breeze was fresh as I descended and the feeling was elating. As my feet which were tightly held close together with toes pointed to minimize the impact, my body entered the water. Age had turned my upper under arms into flabby folds of skin that met the water like a slap from a board. I managed to keep my mouth shut in spite of the shock. When I retell the story for humor and impact I amplify the effect of the event by saying the pain in my arms from the impact caused me to open my mouth and gasp, inhaling the river. After which, I emerged belching and sneezing river water. Didn't happen that way but listeners laugh longer and that always makes my heart laugh. I survived the jump.
I worked for a commuter airline once. My fear of flying was overcome by the knowledge of how much goes into checking a plane before take-off. It also helped to get to know the pilots. Why would a pilot get on a plane that he didn't believe would fly? They wouldn't. Fears overcome.
How do you go from a country girl who found no greater thrill than to trod around the barnyard barefoot hugging any animal that would allow it to a big city theatre judge? Not a critic but a technical judge that determines the award winning productions, actors, etc. The Henry Awards are Colorado's version of the Broadway Tony Awards. Sounds heady and presitgous? Not really. Each judge, of which there has to be 5 per production, has a specific list of criteria to evaluate each specific category. It turns into quite a bit of work and often worry. Theatres treat judges kindly but often seat you in locations that make evaluation difficult. Understandable on their part as we are "comped guests." We have been reamed and ridiculed in the news by theatre production personnel and critics. One day I wonder if I know what I am doing and the next I think I am pretty good at it. I frequently have to go back and reread the pages of technical criteria to remind myself of what I am looking for.
As told in the blog post about influential people in my life, I fell into theatre because of my height. The director needed to cast someone shorter than the lead girl. My stage experience was not a positive one. I was not nervous but could not remember the lines that went with the scenes and often messed up the lines. My ADD personality was not conducive to repeating anything; holding attention on a repetitive behavior was like herding cats as it is said. I got the theatre bug after that experience but not an acting bug. I have never desired stage recognition but do love the creativity of putting on a production.
After the challenge of "January Thaw" I stayed involved in the Thespians organization and activities throughout high school, learning about make up, costumes, and building sets. Although for the next 20 years my theatre experiences were only as an audience member as I rasied a family. In 1990 I started volunteering as an usher at Denver Center Theatre Company, a theatre group that won a "Tony" (yes a real Broadway Tony) for best regional theatre. The Company ran four theatres and an graduate acting program. For ten years I watched and learned about every aspect of theatre. The production building was always so fascinating as you could see how they made wigs, costumes masks, designed sets and every element of production construction. They even had one room of just "stuff" boxes, buttons and miscellaneous gadgets that often were needed for props. I eventually had to quit as an usher due to an accident that prevented my abilities to perform. By that time I had clocked well over 1,000 performances for my resume.
When my second oldest granddaughter was very young it was evident that she was very musical and theatrical. For the next 15 years I would shuttle her to classes, auditions, rehearsal and productions. With almost every production I became involved in some aspect: theatre manager, props design, actors headshots, performance photos, and program design and production. On a couple of occasions I developed musical productions for my grandkids for talent shows and competitions. When the two youngest were in middle school, I created a Emmett Kelly style number for them about two street orphans set to the music of Scott Joplin's The Entertainer. They won first place over senior high students even one set from the Denver School of the Arts. If I were young enough I would teach classes in the art of telling a story without words. I believe it brings the audience closer to the performer.
I continued to see theatre productions every chance I got and every where I traveled including Scotland until one day I saw the Colorado Theatre Guild website and a page about judges. I contacted them and submitted evaluations about shows that I had seen. I was hired for the following season which has been six years ago. I travel as far as 100 miles one direction to judge shows and to a variety of theatre sizes. I see about 50 shows a year as a judge and then an additional 20 to 30 just because I want to see them.
In 2015 I took the theatre granddaughter to New York for a Broadway play marathon. We saw seven plays in five days. It was fun and enlightening. Denver theatre has great actors but they can't compare to the budgets that provide the elaborate Broadway sets.
I returned to Broadway again this year with my third oldest granddaughter after we caught a play in Lancaster, PA at the Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre where I have had, hands down, the best dinner at a dinner theatre.
I never tire of seeing plays but I do tire of the low quality of the modern scripts. The best "new script" I read as part of a theatre play reading group was by a local playwright titled "Beets." The story centered around a Beet farming family close to the German POW camp in Northern Colorado during WWII. The families son was fighting in Europe and they were faced with having to hire the POW's to harvest their crops as all of the young American men were off to war. Maybe it was the country girl in me but I jumped at the chance to produce the play and jumped into the marketing side selling it to every farmer via the County Extension Agents, the Beet Growers Association and also to every senior citizen facility in the Metro area. The production was sold out, extended, sold out again with a waiting list. Maybe I missed my calling but at age 70 I am not going to start over.
How many people can say that their first paid job was walking (cooling down) snot spitting, sweating, bunting hot polo ponies between chuckers. I was maybe 14 years old if that and under five foot tall yet I sometimes lead 4 huffing and puffing horses up and down hills for them to cool off before they entered the next chucker. Hopefully, they all got along but if they didn't I would have to reverse my direction and force my way between them leading them all out the other way in a hopefully more friendly order. Usually at least one of them would decide to scratch their head on my back shoving me forward even faster. I was paid ten cents a horse per chucker; a chucker lasted 7 minutes. One of those players whose horse I walked was in his late teens. I would years later date him for a long time.
These polo games weren't part of any national/international organization that I know of. The rancher who owned the ranch my father worked on and we lived on, decided he wanted to play polo so built a polo field on his ranch. Several of the local ranchers came on Sunday afternoon to play. Some of them brought their horses, others stabled them on the hill above the polo field. Although I don't believe that dad had any part in building the polo field, he did build all of the corrals on the hill. I often watched as he scaled the bark off the trees with a garden spade, hand sawed them to shape and hand drilled all of the bolt holes. My dad was not a big man but he was strong from years of physical labor. After the corrals were complete and horses occupying them, Dad then had to feed and water the horses. I often think back on that scenario and wonder why those corrals were built on top of a hill with absolutely no shade for horses that spent all week waiting in them just to run full speed on Sunday. Dad got in trouble even though it probably wasn't his fault because one or more of the horses managed to escape their corral and get into the grain. Too much grain causes founder and sometimes horse don't recover.
After the novelty of polo wore off the field was shut down. I had my usual chores helping dad feed or clean pens which was a chore of love for me. If mom said "Go help your Dad," I was gone without any question or rebuttal. For money I went on to baby sit for various families until at age 15 I got my one and only job as a waitress. I actually enjoyed it and learned a lot about proper behavior. It is amazing what you learn when a mirror is put up in front of your face. What I thought was joking around turned out to be flirting in the eyes of the owner and I was given a warning to cease or walk. I always took direction well and toed the mark. The job didn't last the summer as I was thrown off my dad's stallion and injured my back finding out 4 years later I had actually broken it.
The summer of 1963 I first worked a fulltime job as babysitter, housekeeper, cook and ironer of laundry for the wife of the ranch owner.
I may have been paid $1 an hour. The ranch owners would often order my older brother to mow their lawn or do chores for them. He was paid but was very defiant about their ownership of our family. One weekday when I was babysitting, Dan came up to mow with two of his friends. I invited them to come in for a sandwich with I and the two kids at lunch . I was reamed up one side and down the other for inviting my brother and his two friends in for lunch. The following week I went to the Bargain Barn Grocery store, applied and got the job. I totally loved working there as a checker and would until the end of my senior year.
Hello Yesterday: The summer of 1963
1963: Between my junior and senior years in high school. I was 16, liberated by having a driver's license but confined because I had no car. It turned out to be a summer of enlightenment and independence and my last year of living with my family. We lived in the country just north of Sturgis as the crow flies about one mile, however, a fairly tall hill made it a two mile trip. From the top of Sly Hill, as it was called, you could see all of Sturgis. At the base of the cliffs was the beautiful green park and football field where I had spent every fall Friday night. The football games were social events for me; I didn't understand anything about football until I was married to an NFL fanatic but at that age it didn't matter. It was all about bonding with friends.
That summer I could use the family car if it was home by the time Dad went to work at 11:00 pm. I didn't need a curfew because the car had one. If I couldn't use the car Mom would chauffeur me off to a friends as our house wasn't conveniently on the way to anywhere. I had been dating a senior with a car all of my junior year and he had moved out of state so I was enjoying the independence of being single even if challenged by transportation.
I had come of age to attend the Friday night dances at nearby Spearfish Park Pavilion which was a draw for every teenager from miles around. Although, I never dated any of the young men I would spend those evenings dancing with, it was a wonderful night of dancing to live music. On one particular Friday night there was a crazy guy at the piano that I thought was pretty wacko. His curly blonde hair bounced wildly as he pounded the piano and danced around. During one of his crazy songs he screamed "Goodness Gracious, Great Balls of Fire." Years forward we would learn he became famous as Jerry Lee Lewis.
If any of the other bands became famous I would not know because I never remembered their band name only that their music was good and fun to dance to. Dances had morphed from jitterbug and the stroll, to the twist, watusi and the pony. Always a heart throbbing moment was getting to dance the slow dance with a really cute guy. Slow dances came with any variety of styles and steps; the only criteria for the girl was to be a good follower and I tried hard to be just that.
Two big events were held in the Black Hills each summer. The first was the Days of '76 in Deadwood famous for the authentic historical parade and professional rodeo. For young people it was the carnival on main street and the big street dance. The difference between this street dance and the Spearfish Friday night dances was the age group and further distances from which young people came. With the drinking age 19 at the time, college kids from even other states would come to party at "The Days." Tents popped up all over the hills as young people took up weekend residence for the festival. I only have "festival" type memories of the event as having been a great deal of fun and laughter.
The next event was the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally which in the 1960's was still pretty much a professional race with street dance. Today it is a massively commercial event that lacks the atmosphere it used to have. There were no big gang presences yet nor huge organized camp sites. It was a small town venue that was simple fun. One particular evening three of us had been out to the Bear Butte Swimming pool and met three Minnesota boys. The pool was the offshoot of Bear Butte Lake and at that time highly cared for and popular. There were no gates so if you were there after swim hours you were there at your own risk. Many tent camps were set up around the pool during the rally and all were free. We were not risk takers and trouble was pretty much non-existent then. The boys were clean cut high school age or early college. I remember the girl conversation as we were being cased by the boys. I get the handsome dark headed one, was one comment. The other girl picked another of the three and I, not being an alpha type, figured the third young man was just fine. I never considered myself pretty as I was never flirted with by many boys and had few just random dates. When the handsome boy chosen by my friend had no such intention and came right up to me and started up a conversation I was in shock. My impression was not that I was great but that "I wasn't that bad after all." Interesting how your opinion of yourself is based upon all of the negatives you have heard over your lifetime. I had a wonderful evening with that young man who returned to my parents house two years later to see if I was still around. A big loss for me as I wasn't. He was interesting, friendly and so very polite.
Towards the end of that summer I would fall in love with a wonderful young man four years older than myself, much to my parent's dismay. I think my mother may have come close to ulcers over this relationship but I was totally in love and the attraction was stronger than defying my mother which was something I rarely ever did. He did not go to college but worked for the US Postal Service as a letter carrier. That winter he joined the National Guard and went to boot camp. When he came back he started dating someone else. Today I still feel the pain of that parting as I don't think I have ever felt that deeply about another. Three years later on the night before my wedding he saw me in town and gave me a ride. As we sat in the car and talked he begged me not to get married and said that he wanted to marry me. The sadness of something so broken yet a memory of such a deep love just couldn't be overcome.
Most people can automatically name those who have influenced their lives most without giving it much thought. So can I.
A summary by name and major influence:
1. My dad: unconditional love
2. My mom: Be different
3. My brother: believe in yourself
4. Mr. Bell: All people fear
5. Steve K.: You can do it
It is so easy to say, "I love my parents. They made me who I am today." But what does that mean? How did they do it? For me, I understand the uniqueness of each contribution.
1. My Dad: Here was a gruff, farmer/rancher who was the most "artificially" bigoted, sexist man I knew growing up. To believe a man such as that could have such a positive influence on my life might be a challenge for a reader. Dad had a slanderous nickname for every nationality with whom he was not associated. The secret that I knew was that dad grew up in an isolated North Dakota farm learning those values from those around him. He lacked exposure and associations. However, whenever dad actually met and got to know someone of any of those nationalities or color, he would no longer use those terms. He was a vary softhearted, generous man underneath the facade of bigotry and sexism. There were no black people in our town, one very well respected Japanese family and few Hispanics other than the migrants working the beet farms in the summer. We grew up in South Dakota surrounded by Indian (yes Indian) reservations and had a healthy respect for them and empathy for their situation. Whenever, a family would make a pilgrimage past the house to Bear Butte for religious reasons, Dad would be the first to offer them water and a loaf of Mom's homemade bread if one was available.
Dad's only sexist attitude towards me can be summed up in a comment he made when I was in high school. "I will never pay for a daughter to go to college because all they will do is get married and have kids." Words like that are never forgotten. They only hurt a little at the time because I knew that Dad had no means to pay for anyone's college education and that each of us would have to make it on our own; and we did.
The gruffness, sexist comments and all, every one of the seven children knew that our father loved us deeply and unconditionally. It has been a challenge for me at times to do so with my own children as they work through some of their own issues.
2. My Mom: Be different. That was her oft stated directive when I would be dismayed that I was not like, could not be like, could not afford to be like most of my classmates. "Be different." Little did she know that this statement would be a moniker of independence for me. After high school I seldom wanted to be a "part of" anything unless it was an organization with a purpose. Socially, I was and have been a total isolation from most of the world.
3. My Brother Dan: Two years older than me, I followed him or was led by him pretty much everywhere. He guided me, he cajoled me, he guarded me, he consoled me and he led me right up until his death from the affects of Agent Orange at age 58. My best friend and guidance, his death pulled rug of support out from under me as it did to his wife, children and grandchildren. He fought a liver tumor for years, deteriorating to a skeleton and back again to a strong human being only to lose the battle again. Never did he complain or blame Viet Nam. It was his job and he accepted the consequences. Through chemo, radiation and numerous testings he worked every day as manager of a department store. Like our father, Dan's work ethic was exemplary. From these two I learned commitment and responsibility to family, company and country.
4. Mr. Bell my Speech & Theatre Teacher: There is always "one" standout teacher in a person's life. Mine was Mr. Bell. I had to take a semester of speech as a sophomore and dreaded it beyond panic. Up to that point in my life I had never even spoke up in class so severely shy was I. Even though I tried hard for good grades, I accepted an "F" in Freshman English class one six week term because we were required to stand up in front of the class and do a monologue as part of a theatre session. Nope. I not only did not prepare one, I totally refused to stand up in class.
Enter Mr. Bell in Sophomore speech class. He helped me to understand that I was no different than anyone else and that I had something of value to say. I almost cried during my first short speech but by the end of the semester I was giving speeches that were too long and giving those speeches with comfort.
Theatre: again enter Mr. Bell. The following year the theatre department did a production of "January Thaw." The main young girl character was to be Paige, a really good actress. Paige, however, was quite short and Mr. Bell needed someone to play her younger (littler) sister. I was one of the few girls in school shorter than Paige. The most enlightening lesson learned from acting (or not acting) in that productions was that, I seem to not be able to repeat the same lines over and over again, enter that scene at the correct time or even deliver the correct lines for the scene. Acting was too repetitious and fragmented for me. Even though I essentially failed on stage, I gained an absolute love for theatre and continued my involvement to this day with few years off for raising a family.
5. Steve K. My project leader: Last but far from least is Steve, a direct supervisor during my construction days. We did not start out on good terms during our earlier working relationship. I thought he was arrogant and would remind him of it when we joined in partnership on a major project. He had matured in his leadership talents and my independent yet team oriented nature fit into that partnership. As project director of an extremely fast paced $112 million dollar project, Steve often was in search of talent to fill unusual staffing needs such as manager of warranty issues or project manager of small projects. He handed those projects to me with a smile and said, "you can do it." Was he passing off the projects to me as a last resort and was I taking on the responsibility because I was flattered at being asked? Maybe a little of both but the end result was that I performed for Steve to his expectations and I learned and added to my resume for my satisfaction. Every element of project management that Steve and I worked together on became an important stepping stone in my career that led to really interesting projects.
Lady! You have what we refer to as a "Butterfly Brain" !!!!!!
That is what he said. At the time I just laughed. I didn't really relate to it. Fifty years later I have been using that self description as explanation of my working and learning idiosyncrasies. It wasn't just a bouncing ADD brain; I also had an unusual conceptual memory. It was not an asset.
There was one thing I knew already in high school: I was a good organizer, strong in group settings, a creative thinker and great at follow through. There was one thing I truly did not understand: why could all of my friends read a passage in a text book, go to the questions assigned and answer every one without referring back to the text. In our American History class Mr. Thielen would assign 3 pages of reading, follow it up the next day with a quiz: "Take out half a sheet of paper. Three questions: A, C or F" Sheer panic for me. Invariably he would ask a question and I would only remember that the answer was under the picture in the upper right hand corner of page 238 but I didn't know what the answer was. That is something that I have never been able to put a name to or has anyone else.
Learning was a big challenge but I loved it. High school and undergraduate school meant hours of study beyond what the average person had to do. Had I been born with a limited mental capacity? I often question that possibility. My brother, Dan who was just 2 years older than me, could read and remember anything. He read every book in the junior section of the library by the time he was in high school and had to get permission to take out books from the "adult" section. It was intimidating. I followed him through school and the teachers all remembered him. Not that he was great; just that he was good and smart. I compensated by being a polite and quiet kid; I got involved in many activities but managed to keep under the radar in academic achievement. I barely graduated with honors but not because I took any difficult courses. I would change that in graduate school but by then (age 50) I fully understood what it took for me to remember information beyond just conceptual ideas. I had to study in spurts and everything had to be color coded; review questions typed out in one color, answers below each question in another. I went so far as to study while traveling (yup..did that) reading one question and totally absorbing the colored response before going on to the next. I should add that I was a full time employee throughout the years of graduate school so grabbing study time anywhere was essential.
Back to the "Butterfly Brain": I was a sophomore at Black Hills State University attending financially through three avenues: National Defense Student Loan funding, Pell Grant and Work-Study. My work study years were spent grading papers for the English professors. One particular afternoon I attended a college sponsored event held in the big theatre. On stage was a psychic. I, with my test papers in lap, was busy bouncing attention from the stage to the papers and anything or anyone in the theatre that my eyes landed on. I was lightly following the psychic's directive given the audience. The psychic selected one person in the middle of the sea of about 350 students. The student was to take a $1.00 bill and pass it on across the theatre until it landed at my chair. He selected me to "read my mind." So funny was that. I did not really grasp what he was asking but I held onto the dollar bill and waited. He acted very confused and he said he was getting a reading from a few other people around me but not me. Everyone that he pointed out was someone that I had thought about in the previous minute (my mind bounced like I rabbit chased by a coyote frequently). He then directly restated his request of me: "Concentrate on each number in the serial number on the dollar bill you are holding." I did so and he repeated every single digit as I concentrated on it. After successfully "reading my mind" he state: Lady! You have what we refer to as a Butterfly Brain." Yes I do.